Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Investing Solo – Floating-Rate Debt

Yesterday I posted comments (link) about my search for promising individual floating-rate preferred stocks, in the absence of any viable fund that I know of, as a hedge against rising interest rates and inflation. I thought I would add here a few comments about some other floating rate exchange-traded debt I’ve looked at. I am an individual investor with no background in finance or markets, and, of course, nothing I am about to say constitutes investment advice of any kind – merely my personal observations and decisions, and I do not vouch for the accuracy of any representation – every investor needs to do his/her own due diligence.

Most floating rate exchange-traded debt securities are traditional preferred stock issues, but there are some others, although not many. In the category of exchange-traded bonds, two are from Sallie Mae, but I am afraid of this outfit in light of what happened to Fannie and Freddie, notwithstanding a recent favorable Barron’s article. The one issue I’ve looked at is PFK, from Prudential Financial rated investment grade, paying a monthly dividend based on a CPI-derived inflation rate metric plus 2.4 percentage points with a floor of zero. At today’s close of $25.35, PFK sports an annual yield of about 3.5%. It’s trading just a bit over par of $25, and will mature in 2018, a little over 7 years from now. Reference points are that I can find currently low-IG fixed-rate exchange-traded bonds at over 7% and riskier floating-rate preferred stock with fully-taxable equivalent yields of over 5.5% at the 35% bracket. One can only guess at how fast interest rates will rise and to what levels between now and 2018 when this note matures; and I must factor in the capital loss of $0.35 at maturity, which is about 1.4% of today’s price. This security has traded as high as $26.83 in the past 12 months, which, apart from a current low interest rate, means at that price a loss of $1.83 (6.8%) in 7-8 years. It seems to me that buyers of PFK at that price were betting on a lot of inflation and relatively soon. On the other hand, PFK has traded as low as $19.36 in the past year, which would mean a capital gain of $5.64 per unit if held until maturity; as a very rough estimate, assuming 8 years till maturity, that’s a straight average base of about 3.6% per year before the variable interest payment. But that deal is now gone, and PFK is not attractive enough to me, given my guess at the size and speed of rates to come, at the current price of a little over $25.

UBS-D is a floating-rate low-IG trust preferred from UBS that pays a monthly distribution, reset monthly, at the annualized rate of 0.70% point above the one-month Libor. The issue is past call with no maturity date. The current annualized rate is a measly 1.47% at today’s close of $16.98. However, QuantumOnline’s interpretation is that this security qualifies for the 15% QDI tax rate, so, if true, the 1.47% nominal annualized yield translates to an annualized fully taxable equivalent yield of about 1.92% at the 35% rate. A little bit better but not enough for me at this time. But since this security has buyers at this price, there clearly are people whose views of the inflation risk lead them to this security at this yield.

So, as to my original challenge – finding good investments in exchange-traded individual floating-rate debt securities.  So far I’ve been disappointed – there are relatively few floating-rate IG securities to begin with, and those I’ve looked at have been bid up to prices consistent with what seems to me a fairly aggressive view of the timing and height of interest rates to come. Thus for now I’ve taken only smallish positions in two floating-rate preferred stocks, which offer much better current yields than the exchange-traded debt I've looked at albeit in a more risky type of security, while I brace for interest rates to come.  Given the relative paucity of floating-rate exchange-traded debt and preferreds, it seems to me that investors interested in this category must look to individual securities rather than waiting for a fund to come along.  

Mike Parenti

Related posts:
Investing Solo – Floating-Rate Debt - GFY

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Investing Solo in Floating-Rate Preferred Stocks

I have been invited to post at this blog my current thoughts and approach to investing as an individual investor with no background in finance or securities with the thought that my experiences might be of some interest. Writing things down can also benefit me if it helps clarify my own thinking. I devote 5-10% of my savings to moderately higher-risk investing to boost overall portfolio performance and as an intellectually interesting challenge that helps keep me off the streets. Most of my portfolio is in a fairly conservative mix of stock and bond mutual funds, ETFs, and some closed-end funds (CEFs) diversified across investment styles, management firms, and accounts. Of course, nothing I am about to say constitutes investment advice of any kind – merely my personal observations and decisions.

Lately one of the areas of particular interest to me involves securities that pay a variable, or floating, interest rate. Given the widespread expectation that not only are interest rates going to rise (they can’t get much lower) but possibly rise a lot given the current global governmental fiscal debacles, floating rate debt securities are attracting a lot of commentary and interest. In addition, given the recent sell off in debt securities, there may be some bargains for investors willing to be a bit contrarian, since “buying low” usually requires the nerve to buy at a time when most others are selling.

The two largest categories of such securities accessible to the small individual investor like me are bank loans and preferred stocks; there are only a few individual floating rate securities of other types of exchange-traded debt – exchange-traded bonds, trust preferreds, and trust certificates (third party trust preferreds). Bank loans are not exchange-traded but are available via mutual funds (such as Fidelity’s FFRHX) and closed end funds (such as TLI, JFR, and BHL), and I have investments in bank loans in both investment vehicles. Bank loans are non-investment grade debt and of course as such carry a higher interest rate, but are usually relatively short-term, senior and secured, and usually have a floating interest rate.

I have had for some time modest positions in CEFs such as JPS and HPF that primarily hold preferred stock, trust preferreds, and trust certificates, but these funds are not focused primarily on floating rate debt. The one CEF that is – JFP – melted down a while back because many of the issuers of the preferred stock it held (lots of banks) stopped paying their non-cumulative dividends.

Therefore, an investor with a particular interest in preferred stocks that pay a floating dividend rate that qualifies for the 15% federal tax rate (qualified dividends) must look to individual securities. Although I generally have a strong preference for funds and only have a few individual securities in my entire portfolio, I have been looking at individual preferred floaters since I don’t have funds (other than the wounded JFP) to consider that invest primarily in them.

At QuantumOnline (, considered by many who comment online to be one of the, if not the, best source of information about exchange-traded debt securities, earlier this month I found a total of 24 floating rate preferred stock issues, about 5% of the total universe of preferred stocks listed there. Of these 24, 14 were rated investment grade (most at the lowest level) by both Moodys and S&P, and another 6 had one of the two ratings at IG.

Most issuers are banks (e.g.: HSBC; UBS; Bank of America) or financial companies (e.g.: Goldman Sachs; Morgan Stanley). All but one pay dividends quarterly and those dividends are non-cumulative with all but one.

It’s interesting, and very challenging, for me to try to assess the varying market valuations based on variables such as credit rating of the issuer, chance of dividend interruption, method of calculating the interest rate, the current rate, etc. The issues I’ve looked at all are paying dividends right now at the interest rate floor, and given the variable to which the rate is pegged, commonly the 3 month Libor which is currently well under 1%, interest rates would need to rise considerably before the floating rate would rise above the set minimum.

So far I’ve settled for modest investments in two IG issues, but I am keeping an eye on the group for entry points based on share prices and the yields at those prices. The first is MET-A (or METprA) from Met Life, whose variable rate is pegged to the 3 month Libor + 1% point with a 4% floor based on a $25 par. As such, the current dividend is $1.00, which, at today’s close of $23.18, delivers a dividend yield of about 4.3% that equates to about 3.67% after federal taxes at the 15% rate. The fully-taxable equivalent yield at the 35% rate is 5.6%. So the question for an investor like me is of course whether this security offers sufficient value. Met Life seems reasonably strong to me, and although part of the attraction is that it’s an insurance company and not a bank, given what happened at AIG there's no shortage of worry. Is the current yield enough for a period of time that could be a long one -- who knows how fast interest rates will rise to eventually push the coupon above the 4% floor; but when rates do start to rise, might they rise fast and cause the price of this preferred to shoot up past a reasonable entry point at that point in time? Does buying at a price below $25 par offer a great enough chance of capital gain in addition to the dividend?

The second issue is HBA-D (or HBAprD) from a subsidiary of HSBC, a very large global bank, whose variable rate is pegged to the highest of three different US Treasury debt metrics and has a floor of 4.5% and a ceiling of 10.5% based on a $25 par. Of particular interest to me is the fact that the dividends are cumulative, offering some protection in the event they are suspended; dividends from the other two HSBC floating rate preferreds are not cumulative.

At the floor of 4.5%, the current dividend is $1.125, which, at today’s close of $24.73 delivers a dividend yield of about 4.5% that equates to about 3.87% after federal taxes at the 15% rate. The fully-taxable equivalent yield at the 35% rate is 5.95%. In my thinking, a very nice rate, provided that HSBC, a bank, keeps paying the dividends, which, though, accumulate if suspended. I am taking some comfort in the fact that, according to a recent article (November 20) in Barron’s on the ongoing issues with banks and their mortgage-related debt, HSBC was ranked 11th of 11 big banks in the estimated dollar value of the loss if bad mortgage securities are forcibly “put back” to the banks.

I am drawn to looking at individual relatively high-yielding debt securities as investments, of course, because of the prolonged, unusually low interest rate environment that seems to me designed by the Federal Reserve to help banks repair their balance sheets at the expense of individual savers like me – a tremendous transfer of wealth to bankers and their investors in the name of stabilizing our financial system. At least as a way to mitigate my risk somewhat in this area of investing, I wish there was a viable mutual fund or closed-end fund from a major fund manager focused primarily on floating-rate preferred stock.

Mike Parenti

Related posts:
Investing Solo -- Floating Rate Debt
Investing Solo – Floating-Rate Debt - GFY

Friday, December 24, 2010

Notre Dame Church in Chicago

Quite a few years ago many a Christmas Eve found me with my family at midnight Mass at Notre Dame Church on Chicago’s near west side. It was a special yearly visit to the Italian Taylor Street “old neighborhood” of big families and special memories. I especially recall peering up into the great dome overhead and marveling at the art work so high up, and even at my age then was able to appreciate how well the church was cared for.

In Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage, Fr. George Lane writes that “the words ‘Notre Dame de Chicago’ above the door … recall the illustrious French history of Chicago…. Although Notre Dame parish was founded in 1864, it was actually a continuation of an earlier French church known as St. Louis which was organized in 1850.”

Fr. Lane tells us that the beautiful church is in the Romanesque Revival style, with the main body almost circular in plan surmounted by a 90-foot dome and cupola. The high vaulted ceiling is one of the most striking features in my memory. Fr. Lane also describes “thirty-three beautiful stained glass windows, all imported from Europe, [that] decorate and illuminate the church.” In 1918, after most of the French-speaking residents were gone, the Cardinal gave the parish and church to the Blessed Sacrament fathers to run.

The Notre Dame parish has suffered some set-backs in more recent years. First, the city razed good parts of the parish for the Eisenhower Expressway just to the north, for the West Side medical center just to the west, and for the University of Illinois campus just to the east. Some other Taylor Street churches, such as St. Calistus, survived these depredations, but a special one, Guardian Angel, did not.  Then, Fr. Lane relates that in 1978 the statue of Our Lady atop the cupola was struck by lightning and caught fire, causing extensive damage to the church. But through all that, Notre Dame still stands this new Christmas, on Flournoy Street at Loomis, in the heart of the old neighborhood through which so many lives have passed and become enriched.

R Balsamo

Monday, December 6, 2010

Illinois 2010 Election Results – For Republicans, A Tale of Two Electorates

For Illinois Republicans, last month’s election results were a mixed bag and showed an electorate very schizoid about the two major parties.

First the good news – Republicans won the Senate seat (Mark Kirk), picked up 4 House seats, and held the one Kirk vacated to run for Senate. In Congressional Districts 8, 11, and 14, all of which begin in the Chicago suburbs and extend well into the state, Republicans Walsh, Kinzinger, and Hultgen recaptured long-held seats that had been recently lost to Democrats from inattention, sloth, ideological drift, and incompetence. In addition, Republican Schilling bumped off bumbling Democrat incumbent Hare, a protégé of the late ultraliberal Congressman Evans, in the 17th district along the Mississippi River, and Republican Dold kept Kirk’s old north suburban congressional seat in party hands. Republicans will now hold 11 of the state’s 19 congressional seats. Seven of the 8 Democrat-held districts are in Chicagoland.

But state races were a different story. In the five races for state-wide offices (candidates for governor and lt. governor run together, so voters cast only one vote for a pair of candidates), Republicans won only two, for Treasurer and Comptroller, both open Democrat seats. Incumbent Democrats won the races for Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. But it wasn’t all name recognition. Republican Bill Brady, in the governor’s race, had reasonable name recognition in Republican suburban DuPage County from previous races, yet received about 17,000 votes less than Republican Dan Rutherford, unknown in the Chicago area, running for state Treasurer. In DuPage County alone, Brady received about 25,000 votes less than Republican Judy Barr Topinka in her run for her old spot as controller; Brady lost to Democrat incumbent Pat Quinn by only about 19,000 votes in the whole state. Many Republican voters split their votes.

The Brady-Quinn race illustrates the electoral challenge for Republicans in Illinois. Using the unofficial results that are available the day after the election, with 99%+ precincts reporting, Republican Brady won 99 counties versus only 3 for Quinn, but still lost because his margins of victory in all those counties could not overcome his poor showing (about 29%) in just one of the 102 – heavily Democratic Cook County. Kirk also won 99 of 102 counties, but ran just a few percentage points better than Brady in Cook County and everywhere else, and that was enough to win his Senate race.

In the state legislature races, Republicans gained some seats in both the Senate and House, but failed to take either from the Democrats, who held large majorities going in to the election.

So Illinois voters, faced with a state functionally bankrupt and run in recent years completely by Democrats, re-elected Democrats to most of the same state offices and state legislature seats, while throwing out 4 incumbent Democrat US congressmen. Hard to figure.

John M Greco

Related Posts:
Observations on the 2010 Illinois Primary Results
Illinois Republicans: Slip, Slidin’ Away

Friday, December 3, 2010

Democrats and Tax Evasion, Like Sterling and Silver -- Tax Law Writer Rangel Joins Tax Collector Geithner and Former Senate Leader Daschle in the Tax Cheaters Hall of Fame

What is it about Democrat politicians and income tax evasion? Just in the last two years, we have seen a slew of prominent Democrats discovered to have evaded federal income taxes big time and then get away scot-free, suffering only the inconvenience of back payments. No jail time, and, to my knowledge, no penalties.

Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whose position includes being the head of the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service, was found upon his nomination to have evaded substantial taxes years ago. This financial expert blamed it on software miscalculations and oversights, even though he had signed papers at work documenting his understanding that taxes would be due on the extra income in question. Only when nominated did he pay the back taxes with interest, but no penalty. The head of the IRS is a confirmed income tax cheat, and the Obama Democrats are OK with that. Very symbolic.

Prominent Democrat Tom Daschle, the former Senate leader and no doubt a lover of all tax hikes, had his nomination by Obama for a Cabinet post torpedoed by the discovery that he was a tax cheat. Most other Obama tax evading nominees suffered a similar fate, but one other cheater, Katherine Sibelius, now head of HHS, somehow survived. My theory: she was discovered to be a tax evader after so many other Obama nominees had already been outed, and by then there was so much Democrat-tax-cheater fatigue among Republicans and conservative media that she slipped by. It became hard to keep all of the tax evasion stories straight from one another.

Now yet another Democrat, long-time congressman Charlie Rangel, who has been head of the House tax-writing committee for years and also a hearty supporter of tax increases for those of us who actually pay their income taxes, is found to be a long-time tax evader (17 years by reports). But he only suffers a figurative hand slap via a House censure, which House Democrats supported only for political show to hide from the public their true feelings, which were evidenced by the standing ovation they gave Rangel immediately after the public wrist-slap.

No fines, no jail for Rangel, even though the week’s news featured another income tax evader, actor Wesley Snipes, ordered off to prison for the same offense.

For these Democrat politicians, paying taxes is for Republicans, spending taxes is for Democrats. It astonishes me that rank and file Democrat voters are not angry about all this, and that all these Democrats have gotten away with crimes that for everyone else means fines and jail.

John M Greco

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Duke False Rape Scandal, Coach Krzyzewski, & Failed Character

College basketball has begun anew and once again the Duke Blue Devils are top ranked, a familiar place since Mike Krzyzewski became coach. But although Coach K, as he is fondly called, may have found success as a basketball coach, to me he will forever symbolize failure, failure of character, at his moment of truth.

In 2006, in a now infamous scandal that in the end brought disgrace to many and serves as a morality tale of the evils of reverse racism and liberal cultural hatred gone amok, three white Duke University lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape by a black woman whose story was fishy, inconsistent, and implausible from the very start, and which in short order only grew more so. From the beginning of this sordid affair, three innocent students were used for nefarious political purposes by a despicably corrupt white prosecutor, a Democrat who sought to curry favor with black voters for his upcoming election bid. In his great frame-up, this man was consciously aided and abetted, for a variety of personal and political reasons, by many in the police force, in the prosecutor’s office, in the judiciary, in the liberal media, in the Duke administration, in the Duke hospital, in the Duke student body, and in the ultra-liberal Duke faculty (many of whom fanned racial grievances in promoting their anti-white narrative). In the early months, few stepped up to caution temperance, open-mindedness, and due process; few raised the obvious concerns about the weakness of the accusation and the disgraceful behavior of the prosecutor and the police. A few heroes stood up from the start for truth and justice, among them historian KC Johnson, who brought national attention through his meticulously researched blog (link) that chronicled and analyzed the unfolding events of the case, and the men and women Duke lacrosse players and their coaches. Many cowards also stand out, such as the numerous Duke professors of law who acquiesced in the gross miscarriage of justice unfolding at their own school before their very eyes, cowered by the left wing lynch-mob fervor all around them. As we all know, eventually, but not before great suffering, the students were completely exonerated, and some of the persecutors have been punished in one way or another.

Occupying a prominent place in the hall of eternal shame is the most famous Dukie of all, Coach Mike Krzyzewski. The product of a working-class Chicago neighborhood and a Catholic high school, he’s gone on to great success and fame. But for some of us there come one or two moments in our lives when we are faced with a great test of character, when we must choose to stand up for what is right or avert our gaze and shirk away. One such moment came for Mike Krzyzewski. With his national following as Duke’s most famous coach, and in a case involving Duke athletes, he could have stood strong and demanded fairness and justice for the accused. Instead, he chose to remain silent, either from indifference or cowardice. Perhaps he feared that his recruitment of black players would suffer if he spoke out.

In the end, whatever its cause, Krzyzewski's silence in the face of an unfolding great moral wrong will forever define him and will forever tarnish whatever his teams accomplish on the basketball court, and brings to mind the maxim, sometimes attributed to Edmund Burke, that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

John M Greco

Monday, November 22, 2010

Illinois Now Worst Among States in Risk of Default on Debt. And Illinois Voters Like It That Way. We’re Number One!

Illinois has long had the distinction of being the state with one of the, if not the, most precarious financial positions. The formula has been simple: overspend, tax, overspend, tax, overspend, borrow, overspend, borrow, overspend, borrow. At some point, and this may be the point, the state cannot borrow enough anymore.

One of the statistics that sticks in my head is this: In a recent 10 year period, Illinois’ population is roughly flat while “spending per person, after inflation, is up almost 47% (link).” Unsustainable, of course.

Where has all the money gone? Pensions to government workers, including teachers, in a system where the pension payment is set by a formula that disproportionately weights the last year’s salary, which, of course, is artificially bumped up to astronomical levels by the politicians and their union compatriots to jack up the lifetime retiree monthly pension payments. And who pays for all this? The shrinking Illinois taxpayers.

