Trifecta: Wikileaks — is President Obama a “gutless wonder?”
Here’s the telling detail in Politico’s write-up of the earmarks ban vote in the Senate: “Coburn had hoped to get to 40 and was hurt by the defections of eight Republicans, many prominent in the Appropriations Committee.”
You just can’t pull these piggies away from the trough — until the next primary, that is.
Under ObamaCare, if you like the health plan you have, you can keep it — unless you’re one of about 30,000 low-wage home attendants in New York.
Their union is an affiliate of the SEIU.
Here’s an idea: Uncle Sam should stage an IPO. And here’s how it would work:
The Federal Government would create two new types of securities: “GDP Shares” and “Revenue Shares”. Each quarter, the GDP Shares would receive dividend payments totaling 0.063% of GDP. The Revenue Shares would receive quarterly dividend payments equal to 0.360% of Federal revenues. Both the dividends and any gains on the sale of the shares would be exempt from all Federal, State, and local taxes.
For FY2012, based upon the GDP and Federal revenues projected in the CBO’s 6/30/10 Long-Term Budget Outlook (LTBO) “Alternate Fiscal Scenario” (AFS) case, these percentages would cause $10 billion in dividends to be paid on the GDP Shares, and another $10 billion to be paid on the Revenue Shares. (By way of comparison, Exxon Mobil currently pays dividends of $8.9 billion/year.) The $20 billion in total dividend payments in FY2012 would amount to 0.719% of Federal revenues, or 0.127% of GDP.
It’s certainly a novel, even amusing, idea. But do we really want Washington getting new tools for getting its hands on other peoples’ money?
Portable computing is finally, truly portable, says Tech Crunch reporter John Biggs. Read:
Ignoring the odd gaming laptop fanatics, portable devices in general came in two sizes: big enough to hurt you while racing for your flight and big enough to replace your boat anchor in a pinch and they were very expensive. This also reduced the desire in the average user to buy a powerful laptop and led us to the dark period known as the netbook revolution when laptop owners, seeing these amazingly thin yet underpowered devices, thought they could get something done with them. Sadly, the confluence of power, usability, and cloud interconnection only just really meshed recently. Except for the underpowered netbook, there was nothing that you could carry that could get most of your work done with minimal fuss.
Now, however, we’ve entered an interesting period in portability. Devices that were once too underpowered to be useful – namely tablets and cellphones – are becoming true assets and because most work is now on the cloud, we can get away with only carrying a tablet to a sales meeting. This doesn’t mean that devices like the iPad and the Galaxy Tab can replace a full laptop. However, they can act as word processors, presentation editors, and spreadsheet noodling devices in a pinch.
This is exactly right. My iPad has, for almost every use, replaced my aging white plastic MacBook. Serious work I do on my desktop machine, unless I’m on the road. In that case, I bring the iPad, it’s tiny power adapter, and a near-weightless Bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard and adapter go in my luggage, since a fully-charged iPad will keep me working (and entertained) all the way to London or Tokyo.
It gets better. My iPad usually lives in a little leather case with enough slots for credits cards and travel documents. So unless I’m going on a quickie overnight trip, that little leather case and its contents are now my only carry-on items.
Ever made your way through a busy airport, carrying nothing more than that? Open the case to show the terminal security officer your ID and boarding pass. Toss it into a gray plastic x-ray bin along with your shoes and jacket. Whip the Amex out of it to pay for in-flight cocktails. The only cables you carry are the ones attached to your earbuds.
It’s liberating. And, as Biggs says, truly portable.
Will Collier wants to know:
What does it say about the Obama Administration when two WikiLeaks dumps of classified Department of Defense operational documents rated little more than a shrug, but a similar leak of State Department documents–many of them important no doubt, but many more consisted of glorified gossip–resulted in outrage and calls for prosecutions?
Jeez. I hate devoting my entire blog to this Administration and its endless array of [REDACTED]-ups, but what else is a blogger to do these days?
A two-year freeze on the pay of Federal workers? Too little, Mr. President, and too late. It should have been done two years ago, even if only as a symbolic gesture to show that Washington was sharing some of American’s pain.
