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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Time

Well, it's time for the holidays. My kids have arrived home, and we now get the family time that makes this time of year so special. I am taking a break from blogging for a few weeks. I will see you all in 2012. Merry Christmas to all; Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year!!!

Draft Hillary and Hysteria on the Left

It never ceases to amaze me just how silly the Democrats and teh left can be. The latest is the response to those robocalls and petitions trying to get Hillary Clinton to run against Barack Obama in 2012. The calls are plain vanilla; I have gotten two of them already. The petition takes its place online with other petitions for everything from calling for clothing for dogs and cats to those seeking to make New Hampshire an independent country. So what is the breathless response today set forth in Politico? You guess it, this entire endeavor is a GOP plot to split the Democrats. Are they kidding? It would be a disaster for the GOP if Hillary replaced Obama. She could run on "doing it right" where Obama has already shown that he is incapable of managing anything. Hillary could argue that there is nothing wrong with the Democrats' policies so long as they are done right.

It is vaguely amusing to see these folks get so upset at the thought that there actually are Democrats who prefer someone else to Obama. But the Republicans are not the ones doing this.

A Bit of Perspective

The Obama White House is rolling out the big guns over the two month extension of the payroll tax cut. We need a bit of perspective on this, however. The average American family earning $50,000 will see a tax difference of $20 per week for two months if the cut is never passed. The House wants Obama and the Senate to compromise on a bill that will guarantee this tax cut for a full year. Obama and the Senate refuse. You can be sure, however, that both Obama and the Senate will want to arrange for the continuation of the tax cut for the remainder of the year, so there will have to be those same compromises made in January or February. Indeed, even if the two month bill is not passed now, the final compromise will likely include a retroactive bit of relief to make up for any lost portion of the cut. So we know that the Democrats want a full year cut and the Republicans want a full year cut. The only reason we do not have one now is that the Democrats wanted to get out of Washington for their vacations so they proposed just a two month deal which would put off the need for any further compromises to pay for the full year, and teh senate Republicans agreed.

The level of misinformation here is incredible.

One last important point must be added. No one should be misled by the two month tax cut; it is not a tax cut. For two months under that bill, payroll taxes are reduced and instead fees for new mortgages across the country are raised. People who want to buy homes will likely pay about a quarter of a percent more on their mortgages as a result. So, the mortgage fees will further depress the housing market. Fewer folks will be able to afford to buy since their mortgage payments will rise. Fewer buyers mean lower prices. In other words, these fees will help push the value of people's homes even lower than they have already fallen. The decline of the housing market and the reduction in home values are two of the biggest drivers of the current stagnant state of the economy. While it may be nice to give working Americans a two month reduction in social security taxes, that $20 per week for two months is not worth piling on further problems in the housing markets.

It would not have been very hard to find real spending cuts to pay for the two month reduction in Social Security payroll taxes. That would actually put money into the economy by letting people keep the funds and not taking similar amounts from those seeking to buy homes. The two month deal is flawed to say the least. But no one actually talks about this; the big issue is who wants to cut taxes and who is fighting it.

A little perspective rather than the usual nonsense would be nice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Economics Beats the Obamacrats

There is a basic rule of economics that president Obama and the Obamacrats have forgotten: no matter how much the government subsidizes something that people do not want, the market for that product will collapse once the subsidies are removed. I have written about this many times, and the news tonight shows once again how accurate this rule is. The product in question here is the Chevy Volt, the electric and gasoline powered car that General Moters has been trying to market this year. We have now learned from an analysis by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy that the government has subsidized each Volt by an amount between $50,000 and $250,000 per vehicle. The range in the subsidies is the result of certain milestone achievements needed in order for manufacturers to receive parts of the subsidies. To be clear, this subsidy does not include the fact that GM is still 28% owned by the federal government.

One would think that with this enormous subsidy, sales of the Volt would be soaring. Quite the contrary is true. GM was only trying to sell 10,000 units in 2011, but it will be lucky to sell 60% of that. It was also reported today that a large portion of the sales actually made are coming from governments which are buying the Volts. The public is just not buying this car.

So why is the public staying away? Could it be the 28 mile range of the vehicle before the electric charge runs out? Could it be the price tag in excess of $40,000 for a car that is the equivalent of a gasoline powered car that sells for less than $20,000? Could it be the problem that the battery of the Volt has a tendency to burst into flames sometime within a month after the car is involved in a minor accident? Maybe it is all of these things. The truth, however, is that there is simply nothing to create actual demand for the car other than government funds.

The contrast to the Volt, of course, would be cars that run on natural gas for their fuel. These cars are not more expensive than gasoline powered cars, but they cost substantially less to operate. The natural gas powered cars do have a lesser range than gasoline powered cars, but they still will go over 250 miles on a tankful of natural gas. Because of the operational savings, owners of big fleets of truck are switching to natural gas as the fuel of choice. In other words, there is a real economic reason to buy natural gas powered vehicles, so there is no need for government subsidies.

For the electric cars, however, there is just no economic reason to make the purchase. As a result, no matter what Obama and the Obamacrats say, once the government subsidies run out on the Volt, it will just vanish from the market. Until then, Obama and his cronies are wasting billions of dollars pushing electric cars that have no future. It is a change that lacks all hope of success.

Campaigning at Tiffany's

In the spirit of piling on, the media is bringing back tales of Newt Gingrich's purchases for his wife at jeweler Tiffany & Co. So, here is a quiz about Gingrich:

1) True or False -- Gingrich used his wife's money to make a long list of expensive purchases.
2) True or False -- Gingrich has three houses each of which is worth well in excess of a million dollars.
3) True or False -- Gingrich sent his wife Calista on a lengthy European vacation earlier this year which cost over $70,000 per day.
4) True or False -- Gingrich's wife routinely dresses in expensive designer gowns for dinners with supporters.
5) True or False -- Gingrich used the confidential information that he gained as Speaker of the House to make millions of dollars of profits in the stock market.
6) True or False -- Gingrich used his former political position to run a variety of profitable schemes that depended on his using his political influence to help them.
7) True or False -- Gingrich helped his children to prosper by letting them use his influence in careers as lobbyists.

So, here are the answers. If you answered true to any question, you were wrong. John Kerry, the 2004 Democrat presidential nominee uses his wife's money to make millions of dollars of expensive purchases. Mitt Romney has three houses, each of which is worth over a million dollars -- one is reputed to be the biggest house in the state of New Hampshire. Barack Obama sent his wife on a European vacation earlier this year which cost over $70,000 per day. Obama is also the one whose wife regularly dresses in expensive designer clothing for dinners with supporters. It was Nancy Pelosi who used confidential information gained while Speaker of the House to profit from trading in stocks that were about to get good news from the government. It is Al Gore who ran a variety of profitable schemes that depended on his using his political influence to help them; Gore has made well over one hundred million dollars from his efforts supposedly intended to stop global warming. Fianlly, it is Harry Reid who helped his children to prosper by letting them use his influence in careers as lobbyists; Reid has four sons and each has been a lobbyist.

So here's the question: we have seen a variety of rich, very rich and extremely rich candidates for president. Kerry was the richest, even though the money belonged to his wife. No one said anything about this wealth at the time (although nearly all of the millionaires and billionaires in question were Democrats and that may explain the silence.) So why now do big bills for gift bought at Tiffany & Co suddenly become important? It is a total double standard.

Why Waste the Time Taking Polls?

I was looking at that latest polls for the Iowa caucus and have come to the conclusion that they are all garbage. It is not just that the polls disagree; they are not even close. And the differences between polls cannot be explained by when they were taken or the type of voter questioned. In the last three days, four polls have been released with regard to the GOP Iowa Caucus. All four poll "likely" caucus voters. Each comes from a respected polling organization. That means that there ought to be some measure of consistency among these polls. But there isn't.

