Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hither, Thither and Yon: February 24th 2009

Hither Thither & Yon

There are lots of news stories and lots of websites out there. So many of them that are deserving of your attention and yet we never seem to get ‘round to putting them up on Gates of Vienna. That was why the news feed evolved and then proceeded to grow…and grow.

However, there are still a lot of loose ends remaining, items that may not fit the newsfeed mold exactly, but are interesting nonetheless. Often I will put some of these aside, hoping to blog on them. Usually my good intentions die abornin’; my energy level has continued to founder and so these items remain in their folders where they stale date eventually and fall into the oubliette.

Perhaps the advent of this feature will solve that problem. In order to avoid making work for myself, things won’t be in categories. Some of them defy categorization, anyway, and besides that I’m not going to build any obstacles between here and the place where I hit “publish”.

About the title: “hither, thither and yon” was a cliché my family used to describe hunting all over the place for a mislaid item. Somehow it seems to fit this grab bag of items, especially since I will be linking sometimes to Michael Yon, as least as long as he remains deployed in “the sand box” of Afghanistan.

Googling “hither, et al” led me to this song from 1960 by Brook Benton:

Oh, hither and thither and yon
Around the world I’ve gone
Searching for true love
As so many do
Hither and thither and yon

From Cairo to far off Calay
I traveled on and on
Seeking that someone
Who’s heart wouldn’t stray
Hither and thither and yon

Alas, I wondered
Through many a land
Too blind was I to see
True love was always close at hand
As close as you were to me
My journey is over
It’s good to be home
Your face, I gaze upon
And darling, I wonder
Oh, why did I roam
Hither and thither and yon

(Hither and yon)
Hither and thither and yon
(Thither and yon)
Hither and thither and yon

And that led me to the list of his works, and to the wiki on his career, here.

I was surprised at his use of an archaic phrase like “hither, etc.,” for a song, but then realized he’s from the rural south, where English archaisms have remained extant even as they die out in other places. Only in the American south do people say “yonder” with any frequency (though you can also hear it in Maine).

So much for the provenance of the title. On with the contents…

First, this place. I no longer remember how I ran across The Congressional Wealth Destruction Monitor …the idea seemed so novel I may even have posted on it, though I won’t sidetrack myself looking for it.

The emails are interesting but they never appear on the site. Thus, just before our email crashed last week we got the latest notice and so I scraped it out to save for future use.

Read it and see what you think. Then go over to see their delightful logo, which is a picture of…well, see for yourself:

Government to Wall Street Executives: “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.”

Dear Congressional Wealth Destruction Followers,

There is so much happening that breaks precedent that it is difficult to keep up with the new government style and mandates. It is perhaps best to focus narrowly on one aspect of the new law to understand the depth of our plunge.

Recently, as part of the political fervor surrounding the “rescue” of the banks and brokerage firms, President Obama attacked the industry as a whole for paying out $18 billion in bonuses. (Never mind that the number was down almost half from the year before.) Congress, appalled that President Obama did not go far enough and would still allow bonuses based on performance, presented a bill -- in final form of 1073 pages at 11 PM on Thursday night. There was no time to even read it. This, after promising to run the most transparent government in history. Towards the end of the day on Friday, as it became clear that Congress had imposed much stricter compensation limits on Wall Street firms that have received government bailout money, the President complained and the stock market had a late day swoon, with the bank stocks leading the way.

The law limits bonuses to 1/3 of salary for those firms that got assistance under the old TARP program, and allows ex post facto clawbacks [that one is a neologism to me: “clawbacks”? Perfect. -- D ] of last year’s compensation. Finally, if firms take new money as “extraordinary assistance,” there is a hard cap of $500,000 on compensation. The government is now micro-managing the compensation structure of banking firms. At the bottom, minimum wage. At the top, maximum wage. This is inconsistent with how Congress treats itself. Congress, the primary cause of our current mess (see John Taylor’s “How Government Created the Financial Crisis” in the Wall Street Journal on February 9, 2009) did not block its own pay raise from going through for its lousy management of the country in 2008.

