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Friday, January 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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 ( 29 ) | 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 ( 19 ) | 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

Monday, January 26, 2009

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

So Who Is In Charge Of US Foreign Policy?
Posted by: McQ
While everyone knows, ultimately it is the President of the United States, usually it is the Secretary of the State who carries the foreign policy ball for the president.

Except when the newly seated US ambassador to the UN decides she's the one speaking for the US:
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday the new administration would make Iran's nuclear program a top diplomatic priority and would pursue direct talks with Tehran.

"We remain deeply concerned about the threat that Iran's nuclear program poses to the region, indeed to the United States and to the entire international community," Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after 45 minutes of closed-door discussions with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran," she said.
I may be wrong, but I can't imagine that Hillary Clinton okayed this or, in fact, knew much about it. I'd also guess, if that's the case, she won't be too happy about it.

Susan Rice has had a little history of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time before. My guess is that she and Ms. Clinton will be sharing a telephone call soon if what I am asserting is true.

I just can't imagine Hillary Clinton letting someone else announce the apparent policy for US engagement with Iran, especially considering its importance in the current world situation. Iran is one of this administration's foreign policy priorities. Knowing Ms. Clinton, that's not a policy priority she's going to let another handle.

And frankly, that's really not the job of the UN ambassador - an ambassador is policy executor, not a policy formulator (understanding that they would indeed have input concerning the country or organization for which they are an ambassador, but the administration policy for that nation would be the Secretary of State's to execute as delegated by the POTUS).

Can't wait to see how this all shakes out.

Permalink | Comments ( 6 ) | TrackBacks ( 0 ) | Category: Foreign Affairs

Avoiding the financial pain may see bank nationalization
Posted by: McQ
We here at QandO have made the point in the past about how, regardless of anyone's desire, there is going to be pain associated with the financial mess we presently find ourselves in. The question is will an apparent aversion to pain lead government to soften it but extend it at the same time, or do politicians have the fortitude and will to advise us to endure the pain, get it over with and begin the inevitable recovery much more quickly?

As is obvious, it is the former pain aversion formula which seems to be the one our politicians choose. Because even short term but significant pain is likely to cost them their jobs, and, when all is said and done in matters such as these, that is what they end up focusing on.

However, what it means, according to news reports, is something I never thought I'd ever see contemplated, much less seriously considered in my lifetime.

Bank nationalization:
So far, President Obama's top aides have steered clear of the word entirely, and they are still actively discussing other alternatives, including creating a "bad bank" that would nationalize the worst nonperforming loans by taking them off the hands of financial institutions without actually taking ownership of the banks. Others talk of de facto nationalization, in which the government owns a sizeable chunk of the banks but not a majority, with all that connotes.

That has already happened; taxpayers are now the biggest shareholders in Bank of America, with about 6 percent of the stock, and in Citigroup, with 7.8 percent. But the government's influence is far larger than those numbers suggest, because it has guaranteed to absorb the losses of some of the two banks' most toxic assets, a figure that could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Many believe this form of hybrid ownership - part government, part private, with the responsibilities of ownership unclear - will not prove workable.

"The case for full nationalization is far stronger now than it was a few months ago," said Adam S. Posen, the deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "If you don't own the majority, you don't get to fire the management, to wipe out the shareholders, to declare that you are just going to take the losses and start over. It's the mistake the Japanese made in the '90s."

"I would guess that sometime in the next few weeks, President Obama and Tim Geithner," he said, referring to the nominee for Treasury secretary, "will have to come out and say, 'It's much worse than we thought,' and just bite the bullet."
I've derisively cited the "Japanese model" repeatedly when discussing this on the blog and podcasts thinking, apparently erroneously, that we'd be smart enough to understand what Japanese government intervention ended up doing to their economy over the past two decades and not repeat that mistake.

Obviously I was wrong. As the government pumps in money in trade for stock in the taxpayers name (even though the taxpayers will never see a nickel of any future returns personally), nationalization becomes a de facto situation.

