Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Obamacare and the Individual Mandate

On March 26th through 28th, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate within the Obamacare Healthcare Reform.  This mandate requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or else pay, via the Internal Revenue Service, a tax / penalty (depending on who's making the argument) for the failure to have health insurance.

In the case taken up by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's of 26 states filed suit against the individual mandate - and in this particular one, the lower court agreed that the mandate was both unconstitutional and inseverable from the Obamacare Healthcare Reform.  The inability to sever the mandate from the bill effectively invalidated the entire bill.  Other courts have ruled otherwise, that the mandate, under the precedent set by the Commerce Clause, was constitutional and therefore Obamacare is constitutional.

Gallup has just released a poll that shows the unpopularity of both Obamacare and the concept of the individual mandate.
72% of Americans view Obamacare individual mandate as ‘unconstitutional’… Even among Americans who support President Obama’s health care overhaul, a large majority believe that the law is out of step with the U.S. Constitution, a Gallup poll released Monday revealed.

The poll, conducted Feb. 20–21, indicates that 72 percent of Americans believe the individual mandate — the government’s requirement for Americans to purchase health insurance — is unconstitutional. Even among Americans who feel the president’s health care law is a “good thing,” 54 percent think the provision is unconstitutional.

Just 37 percent of Democrats said the individual health care mandate is constitutional. A mere 6 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents agreed.

The poll question read, “As you may know, the Supreme Court will hear arguments next month concerning a requirement in the healthcare law that every American must buy health insurance or pay a fine. Regardless of whether you favor or oppose the law, do you think this requirement is constitutional or unconstitutional?”
There are many arguments that have been offered to contest the individual mandate.  The majority of these work around the limitations of the Federal government under the Constitution to project it's power towards States - particularly since the Constitution is designed to limit Federal powers and leave to the States all powers that are not expressly given to the Federal government.

The Commerce Clause, is one of the powers expressly assigned by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3), to provide the Federal government with the power to "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

Historically, Courts have used this clause to both provide and expand the Federal government with the authority to regulate both commerce and non-commerce on a Federal level across all states that are part of a commercial transaction.  But there have also been limits - for example in the decision to not permit marijuana grown for medical purposes in states that permit the medical use of the drug to be exported to other states as that would create challenges regarding those states anti-drug laws.

In the case of the Individual Mandate, the core question has been if the Federal government has the power to force a consumer, for the greater good, to purchase a specific product or service - in this case a health insurance policy.

The argument for stresses the importance and effect of the 'greater good'.  The argument against stresses the concerns that if health insurance is mandated for purchase, what is to stop the Federal government from mandating other products and services, like electric vehicles, for 'the greater good'?

However, Hot Air yesterday posted another argument against the Obamacare Individual Mandate that is, to me, extremely strong and compelling...
Constitutional law professor Elizabeth Price Foley, who is the executive director of the Institute’s Florida Chapter and who co-authored IJ’s brief, said, “The individual mandate violates a cardinal rule of contract law—to be enforceable, all agreements must be voluntary. The Framers understood this, and would never have given the federal government the power to force individuals into lifelong contracts of insurance. The Court should not allow the government to exercise this unprecedented and dangerous power.”

As IJ’s brief shows, the principle of mutual assent, under which both parties must consent for a contract to be valid, is a fundamental principle of contract law that was well understood during the Founding era and is still a cornerstone of contract law today. Indeed, contracts entered under duress have long been held to be invalid. Yet the mandate forces individuals to enter into contracts of insurance that would never be valid under this longstanding principle. (For a copy of IJ’s brief, visit:

If the U.S. Supreme Court fails to strike down the individual mandate, there will be nothing to stop Congress from forcing people into other contracts against their will—employment contracts or union membership, for example. If we still have a constitutional republic in which the federal government’s powers are limited, then the Court should strike down this law.

The Institute for Justice’s brief is the only amicus brief filed with the Court that examines this case in the context of the history of contract law. The brief illustrates how the Supreme Court has recognized the principle of consent in commercial relations in its Commerce Clause and Tenth Amendment cases, and it explains why the U.S. Supreme Court has a key role in acting as a check against this unconstitutional power grab by the federal government.
Obamacare regulatory requirements.  According to the Administration one complies - or in the case of the individual mandate, pay a financial penalty for non-compliance.

The individual mandate is, I strongly believe, unconstitutional.  If the SCOTUS opens the door by permitting the mandate to exist, there are few if any limits on the power of the Federal government to mandate US residents to acquire products or services 'for the greater good'.  As demonstrated by the Administration's push on the contraception mandate, religious objections are no longer sufficient to offer any protection from the demands / mandates of the Federal government.

My biggest concern is that SCOTUS might punt on this case and ruling because the individual mandate does not take effect until 2014.  Can they rule on a mandate / rule that has not yet taken effect or impacted any American?  Since the mandate is a cornerstone of the Obamacare legislation, and inseverable, where we are already subject to the regulatory effects of Obamacare, I think a ruling should be made now.  Far too often, once something is in effect, it becomes considerably harder to undo...which was one of the aims of the progressives in this legislation.

Quick Hits - February 29, 2012 - Leap Day

Ah, Leap Day...the 29th of Feb...

Photo AFP
After several weeks of artillery and rocket bombardment, Syrian ground forces are attacking into Homs, targeting the Baba Amr district - a key rebel-held area.  Trapped within the Baba Amr district are 100,000 residents and 3 western journalists.  Homs, a city of nearly 1 million total residents, has become a major focal point in the oppositions fight against the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.  An assault of this type could result in a major increase in casualties - which now are between 8,000 and 8,500 killed since the opposition to Assad took to the streets in March 2011.

Major western nations and international organizations like the Arab League and United Nations have been unable or unwilling to provide direct assistance for the Syrian rebels.  Syrian allies, and arms suppliers, Russia and China are providing political cover for the regime in the United Nations.  Unlike the case with Libya, the Arab League, US, UK, and France are unwilling to invest military forces or military supplies against Syria.  Assad is careful to not use his air force for many of the attacks - which was one reason the West gave for their Libyan intervention - as Qaddafi made extensive use of his air force to pummel rebel territory.

But there are likely other reasons for the Obama Administration's refusal to take hard action against Syria.  The Obama Administration has demonstrated a strong unwillingness to engage countries that appear willing / able to inflict real damage on the US.  Openly supporting Syria will likely draw Iran and their shared proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, closer to an armed conflict.

This is all part of Obama's feckless foreign policy.
During their brutally suppressed protests in 2009, Iranian freedom fighters sent the White House an urgent memo calling for help. Under Obama, America ignored it.

'So now, at this pivotal point in time, it is up to the countries of the free world to make up their mind," Iranian opposition leaders told the Obama administration in an eight-page memo in 2009. "Will they continue on the track of wishful thinking and push every decision to the future until it is too late, or will they reward the brave people of Iran and simultaneously advance the Western interests and world peace."

President Obama made his choice, and like so often before it was to vote "present."

The memo, written by leaders of Iran's Green Party after the summer 2009 anti-government demonstrations, was obtained by the Washington Examiner. 
The document confirms GOP candidate Rick Santorum's charge that the U.S. squandered an opportunity to undermine the government established by the Ayatollah Khomeini three decades ago.
Basically, the Obama Administration foreign policy seems focused on antagonizing, alienating, and abandoning our friends, while toadying up and appeasing our enemies.  It's clear that the Administration has a preference to being liked as opposed to being respected - and doesn't even seem to believe their inability to really be liked by much of the world as a problem.  We're still paying the high price for the fecklessness of the Carter Administration's foreign policy - but this Administration is starting to make Carter's Administration appear cogent.

What is the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results...

Just as we did in 1994 when the US cut a deal with North Korea to get that despotic regime to stop its efforts towards nuclear weapon development in exchange for food and fuel assistance - which the broke pretty much from the start of the deal - the US State Department announced today a new agreement with the DPRK where that country promises to suspend nuclear weapons tests, all uranium enrichment, and to permit international nuclear inspectors inside its major facilities in exchange for American food aid.

The Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, is reporting that the US government has plans to charge Wikileaks founder and chief punk, Julian Assange, for his role in the release of US government materials stolen by Private Bradley Manning, a US Army soldier facing a general court martial for his theft of classified information and providing that information to Assange.
UNITED STATES prosecutors have drawn up secret charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a confidential email obtained from the private US intelligence company Stratfor.

In an internal email to Stratfor analysts on January 26 last year, the vice-president of intelligence, Fred Burton, responded to a media report concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks with the comment: ''We have a sealed indictment on Assange.''

Strafor is the private intelligence organization that was attacked and hacked by Anonymous late last year. During the hack attack, millions of emails were stolen as well as private information, including credit card information, for current and past subscribers of Stratfor's services. The emails are now being published by Wikileaks - and include a mix of real / fraudulent emails intended to embarrass Stratfor. The private information was also published resulting in credit card fraud being committed against many current and former subscribers.

