February 8, 2009
TALKLEFT: Military Lawyer: Gitmo Conditions Have Worsened Since Inauguration. Hope and Change! Well, change.
TALKLEFT: Military Lawyer: Gitmo Conditions Have Worsened Since Inauguration. Hope and Change! Well, change.
A MAJOR LEAK of government secrets.
OBAMA SINKS IN POLLS OVER STIMULUS: “The partisan debate over an economic stimulus package has pushed President Barack Obama’s Job Approval Ratings down over the past week. The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Approval Index for Sunday shows that 36% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing as President. Twenty-five percent (25%) Strongly Disapprove to give Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of +11. . . . One week ago today, 44% Strongly Approved and 23% Strongly Disapproved to give Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of +21. In the first set of interviews conducted after inauguration day, 45% Strongly Approved of his performance while 16% Strongly Disapproved for a Presidential Approval Index rating of +29.” So, down 18 points in less than three weeks. I wonder how long this will continue?
GOOD QUESTION: “What makes people — even cops — think photography is a crime?”
TIM BLAIR is blogging the fires in Australia.
ODIERNO, OBAMA, and the surge.
GEITHNER’S CHOICE: “The deepest, darkest concern of bond professionals is whether bond holders of banks will ever be asked to share the bailout pain.”
GEE, DO YOU THINK? Public Pension Troubles Loom for State and Local Governments. “We have watched with trepidation as the stock market declines and along with it the value of our retirement accounts. Yet with our personal accounts, it’s our own problem. When it comes to public pensions, it’s the taxpayer’s problem. Underfunded pensions could cut two ways, leading to much higher taxes and/or cuts in government spending.”
MARK SANFORD: We’re moving close to ‘a savior-based economy’.
Plus, CBO Predicts Recession Will End in 2009 Without Stimulus. Hey, wait . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: “What could go wrong?”
A REVIEW OF Coraline.
RADLEY BALKO: Maryland Bill Would Bring Transparency to Use of SWAT Teams. We need federal legislation limiting — and providing accountability for — no-knock raids. I’m told, though, that there’s no support, even from Democrats, for stripping sovereign immunity in the case of wrongful no-knock raids.
ARNOLD KLING: Not a stimulus bill, but a reparations bill.
CAR LUST: The Citroen 2CV.
OBAMA: “Famously unflappable?”
I blame the purple prose.
UPDATE: “Obama’s clenched fist.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: “‘Doom’ rhetoric seen by some as ‘not presidential’.” It’s a far cry from “hope and change” and “Yes, we can,” isn’t it?
AS SEEN ON TV: Lab testing “mighty putty.”
OBAMA ON AFGHANISTAN: “Now he’s asking questions?” “It’s a bit late to be asking questions about Afghanistan, Mr. Obama. It’s beginning to seem that your policy positions undergo drastic revisions when it actually comes time for you to take responsibility, as opposed to standing on the sidelines and criticizing someone else.”
READER BETSY NOLAN NOTES THAT UNDER BUSH THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN FASCISM: Obama’s NSC Will Get New Power. Well, sure, under Bush.
WAS THE MELTDOWN CAUSED by Texas Hold ‘em?
THE STIMULUS BILL: Undermining welfare reform? “Specifically, it would apparently reward states that expand their welfare caseloads–even if the increase is only the product of loosened work requirements rather than a worsening local economy. . . . If a state somehow succeeds at placing would-be recipients in jobs, it’s out of luck under this provision. To get the extra federal money, it has to get more people on welfare.”
Like the song says, they’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please.
MEGAN MCARDLE: Worst sentence ever written in journalism?
IN THE HARTFORD COURANT: Why We Just Can’t Trust Dodd:
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd went one contrivance too far last week at his carefully choreographed press event to explain his mortgage deals with Countrywide Financial. Dodd has engaged in so many contradictions in trying to manage the gathering storm that he probably did not recognize his stunning blunder.
At his Monday event, Dodd wouldn’t let reporters have copies of the selected documents he let them glimpse. Instead, Dodd released a report from a Chicago firm hired with campaign funds to review his mortgage transactions. The report is carefully constructed to vindicate the Dodds and even make them appear to have fared worse than many other borrowers. It includes references to “detailed evaluation” of internal Countrywide documents that the mortgage giant used in processing the Dodds’ applications for more than $800,000 in loans. The firm hired by Dodd, it’s clear, had documents from Countrywide. . . . Monday’s revelation tells us something we are reluctant to conclude about a leader: We cannot believe Christopher Dodd.
