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, December 31, 2008

Rod finds a dumbass to appoint senator

Anyone willing to accept Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointment as Illinois' U.S. senator should be considered too stupid to hold the job.

Incredibly, the besieged governor actually found someone crazy enough to agree to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat. That person is Roland Burris, a lifelong creature of smarmy state and local Democratic politics, a former one-term state attorney general and three-term state comptroller.

Read more in RealClearPolitics

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Give optimism a chance

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

On the cusp of a new year, America has gone bipolar. Barack Obama's election has precipitated tears of joy, fresh zephyrs of hope brushing our cheeks and dreams of goodness and kindness shadowing us forever. The economy has kindled the fires of fear, unseen since the Great Depression and World War II. The popular mood is perfectly described as bipolar, a disorder characterized by abnormally elevated feelings approaching mania, paired with grinding episodes of depression. While the two extremes usually are separated by periods of normal feelings, America has been seized by the acute version, in which alternating cycles of depression and mania rapidly replace, if not overlap, one another.

Exhilaration one moment, despair the next. Gaiety in the morning, misery at night. Optimism squelched by pessimism. Is there a pill for this? If so, can someone write a prescription for 305 million of them, one for every American, so that we can get on with our lives? There's no begrudging the joy that slightly more than half of American voters are feeling after they elected their elixir for the eight years of President George W. Bush. It's easy to get swept up in the jubilation, and I'm hoping the optimism can drag us out of our wretched economic mood. As the nation is on the verge of plunging into the worst state of public indebtedness relative to the gross domestic product since World War II, even some conservatives harbor the hope that Obama will succeed.

Working against the optimism, however, is an emerging, perhaps permanent, sense of pessimistic fatalism that has gradually eroded the buoyancy and confidence that long has defined the American character. Sadly, doom and gloom have become the plan of the day. Our disposition has turned sour and skeptical, as we have become a nation consumed with bad news. We have obsessed about acid rain, the ozone hole and now global warming, the latter requiring no less than geoengineering, an elaborate human conceit that says we can control our climate on a global scale.

In the past year, we fretted about the plastic in baby bottles that could cause obesity and illness. We discovered that we can get cancer from hot dogs, that heavier rainfall can cause autism in children and that our shower curtains can poison us. These well-publicized alarms have been debunked by the Statistical Assessment Service, a non-partisan organization that closely examines bad science and media abuse of statistics. Yet, the debunking never receives as much attention as the initial alarms because, I've concluded, we'd rather be alarmed than relieved. "Don't sweat the small stuff" used to be a popular expression. Now every caution morphs into a dire warning, every forecast a prophesy of ruination, every disquiet a budding calamity. Premonitions and forewarnings greet us in every edition and newscast. Our demise awaits.

If you're as fed up as I am with all this, perhaps you'll join me in my one New Year's resolution: Look for the favorable, the upbeat, the good news. Knock off the bad-mouthing. Brush off the accusations of being Pollyannaish, naive or, worse, Republican. Exult in the prospects, understand that we can pour whatever trillions we can get our hands on into the economy, but it won't do any good unless we, ourselves, look forward with trust and confidence. Apply the same excitement and optimism you feel about the new Obama administration to the economy. This should not be a partisan thing. With Democrats entering the White House, I fear Republicans now will take every opportunity to remind us how bad things are or will be, just as Democrats did when Republicans were in office.

The constant bad-mouthing, beyond what reality requires, got us to where we are now, turning a limp economy into a poor one, threatening to turn a recession into a depression. Whatever the underlying economic fundamentals, whatever policies the new administration and Congress institute, nothing will pull us out of our slump if we continue to say, as a CNBC anchor did: "I think . . . things are worse than we think." Whatever that means.

Stop whining and act like grown-ups. The end is not near. The end is far.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear Santa Claus, how about some credit?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Hello, Santa's hot line?

This is Santa Claus. How can I help you, Dennis?

Wow, I got through to you instantly, no press 1 for English, no long menus to select from. Didn't even have to say, "representative."

Well, if I can fill every stocking in the world in one night, don't you think I can arrange a little thing like direct dial? Look, lad, I don't have much time; I've gotta get outta here tomorrow night. What is it you want?

Credit.

Well, you've got it, my boy. You've done good. I give you a lot of credit for that.