Let me explain: Ron Paul gets between 20 and 28% in the four polls. This is a wide swing. Mitt Romney gets between 18 and 25%. Newt Gingrich gets between 13 and 25%, an even bigger swing. Rick Perry ranges from 10 to 16%. Santorum swings from 3 to 10%. Only Bachmann at 6-10% and Huntsman at 4% or less show any consistency in their numbers. So all these polls tell us is that Paul, Romney and Gingrich are the leaders, but there is no agreement who is in first place. We also know that Bachmann and Huntsman as well as Santorum are lagging behind. This all leads to the overarching question: why waste time taking these polls anyway? Since the results are unreliable, the whole polling process is just a waste of time and money.

Ads for Alan Grayson -- 3

I realize that I have said more than enough about that fool Alan Grayson and his attempt to get back into Congress. Nevertheless, since I have already written twice about his fundraising attempts, I thought one last encouraging update would be in order.

The fundraising website to which all of the ads across the internet direct folks used to say that Grayson was trying to raise one million dollars by the end of the year. As the days passed, Grayson was getting essentially no contributions according to the total posted at the site. Indeed, it became clear that Grayson would never meet his total goal. So what has Grayson done? Easy answer--he changed the goal. Now he is trying to raise half a million dollars for the quarter. Of course, that is a goal Grayson has already met. This way, Grayson guarantees that he can talk about how successful his campaign is at meeting its goals.

My guess is that the bulk of the funds that Grayson has have come in the past and they are left over from prior campaigns. By adding old funds to the new campaign treasury, Grayson can "make" his goals. The good news, of course, is that Americans are not giving him any new money. Clearly, Americans are not fools.

Syria Goes for the local record -- Obama says nothing

On Monday, Syrian forces under the control of the dictator Bashir al Assad killed 70 members of the armed forces who were deserting at Idlib near the Turkish border rather than attack local people protesting against the regime. It was a record high number of deaths in one day in the Syrian fighting. The record, however, did not stand for long. Yesterday, the Assad forces slaughtered 111 people who were fleeing from a protest broken up by the police. According to unverified reports, in neither instance did those who were killed attack or even threaten anyone. That means that 181 people were just killed by the Assad regime as a warning to others who might protest.

Reaction was swift from Washington. President Obama said nothing. Secretary Clinton said nothing. My guess is that they are "studying" the situation. Maybe they are "consulting" with our allies. After all, Obama does not want to act "rashly".

Innocent people are being slaughtered. It is time for the USA to get together with our allies and put serious sanctions on Syria. If China and Russia want to continue to shelter the Assad regime at the UN, then the Security Council will be a dead end. I cannot, however, be the end of the road. America does not need to commit its military forces to protect victims everywhere; that is clear. America, however, does need to be a voice for freedom. It would be nice if we had a president who recognizes that simple but powerful truth.

UPDATE: To be complete, I have to report that Jay Carney, the White Hosue spokesman, told reporters in a briefing today that Syria needs to stop killing protesters or the "international community" would "do something about it". This non-response truly makes my point. Are we to understand that 181 dead in two days is not enough to get action? It is just the basis for some vague warning? Shame!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Robinson -- Pundit or Fool?

One of the media people currently most deserving of the name "useful idiots" is Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. Useful idiot is a term first used to describe western opinion makers sympathetic to the old Soviet Union. These idiots downplayed the true nature of Communism and acted as disseminators of phony propaganda (whether intentional or not).

Robinson assumed that role today (okay, he has had it for a while) in connection with the change of leadership in North Korea. Robinson is incensed at the statement made by Mitt Romney about that transfer of power upon the death of Kim Jong Il. Here is what Romney said:

"Kim Jong Il was a ruthless tyrant who lived a life of luxury while the North Korean people starved. He recklessly pursued nuclear weapons, sold nuclear and missile technology to other rogue regimes, and committed acts of military aggression against our ally South Korea. He will not be missed.... His death represents an opportunity for America to work with our friends to turn North Korea off the treacherous course it is on and ensure security in the region. America must show leadership at this time. The North Korean people are suffering through a long and brutal national nightmare. I hope the death of Kim Jong Il hastens its end."

No sane person would argue that Romney's description of Kim Jong Il was wrong in any way. Kim was a loony sadist who cared not at all for the North Korean people. His only interest was himself and his personal power.

To Robinson, however, Romney's actions are "unpresidential". America needs a president who knows how to act when a foreign despot dies: we need a low key, almost non-existant response. We have to study the situation and consult with our allies. We have to wait to say anything until the situation has clarified in a month or two or maybe longer. In other words, Robinson wants the president to hide and do nothing until the situation has settled in North Korea.

A good example of this kind of conduct came when the uprising in Libya first started. After two or three days, nearly the entire country of Libya was in the hands of the rebels. At that point, a well placed shove from the USA against Gaddafi would have toppled that despot from his throne and brought a new government to Libya without any real bloodshed at all. Obama, however, was "presidential" in the way that Robinson wants. Obama spent weeks, indeed a month, consulting with allies, meeting at the UN and studying the situation. By the time Obama decided what America ought to do, Gaddafi had been able to steady his situation and then go on the offensive. Indeed, by the time Obama acted, hundreds and thousands of Libyan civilians were being killed by strikes from the Libyan air force. Cities were being destroyed. Fighting was raging across the country. Of course, Obama then committed US forces to the struggle (something that might have been avoided had Obama acted promptly in the first place.) But prompt action wouldn't have been presidential in Robinson's opinion.

I wonder what Robinson thinks about Franklin Roosevelt who asked for a declaration of war the day after Pearl Harbor. Did FDR act too fast and without full knowledge? How unpresidential! Maybe there was a faction in Tokyo with whom the USA could have tried to negotiate.

The real truth is that the USA needs a leader who is not afraid to lead. We have had three years of leading from behind, leading from way behind and failing to lead at all. Events that occur around the world will not wait to allow the president of the USA study time and Robinson truly is a useful idiot for thinking anything else.

The Slow Recovery

Writing in Barrons over the weekend, Gene Epstein examined the slow pace of the US recovery since the official end of the recession. The annual growth rate as been 2.4% since the recovery began as compared to 5.1% and 6.3% after other serious recessions in 1974-5 and 1981-2 respectively. In fact, for the period since 1970, even including all the recessions during that time, growth averaged higher than just during this recovery alone. This shows the weakness of the current recovery since growth historically is fastest in the period just after a recession. Epstein even does an analysis that removes both the slow housing market and the increase in government spending as a share of GDP and finds that the rate of growth is still anemic compared to the past. So what has caused this slow growth? Epstien says he is awaiting further figures but suspects that it is government policy which is interfering with economic freedom.

In my opinion, Epstein is onto something, but he is also missing an important element of the story. The recent problem has not only been government policy which has restricted the ability of businesses to function; it has also been the used of the government to misdirect investment into non-productive or less efficient parts of the economy. Investment is the life blood of the economy, and there is a finite pool of capital that is available for that use. To the extent that a substantial portion of the available capital is diverted to non-productive investments, economic growth will be slowed or even stopped. And this is just what has happened under Obama.

Let's look at the record. Here are a number of places where Obama's agenda has distorted investments in the USA.

1) The stimulus took about 200 billion dollars and used it to pay salaries of state workers. In the bastardized Keynesian attempt at analysis that passed for the theoretical underpinnings of the stimulus, Obama and his staff told us that this spending would have a multiplier that would increase economic activity. The truth is that the same amount invested by the private sector in productive activities would have caused growth many multiples of the trickle that resulted from paying for the state workers. In essence, Obama used a fifth of a trillion dollars to subsidize inefficiency rather than to promote growth.

