Where is the outrage?!?!?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The blogosphere has been following the bailout and various other programs from Obama et al. I readily concede that on many issues, it is possible to make reasoned arguments on both sides. I am having a harder time with the current economic policies understanding why people think they are a good idea, are fair, or will ultimately be helpful. I am having an ever harder time understanding why most of the media isn't that interested in asking hard questions or being critical of these policies. I know that some are doing this, but it just doesn't seem to have gathered much steam.

It does seem that some non-traditional outlets are doing the hard work. Matt Taibbi (h/t to Mr. F and Mike) has had a few really good, well researched articles on the subject. Comedian, Jon Stewart has been willing to ask some hard questions of Jim Cramer (I'd love to see him interview Geithner). Hell, even Cracked Magazine gets it. The article is a week old, but still good. I love how he breaks it down:

Anyway, many of these banks own toxic mortgage-backed assets (for brevity I’m going to refer to these as ‘horseshit’ from here on). This horseshit is, amazingly, still considered an asset, although if anyone tried to sell it right now, they wouldn’t get a very good price for it, on account of its horseshitty attributes. The central problem here is that some banks own so much of this horseshit that if they valued it at what they could actually sell it for, they would effectively be bankrupt. In short, getting this horseshit off the banks’ books without making them bankrupt is our ultimate goal.

The government will provide loans for private investors to buy up the aforementioned horseshit from the banks. This would give these banks enough money so they could go about their business and not collapse like an old woman getting out of the bathtub. After that, if the horseshit goes up in price the government gets back their money and splits the profit with the private investors. If the horseshit goes down in price, the private investor takes a small loss, and the government takes a small to enormous loss, depending on various properties of the horseshit (taste? grittiness?)

There’s three problems with this plan. One, this involves buying horseshit from the banks for more than it’s probably worth, and keeping each bank’s current management intact, despite growing evidence that they’re colossal fuckers. Two, it involves the private investors taking a chunk of any potential profit while risking only a tiny portion of their own money–effectively another subsidy for wealthy jerks. And the third problem is that this plan may not be big enough. The private investors, even playing mostly with the government’s money, might not be willing to pay enough for this horseshit to keep the banks from going bankrupt. So the banks won’t sell, and we’ll all sit around picking at each other’s asses for a bit longer.

I am not suggesting that the revolution start now, but I would like to some serious questions coming from the MSM and some accountability demanded from the people.


GM CEO Resignation vs. AIG Corporate Bonuses?

Monday, March 30, 2009

I have a question for the wise sages of ATK…

President Barack Obama released a statement today about GM. In it, he said that Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM, would be resigning so that GM could be taken in a new direction. Specifically, he said, “This is not meant as a condemnation of Mr. Wagoner, who has devoted his life to this company; rather, it’s a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the GM of the future.”

Now, I am not as big of a supporter as others in Michigan and on this blog of the Big Three. I believe that they have dug their own grave a bit here, and that they are asking for taxpayer dollars to create new competition after they have misjudged automobile purchasers. That being said, though, I don’t think they are any worse than AIG and others who also severely misjudged their actions yet are being given a clean slate by the American taxpayers.

So, my question is this…

Why should CEO Wagoner be forced out of GM in order for them to get federal aid, while this was not true at all of the corporate executives at AIG (who, instead, received bonuses from the taxpayer bailout dollars)?

I look forward to your reasoned input on this…


My Redemption?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I am working on something more substantive, but for now, in an effort to rid you of the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, here is an angry Natalie Portman:


This hurts my soul

Monday, March 23, 2009

I found this by accident on a site that listed the top 10 celebrity song careers that should not have happened. Surprisingly, Mr. Nimoy was only number 3. If that video isn't bad enough, check out the NAMBLAish album cover:


Populist Angst or Good Public Policy?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I found myself in DC last week for work. I met up with an old friend, who also happens to be a US Congressman. He was really upset with AIG for giving bonuses (or, retention payments…whatever you choose to call it). Because they were given out in the form of contracts, there was nothing the government could do to retract them, even though they were paid for by taxpayer bailout dollars. So, he had the idea that the government would tax the bonuses. Technically, the bill he introduced would tax bonuses (retention payments) for companies that have a certain percentage of ownership by the federal government (70%, I think). Thus, this will pertain to AIG and to Fanny and Freddie (thus preventing this from being punitive to one company only).

