Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Look, the robocall stuff was over the line

After Romney's wins in Michigan and Arizona last night, the punditry world is abuzz with speculation on what this means. As usual. Romney's margin of victory--3 points--in Michigan was pretty small. And given that Michigan was a kind of "home state" for Romney, it begs the question, were there any significant numbers of Democrats that crossed over to vote for Santorum?

Because there were a number of attempts to make this happen--deliver Michigan to Santorum via Democratic votes--starting with "Operation Hilarity" from the clowns at Daily Kos. They're even soliciting donations to run ad campaigns on Facebook for the effort. In Michigan proper, there were localized efforts to achieve the same end from people like Tony Trupiano, host of a progressive talk-radio show in Detroit, and from Joe DiSano, a Democratic campaign consultant in Michigan. The latter used robocalls and mailers to convince Democrats in Michigan to vote for Santorum.

All is fair in politics, right? The Daily Kos effort mirrors--not unsurprisingly, given their lack of creativity--the Rush Limbaugh-promoted "Operation Chaos" in 2008. The goal there was to extend the Democratic Primary by having Republicans cross over to vote for Hillary Clinton, when it seemed that Obama was beginning to pull away.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LightSquared, one week later

Last week, I discussed the company LightSquared, it's primary financial backer Harbinger Capital, and the apparent collusion with the Obama administration. All of this was insufficient to overcome a major problem with LightSquared's business plan: it's satellite network interferes with GPS signals.

Later on the same day--last Tuesday--LightSquared announced that it will be cutting it's workforce by nearly 50%. But true to form, Harbinger owner Philip Falcone insisted that that company is not shutting down:
LightSquared reportedly told Reuters Tuesday that it plans to lay off 45 percent of its workforce in a "prudent and necessary cost savings measure to ensure the long-term success of the company." 
Philip Falcone, the hedge fund manager who is behind the company, has insisted that LightSquared won't shut down despite a series of disastrous developments. Reuters cited an unnamed source as saying LightSquared "is not considering bankruptcy."
Today, Harbinger and LightSquared investors--many of whom are suing Falcone and Harbinger--got some more "good" news. Lightsquared's CEO is stepping down. Sanjiv Ahuja, brought in as CEO by Falcone when SkyTerra first became LightSquared, was involved in some of those White House meetings prior to the formation of LightSquared and prior Mr. Ahuja actually being named CEO, as detailed by The Daily Caller.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Keystone a go: what will Redford say?

The White House has--I'm not kidding--agreed to allow TransCanada to begin construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Part of it, anyway. According to Politico, the White House signed off today on that portion of the pipeline that will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas. White House spokesmodel Jay Carney had this to say:
We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits.
That's nice. Of course, Carney also said this:
The reason why the Keystone XL required the review that it did is because it crossed, that pipeline crossed an international boundary. The State Department, by tradition and rule, reviews those requests for permits and was in the process of doing just that when the Republicans forced us to deny it because tried to compel the administration to grant a permit to a pipeline for which the route didn't even exist. Which was obviously was not the right thing to do.

Third bailout? Greece can't even pay the vig on the first one

With a second bailout of Greece pretty much agreed to by the EU and with the holders of Greek debt prepared to take some more heavy losses--all for the dim hope that they might somehow recoup a small measures of their investments--Angela Merkel is now openly proclaiming that "there is no 100 percent guarantee that the second bailout programme will succeed."

Of course, there is never a 100% guarantee that any plan will work, so why does Merkel bother to make the point? Obviously, I think, it is because she knows that there is very little chance of the second bailout working. The Economist agrees:
First, the demands being made of Greece will be almost impossible to meet: they will eventually need more money or some kind of forbearance. Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's finance minister, and Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister, have both suggested in recent days that a third bail-out may well be needed.
The issue here is pretty simple: Greek bonds are worthless, more worthless than mortgage-backed securities even. Bond-holders have already seen their investments lose 70% or more of their value. The second Greek bailout is really no such thing, as the monies involved will mostly be used to make the drastically reduced payments to these bondholders. What is left will be used to keep the Greek government running--in a similarly drastically reduced form--for a another six months or so. Then what? How will Greece possibly meet it's next round of obligations? It can't, so it won't. That's when it will be time for bailout number three.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Want some cheese to go with that whine?

Colbert King--in a Washington Post op-ed--openly whines about criticisms and attacks directed at President Obama. He begins with some theatrics about an over-the-top op-ed written by someone named Andrew Adler in something called the Atlanta Jewish Times. The op-ed was quite obnoxious, to be sure, essentially calling for Israel to order the assassination of President Obama (or any other U.S. President), if it proves necessary to guarantee Israel's existence. But then, most of us have probably heard far worse in everyday interactions.

King, however, uses this nonsense as a spring-board for his own self-pitying whine-fest. He proclaims--without a trace of irony--that:
To read in a mainstream publication that Barack Obama should be killed takes the breath away.
Wait, what? Here is the actual article in the Atlanta Jewish Times. Again, it's obnoxious. But it doesn't say Barack Obama should be killed, it says Netanyahu should be prepared to do whatever has to be done to protect Israels's existence. The writer is operating from the view that this existence is in real jeopardy and clearly he is more worried about that than anything else.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rising star Kamala Harris subverts democracy

Kamala Harris is currently serving as the Attorney General for the State of California. Elected in 2010, Ms. Harris has made a name for herself, but fast. She is a longtime Democrat and supporter of President Obama and was just recently named a co-chairperson for his reelection campaign. She has received many honors and awards for her work as a prosecutor (she truly excelled here) and is currently on the front lines of attempts to go after banks for misleading consumers on mortgage issues. Indeed, she's very big on protecting the citizenry.

And she doesn't limit her efforts to protect the citizenry to just private concerns, at all. As the DA for San Francisco, Harris created the Public Integrity Unit in 2004. The duties of this unit:
The Public Integrity Unit is a sub-unit of the Special Prosecutions Unit and is responsible for handling a wide spectrum of misconduct, including all forms of public corruption—ranging from bribery and theft of public funds to election fraud and illegal conflicts of interest.
For her election campaign in 2010, Harris trumpeted her own political integrity, as well:
Kamala Harris takes seriously the duty of all elected officials to firmly support their oath of office.
Given her background and the thrust of her work as a DA, it's therefore somewhat surprising to discover that Kamala Harris appears to be just another hypocrite in public office, not above using her position to dishonestly manipulate the public.

