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Friday, January 30, 2009

The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Posted by: MichaelW
If Obama is the messiah, does that make Bill Ayers Lazarus? By that I mean, is there any doubt Ayers would be wasting away in obscurity without Barack Obama? Instead, the unrepentant terrorist turned ill-qualified college professor has regained whatever notoriety he had lost:
Ayers, co-founder of the '60s Weather Underground radical anti-war group, drew an angry and vocal group of protesters who condemned his appearance at St. Mary's Soda Center, where he drew cheers and boos from the crowd of about 500.

The controversial author and education professor at the University of Illinois was repeatedly characterized as an "unrepentant terrorist" by GOP vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during the presidential campaign.

"I was going to propose that Sarah Palin and I have a talk show called 'Pallin' Around,' " Ayers said in his opening comments, which got laughs. Then, looking around at the standing-room-only crowd, he added: "Had it not been for the recent presidential campaign, there would be 22 of you here."

That may actually be a little high. Even in Berkeley I doubt he would have generated more interest beyond a few professors who remembered him from the glory days.
Ayers is in California on a tour to promote a new book on race relations that he wrote with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, a fellow former leader in the underground movement who is now a Chicago lawyer and law professor. Ayers said he plans to return to the Bay Area with Dohrn later this month to speak before the Middle East Children's Alliance in Berkeley.

His appearance at St. Mary's "Against the Grain" lecture series to explore the topic of "Trudging Toward Freedom" drew sharp criticism from conservative and religious groups.

According to the report, some of those angered by Ayers' appearance adopted the typical lefty tactic of disrupting his speech. It's stupid when lefties do it and stupid here as well, regardless of how odious the speaker is.
Ayers delivered a wide-ranging address on social justice and education, but his effort outraged some 150 protesters - most marched outside, and others sat in the audience and occasionally disrupted his speech with yelling before they were escorted away.

"I don't know what they're protesting actually, but if the last few months are any indication, they're protesting a cartoon character that shares my name and likeness, but it's not me," he told The Chronicle before his speech, adding that the McCain-Palin campaign had attempted to turn him into a "monster."
Historical revisionism at its best. Whatever. Ayers will always be able to fool the useful idiots who simply want to believe the worst about America. Generally these are the ones who believe that capitalism is the literal incarnation of evil and hate America for being the nation most identified with it. To these people, Ayers is a hero for attacking the heart (as they see it) of the hated enemy.

To those who live in reality, however, Ayers is nothing more than a petty man of little worth and even less integrity. He is the egotistical embodiment of the Boomers' worst aspects, and a failed terrorist to boot. He may enjoy some renewed interest amongst the useful idiots, but he'll never have any political worth other than being a liability.

Certainly Bill Ayers should worship the ground that Obama treads upon. Absent his Presidency, Ayers would have no public life whatsoever.

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Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 834 ) | Category: The Left

Special Friends Get Special Breaks
Posted by: McQ
All in the name of bread and circuses I suppose:
National Journal reported this week that the Senate's economic stimulus bill includes a provision that would make Hollywood studios eligible for a special 50% write-off of equipment purchases. According to the report, "the provision is backed by firms like the Walt Disney Co., and the industry trade group the Motion Picture Association of America."
About those "special interests" which "control Washington" and the promise of "no more!"

Uh, yeah.
So let's see: Democrats object to cutting the U.S. 35% corporate tax rate — which is higher than in all of Europe, undermines economic growth and discourages job creation — for all companies on grounds that it favors the rich and powerful. But Democrats will carve out tax loopholes for businesses they like and that write them campaign checks.
Hope and change.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 298 ) | Category: Congress

One Hour
Posted by: McQ
David Harsanyi nails it:
Imagine that. The most expensive social experiment in American history - one that will cost taxpayers more than both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined - was allotted less than a single day of debate in Congress.

How many speed-reading whiz-kid representatives do you think slogged past their own pork to read the entire 647 (or so) pages of the "stimulus" menu?

This week, more than 200 notable economists - including three Nobel laureates - signed an open letter in The New York Times challenging President Barack Obama's false suggestion that all economists agree a bailout is needed. It was titled: "With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true."

So though Nobel laureates can't reach anything resembling a consensus, your former community organizing/car-dealing/ambulance-chasing congressperson has the intellectual capacity to digest a $900 billion piece of legislation in mere days.

Name a single Iraq war supplemental that wasn't debated to death? You can't?

And did you know, that when the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 came before the Congress there were 1,000 hours of debate?

So what does the largest and most intrusive spending package in the history of the US get in Nancy Pelosi's House?

An hour.

One stinking hour.

Yup - the same people who are screaming their guts out about the misuse of the first half of the TARP funds are now proposing two and a half times that amount of spending and deem it only worth - an hour.

They tell us it can't wait. They tell us this is so important to talk about or examine. Instead we must - wait for it - trust them.

My goodness, if you're not laughing out loud, you ought to be. Then you should cry.

Trust them? They bear as much responsibility for us being in the shape we are financially and economically as anyone. And when they tried this recently they ended up not even knowing where the first $350 billion went. And now they want more and don't intend to debate it or examine the bill in detail?

No sale. I wouldn't be satisfied with a 1,000 hours of debate on this turkey.

The Heritage Foundation is asking some questions, 10 of them in fact.

I'd love to see Congress answer any one of them, much less all 10. Like:
Politicians say deficit spending will expand the economy (as if President Bush's $300 billion budget deficits brought economic nirvana). If that were true, then the current $1.2 trillion deficit — the largest in history — would already be rescuing the economy. It's obviously not. So why would $800 billion more of the same suddenly end the recession?
We're told that government spending will add new spending power to the economy. But Congress doesn't have a vault of money waiting to be distributed: Every dollar lawmakers "inject" into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. If government borrows the money from American investors, investment spending drops accordingly. If it's borrowed from foreigners, net exports drop accordingly. How does borrowing $800 billion from one group of people and giving that $800 billion to another group of people make us wealthier?
Or how about:
Policymakers are basing the "stimulus" bill on economic models that wrongly assume every $1 of government spending increases the economy by approximately $1.60. Is it really that simple? By that logic, debt-ridden, big-government countries like Italy, France and Germany should be wealthier than America. And why stop at $800 billion? Such logic suggests unlimited prosperity could be guaranteed by the government borrowing and spending $800 trillion. Should America be basing such costly decisions on these types of economic models?
But you can't even ask those questions in an hour's time much less begin to answer them and all the other important questions that our "leaders" are ducking with the excuse "this is too important to wait".

Uh, no, it's not. In fact, it's too important not to wait and examine, debate and for the most part, reject.

However, given how the Democratic House refused to do that, I doubt we're ever going to see that happen. The Senate, I'm told, plans an even more expensive version than came out of the House.

Hope and change.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 7 ) | Category: Economics

The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Posted by: McQ
Of course most QandO readers are smart enough to understand that no matter what our political class says or promises, not much at all changes within the DC beltway. Despite the smiling assurances of 'hope', change' a 'new attitude' and 'bi-partisanship', it is obvious that there is neither a new attitude or any desire for bi-partisanship on either side and no hope that's going to change any time soon. I'm fine with the lack of bi-partisanship, frankly.

That said, it is always interesting to get a peek at attitudes among our so-called leaders which they may or may not share with the voting public.

Take a moment and read this memo from Nancy Pelosi's communications director sent to Democratic members and staff after the stimulus vote the other day:
To: Interested Parties
From: Brendan Daly
Re: The Republican Problem
Date: January 29, 2009

The House Republican Leadership put its Members in another politically untenable position yesterday: trying to reclaim the mantle of lower taxes and small government — at the exact time when economists of every ideological stripe agree that government investments are the only way to get our economy moving again and make us competitive for the long term.

So yesterday, while we are facing the greatest economic crisis in decades, Republican House Members ended up voting unanimously against:

* Jobs in their own communities

* Tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers

* Long overdue investments that will transform and grow their economies to compete globally

* Critical services in their own communities, such as police officers, teachers, and health care

Instead, their substitute did not create as many jobs and it increased the number of people subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The hypocrisy of the Republicans complaining about the process does not obscure the record of recent Republican leadership:

* 2.6 million American jobs were lost in 2008 alone.

