Tuesday, January 31, 2012

President Obama's Old Car for Sale on Ebay!

Only one day remaining on the eBay auction:  
For sale:  2005 Chrysler 300C - leased by President Barack [sic] OBAMA.  Used in 2004 - 2007 to take voters for a ride.  Needs alignment work - pulls to the left.  Slight damage from the time a Republican drove it into a ditch.  Asking $1,000,000, or $250,000, because those amounts are basically the same.  $200,000 for single buyer.  Cash only.  No bonds.

Save the Polar Bears! Be Quiet!

   I received the following email today from the National Wildlife Federation:
Dear Jeryl
 Polar bears' survival depends on us slowing global warming--which is melting the ice they depend on to hunt for food. But, right now polluters are attacking the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce the carbon dioxide that is threatening the livelihood of this beloved species.
In the last week, over 9,000 people like you took action to protect polar bears, but we can't stop there.
Polar bears need you to speak up for their future--please take action today! -Sue
Isn't speaking up just going to create more carbon dioxide?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Politifact Fact-Check Bounces

   Back in August, Politifact gave Warren Buffett a “true” on his New York Times op-ed where he compared his 17% rate to his employees’ much higher rates.  Much of this difference, as Buffett himself makes plain, is due to payroll taxes.  In September, Buffett even spelled this out more clearly, pegging the rate this his employees pay in payroll taxes at 15.3%:

 And that tax hits the people in my office very, very hard. Often they have a spouse working, so they get taxed on up to $200,000 that payroll tax. And that’s at — this year we’ve had a waiver of two points but that’s normally at 15.3 percent. That alone is higher than the tax rate on capital gains or dividends.
However, in December, Herman Cain called attention to the same issue when plugging his 9-9-9 tax plan, and he cited the same 15.3% figure Buffett used.  His attempt, however, was classified by Politifact as “mostly false.
   So, how long will it take for Politifact to catch up with Warren Buffett?  As of now, his Politifact scorecard is 100% True.  Or, better yet, when will Politifact’s apology to Herman Cain be issued?

Jobs and Change

From CNBC today:

Facebook COO: IPO Will Produce Jobs, World Change

What are we coming to when the private sector thinks it can usurp the role of government?
Arun Majumdar, the director of Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy... “We don’t know which ones are going to win down the line, which ones are going to actually make it in the market and produce hundreds of thousands of jobs and really change the world,” he told NPR.
It’s a risk the government is more than willing to take. The Obama administration has given Majumadar’s organization $500 million. Clean energy projects have received almost $95 billion.
On a serious note,  isn't it concerning that Mr. Majumdar can say so casually, "We don’t know which ones are going to win down the line, which ones are going to actually make it in the market," as if he's spectator at a race?  Can anyone imagine a venture capitalist who is risking millions of his own money and that of his investors being so nonchalant about success or failure?  Certainly any investment carries uncertainty, but when you are using someone else's money (the taxpayers') to "gamble," the stakes don't seem quite as high.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I Mean What I Say. Unless I Don't.

   This is a fairly minor issue, and honestly I am not sure if it matters at all.  But if there has been any sure sign of when a Republican primary candidate is going to drop out of the race, it has been a declaration from the candidate that it's not going to happen:

Perry:  "Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday vowed to continue his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in Florida, regardless of his finish in the South Carolina primary." (January 15th; dropped out four days later)

Bachmann:  "No matter what happens at the Iowa caucuses Tuesday, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said Monday she will not drop out of the race for president."  (January 2nd; dropped out two days later)

Cain:  "...there is “no way (Cain)’s dropping out” and that the embattled Republican will “will lay out his way forward” during a Wednesday speech in Ohio." (November 30th; dropped out three days later)

Huntsman:  "[Huntsman said: “I'd say third place is a ticket to ride... Hello, South Carolina!”" (January 10th; dropped out six days later)

Tim Pawlenty is the only exception I could find:  "Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) admitted Friday he’ll have to “reassess” the direction of his campaign if he finishes poorly in Saturday’s Iowa straw poll." (August 12th; dropped out one day later)

   So, what are we to make of these statements?

: "“I will go all the way to the convention,” Mr. Gingrich said[.]"

Paul:  "Ron Paul said Saturday the Republican presidential race has "a ways to go" and he doesn't intend to get out or get behind another candidate anytime soon."

Santorum: "“I guarantee you, we are going to be in this race for a long time,” he told reporters[.]"

Romney:  Apparently no one is asking Romney the question...

   Is there anything more to this phenomenon than speaking positively, putting your best foot forward, and an implied "Do you think I'd tell you if I was?" to whomever is asking the question?   I guess we'll find out Wednesday morning if the phenomenon continues.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sometimes You Just Know

   If there was any question as to what prompted President Obama to give the go-ahead for the Osama bin Laden raid, the Vice President just cleared that up. 

Vintage Mud Slinging

   Let's face it.  Karl Rove, James Carville, and Paul Begala are little sissy girls throwing flower petals at their political enemies.  The Founders would have dunked their pigtails in the partisan inkwell and sent them home crying for their mothers.  Proceed with caution.  PG-13ish.

