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Thursday, June 30, 2011

what's all the fuss about

Mark Halperin was suspended indefinitely today by MSNBC for saying that president Obama acted like "kind of a dick" at his press conference yesterday. What's all the fuss about? This is not the first time "dick" was used in connection with a president or vice-president. Think about president Nixon or vice-president Cheney. Both were Dicks.

All kidding aside, why is it that Halperin gets suspended for this when numerous MSNBC personalities called Tea Party members "tea-baggers". That term involves basically the same part of the anatomy, but it became a common attack on MSNBC. And think of the crazy and nasty things that Chris Matthews says about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Are they not entitled to respect? Is it okay to be coarse and nasty on MSNBC if the targets are conservative Republicans but beyond the pale if the target is liberal and Democrat? Or does it just pertain to the fact that Obama is president? Even on MSNBC, Anthony Weiner was called a weiner, and he was a Democrat and a liberal. Of course, he was also a pervert so maybe that explains it. HBO which is owned by Time Warner actually ran a special in which Will Ferrell showed a slide that he claimed was George Bush's "dick". So is it okay to show it on TV but not to say it?

The truth is that Obama actually was a jerk at his press conference. Instead of offering any solutions he only offered attacks on his opponents. He castigated Congress for failing to lead while he did his best to hide from leadership himself. Sure Halperin could have used a better word to indicate that Obama was acting like a jerk, but it is not enough for him to be suspended. At least, that is my opinion.

I never thought I would see this

Gloria Borger is the Chief Political analyst for CNN, a position which is more aptly titled "Cheerleader in Dhief for Obama". That is why her comments about Obama today are so amazing. Borger castigates Obama for his failure to lead on the issue of the debt ceiling negotiations. Obama has not even set forth his views as to the parameters of a final deal. He talks in generalities and takes political positions, but he never actually tells the country what it is that he want to see happen. He criticizes Congress as not giving the matter sufficient attention while he spend a few minutes here and there on the subject himself. Borger's criticism is withering, especially considering the source.

Borger, of course, adds in Congress in her targets. To be fair, however, Congress is torn between a Republican House and a Democrat Senate. There has to be someone with the authority and prestige to bridge the gap between the two, and that is the president. Sadly, he has chosen not to engage, as Borger rightly points out.

The real truth is this. There are those who think that a default by the USA is not such a big deal. These folks are delusional. Obama said a default would be terrible, and he is correct. Unfortunately, however, Obama seems to think that a default would help him politically and that such help is more important than the well being of the American economy and people. I, like Borger, expect more from the president of the United States. Obama's fecklessness may prove to be the beginning of the end for him; if Borger is saying this stuff, Obama may be falling off the cliff. too bad for us all that he is still the president for another year and a half.

The weekly bad news about jobs

We got another statistic today in the seemingly endless stream of bad jobs news. Initial unemployment claims were 428,000 last week. This is a bad number, too high for there to be any reduction in the unemployment rate. With the number remaining above 400,000 for three months and not even a trend showing a reduction in the number, the outlook for jobs is getting bleak.

It would be nice to think that these numbers would spur the president into realizing that his economic policies to date have not worked. Yesterday's press conference makes clear that he is not even considering adjusting his policies. That is a sad thing for the country. My guess is that in November 2012, it will be a sad thing for Obama.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just imagine if this were Wisconsin

It seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, but Governor Malloy of Connecticut is moving forward with some of the biggest public union busting in the country. When Malloy first took office, he presided over a major tax increase in Connecticut and limited the amount by which the public unions would be required to "contribute" to close the large state budget gap. The unions, of course, rejected the deal that was negotiated; apparently they thought that the governor and his fellow Democrats would just cave in to their demands. Malloy, however, has responded with a detailed plan to lay off about 10% of all state workers; to limit sick days for public employees; to change the way that pension benefits are calculated; and to limit bonuses for long term state employees. It is strange that Connecticut unlike Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana left collective bargaining rights untouched. It is also strange that only in Connecticut were state employees chopped from the payrolls to close the budget gap. In Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, state services continue on as before. In Connecticut, there will inevitably be a reduction in those services as 10% of the workers are furloughed.

I do wonder where are the massive union demonstrations and the endless coverage of the national media.

Obma's Press Conference

I just watched president Obama's press conference. There are some points that have to be made about it. Here they are, although not in any particular order:

1) If Michele Bachmann had said the same things, the headline from the media would be that Bachmann had misstated the facts. Obama actually said that high income people in the USA pay income taxes at a lower rate than at any time in his lifetime. Then he said that tax rates are lower than any time since the 1950's. This is just blatantly wrong, and you would think that the president of the United States would know this. During the 1980's the top income tax bracket was 28%. At the moment, the top bracket is 35%. Also during the 1980's, the deductions for high income folks were not phased out as incomes rose; that deduction phase out is in place now. In other words, the top tax rate after taking into effect the loss of deductions is about 35% higher now than it was 25 years ago. If you look at the 1950's the top bracket then was at 70% for most of that decade. How Obama could say that the current rates are the lowest since the 1950's in truly strange. Even though Obama was clearly wrong with these rather important facts, my guess is that we will hear little, if anything, from the main stream media about the mistake.

2) Obama finally came out in favor of passing the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, etc. These agreements have been held up by Harry Reid and the Democrats in the Senate for many years. That's correct, for many years. Obama has now pointed out that holding up these agreements has cost American jobs and prevented further job growth. I am glad that he finally is moving forward to push the passage of the agreements, but one might validly ask where he has been until now.

3) Obama once again said that we need to have changes to entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. Once again, however, he did not say what changes he could endorse. The American people are entitled to know what changes Obama supports.

4) Obama pushed some tax increases on corporate jets, oil and gas companies and the like. While his language was designed to make the Republicans look like plutocrats, it made me wonder if Obama was preparing to throw in the towel on trying to raise taxes. Changing the tax rates on corporate jets will obviously hurt an industry which is heavily American. Nevertheless, it involves very little tax revenue. Modifying taxes for oil and gas companies will just result in higher prices at the pump for all Americans. Still, there may be some changes in connection with taxation of oil and gas companies that could pass the House. Obama may just be trying to make it look like he got big concessions from the GOP while actually throwing in the towel on the point. After all, this is what he did last December on the extension of the income tax rates. Indeed, it was funny to hear Obama talk about extending the partial payroll tax holiday as his own idea when the truth is that the Republicans insisted on that change being part of the overall deal last December over the objections of the Democrats.

5) On Libya, Obama did his usual. He created a straw man rather than dealing with the true question. Obama pointed out that the War Powers act was passed after Vietnam where tens of thousands of Americans died in a lengthy war. To hear Obama talk, unless the war under consideration is the size of Vietnam, the War Powers Act does not apply. Clearly, that is not only wrong, it is laughable. Does Obama think that president Bush could have gone into Iraq without the approval of Congress? That was a peanut of a war compared to Vietnam. Nevertheless, Obama would clearly agree that congress had to and did approve of that war. Obama, however, never addressed why the Libya war is not millitary hostilities under the War Power Act.

UPDATE: Politico is reporting that while Obama said that his older daughter is 13,she is actually 12. Maybe we should look to see if there are any serial killers who are 13 and claim he was confused about it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The essential Democrat argument

Today's news brings the clearest statement yet of the Democrats' plan for dealing with the budget deficit and the soaring national debt. The statement comes from Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, a man who parrots the Obama line at all times. Robinson has told us that the Tea Party was composed of evil racists. He has explained the otherwise undiscovered virtues of Obamacare. He has explained the heartlessness of the ryan budget plan. And now, he has used his many sources in Obamaland to set forth the plan of the Democrats to deal with the budget and the debt.

Here, in his own words, is the essence of what Robinson says:

"The only reasonable thing to do is kick the can down the road -- but in a purposeful, intelligent way."

