Peter Falk is gone. Rather than mourn, we’ll spend some quality time on the sofa this afternoon with The Princess Bride.
A small tax-exempt political group with ties to wealthy liberals like billionaire financier George Soros has quietly helped elect 11 reform-minded progressive Democrats as secretaries of state to oversee the election process in battleground states and keep Republican “political operatives from deciding who can vote and how those votes are counted.”
Known as the Secretary of State Project (SOSP), the organization was formed by liberal activists in 2006 to put Democrats in charge of state election offices, where key decisions often are made in close races on which ballots are counted and which are not.
The group’s website said it wants to stop Republicans from “manipulating” election results.
The fact that SecState offices are the perfect place from which to cover up Democrat ballot-box stuffing is, I’m sure, a coincidence.
At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver handicaps the top tier of GOP potentials. He sees it like so:
Romney: 3:2 / 40% chance of winning.
Pawlenty: 9:2 / 18% chance.
Perry: 7:1 / 12.5%.
Bachmann 15:2 / 12%.
Perry, he thinks, will get better odds just as soon as he announces — and that sounds about right to me. But I seriously question Silver’s analysis of T-Paw.
Pawlenty had a great couple of weeks. First he went to Iowa to denounce ethanol subsidies. Then he went on Fox News Sunday to plaster the “ObamneyCare” label on Romney. 30 hours later, in the GOP debate, John King set up Pawlenty to use the label again — and Pawlenty pulled his punch.
I can’t tell you how disappointed the Tea Party is with Pawlenty after that. He couldn’t stand up for himself in a friendly setting against friendly rivals. So how would President Pawlenty do, up against the Media-Government Complex when it comes time to do some very unpopular things?
Nate is usually spot-on, but in this singular case, I think his political leaning handicaps him with something of a blind spot. The Tea Party would certainly hold its nose and vote for a squish like Romney in the general election, but they won’t vote for a weakling in the primary. Bachmann looks much more like a fighter than Pawlenty does.
So — switch the odds between T-Paw and Bachmann, with the understanding that they’ll both slip down one notch when (if?) Perry jumps in.
Pawlenty can still save himself, but he’s going to have to display more guts than we’ve seen in the last 10 days.
The latest from Newt is just sad:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he’s confident he’ll still be a candidate by the time of Iowa’s influential caucuses early next year.
Gingrich, whose campaign has endured difficulties including the departures of top aides and finance officials, said he would still be competing in the key nominating contest.
“Sure, of course,” Gingrich said before a Maryland Republican Party fundraiser here when asked if he could state definitively that he’d still compete in the caucuses.
Chris Christie’s office seems to have put out this town hall video as-is. Short on content, long on a big, big theme. It’s only about a minute long, so watch it…
…and tell me if you don’t think that’s one big toe in the water of a presidential campaign.
Unexpectedly: U.S. growth revised slightly higher. Now that’s the kind of surprise I’d like to get used to.
Of course, Q1 GDP growth was revised from a measly 1.8% to a still-measly 1.9%, so we’re not exactly rolling in the dough. May durable goods orders were up some, which is a better indicator than those Q1 numbers.
Good piece on Politico from Carrie Budoff Brown. Apparently, the Administration is having trouble settling on an economic message. First, ownership:
A growing number of Democratic strategists — including Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod — said the party needs to let go of George W. Bush and the past once and for all. Democrats now “own” the economy, says party chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
We’ll see about that — but I haven’t noticed any lessening of the “this mess we inherited” stuff. So if the past is out, what should the President say about the future? That’s where things get trickier:
With the past out of bounds, the present gloomy and the White House’s “winning the future” mantra judged by some as a bit too distant, Obama risks running out of time — and tenses — to craft a strategy that will woo back disaffected voters. It all adds up to a messaging minefield for Obama as it becomes increasingly likely that he could be the first president in more than six decades to seek reelection with an unemployment rate above 8 percent.
“My sense is they might be recalibrating” on the president’s economic pitch, said Democratic strategist James Carville, who has criticized the White House’s messaging operation. “A lot of people are just trying to win tomorrow.”
Clinton/Gore ran in ’96 on “building a bridge to the 21st Century.” And since the next century was only four or five years away, depending on how you reckon, people got the meaning without any effort. But “winning the future” sounds a lot like “prosperity is just around the corner,” when we’re dealing with chronic underemployment and record numbers on food stamps.
Which leads us to the crux of the problem:
The biggest challenge for Obama might be this: There’s a very good chance he’ll never be able to state with certainty that the economy has truly recovered before voters go to the polls in 2012. If he can’t declare victory — only patchwork progress — that’s a lot less inspiring rallying cry in an election almost sure to turn on pocketbook issues.
