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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Hunting RINOs to Extinction

May 16th, 2011 - 10:11 am

My buddy Andrew Ian Dodge is running for the GOP Senate nomination in Maine against incumbent squish Olympia Snowe. And despite being a friend of mine, he’s a principled guy and exactly the kind of person we need in the Senate.

Find out more here, and follow him on Twitter, too.

Oh, and please forgive the eliminationist rhetoric in the headline.

The Least of Our Worries

May 14th, 2011 - 8:22 am

I found the silver lining in the WSJ interview with Stanley Druckenmiller about the dangers of raising the debt limit without restraining entitlements. It’s the last line in this graf:

It’s hard to think of someone with more expertise in the currency and government-debt markets, but Mr. Druckenmiller’s view on the debt limit bumps up against virtually the entire Wall Street-Washington financial establishment. A recent note on behalf of giant banks on the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee warned of a “severe and long-lasting impact” if the debt limit is not raised immediately. The letter compared the resulting chaos to the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and warned of a run on money-market funds. This week more than 60 trade associations, representing virtually all of American big business, forecast “a massive spike in borrowing costs.”

Sure, that spike will kill off whatever is left of the “recovery.” But it ought to choke off inflation, too.

We’re Big in Germany

May 14th, 2011 - 7:53 am

Girls with guns, Bacon van Gogh, and million-dollar lifeguards — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!

Bonus: See Condi Rice pwn Lawrence O’Donnell on his own show.

Sounding Better All the Time

May 13th, 2011 - 2:20 pm

“Whip inflation now?” Hardly:

Inflation accelerated to its fastest annual pace in two and a half years in April, as surging gas prices continued to hit American consumers.

The Consumer Price Index, the government’s key inflation measure, rose 3.2% over the last 12 months ended April 30, according to Friday’s report from the Labor Department. It was the biggest 12-month jump since October 2008.

More than half of the increase was due to rising energy prices, the government said. Gas prices alone surged 3.3% in April, and are up 33.1% over the past year.

How about “drill, baby, drill?”

Romney: It’s All Over But the Losing

May 13th, 2011 - 12:12 pm

Finally had a chance to watch Mitt Romney’s big health care speech, and I will go on record as saying the moment he opened his mouth yesterday is the moment his presidential campaign ended.

First, there was the illogic of his argument. RomneyCare has worked in Massachusetts but its identical twin ObamaCare won’t work for the nation? Yikes. Also, RomneyCare hasn’t worked very well:

The law, however, has failed to curb rising costs. While implementation of the law itself didn’t put a major dent in the state’s budget — according to an analysis by independent group Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, the increase in net spending for the law was just 1 percent in fiscal year 2010 — it hasn’t reduced overall costs for policy holders.

Private spending per member grew by 15.5 percent on average between 2006 and 2008. Meanwhile, average premiums for full insurance increased 12.2 percent from 2006 to 2008, according to the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy.

And:

Bankruptcy filings due to medical costs have also jumped, increasing by more than one-third between 2007 and 2009, according to analysis published in The American Journal of Medicine in March.

Rising costs continue to pose a challenge for the state. A survey published by Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts Foundation in April found that per capita health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double by 2020.

Mitt could easily have jumped to the lead if he’d made a different case. If he had used his speech to say, “We wanted to use government to expand coverage and reduce costs, but it just hasn’t worked. In fact, government intervention at that level just can’t work. We learned that lesson the hard way in my home state, and now we need to apply that lesson to the nation. And that’s why I’m asking for your support in my campaign to become your President.”

I might have even voted for him after a speech like that.

But no. Instead we have a man who’s either too egotistical to admit a mistake, or too RINOesque to understand that government is not a tool for decreasing costs. Or both. Who knows? Romney has played so many side of so many issues for so long, there’s no telling what — if anything — lies at his core.

Romney tested this exact same pitch on Fox News Sunday last year, and it was a flop then. What made him think it would work any better, pitched to an even bigger audience at a time when ObamaCare has become even less popular?

Mitt, is too slow a learner to be President, and too squishy a conservative to get past the Tea Party vote in the primaries. But I suspect the former will keep him from recognizing the latter until the bitter, bitter end.

Rich Karlgaard has given up:

In my opinion, Obama is a lost cause on economic growth. His opposition to Boeing building its 787 production plant in right-to-work South Carolina is the final straw. All that centrist, mildly pro-business talk following the 2010 elections was a ruse. With Boeing, Obama has put his cards on the table. This supposedly smart president apparently can’t calculate the difference that 1% additional growth makes on the long-term fortunes of the American economy. He would sacrifice that 1% additional growth for fairness (as defined by him) and destroy the American dream for the next two generations.

