Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequester-geddon now - Zero Hedge: "All of this whining about the sequester shows why America is doomed."  "If we can't even cut federal spending by 2.4 percent without much of the country throwing an absolute hissy fit, then what hope does America have?  All of this whining and crying about the sequester is absolutely disgraceful."

Tomorrow, summoned Congressional leaders will trudge up to the White House for what everybody acknowledges is a piece of theater.  I was driving home today wondering why Republicans would bother.  What do they have to gain?  They're not going to budge on taxes and Obama's just going to use the meeting to continue his campaign of character assassination.  Why should Boehner and McConnell be props in this farce?
The only surplus in Washington - I think it was George Will who said that Obama's perpetual goal is to restock his pantry with excuses.  Here's the latest: "White House: Oh yeah, about Obama's budget - sequestration is exacerbating the holdup."

He was also traumatized by Jennifer Lawrence tripping at the Oscars.  Poor JLaw!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Forgot to carry the "1" - Powerline: "GAO: Obamacare is a multi-trillion dollar budget-buster."  Hey, what's another $6 trillion at this point?
Government Motors - With the election safely behind us, the government can now unload GM stock at a loss of only $12 billion.  The Truth About Cars: "Treasury to unload remaining GM stake."
Obama votes "present"

Here's the WashPost with an editorial titled "Sequester offers President Obama a time to lead."  Instead, he's off campaigning again.
By 2023, if you believe their promises, the government will be spending only 2.8 percent of gross domestic product on defense — compared to a 40-year average of 4.7 percent — and only 2.7 percent on everything else in the discretionary budget, compared to a 40-year average of 4.0 percent. Meanwhile, the three fastest-growing categories of spending will have become the largest categories of spending: Social Security, health care and interest on the swollen debt. Interest alone will have risen from $224 billion this year to an astonishing $857 billion 10 years from now, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. What a pathetic waste of taxpayer money.
This is a point I've been trying to make for a long, long time: if you don't address the rise in entitlement spending, it will crowd out all the spending in the discretionary budget.  There won't be money for first responders, and cool new planes, or park rangers.  It will be all Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, with the rest going to service our debt which buys Americans exactly nothing.

Don't worry: Obama is searching the airports of America for the answer:

"Big ole Jet Airliner....don't carry me too far away."

Monday, February 25, 2013

How big is the national debt?  Answer: Larger than you think

Robert Samuelson crunches the numbers with "The True National Debt":
So the most expansive measure of national debt ($31 trillion) is nearly three times the conventional estimate ($11 trillion). Almost all the items on my list -- whether Treasury bonds or bank deposits -- are ultimately legal obligations of the federal government. Note: They differ from Social Security and Medicare benefits, which are often called "debts." They aren't. Congress can alter the benefits anytime it chooses.
So we're already in a deep, deep hole of debt even without counting entitlement spending which will swallow the federal government whole over the next two decades.  But by all means, let's keep up the hysterics over slicing 2% off the bloated federal budget.

Extra - Zero Hedge: "Behold the horror of context."  Oh no!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar predictions

Best Picture - Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actor - Robert DeNiro
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams
Best Director - Ang Lee

Update - Meh.  I should have known that Hollywood would go ga-ga for a film that portrays Hollywood producers as "Rocky"-type heroes.
Scraping by on 97.7% - George Will: "The manufactured crisis of sequester."  "The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government’s size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering."
The 2013 NASCAR season starts out on a really bad note

The Daytona 500 is tomorrow but today was the Nationwide race and an otherwise exciting race ended with a horrific crash that sent debris - including an engine - into the stands:

There's a catch-fence around the infield that is supposed to protect fans from flying debris but when an engine and a tire land in the seats, something has gone terribly wrong.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

TIL that TIL means "today I learned" - Today I learned that the Holy Crown of Hungary was held in Fort Knox until 1978 because the Soviets considered it a threat to their control.
In the red zone - Megan McArdle: "Could U.S. debt reach a tipping point?"  "If there is a tipping point, and we're close to it, we should probably be trying to back off the precipice.  Slowly and cautiously, so as to avoid some sort of rock slide--but back away, none the less."
"America is MySpace" - Tech Crunch: "If America was a startup, we'd all quit."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Star Trek inspires X-Prize

From USA Today: "Available soon - a tricorder"  (H/T Instapundit)
The X Prize Foundation, which pays huge cash prizes to intrepid inventors, is offering prize purses totaling $12.5 million for the creation of a first-generation tricorder that could be used for medical diagnoses. Nokia and Qualcomm are putting up the money for the contests.
In my previous life, I went to a lot of optical engineering conferences.  In one of them, a presenter showed off a portable device (underwritten by the Bill Gates Foundation) that took a drop of blood and then, using various light scattering and transmission techniques, provided all sorts of information.  Primarily it was intended to fight AIDS in Africa by detecting the HIV virus.  At the time I thought to myself that this might be the closest thing to a tricorder I had ever seen.  The very same concept is used in those clips they put on your finger at the hospital: the way certain wavelengths of light are absorbed by your blood will indicate the oxygen content and, indirectly, your pulse rate.

