Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coming to a Doctor's office near You

Cash for Clunkers sounds like a good deal and it probably is. After all, if I have an old beater sitting in the driveway--and I do--why would I not like to replace it for something newer and nicer and not entirely on my dime?

Like I said, it sounds like a great deal. Though according to this, it's not working out so hot for participating dealers:

Dealers reported problems with the government’s online system to get the transactions approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is running the program.

Scott Lambert, vice president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, said he was “astounded” to learn at a meeting Tuesday representing about 150 Minnesota dealers that not one has had a deal approved.

“We had dealers representing 1,500 to 2,000 transactions,” he said. “We asked how many had a deal approved yet, and not one hand went up.”

Lambert said the government has created a program that’s “so big and cumbersome that it can’t find a way to accept anything. We’re sending in good, reliable deals.”

It’s nerve-racking for the dealers, he said, because they have given the customer $4,500 and now the dealers need to be reimbursed.

Imagine my shock at learning that a government program doesn't work as advertised. Now imagine applying those same industry-leading efficiencies to a government-administered health care system (in part or in toto--take your pick).

As Glenn Reynolds points out, it's almost certain they'd do a better job with your prostate.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not News

This is what you get when breathless headlines and no new information collide:

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission plans to issue a report next month suggesting speculators played a significant role in driving wild swings in oil prices -- a reversal of an earlier CFTC position that augurs intensifying scrutiny on investors.

In a contentious report last year, the main U.S. futures-market regulator pinned oil-price swings primarily on supply and demand. But that analysis was based on "deeply flawed data," Bart Chilton, one of four CFTC commissioners, said in an interview Monday.

The CFTC's new review, due to be released in August, adds fuel to a growing debate over financial investors who bet on the direction of commodities prices by buying contracts tied to indexes. These speculators have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in contracts that were once dominated by producers and consumers who sought to hedge against oil-market volatility.

Who didn't know that speculative buying was driving oil prices up b/t 2006-2008? I'm pretty sure that I wasn't hallucinating when I constantly saw and heard econ reporters talking about speculative buying as a hedge against the weak dollar, especially at the tail end of the oil bubble last year.

So then to see a report like this as 'econ' reporting makes me wonder if it's more like 'political' reporting.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome to Earth!

Obama sees the bottom-side of 50% for the first time.

The first rule of holes is of course 'stop digging.' I don't expect however that the Administration will suddenly reverse on the very things that have helped drive those ratings down over the last 4 months.

How funny is that?

When rallies go wrong:

Local members had penciled in on today’s schedule a protest in front of Senator John Cornyn’s Spring Valley Road office, during which they had hoped to pressure the senator to support President Barack Obama’s public health care legislation. But when Paula Anderson, a member and spokeswoman, showed up at 11:30 a.m., she found another contingent had beat her to the proverbial punch: A large number of Dallas Tea Party members were already set up, voicing their opposition to the proposal.

Anderson was stunned: “We really did not expect them to show up.” She estimated the crowd at about 130. “From our perspective we took names of everyone there, and we had about 30 people,” she told Unfair Park. “And I would assume they maybe had 100.” As it turned out, according to Jessica Sandlin, Cornyn’s Texas press secretary, Tea Party-hearties also showed up to health-care legislation rallies in Austin and in San Antonio.

What does it mean when grass-roots movements out-hustle the professional protesters?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Encouraging sign

On the economic front today, this headline:

Gold prices flat as investors' risk appetite grows

Selling Healthcare Reform

From NRO with the attendant editorial on last night's press conference.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Suck-watch '09 (Day 22)

Suckage, thy name is Chone Figgins.

In the last week Figgins is hitting a grand .208 with the penultimate suckage coming in last night's double-header against Kansas City. Figgins went 0-for-2 last night: that's right, two games, no hits and 4 K's. Though he did manage a walk and a run scored.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hardly Schocking

At Politico today:

Trust in President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies to identify the right solutions to problems facing the country has dropped off significantly since March, according to a new Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO poll.

Just as Obama intensifies his efforts to fulfill a campaign promise and reach an agreement with Congress on health care reform, the number of Americans who say they trust the president has fallen from 66 percent to 54 percent. At the same time, the percentage of those who say they do not trust the president has jumped from 31 to 42.

The president’s party has taken a similar hit since the last Public Trust Monitor poll, with only 42 percent of respondents saying that they trust the Democratic Party, compared with 52 percent who do not. The party’s numbers are nearly the inverse of March’s survey, in which 52 percent said they trusted Democrats and 42 percent did not.