Friday, February 24, 2012

JFK's political acumen: near the top of the heap

I recently discussed Mimi Alford's allegations concerning President Kennedy, noting that if true, these new details do a great deal of damage to what remains of the Camelot myth. But I also note that, despite his flaws as a person, Kennedy's achievements are--and will always be--the stuff of greatness. Kennedy himself was a formidable politician and intellect, that can also not be denied.

To that end, it is fascinating how small bits of information, details of activities, and even short conversations can often provide the most compelling evidence with regard to a person's capabilities and even intelligence. Consider this phone call between President Kennedy and General Godfrey McHugh:

Carney is Tapper's Beyotch

After slapping Carney around on the issue of the Keystone pipeline a few days ago--even getting Carney to contradict himself--ABC News' Jake Tapper is at it again. This time, the subject is journalism in general and what Tapper suggests is an inconsistent message coming from the White House:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February's Chart of the Month

From Scribe at the Heritage Foundation:

The scuttlebutt about almost half of all Americans not paying any income tax has been out there for quite a while now. And truth be told, I've always thought it was a little inflated. After all, there are legitimate reasons for being off of the tax rolls. There are young people, people in college, retired people, people on disability, people on unemployment insurance, etc. And there are--of course--people on welfare and/or other forms of government assistance.

Soprano Life Lessons

A few years a go, I bought my father a rather nice Christmas gift: The Sopranos: The Complete Series. He was quite appreciative. About a month ago, after having seen a Sopranos repeat on A&E, I remembered the gift and decided to re-watch the entire series from beginning to end, so I borrowed the collection from my father. I've just started the third season. For those that may have forgotten, the second season ends with the deaths of Richie Aprile (at the hands of Tony's sister, Janice) and Big Pussy (at the hands of Tony and his crew), along with Meadow's (Tony's daughter) graduation from high school.

As the third season begins, Meadow is a freshman at Columbia and AJ--Tony's son--is in high school. Tony's wife Carmela is enjoying a new mink coat Tony gave her, while hoping that Tony's womanizing ways may finally be ending.

Semiannual Cell-Phone Bitch Session

Many years ago--a little more than fourteen of them, actually--my wife found herself to be with child (how that happened is beyond me). At that point in time, I was in grad school and my wife was working full-time. She was able to continue working right up until her "time" came. Now, this raised an issue: how would she contact me on a moment's notice, if she needed to? The idea that a mobile phone might be a good solution to the situation never even crossed our minds. I'm going to carry one of those things around and pay through the nose for the service? And for what? One phone call. After all, I was certain that such a thing--a mobile phone--would never really become commonplace. They were luxury items for the rich and always would be, I thought.

So what did we do? We got a beeper. Much cheaper and recommended by three out of four doctors, it just made a lot of sense. As it turned out, the event happened while we were both home together, so the beeper was never needed. I carried it around for another six months or so, just in case. But in those days, it was easy enough to drop a quarter in a pay phone and check on things, if I felt I needed to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obama tax proposal: gambit or not, it's a smart move

Supposedly, today President Obama will unveil his plan for taxing corporate America. According to the Washington Post, he will propose cutting--yes, cutting--the corporate rate to 28% while simultaneously eliminating many of the tax breaks and reductions for corporations in the tax code.

Of course, specifics matter here. The WaPo article suggests Obama will target oil and gas companies for tax increases--i.e. look to eliminate deductions that benefit them--while trying to forge tax reductions for manufacturing companies. Personally, I'd like to see all of the deductions, tax breaks, and the like go the way of the dodo. There's little chance of that, though.

Obama's plan for the corporate tax code is really Geithner's plan, and it's one the latter has been working on for quite a while (which does not, by the way, necessarily make it a good plan). And there's no doubt that the tax code is a mess, when it comes to corporations. There are so many specialty exemptions that have been carved out as to make the whole thing a joke.

People complain that the U.S. corporate rate is too high, and that's absolutely true. It's one of the highest in the world at 35%, higher than almost all of the industrialized world. But businesses in many industries are not paying a 35% rate--not even close--because of all the loopholes and exemptions that have been added to the code via Congress (it's just another kind of pork).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jay Carney: idiot

The latest White House press briefing, featuring Jay Carney:

During the Q&A portion, Carney says--as reported at RCP (which also has a shorter clip, for those that don't want to watch the whole thing)--the following:
In terms of Keystone, as you all know, the history here is pretty clear. And the fact is because Republicans decided to play political with Keystone, their action essentially forced the administration to deny the permit process because they insisted on a time frame in which it was impossible to completely approve the pipeline.
Got that? The administration was forced to deny the permit.

LightSquared: Corruption Cubed

Technology company LightSquared was launched by Harbinger Capital Partners--the hedge fund of Philip Falcone--in 2010. It is essentially the rebranding of the company SkyTerra, which Harbinger gained control of in 2008. The principal goal of the company is develop a nation-wide, satellite-based 4g wireless network, through which it could sell access to various telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon, and cable companies, along with many smaller companies.

Sounds like it has potential, right? Unfortunately, LightSquared has run into some major complications, as interference from its network appear to effect GPS signals, thus potentially endangering air traffic and disrupting GPS signals, in general. So, as of right now, the company is stalled according to the Wall Street Journal:
The hedge-fund manager who poured billions of dollars into a plan by LightSquared Inc. to build a new national wireless network found out Tuesday that federal regulators had moved to block it, saying it was likely to interfere with Global Positioning System devices.
That left investors in his hedge fund, Harbinger Capital Partners, which had provided much of the funding, wondering what would become of their money. 
On Friday morning, addressing those investors in an hourlong conference call, Mr. Falcone offered no details on how he planned to overcome the setback and took no questions from listeners.
LightSquared investors had already seen a massive loss in their investment values, due to a previous markdown of LightSquared's value. Harbinger iteself--once with assets above $25 billion--lost big, now with total assets at less than $4 billion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A deeply troubling story: the consequences of a foolish Court

A little more than a year ago, on the 2nd of January in 2011, three people--one of them a fifteen year old girl--were brutally murdered in a North Miami Beach home. On January 20th--just a few weeks later--the man who committed these crimes--or at least participated in them--killed himself in a shoot-out in Bradenton, Florida during the commission of another crime.