During his 35 years of representing Connecticut in Washington, Dodd created and could draw upon a deep reservoir of goodwill at home. In the past eight months, Dodd has drained it down to a muddy swamp of suspicion. He’s mired in muck and he keeps making it worse.
Read the whole thing.
A RATHER COOL SELF-PORTRAIT from Melissa Schwartz.
HERE I COME to save the day!
When asked whether the stimulus package had turned into a spending spree, President Obama acknowledged it with pride. “That’s the point. Seriously, that’s the point.”
But that’s not the point; not the point at all. And it’s a shame BHO doesn’t realize it and a greater shame if he does. The real question is whether current government solutions to the crisis contribute to political risk or reduce it. That means knowing what’s broke before applying the screwdriver to the screw.
Oh, “the screw” is well underway . . . .
RON PAUL: GOP is “born again” on spending.
VACCINATION UPDATE: MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism. “THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found. Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.” Good grief. How many people’s lives and health might this have cost? A lot:
Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper’s impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire “herd immunity” from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.
Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.
Plus, another bogus high-profile article in The Lancet? Who do they use for peer review? Michael Moore?
UPDATE: Related item here.
DANIEL SOLOVE: Why the Innocent Are Punished More Harshly Than the Guilty.
MAYBE THEY’RE DOING ADVANCE MARKETING FOR THEIR 2020 FEMBOT LINE: Today’s Playmates Are More Like Anime Figures Than Real Humans.
THE FEDERAL OBAMA NOTE. Were people doing stuff like this with Bush in 2001?
UPDATE: Reader Bill Chunko emails: “I couldn’t help but notice that the Obama dollar is only worth 30 cents.” Heh.
WELL, THAT SORT OF THING GOT US OUT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION, RIGHT? “Attacking Iran is a shovel-ready project.”
CHRIS DODD UPDATE: From the Stamford Advocate:
In the wake of the latest revelations concerning U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd and his controversial mortgage dealings, the same question arises again: How could such an experienced politician have handled this so clumsily?
The situation first came to light when Portfolio magazine last year reported Sen. Dodd and his wife may have been granted improper treatment by Countrywide Financial Corp. The news would have been troubling in any event, but the fact that Countrywide was in the midst of an epic collapse in the national subprime mortgage market and that he is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which wields considerable authority over the nation’s financial sector, brought the potential scandal to a new level.
This week, the Dodds finally responded to requests they have dodged since last summer to reveal their Countrywide dealings in detail. Reporters, though, were not allowed to make copies or take away any documents. In a situation that demands transparency, this was another unforced error.
A WARNING FROM PLATO: How Republics Die.
BUDGET PROBLEMS FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: “University of North Carolina officials say a 7 percent budget reduction could mean a loss of almost 1,700 jobs and the cancellation of hundreds of classes over the system’s 16 campuses. Leaders of the statewide university system have been working to accommodate an anticipated 7 percent budget cut. The state funds the universities and is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall.” I think we’ll see more of this at various universities around the country.
DIDN’T WE SEE THIS COMING way back in November?
JAMES DUNNIGAN: France Fears Its Islamic Soldiers.
IS THE WHITE HOUSE TAKEOVER OF THE CENSUS constitutional?
A BUNCH OF Blu-Ray markdowns this weekend.
KATRINA IN KENTUCKY: What accounts for Obama’s slow response to Kentucky’s ice storm victims?
BUT I THOUGHT THAT IN THE OBAMA AGE EVERYONE WOULD LOVE US: “Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa ordered a U.S. Embassy official expelled on Saturday after accusing him of interfering in the country’s affairs, a move that will test ties with Washington.”
Simmons took a decidedly different tone when discussing Dodd. Calling the senator only “the incumbent,” he suggested that Dodd had upset his constituents by “moving to Iowa” during his ill-fated bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
He also hinted that Dodd was guilty of what he said the military would call “dereliction of duty” by brokering the 1999 repeal of a key New Deal law that regulated the financial services industry.
Reminded that the primary sponsor of that measure was former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, Simmons said, “And where’s he?”
Asked if he considered Dodd politically vulnerable, Simmons responded by pulling out a copy of a newspaper editorial cartoon about Dodd’s controversial mortgages obtained under a “VIP” program at Countrywide Financial.