As the NYT points out, both Lawrence Summers (an Obama economic adviser) and Timothy Geithner (Obama's choice for Sec Treasury) have made the point during the Asian financial crisis of the '90s that governments make "lousy bank managers".

Yet here we have government already hip deep in the banks and heading deeper. And even given the past experience cited, I guess we're expected to believe that in this case, it will all be different.

Of course with de facto or actual nationalization, the entire political game changes. Politicians would have a new vehicle to enable pain aversion by short-circuiting the consequences of irresponsible actions by those who keep them in office:
Moreover, Mr. Obama's advisers say they are acutely aware that if the government is perceived as running the banks, the administration would come under enormous political pressure to halt foreclosures or lend money to ailing projects in cities or states with powerful constituencies, which could imperil the effort to steer the banks away from the cliff.

"The nightmare scenarios are endless," one of the administration's senior officials said.
And, unfortunately, they're only one part of the whole "nightmare sceanrio" this level of government spending and intrusion might bring.
"We told the Asians that they had to be willing to let banks and companies fail," said Jeffrey Garten, a professor at the Yale School of Management and a top official in the Clinton administration. "We warned that there was great moral hazard if governments just bailed them out."

"And now," he said, "we are doing the polar opposite of our advice."
Isn't the definition of insanity trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Permalink | Comments ( 3 ) | TrackBacks ( 3 ) | Category: Economics

Still not getting it
Posted by: McQ
And that includes those getting it and those handing it out:
Beleaguered Citigroup is upgrading its mile-high club with a brand-new $50 million corporate jet - only this time, it's the taxpayers who are getting screwed.

Even though the bank's stock is as cheap as a gallon of gas and it's burning through a $45 billion taxpayer-funded rescue, the airhead execs pushed through the purchase of a new Dassault Falcon 7X, according to a source familiar with the deal.

The French-made luxury jet seats up to 12 in a plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center, according to Dassault's sales literature. It can cruise 5,950 miles before refueling and has a top speed of 559 mph.
Trust me - this is just the most obvious and disgusting example of what is being done with this money everywhere.

While the promised results are not at all evident:
Lending at many of the nation's largest banks fell in recent months, even after they received $148 billion in taxpayer capital that was intended to help the economy by making loans more readily available.

Ten of the 13 big beneficiaries of the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, saw their outstanding loan balances decline by a total of about $46 billion, or 1.4%, between the third and fourth quarters of 2008, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of banks that recently announced their quarterly results.
Consequently, the spending trough is being readied by the new administration for a new infusion of your cash, borrowed cash or printed cash:
Banks and other financial institutions may need more than the $700 billion in public money that has already been approved to repair the nation's feeble credit system, Vice President Biden and congressional Democrats said yesterday.
Your government hard at work on "change".

Permalink | Comments ( 16 ) | TrackBacks ( 0 ) | Category: Economics

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BlogTalk Radio - Tonight 8pm (EST)
Posted by: McQ
Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): Obama's first week, of course and how we see things shaping up in the weeks and months ahead.

Permalink | Comments ( 0 ) | TrackBacks ( 2 ) | Category: Podcasting

In a week Obama magically reduces al Qaeda to only hurling insults
Posted by: McQ
I get a hoot out of things like this. Matt Yglesias:
For years now, liberals have had to put up with basic points about the value of not doing stuff that's hugely unpopular around the world caricatured as the idea that if we just act nicer, al-Qaeda leaders will lay down their arms. The reality, as Joby Warrick reports for The Washington Post is that when American leadership is popular and respect, al-Qaeda keeps on keeping on. But they have a much harder time getting anyone to follow them:
The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate, even desperate, propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. The departure of George W. Bush deprived al-Qaeda of a polarizing American leader who reliably drove recruits and donations to the terrorist group.

With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, experts say: a U.S. president who campaigned to end the Iraq war and to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who polls show is well liked throughout the Muslim world.
Although we're constantly reminded that Obama has only been at this a week, and we should give him a chance, apparently a week is all that is necessary to watch al Qaeda fall apart.

