Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year - 2012


Sydney Australia celebrates the 2012 New Year with their traditional massive fireworks display from the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

We will be celebrating New Year here in California at a friend's house - watching the 3 hour delayed replay of the New York City Times Square celebration - and the dropping of the ball to ring in 2012.

Living on the outskirts of the 2nd largest city in the US, I continue to be amazed that the major commemoration of the New Year here remains watching the replay of the event that took place 3 hours earlier in New York City.  Outside of some local theme park events, or local fireworks / gunfire, or hotel parties, there is nothing to compare with Times Square done in Los Angeles.

2011 was a very tough year - although there were a few bright spots.  Try as I might towards looking at 2012 with the same optimism as I usually do, it's hard not to be pessimistic as I look towards the New Year.  One of the things I have to ponder is if I will be still in California at the end of 2012 given the negative economic challenges affecting my business and my family.  But we are not alone facing these challenges or having questions as to what 2012 will bring us.  All we can do is keep our faith and our commitment towards working to make 2012 a better year than 2011.

Quick Hits - December 31, 2011

Today is the last day of 2011 - and from a personal observation, Good Riddance to 2011.

One of the customs for the 'End of Year' (EoY) is to reflect back on the previous year - and make predictions / resolutions for the upcoming year.  Let's start with the reflection on 2011...

Hot Air has a post highlighting the best news bloopers of 2011...

The Heritage Foundation has a look at who / what were Naughty or Nice in 2011...

On the Naughty front - they note:
  • The Obama Administration's willingness to circumvent the constitutional lawmaking process
  • Runaway Administration bureaucrats - costing the American people billions
  • Progressives and progressivism run wild - in particular OccupyWallStreet
On the Nice front, they've highlighted:
  • Congress begins to re-establish their Constitutional muscles
  • Grassroot Constitutionalism remains strong - Tea Party hasn't disappeared
  • GOP House tries to rein in the runaway Administration bureaucrats
  • The unconstitutional 'nullification' movement was soundly defeated
From PJ Media we have two excellent recaps of 2011 - one is based on the President's National Security record for 2011 - which makes the Carter Administration look brilliant.  The other provides us with the Top Ten 2011 Examples of Media Malfeasance.  (More later in this post on media malfeasance)

Judicial Watch has the list of the 'Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians' for 2011 along with a dishonorable mention list.  Included on the list are:
  • Representative Spencer Bachus  (R-AL)
  • Former Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
  • Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
  • Attorney General Eric Holder (D)
  • Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)
  • President Barack Obama (D)
  • Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA)
  • Representative David Rivera (R-FL)
  • Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA)
  • Representative Don Young (R-AK)
Dishonorable Mentions on the list include:
  • Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC)
  • Representative Barney Frank (D-MA)
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R)
  • Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (D)
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
  • Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY)
  • Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY)
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius (D)
The above link has the full rundown on the 'charges' for each supporting their selection on this list.

Investor's Business Daily has the list of the 10 best Michael Ramirez political cartoons for 2011 - some of the top 10 include:

Visit the link for the full list...

As noted in yesterday's post, one of the top news stories for 2011 was based on the debt crisis, both in the US and in Europe.  The Euro crisis will be with us throughout 2012.  Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine has a grim look at the Euro crisis  - noting that the fundamental problem for the EU is based on the architecture of their model - not on their implementation.  Specifically, Der Spiegel castigates the leadership because of the lies they keep telling themselves about the Euro zone...
Since its inception, the euro zone has been built on lies, the most grievous of which is the idea that the common currency could work without political union. But Europe's politicians are currently suffering under a different but equally fatal delusion -- that they have all the time in the world to fix the crisis.
Today is the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the Euro as the everyday currency for those 17 countries in the Euro zone.  Given the nature of the crisis, will the Euro reach it's 11th birthday?  or 20th birthday?  Today it's at a 17 month low against the US dollar.  The 'PIIGS' are as bad as before - with no real progress to addressing their fundamental challenge - and the risks / cascade effects of default are even greater.  France is on the verge of a credit downgrade from AAA.

As we look and wonder about the future of the Euro zone and the Euro, we still need to look at the US and the speed that we are making the exact same fundamental mistakes - and have to wonder if the US will reach it's tercentennial?  Or if, come January 19, 2017 and Barack Obama is still President of the United States, will the US survive to the start of the 21st century's third or fourth decade?

President Obama, facing his re-election year, is going to make Congress his battleground as he has demonstrated in the last several months.  He is going to be running based on a do-nothing Congress - laying blame for all of the challenges and problems being faced on Congress's inability to do anything - in particular rubber stamp his proposals. 
Obama to press ahead on his agenda without Congress – Exec Order, Regulation He is expected to once again push lawmakers to pass elements of his jobs bill that were blocked by Republicans last fall.

If those efforts fail, the White House says, Obama’s re-election year will focus almost exclusively on executive action. Earnest said Obama will unveil at least two or three directives per week — a continuation of the “We Can’t Wait” campaign the administration began this fall — and seek to define Republicans in Congress as gridlocked and dysfunctional.
Part of this game is being played out with the national debt.  In response to a joint request from Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the President has agreed to postpone his official request to enact the last $1.2 trillion national debt limit increase

Facilitating the agenda and games that the President will be playing will be the compliant and supportive elements of the mainstream media that Obama has in his pocket.  Two of the most biased of the inside the beltway reporters, Erza Klein and Chris Hayes, are revealing just how much a part of the President's strategy they, and others of the DC Media are.  In this case, they are boasting of the 'inside baseball' acts around the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax Reduction kerfuffle from December 2011...
Erza Klein / Chris Hayes reveal what the DC Media knew: Obama was willing to let payroll tax cut expire… Yesterday, on MSNBC, left-wing journalists Chris Hayes of The Nation and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post–no strangers to Democrat-media collusion–revealed that they had been part of an off-the-record White House briefing in which it was made clear that President Barack Obama planned all along to let the temporary payroll tax holiday expire, and then blame Republicans.
The meeting may have been the one first revealed on December 19, 2011 by ABC News’s senior White House correspondent, Jake Tapper, who tweeted that day that “a group of progressive media stars” had attended a private meeting at the White House with the President.
However, if Hayes is to be believed, the message of that meeting may have extended far beyond the “progressive” media niche at MSNBC, and reached a broader audience in Washington.
According to Hayes, “everyone in Washington” knew that Obama wanted the payroll tax extension to fail–and yet the same journalists eagerly covered the subsequent payroll tax debate as if Republicans were the only obstacle to an extension. The result of the media’s collusion was a year-end political victory for Obama and the Democrats at the expense of House leaders, the Tea Party, and Republicans in general.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, 'The Spenders' won in 2011...

How tough is the economy that the President is trying to run away from?

Just 55.3% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 have jobs today.  The 'youth' vote was one of the largest bloc's supporting the President in 2008.  Will they accept that Congress and the GOP are to blame for this statistic?

