Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Romney rolls like an orange - It's looking like a 15% lead in Florida for Mitt Romney over Newt, who had a terrible debate and then a sputtering week of campaigning.  The Speaker will forge on but watch the money and endorsements start rolling out for Mitt this week.
Put it on the tab - In an article about Obama running on the auto bailout, this salient fact doesn't appear until (almost) the end: "The Treasury Department estimates the government will lose more than $23 billion on the auto bailout."  I guess everything's a big success (e.g. "stimulus") when you don't care how much it costs.
Pretty soon you're talking about real money

The CBO estimates yet another trillion-plus deficit for fiscal year 2012.  Sorry, kids.

Extra - Hot Air: "Who's up for another trillion-dollar deficit?"  My question is: why isn't Warren Buffet's secretary paying her fair share in taxes?

But wait!  There's less.  The Hill: "The office also projected the jobless rate would rise to 8.9 percent by the end of 2012, and to 9.2 percent in 2013."

Old and busted: "If I don't have this fixed in three years, it will be a one-term proposition"
Everything old is new again: "It's Bush's fault!"

More - Commentary: "America's Lost Decade continues."  Get ready for 1.1% growth in 2013.

And this - Opinion Journal: "$5 trillion and change"  "Obama's four years have seen the four highest deficits since 1946."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Having solved all its problems, California turns to other issues - The Truth About Cars: "California Volt drivers get carpool lane access" "Starting in March, the Chevrolet Volt will be eligible to use the HOV lane on California highways. The catch? You have to buy a new Volt to use the carpool lane."  D'oh!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm afraid to go to Free Republic

I'll admit it: once a day or so I'll head over to Free Republic for the (right-wing) news.  But lately it's turned into the Newt Gingrich fan/Mitt Romney-bashing club.  Similarly, there are conservative bloggers I greatly respect who have gone whole-hog for Gingrich - and then I wonder if there's something wrong with me.

Maybe it's the engineer in me but I look at the problem at hand and wonder "what is the solution?"  The problem as I see it is Barack Obama who has put this country deep into a chasm of debt, forced Obamacare on an unwilling nation, and resorted to a divisive and cynical policy of class warfare.  Mitch McConnell was not wrong when he said our #1 priority should be ejecting Obama from office - a whiner who has never had to do the real work of creating jobs or passing legislation by building coalitions.  It's little wonder he wants Congress to just follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.

So do I want Romney?  Anybody who has followed this blog knows I went all King Lear death scene on him months ago.  (Too obscure?)  But if the GOAL is to defeat Obama, then the perfect is the enemy of the good. USA Today is reporting that in a swing-state poll, Romney would (barely) defeat Obama and likely win the White House.  On the flip side, Gingrich would lose by 14 points - not even close and none of the active candidates has a worse gap.  Under what imaginable scenario do the Gingrich supporters suppose Americans would rally behind a consummate Washington insider who has lobbied for Fannie Mae?  I don't get it.

Make no mistake: I would have preferred Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty or Chris Christie or Paul Ryan or Scott Walker atop the ticket.  But this is what we got and if Romney has the best chance of reaching our goal then, well, he's the best we have.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Report in haste, repent at leisure - Politico: "Reuters laments Marco Rubio 'fiasco'."
Meanwhile in Europe - Zero Hedge is reporting that Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel thinks Greece will default.  Man the watertight doors.
How about those savings...oops, they're gone - Mark Steyn "The State of our Union is broke": "The president certainly had facts and figures at his disposal. He boasted that his regulatory reforms “will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.” Wow. Ten billion smackeroos! That’s some savings — and in a mere half a decade! Why, it’s equivalent to what the government of the United States borrows every 53 hours."

Friday, January 27, 2012

I think you're confused about the adjective "new"

The Hill: "Dems embrace new strategy on taxes"
Democratic leaders are embracing a new strategy for tax reform that leans on President Obama's State of the Union call for tax fairness and economic equality.
The new strategy diverges from the 1986 formula, the last time Washington successfully tackled tax reform, and focuses on raising tax revenue from the wealthiest taxpayers and businesses that funnel jobs offshore.
So instead of trying to broaden the tax base to increase revenues, we have this political strategy that is sure to go nowhere fast.  As for punishing those outsourcing companies, Hit & Run covered that one: "Obama's daft plan to insource jobs back to America."

Aside from the bogus case for tax "fairness" do Americans really understand the magnitude of our debt problem?  Scaling back the Bush tax cuts will produce an extra $70-80 billion in revenue a year, or about what we're borrowing every three weeks.  The 30% millionaires surtax is a laughable drop in the bucket and one that can be easily sidestepped by people like Bill Gates who earn their compensation in Microsoft stock.