The release of the classified information obtained via Manning is believed to have resulted in the deaths of agents / informants in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan who were providing direct assistance to the US.

Mitt Romney won both of the GOP Presidential Primary challenges last night - regaining his status as the frontrunner as we enter the last 6 days prior to the Super Tuesday primary contests.  Romney scored a decisive victory in Arizona, where he was expected to do well, and a 3 point win (41% to 38%) over Rick Santorum in Michigan. 

Rick Santorum, and many elements of the mainstream media, are calling the Michigan results a 'moral victory' for SantorumSantorum in the last several weeks held a double digit (10-12%) lead over Romney in a number of polls after his 'Hat Trick' win which he ultimately lost. 

In addition, major Democrat / Union efforts to drive a crossover vote for Santorum to keep the GOP race in turmoil failed to push Santorum over the top.  With only about 10% of the Michigan vote coming from Democrats, and Santorum getting just over half of these, Santorum only got a 4%-6% boost in his final numbers.  Factoring this into the results, and Romney's win increases to 7%-9% - a more substantive victory.

None of the major challengers went after Romney in Arizona.  Ron Paul put a strong effort in Michigan, but finished a distant 3rd place with only 12% of the vote.  Newt Gingrich, who focused his efforts next week's Super Tuesday's southern contests in Tennessee and Georgia, finished with only 7% of the vote in Michigan.

GOP hopes to gain the majority in the Senate this November took a hit when Republican Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, made a surprise decision to retire and not seek re-election.  This takes a seat that was seen as a hold for the GOP and moves it towards a Democrat gain.  Snowe had been raising funds and campaigning for re-election until her sudden reversal of direction.
In her retirement announcement, Snowe blamed the partisan toxic atmosphere in the Senate for her decision to step down after three terms.

“I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions,” said Snowe, who just turned 65.

Snowe added: “As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate.”

Many in the GOP viewed Senator Snowe as a RINO - A Republican In Name Only. She cast the deciding vote in committee to move Obamacare forward even though she did vote with the GOP to oppose its passage on the floor. She supported a number of initiatives that ran contrary to the center right positions of the GOP - including apparently the contraceptive mandate pushed by President Obama against religious organizations.

During House hearings on the Obama Administration contraception mandate, liberal Democrats fumed when the committee heard testimony from 6 religious leaders representing a mix of faiths - who were all male.  They wanted the 'womans' side told.  That charade took place yesterday.

Hot Air's Tina Korbe takes a clue by four to the pretentious twit brought forward to 'testify'...Georgetown Law student and 'Reproductive Rights Activist' Sandra Fluke.  Fluke testified to the sympathetic progressive lawmakers that the Administration's contraception mandate should stand because she and her peers were going broke spending $3.000 over their 3 year tenure at Georgetown Law School for birth control because it's not currently covered under Catholic run Georgetown University's student insurance program...
“Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy (Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception),” Fluke reported.

It costs a female student $3,000 to have protected sex over the course of her three-year stint in law school, according to her calculations.

“Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school,” Fluke told the hearing.
The stupid is strong in this nimrod...In her commentary on Hot Air, Tina Korbe notes that others have started poking holes in the 'argument' Fluke is making in her push for the mandate...
Craig Bannister at did the math — and discovered that these co-eds, assuming they’re using the cheapest possible contraception, must be having unprotected sex about three times a day every day to incur that kind of expense. What Fluke is arguing, then, is that her fellow law students have a right to consequence-free sex whenever, wherever. Why, exactly, especially if it costs other people something? When I can’t pay for something, I do without it. Fortunately, in the case of contraception, women can make lifestyle choices that render it unnecessary.

At one point, Fluke mentions a friend who felt “embarrassed and powerless” when she learned her insurance didn’t cover contraception. Can you imagine how proud and empowered that same friend would be if she learned she has the ability to resist her own sexual urges? We can only assume she doesn’t know that because Fluke and she both labor under the illusion that contraception is a medical necessity.
What's best, however, is Korbe's final parting clue by four...
Ms. Fluke, I resent that you think women are incapable of controlling themselves, of sacrificing temporary pleasure for the sake of long-term success. You make us sound like animals, slaves to our instincts and able to be used, but we’re better than that. We’re persons, equal to men in dignity and love.
Ace, from Ace of Spades, is a little less 'polite' in his fisking of Fluke's 'testimony' noting that Fluke overstates the costs of her lifestyle choice - that at Walmart and Target, a month's supply of the pill is just $9 - or the cost of 2 beers in Georgetown before levelling his clue by four..
No offense, but birth control is not a "health" issue. Pregnancy is not a disease. It's a lifestyle choice, and one I support. But not with taxpayer dollars and not with forced mandates squashing people's choices.
It was all just theater...

More theater was taking place elsewhere on Capital Hill as testimony took place yesterday on the high gasoline prices and the Obama Administration's policies towards oil production and gasoline prices.

In the testimony of Secretary of Energy Dr. Stephen Chu it became apparent that the goal of the Administration is to keep gasoline prices high...
With the national average of gas prices hitting $3.65 a gallon, nearing $6 in some parts of the country, and poised to head even higher, America’s families are wondering when the bleeding at the pump will stop. But for Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, those steep prices aren’t even a concern. In fact, he says his goal is not to get the price of gasoline to go down.

Chu delivered those stunning remarks in testimony before Congress yesterday. When Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) asked Chu whether it’s his “overall goal to get our price” of gasoline lower, Chu said, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy.”

As shocking as his remarks are, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. Chu has a long record of advocating for higher gas prices. In 2008, he stated, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Last March, he reiterated his point in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, noting that his focus is to ease the pain felt by his energy policies by forcing automakers to make more fuel-efficient automobiles. “What I’m doing since I became Secretary of Energy has been quite clear. What I have been doing is developing methods to take the pain out of high gas prices.”

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was also on the Hill testifying about the domestic oil production that is overseen by his Agency - and ran the standard Obama Administration meme that domestic oil production is up under the Administration (thanks to the Administration's policies).

I want to say that, despite the Administration’s arguments that are laid out, that you all are all guns blaring and green lights for drilling, the facts that I checked, and if you disagree tell me, only 21 permits for offshore drilling have been issued by this date. In 2010 there were 32 permits. I just left the annual conference of LOGA, which is Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Mr. Secretary, yesterday. They are beside themselves with not being able to get their permits processed and to answer you, Mr. Franken, let me just say Exxon and Shell may be making record profits but according to a study recently done by the Greater New Orleans, Inc., 41% of our oil and gas independent operators and service companies, I’m not talking about Exxon and Shell that have operations all over the world, I’m talking about companies in the Gulf Coast, in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Let me tell you what the studies show about their profits: 41% of them are not making a profit at all, 70% have lost significant cash reserves, 46 have moved operations away from the Gulf, and 82% of business owners have lost personal savings as a result of this slow down.

It's clear that the Administration's only concern regarding gas prices are the possible effect on Obama's re-election effort. Their solutions are to continue reducing the production of domestic fossil fuels and drive conservation / economy to further reduce the need for fossil fuels as part of their global warming agenda.

Speaking of global warming - and the politically / ideologically driven 'solutions', MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, one of the world's greatest atmospheric physicists, addressed the UK House of Commons on global warming (which was unreported here in the US)...
Stated briefly, I will simply try to clarify what the debate over climate change is really about. It most certainly is not about whether climate is changing: it always is. It is not about whether CO2 is increasing: it clearly is. It is not about whether the increase in CO2, by itself, will lead to some warming: it should. The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes. The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest.

... Given the above, the notion that alarming warming is ‘settled science’ should be offensive to any sentient individual, though to be sure, the above is hardly emphasized by the IPCC.

... one can see no warming since 1997. As Phil Jones acknowledged, there has been no statistically significant warming in 15 years. However, there are uncertainties in the above data, and small adjustments can result in negligible warming or cooling over this period. In the polarized public discourse, this leads each side to claim the other side is lying. However, Jones’ statement remains correct.

... Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
There is more empirical evidence that the policies of the Obama Administration towards energy is entirely misplaced - particularly when we look at which states in the US are performing well economically and which states are not because the winners and losers are very apparent...
But California is rich in energy resources too. It's actually the third-largest oil producing state in the country, though it's about to be surpassed by North Dakota. Whereas North Dakota has encouraged energy companies to ramp up production using new techniques, oil production in California has been a downward decline amidst environmental restrictions and new energy mandates. In 2001 the state produced 689,000 barrels a day, but today that's down to 534,000 a day and continuing to shrink even though there are untapped sources in the state ripe for extraction with new technologies, including a whole swath of reserves in the Monterey shale that reaches from the Central Coast down to Los Angeles.

