Monday, September 26, 2011

She's Baaaaack!

No sooner does Noman think he's done with Elizabeth Warren than she leaps back into the fray with yet more provocative material.  This woman is a living, breathing blog-op.

She's worth addressing for several reasons.  First, she's a walking compendium of Liberal certitudes whose cocksure righteousness causes her to effuse pristine formulations of Statist credal beliefs.  Secondly, she's a Chaired Harvard Law Professor, which attests to her position at the top of the profession's food chain, and highlights the beliefs that animate the nation's preeminent reservoir of legal wisdom.  Finally, she's a continual menace to society.

Her latest publicized outburst contained the following observations:
  • $4 trillion of our present financial hole was caused by George Bush
    • $1 trillion in tax cuts for the rich
    • $2 trillion in two wars on our children's credit card
    • $1 trillion in benefit giveaways to the drug companies (applause)
  • We can fix our problems by not doing those things (laughs)
  • Nobody in this country got rich on their own
  • Factory builders, specifically:
    • Moved goods on roads that the rest of paid for (huzzahs)
    • Hired workers the rest of us paid to educate
    • Were safe because of police and fire forces that the rest of us paid for
    • Didn't have to worry about maurading bands, and to hire someone to protect against them, because of the work the rest of us did.
In sum, her message to factory owners is: "You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea.  God bless.  Keep a big hunk of it.  But, part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

Applause was generous from the exclusively white, middle-aged-to-old gaggle of fatsos populating the event, which was held in a suburban indoor patio.  The scene transported Noman back to UC Berkeley in the 1970's.  He can just see the Birkenstock-clad toes wiggling in glee.

The response on Free Republic ("America's exclusive site for God, Family, Country, Life & Liberty conservatives"--was immediate and eloquent.  To wit:

"You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory...

Oh yeah?"

While admiring the conciseness, sufficiency and perspicuity of this riposte, Noman would like to address Professor Warren's ideas at greater length.

They have apparently resonated so well with the public that the President has incorporated them into his talking points.  In this stump speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, he echoes Warren's themes and parrots her emphasis on schools and roads that served to help businessmen make their money.  The full speech is on C-Span.  The leit motif occurs at minute 18, just before the President makes the faux pas of arguing that billionaires should pay taxes at the same rate as Jews.  Oh, my.

Noman is willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt.  He simply misspoke.  He probably was trying to say "junior" or "June bug"--definitely not "Junior Senator from Illinois, or Juneral Electric.  But, in the spirits of fairness and equality, Noman would like to see this gaffe attributed to his heart of hearts, and hear it harped on throughout the election season.  Does that sound harsh?  Noman says "Macaca."

While Professor Warren's felicitous formulation omits one social actor crucial to businesses success, viz. customers with money in their pockets, her words underscore an undeniable truth.  Nobody alive is an isolated, autonomous individual.  Human beings are social entities.

We do not bring ourselves into being, birth ourselves, raise ourselves, invent our own language and customs, educate ourselves, propel ourselves through forest and jungle, invent our own culture, etc.

It would be an absurdity of the highest order, a denial of the indisputable truth that Professor Warren appropriates for her purposes, to claim the individual right as an autonomous actor to kill one's baby in the womb, for instance, or to insist upon self-defining the mystery of life in splendid isolation from others in ways that oblige them contra longstanding cultural understandings to accept one's marriage to a member of the same sex.

Noman is certain that no sane or responsible person would ever suggest such self-referential fatuities, certainly not Professor Warren.

He thus foresees many avenues of future bipartisan collaboration to redress decades of bad law imposed by Liberal jurisprudes pondering the existence of an isolated, abstract, individual right--to fire a gun for instance--without considering the context in which that right is asserted--say, the gun's discharge into another person's body.

With respect to Professor Warren's factual premises, Noman thinks it will be more difficult to find common ground.  Her use of the term "we" recalls the joke in which Tonto responds to the Lone Ranger's declaration that "We're surrounded by Indians, and in trouble."  Tonto replies: "Who do you mean by 'we,' Kimosabi?"   Neither are we as tonto (stupid, in Spanish) as she apparently thinks.

Some background might help to explain.  Noman is Catholic, and his Country is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution to help him raise his children in his faith.  The Supreme Court assures us that it has something to do with a talmudic parsing of the words "respecting an" in the First Amendment.

The wee-ist scintilla of religious taint dispels the State's obligation to include the No-children within the collectivity educated by Professor Warren's royal "we."  Indeed, it compels the opposite.

Noman provides his No-children with the benefits of a classical liberal education at home and in various cooperatives, which the State will not pay for, and at considerable expense to himself.  When he needs help too cover the thousands of dollars of annual tuition that eight No-children ring up (tens-of-thousands of dollars including the No-children in college), he turns to his parish, not his government.  His Church responds with Christian charity; his State with Liberal prejudice.

His government--the one he pays taxes to in order to educate other people's children, inter alia, in beliefs inhospitable to, or openly critical of his faith--has no commitment to him, his No-children or to similarly situated religious families.  We educate our children as we choose to, not as bureaucrats choose for us.  Professor Warren's "we" consequently refuses to help, and washes its hands of the responsibility to these "next kids who come along."

In sum, everyone is entitled, but us.  Liberals say so.  That's fair.  Because Liberals are compassionate.  They're for equality.  They're against prejudice and hardship.  They have secret knowledge.

Call Noman old fashioned.  He wants his children to learn Latin, Logic, Literature, and the like in a way that does not slight the achievements of the occidental tradition or its oriental, Judeo-Christian moral foundations.

He does not see the benefit of having unionized Democratic Party apparatchiks indoctrinate his children in the glories of condom use before they are even capable of using one or knowing what it's for.

On that topic, how might one explain procreation to a five-year old, or why one might choose the activity that brings it about while rejecting the act's full dimensions?

How does one explain sexual desire to children?  Why should one?

What gives bureaucrats the right to teach other people's children essentially moral doctrines at a pre-moral age,  e.g., "Thou shalt have it as thou pleasest, as long as we permitteth it; and remember, children, Heather hath two mommies?"

By virtue of what is the State entitled to our children's minds?

What debilitating silliness public education has devolved to under Liberal hegemony.  To Professor Warren's mind, this is how the factory owner succeeded and made a hunk of money.  This is what successive rounds of government pork purport to create jobs with.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Noman's plight as one with children that the State has no duty to educate because of his nefarious educational preferences was underscored the other day by an Asian neighbor in this University neighborhood, which is heavily populated by intellectual immigrants.  She approached him to sign her petition calling for reinstatement of school bus service that had been cut from the city's budget.

Noman signed it despite knowing that cuts were necessary--as are an entire reevaluation of the things that government funds--only because he's certain that the city of Ann Arbor didn't cut perks and gravy jobs that it should have, and rather imposed burdens on homeowners like this woman standing before him.