To put this all in perspective, senior finance executives had a course of dealing over many years at their firms that had consistently rewarded the profitable centers of the firms for which they were responsible. Even if the firm as a whole was not profitable, executives who delivered profits in their units were incentivized by giving them a portion of their unit’s profits. In order of magnitude, these bonuses were often 5x to 10x salary. Few senior Wall Street managers lived only on their salaries which were typically just a minor component of their pay. In the meritocracy of Wall Street, you grew up being paid on your production, and you counted on performing. The new law weakens the link between pay and performance. More importantly, the senior finance managers, the ones whose judgment in this time of crisis is so important, have often built up substantial assets as well, even with the collapse of finance company stocks.

So now, if you are a senior executive at one of the 350 firms that has accepted money in some form, your upside is largely taken away. On the downside, you can attend Congressional hearings, like the one last Tuesday, where second guessing Congressmen may call for you to be criminally indicted. If you can earn more than your capped wages from your existing assets, why would you take the risk of more visits to Congress? Why not scale down your life style, and get out of harm’s way?

It used to be understood if a firm broke its word with its best personnel, they would get a new job that same day at another firm. Under the new law, the damage is done. The principle is now law: if you receive any money from the government, the government is entitled to cap compensation and go back in time and undo compensation. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, “The administration is concerned the rules will prompt a wave of banks to return the government’s money and forgo future assistance.” Huh? The government is AFRAID it will get its money back? The smarter firms are trying to avoid the government’s “heads I win, tails you lose” bargain. Now, having excoriated the finance executives for taking money, some of them in October against their will for the sake of apparent unanimity, they are now being told they must keep the money so the government can keep the power.

It seems that the real purpose of this provision is to drive the best talent away from rescuing our important capital allocation industry-Wall Street. While I deplore the Wall Street excesses, particularly for firms where large bonuses were paid on earnings that were subsequently restated, I think the market should be the main punisher here, not the government. The unsuccessful firms should have been allowed to go under, taking their senior executive compensation with them. The Wall Street executives that successfully navigate through these times should make a fortune…they are preserving capitalism.

Right now we need the best and the brightest on Wall Street to guide us through a 100 year storm caused mostly by government. [See “Congress and The Housing Market”, Congressional Wealth Destruction Monitor, September 9, 2009.] I am worried the talent is already leaving. Today, the President of Goldman Sachs resigned. Driving away talent by capping compensation while exposing the same executives to serve as whipping boys at Congressional show trials is a recipe for continued panic over the ability of banks to recover. It is guaranteed to make our situation much worse than it already is, and all this with the Dow ever so slightly above its worst close since 2002.

It is the seed of Congressional Wealth Destruction on a massive scale. And it’s just a small piece of the giant new “Stimulus” package.

Seems to be a perennial problem with Democrats. They want to tar all entrepreneurs with the sticky brush of greed and corruption, when what they need to do, first and foremost, is a huge housecleaning themselves.

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Another Muslim fantasy about destroying the U.S. This, from the people who were literally kissing American soldiers for rescuing them from Saddam’s soldiers. Is there anything shorter than an Islamic fascist’s gratitude?

It’s difficult to pick a favorite section of this soft-spoken imam's fantasy of hatred. Perhaps it is his discussion of American “racists”. Of course we all know that Arab Muslims are morally pure in this regard. They disdain all but Arab Muslim males.

And the audience eats this stuff up. No wonder their minds are toxic waste sites by now.

Hat tip: Gort

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From The Corner: Victor David Hanson

The Wages of Bias

I don’t understand why, after Obama’s brilliant campaign, some are surprised about his conduct in office.
- - - - - - - - -
From the Wall Street panic instilled by Obama’s gloom and doom rhetoric and Europeanization proposals, to the sloppy nominations of serial tax dodgers, to the surprise that the Bush ‘shred the Constitution’ protocols - hope and change rhetoric aside - were mostly adopted by Obama, it is as if the professional on the campaign trail is mysteriously stumbling after assuming office.