Of course, in California, public policy is often about regulations and taxes. And so even as production declines in the Golden State, tax activists are pushing a ballot initiative to raise taxes on oil producers in California. The new severance tax, if passed, would raise the total effective tax rate on oil produced in the state about 40 percent higher than oil taxes in any other producing state, according to Wayne Lusvardi at CalWatchdog.

Some states haven't even gotten started on the energy boom despite the potential. New York has a moratorium on natural gas fracking, which has stalled any significant drilling in the giant Marcellus shale. Two other states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, by contrast, have already added some 57,000 jobs thanks to new exploration of Marcellus in their territory. A Manhattan Institute study estimated New York could add 15,000 to 18,000 jobs in Western New York alone from expanded natural gas exploration, and another 75,000 jobs if drilling were expanded to the Utica shale and southeastern New York.
The Commerce Department has issued a scheduled revision of the 4th Quarter 2011 Gross Domestic Product - increasing it from an increase of 2.8% on an annualized basis to 3.0%.  All is not rosy with the number though despite the bleats from the mainstream media that this number combined with the fraudulent 8.3% unemployment rate constitutes a 'real recovery'.

Most of the growth in GDP, which for the entire year was 1.7%, came from inventory expansion.  This combined with other red flags pointed towards a demand dip - which is reflected in the worst durable goods report in three years that was released yesterday

Any recovery we are seeing is despite the Obama Administration - not because of it.

Did you know that the Obama Administration gave General Motors (aka Government Motors) a secret bailout of $18 billion courtesy of the American taxpayer?
In a 2011 working paper, J. Mark Ramseyer of Harvard and Eric Rasmusen of Indiana University argue that by manipulating corporate tax rules by fiat, "Treasury gave the firm (and its owners, including the UAW) $18 billion more in assets." Thus a Democratic Administration gave "a massive tax benefit to one of the party's biggest supporters." The other problem is that the move put Ford and GM's other competitors at a disadvantage, as bailouts always do.

Mr. Obama crowed yesterday about GM's "highest profits in its 100-year history." We'd be interested to hear how its effective tax rate compares with Warren Buffett's secretary's.
On This Day in History

1288 - Scotland establishes this day as one when a woman could propose marriage to a man.  In the event that he refused the proposal, he was required to pay a find.

1940 - Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Oscar - winning Best Supporting Actress honors for her role in 'Gone with the Wind'.

2004 - 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' wins 11 Oscars - tying 'Ben-Hur' (1960) and 'Titanic' (1997) for the most Oscars won by a single film.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick Hits - February 28, 2012

Early this morning, City of London police removed the Occupy protesters and their encampment from the plaza outside St. Paul's Cathedral.  The City obtained a court eviction order for the action, and the order also survived several appeals by the protesters.  The protesters are furious with the leadership of St. Paul's Cathedral for permitting police to remove protesters from its steps and ending the 4 1/2 month encampment.

Police said 20 people had been arrested by 4.30am in the "largely peaceful" operation.

Police and bailiffs moved in to begin clearing the Occupy London encampment in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Activists protesting against the financial and banking elite were told by bailiffs that they had five minutes to pack their tents and leave or they would be obstructing a court order.

Dozens of activists started clearing away tents and belongings, but others began building a barricaded enclosure using wooden pallets and debris.
During the 'occupation' of the plaza, a number of occupiers were found to have used the Cathedral as a latrine...

13 Syrian activists were believed to have been killed during an operation to evacuate 2 wounded journalists (wounded in the same attack that killed 2 other journalists, including American Marie Colvin) from the besieged city of Homs.

Also at Homs, evidence was uncovered of one of the worst instances of mass killings by government forces of civilians since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 11 months ago.
The bodies of dozens of men were found dumped on wasteland on the outskirts of the stricken city of Homs on Monday in what appeared to be one of the worst instances of mass killing since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March.

The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, said that the bodies of 64 men were taken to the National Hospital in Homs and that an unknown number of women and children who had been with them are missing. Activists said they thought that the men had been trying to flee the violence with their families when they were stopped and gunned down by security forces.
Over 8,000 (some estimates run as high as 8,500) have been killed during the opposition to the Assad regime. The international community remains unwilling to take action against the Assad regime - and Syria's allies in the UN, in particular Russia and China, are blocking any actions by the Security Council against Syrian government.

German lawmakers in the Bundestag approved the Greek bailout package by a large margin - 496-90 with 5 abstentions.  This is despite polls that show the bailout package is very unpopular in Germany.  In comments made before the vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that, "The road that lies in front of Greece is long and truly not without risk.  That also goes for the success of the new program - no one can give a 100 percent guarantee of success."

Standard & Poors, earlier today, cut Greece's long-term credit rating to selective default from CC. 
Greece became the first euro-zone member officially to be rated in default, 13 years after the single European currency was adopted to strengthen the European Union.

Standard & Poor's cut Greece's long-term credit rating to selective default from double-C. The move was expected, as S&P said this month that it would consider Greece in default if it added "collective-action" clauses to its sovereign debt, effectively forcing all bondholders to accept a bond-swap offering. Greece's Parliament approved that measure last week.
The other credit rating agencies are expected to follow in the steps of S&P. As a result...
The European Central Bank, responding to the latest rating agency downgrade of Greece, said it would no longer accept the country's bonds as collateral for loans, but added the move was a temporary one that could be reversed once the new Greek bailout package goes into effect.

Until then, the ECB said it would be up to national central banks to decide whether to accept the bonds as collateral for their own emergency lending facilities. Greek banks, which would collapse without the support, would still be able to access loans directly from the Greek central bank's lending window, albeit at a higher interest rate.

As this process plays out - Ireland is going to hold a national referendum on the European Union's new fiscal treaty. This sets the stage for a vote on the German led plan, vigorously opposed by Britain, that calls for the European Union political bureaucracy to enforce stricter budget discipline across the entire Eurozone.

Britain opposed the solution calling it a surrender of sovereignty to EU bureaucrats. If the Irish voters reject the treaty, the action could have some significant financial consequences for the country - and cast real doubt on the country's commitment to the EU and the single currency (Euro). While a rejection would not damage the passage of the fiscal treaty, only 12 nations are needed to ratify the treaty for it to take effect, it would threaten Ireland's access to EU bailouts in the future.

Ireland has already received one bailout by the EU as it also faces significant fiscal responsibility issues and challenges affording the costs of its debt obligations.

The Socialist candidate for the French Presidency, Francois Hollande, has announced new tax plans while citing the need for fiscal 'justice' that will dramatically increase taxes on the French.  The current tax code has a maximum rate of 41% on income taxes, but Hollande proposes increasing the rate to 45% for those who earn more than 150,000 Euros per year, and a whopping 75% rate for those who earn more than 1,000,000 Euros per year.

Hollande is currently the favorite to win the two-tiered French Presidential election which is taking place this April and May over current French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In Britain, the 50% tax rate set for the wealthy has missed its revenue targets as those subject to the highest tax rates have either restructured their finances to reduce their exposure to the highest rates or have left the country to other locations with a lower tax burden.

We've also seen this same effect in the United States.  In NY state, when a significantly higher tax rate was passed on the 'wealthy' for 'fairness' - many of those impacted 'voted' with their feet and left the state - while the state realized far less revenues than they had anticipated when they passed the tax increase.  In California, one of the common elements around our annual fiscal disaster aka a budget is the continued overestimation of revenues that taxes and fees will generate. 

Today, the GOP Presidential nomination candidates face off in primaries in Michigan and Arizona.  The two states offer a 'warm-up' for next Tuesday's Super Tuesday when 10 states will hold their caucuses or primaries.

Mitt Romney has the lead in Arizona, boosted by the endorsement of AZ Governor Jan Brewer over the weekend.  However, Michigan, Romney's 'home state' remains too close to call between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.  Mitt Romney may be seen to have some slight momentum going into today's primary as he's whittled down a Santorum lead, but last minute polls show the candidates within the margin of error.

Calls of this being a 'must win' primary for Mitt Romney are, I believe, overblown.  Michigan is an open primary, where Democrats and Independents are entitled to vote towards determining the GOP Presidential candidate.  Mitt Romney's stance against the government bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler has clearly angered and motivated UAW and other union workers to vote against Romney.

Rick Santorum is actively trying to recruit these Democrats and Independents to vote for him to derail the Romney campaign effort prior to Super Tuesday - with Mitt Romney calling the Santorum robocalls targeting Democrats 'outrageous, disgusting'...
"It’s a dirty trick," he said on Fox News' Fox & Friends. "It’s outrageous to see Rick Santorum team up with the Obama people and go out after union labor in Detroit and try and get them to vote against me. Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee is going to be, we want Republicans to decide who our nominee is going to be."