* The national debt has almost doubled in the last eight years; the debt borrowed from foreign countries has tripled.

* The Clinton Administration left a record budget surplus. President Bush turned it into the worst deficit in American history.

* We face an economic recession unrivaled since the Great Depression, as a result of years of failure to invest in our own global competitiveness, failures to bring common sense to Wall Street and our housing market, and tax policies that favored massive corporations and most affluent individuals.

This is not the first time the Republicans in the House have unanimously voted against a needed economic package. The last time, in 1993, when Democrats voted for tough action to clean up after Republican economic mess, not a single Republican voted for the legislation that produced record surpluses and a balanced budget.

Once again this week, as another Democratic President and Democratic Congress worked to address historic deficits and recession brought on by Republican mismanagement of the economy, not a single Republican voted for the legislation. There's a pattern here of Republican economic mismanagement and Democrats stepping up to do what's needed for the good of the country while Republicans acted in a partisan and irresponsible manner.
Of course anyone with the intelligence of a retarded chipmunk knows that if you were to take a red pen and cross through the boilerplate political rhetoric, there wouldn't be much left of this little missive. In fact, it is apparent there isn't much deep thinking going on in it at all.

This is simply a talking point memo. This is what members and senior staff should regurgitate when the press comes sniffing around for comments. And this is from their leader (as there's no doubt it reflects Pelosi's thoughts - that's what communication's directors are paid to communicate). It's pitiful.

Note the "either/or" false dichotomy they try to create. Republicans are either for ...

* Jobs in their own communities

* Tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers

* Long overdue investments that will transform and grow their economies to compete globally

* Critical services in their own communities, such as police officers, teachers, and health care

... or against those things as indicated by their vote.

Obviously they could be for jobs, real investments in actual wealth producing enterprises, tax cuts for 100% of the American workers and corporations too, and properly structured stimulus which creates real jobs as opposed to government "make work" jobs.

Nope - it is either for or against. No middle ground. It is their version or no version.

No desire to see beyond the talking points. Pure demagoguery. This is the face of national politics today. Reduced to foot stamping tantrums and demonization of the opposition when thwarted.

The bill passed but Republicans refused to sign on as planned (and share the blame when it fails).


Hope and change.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 9 ) | Category: Politics

Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Posted by: MichaelW
Congratulations to Michale Steele for winning a tough race for the RNC Chair. It took several votes, but I think the RNC made a good choice:
Meet the new chairman of the Republican National Committee: Former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, who defeated South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson by a 91-77 margin on the sixth ballot.

"As a little boy growing up in this town — this is awesome," Steele said bluntly in accepting his victory.

Steele came six votes shy of the magic number 85 on the fifth ballot, and was able to get over the top after Michigan chairman Saul Anuzis dropped out to make it a clear two-man race. Steele is now the first African-American chairman of the RNC.
I don't know a whole lot about the other candidates except that Chip Saltsman proved himself to be politically tone-deaf (regardless of being unfairly treated in the process), and that allegations surrounding Katon Dawson (which appear to be unfounded) would only serve to cement the view of the Republican Party as the home of racism.

Michael Steele, on the other hand, served as Lt. Governor in Maryland, and I'm familiar with his stances on things like taxes, spending and government intrusion into people's lives. He tends to be against the government getting too involved although he has been in favor of affirmative action in the market place, as well some SoCon positions. He's not a libertarian's dream by any stretch of the imagination, but I think he's a good enough friend of freedom to help steer the GOP back towards small-government principles. Of course, now that he's in charge, he may prove to be just like every other pol.

The big story, naturally, will be that the RNC elected an African-American as its chair, the first time that has ever happened (for either party, I believe). I think that's great, but I am doubtful that it will make much difference. Having Colin Powell and Condi Rice appointed to powerful positions in the Bush Administration never did anything for the GOP, so I'm not sure why having a black RNC chief would do more. Nevertheless, it does bespeak of change within the Party, and that's probably a good thing. Many black people are actually pretty socially conservative, and it would seem that they would feel much more at home in the GOP. However, Republicans have been so successfully branded as the party of racists that its somewhat understandable why blacks shun it en masse.

In any case, I think the RNC chose well this time. Now we'll just have to see how he performs. Good luck, Chairman Steele.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 18 ) | Category: Politics

Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Posted by: McQ
Disgruntled employee or an attempt to hide some skeletons?
The Justice Department says it foiled a plot by a fired Fannie Mae contract worker in Maryland to destroy all the data on the mortgage giant's 4,000 computer servers nationwide.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 35-year-old Rajendrasinh Makwana, of Glen Allen, Va., is scheduled for arraignment Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on one count of computer intrusion.

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says Makwana was fired Oct. 24.

Rosenstein says that on that day, Makwana programmed a computer with a malicious code that was set to spread throughout the Fannie Mae network and destroy all data this Saturday.
I'm inclined to believe in the disgruntled employee scenario. I mean, it's not like there's really been any big push to investigate the shenanigans at Fannie Mae that helped put us in the financial shape we are now, and I don't believe there will be.

But you never know. If there can be 18 minute tape gaps and inadvertently deleted executive branch emails, it certainly isn't beyond the realm of possibility that an accidentally on purpose deletion of the Fannie Mae data base wouldn't be smiled upon by some in very high places.

[HT: McQ2]

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 17 ) | Category: Scandals

Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Posted by: McQ
After 2 years of lambasting the Bush administration about its supposed failure to adhere to the rule of law, it takes a military judge to remind our new President that he too must adhere to it.

You may remember that the new commander-in-chief issued a request (which is, essentially an order) that the military commissions process be frozen for 120 days to allow time for the new administration to study the process.

COL James Pohl, a military judge presiding in one of the cases refused the delay.
''On its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable,'' the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, wrote in his three-page ruling denying a prosecution request to delay Nashiri's first court appearance.
Abd el Rahim al Nashiri faces a Feb. 9 arraignment on terror charges he helped orchestrate the October 2000 al Qaeda suicide bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors aboard the USS Cole.

Here's the key point to COL Pohl's ruling:
''The public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment,'' Pohl also wrote.

He noted that unless Congress amended the 2006 Military Commissions Act, ``the commission is bound by the law as it currently exists not as it may change in the future.''
Good call, COL Pohl.

The reaction is fairly interesting:

The decision stunned officials at the Department of Defense and White House, which had just begun to grapple with Obama's order to freeze the war court and empty the prison camps within a year.

''The Department of Defense is currently reviewing Judge Pohl's ruling,'' said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. ``We will be in compliance with the president's orders regarding Guantánamo.''

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the Associated Press that the administration was consulting with the Departments of Defense and Justice ``to explore our options in the case.''
One option, the primary option, is to comply with the law of the land. But as I've mentioned before, when an obstacle stands in the way of a desired government action, it usually finds some way around the obstacle, whether doing so complies with our laws or not.

Let's see how COL Pohl and his opinion fare in all of this. But a tip of the hat to the good COL for standing up for the rule of law.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 12 ) | Category: Legal Affairs

Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Posted by: McQ
That's something they've been busily doing in Davos.
Global investment in clean energy must reach $515 billion per year by 2030 - triple that of last year's investment - in order to avoid "the catastrophic impact of climate change," according to a report from the World Economic Forum and New Energy Finance.
We all know the track record of estimates like this - they're usually woefully understated. The utility of that record is that once committed and after massive cash outlays, too much is invested to back out once the real cost is realized.
Over the next 18 months, President Barack Obama wants to inject $54 billion into renewable energy as part of a larger economic stimulus plan - but that's a onetime investment. Without question, reaching the Davos investment target will be no easy task. While the report authors argue that every stimulus package should push the cleantech ball forward (with support for educating a new generation of engineers and rolling out a fully digital power grid, for example), they see a necessary partnership between the private and public sectors ...
I certainly think that there is no question a new "fully digital power grid" is necessary. But not because of the reasons stated. I've been through all of that before. We have an energy demand gap building rather rapidly and we're not doing a thing except talk about pie-in-the-sky alternatives to close that gap. The new smart grid will be a necessary evolution regardless of fuel source, but it is laughable to believe alternatives and 'cleantech' are going to fill that gap any time soon.