The President's problems aren't limited to the domestic policy and economy.  He had some real challenges internationally that reduced the effect and bounce he gained from the special forces mission which killed Osama Bin Laden.  Even that mission had consequences - as the mission rebooted the relationship we had with Pakistan.  Caroline Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post, notes Obama's many failures in the Middle East, and Richard Fernandez notes the 'Perils of Leading from Behind' - a cornerstone phrase of the President's foreign policy.  With the US abandonment of Iraq now complete - is the President seeking to do the same in Afghanistan?

On This Day in History...

1600 - Queen Elizabeth I decrees the founding of the East India Company...

1775 - American forces under General Richard Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold are defeated by British forces in their effort to capture Quebec City...Montgomery is killed in the attack.

1879 - Thomas Edison has the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb.  On January 1, 2012, the 100 watt incandescent light bulb is banned - with consumers supposed to use mercury filled CFL lights instead (as the EPA passes massive anti-mercury regulations on fossil fuel power plants).

1968 - The Soviet TU-144 supersonic airliner makes its first flight - beating the Anglo-French Concorde by several months.

1972 - Baseball star Roberto Clemente dies in a plane crash while flying relief supplies to earthquake ravaged Nicaragua.

1999 - The United States turns over ownership and administration of the Panama Canal to Panama.

Friday, December 30, 2011

What were the Top News Stories of 2011?

What were the top news stories of 2011 that captured the public's attention?

Here's what I think were the top stories of 2011 - some of which captured the interest of the public and some that did not, but should have...

  1. Osama Bin Laden killed by US Special Forces in his compound inside Pakistan.
  2. Representative Gabriel Giffords and 18 others shot during a Town Hall meeting in Tuscon, Arizona.  6 killed in the attack, Giffords survives after being shot in the head.
  3. 9.0 Earthquake (Tohoku Earthquake) off Japanese coast triggers devastating tsunami - resulting in nearly 20,000 killed and missing and major nuclear incident at a nuclear power plant at Fukushima.
  4. Wisconsin Protests - Wisconsin voters elected Governor Scott Walker and a Republican majority in the State Legislature to address / change the fiscal challenges in the state.  Walker and his fellow Republicans targeted public sector unions, in particular, the power of the teacher's unions, as a major part of the problem.  To address this problem, they proposed legislation that required the public sector unions to contribute more towards their benefit programs and limit some of their collective bargaining rights.  Wisconsin Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote, and unions staged massive protests and an occupation of the State Capital.  Ultimately unsuccessful, the Democrats and unions attempted to recall sufficient Republicans from the Legislature to overturn the law.  This also failed.  Since the legislation passed, Wisconsin's fiscal problems have lessened significantly - but Democrats and Unions are still trying to recall Scott Walker.
  5. Operation Gunwalker / Fast and Furious - The DoJ / ATF program which 'walked' assault, sniper, and other weapons from American gun stores to Mexican Drug Cartels burst to the news as it was determined that several of these weapons were used in the murder of an American Border Patrol agent - and subsequently hundreds of Mexican officials and civilians.  The DoJ embarked on a full scale cover-up - including deliberately lying to Congressional investigators.  Documents uncovered in the investigation also indicated that the program was being used as a justification for increased US gun control laws.
  6. Crony Capitalism in the Obama Administration - The Obama Administration lost billions of taxpayer funds by providing funds to green energy companies like Solyndra and Solar Millennium - and then finding that many principles involved in these organizations were leading contributors to the Obama Presidential Campaign.  Late in 2011, adding to the problems of crony capitalism, the company run by former US Senator, NJ Governor, and major Obama campaign bundler, Jon Corzine failed as a result of Corzine's risky Euro bets - $1.2 billion in client funds remain missing.
  7. OccupyWallStreet - building from the Wisconsin protests, a coalition of unions, anarchists, progressives, and marxists attempt to create a new 'movement' to promote social revolution, social justice, and class warfare - the 99% versus the 1%.  The movement loses credibility because of the roots and the lawlessness / crimes / violence that the movement promotes.
  8. European Union and US Economic / Sovereign Debt Crisis - the viability of the European Union and the Euro currency were tossed into question as a number of European countries balanced on the edge of major economic defaults resulting from their irresponsible fiscal policies.  The year started with concerns over Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Greece - but ended with all of these countries in turmoil as well as France.  The major banks in the EU region are in severe risk because of the risk of default - and a German / French program to increase the power and central management authority of the EU over member nations caused Britain to pull back from the EU.  In conjunction with the Euro debt crisis is the US debt crisis which pits the GOP Majority in the House of Representatives against the Democrat Majority Senate and the Obama Administration in a number of major fights throughout the year.  Ultimately, little is done to arrest the Obama Administration adding nearly $5 Trillion to the national debt in 3 years.
  9. The Arab Spring - the replacement of totalitarian dictators by islamist government.  In Egypt, longtime President Mubarak was ousted and the Salafists / Muslim Brotherhood make huge gains in Egyptian elections - and threats against Christians in Egypt increase.  In Libya, the uprising breaks into full civil war with France, Italy, Britain, and the US supporting the rebels.  Dictator Gaddafi is captured and executed by the rebels - and al-Qaeda / Islamists are stepping into the power vacumn.  In Syria, Assad's military forces have killed nearly 6,000 civilians protesting his dictatorship - but in this case the US and other western countries are silent / inactive.
  10. (Tie) Anthony Weiner loses seat in 'Twitter' scandal after sending photos of his 'junk' to women and then the Democrats lose his seat in a special election.  The Republicans gain a seat that they had not held since 1922...  and...  Opposed by the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, the Obama Administration works to enact, via regulatory fiat many of their major agenda items including Cap & Trade (via the EPA), Card Check / Increase Union power (via the NLRB), and 'social justice' via Elizabeth Warren's Consumer watchdog bureau
Any stories missed that should have made the list?

Quick Hits - December 30, 2011

The Euro crisis is continuing to bubble and boil as the Euro currency hit a 17 month low yesterday.  In Greece, their new government has effectively ground to a halt as it remains divided in trying to decide if they will implement the painful steps needed for the austerity programs they are being asked to adopt in order to continue getting bailout funds from the other EU members (ie Germany). 

The new conservative government in Spain has announced that the 2011 national budget deficit will be 8% of it's Gross Domestic Product - several points higher than the 6% target they needed to achieve.  The government has announced a number of steps to address this including a freeze on civil servant wages, increases in income and property taxes, and €8.9-billion spending cuts.  Despite these efforts it is likely that the country will fall back into recession.  By comparison, the US current national budget deficit is nearly 10% of our Gross Domestic Product.

The US economic conditions continue to be the major focus as the country remains entrenched in the slowest economic recovery in modern US history.  While apologists for the President remain busy trying to blame the previous Administration, which left office in January 2009, for today's anemic economy, it's becoming more and more apparent that our present economic conditions are derived directly from the economic policies and agenda of President Obama and his Administration.

As posted before, Bill Whittle in his last Afterburner presentation for 2011, addresses the State of the Union after the first three years of President Obama's term in office.

