Monday, October 31, 2011

Campaign Hits

I've been trying to follow the Herman Cain story, but so far there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of "There" there. Cain himself has come out swinging:
Herman Cain: Yes. I have never sexually harassed anyone, let’s say that. Secondly, I’ve never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely, because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless. The people mentioned in that article were the ones who would be aware of any misdoings, and they have attested to my integrity and my character. It is totally baseless, and totally false, never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment.

Lee: Have you ever had to settle a claim, falsely accused or not, sometimes a settlement happens when a false accusation is made. have you ever had to settle a claim, giving money, or paid someone because a claim of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct.

Cain: Outside of the restaurant association, absolutely not. If the restaurant association did a settlement, I am not — i wasn’t even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much, because nothing happened. So if there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers that worked for me at the association. So the answer is absolutely not.
Mr. Cain goes into further detail here. Needless to say, there's skepticism over the timing of this.

Meanwhile, here's Cain at the National Press Club.

Unitary-In-Chief

Jay Carney says there's nothing to worry about:
“He [Obama] fully understands that the kinds of things that are contained within the American Jobs Act require congressional action, require laws being passed, and that’s why he’s pressing for Congress to take action legislatively,” Carney told reporters on Monday at the White House.

“But he can also act independently or, rather, administratively, and exercise his executive authority to benefit the American people in other ways. And he will continue to do that.”

Carney dismissed House Speaker John Boehner’s disapproval of the president acting unilaterally.

“I was asked about this concern, which I would just suggest is misplaced, because the president is acting well within his authority, well within his constitutional authority,” Carney said.

“He is simply acting to help the American people, whether it’s with their mortgages, their student loans, their access to vital drugs, assisting businesses to speed up the process by which they get a, you know, contracts, with their payments from the federal government. These are all measures he can take administratively, and he will continue to take them."
It's for our own good, you know...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Child, One Vote

Outlandish, or just practical?
Objections to this usually take the form of imagining a highly disciplined party of seven year-olds reliably delivering bloc votes to whichever candidate credibly promises endless kindergarten. If you think for five minutes about the practical problems of political organizing, and then for five minutes more about the practical problems of getting kids to do anything I think you’ll see quickly that this is a misguided worry. Realistically, voter turnout in the United States is not particularly high to begin with. Older teens and twentysomethings are already disproportionately unlikely to vote. If we extended the vote to more children, my guess is that relatively few of them would exercise it. But those who did would come from an unusually dedicated and informed sub-set of American teenagers.
Well, who knows? In the long run, if they were more and better informed, it might be a lot harder to get 'em while they're young.

Social Security Bubble

The problem hasn't gone away:
Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury. This year, it will add a projected $46 billion to the nation’s budget problems, according to projections by system trustees. Replacing cash lost to a one-year payroll tax holiday will require an additional $105 billion. If the payroll tax break is expanded next year, as President Obama has proposed, Social Security will need an extra $267 billion to pay promised benefits.
....

In his February budget request, Obama ignored the Social Security blueprint put forth by his own bipartisan panel on debt reduction. During this summer’s debt-limit showdown, he endorsed the panel’s proposal to tie future benefits to a less-generous inflation index. But Obama took that idea off the table in September when he submitted recommendations to a special debt-reduction “supercommittee” now at work on Capitol Hill. Until recently, members of the supercommittee said, Social Security had rarely come up in their closed deliberations.

Social Security is hardly the biggest drain on the budget. But unless Congress acts, its finances will continue to deteriorate as the rising tide of baby boomers begins claiming benefits. The $2.6 trillion Social Security trust fund will provide little relief. The government has borrowed every cent and now must raise taxes, cut spending or borrow more heavily from outside investors to keep benefit checks flowing.

Many Democrats have largely chosen to ignore the shortfall, insisting the program is flush, citing the existence of the trust fund. They argue that fixing Social Security can wait, perhaps for years.
Hope and change!

Farm Rust Belt

What happens when nature comes first:
Sacramento is Government Central, a land of overly pensioned bureaucrats and restaurant discounts for state workers. But way up in the North State, one finds a small but hard-edged rural populace that views state and federal officials as the main obstacles to their quality of life.

Their latest battle is to stop destruction of four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River – an action driven by environmentalists and the Obama administration. Most locals say the dam-busting will undermine their property rights and ruin the local farming and ranch economy, which is all that's left since environmental regulators destroyed the logging and mining industries.

These used to be wealthy resource-based economies, but now many of the towns are drying up, with revenue to local governments evaporating. Unemployment rates are in the 20-percent-and-higher range. Nearly 79 percent of the county's voters in a recent advisory initiative opposed the dam removal, but that isn't stopping the authorities from blasting the dams anyway.

These rural folks, living in the shadow of the majestic Mount Shasta, believe that they are being driven away so that their communities can essentially go back to the wild, to conform to a modern environmentalist ethos that puts wildlands above humanity.
Judging from the results in California's Central Valley, their fears seem to be well-founded...

Leaving The Zone

Why the Eurozone deal won't last:
"Euroquake" fears, once viewed as outlandish, are gaining pace. Despite Thursday's deal, and all the reassurances of a "durable solution", the Italian government on Friday paid 6.06pc for 10-year money, up from just 5.86pc a month ago and a euro-era high. Such borrowing costs are disastrous, given that Rome must roll-over €300bn of its €1,900bn debt in 2012 alone. A default by Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy, and the eighth-largest on earth, would make Lehman look like a picnic.

The eurozone must be consolidated. World leaders should similarly force European banks to disclose their losses, we all take the hit and then we move on. Instead, we are served-up, in ever more complex variants, the same "extend and pretend" non-solutions. It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I give this deal two weeks.
The deal seems to be a band-aid at most. What's needed, perhaps, is amputation...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Perps On Parade

This is how public servants who have a sense of entitlement behave:
As 16 police officers were arraigned at State Supreme Court in the Bronx, incensed colleagues organized by their union cursed and taunted prosecutors and investigators, chanting “Down with the D.A.” and “Ray Kelly, hypocrite.”

As the defendants emerged from their morning court appearance, a swarm of officers formed a cordon in the hallway and clapped as they picked their way to the elevators. Members of the news media were prevented by court officers from walking down the hallway where more than 100 off-duty police officers had gathered outside the courtroom.

The assembled police officers blocked cameras from filming their colleagues, in one instance grabbing lenses and shoving television camera operators backward.

The unsealed indictments contained more than 1,600 criminal counts, the bulk of them misdemeanors having to do with making tickets disappear as favors for friends, relatives and others with clout. But they also outlined more serious crimes, related both to ticket-fixing and drugs, grand larceny and unrelated corruption. Four of the officers were charged with helping a man get away with assault.
Crime pays when you're a bad cop...

Soylent Green Is Grandma

The elderly. They're what's for dinner:
What if a worldwide food shortage were to become so terribly dire that people resorted to eating . . . people?

In such a dreadful event, the most-sensible first choice for meals might seem to be the elderly. After all, a fifth of those 10 billion humans will be at least 65 years old, and less physically able than the rest to contribute to what remains of society.

Mercifully, researchers say that feeding on the old – or, really, anyone – would not solve world hunger. In the short term, eating old people might satisfy the gruesome dilemma of how to feed the population and lower it at the same time. But cannibalism on a global scale could never work in the long term.

"If everyone is eating each other, the species won’t last very long," said James Cole of the University of Southampton 's Center for the Archaeology of Human Origins.