"I just think it’s outrageous and disgusting," he said of Santorum's attempt to take advantage of the state's open primary.

"I think Rick Santorum has a lot of explaining to do," he added, calling the robocall "a new low for his campaign—and that's saying something."

Soaring gasoline prices continue to be a major political issue - impacting President Obama.  President Obama continues to tout his Administration as being responsible for increasing domestic oil production - but the lie is being exposed...
Today Greenwire, a New York Times specialty publication (subscription required unfortunately) reports that in 2011 oil production on federal lands fell by 100 million barrels in 2011 from 2010. The increase in domestic oil production is occurring on private and state land, such as North Dakota. As I’ve noted here before, the explosion in the production of the Bakken field in North Dakota almost stops completely at the Montana border.

KERNEN: What is the number for the SPR, senator? We had Huntsman saying we should do the SPR $108. I was like, $108? We didn’t do it at 150, did we?

SCHUMER: No, the SPR is not as good a solution as the Saudi solution for a couple of reasons. First, it’s limited. The Saudis could produce an additional 2.8 million barrels of oil, way on into the future. The SPR is somewhat limited and the SPR works better when there’s an immediate crisis caused by a natural disaster, a Katrina or something like that. It’s something that I would look at if the Saudis absolutely said no, but it’s not close to as good a solution as this.

As Ed at HotAir notes in his commentary on Schumer's 'solution' - if additional oil production is needed to drive down gas prices, then why not do it here? Build the Keystone XL pipeline - which brings access to nearly 800,000 barrels / day of Canadian oil combined with opening / releasing the shackles on domestic exploration and production. Wouldn't this be better than begging the Saudi's to come to our rescue?

President Obama may be listening to the polls that are showing the American people support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as he is starting to back pedal on his decision to cancel the pipeline...
The Obama administration backed off its opposition to the Keystone pipeline today, at least in part: the administration now says that it supports construction of the southernmost portion of the pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas. The move will allow the administration to muddy the waters on the pipeline for political purposes in an election year, but it won’t do anything to bring new oil in from Canada, as the administration is still blocking TransCanada from getting the cross-border permit it needs to build a pipeline into the U.S. Instead, TransCanada is now talking about building a pipeline to the west coast so the oil can be shipped to China.

Despite its relative insignificance, Obama’s environmentalist base considers today’s reversal to be a sellout. As a friend writes: “It didn’t take Obama long to stab his allies in the back. He’s always lying…you just have to figure out who the rube is on a given day.”

Obama lies?

How about his promise to uncover and eliminate waste and duplicate / overlapping efforts within the Executive Branch?  Wonder how well that has worked out?
A year after the government’s chief investigators identified 81 different areas where the government double-spends or has overlapping programs, President Obama and Congress have solved just four of them, the Government Accountability Office said in a follow-up report Tuesday.

“There are tens of billions of dollars that could be saved,” Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, head of GAO, said in submitting the findings to Congress.
This isn't very surprising.  Efforts have been made to get California to eliminate government waste and duplicate / cross-purpose agencies and commissions to address our state's fiscal challenges - with the same effect of nothing being done to be responsible with the money of the taxpayer.

The kerfuffle over the President's apology to Afghanistan's President Karzai and the citizens of Afghanistan over the US military's action to destroy Qurans desecrated by Taliban prisoners continues to have an impact on the President.  SecState Clinton inserted herself in the debate by making comments criticizing GOP Presidential candidates for opposing the President's apology - telling CNN...
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended President Obama’s apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and warned that the GOP’s condemnation of the apology could further “inflame” the situation.

Last week, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan accidentally burned some Qurans, which sparked deadly protests in the country. Obama apologized to Karzai for the “unintentionally mishandled” books – a move that has been criticized by some Republicans.

“I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would inflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” Clinton told CNN on Monday.
It's clear that SecState Clinton firmly believes its far better to be 'liked' than respected...which is also probably why its government policy to burn some Holy Books in Afghanistan...
Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday. The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said.
Appeasing the jihadist savages isn't going to work. If their response to the destruction of their Holy Book that their compatriots desecrated is to launch riots, violence, and execute / murder foreigners - then we shouldn't be giving them a pass - but hold them accountable for their reprehensible behavior. They are the one's who owe the civilized world an apology.

This Day in History

1854 - The Republican Party was organized in Ripon, WI - 50 opponents to slavery begin the new political party.

1885 -AT&T (American Telephone & Telegraph) was incorporated - capitalized on $100,000 and providing long distance service for American Bell

1953 - Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Frances H.C. Crick discover the double-helix structure of human DNA

1983 - The television sitcom M*A*S*H airs its final episode after 11 seasons.  77% of the TV viewing audience watched the 2 1/2 hour final episode - a record.

1993 - Federal agents from the ATF raid the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas prompting a gun battle where 4 ATF agents and 6 cult members were killed.  The failed raid kicked off a two month long standoff.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quick Hits - February 27, 2012

A suicide car bomber killed 9 people in an attack on a military airport in eastern Afghanistan earlier today as violence continues in that country over the burning of desecrated copies of the Quran at a NATO base last week.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing, saying the attack as 'revenge' for the Quran burnings.

Last week, the Afghanistan government demanded that NATO agree to put those responsible for the destruction of Qurans that were desecrated by Taliban prisoners on trial for the acts to destroy the Islamic Holy Book.  Reports from the Afghani Media and Information Center are that NATO has agreed to do this.

Meanwhile, violence continues, apologies continue to flow from the US, and the Afghani police officer who executed 2 American military advisors in the Afghani Interior Ministry remains at large.

At this point, I am finding myself in agreement with John Hinderaker at Powerline regarding Afghanistan...
What we do know for sure is that the response of many Afghans was outrageous. Dozens of people have been killed or wounded, including a number of American servicemen. The ongoing violence illustrates the primitive level of culture in Afghanistan. The country, if it can properly be called such, is hundreds of years behind modern civilization. I don’t think nation-building is always a bad idea, but a certain amount and quality of raw material is required. In Afghanistan, the prerequisites for successful nation-building are absent.

Our initial overthrow of the Taliban at the end of 2001 was absolutely necessary. The Taliban had harbored al Qaeda and collaborated, in effect, in the September 11 attacks. Since then, we have killed large numbers of Taliban. That is a good thing, but the returns are diminishing. When we leave, the Taliban or similar Islamic extremists presumably will take control of portions, at least, of the country. That is a bad thing, obviously, but the same result seems more or less equally likely no matter when our troops depart.
The violence over the last week in Afghanistan shows that the predominant belief of this culture remains trapped in the Taliban's fundamentalist embrace of a 7th century form of governance known as Shar'ia law.  There is no separation of church and state in Islam - in fundamentalist Islam they are one and the same.  Their own believers used and desecrated their Holy Book for furthering their jihad to spread Islam via the sword.  Unsurprisingly, they will probably be able to get a fatwa that gives them a pass on those acts of desecration.  But if the desecrated books are destroyed - it justifies violence and murder?

It is time to reconsider our investment of blood and treasure.  There are those in Afghanistan who do want to move from the 7th C to modern times - but they are too few, with too little power, to do so.  The majority wants to reside in the 7th C - and we should let them as long as they don't return to exporting or supporting the exporting of jihad from their country.

Russian authorities arrested suspects allegedly linked to a Chechen rebel leader over a plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin immediately after next Sunday's Presidential vote which Putin is expected to win.  Questions, concerns, and demonstrations are continuing in Moscow over the election - particularly in the wake of the accusations of election fraud on behalf of Putin in the last Russian Parliament elections.

Syria's sham constitutional referendum that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power through 2018 has been supposedly approved by 89% of the Syrian people.  The ballot took place as the Assad regime continued it's artillery bombardment of opposition groups in the Syrian city of Homs.

The European Union has passed additional economic sanctions against the Syrian regime, in an effort to increase the pressure on Assad to halt the violence against his own people and ultimately step down from government.  These include a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank, blacklisting of seven officials close to al-Assad, and restrictions on Syrian trade in gold and precious metals.

Rearranging the deck chairs...

Germany's Bundestag is expected to vote today to back a second Greek fiscal bailout despite growing pressure from voters and the media, while Chancellor Angela Merkel admits that there is no guarantee that the 130 Billion Euro bailout will prevent Greece's default - or a cascade of negative effects on other EU countries and major European banking institutions.

Chancellor Merkels position was weakened by the German Interior Minister saying on Saturday that Greece should drop from the Euro / Eurozone.  An opinion poll published yesterday in a German paper found that 62% of Germans oppose the Greek rescue package and only 33% support the effort.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer for the UK, George Osborn, has announced that the United Kingdom has run out of money...
In a stark warning ahead of next month’s Budget, the Chancellor said there was little the Coalition could do to stimulate the economy. 