Source:  Reason Magazine, 2010

Friday, January 27, 2012

Accu-Whether... or Not...

   The dire long-range predictions of "global warming" and the less dramatic but more nebulous "climate change" are dubious at best and conspiratorial at worst.  Some recent dire short-term predictions have the misfortune of being subject to comparison with reality, unlike forecasts of temperature increase by the year 2100, when the temperature of the forecasters themselves and most of humanity will be that of the room.
   In the case at hand, the optimistically-named AccuWeather had projected back in October 2011 that the 2011-2012 winter was likely to be "Another Brutal One."  Indeed, most of AccuWeather's meteorological colleagues were similarly confident about the havoc winter seemed poised to wreak.  However, as today's Los Angeles Times notes, not much wreaking has come to pass so far.  Drudge went so far as to proclaim with Drudgian hyperbole, "USA seems to have escaped winter!"  To be fair, we still have to get through February's proverbial dead-of-winter and then the volatile month of March, so there is plenty of time to salvage reputations and improve forecasting accuracy percentages.  But that is the whole point of climate change/global warming skepticism.  Inaccurate short-term computer models don't improve by moving the ending date further into the future.
   Anyone who had invested in the skiing industry based on the forecasts in October would currently be having some serious second thoughts.  Calls to invest $10.5 trillion to fight climate change based on models peering decades into the future are certainly worth some equally serious second thoughts.  Mark Twain famously said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."  And maybe that's the way it ought to be.

The Cost of Freedom?

   It's official.  The debt limit of the USA is now $16.4 trillion.  That's $16,400,000,000,000.  It comes to $8,000,000 for every hour our country has been in existence.  But it didn't beginning in July 1776.  John Hancock and his compatriots didn't think they were signing loan papers that day in Philadelphia.  But 100 or so years ago, things began to change:

Graph created at http://www.usgovernmentdebt.us/

Now it's difficult to tell exactly where the blue appears on the chart, but it looks to be roughly 1910-1920 or so. Quick history quiz!  What Constitutional Amendment was ratified in 1913?  If you said the 16th, the amendment that authorized the income tax, you are right!  So, still think raising taxes is going to help reduce the national debt?

 (HT: Keith Myer) 

Henry Whacksman

   From MSNBC this morning:  "Democratic lawmaker likens GOP to terrorists for legislative tactics."  Before reading the story, try to guess which one of these things is so out of place, that Henry Waxman could not possible have said it:

     a) "They [Republicans] want to use legislation as a way to act like terrorists."
     b) "Republicans wanted to hold that legislation hostage to their extreme agenda."
     c) "That is so stupid already for them to be pushing the Keystone pipeline issue."
     d) "Republicans have been so mean-spirited, and I think that's coming across to the American people."

Wrong!  None of the above.  Said them all.  I assume with a straight face.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Warren Buffett's Apples and His Secretary's Oranges

   Warren Buffett's claim that his secretary's tax rate is 35% and his only 17% is such an apples to oranges comparison that it would be worth your while to add the word "specious" to your vocabulary just so you can use it in this discussion.  It's difficult to even know where to begin.
   First, if Buffett's secretary truly makes $60,000 as he apparently stated, Buffett has rigged the results by adding her payroll taxes, even including the employer's "contribution" as he stated in this letter to Congressman Huelskamp.  The "tax holiday" has reduced this to 13.3% for 2011, but since Buffett is referring to 2010 in his letter, I'll use 15.3%.  This means Buffett is adding 15.3% of $60,000, or $9,180, to whatever his secretary's federal taxes are to come up with the 35% rate.
   Second, as he also stated in his letter to Huelskamp, he is using not adjusted gross income, but rather taxable income as a base figure.  This means that his secretary, filing as single (I do not know her status,) would have the standard deduction ($5,800) and one exemption ($3,700), reducing her taxable income to about $50,000.  This figure is probably high since it takes no other exemptions or deductions into account, but based on $50,000, her federal taxes would be $8,631 according to IRS tax tables.  This $8,631 plus the $9,180 in payroll taxes comes to about 35.6% of $50,000, not far from what Buffett said.  But, as I said, this assumes filing single, very minimal tax exemptions, not itemizing deductions, and also no tax credits.  This seems far from the "typical" tax payer and only gets to the 35% using some payroll tax gymnastics.
   Turning to Buffett's rate now, he states in his letter that his payroll taxes were $15,300 for the year.  This almost sounds like he is rounding off since 15.3% of $100,000 (the approximate cap for Social Security taxes was actually $106,800 in 2010) is exactly $15,300.  But perhaps Mr. Buffett has simply structured his compensation such that his income subject to payroll taxes is exactly $100,000.  If Buffett's entire income were subject to social security and medicare, of course his taxes would be astronomically higher.  We cannot truly know what that figure would be since his letter to Huelskamp reports only his adjusted gross income, not his total gross income (such as his secretary's $60,000) on which payroll taxes are calculated.  But even if we use adjusted gross income of $62,855,038 (less the $100,000 on which he did pay payroll taxes), his additional tax burden would be $9,601,520.  Added to his $6,923,494 in federal taxes, his total taxes would be $16,525,014.  Taken as a percentage of his taxable income of $39,814,784 (as Buffett did in calculating his secretary's 35% rate,) this comes to 41.5%.
   So Buffett's claims are... ready for it?... specious!  What he ends up arguing for is the lifting of the social security cap as well as the application of social security and medical taxes to non-wage income - and is anyone talking about that?  If politicians do take him seriously and make those changes, Mr. Buffett will get his apparent wish to pay much more to the government.  Then we'll get to see how he likes them apples.