She asked if the No-children also went to the local schools, which are a five-minute drive, or twenty-minute walk away.  She seemed surprised to learn--uncomprehending would be a better word--that Noman paid tuition, paid for books, supplies, tech equipment, food and transportation to schools a twenty-five minute drive away, all out of his own pocket.

Noman didn't try to explain why she, a foreigner who could barely speak English, was entitled to a government sponsored education for her children--education that Noman subsidizes with taxes--and he, a natural-born citizen wasn't.

How could he explain that the words "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" ordain that her children are entitled to free education at his expense, but his children aren't?

Perhaps he could merely have said that he believes in God, that everything "is" by virtue of participation in his being, that he wants his children to be able to respond to God's call for a personal relationship, and that it takes a lot of specialized education to make sense of it all, and left it at that.

The salient point for Professor Warren on her terms is that there are millions of kids that "we" don't pay to educate who also make the factory builder successful.  It is fraudulent and offensive to enlist their name and moral authority in her crusade, and adds insult to injury to invoke them in order to increase their taxes, not just the factory owners.'  It is tyranny to increase their compulsory contribution to a benefit they are precluded by the increasers from receiving.

On more general grounds, her terms are contentious.  Certainly not in the Keynesian enclaves she frequents.  But, where people know the rudiments of the economics that have actually yielded American prosperity, they understand: the dangers of rapidly escalating government indebtedness; the insanity of treating a debt-induced sickness by prescribing yet more of it; the folly of trying to grow an economy by stimulating demand rather than stimulating supply to be demanded; that an increase in the wealth of those who under-consume and take risk to create capital in order to produce more of something to consume in the future benefits everyone in an economy--they have already "paid forward for the next kid who comes along," even before paying taxes, which they do in disproportionate numbers; the importance of fomenting savings; that higher taxes and government strings distort economic incentives, and lower taxes do the opposite by freeing people to make their own experiments and reap the rewards if successful; that private enterprise rather than government redistribution better increases society's productive capacity, expands its economy and benefits all who live in it; that private capitalism induces even the greedy to raise other's standard of living; that, on balance, the rich get that way by offering something of value to others, not by making them poor.

There are alternatives to government's commandeering of resources and control to build roads, educate children and provide security, let alone alleviate suffering and be fair.  Government control provides patronage, waste and corruption--and cheap thrills for big egos--not productivity, prosperity and liberty.

There are private ways of alleviating suffering and redressing inequalities.  That is the role of intermediate associations such as family, church, community associations, and foundations, which confer the additional benefit of preparing people to help themselves, and others.

Mommy government is not the only way to address income inequality or its affects; neither is it the best.  It is only the most expensive, and most likely to end in bankruptcy.

Doubt it?  Tell Noman, Professor Warren, are the BRIC countries America's new creditors because of the relatively free operation of trade along capitalist lines, or because of United Nations' mandates?

Public problems do not necessitate public solutions.  Private solutions to public problems are more intelligent, effective and preferable.   They encourage resourcefulness rather than dependence.  So, please, Professor, leave us alone with your economic notions and superior compassion for the middle class in whose name you deign to present yourself for office.

With respect to the rest, even taking President Bush's initiatives on her terms, is she suggesting that the Bush tax cuts didn't benefit the nation's overall well-being after the crash and 9/11 body blows to the economy?   Is she denying that President Obama himself declined to reverse them when he had the chance due to the baneful economic affects such a blunder would unleash?

Does President Bush's $2 trillion on our children's credit card trouble her less than the $5 trillion (more than twice as much in half the time) that President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and Democratic governance rang up between 2006 and 2010?  Or did our children get a forbearance from new creditors?

Perhaps it's war and not debt that Professor Warren objects to?  Did President Obama end the wars while Noman wasn't looking?

How does President Bush's $1 trillion dollar giveaway to drug companies in return for a senior's benefit that many Democrats supported compare to the Pharmaceutical Industry's expected payoff for conspiring with President Obama and Democrats alone to impose an unwanted, unpopular healthcare regime on the country?

Does the money thrown at an entire productive industry trouble her more than the $500 million thrown away on Solyndra, merely one Green plunderer of the nation's Treasury in a sea of so many on Democrat's watch?

In sum, by virtue of what are we to trust Professor Warren to fix these problems and not committ them herself to the Nth degree?  Her intellectual modesty?  Her secret knowledge?  Certainly not the track record.

Professor Warren, please have your staff review these questions regarding your philosophical anthropology, your notions of who deserves to be considered in the social compact, your ideas about how money is made, and your views of recent government history.

Then, please contact Scott Brown's campaign and challenge him to a series of debates.  Noman knows that's your specialty.  But, he's dying nonetheless to see you in action outside of your element.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Saturday night is movie night at No-house.  If you're looking for a good one, you'll find it in the "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Edmund O'Brien, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin as the most debased villain you've seen since Stephen Hanks.  It is directed by John Ford and shot expertly in black and white.

From the  moment that Marvin snarls onto the screen to rob the stagecoach bringing eastern lawyer Stewart out west, you know you're going to be hooked til the end.  Stewart intervenes to protect an elderly woman on the coach asking "What kind of men are you?"  Liberty (Marvin) whips him to the ground saying "This kind, dude."  He follows up half in bemusement, half in mockery asking "Now what kind of man are you, dude?"

It's a compelling story of a principled man (Stewart's Ransom Stoddard) trying to stick to his guns (the law, civilization) in a place where the only law is the point of a gun.  The movie drips with irony as Wayne continually saves Stewart's bacon, only to be rewarded by watching his girl Halle--the love triangle's hypotenuse--and dreams slip away to the high-minded and sympathetic Stewart.  By the end of the movie, it's clear to Noman at least that Wayne (Tom Doniphon) was the better man.  The film is artful enough to implant the sad recognition that, sometimes, being the better man is not enough.  Life can be that way.