One of the biggest canards around the Obama agenda when it comes to economics is the one that the President is focused on saving and protecting the middle class - therefore the basis for his class warfare rhetoric against the 'wealthy'.  However, in this, Obama is embracing one of the meme's created by progressives back in the days of the Vietnam War.  Peter Arnett, the former CNN reporter who was best friends of Saddam Hussein, was a reporter in Vietnam working, as was his habit, on promoting an agenda - in that case an agenda against the actions of the US military.  He fabricated (not for the first time) a quote from an unnamed US military official that a South Vietnamese village had to be destroyed by US military action 'in order to save it'.

As the American Spectator notes, President Obama is not only no friend of the middle class as he enacts his agenda, but 'by his reasoning, Obama needs to destroy the middle class in order to save it'.  Since the President's ultimate goal is based around achieving a 'fundamental change' in the US, enabled by the Fox-Piven Strategy, the message is clear that the present conditions do have to be discredited to the point that people are willing to embrace the progressive model as the 'only solution'.

Michael Barone sees this and notes that rather than focusing on the redistribution of wealth from the upper classes to the lower classes, the proper course to adopt is to encourage economic growth...
Growth needed, not redistribution… So why should voters be leery of economic redistribution in times of economic distress?

Perhaps because they realize that they stand to gain much more from a vibrantly growing economy than from redistribution of a stagnant economic pie. A growing economy produces many unanticipated opportunities.

Redistribution edges toward a zero-sum game.

They miss growth when it is absent. They don’t appreciate it so much when it is happening.

Roosevelt’s 1934 and 1936 victories were won in periods of growth. After the economy shifted into recession in 1937, New Deal Democrats fared much worse, and Roosevelt won his third and fourth terms as a seasoned wartime leader, not an economic redistributor.

Lesson: If you want redistribution, you’d better first produce growth. Which the Obama Democrats’ policies have failed to do.

One of the things interesting with Barone's analysis is it's timing. Today is the 75th anniversary of the first 'Occupy' moment. On this day in 1936, the United Auto Workers, involved in a dispute with General Motors, staged a sit-in / occupation of the GM Flint, Michigan production plant. This created a labor crisis for the FDR Administration. As noted by the Wall Street Journal, the support and efforts made by the FDR Administration towards the UAW (and other unions) and to expand the power of the Administration (Wagner Act) which included efforts to stack the Supreme Court when it ruled against some New Deal initiatives resulted in a backlash against FDR not unlike the 2010 backlash against the Obama Administration in midterm elections.

When we talk about the need for different economic policies than those done by the Administration over the past 3 years, one of the arguments that comes to the fore is to look at the 1990's and the policies of the Clinton Administration towards promoting the job growth of that decade.  However, as noted in this video, there are 5 primary reasons for the economic growth in the 1990's - and none of these reasons are the actions or policies of the Clinton Administration. 

We have the lessons of history to learn from when it comes to defining and implementing effective economic policies - but all too often we refuse to learn the right lessons from history.  Rather than accept the lessons that the problem is in the architecture of the concept (Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Euro single currency (Jacques Delors and others), Progressivism, Keynesian economics, etc), true believers delude themselves by claiming the failures resulted from an imperfect implementation.

We only need to look at the Euro crisis of today to see the effects of irresponsible fiscal management and planning - of the price of excessive entitlements and onerous taxation policies - but under this Administration we've made huge strides trying to catch up to the European's by following their path.

Tax cuts and less intrusive government helps Canada soar - Away from the low growth and high regulation of an America under Washington's thumb, our northern neighbor is economically strong. As 2011 ends, Canada has announced yet another tax cut — and will soar even more.

The Obama administration and its economic czars have flailed about for years, baffled about how to get the U.S. economy growing.

In reality, the president need look no further than our neighbor, Canada, whose solid growth is the product of tax cuts, fiscal discipline, free trade, and energy development. That's made Canada a roaring puma nation, while its supposedly more powerful southern neighbor stands on the outside looking in.

To highlight our economic problems - and to direct focus on the real issues we face as opposed to the class warfare / ideological argument offered by President Obama, the Heritage Foundation lists their top charts for 2011.

In related economic news, the Washington Post is taking a surprising look at the real effects of the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction - not as it applies to working families, but as it applies to the Social Security Insurance program...
WaPo looks at the not so rosy side of the 2% temporary social security payroll tax reduction impact – ‘Payroll tax cut raises worries about Social Security’s future funding’.. “It’s a grave step for Social Security,” said Charles Blahous, one of two public trustees for Social Security and a research fellow with the Hoover Institution. “It just seems to me the program both financially and politically will be on a lot rockier footing.”

Robert Reischauer, the other public trustee and president of the Urban Institute, said extending the payroll tax cut another year during high unemployment seems justified. But it “could, if it continues for a substantial period of time, undermine one of the foundational arguments that makes the Social Security program inviolate.”

The effects of the Administration's economic mismanagement combined with their progressive ideological focus is not being lost on the electorate as we ready to enter 2012. With the assist of the sympathetic mainstream media, the President noted a brief bump in his approval ratings over the kerfuffle around the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction. Yesterday's QH noted that 'The Hill' was promoting this bump as evidence that the President had turned the corner. However, that was a specious argument as 'The Hill' notes today that his approval rating has plummeted again to his low water mark. What is also interesting is that both ABC News and NBC News continue to ignore this drop in approval and tout the 'outlier' poll.

One of the Executive Branch departments that most reflects the political agenda of the Administration is the Department of Justice under AG Eric Holder. AG Holder continues to use and play the race card with abandon when it comes to voting - and in particular the efforts by states to protect the integrity of our electoral process by passing Voter ID laws to ensure that the voter is who they say they are - and only casts one ballot. Holder, and the Democrats, are apoplectic about this ID requirement and as noted by Hot Air and the WSJ, he's willing to bet Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on trying to oppose these laws.

Watchgroup 'Judicial Watch' started to publish their list of the most corrupt politicians for 2011 - commencing with the House of Representatives edition. Included are Republicans Spencer Bachus (AL), David Rivera (FL), and Don Young (AK). Democrats named include Alcee Hastings (FL), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL), Laura Richardson (CA), and Maxine Waters (CA). Dishonorable mentions include Democrats Barney Frank (MA), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Charles Rangel (NY) and Republicans Hap Rogers (KY) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The only real questions are - how do these corrupt officials keep getting elected - and why are they still in Congress?
CNN has an interesting definition of 'technology failures' when they post their list of the biggest 'Tech Fails' of 2011....leading the list is former Representative Anthony Weiner for sending twitter pictures of his junk to women. I don't see the 'Tech Fail' with this - not even in Weiner's failed excuse that his twitter account was 'hacked'. The 'fail' is in Weiner...not the technology.

Returning briefly to more international news...

Syrian protesters flood the streets in the largest protests so far against the Assad regime. Syrian forces are using violence to counter these protests, despite the Arab League monitors, and at least 30 more civilians have been killed. Reports are that the Arab League monitor mission to Syria is already failing...was this part of the plan in the first place?

Kurds in Turkey are demonstrating against the Turkish Government as an air strike the Turkish military made on suspected Kurdish militants killed 36 civilians instead.

On This Day in History...

1853 - The Gadsden Purchase was signed - this $15M purchase of 30,000 square miles of territory that is now part of New Mexico and Arizona defined the border between the US and Mexico.