Obama’s personal approval rating has fallen below 60 percent in a number of recent major polls, and according to a Washington Post/ABC News survey out Monday, support for the president’s leadership on several key issues has fallen below 50 percent.

Not to beat the same drum but some of us right-wing troglodytes saw this coming. The Oval Office is no place for on-the-job training for a Neophyte Executive.

UPDATE: Gallup reports similar numbers. But this is my favorite...thats gonna leave a mark:

President Barack Obama's tumbling poll numbers have dipped below those of his predecessor George W. Bush at the same point in his White House tenure, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Send in the Clowns

The only question really is which is the bigger buffoon...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Class is in Session

Megan McArdle at The Atlantic takes Kevin Drum to school.

I always get a kick out of that. I don't know what it is about Kevin. Whether at Cal Pundit, Washington Monthly or now at Mother Jones I've just seen him write too many head-scratchers to take him overly serious.

Maybe it's just me.

Senility Setting In?

You couldn't make this up. The Senator that just switched parties to avoid likely getting rolled in the primary next year is challenging the bona fides of his primary opponent. Really.

From CNN:

On Thursday, Specter's campaign sought to bring into question Sestak's roots to the Democratic Party. Specter's campaign sent out a list of Sestak's voting history in Delaware County, which the senator's campaign said showed that Sestak registered as an Independent in 1971, didn't vote in any primary elections from 1971-2005 and that he officially registered as a Democrat in February of 2006. Sestak was elected as a Democrat to the House in 2006.

"Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress," Specter said in the statement. "His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Pale Imitation

And far more disingenuous:

So the Obama administration is all for due process, as long as it produces the correct result. Obama already has said that Guantanamo detainees who cannot be successfully tried by military commissions or civilian courts can still be imprisoned indefinitely if they are considered too dangerous to release. Now Johnson is saying that even those who are prosecuted can be kept imprisoned regardless of the verdict. The only point of prosecuting them, it seems, is to create an impression of due process while continuing the Bush detention policies that Obama condemned during the campaign.

The Bush Administration was at least principled about their stand on these issues, like the actual policies or not. His successor continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth, in effect simultaneously condemning the very actions he autohorizes.

Does this leave as bad a taste in supporters mouths as it does in mine? Hopefully, people are noticing the disconnect between Presidential rhetoric and action.

Bush is a piker

It almost makes me long for the days of the "Bush cabal" screeds. The current administration makes Bush look like a piker:

Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year’s presidential election. . . . Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows.

(H/T Instapundit)

Re: What California government workers think of you taxpayers

Very I-LouMinatti-ing post that highlights some very contemptuous commentary from some fine California bureaucrats.

If true, these people need to keep something in mind. Those of us in California smart enough to understand what's been going on for the last 10 years have had enough. Should the fools who've simultaneously run the state into the ground and padded the nest of state employees continue down this road folks are going to start showing up in Sacramento with torches and pitchforks.

And it's they that will have the large targets on their back.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

As most things go...

People always find ways to ruin a good thing:

A group representing artists and record labels reached a royalty-fee agreement with music Web sites, ending a two-year battle and removing a cloud from over online radio.

"It's a substantial reduction in per-song streaming fees," says Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora Inc., an online music service that will stream about one billion hours of music this year. The royalties question threatened Pandora's viability and hung over all aspects of the business, he said, making it hard to negotiate with potential partners. Now, "we're out from under that," he said.

But as a result of the new royalty rates, Pandora plans to start charging its heaviest users a fee. Those listeners on the free version of Pandora who tune in for more than 40 hours a month will have to pay 99 cents to keep listening for the rest of the month.

To be clear, I'm not one of those who insists that all the best things in life should be free; it's only right that artists are compensated for the use of their work. Yes, Pandora owes royalties.

And it's not the .99 cents...who can't afford a dollar-a-month for anything? But why should the end-user pay?

It's called advertising (something they're already doing btw). By one estimate Pandora has 30 million registered users. Surely it's possible to create an advertising rate-structure that generates enough revenue to meet expenses and turn a profit beginning next year as they are currently targeting.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

LOL of the Day

Why Al Franken will make a good Senator...

I'm sorry, that's a 'superlative' Senator. He for sure will be a Senator...

Suck-watch '09 (Day 7)

A lot can change in a week. As of Friday, Jimmy Rollins was in a career-worst 2-for-31 slump. Thats severe suckage.

Since then he's 8-for-15 and including Thursday night's contest, 10-for-19. And he's raised his average from .205 to .224 So is it the water?

