Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out With The Old

It's JibJab's annual salute to the year gone by:

The Chinese Bubble

But I thought it was the economy we were supposed to emulate:
...the data add to mounting evidence that export-driven China is slowing and will ratchet up pressure on Beijing to further loosen monetary policies to prevent a painful hard landing.

Manufacturing activity contracted in November for the first time in 33 months, while consumer prices rose at their slowest pace in more than a year and industrial output growth hit its lowest level since 2009.

"Weakening external demand is starting to bite," Qu Hongbin, HSBC chief economist, said in a statement.
"This, plus the ongoing property market corrections, adds to calls for more aggressive action on both fiscal and monetary fronts to stabilise growth and jobs, especially with prices easing rapidly.

"Hard landings should be avoided so long as easing measures filter through in the coming months."

Beijing is anxious to prevent a sharp slowdown in the economy but at the same time it wants to avoid reigniting inflation, which hit a more than three-year high of 6.5pc in July but has since slowed.
There seems to be a lot of that going around these days...

Corruption We Can Believe In

I wish I could say I was surprised by this:
A Democratic fundraiser was found guilty Friday of engineering a $21 million bank fraud scheme.

Courtney Dupree was convicted of vastly overstating the billings of his Long Island City-based lighting company GDC Acquisitions in order to fraudulently obtain a loan from Amalgamated Bank.

Dupree sat stone-faced as the verdict was read in Brooklyn Federal Court. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
It must be more of how Team Obama is fighting for the little guy...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Give Until It Hurts More

On the subject of religious leftists and the giving guilt trip:
I’m always struck by the core assumptions of many on the Christian Left: First, that America has not done enough — either charitably or through government programs — to improve the plight of the poor; second, that the right kind of governmental investment will make substantial differences in American poverty; and third, that America’s poor are largely victims of the wrong kind of government policies and individual greed. For these individuals, the $16 trillion we’ve spent on means-tested welfare since the War on Poverty began represents a grossly inadequate expenditure, and the answer (it’s the same answer with public education, by the way) is more, more, more — more money, more programs, and more taxation. Yet after $16 trillion, we have a different kind of more, more, more — more illegitimacy, more citizens in poverty, and more inequality, with growing stickiness at the bottom.
The Christian left confuses genuine aid with subsidization of poverty and the perpetuation of an underclass. But if they had no one to "help," they wouldn't have as much of a cause or a case, would they?

Doomsday Flu

Good grief:
A deadly strain of bird flu with the potential to infect and kill millions of people has been created in a laboratory by European scientists – who now want to publish full details of how they did it.

The discovery has prompted fears within the US Government that the knowledge will fall into the hands of terrorists wanting to use it as a bio-weapon of mass destruction.

Some scientists are questioning whether the research should ever have been undertaken in a university laboratory, instead of at a military facility.

The US Government is now taking advice on whether the information is too dangerous to be published.

"The fear is that if you create something this deadly and it goes into a global pandemic, the mortality and cost to the world could be massive," a senior scientific adviser to the US Government told The Independent, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The worst-case scenario here is worse than anything you can imagine."
So, when should we expect the first zombie outbreak?

Dear Leader Dismay

North Koreans weep for Mini-Me:

The Judges Stay

Andrew McCarthy explains why Newt is wrong when it comes to calling Federal judges before Congress:
The judiciary is a peer of the political branches. It would be no more appropriate for Congress to subpoena a federal judge (or that judge’s clerks) about the reasoning of one of the judge’s rulings than it would be for Congress to subpoena the president (or his top advisors) about a controversial decision that was within the president’s constitutional authority, or for a judge or the Justice Department to issue a subpoena to a member of Congress (or the lawmaker’s staff) to question that member about the deliberations over some legislative act that arguably went beyond Congress’s enumerated powers.

Put aside the constitutional problem, though. What I find most difficult to understand is the pointlessness — of both the proposal that judges be forced to explain themselves and the offense taken at the proposal.

In cases involving important questions of constitutional law, judges always explain their reasoning. Take Chief Judge Fred Biery’s infamous ruling that barred school prayer at a graduation ceremony — which Newt frequently cites. There is a great deal to be said about this ruling, but one thing that ought not be said is that the judge failed to explain his reasoning. He cited recent Supreme Court precedents, a number of circuit court rulings, and some district court cases applying these precedents. You can disagree with Biery’s reasoning, or you can conclude that the hash the Supreme Court has made of this area of First Amendment jurisprudence gives activist judges a wide berth to discriminate against religious expression in the public square. But you can’t say he didn’t tell you what he was thinking.
Again, Newt's point was about judicial activism, but maybe he should have taken a different tack rather than boldly declaring he would subpoena and then arrest uncooperative judges. This is another case of Newt going off the reservation to make a point, and it backfired.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Is What The Dark Ages Look Like

How's that Egyptian revolution working out?
Volunteers in white lab coats, surgical gloves and masks stood on the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Nile in Cairo, rummaging through stacks of rare 200-year-old manuscripts that were little more than charcoal debris.

The volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what's left of some 192,000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt's latest bout of violence.

The Institute of Egypt, a research centre set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France's invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt's military over the weekend. It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l'Egypte, which began during the 1798-1801 French occupation. It includes 20 years of observations by more than 150 French scholars and scientists, was one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Egypt's monuments, its ancient civilisation and contemporary life at the time.

It is probably now burned beyond repair.

Its home, the two-storey historic institute near Tahrir Square, is now in danger of collapsing after the roof caved in.

"The burning of such a rich building means a large part of Egyptian history has ended," the director of the institute, Mohammed al-Sharbouni, said at the weekend.
It appears the barbarians have arrived ahead of schedule...

The Little Man Who Wasn't There

Corruption is hard work-well, not really:
Michael E. McLaughlin, who abruptly resigned as Chelsea housing director last month after his $360,000 salary was revealed, put in only 15 full workdays in Chelsea all year to earn his extraordinary paycheck, according to a Globe review of his work cellphone records.
....

The revelations about McLaughlin’s lax work habits and questionable payments for unused vacation and sick time come amid burgeoning state and federal investigations of the housing authority, which has been taken over by a state receiver in the wake of McLaughlin’s departure and the resignation of the entire board of directors.

The FBI is investigating whether McLaughlin, a former state legislator and longtime Democratic powerbroker, illegally diverted federal funds to his own use. State housing officials tried to stop payment on the checks written to McLaughlin on his last day, but he had already cashed the one for unused vacation time.

“These are disturbing allegations,’’ said Greg Bialecki, secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, in a prepared statement. He said the fact that McLaughlin spent so little time in Chelsea and still claimed to take almost no vacation “further indicates that our efforts to remove the former executive director and board members were the right thing to do."
There seems to be a pattern of this behavior where Democrats are concerned...

Psycho Jr.

Is the new Mini-Me even crazier than his dad?
The portrait of Kim Jong Eun that emerges in his U.S. profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.

A senior U.S. official said intelligence analysts believe, for instance, that Kim Jung Eun “tortured small animals” when he was a youth. “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome,” a senior U.S. official said, summing up the U.S. assessments…

“Kim Jong Il picked the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree,” a U.S. official said. “He didn’t select a successor who he believed would radically depart from his vision for North Korea.”
Sanity would have been a departure, all right...

Bloggin' In The Years: 1974

Hey, kids! Now you, too, can own your very own computer! From the January issue of Popular Mechanics:
The basic computer is designed for almost unlimited peripheral and memory expansion, using a buss system where all input/output connections merge into a common line. Hence, an external card can be plugged into any slot and it will function properly.
....