Speaking of Bill Gates, did you hear what that awful miser did with his filthy lucre?  He's a monster.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Misty water-colored memories - The other night, during the State of the Union address, I was taken by Obama's nostalgia for the post-WWII economy and the credulous belief we can re-create the prosperity of the Eisenhower years.  In fact, I texted my buddy: "We really beat the heck out of the Chinese economy...in 1953."  Megan McArdle clearly had the same impression: "The President's Nostalgianomics."
Yikes - National Review: "Dole goes nuclear" on Gingrich.  Not a fan.
It's a brand-new day - Zero Hedge: "America has a $16.4 trillion debt ceiling."  You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The more things hope and change the more they remain the same

Keep in mind that a good chunk of these promises and proposals were made when Obama had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress.  Yet he couldn't even get a vote on, for example, cutting off those oil company "tax breaks."  It's all populist smoke and mirrors.

Extra - Here's Cato with more info on corporate taxes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Did I miss something? - Did Obama say a single word about the out-of-control national debt?  Not a whisper on the issue that animated the 2010 midterms?  Wow.

Update - Ah, I see: he was leaving that part for Mitch Daniels.  And, boy, is he laying out the daunting numbers.
Take that, Standard and Poors! - "Anybody who says America is in decline is a poopy-head!"  I may have paraphrased there.
Don't call it class warfare - "Hey, do you know who should pay for the government? Somebody else."  Or, as I like to say: robbing Peter to pay Paul will always have the enthusiastic support of Paul.
Crazy for caulking - How many times over the past three years have we heard about all the cash we can save in homes and factories if we'd just lay down more insulation?  Talk about small ball - Master Lock small.
Charlotte, Raleigh, Orlando - Hmmmm....there are a lot of proposals that just happen to be in swing states.
Smoot Hawley 2 - Electric Bugaloo!  1-2-3-4: Obama declares a trade war!
Apple cares about Jobs

NY Times: "Apple's Jobs to Obama: "Jobs aren't coming back to U.S.'"

Fox Business: "Apple 1Q results blow past street views, shares surge."
Prepare to be disappointed, America - Hot Air: "Gallup: Americans want specifics in tonight's speech."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fuhgeddaboudit - TTAC: "Chevrolet dealers reject Volt allocation."
SOTU cliche betting - The UK betting site PaddyPower is taking bets on the first cliche used by Obama in tomorrow night's State of the Union address.  As it stands "We have more work to do" is the current favorite at 8-1 while "Life is like a box of chocolates" is running in last place at 225-1.

Exact wording is required so that disqualifies my straw-man entry of "Some people say (extreme position) while others say (opposite extreme position) but I say (rational moderate course)."

I may have to fall back on the high/low for variations of "fairness."  I'm going with 18.
Release the drones!

I get the impression that Conor Friedersdorf's rundown of Team Obama's pseudo-legal excesses in the War on Terror might have struck a nerve at the White House because now AG Eric Holder is going to ride the lectern and explain why the remote-control killing of (American, regrettably) Anwar al-Awlaki was A-OK.

Tom Maguire can't wait: "I absolutely cannot wait."  Yeah, I said that.
Excellent.  The same chap who thought that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (as we do routinely with US soldiers and airmen in training) represented a loss of America's soul will now explain why whacking disagreeable Americans on a one-off basis is acceptable.  Maybe in the same speech he will explain his plans to close Gitmo (another blot on our national character) while preserving all of its capabilites at Bagram.  The Niemann media watchdogs just can't figure out why this is being ignored by Big Media, although any righty could explain it.
Cue. The. Laughtrack.
I guess just like "only Nixon can go to China" now it's "only Obama can have indefinite detention."  Nobel Peace Prize and all that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The deep, deep debt - NY Times: "The dangerous notion that debt doesn't matter."
Saturday poetry - I had an English professor who was a great fan of Richard Wilbur.  So it was surprisingly delightful to find one of his poems over at Maggie's Farm this morning.
Take a guess which state has the worst credit rating.  Nope, guess again. - Hot Air: "Illinois gets downgraded by Moody's."
I'm no big fan of Romney - But for heaven's sake, Republicans, are you really going to tank the nomination for Newt?  Washington Examiner: "America hates Newt Gingrich."  There is no way a guy thirty points underwater can win this election.

I was a Tim Pawlenty man at the start and I would have loved to see Mitch Daniels in the race.  But nominating Gingrich is punching Obama's ticket for four more years of awfulness.