State of the Union - A Dress

Michelle Obama's dress for the State of the Union attracted an enormous amount of attention.  Despite the title of my blog, I will not stretch my credibility to the breaking point by deigning to weigh in on fashion.  But doesn't this photo...

...remind you of this kind of photo?


This is truly sad: "One in five young Germans unaware of Auschwitz."

Other poll results I can imagine:
  >Five in five young Chinese unaware of Tiananmen Square massacre.
  >Five in five young North Koreans unaware of other countries.
  >Two in five young Americans unaware of Germany, China, and North Korea.

Maybe His Mom Never Told Him

From Wednesday's Daily Times:

A Salisbury man was charged with assault after throwing a plastic bag into the face of a police officer, according to court documents.
Chris L. Easley, 22, was also charged with failure to obey a lawful order, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and reckless endangerment by Delmar police.

Because you should NEVER put a plastic bag over your face.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Silence of the Greens

   President Obama expended no less than 700 words in his State of the Union speech last night discussing energy, although to be fair, many of those words were recycled.  And appropriately so, since "renewable" and "clean" energy consumed a significant percentage of those words.  The president emphasized his priorities by even roping the Navy into "purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year" using "clean energy."  (As an aside:  if one is using the Navy to make a point, wouldn't some quantitative measurement of power using "ships" instead of "homes" have been more apropos?)  In any case, the President made it clear that his administration will continue tout its green credentials loudly and often.
  So when the Drudge Report recently linked to a story outlining plans to try to harness heat generated by the inactive Newberry volcano in Oregon to produce power, the most remarkable thing about the story is what it has not generated, that being media attention.  A Google news search for "Newberry volcano" as of January 25th generated only 188 hits.  Contrast this with "Keystone pipeline" which generates 7,720 hits or "hydraulic fracturing" which returns 2,420 hits.  According to USA Today, the Department of Energy has put $21.5 million into the project, and a peer review on the DOE website dates all the way back to May 2010, so it is not as though this project is a secret.  And yet "Newberry" was not among those 700 words the president used to highlight his administration's most exciting developments in energy in the year's most prominent address to the American people.  What gives?
   Of all the recent ideas for developing new sources of energy, this volcano project is the one that sounds most like some junior high school boys pouring all the chemicals in the science lab into one beaker just to "see what will happen." Volcanoes and earthquakes remain two of the least predictable natural phenomenon in nature and are capable of truly cataclysmic consequences.  Wouldn't it seem reasonable that we'd hear from the usual The-Sky-is-Falling green groups when a seismologist says of the plan, "That's the $64,000 question.  What's the biggest earthquake we can have from induced seismicity that the public can worry about?"  And, though it may be a long shot, what if this exploration touches off a volcanic eruption?  Think of the air pollution, acid rain, greenhouse gases, and general mayhem that would result!  Talk about an Inconvenient Truth!
   So why the deafening silence?  Why does a search for "Newberry volcano Al Gore" return the disappointing "did not match any news results"?  The answer is found in the first two words of the third paragraph of the story: "Renewable energy".  The same phenomenon leads environmentalists to disregard the noise pollution and bird/bat deaths from windmills and the toxic chemicals that are by-products of solar panel manufacturing.  Unlike any energy production related to fossil fuels, the "renewables" get a pass on possible or even actual collateral damage.  But "hydraulic fracturing", which uses a process similar to the one employed in the volcano research but is used to extract natural gas and oil from rocks deep below the surface of the earth, has already suffered some setbacks due to fear of earthquakes.  It is said that when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883 the sound was heard 3,000 miles away.  Is it not safe to say that if some oil company were planning a test to extract petroleum from under a volcano, a similar explosion would be heard from the environmentalists?
   Primitive societies have been known to throw virgins into volcanoes to appease the angry gods.  Is the environmental movement willing to risk sacrificing what remains of their own credibility in this case in hopes that their god Mother Earth, in spite of the risks, will finally deliver the goods on a practical, marketable, affordable source of energy that so far she has stubbornly and embarrassingly denied to her true believers?

Two Men Walk into a Court...