Nothing all that shocking so far, right? We already know the world is full of people like this, capable of cold-blooded murder or worse. But here's the kicker: this man--Kesler Dufrene--was from Haiti and had been previously convicted of two felonies in the United States. His second conviction was in 2006. He was sentenced to five years, followed by a court-ordered deportation to Haiti.

So when his sentence was up in October, 2010, what happened? He was simply released. Not deported, despite the court order. The reason: the Haitian earthquake in January 2010. Due to the devastation in Haiti, the Obama Administration put a halt to all deportations to that country on humanitarian grounds.

Note to E.J. Dionne: buy a dictionary, dude

In a Presidents' Day screed that is embarrassingly simplistic, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne attempts to chide conservatives for their hypocrisy, apparently having no understanding of what the word actually means. After a gratuitous shot at the family values crowd, he sets the stage thusly:
But the hypocrisy that matters far more is the gap between ideology and practice that has reached a crisis point in American conservatism.
Sounds pretty intense, no? Marx would call this a failure of praxis, but I digress. Dionne gives some specific examples of the hypocrisy he espies. First, there's the career politician hypocrisy:
Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they're anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers.
Hey, I'm with him on the idea that politicians--in general--stay in office for far too long. But politics has been a career for a long, long time. That aside, look at the multiple fallacies inherent in just this one statement. First, Dionne gives no specific examples, he just talks about "conservative politicians," as if they were all the same. Then, he mistakenly claims that these unnamed politicians--"so many" of them--say they're anti-government. But who says that, really? Anti-government is what people like E. J. Dionne call others, it's a pejorative for the most part, not a label of self-description. Finally, he implies that these unnamed politicians who don't all think the same things and who aren't actually anti-government are hypocrites just by being politicians. Clearly, logic is not Mr. Dionne's friend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Data-dump: the return of Stagflation

Given the rousing cheers from the media, the Administration, and pundits on the left for the recent news that unemployment rates appeared to be decreasing (which we already know was based on something of a fantasy), it's perhaps appropriate to discuss the elephant in the room at the Fed: stagflation.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it was coined in England during the 1960's, but quickly appeared in the United States with regard to the economy under Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy carter. Basically, it refers to a situation wherein there is both a stagnating economy (recession and continuous high unemployment) and inflation (rising prices for common goods like fuel, food, and clothing). Theoretically--in Keynesian and post-Keynesian world--this shouldn't happen. There shouldn't be any inflation during a recession and when there is heavy inflation occurring, recessions are supposed to be highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Obviously, the 1970's disproved this element of Keynesian theory (for most people, anyway). Still, it is supposed to be rare. In the 1970's, many Keynesian economists argued that stagflation was the result of a highly unusual confluence of circumstances, in particular the OPEC-induced oil crisis, in a period of recession.

The New Aristocrats are here!

I have nothing against Joseph P. Kennedy III. I really don't. Hell, I don't even know the man. He might very well be a fine, upstanding citizen, well-educated and with a kind heart, strong core principles and a firm grasp of economics and diplomacy. In short, he might be everything we could possibly hope for in a politician. Or not.

Either way, he's a Kennedy. So, he's going to get his shot in public office, whether or not he deserves it, whether or not he has potential, whether or not anything else. On Thursday, Joe III launched his campaign for the House seat being vacated by Barney Frank. He comes fully equipped with the pro-package political pedigree: Stanford, Harvard, Peace Corps, a stint as an ADA in Massachusetts, and the ever-popular "boyish good looks."

For those with doubts about the real class divide in this country, Joe III's pedigree fits the rubric perfectly. As I noted--building on Charles Murray's work--in that piece:
...This group has their own culture, their own lifestyle. Their children live sheltered lives, largely interacting with others in this group, alone. Once upon a time, this was purely a function of wealth and restricted to the very tippy-top of the wealth pyramid. Not so, anymore. And why? Because of the growth of government. It is, in fact, a realization of Max Weber's fears of continued bureaucratization of society. For the political access of this group is very much a permanent thing; nepotism rules, both for appointed and elected offices. Career paths to both are largely limited to those with the access to specific schools and institutions.
Joe III's twin brother Mathew, by the way, is currently serving as the Administrator to the White House Counsel’s Office in the Obama Administration. He comes with a near-identical pedigree to that of Joe III.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

More marriages are a good thing, period.

Some time ago, I offered a kind of plea to other conservative and libertarian type thinkers. Basically, I suggested that--given the critical issues we are facing, with regard to government spending and the economy--it would be a good idea to drop the single issue politics stuff, especially with regard to abortion and same-sex marriage.

My own feelings on these two issues were offered there, but I'll repeat them here. First: abortions are legitimate medical procedures and must be allowed, though they should not be encouraged and no one has a right to such a thing, given that it requires the services of another. Second: people in this country are supposed to be free to chart their own course in life, to find happiness, and there is no reason to prevent a same-sex couple from getting married.

On the abortion issue, I do want to be crystal clear on my position, especially with regard to the recent attempt by the Administration to mandate that all organizations with employees must provide contraceptives and the like, as a part of a health insurance package. Even though I feel abortions must be allowed and even though I think women (and men) should be free to use contraceptives, it is beyond the authority of the government to mandate that either or both of these things must be provided by private concerns to employees. If people want contraceptives, they should buy them. If they can't afford them, well...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Regulatory Suicide

In 2000 The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Elseby Hernando De Soto was published. It's a very well researched book, certainly worth the read. In it De Soto endeavors to discover--per the title--why capitalism is so much more successful in the West than practically everywhere else. He investigates the economies of various second and third world countries in South America, the Middle East, and Asia and discovers what he believes to be the core issue, with regard to the question: property rights.