No, no, Santa, not that kind of credit. Actually, what I meant is the kind of credit that you can use to buy stuff with. A house, car, plane tickets to get the hell out of here for someplace warm.

OK, son, I'll put a Visa card in your stocking. How's that?

That'd be fine, except I don't need another credit card. Those banks keep sending me a bunch of them, even though I never ask for them. What I meant is credit for everyone. A mortgage in every stocking. A Macy's credit card for every consumer. A car loan for every driver. Haven't you heard? The problem with our economy is the lack of credit.

Been kind of busy, Denny. Explain it to me.

Nobody's buying anything because they can't get any credit. Banks aren't lending because they're afraid that they won't get their money back. It started because greedy bankers were giving mortgages to homeowners who didn't deserve credit. Now, everyone is panicked, people 'fraid of getting laid off.

So, the problem is that everyone had too much credit, and the way to fix it is to give everyone more credit? Look, I might be a jolly old fat man, but I'm no fool.

No, seriously. The economists tell us that's the only way to get us out of our depression, figuratively and literally. They say empirical analysis reveals that market disturbances combined with aggregate demand shocks as well as inconsistent short-term interfacing of prices and money supply contribute substantially to rampant economic fluctuations, which in turn produce the credit complications that we're . . .

Dennis, stop with the gibberish.

Sorry, got to thinking like an economist there for a minute. Thanks for slapping me out of it, Santa.

So, how much credit you want from me?

Hard to say, Santa. Here's what we're in hock for: Start with the $700 billion in TARP funds, dozens of billions more for the auto industry, another—what?—$600 billion to $850 billion for the economic stimulus President-elect Barack Obama wants, reworked home mortgages by Freddie and Fannie, an economic stimulus package that didn't do much, plus all the government, corporate and consumer debt already outstanding, plus all the unfunded debts like Social Security and Medicare. That'd be about $70 trillion, give or take.

Impossible. There's not that much money in the entire world. How can anyone ever pay it all off?

Who's saying we should? It's not actually money we need; it's credit. No one uses money anymore. You just borrow it from someone, who borrows it from someone else, who borrows it from someone else, and so on and so on.

Wait, this sounds like a gigantic Ponzi scheme. Except instead of using cash, you're using credit. An endless chain of borrowing.

Now, you're getting it.

But who's going to lend me the kind of money you think that I should be handing out so that we can climb out of the recession? A lot of folks don't even believe in me.

Are you kidding? Who has a better credit rating than Santa?

Every year, you give out hundreds of billions of dollars in Christmas presents, without borrowing a red cent. That's called collateral, Santa.

But what happens if I default on all my loans? Won't the banks call in my collateral and take all the toys that I want to give to all the good little girls and boys? What about the children?

Oh, I wouldn't worry about them. Instead of presents under the tree, just slip them some IOUs. We've been doing it for years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pat Quinn compounds our mess

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

In a famous but widely misquoted observation, Lord Acton, the British man of letters, said: "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Exhibit A is the discredited Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn appears to be trying to make himself Exhibit B.

The populist Quinn looks ridiculous with his wavering on whether he or voters should name who gets to sit in President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat. First, Quinn was for an election. Then he said if he became governor that he would appoint the next senator, no election necessary. Now, he says, he would be amenable to only appointing a temporary replacement until an election can be held.

One wants to shake him by the lapels and demand that he make up his fool mind.

Only political calculations beyond our ken can explain his inexhaustible wishy-washiness, and in this, the self-professed independent has turned himself into just another Illinois politician.

If Illinois voters need anything less now than an appointed senator—even a temporary one—I can't think of it. No appointed senator—even if named by Simon Pure, or if he's Simon Pure himself—will escape the taint attached to Blagojevich's alleged efforts to hawk the seat to the highest bidder. Only a special election will help palliate the stink that now is attached to the seat.

Quinn would have us believe that his motives are untainted, that he would appoint a senator because Illinois "needs two senators" while "important issues" are being debated in Washington.

As if having our own president isn't enough.

Earlier, after he said we should have an election, he said we shouldn't have one because it would cost too much.

Sure. We've heard this from Quinn before, when he successfully pushed a constitutional amendment that reduced the size of the Illinois House and eliminated the "cumulative voting" system of electing its members. That system, which guaranteed a minority party member from each district, produced some of the finest lawmakers in memory.