Says (link) the Chicago Tribune to the Land of Lincoln: “You've bizarrely promised your workers some $80 billion more in pension payouts than you can afford. What's more, you've promised them additional billions that you don't have for their health care after they retire.”

And then there’s Medicaid – here’s the essence: “Medicaid spending eats up 30 percent of Illinois’s budgetary pie…. Between 2003 and 2008, [Illinois’] Medicaid enrollment grew at an average rate of 7.8 percent a year while Illinois's population only grew 0.5 percent" (link). Sheesh.

Writes Amy Merrick in the Wall Street Journal (link): “Illinois's deficit through mid-2011 is estimated at $11 billion to $13 billion—close to 50% of the expected $26.7 billion in available revenue for the coming fiscal year…. That is among the worst such percentages among states…. The state pension system also is the worst-funded in the U.S. … State auditors estimate that the pension systems are underfunded by $62 billion…. Required pension contributions, including interest payments, have nearly quadrupled in the past 10 years.”

Now, in today’s Wall Street Journal, Steven Malanga writes (link) that in June 2010, based on cost of default “insurance” for holders of debt, “Illinois surpassed California as the worst credit risk among U.S. states, [and] was at greater risk of default than Iraq.” Great.

And how did Illinois voters respond this month to this historic crisis? They opted for the ostrich maneuver, re-electing the sitting Illinois Democrat governor whose plan is to cut spending a bit and raise taxes a lot, and re-elected a majority of Democrats to the Illinois House and Senate, the former presided over, seemingly forever, by a Democrat Speaker named Madigan whom many regard as the most powerful politician in Illinois and who probably more than anyone else has overseen this debt debacle.

What happened to hope and change?

John M Greco

Related Posts:

Illinois Wins a Silver Medal in Fiscal Irresponsibility, Narrowly Missing a Gold, But Beats Out New Yorkers

Illinois’ Unnecessary Budget Crisis & Irresponsible Solutions

Illinois' New Governor Proposes a 50% Tax Hike To Close Budget Gap Caused By Years of Reckless Overspending

Of Ponzi Schemes, Social Security, & State Budgets – What’s The Dif? And, Illinois in Trouble

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Armistice Day, the Brits, & Lessons for Us All

A few weeks back at Power Line Blog I came upon a post about a new video compilation (link) of some rarely seen WWII British home front footage, accompanied by the audio of a live performance at the British Festival of Remembrance in November 2009. The background music on the video is, what I have now come to know, a WWII-era song “There’s a Land of Begin Again”, sung (link) with great depth and pacing by a young man named Jamie Cullum, whom I had not heard of previously but whom I now read is fairly well known in some music circles. The song was recorded at the time, perhaps originally, by Vera Lynn, who is better known for another wistful war-era song “We’ll Meet Again.”

Listening to Vera Lynn sing I can just imagine the lyrics running through peoples’ heads as they huddled in air raid shelters listening to the destruction of their world above:
There’s a land of begin again, on the other side of the hill
Where we’ll learn to love and live again, where the world is quiet and still,
There’s a land of begin again, and there’s not a cloud in the sky,
Where we’ll never have to grieve again, and we’ll never say good-bye.
When all your troubles just surround you, and around you, skies are gray,
If you can only keep your eyes on, the horizon, not so far away.
It’s remarkable in some ways that the British were able to rustle up the will to fight through the Second World War, having not yet recovered from the horror, devastation, and loss of life from the First, their despair captured well by Eliot in the opening lines of his otherwise inordinately cryptic poem:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm,
Covering Earth in forgetful snow.
Armistice Day once again brings to mind many things, not the least of which such notions as the importance of early deterrence, how weakness is provocative to predators, and the illusoriness of appeasement. Despite paying a dreadful price when such lessons were forgotten, within memory history now repeats itself as tragedy.

The British mustered enough energy and purpose to lift themselves from despair and ennui, but only long enough to prevail. In the end, their reserves exhausted, most soon collapsed, perhaps terminally, into deep pacifism, apathy, and decadence, unwilling to defend their own culture against the growing depredations of socialism and Islamism in unholy alliance. Surely there are many stout Brits who will once again throw off their stupor and stand strong, but will there be enough of them this time around? And is America to suffer the same fate?

John M Greco

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Wall Street Journal Runs a Front Page Liberal Electioneering Puff Piece on the Blue Dogs; Liberal Bias?

The Wall Street Journal is commonly, and mistakenly in my view, thought of as a newspaper with a “conservative” point of view, stemming, I think, first from a failure to separate and distinguish a paper’s editorial point of view from that of the “straight news” writers, and second, from unfamiliarity with the product.

The WSJ editorials are indeed conservative in point of view, but I have long been of the opinion that many if not most of the WSJ writers covering the political and economic beats are for the most part liberals. Many perhaps only mildly so, but it’s hard to tell how left they really are for their liberal slant oozes out in bits and dollops, here and there, usually restrained, in otherwise “straight” news stories. It’s in the subtleties, the different shadings sketched for liberals versus conservatives, and one has to be a regular reader to pick up on this stuff.

But here’s one sans subtlety, from the WSJ of October 26 (link). WSJ writer and columnist Gerald F. Seib has a paean to so-called “moderate,” so called “Blue Dog” Democrats and a lamentation of the bleak reelection prospects many of them are facing. This electioneering puff piece is given front page placement by WSJ editors.

The “Blue Dog” Democrats are, as is well known, Congressmen who talk like conservatives back home but vote like liberals in Washington. When their votes are not needed for passage of a liberal bill they get a pass for a “no” vote they can wave around back home to fool enough foolable voters. But their support for the ultraliberal radicalism of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi has unmasked them and destroyed the myth before suddenly attentive voters, and, as Obama’s mentor and spiritual advisor Rev. Wright famously once said, the chickens are coming home to roost.

But to Seib, on the front page of the WSJ no less, the loss of any of these so-called “moderate” Democrats is a “stark indicator” of how this election could result in a “more polarized” Congress. Apparently to him, the more Congressmen there are who oppose the ultraliberal agenda, the more polarized the Congress is. The Blue Dogs are a “human bridge” connecting Democrats and Republicans, and their loss would be a tragedy. On the Senate side, the late Ted Kennedy is held out by Seib for his ability to “cross the aisle” to “work with” Republicans, but to get them to do what I ask—of course to support the liberal agenda, and John McCain, at least until lately, is held up admiringly as one of those so snookered.

Much of the blame for the dire straits of the Blue Dogs, says Seib, goes to the “tea party movement,” which has produced a “crop” of candidates who, according to an unnamed “senior GOP House aide,” “aren’t interested in coming here to compromise.” How convenient for Seib, finding a “senior” Republican aide, rather than a Democrat one, to slam the tea party movement as loaded with rigid, uncompromising ideologues (how believable is this old bit -- using an anonymous “quote” by a Republican senior insider to slam Republicans?). Don’t you see, says Seib, even responsible Republicans think those damn tea partiers are extremists for not wanting to compromise with Democrats to support the ultraliberal agenda.

Liberals and most conservatives think the WSJ is as reliably conservative as the New York Times is reliably liberal. Would that only be so.

John M Greco

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In the Bronx, Gangs Shouldn’t Be Assaulting Gays

It’s one thing for a gang to abduct and torture a victim because he’s white or rich or even a snitch, but when it’s because he’s gay, now that crosses the line.

From “CBS 2/ 1010WINS/ AP”: ‘Horrifying’ Anti-Gay Attacks Stun The Bronx (link):
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the city’s highest-ranking openly gay official, called the attacks “vile” and “horrifying.” “These attacks are appalling and are even more despicable because the victims were clearly targeted in acts of hate simply because they are gay,” Quinn said.
Missing from the article: one area resident, scurrying to meet up with his parole officer, said “We have murders and rapes every day in the Bronx, but to think that a man could get beat up around here simply because he’s gay is just horrifying.” Another, somewhat distracted by a chafing electronic ankle bracelet, muttered “I’m just stunned. How embarrassing for us.”

The new quip: "The Bronx destroyed – women, minorities, and gays hardest hit."

John M Greco

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica

Some days it doesn’t take much – a comment, a picture -- to ignite old memories. Yesterday I read mention that today is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Some of the clearest memories I have as a small boy are the walks from our home in Chicago straight down Jackson Boulevard to a large church I later came to know is the basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows. We didn’t go there on Sundays, for our church, Resurrection, was in the next parish over, but I knew it held special meaning for my mother. It was large, quiet, dim, and mostly empty when we would visit on days warm enough for a walk. My mother would light a candle, spend a few moments in reflection, and we would be off.

I now read that Our Lady of Sorrows is the patron saint of Slovakia, the Molise region of Italy, and the Congregation of Holy Cross order of Catholic priests, who, among other things, run the University of Notre Dame. Who knew?

In Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage, Fr. George Lane writes that the church was raised to the status of basilica (one of only two in Chicago) by the Pope because the Sorrowful Mother Novena rite originated there in 1937 and subsequently spread all over the world. The building was built by the Servite friars "in pure Renaissance form" and completed in 1901 of Chicago common brick with a limestone façade. Between two 200 foot towers, a great barrel-vaulted ceiling reaches 80 feet above the marble floor, and the beautiful main altar is made of white Carrara marble. The basilica features numerous original works of art and “perhaps the oldest working pipe organ Lyon & Healy ever installed.”

Richard Balsamo

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kent Chemical Laboratory at the University of Chicago

Bleary eyed, I would pack my books and papers for the day and leave Burton-Judson Courts to brave the wind gusting down the Midway Plaisance, then hustle through the Classics archway, past Bond Chapel, and across the main quad to Kent, pass through its heavy doors and on to its great octagonal lecture hall, for my first class of the day, early morning chemistry. And from an upper floor lab, as an overawed fresh undergraduate, I could wander down the hall and cross into its neighbor Jones Laboratory, and peer into the very small memorialized room where a weighable amount of plutonium was first isolated, a few months before man’s first controlled nuclear reaction was engineered in a squash court a block away.