But now? Now across-the-board cuts are required. Pay needs to be reduced by at least ten percent — a trifle, considering Federal workers earn double their private sector counterparts in pay and benefits. And a headcount reduction of ten percent, too — which is another trifle, considering the hiring spree this Administration has been on.
Maybe we could start with those 16,000 IRS agents about to be hired to enforce the “these aren’t taxes” provisions of Obamacare.
All is not well in the Middle East. I mean, duh, but we’re not exactly helping things along between the Israelis and the Palestinians. From the Financial Times
There was an astonishing report out of Jerusalem last week. Israel, it said, was growing increasingly frustrated with the US.
Israel unhappy? But had Washington not just offered the Jewish state a generous security package, including subsidised fighter jets, to buy a 90-day freeze on the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land? And are the settlements not illegal under international law in any case and the moratorium a demand the Obama administration has been making for two years?
The answer to those questions is yes. And in theory Israelis should be delighted the US is paying for a freeze on actions Israel should not engage in. But so poorly managed has been the US Middle East peacemaking effort that trust is in short supply, whether it is between Palestinians and Israelis or Americans and Israelis.
While the Obama team rightly identified Middle East peace as a foreign policy priority when it came into office, two years on it has yet to identify a coherent strategy.
Talk about incoherent. Two years ago, Obama insisted that Israel halt building settlements as a precondition for peace talks — making the Palestinians dig in, wondering what other concessions Obama might force on the Israelis. Now, Obama is bribing Jerusalem with state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters, just to buy a (very) temporary freeze. So now the Israelis are the ones digging in, wondering what other treats they can get out of this incoherent and incompetent White House.
I’m not sure the two sides have ever been further apart, all thanks to an American President who doesn’t know the difference between a carrot and a stick — and who hasn’t learned the difference, even after two solid years of getting it exactly wrong.
Aren’t there any grown-ups left at all in the State Department?
It’s hard to work up a good schadenfreude when the story is about the Obama Administration’s knee on the neck of job creation. On the other hand, here’s a list of some of the juicier phrases employed by Richard Wolffe in his LA Times report:
…his party’s shellacking…
…his propeller-head economists…
…the wonkish question…
But on the eve of an electoral disaster, the esoteric discussion…
…one of this White House’s most obvious failures…
…Obama’s dysfunctional economic team…
…the president has been frustrated…
…the president cannot be an empty vessel for hope…
But the most telling line is this one: “the White House has failed to realize that the communications problem is a symptom of Obama’s problems, not a cause.”
It seems the Smartest Man in Any Room™ is a bit of a slow learner.
Finally, a sensible plan
from for the Fed. Read Lawrence Hunter’s modest proposal:
The real challenge is to remove both the Fed’s mandates and its discretionary monetary authority along with them, and replace them all with a simple statutory directive to calibrate dollar liquidity so as to maintain the dollar price of gold within a narrow band around a statutory gold price that defines the dollar. Any other legislative “solution” simply exonerates the Fed from responsibility and gives them more cover to fail. Indeed, diverting attention from the real problem and the real solution is a classic instance of playing the useful idiot on behalf of the real culprit.
The objective is simple and straightforward: Save the dollar, not the Fed.
Howard Kurtz has the Question of the Day: How aggressive will Darrell Issa be? Not even Issa knows for sure:
No wonder the Democrats are scratching their heads. “One day he’s going to hold 280 hearings a year,” says Jenny Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for outgoing Democratic Chairman Edolphus Towns. “The next day he says that’s the wrong impression of him. Where is he?”
Issa needs to walk a fine line between exposing the corrupt machinations and endless wasteful spending of the last two years, and going all spittle-at-the-mouth Ken Starr on the Administration. Or, perhaps more accurately, giving the Complicit Media the opportunity to portray him as a spittle-at-the-mouth Ken Starr.
Give the Complicit Media just one chance, and they’ll poison the well. And not just Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but the entire GOP majority in the House.
