The Age of QE

We are approaching the end of year six of the regime of Quantitative Easing (QE) engineered by the Federal Reserve under Fed chairmen Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen. In place of responsible economic policy to revive economic growth and employment, we have had QE and the explosive growth of job-killing regulations (including Obamacare). In a recent look back at QE, New York Post columnist John Crudele credits QE with some good effects, but adds this inarguable observation, consistent with the avowed goals of QE:

There’s one more thing that QE accomplished: it has made the stock market soar. Interest rates have remained so low for so long that investors have had no other choice but to move their money into the stock market, thus creating a bubble.

Even those adverse to risk were forced to chase the better yields in stocks, no matter how dangerous that was.

But for every winner in QE there are 99 losers. While the richest 1% of the US population has been loving the rise in stock prices and other QE amenities, Fed policy has been taxing on the masses of savers.

In fact, “tax” is a perfect word. QE has been an invisible tax on savers beyond anything Washington could have ever conceived.

Every dollar that has benefited a borrower during QE has come out of the pocket of a saver in the form of a lower return on [his] assets.

In fact, QE is now widely recognized by both supporters and opponents as causing the single largest shift ever in wealth, from middle class savers to rich Wall Street investors.

And that this should have happened under a Democratic president who came into office championing wealth redistribution in the other direction is both shocking and ironic.

I don’t know if all that is exactly right — Ramesh Ponnuru mounted a defense of QE3 addressing some of these issues in 2012 — but the silence around the phenomenon of QE is notable. You would almost think it must be accounted an unalloyed good that the banks have been recapitalized on the backs of middle class savers, and perhaps it is, though it’s hard to see how it all ends well.

It is late in the day to have a debate over the policy, yet it is overdue. There must be a good populist case to be made against it. As I say, I don’t pretend to know the right answer, but the headline of Crudele’s column suggests what the populist case would sound like: “Obama’s $4 trillion gift to the rich.”

Thoughts from the ammo line

The New York Times has our friend Ammo Grrrll is thinking about FRIENDSHIP LEVELS. She writes:

The New York Times – faithful, fawning Boswell to Obama’s Johnson (it’s a literary reference, grow up) – informed us recently that The President is “seething” over his minions’ incompetence! A once-prestigious paper reduced to being a childish narcissist’s mood ring. What if the rest of us mere mortals had such powerful friends as Pinch, Punch and Little Paunch who would print any drivel we fed them as news? This suggested the topic of Friendship and that is what we will discuss today.

I have pretty rigorous standards for what constitutes true friendship. I am blessed with perhaps a dozen really close friends evenly divided between men and women. Dozens more are valued acquaintances. And that’s nice, too. Not everyone is destined to be a soulmate.

How do we know, often at an early age, who we are going to bond with for life? What is that alchemy? In romantic attachments, of course, you have sexual attraction which unsentimental scientists tell us is just pheromones. What is it in friendship? Commenters, please share your thoughts. I am fascinated by this mystery.

Of my closest friends, one I met when we were 6 and the twins of Road Trip fame when we were 14. In the latter case, had our last names not started with “B” so that we sat next to each other in class, it may never have happened. Think of that! Bonded for life because of the alphabet! At the end of the movie Stand By Me the narrator says: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

I do, actually. In adulthood I became great friends with two neighbors, from the serendipity of having bought a house next door. One neighbor’s motorcycle buddies also became beloved friends. Being retired is almost like being a kid again, only with more money. You can go ring the bell and ask if Randy or Angela can come out and play.

Like the colored terror threat levels, I have constructed a handy Friendship Level chart.

Level 1 (Beige) – You know these people very casually. They will come to a party that YOU throw and drink your beer and eat your chips. Some of them will never be invited back.

Level 2 (Puce) – These people will actually trouble themselves to host a party to which you are invited. You see them a couple times a year like New Year’s Eve or Superbowl.

Level 3 (Periwinkle) – People who will hang out and engage in mutual activities. Men tend to share activities while women share heart-stuff and recipes. I once had a co-worker named Ted whose “best friend” Jim filed for divorce without Ted’s ever knowing there was anything wrong with the marriage! This would be unthinkable for a pair of women friends.

