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Monthly Archives: August 2010

And Then a Step to the Right

August 23rd, 2010 - 4:41 pm

Hair of the Dog: Learn how to do the Economy Pivot, the dance sensation that’s sweeping the nation!

And, as always, random cruelty and the world’s lamest segues.

Point and Laugh (and Cry)

August 23rd, 2010 - 3:03 pm

It’s That ’70s Economy! Really — stagflation is set to make another comeback. Jeff Harding has the sharp analysis:

In economic terms, buying Treasury debt is called “monetizing” debt. In plain English it means that the government prints money to pay for its debts. This policy has been the downfall of many governments who destroy their currency through hyperinflation.

As soon as unemployment starts to go up again, and I believe it will, the politicians will be all over the Fed to “do something.” That “something” will be massive QE. I’m quite sure that the Fed hasn’t figured out how much QE they’ll need, and that they’re unsure of its impact on the economy.

I have a pretty good idea of where it will all end up. Since they’re not dealing with the underlying problems, this papering over of the problems will lead to inflation and economic stagnation, a phenomenon we saw in the 1970s called “stagflation.”

Of course, Keynesian theory holds that you just can’t have stagnation and inflation at the same time — which is why anyone who’s spouted that nonsense even once since about 1978, should be ridiculed, and mercilessly.

Let’s start with Paul Krugman, shall we?

And Then Recession Set In

August 23rd, 2010 - 2:33 pm

Wall Street has probably received more bailout dollars per person than anywhere else in America. And yet still, here come the job losses:

The weak economy, volatile markets, regulatory upheaval and changes in how traders and investment bankers are paid are starting to trigger job cuts that could reverse a recent rebound in overall employment levels at banks and securities firms.

The news isn’t all grim, however:

Some firms say that the recent job cuts are routine and that they will continue to hire people for roles that are especially important.

But here’s what we need to know: Are these “especially important” jobs wealth-creating jobs? Or will firms be hiring more wealth-sucking “compliance officers” and the like to deal with all of Obama’s new regulatory burdens?

Stay tuned.

Must-See Radio

August 23rd, 2010 - 9:17 am

How did I forget to link to this week’s PJM Political? And how did you forget to listen? Because we have lined up for you Glenn Reynolds, Arthur C. Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, James Lileks, the Front Page crew, Joel Kotkin, and… me!

How could you miss all that?

Posted Without Comment

August 21st, 2010 - 3:41 pm

They Just Can’t Help Themselves

August 21st, 2010 - 1:56 pm

Rand Paul: Pr0n King of Kentucky! At least to hear the AP tell it. Tech Crunch’s Michael Arrington explains:

Kentucky senate candidate Rand Paul is being partially bankrolled by the porn industry, apparently. At least that’s the story that the AP’s Bruce Schreiner is pushing today. This is what appears to be the AP’s most recent hit job on Paul. Schreiner in particular has been accused of subtle bias (compare the headline to the text) in his Rand Paul reporting even before this story today.

What’s the evidence for today’s story? Zivity cofounders Cyan Banister and Scott Banister made personal donations to the Rand Paul campaign totalling $4,800. The Paul campaign has raised a total of over $3.5 million. Donors must state where they work, so they wrote down Zivity, says Cyan.

Despite the fact that the donations weren’t from Zivity, and that Zivity would barely fall under the definition of pornography, people are calling for Rand to return the money.

Earlier in the week, Fred Barnes wrote that the Democrats would be using silly personal attacks in local races to sort of denationalize the November election because “in the Democratic game plan, the economy and national issues are taboo.” Barnes added that the Government-Media Complex would surely play along since they just “can’t help themselves.”

Bruce Schreiner’s desperate little AP story is a great example of just what Barnes was talking about. And as Arrington writes:

Schreiner himself seems to have little knowledge of Zivity either. By phone yesterday he asked me if I could tell him more about the site. He had not, apparently, ventured farther than the home page.