1916 - Grigori Rasputin was murdered

1922 - The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic was established - creating one of the most oppressive and murderous regimes in history. Estimates are the communist regime was responsible for some 60 million deaths between 1922 and 1991.

1936 - The United Auto Workers kicked off their 'sit down' / 'occupy' strike of the GM plant in Flint, Michigan in a major labor / management battle. The UAW win helped dramatically increase the power of unions - which resulted in consequences decades later...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quick Hits - December 29, 2011

5 days from the Iowa Caucus votes and the drama continues in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination.  CNN's latest poll on the race in Iowa has Romney leading with 25%, Ron Paul in second with 22%, Rick Santorum surging to third with 16%, and Newt Gingrich fading to 14% and fourth place.  Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann trail.

Bachmann's campaign took a major double hit late yesterday as the Chairman of her Iowa campaign, Kent Sorenson, just hours after appearing at a Bachmann event, resigned as her Chair and then appeared at a Ron Paul event to endorse Paul.  The other hit was a 'super-pac' that was announced to support Bachmann has switched it's allegiance to Mitt Romney - making a nearly half million dollar ad buy on Christmas Eve to promote Romney.  There are also reports of calls from leading evangelicals in Iowa calling for Bachmann to drop out and endorse Santorum.

Bachmann's remaining camp are claiming that Ron Paul's campaign offered money to Kent Sorenson to make the 11th hour switch - accusations that both Sorenson and Paul's campaign deny.  Hot Air has a report that brings these denials into question.

Ron Paul's 'surge' seems to be based far more on non-Republican's than on a growing and expanding base within the Republican Party.  He continues to demonstrate that he is little more than a crank on the fringe - not only with a foreign policy that is far closer to Jeremiah Wright's - but with asinine comments praising the OccupyWallStreet morons..
While campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul praised the Occupy Wall Street movement, comparing it to the Tea Party movement. "In many ways, I identify with both groups," Paul said. Both groups are fed up with problems in Washington and "the two-party-system," Paul said while speaking at an insurance company in Des Moines.

Praising the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movement is an unusual move for a Republican presidential candidate, but Ron Paul is, of course, an unusual Republican presidential candidate. He jumped to first place in the Iowa caucus polls partly because of support from people who aren't Republicans. His comments that members of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are unhappy with the "two-party system" could fuel speculation that Paul will make a third-party bid of his own--something he has not ruled out.
The challenge that Paul faces, beyond himself, is would he really be willing to run as a third party candidate as the backlash would not be directed just at him, but also at his son Rand Paul, a freshman Senator from Tennessee?  Is his ego such that he would put his son's political career into risk?

Another freshman Senator, Scott Brown, from Massachusetts, has proclaimed himself ready for the fight he faces against the extreme left Elizabeth Warren for his seat.  While he has aggravated Republicans and seems to have abandoned the Tea Party support he used to win the special election for his seat, he has announced that Warren is too extreme and too hard left for Massachusetts.  This is one of the most vulnerable GOP seats - and a campaign to watch.

JammieWearingFool takes a sharp stick and pokes an element of the supposedly 'unbiased' media in the eye with it - and a few facts.  The Hill has a front page article gushing over the President's one day blip in the Gallup tracking poll using the results as proof that the President is finding his stride and much success as a 'champion of the middle class'.  It's an unbelievable puff piece promoting the President and his class warfare rhetoric.  Yet, not only does the current Gallup poll show that the President's approval / disapproval has fallen back to 44 / 48 - but Rasmussen has two new polls that reflect very poorly on the President's current standing.  Rasmussen is showing the gap between those who strongly approve / strongly disapprove of the President is back to a near high water mark of -18 (18% more strongly disapprove than strongly approve of the President), but that in a head to head match against Mitt Romney, Romney leads 45-39.  I believe this is the first time that the President, in one of these hypotheticals, polls less than 40%.

Victor Davis Hanson notes 'America's Two Front War' in the battle between the classes that is being waged by President Obama - and the 'change' that Obama actually delivered...
Sometime about mid-2009 America began changing psychologically. True, to the naked eye, America retained the old hustle-and-bustle, but in an insidious fashion it began to think a bit differently. And that change in mentality explains in part why a year-and-a-half recession that officially ended in summer 2009 seems never to have ended at all.

In short, a sizable fraction of the upper-incomes is hesitant, defensive, unsure — and to such a degree that for a while longer it is not hiring, buying, or investing in the old way. It believes not only that there is no certainty in the tax code, the cost of new entitlements, or our national finance, but that even if there were their own successes would be suspect and earn antipathy rather than praise.

In mirror-image fashion, those of the lower incomes are likewise hesitant to take risks — unsure that the rewards of work in the private sector are all that much better than what government can offer through subsidies. The former group fears government will grow; the latter that it will not. The one suspects that Obama will confiscate more earnings; the other hopes that it will. Either way, there are fewer enterprising employers and fewer self-motivated galvanized workers.

The result of this two-front war is that America has been slowing down.

This is the gridlock that should concern us.

Remember when the President told us all that 'Everyone must sacrifice for the greater good...'?  Louis XVIth reincarnated took this message to heart as he played in his 90th round of golf since becoming President.  As Mel Brooks noted, 'It's good to be King'.

Disney Cruises has announced that it is scrapping 4 cruises from Los Angeles to Mexico in 2012 in favor of an unannounced new itinerary.  They decline to announce why the cruises with stops at Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and other Mexican cities were cancelled - but one has to wonder if the security issues in Mexico were at the core.  The silence in the US / Mainstream media over the carnage in Mexico - and the Holder DoJ role in arming the cartels behind the carnage remains deafening.

Disney is also having some technical challenges at it's California Disneyland park this holiday week.  For the last 6 nights, the Disney fireworks extravaganza 'Holiday Magic' has been cancelled for undisclosed 'technical issues'.

The New York Times demonstrates more utter fail - sending a message regarding subscription cancellation to 8.5 million email addresses as opposed to the 300 it intended to send the message to.  Then it cannot decide on whom to blame for the snafu - pretty much refusing to take accountability and responsibility for the mistake.  [I got one - haven't subscribed in over a decade, but I still use that email address - so the NYT offered me 'such a deal' to return.  Not likely as the product isn't worth it.]
In a laughable moment - Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, noting that many of his fellow hard left South American leaders are being diagnosed with cancer, accuses the US of causing these cancer outbreaks.

The United Nations continues to demonstrate their irrelevance and cluelessness.  Last week, the General Assembly held a minute of silence to show respect for the dead tyrant Kim Jong-Il.  Yesterday, to note his funeral in the DPRK, the United Nations flag was flown at half mast. The UN celebrates a man who starved millions of his own people - but others who fought for freedom and human rights get no mention whatsoever.

In Syria, despite the arrival and observation of Arab League observers, the regime continues to have the military target civilians who are demonstrating against the Assad dictatorship.  The decision to bring in Arab League observers will ultimately be a farce - particularly since the head of the Arab League observers in Syria was the person who led the Darfur genocide campaign.