Part of the problem is that humans are just not very meaty compared with cows, pigs, deer and other animals. Even if we heavily supplemented our diet of human "long pork" with grains, we'd have to consume more fellow humans per year than we could ever hope to replace with new babies.

"Even if social conventions broke down to such a catastrophic extent that we began eating each other wholesale, humans are simply not that nutritionally viable when compared to other mammals," Cole noted.
Which sort of raises the question as to why zombies find the living so tasty...

Friday, October 28, 2011

The View From The Plantation

MSNBC tries to downplay Herman Cain as the token black Republican:



It's a good thing Herman Cain was ready for this. Funny how they're the ones who are so hung up on race...

The Fox Reviews The Chicken Coop

I guess it's better late than never:
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley has ordered an independent review of Department of Energy loan guarantees in wake of the Solyndra scandal.

According the Obama administration, "Daley is directing that an independent analysis be conducted to evaluate the state of the Department of Energy loan portfolio and make recommendations to the Administration about how to improve the loan monitoring process. This review will focus on the current state of the loan portfolio and improvements to the monitoring program.”

Daley said, “And while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
He can't believe there was gambling going on at his establishment...

Trigger Happy Hippies

Attention, mainstream media: This is what a "nonviolent" Occupation looks like:
Copies of an “informational” letter were left on a table for protestors pick up [sic] and read during the “Occupy Phoenix” event at Cesar Chavez Park. The presence of the letter was reported to the ACTIC by a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputy who had responded to an unrelated call and was alerted to it by another deputy working the event.
The letter is blatantly anti-government and anti-law enforcement in nature. It not only condones but even encourages citizens to kill any “government agent” (i.e. law enforcement officers), who in their perception violates their rights. Examples are given in the document, of “illegal” search and seizure, sobriety and border checkpoints, airport security, etc… In essence this document states that citizens have the right and moral obligation to resist any action by law enforcement that is viewed as a violation of the citizen’s rights, and often-times resistance involves killing officers.
“Occupy” events have drawn protestors for various causes including “Chalk the Police” and “Police Brutality Day”. With emotions running high in regards to law enforcement and government personnel, there is obvious concern this document could incite actions with protestors to take actions they might not have taken otherwise.
I fully expect Janet Napolitano to issue warnings about home-grown extremism at the earliest opportunity...

Everybody Into The Pool

Jay Leno explains Obama's mortgage relief plan:



It could be applied to the stimulus and Obamacare, as well...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Obama, Inc.

It depends on what the meaning of "Lobbyist" is:
Revolving-door influence peddlers are common at Obama fundraisers. Kathy Brown is Verizon's senior vice president for "public policy development and corporate responsibility." The telecom giant's website says she is "responsible for federal, state and international public policy development and international government relations for Verizon." Like Orszag, Brown's a revolver, having leveraged her time at Bill Clinton's Federal Communications Commission (which regulates Verizon) into a K Street lobbying job before taking over Verizon's lobby shop. Brown has given $17,900 to the Obama Victory Fund.

Rasky Baerlein is a lobbying firm based on both K Street and Boston's Beacon Hill. Chairman Lawrence Rasky and President Joseph Baerlein both gave big to Obama last quarter, with more than $35,000 to the Obama Victory Fund between them. Their firm's federal lobbying clients include drug maker Eli Lilly, wind-power company First Wind (which has received at least $115 million in stimulus grants), and a handful of health care companies.

David Wimsatt is CEO of Bold Concepts, a firm that pledges to assist "small businesses participating in Federal Government programs." The firm's website touts its "carefully nurtured" relationships with federal agencies ranging from the Pentagon to the National Zoo. Part of that "nurtur[ing]," presumably, is CEO Wimsatt's $30,000 to the Obama Victory Fund last quarter.

All of these men and women -- and dozens more like them on Obama's donor rolls -- are lobbyists, as the word is commonly understood. They are paid to influence government policy, either on behalf of their clients or on behalf of their employers.

So how do they skate around Obama's "ban"? They are not currently registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and so they don't meet the Obama campaign's definition of "lobbyist."
Of course, there's a fine line here:
Under federal law, anyone who spends at least 20 percent of his or her time on "lobbying activities" is supposed to register. There is almost no enforcement of this registration requirement, as proving a violation would require knowing how an unregistered individual spends all his time. The biggest effect of Obama's restrictions on lobbyists, regarding giving and serving on boards, has been mass deregistration of lobbyists.

But even the prohibition on registered lobbyists' gifts doesn't mean a Democrat has to deregister in order to fund Obama: the lobbyist could just let his or her spouse sign the check. Andy Manatos is president of lobbying firm Manatos & Manatos. "His effectiveness stems from the relationships of trust he has built with policymakers," his online bio reads. Manatos is a registered lobbyist, and so, in keeping with his narrow ban on lobbyist cash, the Obama campaign doesn't take contributions from him. But his wife, who lists her occupation as "homemaker," gave $3,000 to the Obama Victory Fund last month.
It's good work if you can get it...

The Inequality That Really Isn't

The gap between the supposed "99%" and the wealthy isn't that great:
There is no doubt that the cupidity of Wall Street fat cats combined with the perverse incentives established by federal policy created a financial bubble from which the uber-wealthy reaped rich rewards. In fact, over the last three decades, the top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the national income from 8 to 17 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said this week. And it wasn’t because they generated real value for the economy. Rather, notes Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, the expectation of government bailouts prompted financial managers to engage in riskier investment practices such as “shorting volatility” than they otherwise would have, ignoring long-term consequences in exchange for fat, immediate paychecks.

But “long-term” eventually arrived. New data from the University of Chicago’s Steven Kaplan shows that, despite government bailouts, in 2008 and 2009 the adjusted gross income of the top 1 percent — a disproportionate number of whom work in the financial industry — fell to 1997 levels. All in all, the fat cats took a 20 percent income hit, compared with the 7 percent lower earners suffered in the aggregate. Few economists believe that the super-rich will ever reclaim all their pre-bubble earnings.

But if the wealthy are not as well off as they once were, the middle classes were never as poorly off as liberal pundits claim. Indeed, their case that income disparity is growing rests on the notion that national productivity grew four times faster (1.95 percent per year) than median household income (0.49 percent per year) between 1979 and 2007. The remaining 1.46 percent in annual productivity gains, they postulate, must have gone straight into the Swiss bank accounts of the rich.

But there are enough holes in this argument for a Zuccotti Park cleanup crew to drive a fleet of garbage trucks through. For starters, Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon has pointed out that this analysis is based on the common price index, a number that both overstates the growth in real income among the haves and understates it for the have-nots. Indeed, globalization and big-box shopping outlets such as Walmart — the very forces that liberals blame for inequality — have vastly reduced prices for modest-income folks who shop at such venues. But the Paris Hiltons of the world who patronize stores like Versace and Roberto Cavalli haven’t benefited as much, because these businesses are almost completely immune to competitive price pressures. Once the productivity data is adjusted for such factors, Gordon found, the gap between the rich and poor grew only by 0.16 percent per year — or one-tenth of the 1.46 percent that liberals tout.
Of course that hasn't stopped liberals from crying foul. But, as they say, perhaps they doth protest too much.

Passing The Pennies On To You

The Atlantic takes a look at Obama's latest pandering, er, attempt to help out struggling students:
How much would an interest rate reduction of up to 0.5% affect payments?

