The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama Cites Questionable Study on McCain Ads

By Dennis Byrne
Human Events

Barack Obama’s astounding assertion that “100 percent” of John McCain’s campaign ads are “negative” is based on a study that is disingenuous, if not fraudulent.

It is exactly the kind of study that surfaces from academia that the media blindly report without questioning the methodology, the data or the conclusions -- especially if it conforms to the media’s biases.

Obama made the charge against McCain in the Oct.15 presidential debate, saying a look at the record shows that “100 percent, John, of your ads -- 100 percent of them -- have been negative.” McCain replied with something that sounded like, “It’s not true,” prompting Obama to come back with: “It absolutely is true.”

Obama apparently was referring to a study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, affiliated with the University of Wisconsin’s political science department, reporting that “all” McCain campaign ads were negative for the week of Sept. 28, to Oct. 4 -- a timeframe that Obama neglected to mention.

Beyond that glaring factual omission by Obama, there remains the questionable methodology,,,

Read more in Human Events

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Proving once again that...

you can say anything you damn well please and get away with it. This is in reference to Barack Obama's upcoming closing argument speech
in which he, according to the Wall Street Journal, will lay claim
to the political middle, claiming, as numerous presidential candidates in the past have done, that he can end gridlock in Washington and its dependence on partisan politics and special interests. [emphasis added]
The middle? The most liberal presidential candidate ever?

Had enough yet? Vote for change

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Folks who are sincerely interested in "real change" should vote in next Tuesday's election for an Illinois constitutional convention.

Former Gen. Colin Powell said the election of Barack Obama would be "transformational," and if supporters of the Democratic candidate want the same kind of sea change on the state level, they can mark yes on the ballot question: Shall a convention be called to change the state constitution?

Without it, the state will continue marching toward insolvency and remain mired in corruption and incompetence. Sure, a revision of the state's 37-year-old constitution doesn't guarantee our rescue from the clutches of the bumbling, stubborn and shady politicians and interests that now run the state. But without the kind of improvements the convention and voters can force upon the state's power structure, you can wager that nothing will change.

The organized opponents of a constitutional convention—representing many of the same business, labor and political interests that have steered us to the brink—insist that constitutional change isn't what we need. The way to change government is to elect new people, they say. Sure, that has worked so well.

Then, after telling us that the way to reform government is to elect better people, the anti-con-con forces warn us a convention would be dangerous because voters would elect the same kind of convention delegates that they already elect to run state government. This argument is at war with itself. If we can't elect true reformers to a con-con, then how are we going to elect true reformers to man the helm of state government?

The anti-con-con forces could have made a better case for themselves if they had said: To reform government, we need to elect better people, and we're creating a coalition of the reform-minded to do just that. Our coalition will cross party lines and back a consensus slate of candidates for the 2010 election, in which the governor and all leading state officers are elected. That they haven't shown any interest in that demonstrates that in opposing a convention they are mainly interested in tamping down reform efforts.

Certainly, some opposition is reasonable and well-intentioned, based on fears, for example, that the convention would draft a worse constitution or fall into the hands of single-issue delegates, such as those who want to write into it protections against global warming or for traditional marriage.

One such thoughtful opponent is Ann M. Lousin, a John Marshall Law School professor, an experienced hand from the 1970 Con-Con and a scholar in the field. In a 52-page paper, "Will Illinois Hold a Constitutional Convention?," she outlines some major issues and how they might be addressed without calling a convention.

Whether they are confronted at a convention or some other way, Lousin lays out a worthy agenda for consideration that is a rebuke to those who say there's nothing for a convention to do: replacing judicial elections with "merit" selection; funding public pensions; financing public elementary and secondary education; and instituting a system of recalling state and local elected officials.