The Euro dropped again yesterday and stock markets remain very wary over the Eurozone crisis.  The Italian's held another bond sale.  While the yields remained below the 7% 'crisis' threshold in the closely watched sale, they remain high and the amount sold was less than the Italian government desired.  The IMF head, Christine Lagarde, made comments that did little to lessen the concern - and the Euro crisis is worsening - not improving...
“Lagarde’s comments come amidst fresh evidence that Europe’s financial crisis continues to worsen. Last week, the European Central Bank provided €489 billion ($US633 billion) in three-year loans to cash-strapped European banks, but figures released overnight show that European banks have turned around and deposited a record €452 billion with the ECB. This is stark evidence that the European interbank lending market remains crippled, and that banks would rather earn the meagre 0.25 per cent interest rate that the ECB pays on depots, rather than running the risk of lending to other banks at much higher interest rates.
On This Day in History -

1170 - Archbishop Thomas Becket is murdered by 4 Knights of King Henry II apparently on orders from the King

1890 - US Army 7th Cavalry troops massacre over 150 Indians at Wounded Knee

1940 - London suffers its most devastating air raid of the war as German aircraft firebomb the city.  This is the raid that led to this iconic photo of the undamaged St. Paul's Cathedral dome surrounded by smoke from the fires caused by the raid...

Upcoming posts - some thoughts about the political race / 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quick Hits - December 28, 2011

Despite Arab League monitors entering Syrian cities, the violence in Syria continues as Syrian troops fire on thousands of anti-government protesters in Hama - killing at least 6.  International pressure is starting to impact Syrian government decisions as the state releases 755 political prisoners after a scathing report by the Human Rights Watch accusing Syrian authorities of hiding political prisoners from observers.

Violence continues to increase in Syria, however, beyond the observers and limited pressure being placed on the regime, little is being done particularly when one looks at the actions of the West vis a vis Egypt or Libya during their uprisings against authoritarian governments.  Why are the rules different with Syria and the Assad regime?  Is it because of the connections to Hezbollah?  Or the open support that Assad gets from the Iranian regime?

The Iranian military exercises in and around the Straits of Hormuz have just started, but the Iranians are wasting little time with the saber rattling - threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil shipments or its central bank.  Oil prices are increasing just on the basis of the threats (now back over $100 / bbl), and if they manifest themselves, prices could surge to over $300 per barrel.  US Fifth Fleet officials replied that any actions to close the Straits will 'not be tolerated' - and a US carrier group centered around the USS John C. Stennis, entered the Persian Gulf yesterday.

In circumstances like these, one has to wonder if the Iranian forces have orders to escalate the situation or create a deeper crisis with aggressive actions around not only US naval forces, but civilian tanker traffic passing through the Straits.

A leading French newspaper, Le Monde, has a very interesting editorial on the subject of the US and Iraq...brought to us by the blog 'No Pasaran' excellent English language blog on France and French issues..
“Because of George W. Bush, editorializes a Le Monde editorial, Iraq has been deprived of the… "stability" that it apparently enjoyed under Saddam Hussein. And the country "has been deprived of part of its history" —whatever that means…

Specifically, writes Le Monde,
it will be years before Iraq rediscovers the path of stability.
Rediscovers (retrouve); doesn't that mean that Iraq enjoyed stability,i.e., a positive state, before the American invasion (called in Le Monde "Bush's war", as well as "a disaster"), i.e., during the murderous Saddam era?

To be sure, Le Monde goes out of its way to say that nobody will regret "one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants of the Middle East," a man "responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis." Needless to say, it ends all these "to be sures" with a "but" — and what a "but"! 
But the Iraqis did not liberate themselves from this tyranny. The United States did not associate them with their [the Americans'] intervention. There are no "Free Iraqi Forces" to accompany the American troops when they enter Baghdad in April 2003. “
Le Monde, during the 2002-2003 run up to the multilateral invasion of Iraq, was very much on the side of the French government - which is to say, on the side of Saddam Hussein, who was paying France and French institutions quite well for their support in the United Nations.  It's quite interesting that Saddam is still remembered as a person who delivered 'stability' to Iraq.  One would think, tyranny, torture, corruption, and brutality would be far more accurate words than 'stability'.

Looking domestically, we are seeing the press breathlessly prepare for next Tuesday's Iowa caucuses -- and the changes in the GOP Presidential Primary race - with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul being the current leaders as Newt Gingrich continues to fade.  Left leaning polls, like those from Public Policy Polling show Ron Paul holding a strong lead - but these seem to reflect more the support from the left / Democrats towards Paul than a real strong conservative base of support for Paul and his loony policy positions.

Blogger 'Tigerhawk' notes that John Hinderaker of Powerline has formally endorsed Mitt Romney as being the best of the field, while another prominent conservative blogger, John Hawkins, makes a strong case against Romney and in favor of Newt Gingrich - all seeing the race as really being between Romney and Gingrich.  The focus of this debate is around which candidate would be the best solution to lead from the WH - and win the WH from Barack Obama.

I remain on the fence - but am starting to trend towards one candidate...when ready, I'll do a post on my choice and why.

Zombie, however, looks at the GOP field and doesn't like what he sees.  He fears this field will give us a President Barack Obama until January 19, 2017.
“A lame-duck Obama will have four years of not worrying about re-election to complete his conscious destruction of American capitalism and constitutionalism. It’s too hideous to even contemplate. And, aside from a long-shot chance by the slightly-better-than-a-crash-test-dummy Romney, none of the current candidates has any chance whatsoever to defeat Obama.”
The electoral picture might not be quite this grim - and the evidence of this comes from some leading Democrats themselves. While the retirement of Democrat Senator Ben Nelson weakens the case that the Democrats can maintain their majority in the Senate, the retirement of 8 other senior Democrats in the House in addition to Barney Frank, shows little deep down hope that the effects of the 2010 election were an outlier - and that the trends for 2012 continue to look bad for the liberal Democrats.
“To Democratic Party faithful, the nine retiring congressmen present a dramatic picture of the hostile environment Democrats are facing as the 2012 election begins. Some of the retirees had easily won re-election with 60-70% majorities. Their stampede for the exit is yet another admission that the Democrats face a potential “wave” election, and of course, it portends considerable trouble for Barack Obama.”
One of the other major aspects effecting the 2012 election is the record of the Obama Administration. Michelle Malkin has a year-end summary of the 'Year in Obama Scandals' - which reflects far too many for an Administration that touted itself as the most transparent and ethical in the country's history. In addition to these, we also have information coming out today that one of the leading executive in the failed investment bank MF Global, which still cannot account for $1.2 billion in missing client funds, is also the chief financial advisor for the Administration's Environmental Protection Agency. Is he behind the asinine financial justifications of the EPA's regulatory actions?

The Heritage Foundation marks the end of the year with their review of the worst of the Federal Rules and Regulations issued by the Administration in 2011. Each of these represent a real expansion of executive power - with most in response to the Administration's inability to get similar policies enacted via legislation.

