Monday, June 29, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Fed chair Ben Bernanke gets the Tenth Degree up on Capitol Hill today about the B-of-A/Merrill-Lynch deal. Of it, Megan McArdle at The Atlantic has this to say:
I'm on the record as thinking Bernanke has done a pretty good job in a pretty scary crisis. Nothing I've heard recently has changed my mind on that. However, I have to say, watching his testimony to Congress today, I suspect that he's not going to be reappointed when his term ends next year. Whatever happened between him and Paulson and Ken Lewis, he is now giving a very good impression of someone who is lying. And Congress wants someone to blame. Besides, firing Bernanke lets Obama portray all of the failures of this year as Bush errors in policy or appointment.
That would certainly fit the President's MO. As best I can tell, nothing bad happened prior to the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and nothing could possibly go wrong now that he's out of office. This despite the fact that President Obama has 6-months worth of fingerprints on public policy and the US economy; most famously the Ginormous Stimu-palooza that was going to save us from double-digit unemployment once passed.
The President's rhetorical skills not withstanding, he will sooner rather than later own US Foreign policy and the economy as well. What will he say then?
Me thinks he'll have an awful lot of 'splainin to do...
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Poetic. Beyond that, I run out of adjectives for this mutilation of Andrew Sullivan.
Few among us have the raw intellectual firepower to go where he has. Fortunately, the internet tubes allow us to track his movements over time – an otherwise dizzying effort made more vertiginous by Sullivan’s kaleidoscopic mind. As with all things Sullivan, the best place to start is with human genitalia.
And it only gets better. Simply marvelous.
For the record, I traded emails at one point with Andrew about Gay Marriage back in 2005. He was cordial though that 'discussion' pre-dated his full-blown meltdown over Gay Marriage and the Christianist onslaught.
Monday, June 22, 2009
From David Broder's column today:
Bush's silence has made it harder for Obama to keep the public focused on Bush as being responsible for our present difficulties -- the weak economy, the unsettled wars, the scandals of Guantanamo and the detainee program.
How many months before a new President owns the events of the day?
Friday, June 19, 2009
James Pethokoukis (one of the few econ reporters around who goes out of his way to write accessibly on his beat) wrote an interesting post at his new digs today about changes in public perception of President Obama's economic policies. Key points:
Okay, here’s the thing: Obama took a tremendous economic and political gamble last January. The new president had the option of putting forward a stimulus plan that would attempt to reverse or significantly dampen America’s terrible economic downturn ASAP. The quickest and most effective approach would have been a big cut in payroll taxes. For $800 billion, combined Social Security and Medicare taxes could have been slashed by 6 percentage points, or 40 percent. That would have put $1,500 in worker paychecks and, according to one credible study, increased employment by 4 million jobs in 2009.
Instead, Obama chose to listen to Rahm “Never let a crisis go to waste” Emanuel and put forward an $800 billion plan that advanced his healthcare, energy and education policy goals — but pretty much neglected the economy in 2009. Team Obama had to fully understand this. Indeed, a study from the Congressional Budget Office study — when led by current Obama budget chief Peter Orszag — concluded that an Obama-like economic stimulus package would be “totally impractical” because it would take so long to implement. (True enough, only seven percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been doled out so far.)
Presidential gamble. In short, Obama wagered that the deluge of money coming from the Federal Reserve would do the heavy lifting as far as stabilizing the financial sector and keeping the already apparent recession from turning into a real disaster. Voters would, thus, continue to support his policies to assert more government control over healthcare, heavily regulate energy through a costly cap-and-trade program and further intervene into the financial industry.
The gamble appears to have failed miserably, both economically and politically. The terrible tale of the tape: a) the current downturn is arguably the worse since the Great Depression; b) household wealth has fallen by $14 trillion during the past two years, including the first quarter of 2009; c) while the economy may not shrink as much this quarter as it did in the previous three months (-5.7 percent) or the final quarter of 2008 (-6.3 percent), unemployment is soaring; d) Obama himself said the jobless rate will hit 10 percent this year; d) even worse, the Federal Reserve sees it approaching 11 percent next year. (Recall, that the original White House economic analysis of the Obama economic plan never saw unemployment exceeding 8 percent if Obamanomics was passed by Congress.)
Falling public support. So now many Americans are rightfully wondering just what they are getting for that $800 billion, as well as massive budget deficits as far as the eye can see. And it goes beyond the mercurial world of polling. Pricey plans to deal with perceived climate change and healthcare are also appear on the ropes or are being scaled back as voters view them as lower priorities than job creation and taming out-of-control spending.
As a couple of the dissenting comments point out, the post includes a number of assertions yet to be proven. I thought however that overall the piece makes a good-faith analysis.