Yeah, we heard that centrist, mildly pro-business talk following the 2008 elections, too. But it was when Obama was speaking off the cuff — about spreading the wealth around and using the tax code to punish success even if it meant lower revenues — that the truth came out. And his actions as President, too.

Karlgaard must have a lot more patience than I do, because I gave up on this guy a long time ago.

The Wrong Track

May 13th, 2011 - 7:42 am

Trifecta: On its 40th birthday, we come not to praise Amtrak, but to bury it.

Yeah — we wish.

Friday Recipe — Build Your Own Pizza

May 13th, 2011 - 6:44 am

There are only three secrets to making a good pizza: Good toppings, good crust, and a big pizza stone in a really hot oven.

The Fixins

We like a little bit of everything from fresh basil and tomatoes to thick slices of pepperoni and as many cheeses as you have in the fridge. Other things to consider: Capers, garlic-infused olive oil, jalapeños, whatever looks good. It’s about building it your way.

You might notice we don’t have any tomato sauce. Fresh ones, diced right before dinner, do a better job than any sauce.

Stick the pizza stone in the oven and preheat it to 475.

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You Realize, Of Course, This Means War

May 12th, 2011 - 8:30 am

The Cold War between Rupert Murdoch and George Soros just turned hot. In an opinion piece on FoxNews.com, Dan Gainor details the cozy entanglements between Soros and famous mainstream media faces. A few:

One more thing: a 14-person Journalism Advisory Board, stacked with CNN’s David Gergen and representatives from top newspapers, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster. Several are working journalists, including:

• Jill Abramson, a managing editor of The New York Times;

• Kerry Smith, the senior vice president for editorial quality of ABC News;

• Cynthia A. Tucker, the editor of the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ProPublica is far from the only Soros-funded organization that is stacked with members of the supposedly neutral press.

The Center for Public Integrity is another great example. Its board of directors is filled with working journalists like Amanpour from ABC, right along side blatant liberal media types like Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post and now AOL.

There’s much more — and this is only the first of a two-part series. I’m working on pulling links and clip for The Week in Blogs, so I don’t have the news running in the background. But I’m curious to see if this report gets synergized (that’s a word, honest!) on Fox News TV.

Only the Truth is Funny

May 12th, 2011 - 7:42 am

Finally, an honest commencement speech:

As you might have noticed, I have placed 3,100 of Auburn’s graduating students into an open-air stadium to sit for several hours in the baking sun. I’ve also had white mats placed down on the football field so that the 90 degree sun can give all of you graduates in your black, heat-sucking-robes a good case of sunstroke. Your family, some of whom are very elderly, are forced to navigate treacherous endless steps in order to look at you through binoculars. Treacherous steps that, for some reason, have no railings on them. Probably because we have an architecture school, and they’re not too keen on teaching things like, I don’t know, safety.

Read the whole thing.

Pick a Winner!

May 11th, 2011 - 2:37 pm

Trifecta: We’re handicapping the 2012 GOP field and trying to find that elusive dream candidate. Who do you think should get the nod to run against President Obama?

Bonus: Yes, I really did use the phrase “angry constipated chicken” to describe one of the candidates. You can probably guess which one.

Is it time to invest in pitchfork futures? That’s what Will Collier thought after finding this story:

The Irish government plans to institute a tax on private pensions to drive jobs growth, according to its jobs program strategy, delivered today.

Without the ability sell debt due to soaring interest rates, and with severe spending rules in place due to its EU-IMF bailout, Ireland has few ways of spending to stimulate the economy. Today’s jobs program includes specific tax increases, including the tax on pensions, aimed at keeping government jobs spending from adding to the national debt.

The tax on private pensions will be 0.6%, and last for four years, according to the report.

Will adds, “Lovely. Raiding citizens’ savings to pay for a “jobs program.” That’s not just robbing Peter to pay Paul, that’s ripping off Peter’s grandma to give Paul a bar of genuine iron pyrite.”

Think that It Can’t Happen Here™? There’s been talk in DC for a couple years now of simply raiding everyone’s 401(k) retirement plans for all their value now, in exchange for monthly IOUs later. Some exchange. And Lord only knows what they’d spend it on — jobs training might be the best of it.

The Treasury and Labor departments seem to have put the kabosh on those plans for now despite “a tremendous amount of interest in the White House.” and I doubt anything remotely like that would get through the GOP-controlled House.

Still, you never know what mischief a desperate government will get into, as event in Ireland have proven yet again.

Hard Truths About Hard Money

May 11th, 2011 - 8:46 am

Steve Forbes predicts the US will be back on the gold standard within five years. It’s a fine idea, and I’m all for it — but how do we get there?

Well, there’s all that gold in Fort Knox.

OK, stop laughing.

Tasty, tasty gold.According to Wikipedia, we have a little over $200 billion stored away in Kentucky, at the current-ish rate of $1,400 an ounce. That’s enough to pay this year’s interest on our existing debt.