2) The stimulus also used close to a hundred billion dollars to make grants for research or for projects like high speed rail that are not capable of supporting theselves in the economy. In other words, high speed rail cannot even operate at a profit so it is clearly an inefficient use of capital. Similarly, studies of the sex lives of coeds at Syracuse will not lead to economic growth.

3) Obama let the EPA put in new regulations that forced utilities to retrofit plants. Remember, America's power plants have already removed over 98% of all pollutants from their emissions in the last 40 years. The new regulations, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, will not result in significant further reductions in pollution, but they will divert the power industry from taking steps that might otherwise reduce the cost of power and increase the rate of economic growth.

4) Obama put tens of billions of dollars into General Motors and Chrysler and then let them go through bankruptcy. Then, in the bankruptcy, Obama strong armed the bond holders into giving up their rights in favor of the unions. Clearly, if bankruptcy was the inevitable outcome for these companies, there was no need for the government to use up 60 billion dollars prior to that happening. It was just throwing good money after bad. Further, by strong arming the bondholders, Obama weakened the rule of law that ought to have protected those assets. This means that the cost to raise capital went up due to the increase of risk that resulted from this action.

5) Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the rest all put an increased level of uncertainty and fear into business decisions. This tended to freeze investment capital in place. Rather than making investments, people held onto their capital until they see the dust settle. Fear is the enemy of investment. This alone has resulted in a marked slowdown of growth.

There are many other examples that could be listed here. The point, however, is that president Obama owns the slow recovery, not just because he happens to be president while it is happening, but rather because to a great extent it is the direct result of his policies.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Bipartisan Medicare proposal

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) have introduced a new plan for reforming and saving Medicare. Basically, the plan keeps Medicare in its current form for the elderly but allows the option of choosing a private plan in place of Medicare in the future. Specifically, the proposal provides for no change to the current Medicare program for those who are over 55. Everyone else would participate in a premium-support system (like Ryan's previous plan) except this system would allow Medicare recipients to choose either the current version of Medicare or a Medicare-approved private plan. The private plans must be at least as comprehensive as the current Medicare and they must accept anyone who applies. There also would be subsidies for low-income seniors. The idea here is that private companies would be encouraged to design plans that are more cost effective than Medicare while providing comparable benefits. Since the private insurers (unlike the Medicare system) actually have an incentive to keep costs down, the plan should operate to limit medical costs for the elderly.

This plan is a breakthrough on the entitlement front. Every politician in the country has been telling us that Medicare either is or soon will be bankrupt. A bipartisan plan with a good chance to reduce costs should be greeted warmly in Washington. Of course, president Obama rejected the plan within hours after it was announced. For Obama, it is more important to have centralized government control of the healthcare system than it is to keep down costs so that people can afford to get first quality medical care.

So, here is yet another reason why Obama has got to go.

Today's news quiz

So here is a quote from White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer:

"It's time House Republicans stop playing politics and get the job done for the American people."

Today's quiz is this: what is the subject about which Pfeiffer was speaking? How were the Republicans playing politics?

Here's the answer: The House Republicans have said that they are dissatisfied with the two month extension of the payroll tax passed in the senate. House Republicans say this is just kicking the can down the road which will lead to the same issue coming to the fore again in January. House Republicans say that they want to resolve the extension for the entire year.

In order to understand this better, one needs to know that the two month extension was a last minute stopgap bill that would let the senators go home for vacation without having to make the hard choices required with a full year extension. So the House Republicans are in favor of responsible behavior rather than opting for Christmas vacations, but they get labelled as the ones "playing politics".

I think we need more people "playing politics" like this.

UPDATE: The non-partisan National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc is out with a report today thatconcludes that the two month extension of the payroll tax will cause massive problems for businesses that have to adjust their payrolls to the new system. According to this group, most businesses use software to figure out withholding from employees. Becuase the payroll tax as passed by the senate for the next two months is so complicated, there will not be time to prepare and test the necessary computer prorams for the nations businesses. So once again, a government program intended to help grow the economy will lead to a massive snafu of red tape and extra costs burdening businesses. It seems the House GOP is correct; a full year extension is needed.

North Korea's New Leader

This morning's big news is the death of Kim Jong Il and the installation of his son, Kim Jung Un as the new leader of North Korea. I find it amazing that the North Koreans profess themselves to be Communists with the workers in control at the same time that they follow a dynasty. After all, Kim Jong Il came to power when the last leader, Kim's father, died. North Korea seems to be just about the only country left that actually has in effect an all powerful king and royal family.

The real question for the world is whether or not the new guy is as nutty as his father was. Imagine Kim Jung Un who just literally inherited a nuclear armed force of huge size. Can world peace actually rest on the sanity and maturity of this 27 year old? Apparently so.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Robert Reich and the Democrat Delusion

The Occupy Wall Street movement which has been so praised by many progressive Democrats (including Nancy Pelosi and--to a lesser extent -- president Obama and Harry Reid) focuses on the supposed failure of the top 1% to pay their fair share of taxes. Today, former Clinton cabinet official Robert Reich said that taxes "are not being paid" by the top earners. It truly amazes me to hear this stuff. These folks well know the truth and yet they continue to spread falsehoods about the American tax system.

In 2009, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 36.7 percent of all federal individual income taxes according to the Treasury Department's official figures. I use 2009 because the final numbers for 2010 are not yet available. Now before you tell me that this percentage is so high because the top 1% earns such a big share of the national income, let me also tell you that the top 1% earned about 11% of the total gross income during that year. Admittedly, the 11% ignores income from tax free items like municipal bonds, but even if all of that was earned by the top 1% (which is not the case), then the share of the top 1% only rises to about 15% of the total. So the top 11 percent of income is paying nearly 37% of the taxes, but the Democrats tell us that taxes on the top earners "are not being paid".

I have no problem with the Democrats advocating a raise in the tax rates for the wealthy. I do not agree with that proposal, but it is an issue for the American people to decide. I have a great problem with Democrats spreading false information to support their tax proposals. The American people deserve honesty from their politicians, something the Democrats would do well to remember.

More Media Bias

This morning, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that the House Republicans are not satisfied with the two month extension of the payroll tax cut that just passed the Senate; the GOP wants a full year extension rather than just a move to kick the can down the road for 60 days. I just happened to hear ABC and CBS radio news both cover that story. ABC played it relatively straighforwardly; the reported what Boehner said in full. CBS, however, reported the story as House Republicans refusing to approve the extension of the payroll tax cut. That's all CBS said in about 30 seconds of coverage. Anyone who listened to CBS would get the picture that the House GOP was against any extention of this tax cut. In other words, the CBS coverage was totally misleading. I do not know why I am still amazed by the extent of bias that shows in the media. I ought to be used to it by now.

The Meaning of Egyptian Protests

Last Spring, protests in Egypt led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and a move towards democracy. The Egyptian army took over temporary control of the country, since the military was the only national institution with broad public support. The ruling council of generals promised free elections, and the first part of those elections has gone ahead as planned. The Islamist parties won a convincing majority in the first part of those elections, and are favored to win the next round of voting as well. Once the new parliament has been seated, the generals will still be in charge until a new president is elected next Spring. In other words, the army came into power as a result of the rebellion and it has systematically moved towards a democracy.

So here's the problem: for the last month more and more protests have occurred in Cairo and elsewhere around the country. In recent days, these protests have become extremely violent. Something like 20 people have died. The protesters say that they want the army to leave power immediately. Of course, the question is why are these protests occurring? The army has given no indication that it will prevent a move to democracy; the generals are supporting that process. The army has not be repressing any portion of the population. The economy is struggling, but that will not change if the generals are ousted. So again, who is protesting and why?