Other issues ripe for consideration are:

Returning to the "cumulative voting" system of electing state representatives, to help depolarize the current system; improving the system of redrawing legislative districts, to eliminate "redistricting by lottery"; imposing term limits; combining overlapping offices, such as state treasurer and controller; eliminating some offices altogether, such as lieutenant governor; revising home-rule powers and eliminating the multitude of special districts; reforming the state income tax; removing the corporate tax that was designed years ago to replace the personal property tax; requiring a legislative supermajority to raise taxes; broadening citizen initiative and referendum rights to bypass a gridlocked legislature; restricting the power of government to condemn private property for private development; and rethinking tax-increment financing districts.

Other issues abound, all sounding technical, uninteresting and only indirectly connected to solving Illinois' current problems. So, boredom and apathy are on the side of anti-con-con forces. Those forces also have the advantage of money, institutional power and a focused agenda. Pro-con-con forces are fragmented, ill-funded and devoid of comparable organizational resources. As outsiders always are.

But if you are fed up with the Blagojeviches, Madigans, Joneses and all the others who know how to play the system, I'd suggest you vote yes on con-con, to yank the system out from under them.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chicago Goes To Washington

Oh, boy, it has started already, a week before they even start counting the ballots.

David Axelrod, Mayor Daley's pal and Chicago Machine political consultant, is reportedly interested in serving in a position in the Obama administration.

Rahm Emanuel, the sharp tongued North Side congressman, rich La Salle St. guy and member of the Clinton administration, reportedly could end up as Obama's chief of staff. As the congressman from the north side district, Emanuel succeeds such bright lights as Dan Rostenkowski, Frank Annunzio and Rod Blagojevich, which says it all.

These are the first, I presume, of a flood of Chicago pols that Obama would bring to Washington. And they thought Texans in the White House under George W. Bush were bad, wait until everyone gets a load of what Chicago offers.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More reporting incompetence at the New York Times

Here's why the public has such a low opinion of the media. While the real estate market was tanking, it was big news. Now, when there's a glimmer of hope--well, it's still bad news.

Notice in the lead paragraph, the writer reports the turn-around in sales, but immediately dismisses it with an unattributed, subjective and perhaps inaccurate comment (i.e., the credit crisis has intensified since those home sales occurred).

If the writer had been paying attention on Friday and earlier, most of the reports and analysis suggested that credit was loosening up. But whether it is or not, the first paragraph is not the place for such an unattributed statement. When I was in journalism school, the professor would have climbed all over me for shoving it into the lead. Or using it at all if I didn't have it attributed to someone.

Judge tosses lawsuit challenging Obama citizenship

This lawsuit has been hot on the Internet, and now we have a conclusion, in which the judge said "any" or "all" voters lack standing to bring this lawsuit because "...any harm from an allegedly ineligible [presidential] candidate was too vague and its effects too attenuated...."

I am puzzled. If a voter (or a citizen) doesn't have standing in such a case, then who does? If the damage done by a violation of the Constitution, in this or any other case, is "too vague" for a citizen to bring a case, then what is the legal remedy to this alleged constitutional violation?

I'm not anxious to see such a case move forward and send our electoral process into a tail-spin, but, like I say, I am puzzled. Perhaps a constitutional lawyer (not Obama) out there can enlighten me.

Here is the story about the suit's dismissal:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Barack Obama's qualifications to be president.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick on Friday night rejected the suit by attorney Philip J. Berg, who alleged that Obama was not a U.S. citizen and therefore ineligible for the presidency. Berg claimed that Obama is either a citizen of his father's native Kenya or became a citizen of Indonesia after he moved there as a boy.

Obama was born in Hawaii to an American mother and a Kenyan father. His parents divorced and his mother married an Indonesian man.

Internet-fueled conspiracy theories question whether Obama is a "natural-born citizen" as required by the Constitution for a presidential candidate and whether he lost his citizenship while living abroad.

Surrick ruled that Berg lacked standing to bring the case, saying any harm from an allegedly ineligible candidate was "too vague and its effects too attenuated to confer standing on any and all voters."

An Upturn in the Housing Market?

Is it possible that the housing market has turned?