Prattling on, Yglesias says:
The post quotes Paul Pillar, formerly a CIA counterterrorism analyst, as saying that "For al-Qaeda, as a matter of image and tone, George W. Bush had been a near-perfect foil." With Obama, things are different. Or, more to the point, with Obama we get a chance to make things different. Absent the right policies, Obama's appeal will fade. But moving back toward the rule of law, and appointing George Mitchell were steps in the right direction. Moving forward with plans to take our troops out of Iraq will do more.
Obama's appeal has nothing to do one way or the other with the part of the Muslim world from which the Islamic militants recruit their fighters and suicide bombers. Most of them won't know or care who the US president is or what he stands for. They don't care about the rule of law. And the only reason necessary to hate him is the fact he is President of the US. Remember, the 9/11 attackers weren't recruited, trained and deployed after George Bush became president, they were from Clinton's era.

Despite the Yglesias strawman, the reason that al Qaeda has been reduced to shouting insults is they have had their asses kicked for 7 years and have absolutely notihng to show for it. It's not because of a week of Obama that they're reduced to that - its because of that so-called "perfect foil" George Bush and the 24/7 war he waged against them that they're reduced to sitting in caves and shouting their insults.

Permalink | Comments ( 15 ) | TrackBacks ( 2 ) | Category: Terrorism

Friday, January 23, 2009

Traveling tomorrow
Posted by: McQ
Short post, but what a phenomenal trip. Chevron's Kern River oil field (San Joaquin Valley - Bakersfield) is something which simply overwhelms you. It has been in production since the late 1800s (not as an exclusive Chevron property as it is now, but owned by many and producing the entire time) and has pumped 2 billion barrels out of the ground since the first discovery well was drilled way back when.

20 square miles which, at present has 9,600 producing wells, 770 injector wells (I'll cover the steam injection process later) and 660 observation wells (they monitor fluids and heat). Frankly I could write 15 posts about this - the technology, the geology, the history, the maintenance, the cost, the processes, the amount of water they pump to get the oil, you name it. And yes, I managed to actually get some pictures (although, as you'll see it was cloudy and drizzling).

Anyway, good stuff, lots and lots of more info, and hopefully some insight as to the complexity of what it takes to remove heavy oil from the sands in which it is locked, transport it, refine it and get it to that station near you where you eventually pump what used to be some nasty viscous stuff - which at one time was fit only for asphalt and roofing tar - into that fine Lexus you drive.

Great people, information overload, can't wait to get it into some readable form, but I am calling it a night (flight canceled tonight -life happens- so I ended up remaining in Bakersfield) so I can be up bright and early to catch the first thing smokin' out of here.

See ya.

Permalink | Comments ( 5 ) | TrackBacks ( 2 ) | Category: Energy

There are "sweatshops" and then there are sweatshops
Posted by: McQ
Several days ago Nicholas Kristof started a mini-bruhaha when he wrote a piece in the NY Times entitled "Where Sweatshops Are A Dream".

Essentially the gist of the story is don't knock so-called "sweatshops" until you understand their place in various countries. Or, there are places where working in a "sweatshop" is a huge step in the right direction for people.

And no, for you wondering, this isn't a rationalization for all sweatshops. I understand the term, I understand that in some places the conditions are abominable and the workers are virtual slaves.

But read Kristof's piece and you'll understand that where that isn't the case, and where working in what we might consider a sweatshop (because of the low pay, or hours worked, etc) is actually something to which the poor, in places like Cambodia, aspire.

If agriculture averages a wage of .25 an hour and the factory averages a wage of .50 an hour, which place would you rather work if you have a family to feed? And while we may consider the wages to be "slave wages", in relative terms, they're an improvement in the standard of living of the wage earner.

