Some Random Musings from DLB

I am sitting in my hotel room late the night before two scheduled talks at the Acts 29 Network in Denver, CO. I usually blog with a specific topic in mind but a few random musings are in order this evening …

– Ken Langone, founder of Home Depot and one of my favorite people on the planet, when asked in an interview what he thought about the charges against Goldman Sachs: “I think that argument is ridiculous. And as for the S.E.C. case, let me just say it is a disgrace. They have no case. The essence of the case is that the buyer should’ve been given Paulson’s name. Forget about the fact that he wasn’t big then like he is today. Goldman had a ethical requirement to not give up names on either side of the trade to the other. That case is totally without merit. It’s frivolous and unseemly.” One of my goals in life is to stay on Langone’s good side. Ask Eliot Spitzer if he agrees.

– My list of books to complete reading (and books to get reviewed) is becoming obnoxious. In my ongoing financial crisis review series I have Simon Johnson’s 13 Bankers (which looks fascinating but atrocious), Lowenstein’s The End of Wall Street, Ritholtz’s Bailout Nation, and Zuckerman’s The Greatest Trade Ever all at the top of my list. The Quants is on the list as well. I have completed but still need to review Paul Krugman’s abysmal The Return of Depression Economics (or perhaps I just did). Outside of the financial crisis series, I have completed Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell and owe it a monumental review. It is a generational masterpiece and needs to be treated as such. I do plan to fit in James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World as well very soon, and that will command a review. So unfortunately I really have no less than six books that I really want to have done before the baby comes (which is about two weeks away). Condo, where art thou?

– The House and Senate are going to earn oscars for the game of charades they are about to play in conference with this House Financial Reform bill. Rarely have I seen a better example of a massive, permanent, and dangerous piece of legislation being put forth for no other reason than the rhetorical sound bite advantages it gives to a few political candidates this fall. The difference between the norm and this, though, is that this atrocity is really going to become law. The major leadership in the Democratic Party all oppose some of these key provisions about stripping swap desks from the Wall Street firms, and decreasing position limits as well as capital requirements. Obama, Geithner, Bernanke, Summers, and Bair all say they disagree with this idea. Barney Frank seems to concur too. So why is it in their bill still? Because Blanche Lincoln, who is looking more and more like she may not even win the Democratic party nomination for her incumbent Senate seat in Arkansas, is insisting on it. It has become a sort of print ad theme for her (“I am the only one standing up to Wall Street”). If “standing up to Wall Street” means “authoring impotent and stupid legislation that would force highly complicated transactions to international financial conglomerates despite the fact that even ideologically-compatible statists like Obama and Geithner disagree”, then yes, Blanche is taking on Wall Street. But what she is really doing is making a fool of herself. This is not going to survive conference, and it will not be in the final bill. And that is one level of solace we can take from this bill. Well, that, and the fact that JP Morgan has to do 20 push-ups for every 1% they raise the interest on your delinquent credit card bill. Laymen need to read this bill. If nothing else, it is funny.

– I will write about my two presentations to the Acts 29 Network tomorrow night. First one will address the role that sphere sovereignty plays in defining and understanding the cost of the gospel. The second is titled “Ambitious Christians in an Age of Mediocrity”. I hope to have video postings to put up online soon. This is a good group. Some are going to like my approach; some will not. But it will be good to speak to a group of guys who have a heart for a culturally-engaged, but non-compromised, church – and possess many of the tools and qualifications young church planters need. These are real shepherds, and these boot camps go a long way in preparing some of them for the rigors they will face.

– Obama’s handling of the gulf spill has been politically insane.  And I am not at all sure that it is not getting worse in the issues with BP. This is not going to end well. His nomination of Elena Kagan will have a better ending for him than the BP mess will.  It will not have a better affect on our country than the BP mess, though.  The BP spill will get cleaned up.  What Kagan will do the court will not.  These guys do not learn.

– I will start making gutsier calls on key election races in August/September.  As of now, I believe we pick up five net seats in the Senate, and over 30 in the House. But I am not jumping on board with the idea of 70 House seats picked up, and a total reversal of Senate leadership. I hope so.  But I am not sure if Republicans are prepared with the effective response the Obama administration will inundate us with in the coming months if new jobs are created, the markets settle, and interest rates stay low (which they will). There is much he can do to band-aid and bridge poor economic periods of time, and I believe they will pull out all the stops. Are we prepared to explain that the market itself has efficiently managed us through these events, and that corporate America has their house in order, whereas the Feds have spent us into oblivion? Are we ready to talk about how inefficient the government jobs Obama has manipulated into existence are, and what a terrible substitute that is for real economic growth and prosperity? This may be a harder case to position and demonstrate than people realize. It is going to be a fight.

Real Clear Politics shows the Congress like this at the moment:

Dems currently have 255 seats; the GOP 177. Their polling says that they believe 201 seats are staying Democratic (safely), and that 198 are firmly GOP (meaning 21 seats are already considered to be a shoo-in for a change).  Remember, you need 41 net new seats to have a majority in the House (177 + 41 gets you to the 218 number that is one more than half of the Congress).  They are calling 36 seats as “too close to call”, or “toss up”.  That means that if all else holds, the Republicans need to win 20 of those 36 to reach majority status. It is do-able, but it is not going to be easy.