Monthly Archives: May 2011
I think we all know what would be the number one story today had we been this close to having this happen on the last president’s watch.
At issue: The 1973 War Powers Act, which says if the president does not get congressional authorization 60 days after military action, the mission must stop within 30 days.
The president formally notified Congress about the mission in Libya with a letter on March 21, which makes Friday the 60-day deadline.
See, here’s how this works … Congress makes the laws and the President signs them into being. Everyone is obliged to follow them. And that includes the President. However, that’s not the case, or so it seems, with Libya. Today is the last day of the 60 grace period for the President to get Congressional authorization and there has been no move to accomplish that. Apparently the administration believes they’re above the law.
The irony, of course, is that it was Mr. Bush who was continually accused of waging an illegal war. Yet it has been the last two Democratic presidents who are guilty of doing so:
But it is virtually unprecedented for a president to continue a mission beyond 60 days without a resolution from Congress.
"Make no mistake: Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors," Yale law professors Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway wrote this week in the Washington Post.
The only thing that comes close is President Clinton’s military effort in Kosovo.
He failed to get congressional approval before the 60-day deadline was up. His administration argued that Congress had effectively authorized the mission by approving money for it, and the Kosovo conflict lasted 78 days.
The Obama administration doesn’t have that option with Libya, because the Pentagon is using existing money. Congress never specifically funded the mission.
Now, the administration is trying to figure out what to do.
“Now?” Now the administration is “trying to figure out what to do”? And “what to do” is fairly straight forward – seek congressional approval for the continuation of the “kinetic event” or whatever it is we’re calling it this week, or stop our involvement.
Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, tells CNN he believes Obama is trying to "bring democracy to Libya while shredding the Constitution of the United States."
"He cannot continue what he is doing in Libya without congressional authorization. When a president defiantly violates the law, that really undercuts our efforts to urge other countries to have the rule of law," Sherman said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, concurs.
"You could say, ‘Well, we have a good president, he’ll do the right thing.’ Well, someday you may have a president who does the wrong thing, and that’s why you have rules, because you can never count on people being good people," Paul told CNN.
Indeed. The process and rules are only there for the little people I guess. The President appears to believe he is above the law.
Finally, where’s the Congressional leadership on this? Why isn’t Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid both banging the drum loudly and persistently while calling the president “incompetent” ? After all, only an incompetent would just now be trying to figure out what to do, no? And tomorrow will they declare the war “illegal” like it actually will be?
And where are McConnell and Boehner?
Time to elevate this and get a little bit of a firestorm going boys. If it were your side, you can trust that Pelosi and Reid wouldn’t be dawdling in their offices, they’d be attacking the lawlessness of the presidency.
Where are you, Congressional “leaders?”
It’s not much to look forward too. Tony Blankley makes the pointthat many of us have been making as we’ve watched this little drama unfold in Egypt – it ain’t about “democracy”:
That "democratic revolution," as the administration persistently called it, seems to have settled down into an ugly accord between the Army-run government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the fanatical salafists — which the new regime has been releasing from the prisons into which Mubarak very usefully had sent those dreadful men. Killing Coptic Christians, attacking women on the street for non-Muslim garb and other pre-Mubarak attitudes are thus now back in vogue in "democratic" Egypt.
Whether the administration will admit it or not, the fact remains that democracy isn’t set up to succeed in Egypt. By “democracy” I mean institutions that are structured to both support a democratic nation and ensure the success of such a system. It is simply another in a long line of swapping one oppressor for the other. While Mubarak may not have been anyone’s ideal, what may follow, given the indications, may be worse.
Two weeks ago, the administration was "surprised" at the Egyptian-brokered accord between the terrorist Hamas and the West Bank Fatah Palestinian factions — ending even a theoretical chance of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.
Indeed. And now with Egypt firmly moving to the “other side” after years of peace with Israel, the future looks even more bleak and any peace accord becomes even more unlikely.
And with Obama yesterday essentially demanding the ‘67 borders as a peace concession by Israel any settlement became virtually impossible. No wonder Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell is resigning. He recognizes a dead end when he see’s one.
The first age of money was the age of gold and silver; your basic metal currencies. The second age was the age of the freely convertible fiat currency. The third age of money will be virtual, unhackable, and anonymous. So, this is what you call “interesting”:
Bitcoin is an open-source virtual currency generated by a computer algorithm that is completely beyond the reach of financial intermediaries, central banks and national tax collectors. Bitcoins could be used to purchase anything, at any time, from anyone in the world, in a transaction process that it is almost completely frictionless. Yes, that’s right, the hacktivists now have a virtual currency that’s untraceable, unhackable, and completely Anonymous.