Two observations: It is a lot easier to serially blame Bush than to conduct governance (raising taxes to new highs in recent memory while serially nominating to high office tax dodgers isn’t wise); and, more importantly, the media simply were advocates rather than disinterested journalists…thinking that trashing Bush was synonymous with offering a practical antithesis…

…we never really vetted our President.

As usual, Victor Davis Hanson gets it. Read the whole post to find out the buyer’s remorse afflicting journalists of late.

Hat tip: Larwyn

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Being a long-standing member of the Grammar Police, I find this essay from The City Journal most entertaining:

Obama and “Me”

The president’s adulators praise even his bad grammar.

It’s one thing for a supposedly combative press to fawn over a presidential candidate-and now a president. Who wants to devote precious column inches to Barack Obama’s ties to radical bomber Bill Ayers when Sarah Palin’s wardrobe demands investigation? Why shoot ordinary photographs of the president when you can portray him as a haloed Byzantine saint? But now the New York Times has gone too far: it is attempting to rewrite the history of English grammar in order to flatter the president.

Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, writing in the paper’s op-ed section today, point out that Obama often makes a common grammatical error, using the word “I” when he should properly use “me”-as in the phrase “a very personal decision for Michelle and I.” But it turns out, the authors continue, that the president isn’t really guilty of grammar crimes. “For centuries, it was perfectly acceptable to use either ‘I’ or ‘me’ as the object of a verb or preposition, especially after ‘and,’“ they write. “It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about ‘I’ and ‘me.’“

O’Conner and Kellerman are utterly wrong, as you can confirm by taking a quick look at English primers a good deal older than the nineteenth century. To understand these early grammar guides, remember that scholars in England sometimes thought about their native language in terms of Latin, which they studied exhaustively. In Latin, all nouns are altered according to how they are used in a sentence; to use the word for “queen” as a subject, you would employ the nominative case and write regina, but to use it as a direct object, you would employ the accusative case and write reginam. In English, we don’t usually decline nouns into cases-a queen is a queen, whether “the queen is eating cake” or “the peasants are beheading the queen”-but we do, of course, decline pronouns: she eats cake, but the peasants behead her.


…Proper use of the language always specified that when you used the first-person pronoun as an object, you would say “me,” not “I.” It’s true, as O’Conner and Kellerman argue, that great writers sometimes got it wrong (their first example is Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice: “All debts are cleared between you and I”)…[but]there’s also the possibility that Shakespeare-whose feel for colloquial language was, like everything else about him, superb-was writing in the voice of a character whose grammar, like Obama’s, wasn’t perfect.

O’Conner’s and Kellerman’s motive for making so wild a grammatical claim is clear. Those who style themselves grammar experts are always tempted to deride the “kvetching” of pedantic “mavens.” How else, if you specialize in a subject as dry-sounding as grammar, can you make people think you’re not a bore yourself?…

Unfortunately, The New York Times‘ motive for printing the op-ed is also clear. How disappointing to hear that Barack Obama-just like his predecessor, whose linguistic slipups the media pounced on-doesn’t speak English perfectly! How delightful to find two experts willing to argue that Obama’s mistakes are actually remnants of a purer, more natural form of the language! And how sad, for those of us who love both America’s press and its language, that English itself has become the latest sacrifice to the cult of Obama.

Hey…never misunderestimate the mendacity of the press. It will forgive O’Bama everything and will continue to burn with a white hot hatred for Bush simply because he exists.

Read The New York Times at your own peril.

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ACORN is sooo corrupt. One of these days we’ll do a real report on these FOO-Friends of Obama. Meanwhile, here is a recent example of their shenanigans:

ACORN Foreclosure Victim Not So Innocent

Last week, consumer advocacy group ACORN broke into a foreclosed home in Baltimore to reclaim ownership for a past homeowner, leading to the arrest of one its members.

The incident gained widespread media attention because of the length ACORN has gone to fight foreclosures, displaying acts of so-called “civil disobedience,” but it also left the group exposed to some harsh realities.