The processor buffers are designed to drive 300 external cards, which should be adequate for most applications. Bear in mind that only 17 cards will yield 65,000 words of text.
I don't know if anyone will ever need that much memory, but at least now it'll be there...

It's The Competence, Stupid

It'll be hard to accuse this guy of racism:
West said Holder can’t logically assign race as a motivation behind the criticisms for his handling of Operation Fast and Furious. “What Fast and Furious has to do with is misleading the Congress and the American people about what you knew about this program, and if you did not know anything about this program, then who’s in charge of the Department of Justice?” West said. “It has nothing to do with your race — it has everything to do with competence, with your character and with your ability to lead the Department of Justice.”

West said Holder’s use of race as a way to attack his critics is “the most insidious thing I ever heard.”

“I grew up in the United States military and it’s not about your color, it’s about your competence, it’s about your abilities to execute a mission,” West said. “If your commanding officer turns heat on you, it’s because you have failed to achieve the mission and I think what we’re doing is we’re looking at something that was a very horrible program — this Operation Fast and Furious."
Dealing the race card is the last refuge of a scoundrel, after all...

A Holiday That Isn't?

Why the tax holiday promoted by President Obama might not work:
Officials from the policy-neutral National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc. have expressed concern to members of Congress that the two-month payroll tax holiday passed by the Senate and supported by President Obama cannot be implemented properly.

Pete Isberg, president of the NPRC today wrote to the key leaders of the relevant committees of the House and Senate, telling them that “insufficient lead time” to implement the complicated change mandated by the legislation means the two-month payroll tax holiday “could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”
....

“The concern is really for those who don’t use a payroll service provider,” he said. Americans will have different outcomes, he said, causing confusion “because they’ll have different outcomes. Some will have it done on time, some won’t, some will have adjustment notices later in the year.”

The two-month payroll tax holiday, which the president has said should be extended throughout 2012, will mean that wages would face a Social Security tax of 4.2 percent during January and February, but it would increase to 6.2 percent in March.

Isberg wrote that “many payroll systems are not likely to be able to make such a substantial programming change before January or even February. The systems affected tend to be highly complex, normally requiring at least ninety days for a change of this magnitude for software testing alone; not to mention analysis, design, coding and implementation.”
Darn that technology, getting in the way of unworkable legislation!

Partners In Corruption

Well, it does help to have friends:
In May 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to a podium in the Capitol to introduce a half-dozen economic experts she had convened for a meeting on how to jump-start the economy. The group had met for several hours with top Democratic leaders, and Pelosi invited them to speak publicly on their perspectives on economic growth.

What Pelosi did not mention is that one of the men in the group was her son's boss and a partner with her husband in more than a half-dozen investments, including one that generated more than $100,000 in income for the Speaker's family last year.

It was the fourth time since 2007 that Pelosi had invited San Francisco investment banker William Hambrecht to be part of an economic policy forum on the Hill and the third time she appeared at a podium with him to speak to reporters. At none of those events did the then-Speaker reveal her financial ties to Hambrecht, and House rules did not require her to do so.
I guess that means she was technically ethical...

Love Machine

Maybe there really isn't any privacy anymore:
'I Just Made Love' lets you log and GPS-tag your private life in just the same way - and, bizarrely, some people seem to want to.
The Android app has been downloaded 10,000 times, and rated five stars by dozens of users.

'Did you just make love? Or just want to check where people near you made love?' says the app.
'I just made love lets you do all that and more!'
The Android - and now iPhone - app lets you record where, when and even in what position you 'made love' - and then upload it to an online database - with your comments.

The Android app has already been downloaded 10,000 times.
And about 8,000 of those users are probably lying...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Redistribution For Thee...

As is so often the case, the idea of sharing the wealth sounds different when the shoe is on the other foot:
Fairfax is one of the richest counties in America. With a median household income in six figures, it comes in second only to the nation’s richest county, next-door Loudoun. And yet, as reported recently in The Washington Post, the county’s wish list “includes other perennial desires: that Northern Virginia taxpayers see more of the money they send to Richmond, for example.”

“Overall, the county would be pleased if the Virginia General Assembly would stop using Northern Virginia as its piggybank,” continues The Post. Translation: Fairfax does not want to “spread the wealth around,” as Barack Obama put it to Joe the Plumber. But wait – Obama says spreading the wealth around is “good for everybody.” Does the county disagree?
Apparently it does when it's their own pocketbooks on the line...

Bloggin' In The Years: 2006

What would life after Lil' Kim look like?
Middle-and upper-middle-level U.S. officers based in South Korea and Japan are planning for a meltdown of North Korea that, within days or even hours of its occurrence, could present the world—meaning, really, the American military—with the greatest stabilization operation since the end of World War II. “It could be the mother of all humanitarian relief operations,” Army Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell told me. On one day, a semi-starving population of 23 million people would be Kim Jong Il’s responsibility; on the next, it would be the U.S. military’s, which would have to work out an arrangement with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (among others) about how to manage the crisis.

Fortunately, the demise of North Korea is more likely to be drawn out. Robert Collins, a retired Army master sergeant and now a civilian area expert for the American military in South Korea, outlined for me seven phases of collapse in the North:

Phase One: resource depletion;

Phase Two: the failure to maintain infrastructure around the country because of resource depletion;

Phase Three: the rise of independent fiefs informally controlled by local party apparatchiks or warlords, along with widespread corruption to circumvent a failing central government;

Phase Four: the attempted suppression of these fiefs by the KFR once it feels that they have become powerful enough;

Phase Five: active resistance against the central government;

Phase Six: the fracture of the regime; and

Phase Seven: the formation of new national leadership.

North Korea probably reached Phase Four in the mid-1990s, but was saved by subsidies from China and South Korea, as well as by famine aid from the United States. It has now gone back to Phase Three.
One can only hope that when Mini-Me finally does go, the transition will be as orderly as that.

Love And Taxes

They must be getting desperate:
The educated and rich are marrying more and getting richer; the uneducated and poor are marrying less and falling further behind. ‘Family structure,’ Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told Marcus, ‘is a new dividing line in American society.’ . . . This new marriage gap seems tailor-made for the Democrats’ tax-and-share approach to all social problems. If about half the adults are married, and are getting richer as a result, and half are not and are thus falling further behind, how long can it be before Obama calls for a marriage tax in the name of “fairness”? In fact, he could make it a progressive, graduated tax by including a Graduate Tax: couples where both spouses have college degrees pay more, those who both have graduate degrees pay even more, etc. Why should some be allowed to make out like bandits while others are condemned to leading miserable lives when their conditions could be equalized, in the name of fairness, by some simple tweaks to the tax code?
I guess they've discovered that the married are becoming an easier target these days...

Leaking Is Teh Gay

It's the "Being Gay Made Me Do It" defense:
Among the first issues to arise Saturday was whether Manning's sexual orientation is relevant to the case against him. The defense revealed that Manning had written to one of his supervisors in Baghdad before his arrest, saying he was suffering from gender-identity disorder. He included a picture of himself dressed as a woman and talked about how it was affecting his ability to do his job and even think clearly.

Maj. Matthew Kemkes, a defense lawyer, asked Special Agent Toni Graham, an Army criminal investigator, whether she had talked to people who believed Manning was gay or found evidence among his belongings relating to gender-identity disorder. The condition often is described as a mental diagnosis in which people believe they were born the wrong sex.