Extra - What John Hinderaker said.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ho-hum, so there's this again - Megan McArdle: "CBO report: Medicare pilot programs don't control health care costs."  Remember that these Medicare adjustments were supposed to save us enough money to fund Obamacare.
Keystone Kop-out

Here's Robert Samuelson: "Rejecting the Keystone pipeline is an act of insanity"
By law, Obama’s decision was supposed to reflect “the national interest.” His standard was his political interest. The State Department had spent three years evaluating Keystone and appeared ready to approve the project by year-end 2011. Then the administration, citing opposition to the pipeline’s route in Nebraska, reversed course and postponed a decision to 2013 — after the election.
Now, reacting to a congressional deadline to decide, Obama rejected the proposal. But he also suggested that a new application with a modified Nebraska route — already being negotiated — might be approved, after the election. So the sop tossed to the environmentalists could be temporary. The cynicism is breathtaking.
The WashPost editorial page reached pretty much the same conclusion: "Obama's Keystone pipeline rejection is hard to accept."

Extra - Weekly Standard: "Obama's revealing pipeline decision."
Dog bites man: Obama blames somebody else for something

This time's a little different: after some of the most fawning media coverage in the history of the Republic, Obama has declared that - gosh darn it - it's not sycophantic enough.  Politico: "Obama blames press for his 'cold and aloof' image."

Extra - Ace senses disappointment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Citizens United debate - The Volokh Conspiracy asks if Congress could pass a law to prevent Google from advocating for or against an issue, like its anti-SOPA campaign today, if corporations are not afforded First Amendment rights.
Not granted certiorari yet - Hit & Run: "Will the Supreme Court end New York's rent control laws?" "After losing various legal battles at lower levels, Harmon has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his argument that rent stabilization is a form of takings that should be prohibited under the Constitution."
Obama tells another Presidential commission: "Drop dead"

Here's the Hill yesterday afternoon: "Obama's jobs council report says 'drill'":
President Obama’s jobs council called Tuesday for an “all-in approach” to energy policy that includes expanded oil-and-gas drilling as well as expediting energy projects like pipelines.
“[W]e should allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal opportunities on federal lands,” states the year-end report released Tuesday by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
The report does not specifically mention the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but it endorses moving forward quickly with projects that “deliver electricity and fuel,” including pipelines.
And now today from the WashPost: "Obama administration to reject Keystone pipeline."  Well, at least he was decisive this time instead of letting the group's recommendations wither on the vine like the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission.

Extra - Minuteman: "Jobs and energy independence for Americans - the greens will never get behind this."

More - From Q&O.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Honestly, the Pontiac Aztek should be the center square - From The Truth About Cars: "Bored on a long trip? Bad Car Bingo!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Return of the Drachma - I heard this story on NPR this morning about how if Greece is thrown out of the Eurozone, they're going to have to revert back to their own currency and this could be catastrophic for Greek businesses, especially those that import from other countries.  Greeks don't want to pay for their government but they hate austerity also.  This is all leading towards a predictable conclusion.
Martin Luther King Jr. day - In which we celebrate the unity and equality of all Americans, but really Democrats.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Everybody talks about income inequality, but nobody does anything about it

Over at the New Republic, they're highlighting a presentation by the White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger about how income inequality and income mobility appear to be correlated.  Timothy Noah laments: "If we don't get growth in income inequality under control" well, bad things will happen.

OK, let's accept the premise that flattening incomes spreads out economic opportunity.  Therefore we should attack the main cause of inequality.  Helpfully, figure #9 of Krueger's presentation lists "Causes of higher inequality."  The main reason for income inequality, with an impact three times larger than the next closest factor ("other and unknown") is "Technological change."

In other words: computers and robots.  What can be done to reverse this, short of a modern-day techno-Luddite movement?  People really seem to like their IPads.
Adjective trouble at the NY Times

How does the Times get from paragraph 1:
President Obama on Friday announced an aggressive campaign to shrink the size of the federal government, a proposal less notable for its goal - the fight against bloat has been embraced by every modern-day president - than for the political challenge it poses to a hostile Congress.
...to paragraph 3...
The White House estimated that the consolidation would save $3 billion over 10 years and result in reductions of 1,000 to 2,000 jobs. The savings is a mere rounding error in the $3.7 trillion annual budget, but the numbers may be less important than the message that Mr. Obama wants to cut wasteful spending.
...without somebody in the news room laughing out loud?

Calling this an "aggressive" campaign is an insult to the English language, or aggressiveness, or both.  Tom Elia does the math:
So, according to the Times' reporters, President Obama's proposed annual cut of $300 million to a $3.7 trillion budget, amounting to a cut of about 0.0081% -- or less than than one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent -- constitutes "an aggressive campaign to shrink the size of the federal government."
To put this in perspective, it's such an infinitesimal amount that it's like saying "I'm going on a diet" then cutting off a toenail.  Bold and aggressive!  Maybe these are these new "facts" I've been hearing about.