Level 4 (Silver) – Now we’re getting serious. These friends will help you move. Cultivate people who own pickups. Mr. Ammo Grrrll and I helped two sets of “Silver” friends with equally wretched Minnesota moves, one in July and one in January. In the first, it was 98 and humid; the second was 30 below zero with a stiff wind. Good times, good times.

Level 5 (Gold) – These folks know your very soul. They will pick you up at LAX at rush hour, knowing that you will do the same. They will take a 3:00 a.m. call if you are depressed or anxious. They will commiserate with you when you are down, and will rejoice with you without jealousy when good things happen to you. If you are lucky, this level includes your spouse.

Some Gold friends will clean up an extremely-deceased rabbit on your patio. And shoot pigeons – winged rats, really – off your roof. Hypothetically, because that would violate HOA rules and a bunch of other picky laws.

(Memo to self: check on the Statute of Limitations for bb-gun infractions before sending to Scott. Even though nothing happened. Plenty of reasonable explanations for dead pigeon. Google “Incidents of Pigeon Suicide: More frequent than commonly thought?” See also: “Pigeon Gangs and Drive-Bys – The Craps vs. the Bloods”).

One thing I do know for sure: friendship needs quality time and effort. Trite but true, to have a friend you have to be a friend. And sometimes that means picking up the phone, sitting down to email, reaching out to comfort, when you’d rather just watch Seinfeld re-runs or ESPN. Friends not only enrich your life; they lengthen it. Call one today.

Revive Congress?

Public approval of Congress is in the single digits, down to blood relatives and pets as the joke goes in Washington. So perhaps the answer to our political troubles is to focus on making Congress more powerful? Yes—that’s the well-reasoned argument my old boss Chris DeMuth makes in The Weekly Standard in “A Constitutional Congress?” Here’s the important core of the argument that supplies its title:

A constitutional revival will require a cultural revival. Recovering Congress’s lost powers will require relearning legislative skills, redirecting legislators’ energies, and risking the ire of party constituencies who are unfamiliar with the obligations of legislating and their centrality to the separation of powers. That is a tall order, but the time may be ripe.

You should set aside the necessary time to read the whole thing, but it is a long piece, so here is an outline of the main points of the reform agenda toward the end of the article, some of which will require you to read the accompanying explanation to understand:

First, retrieve the recently relinquished borrowing, taxing, and spending authorities.

Second, reinstitute the spending power.

Third, regulate the regulators. 

Fourth, censure unconstitutional executive acts. 

Fifth, acknowledge executive strengths.

This one really begs part of its more complete explanation:

The 114th Congress should initiate a practice of inviting the agencies, through the president, to submit wish-lists of management mandates, superfluous programs, and counterproductive procedures that they would like repealed. It should give prompt and serious attention to the submissions, and consider establishing a mechanism, akin to the base-closing programs, for compiling and considering management reforms through a structure it has legislated in advance. The purpose of such a mechanism, of course, is to give Congress political cover to do what it knows needs to be done but that it cannot do on its own — it must rely on the executive branch’s comparative advantage in balancing national against local and parochial interests.

Finally, it would be particularly bold, and fitting, for a Republican Congress to “repeal and replace” the impoundment provisions of the 1974 Budget Act for the signature of a Democratic president.

As Michael Greve comments in his approving notice of this article: “Because there’s something humiliating about being a member of an institution with an approval rating below that of Ebola and Lindsay Lohan. There’s no downside to trying something totally rad: take responsibility, and legislate.”

But as I say, RTWT.

Obama Administration’s Privilege Claims Are Even More Frivolous Than We Knew

Most people have concluded that the Obama administration is incompetent, but we must admit that it is supremely talented at one thing: stonewalling. Time after time, the administration has managed to run out the clock on scandals through sheer chutzpah. Fast and Furious, as the longest-running Obama scandal, is farthest along in this respect.