   This week, Gov. Chris Christie announced two nominations for the New Jersey State Supreme Court.   Here is how the local CBS affiliate chose to open the story on their website:  "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie moved to diversify the state’s all-white Supreme Court on Monday by proposing two firsts: the nominations of an openly gay black man and a Korean-born law enforcer to fill two vacancies."  Even though the subject concerns the appointment of justices to the highest court in the State of New Jersey, the words "law enforcer" seem oddly out of place in this journalistic celebration of diversity.  And things don't get much better.  In the entire piece, the only information that even hints at Harris's qualifications for the position appears in the 22nd paragraph.  The article's sparse detailing of Kwon's legal background seems protracted by comparison.   The New York Times approached the story in a similar way with the headline "Christie Names a Gay Man and an Asian for the Top Court," although more details of the qualifications of each made it into their reporting.  Even the governor's own website posts a video segment of the press conference that puts the emphasis in the wrong place.  One can only hope that the governor did his homework and these men are truly qualified to hold these extraordinarily important positions.  But to paraphrase Martin Luther King with apologies, it appears the time has come where a man is not only judged by the color of his skin, but by the content of his demographics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Safer for Whom?

(Reuters Health) - Getting a legal abortion is much safer than giving birth, suggests a new U.S. study published Monday...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Squeezing the "Income Inequality Gap"

   The New York Times reports reported Saturday on a preview of the President's State of the Union speech.  While the article is loaded with fodder for conservatives to target, there is one item that not only appeals to the class warfare rhetoric that President Obama has turned to time and again, but is also a tacit if inadvertent acknowledgement of a point conservative economists have made for years.  Although the text of the speech is undoubtedly still in draft form, the reporter's sources say that "...Mr. Obama will again call for changing the corporate and individual income-tax codes so the wealthy pay more, both to finance government investments and to alleviate the rise in income inequality in recent years."
   The concept of taxing the rich to finance government spending is so entrenched in liberal planning that it barely needs to be explicitly stated anymore, but the recent focus on the growing gap in income inequality (itself a subject of many dubious claims) makes the second half of that statement worth examining.   The assertion that higher taxes on the rich will somehow narrow that gap is specious.  This egalitarian idea is that if the government takes more from the wealthy in taxes (and by implication, but by no means in reality, less from everyone else,) the wealthy will have less money and therefore the gap will shrink.  However, "income inequality" refers to gross income, not net after-tax income.  Certainly a wealth-transfer is taking place, but the gap in question remains unchanged.
   The only way "taxing the rich" can truly shrink the inequality is by reducing how much income the wealthy obtain in the first place, and somewhat ironically (or cynically,) this is the very economic-growth-killing effect that higher taxes produce.  As Jim Saxton's Joint Economic Committee report found in 1997, the best way to reduce the level of an activity is to tax it.  The Obama administration may in the end achieve its intended goal of narrowing the income gap, but only by piling more weight on top of an already staggering economy and crushing everyone under the load.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nickel and Diming, Part II - Regulations

   Now that the bloom is off the "jobs-saved-or-created" rose, the Obama administration is turning to "regulations eliminated" to bolster its pro-business credentials.  At a meeting of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness this week, the President touted the drive by his administration to cut down on unnecessary regulations that weigh down business and stifle commerce.  He chose to highlight the success of the Federal Communications Commission:
 " So, for example, the FCC, prompted by our request but also due to some excellent work by Julius Genachowski, they’ve already eliminated 190 rules -- 190.  And that gives you some sense of the scale of the work that can be done as a consequence of some of your recommendations."
However, an analysis of the FCC's own report casts doubt on the efficacy of the regulation cutting program.   According to the report, the figure of 190 regulations eliminated dates from January 2010 to the present.  Over half of the rules eliminated were in a single section of the FCC code: "Part 1, Subpart D Broadcast Applications & Proceedings (duplicative of rules in Part 73)." [emphasis added]  Eliminating duplicate rules is far different than actually reducing regulation.  Another entry reads: "Describes the Commission’s former 'protest' process.  By its express terms, it does not apply to applications filed on or after December 12, 1960." (Yes, as in 52 years ago.)  Another dozen or so rules related to "Broadcast Flag" regulations which, as far as I can determine, were determined to be invalid by a court in 2005.  If these examples are representative of the whole, the cause for celebration may be rather overblown.  Even the chairman of the FCC referred to the regulations being eliminated as "obsolete."  What's next?  A Department of Transportation press release announcing an easing of horse-and-buggy standards?
   I have not completed a comprehensive review of all 190 changes, nor am I asserting categorically that no legitimate and potentially helpful reduction in regulation is taking place.  But as I noted last week, large numbers do not always translate into correspondingly large real-world benefits.  The President said that "190 [rules eliminated] gives you some sense of the scale of the work that can be done[.]" In this case, I think the President has his thumb on the scale.


Thank you, Power Line, for the link.


   Commercials make dubious claims as a matter of course, but a recent radio ad by the American Heart Association especially caught my ear.  The claim sounded so fantastic that I went to their website to confirm, and there it was!  About halfway down the page, it proclaims that "for each hour of regular exercise you get, you'll gain about two hours of additional life expectancy."  The bottom line: if you exercise for 12 hours a day, you will never die!  Let's see, that means I only need to increase my current regimen by... 12 hours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If at First You Don't Secede...