Graham said such questions were irrelevant to the investigation. "We already knew before we arrived that Pfc. Manning was a homosexual," Graham said.

Prosecutors objected several times to the questions. Kemkes responded that if the government can argue that Manning intended to leak secrets, "what is going on in my client's mind is very important."
I'm sorry, but I don't think feeling that he was being forced to live in the closet was the main reason for why Manning did what he did...

Occupation Chic

Bring on the professional hipsters:
These actors, models, artists, publicity flunkies and those young and well-dressed enough to make their way past the bouncers have spent most of their professional lives learning how to half-listen until it’s their turn to half-speak. “My boss just told me to show up,” says one of the P.R. girls. It’s as good a reason as any to learn about a new people’s movement.

Badgley, Daniel Pinchbeck, Zoe Kravitz and others organized this event in order to raise awareness about the Occupy movement among those in New York society who spend their trust funds in private clubs. A self-consciously scratchy recording of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” plays over an exquisite invisible sound system as you walk in, through a forest of helium balloons, to a low-lit hall where people like Alexa Chung and Olivia Wilde make the scene. The room is full of people who won’t speak to you until their handlers approve, all of them trying earnestly to understand the profound change that has taken place in the zeitgeist that provides their income.

“The ability to influence media for a person in my position is much greater,” Badgley tells me. “Although arguably I work very closely to the 1 percent.” The Occupy movement seemed like it was doing just fine before the celebrity bandwagon showed up. So what do these people have to gain from association with the first genuine counter-culture to show up in a generation?
The opportunity to show they care, or at least are aware as much as clebrities can be, I suppose...

Mini Me Goes To Hell

On the heels of losing a very good man (see below,) we have now, thankfully, lost a very bad one:
Kim Jong Il, North Korea's mercurial and enigmatic leader, has died. He was 69.

Kim's death was announced Monday by state television from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 but appeared relatively vigorous in photos and video from recent trips to China and Russia and in numerous trips around the country carefully documented by state media.

The leader, reputed to have had a taste for cigars, cognac and gourmet cuisine, was believed to have had diabetes and heart disease.
He certainly knew how to live much better than he allowed most of his subjects. Good riddance.

I guess this mean's he's no longer ronery:

Jugging Judges

I understand Newt's anger over activist judges, but really, is this the right move?
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this and we’ll talk about enforcing it, because one of the things you say is that if you don’t like what a court has done, the congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before congress and hold a congressional hearing. Some people say that’s unconstitutional. But I’ll let that go for a minute.
I just want to ask you from a practical standpoint, how would you enforce that? Would you send the capital police down to arrest him?
GINGRICH: If you had to.
SCHIEFFER: You would?
GINGRICH: Or you instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshal. Let’s take the case of Judge Biery. I think he should be asked to explain a position that radical. How could he say he’s going to jail the superintendent over the word “benediction” and “invocation”? Because before you could — because I would then encourage impeachment, but before you move to impeach him you’d like to know why he said it.
Now clearly since the congress has....
SCHIEFFER: What if he didn’t come? What if he said no thank you I’m not coming?
GINGRICH: Well, that is what happens in impeachment cases. In an impeachment case, the House studies whether or not — the House brings them in, the House subpoenas them. As a general rule they show up.
I mean, you’re raising the core question — are judges above the rest of the constitution or are judges one of the three co-equal branches?
Historically speaking, a President who either challenges or ignores legal rulings from the Federal bench hasn't been on the winning side. Of course, Newt could be doing this only to bring attention to the issue, but still.

Flash Of Gray

Who says old people don't know how to use the Internet?

Velvet Revolution At Rest

One of the heroes of the Cold War has left us:
Vaclav Havel, an anti-Communist playwright who became Czech president and a worldwide symbol of peace and freedom after leading the bloodless "Velvet Revolution," died at the age of 75 on Sunday.

The former chain smoker died at his country home in Hradecek, north of Prague, of a long respiratory illness after surviving operations for lung cancer and a burst intestine in the late 1990s that left him frail for more than a decade.

The diminutive playwright, who invited the Rolling Stones to medieval Prague castle, took Bill Clinton to a smoky Prague jazz club to play saxophone and was a friend of the Dalai Lama, rose to fame after facing down Prague's Communist rulers.

"His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

"He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world."
There were many who helped bring down Communism; Havel was fortunate to have seen it fall in his lifetime, due partly to his efforts. R.I.P.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MF Fallout

John Corzine is a thief; women and children hardest hit:
CME Group Inc, which has given $22 million to Chicago-area schools and charities over the past five years, has stopped making grants through its main foundation, citing the collapse of MF Global Holdings Inc.

Investigators are still searching for hundreds of millions of dollars of customer funds that CME says were improperly siphoned off Pin the brokerage's final days to plug its escalating liquidity needs.

Last month, the exchange operator said it would give former MF Global customers the entire $50 million held by CME Trust, which was originally designed to help traders caught out by a broker default but that in recent years has been a mainstay of the CME's charitable giving.

"CME Group will continue to honor some previous Trust commitments going forward - even after the $50 million is paid out," CME spokeswoman Laurie Bischel said. "Though the CME Trust will be used to help customers of MF Global, CME Group remains committed to our communities and will continue to provide support to charitable organizations as possible through our other programs and corporate foundations."
Merry Christmas from Corzine and Company...

Euro Doomwatch

Walter Russel Mead is not optimistic:
The latest European plan to fix the euro is already falling apart, just like all its predecessors have done. A majority of the French oppose it, and the man likely to be replace Nicolas Sarkozy in the spring 2012 election has said that it needs to be renegotiated. The countries that don’t use the euro are having second thoughts about turning over control of their national budgets to a European authority where they won’t have a veto; worse, they don’t want the Franc0-German bulldozer to use the excuse of the euro crisis to jam through a whole series of laws that would weaken the competitive advantages of countries like Poland, Hungary and Ireland.
....

The mismatch between the requirements of the euro and the economic needs and political capabilities of the European Union is almost total. The euro desperately needs a quick political decision; the European Union cannot produce one. Countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and even France need significantly cheaper currency to help them manage their debts and launch a reform process. This the euro cannot provide.

Angela Merkel is doing her best to herd the cats of Europe, but she is all too likely to fail. There are three ways to fail — and no clear way to win. She can fail by being too slow; at almost any moment a vast firestorm could break out in Europe’s financial markets that would require trillions of dollars in emergency TARP style funding and she and her partners could be unable to get and deploy the money fast enough to prevent the financial equivalent of a nuclear bomb. She can fail through failure — she can’t herd the cats well enough to get new set of austerity and discipline measures adopted. She can also fail through success: the treaties will be signed but they won’t fix the problems.
The EU has always been about government by committee rather than by the consent of the governed. In that regard, it's always been a truly European institution, and that may well be its downfall.

Best Shot Evah?

You be the judge:

Church Mice

What happens when Occupiers abuse their supporters:
The displaced occupiers had asked the church, one of the city’s largest landholders, to hand over a gravel lot, near Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas, for use as an alternate campsite and organizing hub. The church declined, calling the proposed encampment “wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.”

And now the Occupy movement, after weeks of targeting big banks and large corporations, has chosen Trinity, one of the nation’s most prominent Episcopal parishes, as its latest antagonist.

“We need more; you have more,” one protester, Amin Husain, 36, told a Trinity official on Thursday, during an impromptu sidewalk exchange between clergy members and demonstrators. “We are coming to you for sanctuary.”

Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James H. Cooper, defended the church’s record of support for the protesters, including not only expressions of sympathy, but also meeting spaces, resting areas, pastoral services, electricity, bathrooms, even blankets and hot chocolate. But he said the church’s lot — called Duarte Square — was not an appropriate site for the protesters, noting that “there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment.”

“Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protesters than any other institution in the area,” Mr. Cooper wrote on his parish Web site. “Calling this an issue of ‘political sanctuary’ is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petition signatures, but doesn’t make it right.”
Well, in the eyes of the Occupiers, "right" is about what you can force others to give you without having earned it...

Mythbusters

The legend of Barack Obama:
Barack Obama is a myth, our modern version of Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan. What we were told is true, never had much basis in fact — a fact now increasingly clear as hype gives way to reality.
....

In short, the myth of Obama’s brilliance was based on his teleprompted eloquence, the sort of fable that says we should listen to a clueless Sean Penn or Matt Damon on politics because they can sometimes act well. Read Plato’s Ion on the difference between gifted rhapsody and wisdom — and Socrates’ warning about easily conflating the two. It need not have been so. At any point in a long career, Obama the rhapsode could have shunned the easy way, stuck his head in a book, and earned rather than charmed those (for whom he had contempt) for his rewards. Clinton was a browser with a near photographic memory who had pretensions of deeply-read wonkery; but he nonetheless browsed. Obama seems never to have done that. He liked the vague idea of Obamacare, outsourced the details to the Democratic Congress, applied his Chicago protocols to getting it passed, and worried little what was actually in the bill. We were to think that the obsessions with the NBA, the NCAA final four, the golfing tics, etc., were all respites from exhausting labors of the mind rather than in fact the presidency respites from all the former.
Most real-life mythological figures-from Washington to Reagan and even Bill Clinton-at least waited until after they'd actually accomplished something before allowing or encouraging the myth-making. Obama wanted his legend to be accepted at face value, and it failed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fuzzy Math

Nancy Pelosi tries to defend extending unemployment benefits as a job creation machine:

Deal Maker

The GOP has won another round:
A deal has been struck between Senate leadership for a payroll tax cut plan.

The $30-40 billion plan calls for a two-month extension of payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment benefits and the “doc fix,” multiple Senate sources confirm tonight.

‪There is an inclusion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline provision, a major win for Republicans.

The bill is fully paid for without tax hikes. The bill is paid for with fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill will require the Federal Housing Finance Agency to institute a basis point increase to guarantee fees imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on lenders.

The Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses are meeting right now, separately. Leadership is briefing their members on the plan in an attempt to sell it to their members.
I guess the Greens aren't so important after all. Heh.

Save Our Internet

People who actually know how the Internet works are speaking out:
A group of prominent architects of the Internet added their voices Thursday to those opposing legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy.

In an open letter to Congress, more than 80 engineers, inventors and software developers expressed concerns about the bills introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Their letter came a day after the founders of Google, Twitter, Yahoo! and other Internet giants voiced opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act being considered in the House and the Senate version known as the Protect IP Act.
....

"If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure," the Internet architects said in their letter.

"Both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system and have other capricious technical consequences," they said, such as promoting censorship.

"All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files," they said.

"An incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals."

The signatories, who included Vint Cerf, considered one of the "Fathers of the Internet," said censorship of Internet infrastructure "will inevitably cause network errors and security problems.

"This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship," they said.
They do say you should always listen to the Founders...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Urban Breakdown

Hope and Change, the urban edition:
US mayors sounded an alarm Thursday over deepening economic woes after a survey of 29 cities from Los Angeles to Washington showed worrying rises in homelessness and poverty-related food aid.
"Here is the richest country in the world (and) we have people who cannot find a place to live," said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who co-chairs a task force on hunger and homelessness for the US Conference of Mayors.

"We are failing" to address critical issues of homelessness and the use of food stamps, which is "increasing, not decreasing," he told reporters on a conference call to discuss the survey.

The government has reported that 46.2 million people nationwide were living in poverty in 2010 and that the rate climbed to 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent a year earlier.

Of the 29 cities surveyed -- all of which have more than 30,000 residents -- 25 reported increased requests for emergency food assistance in the past year.
Welcome to Obamaville country...

Bulbs Away

Good news: You may be able to keep your light bulbs:
Omnibus spending legislation greenlighted by House and Senate negotiators Thursday night blocks Energy Department light bulb efficiency standards that have come under fire from conservatives in recent months.

The legislation, which would avert a government shutdown, prevents funding from being used for the implementation of certain Energy Department light bulb standards. The standards would begin phasing in next year.

The provision was included in a version of the spending legislation unveiled by House Republicans early Thursday without the backing of Senate Democrats.

Jennifer Hing, a House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman, said the language remains in the final version of the bill.

“There is no change in this language from the version that was posted last night,” she said in an email.

Senate Democrats said earlier this week that the GOP-backed language blocking funding for the light bulb standards was one of a handful of obstacles to reaching a deal. But the final spending agreement includes the language, in a symbolic win for Republicans.
Hopefully, more than symbolic soon.

Misquoting Is Job One

So, not only did Chris Matthew have to apologize, it seems that Mitt Romney actually didn't say what they said he said after all:
It appears that Mr. Romney did not in fact say the words “keep America American,” as AMERICAblog reported on Tuesday. The blog said that he had done so on two occasions, one last year and one last week, and stated (accurately) that “Keep America American” was a phrase employed by the K.K.K. in the 1920s.

But Mr. Romney had actually said “keep America America” on both occasions, according to online video.

MSNBC apparently did not contact the Romney campaign for comment before it briefly reported on Wednesday morning that “you may not hear Mitt Romney say ‘Keep America American’ anymore, because it was a rallying cry for the K.K.K. group.” The anchor credited AMERICAblog; the graphic on the screen read, “Romney’s KKK Slogan?”

Conservative blogs called out MSNBC for the report, and when executives at MSNBC and NBC News saw that, they were disturbed that the blog’s observation was reported as fact, without any added reporting.
Gee, you'd think they were just making stuff up or something...

Surtax Surrender

The Democrats have blinked:
Democrats backed away from their demand for higher taxes on millionaires as part of legislation to extend Social Security tax cuts for most Americans on Wednesday as Congress struggled to clear critical year-end bills without triggering a partial government shutdown.

But Republicans, frustrated that a bipartisan $1 trillion funding bill was being blocked by Senate Democrats, floated the possibility of repackaging the measure and passing it Friday in defiance of President Barack Obama and his allies in control of the Senate. Stopgap funding runs out Friday at midnight.
....

Officials said Democrats were drafting a new proposal to extend the payroll tax that likely would not include the millionaires' surtax that Republicans opposed almost unanimously.

Republicans minimized the significance of the move. "They're not giving up a whole lot. The tax they wanted to implement on business owners was something that couldn't pass the House and couldn't pass the Senate," McConnell said in a CNBC interview.

Jettisoning the tax could also require Democrats to agree to politically painful savings elsewhere in the budget to replace the estimated $140 billion the tax would have raised over a decade.
So, I guess this means they want to kill people, too?

Hope And Change For The Holidays

It's austerity for everybody:
Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans—nearly 1 in 2—have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too `rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."
Or, maybe if we get rid of the liberal policies that helped create this state of affairs in the first place, we can reverse it...

