Drunkblogging tonight’s GOP debate will begin promptly-ish at 8:45PM Eastern. Check out the PJMedia homepage for the link.
Economics is not a zero-sum game, but right now, China’s problems might be our salvation. From The Diplomat we get a rosy bit of analysis by Charles Dumas & Diana Choyleva:
With the yuan allowed to increase against the dollar again since mid-2010, and Chinese wage costs now rising faster than prices, China’s unit labor costs are rising in dollar terms by over 10 percent. In the United States, they are flat to falling. The undervaluation of Chinese costs that Beijing hoped to preserve by controlling the yuan/dollar rate has been eroded at a 10 percent annual rate since late-2009. By mid-2012, the United States could see its relative bilateral competitiveness improved vis-à-vis China by more than 20 percent. China’s refusal to let the yuan appreciate was a blunder. Its real exchange rate has gone up hugely, but through the toxic “back door” of inflation.
The United States, now concerned with preventing government debt spiraling out of control, is engaged in sharp fiscal deflation that won’t be offset much by monetary ease or external growth, as Chinese growth slows down fast while Europe contends with a major recession. The global economy is teetering towards another hard landing in 2012. And from these “ashes” it is the American Phoenix that will rise. Renewed U.S. competitiveness will cause “off-shored” business to return to the United States, boosting capital spending, which cash-rich firms can easily finance. Public sector deleverage and rising household savings suggest the next 3 to 5 years are unlikely to see rapid demand growth, but a rising U.S. production share of what demand there is should ensure reasonable GDP growth.
I’d love to say, “Yes! This! Of course!” However, there’s a flaw in the authors’ reasoning. Yes, it seems the US will regain competitiveness vis-a-vis China. But to what end? With China in turmoil, Europe in recession, and US consumers still deleveraging, to whom will newly-recompetitive US industries sell their wares?
And if ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and the Vengeful EPA are all still sitting on the economy’s throat, “cash-rich” American companies will likely continue to sit on their cash. Especially since corporate profits are expected to be lower last quarter.
We have five days — and two debates! — before South Carolina votes. Let’s do a quick run-through.
Jon Huntsman: Fini. Somehow, a stiff and uncharismatic candidate who spoke Mandarin better than conservatism never caught on with GOP voters, even after sucking up to the MSM. But some things in politics shall forever remain mysteries.
Ron Paul: His supporters are still spinning second- and third-place finishes in New Hampshire and Iowa as “wins.” They’ll be doing so again after South Carolina.
Newt Gingrich: It can’t be easy to run to the left of Mitt Romney in a GOP race in two of the most conservative states in the union, but damn if he didn’t find a way. Voters tell pollsters Gingrich is “nasty.” I say, “The pollster is calling from inside 1997!”
Rick Perry: Good record, lousy candidate. Evangelical, sunny, Tea Party(ish), Southern — South Carolina should be Perry Country. But his campaign has lacked a theme or even a simple message, other than he seems to think he’d make a great governor of America. And maybe he would, but probably not this cycle. Also, we’re electing a president.
Rick Santorum: Man, but I hate this guy — and the feeling seems to be mutual. He’s George W. Bush redux, but without the Texas charm to make the Big Government Compassionate Crap go down a bit easier. Currently polling fourth in SC. If he can’t make it there, he can’t make it anywhere. Pennsylvania voters had him figured out a while ago, and acted accordingly. It looks like SC voters will, too.
Mitt Romney: Polling in the low-30s in South Carolina. That’s kind of outrageous. His numbers had been a bit higher, coming out of NH, but eventually some of the attacks were going to stick. All along, I’ve watched Romney set up Florida as his firewall, to protect him from the presumed big loss in Mormon-and-moderate-unfriendly SC. So if he wins there by ten, or even just five points? Then Florida might become something more akin to a coronation than a primary fight.
A fine way to greet the new week:
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said early Saturday morning that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised him the House will not vote on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) unless there is consensus on the bill.
“While I remain concerned about Senate action on the Protect IP Act, I am confident that flawed legislation will not be taken up by this House,” Issa said in a statement. “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.”
The announcement comes just hours after Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), SOPA’s sponsor, made a major concession to the bill’s critics by agreeing to drop a controversial provision that would have required Internet service providers to block infringing websites.
Lamar Smith needs a primary challenger just for having considers such reckless and pandering legislation. I’d rather see a Democrat in his seat.
UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini tells me that Sheriff Richard Mack is thinking about putting up a primary challenge to Smith. Under Texas law, there’s a small window to file late, on February 1. So why not send the good sheriff some encouragement to do just that?
Almost 50 years later, still one of the greatest moments in American history.