   Chris Matthews was on Andrea Mitchell's show on Tuesday discussing the GOP debate in South Carolina.  According the a Media Research Center transcript, Matthews said regarding Rick Perry: “Oh secession.  He had talked about secession.  It’s almost like nullification, we’re hearing these words again.”  And yet Mediaite says Matthews “accused Rick Perry of using terms bordering on ‘succession.’”
   It should ease your mind to know that our editing process hear at Speak With Authority is rigorous enough that we would not fall pray to a similar blunder.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fantasy or Reality? Or Both?

   President Obama is scheduled to visit the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday to deliver a speech.  For those not familiar with the layout of the park, a map demonstrates the real possibility of the following paragraph appearing in a news story reporting on the day's events:
The President emerged from Fantasyland through the castle to deliver his speech overlooking Main Street.  To his right lay Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square, which honor and draw upon America's past; to his left, Tomorrowland, a utopian vision of the future.  At the conclusion of the speech, he turned his back on Main Street and reentered Fantasyland.
Mere words are barely adequate to contain the symbolism.

UPDATE:  I guess it would be too much to hope that a future press conference would be held here?

Give me an "O"!

   Writing a serious analysis of Andrew Sullivan's latest Newsweek opinion piece/parody would be akin to a sports writer scrutinizing a chant performed by the opposing team's cheerleading squad.  But I cannot overlook this line from the foreign policy verse of Sullivan's cheer regarding the President's role in the successful bin Laden raid:
He even personally ordered the extra helicopters that saved the mission.
Almost immediately upon reading this, I had a vision of the iconic photo of Michael Dukakis in the tank, but with President Obama's face superimposed over that of Dukakis.  I intend no disrespect to President Obama or his constitutional position as Commander in Chief, but if we are truly relying on a former professor, community organizer, and Senator with absolutely no military experience for the success of the special operations of our most elite fighting units, we are in more trouble than anyone previously imagined.

Monday, January 16, 2012


   Tina Korbe at Hot Air is reporting that at a recent banquet Nancy Pelosi declared, "Nothing brings more money to the Treasury of the United States than the education of the American people."  Coupled with her novel insight in 2010 that "...unemployment insurance… is one of the biggest stimuluses (sic) to our economy," the former House Speaker has developed an economic theory that could potentially relegate Adam Smith's and Frederick Hayek's quaint ideas to the intellectual dustbin of history.  Given that high school students are flocking to college in record numbers only to find upon graduation that the jobs are rather scarce, the only missing element is a way to deliver unemployment benefits to college grads who have never had a job.  If the Democrats can retake the House, hold onto the Senate, and reelect the President on their coattails, I'm sure they could push through some quick legislation to fix this gaping hole in our country's economic engine.  Then we could just sit back and watch the Pelosi Economic Perpetual Motion Machine propel us out of the ditch (that Bush drove us into) and down the Hope and Change highway to the future.  Just thinking about it gives me the chills.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pardons and Forgiveness

   This week as his term ended, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour issued scores of pardons to rather poor reviews.  His explanation on Saturday that his pardons were based on "forgiveness and ... second chances" has not done much to mollify the critics.  Scott Johnson of Powerline put out a call to Christians to weigh in on Barbour's understanding of Christianity relating to the pardons.
   Forgiveness is obviously central to the gospel message of Christianity.  Sinners under the wrath of a holy God are offered forgiveness through the substitutionary death of the sinless Jesus Christ, God's son.  The New Testament repeatedly links the forgiveness we have received to the forgiveness that we should extend to others.  As one who has personally accepted God's forgiveness, I can attest to the persistent struggle to overcome the instinct for justice and retribution in my dealings and relationships with others and simply forgive as I have been forgiven.
   But while I believe Gov. Barbour's impulse for forgiveness is admirable and worthy of emulation by other Christians, I believe in this context it is misapplied.  This was not a personal action, but rather an act as the chief executive of the government of the state of Mississippi.  Certainly Christian principles of justice, mercy, and "second chances" can and should be built into the law by the legislature and applied by the judiciary, but the executive branch should be doing just that, executing the laws.  In the Bible, the book of Romans states relative to the governing authorities that "if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer."
   Opposition to the death penalty in the name of Christian principles often succumbs to a similar misapplication.  But the punishment of crime is a function of government, not of individuals.  Governments can imprison criminals, and even suspected criminals.  If an individual tries that, it's called kidnapping.  Governments tax -- individuals steal.  Context is important, even where forgiveness is involved.  A pardon is intended as a last resort to correct an injustice after customary remedies have been exhausted.  Governor Barbour certainly has the right and perhaps even the responsibility to personally forgive the recipients of his pardons.  But he mischaracterizes the outraged families of victims by suggesting "they want vengeance."  What they want and what they had achieved through the courts was justice handed down on behalf of the citizens of the State of Mississippi, and justice should have been allowed to stand.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Nickel and Diming

