February 26, 2009
A REMINDER OF OBAMA’S CAMPAIGN PROMISE of a net spending cut.
A REMINDER OF OBAMA’S CAMPAIGN PROMISE of a net spending cut.
FASTER, PLEASE: Cheaper Concentrating Solar for Photovoltaics.
UPDATE: Reader Charles Allen writes:
Any conservatives that place these well-intentioned TNGOP bumper-stickers on their cars might end up catching a lot of unexpected heat (and hand gestures) from people thinking that *they* are the sub-prime deadbeats.
Shouldn’t the proper message of outrage be “Honk if I’m paying *your* mortgage”??
Several readers have written to this effect, but I think the bumper stickers are better as written. This way, everyone who sees them feels like a sucker — the other way, it makes the bumper sticker owner the sucker. Which is more politically effective?
IN THE MAIL: From Travis Taylor, One Day On Mars.
JAPANESE SCIENTISTS cool to Kyoto.
IS THE FUTURE CANCELLED? A new issue of H+ Magazine is out.
WHITE COLLAR CRIME BLOG: Nacchio conviction reinstated.
AN NYC TEA PARTY PROTEST is scheduled for this Saturday at 2 pm, City Hall Park in Manhattan.
UPDATE: Texas Tea! Protests scheduled for Austin and San Antonio tomorrow.
WELL, THERE’S MONEY THERE: Lobbyists Flock to Climate Issue.
ANOTHER BURRIS BOMBSHELL: Burris’ Son Got State Job From Blago. And now he’s facing foreclosure, having made less than $3000 in payments on a $400K mortgage since 2006. Plus this: “Burris II built his home in the booming Bronzeville neighborhood on land he bought from the City of Chicago in 2000. City records show he paid $1 for the lot as part of an effort to clean up his once-blighted block.”
Your political class at work!
RECOMMENDED BY MINDLES H. DRECK: Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead.
POLITICAL WIRE: Top Obama Officials Have Earmarks In Bill.
UPDATE: CQ Politics:
Funny how items show up in spending bills without any notice — like an earmark for a president who promised not to seek any.
President Obama, who took a no-earmark pledge on the campaign trail, is listed as one of dozens of cosponsors of a $7.7 million set-aside in the fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill (HR 1105) passed by the House on Wednesday.
The bill is an accumulation of leftovers from 2008 — spending measures that weren’t enacted before the 110th Congress expired. Lawmakers who wanted money for local projects in those bills were required to submit their requests many months ago, while Obama was still a senator. It’s moving through Congress now because a temporary extension of funds to run the government will run out after March 6.
Obama’s name jumps out on a list of many earmark cosponsors because he and his staff have been so emphatic about his no-earmark stance.
Read the whole thing.
THE TWO-PERCENT ILLUSION. “Even the most basic inspection of the IRS income tax statistics shows that raising taxes on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $250,000 can’t possibly raise enough revenue to fund Mr. Obama’s new spending ambitions.”
ON THE TRAIL OF OSAMA BIN LADEN using biological tracking models.
RASMUSSEN POLL: Many Americans Question Fairness of Tax System. Plus this: “Most Americans agree it is better to cut taxes than increase government spending, despite the push in Washington for billions of dollars in stimulus spending.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES falls for a parody site. It’s all those layers of editors and fact-checkers . . . .
I CREDIT THE OBAMA TEAM FOR THIS ECONOMIC GOOD NEWS: Sales of Atlas Shrugged are, reportedly, soaring. “Sales of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold.”
MICHAEL TOTTEN POSTS A FIRST-HAND REPORT on Christopher Hitchens and the Battle of Beirut. And remember, he’s supported by reader donations, so if you like his work, you might want to hit the PayPal button. Best line, from Hitchens: “They should have been worried about us.”
HOPE AND CHANGE: Holder Trumpets Continuation of War on Drugs.
STATE OF THE PRESIDENTS: “Clinton 67 million, Bush 66 million, Obama 52 million. . . . Well, the audience for President Obama’s first State of the Union address was big, but failed to come close in size to the audiences that Presidents Clinton and Bush 43 drew in their SOTUs at the nation’s times of crisis.”
More on the ratings at the L.A. Times.
THE SPECIAL-INTEREST GIVEAWAYS are underway. “How can congressional Democrats possibly justify giving the same organizations that already got a heaping helping of pork in the stimulus bill another scoop in the omnibus bill while taxpayers are suffering?”
THE HILL: Top Democrats brush off the president on earmarks. They don’t seem the least bit afraid of him, do they?