In a time of economic turbulence, proven technologies are the way to fill that gap. But we should have been building such plants yesterday in order to do so. Instead we're talking about throwing massive amounts of money at things which are literally decades away from providing the energy we need now.

And, unfortunately, I don't see our politicians waking up anytime soon to that fact.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 17 ) | Category: Energy

Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Posted by: McQ
While the Coleman/Franken election remains in limbo, the Obama administration may have solved the problem of getting that 60th Senator who would caucus with the Democrats:
There is a strong possibility that Barack Obama will ask Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to serve as his Secretary of Commerce, Democratic Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.

The move would fill a vacancy that has lingered since Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination. And provided that Al Franken emerges victorious in the Minnesota recount, it would give Democrats in the Senate a 60th caucusing member, as New Hampshire's Democratic governor John Lynch would appoint Gregg's replacement.
With the "stimulus" bill not expected to be passed until mid February, this gives the Democrats plenty of time to get a new Democratic Senator on-board - assuming a Gregg nomination comes within a day or so and assuming Gregg accepts.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 7 ) | Category: Congress

Do As I Say ....
Posted by: McQ
From the bully pulpit:
President Obama yesterday scolded Wall Street bankers who received millions of dollars in bonuses last year, calling the payouts "shameful" and chiding the executives for a lack of personal responsibility at a precarious time for the nation's economy.

"There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses," the clearly irritated president said. "Now's not that time. And that's a message that I intend to send directly to them."
That's after the 150 million dollar inaugural and Wagyu beef meet and greet, right?. I don't like the use of bailout money going for bonuses any more than anyone else. But I'll take the outrage more seriously when I hear about Congress giving back its latest pay raise and Nancy Pelosi flying coach to California like the rest of us.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 15 ) | Category: Government

Style Evolves
Posted by: Dale Franks
"Nothing's the same anymore."

No, it isn't, so suck it up, Sinclair.

A preview of the very near future.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 298 ) | Category: Blogging

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Will the Nanny State Overreach?
Posted by: McQ
That's usually a good subject when the Dems are in charge. And Rasmussen gives us a little ground truth when it comes to things like "obesity taxes" and cell phone laws:

Most Americans think it's all right for Big Brother to crack down on smokers, but he better keep his hands off their cell phones and their sodas.
With concern growing over the health implications of secondary smoke, 62% of adults say there should be a nationwide ban on smoking in all public places, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree, and five percent (5%) are not sure.

Just 38% of adults, however, support a complete ban on the use of cell phones while driving. Fifty-eight percent (58%) support the alternative of letting drivers use hands-free phones in their vehicles, and four percent (4%) are not sure which is the better option.

Seventy percent (70%) of Americans also oppose a national tax on all non-diet soft drinks. Eighteen percent (18%) like the idea of a so-called "obesity tax" like the one proposed by New York Governor David Paterson. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.
I'm a bit concerned about the smoking ban, but find it healthy that vast majorities resist any laws which restrict their use of cell phones or taxes on foods which are "out of favor".

[HT: Grant S.]

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 14 ) | Category: Freedom and Liberty

Public Support For Dem Stimulus Bill Slipping
Posted by: McQ
Rasmussen reports that fewer people back the Democratic stimulus bill that passed in the House yesterday than did the week before:
Public support for the economic recovery plan crafted by President Obama and congressional Democrats has slipped a bit over the past week. At the same time, expectations that the plan will quickly become law have increased.

Forty-two percent (42%) of the nation's likely voters now support the president's plan, roughly one-third of which is tax cuts with the rest new government spending. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 39% are opposed to it and 19% are undecided. Liberal voters overwhelmingly support the plan while conservatives are strongly opposed.

Last week, support for the President's plan was at 45% and opposition at 34%.
Sometimes a turkey is just a turkey. And this particular bill is the granddaddy of them all.

Apparently the public has more economic sense than the Congress - or at least the Democrats in Congress:
Voters continue to soundly reject a recovery plan that includes only new government spending without any tax cuts. Just 15% support such a plan while 70% are opposed.
Note it doesn't say "tax rebates". The public wasn't tax cuts.

Nancy and Harry, you're doin' a heck of a job.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 17 ) | Category: Congress

Will Republicans In The Senate Pass The Stimulus?
Posted by: McQ
Republicans stepped up yesterday and unanimously voted no on a pork laden monstrosity they were unable to amend or debate. I'd call that being responsible. Of course, the left is calling it many other less flattering things as you'd expect.

But to this point, this turkey of a bill belongs lock stock and barrel to the Democrats. And as Dale discusses below, it is a massive load of borrowing pointed in the wrong direction.

The question is, however, once it reaches the Senate, will we see the same sort of Republican solidarity there as we saw in the House?

My bet has been "no". I continue to assert that the bill will pass the Senate only with Republican help and that such help will be forthcoming. At least one of them, possibly more, will break ranks.

To bolster my assertion, I offer this from my local rag about two Republican Senators:
Chambliss and Isakson -- and their Senate colleagues -- will next week try to amend the $819 billion economic stimulus proposal the House passed Wednesday. Neither senator supports the House version of the package, but they and other members of Congress agree that the government needs to do something quickly to jump-start the economy.

"Once it gets to the Senate, you will see some more Republican ideas injected into the package because they [Democrats] would like to have Republican votes," Chambliss said Wednesday just before he spoke to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in Atlanta. "But unless they raise the tax credits from about 35 percent of the package to somewhere around [the] 45 percent or 50 percent range, I doubt you'll see many Republican senators voting for it."
Now I'm actually somewhat pleased about one part of this - the demand that the bill raise tax credits to somewhere around 45 to 50% (although I prefer straight up tax cuts as the method of choice for stimulating the economy).

But even if that target percentage is met, the deficit spending will remain. That's unacceptable. However my fear, and the basis for my bet, is they'll cave on that based on the false premise that "the government needs to do something quickly to jump-start the economy" and that something must involve massive deficit spending.

Or put another way, they'll end up voting for it even if they aren't successful in eliminating much of the spending or expanding the amount of tax cuts. I think much of that has to do with the atmosphere of profound crisis that has been created in DC and the belief, unwarranted in my estimation, that only government can solve the crisis.

Few if any of the Republican amendments are going to find approval in the Senate. As the WSJ pointed out, Harry Reid and Nancy Peolsi have a 40 year old liberal wish list and this is the chance of their political lifetime to see it come to fruition.
This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living — or dead — Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "We won the election. We wrote the bill." So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.
I absolutely agree with the last sentence. I simply have no confidence that will happen.

Consequently I offer this poll where you too can register your lack of confidence (or not) and we'll see who is right.

Which Republican Senator Is Most Likely To Vote For The "Stimulus" Bill And Put It Over The Top?
None free polls


Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 210 ) | Category: Congress

Defending Torture? Condoning it as well?
Posted by: McQ
An interesting turn of events:
In Democratic legal circles, no attorney has been more pilloried than former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, chief author of the so-called torture memos that Barack Obama last week sought to nullify.

But now President Obama's incoming crew of lawyers has a new and somewhat awkward job: defending Yoo in federal court.

Next week, Justice Department lawyers are set to ask a San Francisco federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against Yoo by Jose Padilla, a New York man held without charges on suspicion of being an Al Qaeda operative plotting to set off a "dirty bomb."

The suit contends that Yoo's legal opinions authorized Bush to order Padilla's detention in a Navy brig in South Carolina and encouraged military officials to subject Padilla to aggressive interrogation techniques, including death threats and long-term sensory deprivation.
The point made in the article is the Obama DoJ must argue to protect U.S. government prerogatives which they now represent.

As for torture itself - it's banned, er, well, almost. Even the socialists saw through this one. Speaking of the Executive Order signed by Obama last week the World Socialist Web Site notes:
On the question of so-called "harsh interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, Obama's orders leave room for their continuation. White House Counsel Gregory Craig told reporters the administration was prepared to take into account demands from the CIA that such methods be allowed. Obama announced the creation of a task force that will consider new interrogation methods beyond those sanctioned by the Army Field Manual, which now accepts 19 forms of interrogation, as well as the practice of extraordinary rendition.
In reality, that's the same policy in force now. And speaking of the Army Field Manual:
Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence, told a Senate confirmation hearing that the Army Field Manual would itself be changed, potentially allowing new forms of harsh interrogation, but that such changes would be kept secret.
NPR also remarks on the possible loophole the WSWS notes.