Mr Osborne made it clear that due to the parlous state of the public finances the best hope for economic growth was to encourage businesses to flourish and hire more workers.

“The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,” the Chancellor said. “The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”

Mr Osborne’s bleak assessment echoes that of Liam Byrne, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, who bluntly joked that Labour had left Britain broke when he exited the Government in 2010.

He left David Laws, his successor, a one-line note saying: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left”.
Here in the US, we're practically at the same point...

However, since January 20, 2009...
“Following the contentious debt ceiling last August, President Obama promised that he would take action to address the country’s fiscal crisis. He has failed to do that," Portman said. "In fact, his new budget increases spending and projects that Washington will be hitting the debt ceiling again in mid-October – burning through a $2.1 trillion debt limit increase in just over 14 months."

Portman's office notes that according to Obama's budget, total debt subject to the statutory debt will reach limit will reach $16.334 trillion by September 30, 2012.
If we do reach the debt limit of $16.334 trillion by September 30, 2012, this means that President Barack Obama will have increased the size of the national debt by $5.71 trillion in less than four years of being in office.

Will SecTreas Geithner be leaving a note to his successor this fall or early next year that states, 'Sorry, we're out of money'?

Could this be one of the messages that will be sent to our senior citizens regarding Social Security in 2013 as well?  The President's pet tax cut - the temporary 2% Social Security Payroll tax reduction, reduces by nearly $100 billion the contributions made by working Americans towards the Social Security obligations we have to America's senior citizens...almost all of whom have spent their working lifetimes paying into the insurance system.  But, the Federal government has been taking these surpluses and applying them to the general expenditures for decades - leaving behind the promise to make good on the obligations to SS recipients.

The President has made the 2% temporary tax reduction a cornerstone of his ability to spin about giving a tax cut to "160 million Americans" - but at the expense of decreasing funds coming in to pay for SS obligations - and for creating zero jobs - just creating an empty political talking point designed to get himself re-elected...

Perhaps this is why the latest USA Today poll shows some real problems for President Obama. Problems related to Obamacare, high energy prices, and an anemic economic recovery...
In the poll, Obama lags the two leading Republican rivals in the 12 states likely to determine the outcome of a close race in November:

•Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum tops Obama 50%-45% in the swing states. Nationwide, Santorum’s lead narrows to 49%-46%.

•Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney edges Obama 48%-46% in the swing states. Nationwide, they are tied at 47% each.

With Obamacare, nationwide, 50% of the voters see Obamacare negatively, 42% see it positively. In the swing states, only 38% see it positively, and 53% see it negatively. Rasmussen is also reporting that the President's approval rating has fallen back to 45% - the lowest level in a month - and behind the approval ratings for either Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

The 'bounce' that President Obama received from his bogus January unemployment numbers seems gone as reality has come back.

Soaring gasoline prices aren't helping the President either.  Leading Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), is asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to start to pressure Saudi Arabia to pump more oil...
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to press Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s dominant oil producer, to boost output as rising prices are hitting consumers at the gasoline pump.

A letter to Clinton on Sunday from Schumer, a top political strategist for Senate Democrats, comes as Democrats are trying to blunt constant GOP attacks over soaring gasoline prices.

“These skyrocketing fuel prices are directly linked to the global energy market, particularly Iran’s recent efforts to manipulate oil prices and the worry of impacts on supply from an escalation of regional hostilities,” Schumer writes.
Isn't the standard meme from the Democrats, and the President, that 'drill, drill, drill' will not solve the challenges we face regarding high energy prices?  But having the Saudi's 'drill, drill, drill' will?

I also thought that as the President was pushing pond scum as the solution to our energy needs, he was saying there were 'no silver bullets' for the soaring gasoline prices.   Well, Mr. President, there are actually a number of steps that we can take to lower gasoline prices now that go well beyond opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve...

  1. We can commit to a strategic goal of North American energy security - build Keystone XL (800,000 barrels / day into the US), open ANWR and coastal drilling locations, enter a strategic energy partnership with Canada...
  2. Ditch the anti-industry / anti-capitalism rhetoric.  American oil companies are owned by shareholders - not a cabal of wealthy executives or a cartel..they need to make profits to reinvest in new energy development.
  3. Stop targeting the oil industry for punitive tax treatment.
  4. Uncle Sam should be a partner in the energy business.  Oil and gas royalties paid to the US government are the #2 source of revenues after income taxes.  Expand these efforts - expand the revenue the federal government brings in.
  5. Recognize that industry does not need to be led by government; industry needs to be unleashed and encouraged to innovate on the basis of profitability.  The employment growth in North Dakota related to increased energy production is happening despite the federal government, not because of it.
  6. Trust that no oil operator wants to be the 'next BP' when it comes to their operations.
  7. Return offshore permitting to pre-BP spill pace - Federal government overreaction has cost the US 500,000 barrels per day of production from the Gulf of Mexico.
  8. Declare that hydraulic fracking and well design to be the regulatory domain of states, not the EPA.
  9. Rescind the recently enacted royalty rate increase for new onshore Federal oil and gas leases - the SecInterior last fall increased the rate by 50%!
  10. Encourage the development of a nationwide distribution system of natural gas as a transportation fuel - we've got abundant natural gas and we've not started to tap the potential of natural gas a transportation fuel.
Did Jon Corzine, the former NJ Governor, former NJ Senator, and former Chairman / CEO of MF Global lie in his testimony regarding the failure of MF Global?  It's beginning to appear that Corzine did lie about the missing $1.6 billion in client funds lost when the company failed last fall.
Beyond doubt is that Mr. Corzine's reckless gambles on European government bonds destroyed the company. The question is what role Mr. Corzine or others played in the potentially illegal use of client funds to try to save the firm.

On October 28, 2011, three days before the firm's bankruptcy filing, Mr. Corzine contacted Edith O'Brien, an assistant treasurer, and asked her to solve a problem. An MF Global bank account with J.P. Morgan in London was overdrawn and MF was told to send money to London right away. "I need $175 mm sent immediately," Ms. O'Brien soon emailed colleagues. Later that day $175 million was sent from an MF Global account holding both customer and firm money in the U.S. to MF Global's business account in London.

In his testimony to Congress, Mr. Corzine said Ms. O'Brien assured him that the transfer was legitimate. But when J.P. Morgan wanted an assurance in writing that it wasn't an improper transfer of customer funds, Ms. O'Brien refused to sign such a letter, telling colleagues it was too broadly written. Another draft from J.P. Morgan also went unsigned.

MF Global has all the classic symptoms of mismanagement, insufficient internal controls, checks, and balances, and a flawed accounting system that contributed to the problems of the company. But when one knowingly uses client funds as a stop gap intending to 'repay' those funds later in the day (or the next day), that's a case of deliberate action.  Time for Corzine's arrest.

It's been awhile since OccupyWallStreet has made the QH - but actions over the past weekend in San Francisco and Denver bring OWS back to our report...

In San Francisco the Occupy group fully embraces the Alinsky rules to pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it as they attempted to 'foreclose' on the home of the Wells Fargo Bank CEO and 'auction' it off...
“Larry in SF” has more details about the purported “victims” of Wells Fargo. In each case, the foreclosure seems perfectly justified: One homeowner neglected to have fire insurance on his home (who even does that?), so when it caught fire and nearly burned down, he couldn’t repay the huge loan he took out to make the expensive repairs. Another homeowner used her house like an unlimited credit card, running up a gigantic “equity line loan” which she could not repay. And another homeowner overextended on housing speculation in a downward-trending market, eventually going “underwater” on her mortgages.

Rather than upending the capitalist system, as Occupy recommends, here’s a simpler solution to this foreclosure problem: Always have home insurance; don’t treat your house’s equity like a credit card; don’t engage in real estate speculation when you have no clue what you’re doing. Deal? Deal.
OccupyDenver had targeted the local police in a 'F*ck the Police' march over the participant posted this clip on You Tube that threatens to 'put down' cops like 'dogs'...

Others in the march decided to toss 'urine bombs', balloons filled with urine, at the police standing opposite their march.

These are who President Obama ran for office for...

On This Day in History

1922 - SCOTUS upholds the 19th Amendment to the Constitution - guaranteeing women the right to vote.

1942 - USS Langley, the Navy's first aircraft carrier, is sunk by Japanese aircraft off of Java, Dutch East Indies.  Built originally as a collier, she was converted to an aircraft carrier in 1922.  In 1937, she was converted to a seaplane tender - losing 40% of her flight deck.

1951 - The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, limiting US Presidents to 2 terms in office.

1968 - The 'Cronkite Moment' - Walter Cronkite pronounced at the end of a special report that the US military was 'mired in stalemate' in Vietnam - and said that negotiations might offer a way out.
Except the “Cronkite Moment” wasn’t so special. Cronkite’s assessment about the war wasn’t novel or particularly insightful.