The Washington Post takes a look at the national debt - which is closing the year within $100 Billion of it's $15.2 trillion ceiling. Rather than focusing efforts on restraining spending that has now reached 26.5% of GDP (up from ~21% of GDP in 2008), the focus is on the GOP House and their leadership refusing to accept Administration demands for increased taxation intended to boost revenues (forgetting the effects of the Laffer Curve in that argument).

This same mentality is evident here in California as Governor Jerry Brown has decided to use his projected 2012-13 budget projection to help sell the massive tax increases he wants to put in front of California voters in November 2012.  He needs to go to the voters because he lacks 4 GOP votes in the State Legislature to approve the proposed tax increases.  Brown is promising in his 2012-13 spending plan that revenues he says the taxes will bring in will be used to increase education spending throughout California.  California is facing a $13 billion deficit before the fanciful projections on spending and revenues are considered (in reality, we are looking at another deficit in excess of $20 billion) - and the spending program does nothing to address California's fundamental fiscal irresponsibility. 

Following up on yesterday's post on OccupyWallStreet's plans to remake themselves for 2012, hundreds of Occupiers are starting to gather in Iowa and being to plan on how they enact 'anti-caucus' disruptions to next week's Iowa caucus.  I'm sure they're confident that such actions will only endear themselves even more with Middle America.

Newsbusters has a post that points out some of the obvious hypocrisy around the OWS movement - and lists the Top 25 Celebrity OWS supporters who are not only part of the 1%, but have a conservative net worth of more than $4B..
Here is a list of the 25 richest celebrities supporting the Occupy Movement (Source: Celebrity Net Worth)

1. Yoko Ono - $500 million
2. Jay-Z - $450 million
3. David Letterman - $400 million
(tie) Stephen King - $400 million
5. Russell Simmons - $325 million
6. Sean Lennon - $200 million
7. Mike Myers - $175 million
8. George Clooney - $160 million
9. Brad Pitt - $150 million
(tie) Don King - $150 million
11. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) - $145 million
12. Jane Fonda - $120 million
(tie) Miley Cyrus - 120 million
14. Al Gore - $100 million
15. Roseanne Barr - $80 million
(tie) Deepak Chopra - $80 million
17. Kanye West - $70 million
(tie) Dan Rather - $70 million
19. Alec Baldwin - $65 million
(tie) Matt Damon - $65 million
21. Tom Morello - $60 million
(tie) Mia Farrow - $60 million
23. Katy Perry - $55 million
24. Michael Moore - $50 million
(tie) Susan Sarandon - $50 million
Total: $4.1 billion

I don't know about you, but that list also pretty much covers much of my 'do not watch / listen' list. I don't think I'm alone either as Hollywood's numbers are down considerably this year.

On this day in history....

12/28/1832 - John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President to resign from office as he prefers to become Senator from his home state of South Carolina. At this point, Calhoun also becomes one of the most outspoken defenders of the Southern slave / plantation system against the efforts of the anti-slavery North.

12/28/1895 - The first commercial movie was screened.

12/28/1908 - The worst European earthquake in recorded history strikes in Straits of Messina - between Sicily and the Italian mainland. An estimated 100,000 were killed.

12/28/1973 - Sozhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' is published

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Movement - Alinksy, Marx, Lenin, and Mao

In today's edition of QH, we revisited OccupyWallStreet and some of the more current shenanigans being practiced by the OWS movement.  The movement is working to move itself from the direction of the summer and fall of 2011 where the focus was on the 'occupation' of public spaces to get their message out.  After not only prolonged 'occupations', but more importantly, after the efforts towards violence combined with the number of crimes that were rampant at the 'occupation' locations (rapes, assaults, drug overdoses and abuse, and thefts), Middle America turned away from the argument of the 99% versus the 1%.

Many saw this argument as being one based on the old battleground of class warfare - particularly as many of the organizers were shown to have strong ties and garner substantial support from Marxist and socialist organizations.  Organizations like the Communist Party USA, Revolutionary Communist Party, Socialist Party USA, 9/11 Truth Org, International Bolshevik Tendency, Communist Party of the People's Republic of China, International Socialist Organization, Marxist Student Union, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, International ANSWER, Party of Socialism and Liberation, and the World Workers Party have all worked to support the OWS movement, provide members to join the OWS protesters, and in some cases, provided funding.  Anti-American and white supremacist organizations / individuals are also involved.  Some of these include the American Nazi Party, David Duke, Hugo Chavez, the original Black Panther Party, the government of North Korea, Louis Farrakhan / Nation of Islam, CAIR, Hezbollah, Anonymous, White Revolution, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard / Government of Iran.

Virtually every major national union is also supportive of the effort of the OWS movement as are politically active individuals like George Soros who is leveraging virtually his entire portfolio of political activist groups to support the effort.  These groups are paying demonstrators and protesters in order to promote the movement as being far larger than the hard left fringe it represents.  Leading hard left progressives within the Democrat Party and the Democrat Progressive Caucus are also extremely supporting - ranging from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to senior members in Congress, and present / former members of the Administration like Van Jones, Anita Dunn, and Elizabeth Warren are also strong advocates of the movement and its message.

Two of the 'leaders' of the 'Occupy' concept, one the Frenchman Stephane Frederic Hessel, and the other Kelle Lasn, both share extreme hard left views.  Lasn, the founder of 'Adbusters', is becoming increasingly outspoken as he attempts to shift the direction of the Occupy movement from the failed 'occupation' message towards one that is far closer to the socialist revolution he is now advocating. 

This approach started in early December as Lasn found a welcoming environment on NPR's All Things Considered when he was interviewed by NPR Robert Siegel.  In this interview, Lasn described how America was rope for a socialist revolution - bringing up comparisons to the movement / violence of 1968 - and the hope for a 'full fledged, full spectrum movement that operates on all levels'. 

More recently, the blog Weasel Zippers highlights a MSN Money article that flew under the radar screen on the 22nd of December where the battle plan for 2012 was being defined.  The term battle plan is also far more accurate than just a rhetorical device. 
Think Occupy Wall Street disappeared in winter’s cold? Wrong: The 99% just declared a new aggressive, covert special-ops war strategy to take back our democracy in 2012.

No more peaceful tent encampments in parks. No more Mahatma Gandhi nice-guy stuff. Not enough. Escalation time. Wall Street, the superrich and their Washington lobbyists are tone deaf, blinded by greed, trapped in their post-2008 business-as-usual bubble.

Warning; OWS tells us America’s going to be shocked by not one but hundreds of wake-up calls in 2012.

How? In a recent Washington Post column, OWS leaders say they are accelerating their battle strategy in 2012. In what amounts to a new declaration of war that promises to electrify the 2012 elections, OWS will be using new asymmetrical warfare strategies, write two of the men who have been the driving force behind the movement since early this year: Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters magazine, and senior editor Micah White.

Listen to some of the specific guerrilla tactics they warn will be used in their 2012 “American Spring” assault: A “marked escalation of surprise, playful, precision disruptions, rush-hour flash mobs, bank occupations, ‘occupy squads’ and edgy theatrics.”

These are the directions being communicated by Kelle Lasn. Here is Lasn's background from David Horowitz's excellent source, Discover the Network. Lasn is about as hard left as one gets - someone who embraces both Alinsky and Marx and is willing to use all of his power and platform to invoke both to establish those intellectually bankrupt ideologies. 