And that’s where things start to get interesting. Veteran tech guru Jason Calacanis recently called Bitcoin the most dangerous open source project he’s ever seen. TIME suggested that Bitcoin might be able to bring national governments and global financial institutions to their knees. You see, Bitcoin is as much a political statement as it is a virtual currency. If you think there’s a shadow banking system now, wait a few more months. The political part is that, unlike other virtual currencies like Facebook Credits (used to buy virtual sock puppets for your friends), Bitcoins are globally transferrable across borders, making them the perfect instrument to finance any cause or any activity — even if it’s banned by a sovereign government.
All is proceeding as I have foreseen.
Or same song, different verse.
Not much new in this that I was able to discern, especially about Israel. While claiming that the Palestinians have some responsibilities and the Hamas/Fatah reconciliation is troubling, most of the onus for peace is once again placed on Israel with the claim that it should withdraw to the ‘67 borders. Of course the last time they agreed to a withdrawal and did so, they paid a price for it. Doubt this is going to fall for that again.
Couple of interesting things to note. Speaking of Libya:
As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.
About “Arab spring”:
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
Hmmm … anyone else spot a little contradiction here?
Back to the now officially “illegal” war in Libya:
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.
But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.
Two points – one, massacres in Iraq, using the Obama reasoning here, were already ongoing. Anyone, was Saddam hunting down opposition like “rats”? Er, yeah. So, what’s the beef with doing what Obama attempts to sell here for that reason only? And if Iraq was a dumb war, notwithstanding the same thing happening as in Libya, does that make Libya a dumb war (as well as “illegal”)?
Two – How does he know that “the transition to a democratic Libya” will be the result? And how does he plan to ensure it?
Obama gave Syria and Iran a tongue lashing, but I expect little else to occur in terms of action. Some sanctions will be imposed which, as they always do, hurt the poorest in the nation. He also mentioned Bahrain and Yemen in the speech.
Conspicuously absent from his bombast was any criticism of Saudi Arabia.
Like I said, nothing much new in the speech.
In line with the recent posts here on the worth of college education (and Bryan’s post on a possible loan bubble) it seems that the job market is also making a statement on college:
Now evidence is emerging that the damage wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than just a few careers led astray or postponed. Even for college graduates — the people who were most protected from the slings and arrows of recession — the outlook is rather bleak.
Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates about whether higher education is “worth it” after all.
Of course in any economic downturn, especially in one which unemployment is high, this sort of thing is going to happen. According to the NY Times story, 22.4% of recent graduates are not working. 22% are not working in jobs that require a college degree. And, of course, of the 55.6% who are working in jobs requiring a degree, many are not working in their degree area. It also appears that the median salary has dropped significantly during the recession – after all, it’s a buyer’s market:
The median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000, down from $30,000 for those who entered the work force in 2006 to 2008, according to a study released on Wednesday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. That is a decline of 10 percent, even before taking inflation into account.
That’s a significant drop and again, it makes the argument that going to work for 4 years instead of college may have two benefits: 1) no college loan debt and 2) 4 year work history which would most likely see a salary or earnings well above the median starting salary for college students. And as might be expected, it is those college students who are graduates from liberal arts programs who are suffering most.
The choice of major is quite important. Certain majors had better luck finding a job that required a college degree, according to an analysis by Andrew M. Sum, an economist at Northeastern University, of 2009 Labor Department data for college graduates under 25.
Young graduates who majored in education and teaching or engineering were most likely to find a job requiring a college degree, while area studies majors — those who majored in Latin American studies, for example — and humanities majors were least likely to do so. Among all recent education graduates, 71.1 percent were in jobs that required a college degree; of all area studies majors, the share was 44.7 percent.
So what sort of jobs are those who are degreed but not working in a job requiring a degree holding?
An analysis by The New York Times of Labor Department data about college graduates aged 25 to 34 found that the number of these workers employed in food service, restaurants and bars had risen 17 percent in 2009 from 2008, though the sample size was small. There were similar or bigger employment increases at gas stations and fuel dealers, food and alcohol stores, and taxi and limousine services.
Of course that has a ripple effect in which less-educated workers may be displaced.
“The less schooling you had, the more likely you were to get thrown out of the labor market altogether,” said Mr. Sum, noting that unemployment rates for high school graduates and dropouts are always much higher than those for college graduates. “There is complete displacement all the way down.”
Obviously the lesson here is education is still valuable, the question however is “how valuable”? Valuable enough to commit to the tremendous debt a college degree can bring? It is that sort of ROI that young people must begin making – especially those considering liberal arts programs. Assuming a desire by most who attend college to use their credentials to get a high paying job and secure a better future than foregoing such a program of study has to be under scrutiny by those in such a situation.