If I were to place my bets on the pathway forward for a tricorder, it would be a light-based system, sensitive enough to pick up on blood characteristics similar to the way you can tell somebody is embarrassed by a flushed face.
Don't pass out in your Shrek costume - Hit & Run: "Universal Studios to cease offering health benefits to part-time employees."

So much for keeping your plan if you like it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Planes full of released prisoners will be falling from the sky!

Behold the horror of sequestration!

Can the Republic survive?  We can only hope.  We can only hope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The great sequester freak-out - Can we please tone it down a little?  Reason Online: "2013 cuts are $44 billion, not $85 billion."  Put another way, this amounts to about two weeks of borrowing by the federal government.  If we can't do without a fortnight of debt, we might as well sell Alaska and Hawaii to the highest bidder.

Monday, February 18, 2013

There will be no Grand Bargain

George Will has a new opinion piece on the State of the Union and I wonder if this section is a swipe at Tom Friedman:
First, Obama’s declaration that nothing in his long list of proposed spending “should” — should? — “increase our deficit by a single dime” means there should be commensurate tax increases. Second, now that he has proclaimed that government “must keep the promises we’ve already made,” only the uneducable can still believe he will consider entitlement reforms. Third, by saying spending cuts under the sequester would be “harsh” and would “devastate” domestic programs, he made applesauce of those two words: The cuts would remove only $85 billion from this year’s almost $3.6 trillion budget, and over a decade they would cut just $1.2 trillion from projected spending of $46 trillion. And spending this year would still be well above the post-1945 norm as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Hot Air: "Who's up for another 'Grand Bargain' column from Tom Friedman?"
"That [tax hikes] would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform. Obama has hinted at his willingness to do all of these."
Obama's "brave stands against his own party" are the political equivalent of Beckett's Godot - it never arrives. I've said before that demagoguing entitlements is like crack to the Democrats, a political advantage they'll never give up as we post trillion-dollar deficits forever.  This is why Obama purposely torpedoed the one chance at an agreement.

Despite Tom Friedman's gullibility, there is no path forward for a broad agreement on reducing our debt.  With discretionary spending crowded out, there is not enough taxing and cutting that could stem the rise in entitlement spending.  These programs must be reformed...but they won't when cutting $4/month from Social Security checks is depicted as tossing Grandma over a cliff.

Furthermore, I'm convinced that Obama would never - ever - let himself go down in history as the Democratic President who scaled back on Medicare and Social Security.  Better to leave that heavy lifting to another President.

There will be no Grand Bargain - adjust your plans accordingly.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Go Daddy Hot Mamma! - NASCAR season has started with a bang.  Nobody saw this coming: "Danica Patrick first woman to win Daytona 500 pole."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

And it's only going to get tougher - WashPost: "Fiscal trouble ahead for most future retirees."  "For the first time since the New Deal, a majority of Americans are headed toward a retirement in which they will be financially worse off than their parents, jeopardizing a long era of improved living standards for the nation’s elderly, according to a growing consensus of new research."

Related - More and more retirees are spending their golden years in another (cheaper) country.
Daily Snow - This is cute: with the election safely behind us, Jon Stewart is discovering that the Obama administration is pretty inept.  LA Times: "Jon Stewart grills Susan Rice on Benghazi attack."  C'mon, man, what difference does it make now?  Also newly realized after November: drone attacks and crumbling bridges (the ones that were supposed to be fixed by the "stimulus").

Friday, February 15, 2013

The road to young serfdom - Too good to except, the title says it all.  From Opinion Journal: "Generational theft needs to be arrested."