It created a bloc of honest and able lawmakers willing to blow the whistle on the villains and creeps that populated Springfield, a bloc that wasn't blotted by the campaign cash doled out by the leadership to keep the sheep in line.

Cumulative voting didn't cure all Springfield pestilences, but it was a useful check.

Nonetheless, Quinn seized the issue as an opportunity for his long-simmering political ambitions, camouflaged as championing the rights, wisdom and virtues of the common people.

He successfully sold an electorate, ignorant of the benefits of cumulative voting, on the idea that the system was too expensive, when, in truth, the cost of lacing the capital dung heap with even a small amount of emollient was worth the expense.

Quinn has been a publicity hound from the start. For years, reporters routinely knew that if it was Sunday, Quinn would be holding a news conference on the light news day, about something, anything.

At every turn, the man called for a referendum on something; he wouldn't miss a single issue in which he would take "the people's" side.

On Sunday, I turned on my TV set, and there was Quinn again, on national TV this time, unveiling his latest great thinking.

One can only speculate which of Illinois' political machinations accounts for Quinn's indecisiveness. But the changing political landscape requires reflection on several points: Whoever is appointed Obama's successor, even a temporary one, would enjoy the advantage of incumbency, however brief—in the special election. Democrats, fearing opening the door for a long-shot Republican win in a special election, may prefer that Quinn, a Democrat, do the appointing. Or perhaps not, because Quinn isn't trusted by fellow Democrats, and could fail to appoint the "right" replacement.

Whatever smoke the politicians are blowing for what they are saying or doing right now, one thing is clear: No one should be appointing anyone to the position. Whoever is appointed would be suspect from the get-go, whatever his or her merits. But more important, Illinois voters put us into this mess, and they must now get us out of it. We don't need a benevolent dictator. If anyone doesn't believe that we can do the right thing, you can look at it this way: We couldn't do worse than electing another Blagojevich.

Monday, December 15, 2008

SNL itself is the joke

New York Gov. David Paterson's office lashed out at an impersonation of him on the final 2008 episode of "Saturday Night Live" that made him into a blind, bumbling, whack job with a drug problem that may (or may not) be classified as "a former one."

His office said, "The governor is sure that Saturday' Night Live,' with all of its talent, can find a way to be funny without being offensive."

No it can't. Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny for years, insulting or otherwise.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Unsung Hero--the other Fitzgerald--Behind Blagojevich Arrest Could Fill Senate Seat

By Dennis Byrne
Human Events

Is it possible that the next U.S. senator from the persistently blue state of Illinois could be a Republican?

It’s not out of the question, thanks to the state’s current monumental political scandal -- the arrest of its sitting Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat and assorted other shakedowns.

Of course, the only chance of a Republican succeeding Obama is if the state Legislature decides to take the power to fill an empty Senate seat away from the governor, and call a special election. At this moment, a tide is growing among state legislators to do just that.

Blagojevich, if true to form, could try to stymie that plan by sitting on the legislation for 60 days before letting it become law -- enough time to throw a wrench into the works by unacceptably delaying the primary and general election into mid-2009. He also could try to use his amendatory veto to insert unacceptable provisions, such as pushing back the date of the election.

If the Legislature manages to take away his power to appoint, there may be no better Republican candidate than the unheralded hero of the Blagojevich scandal: the former Republican senator from Illinois, Peter Fitzgerald.

Credit rightfully is being heaped on the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation), for running the investigation that led to Blagojevich’s arrest. But if it weren’t for Peter Fitzgerald -- who preceded Obama in the state’s junior senator’s seat -- there would never have been a Patrick Fitzgerald here who has done such a marvelous job of rooting out corruption.

Read more in Human Events

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"You need a little corruption to make government work"

At least that's what we're told. But here's another example of how Illinois' seamy reputation costs us big: State delays $1.4 billion debt offerings

Thanks, Rich Daley

Forbes magazine names Bensenville as America's fastest dying town. Bensenville says it's not dead yet, but blame Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's plans to expanded his pot-of-gold, O'Hare Airport, for threatening the town's existence.

Read it in the Daily Herald

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More baloney from the New York Times

In a long article, the New York Times implies that President-elect Barack Obama's good government motives are what inspired him to push for an Illinois ethics bill that indirectly led to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's downfall.

Bunk.

The truth is that Obama had to be pushed to do it, as explained in my Chicago Tribune column at the time.