That's right; the plan of the Obamacrats is to do nothing. But they want to do it in an intelligent way. Give me a break! This is assinine even for Robinson, and that, my friends, is truly saying something! We have heard since early in the 2008 campaign how Obama was the single most intelligent man ever to walk on the face of the earth. Then, once in office, he managed to do some of the most boneheaded things ever seen in Washington.

Kicking the can down the road is not an option. It is rather a re-election strategy for Obama. It is the hope that Obama can win re-election before the house of cards collapses.

We need a leader as president. He is supposed to be commander in chief, not campaigner in chief.

Obama has got to go!

John Wayne and Michele Bachmann

The media is going crazy trying to make Michele Bachmann look like an idiot. Yesterday, Bachmann said that John Wayne was born in Waterloo, Iowa. She was wrong; Wayne's parents lived there for a long time, but Wayne was born about two hours away from Waterloo. This is not exactly a big deal; indeed, I wonder what percentage of her audience even knew who John Wayne was. the media, however, immediately decided to take a minor flub and turnit into idiocy. The media decided that Bachmann must have been referring to John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer who lived for a short time in Waterloo. Bachmann never mentioned Gacy; the only connection came in the media. Nevertheless, the media was certain that she meant Gacy.

The next kerfuffle came after Bachmann referred to John Quincy Adams as one of the founding fathers. The press descended on that immediately. It was not true they claimed since John Quincy Adams was only 9 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Bachmann explained that Adams was his father's secretary during much of the Revolution and should be considered one of the founding fathers. She did not mention that John Quincy Adams was secretary to his father in Paris where John Adams was the special envoy to the French Court. During the Revolution, John Quincy Adams went on to become the secretary to the American envoy to the Russian Court. During the adminstration of George Washington, Adams was the minister to Portugal, the Netherlands and Prussia. He followed this with being the Secretary of State, leading the American delegation that negotiated the end of the War of 1812, serving in the Senate and some years later becoming president of the United States. So if John Auincy Adams was in the American diplomatic service during the Revolution and at the time the Constitution was written and if he served in important posts during the administration of George Washington, it is hard to call him something either than a founding father.

The real truth is that there is no accepted definition of founding father. Obviously, those who signed the Declaration of Independence fit the bill, but they are not alone. For example, Patrick Henry is often mentioned as a founding father, but he did not sign the Declaration and he actively opposed the Constitution. All of those men who were the public figures of their day and who supported liberty in one way or another merit the title. In other words, Bachmann is correct.

I wish that the media would devote half as much energy to pointing out some of the bigger whoppers told by President Obama as they have to the Bachmann story. Obama talks about wanting to cut the deficit spending while at the same time actually proposing a budget that increases spending levels. There is hardly a murmur from the press about that. After all, confusion or lying about the budget is something that actually has an impact on the future of the country. All Americans can be affected by this. Instead, the media is devoting itself to phony stories about John Wayne Gacy and nit picking about John Quincy Adams as a way to get Bachmann. Shame on them all.

The next Gaza Flotilla

We can all remember the battle that took place last year when a Turkish ship tried to break the Israeli blockade of arms and millitary supplies around Gaza. When the Israelis boarded the ship, they were attacked with pipes and axes. Then those on the ship commenced firing and the Israelis returned the fire. Nine people died in the melee. Well, now there is a new flotilla being assembled to try once again to break the Israeli blockade.

It is strange that this attempt is still going forward. Egypt has already opened its border with Gaza so that all non-millitary supplies flow freely into the area. The only blockade that remains in place is strictly against the flow of weapons, ammunition and other millitary supplies. Nevertheless, the so-called peace activists are still trying to break that blockade. For their part, the Israelis are unlikely to allow that to happen.

The most likely outcome is that the ships will be boarded and there will be another battle. This time, however, the Israelis will be ready for an attack from the passengers. Stories have appeared recently on the internet that the supporters of Hamas are planning on using chemical weapons against the Israelis. It would be bizarre for that to actually happen, but given the people involved it is not impossible. Hopefully, we will not see any of the ships sunk, but even that cannot be ruled out. Indeed, another story on the internet is that some of the ships are planning to blow themselves up in order to make it appear that the Israelis have either bombed or torpedoes them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A tale of four polls

There are some interesting poll numbers out in the last few days. In both Minnesota and Florida polls were taken pitting president Obama against Michelle Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. In Florida, the numbers show Obama leading Pawlenty 48 to 40 and Bachmann by 49 to 40. In other words, there is essentially no difference between the two. In Minnesota, the home state of both Pawlenty and Bachmann, the numbers are quite different. Obama and Pawlenty are tied at 46 while Obam leads Bachmann by 53 to 39. This is a startling difference. When the public knows Pawlenty and Bachmann, people are much moe kindly disposed towards Pawlenty.

These polls are not worthy of being called strong indicators. They do offer much hope for Pawlenty.

EZPW --update for stock of the month

At the start of the month, I selected EZ Corp (symbol EZPW) as the stock of the month. Today, that stock has hit 34.20 as of this writing which is up $2.90 from where it was when I recommended it. My suggestion is to take profits at this point. If you still want to hold the stock and are unwritten on options, I suggest that you write the September 35 calls for which you can get $2.05 as of now.

So what comes next?

In the last months, we have seen US foreign policy verge into a psychotic fantasy. The war in Libya is not hostilities according to president Obama. The surge in Afghanistan has been successful in part, so Obama is ending it before the USA wins. The slaughter of civilians in Syria merits no response while the similar but lesser slaughter of civilians in Libya earned missiles and bombs from the air force. The missiles and attacks from Hamas against Israel are ignored and the Israeli are told to retreat to indefensible borders (which would make their ultimate defeat and slaughter likely.) The US budget is way out of kilter, so the president pledges money to bail out Greece even though he knows that the expenditure will never pass Congress.

Foreign policy is not the only psychotic fantasy. Energy policy is geared towards reducing the production and use of domestic energy sources while Obama talks about weaning ourselves from foreign oil. There are moratoria on drilling, delays in permitting, threats to natural gas extraction from shale, crazy regulations that dramatically increase the cost of burning coal, etc. At the same time, Obama is releasing oil from the strategic reserve to help his poll numbers. Immigration reform is another strange area. Obama has now taken to calling for comprehensive immigration reform, but he has no plan to propose. Economic policy is perhaps the strangest mix of items emanating from Obama and the Obamacrats. We have heard about the need for more spending in the midst of talks designed to reduce spending. We have heard about raising taxes when the economy is much weaker than it was last December when Obama told us that he had agreed that taxes ought not be raised when the economy is shaky. We have heard that entitlements need to be reformed, but Obama just attacks those with proposals to do so and offers nothing concrete himself. Indeed, all we have seen is a speech from Obama. Surprise, surprise, surprise as Gomer Pyle might have said. On the other hand the head of the Congressional Budget Office said it best, "we do not estimate speeches." CBO needs an actual proposal with details if it is to do an estimate. But it is the actual proposal that Obama just does not want to offer.

It is difficult for me to accept that the sitting president of the USA would hide from his responsibilities and spend his time campaigning and trying to demonize his opponents. I thought that by the time any man or woman got into that office, he or she would realize that the responsibility to lead was inescapable. I was wrong. Obama is a disaster. He has to go!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Geithner is a bad liar

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said today that the release of 30 million barrels of oil from the US strategic petroleum reserve was NOT a political move. I do not know which is worse: Is the Treasury Secretary just out and out lying to the American public or does the Treasury Secretary actually believe that this was not a political move? We have a choice between dishonesty and stupidity. Some choice!