   As we approach the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, perhaps it's time to think about replacing "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" with a modern equivalent, but nevertheless it came to mind when I read about the President's plan to save $3 billion over 10 years by combining six government agencies.  According to the Administration's own budget, total federal expenditures in 2012 will total $3.7 trillion.  In one year.  Even if expenditures were frozen for 10 years (which is about as likely as another old cliche about somewhere freezing over,) the total for the decade would be $37 trillion.    Savings of $3 billion on $37 trillion is the equivalent of a family earning $50,000 saving - are you ready for this? - $4.05.  Yes, that's four dollars and five cents.  I double checked.  President Obama has essentially proposed skipping a Starbucks latte once a year.
   To add insult to injury, the savings will in part be achieved by jobs cuts, but not immediately: "[T]he administration would [cut jobs] through attrition; that is, as people routinely leave their jobs over time."  In other words, unnecessary duplicative jobs will only be eliminated as people voluntarily leave them.  What kind of incentive is there to leave a job in which the workload is being shared by one or more other individuals who are apparently superfluous, particularly since public sector jobs routinely pay much better than comparable private sector positions?
   Some are characterizing this proposal by the President as a "power grab."  Nonsense.  It's more like the bully who takes your lunch money flipping a nickel back to you as he walks away.  And you're supposed to be grateful.

UPDATE:  A couple of other ways to look at this:

  • $3 billion over 10 years is $300 million.  Since the US population is 307,000,000, it comes to $1 per person per year.  The national debt is currently $53,000 per person.
  • Again, $3 billion over 10 years is $300 million/year.  The government currently spends $300 million every 42 minutes.
UPDATE:  I have now posted Part II of this series.  Not included is the President's blockbuster claim:  brand new "savings of $10 billion over 10 years"!  If you are keeping track, we're now skipping four lattes a year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Doomsday Metaphor!

   From the Washington Post today:  “The Doomsday Clock, a figurative timepiece used as a barometer of humankind’s fate, was moved one minute closer to midnight on Tuesday, the first time it has been nudged forward since 2007.”  
   Setting aside the substantive nonsense of the whole Doomsday prediction, how can anyone use a timepiece as a barometer?  Why not use a figurative weather instrument as a barometer?  Especially since Climate Change is now considered a factor in our collective doom by the “venerable board of scientists, Nobel laureates and others,” perhaps Doomsday Barometer would be more apropos.  
   Imagine how dramatic it would be:  “The Doomsday Barometer edged down another quarter of an inch today [or even better “8.5 millibars,” since it has that metric sound to it] symbolizing earth’s gathering perfect storm of human-caused cataclysm that threatens to end life on the planet.”  
   It would also create a natural media tie-in with the Weather Channel, which would run endless promos of a falling barometer with Katrina footage rolling in the background.  Besides, time can’t really be moved back and forth away from and towards midnight, but barometers naturally rise and fall.  
   And if all of these are not reason enough, the Washington Post would not have to use such a silly mixed metaphor when reporting the news.

A Moral Victory for Ron Paul

   How much you wanna bet that the Ron Paul campaign is quietly celebrating Newt Gingrich drawing the first high-profile Perot comparison of the primary season?  OK, there was Chris Matthews, but he's on MSNBC and I said "high-profile."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More Chicken Counting

Regarding the President's reelection prospects: "Right now it looks like a bloodbath."

Poll: Americans, 2-1, Fear Obama's Reelection

You heard it here first...

Who are the Real Rug-Pullers?

   This article by Thomas Edison's great-grandson is one of the silliest manifestations of the my-famous-dead-relative-would-have-agreed-with-me genre in recent memory.  David Sloan presumes to speak not only for Edison's environmental views, but his political views as well.  This paragraph in particular is stunning:
Edison would have spurned the recent sleight of hand by Congress that leaves the new lighting standard -- under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007-- on the books but takes away its funding for nine months. How can inventor-entrepreneurs like Edison make a profit if every time they try to make a technological advance some nut in Congress pulls the rug out from under the them and their breakthroughs? And if investors are going to put their bets on more efficient technology, they have to know that a congressional holiday on common sense will not come along to undercut demand for their product.
   Correct me if I am wrong, but Congress did not outlaw candles, tax the sale of wax, or do anything remotely similar to boost demand for Edison's inventions.  His inventions that succeeded did so because they were great inventions that could be manufactured and marketed profitably.  Other ideas (such as rubber from goldenrod) were impractical and were abandoned.  The rug-pulling by Congressional nuts to which Sloan refers took place in the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 itself, which pulled the rug out from under Edison's original invention and the industry that manufactures it.  The defunding of the law was pulling the rug out from under the rug-pullers.  Anyone investing in new lighting technologies should be patient enough for the technology to win in the marketplace and not be relying on a governmental decree to "make a profit."
   There is further irony in Sloan's question, "How can inventor-entrepreneurs like Edison make a profit if every time they try to make a technological advance some nut in Congress pulls the rug out from under the them and their breakthroughs?"  Ask the energy industry.  Except it's not Congress, but the Executive Branch pulling rugs.
   Sloan is right about one thing.  The success or failure of inventor-entrepreneurs should not be dependent on the whims of politicians.  But the path Sloan advocates would only lead more would-be Edison's into the black hole of bureaucratic obstructionism, and the bulb that could light the way out of that abyss has yet to be invented.