Pressure had been growing in the good government community for Obama to live up to his image as a reformer by picking up the phone to call Sen. President Emil Jones, a Blagojevich ally who had blocked a vote on the ethics legislation. Obama acted only after his stubborn refusal to involve himself threatened to seriously tarnish his good guy image during the campaign.

None of this was made clear in the New York Times article, but what do you expect?

Illinois Has Long Been For Sale

By Dennis Byrne
RealClearPolitics

So, do the rest of you now have some idea of the depth of corruption in Chicago and Illinois, and why some of us were so concerned about electing a president who emerges from this cesspool?"

Read it in RealClearPolitics

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Axelrod says Obama and Blagojevich had spoken about the open Senate seat.

But wait, didn't President-elect Barack Obama say today that he had not spoken to the governor or his office?

Here is the television interview in which Axelrod made the statement.

Then--voila--here is the statement Axelrod later issued that said he was mistaken.

You decide.

Illinois voters: Can you top this?

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

The question on everyone’s lips isn’t so much whether the arrested and disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich is guilty as it is: Is the man nuts? Instead of going to prison, shouldn’t he be tossed into the loony bin?

The feds have been sniffing around his office since 2002, and as recently as last week he allegedly was actively trying to ring as much as $300,000 from a politician who’s interested in getting appointed by Blagojevich to President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat.

Only a fool, knowing that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI are breathing down his neck, would simultaneously try to enrich himself by selling a senate seat, extort money for his signature on legislation, hold up legitimate state business to silence editorial criticism, and this, most incredibly, squeeze a $50,000 campaign contribution for an executive of a children’s hospital at the expense of sick kids.

You gotta wonder when he had time to be governor.

The man-is-crazy theory receives suppor...

Read more in The Chicago Daily Observer

Just dump Holder now

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Bill Ayers is right; he's not a terrorist. He's a joke.

It's not Bill Ayers that soils President-elect Barack Obama's terrorist-fighting credentials; it's Obama's attorney general nominee, Eric Holder. And if Obama truly wants to unite us, he should dump Holder now.

Or at least make Holder fully explain his role in President Bill Clinton's grant of clemency to 16 terrorists from the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish acronym FALN. It's a question Holder has been dodging for more than a decade, and the one he will have to answer if he expects to be confirmed by the Senate.

For Chicagoans, terrorism carried out by the FALN, a radical and violent Puerto Rican independence group, is no mere political matter. It set off 120 bombs in the 1970s and 1980s, many of them in Chicago and a few in Schaumburg—at Marshall Field's, Sears, J.C. Penney, the federal and county buildings, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, several banks and Cook County Republican headquarters. It was in Evanston that the law finally caught up with them. U.S. attorneys from here and the New York area opposed the clemency, as well as the Justice Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons. Former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno called them an "ongoing threat" in 1999, before Clinton sprung them. The FALN terrorists were not convicted of killing anyone, but Congress, which overwhelmingly condemned the clemency, concluded the FALN terrorists were responsible for five deaths. By standard practice, the clemency petition should never have reached Clinton's desk because none of the terrorists had applied for it. So, who did? How did Clinton get it into his head (or did he originate the thought) that the terrorists should walk?

The conventional wisdom points a finger at Holder, then deputy attorney general, and Holder has provided little evidence (other than his denials) that the process was on the up and up. Documents have revealed that Holder met with Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and other Democratic congressmen with Puerto Rican constituents to discuss the case beforehand. Holder suggested that congressmen get the prisoners to issue an expression of remorse to speed their release. Why? In congressional hearings, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tried to find out, but in Holder's clumsy evasiveness just about all that Hatch could get out of him was an admission that no one bothered to question the bombing victims. Otherwise, Holder steadfastly pleaded executive privilege. Documents later revealed that Holder's (or whoever's) analysis reached Clinton's desk without the standard go or no-go recommendation.

Much has been made of Obama's relationship with Ayers, famous for his role as the co-founder of a radical idiots group called the Weather Underground. While the Weathermen were violent, the FALN overshadowed them. For all the heat generated by the Obama-Ayers affiliation, the president-elect has a lot more explaining to do to justify Holder's nomination as the nation's chief law-enforcement officer.