People of a more marxist or progressive point of view will no doubt argue that the reason for capitalism's success is that it is based on exploitation and the West has the wealth to engage in such exploitation more effectively. Thus the apparent success of capitalism is an illusion, as the second and third world nations will forever operate from a disadvantage. And others with a libertarian or conservative perspective will argue that De Soto puts too much emphasis on property rights, that government, cultural, and social institutions have a significant role, as well.

Nonetheless, I believe De Soto captured an important--nay, critical--idea. And he did so not by merely theorizing, but by actually digging in to processes in other nations, where capitalism has had limited success. In many cases, property rights in these nations are near-impossible to exercise legally. Government bureaucracies are so corrupt and inefficient as to make it virtually impossible to--for instance--open a new business that is legally licensed to operate, to actually do business, without extended wait times and massive out-of-pocket expenses. Similarly, selling property can be just as difficult.

Another myth collapses: Deep Throat

In July of 2005, Bob Woodward published The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat, after Deep Throat's identity was revealed to be Mark Felt by Vanity Fair on May 31, 2005. The book acknowledged that Felt was the sole source of leaks Woodward and Bernstein had attributed to Deep Throat, shattering ongoing speculation that there was no actual Deep Throat, that there were instead a multitude of sources responsible for the leaks, a claim actively promoted by L. Patrick Gray, former FBI Director and Felt's boss during the time of the scandal.

Beyond that, the book was also a defense of sorts for Felt's motives. As Deputy Associate Director of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, Felt had designs on the top spot after Hoover's death in May of 1972. But Nixon temporarily appointed Gray to that position, knowing that the current number two man--Associate Director Clyde Tolson--would be retiring. Felt, of course, knew that too and expected he would take the reigns. Instead, he ended up in Tolson's position, subservient to Gray, a man who was coming over from the Justice Department and lacked an FBI pedigree.

Felt was, of course, not happy with this state of affairs. Woodward admits this in his book, but still maintains that in the end, Felt was motivated by a desire for justice, not for personal gain. However, Max Holland's soon to be released new book--Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat--shatters Woodward's defense of Felt. It demonstrates that Felt's goal was the obvious one all along: get rid of Gray and take over the FBI.

Ryan v. Geithner: Thrilla with Manila (folders)

At a House Budget Committee hearing on Obama's proposed budget, Representative Paul Ryan and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner exchanged a few body blows:

The essential point of contention in the brief exchange is the following chart, based on a chart taken from--of all places--the Administration's proposed budget (Analytical Perspectives, p. 58):

The blue and red lines show the past totals of public debt and the projection of that debt into the future by the Administration, based on the 2013 budget. That's right, the budget Obama is trumpeting, the one that will "cut the deficit to less than 3 percent of GDP, and stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio" by 2018 leads to this out-of-control exponential growth well before 2018 even arrives.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The telephone excise tax shows us the way

Article first published as How Temporary Measures Become Permanent Ones on Technorati.

Government often responds to emergencies or the like with policies or programs that are designated as "temporary," as things that need to be done in the short term, but will ultimately be unnecessary and  repealed/cancelled/eliminated. And we all know--I would hope--that more often than not, many such temporary measures become essentially permanent.

Take a look at this newspaper article from 1967. Entitled "Temporary Measures Can Become Pretty Permanent," it mentions a luxury tax on telephones enacted during the war (World War II) that ended in 1966, only to immediately be re-enacted in 1967. In reality, the history of this particular tax extends back to 1898. Yes, 1898. It was established then to help pay for the Spanish-American War and was--surprise, surprise--based on the idea that only the rich had telephones, so they could afford to pay the tax easily.

Now, the tax was actually repealed in 1902, but at the start of World War I, it was enacted once again (a 1% tax on calls over a certain threshold, by the way) until 1916. The start of World War II saw it's re-enactment, this time starting at a rate of 6% and eventually moving up to as high as 15%. In 1958, the minimum threshold was eliminated, making the tax applicable to all phone calls. As noted above, the end of this iteration came in 1966, only to see it return--due to the Vietnam War-- in 1967 at a 10% rate.

The lesson of the turkey sandwich

Recently, I commented on a story out of North Carolina that involved a pre-schooler's brought-from-home lunch and the decision on the part of someone at the West Hoke Elementary School that this lunch was not sufficiently nutritious, thus requiring the school to supplement it with some chicken nuggets. That's the short version.

The long version includes the USDA standards for school lunches, actual North Carolina State rules concerning lunches brought from home, the issue of who was doing the lunch inspection, and the the school's decision to at first charge the parent for the cafeteria lunch then later rescind that decision. But let's not dwell on those minor points.

Instead, let's look at the consequences of this admittedly minor story. On one side of the ideological fence are people who find the incident troubling, who see an overreach on the part of government through the school system, and who fear this story may just be the tip of an iceberg, so to speak. On the other side of the ideological fence are, well, people who just don't want to talk about this story, either because they don't see a problem here, or for some other reason.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Tax-Exempt Game

According to The Daily Caller, there is renewed interest on the part of Republicans in Congress in examining the tax-exempt status of Media Matters for America. And why not, given that Media Matters is very obviously interested in political outcomes and, as previously noted by TheDC and talked about here, has regular strategy meetings with the administration:
Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.
Tax-exempt organizations have to meet the requirements of the IRS code in that regard, specifically those in section 501(c)(3):
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
Now come on, who can seriously argue that Media Matters meets the bold-faced requirement? How is this even an issue? But the truth is, Media Matters is far from alone in this regard. Check out this website. Tax exempt organizations have over $5 trillion in assets and over $3 trillion in income. No doubt, many of these organizations are quite legitimate, do good things, fund research, help people in need, and/or provide valuable information and services.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Food Police are on the prowl!

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
A state inspector (not sure what that means) checking a Raeford, N.C., elementary school lunchroom decreed that a 4-year-old’s lunch from home — a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice — did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the Carolina Journal story. Instead, the child was given cafeteria chicken nuggets.
That article is based on a story from the Carolina Journal:
The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

Greasy deals, greasy palms, Greecey World

Athens was in flames the other night. Stores were looted and property was destroyed, there was violence against government agents and against private citizens. And why? Because the Greek government is choking down the demands of the EU, the so-called austerity measures that include tax hikes, spending cuts, wage and salary cuts, layoffs, etc.