As NRO points out, the "closing" of Gitmo was more rhetoric than reality and something which might be quietly extended at the end of the year. More symbolism than substance. It appears the same is true with regard to torture and extraordinary rendition.

When loopholes are purposely left open, it is an acknowledgment which implicitly condones the possible need for techniques that were so roundly and unequivocally condemned prior to assuming office.

Some would call that a raging case of hypocrisy.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 17 ) | Category: Legal Affairs

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Are You Stimulated Yet?
Posted by: Dale Franks
So,President Obama's stimulus bill has now passed the House on a party-line vote (Good!) in which the only people to cross the aisle were 11 Democrats, to vote against it. So, it's on to the Senate where we can probably expect the wonderfulness of bipartisanship to, again, fail to appear.

Pres. Obama wanted strong bipartisan support, they say. If so, then when being counseled about what should be in the bill by Republican House honcho John Boehner, he probably shouldn't have turned a dead-eyed stare at Rep. Boehner, and wised off with, "I won."

That's right. You won. And now, you own the stimulus package.

Good luck with that.

Because, as most clear-thinking people realize, the stimulus bill won't stimulate much. The last time we tried this, in the 1930s, we managed to reduce the nation's unemployment rate to...17%.


Fortunately for FDR, he had an agent waiting in the wings to rescue the economy from the Great Depression: Nazis. I mean, if you want to reduce unemployment, it's helpful to be able to put 12 million people in uniform.

Obama doesn't have any Nazis handy.

On the bright side, we will now have a fascinating experiment to see if Lord Keynes' original ideas have any merit. And you, my friends, get to be the test subjects.

Looking over the bill, I'm not sanguine about the results. mainly, that's because since Keynes' first came out with "The General Theory" in 1936, we've had 80 years of experience with how it actually works, and the original ideas of Lord Keynes have had to undergo a restructuring in light of that experience, and to account for the Monetarist and Austrian criticisms to which it was subjected.

Out of that experience rose the Neo-Keynesian School, which I basically subscribe to, in that I beleive that:

1) Macroeconomics arises from microeconomic foundations.
2) Information is, in many cases, asymmetrical, which rules out perfect competition.
3) Monetary policy should aim at macroeconomic stabilization, and not to produce short-term economic gains (at the price of increased inflationary expectations).

I suppose I should also note that I am a Neo-Keynesian only because we have a fiat currency. If we didn't...well, that would be another story.

In any event, Keynesianism was, I thought, killed in the 1970s by stagflation, just as the original ideas of Monetarism were killed in the 1980s and 1990s by the decoupling of inflation and the money supply.

We will now have a fascinating experiment to see if Lord Keynes' original ideas have any merit. And you, my friends, get to be the test subjects.Neo-Keynesianism is basically an attempt to sythesize what we know works from the original ideas of Keynes, Classical economics, and the Monetarist ideas of Milton Friedman.

What we are trying to do now, though, is a return to the original Keynesianism, that I thought pretty much everyone had agreed was basically unworkable in the real world. Even Paul Krugman seems now to have rejected his own academic work, which was broadly Neo-Keynesian, and abandoned his academic arguments that government intervention, even in cases of market failure, was more harmful than helpful.

As far as the stimulus bill goes, it appears "we are all Keynesians now".

We should know better.

Increasingly, it looks as if the Austrians were mainly right in their criticisms of a fiat currency—the regular economic shocks and deflations of the 19th century under the gold standard notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, going back on the gold standard may not be all that practical at this point.

Although it can be done, it might be a painful process. In 1926, when Winston Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer, the British government returned to the gold standard, after abandoning in the emergency of World War I. It resulted in massive deflation, and lots of unpleasant economic hardship.

I suspect the main problem with that move was that they tied the pound to the pre-war standard of £4.83 per ounce, rather than taking into account the inflationary effects of the war-era spending, but it still gives one pause.

And, there is one other thing that gives one pause, as well, which is the economic record of boom and bust cycles during the 19th century, when we were on the gold standard.

Once you return to the gold standard, the money supply becomes relatively inflexible. The amount of money you have depends upon the amount of gold you have, and it is next to impossible to match the money supply with the demand for money over the short term.

But if the stimulus bill fails spectacularly, I expect the gold bugs will come crawling out of the woodwork.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 24 ) | Category: Economics

House Republicans Say No To Dem Pork "Stimulus" Bill
Posted by: McQ
Well, well, well ...
The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.
That's all the Republicans in the House. Not one voted for the package.

Obviously Obama didn't promise enough to buy them off or they can sense a turkey when they see one. Republicans haven't had solidarity like that since 9/11.

Of course that means nothing if a couple of Republican Senators cross the isle and vote for it. And I'm still betting that will happen. So my statement, "that's not conjecture - that's a promise" stands. My guess is it will only take one (maybe two) and they'll find him or her.

Retired Military - one of our commenters - says he thinks that person(s) will come out of this group:


I don't think McCain will vote for it. And if McCain doesn't vote for it, neither will Grahan. That leaves Collins, Spectre and Snowe. Anyone else want to add a name or two?

Oh, and don't forget this CBS "breaking news" email headline I received as we head down this road:
The House has approved President Obama's $819 billion economic stimulus bill.
Can't vote present on this one, can he?

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 14 ) | Category: Congress

The Lie That Would Not Die
Posted by: MichaelW
Ah, the good ol' days of BDS. Remember that Thanksgiving when Pres. Bush made a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq? The one immortalized forever by the picture of him seeming to offer a turkey platter to some soldiers standing in the chow line?

It was also the one where Bush was accused of cynically using a fake turkey for a photo-op in order to appear much more concerned about the troops than he actually was. Indeed, check out the caption to the picture above:
Bush has also had his share of turkey while in office, shown above bringing a turkey to troops in Baghdad, Iraq. However, the turkey was only for the photo op - it wasn't real.
Credits: Martinez/AP
Published: 01/28/2009 11:11:27
It's part of a pictorial essay by the New York Daily News titled "George W. Bush: The lamest duck ever?"

Since he's no longer President, the media taking shots at Bush is sort of uncouth, but also sort of uninteresting. The man's not even yesterday's news for crying out loud.

What's really bothersome, however, is that the lie continues unabated that Bush was voguing with a fake turkey. It's been well documented for quite awhile now what actually happened, but the media can't seem to ever catch up to the truth. I guess that's why they're still so concerned with news from several years ago.

Oh well, plus ça (hope and) change, plus ça meme chose.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 39 ) | Category: Media

Random thoughts on the "Stimlus" package
Posted by: McQ
I've been doing a lot of reading in the MSM and among pundits concerning this seemingly counter-intuitive "stimulus" package being rushed through Congress.

Thomas Oliver best sums up why I see it as "counter-intuitive":
You read that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says about half the new administration's $825 billion stimulus won't kick in for another year or two. You read a list of projects included in the stimulus and it begins to seem more like old times. Less like a response to an economic emergency and more like pork and pet projects of the new ruling party.

The numbers are getting too large to wrap your mind around. A million, you understand. A billion, you've grown used to, although $700 billion here and $825 billion there strains your comprehension.

A trillion is a number from science fiction, having something to do with light years and space travel.

Yet, you've been told our federal budget deficit this year will be $1.2 trillion. Add in the bailout and the plans to rescue us, and they are speaking in a foreign language, using terms such as $2 trillion.

You try to ignore the fact that one day the taxman will want to collect on that debt.

And you can't seem to shake the notion that if overreaching and overextending got us here, how does overreaching and overextending get us out? And if going where no stimulus has gone before isn't overreaching and if increasing the deficit to $2 trillion isn't overextending, then those words have no meaning.
And the "crisis" mentality that is driving all of this which requires we unthinkingly rush into executing a solution, any solution should terrify any thinking person:
Democrats said the current economic crisis did not allow time for public hearings on the legislation.