The reporter reporting on the reporter did more reporting than the reporter reporting on the politician running for public office.

Keep calling them on their BS. And while you’re at it, keep canceling those subscriptions.

You Keep Using That Word

August 21st, 2010 - 1:37 pm

Inconceivable! Barney Frank is now to the right — well to the right — of President Obama on basic economics. Larry Kudlow has the report:

For years, Frank was a staunch supporter of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government housing agencies that played such an enormous role in the financial meltdown that thrust the economy into the Great Recession. But in a recent CNBC interview, Frank told me that he was ready to say goodbye to Fannie and Freddie.

“I hope by next year we’ll have abolished Fannie and Freddie,” he said. Remarkable. And he went on to say that “it was a great mistake to push lower-income people into housing they couldn’t afford and couldn’t really handle once they had it.” He then added, “I had been too sanguine about Fannie and Freddie.”

Welcome to something closer to sanity, Congressman Frank. I hope you’ll stay awhile.

So That Happened

August 21st, 2010 - 9:21 am

President Obama loses the Los Angeles Times as even popular Democrats take a step away, possibly patriotic pole dancers, and the RNC finally gets one right — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

A Stopped Clock Is Still Almost Always Wrong

August 20th, 2010 - 4:28 pm

I know we’re not supposed to get cocky and all, but it’s really, really hard when Vice President Biden goes spouting off about how the Democrats are “going to keep Congress.”

I mean it’s really, really, really hard.

UPDATE: Admiral Ackbar warns, “It’s a trap!”

RIP

August 20th, 2010 - 3:09 pm

Flash is dead. It will not be missed.

I think the nicest thing I ever said about Flash was when I compared it to “a toothless vagrant who sits in the backseat, screaming.”

And I’m not talking about the Fab Five, either — but I do miss those guys.

Anyway, CATO sums up the “panic” in the White House over Obamacare’s failure to gain any traction with the public, based on a confidential memo from the Herndon Alliance. Now I haven’t read the whole memo, just the bits that CATO and Politico excerpted. But of those bits, here’s the one you won’t believe:

The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college educated women, and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly, many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House’s all-out communications effort.

This President wouldn’t leave my damn TV alone for a year — Obama took to the bully pulpit time and again to sell this monstrosity. He spent his first year in office trying to get this thing over on us, like a drunk high school boy working a bra, but with less finesse. Then there were the endless summits. The endless speeches (over 100). Pelosi and Reid’s primetime trickery for four solid months from Thanksgiving until they schemed its passage through in March, the legislative equivalent of a bought jury. And since then, all the talk about the “historic achievement,” with the mainstream media doing a propaganda job that would make the folks at Pravda blush.

And yet — did you read that line? — somehow, “many are unaware that the legislation has passed.” That’s not some “astonishing shortcoming.” That unadulterated incompetence, elevated to fine art. By “fine art,” I mean, the art of Christo: Mammoth, public, shameless, useless — and with any luck, quickly fleeting.

Very, very quickly fleeting.

UPDATE: Sometimes, the obvious explanation isn’t the first one you think of. But instead of incompetence, let’s instead suppose that all that sales effort went to waste simply because people stopped listening to their President, bare months into his term?

Apple Product Non-Announcement

August 20th, 2010 - 10:24 am

Let the rumors fly:

Apple is internally testing the first material update to its iOS 4.0 mobile operating system against a handful of new devices, including next-generation iPod touches, an iPad revision, and an “unknown” product, AppleInsider has discovered.

[SNIP]

…most intriguing, is a previously undiscovered mention of a mysterious device listed only as “unknownHardware.” Although the configuration files tag this device with a unique Apple product ID of 20547, it’s textual descriptor is similarly listed as “Unknown- Add device descriptor info for this device.”

Much as I’d like one for The Boy™, the mystery device is almost certainly not the much-discussed 7-inch iPad. Why? Because that smaller screen (the current iPad is 9.7″) creates two many problems problems.