Well, you voted for it kids.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trouble then Trivial Pursuit

Don't look now, but another "green energy" plant visited by the Grim Reaper, is belly-up.  The Truth About Cars: "Solyndra, A123, now LG Chem: Your tax dollars, not at work"
Three years ago, at a groundbreaking ceremony for an LG Chem Battery plant in Holland, Michigan, President Obama promised that this and other pants [sic] will be “a boost to the economy in the entire region.”  Instead, the plant has become an example for what is wrong with a state-directed command economy. It also is yet another chapter in the Chevrolet Volt debacle.
Half of the plant’s $300 million price was funded by the tax payer, courtesy of a $150 million government grant.  The  plant does nothing. Its workers  “had little work to do and were spending time volunteering at local non-profit organizations, playing games and watching movies at the expense of the federal government and taxpayers,”  Gregory Friedman, inspector general at the Department of Energy, concluded in a report made public yesterday.
Of course, when you're a liberal advocating for green energy, blowing $150 million means never having to say you're...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

That was a pretty good prediction

I wrote this an hour before the SOTU I didn't watch:
Tonight he'll stand before this useless rabble and repeat his tattered and tired platitudes: "fair shot" and "we can't cut our way to prosperity" and "balanced approach."
The Prez squeezed it all into two sentences:
"Most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share."
Andrew Malcolm (and many others) felt the same way about Mr. Real Good Talker:
It was stunning last night to hear and then read among the 6,419 words likely the most colossal collection of yawn-inducing clich├ęs in recent American political history.
To his credit, Obama gathered together with his economic team team today to restore fiscal certainty to the federal government by crafting a budget, as required by law.  Ha-ha, just kidding.  He took Air Force One to North Carolina for another campaign stop.  Tomorrow it's Georgia and then he'll pretend to answer questions on Google Hangout.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

And by "broad" we mean "you" - Wash Examiner: "CBO director: Debt will be unsustainable without significant changes to entitlements or broad tax hikes"  "But the reality is that if Obama doesn’t want to allow significant changes to entitlements, then he’s going to have to support higher taxes on all Americans — not just the rich."
The perpetual campaign

I don't think I can bear to watch the State of the Union address tonight since it's just another excuse for Obama to head out on the road to repeat his telepromptered nonsense to adoring crowds:
The president’s speech, described by White House officials as an expansion of January’s inauguration theme of “opportunity for all,” will kick off a week of campaign-style Obama travel designed to pressure GOP lawmakers to bend to the wishes of a majority of Americans -- or risk their election-year wrath.
Of course.  There's little to no evidence that this approach puts any pressure on Congress, a co-equal branch of government with which this President couldn't be bothered.  Tonight he'll stand before this useless rabble and repeat his tattered and tired platitudes: "fair shot" and "we can't cut our way to prosperity" and "balanced approach."

One thing I'm confident Obama won't say is anything to betray that he gives a whit about the national debt.  He just doesn't care.  And even though most Americans agree that spending is out of control, he'll keep pushing his "Life of Julia" dependency on government, paid for by "the rich" and future generations.

No thanks.

Extra - I'm not alone.  Legal Insurrection: "Will not watch."  However, I will be watching "Justified" at 10 EST.

More - The SOTU seating chart.

Monday, February 11, 2013

You're not as confused as the Boston Globe

Yesterday, I was reading the Sunday paper and the Globe had an article about the monster snowstorm that passed through this previous weekend.  There was a graphic with the article that listed the largest snowfall recorded and apparently the town of Spencer had 31 feet of snow.

My mind instantly jumped to this infamous example of unit confusion:

Background here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The first cut is the deepest shallowest

Brace yourself for this surprising news: all those "deep spending cuts" hammered out in Washington were illusory.  Wash Post: "Many 2011 federal budget cuts had little real-world effect."
In the real world, in fact, many of their “cuts” cut nothing at all. The Transportation Department got credit for “cutting” a $280 million tunnel that had been canceled six months earlier. It also “cut” a $375,000 road project that had been created by a legislative typo, on a road that did not exist.
At the Census Bureau, officials got credit for a whopping $6 billion cut, simply for obeying the calendar. They promised not to hold the expensive 2010 census again in 2011.
Washington is profoundly unserious abut reining in spending.  Bring on the sequester.