Judicial Watch made a Freedom of Information Act request for a very limited number of documents relating to Fast and Furious, and got stiffed. The organization then started a lawsuit to compel production of the requested documents. Years later, the lawsuit grinds along slowly, the Obama administration’s coverup still intact. Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, refused to produce many of the documents requested by Judicial Watch on the ground of executive privilege. I wrote in June 2012 that the administration’s assertion of executive privilege was “frivolous” under prevailing federal law.

I didn’t know how right I was. More than two years later, I wrote here that a federal court in Washington had finally ordered the Obama administration, not to produce the documents in question, but to produce a list of those that were being withheld on privilege grounds and a description of each document so that Judicial Watch can evaluate the claim of privilege. The court ordered the Justice Department to produce this index by October 1.

The Obama administration tried to put this obligation off until after the election, but the court refused, granting DOJ an extension until yesterday. So the long-awaited index of documents being kept secret by the administration–the list itself is more than 1,300 pages long–has finally been made public. Judicial Watch reports on what it received here. I am beyond being shocked by the Obama administration, but I confess that this was surprising:

The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal. Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act. The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.

Let’s repeat that: the Obama administration has been keeping secret emails that Eric Holder wrote to his wife and mother for more than two years on the ground of executive privilege. I termed the administration’s privilege claims “frivolous” when I naively assumed we were talking about legitimate business communications among executive branch employees. We now know that the position being taken by President Obama is a bad joke. The Obama administration doesn’t just break the law. It laughs at the law. It mocks the law. It treats as a sucker every citizen who imagines that there is still a shred of integrity in the executive branch.

But, hey, let’s give him credit: when it comes to stonewalling, Barack Obama is a master.

Iran has Obama’s number

There is something to offend just about everyone on the American political scene in the comments of senior Iranian presidential adviser and former intelligence minister Ali Younesi. The comments were offered for domestic political consumption to the official Iranian news agency.

I think it is fair to say that Younesi et al. have Obama’s number. Younesi’s contempt for Obama shines through his comments and it is surely reflects the consensus of the regime. The fact that Younesi would make these comments on the record for public consumption is really striking and newsworthy.

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo has the story:

The Iranian president’s senior advisor has called President Barack Obama “the weakest of U.S. presidents” and described the U.S. leader’s tenure in office as “humiliating,” according to a translation of the highly candid comments provided to the Free Beacon.

The comments by Ali Younesi, senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, come as Iran continues to buck U.S. attempts to woo it into the international coalition currently battling the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS).

And with the deadline quickly approaching on talks between the U.S. and Iran over its contested nuclear program, Younesi’s denigrating views of Obama could be a sign that the regime in Tehran has no intent of conceding to America’s demands.

“Obama is the weakest of U.S. presidents, he had humiliating defeats in the region. Under him the Islamic awakening happened,” Younesi said in a Farsi language interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

“Americans witnessed their greatest defeats in Obama’s era: Terrorism expanded, [the] U.S. had huge defeats under Obama [and] that is why they want to compromise with Iran,” Younesi said.

Younesi follows up with comments that are somewhat offensive to conservatives like us, but the substance isn’t unflattering. We believe Israel is our friend and Iran has been our mortal enemy since, you know, around about 1979. In assessing Iran our enemy, we have taken them at their word and judged them by their actions. They have a voluminous amount of American blood on their hands. Younesi says of us: “Conservatives are war mongers, they cannot tolerate powers like Iran. If conservatives were in power they would go to war with us because they follow Israel and they want to portray Iran as the main threat and not ISIS.” Well, Iran is the main threat. ISIS doesn’t have a nuclear program or the trappings of a state and I would like to think we would support military action against Iran if necessary, though a president whose strength they respected would make it unnecessary.

Younesi also has the Democrats’ number. He deems them “no threat.” He’s got that right, though you don’t have to be a former intelligence minister to figure that out.

Younesi’s comments suggest we have a date with destiny before the ongoing nuclear talks are set to expire next month: “We [the Islamic Republic] have to use this opportunity [of Democrats being in power in the U.S.], because if this opportunity is lost, in future we may not have such an opportunity again.”