The Libyan supply disruption that is the supposed reason for the release of oil began over two months ago. The response of the market was to bid up the price of oil in part due to panic over the cut off of oil from Libya. The price shot up, but prior to the announcement of the new oil release the price had fallen by more than 20% from its high. in other words, the small loss of oil production from Libya had been fully digested by the market and prices had returned almost to the level just prior to the fighting in Libya. So the market had already dealt with the problem, there was no emergency of any sort.

Only after the emergency was resolved did the great Obama decide to open the strategic reserve. A good question is why would he do that? Certainly it was not to deal with supply disruptions; that had already been accomplished. The only possible answer is that Obama wanted to release the oil so that he could claim responsibility for the price drop in oil that had already taken place. Who cares that the 30 million barrels of oil released means that there is that much less oil in the reserve for use in a real crisis. Obama needed a boost to his poll numbers. It was a blatant political move and nothing more.

I cannot be sure, but I think Geithner is too smart to have missed this. I vote for him being a liar rather than a dope.

The truth divide

According to the news reports, Venezuelan strongman Chavez is either in critical condition after surgery in Cuba or is mending well and will soon be home. His family either rushed to his bedside or went for a scheduled visit to see him in Havana. Who knows. There is such a gap between the truth and what gets reported in Venezuela that it should be called Chavez Ravine. Still, it might be nice for the people of Venezuela to know if their leader will return or if he is on his death bed.

My guess is that Chavez is more ill than has been announced by the state radio but not as bad as what some of the other media are reporting. But, as I say, it is a guess and nothing more.

Even the dragon lady recognizes the truth

I cannot stand Maureen Dowd. There, I've said it. The New York Times columnist brought nastiness and misrepresentation to a new height during her tenure with the Times. Nevertheless, she seems to have gotten it exactly correct in her latest column. Here, in her own words, is the essence of what she has to say about president Obama:

"It’s not enough to understand how everybody in the room thinks. You have to decide which ones in the room are right, and stand with them. A leader is not a mediator or an umpire or a convener or a facilitator.

Sometimes, as Chris Christie put it, 'the president has got to show up.'”

How true. We have a president who cannot seem to make up his mind on which side he stands, or he decides to stand on both. We get speeches about reining in spending, but the only plan he puts forward raises spending dramatically. He agrees to a deal to keep taxes fixed for two years which ought to remove some of the uncertainty from the economy, but then he immediately starts campaigning to raise taxes again, thereby undoing all the good he did with the original deal. He uses the excuse to intervene in Libya that the USA will not stand by while a government uses the millitary to slaughter its own people. Then, he remains silent while the Syrian government kills many more of its own people than the Libyan governement ever did. Silent! No explanation! Nothing!

Dowd points out the disparity of the Afghan policy. She is also fixated on the issue of gay marriage where Obama's statements and actions do not match. The point, however, is not Obama's actions on specific issues; rather, it is the question of Obama's ability to lead. Actually, I should have said Obama's LACK of ability to lead. There are times when it is best not to decide about an issue and to do further study. No one would deny that. It is certain, however, that further study and indecisiveness should not be the default response from a leader. And it is more than certain that further study and indecisiveness cannot be the perpetual response from a leader. But that is what we get with Obama.

I have to wonder what it is about Obama that makes him this way. Is he lazy, unwilling to spend the time to come to a final position? There are facts from which one could conclude that to be the case. He left it up to Congress to draft the Stimulus bill, and we got a melange of political programs and Democrat give aways as a result. He left it up to Congress to draft most of Obamacare, and we are still discovering the hidden provisions that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars due to a lack of oversight. He has stayed out of the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling until the GOP dragged him into them two days ago. He has played more golf that any president in living memory. Even so, I do not believe that Obama is lazy.

So what is it that leaves him unable to lead? The real truth here is that Obama lack focus and understanding. He believes that words speak louder than actions. Speeches beat results. And he is certain that his own speeches can do essentially anything. This lack of understanding of reality means that the president thinks he has handled a problem once he has given a speech about it. Sadly, this is the mechanism that governs in a campaign, especially if one is not in office already. Obama learned that if he had a problem with Reverend Wright, a speech solved it. If he had a problem with "bitter clngers" a few speeches solved it. He still thinks that this mechanism worked. We had a problem with the Muslim world. Obama gave a speech in Cairo in 2009 and it was "solved" in his mind. This happens over and over again.

Unfortunately for the country, even when the president lives in a fantasy world where speeches count more than actions, America does not and cannot. We are stuck in a world where we need a decisive leader, one who is not afraid to do what is necessary.

Hopefully, this problem will be solved in November of 2012.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Triumph of Obamacare

In the last few days, medical insurer United Healthcare and its subsidiary Oxford Healthcare have been notifying subscribers in certain areas of the proposed rate hikes for the next year. For my policy, the increase proposed was 13.2% which is about 11% higher than the rate of inflation. A friend of mine who has a single policy got an increase in excess of 20%. I have spoken to many doctors about the rates that they charge. Most of them tell me that they are under constant assault to lower the amounts, not that they have been able to raise them. There has been no dramatic rise in prescription drug costs from year to year. I cannot tell you whether or not hospitals have been able to raise rates, but nearly all hospitals get paid either under rates set by medicare, medicaid or by agreement with the various insurers. Indeed, the only major difference this coming year from last year is that many of the provisions of Obamacare are now in full effect so that the resulting costs are being incurred by the insurers.

In short, all of this means that Obamacare has had a very negative effect on the cost of medical insurance. Spread increases like these across the economy and the impact is terrible. Just imagine the effect that a 20% increase has on someone employing 1000 people and providing them with health insurance. Even if the employer shares the increased cost with its employees, that means that the disposable incomes of those employees is taking a major hit at a time when few of them can afford it.

In prior years, one could deal with large increases in health insurance by stepping down in coverage or changing the co-pay or the deductible. With the advent of Obamacare, most of those opportunities are disappearing. Policies that used to be available are to be eliminated. So the old escape mechanism is also destroyed by Obamacare.

For those of you who think that the policies I am referencing are individual ones or aberrations, think again. Both policies are issued to very large groups. Mine is one of a group with about 30,000 members. This is the fate that awaits nearly everyone in the country who buys health insurance.

So Obamacare has truly triumphed. The goal was to have everyone or essentially everyone end up with equal insurance. That seems likely now to have worked. In another year or two, no one will be able to afford health insurance. We will all be uninsured.

Obamacare needs to be repealed. Then the government has to remove all of the requirements that drive up the cost of care. It is something that could be done by an administration that was truly engaged with the problem rather than one that just relied on ideology for its answers. Let's hope we get one of those soon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Maybe good news -- but who knows?

according to the Milwaukee Business Journal, president Obama is unveiling a 500 million dollar program to improve American manufacturing capabilities. Here is the description:

"According to the White House, investments will be made in the following key areas: building domestic manufacturing capabilities in critical national security industries; reducing the time to get advanced materials into products; establishing U.S. leadership in next-generation robotics; increasing the energy efficiency in manufacturing; and developing new technologies that will dramatically reduce the time required to design, build, and test manufactured goods."

I have to wonder what all this means. will there be research in these areas that will be shared with American businesses? Will there be plant construction that will enhance these areas? Will there be grants to businesses (probably Obama friends) that will be used for these purposes. These three alternatives are quite different. Research, if it is validly done, might actually help the economy. Investment in plants and equipment will be positive, but it will be so small as to not really matter. Grants to individual companies will just be another payoff to those who meet the profile that the government wants to reward. That profile usually depends more on ones political loyalties than on the content of what one does.

A major program like this implemented in 2009 would have borne fruit and helped the economy by now. Of course, nothing was done then other than a massive, wasteful and useless stimulus program. Now that all the money has been spent, we are getting possible useful items in tiny amounts.

Where is the leadership?