“The funny pages are not a good place to be,” he said.
The Dodd story’s not so funny.
GREG MANKIW: It’s No Time for Protectionism.
MATTHEW YGLESIAS on payroll tax cuts: “It seems that J.M. Keynes himself thought this was a good idea. And, indeed, it strikes me as indefensible that a stimulus package featuring hundreds of billions of dollars of tax cuts doesn’t include any FICA provisions.” Yes, Greg Mankiw has been making the same point.
UPDATE: More here.
MY EARLIER POST on the Roku Netflix viewer produced this email from reader Christine Lanzon: “Thanks for recommending Roku Netflix viewer. I hadn’t heard of it until I read about it on Instapundit, and I ordered it the same day for my bedroom TV, a smallish HiDef set that I didn’t want to hook up to cable if I could help it. It is small, had clear directions, set up without hassle, and works as advertised — and the remote comes with the batteries included! That made me fall in love.” Jeez, I guess I should get one myself. If it’s good enough for Jim Treacher, after all . . . .
IS IT A GOOD TIME TO BUY A CAR? A look at dealer incentives.
CAR LUST: The joys of the first-gen Toyota MR2.
MICHAEL GREENSPAN ON THE STIMULUS: “This monstrosity of a bill, and the assumptions underlying it (e.g., ‘Politicians are wiser than non-politicians,’ ‘Citizens don’t own what they earn,’ etc.), are making me consider joining the Republican Party.”
Plus, from Harvard economist Robert Barro, interviewed in The Atlantic: “This is probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s.”
BIG HOLLYWOOD: Superheroes?
HOW TO save on prescription drugs.
OBAMA’S “INNER EASTWOOD?” A man’s gotta know his limitations.
CLICK FOR A PREVIEW OF THE NEW, IMPROVED INSTAPUNDIT!
STUDYING AGING BY LOOKING AT how identical twins wrinkle.
Not until you reach well down on the jump page do you learn this interesting little detail: “The U.S. attorney’s office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum.” Inadvertently sent what was supposed to be a sealed document to the Post? Yeah, sure, and the Post will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge real cheap, too.
Is anyone in the U.S. Attorney’s office going to lose their job over this? Will the Obama DOJ launch an investigation to make sure this wasn’t politically motivated? What would the Post and others have said if this had happened to, say, Howard Dean, during the Bush administration?
Well, that would have been a sign of incipient fascism. Er, I mean another sign . . . .
Well, big deal. I mean, who doesn’t have those problems crop up now and then?
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS prevent clogged arteries in mice.
MCCLATCHY: Results in on Obama’s grassroots appeal: It’s a bust. “Few supporters are answering President Barack Obama’s call for nationwide house-party gatherings this weekend to build grass-roots support for his economic stimulus plan.”
PROBLEMS WITH MICHAEL STEELE reported in the Washington Post. At least he paid his taxes.
TAKE YOUR MIND OFF TODAY’S TROUBLES at LikeTotally80s.com.
PETER WALLISON: Origins of the financial crisis. Reader Richard Samuelson writes: “If government removes requirements and pushes banks to lower standards, is that ‘deregulation?’”
THE RECESSION: Bad news for golddiggers?
IN THE MAIL: From Joe Carter and John Coleman, How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator.
HARTFORD COURANT: Senator Dodd Disappoints:
Countrywide was a central culprit in the subprime mortgage meltdown. Mr. Dodd was a ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee when he closed on his loans with Countrywide in 2003. (He’s currently the committee’s chairman.) Countrywide had a powerful incentive for trying to sway senators from a harsh view of its lending practices. And while Mr. Dodd apparently assumed he wasn’t getting special treatment as a customer of Countrywide, he didn’t ask the right questions, either.
Executives at Countrywide, on the other hand, clearly intended to give the Dodds a good deal. The couple were told they qualified for the company’s “VIP” program. Documents for both loans were scrawled with the letters “FOA,” a reference to Friends of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide’s chief executive at the time.
Read the whole thing. Dodd hasn’t managed to bury this story.
PHYSICS VS. MEDICINE in the stimulus bill.
UPDATE: Some background on why this matters.
Fix Wilson Yard, the grassroots community organization that claims to represent more than 2,000 Chicago residents, alleges numerous abuses on the city’s part in the creation, planning, implementation and funding of the Wilson Yard TIF District and the corresponding Wilson Yard development.