For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor's degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done by finaid.org, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade.

Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn't going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.
Well, hey, at least you can still get a cheeseburger once in a while...

Brown's Battle

I'm sure that public-service unions will immediately start protesting and launching recall efforts against this threat to their livelihoods-oh, wait: it's a Democratic governor doing this?
Gov. Jerry Brown will propose sweeping rollbacks to public employee pension benefits in California, including raising the retirement age to 67 for new employees who are not public safety workers and requiring state and local employees to pay more toward their retirement and health care, according to a draft of the plan obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The governor will also propose Thursday a mandatory "hybrid" system in which future retirees would get their retirement from a guaranteed benefit and a 401(k)-style plan subject to market whims. For employees with at least 30 years of service, retirement benefits would aim to replace about 75 percent of an employee's salary through retirement funds and Social Security, according to the draft.

The plan, as drafted, also would end so-called pension "spiking" that lets employees boost their payouts by including overtime and other benefits, and end the practice of buying additional service credits.

"It's time to fix our pension systems so that they are fair and sustainable over a long time horizon," Brown said in a prepared statement to the AP. "My plan raises the retirement age and bans abusive practices like "spiking" and "air time" while mandating that public employees pay an equal share of pension costs."

The administration estimates its proposal would save about $900 million annually.

Brown's plan would require approval from the Legislature, where union-allied Democrats are likely to balk at some of the significant rollbacks, and where Brown failed to win consensus on pensions with Republicans last spring.
Given recent successes against said unions in Wisconsin and Ohio, maybe that will now change...

Words Of Warning

Are the lights going out over the Eurozone?
Peace should not be taken for granted if the euro fails, German chancellor Merkel told MPs Wednesday (26 October) ahead of the eurozone summit where an increase of the bail-out fund firepower may lead to Germany's own state assets being taken as collateral.

In a dark blue jacket reflecting the mood in and about the eurozone, Merkel abandoned her usual cautious rhetoric warned outright of a war.

"Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. They are not for granted. That's why I say: If the euro fails, Europe fails," Merkel said, followed by a long applause from all political groups.

"We have a historical obligation: To protect by all means Europe's unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and blood spill. None of us can foresee what the consequences would be if we were to fail."
Well, it looks like they've reached a deal for now, but yeah, it is starting to sound a lot like the late Edwardian Era all over again...

Walker, Recall Winner

The latest effort to get rid of Scott Walker in Wisconsin doesn't seem to be going so well:
Scott Walker's approval numbers are continuing to improve, making the prospect of recalling him look much tougher for Democrats than it did during the spring.

Walker's still not popular- 47% of voters approve of him, compared to 51% who disapprove. But those numbers represent continuing improvement over the course of the year. He hit his lowest point in PPP's polling in May at 43/54. By August he'd improved to 45/53, and now that improvement has continued over the last couple months. Republicans continue to stand pretty uniformly behind Walker, and Democrats pretty uniformly against him. Where the shift is occurring is with independents. In May only 40% approved of him with 56% disapproving. Now those numbers are almost flipped with 52% approving to 44% who disapprove.
....

None of that is necessarily to say Democrats shouldn't try to recall Walker. Six months from now his approval numbers might be right back in the low 40s and voters might be eager to recall him. But where things stand today the prospects for a Walker recall look much more dim than they did in the late spring and early summer.

One final note on the poll- by a 46-43 margin voters wish Democrats had control of the State Senate, just another data point about how closely divided the state is right now.
Maybe, but the state of the state is getting better, while Walker himself will be well positioned financially to take on any comers. So much for the Revolution.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In Praise Of Inequality

Richard Epstein explains why "Inequality" in a free society is a good thing:

Women's Lib, Middle East Style

The Yemeni version of burning bras:
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of Yemeni women on Wednesday set fire to traditional female veils to protest the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.

In the capital Sanaa, the women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: "Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?"

The women in Yemen have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's authoritarian rule that erupted in March, inspired by other Arab revolutions. Their role came into the limelight earlier in October, when Yemeni woman activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women's rights.
This is what a real protest movement looks like. And at least they actually showed up.

Brother, Can You Spare A Job?

How's that hope and change working out for ya?



Well, it is his economy they're protesting against, whether they want to admit it or not...

We Are All Occupiers Now?

It must be more of that lack of ambition:
A deep sense of economic anxiety and doubt about the future hangs over the nation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, with Americans’ distrust of government at its highest level ever.
....

The poll findings underscore a dissatisfaction and restlessness heading into the election season that has been highlighted through competing voices from the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements, a broad anti-Washington sentiment and the crosscurrents inside both parties about the best way forward.

Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, but 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Well, when the government does stuff like this, it's not that surprising...

Malaise II

Obama tries to rally against the crisis of confidence:



I guess this is one reason why Obama doesn't want any pesky reporters around. Gotta keep control of the narrative, after all...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sore Lawsuitman

I guess it had to happen sooner or later:
Charging that its activities contributed to his defeat and thus to his "loss of livelihood," Driehaus is suing the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports pro-life candidates for Congress and which has been one of the leading and most effective organizations involved in the fight to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

During the 2010 elections the Susan B. Anthony List engaged in a campaign to identify and call out a group of allegedly anti-abortion-rights members of Congress who provided the margin that allowed President Barack Obama's reform of the nation's healthcare system to get through the U.S. House of Representatives. The Susan B. Anthony List said their vote in favor of the law, which did not include any pro-life protections, amounted to a betrayal of their pro-life principles.

According to Driehaus, who was one of that group, what the Susan B. Anthony List said in its public communications amounted to a malicious lie that contributed to his defeat. Amazingly, rather than laugh the suit out of court U.S. District Court judge Timothy S. Black, an Obama appointee, is allowing it to go forward.
....

It's curious that the case has not received more attention from the national press.

What is equally curious, however, is why Judge Black has allowed the case to move forward and why he did not recuse himself from it since, as Barbara Hollingsworth reported Friday in The Washington Examiner, he apparently is the former president and director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati. As seeming conflicts of interest go this one is a real humdinger.
I guess it helps to have friends...

Suppose they Gave An Occupation And Nobody Cared?

Are the Wall Street protesters becoming the victims of media fatigue?
Experts say the protests are now making a natural -- yet challenging -- progression off the front page and cable news, as new events like the death of Muammar Gaddafi take prominence.

Any loss of the limelight, especially when the onset of cold weather has already started to reduce the ranks of protesters prepared to camp out overnight in lower Manhattan, could dampen the momentum of the movement.

"Without the oxygen to fuel their fire they're very much at risk of losing relevance," said Daniel Tisch, chairman of the Global Alliance of Public Relations & Communication Management, a confederation of national PR societies.

To some extent, even the protesters agree they are likely to get less attention as time goes by.

"People know what the general storyline is," said Senia Barragan, a protester from New Jersey acting as a spokeswoman for the occupation when not working on a doctorate at Columbia University. "I think they're moving on to other stories."
I guess that's why they're resorting to drug dealing to raise revenue...

All The News That's Fit To Charge

Free news is still more popular than the alternative:
Only 14 percent of tablet news users are paying directly for content on the device, according to an extensive survey from the Pew Research Center’s Project for excellence in Journalism.
....

The survey shows that reading news is second only to web browsing and tied with email as the most popular activity on a tablet. It also shows that tablet users are spending more time on news sites. Yet, of those who aren’t paying directly for news already, just 21 percent of that group say they would be willing to pay $5 per month to access their favorite news source.