Not Newt

The editors at National Review aren't happy about the idea of Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee:
If he is the nominee, a campaign that should be about whether the country will continue on the path to social democracy would inevitably become to a large extent a referendum on Gingrich instead. And there is reason to doubt that he has changed. Each week we see the same traits that weakened Republicans from 1995 through 1998: I’d vote for Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform; Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform is radical right-wing social engineering; I apologize for saying that, and no one should quote what I said because I was wrong; actually, what I said was right all along but nobody understood me. I helped defeat Communism; anyone who made money in the ’80s and ’90s owes me; I’m like Reagan and Thatcher. Local community boards should decide what to do with illegal immigrants. Freddie Mac paid me all that money to tell them how stupid they were. Enough. Gingrich has always said he wants to transform the country. He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself. He should be an adviser to the Republican party, but not again its head.
There's no question that Newt is a smart guy. But is he White House material?

Off The Rails

The latest Occupy tactic: Putting your kids in harm's way:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Black Sea Gold

A British oil firm has struck black gold:
BRITISH oil explorer ROCKHOPPER yesterday scored a hat-trick of strikes off the Falkland Islands — leaving Argentina fuming.
The firm said a new well proved its Sea Lion field 80 miles off the Falklands coast is BIGGER than expected.

And two further big oil hits were made on the way down — as well as a discovery of gas.

The strikes will infuriate Argentina's Prime Minister Cristina Kirchner — who slammed Britain last year for trying to exhaust "Argentinian natural resources".
The question seems to be, when aren't they infuriated?

The Season For Spamming

Team Obama wants to know who your Republican friends are:
The effort could help the Obama campaign build a database that would enable it to target Republican voters during the general election campaign. But, more perniciously, it could also become part of an Democratic effort to influence Republican primary voters to select a candidate Democrats think Obama could most easily defeat.

The Democratic National Committee last month released a video that seemed designed to damage Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate feared most by the Obama campaign.

The Obama information collection effort is cast under the mischievous guise of asking Obama supporters to “have a little fun at the expense of a Republican in your life” by signing them up to get an email from the Obama campaign ribbing them for having “inspired” the Obama supporter to donate.

The result, however, is that the Obama campaign gets a new trove of Republican email addresses that it could never have collected through voluntary submissions.
It might be tongue in cheek, but is encouraging people to allow the Obama campaign to spam unwilling donors really such a smart move?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

President Professor

A Democrat, of all people, lays into Obama over his aloofness:
One former administration official told me directly that the people in the White House “NEVER TALK TO REAL PEOPLE.” Another former Obama staffer confided to me that it was clear to him that the president didn’t mind giving speeches (lectures), but really avoided personal contact with members of Congress and folks outside the Beltway. “He doesn’t seem to derive energy from spending time with regular people the way Clinton did. He rallies to give speeches for the big crowds, but avoids individual contact,” the former staffer recalled. This “arms-length” attitude extends to top decision-makers in the president’s administration. A senior housing official recently told me that, despite the fact that he was responsible for crafting policies to stem the foreclosure crisis, he had personally never met with a homeowner who had been foreclosed on.

The president’s disinterest in input from those outside his inner circle is costing him many wasted opportunities. Recently, a senator told me Obama went to his/her state, but issued an invitation for the senator to attend the event only the day before. “I represent a must-win state and lead the president in approval ratings by nearly 20 points. He was totally off-message for what my people wanted to hear. Doesn’t the White House get it? I don’t need him, he needs ME!”
Apparently, His Professorship thinks otherwise, and always has...

Fear And Change

A majority now believe big government is the problem, not the solution:
Americans' concerns about the threat of big government continue to dwarf those about big business and big labor, and by an even larger margin now than in March 2009. The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession. Relatively few name big labor as the greatest threat.
....

Almost half of Democrats now say big government is the biggest threat to the nation, more than say so about big business, and far more than were concerned about big government in March 2009. The 32% of Democrats concerned about big government at that time -- shortly after President Obama took office -- was down significantly from a reading in 2006, when George W. Bush was president.

By contrast, 82% of Republicans and 64% of independents today view big government as the biggest threat, slightly higher percentages than Gallup found in 2009.

Lower percentages of Democrats, Republicans, and independents are now concerned about big business than was the case in 2009.
Nearly four years of living under a big-government presidency seems to have influenced peoples' opinons...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Port Of No Entry

Not all of the 99 per cent are on board with Occupation:
One trucker, clearly frustrated, blew his air horn and tried to drive through the crowd.

"It pisses me off," said Mark Hebert, 47, another trucker waiting to get into the port. "I am losing money. I don't get paid when I am just sitting here. I've got a truck payment and insurance payment just like everyone else."
Some longshore workers scheduled to begin work at 8 a.m. decided they didn't want to cross a picket line and went home. Others, though, said they needed the money.

"They have some legitimate points and what not, but we are part of the 99 percent and they are stopping us from coming to work," said Tim, a 44-year-old longshoreman who didn't want to give his last name. "The 1 percent's cargo doesn't come in here. The caviar comes in from Russia first class, not on a slow boat from China."

One demonstrator, 44-year-old William Lovell, called the action "a way to strike back, to show our numbers and show what the people can do."

Lovell, who said he had participated in the now-dismantled Occupy SF camp, added, "We are politely breaking the rules as gently as we can."

At a news conference, Mayor Jean Quan said that although she agreed with the concerns of the Occupy movement in general, she did not want to see the port closed.

"We urge the demonstrators who are coming to the port to respect the rights of the 99 percent who are trying to work today and to keep their protest peaceful," Quan said.
How about really respecting their rights and telling the Occupiers to take a hike?

Reality Check

Even for a Democrat, this is somewhat ridiculous:



Some of the facts here.

Corzine's Memory Problems

John Corzine is a little confused:

Killing The Kill Switch

Congress is currently considering a bill that would give entertainment industry honchos the ability to effectively shut down search engines and go after the DNS in an odius manner. Fortunately, there's opposition:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have introduced a competing bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (the “Open Act”), which seeks to address legitimate concerns about SOPA/PIPA and focus more specifically on the real problem without knocking down robust, protected speech in an indiscriminate fashion. Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Mozilla, Yahoo!, and Zynga have signed on to support this alternative to SOPA/PIPA.

The Hill recently reported on OPEN: “The draft proposal would instead authorize the International Trade Commission to investigate and issue cease-and-desist orders against foreign websites that provide pirated content or sell counterfeit goods. The ITC would have to find that the site is ‘primarily’ and ‘willfully’ engaged in copyright infringement to issue the order.” Rather than take down entire websites and potentially interfere with perfectly legitimate and protected speech OPEN, would, after a court order, “compel payment providers and online advertising services to cease providing services to the offending website. The approach comports with current copyright law and hews to the ‘follow the money’ approach favored by Google and other tech companies.”
It sounds reasonable. Which is probably why the movie industry-which has had one of its worst seasons ever-is so opposed to it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Continental Divide

Britain gets rebuffed:
As the summit began, there was no hint of the drama that was to come in the early hours of Friday, the moment when Europe split, 26 against one, after about 10 hours of talks. Britain has always had an uneasy relationship with its EU partners, choosing not to join the single currency or sign the open borders Schengen treaty and often kicking against what it sees as Brussels "interference."

But this was a low point. The first time in 39 years that a British prime minister had used a veto to block an EU agreement. David Cameron cast it is a bold and necessary decision to protect British interests. Most of the rest of Europe appeared to regard it as reckless and went a different way. Hours later, when the leaders briefly reconvened to finish their discussions, Cameron cut a lonely figure. French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to avoid an extended hand as Cameron walked to his seat.
Temper, temper, mon ami. After all, Europe's mess isn't really Britain's fault, is it?