"These aren't the spending cuts you're looking for."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Just tried out my new roof rake - Sweet mercy, I'm exhausted.  It's all the exertion of rowing a boat while a ton of snow drops on your heard.
Reminder: this is Obama's sequester - The Corner: "GOP leaders wield unlikely weapon against Obama: Bob Woodward."
Round up the usual suspects

From Politico:
Senate Democrats are digging in against Republican calls for deeper spending cuts by bringing out some of their favorite punching bags: corporate jets, Wall Street and Big Oil.
These budget battles are going to get more contentious until we address mandatory spending, i.e. entitlements.  This shadow boxing is exhausting.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Competitive advantage - Via Zero Hedge: without missing a beat, Federal Express has added this copy to their web site: "When it needs to get there on Saturday, turn to Fed Ex."   Absolutely, positively zing.
The sequester was Obama's idea

As the axe prepares to fall on the defense budget, keep an eye out for careful wording like this:
Recall that the sequester was engineered to force Congress and the president to work out a long-term debt reduction plan.
My, what a passive voice we have.  Charles Krauthammer reminds us who did the engineering:
The idea had been proposed and promoted by the White House during the July 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations. The political calculation was that such draconian defense cuts would drive the GOP to offer concessions.
The White House was so sure the Republicans would go wobbly (they still may) that 18 months later they've got no Plan "B."  After the drag-out fight of the fiscal cliff, new taxes are a non-starter: Obama got his tax rate increases, derided the GOP's preference for eliminating tax loopholes, with no spending cuts.  He can't come back now and say: "I want those too."

By failing to pass a budget year after year, this White House has engineered this seemingly-endless series of deadlines, cliffs, and crises.  Own it.
There's a reason Obama keeps returning to Steve Kroft

Peggy Noonan: "So God made a Fawner"
We are living in the age of emergency—the economy, the Mideast, North Korea, Iran. The president has an utter and historic inability to forge a relationship with Congress. Unemployment seems intractable.
And the best Steve Kroft and "60 Minutes" could do was how wonderful are you?
For extra fun, here's Nick Gillespie: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the journalists blow."  Oh, they blow all right - big time.

Plus - PJ Tatler: "Most Americans may not remember it, but there was a time ... there was one network show that could be counted on to ambush bigwigs and ask tough questions and get stories. That show was 60 Minutes. I know, right? It’s very hard to believe now."
Here it comes

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Happy, little trees - Well, this is crazy: before becoming the host of "Joy of Painting" on PBS, Bob Ross was in the Air Force for 20 years, rising to the rank of master sergeant.
Dang, I thought I was pessimistic - Zero Hedge has a post today titled "All is Well" that shows our "recovery" is built upon a collection of bubbles.  Most troubling is the rapid rise in college debt which is both masking the true unemployment rate and putting Americans further in the hole.  Here's the kicker: unlike the housing bubble, when the bubble pops there are no assets to be seized,

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Destroy all private investment - Minuteman: "We had to tax the retirement plan in order to save it."
Let me be clear - "Now is the time for sensible reform and we can't afford to wait.  Congress should act on these common sense ideas, embraced by both Democrats and Republicans.  It won't be easy, but we can overcome our differences to make this a better country.  [Wait for applause].  Now here's Jay Carney to answer your questions."

Politico: "President Obama's fill-in-the-blank sales pitch."  Often delivered from another state so he can mingle with real Americans.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gosh, all this uncertainty is hurting the economy

Sunday: "Obama: 'Cloud of crisis' threatens economic growth"
Monday: "Ryan blasts Obama for breaking law by refusing to submit budget."
Tuesday: "Obama's sequester proposal: details AWOL."
Also Tuesday: "Damn those Republicans are obstructionist, except when they aren't, then it's their fault."
So much to ridicule in one short editorial

The New York Times editorial today - "More jobs, higher pay" - really is a work of art.  At least I think it's a performance piece of some kind, maybe neo-symbolist poetry, since it makes no sense and is detached from reality.  Here's the first graf:
In President Obama’s first term, the fiscal stimulus and the auto-industry rescue of 2009 created and preserved millions of jobs. But the stimulus ended years ago, replaced with temporary measures that have been insufficient to propel the economy forward. Health care reform in 2010 was a major step in the effort to support the middle class, but its broad effects will be felt only in the years and decades to come.
You'd think an establishment shedding dozens of high paying jobs would refrain from such fiscal grandstanding but, hey, it's the NYT.  And there's a kernel of truth here: the stimulus and auto bailout did save jobs if you don't bother to consider the cost.  The so-called stimulus cost us $278,000 per job (minimum) and the auto bailout will cost taxpayers $25 billion, never to be recouped, as GM sinks back into bankruptcy.  But, hey, it was a small price to add to the national debt.

