Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: June 9, 2010

Live Chat is Back

I’ve installed a live chat client to the blog once again.  You can access the page by clicking on the Live Chat link at the menu bar below the header image. It’s a pretty basic chat setup, but it works.

I’ll be futzing around in it ’til about 9:30pm Pacific or so.

Dale’s Observations For 2010-06-09

The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that new mortgage apps were down another 5.7% last week, and 43% since April. #

In the near future, links will no longer count against your 140 character limit, as Twitter unveils new changes over the summer. #

Another troubling analysis of Turkey. They are reverting to the Ottoman Empire–and an Islamist one, to boot. #

Stupid Californians have voted to allow open primaries, where the election will pick the top 2 vote-getters to run in the general election. #

Looks like Chuck Devore in the CA senate primary is getting hammered by Carly Fiorina, who did such a bang-up job as the CEO of HP. #

Helen Thomas Part II

I shut off the comments to the earlier Helen Thomas post, because the comments pretty much ran off the rails. I mean, talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees..

Look, whatever you may think about the legitimacy of Israel, the arguments of the reconquistas, that’s all irrelevant. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with the issue I was addressing. All of that stuff is a non-sequitur.

Helen Thomas didn’t say the Jews should be stuffed into ovens. Now, maybe she’s a raging anti-semite who believes that’s what should happen. I dunno. I don’t have access to her inner life. All I know is that isn’t what she said.

What she said was that the state of Israel was occupying Arab land, and that the Israelis should return to their countries of origin, i.e. “Germany, Poland…America, and everywhere else.” That’s certainly a minority opinion in the US, but it’s less of one in Europe, and it’s the absolute majority opinion in the Arab world.

So the only relevant question is whether stating that opinion is so outrageous that she should lose her livelihood for stating it. If so, then the implied conclusion is that questioning the legitimacy of the Israeli state is a disqualification from participating in public discourse (and is no doubt prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism to some).

So, lets confine ourselves to what she actually said, and discuss whether denying the legitimacy of Israel is such a horrific opinion that those who express it have to be driven out of public life like some kind of poison troll.

My New Toy

So I somehow lost my phone (i.e. it was stolen) which I wasn’t totally enamored with anyway, and bought a new one today. After speaking with Dale about his recent purchase, I went down to the Verizon store and got … the Droid.

I may actually upgrade to the HTC Incredible, but for right now I am liking the full, slide-out keyboard, and I’m not sure how much I care about a faster processor or 8MP camera (compared to the 5MP on this phone). I’ll give it a few days and see what I think.

In any case, regardless of which phone I end with, I definitely prefer the Droid platform to my Blackberry Storm. The Blackberry was always a little clunky and had frequent software malfunctions. Plus, I could never have written a post for QandO on it, which is a really nice feature.

Well, we’ll see how it goes …

Oil spill politics get stickier by the day

The Associated Press quotes Adm. Thad Allen, the administration’s point man for the government response to the oil spill, as saying this weekend the oil spill may be with us “well into the fall.”

If so, the political news just continues to get worse for the Democrats.

Dogged by a poor economy, dreadful unemployment numbers, a simmering immigration situation and unpopular legislation, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats are in political trouble. The last thing they needed heading into the fall mid-term elections was a disaster such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course no thinking person blames the cause of the disaster on the administration, although there is an argument to be made that lax Minerals Management Services (MMS) oversight might be a contributor. However, the blame rightfully belongs exclusively to British Petroleum. But mobilization in reaction to the disaster as well as the responsibility for federal waters belongs to the administration. As many have said, rightly or wrongly, the criticism George Bush received for Katrina had nothing to do with the hurricane per se, but with the perception of the federal government’s slow reaction to the disaster afterward.

This administration is coming under the very same sort of criticism. And while the president finally seems to be getting the message on the public relations front about demonstrating more concern and urgency, he’s not getting good reviews from most observers for his handling of the government’s end of the disaster. Although he claims administration officials have been on the job since “day one” and fully in charge of the effort to cap the well and clean up the Gulf, few seem to believe the claim.

Now come the images of oil soaked pelicans and other wild life and the political damage continues to mount. Administration supporters ask, “what do you want him to do?” Critics say, “lead.” Thus far, however, little leadership has been evident.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says, “there is a craving for a different kind of crisis leadership from President Obama largely because he’s so capable of it as we saw on the campaign trail in 2008,” he said. “When he lets go and talks from the heart, he’s one of the most effective political figures in modern times.”