I have yet to see a cogent report from Cairo that answers these two simple questions. It would not make sense for the Islamists to protest. This group seems destined to take over the government on the strength of its popular support. It certainly is not an attempt by the old Mubarak supported to take back the government; there is no connection among the protesters to that group. No one is saying that it is any particular group that is protesting, and no one has yet explained just who the protesters want to take control of the government, just that the army should go.

Clearly, there are some articles that try to explain the protests, but nothing definitive is coming forward. So Egypt is in turmoil and right now it appears to be turmoil for the sake of turmoil.

Hopefully, things in Cairo will soon calm down. Egypt is too important a country to undergo a national psychosis.

The V Word

The stories are all over the media today. The last US troops have left Iraq. This story has been swirling for the last two months with a major increase in volume in the last week. It has been instructive to follow the coverage and to discern the basic storyline that mainstream media has adopted. Here are the basic points:

1) The stories emphasize the number of casualties and the cost of the war.

2) Less than ten percent use the V word: Victory. That is the case even though America achieved its basic goals in the war. Saddam Hussein has been ousted. Iraq has become a functioning democracy which can act as an example to the rest of the Middle East. There is no sanctuary for terror groups in Iraq. Huge numbers of terrorists from al Qaeda were killed.

3) The war is portrayed as a success for president Obama's policies, even though the policies followed were those put in place by George Bush. Obama changed nothing. Further, Obama opposed nearly all these policies before he was elected president.

4) Little mention is made of the success of the surge in 2008. I found it in only one story. Of course, it was the surge that turned around the course of the Iraq war allowing the US to win.

5) This withdrawal is portrayed as the end of the Iraq war. Actually, this is the end of American troop deployments in Iraq. The war ended long ago, but, since it is against the storyline to mention victory, that could not be said. Sure, Iraq is not completely at peace, but there are very few terror attacks there now. Indeed, there are currently more terror attacks in Syria, Turkey and Iran which each border Iraq, and no one says that those countries are at war.

6) Little is said of the personal success of the members of the military. Each of these folks deserves to feel personal pride at the achievement of this goal. Each deserves our thanks and congratulations for a job well done.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ads for Alan Grayson -- 2

The other day I wrote about the appearance of ads for Alan Grayson on my blog. Grayson is a Florida Democrat who served one term in Congress and who was -- to use the old MSNBC/Olbermann phrase -- the worst person in the world. Since then, I have seen the Grayson ads at political sites all across the web.

Since I am curious, I went to look at the Grayson site. I have been back a few times to see how Grayson's fundraising has been going. I am happy to report that in the last week, Grayson appears to have raised something in the order of $1500 despite having ads all over the internet. It makes me glad to see that Grayson's appeal is falling on deaf ears. Since placing the ads cost a substantial amount, my guess is that Grayson has actually lost money on this fundraising drive. Hopefully this will continue to be the case.

Ron Paul is a crazy disgrace

Last night, Ron Paul appeared on the Tonight Show of all places. When Jay Leno asked Paul to comment on his fellow GOP candidates, Paul announced that Michele Bachmann hates Muslims and that Rick Santorum does not like gays or Muslims. Paul has gone over the edge in my opinion. It is one thing to disagree on policy with ones rivals. It is even okay for one candidate to criticize the conduct of another if it illustrates character or some other important issue. It is totally beyond the bounds of propriety, however, for one candidate to call another racist when there is no basis in fact for such charges and none is offered. Think of it this way: supposed Jon Huntsman said that Paul wants to cut government spending (which is true) because he hates the poor. Stronger still, suppose Huntsman said that Paul wants to cut government spending because he hates African Americans. These hypothetical statements make about as much sense as Paul's actual charges against Bachmann and Santorum.

In my opinion, Paul owes both candidates an apology for these crazy and completely nasty statements. Iowa voters also should shun Paul. Not only is he incredibly weak when it comes to national defense, he turns out to be a vicious and nasty man who is prepared to smear opponents without the slightest factual basis to do so.

Don't Let the Facts Interfere with the Storyline

The Washiington Times has a rather humorous article today discussing the use of the phrase "rare bipartisan support". The phrase was used today in news articles detailng the passage of the spending bills for the remainder of the fiscal year by the House yesterday and the passage this morning of the extension of the payroll tax cut in the Senate. So the Times went back to look at just how "rare" it is to have major legislation supported in a bipartisan manner. Here is what they said about things that occured just this autumn: "Agenda items described in the media as receiving “rare bipartisan support” include a trio of free-trade agreements, a veterans jobs proposal, an immigration bill for highly skilled workers, a pipeline safety accord, the repeal of a withholding tax on government contractors, a bill to thwart Chinese currency manipulation, the need to fight online piracy, the nomination of an Energy Department undersecretary, an overhaul of the nation’s patent system, new sanctions on Iran, federal highway funding and the sale of three federal properties."

So it seems that there have been a great many bipartisan accomplishments in Congress this fall. Of course, president Obama has been running around the country blaming Congress for not getting anything done. "It's all their fault; don't blame me," is Obama's new mantra. "The republicans block everything," is another of Obama's favorites. So when there are bipartisan successes, the media cannot point them out without undermining the Obama excuse/campaign machine. And we all know what that means: every time something happens in Washington as a result of cooperation between the parties it is called a "rare bipartisan" action. In other words, the media cannot let the facts interfere with the Obama storyline.

Really? Obama will block the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The AP just wrote an article about the vote this morning in the Senate which, according to AP, gave president Obama a victory in obtaining a continuation of the payroll tax cut for two months. AP did mention that the bill requires Obama to make a decision on whether or not to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline within the next 60 days, but AP sloughs this off as meaningless. AP then adds this: "One senior administration official said the president would almost certainly refuse to grant a permit. The official was not authorized to speak publicly."

So here is the question of the hour: will Obama actually prevent construction of a pipeline that would result in 20,000 construction jobs and about 100,000 permanent jobs for the next forty years because environmentalists are worried that the pipeline might leak? According to the AP, the answer is yes.

Let's look at the issue of pipeline safety. First you should know that according to the Department of Transportation, there are over 2.3 million miles of pipelines for oil and gas in the USA. Now think back to the last time you heard of a leak in an oil pipeline here in America. Can't think of one? That is because leaks in oil pipelines are exceedingly rare and easily dealt with.

Well what does the federal government itself say about pipelines. Here is an excerpt from the Department of Transportation:

"The nation's pipelines are a transportation system. Pipelines enable the safe movement of extraordinary quantities of energy products to industry and consumers, literally fueling our economy and way of life. The arteries of the Nation's energy infrastructure, as well as the safest and least costly ways to transport energy products, our oil and gas pipelines provide the resources needed for national defense, heat and cool our homes, generate power for business and fuel an unparalleled transportation system.

The nation's more than two million miles of pipelines safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars everyday. These alternatives would require many times the people, clog the air with engine pollutants, be prohibitively expensive and -- with many more vehicles on roads and rails carrying hazardous materials -- unacceptably dangerous.

Pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products. The federal government rededicated itself to pipeline safety in 2006 when the PIPES Act was signed. It mandates new methods and makes commitments for new technologies to manage the integrity of the nation's pipelines and raise the bar on pipeline safety."

If Obama actually denies a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, he will put himself on the side of crazy extreme environmentalists who fight everything that has to do with fossil fuels no matter what the cost or the truth. He will also put himself firmly on the side of those who are thwarting economic growth and the return of jobs to the USA. In my opinion, such a move would be suicidal for Obama. But then again, he is such an ideologue that he just might do that.