UPDATE:  I wonder if Thomas Edison would have endorsed this?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Watchdogs and Predators

   The sad story of William and Endia Eason was tailor-made to justify the President's ostensible recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB.)  No doubt this is why the White House chose to highlight it on their blog.  There appears to be little doubt that the Easons were taken advantage of and, in combination with unwise decisions on their part, this led to a serious personal financial crisis.  Ironically, however, their crisis was resolved with the help of an existing non-profit with no cost to the taxpayers.  Would the CFPB have prevented the crisis in the first place, or even have done as good a job of helping the Easons once the crisis began?  There are many unasked and unanswered questions here.
   First, the story states that city officials in Cleveland "issued the couple a citation to make repairs to bring their home up to code," apparently to their "steps, garage, and roof."  As a homeowner living in a city, I am well aware of the nature of such citations, and the selective application of codes.  Is there a federal agency to guard homeowners against rogue housing inspectors?  The story goes on to say that "the repairs were never done."  So did the city fine the Easons?  Are there currently pink "Pending condemnation" notices posted all over their front door?  No?  Was it government harassment that precipitated the crisis in the first place?
   Next, how did the mortgage broker just happen to knock on their door?  Perhaps he was attracted by the pink notices (my city uses pink) all over their door.  Or was there some other public record that "predatory" mortgage brokers troll for victims?  Did government not only open the chicken house door, but then whistle for the wolves also?
   And then, assuming the mortgage broker lied as extensively as it appears, why wasn't he standing on the other side of the President from the Easons in an orange prison jumpsuit?  He made $4,000 on an $8,000 loan by committing fraud and he walked away?  Has he gone into hiding, on the lam with his $4,000 windfall?
   Further, what about the two heroes of the whole affair?  The non-profit who helped the Easons resolve the crisis and the mortgage company who took a loss on a loan that they had purchased in good faith are unnamed.  Two members of the private sector, a for-profit and a non-profit, working together to keep an older, needy, disabled man and his wife in their lifelong home.
   Finally, the Easons did not call the non-profit until foreclosure proceedings had begun.  What are the chances the Easons would have called the CFPB any sooner?  And if they had, what are the chances the CFPB, an agency of the federal government (think IRS,) would have responded more propitiously than the local non-profit?  The White House blog helpfully states that "the Bureau will forward each issue to the proper financial institution for review and resolution. And if the institution doesn't resolve the issue, CFPB will investigate the complaint directly and make sure that the financial institutions are held accountable under Federal law."  How long exactly would such a process take?  Would the Easons have learned about the resolution of their crisis from their cots at the homeless shelter?
   Will a new government 800-number be the panacea so glibly promised by the White House this week?  I wouldn't bet the house on it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Recess", "session", and other vague Constitutional language

   In all the arguments over the meaning of “recess” in the Constitution, little attention is being paid to another fairly mundane word:  “session.”  Neither word is well defined in the text of the Constitution and is therefore subject to interpretation based on three criteria:  House and Senate rules (“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings”, Art. I, Sec. 5,) historical precedent, and in the current situation, politics.  President Obama has declared the first two to be inapplicable regarding “recess” in this case and has skipped directly to the politically advantageous interpretation, even ignoring prior interpretations of his own Justice Department.  This is obviously shortsighted in a number of ways, but it certainly opens the door to novel interpretations of other words and concepts in the Constitution.
   The sentence in the Constitution relating to recess appointments is “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session [emphasis added.]”  But what is a “session?”  Article I, Section 4 states that “Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year [emphasis added.]”  There is nothing to preclude Congress from simply declaring a “session” has ended and another has begun once a year or multiple times, even more than once a day if they so desire.  The end of the “next session” would immediately cause the recess appointments to expire, reopening the need for confirmation.  This would set up a ridiculous situation where the President could try to declare more recess appointments in the split second after the first recess appointments expire and before the “new” session of Congress begins, but does anyone doubt that this President would take up the challenge?
   Granted, without control of both Houses of Congress, the Republicans could not pull off this “gimmick” as the President might say.  But if the President survives the November elections while Republicans maintain their majority in the House and take the Senate, the President’s second term could set a new record for (successful) recess appointments:  zero.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Counting Our Chickens