Opting to begin work out of high school vs. pursuing a college degree may become a real possibility. And naturally that will have another ripple effect. Colleges and universities will see decreased attendance which will in turn mean less revenue and possibly spur competition among them to attract students.
I actually see that as a beneficial effect, especially given the cost of higher education today, that may eventually make the ROI work somewhat better for potential college students. It is obvious the cost of higher education has risen much higher than any inflation rate. That’s a bubble that needs to be popped and popped rather quickly. Dropping enrollment because of a perception of not receiving the value for what is paid may be the motivator for higher education to cut their prices or suffer the consequences.
Emergency rooms in “urban and suburban” areas (not rural – the study is limited to urban and suburban) are closing rather rapidly it seems:
Hospital emergency rooms, particularly those serving the urban poor, are closing at an alarming rate even as emergency visits are rising, according to a report published on Tuesday.
Urban and suburban areas have lost a quarter of their hospital emergency departments over the last 20 years, according to the study, in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1990, there were 2,446 hospitals with emergency departments in nonrural areas. That number dropped to 1,779 in 2009, even as the total number of emergency room visits nationwide increased by roughly 35 percent.
Emergency departments were most likely to have closed if they served large numbers of the poor, were at commercially operated hospitals, were in hospitals with skimpy profit margins or operated in highly competitive markets, the researchers found.
Sit there for a moment and let that all sink in. Got it? All ready to go? Now, let this sink in:
“This suggests market forces play a larger role in the distribution and availability of care” in the United States, Dr. Hsia said, especially emergency care. “We can’t expect the market to allocate critical resources like these in an equitable way.”
Really? That’s precisely what the market is doing here – Dr. Hsia just doesn’t like it’s method of allocation or the outcome, that’s all. So the hidden premise here is we (the collective) should allocate “critical resources” (emergency rooms and health care providers) differently than the market does (subsidize) and we’ll say a “market failure” made us do it, mkay?
That’s exactly the case Dr. Hsia is trying to build although it isn’t said outright. Market failure requires we (collective) pick up the slack (through government) and pay what is necessary (no matter how much it puts us in debt) to ensure “critical resources” (ERs and docs) are allocated “fairly” (as we think they should). This is also known as a form “central planning” which has always worked so well.
So that would mean unprofitable requiring emergency rooms stay open and we (collective) subsidizing them. BTW, anyone else find it ironic that there’s competition among hospitals keeping prices down to the point that some ERs are unprofitable, yet we’re consistently told that health care costs are spiraling out of control?
Anyway, as you recall the vaunted ObamaCare is supposed to take care of all this, right, because then even the poor will have insurance. And once they have insurance, they’ll never darken an ER again – except when they have a real live emergency. Well here’s a clue junior, the poor already have insurance – its called Medicaid. The problem isn’t lack of insurance, it is a lack of doctors. And it isn’t going to get better soon. Massachusetts has already demonstrated the problem:
When the Massachusetts Legislature made health insurance mandatory five years ago, supporters of the first-in-the-nation law hoped it would keep patients out of hospital emergency rooms.
Patients with insurance, the theory went, would have better access to internists, family practitioners, and pediatricians, lessening their reliance on emergency rooms for routine care.
There is more evidence today that it did not turn out that way.
Three-quarters of Massachusetts emergency room physicians who responded to a survey last month said the number of patients in their ERs climbed in the last year.
They cited ‘’physician shortages’’ along with a growing elderly population as the top two reasons why more patients come to ERs.
The law ‘’didn’t create an infrastructure,’’ said Dr. David John, chief of emergency care at Caritas Carney Hospital in Boston. “Doctors offices are full to capacity.’’
That’s right … MA’s single payer system is swamped. You can waive your magic wand and behold everyone has insurance, but you can’t waive your wand and make health care providers appear. And most doctors know that Medicaid is probably the worst paying insurance out there, not to mention the bureaucratic hassle that goes with it, so they limit their number of Medicaid patient – a prudent small business decision. Because after all, doctors are small businessmen and women. They employ staff, make payrolls, etc. So, just like hospitals that do the same thing, they’re concerned with – what’s that nasty word? Oh yeah, profit.
Nope, the market isn’t the problem here. It is doing precisely what markets should do. The outcome just isn’t the preferred one.
Oh, and under the category “never let reality stand in the way of your reality” or perhaps “facts, who needs facts, I have an agenda”, we find this.