That’s bad news for the New York Times, which is charging $5 a week for access to its tablet app plus its web site (not counting a current promotion for 99 cents for the first four weeks.) News Corp. unveiled the first news publication exclusively for the iPad back in Feb. 2011. The Daily goes for 99 cents a week.
And thus it is that traditional news outlets continue their dinosaur death spiral, which is kind of too bad, but it's really their own fault, isn't it?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Executive-At-Large

The Unitary Executive is back in action:
With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act.

According to an administration official, Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.

And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition.

The president’s announcements will bookend a three-day Western trip during which he also will hold fund-raising events in the two cities — both Nevada and Colorado are election battlegrounds — as well as in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The “We can’t wait” campaign is a new phase in Mr. Obama’s so-far unsuccessful effort — punctuated until now by his cries of “Pass this bill!” on the stump — to pressure Republicans to support the job creation package he proposed after Labor Day. It comes after unanimous votes by Senate Republicans in the past week to block the plan; House Republican leaders have refused to put the measure to a vote.
But will it really work? It didn't the last time, and it still ignores the real problem. In other words, it's just for show, and not a very good one, at that.

A Candidate Alone

President Obama doesn't seem that popular with his fellow Democrats these days:
In trips to Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — all states that he carried in 2008 — members of Congress were notably missing from the president’s side. Though none came out and said they were deliberately avoiding him, they didn’t have to: Dodging a presidential candidate who’s riding low in the polls is a time-honored political practice.

The past three elections — the Sept. 13 House special elections in New York and Nevada and the Oct. 4 West Virginia gubernatorial special election — haven’t done much to inspire confidence about Obama’s ability to help the entire ticket: The president was unquestionably an anchor on the Democratic nominees in each race.

For Obama, who has led a charmed political life since bursting onto the national stage in 2004 — he was in high demand on the campaign trail even before he won his Senate seat that year — it’s a harbinger of a humbling election year to come.

In North Carolina, only Sen. Kay Hagan, who isn’t up for reelection until 2014, and veteran Rep. Mel Watt, who represents a majority black district, appeared with the president. The state’s six other Democratic House members took a pass, offering a variety of excuses.

“[Obama] may end up being Walter Mondale of 1984,” said Raleigh-based Democratic strategist Brad Crone, recalling that the only elected official who risked being seen with the party’s nominee that year was the longtime agriculture commissioner.
Actually, he sounds more like Mondale's old boss...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Equal Opportunity Occupiers

Are the Wall Street protesters finally picking the right targets?
Occupy Wall Street protesters took a field trip from Zuccotti Park on Saturday morning, all the way to the wealthy suburban enclave of New Canaan, Conn., where they took their anger at income and tax disparity to GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s front lawn.

“In the land of the free they tax me but not G.E.!” read the invitation to take an hour bus ride to Immelt’s family home to join the protest, organized by liberal political party Connecticut Working Families. “General Electric made billions last year; they paid no taxes, outsourced thousands of jobs, and got over $3 billion in tax refunds! Join us on a free bus trip to G.E’s CEO’s front lawn to see how our friends in the 1% live.”

A crowd of about 100 protesters from Connecticut Working Families, Occupy Wall Street and local offshoot Occupy New Haven spent the afternoon standing outside Immelt’s 6-bedroom, 10-bathroom, $5.25 million home. Photos from local news site New Canaan Patch show a police officer guarding Immelt’s gates while protesters hold placards reading “Mr. Immelt, Meet the 99%” and “Jobs Not Bailouts”.
Oh, my. Will they march on GM next?

The Second American Century?

There's plenty of reason to be pessimistic about America's future. But is it really that bad?
The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus.

Assumptions that the Great Republic must inevitably spiral into economic and strategic decline - so like the chatter of the late 1980s, when Japan was in vogue - will seem wildly off the mark by then.
....

The switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble.

Yet America retains a pack of trump cards, and not just in sixteen of the world’s top twenty universities.

It is almost the only economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0 - and therefore the ability to outgrow debt - in sharp contrast to the demographic decay awaiting Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Europe's EMU soap opera has shown why it matters that America is a genuine nation, forged by shared language and the ancestral chords of memory over two centuries, with institutions that ultimately work and a real central bank able to back-stop the system.
Considering that the EU increasingly looks like its headed for a crackup, this may indeed be good news...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goolsbee Speaks

One of President Obama's top economic advisors admits that mistakes were made:
Former Obama administration economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Thursday that if given a second chance he would not have backed the Cash for Clunkers program or the home buyer tax credit passed in 2009 to stave off further economic distress.

“Because we didn’t know if [economic recovery was] going to be short or long,” the Obama administration tried measures to address both scenarios, Goolsbee explained on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“If you look at Cash for Clunkers or the first home buyer tax credit, they were geared to trying to shift [recovery] from 2010 into 2009. Given it’s taken this long [to recover], I don’t think you would do that short-run stuff,” Goolsbee added.

Goolsbee, the former chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the administration misjudged how quickly the country could recover from the economic damage of the 2008 economic collapse.
Unfortunately, short-term gimmicks and quick fixes seem to have become a hallmark of this administration...

Propaganda On Hold?

Apparently Hollywood had discovered that selling the President's success might not work out that well around election time after all:
Sony likely won't be releasing Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's untitled project about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden before the 2012 Presidential election as planned.
Originally skedded to launch Oct. 12, the studio said it will definitely move the film -- but is considering a few different options as to when.

But why? Sony moved its Kevin James-comedy "Here Comes the Boom" from a summer berth to Oct. 12, meaning the studio would have two films on that date. As to political reasons, it's not known how much (if at all) the film's storyline is a motivation.

In August, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) called for an investigation into the Obama administration's cooperation with Bigelow and Boal's project, citing New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's column saying Bigelow received "top-level access to the most classified mission in history." Dowd also noted that the pic, detailing one of the administration's big successes, would be released just weeks before the election.

The White House, along with Bigelow and Boal, denied that the project was getting favored treatment, calling the operation "an American triumph, both heroic and non-partisan ... (with) no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise."
I'm sure that releasing the movie a month before the Presidential election would have been just a coincidence...

My Ally, My Enemy

Umm, what?
Afghanistan would support Pakistan in case of military conflict between Pakistan and the United States, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview to a private Pakistani TV channel broadcast on Saturday.

The remarks were in sharp contrast to recent tension between the two neighbors over cross-border raids, and Afghan accusations that Pakistan was involved in killing the chief Afghan peace envoy, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, by a suicide bomber on September 20.

"God forbid, If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan," he said in the interview to Geo television.

"If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan needs Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you."
Even if you take this as just talk to mollify the Pakistanis, you have to wonder where Karzai's loyalties ultimately lie. It might do well to remind him about Obama's recent hawkishness if that's the case.

Bang The Drum Slowly

It's for the drummers:
Some occupiers are more equal than others. In wind-whipped Zuccotti Park, new divisions and hierarchies are threatening to upend Occupy Wall Street and its leaderless collective. . . .

Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun. They brought in publicity and money. Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA decided to do it … they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal. “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest,” he said. “They didn’t even give the drummers a say … Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”

The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips. “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt. “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting.”
Well, they've already made enough to qualify as such. It sucks when you become the establishment you're protesting against, doesn't it?