But talking isn’t the type of leadership that is being craved by most. Action is the key. And to this point, action by the federal government is perceived to be far less than it should be and certainly less than many want and expect. Critics wonder, for example, why Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s effort to build barrier islands to protect the state’s wetlands remain wrapped in federal red tape after 50 days.

Some of his supporters are now urging the president to “go off,” get emotional and show some rage. Rage won’t contain the spill clear the Gulf. What is needed now is a comprehensive plan to cap, contain and clean up the leak and competent leadership to execute it.

If they don’t see that, the American people may take their “rage” out at the ballot box in November



White House and unions clash over Lincoln

So what lesson should we take from the Blanche Lincoln primary victory last night against Democratic Lt. Governor Bill Halter?

Well a lot of people are divining a lot of things from her win, but the one I’m seeing the most is her victory spelled a defeat for Big Labor. The last count I saw said BL had pumped 10 million buckaroos into the primary fight – and not on Lincoln’s side.

Here’s how it breaks down. Lincoln was President Obama’s candidate. He’s made that clear, he has campaigned for her, he wanted her to win.

Bill Halter was labor’s chosen candidate and had the backing of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME and other major unions. Ginormous amounts of union funds were used in an effort to defeat Obama’s candidate — by the left. That’s the point to be made here – this wasn’t opposition by the Tea Party, this was opposition funded by the natural allies of the Democratic party and, supposedly, the White House.

According to Ben Smith at Politico, once it was clear that Lincoln had prevailed, the White House couldn’t wait to make it clear that the unions were on the wrong sheet of political music. Smith said a WH official contacted him, saying:

“Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members’ money down the toilet on a pointless exercise,” the official said. “If even half that total had been well-targeted and applied in key House races across this country, that could have made a real difference in November.”

In other words, “get with the program boys, and do it how we tell you to do it”.

Message sent, and received:

AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale responds that “labor isn’t an arm of the Democratic Party.”

Yeah, right – at least not for today.

Way to firm up your support with your base Mr. President – apparently they’re good to go as long as they spend their members money the way he wants them too.



Democrats talk mortgage deduction elimination

You crank up Turbo Tax and you begin doing your taxes. About half way through, the sweat is beginning to form on your upper lip. You wonder, after all that’s been withheld during the year, how you could owe what TT says you owe at the top of the screen.

Then you get to the deduction phase and you plug in your mortgage interest deduction. Suddenly your angst disappears. The amount owed tumbles, in fact, it might even go in a positive direction. Thanks goodness.

Well, Bunky, if the President’s commission on have their way, that sweaty upper lip will be a permanent fixture for your tax preparation work day. They don’t like it, they’d rather eliminate it than any spending, and they’re talking about doing away with it:

And now that sentiment has turned against all the federal red ink — and cost-cutting is in vogue — Democrats on President Barack Obama’s financial commission are considering the wisdom of permanent tax breaks such as the mortgage deduction and corporate deferral. Calling them “tax entitlements,” senior Democratic lawmakers have argued they should be on the table for reform just like traditional entitlement programs Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

I can’t imagine a more unpopular thing to do for a citizenry and electorate that already feels hard pressed when it comes to taxes. And comparisons with the taxation levels in other countries really has no bearing, since it is the level of taxation the citizens of this country are willing to bear that matters. And they’ve made it plain that they feel they pay plenty in that department.

Others will argue that government has no business subsidizing home ownership. Valid argument to a point. Government has no business in the pension for life (Social Security) or provision of health care (Medicare and Medicaid) either. So, while some may call it a tax entitlement and even a subsidy, some might see it as a method of recovering some of their tax dollars from a greedy, wasteful, intrusive and out of control government. They might be willing to give it up with commensurate spending cuts, superflous agencies and departments being closed, and government slimmed down dramatically.

But until they actually see that happen – no promises, no smoke and mirrors, no bureaucratic sleight of hand – no sale. Government gets to go first. And when the public sees their total income taxes go down to a level that would make giving up that deduction “revenue neutral”, then they’ll be more inclined to end it.

Instead, what we expect to see is a familiar pattern. Government will pretend to plan for “cuts” in spending (which will never materialize) and pretend to take a stab at trillion dollar future deficits. History says they plan on doing what Congress always does – promise but never accomplish the actual hard work of cutting back spending and government. What Congress always manages to accomplish, however, is taking the money promised by the elimination of this deduction and spending it.

The citizenry should say “no”, not until government goes first and only we see commensurate deep cuts in spending enacted – permanent cuts – is this on the table.