There’s a lot being written and said about the latest batch of ObamaCare waivers and the fact that many have gone to companies in Nancy Pelosi’s area. And, of course, the agency granting them has claimed that Pelosi had absolutely no effect on them being granted.
Okay, that’s not the important point anyway. Tim Pawlenty actually manages to stumble across it as he claims cronyism in their grant:
"I don’t blame people for trying to get out from underneath it — that it is an awful law," Pawlenty said. "But when you have that many needs for exemptions, it tells you that the law — it is a warning sign that the law is broken and doesn’t work."
Ya think? You have about 26 or 27 states challenging the Constitutionality of the bill and its individual mandate. You have hundreds, if not thousands of companies, agencies and businesses seeking waivers. And obviously, there’s an organization in place to grant those waivers. Imagine a job where you review and grant waivers to a law. I don’t know about you, but that would tell me there must be something fundamentally wrong with it.
Pawlenty is also correct about his broader point – those without the ability to appeal for a waiver are stuck with paying the piper:
"Another example of really crony politics or crony capitalism, if you’ve got the right connections, the right lobbyists, the right interest group, you get your special deal, and the rest of us get our wallet out, and that’s in the tax code, it’s in earmarking, and now you see it in ObamaCare.”
Yes, exactly. His larger point is absolutely correct. Those without the connections do indeed end up having our wallets looted. Cronyism is certainly alive and well and very prevalent not only in the treatment of ObamaCare, but in other areas as well. Which brings up an ironic point – for the party of “fairness” this seems singularly unfair. Yet Democrats aid and abet it – in fact, just like Republicans, they use this sort of process to gain favor with certain constituencies … at the expense of others. And by expense, I’m including paying the bill too.
ObamaCare is an obviously wretched law. What was supposed to be insurance reform ended up being a polyglot of government bureaucracy at a huge and unaffordable price.
Now we hear the House GOP members saying that repealing it is “hard”. We hear candidates like Romney and Gingrich saying they agree with parts of it, like the individual mandate. Cronyism is directly linked to power – it’s a give and take process that benefits politicians. It comes as no surprise to me that both sides are engaged in it up to their necks. The problem is it is unlikely to ever get fixed since it is the fox guarding the hen house and enjoying the job.
Economists Timothy Conley and Bill Dupor have issued a study about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as the “Stimulus” – approximately a trillion dollars borrowed and spent ostensibly to create and save millions of jobs and keep the unemployment rate below 8%.
We’ve known for months, each and every time the unemployment numbers come out, that it failed miserably to keep unemployment below 8%.
Conley and Dupor give the short “bottom line” version of their study’s result:
Our benchmark point estimates suggest the Act created/saved 450 thousand government-sector jobs and destroyed/forestalled one million private sector jobs.
Those jobs which were “destroyed/forestalled” fell into a 4 sectors that the economists studied:
The large majority of destroyed/forestalled jobs are in a subset of the private service sector comprised of health, (private) education, professional and business services, which we term HELP services.
[O]ur estimates are precise enough to state that we found no evidence of large positive private-sector job effects. Searching across alternative model specifications, the best-case scenario for an effectual ARRA has the Act creating/saving a (point estimate) net 659 thousand jobs, mainly in government. It appears that state and local government jobs were saved because ARRA funds were largely used to offset state revenue shortfalls and Medicaid increases (Fig. A) rather than directly boost private sector employment (e.g. Fig. B).
Here are the two figures from the study:
What you see here is exactly what most critics of the plan claimed would happen – states used the money on government and not stimulating private job growth.
Result? States forestalled their budget reckonings and unemployment, except in the private sector, continued on past 8% into the 10% area.
Of course, it appears that the architects of the ARRA never really thought this through nor did they anticipate how sending money to the states would be used.
As John Hinderaker at Powerline asks:
Does President Obama understand this? I very much doubt it. When he expressed puzzlement at the idea that the stimulus money may not have been well-spent, and said that "spending equals stimulus," he betrayed a shocking level of economic ignorance.
The answer to the question is a profound and telling “no”. And yes, he’s betrayed a shocking level of economic ignorance throughout his presidency:
Upon acquisition of ARRA funds for a specific purpose, a state or local government could cut its own expenditure on that purpose. As a result, these governments could treat the ARRA dollars as general revenue, i.e. the dollars were effectively fungible.
In essence, it was used to save government jobs through a few easily accomplished accounting tricks. The desired private stimulus (assuming there really was such a desired use), never came to pass. An opportunity for state governments to review and downsize government to more efficient and appropriate levels was forestalled.
And the recession ran on.
Missing in action?
Michael Tobias has written what can only be described as an incredibly ignorant column praising Al Gore’s latest “let’s pretend the science is settled” ebook.