Shrink the pixel count along with the screen size, and you get all kinds of app compatibility issues — as anyone who has ever run iPhone apps on the big iPad screen can attest. If you hate that pixel-doubling effect, wait’ll you get a load of the pixels-reduced-by-a-third effect.

Alternately, you could pack the smaller screen with the same number of pixels, which would look really, really sharp — just like the iPhone 4. But that would be a costly undertaking, defeating the purpose (presumably) of selling a 7″ iPad for less money than the current model. If iSupply and others are right, Apple already “enjoys” smaller profit margins on the iPad than on most anything else they sell, so it’s doubtful why they’d want to introduce a product that would cannibalize iPad sales for even smaller margins.

And, if for no other reason, Apple won’t sell a 7″ iPad because Steve hates SKUs.

It’s a Very Short List [UPDATED WITH LINK!]

August 20th, 2010 - 8:42 am

And it’s a very strange column from Eugene Robinson, in which he catalogs President Obama’s “winning streak.” Here’s the streak:

Last U.S. Combat Troops Leave Iraq.

Thus fulfilling a status-of-forces agreement brokered by the Bush Administration.

General Motors to Launch Stock Offering.

Let’s see how much money GM raises in its IPO. Also, let’s not forget that GM will continue to receive subsidies, so that it can sell an overpriced economy car to preening greenies, most of whom could afford to pay the unsubsidized (and outrageous) sticker price. And when will GM’s bondholders get a bailout, after having been screwed out of the protections they would have gotten through a normal Chapter 11 proceeding?

Gulf Oil Spill Contained.

By the end of the show, even Maxwell Smart would finally get his man. But getting there involved a lot of useless, clumsy hijinks.

President Wades into Mosque Controversy.

Robinson ought to reword this one to read, “President costs his party two or three more marginal House seats.” It’s a slight rewording, but I think it gets the message across a little better.

That’s the whole list, the big winning streak. That’s all Robinson could come up with. He had nothing to say on Iran, Porkulus, Obamacare, the economy, the half-million jobs we were supposed to be gaining each month (but instead lost last month — a million-job deficit).

It’s not too early to declare: This is a failed administration.

UPDATE

Brad comments:

Nice Maxwell Smart recall!  That is a very apt description of any “success” that could ever be attributed to Obama.  Hopefully, 2012 we’ll bring down the Cone of Silence on him for good! Does that make We the People the Chief?

The American people are always The Chief. It’s just that sometimes we forget it.

Foot In Mouth Disease

August 19th, 2010 - 1:38 pm

Ed Driscoll presents… the quotable Harry Reid.

Investing Under Mattresses

August 19th, 2010 - 12:23 pm

Bonds — the next bubble?

Keynesian Growing Pains

August 19th, 2010 - 12:13 pm

Coast to Coast Tea Party: Today I talk with Nicholas Sanchez. He’s an economist, a professor, an escapee from Castro’s Cuba, and author of the new book, Destined for Failure: American Prosperity in the Age of Bailouts.

Dishing It Right Back

August 19th, 2010 - 10:58 am

North Carolina GOP congressional candidate Renee Ellmers, who I got to interview on C2C a while back, just got the Sarah Palin nod — and her opponent, Bob “The Manhandler” Etheridge, is on the attack.

But wait’ll you see Renee’s counterstrike

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark

August 19th, 2010 - 9:13 am

From NRO, by way of Instapundit.

Ouch.

The More Things Change

August 19th, 2010 - 8:03 am

Trifecta: In which Scott unearths some dirt on our Founding Fathers and… well, we always have fun talking about the Founders. And who doesn’t love some good dirt?

Running Scared

August 18th, 2010 - 2:02 pm

We’ve been wargaming the coming Congressional shakeup for a few months now, but today let’s do something a little different — make it visual. Courtesy of 270toWin, here’s what the current Congress looks like.