As for the latter statement that Obamacare's "broad effects will be felt only in the years and decades to come" - I couldn't agree more but not in the way the NYT implies.  Millions of Americans will lose their health care coverage and health care premiums will not drop but rise sharply.  Source: the New York Times one month ago:
Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.
Awwww....even though!  And that's just the first paragraph of a nonsense editorial that supports everything in the left-wing wish list from union irrelevancy to the Constitutionality of recess appointments when the President is of a certain party affiliation.
CBO predicts sub-trillion dollar deficit; eyerolls follow

I heard this on the radio driving home today that the Congressional Budget Office is predicting a $845 billion deficit in 2013 to which I replied (to nobody) "Yeah, right."  Zero Hedge was in the same mind: "CBO releases latest budget forecast: hilarity ensues"
We will also note that the now-forecast 2013 budget deficit of $845 billion was supposed to be a deficit of just $585 billion one short year ago, a token 40%+ error rate, but in the immortal words of Hillary Clinton: "who cares." Of course we should note that if we apply the same forecast error to the 2013 budget, it means the real final deficit print will be $1.2 trillion - just a tad more realistic.
Lest you think we'll escape the new normal of trillion-dollar deficits in the Obama administration, look no further than the penultimate paragraph from the Associated Press report:
The report warns that actual deficits could easily be higher since CBO is required to assume Congress sticks to the letter of the law.
As I noted before, we just spent $60 billion dollars in hurricane Sandy relief, promptly blowing the entire wad of tax increases we haven't even collected yet.  The CBO is assuming phantom savings from Obamacare and the Medicare "doc fix" will take place, which it won't.  Good luck with that.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Mysteries of economics - The National Journal reports on this strange phenomenon: increasing taxes slows economic activity!  Who knew?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Lights out at the Superdome

Well this is a fine predicament.  At least I didn't pay $3200 for a ticket.
I left my defense in San Francisco - The Ravens look strong on both offense and defense.  The 49ers better start airing out the ball soon. I was typing above the Ravens just had a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  Wow.  So I guess I'll be watching "Downton Abbey" at 9pm after all.  Poor Lady Sybil!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The irrepressible urging - In Germany: "Leftists demand 100% tax on the rich."  Naturally, this idea was floated by the New York Times a year ago.
That seems appropriate - They're showing "Groundhog Day" again on AMC.  In case you missed it, Phil is predicting an early spring.  It is February 2nd here in Western Massachusetts and there is not a single flake of snow on the ground.
Not by him - Weekly Standard: "Obama blames economy on 'bad decisions.'"  In case you needed another reminder, everybody else is acting in bad faith.
The media told me it's not his fault

Investors Business Daily: "Obama's jobless recovery continues unabated."  "So the economy created 157,000 new payroll jobs in January. Wow. At this rate, we might actually get back down to Bush-era unemployment rates sometime, oh, within the next 100 years."

He's even losing Krugman:
KRUGMAN: You know, you can always find an excuse. The thing to say is that each year of his presidency, the Council of Economic Advisers come out with an economic report of the president which forecast great job growth starting right now. Those reports come out each February. Each year they forecast great job growth. It hasn’t materialized and then they go back and say well, that’s because of all these things, but those things didn’t seem to affect their own forecast when they were making them.
"All these things" include ATMs and airport kiosks.  And "headwinds."
America's demographic decline

In the socialistic "Life of Julia" system, there needs to be a steady, expanding supply of workers to fund the benefits doled out by the State.  We're at the tipping point where there is a huge number of "takers" and a shrinking supply of "makers".  From Opinion Journal: "America's Baby Bust":
There has been a great deal of political talk in recent years about whether America, once regarded as the shining city on a hill, is in decline. But decline isn't about whether Democrats or Republicans hold power; it isn't about political ideology at all. At its most basic, it's about the sustainability of human capital. Whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney took the oath of office last month, we would still be declining in the most important sense—demographically. It is what drives everything else.
If our fertility rate were higher—say 2.5, or even 2.2—many of our problems would be a lot more manageable. But our fertility rate isn't going up any time soon. In fact, it's probably heading lower. Much lower.
Of course, it's heresy to suggest we reform entitlement systems borne out of a completely different era.  As George Will recently put it, this country is on track to be "an assisted living home with an army."

Extra - Zero Hedge: "Japan's demographic disaster."  The main difference between "decline" and "disaster" is that Japan has very low immigration rates.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Those old crazy dreams just kinda came and went - The Truth About Cars: "Obama Chickens Out, Says A Million EVs By 2015 Not Important."
"Calmer than a monk on morphine" - This story may be made-up, it may be real.  I don't care: it's Friday and I just made myself some chicken soup and I'm going to look at funny dog GIFs.  Yay.