Weekend At Muammar's

If he's watching from Hell, how it must gall Gadaffi to be reduced from an all-powerful tyrant to this:
Muammar Gaddafi's body has become a gruesome tourist attraction and a macabre symbol of the new Libya's problems.

Hundreds of ordinary Libyans queued up outside a refrigerated meat store in Misrata, where the dead dictator was being stored as a trophy. A guard allowed small groups into the room to celebrate next to Gaddafi's body. They posed for photos, flashing victory signs, and burst into jubilant cries of "God is great."

Wounds on Gaddafi's body appeared to confirm that he was indeed killed in cold blood in the chaotic minutes following his capture on Thursday. He was found in the town of Sirte, hiding in a drainage pipe. There was a close-range bullet wound on the left side of his head. Blood stains showed another bullet wound to his thorax. His body, subsequently driven to Misrata and publicly paraded, was barefoot and stripped to the waist.
At least now he can be said to be truly serving his people-as a reminder of what they once feared.

Give Chastity An Chance

Forget about Occupy Wall Street. This might actually be the new face of student protest:
A new student organization aims to educate the student body on the ideas of modesty, chastity, marriage and charity, said information sciences graduate student and founder Ryan Haecker. The UT Anscombe Society, which consists of roughly 12 students, was formed this semester following the lead of universities across the country such as the Michigan Institute of Technology and Princeton University. The Anscombe Society is working on a presentation to help explain their values to other students and encourage them to become members and hopes to become an official student organization in the spring semester.
What's the matter with kids today? Seriously, I don't think you'll see them doing stuff like kicking out their own founders.

It Is What They Say It Is

I think the tone of this article pretty much says it all:
The world is getting warmer, countering the doubts of climate change sceptics about the validity of some of the scientific evidence, according to the most comprehensive independent review of historical temperature records to date.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, found several key issues that sceptics claim can skew global warming figures had no meaningful effect.

The Berkeley Earth project compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s from 15 sources around the world and found that the average global land temperature has risen by around 1C since the mid-1950s.

This figure agrees with the estimate arrived at by major groups that maintain official records on the world's climate, including Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), and the Met Office's Hadley Centre, with the University of East Anglia, in the UK.

"My hope is that this will win over those people who are properly sceptical," Richard Muller, a physicist and head of the project, said.

"Some people lump the properly sceptical in with the deniers and that makes it easy to dismiss them, because the deniers pay no attention to science. But there have been people out there who have raised legitimate issues."

Muller sought to cool the debate over climate change by creating the largest open database of temperature records, with the aim of producing a transparent and independent assessment of global warming.
And we all know how "Independent" Berkeley is, right?

Hate And Change, Democratic Edition

Everyone knows how anti-gay those homophobic Republicans are...oh, wait:
Patrick Forrest is running against incumbent Janet Howell. Forrest is a Republican, which everyone knows. He is also gay. Not everyone knows that, but some Democrats in Northern Virginia — including Howell, Forrest says — are trying to educate them.

Forrest says a number of conservatives have told him, "We heard you're a homosexual." He has told them he is and has always been openly gay. As Forrest tells the tale, they have said they learned about it from Democratic volunteers, who also told them Forrest "would be promoting the homosexual agenda in our schools." Nice.

That somebody is gay-baiting seems beyond dispute. Forrest's field director, Eric Newland, recorded a conversation with Kavita Imarti, a precinct captain for the Democratic Party in Reston. On the recording, made at a party earlier this month, a seemingly drunk Imarti defends the tactic.

When Newland asks if "it's okay for the campaign to be telling people" about Forrest's sexual orientation, Imarti responds: "Yes! Because you guys are racist [expletives]. . . . You're racist [expletive-expletives]. You guys are prejudiced against someone because of their sexuality. We are basically pinpointing your prejudice."
Or, more likely, exposing your own while exploiting others'...

Shatrock

Yes, it's William Shatner doing Queen. Watch at your own risk:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Goodnight Baghdad

At long last, an exit strategy?
President Obama announced Friday that all U.S. forces will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, saying the troops "will definitely be home for the holidays."

The announcement, in the White House briefing room, came after the president completed a secure video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The discussion apparently finalized negotiations that have dragged on for months over what, if any, military presence the U.S. would maintain in Iraq beyond a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline set in 2008. The president said the two are now in "full agreement" over how to move forward, and that no U.S. troops will remain.

"As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," Obama said. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."
Some, obviously, disagree with this decision. But with American operations expanding elsewhere into Africa and post-Gadaffi Lybia still an open book, this is one chapter of our foreign policy that probably needed closing...or is it?

The New Party Of No

Opposition from within Obama's own party seems to be growing:
Democratic defections and a united Republican front are hampering President Obama’s message on the economy.

Last week and again Thursday night, there were a couple Democratic defections on Obama’s jobs measure. And despite a veto threat from the White House, 10 Democrats voted for a GOP alternative.

The lack of a united front is complicating a key part of Obama’s reelection strategy of running against Washington, and Congress in particular.
....

The White House stresses that a large majority of Democrats are solidly behind their president.

“Let’s be clear. Ninety-five percent of Senate Democrats voted to put teachers and first responders back to work. Exactly 0 percent of Senate Republicans joined them,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told The Hill on Friday.

“The bill failed because Senate Republicans blocked it. Senate Republicans decided they would not ask millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit more in order to put up to 400,000 teachers in our classrooms teaching our children.”
Except that, it wasn't just those evil Republicans:
The 10 Democrats defections were: Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.).

Of these senators, Franken, Klobuchar, McCaskill and Tester are co-sponsors of a similar measure offered by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). After the vote, Republicans noted that Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) are also co-sponsors of Brown’s bill, but voted no.
Maybe that's why Democrats are changing their message. Maybe he should be paying more attention to public opinion, and perhaps stay away from the campaign trail more often, as well.

The Jobs Report

Was Steve Jobs a closet conservative?
Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama "was really psyched to meet with you," Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.
Hmm. Maybe dropping acid back in the Seventies helped him after all...

The Filibuster Fifty

Jobs Bill 2.0 goes goes down:
Despite a campaign-style push this week by President Barack Obama, the Senate on Thursday scuttled pared-back jobs legislation aimed at helping state and local governments avoid layoffs of teachers and firefighters.

Obama's three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia — states crucial to his re-election race next year — didn't change any minds among Senate Republicans, who filibustered Obama's latest jobs measure to death just as they killed his broader $447 billion jobs plan last week.

The 50-50 vote came in relation to a motion to simply take up the bill and fell well short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut broke with Obama on the vote. Two Democrats who voted with the president, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, however, said they couldn't support the underlying Obama plan unless it's changed.
Apparently it wasn't changed enough to suit their tastes. Again, it was Democrats who who sided with Republicans against the President's agenda. so much for just one side being "Obstructionist."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Misery, U.S.A.

Misery loves company:
The misery index — which is simply the sum of the country's inflation and unemployment rates — rose to 13.0, pushed up by higher price data the government reported on Wednesday.

The data underscores the extent that Americans continue to suffer even two years after a deep recession ended, with a weak economic recovery imperiling President Barack Obama's hopes of winning reelection next year.

Inez Stallworth, an underwriting assistant for a financial services company, recently gave up her car, in part because of rising costs for gasoline and groceries.

"I can't fit it in," said the 27-year-old Chicago resident, who said most of her extended family was getting by "paycheck-to-paycheck." Consumer prices rose 3.9 percent in the 12 months through September, the fastest pace in three years.

