Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick Hits - March 10, 2012

Is the NAACP jumping the shark?

A delegation from the NAACP is to travel to Geneva to call on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate what they call significant voter disenfranchisement being practiced in the United States.
The delegation, headed by the NAACP's president, Benjamin Jealous, will address the council on Wednesday and call on the UN body to launch a formal investigation into the spread of restrictive electoral laws, particularly in southern states. The NAACP intends to invite a UN team to travel across America to see for itself the impact of the new laws, which it argues are consciously designed to suppress minority voting.

The UN has no power to intervene in the workings of individual American states. But Jealous told the Guardian that the UN had a powerful weapon in its armoury: shame.

"Shame alone is effective. The US, and individual states within the US that have introduced these laws, have a vested interest in maintaining the opinion that we are the world's leading democracy. That means something," Jealous said.
Laws intended to prevent voting by illegal immigrants are 'disenfranchisement'?  Laws intended to prevent voter fraud by requiring voters to provide a photo ID (available for free) are 'disenfranchisement'?  Laws that prevent convicted felons from voting are 'disenfranchisement'?

Appealing to the anti-American elements of the farce known as the UN Human Rights Council sounds like a real losing proposition - and demonstrates just how irrelevant the NAACP has become.

CNN is scrambling to provide cover and damage control over the farce that Soledad O'Brien has become in her now viral unprofessional and vapid interview performance with's Joel Pollak.  The latest effort is a 1500 word selective history of racist Derrick Bell that is addressed by's Big Journalism...
Has anyone ever before seen the corrupt media work so hard for so many days to push back on what they’re telling the world is a non-story?
For a "non-story," the media sure has used up an awful lot of ink, bandwidth, and airtime on what has now turned into 48-hour crusade to cover up the true history and words of a man our president publicly embraced as a 28 year-old Harvard law student.

As Thursday rolled into Friday, CNN must have realized that O'Brien's very public flameout had gone viral and that she is now a public laughing stock. This is the only explanation as to why this 1500 word monstrosity popped up on the cable net's Web site yesterday. The writer is Tom Cohen and the obvious goal is to turn divisive racialist Derrick Bell into something closer to Dr. Martin Luther King.  
The simple fact is that you can wrap as many words as you want around it, but nothing can ever turn Derrick Bell into a noble crusader for racial equality -- because he was just the opposite. My colleague Dan Riehl put it about as well as anyone could:
Bell didn't only de-legitimize white critics based upon race, he de-legitimized his white liberals colleagues, as well, seeing them as incapable of being anything other than oppressors.
One of the maxims of modern day media is that the more the media pushes a story or meme - the less that story or meme is the real deal.

We also are seeing this in the hyperventilation over the February jobs numbers showing 227,000 jobs being added during the month.  But the Investor's Business Daily is looking at this report and asking if another mediocre jobs report the best that we can do?
Sure, three months of 200,000-plus job creation is a great thing. We're happy for all those Americans who are now putting on their work clothes and earning a paycheck.

But this is far short of the growth needed. And that's not sour grapes. It's a statistical fact.  
Let's just look for a moment at the true state of the U.S. jobs economy.

As IBD's own Ed Carson noted on, U.S. jobs peaked 49 months ago and we're not even close to being back. That's the longest jobs recession since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, GDP growth hasn't topped 4% in almost six years — the longest stretch of sub-4% growth ever. And we're supposed to cheer this?
The best one can say is that, based on current data, we're still down more than 5 million jobs from where we were 49 months ago. Even at February's rate, it would take until February 2014 just to get back to even. 
Not much to brag about, is it?

In fact, it's even worse than that. Obama's economy is — depending how you calculate — somewhere around 10 million to 11 million jobs behind where it should be.

The reason is the 100,000 new entrants into the job market each month that have to be sopped up, along with all those people who lost jobs or have quit looking.
They aren't the only ones. The Bank of America is also throwing up all over the February job numbers...
The funny thing about economists is that they can look at the same set of data and draw completely different conclusions. This is partly because of different models and assumptions but also because of the wide range of data to analyze. Nowhere is this more true than in the labor market. There are a number of different indicators, including the unemployment rate, non-farm payrolls, initial jobless claims, the employment-to-population ratio, the diffusion index, and the list goes on. 
The jobs recession is now at a record breaking 49 months - the longest since World War 2...

The previous jobs recession record — 47 months — came during and after the comparatively mild 2001 recession, which saw unemployment climb to only 6.3%. The average job recovery time since 1980 is 29 months, not including the current slump.
The labor market won't truly return to health until some 10 million positions are created to rehire all those who lost their jobs and to absorb new workers.

The longest jobs recession in decades coincides, not coincidentally, with the longest stretch of anemic economic performance on record.

U.S. gross domestic profit hasn't risen 4% or more in any quarter since the first quarter of 2006. That's by far the longest such stretch on record going back to 1950. The only other sizable sub-par stretch was a three-year span from late 2000 to mid-2003 during the prior recession and sluggish recovery.

The current expansion, which began in mid-2009, is particularly disappointing, given the deep recession that preceded it. The best growth was a three-quarter run of 3.8%-3.9% gains.
As the Wall Street Journal notes - the economy is showing life despite the President - not because of the President and his policies...
The unemployment rate of 8.3% is still historically very high. The long-term unemployed—those without jobs for six months or more—is still over five million, which is 42.6% of all jobless workers. If we hadn't seen about three million people drop out of the job market since 2008, the reported unemployment rate would be closer to 10.8%. And hourly earnings growth over the last year of 1.9% is running a full point below inflation, a cost-of-living squeeze that is getting tighter with higher gas prices.