   In any election, overconfidence is deemed to be counterproductive and unseemly. However, where confidence ends and overconfidence begins is subjective. And surely unjustified angst and hand-wringing is not constructive either.  Inhabitants of the politosphere, including bloggers, commentators, and campaign consultants, spend untold hours poring over election returns and voting trends in hopes of uncovering the magic formula that will propel their favored candidate or party into office in the next election. So what should the mindset of conservatives be as the 2012 election draws near?
   I believe we can safely count our unhatched chickens. The chances of President Obama's reelection are so remote as to be virtually non-existent. Others may analyze electoral votes ad nauseam, but I believe it's much simpler than that. The number of votes cast in the 2008 presidential election was about 125,000,000. John McCain received 58,000,000 and Barrack Obama received 67,000,000. This is a difference of 9,000,000. Since a vote switched from one candidate to the other narrows the gap by two, only 4,500,000 voters could have made the difference. While that sounds like a lot, in reality it only amounts to about 7% of the total votes cast for Obama. And I ask you: Is there anything in the past three years that could lead anyone to credibly argue that less than 7% of Obama voters (1 in 14) have changed their minds?  Of course I understand the mechanics of the electoral college.  And certainly turnout (or lack thereof) will have an impact as well, but in 2012 there will be a dramatic decrease in pro-Obama sentiment from 2008, and anti-Obama sentiment will be running high.   Many who turned out to vote for Obama in the historic 2008 election will have cooled considerably.  And many others who could not bring themselves to pull the Republican lever for the terminally moderate John McCain will have seen the error of their ways.  Empirical as well as anecdotal evidence abounds.
   When President Obama was inaugurated, his approval rating was 69%. It is now 42% (as of 1/4/12.) Jimmy Carter was at 53% approval at this point in his presidency and went on to lose in an historic landslide. Obama is already 11 points down from Carter. Obama's signature legislation, Obamacare, is remarkably unpopular. As of today, 47% of those polled want it repealed, and that includes 21% of Democrats and almost half of Independents. And jobs? The president himself could only muster a weak "I think it's possible" when asked if unemployment will go below 8% by election day 2012. The president's original stimulus was supposed to cap unemployment at 8%; and of course even the current rate is deceptively understated.
   On top of this, the president's first years in office have spawned two grassroots movements. The first, the Tea Party, led to an historic realignment of Congress, a devastating loss for the President's party. The second, Occupy Wall Street, not exactly pro-Obama either, has the potential to make the 2012 Democratic convention look like 1968.
   I could go on, but by any measure, the president's prospects would have to dramatically improve to even be considered bleak. When the voters want to rid themselves of an unpopular president, they are not subtle. Carter won in 1976 with 50% of the votes, and lost in 1980 with 41%. Bush won in 1988 with 53% and lost in 1992 with 37% (although admittedly Perot helped exaggerate that gap.)
   Does all this mean Republicans can just coast into November?  By no means!  We should define ourselves now while the attention brought on by the primaries is focused on us.  Let the voters know what they can expect from a Republican president, House, and Senate come 2013.  No pandering, but rather principles.  Confidence in victory should give us the boldness to claim a mandate when that victory comes, a mandate that will be necessary to reverse the direction that Barack Obama has taken this country in his effort to "fundamentally transform America."  Conservatives and Republicans must take heart and let our candidates battle it out here in the primary season with the confidence that whoever the Republican nominee turns out to be, he or she will win in November. Hands down. No ifs, ands, or buts.
   Wait... did someone say "third party?" In that case, all bets are off...

No Joke

   A study noted by Paul Bedard at Washington Whispers found that President Obama was the most popular political target of late-night comedians in 2011.  Even though the President took top honors, the study notes that his total of 382 is far below the 500+ that Bush and Clinton routinely racked up.  Is it possible that there is some trepidation about going after the President?  Certainly lack of material is not an issue as is obvious to those of us who follow Hot Air's Obamateurism of the Day feature.  What could the reason be?    Hmmmmm...

   As an aside, I read though the sample jokes at the end of the Washington Whispers column without even being tempted to use any of my facial muscles.  Hopefully it was a random sample and was not meant to represent the best the late-nighters had to offer.  Of course, if Robert Lichter (president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs at GMU where the study was conducted) picked the jokes, that might explain it:
Lichter noted that far down on the list were the winners of Tuesday's Iowa GOP caucuses, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. "This shows," he says, "that it's hard to vote for somebody while you're laughing at them."
Does anyone even understand that?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anonymous sources

   I began this post about a month ago, but this incident seems as good a time as any to publish it.  Mike Allen's phrasing of his question to Rick Perry is similar to the oft used disclaimer that a reporter's source "spoke under conditions of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly" or some version of that.  Here are the alternate translations I have developed for news stories when anonymous sources are quoted:

... because the source wanted to spew gossip and not be held accountable for it.
... because the source wanted to make things up for political purposes.
... because the reporter wanted to insert his own views in the story by inventing an "anonymous source."
... because the reporter has always wanted to sound like Woodward and Bernstein because they were so COOL!
... because the reporter was too lazy to actually interview anyone.
... because the reporter was too timid to ask a tough question.

   Regarding the Allen/Perry exchange linked to above, why didn't Allen, a longtime experienced political reporter just ask Perry, a candidate whose campaign has obviously had some ups and downs, "It appears to me you ran this campaign as a gubernatorial campaign for too long and you didn't look big enough, get big enough, fast enough.  Do you take responsibility for that?"  Perry could still have refused to answer, but Allen would not have ended up with egg on his face.

   This being said, I do not question Mike Allen's integrity.  As far as I know, he's well respected and a straight shooter.  At least that's what my sources say.