Apparently I hadn’t had enough, for I returned the following year for an early morning class in organic chemistry, but, relievedly, from a room not so far away.

Kent Chemical Laboratory was designed by the University of Chicago’s first architect, Henry Ives Cobb, in his Chicago Gothic style and built of Indiana limestone in 1894. It anchors the north side of the main quad, alongside its close cousin Ryerson Physical Laboratory. Chicago Gothic doesn't get any better than these two.

Richard Balsamo

Related Post:
Ryerson Physical Laboratory – “The Most Beautiful University Building in the World”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Jerry Lewises & Their Telethon

Like a rock of certainty in torrrents of change, Jerry Lewis came out again this year to host his eponymous Telethon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in its work to help and cure those with neuromuscular diseases. His 60th year, I think he said, appearing in telethons for MDA. Now old and frail, Lewis did his segments his usual way, filled with the usual, effective, it seems, bathos, 1950s-era quips, and self-adulatory riffs.

I have had many friends with MD and many friends dedicated to helping them. Many feel quite schizoid about Lewis, and one old friend even created a comedy sketch around it that might make the comedian in Lewis proud. It features Good Jerry, the man who works tirelessly to raise awareness and money, and Bad Jerry, the megalomaniac who uses the words “I” and “me” a million times in the 24-hour telethon and refers to everyone even remotely associated with the charity as “his”, as in “my kids” and “my doctors” and “my firemen”, all of whom are there to “help” Jerry win his fight against neuromuscular disease. It’s Bad Jerry’s mission, and we’re all just helpers, accessories to the great man’s work -- a touch of a creepy self-cult of personality on display. So for many, the love-hate relationship endures.

But what a sight it’s been. Good Jerry’s out there all year fundraising for a most worthwhile cause, and brings it all together once a year in a TV extravaganza. The show itself for years has featured mostly minor celebrities and not-yet-celebrities and never-will-be celebrities (now who’s that performer?) in a production that’s a parody of its former self but yet remains somewhat inexplicably compelling viewing for those with heart and an appreciation for live TV as it once was. Bad Jerry thinks the big story’s all about him.

So once again Good Jerry and Bad Jerry have teamed up for another show, in all their florid glory. I wonder if anyone under 50 years old who pauses the tuner on the channel for ten minutes has much of an idea who Lewis is, or can fathom the stale, stiff, and often anachronistic jokes: in his opening monologue, unhappy with the cameraman’s framing of him, Jerry quipped “I got this guy from the Third Reich” -- the 1950s/60s Nazi theme that Jewish comedians like himself or Rickles might quip to anyone who seems to be doing them some disservice; it’s old , stale, and perhaps unintelligible to anyone unfamiliar with borscht belt-type comedy, but I, for one, love that style, at least now for nostalgic reasons even if most of the humor has long dried up, and I must admit a "Hey Lady!" now and then would still crack me up.

Though decades have passed, Good Jerry and Bad Jerry once again capture our attention, each in his own way, to goad us to help them help their kids, always plugging the “toll free numbers listed on the screen”. Now where’s that phone?

John M Greco

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Blagojevich Verdict & On Prosecutor Fitzgerald’s Competence & Character

The jury in the federal corruption trial in Chicago of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Democrat, just returned only one verdict on 24 felony counts – guilty of lying to the FBI (link). A hung jury on all other counts, and another failure from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. After hearing all Fitzgerald’s team had to offer, a seemingly strong case based on what the public has heard and on commentary from legal pundits, the jury couldn’t agree that any underlying crime had been committed. All Fitzgerald was able to secure was a conviction on one count of lying to the FBI during its investigation.

Perhaps we can add incompetent to what we already know about Fitzgerald – that he’s immoral and a disgrace to law enforcement and the legal profession. To begin with, he's already been in hot water for egregious and unethical public comments about this case pre-trial (see link below).

But more importantly, there's his behavior in the now notorious Plame case. Not long ago, he was appointed special prosecutor by the bumbling George W. Bush to investigate the alleged outing by someone in his Administration of the alleged covert CIA employee Valerie Plame, who, along with her now-disgraced husband, was very liberal and very anti-Bush. Very soon in his work, Fitzgerald ascertained that the leak was not illegal and that it was by Bush Administration officials Colin Powell and his lackey Richard Armitage, made presumably out of pique against Bush, with whom they had fallen out. Knowing there was no crime as well as the identities of the real leakers, Fitzgerald nevertheless kept that silent from the world and proceeded to pursue, ostensibly about the leak, Bush Administration officials Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, whom he knew were innocent of wrongdoing. Why? Well, Rove and Vice President Cheney, Libby’s boss, were targets of ultraliberal Bush haters and Fitzgerald was ready to oblige with some politically-inspired mischief. In a perjury trap set-up, he was able to gin up enough discrepancy between recollections under oath to secure an indictment only against Scooter Libby and to bamboozle a jury into finding him guilty of perjury, under extremely questionable facts, but could not convince the jury of any underlying crime. Only later have we learned of Fitzgerald’s dishonesty and of Powell’s and Armitage’s perfidy. Investor’s Business Daily called Fitzgerald’s behavior “From top to bottom, … one of the most disgraceful abuses of prosecutorial power in this country’s history.” That's Fitzgerald's legacy.

Related Posts at Critical Thoughts:
As Prosecutor Fitzgerald Pursues Blagojevich, Who Watches Fitzgerald?

Blagojevich Files Motion To Remove Fitzgerald, Citing Inappropriate Comments; Fitz Is a "Repeat Offender"

John M Greco

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jack Wallace, Actor

This evening I saw a commercial on TV, for Direct TV I think, which had as a background prop an elderly silent man in a wheelchair that I believe is the actor Jack Wallace, who started out in Chicago. Very glad to see him still acting. I first and last saw him live in Chicago around 1971 at the old 11th Street Theater, just off Michigan Avenue, playing the role of McMurphy in Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’m pretty sure W.H. Macy was also in that cast [corrected by a comment below]. I went with and at the instigation of my friend John Killacky, who later moved off to New York City and places beyond in the arts and arts management.

Wallace was terrific. I thought I would see much more of him, but that was not to be. I remember he had a small role, along with some other Chicago actors, in the Steven Segal Film Above the Law, which was set in and shot in Chicago. The Internet Movie Database shows that Wallace has been in many TV shows and movies (link), and I’m glad for him for that; it has just one photo of him, though -- as part of a cast group picture from the movie Boogie Nights. A great performance in Cuckoo’s Nest I still remember, these many years later.

(The nearby image I pulled off a Google search.)
Richard Balsamo

Friday, July 2, 2010

Using the Constitution: Empathy & Wise Latinas or Impartiality?

This past week’s confirmation hearings for Obama Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan has once again brought contrasting Constitutional philosophies to the fore. In a nutshell, conservatives think Supreme Court Justices should be impartial umpires, while liberals think they should be empathetic super--legislators.

Conservatives ask: What are the conflicting rules (laws, interpretations, policies) at issue in the case, and how best to achieve the result most consistent with them? Liberals ask: What is the “right” thing to do, what is the best result, in light of various goals of righting past societal wrongs, protecting the “oppressed”, and moving society to a “fairer” place consistent with the liberal focus on gender, racial, class, and sexual identity?; this is Obama’s articulated “empathy” standard for SC justices.

New Obama-appointee SC Justice Sotomayor evidenced this view with her now-infamous comment: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life." Question for Sotomayor: does the Constitution have different meanings and so different outcomes for a latina woman compared to a white male? Is an apartment lease contract unenforceable by a white landlord because the defaulting tenant is a latina and, per the liberal view, a member of an oppressed class?

We have a written Constitution whose clauses have finite meaning and are not aspirational principles or general guidelines. There is no point to having a written Constitution if the words don’t mean what they say or if they can mean what they in fact don’t say. But liberals need an expansive judicial power unmoored to the Constitution’s written words (a “living” Constitution) because they been unable to achieve their societal aims entirely through legislative and executive means.

Roe v. Wade is a perfect example, wherein a majority of Justices created a federal Constitutional right to an abortion that cannot be honestly found in the clauses of the written Constitution, hence the talk of “penumbras” and such; one can certainly be “pro-choice” and nevertheless find the majority holding in the case corrosive to a Constitutional republic based on written laws. After saying such one day, I’ll never forget the emotional response I got from a very bright attorney: “So you want to go back to the days of dangerous back-alley abortions!?” For some, the written Constitution is just a procedural hurdle – one must do what is “right”, and so the end sometimes justifies the means. Have I no empathy for women, don’t I want the “right” outcome in the case? But the history of liberty is in large part the history of fair and honest legal process. An anti-impartiality “empathy” standard for deciding the competing issues in a case destroys that foundation.

Here’s a current example: liberals are relying on the Commerce Clause as the basis of federal power to require every American to purchase private health insurance from a private company. No honest person actually thinks such a federal power can be found anywhere in the Constitution, including the much-abused Commerce Clause. But Obamacare supporters think the individual insurance mandate is a necessary component of their national health care plan and therefore is the “right” thing to do. The approach: figure out what’s “right” and then find some Constitutional language, perhaps a “penumbra” or “emanation”, that will seemingly justify it to a mostly inattentive and trusting public.

Ramesh Ponnuru discussed this Constitutional interpretation in a post (link) yesterday at National Review Online titled “Umpires vs. Liberals”, and concluded with a very interesting point. He asks: “If the Constitution merely lays out several “values” to which we aspire, and does not supply the materials for determining how to resolve conflicts among these values in cases where such conflicts arise … then why should unelected lawyers instead of legislators decide how to resolve these conflicts?” The answer for liberals must be: voters, the “People,” are too unenlightened (false consciousness and all that, expressed by one exasperated liberal a few years ago as “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) to reliably elect correct thinking legislators, and so an enlightened ruling elite, unelected by design yet ostensibly empathetic to their interests, must make the important decisions for them. A very different view of governance than that of the American system we’ve inherited.