It's more Stewart's movie than Wayne's, but Wayne steals it.  He's too dominant a personality for it to be otherwise.  Back before Peggy Noonan realized that the other side paid better--in the Fall of 2001, specifically, when she should have won the Pulitzer Prize, but didn't--she penned a classic in celebration of manliness entitled "Welcome Back, Duke."  There is only one Duke of consequence in the American psyche: John Wayne; not of Earl; not in Doonesbury.
It is not only that God is back, but that men are back. A certain style of manliness is once again being honored and celebrated in our country since Sept. 11. You might say it suddenly emerged from the rubble of the past quarter century, and emerged when a certain kind of man came forth to get our great country out of the fix it was in... 
I should discuss how manliness and its brother, gentlemanliness, went out of style. I know, because I was there. In fact, I may have done it. I remember exactly when: It was in the mid-'70s, and I was in my mid-20s, and a big, nice, middle-aged man got up from his seat to help me haul a big piece of luggage into the overhead luggage space on a plane. I was a feminist, and knew our rules and rants. "I can do it myself," I snapped...
But perhaps it wasn't just me. I was there in America, as a child, when John Wayne was a hero, and a symbol of American manliness. He was strong, and silent. And I was there in America when they killed John Wayne by a thousand cuts. A lot of people killed him--not only feminists but peaceniks, leftists, intellectuals, others. You could even say it was Woody Allen who did it, through laughter and an endearing admission of his own nervousness and fear. He made nervousness and fearfulness the admired style. He made not being able to deck the shark, but doing the funniest commentary on not decking the shark, seem . . . cool. 
But when we killed John Wayne, you know who we were left with. We were left with John Wayne's friendly-antagonist sidekick in the old John Ford movies, Barry Fitzgerald. The small, nervous, gossiping neighborhood commentator Barry Fitzgerald, who wanted to talk about everything and do nothing... 
But now I think . . . he's back. I think he returned on Sept. 11.  I think he ran up the stairs, threw the kid over his back like a sack of potatoes, came back down and shoveled rubble. I think he's in Afghanistan now, saying, with his slow swagger and simmering silence, "Yer in a whole lotta trouble now, Osama-boy." 
I think he's back in style. And none too soon. 
Welcome back, Duke. 
There's a scene in the movie that perfectly captures the John Wayne mystique: a virile character with firm limits, an unerring sense of right action, an equilibrated temper and a sure compass for justice.

Noman, too, remembers John Wayne's America, and mocking "The Green Berets," Wayne's 1968 paean to patriotism at the height of the Vietnam War.  The critics panned it; the adult public ate it up.  Noman was a teenager then.  He dismissed it without ever having seen it because he was too imbued with protest, too swept up in confusion, and too afraid of dying in the jungle to appreciate its staunch anti-communist message.

The Duke was becoming history before our eyes, an anachronistic reminder of an America that demonstrated its love of country by celebrating it virtues rather than criticizing its defects in public for foreign consumption.  Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda were the cutting edge.  The Duke was old hat.  Time has changed Noman's mind.  The Duke speaks to us once again.  Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda slimed the place up.

Speaking of old, both Wayne and Stewart are a touch long in the tooth to play romantic leads.  But, it doesn't detract.  Both were great enough character actors to overcome it.  

Special mention should be made of Edmond O"Brien's besotted wag of an editor, Dutton Peabody.  He delivers the best line of the movie when asked by Wayne (Doniphon) what it was that made Liberty Valance retire from a challenge.  "It was the specter of the law arising mightily out of the mashed potatoes and gravy," jests Dutton.  Andy Devine is superbly annoying in his role of Marshall Link Appleyard, a mooching, overeating and cowardly man of no other talents.  

Vera Miles is lovely, as always.  He remembers her best for a chilling episode of The Twilight Zone in which her doppelganger threatens to assume her identity at a bus station.  Her immigrant parents in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" are precious.

But, Marvin.  What can one say?  You won't forget his performance as the sadistic, murdering Liberty Valance.  As the title suggests, he gets his, which is as it should be.

Generally, Marvin played a good bad guy, one of the best (worst).  His talent far surpassed that pigeon hole, however.  Check out "Cat Ballou" (1965), another No-family favorite, and prove it to yourself.

Noman hopes you enjoy "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" as much as No-family did.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bristol Palin 1 - Loud Mouth Boor 0

In case you haven't seen it, Bristol Palin was verbally accosted in a bar by a big mouth she correctly identified as a homosexual.  (The video is embedded in the link.)  He didn't seem gay, happy.  In fact, he was the rudest kind of boor you'd never hope to meet.  

The gist of his magisterial disquisition is that Sarah Palin is evil, will go to hell if there is one and is a woman of easy virtue.  That's funny because Sarah Palin married the first boy she ever kissed, has five children in wedlock--including one she was advised to kill, and for which she will never be forgiven for bringing into the world against that advice--and is a hard-working, honest woman.  

The loud mouth on the other hand sits in bars with his boyfriend and screams obscenities at people he doesn't know.  His words invert reality--he is the whore, not Sarah Palin--which mirrors the social mores in mainstream culture that nurtures his bad manners and--habits.

Bristol kept her cool, questioned him on the reasons for his beliefs and encouraged him to settle upon one for future articulation.  She made him out to be the fool he is by giving him a chance to show that he isn't.  The lout was vacuous, a big zero except for the hatred that fills him, which renders him a net negative.  

Bristol Palin has more character in one hair follicle than he does in his dreams, and more class in her pinky than he does in his material being.  She has courage, just like the rest of her family.  He has a Certified Victim's Dispensation from rules of civility, and sufficient chip-on-his-shoulder to avail himself liberally of it.    

Well done, Bristol.  You do your parents proud (aside from taking salacious mechanical bull rides in bars for the camera), which is another reason for everyone to hate them.  

Noman wonders what the lout's parents think or know of him, but doubts that they do.  He seems disconnected from any loving relationships.

The altercation ended when Bristol walked away from it and left the bar.  Noman remembers a saner time when anyone boorish enough to shout obscenities at a woman in public would be taught some manners.  And any boor obtuse enough to keep shouting and escalating tensions, especially when given a gracious chance to redeem himself, would have been shown to the door and left in the gutter where he belonged.   Such a person is not fit for society.

He is in today's world.  In fact, he's privileged.  This disturbance incarnate remained seated on his stool sipping away at his courage.  Nobody said a word to him about civility, manners, diversity, pluralism, toleration, sociability or shutting up.  Dealing with him as his actions deserved might have converted this Danton into a mini-Matthew-Shepard and subjected upholders of public order to federal hate crime laws.

This boor had identified himself as a member of a Certified Victim Class.  He has special rights.  He's entitled.  Because, that's "fair."  It's required by Liberal compassion.  Everyone else must suffer whatever mortification he choses to dispense.  That's Liberal politics, and everything in America is politics these days.

Bristol complied with her duty to accept this boor's guff graciously and left the bar after a dashed attempt at reason.  She acquitted herself with honor.  He covered himself in shame.  She's no damsel in distress, but there is something noble in her.  (As an aside, Levi is an imbecile for letting this gem get away.)

God save our culture from the tyranny of political correctness, and teach our men and women how to behave like human beings rather than boors.