Sometimes Reality Beats out Propaganda

The New York Times has a column by Charles Blow (was it shortened from blowhard?) which discusses the growing belief that income inequality is part of our economic system. Blow calls this a delusion foisted on the public by those who just do not know the truth. In other words, if the American people realize that part of our economic system is to reward those who are successful much more than those who either do not try or those who fail, then they are delusional. Blow is particularly derrisive of the rise in the numbers of folks who accept this view of income inequality which has happened in the last few years.

Blow is wrong in his analysis. The public has not become delusional. Instead, reality has forced them to realized the truth. To a great extent, president Obama and his failed income redistribution schemes have done more to reveal the truth than anything else. Let me explain.

Throughout the years when the economy was good, America had an academic culture that promoted leftist thought. Campuses were filled with anti-capitalist professors who argued for the Marxist viewpoint. Income was to be fairly shared; equality was the prize to fight for. Millions of students were exposed to this point of view; many fewer were taught the merits of capitalism. In both college and high school, students were told much more of equality and much less of economic growth and success.

When the recession hit in 2008, Americans voted for change with Obama. He would bring back growth and jobs. Even if Obama did not really say how he would achieve this, many folks expected him to do so. Obama did say that he favored spreading the wealth around, but again, for many folks this was just what they had heard for decades ought to be the goal of our economy.

Now we have had three years of harsh reality under Obama; there has been nothing but sputtering and slight growth in the economy. Millions of jobs have been lost during the Obama presidency. And all the while, Obama has been focused on spreading the wealth around. Even today, Obama is still focused on taking from the wealthy rather than creating wealth for everyone. All of Obama's plans focus on tax increases for rich folks to pay their "fair share" rather than on plans to actually create economic growth that will bring new jobs.

Americans have surely noticed by now both Obama's failure to restore growth and prosperity and his actions which actually reduced job creation. Obama put all sorts of restrictions on oil and gas drilling and then railed against evil big oil. Obama wanted to destroy jobs by limiting the use of private planes because these planes are used by the evil rich. Obama wants to take money from small businesses which create most jobs in the American economy because the owners are "millionaires and billionaires" even if these taxes will substantially reduce job growth.

Americans have also noticed that Obama's plans have all come to naught. And with this observation has come the realization that it has been the free enterprise system that brought great wealth and opportunity to the USA. Millions of folks earned good livings at jobs created in the private sector. It was not government funded enterprises that created the growth and the wealth; it was private industry. So morea nd more Americans have come to realize that the leftist theories taught in schools were really not true. Income equality does not lead to growth, but to stagnation. Spreading the wealth around does not bring the poor up to the level of the rich; it just makes everyone poor. If there is to be hope for the future, there has to be a way to have economic growth, and income equality is not the way to that growth.

Of course, the true believers like Mr. Blow will never agree to the triumph of reality over their cherished theories. They will cling to the academic nonsense which has been proven false in country after country around the world that tried to follow the Marxist ideal. That is okay. The American people have now learned the truth. We need not income equality but equal opportunity for all if America is to grow. Any man or woman who works hard has to have a shot at rising up to be wealthy. Indeed, the more folks try and succeed on the path to wealth, the better it is for our entire society.

Extending the Payroll Tax Cut and the Media Coverup

The Senate is set to vote today on a two month extension of the payroll tax cut. The bill will also extend the doctors' fix for two months (neither raising nor lowering the amounts paid to the doctors for Medicare services)and continue unemployment benefits for the same time. Everything in the bill is paid for by either spending cuts or increases in certain fees charged by the federal government. The big item, however, is that the bill reduces to 60 days from passage the time that the federal government will have to decide on whether or not to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This last provision is the one that president Obama said just a week ago would force him to veto any bill that contained it. In other words, in the space of a week, Obama was abandoned by his Democrat allies in Congress and confronted with a bill containing the pipeline provision that the GOP had demanded. These Democrats understand that the GOP provision will create 20,000 jobs in construction and many times more once the pipeline is complete. Obama has now flipped his position and will not veto the bill.

The big news about this bill then is that the GOP backed down Obama and got through the pipeline provision with all the jobs that it will bring. So, you would think that the media would be full of news of this story. Of course, you would be wrong. I listened to CBS radio news which did a 90 second story on the vote expected later today in the Senate. The reporter did not once mention the pipeline. Instead, he talked about how the GOP had blocked tax increases on the wealthy for about a third of the time. In other words, CBS used the talking points of the DNC for its story. While there is nothing wrong with reporting that Obama had backed down on his tax the wealthy scheme again this year (like he did last December), that news is already three days old. The key today is that Obama also backed down on the pipeline and the GOP got a major win with regard to job creation. Apparently, it was too much for CBS to report that the Republicans were creating jobs over the opposition of Obama; it just did not fit into the CBS narrative.

The New York Times, on the other hand, did report the entire story. And the pipeline got its proper place in the first paragraph. Of course, the Times then had to explain why the bill really would not let the pipeline go ahead. According to the Times report, unnamed Administration officials "said they believed that the president could still delay the pipeline".

Let me put it this way: the mainstream media ought to try something new for the next month. It is called reporting the news, not shaping the news or slanting the news, but just reporting the actual news. Don't hold your breath waiting for this to happen, however.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's a Slow Day in Syria -- Only 13 Protesters Dead

Friday is the biggest day of the week for protests followed by brutal repression in Syria. Today was relatively quiet since only 13 of the protesters were killed. The total number of dead is now well over 5,000. Of course, the world's response has been a dialogue in the UN Security Council over appropriate wording for a resolution to condemn the violence. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta actually said today that there was good movement towards the world coming together to finalize that resolution. It sounded like the "pretty please" foreign policy from Obama that Mitt Romney discussed in last night's debate. The world will nicely ask Assad to stop murdering his own people.

It is appalling that the United States government has done nothing to make clear that we stand with the protesters. I do not mean that the US has to stand with those who want to overthrow Assad. That would be the logical thing to do if Obama were concerned about America's national interests, but it is not necessary. Obama should, however, make clear that America finds it intolerable to watch a government beat and murder citizens just for the "crime" of speaking out against the regime. If the USA cannot speak out forcefully for the right of free speech, then what other country can do so effectively?

The Spending Deal

Congress appears to have reached agreement on the bill for funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Spending will go down in absolute terms for the first time in recent memory, even if the decline is just above 1%. The agreement represents a major defeat for president Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Obama and Reid had tried to tie the funding for the government to the ongoing negotiations about payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and the Keystone XL Pipeline in order to gain some advantage in those talks. This tactic rightly led to a revolt by Democrats who were aghast at threatening a government shutdown as part of the negotiations. Indeed, the agreement on the spending bill had been completed many days ago, but Reid and Obama had blocked voting on it in order to gain leverage. As a result, the country once again came to the edge of a shutdown, this time one that was completely unnecessary.

By yesterday evening, however, it was clear that there were Democrats in the House and Senate who were having no part of holding the country hostage in this way. In particular, Virginia representative Moran came forward, contradicted Reid and said that there had already been a complete agreement on all points in the spending bill. When these Democrats revealed the dishonesty of the Obama/Reid position, there was no choice but for them to cave in and allow the funding bill to move forward.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Final GOP Debate before Iowa

Tonight's debate among the GOP presidential contenders ended with no major surprises. The high spots came with (1) Romney's remark that the economy is in decline only with Obama as president but not with Romney as president; (2)Gingrich's comment about the need for the federal judiciary to be brought under control; and (3) Gingrich's comment about the insanity of the way Obama has handled the Keystone XL Pipeline. Overall, once again, I think that Romney and Gingrich came out on top. Romney was consistent in explaining his positions in a forceful and clear way. His low point was responding to attacks on his changing his views over the years. Gingrich reached higher highs than Romney, but he also seemed weakest when responding to the attacks on him in the early going.