John M Greco

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Pernicious Precedent of Obama’s Shakedown of the former British Petroleum

BP must and undoubtedly will be held liable for the accidental oil spill in the Gulf. But the process should be confined to the long-established route through the judicial branch, not a new one through the executive. Obama has pressured BP into giving him $20 billion for an oil spill compensation fund. His hand-picked administrator will presumably dole out money as his boss Obama sees fit; based on Obama’s history (e.g., the Chrysler Confiscation), Democrat constituencies will primarily benefit. That seems to be the whole point. Obama has control over whether and to what extent the federal government will bring criminal charges against BP officials, a strong motive for BP to cave in to this extraordinary extra-legal demand.

Can there possibly be precedent for this, for a private company, under political pressure from a President, to give that President a humongous discretionary fund for him to dispense? No courts of law, no public processes. How possibly can this be good for the American system of law and Constitutionalism?

A Wall Street Journal Editorial (link) stated “BP's agreement sets a terrible precedent for the economy and the rule of law, particularly for future industrial accidents or other corporate controversies that capture national outrage. The default position from now on in such cases will be for politicians to demand a similar ‘trust fund’ that politicians or their designees will control…. BP deserves to pay full restitution for the damage it has caused, but it ought to do so via legal means, not under what Texas Republican Joe Barton rightly called the pressure of ‘a shakedown’….”

Why are those liberal voices so concerned during the Bush years with executive power and rule of law so silent now about this? Could it be they are concerned with such niceties only when their side isn’t in charge, now choosing power over principle?

John M Greco

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Obama’s New Proposal: Much More Spending on Government Unionized Workers

In spite of record-breaking peacetime American debt , massive borrowing from foreigners, economy-crushing tax and health-care policies, and near bankruptcy of hundreds of American states and cities, Obama has just proposed (link) borrowing yet more money to subsidize unionized state and local government workers -- workers who already have received a giant federal handout known as the “stimulus” spending plan (most of that federal spending went to state and local governments to support their unionized workers). Government unionized workers already earn far more in salary and benefits than private sector counterparts, but Obama wants more.

Obama doesn’t want a single unionized state and local worker given a furlough or a wage freeze just because their public employers are broke and deeply in debt, caused more than anything else by profligate spending on wages, benefits, and pensions for these employees. But unions such as SEIU make up the most powerful and dependable part of the Democrat Party and seem to provide most of the goon squad thugs who have been intimidating peaceful tea party protesters, so Obama needs them more than anyone else. In short, Obama wants to borrow money from foreigners, for which private sector workers will effectively be on the hook, to subsidize his most reliable Democrat Party members who are already substantially overpaid.

Nicole Gelinas, writer and analyst at the quarterly City Journal and the author of a recently-published terrific analysis of the causes of the recent financial crisis titled “After the Fall”, took apart this proposal of Obama’s in a commentary (link) titled “A Stimulus To Ruin”.

One more piece of evidence, as if any more were needed, that Obama’s true goal is to turn America into a European-style socialist welfare state where government has all the power and most of the jobs. His role model could be FDR, who became ever more popular while in office despite wreaking the economy via bonehead policy mistakes because he emoted well and talked up concern for the little guy; FDR let no crisis go to waste. But this time around Americans are more educated and more attuned to policy matters, and Obama isn’t getting the same widespread misplaced trust and adulation that FDR received. Even some Democrats may be waking up from the Obama spell -- Hot Air reports (link) that some Congressional Democrats may resist Obama on this one; they’ve had enough over-borrowing and over-spending. One can only hope.

John M Greco

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicago Blackhawks

National Hockey League champions, ending a 49 year wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Obama Chrysler Confiscation – One Year Later

June 10 is the one year anniversary of the Obama Administration’s illegal confiscation of the assets of the old Chrysler Corporation to benefit its union allies and supporters, writes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in a recent Wall Street Journal essay (link). It seems to me that this act has received far too little attention, although understandably somewhat lost in the crowd of countless other Obama team insults to the American system which compete for our attention.

The facts are simple. Chrysler’s secured creditors had first dibs on the assets of the company and had their own sense of what those assets would be worth in bankruptcy. Obama and his team did not want the company to enter traditional bankruptcy because it would have eradicated the cushy, dysfunctional, company-crushing agreements on union wages and workplace rules. So in a faux-bankruptcy Obama seized the company and gave most of it to the legally undeserving union and a part of what was left to a foreign company to absorb Chrysler and its union agreements. The secured creditors got the scraps. Illegal, sure. But so was the forced confinement of Japanese American citizens during WWII, but it happened and most looked the other way, because at the time it seemed expedient and the Roosevelt Administration seemed too powerful to resist. In retrospect, however, we see it for what it was – a dismal deviancy from American law. This time around, the motive for the Chrysler confiscation was far less justifiable and the circumstances far less extenuating -- profit and protection for the auto unions. The critical factor in how this theft came to pass – Nicole Gelinas, in her terrific new book “After the Fall,” explains that most of the big, secured creditor banks had earlier taken government bailout money and were strong-armed by the Obama team to accept the raw deal of the confiscation, leaving the smaller creditors politically and legally on their own. Investor’s Business Daily said (link) that this confiscation showed that “political clout matters more than rightful claims.”

Three Indiana pension funds, Chrysler secured creditors, sued in federal court to uphold their rights and interests under American law. They were rebuffed, but not on substantive grounds, writes Governor Daniels:
Bankruptcy came [for Chrysler], all right, but in a new, extra-legal form run by the federal government. The United Auto Workers, who owned no interest in the company, were simply handed a 55% interest, a gift valued then at $4.5 billion. When no one else wanted to buy the firm, Fiat was given a 20% stake for free to take it over. After this looting, the legitimate creditors were told to be happy with the remnants. For Indiana's retired teachers and state policemen, this amounted to 29 cents on the dollar, a loss of $6 million versus the purchase price and millions more below the expected value in a standard Chapter 11 [bankruptcy] proceeding. When, alone among the victims, Indiana retirees went to court, they caused a lot of discomfort but no change in the outcome. The Second District U.S. Court of Appeals declined to overturn the cramdown, but the judges refused to go within a mile of the merits. How could they? The law calls certain instruments "secured" credit for a reason, and there was absolutely zero precedent for the Chrysler confiscation. [However,] On Dec. 14, 2009, in the under-reported news story of the year, the Supreme Court granted the request of Indiana pensioners and took the case. The Court immediately ruled from the bench to strike down the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, eliminating it as a possible precedent in any future proceeding.
So fortunately, this lawless act of the Obama Administration, acquiesced to by the legal establishment and the liberal media in the name of expediency and for the benefit of a major Democrat party constituency, is at least negated as precedent by the US Supreme Court. But the great theft by Obama and his minions and the receipt of stolen property by the auto unions remains on the history books and imprints an indelible stain on their already deeply tarnished legacies.

John M Greco

Related Post:
Obama, the Car Companies, and the Rule of Law

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Paul McCartney, Beatle and Uneducated Ass

British pop musician Paul McCartney, on a visit with Barak Obama at the White House, publicly said (link): "After the last eight years, it's great to have a president who knows what a library is."

First, McCartney felt compelled to make his small contribution to the ongoing debasement of the United States Office of the Presidency under Obama, where such slurs are made publicly in Obama’s presence in such a place of honor. The continual smearing of Bush by Obama directly or by preening surrogates with his acquiescence is way past being tasteless, counterproductive, and old -- it’s pathetic.

But as for McCartney himself, he’s clearly too stupid to know that, if you’re going to slur George W. Bush as an idiot, you should have academic credentials credibly superior to his. Bush is a graduate of Yale (with better grades than John Kerry) and of Harvard. My vague recollection is that McCartney is a high school dropout, so I did some research. McCartney’s Wikipedia entry (link) talks about his entering a secondary school, spinned as a prestigious one, but does not mention a graduation, usually a strong sign that it did not happen; and there’s no mention of college whatsoever -- by that age we know he was already involved in a music group. An entry at a Yahoo answer site (link) also goes on and on about the various secondary school exams he passed but slips in that he “left school.” Another site states that “he studied” at the school but omits mention of a graduation.

And it is patently clear that, although McCartney has composed perhaps a few catchy jingles since the breakup of the Beatles, the intellectual heft of that group, what there was, came almost entirely from John Lennon.

McCartney is poorly educated, almost certainly a high school dropout, and an ass, and a crass one at that. And Obama, well I won’t get started.

John M Greco

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Spirit of American Youth"

"Spirit Of American Youth"

By Donald De Lue

At the First Infantry Division Museum at Cantigny Park
Wheaton, Illinois, Outside Chicago

Replica of the Original That Stands In the Normandy Beachhead in France,
Honoring Young Americans Who Gave Their Lives For Their Country

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Obama-run General Motors Guilty of “Elasticizing the Reality of Things" about Repaying Its TARP Loan

A few weeks ago, the Obama-appointed CEO of General Motors, a man named Whitacre, in a Wall Street Journal piece and in a TV commercial proudly announced that now-federal-government-owned GM, under his leadership, had repaid in full its “TARP” “loan” from the federal government. The message: all you sticklers for the rule of law and proper procedure who have been boycotting GM vehicles because of the way Obama illegally stiffed bondholders and illegally rewarded Democrat auto unions in the government takeover can now relax and buy GM once again; don’t you see, Obama said it would all come out fine and now it has, and sooner than expected too.

Obama's own Treasury Dept. itself released a statement (link) claiming that GM had "fully repaid" its TARP loan (a contention the Department later rescinded, as the linked article discusses).