David Mamet has a spot-on observation about the tyranny of run-amok victims, as he does on so many topics.  In discussing the Liberal assault on culture, he writes:
What is the actual human mechanism devoted to the dread of giving offense?  It is called culture.  It, in its entirety, consists of rules worked out through human interactions sufficiently successful to have been relegated to unconscious habit. 
 When all human interactions are brought to conscious consideration, the result is anxiety and fear.  Consider any first meeting or ceremony where the forms are unknown: a dinner party, for example, of such formality that one was unsure which fork to use, and how and when to address one's table mates; a meeting with a head of state, or a celebrity.  Human beings, in such circumstance, may be brought to a literal state of immobility through fear of violating a norm and of behaving in a, thus, shameful fashion.
This is the state of the contemporary Liberal world--the fear of giving offense has been self-inculcated in a group which must, now, consider literally every word and action, for potential violation of the New Norms.  To further compound the dilemma, the norms themselves are inchoate: consider a high school teacher coming upon two students kissing in the hallway, in violation of school rules.  Suppose the two students are gay.  Can you imagine a teacher who would not at the very least hesitate in or mitigate her caution or censure in fear of offending the students?  Consider the Black Power agitation and vandalism of the sixties, and the school administrators who allowed it on campus--not out of fear for their person, but out of fear that to defend the actual university culture of civility would be to give offense. 
It is not the absence of government, but the rejection of culture which leads to anarchy.
There's a ring of truth to that money-line.  Scaling down the government to manageable dimensions will not lead to anarchy.  Not stopping government by Liberal do-gooders and their designated victims will further debase culture and surely lead to anarchy.

Noman awaits to learn of the lout's name and bio.  He is not waiting to hear it from our watchdog media, however.  After all, the lout is a Liberal, not Joe the Plumber.

Addendum: Since publication of this post, Danton has been identified as Stephen Hanks, 47, from Louisiana living in LA.  He is a consultant, of what he couldn't say.  Sensitivity, perhaps; certainly not debate.

Noman suspects he was intelligent before sexual identity subordinated his intellect to his libido--a faculty not noted for its reasonableness.  Unfortunately, his commitments transgress long-standing, deeply-ingrained (not superficial, media-generated) cultural norms, which reduces him to vituperation and smugness.  The nature that ultimately underlies culture will eventually reassert its hegemony.  How could it not?  It fills him with hatred.

For now, Hanks is at war with public figures he identifies as defenders of life and traditional morality.  He is ironically fighting a Satan in his mind with every confrontation while inadvertently serving the actual one below.  He evidently feels justified in taking matters beyond limits of decency, courtesy, tolerance, respect or even enlightened self-interest.  Like all Liberals, he is a law unto himself.

What are the limits to his behavior?  Does he recognize any in principle?  With Michael Moore egging him on, can citizens trust him to discern any?  This man is a dangerously loose canon with no capacity for self control or remorse.  Noman says the public would be better served by Hanks residing behind bars rather than in them?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

HHS's Plan To Contracept Conscience Rights

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urges faithful Catholics, friends of conscience rights, enemies of government tyranny, and people of good will to protest the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services proposed diktat that private health plans cover contraception (including abortifacients) as preventive services for women.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has issued interim final rules mandating this outcome pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e., ObamaCare.

There's no doubt that these "preventive services" prevent fecundation or implantation in the women who avail themselves of them.  In the case of arbortifacient contraceptives, however, they also prevent the lives of unborn women who are killed by their mothers.  The moral dimensions of this nuance have proved elusive to Liberals over the years engendering some social consternation.  Neither does everyone want to participate in the killing by subsidizing it, or purchasing a contract on someone else's life.  Another elusive nuance.

The interim HHS directive prevents citizens who think differently than Secretary Sebelius from having the choice of keeping blood off their hands: it proposes to make them pay for what they consider unconscionable.  How's that for hands-on government?

In the Statist world, only Liberals have choices.  They're entitled.  Because, that's fair.  They're compassionate.  Everyone else has duties.  It is not ours to reason why, only to do and die.  If Secretary Sebelius and President Obama have their way, we'll also be obliged to pay for the killing.  Preventing--dying--killing: that's why Pope John Paul II called it a culture of death.

“Until now, no federal law has prevented private insurers from accommodating purchasers and plan sponsors with moral or religious objections to certain services,” they wrote. “Plans were free under federal law to accommodate those objections by allowing purchasers to choose not to buy coverage for gender change surgery, contraceptives, in vitro fertilization, or other procedures that the purchaser or sponsor found religiously or morally problematic. Likewise, federal law did not forbid any insurer, such as a religiously-affiliated insurer, to exclude from its plans any services to which the insurer itself had a moral or religious objection. Indeed, the freedom to exclude morally objectionable services has sometimes been stated affirmatively in federal law.” 
Under the mandate, they wrote, this will end. “Individuals with a moral or religious objection to these items and procedures will now be affirmatively barred by the HHS mandate from purchasing a plan that excludes [contraception and sterilization]. Religiously-affiliated insurers with a moral or religious objection likewise will be affirmatively barred from offering a plan that excludes them to the public, even to members of their own religion. Secular organizations (insurers, employers, and other plan sponsors) with a moral or religious objection to coverage of contraceptives or sterilization will be ineligible for the exemption.” 
Noman considers that sufficient explanation of the proposed directive's defects, and villainy. By virtue of what exigency are citizens' traditional moral beliefs to be so peremptorily disregarded?  Economic cost-spreading rationale?  Fairness?  Concern for women--including those who object to having America perverted in their names, and those who are deprived of life?  Run-amok triumphalism?  The Anti-Catholic bigotry of self-hating Catholics and fellow travelers?

This is the way Liberals act with power.  They shove it down the throat of anyone who disagrees with them, which is why they shouldn't have it.

The directive's fig-leaf exemption covers only (1) a "religious employer" that (2) has the "inculcation of religious values" as its purpose, (3) primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and (4) is a church organization under two narrow provisions of the tax code.  The bishops opine that so restrictive a provision would exclude the activities of Jesus Christ himself.  Perhaps that's the point.
“Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 
“For example, under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” Cardinal DiNardo continued. “Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public?  Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal.” 
“The Administration’s failure to create a meaningful conscience exemption to the preventive services mandate underscores the need for Congress to approve the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” the Cardinal said.That bill (H.R. 1179), introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), would prevent mandates under the new health reform law from undermining rights of conscience. 
Cardinal DiNardo added: “Catholics are not alone in conscientiously objecting to this mandate.The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an ‘emergency contraceptive’ but can act like the abortion drug RU-486. It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception. The pro-life majority of Americans – Catholics and others – would be outraged to learn that their premiums must be used for this purpose.” 
“HHS says the intent of its ‘preventive services’ mandate is to help ‘stop health problems before they start,’ said Cardinal DiNardo. “But pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a ‘health problem’ – they are the next generation of Americans.”
The final paragraph contains the anthropological truth separating Social Conservatives from fellow citizens, and splintering American culture since Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).  "Pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a 'health problem.'"  It amazes Noman that the point should ever have had to be argued, let alone for the past 50 years.

With respect to this most recent controversy, the point is that drugs and surgeries to prevent pregnancy--at least in the eyes of those who don't consider children an eliminable health problem--are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans, including them, to purchase.  We have rights, too, Kathleen, and voices.