(For the record: Tom went overboard with "one tenths" but his percentage is correct.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Not hiring - Via the Grumpy Economist, here's Hungarian Jakab Andor explaining why "This is why I don't give you a job."  There's some politically incorrect stuff at the start but it boils down to the fact that the government in Hungary takes slightly more than half of the money an employer needs to outlay for an employee.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The refutation that proves the point

There's a lot of buzz today about the New York Times' "public editor" wondering if journalists should be a truth squad instead of just reporters.  My reaction was the same as the Minuteman: as long as the "truth to power" only goes in one direction, the readership at the NY Times will be docile as sheep.

But then crusty James Fallows had to go and prove the point.  Why of course journalists should challenge the "facts" and here's his example:
For an "it even happens at NPR" real-world example, consider a report last month on what's gone wrong with Congress. It quoted Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, who with straight face mourned the unpredictability of today's politics: "Washington needs to stop adding confusion and more uncertainty to people's lives." 
With a straight face, NPR let Cantor get away with that...that...lie!  It couldn't possibly be that the House majority leader was referring to the uncertainty of going almost 1000 days without a budget from the Senate.  Or the uncertainty of continuing resolutions because the President's budget was unanimously rejected by the same budget-less Senate.  Or that big question mark hanging over our heads as to whether the rating agencies will issue another downgrade because of our ever-rising debt.  Or the endless slog of this jobless recovery after blowing through almost a trillion in "stimulus" cash.

The reason why NPR didn't ask Cantor about "uncertainty" is because he would have told them.

Bonus - Doug Ross: "Fun coincidence: Obama's SOTU address will mark 1,000 days without Democrats passing a budget."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Twilight of the Twinkie

Wall Street Journal: "Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies, preparing for Chapter 11 filing."

Tallahassee is not amused.
The agony of de-Ricks - Santorum and Perry are bringing up the rear in the New Hampshire primary.  A write-in vote for Stephen Colbert could beat Perry at this point.

Extra - Instapundit: "“Old tea-party goal: Stop Romney from winning the nomination. New tea-party goal: Stop Romney from winning all 50 primaries. Heart-ache,” Allahpundit quips at Hot Air, with a round-up of early results. What is unexpected is the truly dismal showing from Rick Perry. Only one percent?"


More - CNN says there was record turnout for the primary tonight.  Here's why: "Early exit poll data showed that nearly seven out of 10 Republican voters in the state were very worried about the economy and their personal financial situation."

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tebow! - What a finish.  This was - by far - the best football game this weekend.
Situation principles at the Times - Lest I give the Times too much credit, the Minuteman notes that their positions are entirely dependent on the party in the White House: "The Times on Obama's recess appointments - the Republicans made him do it."  "For example, we are offered the assurance that, even though Harry Reid invented the pro forma sesion in order to thwart Bush during 2007/08, it has only become a problem lately."  Imagine that.
The Obamas join the Tea Party

Fox News: "White House hosted 'Wonderland'-themed extravagant Hollywood Halloween bash."
In October 2009, the national unemployment rate was 10 percent, a national health care plan was at the center of debate over the cost of entitlements in an indebted nation and bank bailouts had launched a brand new political movement called the Tea Party.
So when the White House decided to host an extravagant, Hollywood-created Halloween Party decorated by Tim Burton and featuring Johnny Depp in his Mad Hatter role from Burton's acclaimed "Alice in Wonderland," the event was deliberately held on the down-low.
Bonus: this report comes from New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.  Chewbacca was unavailable for comment.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Thou shalt not covet

Here's the conclusion to George Will's article: "Government: the redistributionist behemoth"
Try a thought experiment suggested decades ago by University of Chicago law professors Walter Blum and Harry Kalven in their 1952 essay “The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation,” published in their university’s law review. Suppose society’s wealth trebled overnight without any change in the relative distribution among individuals. Would the unchanged inequality at higher levels of affluence decrease concern about inequality?
Surely not: The issue of inequality has become more salient as affluence has increased. Which suggests two conclusions:
People are less dissatisfied by what they lack than by what others have. And when government engages in redistribution in order to maximize the happiness of citizens who become more envious as they become more comfortable, government becomes increasingly frenzied and futile.
The populist/class war mindset just escapes me.  There are some people who have done very well, no doubt, and many if not most deserve their success.  In what way do I - or anyone - have a right to a portion of that success?  If these people have come into money in some illegal fashion (e.g. Bernie Madoff) then of course they should be punished.  But punished (e.g. "millionaire's surtax") for success?  Why would we want to demonize and de-incentivize that?

