Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Polls against Walker similar to polls against ObamaCare

One of the Kossaks has a post up about the polls showing WI Governor Scott Walker on the wrong end of them as he moves to fix the WI budget and curtail the power of public sector unions.

Poll after poll is telling Scott Walker the same thing: you are on the wrong side of public opinion. While early polling can fool you, we now have substantial data both from the nation and from Wisconsin.

[…]

The bottom line is that Gov. Walker has overplayed his hand with the public. Every Republican governor who is trying to curtail collective bargaining is at risk for being seen by the public as taking rights away, not balancing the budget. That can be done with givebacks (and the public is all for that, especially through negotiation.) But trying to curtail collective bargaining is seen by the public as the power grab it really is. The polls leave no doubt.

My reaction is, “so what”?

I mean I seem to recall poll after poll telling Obama and the Democrats that Americans didn’t want the ObamaCare monstrosity.  But we were reminded that he’d won and elections have consequences.

Is that no longer true?

~McQ

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Welcome to reality–Obama admin prepares for possibility of new Islamist Regimes in Middle East

Apparently the moon pony contingent is slowly fading from prominence in Washington DC and the administration is preparing for what now seems most probable  outcome in the Middle East – the new “post-revolt” regimes may be distinctly “Islamist”.   Note the word – not “Islamic”.  Most of them are that already.  The term used in the Scott Wilson Washington Post column is “Islamist”.  And Williams says:

The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, acknowledging that the popular revolutions there will bring a more religious cast to the region’s politics.

However, apparently they want to diminish any concern by pretending that such an outcome isn’t really that significant:

The administration is already taking steps to distinguish between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between such movements as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Qaeda that will guide the U.S. approach to the region.

"We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of these countries," said a senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal policy deliberations. "It’s the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam."

That speaks to a basic misunderstanding of the role of Islam “in the politics of these countries”.   Unlike Western countries, there is no “separation of church and state” in an Islamic country.   Islam is about politics, governing, the law, you name it.  It is as much a political system as it is a religion.  And that’s why assurances such as those the White House is putting forth here are just not accurate.   The “behavior of political parties and governments” are going to be fundamentally grounded in … Islam.

That takes us to the term “Islamist” which most have used to distinguish the broader religion of Islam to those who have hijacked it and made their version an aggressive theocratic and expansionist version of the religion.  Islamist included the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well as other murderous and anti-Western groups throughout the Middle East.

However, WaPo wants to assure you that it’s just not as bad as you think:

Islamist governments span a range of ideologies and ambitions, from the primitive brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan to Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, a movement with Islamist roots that heads a largely secular political system.

Unmentioned, of course, is Turkey’s new belligerence and aggressiveness toward Israel and its seeming turning away from the West and apparent desire to be a, if not the, power broker in the Middle East.  The “largely secular political system” in Turkey is much less so than it was a decade ago when that party took power and it is likely to be even less so as it retains it.

But, you say, what’s made the administration suddenly take off its rose colored glasses and begin assessing anew the probable outcome of these revolts? 

None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces. An influential Yemeni cleric called this week for the U.S.-backed administration of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced with Islamist rule, and in Egypt, an Islamist theoretician has a leading role in drafting constitutional changes after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power last month.

A number of other Islamist parties are deciding now how big a role to play in protests or post-revolution reforms.

David Warren made the point that no “Walesas or Havels” have emerged in these countries to steer the revolutions down the path of democracy.  And that’s true.  But the Islamist equivalents are emerging – and attempting to subvert the revolutions to their own ends.  And, as Warren points out, they have an advantage:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

They don’t have to do much selling of their vision, they have the institutions and traditions of Islam to turn too and it just isn’t a very big leap from “Islamic” to “Islamist”.  Democracy and freedom, on the other hand, have no such institutions, traditions or leaders to turn too.  So when figuring probability, it is clear which scenario enjoys the most probable outcome.

Having been forced to accept the obvious, don’t expect the administration to give up all its moon ponies.  There will still be plenty of rationalization which ignores the fundamental differences between what “secular” in the West means, and what it means to Islam.   You can expect to see “Islamism” and “Islamist” defined down:

Paul Pillar, a longtime CIA analyst who now teaches at Georgetown University, said, "Most of the people in the intelligence community would see things on this topic very similarly to the president – that is, political Islam as a very diverse series of ideologies, all of which use a similar vocabulary, but all quite different."