It is no answer to blithely observe that Democrats won the election of 2008, as if that fact affords social engineers carte blanche to transform the the culture by eliminating the conscience rights of those who disagree.  In the 1943 case of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, Justice Robert Jackson anticipated Democrat's intended usurpation:
"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."
If being forced to subsidize another's morally objectionable choices, and to purchase services one considers morally repugnant, doesn't violate the Bill of Rights, then the Constitution is meaningless.  Noman rejects the conclusion on grounds of self-evidence.  Ergo, the premise is flawed.  He pities the smallness of mind, and soul, of those who champion it.

The USCCB's formal arguments against HHS's interim final rules follows:

I. The HHS Mandate
A. Our prior comments urging HHS to limit the “preventive services” mandate to services that promote health and prevent disease should be revisited and have been reinforced by subsequent scientific studies. 
B. The HHS mandate is unprecedented at the federal level and the most radical among the States. 
C. By requiring coverage of drugs that can cause abortion, the HHS mandate violates the Weldon amendment, PPACA’s (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, i.e., ObamaCareown abortion and non-preemption provisions, and the Administration’s own assurances that PPACA would not be construed to require coverage of abortion.
D. The HHS mandate violates the Religion and Free Speech Clauses of the United States Constitution. 
E. The HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 
F. The HHS mandate violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
 II. The HHS Exemption
A. The HHS exemption is narrower than the exemptions in the vast majority of states with contraceptive mandates. 
B. The HHS exemption is narrower than any other religious exemption in federal health care law. 
C. It is unclear whether the HHS exemption even applies to sterilization and/or counseling and education about sterilization. 
D. The HHS exemption fails to encompass any individuals and most institutions with moral or religious objections to contraception or sterilization. 
E. The HHS exemption violates the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. 
F. The HHS exemption violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
The drafters conclude that if for some reason HHS will not rescind its ill-conceived final rules, it should at least (a) exclude from the mandate those drugs that can cause an abortion, and (b) exempt all stakeholders with a religious or moral objection to contraceptives, sterilization, and related education and counseling.

That sounds both reasonable, and American, to Noman who hopes that the reader finds HHS's interim final rules as deeply offensive, disturbing and revealing as he does.  They are one change Noman hopes not to see.  They are, however, among the changes that the President and his Party most passionately hoped for.

This episode illustrates the value of President Obama's word, and executive orders.  He can only be trusted by those whose agenda he shares.  He will say and do anything to accomplish it.  He is a fraud.  Q.E.D.

The public comment period on this interim final rule ends September 30.  The reader can send an e-mail message to HHS by visiting

Once comments have been sent to HHS, the reader will be automatically invited to send a message to his or her elected representatives in Congress urging them to support the Respect for Rights of Consceince Act (J.R. 1179/S. 1467) to ensure that our Statist administrators refrain from violating Americans' moral and religious convictions.

Shame on you, Kathleen Sebelius.  May God forgive you and your Party the evil you do in the name of women's rights.  May God grant you graces to restrain your totalitarian impulses and to leave the rest of us alone.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)?

Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren is running for Scott Brown's (Teddy Kennedy's) Senatorial seat in Massachusetts.  She believes that her compassion for the middle class to which she doesn't belong  but knows from a distance will translate into legislative zeal for smiting big corporations, the entities she believes control DC, if not the cosmos.  She's willing to work her heart out to win the trust of Bay State voters.  Noman doubts neither the sincerity nor depth of Warren's convictions.  He does doubt the clarity of her thinking, her commitment to liberty, and whether she has sufficient faculties for self-doubt and critical reflection.  One thing nobody should doubt, however, is her animus towards large financial corporations, the boogie-men of her life-long work.

Noman has blogged about Professor Warren in her capacity as Grand Pooh-bah of a federal agency she lobbied as an academic to create, and staffed up without Congressional oversight after the passage of Dodd-Frank.  (See, "Will the Real Elizabeth Warren Please Stand Up," 3/15/11; "For Lovers of Unchecked Power," 3/17/11; and "Elizabeth Warren Redux," 3/30/11)  It's not everyone who gets to see their political dreams come to life.  Her umbilical connection to this brainchild and long career of bashing Wall Street, however, made her confirmation as its inaugural director impolitic.  After a concerted but failed charm offensive this summer, President Obama threw in the towel and looked elsewhere for leadership.

Noman's quarrel with the governing notions that Warren espouses is their leap from an undeniable problem, to a tendentious attribution to some demonized boogie man, to a federal agency or some variant of big government empowered to do social justice.  Noman further chaffes at the abysmal track record and waste of all such public initiatives.  Finally, he resents the Statist business model: to appropriate and amass all moneys desired to insulate the salvific initiative in ways not enjoyed by the taxpayers (debtors) footing the bill.

Despite superficial similarities, Liberal methodology inverts Christian charity, which teaches that Jesus fed the multitude one fish and loaf at a time through the agency of his disciple's faithful perseverance in his instructions.  Federal (or state) do-gooding operates by piling up mountains of fish and loaves before commencing.  Needless to say, lots of food doesn't get to the intended beneficiaries.  But, passing it out is certainly a gravy job.

Senate Banking Committee hearings to vet President Obama's choice to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)--the Grendel to which Warren is mother--kicked off the week before last.  Richard Corday faced Senators who treated him with kid gloves, preferring to spare him rancor better directed towards the controversial Bureau he would head.  Observations about his twins' smiles and his five-time reign as Jeopardy champion dominated the proceedings.

Corday, who has been called Warren-light, like her is no friend of Wall Street.
“There’s a belief here that Wall Street is a fixed casino and it’s back in business, and we’re left holding the bag,” Mr. Cordray, then speaking from his office as Ohio’s attorney general, told The New York Times last year. “It’s important for us to show we’ll go after a company that does wrong.”
That's all true as far as it goes.  Taxpayers were certainly stuffed with the losses from the mortgage meltdown.  Wall Street gamblers certainly walked away from the casino with their winnings intact despite nearly breaking the house, and industry.  We're certainly mad as hell.  But, Wall Street bonuses get mostly re-funneled to left-wing causes (e.g., gay marriage in NY) and as campaign contributions to Democratic politicians who in turn bail Wall Street out of its messes.  That's been the game since President Clinton's election and Treasury Secretary Rubin's tenure, i.e., Mexican crisis (1994), Asian financial crises (1997), Russian crisis (1998).  (For a good read on moral hazard stemming from Clinton-era policies, see Peter Schweizer's Architects of Ruin.)  So, it's tough for that Party's acolytes to persuade onlookers that their inveighing is anything more than political grandstanding.

Moreover, the sacks over Uncle Sam's head are the Government Sponsored Entities (GSE's): Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Somehow, Democrat's labyrinthine reform of the system managed to bypass and exempt that financial black hole.  The CFPB will be riding herd over bank's swipe fees and foreclosure mechanisms, but not over the government-guaranteed mortgage traffickers that unleashed finanical armageddon on the world's financial system while generating hundreds of millions of dollars in GSE bonuses for Democratic Party fixtures such as Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Daniel Mudd, Jamie Gorelick, and Rahm Emanuel.  Nor should we forget campaign contributions to Democratic politicians Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, and John Kerry, the top three recipients of Fannie Mae's largesse.  Think about it; Fannie Mae's top three political beneficiaries include the Democratic Party's most recent two Presidential nominees and its Senatorial patron of financial reform, which conveniently exempted the GSE's.  Andrew Klavan connects the dots for the reader.