The loser tonight may well have been Ron Paul. Paul made absolutely clear that even if there was incontrovertible proof that Iran was about to get a nuclear weapon, he would do nothing as president to stop that. He espoused a clearly isolationist foreign policy. This may prevent Paul from gaining new supporters beyond his group of true believers, and it may prevent him from reaching the top two spots in Iowa.

Michelle Bachmann also may have hurt herself in this debate. When Bachmann attacked Gingrich as not being prolife, Newt responded that he had a lifetime rating of 98.5 from prolife groups over his 20 year career in Congress. It is hard to argue with that, but Bachmann persisted. She claimed it was outrageous to say that she had gotten her facts wrong. But of course, Bachmann told us earlier in the year about how the vaccine for HPV caused mental retardation when there was no truth in that. She told the world today that Gingrich is buying support from the Tea Party when there is no support for that. She seems to have gotten stuck with making charges for which there is essentially no support. If the viewing audience understands this, Bachmann hurt herself severely.

Jon Huntsman was his usual self. He spoke at great length about the need for trust, but then his manner was such that he seemed totally smarmy and untrustworthy.

Rick Perry had a good performance for Rick Perry, but it was lackluster at best.

That leaves Santorum. Tonight, Santorum was better than usual in my opinion, and he usually performs well. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if his campaign can get any traction with the Iowa voters.

It will be interesting to see how the polls react after this debate.

One less candidate to worry about -- Bye Bye Michelle

There is a story out today which should spell the end of Michelle Bachmann's campaign. Bachmann's spokesman in South Carolina accused the Gingrich campaign of buying the votes of Tea Partiers in that state. When asked directly about it, Bachmann did not back away from it, but said that she has been hearing this all across the country. Both the Gingrich campaign and the Tea Party organizations in South Carolina have already denied the charges. As the Gingrich campaign put it, the last thing they would do is challenge the integrity of the Tea Party.

It is important to understand that the payoffs that Bachmann's campaign is charging, if true, are federal crimes. It is illegal to buy votes for any federal election. So, it is no minor matter to say these things; there damn well better be proof to support the charges. When Bachmann was last near the top of the polls, she fell back to the bottom when she repeated a false claim that "vaccines caused mental retardation". She has a habit of shooting off her mouth when she ought to use discretion. If there is no proof of any payoff here (which seems to be the case), Bachmann has done it again. to the extent that she had gained any momentum back in the last few weeks, this ought to destroy it.

Amazing Bias by the AP -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio is sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. He is well known as an opponent of illegal immigration. According to the AP, the federal government issued a report today that accused the Maricopa Country sheriff's office of bias against Latinos. While all of this may be intersesting, what I noticed clearly in the AP report is that the statements against Arpaio and his staff were all in simple form. Arpaio did this, or the Maricopa Country Sheriff's Office did that. These are all unproven allegations coming from the most politicized Justice Department in decades, but they are stated as if they are facts. This comes from the same AP that calls Major Hassan who murdered 13 army personnel at Fort Hood and alleged terrorist or an being held on allegations of murder. The DC sniper was and alleged murderer. Even folks whose crimes were caught on videotape were just alleged criminals. But the sheriff of Maricopa country who contests all these allegations made by the Justice Department is already convicted by the AP.

I do not know if there is any truth to the allegations. It does not matter. Arpaio is entitled to at least as good treatment from the AP as Islamic terrorists and mass murderers.

Solyndra was just the beginning

By now, we have all heard the outcry over the "investment" by the US Government into solar panel maker Solyndra. The feds gave half a billion dollars to this company which is controlled in part by a big Obama campaign contributor. As soon as the federal money ran out, Solyndra declared bankruptcy and the taxpayers lost everything. The investment, made in the name of green energy, turned out to be essentially a payoff to a big Obama contributor. Now, we have the story of Solazyme, a company that makes biofuel. According to the story in Investors' Business Daily, Solazyme is connected to T.J. Glauthier, another big contributor who was actually on the Obama transition team in 2008 and 2009. The navy recently disclosed that it bought millions of gallons of jet fuel from Solazyme for $16 per gallon. This is about four times as high as the $4 per gallon paid for standard JP-5 jet fuel. That's right, the navy spent an extra $12 per gallon for millions of gallons of fuel that it bought from an Obama-connected company. What a disgrace! Even forgetting the fact that Solazyme is connected to Obama cronies, it is ridiculous for the navy to spend four times the necessary amount to buy fuel. When one adds in the relationship between Solazyme and Obama's cronies, this presents a situation that needs to be investigated by the Justice Department. Of course, since DOJ is headed by that paragon of integrity Eric HOlder, the likelihood of any actual investigation is zero.


Some actual good news on employment

The new unemployment claims filed last week came to a total of only 366,000. This brought the less volatile four week average down to 387,750. These are actually good numbers, indeed, the first really good numbers for this statistic in nearly a year. The actual number of new claims was 433,000, but the seasonal adjustment brought the figure down to 366,000. Despite the higher actual number, even that figure was down from the actual number of 492,000 for the previous week.

As we all know, one week does not make a trend. Nevertheless, it is heartening to finally see some good news on the economy.

Dumbest News of the Day

Fox News is running an article about pictures of the new Chinese aircraft carrier taken by a commercial satellite; it contains perhaps the dumbest quote of the day. According to Fox, "the development of carriers is driven largely by bragging rights and national prestige." Huh? China is spending billions of dollars to have a navy that can project power around the world and challenge American naval supremacy for "bragging rights and national prestige"? What will they tell us next? Are submarines with nuclear tipped missiles just needed so as to celebrate national holidays underwater? Maybe long range bombers are developed so that the ambassador to the UN can tell his fellow ambassadors that his country has more planes than theirs.

Weapon systems as massive as a carrier are developed for only one reason: to increase and project the strength of a country's armed forces. China is not looking for bragging rights. It wants drilling rights, mineral rights and subservient neighbors. We should never forget that.

Ads for Alan Grayson

I have no control over the ads that run on this site. The selection of ads is made by Google using a computer algorhythm to match ads to appropriate substance on a blog. Normally, I would never comment on the ads, but lately ads for Alan Grayson's attempt to return to Congress from Florida have been showing up. Let me put it simply: Alan Grayson is an abomination. His loss in 2010 was perhaps the single biggest positive to come out of that election. Grayson was extemely vindictive and nasty in my opinion when he was in Congress. He also was never a slave to the truth; many of you may recall that he ran ads in the 2010 election that leveled phony charges against his opponent. If you see an ad for Grayson at Connecticut Comments, please be assured that I do not support this guy.

Is this Romney's big mistake?

Mitt Romney has gone totally negative in his campaign against Newt Gingrich. It may turn out to be the biggest mistake he has ever made in a campaign. Romney has gone out personally and called Gingrich an unsteady leader, but he did so by using words like "zany", "bomb thrower" etc. Romney actually told an audience today that Gingrich is a very wealthy man as if this was a problem, particularly when coming from a multimillionaire like Romney himself. There is no point to going through the various attacks; the key point is that Romney has made the topic sentence of his campaign a negative one and he has put his own face on the attacks.

The first question that the new negative Romney brings to mind is why the switch from steady Eddie to the new angry attack dog Mitt? Did Romney get desperate as he saw time passing and his numbers getting no better? Was it the polls from around the country that showed Mitt ahead in New Hampshire and Newt ahead everywhere else? Why would Romney risk alienating his supporters with an attack campaign before the first votes have even been cast? The truth is that there is no good answer for this high risk strategy.