Ayers denied in a recent New York Times op-ed that he was a terrorist, and his reasoning (he didn't kill or hurt anyone) is goofy. You get a better reading of him from his book, "Fugitive Days," an adolescent attempt to rationalize a juvenile fling. Presumptuously comparing himself to John Brown and Nat Turner, Ayers fails to appreciate that his '70s rhetoric is as dated as bell-bottoms. Yet, he still takes himself seriously.

Forget him.

Much of the criticism of the Holder nomination so far has focused on his role in Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive who owed $48 million in taxes and faced 51 counts of tax fraud. His wife, Denise, made substantial contributions to the Clinton presidential library and Hillary Clinton's senate campaign. President Clinton also granted pardons or commutations to his half brother, Roger; to Susan McDougal, for her role in the Whitewater scandal; and our own convicted congressmen Dan Rostenkowski and Mel Reynolds. (All of which should be kept in mind if President Bush pardons—which he shouldn't—Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby.)

Why Obama wanted to resurrect all these troubling memories by nominating Holder is beyond me, especially in light of his campaign rhetoric about "bringing us together." I know, anyone who questions the Holder appointment will be accused of driving us apart, as if we have no right to ask for an explanation. But an explanation for this outrageous freeing of the FALN terrorists is required in an age when the threat of terrorism has worsened. It raises a question: What precisely does Holder plan to do with all the terrorists now in custody? It's more than a fair question.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Modified Loans Do Little to Help Homeowners

Why does this surprise anyone?

Virgin America to start hub service

But not at O'Hare Airport.

Only a couple of days after Virgin withdrew its unsuccessful effort to land at O'Hare,, the airline announced that it would launch service from Boston to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Too bad Chicago.

Virgin pulled out of Chicago because it was unable to negotiate access to O'Hare gates. And why is that, especially now with so many unused gates there?

Because United and American, which control 80 percent of the traffic there and most of the gates, didn't want the competition. Nothing against Virgin, they just don't want anyone else showing up, offering lower fares, better service or connections to unserved markets.

Wait a minute: Isn't the airport publicly owned? Don't taxpayers pay for it? Shouldn't the city of Chicago, the landlord, recognize that the airport needs more competition?

The answers are yes, yes and yes. But the cozy relatiionship between the two airlines and City Hall prevents any significant competition at O'Hare. We don't need no stinkin' competition.

So, screw the airline passengers. And screw the taxpayers.

Friday, December 05, 2008

George Ryan for U.S. Senator

Here’s who Gov. Rod Blagojevich should appoint to fill president-elect Barack Obama’s set as U.S. Senator: George Ryan.

Wait, wait. It’s perfect. Kill two birds—as it were—with one stone. All the stress would be lifted from the shoulders of local and state political creatures in one fell swoop. They could return to their primary occupations of doing bigger and badder things by resolving the two biggest issues weighing them down: Should President George W. Bush (or Obama when he becomes president) grant clemency to convicted felon and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan? And who should be Illinois get Obama’s seat.

The solution is flawless. It is the consummate intersection of two apparently unrelated bafflements.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Justice for Park Ridge and Des Plaines?

Several years ago, Park Ridge and Des Plaines withdrew their opposition to the expansion of O'Hare Airport. In Des Plaines, voters elected a pro-expansion mayor after years of opposition, thanks to some heavy footwork done by the Democratic patronage army in the east part of town. Before that, the Des Plaines mayor withdrew his town's membership in the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a consortium of communities opposing O'Hare expansion.

Having sold out, the towns now are full of angry residents complaining about the increased noise that the new northern runway at O'Hare has brought to their communities. According to the Chicago Tribune, no one expected the runway to carry as much traffic as it does, so now Des Plaines and Park Ridge are suffering from the consequences of their folly by lower-flying planes and increased numbers of flights. Apparently, they believed Chicago when it assured everyone, especially in those communities, that the northern runway would not have that much impact on their quality of life.

Perhaps Des Plaines and Park Ridge will have second thoughts and rejoin the opposition.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Experts" blow their Black Friday predictions

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The dismal retail sales figures are in for Black Friday and the news is . . . good?

Wait a minute, the news was supposed to be bad, awful, ghastly, dreadful, etc. Analysts, almost to the person, were predicting that retail sales would decline from last year's level, if not plummet. Some forecast economic calamity, because so much depends on consumer spending.

Not to pick on anyone in particular, but here are a few examples of pre-Black Friday conjectures:

• Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with NPD Group, said "this could be the worst holiday [shopping season] ever."