Something happening here?

A faithful reader who asks us to withhold his name informs us that he has reason to believe the computer network within the Executive Office of the President has been down for close to a week, and staff throughout the various components still lack basic access to their files (though many are now able to access e-mail and the Internet). He advises that EOP staff have been told not to say anything about the situation to anyone. He adds that a major security breach is suspected, but no information has been forthcoming, either to those inside the EOP or to the public.

I called the White House press office this morning for a comment. I was instructed to submit the inquiry by email and specify the deadline for response. I submitted a written inquiry to the press office by email with a request for response by 3:30 (EDT) this afternoon. No response has been forthcoming.

I called the press office again this afternoon at 4:15 (EDT) to confirm receipt of the email. The lady taking my call confirmed receipt and added that the message had been forwarded to the correct “spokespeople” for response. I believe the lack of a timely response reflects nothing other than our place in the media pecking order, but at this point we are left to our own devices. I will update this post if/when a response is received, or post it separately.

In the meantime, if you have information of any kind bearing on our reader’s report, please write us at

About Ferguson, the Post Says: Oops, Never Mind

Yesterday the Washington Post reported on leaks from the grand jury investigating the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as recently-released autopsy results. The bottom line is that the evidence, including both eyewitness testimony and physical evidence, supports the conclusion that officer Darren Wilson acted in self-defense:

Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown fought for control of the officer’s gun, and Wilson fatally shot the unarmed teenager after he moved toward the officer as they faced off in the street, according to interviews, news accounts and the full report of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown’s body. …

Some of the physical evidence — including blood spatter analysis, shell casings and ballistics tests — also supports Wilson’s account of the shooting, The Post’s sources said, which cast Brown as an aggressor who threatened the officer’s life….

Experts told the newspaper that Brown was first shot at close range and may have been reaching for Wilson’s weapon while the officer was still in his vehicle and Brown was standing at the driver’s side window. The autopsy found material “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm” in a wound on Brown’s thumb, the autopsy says.

Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco who reviewed the report for the Post-Dispatch, said it “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.”

Melinek, who is not involved in the investigation, said the autopsy did not support those who claim Brown was attempting to flee or surrender when Wilson shot him in the street.

None of this should be surprising. It was always highly unlikely that the police officer gunned down Brown for no apparent reason. I was, however, a little taken aback by this:

Jurors have also been provided with the St. Louis County autopsy report, including toxicology test results for Brown that show he had levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. The Post’s sources said the levels in Brown’s body may have been high enough to trigger hallucinations.

Reefer madness? Perhaps so: marijuana is reportedly much more potent today than it was decades ago, when it gained the reputation of being relatively harmless. Hallucinations aside, Brown appeared belligerent on video as he was robbing a convenience store a few minutes before his encounter with Officer Wilson, and it appears that his belligerence may have carried over to that fatal incident.

This is unfortunate, to say the least, but not surprising:

Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none of them have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Washington Post’s sources said.

A lot of money and power are at stake in false liberal narratives like the Michael Brown story, and truth can’t be allowed to stand in the way.

Why is this information finally coming out now? Because the grand jury that has been hearing evidence will soon conclude, in all likelihood, that Officer Wilson should not be criminally charged. The current publicity is intended to prepare the public for that result:

Tim Fitch, a former St. Louis County police chief, said there are benefits to leaking crucial information to the public ahead of a grand jury announcement.

“I think it’s good to get some accurate information out there. That way on game day, it’s not a surprise to people,” said Fitch, who retired last year from the county police department, which is conducting the investigation into Wilson.

Still, I fault the Ferguson Police Department for its handling of the Brown affair. While Darren Wilson can’t be blamed for not wanting to make public statements while he was subject to a criminal investigation, I think the police department could have released more information so as to make it clear that Wilson believed he acted reasonably in self-defense, and why the department shared that belief. Michael Brown mythology has been circulating for so long that at this point, it won’t be possible to eradicate it.