Yeah, “Death to Israel” doesn’t mean the same thing in Egypt that is does in Gaza.  And Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban don’t necessarily represent what an “Islamist” regime would look like, do they?   And don’t forget, as they continue to try to throw Turkey around as an example of “not so bad” – Turkey has been slowly changing from a true secular democracy to an Islamist state.  And the change has not been a good one for the interests of the US.

The White House has an internal study that it is studying and is still believing that there are good Islamists and bad Islamists:

The report draws sharp distinctions between the ambitions of the two groups, suggesting that the Brotherhood’s mix of Islam and nationalism make it a far different organization than al-Qaeda, which sees national boundaries as obstacles to restoring the Islamic caliphate.  

The study also concludes that the Brotherhood criticizes the United States largely for what it perceives as America’s hypocritical stance toward democracy – promoting it rhetorically but supporting leaders such as Mubarak.

"If our policy can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, we won’t be able to adapt to this change," the senior administration official said. "We’re also not going to allow ourselves to be driven by fear."

Really?  Have you been watching the timidity with which this President has faced the change in the Middle East and N. Africa?  This sudden equivocation about “Islamists” is a statement of fear.  A firm stand against the Islamist movement taking over any of these countries vs. standing up for secular democratic movements in those lands is evidence of fear.  The equivocation about the word and the accommodation the administration seems ready to make with some “Islamists” says all that needs to be said. 

There’s a reason “Islam” and “Islamist” are defined in a particular way.  What the administration is trying to do is blur those lines substantially in order to make what was and has been unacceptable to the US suddenly acceptable (at least to the degree to which “Islamists” appear “secular” to these rocket-scientists). 

We have been at war with “Islamists” for a couple of decades.   Is this redefinition of “Islamist” the first sign of our capitulation?

~McQ

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February Employment Situation

Once again, the headline unemployment number for February, which droped from 9.0% to 8.9%, hides much weakness in employment, despite the 193k new payroll jobs. Indeed, the BLS’ own U-3 unemployment rate, which is calculated in a similar fashion to mine, increased from 9.8% to 10.4%.

For my methodology, the numbers look like this:

Civilian noninstitutional population: 238,851,000
Historical participation rate: 66.2%
Proper labor force size: 157,641,660
Actually employed: 138,093,000
Actual unemployment rate: 12.4%

At the end of the day, we need another 8 million new jobs to bring us back to full employment.

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How alarmists have hurt their AGW cause

Science is about discovery, the expansion of knowledge, how things work and what that means.  What it is not, or shouldn’t be, is an accessory to politics.  Politics isn’t about any of those things.  Politics is about the application of power to move things in a particular direction.  So when pure science teams up with politics to become advocacy “science” bad things are most likely to happen.

The IPCC report specifically, and climate science in general, are learning that the hard way.  James Taylor, who seems open to the AGW arguments,  asks the salient questions generated by the last IPCC report and subsequent findings.  Using  Godfather II as an analogy, he sets up the point:

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report was as straightforward as Frank Pentangeli’s earlier confession that he had killed on behalf of Michael Corleone. “Milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms,” IPCC reported.

That was in 2001. Now, however, with an unprecedented number of major winter snowstorms hitting the northeastern U.S. during the past two winters, the alarmists are clamming up and changing their tune faster than Tom Hagen can fly in Vincenzo Pentangeli from Italy to aid his brother in his time of trouble.

He’s absolutely right – there was no equivocation in the report.  A leads to B.  They said the same thing about hurricanes – warming would lead to many more and much more powerful storms.  Instead they’re at a historically lower level.   Glaciers, snowcaps, all sorts of predictions have been found to be false.

When James confronted the IPCC on this, he got the sort of mushy answer you might expect:

During the question and answer portion of the UCS press conference, I quoted the IPCC Third Assessment Report and asked Masters and Serreze if they were saying IPCC was wrong on the science.

“I would say that we always learn,” replied Serreze. “Have we learned a great deal since the IPCC 2001 report? I would say yes, we have. Climate science, like any other field, is a constantly evolving field and we are always learning.”

Really?  What happened to “the debate is over” and “the science is settled”?

For years, alarmists have claimed “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.” Well, when was the science settled? When global warming would allegedly cause Himalayan glaciers to melt by 2035, or now that it won’t? When global warming would allegedly cause fewer heavy snow events, or now that it will allegedly cause more frequent heavy snow events?

You can’t have it both ways and have it be called “science” can you?

~McQ

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TSA screens people AFTER they get off train?