Sabotaging the Economy

The new charge from Democrats is that Republicans have intentionally sabotaged the economy in order to reap the political gain that will result in 2012. I frequently think of the hard left as essentailly brain dead, but even for a bunch of morons this is a stupid argument. Think of it this way: in 2007, the Democrats took over control of Congress. They had to deal with president Bush for two years, but they still controlled all legislative action regarding the economy. Starting in January or 2009, the Democrats controlled Congress with lopsided majorities and they held the White House as well. Measures that were anathema to the GOP like Obamacare were rammed thourhg Congress by the Obamacrats. Every economic plan that Obama proposed or the Democrats wanted just sailed through congress; there was nothing the GOP could do to stop or even influence what the government did. That means that for two years, the Democrats were in complete control, and those two years are the ones which determine our current economic condition. Since January of 2011, the GOP has controlled the House of Representatives while the Democrats kept control of the rest of the government. Since then, the only economic proposal that has been put forward by the Democrats has been the Obama budget for 2012, a proposal that lost 97 to 0 in the Senate. Even the Democrats must be hard pressed to explain the unaninous rejection of Obama's budget in a chamber they control as Republican obstructionism.

IT is true that Obama has given a speech or two about things he might like to do with regard to the economy. The main point here, however, is that there are no proposals that have been put forward in Congress to implement any of these plans. None! Nada! Zilch! There is no Democrat plan that the Republicans are blocking. Indeed, the Senate Democrats have expressly refused to even put forward a budget for 2012 despite a clear legal obligation that they do so. The GOP in the House did propose a budget which passed, but the Democrats obstructed that in the Senate. So, without any proposals from the Democrats, it is pure nonsense for them to complain that their plans are being obstructed by the GOP.

Sadly, what is actually taking place is an effort by the Democrats to shift the blame for the current poor state of the economy from themselves to others. It just won't work. The Democrats have been in control. The efforts by the government to get the economy moving were the pure choices of the Democrats (like the stimulus). The measure of the Democrats have failed miserably, and the Democrats seem to have nothing left to suggest.

Here is my suggestion for the Democrats. Maybe you should tell the AMerican people that you had a bunch of proposals to help restore growth to the economy, but they were eaten by your dog. It will make as much sense as the nonsense you are now trying to sell.

The House Vote against authority for war in Libya

The House voted today against a resolution that would authorize the use of force in Libya. To put it mildly, it was a stinging rebuke to president Obama. The margin was over two to one to defeat the measure. Even amoung Democrats, the president got only just over 100 votes; almost half of the Democrats voted against the administration's position.

The obvious question is how could Congress actually vote against a millitary action underway with American troops involved? The answer is just one word: Obama. Strangely, Obama decided that despite the requirements of the Constitution and despite the terms of the War Powers Act, he would send troops to fight in Libya and not seek congressional approval. Indeed, Obama did not even send an explanation to Congress as to the reasons for the US involvement. He left the Congress to hear the same rationale that was put forth in bits and pieces to the American people. Not surprisingly, the members of Congress felt that the president had not carried out his constitutional duty to get their approval before commiting US troops to war.

Even today, Obama has yet to give a clear and full rationale for the conflict. What is the goal of the millitary action? We have never gotten a clear answer to that. What is the exit strategy? Again, no clear answer has been forthcoming. Who exactly are the Libyan rebels and is Al Qaeda involved with them? No answer here either. Indeed, accoridng to Michelle Bachmann who is on the House Intelligence Committee, the administration admits that it does not know the answer to this last question.

Given all of this, it is no surprise that two out of three members of Congress are not prepared to vote for the Libyan adventure. That is the case even though I am sure that the votes to support the mission are there if Obama were to actually come clean with Congress and deliver a full explanation of what is happening, why it is happening, how it is intended to end, and who the rebels are that we are helping.

Obama finally admits the truth

For the longest time, president Obama has been pushing a tax increase in the "rich" as a matter of fairness. We have been told repeatedly that this will not affect job creation since a bit more tax on the wealthy will not matter. Yesterday, the truth came out. In a congressional hearing, Treasury Secretary Geithner admitted that raising taxes on those above $250,000 would actually increse taxes rather dramatically for small businesses that get taxed through individual income taxes of the owners. He said that raising taxes on this group that create about two thirds of all jobs in this country was needed so that the government would not have to give up any of its current programs. Here is a quote from the CNS story:

"When Ellmers finally told Geithner that “the point is we need jobs,” he responded that the administration felt it had “no alternative” but to raise taxes on small businesses because otherwise “you have to shrink the overall size of government programs”—including federal education spending."

In the last forty years, federal education spending has risen by hundreds of billions of dollars yet the students do worse on achievement tests than they did at the earlier date. Indeed, the cities with the highest expenditures per pupil do significantly worse than those which spend less. The truth is that programs which encourage various political or ideological agendas do not help improve the quality of the students. Programs that give teachers higher pay and benefits do not improve the quality of the education. Programs that layer federal restrictions on local school boards do not improve the quality of the education. In short, were the Department of Education to be replaced with block grants to localities totaling 50% of the current budget of the Department, there would be a substantial savings and probably an improvement in the end product since the federal meddling and all the associated costs would be gone.

The Obamacrats have a lot of nerve claiming that the reason to tax small business and kill jobs is to improve education. They do not have a clue how to improve education.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The weekly unemployment figures

Well, it is Thursday so we once again got the weekly numbers for first time unemployment claims. The numbers were awful. Once again, the total was far above 400,000. Even the numbers from last week were revised upward so that the truth is that last week saw and increase, not a decrease in the total. I have written repeatedly about the interpretation of these numbers and will not repeat this again. Suffice to say that the Obama economy continues to stumble. The "bump in the road" of which Obama spoke is turning out to be quite a hill. Even so, Obama remains missing in action when it comes to actually coming forward with a plan as to how to handle any of the current economic mess. Our politician in chief thinks it is better to sit on the sidelines and snipe at the Republicans rather than to attempt to do anything to solve the country's difficulties.

I truly believe that Obama has chosen both a cowardly and a losing strategy. Hopefully, January 20,2013 will see a new president.

Releasing the oil reserves

As most of you already know, the White House announced this morning that the USA would be releasing 30 million barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. This action is coming in conjunction with other countries that are releasing a similar amount. The oil will be sold on the market at the rate of two million barrel per day for thirty days.

The purported reason for this move is to make up for the Libyan production lost due to the current fighting. Of course, that is fighting that began months ago and production that has been lost for that entire time. Indeed, the move to release the oil could have been done three months ago. Again we are told that the delay in moving forward with this plan resulted due to the time needed to get all of the participating countries on board with the plan.

This is nonsense. The USA could easily have released the same amount of oil from the reserve months ago. While the US effort proceded, we could have worked with other countries to take up the slack once our part ended. There was no conceivable need for the delay. Instead of moving forward when the oil shock hurt the world economy, Obama waited. Now, however, the price of oil has been coming down. It has fallen nearly 20% from the interim high of a few weeks ago. So with the price down, it is only now that Obama is acting. Oil that is there for emergencies will be released now that the emergency has passed.

So why is it that Obama has finally acted? My guess is that now that oil prices have declined, Obama wants to try to get some credit for himself from that move. The result is a very cynical release of the oil from the reserve so that Obama can give a speech and say "Look what I have done!"

The Afghan Speech

Last night, president Obama made it official; the USA will start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and will have all the surge troops out by September of 2012, just in time for the elections that November. Of course, Obama did not mention the elections, but one would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice that the timetable for withdrawal was designed for maximum political benefit for Obama without regard to the realities on the ground in Afghanistan. Nearly all fighting in that country takes place during the months of April through October. That means that the bulk of the troops being withdrawn will not be available for the 2012 fighting season. In other words, if the troops were coming home based upon millitary conditions, they would be leaving starting in November 2012, but that would be after the US elections. Alternatively, if things are so good in Afghanistan that the troops can be withdrawn earlier, they would be coming home between November 2011 and February of 2012. So politics has triumphed over the safety of the American troops and the needs of the war.