"This is as urgent as it gets," said Representative Anna G. Eshoo, Democrat of California.
Really? According to economists, we've been in this recession for 17 months. Are we suddenly just getting to the crisis stage, or are we just in pure panic mode because we don't know any better?

I've found that people tend to panic when they're overwhelmed and don't know what to do. That is being born out by statements such as Eshoo's. And, as Oliver points out, if time was taken to really look closely at this bill, the pork fat it is larded with might get some unwelcome scrutiny. Of course the one area which will undergo immediate cuts is defense.

Meanwhile, President Obama made a trip to the Hill yesterday, ostensibly to craft bi-partisan support for this bill. Why? Because he wants to start a new era of bi-partisanship and put the era of political strife behind us?

Well, that's the official line. But in reality, it is because he wants there to be bi-partisan blame if this fails. It is the Captain of the Titanic inviting the Republicans onto the bridge to help steer the ship just before they hit the iceberg.

Its not like the Republicans are against this sort of spending in principle. They just prefer their own brand of spending and they claim theirs will create "6.2" million jobs.

As Ian Welch at HuffPo points out, Republicans in the House are absolutely unnecessary to the passage of this bill. If they all vote no, it doesn't matter. There are plenty of Democrats for an easy majority. And while the Senate is more problematic, it really isn't as problematic as it once was. So why is it so important to get Republicans on board?
However, it has been indicated that Obama wants to do more than barely pass the bill, he wants to pass it with substantial Republican support.
You bet he does. Political cover. Despite all his rhetoric, Obama is not a risk taker. And if there is blame to be had, he wants it to be shared as broadly as possible.

Thus you see the small concessions made to Republican hot button wedge issues like "family planning" and the like. This a few days after he issues an Executive Order for funding of abortions family planning overseas to the tune of 400 million dollars (a real priority in times of financial crisis, no?).

So what's up with the Republicans after that meeting?
Obama devoted nearly three hours to separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate GOPers on 1/27, "an investment that is unlikely to result in new support for the relief package" (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 1/28). The House will pass the bill, but Obama "is likely to fall short of getting the strong bipartisan consensus he wants." Participants praised Obama's outreach, "but afterward, few GOP lawmakers said they were ready to vote" for the plan (Lightman, McClatchy, 1/28). In other words, he won "compliments but few converts."
That's actually good news if they don't cave. But, given their recent past, I have absolutely no confidence they won't cave. The recent Republican penchant for self-destruction seems to have no limits.
Still, as Obama courted business leaders at the WH this morning, he "expressed confidence that Congress would pass a stimulus bill with strong bipartisan backing." Obama: "I'm confident we're going to get this passed" (Jackson/Wolf, USA Today, 1/28).
Of course it will pass. There's very little doubt it will pass. It can almost pass without a single Republican vote. Almost.

If my math is correct, Dems have 57 in the Senate and two "independents", both of whom caucus with the Democrats. If Ms. Gilliland, the new Democratic junior Senator from NY holds true to her "blue dog" roots, she might vote against it (but I'm guessing she won't).

So Dems may actually need two Republican votes to get this travesty passed. I don't have any doubt they will get those and probably a couple more. As usual, the Reps will provide the Dems with the political cover they so desperately crave on this one.

Then, when this all comes crashing down, we'll hear the Democrats reminding everyone that it was the Republicans who provided the "critical backing necessary" to put the vote over the top.

You heard it here first.

Last, but not at all least, don't you even begin to believe the slogan "timely, targeted, and temporary" that's being chanted by the Dems.

It isn't timely (it stretches out over multiple budget years), it isn't targeted (it is loaded with pork and "relief" with little spent on "recovery" [as pointed out by Harun in comments -ed.], and anyone who believes such a mix is "temporary" knows nothing about government or its programs. The Heritage Foundation gives you the quick and dirty lowdown on why there is nothing temporary about this package.

Smart Republicans are going to stay as far away from this mess of bill as they can. This is, indeed, a legislative hill to die on. And they do that by unanimously refusing to support it. The unfortunate thing is that won't happen. And that's not conjecture - that's a promise. This will pass, and it will pass with Republican help. And you can take that to the bank, or bury it in the back yard if your prefer - it may be safer.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 28 ) | Category: Politics

"Stimulus" or Democratic "Trickle Down"
Posted by: McQ
If you need just one reason to oppose the so-called "stimulus package" being offered by Democrats, the fact that economic geniuses such as Nancy Pelosi are writing it should be enough.

For instance, here are Pelosi's thoughts on what has the most stimulative effect on an economy:
Food stamps and unemployment insurance will provide more economic stimulus than tax cuts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday during a telephone press conference.

"(F)ood stamps and unemployment insurance, which affect the people in the states, are necessary at this time when funds are short and the economy is down, (and) actually have the most stimulative effect on the economy," Pelosi said. "Food stamps first, unemployment insurance next, infrastructure after that, and it goes on from there."

"Actually, those investments bring a bigger return than the tax cuts," she said, adding: "but tax cuts where we have them - to the middle class - we think will give us our biggest return."
Meet the captain of the ship of fools.

The best way to battle unemployment is to provide jobs, not subsidize it. And the engine of job creation? Well naturally that engine would benefit immensely from tax cuts and certainly have an incentive, then, to create jobs.

But Pelosi would much rather spend first. And specifically spend on government programs which subsidize unemployment and poverty.

I guess you could call it the Democratic version of "trickle down" economics.

Permalink | Comments ( 1 ) | TrackBacks ( 6 ) | Category: Economics

Tax Cheat Names Lobbyist As Top Aide
Posted by: McQ
How can anyone actually take this guy seriously?
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner picked a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist as a top aide Tuesday, the same day he announced rules aimed at reducing the role of lobbyists in agency decisions.
Nothing Orwellian about that, is there?


Permalink | Comments ( 2 ) | TrackBacks ( 458 ) | Category: Government

Hansen’s Former NASA Boss Declares Himself An AGW Skeptic
Posted by: McQ
And he's also none to complementary of James Hansen himself:
Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist, Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA's vocal man-made global warming fear soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen "embarrassed NASA" with his alarming climate claims and said Hansen was "was never muzzled." Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of man-made global warming fears.

"I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man made," Theon wrote to the Minority Office at the Environment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009. "I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results," Theon, the former Chief of the Climate Processes Research Program at NASA Headquarters and former Chief of the Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch explained.

"Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated NASA's official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind's effect on it). Hansen thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress," Theon wrote.
He's also less than enthusiastic about the climate models being used, calling them "useless":
"My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit," Theon explained. "Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy," he added.
Theon is just one of a growing number of scientists adding their voices to the skeptic's list:
The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears. Reports from the conference found that Skeptical scientists overwhelmed the meeting, with '2/3 of presenters and question-askers hostile to, even dismissive of, the UN IPCC.


In addition, a 2008 canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is "settled." A November 25, 2008, article in Politico noted that a "growing accumulation" of science is challenging warming fears, and added that the "science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.
Russian scientists, India, and any number of scientists, to include former IPCC members, have now stepped forward to challenge the IPCC results.

"Settled science?" Hardly. And getting more unsettled as the days pass. And yes, there are peer reviewed articles and analysis which are cutting into the "science" of AGW.

Frankly I think the Al Gore AGW nonsense is in deep scientific trouble as more and more scientists join the increasing ranks of the skeptics. The trick, however, is to get the blinders off the media. Until that happens, the politicians will continue to think the underlying "science" is solid and settled and will cap-and-trade us into bankruptcy.

Getting those blinders off the media may be difficult since there is a large "save the world" streak running through contemporary journalism. As we've found out in many cases, subject matter expertise isn't at all a requirement for journalists when writing about something. Instead it is the agenda which takes precedence. It's more important that they have passion and "care" about something than get the facts right. After all, if they're wrong, who gets hurt with a "cleaner world"?

And, of course, there's the funding dilemma which still exists which is equally based on an agenda. For all the talk about returning science to its proper place by the incoming administration, it seems science is still for sale and will gladly find for the agenda of whatever agency is funding it.

Those are two pretty big obstacles yet to be overcome, but this growing groundswell of scientific skepticism is heartening to see. Perhaps it will be enough to overcome the pseudo-science that has pushed us to the brink of committing ourselves to financial ruin over nothing. We'll see.