(Click to Embiggen)

There’s an awful lot of blue on that map, especially given that the Democrats get a disproportionate amount of their support from tiny, densely-packed urban districts. But that’s what happens when you have a 255-178 majority.

Next, let’s wipe the map clean. And instead of predicting the outcome of each race, let’s take the poll-averaging data from Real Clear Politics and color in only the Toss Up races.


(Click to Embiggen)

What might shock you is, when Congress have approval ratings barely in the double digits, that there are only 31 super-competitive races. Such is the advantage of incumbency. And there is one speck of GOP red on this map — IL-10, the only Republican-held seat rated as a toss-up. But it’s this next map that ought to shock you.

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Coming Home

August 18th, 2010 - 10:05 am

Trifecta: Bill Whittle has Scott Ott and me doing the Full Glenn Beck as we take a look at soldier’s coming home videos. This is one you won’t want to miss.

Best Laid Plans

August 17th, 2010 - 10:02 pm

Trifecta: I’d planned to bring Scott Ott and Bill Whittle on board for a light-hearted episode where we would — once again — make fun of the President for his latest unforced error.

But when the topic is the Ground Zero Mosque, I learned, it’s impossible to keep this crew from tearing down the set.

The Kindle vs iPad Wars

August 17th, 2010 - 9:56 pm

As a devoted Amazon customer — they send me hand-written thank you notes, I kid thee not — and a dedicated Friend of Steve (Jobs), I can tell you two things with utmost confidence. First, Amazon cannot and should not try to put the Kindle up against the iPad. It’s a fool’s errand at best, and Amazon’s new Kindle pricing indicates that Jeff Bezos got the memo long before I did. Second, Amazon can and should kill Apple’s iBooks in the crib.

And I know exactly how to do it, too.

I love the iBooks app, and find it generally superior for reading. Apple’s kerning is far less aggressive, and iBooks has more of the gee-whiz usability thingies you expect from an Apple product. But the iBooks Store has a meager selection, and even those few titles are tough to find and unpleasant to browse.

This is where Amazon needs to pounce: On selection and the online shopping experience, where they hold temporary (?) advantages; and on price — which is where Amazon can snuff iBooks out, out, out.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present… Kindle Prime!

“Amazon Prime” members — I’ve been one since its inception — already know where I’m going with this. The rest of you, listen up.

Pick an attractive price point for above-average book buyers. Let’s say, $120. Give Amazon that much money up front, and Amazon will treat it as a gift card for Kindle Edition books. And as soon as they have your money up front, Amazon will send you, at no extra charge, the latest and greatest 7-inch Kindle (WiFi only).

Let’s think about this.

Amazon already sells its base Kindle for $139, presumably for a modest profit. Factor in the economy of scale for giving them away, and the $120 price point becomes attractive for wavering consumers and for Amazon, too.

You, the consumer, would get the new Kindle for free. And Amazon would get your $120 as the low end of your annual book purchases. The lock-in factor would almost assure Amazon that you’d buy more books for your Kindle (which you could also read on your iPad) and that you’d have fewer reasons to buy much at all at the iBooks Store.

Keep in mind, of course, that Apple can’t compete on price with the iPad. Apple is in the business of selling widgets — any content sales they might make through iTunes, iBooks, or the Apps stores is at most a secondary concern. Apple wants to sell you the widgets.

Amazon is new to this widget business, but they know better than anyone else how to sell content.

So, for Amazon it makes perfect sense to follow King Gillette’s formula, and give away razors to sell razor blades.

And over time, as hardware components fall in price, Amazon can use its marketing muscle to shut out other rivals. At $120, Kindle Prime only makes sense to people who buy ten or more more hardcovers (or twenty or more paperbacks) each year. But as costs come down, Kindle Prime might go for $80, or even less.

The best part? It’s an annual subscription. At the end of the year, keep your old Kindle and do with it as you will. But if you pony up another annual fee, Amazon would, I’m sure, be happy to send you at absolutely no added cost, the very latest and greatest base Kindle model. Give the old one to your kid — who will use it to buy even more Kindle books.

