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Archive for September, 2008

Did Democrats Dissuade Congress From Instituting Proper Regulation on GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Who’s to blame for the crisis? Nance Pelosi would have you believe that it was George Bush and the Republicans. But in reality, didn’t Democrats put pressure on GSEs to make risky loans? And didn’t Democrats try to downplay the dangerous activities of those GSEs?

Yes, yes they did.

Why did Democrats skip economics in high school? Perhaps if they hadn’t we would be hearing about so many failing GSEs. Also, we wouldn’t be hearing the bogus accusation that “the market failed.”

Do the Dems even know to what they are referring?

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What Did Pelosi Say On The Floor Today? (UPDATE)

As, probably, everyone knows, the ‘‘Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008’’ did not make it through the House today. Despite having 60% of the Democrats for the Act, it lacked Republican support and nearly 100 Democratic votes. Republican leaders cite Nancy Pelosi’s remarks today before the vote as particularly divisive and one of the main reasons that the proposed plan did not receive as much support as it could have:

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Understanding the ‘‘Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008’’

I’ve been on the road for most of the day today (I paid a visit to some relatives in PA), so I haven’t had a chance to read the economic stimulus package (Here’s the full text of the ‘‘Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008’’ in pdf form). However, listening to NPR and C-Span’s radio programming while driving in addition to the little bit of cable news coverage I viewed when I returned home, I can say this:

  1. We can’t just focus on Wall St., but we have to take care of the folks on Main St. too. and
  2. No golden parachutes for executives.

I must have heard (1.) today somewhere between 40 and 50 times during my 7 hours on the road. (2) I’ve heard less often than (1.) but still an estimated 25 times would not be far off the mark.

Way can’t the media, the candidates and members of congress refrain from over-using these rhetorical terms?


“His Excellency”?

Little Green Footballs – Video: Ahmadinejad Gets Applause, Hugs at the UN General Assembly.


The Lord’s Prayer

Here’s The Lord’s Prayer in three Old English dialects. Click on the little players to the upper right of the texts to hear the pronunciation.

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Come On, Thomson Reuters (EndNote), Don’t Be Like That

If you’ve used “EndNote” (a bibliography resource and information database organization program made by Thomson Reuters), then you may have come across a few annoying “issues” that can make the program less-than satisfying. That’s why GMU’s Center for History and New Media developed “Zotero.” Here’s the Wiki description:

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Aye, Nay… and Present

Some folks have criticized John McCain for wanting to postpone a pre-scheduled debate between him and Senator Obama. There may be grounds for critism, but not the kind that Huffpo blogger (and Democratic senator) Barbara Boxer is making.

hammering McCain for calling for a suspension of Friday night’s presidential debate.

“This is certainly the right time for the American people to see these two candidates talk about the serious challenges our country faces both here and around the world.”

“We need a president who can handle more than one challenge at a time. In life, when times get tough, you don’t get time-outs.”

First of all, serious economists at Cafe Hayek found it “Shameful” that not one of the three senators (namely, McCain, Obama, and the other guy) running for office had made any plans to attend Congress during this discussion. McCain, Maverick he is, knew that the old boy politics in which Obama and the other guy engage is not something that we need. “Country First” has been McCain’s motto, and discussion of the biggest government bailout, possibly, ever is something that a resposible senator would make a priority. Besides, the econ guys at Cafe Hayek have their own ideas about what skipping this monumental discussion should cost the candidates:

If they’re not going to fulfill their obligations, they should resign from office and refuse to accept their pay.

Also, Boxer may not realize what postponing the debate would achieve. If the debate were to be postponed,

  1. The American people would get to see real (as opposed to “promised”) actions that politicians take in this situation. It’s fine to lay out a plan to post on your campaign website, but it’s another thing to actually get up and fight for your cause, taking part in a bipartisan agreement. If the debate takes place the day of Congressional proceedings it is likely that folks will not have had time to digest the arguments and proposals that were decided upon or rejected by Congress.
  2. Any criticism or questions that may arise in the days following the Congressional decision, regarding particular positions taken by the candidates, can potentially be answered during the Presidential debate.
  3. If such a thing were to happen then McCain could explain why he took a principled and informed position and voted as he did. Obama, on the other hand, would have to explain why he (as is his habit) voted “Present.”