The less that the old or new flavor of the OWS movement grab the attention and support of Middle America, the more violent and disruptive the movement will become.  Lasn and others see this as a revolution and one that they see no challenges with the use of violence to achieve their means.  They are also growing in frustration that the efforts by Obama, his Administration, and Congress to deliver their political 'solutions' are failing - particularly after their excitement that this would be case in the glow of the Obama / Progressive electoral wins of 2008. 

The revolution they are advocating, like almost all previous revolutions save one, do nothing to solve the problems they claim to be solving - and in all but that one example, made things far worse, far more violent, far costlier in lives than of they were not undertaken - or those bankrupt ideals were provided with power.  These groups all say they stand in favor of the 'American  Dream', yet they embrace ideals that stand against all of the values of the 'American Dream'. 

This coalition of Marxists, socialists, and anarchists represent the modern day Jacobin - and are fundamentally no different in their thinking than William Ayers, Bernadine Dorhn, and the other 'intellectual revolutionaries', many from the great halls of American academia, who spent hours determining how to exterminate the 25 million unrepentant US capitalists they believed would exist after their "revolution".

Quick Hits - December 27, 2011 - UPDATED

Since it has been a while since we've looked at and recapped the latest news from the OccupyWallStreet front, today we're kicking off with some of the latest from OWS...

OccupyLondon, still engaged in court trying to prevent their eviction from the area around St. Paul's Cathedral, has occupied a disused courthouse and has announced that it will create it's own court to hold trials of the 1%. 

In an example of tolerance and respect, about 2 dozen OccupyWallStreet hecklers attempted to disrupt a Michelle Bachmann campaign appearance at an Iowa City diner by shouting her down.

OccupyWallStreet protesters, part of OccupyCharlotte, are holding meetings to plan how the organization will turn the Democrat National Convention into a Chicago-1968 style convention marked by protests and violence.  They are meeting with union officials and other potential allies.

An OccupyWallStreet activist, who is also a leading member of the trotskyist International Socialist Organization has written a screed where he makes the case that his fellow socialists should attempt to maipulate rank and file police officers to take action against the 1%:
Occupy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-merge the socialist and working-class movements and create a viable broad-based party of radicals, two prospects that have not been on the cards in the United States since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Occupy is broader in terms of active participants and public support and, most importantly, is far more militant and defiant. Tens of thousands of people are willing to brave arrest and police brutality...
The socialist / marxist / anarchist threads run completely through the entire OccupyWallStreet movement, particularly with their embracing of class warfare against the '1%'. Virtually all of the leading organizers, across multiple groups, are admitted socialists, marxists, or anarchists. Also let's not forget that these are also the people that motivated Barack Obama to run for political office on their behalf - and are the people that Barack Obama sought out when in University. This is the cornerstone of the Obama re-election message for 2012.

President Obama, while on vacation in Hawaii, has made a formal request for another $1.2 trillion increase in the national debt limit as the country starts pressing against the current $15.2 trillion debt limit.  Congress has 15 days to vote down the request made by the President otherwise it is automatically granted - as defined in last summer's 'debt reduction bill'.

This is as Big Government has a post highlighting '7 Devastating Facts About 2012' that looks at the national economy and effects of the President's agenda and record over the last 3 years.
  1. Every day, the US Government takes in about $6 billion and spends about $10 billion.  [This means we are spending $4 billion more than we have (and have to borrow) which is comparable to building a Nimitz carrier group every day.]
  2. The real unemployment rate is 11%.  [This does not count the 'underemployed'. ]
  3. Every 5th man you pass on your way to work is out of work.
  4. College grads are 34% less likely to find a job now than under the previous Administration.
  5. Every 7th person you pass on the sidewalk depends on food stamps.
  6. More Americans live under the federal poverty line than at any time since these records have been kept.
  7. Every 5th child now lives in poverty.
These facts reflect a very grim economic condition that is not resulting from the recession of 2008-9, but from the economic policies of the President and his supporters to 'fundamentally change' the country.

This is 'Why the US Needs a New President'...
On the night Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November 2010, John Boehner laid out the new Congress’s key priorities: to restrain the growth of government, cut spending, reform how Congress works, and end the uncertainty in the economy to help get Americans back to work. But then he offered a cautionary note to voters: “While our new majority will serve as your voice in the people’s House, we must remember it is the president who sets the agenda for our government.”

As the first year of the 112th Congress draws to a close, it seems that Boehner, like so many other Americans, may have overestimated Barack Obama’s ability to govern. It would not be easy to say just what the president’s agenda has actually been over the past year. But House Republicans have done an impressive job of using what leverage they have had to pull Washington a bit rightward, and to set the stage for a real change of direction after 2012.
The 2012 Presidential election is going to be one of the most crucial for the future of the United States.  It is fundamentally a battle between ideology and vision - one based on collectivism and a larger, powerful, and controlling centralized government and one based on smaller government, individualism, and personal accountability / responsibility.  The past three years has seen the US lurch far harder to the left than attempted under the New Deal or the 'Great Society' initiatives of FDR and LBJ.  We are on an unsustainable path.

UPDATE - In addition to the battle for the Presidency - which means control of the agenda and the Executive Branch, the battle for Congress is also one of extreme importance.  The Democrats seek to reverse the effects of the historic 2010 change in the House, where the Republicans gained 63 seats - many of these Tea Party candidates.  The Democrats also are fighting to maintain or expand on their 53-47 (including 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) majority in the Senate.  Of the former, the effort is based on the efforts of the Democrats to discredit the Tea Party - and run against the 'Republican Congress'.  This is an uphill fight. 

In the Senate, the Democrats have a daunting task with 23 Democrat incumbents either not running or running for re-election while only 10 Republican seats are up for grabs.  Far more of the Democrat seats are likely to be flipped based on current polling - and today's announcement by Democrat Senator Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat, that he is retiring, reflects the challenges many are facing in their re-election bids.

Even with a fillibuster proof majority in the Senate, and a 60+ vote majority in the House, President Obama struggled to get major elements of his agenda passed through Congress.  If the President is re-elected and faces a true Republican Congress, we can expect more of what we've seen in the last year - gridlock, regulatory fiat, and renewed battles based on constitutional separation of power.

Sears Holdings, the parent organization for Sears Department Stores and Kmart Stores is reporting a sharp drop in their holiday sales compared to last year's sales information - and that it will be closing between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores this year.

In the battle for the GOP Presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich is running into some more challenges as he attempts to attack Mitt Romney for his past policies - and the accusation that Romney is a 'flip-flopper'.  Memos from 2006 show that Newt Gingrich as a major supporter of the Romneycare health care initiative for Massachusetts - in particular the concept of the individual mandate..
Kaczynski. ”Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers.”

All of the candidates for the Republican nomination that remain in the race have substantial challenges and flaws that prevent any one from getting a real traction as a front runner that can reach across the Republican party. One concern many Republican's have to have is a fear that the Party will do on the national stage what it did in Delaware and nominate a severely flawed candidate who then did as much damage to herself as that done by the media or her opponent.