And why must the Greeks accept these austerity measures? Because without them, the EU will not engage in another bailout of the Greek government which, incidentally, is pretty much flat broke.

And why does that matter, since most governments just borrow money when they run out (or print some more)? Because the bondholders--the people Greece has already borrowed money from--are not willing to lend the Greek government any more money. Already, these bondholders are looking at significant losses. And this is an important issue to fully understand.

The bondholders are like a credit card company, in a way, that is trying to collect from a delinquent customer, one that doesn't have any other assets to go after, but could possibly get back on their feet if they had some money (and really needs some money to eat, as well). But the reality is that the credit card company knows it will be lucky to see any money, whatsoever. Thus, it is willing to engage in negotiations to hopefully cut its losses. The alternative is to watch the customer go bankrupt and never see a dime of what it is owed.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How 'bout budgeting your own spending for a change?

With the unveiling of the President's latest budget proposal, the political and economic analysts are out in full force, ripping it apart or praising its vision. David Boaz at Cato offers his take (and some good graphs), which is essentially that there's just no real attempt to control spending:
The problem on Capitol Hill is spending, deficits, and debt. Members of Congress need to tell the president that you don’t rein in out-of-control spending by increasing it. And if voters want members of Congress to insist on cuts, they’re going to have to let their representatives know that.
And that's absolutely true. But what bugs me about these budget proposals supposedly designed to lower the debt is that the "lowering" always takes place down the road. Here's the White House overview of the budget proposal. Look at this bit:
Of course, even as we invest in the areas critical to creating an economy that’s built to last, we also have to reduce our deficit and bring down the debt. That’s why the Budget lives within very tight spending caps that reduce discretionary spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years and, including that amount, has more than $4 trillion of balanced deficit reduction. In fact, discretionary spending in this Budget is reduced from 8.7 percent of GDP in 2011 to 5.0 percent in 2022. And by 2018, we cut the deficit to less than 3 percent of GDP, and stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio.
Pardon my French, but WTF?

Color me shocked: Media Matters runs MSNBC

In the first piece of a series of investigative articles on Media Matters, the Daily Caller drops the bombshell:
Donors have every reason to expect success, as the group’s effect on many news organizations has already been profound. “We were pretty much writing their prime time,” a former Media Matters employee said of the cable channel MSNBC.
That claim, if true, is...well...pretty much what everyone, everywhere has known for quite some time now. Other dogs on the Media Matters leash include Ben Smith (formerly of Politico), Greg Sargent (of the Washington Post), and HuffPo as a whole.

The idea that many pundits are being led around the nose, are continuously parroting talking points they have received from others is nothing new, of course. Pundits on the right and left have been arguing that this is the case, even as they themselves often seem to do the exact same thing that they are criticizing. But the Daily Caller points out that Media Matters is in full  and open collusion with both the White House and the Center for American Progress:
Media Matters also began a weekly strategy call with the White House, which continues, joined by the liberal Center for American Progress think tank. Jen Psaki, Obama’s deputy communications director, was a frequent participant before she left for the private sector in October 2011.
There has been a great deal--to put it mildly--of criticism from the left-leaning pundits (and from some of the right-leaning ones, as well) on the SCOTUS decision in the Citizens United case and the resulting "Super-pacs" the decision has led to, as if some sort of mystical floodgate had been opened, allowing politicians greater access to more money from corporations and the like. But look where many of those pundits are.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Peak People?

Doug Saunders at The Globe and Mail tackles an issue that has been steadily increasing in exposure over the last ten years: the rise in the world's elderly population. As he notes, the percentage of people over the age of sixty in populations around the world is growing rapidly, if not alarmingly, even in some less-than-expected places:
About 11 per cent of the world’s people are over 60 at the moment. In the next 25 years that will double, to almost a fifth, and one in six of those people will be over 80, according to a forthcoming book, Global Aging in the 21st Century, by sociologists Susan McDaniel of the University of Lethbridge and Zachary Zimmer of the University of California. 
While this is affecting every country and region – even sub-Saharan Africa is now seeing a very fast rise in its proportion of seniors – some countries are being hit very hard. While 12 per cent of Chinese are now over 60, in two decades, there will be more than 28 per cent. Brazil faces a similar blow.
The situation--from a policy perspective--can easily be viewed through an economic prism, along the lines of determining how many workers there are whose incomes can be used--via taxation--to pay for the costs associated with caring for the retired population. According to Saunders, there are five workers for every retiree in Canada right now, but in the near future the ratio will be down to three to one.

Our Flawed Heroes

First the Sandusky scandal , then the revelations of former intern Mimi Alford, and now the passing of legendary singer Whitney Houston under somewhat mysterious circumstances. What do all three situations have in common? They all demonstrate how tragically flawed a hero can be.

Joe Paterno's legacy has suffered greatly from the revelations involving Sandusky. At the very least Paterno was haplessly ignorant of things involving his once-trusted assistant coach, at worst he knew things that might have made him culpable. But regardless, the scandal will be more than a footnote on his otherwise great and memorable career.

Mimi Alford's allegations involving President John F. Kennedy are hardly ground-breaking, insofar as JFK's infidelities are well-known, but they paint a darker picture of the man, they suggest his personal flaws in this regard are something more then mere peccadilloes. And for a President still fondly remembered by many, still written of in laudatory terms, they force a reassessment for future historians.

Whitney Houston's death at such a young age--forty-eight--brings back to the public discourse her sad history of abuse and drug use. As of now, the cause of her death has not been made public, but speculation is unsurprisingly focusing on substance abuse, especially given her appearance and actions on the days previous to her death.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Tribute to Snackwells

Have you ever eaten Snackwells cookies? It's a brand name Nabisco introduced in 1992, according to Wikipedia. But I think the year is wrong. I remember my mother buying Snackwells Devil's Food Cookies for my father while I was still in high school. That's the mid to late eighties.

And I remember these cookies being darn tasty. While shopping today, I spotted Snackwells Vanilla Creme Cookies in snack size--four cookies a pack, twelve packs a box--and decided they might make a nice addition to the kids' lunches. I know that they're not uber-healthy, but they certainly are better for the kids than Oreos.