This allegedly happened at the “Savannah train station” (I assume that means Savannah GA), after passengers had come OFF the train on Feb. 13, 2011:

Here’s a description [sic] of what you’re seeing  from the person who uploaded the video:

The only bad thing on our trip was TSA was at the Savannah train station. There were about 14 agents pulling people inside the building and coralling everyone in a roped area AFTER you got OFF THE TRAIN! This made no sense!!! Poor family in front of us! 9 year old getting patted down and wanded. They groped our people too and were very unprofessional. I am all about security, but when have you ever been harassed and felt up getting OFF a plane? Shouldnt they be doing that getting ON??? And they wonder why so many people are mad at them.

Make sense to you?

[HT: Me Again]

~McQ

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Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera shaming US Media

In a defense of the State Department budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says “we are in an information war and we’re losing that war”.

Further, Clinton claimed that the private media isn’t up to the task of winning it saying, “Our private media cannot fill that gap”.

The message – we need more money for government propaganda and media.

Interestingly she then goes on to cite a private media network as “winning”:

"Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up a global English language and multi-language television network, the Russians have opened up an English language network. I’ve seen it in a couple of countries and it’s quite instructive."

There is a place (and need) for government propaganda and it isn’t on a private media network (although in some cases you’d be hard pressed to believe that given that some of our private news networks seem to be entities dedicated to the unquestioning republishing of government press releases).  So propaganda operations should be conducted via government means – many of which are in place today.

Clinton seems to be calling for a government news network to compete with other government news networks (Russian and Chinese).  Yet she uses Al Jazeera as the example of who is winning the information war.

Al Jazeera is kicking butt in the coverage of the Middle East and N. Africa.   If you haven’t checked out their live blogs, you’re missing the inside scoop.  For instance did you know that Hugo Chavez has offered to mediate the crisis in Libya and Gadhafi has accepted (I’m not sure what that means, since there is no mention of the other side in this mediation, but still).

But Clinton is doing a little bait and switch – Al Jazeera (private) is kicking the US (private) media’s rear when it comes to ME coverage, the US media (private) is not up to the job, therefore we need more money to set up a government outlet (what?). 

Yeah, nothing could go wrong with that, could it?  

And again, more government (and more spending) is the answer to a perceived private sector deficit (Al Jazeera is located in the ME – that’s their beat).

Of course all of this sort of depends on how you define the function of a news organization, doesn’t it?   Sounds to me that Ms. Clinton thinks they should be “aiding and abetting” government in the functions it deems important – like propaganda.  And they should be covering the stories she deems important.  She’s not at all pleased with how the media here has covered the news in the Middle East apparently.

And then there was this little nugget:

“Our private media, particularly cultural programming often works at counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans. I remember having an Afghan general tell me that the only thing he thought about Americans is that all the men wrestled and the women walked around in bikinis because the only TV he ever saw was Baywatch and World Wide Wrestling."

So because some Afghan general prefers to see grown men wrestle and beautiful women prance around in bikinis, our private media is deficient and presents a picture that is at "counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans". Sounds like someone really, really, really wants a government propaganda channel set up so we can present what we "truly are as Americans". My bet, though, is that Afghan general will still be watching wrestling and bikinis when all is said and done … and spent.

~McQ

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Harry Reid and the drive to preserve the big government “status quo”

Who are the reactionaries and who are the revolutionaries (progressives?) now?  Senate minority leader Harry Reid sure sounds like the reactionary:

At a Capitol Hill Press conference to announce that the Senate had agreed to a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through March 18th, Reid was asked about GOP plans to eliminate the Home Affordable Modification Program–a program that has permanently modified nearly 600,000 loans since its inception.

“Why can’t they work on things that help the economy?” Reid asked. “Why do they have to work on things that hurt the economy? Why would they want to eliminate a program like that? Just because it came from the White House? This is hard for me to understand why they’re so fixated on destroying our government, our economy.”

What he’s talking about is the Home Affordable Mortgage Program or HAMP.  Earth to Reid — we can’t afford stuff like that anymore … not that we ever could.  And besides, it isn’t a function of government.

But Reid is convinced, as are many of his colleagues, that it is the job of government to redistribute wealth and use other people’s money to rescue those who’ve gotten themselves into a financial bind (through no fault of the “other people”).  And, of course, there’s this:

The Treasury Department had set aside $75 billion for the program,the administration promised would prevent 3-4 million foreclosures by helping people modify the terms of their loans. As of December 521,000 mortgages had been modified. That an abysmal record. But worse still is the fact that some money from HAMP has been diverted to other housing programs that are doing an even worse job of helping people stay in their homes.