A perusal of Corday's lawsuits as Ohio attorney general--a position that voters, not banks, recently kicked him out of--indicates that Corday specializes in the post hoc spinning of business mistakes into crimes or causes of action.  That is standard operating procedure for the white collar plaintiff's bar, a Democratic hegemon, which enriches its members at the expense of overcharged consumers, the ultimate payers of settlement bills in lawyer shakedowns.

Regarding Warren, the Times ran the Corday testimony story with a sympathetic interview of her that deserves extensive comment.  The video interview is linked.

With appropriate facial and tonal accents to stress her incredulity that anyone could be so insensitive as to disagree, she said that:
-legislators were writing bills already to kill CFPB before it has a chance to clean up one thing;
-Dodd-Frank is too popular to kill, so enemies are trying to maim it;
-CFPB's independent funding comes from the Fed like that of all banking regulators;
-funding autonomy is necessary to preserve the Bureau's independence from trillion dollar institutions that can lobby Congress, but not the Fed;
-bankers aren't scared of their ability to live with the Bureau once she explains to them that it's only going to ensure clear prices, clear risks and product comparisons;
-some people are dead set at denying the President a political win, even when he's worked so hard on this;
-the President offered her a choice of starting up the Bureau or running it once it was started, and she opted for the former;
-she's studied the economics of working families her entire adult life, and they are being hammered ever harder and harder
-we now live in an America where millions, ten-of-millions of people are one bad medical diagnosis, one pink slip, one terrible interest-rate reset away from complete financial collapse.
First, note the automatic leap at the end.  Somebody, somewhere (a gob of people) lives in danger of suffering.  Government is the medium through which their problem must be addressed.  Period.  How else might one eradicate suffering?  Never mind that this route never does, and only perpetuates suffering in the form of dependency while it bankrupts the nation.  What's important are intentions, not results; sentiment, not reason; anything but reflection.

Presumably, money to tilt endlessly at these windmills abounds, and only ignorant and/or selfish taxpayers--people defective in intellect and will--don't see it that way.  Elizabeth Warren, for one, is not going to stand for them.  And, neither is hardworking President Obama.

The Times streamed this interview in the service of evermore government control; evermore access to incontestable funding; evermore government jobs at ever-higher salaries and benefits.  So, Noman assumes it depicts Warren at her best.

With respect to killing or maiming the CFPB, which burst forth fully armed from the head of Congress, Noman understands the points on the negotiating table to be (1) reforming its governance structure, (2) sourcing its funding to a politically accountable font, and (3) submitting its judgments to a broader appeals process.  Those sound like debatable points of prudential judgement regarding crucial matters rather than efforts to kill or maim anything.

Moreover, one would only see these disagreements as lethal threats if one viewed the CFPB as something beyond reproach: e.g., a spotless avenger wielding potentate powers to smite the wicked and do social justice.  Clearly, she hasn't considered an alternative perspective: that it is a human institution filled with bureaucratic tendencies and fallible people prone to human error, self-interest and prejudice--no less so than corporate actors, who are at least not inflated with the hubris of state--that needs to be watched, monitored and controlled for the sake of liberty.  Let us assume that its avengers will not accept the princely emoluments offered them in return for their good graces.  If this behemoth is to control the financial corporations, who will control the controllers, especially when they are so well insulated from accountability?

Cries that the CFPB be spared the inconvenience of funding concerns, contrary voices at decision central, and accountability beyond only like-minded people (just as Democrats intended it to be) inspires neither confidence in government nor a sense of security from federal, not private, overreach and abuse.  Noman's alarm is heightened by the spectacle of would be public servants too blind to see their own limitations.

To the extent that she rightfully perceives animus, it might partly be explained by the manner in which Democrats went about their business while enjoying fillibuster-proof majorities in Congress, the period during which Dodd-Frank became the law of the land.  Exhortations to bipartisanship and national unity were risibly directed only to opposition Republicans and unwilling taxpayers.  Democrats took what they felt entitled to, and answered protests by saying that they won.

Regarding the CFPB's funding, the attempt to sequester mountains of guaranteed resources mirrors the Liberal understanding of related concepts such as "investment."  Money does not superabound in nature, lying in wait to be picked up and put to happy use.  Wealth is generated by risk, hard work and good luck, and in all events is subject to the ravages of unseen vicissitude.  Even savings can be eviscerated by government-induced inflation.   Well-heeled lenders including financial institutions and governments are discovering the iron law of indeterminacy in Greece, just as the Reserve Primary money market fund discovered it when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008.  Contingency, uncertainty, and decomposition are the rules in life.  Why not for government initiatives, too?  It takes astute management to compensate for scarcity, not a cornucopia of limitless cash.  Are Statist dreams the only force not subject to change in President Obama's America?  Dare beleaguered taxpayers and impatient government creditors not hope?

Unlike specifically banking-related regulators, Dodd-Frank was a conscious attempt to reach beyond a singular type of institution to control financial activity wherever it occurred in the ubiquitous realm of shadow financing; in other words, everywhere.  The CFPB is everybody's regulator inserting political influence into credit decisions.  It is more a super regulator by design: a FTC, SEC and CFTC rolled into one and injected with steroids.  It is more akin to the "one ring to bind them all" than it is to the FDIC.  It is not like every other banking regulator and perhaps warrants the people's scrutiny over its purse strings more closely than the others.

Professor Warren should consider that the trillion-dollar institutions menacing her from across the bargaining table are a check and balance on CFPB's power, something she evidently thinks can be dispensed with, at least when she has it.  She might consider what will happen when she and her team don't.  She also might raise her estimation of private sector actors and lower it of public sector ones in order to accord her perspective with reality.  People are people, with all their virtues and vices.  Whether they work in the private or public sector is beside the point that neither people nor institutions are perfect.  They all need to be held accountable.  In the private sector they can at least be ruined by their imbecilities (if government lets them be).  In the public sector, they simply bewail the lack of funding, point to more problems and demand more money to stop the suffering.

If CFPB exists only to mandate clear prices, risks and products, then it is not needed.  Surely in the labyrinth of existing consumer protection law one can find statutory authority to write those regulations.  Do we really need another federal behemoth for those specific purposes?  Professor Warren must have something else in mind, like forcing banks to knuckle under to foreclosure settlement demands and submit to the CFPB's aggrandizing overreach, as she did just last March.