It was, if anything, a rehash of what other news organizations had been saying for weeks and months.
It was also openly false - TET was a major operational and strategic default for the North Vietnamese. They were concerned over the future of the war - however, the change in public opinion in the US provided them with the hope to continue to fight until the US will to oppose them was lost.

This set the stage for issues and challenges that we continue to face today.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quick Hits - February 26, 2012

Violence continues for a sixth consecutive day in Afghanistan, as Afghani citizens continue to riot over the destruction of Taliban desecrated Qurans.  Afghani authorities apparently know the identity of the police officer who executed 2 American military advisors in the Afghanistan Interior Ministry yesterday - and are actively searching for that officer.  The Afghani Defense Minister has apologized to the United States for the murder of the 2 advisors.  As a result of the killing, NATO advisors are being withdrawn from working in Afghani ministry facilities.

Seven US soldiers today were injured in a grenade attack, and one protester killed during a demonstration against the US forces in Kunduz province.  Afghani President Karzai is calling for calm, while Taliban forces and propaganda continue to fire up the rhetoric against all foreigners in Afghanistan. 

All of this continues to put increased pressure on the US and other NATO nations regarding their mission in Afghanistan.  The US currently has announced the end of combat operations in 2014, while France and several other NATO nations plan to end their involvement in 2013.  The fear is that with the departure of the NATO combat forces, the Taliban will regain control of the country and reestablish an Islamic government that will operate in the same despicable manner as it did throughout most of the 1990's - including hosting jihadist terrorist organizations.

In Syria, as the people take to the polls to vote on a new constitutional referendum that could keep al-Assad in power through 2018, violence resumed as government forces resumed bombarding Homs.  31 civilians and military personnel were reported killed in the last day.  Since the opposition movement to the Assad dictatorship started about 11 months ago, nearly 8,500 have been killed.

Europe continues to work to address the challenges related to the sovereign debt crisis impacting Greece, and the threat of possible defaults by Spain and Italy.  Even though European Union Finance Ministers approved a a second €130bn bailout of Greece, the International Monetary Fund remains hesitant to participate without the EU contributing more billions to build up the 'firewall' to help provide assistance to other 'at risk' EU members. 

In a first, Germany's interior minister called on Greece to leave the Eurozone and the Euro...
Becoming the first member of Germany’s cabinet to openly call for a Greek exit, Hans-Peter Friedrich told Der Spiegel magazine that Greece’s chances of restoring its financial health would be greater outside the euro.

“I’m not saying that Greece should be thrown out but rather to create incentives that it can’t say ‘no’ to,” he added.

His comments came as eurozone leaders faced calls to increase their own efforts before any more money is made available from the IMF. Fresh from agreeing a second €130bn (£110bn) bail-out for Greece, there were hopes that this weekend’s gathering of G20 finance ministers in Mexico City would achieve a deal on how to ramp up the IMF’s own European war chest by as much as $600bn (£378bn).

UK Treasury officials made it clear that any new deal with the IMF was now likely to be delayed until meetings in April. Eurozone leaders have been negotiating with the US, China and Japan to contribute more to the IMF to build a “financial firewall” that would shield the likes of the Spanish and Italian economies from any intensification of the region’s crisis this year.

In another move likely to not win any popularity contests for Germany with the Greeks, comes a report that Germany intends to send to Greece tax officers who would volunteer to assist with tax collection efforts...
According to Germany’s Finance Ministry, “the [German] federal government wants to lend a helping hand. More than 160 volunteers of the German financial authorities are ready. Volunteers must have good knowledge of English, while there are several who speak Greek, too.”
Speaking of taxes, this gives a perfect segue to our tax dodger Secretary of the Treasury who believes that the 'privilege of being an American' is why the rich need to pay higher taxes...

"That’s the kind of balance you need," said Geithner. "Why is that the case? Because if you don't try to generate more revenues through tax reform, if you don't ask, you know, the most fortunate Americans to bear a slightly larger burden of the privilege of being an American, then you have to -- the only way to achieve fiscal sustainability is through unacceptably deep cuts in benefits for middle class seniors, or unacceptably deep cuts in national security."

The thing is, Mr. Secretary, the Administration you work for is already making those unacceptably deep cuts in national security - and ignoring not only the direction of the entitlements as a growing burden on our budget, but also the concept of making spending cuts at all. But more about this later.

SecTreas Geithner also apparently has some trouble with basic math...
One of the more unintentionally amusing ones comes to us from Tim Geithner himself, writing at the Wall Street Journal. In this detailed, fact-driven piece, Geithner points out how terribly unfair it is for U.S. energy companies to get away with paying such low taxes while raking in massive profits and living large on government subsidies.
“The effective tax rate on the energy industry in the United States today is much, much lower than the average. It’s lower because the tax code provides a substantial amount of subsidies to those private companies. We propose, for lots of reasons, mostly because we think it’s fair and more efficient, to dial some of those back.”
Forbes has been tracking which companies are paying how much in taxes for some time now. Guess who actually pays the most?

America’s three biggest oil companies, ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips , all endure income tax burdens of more than 40%–higher than the statutory U.S. rate of 35%. Exxon, with a 45% rate, tallied $21.6 billion in worldwide income taxes for 2010.

What did some companies in other industries pay?
Wal-Mart – $7.1 billion (at a rate of 32.4%) in income taxes
Hewlett-Packard – a 21% rate
Google – a 20% tax rate for 2010
General Electric – $1.05 billion taxes on income of $14.2 billion, a tax rate of 7.4%.

Now tell me again how the energy companies are the ones getting off cheaply and requiring the attention of the tax man? We shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Geithner, though. Math is hard.

Fudging the truth a little to make a point is one thing – but to openly and blatantly lie to such a level reflects incredibly poorly on the official / Administration which has to resort to such tactics to communicate with the citizens and justify their actions. One has to wonder if they have such contempt for the truth, doesn’t that mean they hold the voter in similar contempt?
 Unfortunately, this level of lying and contempt is far too commonplace in the Obama Administration - and begins right here -

Fast and Furious, the Budget process, Dodd / Frank, Solyndra and the other examples of crony capitalism, not to mention Obamacare... all involve huge lies and holding the American Constitution and American people in utter contempt.
Medical costs for enrollees in the health-care law’s high-risk insurance pools are expected to more than double initial predictions, the Obama administration said Thursday in a report on the new program.

The health-care law set aside $5 billion for a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, meant to provide health insurance to those who had been declined coverage by private carriers. Since its launch last summer, nearly 50,000 Americans have enrolled in the program.
Those who have enrolled in the program are projected to have significantly higher medical costs than the government initially expected. Each participant is expected to average $28,994 in medical costs in 2012, according to the report, more than double what government-contracted actuaries predicted in November 2010. Then, the analysts expected that the program would cost $13,026 per enrollee.

The costs also are significantly higher than those of similar high-risk pools that many states have operated for decades. States spent an average of $12,471 on enrollees in 2008, according to the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans.

Fundamentally, what is the difference between what the Administration is doing and a contractor quoting you that the job will cost X - a seriously low ball price designed to win the business, and then halfway into the job, you find that you will need to pay 2X or 3X in order to get the job finished?

But this Administration is going to campaign on the fact that it needs another 4 years in office to finish the job it started in January 2009.  I don't doubt that - one can't kill the US in just 4 years, but the meme will be that America is back - and 4 more years will firmly set America on it's new course....
In 2009, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. Our biggest banks and auto companies were on the brink of pulling down the whole economy. But we righted the ship. We did not tip into a Great Depression. And over the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs, the most since 2005 and more manufacturing jobs than since the 1990s. We still have a long way to go but we have restored hope and possibility to the economy.

Cherry picking the meme – and then lying to make the data fit the meme - Calculating from the end of the recession, the net job creation from those 31 months is only 1.407 million, a wan 45,390 net jobs a month, far below the pace needed to keep up with population growth. Calculating for the entirety of his presidency, we’re actually in the hole 937,000 jobs. Obama tried to cherry-pick the worst month in order to claim the most credit he could possible for job growth, and managed to get both the month and the math wrong anyway.

Geithner must have done the math...and another four years of Obama will lock the US firmly on the path of being the world's largest 'Greece'.

Where's the responsible 'Fourth Estate' - The Press - when it comes to raising questions about the direction of the country?  Here's a few examples from '15 Questions the Mainstream Media would ask Obama if he were a Republican' ...
2) In 2010 you said Solyndra, a company that donated heavily to your political campaign, was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” Today, Solyndra is bankrupt and the taxpayers lost over $500 million on loans that your administration knew might never be paid off when you made them. How do you respond to citizens who say this is evidence of corruption in your administration?