Teach A Man To Fish

Will he still be able to eat for a lifetime?
Federal regulators are considering the unthinkable in New England: severely restricting — maybe even shutting down — cod fishing in the Gulf of Maine, from north of Cape Cod clear up to Canada. New data suggest that the status of the humble fish that has sustained the region for centuries is much worse than previously thought.

Fishermen insist that there are plenty of cod and that the real problem is fuzzy science. They say the data are grossly inconsistent, pointing to a 2008 federal report that concluded that Gulf of Maine cod, though historically overfished, were well on the way to recovery.

The news is causing high anxiety in Massachusetts, where a wooden “Sacred Cod” has hung in the State House for more than 200 years and the fishing industry, though struggling, still figures prominently in the state’s identity.

“I can’t think of another fishery shutdown that would have the economic consequences of this,” said Steven Cadrin, a scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who helped with the assessment.
No doubt these are the same types of regulators who assured states like Pennsylvania that shutting down power plants wouldn't hurt them, either...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nyet, Minister

Spring seems to be arriving early in Russia this year:
Tens of thousands of people held the largest anti-government protests that post-Soviet Russia has ever seen to criticize electoral fraud and demand an end to Vladimir Putin’s rule. Police showed surprising restraint and state-controlled TV gave the nationwide demonstrations unexpected airtime, but there is no indication the opposition is strong enough to push for real change from the prime minister or his ruling party.

Nonetheless, the prime minister seems to be in a weaker position than he was a week ago, before Russians voted in parliamentary elections. His United Party lost a substantial share of its seats, although it retains a majority.

The independent Russian election-observer group Golos said Saturday that “it achieved the majority mandate by falsification,” international observers reported widespread irregularities, and the outpouring of Russians publicly denouncing him throughout the country undermines Putin’s carefully nurtured image of a strong and beloved leader.
Darn. All that propaganda, gone to waste...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Attack Drop

Is Attackwatch out of business?
In mid-September, President Obama's campaign launched "AttackWatch" to rebut political attacks on President Obama by the media and other candidates. The push, which includes a website and a Twitter feed, received instant ridicule from conservatives and inspired a satirical introduction video that quickly went viral. The whole thing brought back memories of the Obama White House searching for "fishy" emails about Obamacare.

But it looks like the false attacks either aren't coming in or haven't been a priority. The Twitter feed has been silent now for nearly three weeks, and the website hasn't been updated for the same amount of time.
Well, that was quick. It looks like the New Populism isn't working, either...

Lost Income Generation

It's the age of austerity:
The housing market collapse, historically low interest rates and corporations stingy with dividends helped cut the median household income in two of every three U.S. counties, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today.

The number of American households that made money from rent, interest or dividends fell by one-third to 24.2 percent in 2010, including residents of counties that encompass New York City and San Francisco.

The census figures capture the lost financial opportunity experienced by Americans during a decade that saw the dot-com bust and then the worst recession since the Great Depression.
....

The plunge in the number of households with dividend, interest or rental income spanned the country, falling to 29.8 percent from 39 percent in 2000 in Manhattan; dropping to 13.1 percent from 23.5 percent in Miami; and declining to 50.3 percent from 69.6 percent in Anchorage.

"Over the last decade, income provided by financial market returns has declined, and pretty meaningfully," Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said in a telephone interview. "Consumer incomes are beginning the decade off at a lower starting point."
Hey, there's nowhere to go but up!

No Case For Kagan

Well, well. The latest evil right-winger to say that Kagan should recuse herself from the upcoming Obamacare case is:
Doing the right thing is easy when nothing important is at stake. Doing the right thing is much harder when there is a lot to lose. Elena Kagan is a loyal Democrat who owes her Supreme Court appointment to President Barack Obama. She is poised to review the constitutionality of Obama’s health care statute, which, if invalidated, might do serious damage to his re-election campaign as well as the Democratic Party. Even though it would be a hard decision to make, Elena Kagan should recuse herself from hearing challenges to the act.

So far it appears that only Republicans and conservatives want Kagan to recuse herself from hearing the case, while liberals and Democrats take the opposing view. I have been a liberal constitutional law professor for more than 20 years, and a loyal Democrat. I believe the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and that it would be truly unfortunate for the country (and the party) if the court strikes it down. I also recognize that there is a much greater chance of the court erroneously striking down the PPACA if Kagan recuses herself. That said, I believe that as a matter of both principle and law, Kagan should not hear the case.
Doing the popular thing is easy; doing the necessary thing is hard.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Dust In The Wind

The EPA literally can't control everything:
The House on Thursday afternoon approved legislation Republicans said was aimed at ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot regulate so-called "farm dust."

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, H.R. 1633, which would prevent the EPA from issuing any new rule over the next year that regulates coarse particulate matter, or "nuisance dust," passed in a 268-150 vote.

Like other environmental bills the GOP has brought forward this year, the bill enjoyed some support from Democrats: 33 voted along with Republicans in favor of the bill.

The bill is a reaction to the possibility that the EPA might issue a new rule that affects farmers. Republicans have cited that possibility all year as an example of overreach by the EPA.

A statement from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this year that the agency now has no plans to issue any such rule did not deter Republicans from pushing ahead with the bill, which they said would create certainty that no rule would come out.

"Despite Administrator Jackson's statement, there is nothing currently on the books preventing the EPA from adopting a stricter regulation," Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) said. "This legislation provides iron-clad certainty to farmers, ranchers, small business owners that farm dust would stay off the EPA's to-do list for at least another year."
Granted, dust can be a nuisance. But then again, so can reglators who have no understanding of how dirt actually works.

What Is Truth?

According to Eric Holder, it depends on what the meaning of "Lying" is...

What Happens In Europe Doesn't Stay In Europe

Why we should be worried about the Eurozone crackup:
The eurozone financial system is at serious risk of collapse — which would mean calamity for the US system, too. But our government’s not prepared. Euro-area policymakers are finally talking about the kind of bold reforms needed to fix their ailing system. But they’ve waited so long that they’re now racing against time, and a collapse can’t be ruled out. Leveraged to the hilt and broadly exposed to the risky debt of countries on the brink of default, many euro-area banks are floundering, so depositors and other bank creditors are running for the hills. Unless the run can be halted, it will at some point shut down much of the banking system in the euro area.
...

If the euro-area breaks up, America will suffer wide-scale collateral damage. Financial markets everywhere would freeze up. And even though investors would flee to safe assets like US Treasuries, many US financial firms would be forced to scramble for funds — perhaps having to do “fire sales” of their assets, taking massive losses to realize cash in hand.
Things certainly aren't going well over there.

Euro Conspiracy Zone

With the European Union continuing to implode, some German politicians are now going the conspiracy route in an attempt to deal with, or deny, what's going on:
But it was Rösler’s colleague Rainer Brüderle who had perhaps the most extreme reaction. Brüderle is the chair of the FDP group in the German Bundestag. “I am no fan of conspiracy theories,” Brüderle told the German business daily Handelsblatt, “But sometimes it is hard to avoid the impression that some American ratings agencies and fund managers are working against the euro zone.”

The observation is particularly odd in the present circumstances, given that Standard and Poor’s is the same ratings agency that in August of this year already did downgrade the credit rating of the United States from AAA to AA+.
How quickly they forget...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Shields Down

Sometimes a blogger is just a blogger:
A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found last week that as a blogger, Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.