In the international arena, Brazil has overtaken the United Kingdom as the world's 6th largest economy.

In Syria, the Arab League monitors are starting to arrive on site inside the country. The violence seems to be entering a new stage - and not lessening noticeably. One Arab League observer in Homs was injured by a Syrian army artillery shelling on one neighborhood in that city. It is also reported that the Syrian army now has orders to shoot suspected deserters on sight as up to 30,000 troops (10% of the total size of the army) are suspected to have deserted to take up arms against the Syrian regime. This is a far wider rebellion than the islamist upheaval against Assad's father in Homs in 1981...that one was crushed as Assad pere bombed and shelled the city into submission killing between 20,000 and 30,000 people.

Iranian naval units are beginning their main stage of their 10 day war games in and around the Straits of Hormuz...

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is active escalating the Iraqi political crisis - and doing the bidding of Iran while he is at it...

On this day in 1979, the armed forces of the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and put in place a communist puppet government.

Today is also the 4th anniversary of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto while she was campaigning for the 2008 Pakistani general election.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Quick Hits - December 26, 2011

Several days ago, QH reported on the Obama Campaign and the Democrat National Committee returning some $70,000 in campaign contributions made by the embattled former CEO and Chairman of the failed investment bank, MF Global, Jon Corzine.  Corzine, a former NJ Governor and NJ Senator, remains under investigation for his role in the misappropriation of nearly $1.2 billion in missing client funds uncovered when MF Global imploded over risky bets on Eurobonds.  Corzine, in addition to personal contributions, also was a major campaign bundler for the Obama campaign.  I suspected that there were far more funds provided by Corzine that were not refunded, and this is the case.  In this report noted by JammieWearingFool, Obama is still happy to pocket cash bundled by Jon Corzine - and Hot Air notes that of all the funds connected to Corzine, only 14% were refunded.  The other 86% are being kept.  So much for principles.

Cronyism is appearing to to be part and parcel with the standard operating procedures with the Obama Administration.  On the topic of crony capitalism, based on the investigations resulting from the Obama Administration giving over half a billion of dollars to failed green energy company Solyndra, it seems that political decisions infused the Obama green energy initiatives.  As noted by the Washington Post:
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.
The issue goes far beyond Solyndra as well, as several other major beneficiaries of Obama green energy stimulus dollars that have gone bankrupt, some as recently as last week when a German firm which received $2.1 billion in government funds failed, have strong political and personal connections to the Administration.

Personal cronyism is also becoming part of the actions of the Obama Administration as the President has nominated the brother-in-law to New York Senator Charles Schumer to be a Federal Judge in New Jersey.  This nominee surprised many in NJ / NY since he was not on anyone's radar screen, including the NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg who recommended him to the President.   Expect more questions to be raised about this decision and the reasons behind it.

With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that his proposal for a millionaires surcharge tax to be imposed as part of the process to offset the costs associated with extending the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction for the full calendar year of 2012 is back on the table after the GOP folded on the 2 month temporary extension, Forbes Magazine takes a real look at the validity of Reid's approach to use a permanent tax increase to 'offset' the costs of a temporary 'stimulative' tax reduction.

Forbes finds that the millionaire surcharge will only bring in $11 Billion in additional revenues, at best, far short of the $130 billion cost for a full calendar year extension of the temporary Social Security Payroll Tax reduction.  Forbes also finds that the claim by Reid that those who qualify for his surcharge tax are just 'wealthy hedge fund managers and lawyers' is utterly specious.

According to data from the IRS, there are 236,883 individuals who file taxes with annual incomes greater than $1 million. Reid says that only 1% of these, about 2,361 actually create jobs.  However, the IRS data shows that of these filers not only pay an average of 30% of their income in taxes, but that this group earns nearly one quarter of a trillion dollars from income derived from partnerships, businesses, and S-Corporations - and that these entities must hire / employee hundreds of thousands to generate this level of incomes.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter by asking the question "Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?" to the American electorate.  After 4 years of Carter policies, the answer was a resounding, 'No'.  With a equal weakness towards this question as President Carter, President Obama and his campaign is looking to deflect this question.
Obama making income inequality the major focus of re-election campaign – to dodge the above question…using OWS as the highlight for the message… The announcement is an admission that the OWS — objectively if not deliberately — was the curtain raiser for a strategic communications plan which in essence presents redistribution as a solution to the ongoing economic crisis. If the current crisis had its genesis in the last “three decades” then something other than what the Clintons had doing has to be emplaced. Whether that program is called ‘socialism’ or something else, it is clearly something different; something hatched as the President’s team put it, “from a higher altitude”.

To avoid looking like a Bolshevik, Obama is spinning himself as a moderate, the simple heir of Roosevelt, defending America against the primitivist Republicans.
The original question remains key. If the President and his campaign seek to redirect the focus - then the new questions will be based on the decision as to if bigger government is the real solution for the challenges being faced - and if the real goal of the American dream is based on the equality of results or the equality of opportunity. Given the level of polarization in this country combined with a media class that will be far more in the tank for the Obama campaign than they were in 2008, this still looks like one of the most pivotal elections in history of the country.

far worse long term direction as evidenced by this chart of where the increasing budget deficits are going to come from.

The failure of the Administration to arrest this trend is reason enough to not vote for them.

Internationally, armed Christians and Muslims are clashing in Nigeria after the Christmas Day bombing attacks on Christian churches by Islamist groups.

Anti-American Pakistani candidate and famous cricketer Imran Khan drew a crowd of over 100,000 in a Karachi, Pakistan rally.  He is campaigning on a position of breaking ties with the United States.

On This Day in History -

12/26/1776 - General George Washington and his American forces win a decisive victory at the Battle of Trenton effectively turning the tide in the Revolutionary War.

12/26/1919 - The Red Sox trade / sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees - the Curse of the Bambino starts - ends only after the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.

12/26/1944 - Elements of General Patton's Third Army breakthrough the German siege of the town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

12/26/2004 - The Indian Ocean tsunami releases the energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima sized atomic bombs as nearly 150,000 are killed or mission and millions are left homeless across 11 countries.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Quick Hits - December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Lady and Emma!

An abbreviated edition of Quick Hits today, it's a day for time with the family and friends as opposed to blogging.

The hacker group Anonymous announced that they hacked the think-tank group Stratfor - stealing and starting to release hundreds of gigabytes emails, client lists, and credit card data taken from Stratfor.  Anonymous plans week-long assualt on their targets of choice.

Bill Whittle, in his Afterburner series, does his last video post for 2011 - a retrospective at the first three years of Barack Obama's term as President.  This is required viewing - and should be viewed throughout the 2012 Campaign...

"The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining ... is impossible to obtain in a laboratory," concluded experts from Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development.

The scientists set out to "identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a colour similar to that of the image on the Shroud." They concluded that the exact shade, texture and depth of the imprints on the cloth could only be produced with the aid of ultraviolet lasers – technology that was clearly not available in medieval times.
The scientists used extremely brief pulses of ultraviolet light to replicate the kind of marks found on the burial cloth.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!