It turns out the former owner, Donna Hanks, purchased the property in 2001 for $87,000, and later refinanced it for a whopping $270,000, according to records obtained by Michelle Malkin (she did a good write-up here).

Obviously, a substantial amount of cash-out was taken at the time, as the property value increased more than three-fold in five short years.

Now it’s unclear where that money went, but it does put into question her role as “victim.”

Hanks went into foreclosure proceedings in the spring of 2006, and filed for bankruptcy protection months later, agreeing to pay $10,500 in arrears to halt said foreclosure.

The court ordered Hanks’ employer to deduct $340 per month from her salary to pay down the debt, but she failed to comply, leading to a second notice of default.

The home was eventually foreclosed on in 2008 after failure to make good on missed payments, leading to the ACORN break-in last week.

The problem, of course, is Hanks painted herself as a victim at the hands of the merciless mortgage lenders, choosing to complain about her increased mortgage payments instead of owning up to her missteps that led to the foreclosure to begin with.


The break-in was part of ACORN’s latest campaign, which calls for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium on all mortgages so they can be modified into sustainable loans.

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Stimulus Watch

This site has everything about the Stimulus bomb Package you need, right in one place. The site says:

StimulusWatch.org was built to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly [surely they jest? - D ], and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend [what does “hold accountable” mean? Run out of town on a rail? Hung in effigy? Lose their plushy perks? The government isn’t saying -D] We do this by allowing you, citizens around the country with local knowledge about the proposed “shovel-ready” projects [I love this term “shovel-ready”, don’t you? It connotes something we might be able to bury should it turn out to smell as bad as it looks. And believe me, once you see those charts…shovels will dance in your head - D] in your city, to find, discuss and rate those projects. These projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes. [This is known as the “but” factor]

How can you contribute? Find a project that interests you, or about which you have special knowledge, and let us know what you think. You can find projects by searching or by browsing by locality or program type. Once you find a program, there are three things you can do: 1) vote on whether you believe the project is critical or not; 2) edit the project’s description and points in favor or against, and 3) post a comment in the conversation about the project.

Go look at the tables they’ve set up. Especially notice the rating some of these porkulus projects get. Any lower and they’d be hanging out to coin a phrase) with Hussein - that’s Saddam, not Obama.

Be sure to read the FAQ’s.

Hat tip: No2Liberals

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Michael Yon:

The Fallen

24 February 2009

We may have a lot of problems at home -- and we do -- but our brothers and sisters are out there for us tonight. We lost eight just today. Four soldiers were killed in Iraq, and four in Afghanistan.

Please keep their families in your hearts and prayers, and please remember that many others are still there in the war. With all of our economic troubles, it’s easy to focus inward and forget about our people in uniform. If you only knew how much the people in uniform enjoy a simple postcard, you’d probably stop on your way home today and pick one up and address it to “Any Soldier” in Iraq, or “Any Soldier” in Afghanistan.

Please remember…

Four fallen in Northern Iraq.

Four fallen in Southern Afghanistan.

Both of those last sentences are linked. As a debt of gratitude go and read about them.

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Are We Lumberjacks says:

I’ve only been a Catholic for a couple of years, (quick, someone alert Charles Johnson that someone may believe something other than his flavor of creation) and I’m not sure I even noticed Shrove Tuesday before, but here it is, and I find myself unprepared: Does anyone know how to cook a Shrove?

Cooking shroves isn’t so bad. Pulling out the feathers and the insides is enough to make anyone a vegetarian, though…

Vaya con Dios, y’all…

[NOTE: in the future, this will go up earlier in the day so as not to step on the toes of the newsfeed. This is beginners behind.]


Zenster said...

Is there anything shorter than an Islamic fascist’s gratitude?

His pudenda. [rimshot]

Sorry, but someone had to crack wise on that one and I'd rather it was me. Islam's sole function should be as the everlasting bottomless pit of comedic fodder.

Dymphna said...

I swan, Zenster. I just knew some guy would see that opening and dribble up the court, real fast...