3) Unions invested a lot of time and money in helping to get you elected. In return, unions gained majority control of Chrysler, the taxpayers lost $14 billion dollars on General Motors, and General Motors received a special $45 billion dollar tax break. What do you say to people who view this as corruption on a scale never before seen in American history?

6) Occupy Wall Street has been protesting against Wall Street and the richest 1 percent in America. You are in the top 1 percent of income earners in America and you have collected more cash from Wall Street than any other President in history. So, aren’t you exactly the sort of politician that Occupy Wall Street wants to get rid of?...

9) You made bipartisanship one of the central themes of your campaign in 2008. Yet, you’ve worked to push bills through Congress with almost no Republican support, spent much less time negotiating with Congress than George Bush did, and you’ve said things like, “But, I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.” Why did you decide to break your campaign promise to pursue bipartisanship?

10) America lost its AAA credit rating for the first time under your watch. What do you think you should have done differently to have prevented that historic failure?

Every one of these questions is a legitimate question - and questions that the media should be asking if they were ethical and professional.

Well, I can't use ethical or professional as I segue to this next report...

The Los Angeles Times, down from over 900,000 subscribers in 2005 to about 575,000 today, has decided to put the majority of their content behind a paywall on the internet in hopes of increasing revenues. Readers will now only be allowed to read 15 articles per month for free before needing to subscribe. The paywall takes effect on March 5th.

At least a paywall is easier to implement than producing a better quality product that people would want to subscribe to.  Why is it so difficult for publishers to associate the decline in their revenues with the decline in the quality of their product as opposed to blaming everything else?

Did you catch this report from the UK's Telegraph?  During a debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, admitted, "I can't be sure God does not exist"....

On This Day in History

1815 - Napoleon escapes from his exile on Elba - and begins his 2nd conquest of France.  This would culminate with his defeat at Waterloo - and subsequent surrender to the British.

1919 - Grand Canyon National Park is established

1929 - Grand Teton National Park is established

1968 - Allied troops who recaptured the South Vietnamese city of Hue discovered the first mass graves in the city where communist troops buried some 2800 - 5700 civilians who were executed for sympathizing with the South Vietnamese government during the time the communists held the city.

1993 - A truck bomb detonated in the garage beneath the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 6, injuring 1,000, and forcing the evacuation of the World Trade Center towers.  The structures suffered more than $500 million in damage, but the bomb did not cause one tower to topple onto the other tower as envisioned by Muslim terrorist mastermind Ramzi Ahmed Yousef.  Yousef was also involved in the Muslim terrorist plan to bomb 15 American airliners over both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans over a 2 day timeframe.  19 Muslim terrorists would succeed in destroying the World Trade Center towers as well as damaging the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 in an attack that would kill nearly 3,000.

1995 - Barings PLC collapsed after a securities dealer lost more than $1.4 billion gambling on Tokyo stock prices.  The company was Britain's oldest investment banking firm.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Quick Hits - February 24 and 25, 2012

Double post for today - between a very busy day and being under the weather - didn't get the QH out yesterday.  Fortunately, or maybe it's unfortunately, there is plenty to discuss...

In Syria, a local and temporary cease fire around the beseiged city of Homs took effect, allowing the Red Cross to begin to evacuate injured women and children. 

Saudi Arabia has walked out of a meeting involving 60 nations taking place in Tunisia seeking to address the violence of the Syrian regime against those opposing the government.  Complaining about the 'all talk, and no action' that was coming from the conference, Saudi Arabia hinted that it was time to start arming the opposition forces to better fight the Assad dictatorship.

The US State Department has spent much of the last week quietly warning the region about Syrian's Weapons of Mass Destruction....
This week, the State Department sent a diplomatic demarche to Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, warning them about the possibility of Syria's WMDs crossing their borders and offering U.S. government help in dealing with the problem, three Obama administration officials confirmed to The Cable. For concerned parties both inside and outside the U.S. government, the demarche signifies that the United States is increasingly developing plans to deal with the dangers of a post-Assad Syria -- while simultaneously highlighting the lack of planning for how to directly bring about Assad's downfall.

Syria is believed to have a substantial chemical weapons program, which includes mustard gas and sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin gas, as well as biological weapons. Syria has also refused IAEA requests to make available facilities that were part of its nuclear weapons program and may still be in operation.

Many also believe that substantial stocks of Saddam Hussein's chemical and bio weapons stocks were transported from Iraq to Syria for storage prior to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

2 US Military advisers working at the Afghanistan Interior Ministry were shot and killed today by an Afghan police officer reacting to the burning of desecrated Qurans by American forces.  This is the 5th day of major violence in Afghanistan as Taliban forces continue to use the action of the US to destroy Qurans that were desecrated by Taliban prisoners.  Taliban and Islamist organizations continue to focus on the acts to destroy the desecrated Qurans as opposed to addressing the original acts by their members to desecrate the books - assisted by much of the Western media and politicians like President Obama who continues to apologize for the decision to destroy the books used by Taliban prisoners to communicate with each other - and promote jihad.

The regular series of apologies from both the White House and the Pentagon for the efforts to destroy the desecrated books is being attacked from many on the right as evidence of the weakness of Obama Administration's foreign policy...and they are absolutely correct.  Our troops undertook steps to respectfully destroy desecrated Qurans - desecrated by Islamist Jihadists - in a manner not dissimilar to how we would respectfully destroy a severely damaged US Flag.  Rather than putting the blame on the jihadists who desecrated the book - the default position of the US is that the US is at fault.

Why aren't we demanding an apology from Afghani President Karzai for the violence being perpetrated, for the lack of support despite the US treasure being expended to support him, his failures to stand up to the corruption in his country, and his complete lack of leadership?

US Intelligence Agencies seem to be at work making excuses for Iran - as the NY reports in 'US Agencies see no move by Iran to build a nuclear bomb'...
Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.
Let's go back to an old analogy - a person pulls a pistol from his pocket, aims it at your face, and says that if you do not immediately give him your valuables, he will shoot you.  You don't have any hard evidence that the pistol is loaded - you can't see inside the magazine - so do you act based on the assumption that it is not loaded since you don't have 'hard evidence' that it is loaded?  Or do you act based on the facts - his words that he will kill you if you don't comply, his ease at making threats, his apparent comfort and experience with armed robbery, and combine this with the assumption made about the status of his weapon?

Wouldn't the prudent course of action to be to assume that the gun is loaded until one has 'hard evidence' that it is not loaded or capable of being fired?

Unfortunately, that's not how too many of our US agencies are looking at the world - and politics / ideology seem to define far too much of the viewpoint around seeing the world as they believe it is versus seeing the world as it actually is.

Then there is the price for being wrong...

In Greece, the Greek Parliament has started the process for the debt swap with private investors of Greek debt obligations that is a major part of the 2nd bailout that the EU is providing the country.  Greek fears that they would have to give up sovereignty appear real - as the EU is now demanding 28 specific changes in Greek tax, spending, and wage policies to be confirmed by the end of February - and laid out additional reforms needed that will result in EU micromanagement of Greece for at least the next 2 years.

Among the reforms being demanded by the EU, overhauling judicial procedures, centralizing health insurance, completing an accurate land registry, building a new computer system for tax collectors, and changing the way drugs are prescribed.
“The programme is much, much more ambitious than economic reform,” said Mujtaba Rahman, Europe analyst at the Eurasia Group risk consultancy. “This is state building, as typically understood in traditional low-income contexts.”
Will this ultimately result in 'fixing' Greece?  Doubtful - unless they also fix the built in bureaucracy and inefficiencies that prevent Greeks from starting a business - as this article details about several Greeks trying to start an online store in Greece...
It took 10 months, a fat bundle of paperwork, countless certificates, long hours of haggling with bureaucrats and overcoming myriad other inconceivable obstacles for one group of young entrepreneurs to open an online store.

Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

Once they climbed the crazy mountain of Greek bureaucracy and reached the summit, they faced the quagmire of the bank, where the issue of how to confirm the credit card details of customers ended in the bank demanding that the entire website be in Greek only, including the names of the products.

“They completely ignored us, however much we explained that our products are aimed at foreign markets and everything has to be written in English as well,” said Antonopoulos.

Eventually, Antonopoulos and his associates decided to use foreign banking systems like PayPal, and cut the Greek bank, with which they had been negotiating for three months, from the middle. “It’s their loss, not ours. We eventually solved the problem in just one day,” explained Antonopoulos.

Greece - already enjoying the benefits of 'Hope and Change'...

Speaking of 'Hope and Change' - Rush Limbaugh made the point in his broadcast yesterday that President Obama seems to hold the viewpoint that America has never worked as a nation...
RUSH: Late yesterday afternoon, this is in the Coral Gables, this is at a fundraiser, this is after Obama sang the praises of pond scum as the next substitute for oil.