Ann Coulter at CPAC

You might not like her, you might not agree with her, but she'd worth listening to. Because anyway you slice it, she speaks for a large chunk of conservatives in the country.

Part 1:

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Wages of Compassion

Charles Krauthammer's latest op-ed compares Obama's appeal to religion as a justification for increasing taxes on the wealthy with his fundamental disregard for religion, as demonstrated by the rules being established for Obamacare (which I have previously addressed). Krauthammer sums up the administration's hypocrisy succinctly:
To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all.
But the first issue--the idea that there is religious justification behind raising taxes on the rich--deserves some more analysis.

Did the Black Knight Rule in Camelot?

It  is one of the most legendary periods in American history, one of the most magical and glorious. It is wistfully recalled by major media and political figures and has been idealized on paper and on screen, the Camelot years of the U.S. Presidency, the administration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The term itself--Camelot--was first used to describe the period by the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy (later Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) in an interview with Theodore H. White, following the assassination of JFK. It was published in Life Magazine and is worth quoting:
I want to say this one thing. It's been almost an obsession with me. This line from the musical comedy's been almost an obsession with me. At night before going to bed . . . we had an old Victrola. He'd play a couple of records. I'd get out of bed at night and play it for him when it was so cold getting out of bed. It was a song he loved. He loved 'Camelot.' It was the song he loved most at the end . . . 'don't let it be forgot that for one brief shining moment there was Camelot.'
White transcribed the interview and Mrs. Kennedy--in reviewing it--appended to the above quote the phrase "and it will never be that way again."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

William Claiborne survived the Gunfight at the OK Corral

Every serious Star Trek fan knows this. And it was this reality that led to Kirk's recognition--in The Spectre of the Gun--that the fix was in, that history wasn't really a guide, that it (history) was being intentionally subverted to achieve a goal. One would think Robert Redford would know this as well--that Billy Claiborne survived the fight--given his background in Hollywood. But it doesn't seem that way.

Recently, I examined Redford's op-ed on the Keystone XL Pipeline and took issue with some of his faulty assumptions. Namely:
President Obama has just rejected a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline -- a project that promised riches for the oil giants and an environmental disaster for the rest of us.
Big Oil had their Congressional boosters put the president to an election-year test by forcing him to decide the pipeline's fate within 60 days.
My problem with the first is that it is stating something as fact--the "environmental disaster"--that is no such thing. With the second, it's that the statement is an outright falsehood. The President had ample time to make a decision, but kept delaying it despite his claim that he was "focused like a laser" on job creation (which is something the project would certainly do: create jobs). This is all fully documented, as I noted in the above piece.

Ruing the Day

I love the expression "you will rue the day that you did such and such." It just sounds so authoritative, so ominous, and so definite. You will rue it. End of story. Did you know that one can rue other things, too? As a verb, rue isn't used much apart from that phrase. I think it should be, because "you will rue your decision," or "you will rue your vote" would both work pretty well and see a lot of use. But I digress.

David Catron--in a piece at The American Spectator--declares that voters "will rue the day they listened to [Ann Coulter] and the establishment Republicans with whom she has now made common cause" and Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee. I can only assume that Catron must feel some other candidate has a much better chance to defeat Obama in 2012. And that would be who, exactly? Catron doesn't say.

The bulk of the article is criticism of Romneycare and of Coulter. Really, the attacks on Coulter are fairly viscous, which isn't all that surprising given that the piece is titled Who Castrated Ann Coulter? The unnecessary misogyny aside, Catron makes some fair points. He notes that Coulter criticized McCain for being too much of a moderate, yet now seems comfortable with someone who can easily be viewed as even more moderate than McCain (though such a view is mere opinion, not fact). And that Coulter's defense of Romneycare is based on conservative support of the plan and basic ideas from sources that have long since repudiated that support.

The Line Item Veto Is Back!

With a vengeance!

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed--by a vote of 254 to 173--the Expedited Legislative Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011. The bill would give the President a pseudo-kind of line item veto power: after the President received a spending bill, he would--under this legislation--have some 45 days to propose specific cuts. Congress would then be required to have up or down votes on each proposal.

It sounds kind of complicated, but the basic idea is that given these circumstances, legislators would be less likely to load up bills with pork, since specific bits could be targeted and exposed to public scrutiny. In the past, Representative Bellweather of Big Tobacco State might--because of the committee he is on--put a provision into a spending bill that grants his state twenty million dollars to fund the Chewing Tobacco Hall of Fame. It would be buried deep in the bill and other Reps wouldn't talk much about it, for fear that their own pet projects might be exposed.

If this bill becomes law, then it would be the President who could expose Bellweather's special project. The President could ask for it to be cut and then Congress would actually have to vote on that specific provision alone. And the bonus: cuts in spending are automatically applied to deficit reduction.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More on the lack of manners

Previously, I discussed my habit of returning shopping carts at the grocery store, noting that--in my view--it was just good manners to return something you had essentially borrowed. But I had observed that I seemed to be one of the few people who felt this way, leading me to this quote from Robert Heinlein's novel, Friday:
But a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.
In that regard, consider this story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
One man was stabbed with a golf club shaft after a brawl broke out when the threesome he was in tried to play through the group in front of them at a course at Eagle Mountain Lake.
That's pretty awful. For those unfamiliar with golf etiquette, when one group of players is moving faster than another--taking fewer strokes, hitting quicker, etc.--it's customary for the slower group to wait for a few minutes to allow the faster group past them, that way the course doesn't get bogged down with waiting players. It's very much like moving one's car to the far right lane so cars traveling faster can pass.

The real class divide

Charles Murray is on a roll. In 1994, Murray's and Richard Herrnstein's controversial book, The Bell Curve, was first published. Though a best seller, criticism of the book was widespread and often vicious. The fundamental idea of the book is that intelligence--as a product of both genetics and environment--is a better predictor of success in life than socio-economic background and education. The book broached the issue of race in this regard and its conclusions there were the principal reasons for the criticism.