So how much gold is there in the whole world? Let’s go to Seeking Alpha:

If there are 5.3 billion Troy ounces of gold above ground, and if there are 6.9 billion people, then there are 0.77 ounces of gold per capita globally, which at the current price of gold means there is enough “money” for about $1,050 per capita globally.

If we get greedy and take all the gold in the world — hey, what’s an army for? — that’s enough for 17.3 ounces per American. That’s about $26,000 for each an every one of us. Nifty.

But we run into another problem. The total supply of dollars out in the wild is about $10,000,000,000,000. That’s ten trillion-with-a-t. Divvy up that figure, and it comes to $32,500 per person. Gold is undervalued, even at $1,500 an ounce.

Of course, we will never have all the gold in the world — that $26k figure is wildly optimistic. China has been buying up gold like crazy. And Beijing has foreign reserves of about $2.6 trillion to go shopping with, if they ever got really serious about it. We have about 5% of that figure.

So if the Treasury were to start buying gold again to get us back on the gold standard, what would be the price? Would it be a genuine, convertible gold standard? If so, what would stop China from buying out our reserves and walking off with them, like France did with its dollars back in the ’60s? Would the necessary deflation of going back on gold be politically feasible, with government and homeowners both in hock up to their earlobes? There are more questions, none with easy answers.

I’d love to see us back on the gold standard. But doing so is like asking for directions in Maine: You can’t get there from here.

Trifecta: It’s a members only grab bag, where Scott Ott, Bill Whittle and I answer your questions about border security, prosecuting CIA interrogators and the latest silliness from Glenn Greenwald.

Bonus: Darth Cheney!

Finally, an alternative energy source worth pursuing:

It is the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, and now whisky is to be used to create electricity for homes in a new bioenergy venture involving some of Scotland’s best-known distilleries.

Contracts have recently been awarded for the construction of a biomass combined heat and power plant at Rothes in Speyside that by 2013 will use the by-products of the whisky-making process for energy production.

I, for one, will do everything in my power to ensure that Scotland never runs out of Scotch byproducts.

Best part? Speysides are my faves.

It’s a Rhetorical Question

May 10th, 2011 - 12:15 pm

Trifecta: Al Qaeda and the American Left — an unholy alliance? Bill Whittle hosts, taking us on a tour through lefty response to the Bin Laden killing.

No One Expects the American Inquisition

May 9th, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Hair of the Dog: It’s the Invasion of the Serious Grownups as the Sunday shows don’t want Obama’s most childish friends to ruin his victory parade. Plus, we have an all-new Dumbest Thing of the Week, an all-new Dumbest Question of the Week, and exclusive video of the Gitmo Gulag. 

Bonus:  We managed to locate the only other person to the right of Dick Cheney. 

Welcome Back, Carter

May 9th, 2011 - 11:31 am

Politico should always be your one-stop shop for Washington’s conventional wisdom, and today’s Alexander Burns column is no exception:

So much for campaigning against Jimmy Carter.

In the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, Republicans are adjusting to a new political reality: with the bin Laden trump card now in President Barack Obama’s possession, it’s looking increasingly likely the 2012 campaign will ride on a single number—the national unemployment rate.

What about that other number — inflation? Or that other Carter-era gem, stagflation?

If the problem were only unemployment, the Fed would probably feel free to keep goosing the economy with free money. But even Bernanke seems, finally, to understand that things are just a little more complicated.

Sony’s PlayStation Network is still out of business, nearly three weeks after hackers reportedly took it down and made off with reams of user data. And it won’t go live again before the end of the month:

“We were unaware of the extent of the attack on Sony Online Entertainment servers, and we are taking this opportunity to conduct further testing of the incredibly complex system,” Patrick Seybold, the senior director of corporate communications and social media, wrote. “We know many of you are wanting to play games online, chat with your friends and enjoy all of the services PlayStation Network and Qriocity services have to offer, and trust me when I say we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.” He also stated that we’ll get more updates as soon as they have more information, and he apologized once again for the delay and inconvenience of this network outage.

It’s estimated that Sony could lose more than a billion dollars due to the outage. It’s almost enough to make you wonder if Anonymous really didn’t do it, and if more sinister forces might be at work here.

Sound and Fury

May 9th, 2011 - 10:15 am

This story is strictly for the yokels:

In an address to Parliament, Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani on Monday defended Pakistan’s spy agency and indirectly criticized the United States for Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan.

The prime minister’s statement was expected to give an accounting of what Pakistan knew about the Qaeda leader’s presence in Pakistan, but instead centered on how the raid by the United States was a breach of Pakistani sovereignty. He warned that a repeat of such a raid to capture other high profile terrorists could be met with “full force.”