OBAMA: We’ve gotta make sure that everybody’s doing their fair share. Everybody needs a fair shot, everybody’s gotta play by the same set of rules, everybody’s gotta do their fair share. Everybody’s gotta do their part! Everybody in this room, we are here, successful, because somebody down the road have not just thinkin’ about themselves, they were takin’ responsibility for the country as a whole.

RUSH: What an absolute crock! That is the exact opposite of what goes on. That is his translation of Karl Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” This is absolutely full of it. “Everybody gotta do their part. Everybody in this room, we’re here, successful, ’cause somebody down the road was not just thinkin’ about themselves, they were takin’ responsibility for the country as a whole.” That is not what propelled this country! This country was propelled by rugged individualism and rugged self-interest, and it was made possible by virtue of the freedom this country offers its citizens thanks to our Constitution, founding documents, and Founding Fathers.

Now, this may be a fine line. Obama wants you to think that everybody that he deems “successful” is first thinking of government and then, second, thinking of government, and then the last thing they think of is government, and everything they do is oriented toward making the government better. And that isn’t true. Most people today are finding a way to avoid the government! Because of guys like Obama, most people are trying to find a way to evade the government. Because the government, run by guys like Obama, is an obstacle. It’s in people’s way.

Here’s the next sound bite.

OBAMA: We’re not gonna win the race for new jobs and new businesses and middle class security if we’re responding to today’s challenges with the same old, tired worn out “you’re on your own” economics that hasn’t worked. What these other guys are peddling has not worked. It didn’t work in the decade before the Great Depression. It did not work in the decade before I became president. It will not work now.

RUSH: Do you believe this? The country has never worked. Capitalism has never worked. America was not great until the New Deal, and then America plunged into the abyss again, and only is on the path to reclaiming its greatness now that Obama is replicating the New Deal by a factor of ten. Has he ever heard of the Roaring Twenties? Has he ever heard of the boom in the fifties and the sixties and the seventies? Has he ever heard of what happened in the 1980s? It never worked? This is the second time he’s said this in such a prominent way. Last time was when he made his speech, I guess it was in December, might have been January, the days run together so quickly now, in Osawatomie, Kansas, where he said, America, as founded, hasn’t worked.
President Obama's Energy Speech at the University of Miami on Thursday was probably one of the most arrogant and clueless speeches delivered by this President.  The speech contained some unbelievable lies and misconceptions....the 5 biggest according to the Investors Business Daily were:

  1. 'We're focused on production.'
  2. 'The US consumes more than a fifth of the world's oil.  But we only have 2% of the world's oil reserves.'
  3. 'Because of the investments we've made, the use of clean, renewable energy in this country has nearly doubled.'
  4. 'There are no short term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices.'
  5. 'We need to double down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising.'
The main message from the President is apparently 'It's Not My Fault' and 'Suck it up and stop whining'.   That and the fact that the future for lower gasoline prices is pond scum.

Focused on Production?  The Wall Street Journal notes -
Approval of an offshore drilling plan now takes 92 days, 31 more than the historical average. And so far in 2012, an average of 23% of all drilling plans have been approved, compared to the average of 73.4%.

Oh, and don't forget the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have increased the delivery of oil from Canada and North Dakota's Bakken Shale to Gulf Coast refineries, replacing oil from Venezuela.

The reality is that most of the increase in U.S. oil and gas production has come despite the Obama Administration. It is flowing from the shale boom, which is the result of private technological advances and investment. Mr. Obama has seen the energy sun rise and is crowing like a rooster that he made it happen.
America only has 2% of the world's reserves?  Another canard...
[A]lthough the U.S. is said to have only 20 billion barrels of oil in reserves, the amount of oil that is technically recoverable in the U.S. is more than 1.4 trillion barrels, with the largest deposits located offshore, in portions of Alaska, and in shale in the Rocky Mountain West. When combined with resources from Canada and Mexico, total recoverable oil in North America exceeds 1.7 trillion barrels, or more than the world has used since the first oil well was drilled over 150 years ago in Titusville, Pennsylvania. To put this in context, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves.

One reason to view “reserves” estimates with caution is the fact that they are constantly in flux. In 1980, the U.S. had oil reserves of roughly 30 billion barrels. Yet from 1980 through 2010, it produced over 77 billion barrels of oil. In other words, over the last 30 years, the U.S. produced over 150 percent of the proved reserves that it had in 1980. If the massive quantities of U.S. oil are made available to explore and produce, the current estimated reserves of 20 billion barrels would certainly increase, providing much more production over decades to come. In other words, reserves are not a stagnant number.
Clean renewable energy?  Like the example of Massachusetts and it's cap and trade legislation?

As noted by the Investors Business Daily, after decades of government subsidiaries for clean renewable energy, when it comes to electricity, wind power only provides 1% of our electricity as compared to 49% for coal, 22% for natural gas, 19% for nuclear, and 7% for hydroelectric.  Wind turbines operate at only 20% efficiency compared to 85% for coal, gas, and nuclear power plants.

In terms of prices, wind power for Massachusetts costs start at 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour - compared to the average Mass electrical rate based on traditional power sources of 8 cents per kilowatt hour.  With the built in price hikes for the rates, this is going to rise to 31.3 cents per kilowatt hour in 15 years - or nearly 4 times the current cost of electricity.  Meanwhile, natural gas, which because of the massive increases in supply being made available via fracking technology, is at record low prices - selling at an equivalent oil price of $18 per barrel.

No short term silver bullets?  But pond scum is a solution?
To give you an idea how impractical this is at its current stage, let's look at a couple of numbers. In 2010, the U.S. produced about 138 billion gallons of gasoline. At $3.00/gallon, that's a market worth north of $400 billion annually.

Obama's magical solution? Spending $0.085 billion on researching algal fuels now with a proposed increase to this research of $0.014 billion.

He says algal fuels can replace "up to" 17% of a $400 billion revenue stream yet proposes to invest $0.099 billion to achieve this? We either need to be investing several orders of magnitude more in this miracle technology or zero. Given the Federal government's track record as a venture capitalist and our current financial situation, I'll go with zero. 
This is more laughable than a call to inflate your tires, which at least has the advantage of being something you can do immediately and for free (or thereabouts). 
We may bitch about our choices to replace this clown, but none of them, not even Luap Nor, are as unserious about the problems we face and the solutions to them as Obama is.
Doubling down on renewable energy?  Like Solyndra, or A123 Systems in Michigan?

A123 Systems is a green company, an electric car battery company once touted as a major stimulus success story by the former Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm (D) has gotten $390 million in stimulus dollars from the Federal and State governments.  Since getting these funds, it's laid off 125 employees, lost $172 million in the first 3 quarters of 2011, and has given its top executives raises of 10%-20%...

Another interesting comment by Obama in his energy speech -
“Some politicians, they see this as a political opportunity. I know you’re shocked by that. Last week the lead story in one newspaper said, ‘Gasoline prices are on the rise and Republicans are licking their chops.’ That’s a quote. That’s the lead. Licking their chops. Only in politics do people root for bad news. They greet bad news so enthusiastically,” Obama said.
And the Dems never celebrated bad news about the economy for political purposes?

Well, I've got to go a make sure my tires are properly inflated... and deal with the algae in the fish tank - the car needs a fill-up.

On This Day in History - Feb 24th

1868 - US House of Representatives votes 11 articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson - who becomes the first US President to be impeached.

1917 - British officials give the US Ambassador to the UK a copy of the 'Zimmerman Note' - an intercepted and decrypted telegram from the German Foreign Secretary to the German Ambassador to Mexico - instructing the Ambassador to ask Mexico to enter the war alongside of Germany if the US joins the war promising the return of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to Mexico once the Allies are defeated.

1968 - The Tet Offensive ends as US and South Vietnamese forces recapture the ancient capital city of Hue.  Despite suffering a catastrophic military defeat, Tet turned the tide in favor of the North Vietnamese as popular opinion in the US, influenced by those like Walter Cronkite, declared the war unwinnable.

On This Day in History - Feb 25th

1570 - Queen Elizabeth I is excommunicated by Pope Pius V

1913 - The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified.  It authorizes the income tax.

1940 - The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadians play in the first US televised hockey game - aired by W2WBS in NYC using a single camera

1942 - The Battle of Los Angeles - The varying reports of the morning’s events represent the mass confusion and paranoia of the time. Some reported there were just a few planes, while others claimed to have seen several dozen aircraft. There were even reports that planes were shot down, when in reality, nothing was hit by the AA guns—except three civilians killed and a few buildings damaged by friendly fire. Guns fired at the flying object for more than an hour between 3:15 and 4:15 a.m. on 25 February 1942

1964 - Cassius Clay shocks the boxing world by knocking out heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston.  After joining the Nation of Islam, Clay changed his name to Muhammed Ali.

1986 - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos flees the country and takes up exile in the United States as popular support turns against his dictatorship