“Poised for progress” ain’t exactly “Yes! We! Can!” It’s damn near an admission of failure. You half expect President Obama’s next attempt at restructuring his message to include a cardigan sweater and a stern insistence that we turn down our thermostats. Which is why the next bit positively drips with irony:
The White House would not comment on the record for this story.
Hey, if you can’t say anything nice…
Repeat after me: We have a spending problem.
Word on my Twitter feed is: Rick Perry is in.
For a DC reporter like Dana Milbank, I’m not sure there’s a worse way to insult the president than this:
There was no banner, no naval cheering section, no aircraft-carrier landing and — thank heavens — no flight suit. But make no mistake: President Obama gave his own version of a “mission accomplished” speech Wednesday.
The policy itself was no triumph, just a split-the-difference compromise between the slower troop withdrawal from Afghanistan sought by the generals and the faster one many congressional Democrats and a majority of the public desired. But Obama packaged it nicely, wrapped it with a bow and declared, perhaps prematurely, that his “surge” in Afghanistan had been a success.
Well — the Bush comparisons are coming fast and furious these days, aren’t they?
Here comes yet more economic stimulus:
The Obama administration has decided to release 30 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of a broader international effort to pump more 60 million barrels onto the world market over the next month.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the release of oil is a response to oil supply disruptions caused by turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya.
The administration said the uprising in Libya has resulted in a loss of about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. The release comes as the United States approaches a period of high energy use in July and August.
High oil prices have increased the cost of gasoline, contributing to an economic slowdown and putting increased political pressure on President Barack Obama.
Remember, oil released from the SPR must eventually be replaced, driving demand higher than it was before. It might be possible to realize a profit — if China’s and India’s economies weaken and/or the dollar regains some strength. Anyone willing to take that end of the bet?
I’ll drunkblog the President’s Afghanistan speech tonight, starting at about 7:45PM Eastern. Before that, I’ll tape 30 minutes on the Ed Morrissey Show. And right now I have four Trifectas to tape.
Links to follow, of course.
More ObamaCare woes, via Human Events and PricewaterhouseCooper:
The really awful news is PWC’s projection of employer reaction to ObamaCare’s crushing mandates. Their survey shows “nearly half of employers will drop their coverage, dumping employees into the government-run exchanges.” Also, “four out of five employers will make changes to help cover new costs under ObamaCare, including raising premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.”
So much for “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” The tidal wave of people slamming into the federal exchanges will become a nuclear deficit explosion. We’ll all be able to look back at the charlatans who claimed ObamaCare would be deficit-neutral, and the simpletons who believed them, and laugh through our tears.
It’s almost as though driving everyone into the ever-lovin’ arms of Uncle Sugar was part of some kind of subterfuge. Oh, wait –
ObamaCare to cost billions more than thought — unexpectedly!
President Barack Obama’s health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.
The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department.
Up to 3 million more people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That’s because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility. It might be compared to allowing middle-class people to qualify for food stamps.
Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster says the situation keeps him up at night.
It’s almost as if nobody read or understood the thing before voting on it.
If you’re one of the six or seven people who actually purchased a PlayBook to go with your BlackBerry, here’s why you can’t get email on it natively:
According to this director, the BlackBerry Email System is completely incapable of allowing two devices to access the same account. This worked just fine when people just carried a BlackBerry in their pocket and updated it occasionally with a new device, but now that people are carrying around tablets, the BES just cant cope.
And here I thought RIM had just made a stupid decision recently, to try and trap PlayBook users into keeping their BlackBerrys. Instead, they made a stupid decision a long time ago, to lock users into just one device.
I’m actually kind of stunned.
As many as 30,000 troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
My question is: Why so few, why take so long?
A surge for Afghanistan never made sense to me, especially given President Obama’s tepid support for his own policy. We were never going to pacify the country, much less successfully build a nation out of it. Afghanistan (and Somalia) isn’t a nation, I’ve long thought; it’s a place on the map where other nations aren’t.
Given that, a small-footprint counter-terror strategy was the wise course — for as long as necessary and not one minute longer. I’m not alone in that, since it’s essentially the same policy pursued by President Bush and endorsed by Vice President Biden. I’m feeling all bipartisan this morning.
I’m not sure exactly what we’ve accomplished with the surge. We’ve made large swaths of Afghanistan somewhat more pleasant places to live — temporarily. But the blood and treasure we’ve spent there, stays spent forever. With or without the surge, al Qaeda hasn’t been what it once was for a very long time. And killing bin Laden? The surge didn’t help with that. In fact, a small unit moving very quickly to achieve a goal and then bugging right out…
…well, that’s a pretty solid repudiation of Obama’s policy and a perfect execution of Biden’s.