I just finished reading Keith Richard's autobiography "Life" and somewhere in the middle he wrote that Great Britain imposed a 95% millionaire's tax (something like that - I had to give the borrowed book back).  Keith and Mick essentially fled the country and the Stones recorded "Exile on Main Street."  Long story short: Keith, Mick and the rest of the band are now "non-citizens" of England in that, to escape the tax bite, they can only spend three months a year in their homeland.  Keith Richards now lives in Connecticut.

In other words: somewhere along the way Richards' taxes moved from "onerous" to "punitive" so now England gets none of it.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Heh heh

A breaking point for employment? Just a second

The other day, the Economist had an article that suggested that productivity gains in the United States had reached a limit and businesses were going to have to add workers if they expected to keep going.  Sure enough, the BLS announced today that the private sector added a more-than-expected 200,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.5%.

But an inordinate number of those jobs were couriers and messengers (even adjusting for seasonal effects) which are unlikely to endure now that the Christmas season is over.  Meanwhile, over at Zero Hedge, they're insisting that the BLS is cooking the numbers by adjusting down the labor participation rate: "Real jobless rate is 11.4% with realistic labor participation rate."

So it's "hooray" with a lower-case "h."  Let's see what happens once the holiday effect wears off.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Time to short Best Buy

Five years ago, after a particularly bad experience, I wrote a post whose title tells it all: "Circuit City sucks."  I have never had so much deja vu than reading this Forbes article: "Why Best Buy is going out of business...gradually."
To discover the real reasons behind the company’s decline, just take this simple test. Walk into one of the company’s retail locations or shop online.  And try, really try, not to lose your temper.
This past holiday season I found myself in a Best Buy and and much of what the author writes is true, although I would add one detail.  The aisles and spaces at my local Best Buy used to be wide and inviting, leaving a modest area for kids to play at game consoles.  Now every square-inch is filled with stacks of crap and bins filled with crummy DVDs such that it's like negotiating a mine field to get across the floor.  Here's a hint of how inept this store was: the weekend before Christmas they didn't have power delivered to either of the IPads on display.  I'm no marketing genius but I think if you're trying to sell electronics, you should provide electrons.

For the record, this is the first Christmas where I did all my shopping online - everything, mostly from Amazon.  Here's another story: on the Wednesday evening before Christmas, I saw some winter boots on the Lands End web page that were marked down from $70 to $34 - no tax and free shipping (natch).  So I ordered them, figuring I would pick them up once I got back from my holiday travelling.  But then on Friday, there was the UPS guy with a Lands End box: they had upgraded the shipping to next-day just so I would get them before Christmas.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Stuff they didn't teach on "Schoolhouse Rock"

It's been quite a year: first we found out that the President can pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce.  Then we discovered that minority rights in the Senate can be suspended when votes reach the threshold of "potentially embarrassing."  And today it came to our attention that all those pro forma sessions in the Senate were a waste of time since a President can appoint whoever he wants, whenever he wants.

All this new information is going to come in super-handy around this time next year.

Extra - Candidate Obama: "We are not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress."

More - Fleeing the State House to prevent a vote = democracy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Medical device manufacturers to Obamacare: "Adios!" - And they're taking their jobs with them: "Obamacare's dangerous device tax."

Monday, January 02, 2012

You want to make this about flip-flopping?  It's on.

The WashPost  is reporting that Republicans are compiling "the book": a comprehensive reference of all of Obama's false promises and contradictory statements.   Here's one of my favorites: candidate Obama telling us why the individual mandate to force Americans to buy health insurance is wrong:

"Nobody disputes that"...except future Obama.

Extra - Vodkapundit applauds.  And there's more at Memeorandum.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Comment of the day - From this ABC News story "With reservations, Obama signs act to allow detention of citizens": "Calm down. This is just a cost-cutting move to save money on judges and courts."
Blinded by the light - The WashPost tried to humanize a story about Solyndra, but Iowahawk was having none of it.
The economist strikes back - Grumpy Economist: "How to destroy the middle class."  "In a splendid recent editorial piece, the New York Times distilled every bad idea floating around the liberal policy agenda."
This story sounds cheesy - I got a chuckle from this news blurb in today's Boston Globe about a couple who faked a robbery at a Domino's: the boyfriend tied up a store manager and then they claimed masked gunmen stole the money.

How many masked gunmen?  Four!  Four guys to rob a pizza place?  What is this, the Italian Job?  I can't wait for the surveillance video.