With gasoline prices high, consumers have less to spend on other things.

Moreover, a rise in overall prices saps economic growth, which is typically measured in inflation-adjusted terms.

The last time the misery index was at current levels was in 1983.

But in 1984 an improving economy probably helped President Ronald Reagan win reelection.
Unfortunately, Obama is no Reagan. So much for Hope and Change...

Gadhafi Goes Down

The former dictator is dead:
Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years until he was ousted in an uprising-turned-civil war, was killed Thursday as revolutionary fighters overwhelmed his hometown of Sirte and captured the last major bastion of resistance two months after his regime fell.

The 69-year-old Gadhafi is the first leader to be killed in the Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings that swept the Middle East, demanding the end of autocratic rulers and the establishment of greater democracy.

"We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Moammar Gadhafi has been killed," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril told a news conference in the capital of Tripoli.

There were conflicting accounts about Gadhafi's final hours, with the interim government saying he was captured unharmed and later mortally wounded in the crossfire from both sides. A second account described how he was already wounded in the chest when he was seized and later sustained the other wounds.
He was caught in a sewer pipe, taken down at the hands of his own people. A fitting end for one of the world's worst thugs.

President Wall Street

I guess this makes him part of the One Percent:
Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.
Maybe he's just going the Barney Frank route...

Jayson Blair Syndrome

You'd think she'd know better:
Reporter Kendra Marr resigned her position Thursday after New York Times writer Susan Stellin alerted Politico editors to similarities between her transportation policy story published Sept. 26 and Marr’s story published Oct. 10.

Politico is not saying whether it has completed its investigation into Marr’s work after finding seven instances of plagiarism, or whether newsroom staff are provided (or will be provided) ethical guidelines to follow in their work. Chief Operating Officer Kim Kingsley said the Allbritton-owned organization will not comment beyond the letter to readers.

After being alerted Wednesday night, Politico editors examined Marr’s work and discovered incidents in which “specific turns of phrase or passages … bore close resemblance to work published elsewhere. Others involved similarities in the way stories were organized to present their findings. … Material published in our pages borrowed from the work of others, without attribution, in ways which we cannot defend and will not tolerate.”
Journalism in this day and age means never having to cite your sources...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No Skills Necessary

As Obama goes around the country touting his jobs plan, it seems he's neglected to mention one of the dirty little secrets of his signature achievement:
Obamacare hurts less skilled workers. It raises the minimum productivity required for them to hold a full-time job, particularly workers with families. Workers who cannot produce at least $20,000 per year (single plan) or $27,500 per year (family plan) of value to employers will have serious difficulty finding full-time jobs. Many of these workers will have to either live off reduced income from part-time hours or juggle the schedules of multiple part-time jobs.

Workers with productivity near this minimum will also face challenges. The law forces them to consume a substantial portion of their income as health benefits whether they want to or not. Take a full-time worker in Delaware with a family health plan earning the federal minimum wage. The employee and employer share of health care premiums for that plan will cost an average of $6.41 per hour. After paying the employee share of premiums, that worker will earn $6.56 per hour in cash wages. The law requires unskilled employees who do not get dumped into the exchanges to receive almost half of their compensation as health benefits. Workers who would like higher wages and less expensive health coverage do not get a choice.
That pretty much seems to have been the idea all along, doesn't it?

Some Workers Are More Equal Than Others

...At least according to Harry Reid:
"It's very clear that private-sector jobs have been doing just fine; it's the public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers, and that's what this legislation is all about," Reid said on the Senate floor.

Reid was responding to recent comments from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who accused Democrats of purposefully pursuing higher taxes as part of the teacher/first-responder bill, S. 1723, so that Republicans would oppose it. McConnell said the bill was meant to fail in order to give Democrats an issue to run on in the 2012 election, but Reid said the Republicans are simply trying to defeat President Obama any way they can.

The legislation Reid is defending is part of Obama's jobs package. Vice President Biden was in Pennsylvania, an important election state, on Tuesday to push for the administration's plan on increasing the number of teachers.

Reid reiterated his emphasis on creating government jobs by saying Democrats are looking to "put hundreds of thousands of people back to work teaching children, have more police patrolling our streets, firefighters fighting our fires, doing the rescue work that they do so well … that's our priority." He said Republicans are calling the bill a "failure" because they are "using a different benchmark for success than we are."
Maybe that's because Republicans care more about getting jobs for everyone, not just the favored, Union-supported classes?

Lions And Tigers And Bears

It's literally a zoo out there:
Authorities say that in all, 56 exotic animals escaped from a farm in Muskingum County last night, and two were still missing this afternoon.

Of those animals, 48 were killed. Six animals -- a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys -- were captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and a monkey and a grey wolf were at large. The animals that were killed included 18 tigers, nine male lions, eight female lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, one baboon and one wolf, Sheriff Matt Lutz said. The escaped monkey poses a danger because it is infected with herpes, the sheriff said.

The owner of the farm, Terry Thompson, was found dead last night on his property. Authorities say Thompson opened the cage doors and cut the wires on the cages, then killed himself. He died from a gunshot wound. Lutz said Thompson's body was "bothered" by the animals.

Lutz had previously said a grizzly bear and mountain lion were missing. Today, authorities confirmed they killed the bear on the property last night. An officer wounded the mountain lion, which staggered into a neighbor's property and died.
A strange story to be sure, and perhaps another example of why wild animals should not be treated as pets.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hoosier Fraud

Shocking? Not really:
"This fraud was obvious, far-reaching and appeared to be systemic," 22-year-old Ryan Nees told Fox News, referring to evidence he uncovered while researching electoral petitions from the 2008 Democratic Party primary in Indiana.

Nees’ investigation centered on the petitions that put then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the ballot. As many as 150 of the names and signatures, it is alleged, were faked. So many, in fact, that the numbers raise questions about whether Obama’s campaign had enough legitimate signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.

"What seems to have happened is that a variety of people in northern Indiana knew that this fraud occurred, and actively participated and perpetuated the fraud, and did so on behalf of two presidential campaigns," according to Nees.

Prosecutors are now investigating. The scandal has already led to the sudden resignation Monday night of Butch Morgan, chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party. He denied any wrongdoing, saying he looks “forward to an investigation that will exonerate me."

Nees, a junior at Yale University, served as an intern in the Obama White House last year and supports the president’s re-election. But as an intern at the non-partisan political newsletter Howey Politics Indiana, he delved into the Byzantine and complicated world of petition signatures and found reams of signatures that he says appeared to be written in the same handwriting, some apparently copied from previous petitions.
This is apparently quite commonplace. But then again, isn't that part of the problem? I suppose the bigger story is that this is what a college kid who isn't out protesting can do...

Furious Reaction

It's a start:
The U.S. Senate unanimously voted in favor of an amendment Wednesday that guarantees zero funding for programs that include the transfer of firearms to drug cartels unless law enforcement continuously monitors the weapons "at all times."

The amendment stemmed directly from Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial botched weapons program, and was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

The amendment passed 99-0, with only Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., missing the vote.

During floor debate on Tuesday, Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., jumped on board and praised Cornyn's effort to prevent any more programs like the botched "gun-walking" effort that enabled U.S.-purchased weapons to end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Mikulski not only commended the Texas Republican, but said she would join with him in getting answers from the Justice Department about what officials at the top knew about the program and when.