CHEERFUL ECONOMIC NEWS: “Tens of thousands of boxcars are sitting idle all over the country, parked indefinitely by railroads whose freight volumes have plummeted along with the economy. . . . Railroads, which have seen shipping volumes drop by double-digit percentages in recent months, face a particularly vexing problem. The nation’s five largest railroads have put more than 30% of their boxcars — 206,000 in all — into storage, according to the Association of American Railroads. Placed end-to-end, the cars would stretch from New York to Salt Lake City.”
Plus, a Chinese real estate bust that makes ours look minor. “By Rodman’s calculations, 500 million square feet of commercial real estate has been developed in Beijing since 2006, more than all the office space in Manhattan. And that doesn’t include huge projects developed by the government. He says 100 million square feet of office space is vacant — a 14-year supply if it filled up at the same rate as in the best years, 2004 through ’06, when about 7 million square feet a year was leased.”
MICKEY KAUS ON MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA: “Even among the ardent L.A. Dems I know, nobody isn’t disappointed in this guy.” He’s like a reverse-Sara Lee.
FIDELITY EXECUTIVE NED JOHNSON NOT FEELING THE HOPE AND CHANGE: Blames feds for crisis, derides U.S. spending.
CHICAGO TEA PARTY PROTEST: This Friday at 11, Daley Plaza.
UPDATE: Also in Tulsa, same day, same time.
Plus, a huge list of events for Friday, from Seattle, to Pittsburgh, to Jackson, Mississippi. See if there’s one in your area.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon talks to some Chicago Board of Trade traders about the Tea Party movement.
MORE: Portland, Oregon. 9 a.m. Friday, Pioneer Square. (The reader who sent the link writes, “Don’t mention my name. I work for a newspaper.”) Given Oregon’s proposed 1900% beer tax increase, there ought to be some riled-up people there already.
Also, Sacramento, California.
And Oklahoma City.
Plus, “Fiscal responsibility is the new counterculture!” (Bumped).
STILL MORE: So many of these you can’t keep track. But Some people are trying.
Undercutting your president is rarely a smart strategy — unless, like Sen. Chris Dodd, you are fighting to save your political life.
Apparently that’s exactly why the Connecticut Democrat called an audible and put in the stimulus tougher executive compensation rules than those proposed by President Obama. The rules are unpopular with business, and several lobbyists and other observers said they are widely viewed as related to Dodd’s poor poll numbers, which show the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee vulnerable, partly because of reports that he refinanced two mortgages in 2003 at favorable terms with Countrywide Financial.
“It gives all the signs of desperation,” said one Wall Street analyst who follows politics, but who did not want to go on the record for fear of angering the powerful chairman.
Read the whole thing.
THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS: BIDEN FORGETS “WEBSITE NUMBER” FOR RECOVERY.GOV.
Okay, it’s not a big slip, but he’s in charge of the stimulus, and if Sarah Palin had made it . . . . .
UPDATE: L.A. Times: “Joe.Biden@Clueless.com.” You know, I haven’t bought the theory, circulating in some quarters, that Obama is an America-hating Manchurian Candidate who’s out to destroy the country. But when he put Joe Biden in charge of the stimulus, I began to wonder if my dismissal was too hasty. I mean, it’s not as if you’d put Biden in charge of something you wanted to succeed . . . .
MORE ON THE BIDEN-STANFORD CONNECTION, with diagram.
MEGAN MCARDLE ON deficits, “stimulus,” and politics.
ERIC HOLDER: Gitmo is a “well-run, professional facility” that will be hard to close. Now they tell us.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the longest-serving Democratic senator, is criticizing President Obama’s appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a power grab by the executive branch.
In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”
While it’s rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is a stern constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House.
It’ll be interesting to see if this gets much play.
THE ATLANTA TAX PROTEST HAS ISSUED AN open call for “protest babes.” Smart move, in more ways than one . . . .
UPDATE: A reader emails:
You should decry this overt sexism. Me and my cue-ball head plan to be there on Friday. We need a call for Protest Himbos.
One thing I’ve learned on the Internet is that everything has its demographic.
ANOTHER UPDATE: New Media pressure works!
HMM: FBI raids University of Florida nuclear power institute. Sounds like financial fraud, not espionage, but stay tuned.
WELL, THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: Holder calls for new assault-weapons ban. That, you see, will put an end to the lawlessness in Mexico.
UPDATE: Broken promises:
Remember back in February 2008 when President Obama came to Boise and spoke at a big rally? He made a big point of saying, “I won’t take away your guns,” because those nasty, dishonest Republicans were saying that Obama was going to do that.