While, indeed, McCain is more than likely making a strategic move (even if his strategy is just to be a better leader than Obama and to put “Country First”), it does not follow that McCain is shirking his obligations by fulfilling his duties as a U.S. Senator.


McCain, Clearly, “Doesn’t Get It” /

When it comes to the economy it’s obvious that John McCain “doesn’t get it.” It seems that he may never have. After all, the Obamessiah says that McCain has has supported the decisions that have led to our current economic “emergency”

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MSNBC Political Polls In VA

It seems like Virginia could be the most important state in this election, at least according to MSNBC’s analysis.

more about "MSNBC Political Polls In VA", posted with vodpod


The Similarities Are Striking/

As noted yesterday, various media talking heads, pundits, political and economic commentators (though, not necessarily economists) are trying to compare the current economic condition of the United States with the economic conditions of the Great Depression.

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The REAL “Parallel with 1929 We Ignore at Our Peril”

I’ve just come across a, frankly, horrific opinion piece posted at GMU’s History News Network, I don’t have much time to express my fury at the moment, but let’s take a quick look. The author, Robert Brent Toplin argues that there is a parallel between our current financial “crisis” and America just before the depression of the 1930s. He states:

One element in the story of the Depression that began in the late 1920s, however, strongly resembles the emerging narrative about economic problems in our own times. In both 1929 and 2008 there was an absence of effective regulation for purposes of promoting sound business practices.

To be clear, today there is anything but an absence of “regulation” (or more properly, interference) by the U.S. government. Further, the above claim is doubly foolish, for the tipping point of our modern “crisis” seems to have been the recent failures of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie and Freddie were originally created by FDR as a part of the New Deal to remedy the depression of the 1930s both have remained under Uncle Sam’s thumb as GSEs.

Toplin complains that there is no effective regulation, true, but he, for some reason, thinks that more regulation is the answer. I don’t see why? Aren’t Fannie and Freddie government monstrosities to begin with? They are. Mr. Toplin would be holding a torch with an angry mob outside of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory demanding that the monster be restrained, sedated and permenantly institutionalized, then Mr. Toplin would advocate for a repeat of the Dr’s experiement, but this time, he will demand, it should be more “effective.”

Toplin continues:

Decisive action by leaders from the Fed, Treasury and Congress may save America and the world from the kind of disintegration that plagued U.S. and global markets in the 1930s, but the factors that triggered economic shocks in 1929 and 2008 are strikingly similar.

This guy is delusional! The New Deal was nothing but random (but decisive) actions! Those actions caused the depression of the ’30s to hit America harder and for a longer period of time than it likely would have otherwise.

Americans are now asking how the sub-prime mortgage debacle got so far out of hand during the years when various market analysts told the public that the American economy was fundamentally sound.

Yes, because government bureaucracies had been lying to them because the HUD was pressuring Fannie and Freddie to get people in homes that they couldn’t afford. Great job, fellas.

Americans of the Depression era raised the same question.

By god… people asked questions in both cases, the similarity is uncanny.

Let me quote Don Boudreaux from Forbes.com:

Not surprisingly, many pundits and politicians are comparing today’s economy to that of the Great Depression. There are a few similarities. But–so far, at least–the differences outnumber the similarities.

The most obvious and important difference is in the labor market. While today’s unemployment rate of 6.1% isn’t sterling, it is magnitudes lower than the double-digit rates (as high as 25%, in 1933) of the Depression. Unless and until this rate reaches, say, 15% or higher, comparing today’s economy to that of the 1930s is a hysterical exaggeration.