Blamed for just about everything bad that has happened recently to the economy, housing sales, I dare say, are showing signs of picking up. At the risk of being considered a lunatic, I say this for reasons of systematically gathered data, personal experience and common sense.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Existing home sales jump sharply

How well to you think the media will respond to this? Is Wall Street listening?

Seeing as how everything bad that has happened to the economy has been blamed on housing, this news should be shouted from the rooftop. My guess? It won't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Racism among Obama's supporters.

Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington demands ("President Obama will have debts to pay") that if Barack Obama is elected, he must carry out a "black agenda." Said she:

...[H]e will step into the Oval Office courtesy of overwhelming turnouts dug out of the red hills of Georgia and the gritty concrete of Newark.

There will be a debt to pay.

Amazing. We have been constantly reminded that the Obama campaign has been devoid of "race." The PBS Newshour tonight spent an entire segment analyzing just how large a factor white racism has played in the election. (The panel seemed to conclude that it was a "second tier" factor.) Overlooked was a discussion about how important black racism has played in the election. Judging by Washington's demand, it has played a big factor in the minds of some of his supporters.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama campaign selling Chicago election night coverage packages to news outlets

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The Obama campaign is demanding that the media pay for where they sit to cover him on election night. Those not willing to cough up are literally left out in the cold.

Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times calls it "an outrageous pay to play plan that caters to national elite outlets with deep pockets." I hope she covers the story election night to tell us which elite outlets cave in to this unusual, if not outrageous, demand.

ACORN ain't ready for vote fraud

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

Haven’t those dummies from ACORN ever heard of roundtabling?

The liberal activist group was easily caught by election officials in Lake County (Ind.) for turning in more than 2,000 voter registration forms, out of more than 5,000, that were called bogus. The give-away to the brazen fakery was the fact that so many of the signatures were identical. Application after application in the same handwriting.

How stupid can anyone be?

Didn’t they know about roundtabling, a time-honored Chicago machine practice at which a bunch of people sitting at tables pass around voter registration cards, nominating petitions or other forms of public documents so at least their bogus signatures didn’t all look the same on the same document?

Read more at the Chicago Daily Observer

The aura of Mr. Smooth

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Aura: (n.) A general impression produced by a predominant quality or characteristic: air, ambience, atmosphere, feel, feeling, mood, tone.

A single word explains why Barack Obama might be president. Aura perfectly describes the Democratic candidate. An aura, the dictionary says, is the distinctive, but intangible air that surrounds a person. It derives from the ancient Greek, meaning breath or gentle breeze. I particularly like the third definition, which says an aura is "the supposed emanation surrounding the body of a living creature, viewed by mystics, spiritualists and some practitioners of complementary medicine as the essence of the individual and allegedly discernible by people with special sensibilities."

Those of us with below-average sensibilities can only ponder how Obama has managed to establish a cult of personality the way no other presidential candidate has, except perhaps John F. Kennedy. Yes, Obama says what many Americans want to hear and how they want to hear it. But something is creepy about how Americans are running to embrace what is essentially a method. As ethereal as Obama's aura might be, nothing in the Republican quiver can fight it. Past or present affiliations—be they with violent radicals, racist ministers, convicted fixers and the corrupt Chicago political machine—can't fight the aura.

Obama's aura overcomes his inexperience, his most liberal voting record and his outright deceptions (e.g. reneging on his pledge to take public campaign financing, and thereby limiting his campaign advertising).

We could have 10 more presidential debates over the differences between Obama and John McCain on foreign policy, Immigration, the economy, government ethics and so on, but it wouldn't matter. Intricate policy differences between the two don't matter, because only aura counts. Because of his aura, Obama can engage in a presidential debate, and his aloofness and one-note message of "change" will be misinterpreted by burbling commentators as thoughtful, calm and intelligent discourse. His aura explains why his handlers can get away with slamming McCain for his allegedly negative campaigning, even at times when he is simply disagreeing with Obama's policies.

We are about to elect a president because of how he makes us feel, not how he makes us think.