Over the years Obama has been in office, Americans have looked in vain to find him to be a leader who cares about the American people. We have all seen the egotistical man who thinks that by espousing his own views on a subject he can bend reality to his vision. That is why most of his speeches and press conferences include frequent use of the first person; in Obama's mind he thinks that the whole world is hanging on his every word and that it is eager to follow his dictates. We have also seen the president who cannot seem to focus on what is important to the people when there is an ideologically driven move that could otherwise be made. How long has it been when the only action coming from Obama on job growth has been a statement that he is focused like a laser on jobs. No one cares anymore about what Obama says is his focus. No one cares if he makes jobs or the economy the latest subject for his frequent claims that something is the last thing he thinks about before going to sleep and the first thing he thinks about upon arising in the morning. Perhaps the most accurate quote here is the old standby: "Words, words, words!!" Where is the plan for the economy? Where is a budget for 2012? Where is any hint that Obama is actually involved in the discussions about the debt ceiling? Where is there any program that Obama has put forward for economic growth? Oh, I know that Obama has spoken repeatedly about high speed rail and green jobs. But no one in his right mind could think that the answer to the current economic malaise is faster passenger trains or solar panels.

What the American people have for the moment is not a president. He is the politician in chief. He is the man whose focus, whether or not like a laser, is on getting re-elected. It is a year and a half until the election, Obama is unopposed for the nomination, but he is spending many days out of each week campaigning and raising funds. Is there so little to do that Obama has all of this excess time to devote to the campaign? Indeed, many ask when the last time was that a sitting president spent significant time devoted to his re-election fully a year and a half before Election Day. The answer is that no previous president ever did anything like this. It is as if Obama has taken a leave of absence from the presidency in order to campaign.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spending cuts as stimulus

With all of the current emphasis on spending cuts as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling, the question has arisen as to whether or not reductions of federal spending will help increase economic growth and reduce unemployment. Sadly, this subject is frequently discussed in one or two sentences with the opinions limited to yes or no. Even Ben Bernanke today said that in the short run spending cuts would be neutral or negative with regard to employment. He never gave an opinion on the longer term effect; nor did he define what he meant by the short term. Somehoe, one would expect more from the chairman of the Federal Reserve, but instead we get short, half answers.

The proper response to the issue is that certain types of spending reductions will clearly help economic growth and increase job creation. Let me give an example: were the United States to reposition 30,000 troops currently located in Korea back to the USA, the level of federal spending would be reduced by billions of dollars each year. Further, the spending on these troops would be in the USA rather than in Korea. That extra domestic spending would actually increase American economic activity and jobs while reducing total spending. Since the principal purpose for the troops in Korea is to demonstrate the American commitment to that country, it would not be a big difference to limit the number of troops to a few thousand in that country. Another type of spending reduction that could increase growth are subsidies that distort economic activity. Ethanol subsidies actually raise the use of corn for fuel and thereby raise the cost of food and other prodcuts that use the corn as an ingredient. Getting rid of the subsidies would let the other products reduce their prices and could lead to growth in those areas. So the nature of the spending cuts is the first issue to be determined.

Some types of cuts will lead to fewer jobs in the near term. Bernanke is correct there. Obviously, if 50,000 federal workers get fired, there will be 50,000 additional unemployed. That does not mean, however, that a year or two later there will be more unemployed. Obviously most of those fired will get jobs. Then there is the issue of whether or not the actions of the USA in solving its fiscal crisis will increase the confidence of the business community enough to result in an increase in investment in the USA. That investment will do more for economic and job growth than the loss of the 50,000 jobs could ever cost. And that investment is something that will lead to growth year after year, literally the gift that keeps on giving.

The discussion above is just a tiny portion of the answer to this question. The real truth is that there is no simple answer. Those who want a pithy statement that explains all simply do not understand economics or the US economy or they have ADHD.

Why Play Politics with Afghanistan

So president Obama is going to announce today the extent of the millitary draw down in Afghanistan over the next 18 months. This is a travesty. Simply put, there is no millitary benefit to making this announcement, but there is a substantial cost. Obama is making clear to the Taliban and its allies just how much longer they will face an onslaught from American troops. Obama is informing the Afghan population that there will soon be less reason to side with the Americans. Obama is telling the world that American commitments are not all that they are claimed to be.

So if there is no benefit but great cost millitarily, why is Obama doing this? Again, the answer is simple. Obama wants to gain a political benefit. Obama wants those in his party who are calling for withdrawal to know that it is underway. He wants to appear to be a moderate to the millions of Americans who are tired of the war. He is looking for votes for 2012, and he is doing so at the cost of the men and women who are serving in Afghanistan.

There are many who will point to earlier discussions of troop strength and say that Obama is doing nothing unusual. There is some truth to this insofar as the recent past is concerned. We had the very public indecision by Obama about the levels of troops in Afghanistan just a year ago. President Bush also went public with his decision to send in the surge in Iraq. In fairness to Bush, there is much less downside to telling your enemies that you are sending more troops after them. Nevertheless, it would have been better if Bush too had kept his mouth shut.

Think of it this way: during World War II did the USA ever announce how many men it had in Europe or the Pacific? During Desert Storm wasn't the whole millitary strategy based upon misleading the Iraqis about the nuber and location of coalition forces? In other words, in those conflicts wasn't the American goal to win the war? There has never been another conflict like this one where troop levels were consistently announced other than Vietnam. And we all know how that turned out.

Even if Obama were to decide to pull out some forces, there is no need to announce this. Let's kkep the Taliban guessing as to whether or not this is just a fluctuation in troop levels or if it is a true diminution.

I doubt whether anyone in the media will speak out in favor of less information. It is just sad that the president does not have the strength of character to value the safety of our troops and the success of their mission over his own political future.

Even more tension from Syria

Today brings news that Lebanese terror group Hezbollah is gearing up for a war with Israel in order to relieve some of the pressure on the Assad regime in Syria. For a long time, Syria has been the patron of Hezbollah, with Syria supplying weapons and financing to the terror group. Iran has also been a major patron of the group and has used Syria as the highway into Lebanon to get the supplies there. A loss of the Assad regime would be a terrible blow to Hezbollah. This explains the groups desire to take attention off of the slaughter being carried out by Assad against his own people.

Sadly, it is the slow pace of Western response that is providing Hezbollah with the time to decide upon war and then to actually move ahead. Were there to be military strikes against he Assad regime, it would be too late for the Hexbollah move to work. On the other hand, if the US and NATO have no intention to do anything about Assad, then it would probably be best for them all to just shut up. There is no reason to egg on Hezbollah to act if the whole thing is a charade.

It would be nice if the USA could provide clear and decisive leadership on this issue. Sadly, it seems that the only place Obama can be decisive is when he is issuing regulations that kill jobs or slow economic growth in the USA.

How can this be a surprise

For the last few days we have been seeing headlines in the media about a surprising "discovery" about Obamacare.; the law allows millions of people with incomes in the area of $70,000 per year to get free healthcare under Medicaid, the program meant to provide healthcare to the poor. These families have incomes in the upper half of all Americans, but Obamacare was written so that everyone else has to pay for their care.

The "discovery" leads to two questions: First, how can this be something that is only now being "discovered"? Are we really to believe that no one in Congress or the Administration knew how this would play out? I do not believe it. Sure, most of the Democrats who voted for Obamacare never read the bill or had any analysis done as to how it would work. There were not full committee hearings in Congress where the committee staffs would have looked carefully at the language of the bill and advised the members of the problems presented. The text of the bill was not even made public long enough before the vote for the public to review it in detail. And, of course, we all recall the famous confirmation of Congress' refusal to actually review the text of the bill that came from then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she told America that Congress had to pass the bill to find out what was in it. Even so, I find it hard to believe that the Democrats in Congress could have been that unmidful of their obligatons that they just had the bill passed with zero oversight.