Another difference is trade policy. Compared to the Great Depression, America today is far more integrated into the global economy. Consequently, our economic eggs–our customers, suppliers and investments–are in a greater number of baskets. We’re not as dependent now as we were 75 years ago on a recovery starting in America.

And despite the heated protectionist rhetoric of late by some prominent politicians, the post-World War II trend of increasing free trade is unlikely to be reversed. This fact is vital. One of Uncle Sam’s first moves following the market crash of 1929 was to enact the Smoot-Hawley tariff. This unprecedented hike in tariff rates told the world “America is closed for business!” Less able to sell products to Americans, foreigners earned fewer dollars with which to buy products from Americans.

The resulting contraction of cross-border trade, combined with the waste of keeping inefficient domestic producers in business, only deepened and prolonged the Depression.

Perhaps the greatest difference between now and then, though, is something simultaneously nebulous and quite real: the prevailing ideology. From the late 19th century until the 1970s, a dangerous idea took hold of the minds of intellectuals and opinion-makers throughout the world: socialism. And the grip of this disastrous, economic-growth-killing idea was strongest during the 1930s.

Apparently folks like Mr. Toplin are all too eager to make that comparison.

Toplin concludes:

It appears that we need a modern update of that governmental activism today to establish greater financial security.

No doubt, Toplin is in favor of more numerous and more comprehensive government regulation and involvement in American business. Let’s hope Toplin and his ideological brethren find many occasions to be proved wrong and disappointed.


Only in America

We all know about the infamous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the macabre obsession with him held by left-wing academics and the left-wing media.

Only in America could the following take place:

And, yes, I know that Mr. Ahmadinejad does invite foreigners to appear on Iranian T.V. shows for interviews, but this is different. In this situation it is a private American T.V. show interviewing the president of a regime that is hostile to the U.S.

(H/T – Little Green Footballs)


Breaking: Math News – Computers Determine Largest Prime Number Yet

There is some exciting news in the world of math this week as geeks and “about 100,000 computers” determine the largest prime number that has been proven, it’s about 13 million digits:

The new number is little more than that. Prime numbers are useful “building blocks” to many equations, but using existing algorithms to find new, large primes won’t likely affect ongoing research, said Cameron Stewart, a University of Waterloo professor and the Canada Research Chair in Number Theory. There are some practical implications (computer and security encryptions are based on prime numbers), but the find is more sport.

“They’re a good tool. They’re also mysterious; they’re subtle objects …” Prof. Stewart said of prime numbers.

Okay, so maybe it’s not really a big deal. And yes, that is a hint of snark in my words above (including the title). In fact, if you ask me, with the aid of computers these geeks have nothing to brag about.


Are You and Obama Really a Match?

V.H. couldn’t post this item to her blog Ironic Surrealism, however, I thought it was funny and I thought I’d try posting it using the VodPod “Save to Vodpod” button (which allows the user to choose which destination to post the media (vodpod, blog, facebook, etc.)). It seems to have worked for me, I don’t know why V.H. is unable to embed.

more about “Are You and Obama Really a Match?“, posted with vodpod

(H/T – Covertress via Velvet Hammer)


I Didn’t Do It

This is odd. I wouldn’t think a crook would bother to steal books. The library has bi-annual sales of paperbacks for 25¢ and hardcovers starting at a dollar.

Thief Steals 150 Books From Fairfax Co. Library

The books range in value from about $6 to $40 each. The titles cover a variety of subjects such as finance, fashion and parenting.

Well, at least he or she or they didn’t get anything good. I am happy to say that books on “fashion” won’t be missed by this Fairfax Co. Public Library patron.


El Cid Campeador

I’ve just finished reading (a print version) of The Poem of The Cid, an epic poem dating back to medieval Spain. Since my last two posts have had to do with Latin America in one way or another, I thought that I’d stick with that theme and share this cool site I found about El Cid: Cantar de mio Cid

One of the features that makes this site so cool is the way you can easily switch from an English translation to the Paleographic transcription (described here)  to the Normative transcription (described here).