Subpoenas were filed last month seeking information on Web sites hosted by Buena Park Neighbors and the Uptown Neighborhood Council. The revelation comes on the heels of subpoenas served at Google, asking for ownership information about two anonymous blogs, Uptown Update and What the Helen.
According to copies of the subpoenas obtained by News-Star, Google and its hosting service, Blogger, are being asked to produce information “related to the identity of the person or persons who created and/or control ‘WhattheHelen.com’ and ‘Uptown Update’ blogs and websites (sic).”
Uptown Update is an active blog that has gained popularity as a clearinghouse for information about the Uptown neighborhood. What the Helen was active during the 2007 aldermanic election and has not been updated in more than a year. . . . The neighborhood organizations are being asked to produce all posts in “the form of a blog, chat room comment, website (sic) post or any other form that relates to the Wilson Yard development, Alderman [Helen] Shiller, or Uptown development.”
Expose Chicago politicians and their cronies, and they’ll try to expose you, I guess.
OOPS: Hope. Change. The rest of the world still hates us. Well, dang.
BITES FROM THE APPLE: A roundup of news from the Apple empire.
JAMES JOYNER: “They told me if I voted for McCain we wouldn’t see the end of big contracts going to Halliburton. And they were right!”
WIMP: “Sen. Judd Gregg yesterday declined all comment on reports that the White House will strip him of his authority over the federal Census Bureau even before he becomes Secretary of Commerce.”
MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED/OVERGENEROUS PUBLIC PENSIONS in this big report from Forbes:
America, in case you hadn’t noticed, is dividing into two nations. The 22.5-million-strong public sector (that includes retirees) is growing ever larger, and enjoying ever greater wages and benefits often guaranteed by state constitutions.
In private-sector America your job, assuming you still have one, hangs on the fate of the economy. If your employer ever offered a pension for life, like young officer Goss is receiving, odds are it has stopped doing so, or soon will. Those retirement accounts you scrimped and saved to assemble? Unless they are invested in Treasurys, they aren’t doing too well. In private-sector America the math leads to the grim prospect of working longer and living poorer.
In public-sector America things just get better and better. The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector’s $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%.
Read the whole thing.
WHICH IS MORE THAN NANCY PELOSI HAS DONE: Bank Chiefs to travel by public transport instead of private jet.
PALIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME — IT’S NOT JUST FOR BLOGGERS ANYMORE! Judge in autism case injects insult to Sarah Palin. “Manhattan Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald blasted the Alaska governor and former vice presidential candidate for bringing her Down syndrome child on stage after a debate. . . . The comments came during a settlement conference in a lawsuit filed by the feds on behalf of 11-year-old Aaron Schein. Aaron’s parents say the dog is medically necessary to help the boy cope with Asperger’s syndrome.”
How . . . judicious.
WHAT CAUSES personal bankruptcy. Not health care or job loss. “Over-consumption makes households financially over-stretched and more susceptible to adverse events.” In other words, spending too much and not having a reserve against emergencies.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Fannie Mae will loosen credit requirements for home mortgages.
PAKISTAN RELEASES A.Q. KHAN: Aziz Poonawalla is not happy.
SOME SUPREME COURT POLLING from Ann Althouse.
JOE WURZELBACHER on the stimulus bill. 5 minutes video, free with no registration.
BACKLASH? Republican McDonnell leads all Dems for Virginia Governor. Hmm. Stay tuned.
OBAMA’S MISTAKE? “His serious and consequential policy mistake is that he put his prestige behind not a new way of breaking through but an old way of staying put. This marked a dreadful misreading of the moment. And now he’s digging in. His political mistake, which in retrospect we will see as huge, is that he remoralized the Republicans. He let them back in the game.” I believe that the “stimulus” — and, worse, the psychology it represents — will be dreadful for the country. I hope I’m wrong. So, I imagine, does Obama.
SURE, WHY NOT? Obama considering at least 2 Iraq withdrawal plans. I’m sure any decision will be as carefully thought out as the “stimulus” legislation.
HEH: “As I read Panetta’s comments, the Obama CIA’s use of coercive techniques wouldn’t be torture because we would never do that — no matter the circumstances. It also wouldn’t be ‘enhanced interrogation’ because that’s what Bush did. It would simply be ‘additional authority.’”