I also do not believe that Obama and his people were unaware of these provisions. Indeed, these are just the type of provisions that would make the success of Obamacare less likely. Think of it this way: if Obamacare gets put into practice, it will destroy the health insurance business and it will also dramatically change the medical profession and the healthcare industry. Then, when it fails, the Democrats can all say that they tried, but the only way to rescue the healthcare industry is to have a national single payer system run by the government. I believe that this mess was left in place intentionally. It is the "discovery" of this provision before it goes into effect that was unanticipated by the Obamacrats.

The second question that needs to be answered is what is going to be done about this? So far, the answer seems to be nothing. No one has even suggested that the law be amended to get this boondoggle out. Weill the American people really stand by and watch this law go into effect so that upper middle income people will get "free' medical care? I hope not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The hidden story of GasFrac Energy Services.

As any reader of this blog knows, I am a big fan of GasFrac Energy Services (symbol GSF:CA or GFSVF on the pink sheets). There has been a bit of news that any follower of that stock must know.

First, the stock has moved to trade in Canada on the TSX. This is a big event. There are a number of funds and other potential buyers who cannot buy a security unless it is trades on an exchange like the TSX. The small exchange and the pink sheets where the stock previously traded kept these buyers out of the stock. In the long term, this will help raise the price of the stock.

Second, the upset about hydraulic fracturing used to complete oil and gas wells in shale formations continues to grow. Texas is passing legislation requiring companies to disclose the contents of their hydrofracking solutions. Maryland just instituted a ban on the use of hydrofracking. The environmentalist community continues to agitate against the process in many other locales. The response from the E&P companies has been half hearted and weak. As a result, the din is growing louder. All of this is a big opportunity for GasFrac since its process uses no water and solves essentially all of the environmentalists' complaints. (It also helps that the GasFrac process produces better results.)

A good example of this is an article published today by CNN Money.

It is a hit piece, and the CNN reporter did not bother to mention GasFrac or its alternative process at all. As a result, I wrote the following e-mail to him:

"I find it amazing that you could write an article about the purported dangers of fracking and not mention the alternative method used by GasFrac Energy Services Inc.

GasFrac is a Canadian company that uses liquid propane as a fracking medium rather than water. The liquid propane is a gel that actually changes into a gas underground once the fracking is completed. That means that the propane comes back to the surface in gas form and it is easily removed from the oil or natural gas that the well is producing. The propane can then be re-liquified and reused on the next well. If you stop for a moment and consider what this means to environmentalists, the answer is startling. First, there is no water usage. That means that issues like the scarcity of water in Texas during the current drought are removed. Second, since no liquid comes out of the well, there are no dissolved salts or radioactive materials brought to the surface. That means there is no need to dispose of contaminated water. That’s correct, the GasFrac process does away with all of the issues of pollution from underground being brought to the surface. Third, since the liquid propane is recycled, there are many fewer trucks needed to bring the liquids to the well sites. After the first well id completed in an area, there are just a few supply trucks coming in rather than the caravan of water trucks that arrive at each well completed by hydrofracking.

Beyond the environmental benefits, there are also clear economic benefits to the GasFrac process. Hydrofracking leaves about half of the water injected into the well in the ground as the well produces its oil or natural gas. This water acts to block some of the production that eventually comes from the well. In other words, a well completed with liquid propane will produce a substantially higher amount of oil or natural gas during its life. The results vary on that extra production, but a fair estimate is that it will be in the area of 15% or more extra production.

In case you think that the GasFrac process is something experimental, you should be aware that GasFrac has completed hundreds, if not thousands, of wells. The estimated revenue for the company for 2011 is about a quarter of a billion dollars, a figure that is expected to grow to half a billion in 2012. Even with all this growth, the company is fully booked for the rest of the year and much of 2012.

I have to tell you that I think that many of the complaints about hydrofracking are exaggerated, but the real point is that there is an easy solution to all of them. If you want more information about the GasFrac process, I suggest that you go to the company website

I think that you owe your readers a full exposition of the subject and that a follow up article about the Gasfrac process would make much sense."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where's Holder?

CNN is reporting that the acting head of the ATF Kenneth Melson is going to be forced to resign over the disaster called operation fast and furious. In that operation, ATF agents let people buy 2000 assualt weapons and sell them to Mexican drug cartels. Supposedly, the plan was to wait until the guns got into the hands of the cartels and then use the transfers to roll up the entire gun purchasing network both in the USA and Mexico. Of course, as any sensible person could have told the government, the guns were used for all sorts of crimes including the murder of a US border control agent in December. Only about a third of the guns have been recovered thus far.

Melson was an adjunct professor of law at George Washington University prior to his appointment. He also held some other jobs in the Justice Department. He was not, however, a law enforcement professional. Even so, it is hard to imagine that Melson thought that it would be possible to give 2000 weapons to the drug cartels without there being murder and mayhem as a result. There is not a law enforcement agency in the world that would guarantee the most of the guns could be rolled back up once delivered to the cartels. Indeed, if anyone claimed that his agency could get the bulk of the guns back before they were used, that person should have been fired and replaced. The claim is just a joke.

So that gets to the real question. Did Melson really authorize this operation without even informing his superiors at DOJ what was going on? I question whether or not the acting head of ATF would authorize giving 2000 guns to the drug cartels. It seems like a time when any agency head would want the cover of approval from his superior. But let's assume for the moment that Melson was foolish enough to authorize the operation on his own. It is impossible to believe that he did not report the existence of the operation to the Attorney General. Otherwise, we are to believe that the head of ATF approved a secret operation to give 2000 weapons to the Mexican drug cartels. Even on TV, they do not write stories that are that unbelievable. Without knowing anything else, I believe that Eric Holder had to know about the operation. If Melson has to resign, Holder should go with him.

I know that some people believe that the real purpose of the operation was not to track gun running to the drug cartels, but rather to cause chaos with the guns so as to strengthen the hand of those who want to further regulate gun sales in the USA. I find this far fetched but not impossible to believe. The real point, however, is this: There was either massive stupidity or massive incompetence in the DOJ and ATF. Someone authorized this crazy scheme. Someone specifically decided that the guns had to be allowed to go to the drug cartels. Someone actually believed that once these violent felons had 2000 guns, they would somehow just give them back or surrender them in raids without ever using them for criminal purposes. Alernatively, someone decided that if the drug cartels used 2000 guns to commit crimes including murder, it was acceptable collateral damage to achieve the purpose of the operation which, of course, was to reduce criminal activity by the cartels. In short, this was incredibly stupid, but once it was underway, someone could have pulled the plug and stopped it. Where was the oversight by Holder and DOJ?

Assad: Why would anyone believe him?

Bashir Assad, the president of Syria has "pledged" to begin making reforms after a full discussion in the next few months. There are more details to the pledge, but my question is why would anyone ever believe Assad? In the same speech, Assad blames sabotage for the recent killings of civilians across the country. Something like 1200 people have been killed and Assad says it was sabotage. Video of government forces using tanks, rockets, grenades and rifles to kill protesters and Assad says it is sabotage. He could just as well have blamed extra-terrestrials.

This is not the first time in this crisis that Assad has pledged to reform. Apparently, the reforms that Assad had in mind was increasing the weaponry that his army uses daily on the populace to keep control.

The Syrian government is killing its people in an ever increasing terror campaign. So far, the response of the USA has been muted at best. Now that 1200 are dead, the USA is considering referring Syria to the World Court in the Hague. They must be quaking with fear in Damascus!