"When I look at what happened in Operation Fast and Furious, I was fast to be furious," Mikulski said, faulting flawed leadership and questionable intelligence for the "bungled" and "botched" program.
Now, if they could just get Eric Holder to come clean...

Occupation Opinons

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at why Obama might not want to support the so-called "99%":
...the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.

The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).

An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.

Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.
So, they're not exactly part of the mainstream, and don't even particularly like Obama. The rest of the public has mixed feelings about them. So, why would Obama risk what popularity he has left by supporting them?

Fists Of Futility

Gee, who saw this one coming?
A bloody fistfight broke out among rival gang members at Richmond City Hall on Friday, according to police.

Seven men from different parts of the city brawled in a third-floor suite that houses the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety around 12:30 p.m. Friday, department director Devone Boggan said.

He said all of the men involved in the melee are enrolled in the office’s “Operation Peacemaker” fellowship and happened to show up at the office at Richmond’s Civic Center at the same time unexpectedly.

The fight stemmed from an “exchange of looks” and heated words after the men spotted each other, Boggan said.

Police have so far been unable to locate any of the men involved, and have few details about what happened, Lt. Bisa French said Tuesday.
But hey, at least it was a step forward:
The ONS director said he sees the unarmed brawl as a sign of progress, since the young men involved all have a history of gun violence.

“They decided to pick their fists up instead of a gun,” Boggan said. “Everyone got up and walked away—not one mother has to bury their child this week.”
They just wound up in the ER instead...

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Big Evil

Is Wall Street to blame for our troubles? Not according to this:
Washington, not Wall Street, is primarily to blame for the financial crisis and the subsequent recession.

That is the key finding of this week’s The Hill poll, which comes as the national Occupy Wall Street movement — a protest that objects to risky practices and excessive salaries at major banks, along with American income disparities in general — enters its second month.

The movement appears to have struck a chord with progressive voters, but it does not seem to represent the feelings of the wider public.

The Hill poll found that only one in three likely voters blames Wall Street for the country’s financial troubles, whereas more than half — 56 percent — blame Washington.

Moreover, when it comes to the political consequences of the protest, voters tend to believe that there are more perils than positives for Obama and the Democrats.

A plurality believe that the Occupy Wall Street movement will hurt Democrats and Obama in the 2012 election. Even those whose sympathies lie on the left of center seem unsure about the likely political repercussions.
Obama might want to rethink being part of that "99%", then. Not that he really is, anyway...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who Watches The Samplers?

Oh, the irony:
Rank-and-file police from Connecticut to Chicago to Los Angeles have opposed what some experts say is a slowly emerging trend in the U.S. to collect officers' DNA.

"From a civil liberties standpoint, there are a lot of red flags," said Connecticut Trooper Steven Rief, former president of the state police union.

"It's not that the law enforcement officers are opposed to giving up their DNA," he said. "You need to have safeguards in place. Something that can tell you ... something intimate about someone needs to be treated with the utmost care."

Rief and officers in other states say their concerns include management using the DNA information to see if employees are predisposed to diseases and to predict workers' future health problems. The rank-and-file also don't want their DNA placed onto a national database that holds criminals' genetic data.
It's different when the shoe is on the other foot, isn't it?

Memorial Occupation

President Obama knows: Never let a dedication to MLK go to waste:
He said the 30-foot granite sculpture of the pastor, arms crossed and eyeing the horizon, was a celebration of the civil rights movement that gave blacks the vote and ended segregation in schools, on buses and elsewhere in U.S. life.

While describing "progress that has expressed itself in a million ways" since the 1963 March on Washington, he said the economic crisis that has driven up the U.S. jobless rate was a new challenge also requiring determined action.

"On this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles," he told the crowd on the Mall, where the other iconic monuments commemorate wars and presidents.

Echoing a theme from his speeches for the 2012 campaign, Obama said it was important to remember that King's successes did not come easily and required a great deal of persistence.

"When met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the 'is-ness' of today. He kept pushing for the 'ought-ness' of tomorrow," he told the crowd on the sunny, crisp autumn day.

"And so, as we think about all the work that we must do -- rebuilding an economy that can compete on a global stage, and fixing our schools so that every child ... gets a world-class education, and making sure that our health care system is affordable and accessible to all, and that our economic system is one in which everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share, let us not be trapped by what is," he shouted into the microphone.
I wonder how the man he was supposed to be honoring would have felt about being used as a campaign prop...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

History Lesson

John Stossel recalls how working on the railroad didn't work for the government:
...the Transcontinental Railroad was a Solyndra-like Big Government scandal. The railroad didn’t make economic sense at the time, so the government subsidized construction and gave the companies huge quantities of the best land on the continent.

As we should expect, without market discipline — profit and loss — contractors ripped off the taxpayers. After all, if you get paid by the amount of track you lay, you’ll lay more track than necessary.

Credit Mobilier, the first rail construction company, made enormous profits by overcharging for its work. To keep the subsidies flowing, it made big contributions to congressmen.

Where have we heard that recently?

The transcontinental railroad lost tons of money. The government never covered its costs, and most rail lines that used the tracks went bankrupt or continued to be subsidized by taxpayers.

The Union Pacific and Northern Pacific — all those rail lines we learned about in history class — milked the taxpayer and then went broke.

One line worked. The Great Northern never went bankrupt. It was the railroad that got no subsidies.
Kind of like the Ford of its day?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rock Bottom

Now this is what I call optimism:
Many of the key sectors that usually cause economic contraction, including housing and durable goods such as automobiles, are already at such low levels that they don’t have much more room to fall.

Businesses that cut vast numbers of workers during the recession between 2007 and 2009 are operating with such lean staffing that they don’t have much room to cut. And consumers are already pinching pennies so tightly that they can’t pull back further without cutting into basic necessities.
There's literally nowhere to go but up. Look on the bright side!

There's Almost A Riot Goin' On

Hey, MSNBC: Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it:
Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protesters -- emboldened by officials backing down this morning from evicting them from their Zuccotti Park campsite for a 7 a.m. cleaning -- stormed Wall Street, leaping over barriers and getting into a fracas with cops.

The throng of protesters streamed onto Broadway, blocking traffic, setting up a confrontation with police who are waiting for them on the street.

Things turned predictably violent as cops tackled protesters and chased them up the street -- forcing everyone to the sidewalks -- in what turned into a melee.

"We were just marching. They're assaulting us," said protestor James Sinclair, 27.

Police arrested at least eight people on Beaver Street, as a throng of protesters flipped over a police scooter on Broadway.

Cuffed protesters yelled, "The whole world is watching!" Shame on you!"

Five more were arrested at Maiden Lane and Water Steeet when protesters got into a confrontation with a police officer on a scooter. A protester's leg ended up under the officer's scooter.
I hope the scooter wasn't hurt...so, if things get more out of hand, will Bill Maher accept responsibility?

CLASS Dismissed

One of the pillars of Obamacare has fallen:
Known as CLASS, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program was a longstanding priority of the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Although sponsored by the government, it was supposed to function as a self-sustaining voluntary insurance plan, open to working adults regardless of age or health. Workers would pay an affordable monthly premium during their careers, and could collect a modest daily cash benefit of at least $50 if they became disabled later in life. Beneficiaries could use the money for services to help them stay at home, or to help with nursing home bills.