Permalink | Comments ( 4 ) | TrackBacks ( 17 ) | Category: Environment

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Giving Russia No Respect
Posted by: McQ
The more I hear SecDef Robert Gates, the better I like him. But the following came as a bit of a humorous surprise today.

Gates was on the hill answering questions from Congress when he was asked about the recent visits to Venezuela by the Russian navy. His response is a classic:
"In fact if it hadn't been for the events in Georgia in August, I probably would've tried to persuade the president to invite the Russian ships pay a port call in Miami because I think they would've had a lot better time than they did in Caracas," he said.

"But basically I think at 40-dollar (per barrel) oil, the Russian navy does not bother me very much," Gates added.

"It's important for us to keep perspective about their capabilities," he said.

"When they complained about our escorting their Blackjack bombers to Venezuela, I wanted to say that we just wanted to be along there for search and rescue if they needed it."
Heh ... bravo Mr. Secretary.

[HT: Blackfive]

Permalink | Comments ( 3 ) | TrackBacks ( 16 ) | Category: Military Affairs

Another Attempted Re-Writing Of History
Posted by: McQ
And no, it isn't Bill Ayers this time, but someone much like him.

Yes, our old buddy Ernesto "Che" Guevara has been resurrected (again) in the newest adaptation of his life in Steven Soderbergh's "Che." And yes, I use the term "adaptation" quite purposely.

Apparently Benicio del Toro, who stars as Che, isn't getting quite the reception here he got in Cuba (where the film received a standing ovation). He recently walked out of an interview after being asked tough questions. It appears his portrayal of Che is coming under attack. It seems some believe, rightfully so in my estimation, that he's glorifying a murderer.

So Mr. del Toro, how did you decide to portray Che the way you did?
"Not knowing much about the history of Cuba, the history of Che, not being taught anything about it," Mr. del Toro says of his motivation for helping to bring the picture to fruition. "The image that I have or what has been told to me about this character is that he's kind of a cowboy - a bloodthirsty cowboy."

In doing research for the picture, Mr. del Toro was drawn to the writings of Guevara. "First, you start with what he wrote. What Che Guevara wrote. And he was a great writer, he wrote for years, so you start with that," he said.
And starting with that, Mr. del Toro concluded:
"We have to omit a lot of stuff about his life," he said, "but we're not omitting the fact that he's for capital punishment, which is the essence of that."
Capital punishment?!

Ah moral relevance, where is thy sting?

When confronted with facts like these:
In January 1957, as his diary from the Sierra Maestra indicates, Guevara shot Eutimio Guerra because he suspected him of passing on information: "I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain.... His belongings were now mine." Later he shot Aristidio, a peasant who expressed the desire to leave whenever the rebels moved on. While he wondered whether this particular victim "was really guilty enough to deserve death," he had no qualms about ordering the death of Echevarría, a brother of one of his comrades, because of unspecified crimes: "He had to pay the price." At other times he would simulate executions without carrying them out, as a method of psychological torture.
And these:
Luis Guardia and Pedro Corzo, two researchers in Florida who are working on a documentary about Guevara, have obtained the testimony of Jaime Costa Vázquez, a former commander in the revolutionary army known as "El Catalán," who maintains that many of the executions attributed to Ramiro Valdés, a future interior minister of Cuba, were Guevara's direct responsibility, because Valdés was under his orders in the mountains. "If in doubt, kill him" were Che's instructions. On the eve of victory, according to Costa, Che ordered the execution of a couple dozen people in Santa Clara, in central Cuba, where his column had gone as part of a final assault on the island. Some of them were shot in a hotel, as Marcelo Fernándes-Zayas, another former revolutionary who later became a journalist, has written-adding that among those executed, known as casquitos, were peasants who had joined the army simply to escape unemployment.
Mr. del Toro responded by saying:
"They didn't do it blindly; they had trials," Mr. del Toro said. "They found them guilty, and they executed them - that's capital punishment."
Oh trials. Of course:
Che was in charge of the Comisión Depuradora. The process followed the law of the Sierra: there was a military court and Che's guidelines to us were that we should act with conviction, meaning that they were all murderers and the revolutionary way to proceed was to be implacable. My direct superior was Miguel Duque Estrada. My duty was to legalize the files before they were sent on to the Ministry. Executions took place from Monday to Friday, in the middle of the night, just after the sentence was given and automatically confirmed by the appellate body. On the most gruesome night I remember, seven men were executed.
And when concentration camps were brought up, it appeared that Mr. del Torro might have skipped that part of his research, or perhaps concluded that such institutions were really benign locations where happy peasants were gathered together to learn the joys of revolutionary communism:
Mr. del Toro grew agitated when these prisons were described as "concentration camps," a phrase that Mr. Valladares freely employs.
Reality is a bear, isn't it and poor Mr. del Toro, who claims to have painstakingly researched his character just wasn't prepared to discuss this aspect of the real Che:
Guevara was instrumental in the creation of Cuba's forced labor camps, which were used to imprison and extract work from those who had committed no crimes but were thought to be insufficiently revolutionary.

The policy of extrajudicial imprisonment that Guevara favored would later expand to include political activists of all stripes, musicians, artists, homosexuals and others deemed to be dangerous to the maintenance of the Stalinist regime.

"I'm a survivor of those concentration camps. And I stand firm by my belief that they were concentration camps," he said. "The forced labor camps where I also worked, where dozens and dozens of political prisoners were murdered, where thousands were tortured, that's something that even the most ardent believers in Castro´s tyranny can't deny."
By the way, the man quoted above as a survivor of those camps is Armando Valladares, the Cuban dissident imprisoned by the Castro regime in 1960.
Named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, Mr. Valladares is the author of "Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro's Gulag" and a board member of the Human Rights Foundation.
And Mr. del Toro's response?
"We can't cover it all," Mr. del Toro said. "You can make your own movie. You know? You can make your own movie. And let's see. Do the research."
Heh ... you know, you just can't make this sort of stuff up.

[HT: McQ2]

Permalink | Comments ( 8 ) | TrackBacks ( 8 ) | Category: The Left

Fuel Efficiency Standards, Executive Orders and Rule by Decree
Posted by: McQ
A couple of points about this article in yesterday's NYT. First, the directive by Obama to EPA telling it to again review the California (and others) emission and fuel efficiency standards with an eye toward approving them:
President Obama will direct federal regulators on Monday to move swiftly on an application by California and 13 other states to set strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, two administration officials said Sunday.
Of course we're right in the middle of bailing out our automakers. One of the major contributors to their problems are legacy benefit costs (which were left unaddressed by the bailout). But another cost are government mandates on emission and fuel efficiency. Essentially this directive by Obama will result in two things: 1) add more cost to the manufacture of an automobile which, of course, will be passed on to consumers, 2) makes California the defacto source of new emission and fuel efficiency standards.

We've seen how the government mandates in CA have worked out in the past. Given this, they'll now be setting them for the nation.
The directive makes good on an Obama campaign pledge and signifies a sharp reversal of Bush administration policy. Granting California and the other states the right to regulate tailpipe emissions would be one of the most emphatic actions Mr. Obama could take to quickly put his stamp on environmental policy.
It certainly does that and we'll be all the less well-off because of that. But the more significant point here has to do with how Obama has chosen to approach this issue.

Obama, in a Presidential Memorandum, has directed the EPA to review CA's waiver. Of course, while the memorandum "requests" EPA to review the previous decision to deny the waiver and reconsider it in light of the provisions of the Clean Air Act, the intent is quite clear. He's directing the EPA to lift the waiver.

That's not at all different than the previous president. He has done this via presidential directive. In fact, he's done a lot of things initially by Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda.

Obviously some are being issued to counteract Bush administration EOs and PMs with which Obama disagrees. But, and maybe I'm wrong, I'm getting the feeling that Obama might prefer using EOs and PM to waiting for the long and laborious legislative process to grind its weary way toward a solution. Quick, efficient, and satisfies the sense of urgency he may feel on some of these issues. However it also plays to the same complaint the left had about Bush - a seeming propensity to rule by decree. The question is will he succumb to the lure of quick and easy fixes which help him rapidly advance his agenda vs. the slower, more problematic but democratic and traditional method of legislative action? Rule by law or rule by decree?