"About $8.1 billion was set aside to enable certain borrowers who are current on their mortgage to refinance into Federal Housing Administration loans if their homes are worth less than what is owed on the mortgage. About 44 loans have been closed under that program." Did you get that? HAMP was poorly designed in that it was supposed to subsidize those who were delinquent on their mortgage payments, but at least some money was diverted to "help" those who were actually paying their way.

Another in  a long line of wasteful programs modified on the fly to do things not approved originally.  And that may be some sort of record – $8.1 billion and only closed 44 loans?  If you think “created or saved jobs” cost a lot, do that math.    It wasn’t the only diversion from the original program:

Another $7.6 billion was reallocated to emergency mortgage relief payments to unemployed workers in some states. The other program targeted by Republicans helps communities buy and redevelop foreclosed properties.

And there’s more.  Says an expert:

Julia Gordon, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, said killing the entire lineup of foreclosure prevention when tens of thousands of homes are lapsing into foreclosure each month makes no sense. "If something is not working well enough, you fix it," Gordon said. "You don’t just toss it out."

How about if something isn’t working well at all and it costs money you can’t afford Ms. Gordon?  What if it isn’t something government should be involved in – at least by the Constitution most of us were taught in school?  That’s one of our problems, Ms. Gordon – we create these wasteful bureaucratic programs and never kill them off when they’re found to be useless or costing far more than anticipated.   It is time to kill this turkey.

A $75 billion dollar boondoggle that should be cut and all we get from the reactionary Democrats and “experts” with a vested interest in continuing the farce is a fact free emotion laden argument about hurting the economy and destroying government?

Get a grip Mr. Reid.

~McQ

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Islam, the Middle East and ruthlessness

Reading through Martin Walker’s Feb. 28th piece for UPI about the unrest in the Middle East and N. Africa, I found this interesting:

That heady early talk of an Arab spring and a democratic flowering across the Arab world now seems distinctly premature. It is going to be much more difficult, and much more complicated, as the Europeans found when they started turning back thousands of Tunisians looking for jobs and opportunities in Europe rather than staying home to enjoy the new freedoms.

Beyond the unpleasant endgame of the Gadhafi regime, there are three predictable crises yet to come in North Africa. The first will be the question of food shortages and subsidies in Egypt, where the price of bread has been kept artificially low for decades at a cost of more than $3 billion a year. (The Mubarak government spent more on its various subsidies than it did on health and education.)

Egypt’s new government faces a tough dilemma. It cannot afford the subsidies but nor can it afford the popular outrage among the poor if it tried to end them.

The second crisis will come when business returns to normal and 30 percent of Egyptians and Tunisians in their 20s remain unemployed and a new class of graduates emerges to join them. They will demand government jobs. The government will try to comply but the government has no money. Money will be borrowed and printed. Inflation will result.

The third crisis will be more a problem of U.S. domestic politics but it will have grave implications for Egypt. It concerns Israel. The new Egyptian government, whatever its politics, will find it difficult to be quite as accommodating to Israel as Mubarak used to be. In particular, it will find it politically very unpopular to maintain the siege of Gaza.

His point, of course, is while there are many other problems attendant to any forced overthrow of a government, there are some others that will likely manifest themselves that will put even more stress and pressure on compromise governments (by the way, whatever happened to ElBaradei in Egypt?).

In fact, the new Prime Minister of Tunisia’s latest government just stepped down over dissatisfaction that change wasn’t coming fast enough.  So as hard as putting some form of government together that can quickly take the reins and effect the changes that the protesters have said they want, there are other externalities, beside a lack of history or tradition with a free form of government, that may sabotage their efforts.

As most pundits are now saying – after the initial orgy of opinions claiming this was nothing short of the flowering of democracy in some very arid land – we’re “early” into all of this. That’s called “walking it back”.   Now that the heady days of nonsensical optimism have passed, more sober analysis is becoming prevalent.  And, as one might expect, many are looking back into history to find a clue to what may happen in these countries.

Lo and behold, some are finding some fairly disturbing examples and principles that seem they may apply themselves to these particular situations.  For instance, as David Warren reminds us, the “most ruthless usually triumph”.   And our history is rife with examples.