That says a bundle about an undemanding electorate. Yes, Obama has policies, and he enunciates them eloquently, and a lot of people support them; but notice is mostly taken of his delivery, not of his substance. Voters, never, ever have elected a president with policies this far to the left; rare, indeed, is the senator or congressman who is further left. (Note to conservatives: Stop calling Obama a socialist. It doesn't do your cause any good, and besides, he isn't, in the strict Marxist definition of the state owning the means of production. Obama is just a Hyde Park liberal, a sui generis kind of extreme leftist who uses words like "sui generis." Talk, instead, about how McCain is mainstream. Although, I also doubt that McCain's more centrist positions can stand up to aura either.)

Having aura is fine, but electing a president based on whether he or she possesses it shows curious understanding of how democracy is supposed to work.

Yes, tens of millions of Americans will feel wonderful when Obama is elected and maybe the stock market, the housing market and the rest of the economy will boom from that good feeling. I hope so, because that's just about what has been guaranteed by a vote for Obama, and I can't wait.

But there's this. After the aura has burned away—like the early-morning summer mist disappears before a rising sun—the president needs to make tough, on-the-run and wise decisions. It is then when a president's basic inclinations surface, about whether to involve the government more in your life, take more of your money or, in the face of our enemies, speak softy and carry a little stick. And then, the pathological definition of aura comes into play: a sensation, as of a cold breeze or a bright light, that precedes the onset of certain disorders, such as an epileptic seizure or an attack of migraine.

Or, more precisely, an attack of a real, actual problem that requires something more than Mr. Smooth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's the work of the political handlers, not of intelligent life

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

John McCain's political advisers must have been astonished by the number of journalists asleep at the switch when the Republican presidential candidate dropped his bombshell during last week's presidential debate with Democrat Barack Obama.

Under McCain's American Homeownership Resurgence Plan, the government would buy mortgages directly from homeowners who were falling behind in their payments and replace them with, as his Web site says, "manageable, fixed-rate mortgages that will keep families in their homes." It would only cost another $300 billion or so, his handlers later explained. Where do I sign up?

In post-debate media confabulations, few commentators appeared to pick up on how a Republican was proposing the kind of huge, expensive and intrusive government program that would make GOP eyeballs spin if a Democrat had come up with the same buy-me-some-votes idea. In my channel surfing, only a Fortune magazine editor on one of the debate postmortems was aghast, noting that the Republican "small government" tradition had just capsized and sunk.

Abandoning long-held beliefs is what happens in an economic panic. I can imagine it now, how McCain's political advisers were desperate to come up with something, anything, that would make their candidate look like he had the definitive economic plan, something more than dishing out up to $700 billion to rescue banks, Wall Street and derivatives magicians.

The theory was probably something like: "Let's look like we're bypassing all those crooks by giving the money directly to homeowners. What could be more Main Street than that?"

What better way to trump Obama's lead with airheads who figure that "change" is the all-purpose elixir for every ill. It would "position" McCain as the advocate for the regular guy and force Obama into the unfamiliar position of being for the "fat cats" on Wall Street.

Nice, but the problem was that the media barely noticed. Maybe they would have paid more attention if Obama had come up with the plan. Obama last week offered a plan (I suppose in response to McCain's), as The Wall Street Journal put it, "to temporarily provide low-interest loans to struggling businesses by using existing structures already in place through the Small Business Administration," whatever that means. Obama also supports allowing elders to delay withdrawals from their 401(k) retirement plans beyond age 701/2. Democrats also are talking about passing a new economic stimulus package in the lame duck Congress after the election because, I guess, the last package worked so well.

Even McCain's handlers admit the $300 billion for his rescue plan is a lot of money so maybe it could be taken out of the $700 billion bailout already passed. Or maybe the earlier bailout of Bear Stearns. Or the Hope for Homeowners Act. Bet you already forgot about that one, even though it was enacted only eight weeks ago. (It gives distressed homeowners a chance to cancel their mortgage and replace it with a 30-year, fixed-rate loan up to 90 percent of the current fair market value, all insured by the Federal Housing Administration for up to $300 billion over the next three years. And doesn't that sound familiar?)