• ABI Research analyst Michael Wolf said Black Friday could end with consumers spending less than usual.

• A Wall Street Journal headline predicted a "Bleak Friday for retailers."

But as I write this, the weekend sales figures are starting to trickle in and the sages look like they're turning out to be all wet. Chicago-based ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said sales not only didn't fall, but actually increased 3 percent over a year ago, to $10.6 billion. PayPal saw almost 34 percent more transactions and a 26 percent increase in sales online over last year's Black Friday. The National Retail Federation's 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey found shoppers spent an average of $372.57 over the weekend, a 7.2 percent increase over last year's $347.55. Fourteen percent more shoppers spent $41 billion, it said. In short, the analysts and many of my media colleagues who delight in amplifying any negative prediction—the worse, the louder—blew it. Too bad; maybe if they had been right, there would have been no crowd of idiots at a Wal-Mart store to trample an employee to death.

This wouldn't be worth writing about if the sages weren't so universally wrong, if we didn't give them so much weight and if so much of the economy didn't turn sour every time they opened their mouths. The fact is, despite their golden credentials, the initials after their names and affiliations with the high-end financial institutions, they don't know any more about the future than you or I. Yet, they and their grim prognostications appear as an endless parade on the business television network CNBC and on the financial pages. "The market hasn't bottomed out yet." "The recession will be deeper than anything we've seen since the Great Depression." "We're in for another three years of economic reversals."

"Baloney. Bushwa. How do you know?" I shout at the TV screen. They don't. Michael Lewis told us that from personal experience in his book, "Liar's Poker." He explains it again in Conde Nast's December Portfolio.com: "To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grown-ups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall."

He went on: "I'd never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable."

I dare that his predictions then were just as good as the predictions we hear today. Lewis said this nonsense was unsustainable, yet here it is, more than 20 years later, and we continue to see the same kind of specious advice flowing out of Wall Street and the media. Upon this, Americans continue to make decisions on how much to spend and invest, and the more we listen, the worse the economy becomes.

When oil was hovering around $150 a barrel, the same folks guaranteed us that the price would go even higher and that high energy costs were a permanent condition that would fundamentally change our society. I'm not saying that that day won't come. But now that oil is about $50 a barrel, can't we be equally glad? Gasoline and home prices have dropped precipitously; that's bad for some, but great for others.

As the start of the Christmas shopping season tells us, there are bargains everywhere and, since when are low-priced homes, cars, electronics and other goods really horrible things? Can't we at least pretend that there's some good news to be heard?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks

Wonder how much the bailout compares with other national catastrophes? Check this out.

Hat tip to Newsalert

Durbin asks Bush to commute Ryan sentence

The surprise is that some people might be surprised by Durbin's request to spring this convicted felon. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, who doesn't want Ryan sprung, says he respects Durbin and urged him on Sunday not to proceed with this foolishness. Here I depart from John; my view of Durbin is closer to Steve Neal's, the late Sun-Times columnist, who never ran out of names--appropriately so--to call this senator whose practice, until now apparently, is to stick his thumb into the air to see which way the opinion was blowing.

That Durbin would buck the overwhelming public sentiment that Ryan should serve more of his term shows where his loyalties are: with the corrupt good old boys and the public be damned. Having just been re-elected to another six-year Senate term, he figures he can get away with it, and considering the wisdom of Illinois voters and who they have put in office, the odds are with Durbin.

Durbin also chose to spit in the eye of one of the jurors in the Ryan trial, reaffirming his decision that Ryan is guilty. That, too, for Durbin counts for nothing.

Thus is revealed the true Durbin. The whole thing is cheesy and sordid beyond what we can usually expect from Illinois politicians.

Who will hold Daley accountable for O’Hare?

Dan Curry asks the question. Who, indeed?

Blame the media

This New York Times writer blames the media for the crowd that trampled a Wal-Mart employee to death in a frenzy to get to the marked-down Christmas sale merchandise. As much as I like to blame the media for lots of stuff, I think this is a stretch. The writer, David Carr, postulates that media coverage of the deals worked the shoppers into such a lather over buying "stuff" that they would literally kill for it.

He misses a bigger point. Black Friday and the holiday shopping mania is the result of turning a religious celebration into a commercial fetish. Carr doesn't mention the contamination of Christmas by the secular, and that makes him as guilty as the rest of the media.