It’s enough to make you feel sorry for Hillary Clinton:
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many of which are designated “secret” – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.
No, wait — there’s not one single surprise here. So let’s dig deeper into The Guardian‘s report:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.
• Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan.
• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
Misbehaving royals? Corrupt Russians? The big question is: Why were any of these items deemed “Secret.” None of them even qualifies as “Somewhat Juicy.”
UPDATE: Sybill gave me a heads-up on Der Spiegel’s Wikileaks coverage, which, as she puts it, is “a bit more juicy.”
Welcome to the GOP’s Solid South — and then some.
But what this year’s elections, and the subsequent party switching, have made unambiguously clear is that the last ramparts have fallen and political realignment has finally taken hold in one of the South’s last citadels of Democratic strength: the statehouses.
Protected by a potent mix of gerrymandering, pork, seniority and a friends-and-neighbors electorate, Democratic state representatives and senators managed to survive through the South’s GOP evolution — the Reagan years, the Republican landslide of 1994 and George W. Bush’s two terms. Yet scores of them retired or went down in defeat earlier this month. And at least 10 more across three states have changed parties since the elections, with rumors swirling through state capitols of more to come before legislative sessions commence in January. Facing the prospect of losing their seats through reapportionment — if not in the next election — others will surely choose flight over fight.
Democrats lost both chambers of the legislature this year in North Carolina and Alabama, meaning that they now control both houses of the capitol in just two Southern states, Arkansas and Mississippi, the latter of which could flip to the GOP in the next election.
The losses and party switching, one former Southern Democratic governor noted, “leave us with little bench for upcoming and future elections.”
That last line is the ominous one for the Democrats on the national level. Before Barack Obama, you have to go back to JFK to find a Democrat elected President from the North. Furthermore, Obama’s election was something of a perfect storm for the Democrats — eight years of GOP misrule, a lackluster (to say the least) GOP ticket, a financial meltdown, a Democrat candidate who ran as a moderate pragmatist, and a complicit media helping him to get away with his pose.
Even so, the 2008 popular vote was hardly a landslide, with Obama unable to crack 53%. (Greater than 55% is most often touted as a landslide.)
You also have to go back to JFK to find a sitting Senator elected directly to the presidency. Americans usually prefer to pick their presidents out of governor’s mansions — and the Democrats now hold only 19 out of 50. (20, if you count Chafee in Rhode Island, but that’s not an easy case to make.) Of the eleven biggest electoral college states, with 271 EC votes amongst them, only four have Democratic governors: California, Illinois, New York, and North Carolina. And I don’t know of anyone who thinks Jerry Brown, Pat Quinn, Andrew Cuomo or Beverly Perdue has realistic presidential ambitions. (But keep an eye on Perdue, just in case.)
Of course, you don’t need to be a big-state Democratic governor to win the White House — just ask Bill Clinton. But it sure helps to have a third-party spoiler — just ask Bill Clinton about that, too. But if we move down to the mid-tier states, those with 8 to 14 EC votes, the picture doesn’t get a whole lot better. Of those 15 states, the Democrats hold only six: Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Washington. (Minnesota remains up for grabs.)
This is a remarkable retreat for a party that only two years ago, won the White House, held 60 seats in the Senate, 255 in the House, and more than half the governor’s mansions.
Some days, it pays not to pay. Hundreds of days:
492: The number of days since the average borrower in foreclosure last made a mortgage payment.
Banks can’t foreclose fast enough to keep up with all the people defaulting on their mortgage loans. That’s a problem, because it could make stiffing the bank even more attractive to struggling borrowers.
Imagine that: Overwhelmed foreclosure procedures are creating an entirely new kind of moral hazard — cheating on the payments because you know time is on your side.
Actually, that hazard isn’t entire new. Back when gas prices shot up to four dollars a gallon, some people simply stopped making payments on their gas-guzzling SUVs. The reason was simple: The banks couldn’t hire enough repo men to collect them, and couldn’t sell them for enough money to cover the outstanding debt. And prepping a car for eventual sale costs money, too. In short, it was cheaper to let people keep the cars they were too cheap (or too broke) to pay for.