It’s another all-star lineup with a cast of thousands! We have Jesse Ventura, the SEAL who decked Jesse Ventura, Chris Christie getting dirty with a heckler, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doing their best Tina Turner, Al Sharpton playing the race card, Dan Rather telling the truth (!!!), and the first-ever video of that star-studded White House Halloween party — all on another exciting episode of… The Week in Blogs!
David Bowie’s title track from Paul Schrader’s wickedly over-the-top 1982 remake of Cat People. Big budget, big names, cheap thrills. I love this record and I love this movie.
Gizmodo‘s Mat Honan explains why he ditched Google for Bing:
Google changed the way search works this week. It deeply integrated Google+ into search results. It’s ostensibly meant to deliver more personalized results. But it pulls those personalized results largely from Google services—Google+, Picasa, YouTube. Search for a restaurant, and instead of its Yelp page, the top result might be someone you know discussing it on Google Plus. Over at SearchEngineland, Danny Sullivan has compiled a series of damning examples of the ways Google’s new interface promotes Plus over relevancy. Long story short: It’s a huge step backwards.
But I didn’t switch for political reasons, or as an act of protest. I don’t care if Google hurts Twitter or Facebook—or even Friendster for that matter. Boo-hoo. I only care if it hurts me. And this does. Google broke itself.
I switched to Bing months ago, for privacy reasons. I don’t have any accounts associated with Microsoft or Yahoo, and I never give them any personal information — not even email. That’s probably about as close to “private” as you’ll ever get on the web. Privacy isn’t a right, because it’s not something you can do. It’s merely a nice commodity you can struggle to keep a tiny bit of to yourself. That’s not easy in the digital age.
I noticed immediately that Bing was more like Google than Google had been since they started messing with their front end. Now, Google is messing with the back end — your search results — too.
Bing is better.
Just seen on Instapundit:
Apple may have enough cash on hand to make Scrooge McDuck’s money vault look like a kiddie pool by comparison, but according to SeekingAlpha, most of that cash is effectively trapped overseas. US$54 billion of Apple’s overall $82 billion in cash is in offshore accounts, and Apple cannot repatriate that money to the States unless it wants to pay a huge 35 percent corporate tax on it.
If Apple attempted to bring that money into the States, right off the bat through the magic of taxes that $54 billion would transform into $35.1 billion, with the other $18.9 billion disappearing down the federal money hole. With that much cash at stake, it’s no wonder that Apple hasn’t been in any hurry to repatriate its huge foreign cash reserves.
Apple — which doesn’t often buy other companies — just purchased outright a custom-Flash memory designer. In Israel.
You’ve probably seen the Gallup headline already, “Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S.” But dig into the story a bit and the numbers get interesting:
Of registered Republicans, 71% call themselves “conservative” or “very conservative.” That says to me — at least at the grassroots — this is a party very much in tune with itself. The leadership doesn’t always reflect this. Although part of that is due to the lack of depth of the GOP bench, thanks to huge (and well-deserved) losses in 2006 and 2008.
But let’s look at the Democrats. 38% of the party is made up of self-described moderates, but an virtually equal number 39% — says that they’re “liberal” or “very liberal.” That’s a party with a serious fissure, waiting to be exploited. And considering just how liberal the party leadership is, should make the job even easier. Honestly, the Democratic party today is ripe for a political civil war.
So what’s the GOP doing to help push the Democrats along to a rupture, or even just to peel away some of those moderates? Dunno. Can’t tell that they’re doing anything at all.
These are the only metrics you need to know from New Hampshire:
More important, Romney was the first choice of tea party supporters (winning 41 percent of their votes) and self-described evangelical or born-again Christians (31 percent). And he carried every ideological band on the GOP spectrum, including 29 percent of those who called themselves “very conservative.”
New Hampshire is just one state, of course. But if more generally the Tea Party, the Evangelicals, and the “very conservative” have made peace with Romney, then he’s the nominee. And all those “I’l l never vote for Romney!” vows probably won’t amount to much more than Alec Baldwin’s promise to leave the country.
John Dickerson on the unfunny GOP field:
A remarkable fact about the 2012 Republican presidential campaign is that it is not funny. Republican candidates give speech after speech and draw only a handful of chuckles, and the occasional wry smile. This makes for boring politics, but it also makes for bad politics. People want to like politicians they vote for and a smile helps with that. Laughter is also an effective tool for undermining your opponents and spreading your message with voters.
So here’s a presidential rib-tickler for you:
Somebody is laughing all the way to an unheated field office in Barrow, Alaska.