Apple, please keeping making great widgets. But I’m going to keep going to Amazon for the great content — if they can be smart enough to keep winning my business.

Be Thankful I Cut Out the Herb Alpert Joke

August 16th, 2010 - 3:25 pm

Hair of the Dog: Meet President Zero Effect, find out what David Gregory dodged on his summer vacation, and learn what makes Dana Perino’s head spin.

UPDATE: to those who asked, and you know who you are, I cut the line where I claimed the new This Week theme by Chris Botti sounds like Herb Alpert on a double dose of demerol.

Now That’s a Special Edition

August 16th, 2010 - 2:53 pm

With a sneer and a half-lack of comprehension of what I’d actually written, The Old European returned to grace my comments section, to answer yesterday’s “Good Question.” With this:

So Osama bin Laden is now your ultimate guide on Islam and building permits in NY city? Less coffee, more sleep and the bad, bad world out there (including the Cordoba Initative [sic]) will soon look like a much nicer place.

I hadn’t said anything about whether the Cordoba Initiative should get a building permit. That’s New York City’s business — and besides, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to private uses of private property. More so perhaps than the Germans, who just closed down a mosque in Hamburg, and then went so far as to ban the group behind it. Now in this country, the Communist Party remained perfectly legal, and put candidates on the ballot, even during the darkest days of McCarthyism.

Some countries are just more liberal and tolerant than others, I suppose.

No, what I questioned was the “moderation” of a group named after a formerly-Muslim city. As I’m sure The Old European is aware, bin Laden is hardly the only Islamist hankering for a re-reconquista of old al-Andalus.

Indeed, we’d just as rightly question the motives of, say, a German group calling itself the Danzig Corridor Association. The interwar status of the “Free City” of Danzig — and Hitler’s desire for direct access to it — was the proximate cause for the German invasion of Poland in 1939. That Danzig was really just an excuse to get the Wehrmacht on the march only bolsters my point: Groups naming themselves after lost provinces might just be surreptitiously desirous of regaining them.

Of course, the “Danzig Corridor Association” is a silly notion, nearly unimaginable. German irredentism is dead and buried. Losing millions of people and a quarter of your territory, then having your country split in two for half a century by rival occupying powers can do that to a people.

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Coming Right At You

August 16th, 2010 - 10:40 am

Hollywood is betting on 3D movies the way it was betting on anti-war movies a few years back — and with similarly disappointing results. Let’s admit right up front that Hollywood gimmicks can be fun and as James Cameron proved, quite profitable. But over the long haul, movies come down to good stories, well told — first and last and everything in between.

So what’s the deal with 3D? Let me admit right up front that I just don’t get it — or didn’t, until very recently.

I’ve only seen three 3D flicks so far. The first one, 2006′s Superman Returns, was awful. The movie itself was more or less OK, as a completely unnecessary sequel to 1981′s Superman II. But the 3D was just bad. Almost the entire movie was in plain old 2D, so you had to stay ready for the cue to put on your glasses for the big action sequences. Then the 3D itself was so poorly implemented that you could hardly tell what was going on. The Space Shuttle sequence looked better on our 50-inch Mitsubishi than it did on an IMAX screen. Yikes.

Whatever has been done to the 3D sauce since then, it’s much improved.

This summer I’ve taken my son to two movies, both requiring special glasses. Toy Story 3 was a worthy successor to the first two movies, and yet another Instant Classic for the folks at Pixar. I don’t know how they do it, summer after summer. But the 3D? It neither added nor detracted from the essential quality (and our enjoyment) of the movie. The other one was How to Train Your Dragon. And let me tell you, not only was that a perfect summer kids’ movie, but it was made better by 3D.

Why the difference? Both shows were aimed squarely at the juice-box set. Both were computer animated. Both had quality scripts (even if Pixar’s was at least one notch better than Dreamworks’). Both were lovingly rendered. Both were fantasies. So why was one made better with an extra layer of digital trickery, while the other wasn’t?