Meanwhile, teammate Ryan Howard seems to have caught whatever it is Rollins has finally shaken off. Since the 1st of July Howard is hitting a paltry .150 (3-for-20 through last night) with no HR, with perhaps the worst of it coming in last night's shellacking of the Reds.

The Reds were giving away RBIs all night long. How much do you have to suck to go 1-4 on a night your team scores 22 runs?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Suck-watch '09 (Day 6)

Timing is everything. And mine, as per usual is off. Way off.

A half-season of suckage prompted the first post in this series aimed primarily at Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins. Since that day Rollins is 7-15 including yesterday's HR and 5 RBI in a series sweep of the Mets.

What to say, other than the obvious; timing is everything. And mine, as per usual is off. Way off.

Meanwhile, the other target of that first post continues along his merry way, getting hung out to dry again yesterday. Lee is now 4-8 and has lost 4 straight starts.

If it moves... it.

Perhaps the greatest Reaganism ever. But did you ever think you'd live to see what amounted to a tax on rain?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Is Late really better than Never?

Everyone's a genius in hindsight.

Suck-watch '09 (Day 3)

A Rollins sighting in Atlanta last night: The only promising signs for the Phillies were another strong start for J.A. Happ(notes), who gave up two runs in seven innings, and two hits by Jimmy Rollins(notes), who ended his career-worst 0-for-28 drought.

2-for-31. Progress!!

Meanwhile, teammate and formerly one of the best set-up men in Baseball, Ryan Madson seems to have picked up here in early July where he left off in June: Suckage. This from Yahoo Sports summarizes it pretty well:

Ryan Madson was 2-1 with four saves, one blown save, 13 holds, a 1.95 ERA and had allowed only 33 base runners (24 hits, nine walks) in 32 1/3 innings through June 16. Since then, and including the three runs he allowed in Thursday night's 5-2 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, the Phillies' setup man is 0-3 with no saves, three blown saves, one hold, a 10.80 ERA and 19 base runners (12 hits, seven walks) in 6 2/3 innings. On Thursday night, Madson entered a 2-2 game and allowed Brian McCann's leadoff single, Matt Diaz's RBI double and Garret Anderson's two-run homer into the Braves' bullpen in right field.

I was never fully sold that the Phils were in fact the best team in Baseball last year. They got hot and blew through the playoffs but they've seriously come back to Earth this season. Good thing 4 of them are sucking up my Fantasy squad.

That wasn't supposed to happen

Unemployment jumped again in yesterday's report. Them's the brown dots. What the Obama Administration promised--both pro and con--for the Stimulus plan are those two lovely curves below that steep line you see if we connect all those dots. You remember...unemployment topping out at 8.5% vs. 9%.

Well, we're at 9.5% and far more likely to blow through 10%--a number not seen since 1982--than not. What do folks have to say about it?

Well, this is pretty self-explanatory: Be sure to thank the President and Congress. This week, with news of some 467,000 jobs lost in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the U.S. has now lost about two million jobs since the economic stimulus package passed. Even more notable is that the average workweek has been slashed to 33 hours - the lowest number on record. When the President signed his $787 billion stimulus package into law, he confidently asserted that unemployment would not exceed eight percent. If Congress hadn’t passed it, he warned, it would rise to nine percent by 2010. Well, unemployment reached 9.5 percent last month, meaning, by the President’s own logic, that his stimulus package has failed.

And Jennifer Rubin pulls no punches: We are recovering. But unemployment is getting worse. And the stimulus is definitely working. Got it? It sounds like they haven’t a clue what to do and don’t want to admit they have been concocting a disaster. And we shouldn't pick on Gibbs. The president and the rest of the administration are no better:...

And what of John Q. Public? Well, how 'bout this: A Rasmussen video report notes that 42% now give the President good or excellent marks for handling the economy . That’s his lowest rating to date...

I expect that, and the approval ratings that go with it, will fall even further when we break 10%, assuming we do (and I feel pretty confident that's much more likely than not). At the risk of sounding like one who is just having fun switching roles from Bush Apologist to Obama critic, I must refute such an allegation, should it come.

The hallmark of President Bush's critics over his 8 years in office, by far, was anger, mixed in with a little irrational hatred of a man 99.9% of them never met much less truly know. The final ingredient in this vile concoction was the fundamental lack of respect for all who disagreed with them about the President and his policies.

President Obama is my president; while I did not vote for him, I will support him when I think he's right, I will be critical when I think he's wrong and I will always show him the respect he deserves. I am not angry with the President over Guantanamo Bay, Iraq or the economy. I think his decisions have been incorrect, but I am not angry.