Is he right? No clue and my crystal ball is broken; only time will tell us that.
The more conspiratorial view would be that the President back-loaded the stimulus for obvious political reasons with most of the spending occurring in 2010-12. The question then is what do the economic numbers look like and if as bad as they may be, will people forgive the worst unemployment in a generation, the return of inflation and most-likely slow growth when stimulus spending starts in earnest?
The President may have in fact made that very bet.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
As reported in the NY Times, results of a Times/CBS poll yields this nugget:
. . . A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results.
With apologies to the dead horse, us right-wing troglodytes had a handle on this aspect of the President last year.
It remains to be seen if the President is up to the task...his ability to inspire the citizenry is a marvelous asset, don't get me wrong, but in and of itself isn't adequate to deal with coming inflation, potential economic stagnation or--the President's high confidence in his ability to influence others not withstanding--positively affect the nation's foreign-policy.
Why ought we care about the one-term Senator, two-time failed Presidential candidate devoid of any accomplishment outside the Plaintiff's bar?
Monday, June 15, 2009
Fired IG Gerald Walpin speaks out about the situation surrounding his ouster at the Washington Examiner:
The White House's decision to fire AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin came amid politically-charged tensions inside the Corporation for National and Community Service, the organization that runs AmeriCorps. Top executives at the Corporation, Walpin explained in an hour-long interview Saturday, were unhappy with his investigation into the misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California and a prominent supporter of President Obama. Walpin's investigation also sparked conflict with the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento amid fears that the probe -- which could have resulted in Johnson being barred from ever winning another federal grant -- might stand in the way of the city receiving its part of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money. After weeks of standoff, Walpin, whose position as inspector general is supposed to be protected from influence by political appointees and the White House, was fired.
Walpin learned his fate Wednesday night. He was driving to an event in upstate New York when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform. "He said, 'Mr. Walpin, the president wants me to tell you that he really appreciates your service, but it's time to move on,'" Walpin recalls. "Eisen said, 'You can either resign, or I'll tell you that we'll have to terminate you.'"
At that moment, Walpin says, he had finished not only a report on the Sacramento probe but also an investigation into extensive misuse of AmeriCorps money by the City University of New York, which is AmeriCorps' biggest program. Walpin says he told Eisen that, given those two investigations, neither of which was well-received by top Corporation management, the timing of his firing seemed "very interesting." According to Walpin, Eisen said it was "pure coincidence." When Walpin asked for some time to consider what to do, Eisen gave him one hour. "Then he called back in 45 minutes and asked for my response," Walpin recalls.
The method of Walpin's firing could be a violation of the 2008 Inspectors General Reform Act, which requires the president to give Congress 30 days' notice, plus an explanation of cause, before firing an inspector general. Then-Sen. Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of that legislation. In the case of Walpin, Eisen's efforts to force Walpin to resign could be seen as an effort to push Walpin out of his job so that the White House would not have to go through the 30-day process or give a reason for its action. When Walpin refused to quit, the White House informed Congress and began the 30-day countdown.
Still waiting on the outrage.
Friday, June 12, 2009
And other reasons why Bill Simmons is the funniest sports columnist going. And the funniest thing in there isn't even sports related:
If you ever watch this game on ESPN Classic, or if you have it on your DVR, make sure you watch the part when the broadcast team is talking to the camera coming out of the timeout and two blondes are behind them making faces and trying to get on TV, and then, like an act of God, one of them leans back to sit down, tumbles backwards and falls right out of the picture. An all-time comedy classic! And a really bad omen for what would happen next.
Though I struggle to believe that game will be showing up on ESPN Classic anytime soon.
Today's winner: John Aravosis at AMERICAblog.
As Glenn Reynolds keeps pointing out, President Obama's biggest fans during the campaign are slowly but surely coming to recognize the things us Troglodyte knuckle-draggers had figured out last summer.
As the good Law professor is fond of saying, "Heh."
The Obama Administration fires Inspector General who has investigated Obama supporter, Sacramento mayor and former NBA All-star, Kevin Johnson:
President Barack Obama says he has lost confidence in the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs and has told Congress he is removing him from the position.
Obama's move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star.
Walpin was criticized by the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento for the way he handled an investigation of Johnson and St. HOPE Academy, a nonprofit group that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The corporation runs the AmeriCorps program.
"It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general," Obama said in a letter Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as president of the Senate. "That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general."
Recall the outrage over the US Attorney firings under GW Bush. Firings, I would remind, that were perfectly legal as the President has the authority to fire and hire sitting US Attorneys at any time, for any reason.