A couple of points from Warren’s piece.  First ruthless doesn’t just apply to those who rise in opposition to the current government.  A recent example:

It does not follow, from the fact everyone is hooting, that Moammar Gadhafi will fall. He might, tomorrow, for all I know, or all anyone knows who is not clairvoyant. But as I recall, Saddam Hussein did not fall after the Gulf War of 1991. And the comparison is instructive. Every part of Iraq not directly attached to him through extended family and tribal networks (so tightly that they would share his fate) rose against him. And the world, beginning with the United States, was then as now urging his opponents on.

Saddam endured plenty of defections. Eventually, even "no fly zones" were established, to stop him from using airplanes and helicopters against the general population. But by the time these could be declared, and enforced, he had broken the back of the insurrection, and needed ground force only.

Saddam’s consistent policy was to be more ruthless than any potential rival. He slaughtered people by the tens of thousands to retain power, on that occasion alone. And that was not the only occasion on which his power was challenged. The casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, that continued eight years from September 1980, may never be adequately counted. Mixed in with them were huge numbers from his own side that Saddam massacred "pour encourager les autres." Millions of Iraqis found themselves being minced between two satanic giants: the other, of course, being Ayatollah Khomeini.

Gadhafi is also ruthless.

Loony as a cartoon character, but certainly ruthless.  That sort of ruthlessness obviously has a value to the person or organization that uses it – it provides a means to keep or take power.

Ruthlessness can come in many guises, but it essentially means letting nothing stand in the way of attaining an ultimate goal.  Whether it is in politics, sports or revolution, the most ruthless in the pursuit of their goal usually triumphs.  And that’s regardless of whether or not you agree with their methods. 

So Libya has descended into unspeakable violence.  But I’d guess few would believe anyone more ruthless than Gadhafi (and his family) exits there – but there may very well be.

Which takes us to part II of this.  Why do some nations who go through the throes of this sort of revolutionary change find it within themselves to create a more free and democratic society while others fall into even more and greater tyranny than before?  Warren’s theory:

We should grasp, for instance, that the American Revolution was almost unique in history, for ending so well. We should also grasp why. It was, from beginning to end, under the leadership of highly civilized men, governed by a conception of liberty that was restrained and mature. George Washington commanded, in his monarchical person, the moral authority to stop the cycle of reprisals by which revolutions descend into "eating their own." Nelson Mandela achieved something similar in South Africa.

Alternatively, a whole society -I am thinking here of the nations of Central Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall -may be so exhausted by revolutionary squalor that they long for return to "normal" life and have constitutional orders in their own, historically recent past, available as models. But even they needed Walesas and Havels.

Where such men exist, they are visible at any distance, from the start. Nowhere in the Arab world -and particularly not in Egypt, its centre of gravity -can such leaders be detected; only ridiculous pretenders. Nor do the conditions exist for wise statesmen to emerge. Nor have any of the Arab states a stable constitutional order to look back upon. Tyranny begets tyranny.

Certainly there are many shades and flavors of tyranny, and a nation may even lessen the hold its tyranny without actually ending it.  But as Warren observes, there are no real leaders emerging (at least not yet) that one could label, at least in the way Westerners would, that could be considered “highly civilized men” imbued with a sense of liberty that is “restrained and mature”. 

Instead, given the area, the culture, the history, we see this as what will likely emerge:

As we should surely have observed by now, whether or not the Islamists command Arab "hearts and minds," they are not only the best organized force, but the most ruthless. They are also in possession of the simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated "vision."

Islam, in whatever form, shape or flavor is the common thread of these revolutions.   As I’ve mentioned before, what is considered a “moderate” in most of these countries would be viewed, were he a Christian, as a fundamentalist in most other places. The inclusion of Islam into the everyday lives of the people is as natural as breathing.  They take for granted it will be an essential part of any government they form.

There are no Walesas and Havels in those countries.  There are Imams and Ayatollahs who fill that function.  And, as Warren points out, the vision they present is indeed the “simplest, most plausible, most easily communicated vision” of all of them, to include secular representative democracy. 

They also fulfill the other two historical requirements to take power  – they’re the best organized and, as we’ve seen in many other places, the most ruthless.

~McQ

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Gas prices, economics and politics

Gallup tells us that economic confidence has slumped sharply in the past two week due mainly to the spike in gas prices driven by the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Funny how that works, no?  Gas prices go up, economic confidence goes down.  And the rest of that goes “economic confidence goes down, incumbents suffer”.

So you’d think smart politicians would want to ensure that they’ve done everything they could to ensure gasoline prices remain as low as possible.