To the contrary...on the economy I'm actually laughing. I knew his proposal couldn't and wouldn't do what he was promising. I'm sad to see that we're forced now to wait out more difficulty than we otherwise would as a result of his policies. But that is where we're at.

What I patiently wait for is the Administration and it's supporters to finally acknowledge that they own what is now happening in the country. George W. Bush is no longer President; the Democrats who have controlled Congress for 3 years have made every effort at ensuring his policies are no longer in place.

To the Administration and it's supporters, man up! Own your failures. It'll make it far easier to own your successes down the line.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Better or Worse?

Turns out the Washington Post is selling access to Administration and newspaper officials. For as little as $25K, lobbyists get access in a 'non-confrontational setting' to Admin officials, members of Congress and even (HOW EXCITING!) the Post's editorial staff.


The once and future cynic in me, however, is wondering if the usual suspects who raised bloody hell about this and cried foul over this in the last Administration have anything useful to say about the Post's trashing of journalistic ethics.

Everybody's favorite Washington Post aggregator is silent on the subject. And most others as well it seems...

I prefer Brown

Another reason to hate this crap-and-trade bill. Utter garbage like this:

The bill requires the EPA to establish environmental standards for residences, meaning a federally dictated one-size-fits-all policy for greening every home in America.

Federally-mandated 'greening' of every home in the country?

Hell to the NO!


Media Schadenfreude

Beautiful, marvelous, glorious Schadenfreude:

Following a testy exchange during today’s briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas told that not even Richard Nixon tried to control the press the way President Obama is trying to control the press.“Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try.

“What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” Thomas said. “They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We pay them.”

Thomas said she was especially concerned about the arrangement between the Obama Administration and a writer from the liberal Huffington Post Web site. The writer was invited by the White House to President Obama’s press conference last week on the understanding that he would ask Obama a question about Iran from among questions that had been sent to him by people in Iran.

“When you call the reporter the night before you know damn well what they are going to ask to control you,” Thomas said.“I’m not saying there has never been managed news before, but this is carried to fare-thee-well—for the town halls, for the press conferences,” she said. “It’s blatant. They don’t give a damn if you know it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.”

LOL...when you carry the man's water for the better part of two years, how can you act surprised when you're being taken for granted?

Suck-watch '09 (Day 2)

Jimmy Rollins went 0-3 yesterday in his team's 11-1 blowout loss to Atlanta. He's now gone 27 at-bats without a hit and finds himself flirting with a sub-.200 BA.

But hey, he did steal a base.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cat got your tongue?

Word comes down that the President will "filter" questions at his Virginia town-hall meeting. That prompted this from the folks at The Weekly Standard:

Both White Houses are entitled to hold such events, which are inherently and sensibly orchestrated to benefit each executive. The press is right to note that fact while reporting them. Odd that the Times chose to do that only for the Bush administration, huh?

Well, no not really. The media in general and the Times in particular wanted nothing to do with President Bush. For the last 6 years of his Presidency they were unambiguously critical, offering no support even for long-held Democrat and liberal positions during the 2005 Social Security Reform debate.

I don't know about you but I read enough screeds to last a lifetime in the Bush years about the imbecile-in-chief who couldn't handle a 'live' question. Fast-forward 5 years and there is no substantive difference between the former President's handling of town-hall events and his predecessor's. Aside from the media's unambiguous support for everything the predecessor does.

Good Job Guys!

Didn't have time to chime in on this yesterday but wanted to shout out to the morons of Minnesota whose message vote puts Al Franken in the US Senate.


Bad time to be a Celebrity

There goes another one...

Fantasy Baseball: Suck-watch '09

Jimmy Rollins, who has yet to get anything going 3 months into the season, came back last night from his 4-game benching, a.k.a. "rest", to go 0-5 with 2 K's. His batting average is now .207 and he hasn't had a hit in 24 at bats. At the rate his average is falling, I'm guessing he'll barely be hitting his weight by the end of this month.

At least one of my fellow Fantasy leaguers is dropping the S-word.

Cliff Lee, coming off a career year in 2008 (22-3 with a Cy Young Award) had his worst start in 3 seasons yesterday. At least in terms of innings pitched, as Lee was done after 3 having given up 7 ER. This from a pitcher who was working a streak of 47-starts going at least 5-innings, the longest such stretch in 30 years.

It's not all his fault, as the Indians are close to, if not the biggest disappointment in Baseball right now and Lee has had multiple good starts and been hung out to dry by his offense but this is ridiculous. Certainly no one should expect anybody to follow a 22-3 season with a similar level of near-perfection (well, maybe Clemens) but 4-7 halfway through the season? Really?

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