The suggestion is, of course, that Obama's firing is purely politically motivated which then begs the question, where is the outrage? For perspective, see Byron York in the DC Examiner:
I’ve been trying to discover the real reason for Obama’s move, and it’s still not clear. I’m told that it could be a combination of the normal tensions that surround any inspector general’s office, or the president’s desire to get his own people in IG positions, or a dispute over a particular investigation. “Bottom line,” one source wrote, “getting rid of a tough, Republican-appointed IG who has been aggressively going after waste and fraud gives Obama a chance to replace that IG with a more compliant team player.”
I’m also told that a number of inspectors general around the government have been expressing concerns to Congress recently about threats to their independence. . . . Bottom line: The AmeriCorps IG accuses prominent Obama supporter of misusing AmeriCorps grant money. Prominent Obama supporter has to pay back more than $400,000 of that grant money. Obama fires AmeriCorps IG.
In all fairness, as Byron points out, not every answer to this question is nefarious. But the appearance is surely that of impropriety.
So my question is, where is the outraged commentary that we so routinely saw in response to Bush Administration actions when similar questions of propriety hang in the air?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Hat tip to TM at JustOneMinute...
From the good folks at Accuweather we learn that the Law of Unintended Consequences appears to extend to large construction projects:
As it turns out, walls, not weather, have been homer helpers for 19 percent of the home runs thus far in the new Yankee Stadium.
The difference is in the dimensions. For someone attending a game at the new Yankee Stadium, or watching on TV, the size of the playing field appears to be the same. The dimensions at select corners of the field are identical - and the posted numbers on the walls reflect that. However, comparing schematics and aerial photos of the parks reveal some nuances that have significant implications.
...Taking into account the dimensions of the field, wall height, and the eventual landing zone of the home runs hit to right field, AccuWeather.com has calculated that 19 percent (an estimated 20 out of 105) of the home runs would not have flown out of the old stadium. If the first 29 games are any indication, 293 home runs will be hit by the end of the year at the new Yankee Stadium, just short of the record of 303 home runs hit at Denver's Coors Field in 1999. If this is the case, as many as 56 home runs could be attributed to the size of the new playing field.
Though not a perfect analogy, it reminds me of the 90's when all of us were perplexed at the increase in HR's across MLB and left wondering if the ball was juiced. As per usual, the answer is most often right in front of your face...it was the sluggers that were juiced. Who knew!
So it's the stadium and not the pitching...go figure! Though I can't help but think that RichatUF has a point. Better pitching would help.
FBI agents visited the offices of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine yesterday after a shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum and told employees they'd found the magazine's address
A senior Standard staffer confirmed the visit but declined to discuss it in detail. An FBI spokeswoman, Katherine Schweit , also declined to comment on the investigation.
Two other sources said two FBI agents arrived shortly after 5:00 p.m. Thursday at the 17th Street offices of the magazine. They told staffers that they had found the address of the magazine on a piece of paper associated with the shooter, James von Brunn, and asked whether the Standard had received any threats.
The magazine is about a mile north of the Holocaust Museum, and there's no other indication that von Brunn had targeted it. Von Brunn's published rants included attacks on "neocons," and the Standard has been at the heart of the neoconservative movement.
The suggestion that the Standard may have been a target complicates any view of the racist shooter in contemporary left-right terms. Von Brunn's white supremacist roots put him under the rubric of a "right-wing extremist," but the substance of his views -- which included everything from believing that President Bush may have been in on the September 11 attacks to denying that President Obama is an American citizen -- are too far on the fringe to fit into conventional political classification.
The focus on the Standard, though, appears to be of a piece with his central motivation: Anti-Semitism. In one essay, Von Brunn attacked "JEWS-NEOCONS-BILL O’REILLY," and the suggestion that neoconservatism is a specifically Jewish conspiracy is common on the racist fringe.
I thought that only us right-wing troglodytes were prone to shooting rampages...
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
GM's new Chairman acknowledges that he doesn't know anything about the car industry...
Edward E. Whitacre Jr. built AT&T Inc. into the biggest U.S. provider of telephone service over a 43-year-career. By his own admission, he becomes chairman of General Motors Corp. knowing nothing about the auto industry.
The 6-foot-4-inch Texan nicknamed “Big Ed” said steering the nation’s largest automaker after bankruptcy is “a public service.” People who know him say he can meet GM’s need for the type of transformation he orchestrated at Dallas-based AT&T.
“I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said yesterday in an interview after his appointment. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.”
It is true that to a large degree 'business' is indeed 'business' and there will be many principles that apply in high-tech communications that can also be applied to automotive manufacturing. Given, however, that even after injections of oodles of taxpayer dollars GM more resembles a dead-corpse than a healthy business entity, is now the best time to put a neophyte in charge?
Then again, he's in good company.