I have to guess here, but I think it comes down to scale.

The Toy Story characters inhabit a world we know — a world small enough to fit in a child’s room. And the characters themselves can almost fit in your pocket. Does it really matter if a ten-inch action figure pops out of the screen? No, not really. Just be thankful the effect was done well enough not to ruin the movie.

But flying, fire-breathing dragons, soaring above rocky fjords and a half-frozen ocean?

Bring on the 3D, baby, and make it pop.

Which, aside from the novelty of someone finally mastering 3D trickery, is probably a big reason Avatar did such big business. People weren’t returning again and again, at premium ticket prices, for James Cameron’s snappy dialogue.

So, do you get it, Hollywood? In the right circumstances, 3D can put more bottoms in theater seats.

But mostly we’d just like a good story, well told.

UPDATE: For the record, A.B., I’m still not totally comfortable with pr0n at DVD definition.

From CBS’s Mark Knoller, we have a mostly complete list — one would hope, anyway — of President Obama’s “top priorities.” Take a deep breath before you dive in:

FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS: “…that’s something that’s going to be a top priority.” (4/27/10)

ENERGY SECURITY: “And that’s why my energy security plan has been one of the top priorities of my Administration since the day I took office.” (4/28/10)

EDUCATION REFORM: “To train our workers for the jobs of tomorrow, we’ve made education reform a top priority in this Administration.” (2/24/10)

STUDENT LOAN REFORM: “This is something that I’ve made a top priority.” (2/1/10)

EXPORTS BY SMALL BUSINESSES: “This is going to be a top priority.” (12/3/09)

HEALTH ASSISTANCE TO 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS: “I’m not just talking the talk, we’ve been budgeting this as a top priority for this Administration.” (2/3/10)

END HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS: “I’ve also directed (Veterans Affairs) Secretary Shinseki to focus on a top priority: reducing homeless among veterans.” (8/17/09)

HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS: “Our top priority is ensuring the public safety. That means appropriate sheltering in place or if necessary, getting as many people as possible out of harm’s way prior to landfall.” (5/29/09)

H1N1 FLU VACCINATIONS: “And throughout this process, my top priority has been the health and the safety of the American people.” (5/1/09)

SUPPORT FOR MILITARY FAMILIES: “These military families are heroes too. And they are a top priority of Michelle and me. And they will always have our support.” (5/30/09)

STRENTHENING TIES WITH CANADA AND MEXICO: “We’re going to make this a top priority…” (10/16/09)

CONSUMER PROTECTION: “During these challenging times, the needs of American consumers are a top priority of my Administration.” (2/11/09)

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: “So this is going to be a top priority generally improving our environmental quality.” (11/5/09)

Those are in addition to (on top of?) border security, recovery and rebuilding from the recession, sustainable economic growth, and, of course, creating jobs.

It’s getting awfully crowded up there — almost as crowded as it is under that bus.

Good Question

August 15th, 2010 - 11:02 am

Isn’t it interesting that the Ground Zero Mosque is being built by The Cordoba Initiative? Just a question that flashed after too much coffee and too little sleep, but it does make one wonder.

The Spanish city of Cordoba was once the Muslim city of Qurṭuba, capital of the Caliphate of al-Andalus. And Osama bin Laden has used what he calls “the tragedy of al-Andalus” as a recruiting tool for Islamic terrorists in the mideast and elsewhere.

So why is this Initiative, why is this mosque, named after a city Islamists seek to reclaim, if the meaning and the intention is to foster interfaith brotherhood and warm feelings and unicorn dreams?

Anyone?

Zip It

August 14th, 2010 - 2:09 pm

Once again, President Obama has chosen to share his overbearing wisdom on a local issue — and has again put his congressional delegation in a tough spot. Try saving something for the memoirs, Mr. President.

Unless you’d really rather start writing them in two years instead of six.