Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Baloney Hits the Fan

Remember when Pres. Obama said he'd negotiate without preconditions? That it was wrong to punish other nations by refusing to negotiate with them?

Mark Landler of the NY Times reports...
But even before Thursday’s vitriolic statements from North Korea, American officials said they were more focused for now on inflicting pain on North Korea than on luring it back to the bargaining table.

“We are not interested in half measures,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We have no desire to pursue protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.”
Now, to be fair, the part about inflicting pain may be a paraphrase. But the indicators are clear: the Obama administration will not negotiate with North Korea until...when? North Korea grows up?

Is that not a...precondition?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sotomayor and Ricci

Insta links Stuart Rothenberg on Ricci:
Liptak later reported that "according to court personnel familiar with some of the internal discussions of the case, the three judges had difficulty finding consensus, with Judge Sack the most reluctant to join a decision affirming the district court. Judge Pooler, as the presiding judge, took the leading role in fashioning the compromise. The use of a summary order, which ordinarily cannot be cited as precedent, was part of that compromise."

But if that's what happened, it might be difficult to square the panel's action with the 2nd Circuit's Local Rule 32.1(a). That rule provides that panels may rule "by summary order instead of by opinion" only "in those cases in which decision is unanimous and each judge of the panel believes that no jurisprudential purpose would be served by an opinion (i.e., a ruling having precedential effect)."
Out of all the Sotomayor critiques, including the kerfuffle over the "wise Latina" remark, this strikes me as the potentially most damaging. It gives the 2nd Circuit judgment a whiff of coverup, and as we know, it's the coverup that brings you down.

But if this is the most damaging critique, I think she still has a very good chance of being confirmed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Roots of the Lending Crisis

Kenneth Anderson at Volokh Conspiracy links a WSJ op-ed by Stan Liebowitz on zero-money-down mortgages. Liebowitz writes...
What is really behind the mushrooming rate of mortgage foreclosures since 2007? The evidence from a huge national database containing millions of individual loans strongly suggests that the single most important factor is whether the homeowner has negative equity in a house -- that is, the balance of the mortgage is greater than the value of the house.
Anderson later updates his post with a response from Barry Ritholtz, who argues that while 100% LTV mortgages are a problem, subprime and alt-A mortgages are still the real culprit. He summarizes thus...
A more comprehensive 40,000 foot view would note that 100% LTV is a symptom of the larger problem of a) abdication of lending standards, caused by b) enormous demand for securitized loans, enabled by c) rating junk as AAA, in order to satisfy the demand for higher-yielding, non-junk paper, all of which traces its roots to d) Greenspan’s ultra low interest rates.

(via Insta, David Bernstein)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Presidential Experience

Mark Steyn gives a great summary of the rise and fall of Gov. Palin's White House aspirations.

But at the end of his post, he notes...
National office will dwindle down to the unhealthily singleminded (Clinton, Obama), the timeserving emirs of Incumbistan (Biden, McCain) and dynastic heirs (Bush). Our loss.
(On a side note, I'd point out that those categories are not mutually exclusive. Bush, though an heir, was also pretty singleminded. Sec. of State Clinton, though very singleminded, wouldn't have a breath of a chance at the Presidency if she hadn't inherited it from her husband.)

So where do we find qualified men and women to fill the office of President?

I just finished re-reading the second volume of William Manchester's The Last Lion, a three-part biography of Winston Churchill. An absolutely fabulous book, with many general insights into government and politics.

One fact jumped out at me this morning, before I'd read Steyn's post: Churchill filled virtually every possible ministerial position before 1932. When he became Prime Minister in 1940, he had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (twice), Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty (twice), Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. The only major office he hadn't held was Foreign Secretary.

What an amazing record of experience! Exceptional even by British standards. Where do American politicians gain this sort of experience? I can't think of the last U.S. President who had previously served in a cabinet position. I thought it might be FDR, but I looked it up, and he was only Assistant Secretary of the Navy. (I'm discounting the office of Vice President, since it rarely yields real power.) Besides Roosevelt, the only President I know that held high-ranking Federal office would be the senior Pres. Bush, who briefly served as Director of the CIA in 1976-77.

Imagine if Pres. Obama, or Pres. Bush had had some experience in a cabinet-level position. I wonder if either of them would have survived it to become President.

I further wonder if Sec. Clinton's White House ambitions will survive her tenure at State.

(h/t Instapundit)