However, the shameless deceitfulness of this claim was immediately recognized and widely denounced (link), since GM had “repaid” the federal TARP loan with money from another federal government loan, and not at all from profits (assuming there are any in actual fact, as opposed to Obamaccounting fact). Aside: How dumb do the Obami think everyone is?

This lie apparently has been too much even for some other Obama appointees. Yesterday, the Detroit News reported (link) that former Obama “auto czar” Steve Rattner admitted that Whitacre and GM "may have slightly elasticized the reality of things."

In Obamaspeak, a lie is now simply “slightly elasticizing the reality of things," which brings to mind Churchill's quip about "terminological inexactitude."

John M Greco

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Obama Administration Assures Radical Muslims of Constitutional Protections

Amid growing criticisms from radical Muslim groups about lengthening government delays in processing applications for U. S. citizenship, which would garner for them full constitutional rights and government-paid lawyers should they be arrested for acts of terrorism on American soil, today Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder sought to allay fears in a joint statement (link), published on the federal government’s web site and also broadcast in Arabic on targeted radio stations in the Near and Middle East. In that statement, they apologized for the backlog in application processing but assured Muslim groups that suspected terrorists will be afforded full American constitutional rights and government-paid lawyers if apprehended, whether or not they are American citizens and whether or not they are in this county legally.

[This is a parody, but not by much]

John M Greco

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bill Clinton & Elian Gonzalez

Former president Clinton has been lecturing America about the importance of civility in public political discourse and warning against incipient conservative and Republican-inspired violence. Imagine that, as if anyone thinks of conservatives when one thinks of activists rampaging through streets and creating mayhem, or of agitators disrupting conservative speeches, or of thugs committing assault and battery at political rallies of political opponents. I think of the actual groups that do such things, like Code Pink, SEIU purple-shirted union thugs, and agitated “youth” marching through streets, not peaceful, polite tea partiers. But Clinton must deflect from the real truth, and project the behavior of liberal extremists onto mainstream conservatives to try to fool the foolable. That’s apparently what Clinton thinks his role in American society should be as an ex-president of this great Republic.

And on the subject of Bill Clinton and violence, today is the 10th anniversary of his Administration’s violent and shocking home invasion by armed federal agents to seize an 11 year old boy from loving relatives in order to return him to a brutal, communist country his mother died trying to free him from. That’s a window to Bill Clinton’s soul.

John M Greco

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Democrats’ Immoral and Destructive Game of Falsely Accusing Opponents of Violence, Racism, and Sedition

The tenor of American political discourse is getting ominous and deeply worrisome. Many Democrats seem to be a conscious part of a two-pronged strategy against Republicans and conservatives: first, real violence against their opponents, and second, public condemnations of those opponents based on knowingly-fabricated stories of violence and racism. All this Democrat ugliness is distressing to those who love this country, and sadly reveals the lengths, however corrosive to our Republic, that some Democrats are going to advance their partisan causes.

Actual and threatened politically-based violence has been largely a Democrat phenomenon for as far back as the eye can see. Michelle Malkin even wrote an entire book about Bush-era liberal violence titled “Unhinged.” But lately some Democrats have ratcheted it up a notch higher than I thought they would ever go.

This most recent cycle of destructive Democrat behavior I think has its genesis in the shockingly dramatic reversal in popularity and power of Obama in particular and Democrats in general as a result of what everyone has seen this past year of their true political beliefs, their arrogance, their disdain, and their hubris. The Democrats are stunned, panicked, angry, and desperate, and are lashing out.

Especially as a result of the long, revealing debate and eventual passage of the Democrat Party’s health care bill, Democrats have taken a severe hit in the polls. Their strategy after the bill’s passage has been to go on the offensive with false charges of racism and violence against those who oppose them. Whereas for Democrats rancorous political dissent, even fantasies of assassinating George W. Bush, were mainstream and asserted by them to be the highest form of patriotism during the Bush years, now, say those same Democrats, dissent of any kind against Democrat policies is dangerous, racist, and seditious. A Senate filibuster by the Democrat party minority was the last protection of virtue and democratic ideals when Bush was president, but now is an anti-democratic and racist tool when used by Republicans against the policies of Democrat party majority.

The intellectual vanguard of the Democrat party is not interested in consistency – only in results – in their efforts to discredit conservatives and Republicans among the many inattentive and easily foolable voters. Elected black Democrat leaders, within memory of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, now for political gain on issues of the day falsely charge their political opponents with racism with increasing fervor and frequency. Elected Democrat leaders, immediately after the passage of DemCare, announce they are the objects of unsubstantiated threats of violence, while Republicans like Eric Cantor and Sarah Palin reluctantly, because it is not in their characters to play the victim, come forward with countless tales of threats real and long-repeated. No one can honestly recall ever seeing or hearing about conservatives beating up opponents, but recently in New Orleans leftists targeted and severely assaulted (link) Republicans attending a party conference, and the Democrat media is silent. T-shirted SEIU union thugs beat conservative activists at a peaceful St Louis rally, and the liberal media avert their eyes. A finger of an elderly, peaceful tea party activist is bitten off at a political rally last year by an angry leftist. Then there’s harassment: an ultra-liberal student and son of a Democrat party official is about to go on trial for hacking into the email account of then vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in an attempt to disrupt. And on and on it goes. Can such Democrats and leftists really love this country, to spread these lies and commit or condone such violence? To pour acid on the American ethic of civil discourse between people of different political beliefs for short-term political gain is despicable.

And now the other day former liberal Democrat President Clinton warns against non-existent Republican and conservative extremism on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, perpetrated 15 years ago by two anti-government types outraged over his own administration’s bungled murderous attack at Waco, Texas, two years to the day earlier, a horrific episode of Clinton incompetence. Clinton is not a talk show host or a blogger; he is a former President of the United States and a senior member of the Democrat Party. And yet Clinton seeks to spin the whole sordid episode as a warning against Republican Party extremism. Has he no sense of decency left? Apparently he thinks that a vicious and false offense is the best defense – accuse your opponents of exactly what your side has been doing, supported by your staunch left-wing allies in the media.

In a must-read post (link), Peter Wehner at Commentary Magazine Online’s Contentions blog addresses Clinton’s rank hypocrisy:
…. It’s also worth recalling that the Clinton administration organized, coordinated, and participated in some of the ugliest rhetoric we have seen in recent American politics…. And now Mr. Clinton is preaching to us about not demonizing our opponents and about the importance of not crossing rhetorical lines. Can a Clinton sermon on the importance of fidelity and the gift of celibacy be far behind?
…. The end game for many Tea Party critics … is to discredit the movement itself. It is to silence the overwhelming number of decent people who comprise the Tea Party movement by attaching them to the hip with haters and kooks. Liberals and the Democratic Party are losing virtually every substantive debate on the issues. It is blowing their circuits. And so they are left to resort to libel…
Attorney John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog notes (link) that “It is deeply ironic that Democrats are trying to sell the idea that Republicans are somehow violent and unAmerican, when in fact, every actual violent incident is perpetrated by liberals, usually union thugs, against Republicans.”

In a post titled “Democrats Hate that Tea Parties Are Peaceful” (link), columnist Mona Charen reminds us of recent history:
….Democrats are reduced to warning that certain attitudes can lead to violence because there hasn’t been any actual violence at the tea-party rallies. All have been remarkably orderly and even friendly. You can almost feel the Democrats’frustration at this. By contrast, many, many left-wing protests and demonstrations have sparked violence. Just last year, at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, rampaging protesters broke shop windows and scuffled with police, who used batons and tear gas to subdue them. A 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle was so badly disrupted by anti-globalization fanatics who smashed windows and shut down the center of the city that the governor had to declare a state of emergency and call out the National Guard. (President Clinton failed to assail those who criticize corporations as inspiring the violence.) In 2007, several hundred protesters who descended on Washington, D.C., during the International Monetary Fund meeting turned over trash cans, smashed windows, threw bricks, and pushed a police officer off her motorcycle…. In 2008 …anti-Republican protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul “threw bricks through the windows of buses, sending elderly convention delegates to the hospital. They dropped bags of sand off highway overpasses onto vehicles below.” The violence was only fleetingly covered in the press and went unmentioned by leading Democrats.
And finally, as for all the Democrat lies about tea-party racism, just the latest iteration of the standard liberal Democrat propaganda trope that conservatives and Republicans are selfish, racist, violence-prone haters, James Taranto asks and answers this question (link) in the Wall Street Journal, “Why the Left Needs Racism:”
If Republicans were able to attract black votes, the result would be catastrophic for the Democratic Party. Even in 2008, the Democrats' best presidential year since '64, if the black vote had been evenly split between the parties (and holding the nonblack vote constant), Barack Obama would have gotten about 48% of the vote and John McCain would be president. To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party (as well as independent challengers to the Democrats, such as the tea-party movement) as racist. The election of Barack Obama made nonsense of the idea that America remains a racist country and thereby necessitated an intensifying of attacks on the opposition as racist.
And so it goes. The ultra-liberal gang we witness today has long ceased being “your father’s Democrat Party,” and is rapidly polarizing and angering regular Americans. They have overplayed their hand. These ultra-liberal Democrats are sowing the wind, and they will reap the whirlwind, but unfortunately for all of us not before they have destroyed some of the unique American heritage in their wake. Are there no Democrat Party American loyalists in their midst who will stand and say “enough and be gone”?

John M Greco

Friday, April 2, 2010

Big Obama Supporter Ed Koch Sours on His Man; Is Surprised Obama’s Anti-Israel

Fox News reports (link) that former Democrat New York Mayor and big-time Obama booster Ed Koch has soured on his man; he is shocked, shocked to find out that Obama is not the supporter of Israel Koch thought he would be:
Koch said he believes Obama "orchestrated" what happened in Israel [that is, Obama’s recent very harsh criticism of Israeli plans for a new housing development]. "What they did is they wanted to make Israel into a pariah," he said. "It's outrageous in my judgment…. I believe that the Obama administration is willing to throw Israel under the bus in order to please Muslim nations."
Obama not turning out who you thought he was, Ed? What was your first clue? An ultra-liberal hostile to Israel and friendly to Palestinians and their Islamic allies! What a surprise!