He argued that this company shouldn’t be using taxpayer bailout dollars for bonuses to the people who got us in this mess in the first place and almost decimated the economy.

The opponents said that the retention payments are needed to keep talented people at AIG in order to clean up the mess. They also said that this punishes anyone in the company who was not involved in the bad stuff that AIG did.

The House of Representatives passed a very similar bill on Friday, and the Senate will take it up and the President has said he would sign it.

Someone else told me, upon hearing about this bill, that “good public policy never gets in the way of populist angst” and that he thought this was more political than policy.

I think this is good policy and good politics, but I am open to hearing the other side. I know that the general public wants this done (I heard so at an irish bar on St. Patrick’s day!). What do you think? Good policy, or just good politics?


Double the Fun

Friday, March 20, 2009

I finally got around to grabbing a 6-er of a newer Founders release: Founders Double Trouble. The label is mighty damn cool.
As the name gives away, this lovely brew is a double IPA. Double Trouble delivers. While not the hop-armageddon of some past reviews, there are enough hops in this beer to turn the hop-shy drinker away.

Dispensing with the visuals, there is nothing remarkable here. This is one of those rare cases where I didn't care what it looked like; I just wanted to drink it. So, caramel-and-gold, slightly hazy from copious hops, thick, sticky head, tons of lacing down the glass, blah blah.

Founders does a good job on the balance, but that's their m.o. That's why I love them. Despite the aroma's tendency towards hops, it is balanced by a caramel sweetness underneath it. I loved their hop choices here. It smells like Michigan: pine trees and roadside aromatic wildflowers. Leafy green trees and grain. Michigan.

The ground-floor of the taste is pale and caramel malts; sweet without cloying, malty with a hint of graininess. But the walls all around are a heavy mix of pine, resin and grapefruit with a hint of flowers. The finish of the house that Founders built is peppery and leathery, in that formal British Hunt Club sort of style. The alcohol warms like a fire.

Surprisingly, the beer is medium-bodied for as thick as I though it'd be, and the hop resins leave an oily-click feel on the tongue. Not gross and coated like an Exxon disaster, but comfortably covered.

The hop bitterness, especially the pine-resiny flavors, are the highlight of this beer, with the malt serving to give it balance. I know this isn't a glowing review, and maybe it's that I am uninspired today, or that as good as this beer is, it wasn't good enough for me to gush about. I do recommend the beer, though I am growing weary of an oversaturation of Big Imperial Ales (DIPA, TIPA, etc.). So my review is all over the place today, but so is my head. Buy this beer, drink it, and you will enjoy it if you like hoppy beers. Yadda yadda.


Brewing Extravaganza!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thursday, March 12 was like Christmas. Or maybe an early birthday. Some occasion where you get gifts. The only way to really describe the impact of this long-awaited shipment is thusly:
My shipment from Northern Brewer arrived!

On Sunday, with Chief Assistant Brewmasters Greg and Heather in tow, we brewed 2 beers in just under 3 and a half hours. Less than 24 hours later, the Russian Imperial Stout in going nuts, with the foamy yeast cake stretching towards the top of the fermenter (thank God I got a 6.5 gallon one or I would have a floor covered in stout...). The Cherry Dubbel is moving a little slower, but I have noticed that White Labs vials take an extra day to really get rocking if you don't use a starter, which I should have. I'll give the Cherry another day to get cooking before I panic.

All going well, the Russian will get bottled in May, and bottle condition until Fall. The Dubbel, if it ever gets moving, will get bottled in late-April, and I'll let it bottle condition until mid- to the end of May. The Dubbel is brewed with a quart of real Traverse City, MI cherry juice, which adds a great tartness to the super-sweet Dubbel.

Now...the waiting.


Government in Action

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Consider this kind of a part two of the Wanted: Good News entry. My daughter and I had a really great day. She is in Brownies and, as many of you probably know, it is the time of year for Girl Scout Cookie sales. One of her sales was to our State Representative, Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga). We offered to deliver them to her at work and since today was a half day of school, we called her office as we drove up to the Capitol. To our huge surprise, she had made arrangements for Katie to go out on the Floor while the House was in session.

Katie is standing on the desk, being introduced to the House. Barb is right next to her and you really can't see her all that well. I couldn't be on the Floor, so these pictures were obviously taken from the observation gallery. Following the introduction, Barb took her around and introduced her to several others, including the Speaker of the House and the delegation from the UP. She has a basic understanding of government, as much as can be expected for a 6 year old. It was probably more fun for me and I hope she remembers this.