It sure didn’t take long for Obama to reveal his intentions.
Weasel out: Banning further sales of “assault weapons” isn’t the same as “taking them away.” Uh huh.
MATT WELCH: The Two Faces of Barack Obama. “Obama aims to be the president of all Americans, a position that appears to be sincere. But I wonder whether in the process he might also want to consider appointing himself chief executive of his own head. All night long, with equally sonorous vigor, he served up confident assertions, only to state moments later, with equal conviction, their near opposite.”
MITT ROMNEY THE FRONTRUNNER FOR 2012?
“THEISTICALLY CONFIDENT” have more children.
OBAMA’S TAX HIKE: Coming in 2010.
UPDATE: Now the White House is saying 2011. The 2010 thing must have been a mistake.
LOOKING AT HOW A PREVIOUS “STIMULUS” EFFORT WORKED OUT: “When Knoxville was approved to receive Empowerment Zone funding in 1999, many in the city were thrilled at the potential a windfall of $100 million could have for the city’s poor neighborhoods. A few cautioned that the city not waste the opportunity. But it was hard to imagine how that kind of cash wouldn’t make a significant difference. Now, almost 10 years later, nobody is saying the Empowerment Zone has been a booming success. Some are even disgusted with what they say has been a complete failure.” Some say it hasn’t been that bad. Read the whole thing.
JAMMIEWEARINGFOOL has the really big news of the day. But you’ll have to follow the link to find out what it is.
MISSING THE POINT? Redesigning World of Warcraft to reward “eco friendly behavior.”
BREAKING NEWS: Obama Family Decides on Portugese Water Dog.
UPDATE: Reader Kevin Greene writes: “Pfffff. They don’t buy American cars. They don’t get American dogs. What’s wrong with this picture?”
NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: J. STORRS HALL on the audacity of nano-hope.
A century ago, there was no air travel. The Wright brothers were in the process of demonstrating their Flyer to a still largely unbelieving world. Like nanotechnology, aviation had its biological proof-of-principle — birds — but the scientific establishment firmly rejected its possibility.
25 years later, aviation had become a military reality but, economically, had stubbornly remained a fringe or money-losing proposition. The counsels of despair would have said to forget this dream — times are bad. Face the grim reality.
Instead, Douglass Aircraft, in the depths of the Great Depression, invested in the development of the DC3, the plane that turned air travel into an economically viable proposition. This, of course, was engineering — but aeronautical engineering was at that time steeped in the culture of the dream of air travel as promulgated by the futurists.
When times are bad, people need futurists more than at other times. Bad economic times come because people have been walking in the dark, in lockstep, and hit a wall. There is a surfeit of people whose efforts the current state of knowledge cannot organize productively. The job of a futurist is to turn on the lights, to show what paths could actually lead to prosperity.
Read the whole thing.
POLITICO: Joe the Plumber laughs at Obama’s speech. “I believe he’s taking America down the wrong path.”
HOW TO MAKE YOUR. P.C. boot faster.
UPDATE: Moe Lane is deeply disturbed. Er, I mean about this development, of course . . . .
SILICON GRAFFITI: RENDEZVOUS WITH SCARCITY.
ZOGBY/WEMEDIA POLL: “Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) said small business and entrepreneurs will lead the U.S. to a better future, while 52% said the same of science and technology leaders. Americans are far less optimistic about the leadership of government (31%), large corporations and business leaders (21%), or traditional news media such as newspapers, television, radio, and magazines (13%).”
ILYA SOMIN on a potentially important property rights case in the Supreme Court. “In Alvarez, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel that included Judge Richard Posner invalidated a section of the Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act that allows the police to seize property that they have probable cause to believe was involved in a drug-related crime and hold onto it for up to 187 days without filing any kind of action for asset forfeiture in the courts. This rule applies even to property owned by persons who are entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, and who simply found their possessions caught up in a drug investigation through no fault of their own.”
GUN RIGHTS and the rights of the disabled.
ANN ALTHOUSE ON JOSH MARSHALL, ANDREW SULLIVAN, AND BOBBY JINDAL: “There’s just something about this man that doesn’t seem right, that you don’t care to examine exactly what it is, but you know it deep down in your gut somehow. Seriously. How do you know this is not racism?”
Well, it’s hardly racist to say that his response was weak. But “instinctive revulsion?” It would certainly be racist if it were in response to Obama.
REUTERS: Lawyer says Guantanamo abuse worse since Obama. You know, it may just be me but it seems that Reuters is being a lot more negative toward Obama than I would have expected.