You’d think.   But that’s not exactly what has happened here, is it?  We’re now in the 10th month of a drilling moratorium imposed by this administration, so there’s really no immediate or impending increases in production domestically that could help ease this, is there?

Says Gallup:

The slump in confidence is likely tied to gas prices, which have risen sharply amid growing political instability in the Middle East, most notably in Libya. The U.S. Department of Energy reported an increase in gas prices from an average $3.14 per gallon nationwide during the week ending Feb. 14 to $3.38 this past week. In addition, news media focus on the challenges governments are having in passing budgets may also affect Americans’ perceptions of the economy.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index comprises two measures — one assessing consumers’ views of current economic conditions and another measuring their perceptions of whether the economy is getting better or worse. Both components are more negative than they were two weeks ago, but most of the change has come from increasingly pessimistic expectations about the economy’s direction.

The pessimism is being driven by the understanding that we haven’t the means to effect the problem nor have we done anything in the interim to improve our ability to effect the problem.  In other words, we’re more at the mercy of foreign oil now than we were when this administration took office.

Secretary Salazar has been on a vendetta against oil, using the unusual but certainly horrific accident on the Deep Horizon platform, to effectively shut down a critical portion of the domestic oil industry.  It has cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars (not only to the industry but to the government in the form of royalties and taxes).   Rigs which were scheduled to be deployed in the Gulf before the moratorium are now deploying elsewhere.  It costs millions for companies when oil drilling rigs sit idle.  So they’re off to do what – exploit foreign oil fields.  And they most likely won’t be back in Gulf waters anytime soon.

The point, of course, is the entire energy situation in the US is being badly mishandled by the incumbent administration.  And while they sit and fiddle, we become less and less able to effect world pricing for oil because our capability has been hamstrung by a government and bureaucracy that is basically antagonistic to fossil fuels.

That’s a risk, especially in these economic times.  If the economy is still in this sort of shape, pessimism still holds the majority in consumer confidence and gas prices hang around the $3.50 range, even some of the so-called front runners in the GOP at this point might be able to squeak out a win.  And it would most likely, as Charlie Cook predicts anyway, mean a tough election for Congressional Democrats in both houses.

Gasoline isn’t going to go down anytime soon as the unrest continues to roil the ME and N Africa.  And if something happens in Saudi Arabia, all bets are off.  But it is interesting to see how quickly the price of one commodity – albeit a critical commodity – can turn sunshine to gloom with the public.  It is something to watch going forward.

~McQ

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Kinsley restores my belief in the irony impaired left

Michael Kinsley goes on a bit of a tear about states subsidizing the film industry in an LA Times piece.  Kinsley is just flat upset that states are giving way subsidies to “millionaires”.  Frankly, I don’t think government should be subsidizing any industry.  But back to Kinsley:

Government, in order to work, must be a monopoly. The appeal of the movie industry to beleaguered state treasurers, in addition to its glamour, is its mobility. There are no huge factories. Regardless of where the movie is supposedly set, it can be shot almost anywhere. And it will employ locals and spend money.

But mobility giveth and mobility taketh away. Pit the states against one another and the subsidies will inevitably become more generous and less effective at the same time.

The same logic applies when the competition is foreign. True, we might tire of having to watch film after film often implausibly set in Vancouver. But in any attempt to outbid Canada for the privilege of hosting a movie shoot, even a successful effort will be self-defeating.

"Governors and legislatures should call ‘cut!’ on cynical efforts to kill forward-looking incentive programs for film and TV production, in New Mexico and in all other states," Richardson says.

"Cynical" is an odd word to describe people (and there aren’t many) who want deeply indebted state governments to stop forgoing billions in tax revenue in the futile effort to entice the movie business to make its next western in Erie, Penn., or wherever.

Whatever indeed.  I don’t disagree.  For once I can give Kinsley kudos. 

Well, almost.   In the same article he says, talking about Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico (and the “Richardson” quoted above):

Richardson might well be a candidate for one of the "respected elder statesman" seats that come open every generation (sort of an American version of the British House of Lords, only chosen by the media instead of the government), bringing with them memberships of prestigious commissions, offers of ambassadorships, opportunities to express concern on "Charlie Rose" or the PBS "NewsHour" shows (if those institutions manage to survive the current Republican onslaught) and so on.

Yes, you caught it.  He’s talking about the subsidy the Federal government gives the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a multi-million dollar corporation that helps fund PBS, another multi-million dollar tax subsidized entity.

Irony – still a mystery to much of the left.

Next Kinsley will be urging us to buy a book on how to save the trees.

~McQ

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