I call the Romney negative onslaught a high risk move because it may well be the end of the road if it fails. Just imagine that Gingrich stays with his positive forward-looking general approach while Romney goes negative for the next three weeks. If Gingrich still wins, Romney will have nothing left to do. Oh sure, he may still eke out a win in New Hampshire, but that may be the last place he wins other than maybe Utah or Massachusetts.

The risk for Gingrich is that he gets sucked into the negativity. If he does get sucked in, he risks becoming just another of the many politicians jockeying for position. If he stays mostly positive, however, and focuses on solutions, Gingrich should be able to weather the storm. More important, all the negatives will then be out and Gingrich will be much stronger for the general election.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the new Romney strategy are Santorum and Bachmann. Santorum has been relatively positive throughout the campaign and he could pick up those who leave Newt due to attacks. Also, if Newt loses his way and joins the battle with Romney, Santorum could pick up droves of new support. Bachmann also may gain some people this way, but her strident rhetoric is not designed to draw in those who disdain negative attacks. Ron Paul is in the midst of his own negative attack fest, so he will not be helped. Paul has a maximum that he can reach, and he is already there in my opinion. That, of course, leaves Rick Perry. He may be helped, but too many folks in Iowa will remember Perry's performances in the debates. He cannot recover.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

An Update on GasFrac to explain today's trading

I often write about GasFrac Energy Services (symbol GFS:CA in Canada and GSFVF on the pink sheets). Today, GasFrac traded in a very different manner from the rest of the energy space. The stock traded in heavy volume (almost three times the average) and it gained 1.32% (based upon the Canadian numbers). Nearly all the rest of the energy sector fell as oil and natural gas prices tumbled by 4% or more. So why the heavy trading and rise in the GasFrac price?

The answer to the question can be found in a news item about a completely different company: Frac Tech International. Frac Tech is 30% owned by Chesapeake Energy and, as the name suggests, it specializes in hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells. Basically, it is in the same field as Gasfrac except that Frac Tech uses water based solutions for fracturing and Gasfrac uses liquid propane instead. Here's the news: Aramco, the Saudi oil giant, as well as Chinese energy majors Sinopec and CNOOC are all in talks to acquire a substantial stake (between 20 and 30%)in Frac Tech. This is major news.

Right now, fracking is mostly confined to North America. It is the American and Canadian companies that have all the expertise in the process. Nevertheless, there are substantial deposits of shale gas and oil located around the globe, and these deposits are substantial enough to change the nature of the gas and oil markets for decades to come. Both China and the Saudis want to be able to develope their own resources, and it is likely that both countries have substantial non-conventional reserves. In order to move forward with development, these countries have to obtain the knowhow needed for fracking. The interest in Frac Tech makes clear that their first attempts will be to buy that knowledge through investments. Of course, if there is such interest in hydrofracking, there is also likely to be big interest in fracking with liquid propane.

Let's translate this into English for simplicity. The news today indicates that we may soon see interest from major companies in buying fracking technology. GasFrac becomes a prime target in that environment. Particularly with the currently depressed price of GasFrac stock, this news makes purchases all the more likely to result in profits.

DISCLOSURE: I remain long GasFrac stock. It is one of the larger holdings in my accounts.

Just How Desperate are they? Gingrich and the Palestinians

Last week we had the manufactured "outrage" over Newt Gingrich's comment that the Palestinians did not exist as a separate people until they were invested in the 1970's. For a statement which nearly all the other candidates agreed was historically accurate, the uproar was ridiculous. Now, the usual liberal media sources are at it again. The Huffington Post has a major article which "exposes" a picture of Newt Gingrich shaking hands with Yassir Arafat in 1993. That's right, Gingrich shook hands with the head of the invested people. What could be better proof of the falsity of Gingrich's statement that the Palestinians did not exist as a separate people until they were invented in the 1970's. Wait... 1993 is two decades after 1970...That means that if the Palestinians were invented as a people in the 1970's, then they already existed in 1993....So, shaking hands with Arafat doesn't prove anything. But, but, but what about Newt SHAKING HANDS with Arafat? Yeah, he was shaking hands with a terrorist. That must show Gingrich is a bomb thrower, right? Yeah. Wait...the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO (which Arafat headed) came in 1993....So Gingrich was shaking hands with the head of an organization that had just agreed to a peace process with Israel. In fact, Arafat was visiting Washington in the follow up phase to the Oslo accords. Arafat also visited the White House. So Gingrich met with Arafat and actually shook his hand. That's not a big deal.

The long and short of it is that the HuffPo, as always, is long on outrage and short on facts. Someday, truth will beat out ideology even at the HuffPo, but that day is not today.

Eric Holder's Voting Rights Speech

Attorney General Eric Holder went to Texas to give a speech about voting rights in the USA. Holder's main thrust was that the Department of Justice is going to do what it can to prevent states from unfairly limiting the right to vote. Indeed, Holder wants the federal government to register all citizens so that they can vote; registration would be done automatically from computer databases.

Holder said that he wanted to prevent everyone from losing the right to vote, but this is just a ridiculous claim. Remember, it was Holder who dropped the case against the New Black Panthers that stood outside the polling place in Philadelphia iin 2008 and intimidated white voters. The New Black Panthers had already lost their case by the time that Holder stopped the prosecution; all that remained was the sentencing. So Holder has no problem with thugs with clubs standing outside a polling place to keep potential white voters from entering. No, Holder is worried that minorities might have to show their drivers' licenses when they go to vote. That's right, armed men menacing potential voters at the polls is no problem, but the need for a picture ID which is the same as is need to fly, to drive, or to gain access to most federal buildings or office buildings across the country is some massive effort at voter suppression.

Think of it this way: if a voter wants to complain to Holder's Justice Department that he was prevented from voting due to the "heinous" requirement for a photo ID, that voter will need to meet the requirements of the Justice Department and produce a photo ID in order to gain access to the building where DOJ is located. Does anyone else see the irony here?

Eric Holder is an embarrassment to the USA. He has failed in most of his efforts: Guantanamo, federal trials for terrorists, Fast and Furious, etc. Maybe instead of wasting time on phony campaigns regarding non-existent voter intimidation, Holder could actually read some of those memoranda about programs like Fast and Furious which he claims to have missed.

Are We Going to Need a Continuing Resolution?

The conference committee of House and Senate members had reached agreement on the funding bill needed to pay for the activities of the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year. This bill must be passed by Friday to keep the government open. At the last minute, Harry Reid directed the senate members of the committee not to sign the conference report. By doing this, Reid attempted to make sure that the House did not send its members home for Christmas leaving the Senate to accept the House plan for the payroll tax extension or else to see the tax rate increased for millions of workers across America. In other words, Reid is holding government operations hostage to get his way on another matter.

There is a rather simple solution to this problem. The House should pass a continuing resolution giving the government funds to operate for another month and send that to the Senate. Then the House can go home. At that point, it will be solely up to the Democrats in the Senate if they want to shut down the government, and they will have that same burden with regard to extending the payroll tax cut.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Obama and the Obamacrats: all Lies and Nastiness

In just the last two days we have seen an avalanche of lies coming from the Democrats. And when they run out of lies, the Democrats have been pushing sheer nastiness in place of reason. I do not remember such dishonesty coming so consistently from any American political group. It is as if the Democrats have now decided to just use propaganda rather than facts. Here are some examples:

1) Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, interrupted Gretchen Carlson on Fox News when Carlson pointed out that unemployment is substantially higher now than when president Obama took office. Wasserman claimed that Carlson was just plain wrong. Carlson gave Wasserman the chance to correct her statement, but she stuck with the lie. Unemployment at 8.6% is, in fact, much higher than it was when Obama took office. In fact, if you add back the people who have become so discouraged that they have given up looking for work, the unemployment rate is well over 11%.