All in all, I was very thankful for Barb doing this. She certainly didn't have to do this and I appreciate her taking the time to do such a nice thing. In case you are wondering, I did vote for her and, even before today, would vote for her again.


Mea Culpa

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Okay, time to fess up and surrender my pride to Steve. The 2nd Amendment debate finally got to me, and I went and talked to my Con Law professor about it. He is probably the smartest guy I know, and is extremely knowledgeable in the field (that, and he's the only person I know that's actually read the entire Heller decision).

He agrees with you; if a case came before the court right now, the court would be more likely than not to incorporate them.

I surrender my sidearm to you, Steve.

(However, he did point out what I've said... there was a reason the court took up a District of Columbia case. It may (emphasis on may) be a case of the court splitting the baby. They affirmed the 2nd amendment as an individual right to keep and bear, but without invalidating scores of gun laws on spec.)


Beer Wars

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm not too good at being a "Brewing Industry News Correspondent", so don't expect to see my segments on The Daily Show anytime soon... But every now and then I stumble on some gems, or just have some good stuff that needs to be share. Like this:

Movie comes out April 16th, with limited theater exposure. More information and more clips can be found at beerwarsmovie.com.

And I mentioned Smitty's Maple Porter in the comments of our economic bashing brainstorming thread... This stuff is yummy. A little light on the carbonation, dark brown with red highlights, fruity sweet with hints of maple candy, medium-thickish body. Goes down smooth and easy... and five minutes later you realize that you're still tasting maple candy!

Thanks for the beer Smitty!


Career Day

Monday, March 09, 2009

Like ATK Regular Mike says, we need to get educated and get loud. The methods behind the current "solutions" to the financial debacle are certainly not helping, as more and more money gets rolled into neat little cigar-shapes and smoked. Regular offenders like Citibank and AIG, and even GM (which is arguably part of the overall crisis) keep coming back to the trough, and getting everything they ask for as legislators act all indignant about giving it to them again (which they do). Oscar-worthy performances all around.

Arguments made all over the intertubes about the financial sector revolving door [lots of Mike's Neighborhood love on ATK today...] between Wall Street and K Street suggest that this is part of the problem, and I tend to agree despite the fact that I too am an evil lobbyist (though not for any financial institutions!).

But here's where I am stuck: what do we do instead? Cole's Balloon Juice thinks that just letting banks fail is not a solution. It's one thing for me to write Stabenow and Levin once a week and bitch at them for supporting more money-chucking. But my letters feel empty in that unlike a lot of other bitching I do at my elected officials, I have not been able to say "instead of X, do Y." In this case, I have no idea what "Y" is.

So I leave it to the giant mental muscle that is our ATK community. What do we do instead?

I'll start. I said "nationalize the banks, and make the Fed Chairman an elected position" on another blog. An elected fed chairman would be accountable to "the people," and imagine what listening to campaigning for that position would do for our national conversations on economy.

React. Make up your own. Today is career day, and ATK is looking for an economist.


Wanted: Good News

Friday, March 06, 2009

Looking for some good news to post on this fine, warm, Michigan Friday afternoon.

Please consider this an open thread to post links and stories on the good things happening in the world, or just post a postitive factoid of your own.


Toyota=Good, Detroit=Bad

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I have previously pasted links to autoextremist.com , which is an excellent website with great insight and commentary into the auto industry, foreign and domestic. The site’s creator, Peter M. De Lorenzo is a fan of the American auto industry, but also one of its fiercest critics.

In addition to weekly columns, his site features “On The Table”, which is essentially a “thumbs-up” or “thumbs down” look at the auto world. This week, in addition to giving three out of three arrows down to Rahm Emanuel, for his complete lack of knowledge of the auto industry, (which hasn’t stopped him from telling the big three what to do) he also gave three arrows down to Toyota. It seems that contrary to what the media and the greenies of the world would have you believe, Toyota is in just about the same predicament as the Detroit Three.

“Toyota. That wonderful company that successfully pulled a Green Snuggie over consumers' eyes by actually convincing them that the hallowed Prius walked on water is now asking the Japanese government for $2 billion in loans to help its financial unit through these tough times. That's rich. It seems that Toyota was no different than the American car companies in their inability to predict the end of the large SUV era and all of the associated fallout that came with that egregious miscalculation, and now lo and behold, they're hemorrhaging money too.