Koch campaigned vigorously for a former “community organizer” known to be dedicated to Saul Alinsky, a radical who preached the method of adopting a moderate, unthreatening mask to surreptitiously foment socialistic ends from the inside of institutions; he campaigned for a man with past mentors such as Frank Marshall Davis (a Communist Party member), William Ayers (a known radical domestic terrorist), and Jeremiah Wright (a preacher of anti-capitalist and anti-white black liberation theology), a man who is culturally a blend of Islam and black radical pseudo-Christianity whose past words and deeds focused on the sins of Western culture. And now Koch is surprised he’s hostile to Israel, the whipping boy of the anti-American and Muslim world.

Bringing Jews such as Alexrod and Emmanuel into his inner circle was a head fake. Obama sympathizes with the Muslim world in their manufactured grievances against the West in general and America and Israel in particular.

Obama is like the wizard behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, only in reverse. The soothing, reassuring moderate-sounding figure is up front in plain view for all the commoners to see, up there to fool the foolable, while the real Obama with his radical agenda lurks out of sight. Koch is now just waking up from his self-delusion; better late than never I suppose.

John M Greco

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Liberal Bias Whopper at CNN – As Plain As the Eye Can See

The liberals in the media usually hide their bias a little better than this – CNN news announcer Fredericka Whitfield, while talking over a shot of a TV camera panning the crowd at a Nevada Tea Party rally that numbers at the very least well into the thousands, if not well over ten thousand, says this: "Hundreds of people, at least dozens of people - we haven't gotten a count of how many people turned out there.”

Repeat – while the TV camera pans a crowd of many, many thousands, at least, she describes the crowd as “hundreds of people, at least dozens of people.”

These little bloopers are always revealing. She forgets that she’s not writing an article for print, where the reader would rely on her representations. She forgets, because she apparently isn’t very bright, that she can’t lie on TV about a picture that we the viewers are also seeing.

Newsbusters has the video here, and Gateway Pundit also weighs in here.

NewsBusters also says that a reporter for the liberal web site Politico estimated the crowd at 20,000, although he then tarred speaker Sarah Palin with the standard liberal “inciting violence” smear; no report that he hurled the other standard liberal smear – that the Tea Partiers are all racists as well. Perhaps he’s saving that one for his next report.

John M Greco

Related Post:

Liberals Who Read Only Liberal Media Don’t Know the Half of What’s Really Going On – Case in Point: The Obama Team’s Bungled Freeman Nomination

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Thoughts on the Passage of DemocratCare

* Democrats in the House passed the Senate version on DemocratCare by a vote of 219-212; they needed 216 to pass. Just three votes to spare. Congress has just passed, and Obama has just signed into law today, one of the most momentous bills in American history on a straight single party vote, with not a single Republican vote, by a remarkably slim margin in the House where even many Democrats voted against it. We’ll now find out if a hyper-partisan approach to health care reform can last.

* Democrats have long blamed all ills on George W Bush, but this time it’s my turn. Ronald Reagan left a third term for his legacy, but Bush left us not just Obama but Democrat super-majorities in both Houses of Congress. His mishmash of policies, often confused, inconsistent, and poorly managed, his embrace of the oxymoronic “big government conservatism” that got him and his Republican allies nowhere, his often poor choices in personnel, and most importantly his utter inability to defend his positions and persuade Americans of their merits all led to a devastating wipe out of Republicans over two elections. How different things would be now if there had been all last year only, say, 56 Democrat Senators instead of 60 and 10-15 fewer Democrats in the House; Democrats needed every one of their 60 votes to break a threatened Republican filibuster and bring the Senate health care bill to the floor for a vote, where they then easily got the 51 votes needed to pass. Bush in his second term was weak before his adversaries and left conservatives and independents enervated and angry, and now we live with the consequences.

* The story of how, in Illinois, three Democrats now represent historically Republican districts is instructive, and one I have posted on in the past (link). Big government, back-slapping, go along - get along Denny Hastert, former Republican Speaker, decides to retire mid-term, and a mentally-fogged Republican electorate nominates twice an astoundingly weak perennial candidate who proceeds to lose not one but two elections (a special and a regular biennial) in less than 12 months to a Democrat political newcomer (Foster). In another district, an old, doddering Republican congressman (Crane), the longest serving in Congress at the time, who had stayed around way too long, gets defeated by a smart, young Democrat newcomer (Bean) who runs, as so many of them do, as a fiscal conservative and social moderate – liberal?, hell no. In yet another district, the incumbent Republican congressman (Weller) unexpectedly announces his retirement to run off with his new Latin American bride, the daughter of a former dictator of Guatemala (a puzzling development), and then his hand-picked successor, the winner of the Republican primary to replace him, decides at the last minute not to run after all, leaving a mad dash to find a replacement candidate, a somewhat unskilled newcomer to politics, who loses the seat (to Halvorsen). All had been Republican districts, all now with supposedly “moderate” Democrats, all of whom voted for DemocratCare. That’s three votes just in one state that could’ve and should’ve been Republican but for Republican party ineptness.

* The Stupak fiasco was remarkable. The Michigan Democrat, elected explicitly as “pro-life”, insisted for weeks that he could never support the Senate bill because of its permissive language with regard to government funding of abortions. At the very end, after Speaker Pelosi held firm, he folded and sold out his principles (assuming he had them to begin with) and voted for the Senate bill, hiding behind a meaningless, infinitesimally small fig-leaf executive order Obama issued at the last minute to provide him some cover for his vote. Unfortunately for Stupak, everyone knows the order is meaningless and cannot ever contravene what’s in the Senate bill, and the Democrats laugh at how cheaply he was bought out. By first holding out but then selling out at the very last minute for nothing to a president who is not just pro-abortion but defended infanticide while in the Illinois Senate, Stupak looks like a big ass and now has Democrats who despise him and Republicans who hate him. A remarkable achievement. The 11th hour sell-out by Stupak and the small band of similar supposedly pro-life hold-out Democrats gave Pelosi the votes needed for victory.

* Pelosi’s public relations stunt before the vote, walking around outside with black congressmen while holding the big gavel used during the Congressional civil rights fight decades ago, is a transparent effort to bolster the despicable Democrat strategy to paint everyone opposed to DemocratCare as racist (and the black politicians were happy to allow themselves to be used as props). Moreover, some black congressmen played up the race card, alleging, without documentation or corroboration, they heard racial slurs from tea party demonstrators. Personally I doubt their stories; a very convenient time to shout racism at 30,000 anti-Obamacare protestors. I heard a number of angry liberals call in to conservative talk radio all lathered up and energized about these “facts”, which some conservatives foolishly played into by asserting that most tea partiers are not racist. Sheesh. Playing the race card works and smearing Republican and conservative opponents as racists has long been a basic play in the Democrat playbook, so no doubt we’ll hear many more such smears in the months to come.

* The new law contains an "individual mandate" ordering every American to buy health insurance, said by Democrats to be constitutional under the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce. Never before has the mere act of being alive been regarded as interstate commerce; never before has a law compelled an American to engage in interstate commerce through the purchase of a good or service (in this case, health insurance). If this law survives constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court, where it will inevitably end up, then any and all theories of Constitutional limitations on federal government power are gone, and the United States has truly crossed a threshold and entered the second phase of its existence, one of vastly diminished liberty and unrestrained central government control over our lives.

Repeal and Replace.

John M Greco

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another Hollywood Liberal, This Time Tom Hanks, Runs Off the Rails

Tom Hanks, in a recent Time Magazine interview (link) promoting his new miniseries about the fighting in the Pacific theater of WWII titled “The Pacific,” said the following:
Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"
Amazing. Yet another example of the self-loathing mindset of some Western liberals, who see the glass of Western culture and history 1/5 empty rather than 4/5 full. Through Hanks we see the liberal dogma of the evil in Western culture and white guilt over past racism, real, exaggerated, or imagined.

Hanks is breathtakingly ignorant of history. He sees racism as a significant part of the American spirit during the war, but ignores how we fought beside and in defense of many East Asians, including, to name only a few, Chinese, Polynesians, Filipinos, and Burmese. How could it possibly be that our motivation to fight the Japanese was based on racism against East Asians? He also ignores or is grossly ignorant of our massive, expensive, and successful effort to rebuild Japan after the war. We rehabilitated the Japanese at great expense even though we wanted to “annihilate” them because they were “‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods”? This is astoundingly incoherent and without historical foundation.

Then, to compound his felony, he projects that same imagined racism on our current war against radical Islamists, implying Americans are fighting this war out of racism toward Muslims, showing more ignorance of many things, not the least of which we fought in the Balkans not long ago to protect Muslims against European Christians.

John Hinderaker of Powerline Blog asks “Does Hollywood Make You Stupid?” (link).

Historian Victor Davis Hanson, in a post at Pajamas Media titled “Is Tom Hanks Unhinged?” (link), writes:
… Hanks’ comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well, an ignoramus. Hanks thinks he is trying to explain the multifaceted Pacific theater in terms of a war brought on by and fought through racial animosity. That is ludicrous….
Despite Hanks’ efforts at moral equivalence in making the U.S. and Japan kindred in their hatreds, America was attacked first, and its democratic system was both antithetical to the Japan of 1941, and capable of continual moral evolution in a way impossible under Gen. Tojo and his cadre. It is quite shameful to reduce that fundamental difference into a “they…us” 50/50 polarity. Indeed, the most disturbing phrase of all was Hanks’ suggestion that the Japanese wished to “kill” us, while we in turn wanted to “annihilate” them…. In short Hanks’s comments are as ahistorical as they are unhinged .…
The interview in Time is by liberal historian Douglas Brinkley and carries the astounding and risible title of “How Tom Hanks Became America's Historian in Chief.” The Hollywood liberals and their media jock-strap sniffers just won’t stop denigrating the United States.