UPDATE: Reader Julian Ferry writes: “Many folks assumed Reuters was just biased against Bush and the war in Iraq. But this is evidence that the real target of their negativity is actually America itself.” Well, we’ll see.
WHO’S INSULAR NOW?
MARC DANZIGER: “In my somewhat misspent youth, I put myself in places where I often encountered stupidly aggressive people. Bars. And there’s an interesting point about aggressive people in bars; you should pay close attention to the ones who are loudly threatening to kick your ass – but you don’t need to be afraid of them. Because if they were serious, they would already be kicking your ass, not just telling you about it.”
But note what the Japanese are saying.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Reid to Obama: Let Us Keep Earmarks!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants the White House to tread lightly on earmarks, saying that any push by the Obama administration to clamp down on pet projects would be met with strong opposition from congressional leaders.
“We cannot let spending be done by a bunch of nameless, faceless bureaucrats,” Reid said, arguing that lawmakers are much more in tune with federal money needs for their states than agencies in Washington.
Reid’s comments came a day after President Barack Obama called for slicing the skyrocketing national debt.
Earmarking money has been the subject of increased scrutiny after the practice became the subject of high-profile corruption scandals on Capitol Hill in recent years, and led to a sweeping ethics reform law in 2007. . . . In the omnibus spending bill working its way through Congress, there are 8,570 earmarks worth $7.7 billion, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.
This will be a good test of whether Obama will walk the walk, or just talk the talk.
JOHN KASS ON RICHARD DALEY: Mayor’s tirade against feds full of rich irony.
THE MARKET REACTION TO LAST NIGHT’S SPEECH looks pretty underwhelming.
UPDATE: Stocks fall as Obama fails to deliver details. “NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks fell on Wednesday as President Barack Obama’s first address to Congress shed little new light on how he plans to stabilize the economy and shore up banks, and gloomy home sales data fed the negative sentiment.”
LORIE BYRD: Whoever Kidnapped the Real Bobby Jindal Returned Him This Morning. Well, he was missed.
MORE HOMESTATE COVERAGE of Chris Dodd’s Irish “cottage.” A reader comments: “Now they might call this a cottage in Ireland, but once-upon-a-time they were known as dachas, primarily enjoyed by the same unscrupulous sorts as Dodd.”
JOEL KOTKIN on the decline of Los Angeles: “Los Angeles has fallen into a serious secular decline. This constitutes one of the most rapid – and largely unnecessary – municipal reversals in fortune in American urban history.”
INSTA-POLL: So the Tea Party Movement is well underway. And I think there’s a lot to be said for the notion of demonstrating over passing the biggest spending bill in history without even reading it. If that’s not a reason for protest, what is? But should there be further goals? It’s a viral, grassroots movement, so it’s a matter for discussion, not direction. But here are some alternatives — and please discuss in the comments.
ETERNAL VIGILANCE, AND ALL THAT: Sneaky Back Door Gun Grab in Obama Budget?
VISITING THE Department of GDP.
GREG BEATO REPORTS on the D.I.Y. brewing revolution.
A FOLLOWUP ON THE KATHRYN JOHNSTON DRUG-RAID BOTCH IN ATLANTA:
A federal judge who sent three fallen cops to prison for a notorious drug raid that left an elderly woman dead said Tuesday that Atlanta Police Department performance quotas unduly influenced the officers’ behavior.
“It is my fervent hope the Atlanta Police Department will take to heart what has happened here,” U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes said. At the close of an emotional two-day hearing, Carnes sentenced former officers Gregg Junnier, Jason R. Smith and Arthur Bruce Tesler to between 5 and 10 years in prison. At the hearing, Tesler’s lawyer provided examples of other Atlanta police officers breaking the rules or violating the law and said a disturbing culture of misconduct pervades the force.
Carnes imposed the most severe sentence — 10 years — on Smith, 36, who obtained the illegal, no-knock search warrant allowing officers to batter down 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston’s door.
These raids — and the law enforcement culture they embody — are a serious problem.
THE RIGHT NOT TO BE OFFENDED? If I’ve got that right, there are gonna be a lot of changes made . . . .
AVOIDING THE END OF THE WORLD. If possible. “The reason capitalism works is that it can try different things. Unlike government, it is not obliged to do one Awesome Thing.”
REDISTRIBUTION: Yale Freezes Pay of Faculty Earning > $75k.