Because, guess what? Toyota didn't make money selling the Prius, it made money by selling those trucks and SUVs. Not that anyone in Washington would care to notice. After all, we're talking about an entrenched mindset that revolves around the Toyota=Good, Detroit=Bad formula that has dominated thinking by the Potomac over the last decade. And that's not likely to change anytime soon. Another thing for the new administration to contemplate while they're burying Detroit? The fact that a large share of Toyota's profitability on the way to it becoming The Greatest Car Company on Earth was due to the fact that the Japanese government blatantly manipulated the yen to Toyota's advantage in order to help boost its profitability in the American market. Why do we think the Obama administration will find a way to blame that on Detroit somehow too?”

So someone else is saying the same thing. Green cars aren't profitable. If the D3 take the advice of Washington DC and the enviros, they will go out of buisness faster than their current rate.

Welcome to Michigan's world Toyota.


The Renewed 2nd Amendment

Monday, March 02, 2009

This is my third and final installment in a series of blog entries on guns and the second amendment. I promise no more, for the foreseeable future. I was planning on blogging about how the anti-gun movement has lost some steam since the Heller decision and wanted to discuss some aspects of that. I was in the middle of writing a response to Andy's comment on the previous entry, when I decided to include it in this post.

As is evident by the responses on this blog, I think the gun rights movement owes a fair amount to the intellectual honesty of most liberals. An article called, Liberals, Guns, and the Constitution makes this point very well. I wrote a paper on the 2nd Amendment for a Con Law seminar 4 or so years ago. The collective rights theory was definitely in the minority, but there were some prominent advocates. This isn't the case any more and that position seems to be on its way to history books and out of public policy and modern scholarship. The article mentions an excellent article by Sanford Levinson, called The Embarrassing Second Amendment. Levinson is, by no definition, a conservative.

I don't think this means that we are about to see AK47's being given to children on every corner, but I am hoping that we can see a more reasoned discussion. I would also like to see the laws regarding guns to respect liberty and the Constitution and protect rights while also ensuring the safety of the public.

Andy raised many points in his response to my previous post. I thought it should be included here, since it touches a great deal on rights:

I don't understand why anyone needs to own an assault weapon unless they are in the military.

This goes back to my original point. Individual liberties are not subject to the individual first demonstrating a need. This is just not the way it is done in a free society. Never has and never should be. I can think of a variety of reasons...some compelling, some not compelling. This makes no difference.

Can't use them for hunting.

The 2nd Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. It isn't mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, nor is it mentioned in any commentary published it at that time. I doesn't appear anywhere in the Federalist papers. As much as I enjoy hunting, I understand that the legislature can regulate it in any way it wants, including an outright ban.

Hand guns or even semi-automatics will do for burglars and protection.

I am confused here. An "assault rifle", as defined by the AWB, is a semi-auto. If you are thinking machine gun, they are already highly regulated and out of reach of most people, in terms of how much they cost. What do you think and assault rifle is?

All things are basic rights, but Congress has the right to decide what the basic rights are.


All things aren't basic rights. The Bill of Rights lists certain rights, but fundamental rights don't owe their existence to the gov't, they are inherent to a free people. A religious person would say they come from God. A non-religious person would say they are inherent to all humans by our nature.

The gov't certainly has the ability to pass laws and regulate a variety of acts, but they cannot infinge upon basic liberties except for rare circumstances and under very narrow means.

I think the 2nd amendment allows for freedom to bear arms, but not the freedom to bear assault weapons.

I think the 1st Amendment allows for media outlets to publish unpopular views, but unless you are an employee of them, people should be arrested for speaking out against the government. This is a silly example, but you are saying the same thing. An assault weapon is an 'arm'.

The Brady bill was put in to ensure safety of the people.

1. It didn't lower crime or improve safety. There have been several studies that have proven this.

2. We need to be careful as to what we do in the name of safety. Some Asian country (IIRC, North Korea) instituted a curfew for everyone which had the effect of dramatically lowering crime. Do you think this is a good idea. I can guarantee if we allowed warrantless, random searches, we would catch many criminals and seize a great deal of contraband. Should we negate the 4th Amendment.

I think that it should be re-enacted. So do most Americans

Irrelevent, if we are talking about a fundamental liberty.

It only expired because the radical right in Congress let it.

This not how I remembered it. There was certainly support amond anti-gun groups and some in Congress, but most were content to let it die.

And there was an uproar.

More like a whimper.



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