But such criticism was largely misplaced, in my view. The real problem with the book is that the authors failed to fully appreciate how the changing dynamics of U.S. society would manifest themselves as time wore on. They argued that the elite class of citizens--the coupling of high-IQ professionals--would steadily develop into a wealthy upper, upper class, living apart from the remainder of society. They assumed that wealth was inexorably linked to the process.

In Murray's latest book--Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010--he analyzes the trends of middle to lower class white Americans, as compared to upper class white Americans. I've discussed the book before, both in relation to single motherhood and to income inequality. And while what he finds in the book largely follows the predictions in The Bell Curve, there is a significant difference. Namely, it is the breakdown of social structures that create the circumstances to allow the divergence of outcomes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pregnancy: a disease to be prevented

Previously, I authored a piece that was something of a plea to my fellow conservatives: Abortion and Same-sex Marriage: Give it up, already! In it, I wrote:
For no matter what anyone says, an abortion is a medical procedure and it can be justified. Is it a "good thing"? No. But it must be allowed though not encouraged.
And I stand that by that position, with the full understanding that many feel much differently, for very valid and justifiable reasons. But note that I explicitly state abortions are not something to be encouraged, and I mean this in regard to both the government and anyone else. Thus, while I feel that the issue of abortion--along with that of same-sex marriage--should not be front and center on a conservative platform, the idea that abortions might be tagged as some sort of "preventative" measure disturbs me greatly.

Right now, according to Kathleen Sebelius per Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard, "preventative measures" are officially defined so as to include contraceptives, the morning after pill, and actual sterilization. This is a direct consequence of provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and there's no reason to suppose that this might be open for discussion.

Freedom to get licensed?

Those of us on the right, of a conservative or libertarian bent, worry about the encroachments on our freedom by the Federal Government. Many worry about it incessantly. And in that regard, we look to the idea of States' rights as a means to curtail those encroachments. But what about the State governments? Though legislative action in this arena is subject to more possible scrutiny (even of it is often ignored), the bureaucracies of the States themselves are capable of having a significant impact on the extent of liberty.

Consider the most fundamental aspect of liberty: the freedom to choose out own paths in life. Necessarily, that implies a freedom of industry--not in the large-scale sense, but in the personal sense--insofar as people can pursue those trades and occupations that they desire to pursue. Their success or failure in that regard is not a foregone conclusion, but instead depends on effort, skill, and a host of other factors. That is the source of the much-touted entrepreneurial spirit in America.

But is this spirit being stifled at a State level, moreso than at a federal level? Consider this:
In the 1950s, when organisation man ruled, fewer than 5% of American workers needed licences. Today, after three decades of deregulation, the figure is almost 30%. Add to that people who are preparing to obtain a licence or whose jobs involve some form of certification and the share is 38%.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The VP myth

With Romney looking more and more like he will be the Republican candidate for the 2012 Presidential Election, speculation on whom he might select as a his Vice Presidential running mate is increasing. And much of this speculation revolves around the idea that Romney's choice is important for the General Election.

For instance, there's Josh Kraushaar at the National Journal, arguing that Romney's choice for running mate is critical:
If he emerges as the nominee, Romney would face somewhat different challenges: He needs a No. 2 who can excite the base and serve as an effective attack dog against Obama, but without alienating independent voters.
And Steve Chapman at the Chicage Tribune, speaking on the supposed strengths of Marco Rubio in the number two slot:
He's strong among tea party voters, but he hasn't done anything to make himself look like a radical. He's Cuban-American, which could only help Romney with the growing Hispanic community, which went 2-to-1 for Obama. And he's from Florida, a big swing state.
Both writers take it as a given that the VP slot can deliver votes. And they're far from alone. It's almost accepted dogma in punditry world that the choice for running mate can be used to attract voters who might otherwise not vote for a given candidate.

And that's a myth.

"Purge-and-liquidate"? Really?

Paul Krugman--in his latest op-ed--has come up with a new term for those that would dare to disagree with him: "the purge-and-liquidate crowd." Writing about the apparent good news of the latest jobs report, Krugman wrings his hands over the backlash such positive news might bring:
Friday’s report was, in fact, much better than expected, and has made many people, myself included, more optimistic. But there’s a real danger that this optimism will be self-defeating, because it will encourage and empower the purge-and-liquidate crowd.
Much of the rest of the piece is meaningless drivel--even by Krugman standards--though he oddly points out the realities of the unemployment situation, even as he trumpets the good news of the latest report. I addressed that reality previously, noting that some serious number-juggling would be required to see a drop in the unemployment rate, and of course that's exactly what transpired, as Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge demonstrates:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Land of the Knee-Walking Turkeys

In 1969, Harvard Lampoon published Bored of the Rings, a short parody of Tolkien's classic trilogy The Lord of the Rings. If you're a fan of Tolkien and don't mind a little fun-poking, I highly recommend picking up a copy, if you get the chance. I literally laugh out load when I read it. In fact, the first time I read it I laughed so hard, I couldn't breathe. On the inside cover of the book is a parody map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth, as well. Here it is:

Bored of the Rings : Map
(Copyright Harvard Lampoon, 1969)

Above the "compass" (with directions Up, Down, Left, and Right) is the Land of the Knee-Walking Turkeys. Now, some of the other place-names I get, like the "Land of the Terrible Stench," the "Land of the Singing Pigs," the legendary "Flat Mountains," and of course the "Points of Interest." But knee-walking turkeys had always escaped me. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Charles blows hard

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Charles Blow lines up Mitt Romney in his crosshairs and let's him have it, but good.

He begins by chastising Romney for his comments on firing people:
This is the same man who bragged last month that he liked to fire people at a time when nearly 13 million people are out of work and who accepted the endorsement this week of Donald Trump, who has made “You’re Fired!” his television catchphrase.
The interjection of Trump into the equation is rather pathetic; sure Trump is a buffoon, but politicians accept endorsements, it's part of the game. The rest, however, is something else. Whether one is a Romney supporter or not, this kind of historical revisionism should not be tolerated. Romney--as everyone with a clue knows--did not say he "likes to fire people," what he said was:
I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me a good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.
That's hardly the same thing. Indeed, Politifact rates the claim Blow is making as "mostly false." Worse still, Blow actually links to a video of Romney's actual comments, apparently content that his readers will simply accept his (Blow's) blatant mis-characterization as correct (doesn't seem like Blow has much respect for his readers, does it).