USA TODAY: The Burris Problem. “The Constitution is clear on the right of the Senate to determine the qualifications of its members, and Majority Leader Harry Reid was initially correct in opposing the seating of Burris. But in an especially cynical demonstration of playing the race card, a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus — all of them House members — dared the Senate Democrats to deny a seat to the man who would be the chamber’s only African American. . . . The challenge of dealing with minority officials who run afoul of the law is a pre-eminently Democratic problem and will certainly arise again when the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct makes its report on some questionable activities by Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Rangel is accused of failure to report income, circumventing New York City’s rent-control laws by occupying four of the cut-rate units, not the allowable one, and using official House stationery to raise money for a school of public affairs at the City College of New York that is named for him. In light of the reluctance of Democratic leaders to stand up to the chorus of support for Burris, they could find themselves accused of dealing less aggressively with minority corruption than with malfeasance by whites.” Nah, they’ll make up for that by giving Chris Dodd a pass, too.
POLITICO: What Obama Really Meant.
CITIBANK CUSTOMERS angry about government Citibank plans.
NICK GILLESPIE ON The Deficit That Obama Didn’t Quite Inherit But Will Almost Certainly Vastly Expand. “I yield to no ink-stained wretch in my vast and bottomless dislike of George W. Bush but let’s hold Obama’s feet to the fire here: He has consistently pledged to, you know, stop spending right after well, you know, he and Congress stop spending. . . . If Obama is serious about restoring trust and confidence in the government’s ability to live within its gargantuan means (and he should be), he should start by rewriting the $410 billion Omnibus Spending Bill that the Democrats have just dropped like a big, wet, steaming, stinking pile of…pork barbecue.”
AN APOLOGY: Sen. Dodd regrets comments on bank nationalization: “From the Loose Lips Sink Stocks Dept.: Sen. Chris Dodd is apologizing today for his comments Friday suggesting that it might be necessary to nationalize some banks for a short time. The Connecticut Democrat, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, told reporters in Washington that he was surprised by the market’s reaction.”
The country’s in the very best of hands.
RASMUSSEN: 54% Say ‘No’ To All Bailouts. “Given the choice between federal bailouts for the auto companies, the finance industry and financially trouble homeowners or no bailouts for any of them, 54% say no bailouts period. Just 26% support bailouts for all three. . . . Investors, with their eyes on the financial markets, are even more strongly opposed. . . . Confidence as measured by the Rasmussen Investor Index hit a record low on Tuesday – for the second day in a row.”
BE THANKFUL TO OUR ANCESTORS: Prehistoric Fish Pioneered Sex.
CHANGE ON CHANGE: Climate change timetable slips as Obama backtracks on 2008 deadline.
THE KINDLE 2 gets a very good review from David Pogue. I think mine’s supposed to arrive today. I agree with this bit on whether the Kindle will make printed books obsolete: “The point everyone is missing is that in Technoland, nothing ever replaces anything. E-book readers won’t replace books. The iPhone won’t replace e-book readers. Everything just splinters. They will all thrive, serving their respective audiences.”
HMM: Which MSNBC character muttered “Oh, God” contemptuously as Bobby Jindal sauntered out to speak last night? To paraphrase Arthur Leff, when nonironic divine address emanates from
Langdell Hall MSNBC, attention must be paid. . . .
NOT ALL THE ECONOMIC NEWS IS BAD! Cabela’s shares surge on gun sales.
ANOTHER “I TOLD YOU SO” FROM MICHAEL SILENCE: Lawmakers looking to muzzle gun records. “Well, as predicted, here it is. It’s a shame the story doesn’t mention the incredible blogger traffic this issue has generated.”
FABIUS MAXIMUS: Everything written about the economic crisis overlooks its true nature. “That our leaders do not understand the larger process at work explains their otherwise incredible failure to adequately respond.”
BILL MOYERS: Loyal apparatchik, rewarded.
UPDATE: Reader Jim Menard writes: “Obama must have learned from Bush’s experience with internal opposition cells at the CIA and State Department, with their damaging anonymous leaks of sensitive information. The military certainly includes some anti-budget-cut hawks, so Obama’s move makes political sense, but if Bush had even thought about something like this, details would have been leaked to and lambasted in the NY Times within hours.” Well, that’s one advantage of controlling the commanding heights of the media.
TAKING ENVIRONMENTALISM TOO FAR: Composting Table Digests Your Scraps.
TENNESSEE GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN may turn down stimulus money.
ANOTHER UPDATE: More from Welch: “There was much to dislike about this speech, most notably (for me anyway) the effortless way in which the new president talked out of both sides of his mouth. We will not govern in anger! No more drapes for you, fatcats! Etc.”