John M Greco

Related Post:
“The Pacific” Premiers – In the First Hour, American Racism & Torture, and Moral Equivalency

Thursday, March 18, 2010

“Scheme & Deem” and Other Democrat Health Care Offenses

We Americans are witnessing an extraordinary grand political passion play unfold before our eyes, beyond our imagination, as the senior leaders of the national Democrat party, supported by the majority of its Congressional delegation, are attempting to muster support for an unpopular health care bill through means ethically offensive, patently deceitful, and arguably unconstitutional.

It has long been clear to the sentient that by all of their actions but by only a few of their words, the intellectual vanguard of the Democrat party consists of committed believers in European-style socialism focused on the outward appearance of economic equality, a race- and gender-driven political spoils system (“social justice”), self-loathing over perceived past white wrongdoing (global “imperialism”), and the gradual replacement of the rule of law by the rule of unelected elites through the “legal” theory of the Living Constitution (in which liberals fool the hoi polloi by pretending to base their redistributive, “social justice” decisions on the actual rule of law). But I don’t think in my lifetime there has ever been such a public, naked display of contempt for our established rules of democratic government. The Democrat leaders are saying that their bill will be a good thing for Americans, and it doesn’t at all matter that a majority of Americans don’t want it, and if the rules of American government have to be subverted in order to achieve their end, so be it.

Yesterday Fox News interviewed Barack Obama, and among other things he was dismissive of concern about the process being discussed that the Democrats might use to claim passage of their health care bill, saying “I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.” This has to be one of the most astounding statements in the history of our Republic. The President of the United States expresses unconcern about the validity, the constitutionality, of the process by which his signature plan, Obamacare, might be enacted.

Ann Althouse, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, in a post today (link) expressed so well the horror any lover of the rule of law should feel at Obama’s remarkable statement:
As if procedure is a frivolous sidetrack that only trivial or devious people care about. Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor. Much of constitutional law is about procedural rights and structural safeguards that check power. Justice Felix Frankfurter famously wrote: "The history of American freedom is, in no small measure, the history of procedure." Law professors are seriously engaging with the constitutionality of the "deem and pass," and our erstwhile law professor Barack Obama would imperiously wave procedure aside as a distraction not worthy of his time. Let's concentrate on the end and pay no attention to the means. When the most powerful man in the world says that, we should feel revulsion and alarm.
And so I have documented the crazy, alarming process the Democrats are about to begin for my own personal later reference, since years from now, long after Americans have thrown all these dangerous bums out of office, I think I might scarcely believe it all. It is frightening, and profoundly embarrassing, to me to recognize that what follows might happen for real in America and not in some piece of fiction.

1. Senate Democrats have already passed their version of health care (HC) “reform” – the “Senate” bill. Democrats won a vote to bring the bill to a floor vote 60-39, with all 58 Dems and the two independents (de facto Democrats) voting for cloture; the bill itself passed by majority vote. No Republicans voted either to end debate on the bill or for the bill itself.

2. House Democrats have already passed their version of HC “reform” – the “House” bill. It passed 220-215, with one lone Republican vote, Chao of LA (who now says he will vote against the Senate bill if and when it comes to a House vote).

3. The two bills differ significantly in certain particulars. For example: the House bill exempts unions from higher taxes on “Cadillac” health care benefit plans (which many union members have), a feature lacking in the Senate bill; the Senate bill has all the ugly special “bribes” that were needed to secure specific votes, such as the “Cornhusker Kickback”, the “Louisiana Purchase”, and “Gator Aid” (which exempts Florida, where the Medicare Advantage plan is popular, from the general gutting of Medicare Advantage in the Senate bill); and significantly, the Senate bill has language that is seen as potentially permitting federal funding for abortions, whereas the House bill contains the “Stupak Amendment” (insisted upon for their needed votes by a group of anti-abortion Democrats), which explicitly bans federal funding for abortions, consistent with current law and practice.

4. It is generally believed that the House bill could not pass the Senate, and vice versa. Since it is harder getting a bill through the Senate because of the risk of filibuster, getting the Senate bill through the House is the less difficult approach.

5. The House Democrats cannot secure enough votes to pass the Senate bill straight up as it stands, in significant part because many Democrat representatives do not want to go on record as voting for such extremely unpopular parts of the Senate bill such as the Cornhusker Kickback and Gator Aid. Also, Speaker Pelosi’s assurance to House Democrats that if they voted to pass the Senate bill the House would immediately pass a companion bill that would remove, or fix, the unpopular provisions of the Senate bill has been unpersuasive to many House Democrats for this reason: they fear that these “fixes” would never come to pass because the Senate would be unable to pass some or all of them, even if the Senate Democrats tried to pass such House “fixes” via the risky and uncertain “reconciliation” process. Also, some House Democrats fear (undoubtedly with very good reason) that as soon as they passed the Senate bill, Obama would sign it into law, and thus once some version of Democrat health care reform was law, the political will to ram through certain fixes in the Senate via reconciliation will peter out, and the fixes will never happen.

6. Therefore, the House Dem leadership has concocted a convoluted grand scheme that would have the House Democrats pass the Senate bill without an explicit vote on it and would give House Democrats political cover by allowing them to remove the unpopular parts of the Senate bill at the same time.

7. The House Democrat leadership’s plan, endorsed by Rules Committee Chairwoman Rep Slaughter, is to pass in the House a new “Slaughter Rule” bill that would have two parts: Part 1 would “deem” the Senate bill to have passed the House, and Part 2 would change, or fix, the Senate bill to remove the significant parts that House Democrats find objectionable. This scheme would allow the House Democrats to “pass” the unpopular Senate bill without having to go on record as explicitly voting for it, thus allowing members to assert that they voted for a different bill that removed the unattractive elements of the Senate bill. But, in effect, by voting for the House Slaughter “combo” bill (my terminology), they would be voting for and against the Senate bill at the same time.

8. It seems to me that this Democrat grand “scheme and deem” is predicated in part upon the belief that, once the House combo bill passes, Obama could not sign the Senate bill version of HC reform into law because the House combo bill and the Senate bill would not be the same thing. It has been thought to be settled law that the exact same bill must pass both houses of Congress before the president can sign it into law, but this construct may be about to be challenged. Passing a “Slaughter Rule” combination bill seems to address the fear among some House Democrats that if the House passed the Senate bill as is with only a promise of a future fix, Obama would sign the bill into law and the fix would never happen, either because of political resistance in the Senate or loss of interest by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, who, among other things, all like the weak anti-abortion language of the original Senate bill and would be delighted to declare victory with the Senate bill and move on.

9. If the Slaughter Rule bill were to pass the House, then, as I understand the theory, the Senate would need only to pass the Part 2 (the “fix”) of the House bill, called by some the “reconciliation” bill. Since the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts to fill the vacant seat created by the death of Edward Kennedy, the Democrat caucus only has 59 votes, and it needs 60 votes to break a filibuster and bring the House fix, or reconciliation, bill to the floor for a vote. Thus the talk among Senate Democrats of passing the House fix bill via the controversial tactic of “reconciliation,” which requires only 51 votes to pass and avoids the possibility of filibuster (hence the term “reconciliation” bill).

10. The problem with the grand scheme at this point is that there is no guarantee that the Senate rules would allow all of the “fixes” in the House “combo” bill to be passed via the reconciliation process (the abortion language is regarded as a good example), and if the House fix bill could not pass the Senate in its entirety, then there would be no Democrat HC bill that Obama could sign into law, which would leave the House Democrats hanging with a vote on this cockamamie scheme that ultimately failed in the Senate.

11. For the Democrats, this grand scheme is further complicated by the fact that the Senate rule appears to be that the reconciliation process can only be used to modify an existing law, not simply a previously passed Senate bill. If this interpretation were to hold up, then the Democrat scheme fails, for the House would have needed to have passed the original Senate bill as is and Obama would have had to have signed the Senate bill into law before the “fix” bill, desired by many House Democrats, could be passed in the Senate via the reconciliation process.

12. For the Democrats, even ignoring the problems with trying to pass the House “fix” bill in the Senate via reconciliation, their hope for the grand scheme is also significantly challenged by the fact that many people think that the scheme is unconstitutional, for the Senate and the House would not have passed the same piece of legislation, as they would bring to Obama’s desk the original Senate bill, the House Combo bill, and the Senate fix, or reconciliation, bill (assuming that the Senate passes the fix part of the House bill exactly as it is worded in the House bill). Obama would need to sign all three, but not one of the three would have passed both houses of Congress. If the Senate Democrats revised the original Senate bill to incorporate the House “fixes,” even if there were the votes for this, then still such a revised Senate bill would not be the same piece of legislation that the House combo bill would be, thus again the constitutional problem of Obama trying to sign into law a House bill and a Senate bill that are not the exact same piece of legislation.

Of course, Democrat leaders may twist just enough arms and extend just enough bribes to get a majority of House Democrats to pass the Senate bill straight up as is, without the “scheme and deem,” which Obama could then sign into law. But if they were able to pass it this way up till now, they would have already done it this way, the normal, straightforward, constitutional way.

The hallmark of liberalism in America used to be the defense of legal procedure and the rule of law as the surest way to protect liberty. The contemporary leaders of the Democrat party are turning that notion on its head as their pursuit of power now trumps historic procedural safeguards. It’s not much more of a step for a political party one day to just dispense with all this procedural rigmarole and declare their bill the law of the land and call out the troops. It’s happened before, just not here.

John M Greco