The number of these schemes is getting downright creepy. There are so many that guessing that some of them will be unnecessary, conflicting or just downright damaging to the economy is irresistible.

The debates and campaigns have reduced themselves to the mere memorization of talking points concocted by handlers, which is why the last debate was such a yawn.

Listen handlers, we've got your talking points memorized. If we want any more thoughts out of you, we'll squeeze your heads and see what comes out your ears. It's probably too late to fire all the handlers and let the candidates be whoever they are. Although, it might be just the kind of stimulus the public needs to pull us out of our despondency.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sheesh, why not call in the FBI too?

Video shows coach shoving 11-year-old football player; parents want to file assault charge; underwear in knots.

America's big economic flimflam

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The $700 billion financial bailout may be the biggest flimflam ever pulled on the American public. It has all the earmarks of a good con: Bankers and assorted Wall Street grifters will make off with hundreds of billions of dollars, abetted by Washington politicians, while we get stuck with the tab.

We can thank Wells Fargo & Co, a big Western bank, for exposing this swindle for what it was by agreeing to buy Wachovia Corp., a troubled Eastern bank, thereby rescuing it from a government-arranged shotgun marriage with Citigroup Inc.

We need to step back for a moment to appreciate Wells Fargo's good deed. Start at the beginning: Deflation in home prices caused the value of mortgages (and their derivatives) held by banks (and other investors) to likewise lose value. Not knowing their "real" value, these banks and other lenders aren't willing to risk lending money to anyone—consumers, businesses or other banks. Thus, the credit market has "locked up."

We're told the only way out is for the government to cough up $700 billion, which supposedly will allow banks and the others to somehow put a value on their diminished assets and, thus, get back to the business of lending. Wells Fargo discredited that scenario. It did exactly what Washington said couldn't be done: It put a value on a failing bank, Wachovia: $15.1 billion.

In effect, Wells Fargo bet its money on the value of Wachovia's portfolio of toxic mortgages, something Wall Street said couldn't happen until the bailout deal was struck. Actually, the Wells Fargo deal was done before the bailout and it came without government involvement or taxpayers' money, unlike the proposed Citigroup deal.

This needs emphasis: The government, through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., planned to put taxpayers into the middle of a risky and costly deal that the private sector—Wells Fargo—was willing to undertake on its own. Does this mean that government should have done nothing to help resolve the credit crunch? No, it only means that the government's panic-driven bailout might not have been the best way to do things, as 100 of the nation's top economists warned.

Only time will tell if, as the economists asserted, the bailout is unfair, too ambiguous and a drag on capital markets for decades to come. One thing we do know, however, is that before the bailout was enacted on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average was up more than 300 points, supposedly in anticipation of its enactment, but after the House sealed the deal, the index fell 157 points, a swing of more than 400 points. Oops. Wall Street sages suddenly opined that the "market" considered the $700 billion bailout to be no big deal after all, because the life preserver may be arriving too late.

This is curious, because there's plenty of cash to lend; the nation's money supply hasn't shrunk, it has expanded. Already, we're seeing stirrings in the private sector—no thanks to the bailout—that say now is a good time to gobble up bargains. Witness tycoon Warren Buffett's big investments in GE and Goldman Sachs. And we never know when the logjam of pent-up demand for housing will break.

Here's the supreme irony of the bailout: Easy credit, low interest rates and Wall Street legerdemain launched us into this mess. The cure, we're told, is more of the same: easy credit, made possible by the accounting hocus pocus of the bailout, for the truly unworthy. Plus another $110 billion in earmarks for lawmakers, exactly what everyone says is bad. And the source of all this dough? Borrowed from, among others, foreign purchasers of Treasury notes, and paid back by us. And if we can't borrow enough, we'll just print more money. The cure for bad credit is, well, more bad credit. Flimflam hardly describes it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Bailout: Recommended Reading

Here's a good primer, clearly written, on the financial bailout. It also is notable for its honesty, in that the author freely admits that he can't predict the future, as so many have.