2) Just today, senate Democrats led by Harry Reid have refused to allow their members on the conference committee sign off on the omnibus spending bill needed to keep the government operating after Friday. Everything has been agreed to, but Reid does not want to let the House leave town (which they would do after the spending bill gets passed). As a result, Reid has stated that there remain many open issues on the omnibus spending bill. This is just a blatant lie.

3) Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-Cal) has a piece in the Hill today criticizing president Obama for a lack of focus in getting things done. That actually is true. Nevertheless, Cardoza says that many of the problems in Obama's first two years were the result of Republican obstruction in Congress. Of course, during those two years, Democrats had unstoppable and overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, so blaming the GOP is just another convenient lie.

4) A few hours ago, Obama announced that he would veto the bill about to be passed by the House even though that bill gives Obama everything he wanted. The House bill extends the payroll tax cut, it extends unemployment benefits and sets forth a plan to phase back to the original benefits packages from before the recession, and it resolves the Medicare problems with payment to doctors (the so-called doctors' fix). Of course, the bill also forces the federal government to go ahead with a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline will create 20,000 construction jobs and many more permanent jobs in the energy industry. It is Obama's true objection to the bill. Obama, of course, blames the GOP for preventing and extension of the payroll tax, but that is a lie. If Obama just had the courage to deal with the pipeline decision before the election, he will have all that he wanted.

5) That is enough lies. So let's look at the nastiness. David Axelrod, the creepy looking Chicago political adviser running Obama's re-election campaign was asked about Newt Gingrich. Axelrod said that With Gingrich it was like watching a monkey climb higher and higher so that you can see more of his butt. It is incredible and inappropriate nastiness coming from Axelrod.

Look, I know that I often castigate Obama for his decisions and even more often for his lack of decision. I would never call him a monkey, however, even forgetting the issue of race. Think how it would be received to call Michelle Obama a giraffe because she is tall. How about Harry Reid? Can we call him a liar? Can we call Nancy Pelosi a moron? Sure, because both are true. But what if I called Reid a gangster or Pelosi a whore? It would be inappropriate since it would just be nasty and not limited to issues. I have always tried to keep to facts in what I write on this blog. My views are strongly against Obama and the Obamacrats, but they nevertheless remain Americans who are working for the people and they deserve some respect for doing that. Axelrod's comments go way beyond what is appropriate. I realize that it may sound hollow to rail against nastiness in a piece that is all about the Democrats' new non-stop lying offensive. Nevertheless, I think that there is a distinction here that must be made.

The Need to Smile

Every morning as I read the news, I always look for something diverting that could bring forth a smile; otherwise, the grim parade of bad news would be hard to endure. Today, there were two items that almost made me laugh out loud.

The first unintentionally humorous item was a piece on the Huffington Post that detailed how president Obama's economic agenda will resonate with the American people. The humor was not that Americans will like Obama's economic agenda; rather, it was the idea that Obama has an economic agenda. Obama has speeches and Obama has villains (the wealthy), but Obama has no economic program. Indeed, the author of the column acknowledged as much since he spent nearly the entire article detailing things that Obama could decide to promote to help the economy. It never fails to amuse me to watch the progressive press go through contortions to show just how "wonderful" Obama is and even believe what they are saying.

The second bit of humor came from that paragon of progressive opinion, Eugene Robinson of the Washinigton Post. Eugene today was singing the praise of the latest Global Warming conference that just concluded. He is excited because China, India, Brazil and the USA all agreed to continue negotiations with a target end date of 2015. This is a "breakthrough" to Eugene. Maybe we can get the members of the House and Senate to agree to continue to negotiate on levels of government spending with a target date for agreement of 2015. While the government would shut down long before that date is reached, at least Eugene could call that major progress. The truth is that no agreement was reached on global warming and none is likely to be forthcoming. An agreement to agree signifies absolutely nothing.

I guess I just find it truly humorous that the people who write these columns continue to be published.

Occupy a Mental Institution

The latest from the crazies at the Occupy Wall Street Movement is their attempt to shut down the ports on the west coast of the USA. Ports in Oakland, San Diego, Long Beach, Seattle, Tacoma, Anchorage and others have been targeted by the group. It may seem strange that these folks are trying to block entrance to the ports since very few of the so-called 1% work there. The Seattle Times interviewed the leadership of this phase of the movement to find out their reasoning for the attacks on marine commerce. The Times reported that “Kari Koch, organizer with Shut Down the Ports Working Group of Occupy Portland, said by shutting down the port, Wall Street will be unable to create profit.”
"We will not stand for corporate profits at the expense of working people, we will not stand for attacks on workers, and we will not allow our schools to be closed, social services slashed, and families to be impoverished by your greed!" Koch said Monday in statement.
The Times continued: “Organizers hope to draw thousands to stand in solidarity with longshoremen and port truckers they say are being exploited.”
"Taking on and blocking the 1 percent at the port is also taking on the global issue of exploitation by capitalism," said Occupy Oakland blockade organizer Barucha Peller.

So there you have it. These nut jobs have decided that if they can shut down workplace for thousands of Americans in the middle and working classes, they will reduce profits for the wealthy and stop “exploitation by capitalism”. In case you do not understand this, “exploitation by capitalism” is Occupy language for having a job.

If anyone was ever sympathetic to these crazies, the movement is doing its very best to alienate those supporters. Their actions are ridiculous. What will they come up with next: blowing up power lines to reduce the profits of utilities? My personal favorite would be if they were to move en masse to a rural commune in Montana in an effort to reduce the profits of their psychiatrists.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Middle Class Follies

In his re-election campaing, president Obama is running against Wall Street plutocrats as the villains who have caused all the damage to the American economy. It's that damn one percent who have somehow kept the other 99% down in Obama's world. Obama is going to stick it to the super-rich so that they do their "fair share".

The strange thing is that Obama and his advisers actually think this will work. Undoubtedly, there are folks out there in the middle class who are hurting and who envy the wealthy. That is a certainty. There may even be millions of these folks. Obama's problem is that ultimately these folks care about what can be done to better their own situations; bringing down the super-rich is a side show at best. Other than committed Marxists, most Americans do not care whether or not there are rich people who are doing better than others. Our society is used to the NFL player who makes millions of dollars per game. We are all aware of the movie stars who get $20 million to do one picture. We know that people like Bill Gates who found companies end up sometimes with billions and billions of dollars. It is the way our society works, and (again, except for the Marxists) no one is really all that concerned about the existence of great wealth. Americans are concerned about making the next mortgage or car payment. They want to be able to meet their credit card obligations. They want to pay the utilities. They want to have enough to live a decent life. And today, they want to have jobs and not to live in fear of possible unemployment. Even extremely high taxes on the richest Americans accomplishes none of these things.

In the Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus quotes William A. Galston, who served as President Clinton's chief domestic policy adviser: "I think [the Obama campaign is] taking Occupy Wall Street a little too literally. The American middle class is much more interested in its own circumstances than in how the wealthy are doing. The reason people are concerned is not because the 1% are doing so well; it's because the middle class is doing so badly — and it's not clear that socking it to the 1% will solve that problem."

In a nutshell, this is Obama's problem. He has no program for his second term (or even his first) to improve the economy and generate jobs. sure, he has continuing a payroll tax cut that did not work as a job creator. That will not take us very far. He also wants to send more money to green energy producers like Solyndra (oops) or others. Again, there have been few jobs produced and billions lost. Obama also talks about promoting exports, but then he does nothing to achieve this goal. Ultimately, Obama tells America that its people are lazy or not as hungry as we used to be. It is all our fault, so how could he possibly fix that? To sume it up in five words: OBAMA HAS NO ECONOMIC PROGRAM!!

It may not happen today or even next week or next month, but long before election day, America will realize just how bankrupt the Obama economic plans are.