To date 5 EOs and 7 PMs have been issued. This may just be an initial flurry written to address immediate problems he finds necessary to address in that way. But this one in particular has me wondering. Certainly something to monitor.

Permalink | Comments ( 16 ) | TrackBacks ( 19 ) | Category: Government

Room Cleaning, er, Clearing
Posted by: McQ
For those of you who have wondered how the skills an infantryman learns can translate into civilian skills, I give you this answer:

Heh ... humor aside, this also demonstrates very well how a stack actually clears a room, how they control it and why.

Permalink | Comments ( 7 ) | TrackBacks ( 14 ) | Category: Humor

About that CBO stimulus study
Posted by: Bryan Pick
As discussed in my post yesterday, there was a bit of a dust-up over a preliminary CBO report on the stimulus, with some questions in particular about how quickly the money would be spent. Bloggers on the Left insisted that the money would be spent quickly, and that the bill had changed a lot since the preliminary report.

Well, now we have the new CBO report breakdown via the CBO Director's blog, so let's take a look:
Assuming enactment in mid-February, CBO estimates that the bill would increase outlays by $92 billion during the remaining several months of fiscal year 2009, by $225 billion in fiscal year 2010 (which begins on October 1), by $159 billion in 2011, and by a total of $604 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
So, it will spend only 15% of its allocated funds over the next eight months, and another 37% over the next 12 months after that. So, only 52% of the spending comes in the next 20 months.

After that, $287 billion more in spending locked in for the next nine years.

Including tax cuts and the rest, a little less than two-thirds (64%) of the total package is spent out in the next 20 months, while Obama aimed to have "at least 75%" of the package spent in the first 18 months. Not as slow as the preliminary report had it, but not fast enough for Obama's own metrics, and not nearly as fast as the Left insisted either.

As Arnold Kling puts it,
Larry Summers famously argued for a timely, targeted, and temporary stimulus. This looks like something that is not timely, with only about 20 percent of it getting into the system in the next 8 months. It does not seem temporary, given that over one-third of it ($291 billion) will kick in at least 21 months from now.
Who wants to take bets on how well it's targeted?

Permalink | Comments ( 7 ) | TrackBacks ( 774 ) | Category: Economics

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama and "Advisor B"
Posted by: MichaelW
Could there be some toxic spillover to the Obama Administration from the Blagojevich scandal? Even as Bob Woodward hints that the First Family may have some nanny/tax issues waiting in the tall grass, there may be another more dangerous figure looming in the bushes. His name is Frederick Yang, but until a few days ago a lot of people only knew him as "Advisor B":
A partner in a prominent, Washington-based political consulting firm is among those secretly recorded discussing ways Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich can cash in on President Barack Obama's old Senate seat. Frederick S. Yang, a top executive at Peter D. Hart Research Group Associates, is identified by prosecutors in the Blagojevich criminal complaint as "Advisor B," Michael D. Ettinger, a lawyer representing the governor's brother, said Thursday. Robert Blagojevich, who has not been charged with a crime, runs his brother's campaign fund.

The Hart firm has represented dozens of Democratic governors and members of Congress. The revelation that a key executive at the company was captured on FBI wiretaps working with the governor could embroil one of the nation's most respected and influential polling and consulting groups in the Blagojevich scandal.
When the transcripts of Balgojevich's clandestinely recorded statements were released back in December, I suggested that the identity of Advisor B would be pivotal to discovering whether the Obama team was at all involved in the Governor's games:
In addition to the very likely fact that Obama's office was co-ordinating with the Illinois Governor with respect to the Senate vacancy, the President-Elect's connection to so-called "Advisor B" may raise some uncomfortable questions. Advisor B promises to become a person of greater interest as this story unfolds, based on the following passage from the government's affidavit (at pg. 68) [HT: texasdarlin]:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with Advisor B. ROD BLAGOJEVICH discussed with Advisor B his idea for a 501(c)(4) organization. Advisor B stated that he likes the idea, but liked the Change to Win option better because, according to Advisor B, from the President-elect's perspective, there would be fewer "fingerprints" on the President-elect's involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, "you won't have stories in four years that they bought you off." ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that he likes the 501(c)(4) idea because he knows it will be there in two years when he is no longer Governor, whereas Change to Win might not be.
(my emphasis)

Advisor B is described earlier in the affidavit as "a Washington D.C.-based consultant" (pg. 60) with whom Blagojevich and his co-defendant assistant (John Harris) discussed a plan to trade favors with the President-Elect and the SEIU in exchange for the Governor appointing Obama's preferred candidate to his Senate seat
Now that we know who Advisor B is, the question becomes "what contacts does he have with the Obama team?" As it turns out, plenty.

Yang is associated with two prominent D.C.-based Democratic consulting firms: Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group. Both Yang and the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group were subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney's office, among 41 others. Between Yang and the two consulting groups, there are numerous contacts with the Obama team.

Most directly, Paul Harstad is Obama's polling consultant. "During the 1980s he was senior vice president at Peter Hart Research and Garin-Hart Research in Washington, DC." That's not damning in and of itself, but it is significant. Even if there were no other connections to Obama, through Harstad, Yang had someone to reach out to on behalf of Blagojevich. However, Yang wasn't limited to Harstad.

The world of political consulting can be a bit murky. Not in a nefarious way (although that happens too), but in a business-building way. After all, you never know if an enemy of a client will need your services at some point. Indeed, Geoff Garin, one of Yang's partners, has worked for Republicans as well as Hillary Clinton:
The man that Hillary Clinton brought in to replace controversial strategist Mark Penn got his start in politics 32 years ago in Pennsylvania, the very state that is so crucial to her presidential hopes now. Back then, however, Geoff Garin was working for a Republican.


In the meantime, he has become one of the most well-regarded and sought-after Democratic pollsters, giving campaign advice to a host of Senators, including Illinois's Richard Durbin, New York's Charles Schumer, Vermont's Patrick Leahy and North Dakota's Kent Conrad. He also did work on Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign. "On the Democratic side," says one campaign veteran, "he is a totally trusted person."

According to reports, someone else with whom Garin is closely associated is David Axelrod, popularly referred to as Obama's Karl Rove (my emphasis):
The message seemed effective. Pollster Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates in Washington, which has worked with both of Axelrod's businesses, says his research showed that after the advertising campaign, ComEd customers were more supportive of a rate hike than customers served by other electric utilities elsewhere in Illinois.
Again, this information is not damning, but it does serve to tie Yang (as "Advisor B") closely to the Obama team. Not only did Yang have an inside man in Harstad, his partner and consulting firm were both associated with Obama's political guru, David Axelrod. It seems pretty clear that Yang spoke with authority when he said that "from the President-elect's perspective, there would be fewer 'fingerprints' on the President-elect's involvement with Change to Win because Change to Win already has an existing stream of revenue and, therefore, 'you won't have stories in four years that they bought you off.'" And to top it all off, the job that Blagojevich was angling for with Yang's help was coming through a deal with the SEIU. And you'll never guess whom the SEIU depends upon for it's D.C. consulting services:
The union organization that figures in the complaint, Change to Win, is a 6 million-member coalition of unions that was started in 2005. Its members include the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and the United Farm Workers of America. Tom Balanoff, an official at SEIU's Local 1 in Chicago, has been identified as the SEIU official mentioned several times in the Blagojevich complaint, including being identified as "an emissary" for the appointment of Jarrett.

SEIU is listed as a client of Peter D. Hart Research, which has conducted surveys for Change to Win, according to a union news release.
At this stage it is very difficult to say whether or not the Obama team actually did anything wrong (or "inappropriate" to use Obama's term). In fact, it may turn out that Blagojevich did nothing legally improper, even if his every move stank to high heaven. It has become quite clear, however, that if there was something scandal worthy in the Obama teams machinations concerning his vacated Senate seat, Frederick "Advisor B" Yang will play a prominent role in ferreting out what that something was.

Permalink | Comments ( 2 ) | TrackBacks ( 11 ) | Category: Scandals

Ayers/McVeigh - No difference
Posted by: McQ
The one thing Bill Ayers has accomplished in his life - besides fooling at least some into believing he's just an everyday education professor - is to prove Andy Warhol wrong about everyone getting just 15 minutes of fame.