The time has come for the USA to sever diplomatic ties with the Assad regime. All civilized countries should do likewise. Trade and travel restrictions should also be put in place immediately. Further, there ought to be an ultimatum given to the Syrian government to cease its murderous ways or face further unspecifiec sanctions.

Will this work? No one knows for sure until it is tried. One thing is certain, however, it is ridiculous to sit by and watch endless murder while doing nothing.

The EPA and the Supreme Court

This morning the Supreme Court issued a decision in which it held that federal regulation of greenhouse gases has been given to the EPA by Congress and that the issue has been removed from the purview of the federal courts. It is a wise decision well grounded in federal law.

Seventy-three years ago, in the landmark case of Erie v. Tompkins, the Supreme Court made clear that there was no federal common law. That meant that federal courts applied state laws where there was no applicable federal statute or regulation. This determination has been relaxed over the years in cases involving air or water pollution moving from one state to another. in those cases, the federal courts have stepped in to develop law to govern suits by a state to stop pollution coming from another state. With today's decision, the Court makes clear that once Congress steps in and sets up a mechanism to deal with this type of problem, the courts are no longer in a position to create their own law to deal with the problem. Since the EPA is considering regulations governing greenhouse gases, the courts will not substitute their judgments for those fo the EPA. As a result, a suit by six states and some others against a number of utility companies based upon emissions of greenhouse gases was dismissed by the Court.

The decision seems wise to me. It makes no sense to have federal courts making decisions that could conflict with the ultimate determination of the EPA. On the other hand, this decision recognizes ultimate power in the EPA on this subject. Right now, the EPA is considering regulations that would go much farther than the cap and trade bill that Congress considered but did not pass in the last session. The problem is that an issue as critical to the economy and the country as greenhouse gas emissions has been left to unelected regulators rather than being decided by the people's representatives in Congress.

Libya: a reasonable suggestion

There has been a great deal of discussion in the media about Libya and the War Powers Act. Basically, the debate boils down to two things. First, is Congressional approval needed to keep troops figting in Libya? Second, since the president refuses to seek that approval, should Congress cut off funding for the effort? Once again, the pundits have resorted to simplistic choices to make it seem that the are no alternatives for Congress. If the Congress wants to protect its constitutional power to declare war, it can only cut off funds and stop the Libyan effort -- or so the pundits claim. Obviously, the possibility of stopping funding for American millitary actions midstream is not one that appeals to the average politician or the average American. Of course, this ignores the alternative.

Congress should pass a resolution that cuts off funding for the war effort in Libya in 40 days unless two things happen: 1)within two weeks president Obama sends a written report to Congress explaining the reason for the millitary effort in Libya and the national interest of the USA that is at stake, and 2) Congress passes a resolution after receipt of that report which authorizes the use of force in that country. This would put the ball squarely back in Obama's court. He would be forced to actually explain what the goal is in Libya. His own actions would determine if there was continued funding. It would also protect Congress' constitutional authority.

Let me be clear. I think that action in Libya is warranted. I believe that Obama wasted an early opportunity to get rid of Gaddafi; had the USA moved right at the start rather than waiting for the UN and the arab league, Gaddafi could have been toppled in those early heady days of the protests. Nevertheless, getting rid of Gaddafi is a service to all mankind. I also believe that Congress, not the president, has the power to determine if the US is going to engage in a war and that the power has to be jealously guarded. My hope would be that Obama would give a coherent reason for involvement in Libya and Congress would approve.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Vain -- the problems of the East come from the West

In her new book, Mara Hvistendahl blames the problem of sex selection in Asia on the West. After all, it was the West that created ultrasound and other methods that can determine the sex of a child in the uterus, a process which Asian societies like China have used to pick males over females. In typical fashion, Hvistendahl thinks that everything stems from the West. It is a ridiculous cultural conceit on her part.

The truth is that the single biggest cause of male selection has been the Chinese policy of one child. The Chinese state does not allow families to have more than one child. That law was created by the Chinese government, not the West. It is true that modern technology whose purpose is to promote the health of the mother and child can be used to select the sex of the one child allowed, but that does not make the basic policy the fault of the West. Were China to allow three children per family, it is highly doubtful that many families would select three boys.

In India, there has also been something of a sex selection. Here too, the fault comes from the decline in the birth rate. In India, this decline is the result not of law but of cultural choice. The preference for sons over daughters in India and its neighbors has done the rest.

I suppose that Hvistendahl think that it would be better for the West to deny various pre-natal health methods to women in Asia. The argument, I suppose, is that more deaths during pregnancy and children with birth defects would be better than a surfeit of boys.

Of course, the logical conclusion from all of this is that Asian societies should ban abortion. That would end the sex selection problem.

Which is true?

In the last 48 hours, I have listened more than usual to some of the call in shows on the radio. Here is a list of five statements. See if you can recognize which of these five I heard stated on the radio:

1) Obama is a Communist who named Tsars in his administration to throw off those who thought he was a Communist. After all, the Communists in Russia came when the Tsar in that country was overthrown.

2) The Chinese are buying land in the US an opening up factories. These areas have been designated free trade zones by Obama. The Chinese are bringing in Chinese workers to get the jobs that these new factories produce.

3) Those in Congress who want president Obama to ask Congress for authority to continue with the Libya War are Republicans who all said exactly the opposite when George Bush was in office.

4) It is ridiculous to say that the wild fires raging in Arizona were started in whole or in part by illegal aliens.

5) Those who question the need for a continued presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are isolationists like those who wanted the USA to keep out of World War II.

The facts are listed below.
If you said that I heard all of this stated like a fact on the radio, you are correct. Sadly, none of the statements is even remotely true, but that did not stop the people from saying them. Statements 3 and 4 even came from supposed news reporters, but they were just as incorrect as the others.

Let's look at the five: First, Obama is not a Communist. He may be a European style Socialist, but that is a very different thing. The use of the tsar term is one of long standing here in the US; it did not start with Obama. Second, there are no Chinese free trade zones in the USA; nor are there any Chinese workers coming (legally) into this country. Third, those who say the president must get congressional authority to continue in Libya are about half Democrats and half Republicans. Further, Bush sought and got Congressional authority before fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. There was no comparable situation during the Bush Adminsitration. Fourth, no one has stated in public who caused the wild fires iin Arizona. They may have been the result of natural causes, an undoused camp fire or arson. Since that has not yet been determined or disclosed, speculation that it might have been illegals who caused the fires makes as much sense as speculation that the fires were set by lightning. the truth is that either no one knows or else no one is saying. Last, pre war isolationism had as its central tenet, the idea that the USA needed just to keep out of foreign entanglements; we were to let the Europeans solve their own problems. That is a far cry from re-examining the strategy for dealing with the Muslim terror threat. The question is what will work the best for the USA. Fifty years ago, Kennedy said that the USA would bear any burden and pay any price for freedom, etc. After that, some thought that more involvement was always better than less. That may have been true when dealing with the Soviet Union. It is not necessarily the case when the opponent is Al Qaeda.

Frequently, I criticize people for not giving the intelligence of the American people enough credit. After listening to the radio this weekend, I may re-think that position.

The Korean Free Trade Agreement

In 2007, the USA and the Republic of Korea signed a free trade agreement. Since then, the agreement has not been ratified by either side, so it has not gone into effect. Democrats blocked ratification during the Bush years. After Obama took over, he had the treaty modified through renegotiations with the South Koreans. Eight months ago, those negotiations concluded and Obama pronounced himself satisfied with the new version of the treaty. Parties normally on opposite sides of trade issues also supported the treaty; for example, both the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company have endorsed ratification. Many other groups have come out in support. Despite this, the treaty has still not been voted on by the Senate. Harry Reid and the Democrats have held it from moving forward, and president Obama has remained silent about the hold.

Right now, economic issues are at a critical point in the USA. Efforts to increase growth are essential. Nevertheless, the Korean free trade agreement (like two others) is just stuck there without action.