But a central design flaw dogged CLASS from the beginning. Unless large numbers of healthy people willingly sign up during their working years, soaring premiums driven by the needs of disabled beneficiaries would destabilize it, eventually requiring a taxpayer bailout.

After months insisting that problems could be resolved, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, finally admitted Friday she doesn't see how that can be done.

"Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," Sebelius said in a letter to congressional leaders.

The law required the administration to certify that CLASS would remain financially solvent for 75 years before it could be put into place.
And that was just one part of Obamacare. What happens when the fiscal realities of the rest of it finally start to sink in?

Flake Force

I'd compare this to Serpico, except that this guy is no Al Pacino:
A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

Anderson, testifying under a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, was busted for planting cocaine, a practice known as "flaking," on four men in a Queens bar in 2008 to help out fellow cop Henry Tavarez, whose buy-and-bust activity had been low.

"Tavarez was ... was worried about getting sent back [to patrol] and, you know, the supervisors getting on his case," he recounted at the corruption trial of Brooklyn South narcotics Detective Jason Arbeeny.

"I had decided to give him [Tavarez] the drugs to help him out so that he could say he had a buy," Anderson testified last week in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

He made clear he wasn't about to pass off the two legit arrests he had made in the bar to Tavarez.

"As a detective, you still have a number to reach while you are in the narcotics division," he said.
Well, thank goodness he had his principles...

The Kaiser Chief

It's good to be the sun king:
As the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison reports today, Kaiser has become extraordinarily wealthy by taking advantage of the federal tax code in ways that some tax experts - including the IRS - believe to be illegal.

As Allison describes it in his Sunlight post today, "in one six year period, during which he increased his net worth enough to land him on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Kaiser reported taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service just once, totaling $11,699--equivalent to a full-time hourly wage of $5.62."
....

Taking advantage of tax loopholes is, of course, legal, and Kaiser is far from unique among wealthy investors in doing so. Even so, critics across the political spectrum to point such cases as evidence the tax code encourages evasion, influence peddling and other forms of political corruption.
Or, as a guy like Kaiser would call it, "Business as usual..."

The African Front

Not another non-war:
Two days ago President Obama authorized the deployment to Uganda of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to help regional forces “remove from the battlefield” – meaning capture or kill – Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and senior leaders of the LRA.

The forces will deploy beginning with a small group and grow over the next month to 100. They will ultimately go to Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the permission of those countries.

The president made this announcement in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Friday afternoon, saying that “deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”

He said that “although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”
....

As for how long the US troops will be in the region, a spokesman at US Africa Command says he could not provide specifics, “but our forces are prepared to stay as long as necessary to enable regional security forces to carry on independently.
Well, at least they're not claiming days, not weeks this time...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Off The Deep End

Umm, what?



On the heels of Joe Biden's claims about the now-dead jobs bill, it seems that the Democrats are getting increasingly desperate to defend what's left of their agenda. Maybe that explains why Obama himself is getting rather testy these days.

The Online Scarlet Letter

The dangers of mob mentality:
Within about 72 hours from the moment Liss got stiffed, hundreds of people, united and galvanized by blogs, jumped into action and attempted to ruin a stranger’s reputation because he said something mean to another stranger. There was just one problem: They got the wrong guy.

On Monday evening, after defaming Andrew Meyer, claiming he worked at Microsoft, directing the world to his Facebook account, and bragging that she’d found Meyer’s phone number, Liss returned to her Facebook page to apologize—she’d found the wrong Andrew Meyer. "I need glasses, I put up the picture of the wrong guy," she wrote. "I’m a douche for that. SO SORRY. Blinded by rage."
....

As of this writing, Jezebel has yet to amend its post to say that Liss fingered the wrong Andrew Meyer. But even if Liss had had the right guy, would that have warranted the kind of mob justice people on the internet are obviously champing at the bit to mete out? Other than fulfilling a desire for revenge, what purpose does siccing bloggers and Twitter users on low-level meanies serve?
Unfortunately, the online era does give people the ability to express themselves when they're at their worst...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

About That Iranian Plot...

David Ignatius ponders the Iranian terror plot:
The puzzle is why the Iranians would undertake such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly poor tradecraft. Soleimani and his group are some of the savviest clandestine operators in the world. In past columns, I’ve likened him to “Karla,” the diabolically clever Russian spymaster in John le Carre’s novels. Why would the Iranian Karla turn to such a bunch of screwballs?

Here’s the answer offered by senior U.S. officials: The Iranians are stressed, at home and abroad, in ways that are leading them to engage in riskier behavior.

Officials say Quds Force operations have been more aggressive in several theaters: in Syria, where the Iranian operatives are working covertly to help protect the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad; in Iraq, where the Quds Force this year stepped up attacks against departing U.S. forces; in Afghanistan, where they have been arming the Taliban; in Azerbaijan, where they have been more aggressive in projecting Iranian influence; and in Bahrain, where their operatives worked to support and manipulate last spring’s uprising against the Khalifa government. (Shakuri, who was indicted Tuesday, is said to have helped plan Quds Force operations in Bahrain.)

But why the use of Mexican drug cartels? U.S. officials say that isn’t as implausible as it sounds. The Iranians don’t have the infrastructure to operate smoothly in the United States. They would want to use proxies, and ones that would give them “deniability.”

“They’re very willing to use all kinds of proxies to achieve specific clandestine foreign-policy goals,” says a senior U.S. official who has been briefed on intelligence reports.
So, if they're getting sloppy, should we be more relieved-or more worried? Meanwhile, this may be just the tip of the espionage iceberg, while this latest dustup could hurt rather than help Obama.

Life After Pass It Now

Call me crazy, but isn't this exactly what John Boehner wanted?
Shortly after his $447 billion jobs plan stalled Tuesday in the Senate, President Barack Obama vowed to break the broad initiative down into numerous, separate bills — potentially setting up even more showdowns between Democrats and Republics on how to boost the economy and where to get the money to do so.

The Democrat-pushed bill failed Tuesday night to get the 60 votes needed in the Senate to proceed. A total of 50 members of the chamber supported the measure, while 49 cast ballots against it.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Obama said that despite being an obvious defeat, “tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight.” He then outlined his intention to work with Senate Majority Harry Reid and produce several smaller bills derived from the bigger plan.
If this is Obama's definition of "Winning," i'd hate to see what losing looks like...

Keep The Change

Sometimes, it's just better to cut your losses:
The city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, facing a state takeover of its finances, filed for bankruptcy protection following a vote by City Council, according to a lawyer for the council.

Mark D. Schwartz, a Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania-based lawyer and former head of municipal bonds for Prudential Financial Inc.’s mid-Atlantic region, said he filed the documents by fax to a federal bankruptcy court last night. The filing couldn’t be confirmed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Harrisburg.

The state capital of 49,500 faces a debt burden five times its general-fund budget because of an overhaul and expansion of a trash-to-energy incinerator that doesn’t generate enough revenue.

“This was a last resort,” Schwartz said in an interview after the council voted 4-3 to seek bankruptcy protection. “They’re at their wits end.”

While bankruptcy would mean the loss of state aid under a law passed in June, it’s preferable to a proposed recovery plan, said Councilwoman Susan Brown-Wilson.

“We’re not incompetent,” Brown-Wilson said. “We’re just not going to let you run us over with the train anymore,” she said, referring to state officials.
I guess going green wasn't quite the gravy train they thought it would be-as so many others are finding out...