While reading it, I wondered how anyone could have not heard about the mounting controversy about AGW pointing to what seems to be an outright scam and embarrassment to the scientific community.
So I went to Tobias’s bio. Then it made some sense:
For forty years I’ve been tracking ecological issues as an environmental historian/advocate, field researcher and animal rights/biodiversity conservation activist. I climb mountains, study as many life forms as possible, did my Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness, and am president of the Dancing Star Foundation where we focus on global biodiversity, policy analysis, animal rights and international environmental education.
Or, “Al Gore is advocating doing what I want done and saying what I want said , so screw the science”.
But to the article:
The former Vice President’s “Inconvenient Truth” undoubtedly helped the planet. From Bangladesh to Argentina; from Texas to Germany I have heard policy makers, lawyers, students, educators and used-car salespersons discussing his well-earned Nobel Peace Prize, and the influence he has wielded. Indeed, Gore need only look at a glacier and it starts to melt (a case in point being the latest Extreme Ice Project that has been computing thousands of time-lapse images to get a better visual handle on just how fast glaciers are disappearing throughout the world).
And while many filmmakers thought of the Gore/David Guggenheim “Inconvenient Truth” as nothing more than an elaborate slide show plus the odd bit of filmic B-roll, it struck a chord like few advocacy films worldwide and has clearly pushed the climate debate in the direction where it should have gone in the first place: towards good science, not muddled politics.
Oh, my. “… towards good science, not muddled politics”?
Ye gods … I’d make an off-color reference here to his gushing tone, but we’re a family friendly blog. However, when you see articles like this, you have to ask where in the world has this guy been? Has he kept up at all? The refutations of almost all of Al Gore’s premises – I won’t dignify them with the word “theory” – have shown them to be mostly bunkum.
To be kind, you’d like to believe that Tobias is simply a victim of confirmation bias. That he’s finally found someone who is, at least partially, “confirming” what he’s been saying for years. But as you read the gushing review, it seems more like a religious tract – faith that his guru is infallible. How else do you analyze such nonsense?
Apparently, according to Tobias, Gore’s only sin was to leave a few things out of his new ebook:
Biodiversity, non-violence, animal rights, veganism – these are largely absent from the “30 summit”-based equations, and they are among the most crucial components needing to be addressed. Indeed, many ecologists see climate change as one of many sub-sets of the greater issues that include biodiversity loss, animal suffering, and habitat fragmentation. Gore does address the human population crisis which is, ultimately, the number one driver of all other human-induced crises.
I have to tell you that when I run into the term “animal rights” I usually write the person off using the phrase as, well, a bit of a loon. Sorry, but that’s just the case. When every you use such a term, it is blazingly obvious that you have no idea about the concept of rights and why they’re so important to human beings. And because of that, you lose any credibility as a serious person of intellect in my eyes.
Finally, and in keeping with everything that Tobias says in the article, he recommends the following article: “5 Million Deaths From Climate Change Predicted By 2020”.
Well of course they are, because if they weren’t, how could we scare people into paying attention to our religion and buying into our solutions?
Oh, by the way, the article is published in Forbes. When you see things like this, it makes you wonder what has happened to what used to be a fairly good news and information source.
That according to Gallup:
The bump President Obama received after the killing of Osama bin Laden more than two weeks ago in Pakistan has vanished completely, according to the latest Gallup Tracking poll released Monday.
Obama’s approval rating is now at 46 percent, equal to his approval rating in the last tracking poll conducted before Obama addressed Americans late on May 1 and informed them of bin Laden’s death. Forty-four percent of Americans now disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president.
According to the Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating crested at 52 percent after the bin Laden killing. His disapproval rating never fell lower than 40 percent.
Obama’s bounce is smaller in magnitude and shorter in duration than the bumps enjoyed by other presidents over the past 70 years, according to a study by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. For example, George W. Bush received a 15-point bump after the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 — a bounce that lasted seven weeks.
“It’s the economy, stupid”:
The poll also comes the same day as Gallup announced that three in four Americans "name some type of economic issue as the ‘most important problem’ facing the country today — the highest net mentions of the economy in two years. Those numbers, combined with Obama’s fleeting boost, suggest the economy remains — by far — the dominant issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.
“Yea, we got Osama. But I still don’t have a job, the economy sucks, we’re in debt up to our ears and you’re trying to find more and more ways to take more and more money from me because of your profligacy. What are you going to do about that?”
I think that’s a fair statement of what the 2012 election will turn on. And I also believe Obama is beatable. But not with the current declared crop of candidates on the GOP side.