I’d glad to be wrong on this one, and that the President made the right call. I’d like to hope that as we draw down from that place where other countries aren’t, we’ll leave a real country behind. But I certainly don’t expect it.
It’s official: Jon Huntsman is in the running for the GOP nomination.
Um, sorry — did I headline this “news you can use?”
Talk about a misleading headline…
That sits atop the latest Amity Shlaes column for Bloomberg, in which she argues that a double-dip might be quite necessary to choke off inflation. Key bit:
Volcker used his monetarist cover to tighten violently. Between summer 1979 and December 1980, the prime rate rose to 21.5 percent from 12 percent.
Why so high? To wring extra money out of the economy, certainly, but also to prove the Fed meant what it said. Volcker incurred the wrath of many. Homebuilders sent the Fed two-by-fours to symbolize the houses they were not building; car dealers sent in keys to unsold vehicles. “We were negotiating for a house when Mr. Volcker came along and knocked the struts from under us,” a husband told the New York Times in 1980.
In the second dip, which officially began in summer 1981 and ended late in 1982, unemployment rose past 10 percent. “That recession resulted from the absolute necessity to kill inflation,” George Melloan told me.
Mile-high interest rates and a double-dip recession would not have been necessary in the early ’80s had it not been for the economic madness imposed by Washington in the ’60s and ’70s. By the time Nixon declared “I am now a Keynesian is economics,” our next few years of economic misery were set in stone. And the double-dip wouldn’t be increasingly likely today, were it not for the economic madness of the last decade — and most especially of the last three years.
At this point we probably desperately need Volcker’s recipe — and the resulting double-dip — to get out of this prolonged slump and increasing inflation. The problem is, today we have a Fed which thinks the problem is not enough inflation. And the longer we put it off (immediately might not be soon enough) the higher rates will have to go and the worse the second dip will be.
Honestly, I don’t know why anyone in the GOP is running for President. Because assuming Obama loses, the mess they’ll “inherit” will be far worse than the situation Obama faced in 2009.
The Smartest People in the World™ are mostly cargo cultists. Today I found yet another article arguing that without yet another round of “quantitative easing,” the economy is doomed. We used to call it “printing money,” but that never seemed to work out. Hence the new label. Anyway — we were talking about cargo cults.
Cargo cults arose in the South Pacific during the Second World War. US soldiers and marines would arrive on an tropical island, and one of the first things they’d do was build an airstrip. Then the cargo planes would arrive and — Americans being Americans — our boys would share their loot with the half-starved locals. Candy, clothes, condoms, whatever.
The war eventually ended and the soldiers left and the cargo planes stopped coming. So the locals would make their own airstrips, using whatever tools they had — some quite elaborate. Then they’d stare at the skies and wait for the cargo planes to return.
That’s what quantitative easing is. “Print the money,” they say, staring at the skies, “and the goods will come.”
The goods must first be produced, and with the expectation of a profit. I know it’s fashionable for Paul Krugman to assert that “uncertainty is just a myth.” But this idea that there are Person Units called “Businessmen” who continue to produce goods no matter what government does to them is a liberal conceit. It’s the same liberal conceit that believes there are other Person Units called “Doctors” who will go on treating patients and finding new cures for diseases, no matter what government does to them.
People change their behavior as incentives change. And for the last three years, the incentive has been to hunker down and try not to get hurt.
But Krugman and the rest are immune to simple reason and plain facts, because they’re creatures of faith. They’re cargo cultists. Print the money and the goods will rain down magically from the skies.
We’ve tried that twice now. It hasn’t worked. And so the cargo cultists tell us that the gods are angry gods. We have not appeased them enough. We must print more money. We must have a third round of quantitative easing. That will make the goods appear.
Meanwhile: Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, 782 days without a budget from the Senate, impending tax hikes, a plummeting dollar, an Administration that is frankly hostile to free enterprise — the incentives remain to take no risks and avoid pain.
Start repealing laws and fix our broken entitlement system. Get Washington’s boot off the economy’s throat. Or as John Galt put it, “Get the hell out of my way!”
And while they’re at it, maybe they can stop accusing the Right of being the religious fundamentalists.
How many Syrians have died in the protests against the Assad syndicate? After a moment with Google my best estimate is “lots.” But the protestors aren’t giving up:
AMMAN – Protesters took to the streets across Syria on Monday to denounce a speech by President Bashar Assad which they claim did not meet popular demands for sweeping political change, activists and witnesses said.
“No to dialogue with murderers,” chanted 300 protesters in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, a witness told Reuters by telephone, with the slogans echoing in the background.
Assad puts the blame for the unrest on the usual suspects — conspirators and saboteurs — but nobody’s buying that.
You’ve got to admire their courage, there in the streets of Damascus. But you’ve also got to dread the end result, no matter which side wins.