Ayers is working on his second 15 minutes and is no more coherent this time than the first. However he is a classic case study of moral relativism and self-delusion at work. Both are aptly demonstrated in this single paragraph from a recent Detroit Free Press interview. Says Ayers:
Henry Kissinger is responsible for the death of millions. I'm responsible for the death of no one. Does that distinction not seem to matter? In other words, why am I held up as an example of something beyond the pale. Whereas Kissinger, hey it was normal. He was the secretary of state ... Yeah, he was the secretary of state overseeing an illegal, immoral, genocidal attack on civilians. That is terrorism, pure and simple.
Despite the obvious error our scholar makes (Secretaries of State don't "oversee" wars), he has the audacity to tag Kissinger directly with deaths in the Viet Nam war - something in which Kissinger had no direct involvement in prosecuting - while absolving himself from the deaths the Weather Underground caused by essentially claiming he wasn't directly involved in any of them.

If you're not laughing out loud at this buffoon, I'm not sure what to think of you. A professor of education said that? The total self-absorption of this spoiled brat is why his self-delusion is so convincing, at least to himself.

He actually thinks he made a point there.

How self-delusional is the good "professor"? Stunningly. Look at his re-write of history when he is asked if he'd call Obama a friend:
Ayers: No. But . the fact is. Oh, I would. I call a lot of people friends. But I don't think he knew me better than he knew thousands of other people.

And the dishonesty of that narrative that the Republicans tried to spin, there were three aspects to it that were troubling.

One was the attempt to make me into a monster, which I am certainly not.

Second was the idea of guilt by association. That if you share a board room or a bus ride or a cup of coffee or you see each other in a restaurant that you are somehow responsible for one another's policies and politics. That's an old and tired and despicable tradition in American politics. And fortunately the American people rejected it.

But the third aspect of the dishonesty was the idea that some Americans are true and real and OK Americans and other Americans are marginal and bad and dangerous and toxic. The problem with that is that we live in a wild and diverse democracy, and I'm as much an American as Sarah Palin. I was born here. I'm a citizen I have every right to speak.

And the idea that she was trying .to say that because I hold certain views or because I have a certain history - that incidentally that I have dealt with and that I have accounted for in every way required of me - somehow disqualifies me from public participation.

I'm a believer in democracy. I'm a believer in dialogue. And I think everyone has a responsibility, but especially political leaders, to meet with and think through with a wide range of people and then to have a mind of your own.
Henry Kissinger - Monster. Bill Ayers, unapologetic terrorist bomber and leader of an organization which killed people? - not so much.

Point two has Ayers consciously avoiding the Obama/Ayers relationship on boards, committees, and collaborating on a fund which handed out millions of dollars. There's even some rather strong evidence Ayers may have edited Obama's books. And then there's that little inconvenient fact that Obama was introduced into Chicago politics in the living room of Bill Ayers house. That has also seemed to have escaped Ayers' memory.

Of course, point three ignores the fact that Americans still do consider Timothy McVeigh to be "marginal and bad and dangerous and toxic" person because he did exactly the same thing Bill Ayers did, except more successfully and on a larger scale.

In fact, to most Americans, McVeigh and Ayers are the very same thing. The difference is that the government didn't botch the McVeigh case and he was executed for his crimes.

Ayers is a petulent brat-boy who thought he had ushered in a "revolution" during his younger days because he came to believe war is always bad. Violence and death in war was unacceptable. However, violence and death in the cause of peace was apparently just fine.

When his cause literally blew up in his face, he ran like a whipped dog and hid out until things had cooled down and daddy could get the best of lawyers on retainer to save poor Billy's ass. No need to pretend to be one of the masses then, by George - daddy's money and connections were wonderful stuff. Unlke McVeigh, who had no "daddy" to save him, Ayers eventually got lucky and the government's case was thrown out.

Over the years, this poor excuse for a human being has constructed a delusional narrative of his own in that collection of brain cells he calls his mind. Above you get a peek at the result. This morally bankrupt boob, this heralded 'professor of education', is on a mission to resurrect his shabby persona. Obviously a coward whose chosen method of "fighting the man" was to plant bombs, he still can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that most rational people reject his absurd self-justifications as the pitiful bleatings of delusional loon.

While he may have managed to establish himself as a "success" as an education professor over the years, he remains an abject failure as a human being. Maybe he'll eventually figure out that his nonsense isn't selling and finally, with a whimper, fade from the stage forever, realizing his second 15 minutes of notoriety were even less successful than his first.

Permalink | Comments ( 13 ) | TrackBacks ( 9 ) | Category: The Left

Krugman’s Bad Faith
Posted by: Bryan Pick
I promised earlier today to do a post on Paul Krugman's latest article defending the stimulus, but I see Jon already covered most of it at The Next Right.

I would add a few more points:
The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 - and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.
First, this may be a merely semantic point, but there's a lot of daylight between $100,000 and $275,000 for the figure to be "closer to". How much closer to $100k?

And the second figure sounds highly optimistic. Are businesses and employees really going to pay $40,000 in higher taxes back for the "closer to $100,000" paid for each job? The federal government collects roughly 18% of GDP in taxes. $40,000/.18=$222,222. So if Krugman is implying a $100,000 true cost per job, he would have to assume a 2.22 multiplier for government spending, which (again) sounds pretty optimistic... or he's assuming a much higher tax rate. (Is there some problem with my arithmetic there?)

Among the other assumptions that would have to hold for his figure to be correct, his figure will only apply to those who would have been unemployed if not for the the government job. I assume that assumption contributes a great deal to Krugman's use of the words, "as little as".

Next point... Jon already responded to this point, but I have something else to add:
Next, write off anyone who asserts that it's always better to cut taxes than to increase government spending because taxpayers, not bureaucrats, are the best judges of how to spend their money.

Here's how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets - and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.
But, other than anarcho-capitalists, who says there is no worthwhile government spending? The stimulus debate is not even remotely about whether we should fund the air traffic control system, or anything else as vitally important - there is already a budget process in place for those projects - but about whether we should fund/speed up funding for thousands of wish-list projects and programs around the country. It should give you an idea of how thoughtful Krugman's objections are that he has to rely on a false dilemma (if some government spending is valuable, then complaints about completely different government spending must be spurious) to support his argument.
To Jon's comments, I would add:
Let's take Krugman's argument to its logical conclusion: why not have the government spend all our money? After all, if leaving the next $355 billion in the taxpayer's hands is tantamount to shutting down the most vital extant functions of government, surely it's true of the next $355 billion after that, and the next $355 billion, ad nauseam.

And does Krugman really think that airports and airlines would not run an air traffic control system if the government stopped paying for it, and just shrug when mid-air collisions happened? You don't have to be an anarcho-capitalist to call that into question—you just have to trust that airline companies and airports wouldn't want planes colliding and falling out of the sky. It's kinda bad for business.

But Jon's point is the primary objection here. To my ear, it sounds like this:
KRUGMAN: "I want to buy a long ton of butter."
RIGHT: "That sounds like an irresponsible expenditure."
KRUGMAN: "I suppose you want me to starve to death!"
Meanwhile, it's clear that when it comes to economic stimulus, public spending provides much more bang for the buck than tax cuts - and therefore costs less per job created (see the previous fraudulent argument) - because a large fraction of any tax cut will simply be saved.
As I argued in my previous post, what if people do put a lot of the money into the bank? Isn't the administration trying to recapitalize the banks? Isn't the government trying to get them lending again?

I'll leave the question of what really gets the most "bang for the buck" to others.

Lastly, here's something we've seen a lot lately:
The most encouraging thing I've heard lately is Mr. Obama's reported response to Republican objections to a spending-oriented economic plan: "I won." Indeed he did - and he should disregard the huffing and puffing of those who lost.
Boy, the Left's attitude on listening to the minority sure has changed since November, hasn't it?

I'm sure Krugman (and, say, Pelosi) won't mind if Republicans take his advice next time they're in power.

Permalink | Comments ( 14 ) | TrackBacks ( 1 ) | Category: Politics


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