Although media experts said Wednesday that the ruling would have little effect on the definition of journalism, it casts a shadow on those who work in nontraditional media since it highlights the lack of case law that could protect them and the fact that current state shield laws for journalists are not covering recent developments in online media.

"My advice to bloggers operating in the state of Oregon is lobby to get your shield law improved so bloggers are covered," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "But do not expect the shield law to provide you a defense in a libel case where you want to rely on an anonymous source for that information."
It does seem to make the case for updating the laws, at that.

Under The Radar

It seems that the Feds really were using Fast & Furious to advocate gun control after all:
Emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called “Demand Letter 3″. That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or “long guns.” Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.

On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:

“Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks.”

On Jan. 4, 2011, as ATF prepared a press conference to announce arrests in Fast and Furious, Newell saw it as “(A)nother time to address Multiple Sale on Long Guns issue.” And a day after the press conference, Chait emailed Newell: “Bill–well done yesterday… (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case.”
For Team Obama, the agenda always comes first...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Russian Election Roulette

How they fix elections in Russia:
Amateur videos claiming to show the vote being rigged have spread via social media networks, including one in which the chairman of an election commission is filling out a stack of ballots. The clip attracted so much attention that city election officials were forced to acknowledge that the chairman had been caught falsifying the vote and could face charges.

The commission chairman who spoke to the AP said that representatives of Russia's four main parties got together before the election to negotiate how many votes each would get in district precincts. United Russia initially wanted 68 to 70 percent, but conceded that was too high and settled for around 65.

On voting day, the chairman said, election workers quietly slipped ballots into the boxes, as many as 50 at a time, being careful to keep the papers from rustling and attracting the attention of observers.

He said workers were trained on how to stuff ballots, each a thin sheet roughly the size of standard letter paper. He demonstrated how a stack of up to 30 or even 50 ballots could be folded in half, hidden inside a jacket and slipped into the ballot box without making any noise.

The chairman said there was a limit to the amount of ballot stuffing his commission could do. So district election officials took a few hundred of the precincts ballot, filled them out for United Russia and gave them to migrant men not on the precinct's rolls. Fake voter lists were substituted for the real ones.
It sounds like they've learned a lot from our own Democrats...

Yankee, Come Here

America, no longer the land of opportunity:
With unemployment hovering around 9 percent, the use of food stamps at record highs and the recession continuing to punish the budgets of so many families, the American economy is much less of a magnet.

To some young entrepreneurs, economic possibilities seem brighter in places like Brazil, Russia, China or Latin America. Indeed, the State Department now estimates that 6.3 million Americans are studying or working abroad, the highest number on record.

In fact, according to a survey by marketing consultants America Wave, the percentage of Americans aged 25 to 34 actively planning to relocate outside the U.S. has quintupled in just two years, from less than 1 percent to 5.1 percent.

"Those numbers have shot through the ceiling," said America Wave founder Bob Adams, who has run nine such surveys over the years. "They're very surprising, and not something I anticipated. They're looking for work because of the sluggish economy, and they've lost confidence that the U.S. is going anywhere."

Younger Americans seem even keener to look abroad, with 40 percent of those 18-24 expressing interest in foreign relocation, which is up from 15 percent two years ago.
Yet more Hope and Change...

Secret Wars

Nancy Pelosi has apparently decided that declaring war on Newt GIngrich might not be such a good idea after all:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi now says she is not sitting on a trove of opposition research on former House Speaker-turned-GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.


Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, suggested that her comments have been misconstrued beyond the leader’s intent.

“Leader Pelosi was clearly referring to the extensive amount of information that is in the public record, including the comprehensive committee report with which the public may not be fully aware,” Hammill wrote in a statement.
Funny, that's not what she said earlier...

Beggars Can't Be Takers

Jerry Brown is getting desperate:
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday proposed a ballot initiative that would ask Californians to raise taxes on themselves.

Facing huge deficits despite $10 billion in budget cuts last year, California needs new tax dollars in order to avoid catastrophic cuts to schools and government services for the elderly, Governor Brown said.

His plan includes a 1 percent income-tax-rate increase for individuals making more than $250,000 per year, and a 2 percent rate increase for those making more than $500,000. It would also increase the state sales tax by half a cent to 7.75 percent.
....

Brown’s proposal is projected to raise $7 billion per year and would expire in 2016. On Monday, he dismissed the idea of going through the Legislature, where a two-thirds vote is needed for raising taxes. Indeed, Brown tried to go through the Legislature earlier this year to get a tax measure put on the ballot, but Republicans blocked him.

So now the plan is to collect enough citizen signatures to put his plan on the ballot without any input from lawmakers.

“I am going directly to the voters because I don’t want to get bogged down in partisan gridlock as happened this year,” said Brown in a statement. “The stakes are too high.”

He suggested that the state can’t make any more cuts responsibly. “Spending is now at levels not seen since the ’70s,” he said. “Schools have been hurt, and state funding for our universities has been reduced by 25 percent. Support for the elderly and the disabled has fallen to where it was in 1983.”

“The stark truth is that without new tax revenues, we will have no other choice but to make deeper and more damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety, and our courts,” he added.
Some would argue that it's the spending that caused the problem to begin with...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Arabian Nightmare

The good news: They're our allies. The bad news:
Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Monday.

"Our efforts and those of the world have failed to convince Israel to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran... therefore it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons," Faisal told a security forum in Riyadh.

"A (nuclear) disaster befalling one of us would affect us all," said Faisal.

Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear missiles, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic Republic rejects.
Welcome to the next arms race...

Drug Endowment Agency

There may be more problems for some of Obama's top cops:
Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.
So does this mean that the Obama administration is working a pro-drug agenda?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Vladimir The Impaled

Putin's dreams of a new Russian Empire have suffered a setback:
Incomplete results showed Putin's United Russia was struggling even to win 50 percent of the votes in Sunday's election, compared with more than 64 percent four years ago. Opposition parties said even that outcome was inflated by fraud.

Although Putin is still likely to win a presidential election in March, Sunday's result could dent the authority of the man who has ruled for almost 12 years with a mixture of hardline security policies, political acumen and showmanship but was booed and jeered after a martial arts bout last month.

United Russia had 49.94 percent of the votes after results were counted in 70 percent of voting districts for the election to the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. Exit polls had also put United Russia below 50 percent.

"These elections are unprecedented because they were carried out against the background of a collapse in trust in Putin, (President Dmitry) Medvedev and the ruling party," said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal opposition leader barred from running.

"I think that the March (presidential) election will turn into an even bigger political crisis; disappointment, frustration, with even more dirt and disenchantment, and an even bigger protest vote."
Give 'em a little democracy, and they want more of it...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Bloggin' In The Years: 1995

Arianna Huffington on why she supports the idea of Newt Gingrich running for President:
Gingrich today is not the Gingrich of January 1995. He is still speaker of the House, but he is no longer Master of the Universe, with a president who feels compelled to remind the press corps that he is still relevant. And the speakership is going to decrease further in value if the message of the revolution continues to be communicated so poorly. While Gingrich is trapped in the role of combative legislator, and there is no ideological standard- bearer to rally 60 percent of the electorate behind the agenda, both the leader of the revolution and its legislative achievements will continue to lose support.