If Pakistan were really serious about stopping us from conducting cross-border raids, they’d put the squeeze on our logistical tail. Without the use of the port of Karachi, we’d be drawing down our Afghanistan force to 20,000 troops immediately and out of strict necessity.

Until Gilani does that, his furious statements are nothing more than ritual noises for drumming up domestic support.

It’s back – the Commodore 64, redone as a thoroughly modern PC. “No expense has been spared” to recreate the look and feel of the world’s first 64k home computer.

Want.

It’s Not Even a Rhetorical Question

May 8th, 2011 - 12:53 pm

George Will on turning 70: “For what, exactly, would one now give up red meat and dry martinis?

Concentrate and Ask Again

May 6th, 2011 - 12:54 pm

Good news, bad news in the latest jobs report. Let’s start with the good;

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 244,000 in April, and the unemployment rate edged up to 9.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in several service-providing industries, manufacturing, and mining.

The number of unemployed persons, at 13.7 million, changed little in April. The unemployment rate edged up from 8.8 to 9.0 percent over the month but was 0.8 percentage point lower than in November. The labor force also was little changed in April.

It would appear that the unemployment rate edged up, because some of the “discourage” unemployed are looking for work again. So the pool of available labor increased slightly faster than the employment rolls. That’s a good thing. It’s also difficult to complain too much about any month with almost a quarter million new jobs, even if that’s not enough to reduce the official unemployment number.

The overall employment picture is one of stasis, and that’s just not good enough to shrink government welfare and unemployment spending, or to increase the tax base to help close the deficit. Tax receipts are increasing, which might be a good indicator of the overall economy being on solid footing, but there are still deeper problems.

Here’s more from the BLS report:

The number of persons unemployed for less than 5 weeks increased by 242,000 in April. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) declined by 283,000 to 5.8 million; their share of unemployment declined to 43.4 percent. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate was 64.2 percent for the fourth consecutive month. The employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little in April. (See table A-1.)

What I glean from this is that young workers are entering the labor force (and medium-term unemployed are re-entering) at about the same rate that the long-term unemployed are getting “discouraged” and dropping off the rolls altogether. Their skills have eroded, their prospects are weaker than anyone else’s, and there’s a good chance that we’ll now have a permanent class of middle age men (they are mostly men) who might never again find meaningful work.

By meaningful work, I mean this:

Employment in leisure and hospitality continued to increase in April (+46,000). Over the past 3 months, this industry added 151,000 jobs, with nearly two-thirds of the growth in food services and drinking places.

In other words, McDonald’s and Hooters and the like represent a sizable fraction of our recent job growth. That’s fine news for kids looking for their first job, but not exactly terrific for a man of 50 with two kids and an underwater mortgage.

I’m not sure what we can do to help these folks, but I’m pretty sure inflating away whatever savings they might have left while saddling them with trillions in new debt ain’t it.

Unintended Consequences

May 6th, 2011 - 10:21 am

Two odd items, possibly related. First one, from CNN:

Who does best against Obama? [Ron] Paul. The congressman from Texas, who also ran as a libertarian candidate for president in 1988 and who is well liked by many in the tea party movement, trails the president by only seven points (52 to 45 percent) in a hypothetical general election showdown. Huckabee trails by eight points, with Romney down 11 points to Obama.

Second, a Quinnipiac poll cited by Conn Carroll:

Independent voters go from a negative 41 – 52 percent overall approval as of Sunday to a positive 47 – 41 percent today. But only 36 percent of independent voters say today he deserves reelection, compared to 41 percent Sunday.

Has the Bin Laden killing made the election safe for a libertarian Republican?

Here’s the link to tonight’s GOP drunkblog.

Why, yes, of course I’m going to drunkblog the GOP presidential debate tonight. Tune in here or the PJM home page at about 8:45 Eastern/5:45 Pacific.

UPDATE: I’m assuming, of course, that some candidates show up.

Trifecta: This week’s grab bag edition features your questions about Superman, the doctors shortage and wife swapping.

Yes, wife swapping.

Fire the Messenger!

May 5th, 2011 - 7:34 am

I’m far from the only one who thinks the White House media machine is full of rusty gears. Here’s Toby Young in this morning’s Telegraph:

Unless [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney is capable of raising his game, he needs to be thrown under a bus. President Obama is coming dangerously close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Somehow, he and his Press Secretary have created the impression that Operation Geronimo was carried out by the Keystone Kops rather than an elite unit of Navy SEALs. In fact, the only amateurs in this unfolding story are in the White House.

Of course, it’s been the case that the military is the only well-run operation in Washington for nearly twenty years now. But the depths of this Administration’s clumsiness still astounds sometimes.

Um… nevermind.

Dancing on a Watery Grave

May 4th, 2011 - 1:35 pm

Don’t worry — be happy.