With respect to people supposedly attacking the CFPB in order to deny President Obama a political victory, he has already won the political victory.  Dodd-Frank is law.  Whether he has worked hard or not--presumably during one of his interminable vacations--the give and take of the regulatory process is the price we pay for pluralism, diversity and freedom in America.  The Constitution does not mention the regulatory state.  Thus, contestation on this ground is already a Statist victory for which she should rejoice, not complain.  It is telling that Professor Warren needs to impute policy differences to bad will and personal motives, as if she can't fathom a legitimate reason for disagreement.

Perhaps it is nit-picky to observe that her recollection of events is fanciful.  Given that we've been publicly subjected to her charm offensive to head the Bureau for half a year, Noman suspects that President Obama's offer was for her to staff up the Bureau while he gathered confirmation votes, and to railroad her nomination through once he had.  She will not be heading the Bureau because Senators in her own Party repudiated her choice, or at least declined to expend political capital defending her, not because she made a choice offered to her by the President.

Noman wishes that she had children in addition to a Golden Retriever.  They might have wizened her, taught her something about reality and monopolized more of her time.

She has studied the economics of working families her entire adult life, albeit from the distance of a tenured perch at the pinnacle of ivory-towerdom.  Perhaps she might profitably study the track record of institutionalized government initiatives to alleviate suffering.  Noman suggests she focus on their unintended consequences.

By her reckoning, millions to tens-of-millions live one disaster or bad break away from complete financial collapse in today's America.  Is that in contradistinction to yesterday's America, or to any other nation in the history of humanity?  Noman reckons that her supposition is far too modest by a factor of 10.  Everybody lives in danger of financial collapse, even tenured professors whether they know it or not.  So does every country, as the PIGS nations and the US are demonstrating currently, and countless others have proven throughout history.

Ruin and its attendant suffering are the nature of contingent being in a corporeal, finite world.  Some live closer to the edge than others.  The beauty of the American system, however, is that one's proximity to the edge isn't fixed by fate, culture, blood line, the system or ultimately any exogenous force.  America's economy and wealth dynamics are fluid due to its free enterprise system, not due to government assurances.  Even a working class girl from Oklahoma can grow up to become the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and perhaps even a Senator.  The marvel in America today is that so many Americans don't live on the precipice, not that so many do.

Should we passively accept the fates of suffering and demise?  Of course not.  But, that's not the alternative to Statist ministrations.  Which brings Noman to the gravamen of his dispute with Warren, President Obama, the Democratic Party and the European Social-Welfare State.

The only way, ultimately, to deal with the potentially cataclysmic phenomena that Warren cites in favor of yet bigger government is for people to prepare as best they can, and to develop habits of resilience, self-reliance, resourcefulness and concern for others.  The worst way is to foment habits of dependency and entitlement in people, to fill them with expectations that mommy-State will take care of everything.

For those that inevitably fall through the cracks--inevitable given the uncertain condition of life in a degenerative body in need of continual sustenance--we the people need local institutions to pick them up, not government bureaucracies.  Hopefully, fewer people will break down once the nation's ethos is restored to to its roots.

Local protagonism--family, neighbors, friends, church, town--encourages people to make prudent choices of association, habit, and indulgence.  It renders individuals less inclined to stand on their rights, and more attentive to what is required of--not due--them.  It breeds accountability of helper and helped to each other alike.  It eliminates or deters graft, corruption, waste, callousness, bribery, lobbying, and influence-pedaling: all the human sycophancies that flourish wherever power and money aggregate in the splendid isolation of far-away places.

Noman has quoted Mamet on point in recent posts (See "The Secret Knowledge," (9/2/11); "What Check is Upon These Champions?" (9/4/11); "An Election Season Proposal," (9/10/11); and "Last Man Standing Won't Take It Sitting Down," (9/12/11)).  He offers one more in point of contrast with the prospective Senator from Massachusetts.
Most Victorian novels featured the stock character of the profligate son. He was a gambler, and, having run through his inheritance, was constantly appealing to his father to pay his ever renewed gambling debts.
The father inevitably paid, "for the honor of the family." And he paid wringing his hands and cursing his fate. And the son thanked the father, wept, swore to reform, and continued gambling.

Why not, as there was, to him, no cost? He had been taught, by his father, that there was no penalty for losing. What worse lesson for a gambler?

For, if losing is cost free, why bother either to (a) learn to gamble or (b) quit? The serious gambler learns young, and painfully, that he must control his impulses, that he must not pursue fantasy, neither wish for the cards to turn, but learn the odds and husband his resources for those times when the cards or dice do favor him.

There is a technical term for the gambler who can neither learn nor quit; he is called a sucker.

Our politicians, left and right, are, to belabor the metaphor, the wastrel son: they are free to spend, to chase fantasies, and to squander resources, for the resources are not theirs, and there is no penalty for their misuse or loss.

The wastrel son gambles, at no cost, for the thrill it provides; the wastrel politician does so in pursuit of fantasy (good works) or money. The money may be in direct support for his campaigns, or in free redecorating of his summer home; or it may be issued in the form of plaques recognizing his good works, which plaques, on his retirement from office, may be traded in for money.
Pampered professors and politicians will not learn to stop being suckers, and playing us for suckers, without the electorate's strong guidance in November of 2012 and every election thereafter until the end of time.  We the people will never be free from the molestation of witless do-gooders promising an end to suffering in return for all our resources.

When the election is held, it will be a referendum on the wastrel son.  We will be playing for big stakes: the national family's survival or bankruptcy.

Noman wishes the people of Massachusetts good luck in their Hobson's choice between an impervious Liberal and a back-stabbing RINO (Republican-in-Name-Only).  Pity for Senator Brown, who was ushered into the Senate on the wings of tea-party contributions, good-will and buzz.  After voting against ObamaCare as he campaigned to do, he promptly turned coat and supported Liberal sops.  More importantly, he broke rank to support Dodd-Frank and its creation of the CFPB, ironically depriving himself of the knock-out issue in next year's election contest against its designer.  It serves him right.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Fred and Ginger!  What a pair.  Nofamily enjoyed "Carefree" (1938) last night, a typically silly story featuring the stiffest Ralph Bellamy performance ever.  Who cares?  Don't watch for plot.

The couple danced a dream sequence filmed in slow motion that captures magic.  He's dramatic.  She's magnificent.  They're explosive, yet perfectly in synch.  Tell Noman whether their kiss at the end doesn't convince you?

Fred did a solo with golf clubs that gets off to a slow start, picks up steam and finishes strong.  Who else besides Fred Astaire could pull this off?

Noman loves Fred and Ginger, a team that starred together in ten movies.  He even loves them in their separate careers afterwards.  (Ginger got the better of it because she could act as well as dance.)  Noman throughly enjoyed it and hopes you do as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Flip Sides of the Same Coin

As everyone knows, President Obama has surrounded himself with crony corporatists in order to brandish his credentials as a business-friendly President.  The transactions between them are fairly standard and straightforward.  In return for government contracts, subsidies, regulatory exemptions, tax breaks and the like, corporate chieftains like Jeff Immelt at General Electric and Andrew Liveris at Dow Chemical do the President's bidding in public affording him a much needed fig leaf with which to cover his lack of interest in actual business.