I was told prostitutes would be available...

I was a bit disheartened to hear about Indiana AG Greg Zoeller using the Superbowl as a bootstrap to get a human trafficking bill through the legislature. The bill in question had indeed passed both houses and was signed into law by Mitch Daniels on Monday, January 30th. As FoxNews reports, the law does some good things, no doubt about it:
It is now against the law for anybody to arrange for a person to participate in any forced sexual act. Before, Indiana law only prohibited forced marriage and prostitution. 
Also, the law makes it easier to prosecute those who sell children into sexual slavery. It reduces the burden on a prosecutor to prove coercion. Before, prosecutors had to prove a victim was threatened or physically forced into sexual slavery. Traffickers could escape prosecution by claiming the victim wasn’t being held against their will. 
The new law extends the definition of sex trafficking and increases penalties.
My understanding is that the maximum penalty for sex trafficking in Indiana has been increased. And that's great. Hell, knock it up to one hundred. Make it a capital offense to sell children into slavery, sexual or otherwise. That's all good.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Things are looking up!...Aren't they?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3%, the lowest it's been in three years. And right on cue, the media happily laps up this pronouncement with fan-boy titled stories like this one at The New York Times. The story opens with this glorious quotable quote:
The front wheels have lifted off the runway. Now, Americans are waiting to see if the economy can truly get aloft.
It then trumpets the revised number for previous months, noting that now December 2011 and November 2011 look even better, indicating that the jobs market is "gathering steam."

From there, however, the author looks at some metrics that seem to contradict this rosy picture, like a still-falling market in homes, a lack of growth in incomes, and less-than-impressive numbers for consumer spending. But it's hard to shake the idea that things are better because the unemployment rate is lower.

Best title ever!

Mickey Kaus over at The Daily Caller takes a run at Ryan Lizza's piece that I previously critiqued in "The Ministry of Truth." My essential point of contention was Lizza's repetition of "the Stimulus saved us all and everyone agrees with that" lie. Kaus hits a different note, finding that the Lizza piece paints a picture of a President just toeing the party line, as opposed to the deep thinking bridge-builder (thwarted by evil Republicans at every turn) that his fans in the media would have us believe he is.

Kaus called the article "What Does Obama Do All Day?" And frankly, it's a pretty good question. Not literally, mind you, but in the abstract. We know the President deals with all kinds of minutiae throughout the day. There are reports to read and review. Countless (I assume) meetings with various aides, cabinets people, other politicians, and the like. Calls to make and to answer, along with time spent on researching and preparing speeches, programs, and legislation. There's just a lot to do. No way around it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

If Warren Buffett was conservative...

Buffett has interjected himself into the political discourse of the United States of his own free will. He offered up his secretary and his other employees to the Left as case studies for the downtrodden in an op-ed he wrote. He's openly endorsing the so-called Buffett rule legislation, willingly standing next to the President and joining in the populist, class warfare claptrap of the latter. His secretary--who is hardly middle class--sat next to the First Lady during the most recent State of the Union Address.

And for all of this, Buffett has become a hero to the Left. A symbol of the guilt the rich should freely partake of and allow themselves to be targeted as the principal cause of what ails the nation and the world. But it sure took a long time for Buffett to succumb to that guilt, didn't it?

Where was he in the eighties? Demanding that Reagan return to the punitive tax rates of the seventies for the highest tiers of incomes? Hardly. Buffett--already a millionaire--was busy buying up companies, using those newly freed monies to his advantage, so effectively that Buffett became a billionaire by 1990.

Class action stupidity

My wife is currently a party to a class action lawsuit against a mutual fund that she owned once in her 401k. Such lawsuits began appearing and proliferating around 2003. Many of them are based on allegations that these various mutual funds were not properly managing risk, in comparison to how they were being marketed. And there's a lot of truth here, I think.

Most of these lawsuits have been settled; few are still being argued. And the mutual fund companies have been forced to shell out some big bucks. But here's the thing: the classes are huge. A $10 million settlement sound like a great thing, until you take into account that it has to be split 100,000 ways, or more. That's an average of $100 per person. Well, it would be if there weren't lawyers to pay. Shave 30% of the top and that's an average of $70 per person. But since the settlement money is divvied up according to shares held, if the people with huge numbers of shares are factored out, the average payout is far less.

My wife's settlement money (we're eagerly awaiting the check) is going to be about $30. Maybe we'll go to the movies...without the kids. Many people are probably looking at $3 dollars or even less.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another $1 trillion deficit...what else is new?

According to a Reuters report, the CBO is forecasting that 2012 would be yet another year with a deficit over $1 trillion:
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the fiscal 2012 deficit would rise to $1.079 trillion from its previous estimate of $973 billion made last August. If Congress extends payroll tax cuts through year-end, as expected, the deficit would likely rise by another $100 billion through December.
That will be four years in a row for the Obama Administration. One can't help but ask when we're going to see some of that fiscal responsibility we were promised. And one also can't help but wonder what the hell that fight was about over the debt ceiling, given that we're still running ridiculous deficits. Oh, that's right: without the debt ceiling deal, the deficit might have been $1.1 or $1.2 trillion for 2012.

Pitchfork Movement: "Euro-spring" or the return of Fascism?

Currently, there are large-scale protests happening in Sicily and other parts of Italy. Reactions to the policies being implemented by the government of Prime Minister Mario Monti, the protests include students, truck drivers, fishermen, farmers, and others. The protests revolve largely around the added costs to fuel, due to additional taxes levied by the government in order to combat Italy's debt problems. According to Bloomberg, gasoline prices in Italy are now over $9 a gallon, and those costs are reverberating throughout the Italian economy, particularly in Sicily:
Prices of some vegetables have risen about 15 percent since the start of the strikes as supplies in cities and towns dwindled, according to farmers’ association Confagricoltura. Transport workers, from bus drivers to rail and airport personnel will be striking tomorrow, making it even harder for commerce to function. 
The situation is particularly serious in the southern region of Calabria where some farmers are forced to milk cows and then dump the milk because they can’t get past the road blocks, Confagricoltura said.