A little something at Instapundit caught my eye a few minutes ago, and set one of my few remaining wheels in motion. The headline reads, “The Value Gap: Americans Increasingly Question The Cost Of Going To College.” But the story says:
“The annual price tag for a college credential has risen about three times as fast as inflation, and there is no sign that it’s slowing down. In the last decade alone, tuition rates at public colleges and universities, which enroll about 80 percent of American students, rose by an average of 5.6 percentage points above inflation every year. . . . College presidents seem tone-deaf to those concerns. In a companion survey conducted with The Chronicle, three-fourths of college leaders said the system was providing a good or excellent value.”
Students increasingly see college as an expensive endeavor unlikely to bring rewards commensurate to its costs. Administrators think everything is just fine. Why the gap?
Two words: Easy credit.
As long as government guarantees free money to warm bodies, of course the deans will stay happy. But what happens when the warm bodies stop showing up? Well, here’s where it gets counter-intuitive: Tuition hikes will accelerate even faster than the current three-time-higher-than inflation. Gotta keep the money coming in. Gotta pay for that new stadium, even if it is half-empty. Gotta pay those outrageous salaries for all those unneeded administrators. Gotta keep the ivy looking just so.
Look, some degrees are inherently useful and will generate large salaries in most any economy. I’m thinking mostly here of engineering and practical sciences. These poor kids will have to pay up to get the sheepskins they need. And admins, used to riding the easy credit gravy train, will be happy to charge them all the traffic will bear — and then some. Meanwhile, we’ll be seeing far fewer 27-year-old baristas with advanced literature degrees.
Until, of course, the universities start charging even more than an aerospace engineering degree is worth, at which point the bubble pops. Although the 27-year-old barista with the advanced literature degree will probably be permanently consigned to the dustbin of history.
Here’s the story you’re least likely to care about today:
Human rights groups plan protests worldwide on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, organizers said.
Demonstrators in Washington including Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights will rally at the White House and then march to the Capitol and Supreme Court, an Amnesty International spokeswoman said. Several hundred protesters are expected.
Silly protestors. Don’t they know we closed Gitmo almost three years ago? I distinctly remember that lot.
I know what I’m spending the rest of the day practicing: Firefly‘s 15 best Chinese curses (and how to say them).
Ten years ago almost this very moment, VodkaPundit was born with this inaugural post:
It is the VodkaPundit’s view that the best commentary comes after a lovely adult beverage or three. Just enough, in his grandfather’s wise words, to “loosen the lips and sharpen the wits.” Thus, you’ll find most new postings after 5pm.
The VodkaPundit is squirreled away in his Rocky Mountain hideaway, imbibing the news in safety and secrecy. Just so you know, he’ll be attacking things from the Decadence Caucus of the Heinlein Wing of the small-L libertarian perspective.
And a special thanks to Home Depot, without whom the new office dry bar would still be just a dream.
How long ago is ten years in blog time? A few weeks before launching VodkaPundit, I told the then-VodkaFiancée, “After the holidays, I’m going to start a blog.” And she said, “A what?”
A hobby turned into a job — so now the postings begin much earlier in the day. Part of that job involves sitting in front of a high-definition video camera, operated in real time from a studio in Los Angeles. That was unthinkable in 2002, when I was using an achingly slow dial-up connection and the notoriously unreliable BlogSpot.
People once known only virtually have become real friends, and some of those friends have become coworkers. But the song remains the same: Covering the absurd in American politics, and the delightful in American life.
And I’m going to keep doing it until somebody makes me stop.
William McGurn, in today’s WSJ:
Today we remember the Gipper as a popular and beloved American figure. That’s not the way he was presented to the American public when he was running against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Back then, Mr. Reagan was cast as a divisive, Neanderthal warmonger itching to push the nuclear button.
President Carter played to this image. A “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” after the single presidential debate that year noted that Mr. Carter had used the word “dangerous” six times. Another observer added that the president had also called Reagan “heartless,” “insensitive,” “misleading,” “disturbing” and “irresponsible.”
Mr. Reagan didn’t let it get to him. When Mr. Carter implied Mr. Reagan was against Medicare because he opposed all efforts to help provide decent health care for American citizens, Mr. Reagan smiled and shook his head. Then he issued four devastating words that have now entered the political lexicon: “There you go again.”
The Republican nominee is going to need a lot of those moments — not just one — to overcome the media and political obstacles about to be thrown in his way.
Good cheer, good humor, and warm generosity even in the face of unnatural adversity. That’s how to beat the Media-Government Complex.
I suppose having robot politicians enjoys the novelty of never having been tried before:
Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro said Monday that a “robot” would be better in the White House than President Barack Obama — or any of the Republicans candidates in the 2012 election race.
“Is it not obvious that the worst of all is the absence in the White House of a robot capable of governing the United States and preventing a war that would end the life of our species?” Castro, 85, wrote in one of the “reflections” he often publishes in Cuba’s state-controlled media.”
For once in my life, I find myself agreeing with Fidel Castro.