Politics, like life, is paradoxical. And the same strategic arguments that are used to dissuade Gingrich from running for president -- his duty to finish the job on the Hill and his very high negatives -- may be the most compelling arguments in favor of his candidacy. After all, the greatest obstacle to completing the job will be public opinion, and the most direct way for Gingrich to turn around both public opinion and his numbers may be to delegate the daily combat on the Hill to a team of his most able lieutenants and take the message to the valleys.

Is it not worth the sacrifice if Gingrich can be liberated from his coalition-building job in the House to build consensus in the country? And wouldn't the House freshmen be far more grateful to him if he helped create a national climate that would make it easier for them to defend their voting records when they're fighting for their seats next November?
The Cause is calling for Newt. But would voters in the rest of the country?

Contempt Of Compliance

A token gesture, or a true attempt at accountability?
Sources told Fox News an official from the White House counsel’s office was to confer with committee investigators by telephone on Friday, but that no agreement on the outstanding documents and interviewees was expected.

For that reason, lawmakers on the panel are considering holding hearings — first at the subcommittee level, then for the full committee — to vote on a contempt citation against the White House. Experts said that if such an event were to come to pass, the full House, which is controlled by the Republicans, would have to vote on the citation. If that in turn were to happen, the House would officially refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for enforcement against the White House.

However, since the U.S. attorney for the capital, Ronald C. Machen Jr., is an Obama political appointee, committee Republicans are not optimistic that he would vigorously pursue a contempt citation against the White House.

In that event, committee staffers have explored the prospect of filing a civil lawsuit against William Daley and Bruce Reed, the respective chiefs of staff for the president and Vice President Biden.
It helps to have friends in low places...

The Cain Train Stops

Herman Cain calls it quits:
An unapologetic and defiant Herman Cain suspended his presidential campaign on Saturday, pledging that he “would not go away,” even as he abandoned hope of winning the Republican nomination. Instead, Mr. Cain announced what he called a “Plan B,” continued advocacy of his tax and foreign policy plans.

“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” Mr. Cain said. “Because of the continued distractions, the continued hurt caused on me and my family, not because we are not fighters. Not because I’m not a fighter.”

Mr. Cain, with his wife at his side, adamantly professed Saturday that the accusations of sexual harassment and of a long-term affair that have swamped his campaign were not true. The circus-like atmosphere surrounding Saturday’s announcement – complete with numerous postponements, barbecue, a blues band and supporters in colonial-era dress – was in keeping with the campaign’s irreverence and disarray since its inception: Mr. Cain, a self-styled rebel, announced his intention to run earlier this year at a rally, also in Atlanta, with the nonsensical phrase, “Aw, shucky ducky!”

For days now, the campaign has fueled a “will he or won’t he?” storm of speculation, at once thriving on the media’s attention while denouncing it as the source of Mr. Cain’s plummeting popularity. Mr. Cain’s critics have long posited that he was more interested in creating celebrity for himself – as a means to sell books and increase speaking fees – than in any serious candidacy.
Did he ever have a real chance of winning?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Enter The Donald

Now this might actually be entertaining:
It’s officially a reality television Republican primary now.

Donald Trump is pairing up with Newsmax, the conservative magazine and news Web site, to moderate a presidential debate in Des Moines on Dec. 27.

“Our readers and the grass roots really love Trump,” said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media. “They may not agree with him on everything, but they don’t see him as owned by the Washington establishment, the media establishment.”

Mr. Trump’s role in the debate, which will be broadcast on the cable network Ion Television, is sure to be one of the more memorable moments in a primary season that has already delivered its fair share of circus-like spectacle.
But will he tell anyone they're fired?

Budget Rerun

Here we go again?
White House Budget Director Jack Lew on Friday warned that the negotiations on the 2012 omnibus spending bill are going poorly and could soon lead to a “crisis” that shuts down the government.

Appropriators are negotiating a nine-bill, $900 billion omnibus package, but the White House and Republicans are at odds over rider provisions attached to the spending bills, including ones related to abortion and the environment. Funding for the government runs out Dec. 16, leaving little time to resolve the disputes.

Lew said President Obama is prepared to veto an omnibus with ideological riders in it.
That's because only his ideology comes first...

The Energy Trust

They say there's nothing to worry about:
The Energy Department said Thursday that upcoming air pollution regulations will not threaten the reliability of the country’s electric grid, the latest effort by the Obama administration to counter claims by Republicans and industry officials that the rules could cause power outages.

The department released a report Thursday that analyzed the effects on the electric grid of two Environmental Protection Agency air regulations: the cross-state air-pollution rule and the mercury and air toxics standard.

The Obama administration has launched a full-court press this week to counter growing attacks by Republicans on EPA air regulations over the reliability of the electric grid just weeks before the agency is scheduled to finalize rules requiring that power plants install technology to reduce emissions of mercury and air toxics.
Considering the EPA's track record in taking the economic impact of their decisions into account, I'm not that optimistic...

He Whose Party Shall Not Be Named

Bill Richardson is in trouble:
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico who ran for president in 2008, is being investigated by a federal grand jury for possible violations of campaign finance laws, according to people with knowledge of the inquiry.

Defense lawyers and others briefed on the investigation said one of the accusations is that Mr. Richardson raised $250,000 from supporters to quiet a woman who had threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against him.

Kenneth J. Gonzales, the United States attorney for New Mexico, said in a statement that he could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of any grand jury investigation into alleged criminal conduct” by Mr. Richardson.

But others close to the case said that several people with links to Mr. Richardson had testified before a grand jury in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Notice anything missing? Oh, right.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The One's One Percent

Oh, how they turn:
More than 100 Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to a Midtown hotel on Wednesday night to protest a fund-raising event for President Obama.

Escorted by police vehicles as they helped snarl traffic across the Times Square area, beginning at Bryant Park, the group settled in front of barricades on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, in view of the Sheraton hotel at which Mr. Obama was expected to appear by 9 p.m.

Demonstrators held signs that leveled some of the Occupy protest’s most pointed criticism to date of the president. “Obama is a corporate puppet,” one said. “War crimes must be stopped, no matter who does them,” read another, beside head shots of President George W. Bush and President Obama.

One man, wearing a mask of the president’s face and holding a cigar, carried a sign that read, “I sold out!”

Ben Campbell, 28, one of the march’s organizers, said he hoped to prove to skeptics of the protests that the demonstrators were political critics of equal opportunity.

“President Obama is coming to town solely to raise money from the richest of the rich,” Mr. Campbell said.
So much for his being on their side. Maybe they've finally figured out what most other people already knew?

This Is What The Next Dictatorship Looks Like

So, how's that Egyptian revolution working out?
Islamists claimed a decisive victory on Wednesday as early election results put them on track to win a dominant majority in Egypt’s first Parliament since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the most significant step yet in the religious movement’s rise since the start of the Arab Spring.

The party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, appeared to have taken about 40 percent of the vote, as expected. But a big surprise was the strong showing of ultraconservative Islamists, called Salafis, many of whom see most popular entertainment as sinful and reject women’s participation in voting or public life.

Analysts in the state-run news media said early returns indicated that Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the vote, giving the two groups of Islamists combined control of nearly 65 percent of the parliamentary seats.

That victory came at the expense of the liberal parties and youth activists who set off the revolution, affirming their fears that they would be unable to compete with Islamists who emerged from the Mubarak years organized and with an established following. Poorly organized and internally divided, the liberal parties could not compete with Islamists disciplined by decades as the sole opposition to Mr. Mubarak. “We were washed out,” said Shady el-Ghazaly Harb, one of the most politically active of the group.
And, the way things seem to be going, they could be forced out, as well.