Look to the right of the text and click on the buttons that look like this: to instantly change the text while reading for a quick comparison.

There’s even audio and various multimedia options. For example, click here to hear a reading of the poem while viewing the original manuscript, the paleographic transcription, the normative transcription and the English translations side by side. (Click the play button in the upper left to begin the reading).

There’s much much more at the site including commentary and linguistic annotations. Check it out.


The Hispanic Bizarro RALPH!!!?

I was checking out the latest dishonest and disgusting (i.e. typical) anti-McCain ad that Obama has put out in Spanish and I happened to notice the following comment:

Si, si SI? Who is this, Hispanic RALPH!!!?


Peas in a Pod (UPDATE)

Did you see who Obama wants to talk with?


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A No Brainer

Gee… although people like to call Obama the “unifying candidate,” this doesn’t surprise me at all:

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ABiH Commander Rasim Delic Convicted of War Crimes Against Bosnian Serb Soldiers

When it comes the despicable acts and events that occurred in the 1990s in the fighting between Serbs and Bosnians, I don’t have much sympathy for the ultra-nationalist Serbs. Today, when I hear of Serbian war criminals surrendering to international tribunals, I’m relieved and happy that at least some of those responsible for war crimes will have to appear in court for their actions. But we must keep in mind that as the violence escalated, atrocities and immoral acts were committed by both sides. Bosnian Muslims and mujahideen from around the world fought in the name of Islam, and some are guilty of war crimes. Ultimately, though, it is the leaders who are held accountable, for example, the case with Rasim Delic.


Quote Of The Day!

This evening’s quote of the day comes from The Huffington Post. In an effort to explain Barack Obama’s decline in the polls, Thomas B. Edsall claims that McCain has gone overboard with negative ads and attacks on Obama that stretch the truth. Whether or not this is true does not concern us here (however, if it really were the case, one would think that Mr. Edsall could have omitted the following line which is a clear-cut case of truth stretching). Without further ado,


The Evolution of a Smear

Observe the evolution of a smear!

First, someone in the McCain camp makes a statement such as the following quoted by Politico:

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again… But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

- Brian Rogers (McCain spokesman)

Apparently, writers at Politico think that “a high-ground campaign” is antonymous with “forward-leaning.” We can infer this from the following:


REAL List of Books Banned By Sarah Palin

I know there are many folks out there who have been circulating a list of books that, as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin supposedly tried to ban while she served as governor of Alaska. For example, this post: Stop Sarah Palin! The Books She Wanted BANNED! The list on that site is disturbing, however, as Factcheck.org notes:

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Medieval Names Resource

I may have neglected to mention this here on the blog, but I’m fascinated with etymology and history. Not just the Greek and Latin roots of our modern words and not just ancient Greek and Roman history, but medieval history too. That’s why I was excited when Languagehat.com linked to the Medieval Names Archive. This is the endorsement provided by Languagehat:

[In the Medieval Names Archive] You can find out more than you ever thought you’d want to know about English, Old English, and Anglo-Norman Names; Scandinavian Names; Names from the Low Countries; Frankish and French Names; Welsh, Cornish, and Breton Names; Classical and Byzantine Greek Names; Slavic and Baltic Names; and many more. Just to give a sample from the Slavic section, there are essays on “Grammar of Period Russian Names” (followed by “A Dictionary of Period Russian Names”), “A Chicken Is Not A Bird: Feminine Personal Names in Medieval Russia,” “Locative Bynames in Medieval Russia,” “Occupational By names in Medieval Russia,” and “Russian Personal Names: Name Frequency in the Novgorod Birch-Bark Letters,” among others. You see the wide coverage, and if you visit the essays you’ll see the depth. It’s a mind-boggling resource.

There’s much to wade through, so I don’t have any first hand praise or criticism, but I thought I’d link to the site for the benefit of all my fellow philologists out there.


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