What’s the solution? There probably aren’t any good ones. Although a good start might be to streamline and standardize foreclosures. If TARP had actually worked as advertised, it might have been feasible to transfer the bad loans to an FDIC-type corporation, one dedicated to selling off the toxic assets for whatever they could get, then turning the proceeds over to the Treasury.
But the banks never were relieved of their troubled assets, and the public is in no mood for TARP II — and who could blame us?
My own gut tells me that the freeloading homeowners, however, should be the least of anyone’s worries. True, keeping those home off the market is helping to keep prices artificially high, but the home-owning public isn’t exactly in the mood to face the truth of what their houses might actually be worth, either. Still, they’ve got nothing on the corrupt pols and their Wall Street pals who got us into this mess.
The porno scanners and heavy petting pat-downs must be having their desired effect, because Homeland Security is now keeping American travelers safe from… obscure file-sharing sites.
What — you say you’ve never heard of a single incident where dvdcollects.com or amoyhy.com hijacked a plane? OK, so that’s technically true, but they have been hijacking Hollywood profits, and Janet Napolitano knows who butters her bread.
Meanwhile, please continue to fly the friendly skies, confident in the knowledge that the DHS has Steven Spielberg’s back
Arnold Kling drew up a list of four things he’d like to know about Europe’s financial crisis. The second item stuck out:
What does the option for inflating away European debt look like? How would the cost of that inflation be distributed? Can the inflation take place within the context of the euro, or does it require that some countries leave the euro?
Yeah, I’d like to know the answer to that one, too, especially as it might provide some kind of guidance for what might happen in this country. Remember, debtors love inflation — and there’s no bigger debtor, anywhere, ever, than the government of the United States of America.
But back to Europe. More specifically, back to Frankfurt, home of the European Central Bank. As the price for giving up the Deutschmark, Berlin insisted that “the primary objective of the ECB is to maintain price stability within the Eurozone, or in other words to keep inflation low.” Germany has nothing but bad memories of inflation, and wasn’t about to let French or Italian profligacy bring back Weimar.
Then the PIIGS shuffled up to the trough, and made France’s and Italy’s appetites seem Teutonically modest in comparison.
All of which is a long way of saying, sure, there probably is some chance that the ECB might monetize away the eurozone’s debts — but not so long as it’s still headquartered in Frankfurt. Germany would — indeed, must — leave the euro before letting more than a half-century of work and thrift be destroyed by spendthrift foreigners.
And without its German core, runaway inflation in the eurozone might become all but inevitable.
UPDATE: When ten trillion dollars pays off half the national debt, or buys a pair of shoes, who gives a good got-dam about the interest on the re-fi?
Ed Driscoll on Peggy Noonan’s suggestion that the President needs a Special Assistant for Reality: “It’s a cute idea, but who wants to be the man to tell the president’s finely-tailored clothes (just ask David Brooks) that they have no emperor inside?“
Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.
There’s trouble in North Korea again — or still.
Artillery shells exchanged. Homes destroyed in the South. Two deaths so far, civilian. China is asking for talks. All this, just days after the revelation, by the North, of a very advanced nuclear enrichment facility. They wanted us to know it was there. And then they started lobbing shells over the border, and making the usual threats.
The last two items are the key to unlocking this particular mystery in Pyongyang — yet another internal power struggle. And it must be a messy one, as the heir apparent is young, inexperienced, and has no discernible power base other than his last name.
First, reveal the plant to make the North look untouchable. “Hey, we’ve got this — guess what else we might have ready to go?” No nation-state has yet to directly attack a nuclear-armed nation-state, after all.
Second, show the rest of your brutal little hermit kingdom that you’ve got the big brass ones, by taking on the South (and the US) with a spectacular show of violent nuttiness.
It’s been done before. It will be done again. The question is: What’s the line in the South, for absorbing attacks before they march on Pyongyang? The other question is: How many more of these power struggles before one of them turns nuclear?
There are no easy answers, and no easy solutions.
With North Korea, there never are.