It is not that the Democrat leadership is telling the country that it opposes the treaty. If there were a reasoned opposition to provisions of the treaty, that might make sense. No, the treaty is just being held since there are a few Democrat constituent groups (certain unions) the reflexively oppose all free trade agreements.

It is a disgrace that president Obama continues to remain silent on this issue. If the treaty is not a good one, then Obama should just say he made a mistake in renegotiating it and withdraw it from Congress. However, if Obama believes that the treat would help the economy, he ought to push for it. And that means really push for it. It will not be enough to mention it in a speech and then walk away (although Obama has not even bothered to do that much.) The president could easily force the Senate leadership to bring the treaty forward for a vote. If there is a group of senators who want to vote against the treaty or even to fillibuster it, that is their right. There has to be action now, however, if it is ever to help the economy. Waiting further is not an option.

The Double Standard and silly PC Points

Today's news brings a number of articles that illustrate both the double standard of American media and the silliness of political correctness.

This morning's headline on Yahoo news is that Republicans (gasp) laughed and applauded at an Obama impersonator who did a routine at some Republican grassroots conference held in New Orleans. Among the jokes that the article highlights were one where the speaker said that the White House is aging him and the screen behind the speaker showed a picture of Redd Foxx's character from the old Sanford and Sons TV show. Another joke was that the Obama impersonator said that his wife celebrated Black History Month but he only celebrated half of it. Still a third joke was that the Obama impersonator said that he was just back from visiting the state of his birth, Hawaii, or as the Tea Party calls it, Kenya. He also did jokes about Romney's Mormon faith and the collapse of the Gingrich campaign.

There is nothing worng with that comedy routine. Still, I read or heard three different news reports about it each of which intimated that it was low grade racist. Imagine making fun of an African American president by having a black man impersonate him. Imagine a joke that has its punch line based upone the fact that Obama is only half black. The outrage is both silly and PC beyond belief. Will Ferrell did a whole Broadway show impersonating George Bush. He made fun of Bush in every way imaginable. Was that racist? No. Was it improper? No. And how many Sarah Palin jokes have we all heard? When the media repeated the baseless story endlessly that her youngest child was actually her grandchild there was no outrage. That was a baseless and heartless attack, not a comedy routine.

The simple truth is that president Obama is African American. Every time someone makes fun of him or criticizes him, it is not racism.

Then there was the story about the media response to Obama's statements about ATM's and airport kiosks. You know, the other day Obama said that one of the main reasons for high unemployment was that devices like ATM's were replacing bank tellers and airport kiosks were replacing counter staff of the airlines. Of course, ATM's have been around for decades, as have airport kiosks. Both have been here for many years before we had the high unemployment. Further, there are more bank tellers today than there have ever been. Clearly, Obama's statement was not only wrong, it demonstrated that he does not know what he is talking about when it comes to job creation. The media, however, has been mostly silent about this. Are they afraid that pointing out that Obama is wrong and out of touch is racist? Are they just promoting a pro-Obama agenda? When Sarah Palin said that Paul Revere warned the British as well as the Americans, the response was an endless barrage of stories, many of which turned out to be incorrect. And Palin is not even a candidate for president.

So the media is not only silent about Obama's gaffes, it promotes the story that all criticism of him is racist. It is just sad. Many of these media folks are just plain delusional.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Growth is essential

For a long time, much of the debate in this country has been on spending cuts and tax increases. The issue of restoring growth has been given less attention than it deserves. True, Time Pawlenty has made a goal of 5% growth the aspirational target of his economic program. The other GOP candidates have all talked about growth to some extent as well (except for Ron Paul who is not a serious candidate.) For his part, Obama has talked about growth through green jobs and high speed rail and other public "investment"; Obama, however, has taken action after action that works to slow growth. First, we have Obamacare. There is a plethora of regulations coming in the next few years that will increase the costs for employers in the USA by unknown amounts. Then we have the assorted tax increases that Obama has either gotten through Congress or is currently pushing. Then we have the other regulations which are coming from the EPA or the agency implementing the Financial "Reform" Law. On top of that you have the Obama drilling moratorium and other actions to raise energy costs.

Growth is critical for lowering unemployment. Growth, however, is also critical for deficit reduction. This is a point that gets said on occasion, but it is rarely explained. Think of it this way: the GDP of the USA is expected to be roughly $15 trillion for 2011. If the growth rate can be increased by 2% in the next year, that means that there will be about an additional $300 billion of GDP. Since the federal government currently takes about 20% in taxes out of GDP, that means there will be an additional $60 billion in taxes for the next year. When we use the ten year budgeting that is now the common practice in Washington, that additional 2% for just the next year means an additional $600 billion dollars in taxes for that period. Of course, that is the number achieved with just a one time bump of 2% in growth. If the 2% increase in growth is maintained for ten years, the additional tax revenue comes to more than three trillion dollars for the decade. Of course, that extra growth means more jobs and fewer people needing assistance. This should result in a major cut in spending on the relevant programs. It ought to be enough to bring the total deficit reduction from the 2% growth to more than 6 tillion dollars over the next decade. And this is just a 2% increase in growth. That would mean an increase from 1.8% to 3.8% growth based upon last quarter's numbers. If we hit the Pawlenty goal of 5%, the six trillion goes above ten trillion dollars.

In other words, economic growth is the very best way to reduce the federal deficit. When you couple growth with reductions in other types of federal spending, it is not hard to see us actually get back to a budget surplus.

None of these are pie in the sky numbers. The only ones in the USA who seem to think that we just have to be satisfied with less are Obama and the Obamacrats. REstoring growth is not that hard. Sure, there will have to be some painful decisions made and some people hurt as the current groups receiving government subsidies are left to fend for themselves. Nevertheless, I will not lose any sleep over the idea that farmers have to live with markets without ethanol subsidies or oil companies will have to profit on the oil and gas they produce rather than on federal subsidies. Even if those in the middle class who get benefits through tax credits and the like will have to make do without them. Nevertheless, if the country returns to high growth, the economy will produce millions of jobs, the standard of living for all will rise and the temporary sacrifices will be more than repaid with interest.

Greasing the skids in Connecticut

Unemployment in Connecticut is at a high of 9.1% for May of 2011. that is extraordinary. For most of my life in Connecticut, the economy here was relatively immune to the national business cycles. Sure, there were ups and downs, but the impact was more limited. In Fairfield Country, where I live, this effect was even stronger. The current recession, however, has changed all this. The unemployment rate in Connecticut is not any lower than the national average. We also hear that Connecticut is one of only three states to have fewer jobs now than it had ten years ago.

So what is the response from the state government? What steps is Connecticut taking to make it more competative, to make it a better place to locate jobs? The answer from our new governor Malloy is simple: we are going to raise taxes on the wealthy (by his definition) and increase the general burden on businesses that decide to locate here. Unlike the neighboring states that have held the line on taxes, Connecticut has raised taxes for just about everyone with a job other than those in the very lowest income levels. Malloy calls this increasing the taxes on the rich, but my guess is that well over half the state qualifies as rich under his definition. Sadly, the real burden falls on the middle class alone. A family with an income of half a million dollars will not feel much change if the state taxes on that income go up by half a percent. A family earning 100,000 dollars will feel much more pain when their taxes go up by a full percent. True, the number of dollars paid by the wealthy may nominally be greater, but the impact on the family budget is much more drastic for the middle income folks. Another way to look at this is that Malloy has increased taxes in a way that will decrease spending by the people of the state, thereby hurting local business.

Another Malloy move has been to push for the guaranteed sick leave bill. We will soon have a state law that requires businesses to grant sick leave on a specific schedule. That makes Connecticut the only state to have this requirement. Do they really think that will attract new businesses and employers to CT?