Would I like to make .50 an hour? I couldn't survive here on that wage, because our economy is much more advanced than the economies of third-world countries and that wage won't give me the purchasing power I need to live or even subsist. But in places like Cambodia, relative to the wages being paid there and their purchasing power, not only can they live, but thrive.

That's why you read things like this:
Look, I know that Americans have a hard time accepting that sweatshops can help people. But take it from 13-year-old Neuo Chanthou, who earns a bit less than $1 a day scavenging in the dump. She's wearing a "Playboy" shirt and hat that she found amid the filth, and she worries about her sister, who lost part of her hand when a garbage truck ran over her.

"It's dirty, hot and smelly here," she said wistfully. "A factory is better."
If Neuo Chanthou gets that "factory" job and earns, say, $3 a day, someone tell me she's not better off. That doesn't mean you abandon the fight for better labor standards and other rights for workers, but while you're doing so, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Permalink | Comments ( 21 ) | TrackBacks ( 0 ) | Category: Economics

Is It Kirsten Gillibrand?
Posted by: McQ
Apparently (according to WPIX) Gov. David Patterson has made his choice to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Her name is Kirsten Gillibrand and she's a Congresswoman from upstate NY.
Sources say Gillibrand, a blue-dog Democrat and a good fundraiser, would be an asset to Paterson in any bid for election in 2010. However, since her name has moved high on the list of candidates, there has been criticism of her voting record and of her support of the National Rifle Association.
Color me surprised. Anne Kornblut must have written her piece before the apparent pick was known:
With her abrupt exit this week from consideration for the Senate, Caroline Kennedy added her name to a growing list: women who have sought the nation's highest offices only to face insurmountable hurdles.

Like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin before her, Kennedy illustrated what some say is an enduring double standard in the handling of ambitious female office-seekers. Even as more women step forward as contenders for premier political jobs, observers say, few seem able to get there.
Of course, Palin is thrown in there more in an attempt to keep this from appearing to be a whine than an analysis. But, in fact, Kennedy underwent far less scrutiny and far fewer vicious attacks than did Palin. And those on Kennedy certainly weren't ideologically driven. She simply wasn't ready for prime-time and it showed. That has nothing to do with ceilings - glass or otherwise.

Speaking of ideology, the Village Voice wonders if Gillibrand is "too Republican" for NY:
The irony is that Paterson may be swinging from the nation's most prominent Democratic family to one with strong Republican ties. Gillibrand's father, Doug Rutnik, is an Albany insider and lobbyist whose ties to former GOP powerhouses Joe Bruno, George Pataki and Al D'Amato are legendary. In fact, Gillibrand won her seat when a state police domestic violence report about the GOP incumbent, John Sweeney, was mysteriously leaked, ostensibly with the acquiescence of the Pataki administration, which had its own reasons to oppose Sweeney.
But here's the shocker:
Ironically, Chuck Schumer, who defeated D'Amato in 1998, is said to be Gillibrand's top Democratic champion. What's even more ironic is that Gillibrand has a one hundred percent rating from the National Rifle Association, and Schumer made his own national reputation as a sponsor of the assault weapons ban and a fierce proponent of Brady bill and other gun control legislation. Gillibrand even opposes any limitations on the sale of semiautomatic weapons or "cop-killer" bullets that can pierce armored vests. Schumer's other signature issue is the care and feeding of Wall Street, and Gillibrand voted against both of the Schumer-supported financial service bailout bills last fall, which have delivered billions to New York, salvaging institutions like Citigroup. An editorial in Crain's, the city's premier business news magazine, said recently that Gillibrand "should be disqualified" from seeking the senate seat "by her politically expedient vote" against the bailout.
Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo keeps his appointment for the second fitting of his bridesmaid dress. In the world of state politics, it appear a more conservative (but Democratic) Senator from upstate NY would be more useful to a Paterson gubernatorial run than would a run-of-the-mill liberal Democrat. Besides, NY already has one of those.


Strange bedfellows.


Permalink | Comments ( 6 ) | TrackBacks ( 14 ) | Category: Politics


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