While the distinction is not always clear between businessmen and those who capitalize them, George Soros and Warren Buffet are another species of the genera "businessmen" altogether.  They are investors, financiers, money people.  Yes, they do business, and yes Fortune 500 CEO's deal with finances.  Yet, these investors' primary distinction is buying and selling things, not making and marketing them.  Soros runs a hedge fund that makes investments, sometimes hands on.  Buffet runs an insurance company that uses float to make investments.

Watching these two over the years, and especially during the current Administration, Noman has come to recognize them as flip sides of the same coin.  Buffet is a bull.  He buys low to sell higher.  His is the happy side of investing, the optimistic order, plain vanilla.  Soros is a bear.  He sells high to buy lower.  His is the dark side of investing, the pessimistic order, rocky road.  Both the long and short sides are legitimate in Noman's book.  But, they require different acumen.  The long trader sniffs out greed and divines where it will take hold driving men mad with the lust to own.  The short seller sniffs out fear and divines where it will take root driving men mad with the urge to flee.  Each sees where the other side, the investor's recessive inclination, has driven price to excess, and steps in at a comfortable margin of safety where market price deviates from some standard of intrinsic value.  Each pounces and waits for the inevitable to transpire.

Something else these two men have in common is that they've figured out how to get a sneak peak at tomorrow's newspaper.  Not content to wait for time to vindicate their choices, they are able to plant tomorrow's news through the agency of government.  Nothing of what follows should be taken to discredit the financial brilliance of either man.  But the public-private line, which shouldn't be crossed, seems to be regularly violated by this White House and its investor friends.

Buffet, the famed value investor, is a student and protege of the master himself, Benjamin Graham.  Lately, he's taken to investing in a new niche: crisis investing, or vulture-light.

He's been in the news recently because CEO Jeff Immelt of General Electric, President Obama's Jobs Czar, wishes to use the company's untaxed profits to buy back $3.3 billion of preferred shares that GE was forced by the crisis to sell to Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway in the fall of 2008.

The deal will net Buffet $1.2 billion, or a 36% return on a chunk of money in just three years.  Combined with even shorter term profits from crisis loans to Goldman Sachs ($1.7 billion profit) and Swiss Re ($1 billion profit), it's not hard to see why he's referred to as the Oracle of Omaha.

Nevertheless, Buffet is not happy:
In his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders in February, Mr. Buffett called the repayments of crisis-era investments he made in GE, Goldman Sachs Group and reinsurer Swiss Reinsurance Co. "unwelcome."

"After they occur, our earning power will be significantly reduced," Mr. Buffett wrote to investors. Mr. Buffett, however, restocked his investment cupboard with a deal struck last month to plow $5 billion in Bank of America Corp. The bank got slightly less dear terms from Mr. Buffett than GE did. Bank of America will pay Mr. Buffett 6% annual dividends, or $300 million. And Bank of America will owe Mr. Buffett a 5% premium when it buys back his preferred stock.
The Bank of America investment is Buffet's latest play in his new niche.  Note that he is able to exact hard terms and generous conditions for Berkshire while retaining warrants to purchase inside blocks of stock in these mammoth institutions even after his investment has been handsomely repaid.  Hats off to Warren.

It's a lucrative business for those who can stand the risk that the bailed out company will not go bankrupt a la Lehman Brothers.  That is where a cozy relationship with a beholding President who drops your name repeatedly can be a real comfort.  Noman is watching eagerly to see if Buffet will lend to BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, or Societe Generale, but doubts that his ties to French President Nikolas Sarkozy are close enough for him to venture it.

Noman was mystified that Buffet supported the economically naive Barack Obama so lustily against John McCain during a financial crisis, using the glitter of his name earned over decades on the investment battlefield to bolster the standing of a neophyte with hackneyed ideas and no business experience save knowing how to use law as a means to shake down corporations.  Perhaps Buffet reasoned that America's inevitable relapse into financial crisis would provide him with exceptional opportunities to ply his new trade.

Soros is a bird of a different feather.  While willing to profit on an occasional oil deal, he's made a career of profiting from other's self-inflicted wounds.  His forte, his genius, is overvalued currencies.

Soros has found his dream in America: a political system that protects people who attack it from within, along with a party wholly dedicated to that activity.   What greater trade than to cash in on the collapse of the greatest economy in human history; and he can dedicate his resources entirely to bringing it about.

Soros doesn't have to wait for folly to bring about ruination.  He can put the right people in place to make it happen more certainly and quickly.  No battle is too small to undertake, e.g., foisting Liberals and trial lawyers onto State judiciaries.   The states will play a prominent role in the dollar's incipient collapse against gold, the Renmibi or some basket of currencies.

But, he really hit pay dirt with President Obama, and Democratic hegemony in Congress between 2006 and 2010, a period during which national debt rose by $5 trillion, the country began routinely running trillion dollar deficits, and quasi-socialized medicine was erected as an entitlement.  Given economy-killing regulation, financial reform that smothers financial activity and a President whose solution to every problem is the redistribution of ever more borrowed money on a scale heretofore unimaginable, Soros must believe there is no chance that this trade will get away from him.  John Paulson move over.  The greatest trade ever will once again be his.  Soros's kill will make $20 billion of investment profit in a year look like piker's winnings.

All that remains necessary is secrecy behind which to operate with as few people snooping as possible.  Happily, Dodd-Frank contained an exemption from transparency rules for hedge funds that the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) considers "family office" advisors.   (Did Soros lobby for the exemption?)  After throwing his weight behind passage of the Bill, he has now decided to sidestep it's provisions.  Soros recently availed himself of the exemption by returning $1 billion of outside investor's money, and retiring to manage his remaining $25 billion.
Initial media reports trumpeted the end of Soros' 40-year career as a hedge-fund manager, although the billionaire investor's firm is far from being done. Soros will return less than $1 billion to external investors, a drop in the bucket compared to the firm's total assets of more than $25 billion. 
The reason? Under new requirements from the Dodd Frank act, hedge funds are required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission by March 2012 if the fund continues to manage more than $150 million in assets for outside investors. The new requirements would call for funds to report information about the assets they manage, potential conflicts of interest, and information on investors and employees. The act allows an exemption for what the Commission considers "family office" advisers.
Noman wonders how much money Warren Buffet will be able to make by picking up broken pieces and injecting them with hard-terms capital.  Ironically, the same cataclysm will provide both men--bull and bear alike--with the substance of their dreams: Buffet's, a world filled with undervalued securities that have nowhere to go but up; Soros's, a world filled with people who deserve what they got for not being him.  Such are the dreams of old lions.

Noman considers these investor friends of the President to be flip sides of the same coin.  Moreover, they strike him as colossal egomaniacs.