The U.S. will need to sustain this pace of job growth for at least two more years to get unemployment below 7% and to recover the five million net loss of jobs since 2007. ObamaCare's mandates on businesses, the $1 trillion annual federal deficit forecasts and the huge tax hikes coming on January 1, 2013 are a few of the governmental impediments to job growth that lie ahead. The challenge for the economy now will be whether employers continue to hire in the face of those headwinds.
No, things are not looking all that rosy for President Obama.  Embracing campaign mode for his weekly radio address, the President worked to address the soaring gasoline prices...
Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to underscore his administration’s work to develop alternative energy sources and increase fuel efficiency.

“I’m going to keep doing everything I can to help you save money on gas, both right now and in the future,” Obama said. “I hope politicians from both sides of the aisle join me.”

He accused Republicans of a “bumper sticker” approach to solving the nation’s energy problems.

We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices — not when we consume 20 percent of the world’s oil,” Obama said in the address, recorded during a visit Friday to a Virginia jet engine component plant.
Seems to the President, the bigger issue still remains the fact that the US, the world's largest economy, consumes 20% of the world's oil.  It's consumption / demand - not supply according to the progressive President. 

The thing is - there are five steps the Federal (and State) government can take to cut gasoline prices in the United States quickly...
  1. Taxes - gas taxes average 45.7 cents / gallon nationally of which 18.4 cents / gallon is Federal.  The three highest taxing states (incl. fed tax) are New York, California, and Connecticut - all progressive dominated states - at around 67 cents / gallon of taxes.
  2. Strengthen the dollar - The Fed's QE efforts have had profound impact on gasoline prices.
  3. Simplify fuel types - there are about 18 different types of gasoline required by regulations across the country - complicating production and supply which increase costs.
  4. Environmental rules and regulations add costs to gasoline prices to cover the costs of compliance. Refineries are being forced to close because of new and very stringent regulations being defined by the Obama Administration - and new EPA regulations being considered will shutter another half dozen refineries and add 25 to 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas.
  5. Restore the ethanol mandate - the 45 cent / gallon federal subsidy for each gallon of ethanol ended in January - and added 4.5 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
Let's look at a comparison of two states in their energy approaches and polices and see what these teach us...North Dakota, a conservative state, and California, a very progressive state.  North Dakota is a state that is in the midst of an economic boom - 3.3% unemployment - that is driven by its expanding development of it's energy (oil and gas) resources.
Now contrast this bonanza with what's going on in another energy-rich state: California. While North Dakota's oil production has tripled since 2007 (to more than 150 million barrels in 2011), the Golden State's oil production has fallen by a third in the past 20 years, to 201 million barrels last year from 320 million in 1990. The problem isn't that California is running out of oil: In 2008, when the USGS estimated four million barrels of recoverable oil from the Bakken, it estimated closer to 15 million barrels in California's vast Monterey Shale.

Rather, California's problem is politicians—at the behest of their green-energy allies—deciding to wall off the state from developing evil fossil fuels. With its prohibitive environmental regulations, state cap-and-trade law, costly renewable energy mandates and 40 years of prohibitions on almost all offshore drilling, California ranks worst in the country and 91st in the world in its hostility to drilling, according to the Fraser Institute's 2011 Global Petroleum Survey. This month, according to North Dakota's Department of Mineral Resources, California is no longer America's third-largest energy-producing state—leapfrogged by North Dakota.

The Census finds that North Dakota led the nation in job and income growth in 2011. It has the nation's lowest unemployment rate, at 3.3% (California's is 11.1%), and it saw a huge 38.5% increase in its number of millionaires between 2009 and 2010, according to state tax return data. California, by contrast, lost nearly 50,000—or almost one-third—of its high-income residents ($500,000 and above) between 2007 and 2009, according to the Sacramento Bee.
There is very little difference in the policies and attitudes towards energy as demonstrated by the progressives in Sacramento led by Governor Jerry Brown and the progressives in Washington DC led by President Barack Obama.

California is now going after British Petroleum using the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to attack the company in an effort to punish their business in the state - and probably raise needed funds for the near bankrupt state government.  The claim by CARB regulators is that between December 2008 and March 2009, 85 million gallons of gas sold in California by BP exceeded the CARB defined state limits on benzine and other chemicals.  CARB has some of the most restrictive air pollution laws in the country and is targeting BP for what amounts to be 0.5% of all of the gas it sells in California. 

In fact, after negotiating with BP since 2010 on this issue, and last holding a meeting with BP in August 2011 - CARB suddenly decided to move forward with litigation without any additional communication with BP.  Politically motivated?

Despite the hyperbole from much of the mainstream media about how well the President is doing, as well as the President's own campaign hyperbole, the latest polling data from Rasmussen doesn't bode well for the President.  Barack Obama is back to a -19 on the Presidential Approval Index which is 9 point worse than his standing on the Index just one month ago.  44% of those polled strongly disapprove of President Obama compared to 25% who strongly approve.

On head to head matches, the President has also slipped significantly.  Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama 48% to 43% - his largest lead in the head to head matchup since December 2011.  Rick Santorum also leads the President by 1 point - inside the margin of error.


New York's Occupy Wall Street group could run out of money in 3 weeks...
New York's Occupy Wall Street group is warning it could run out of money by the end of the month, raising questions about the future of the movement that sparked nationwide protests against economic injustice last year.

Donations to the group have slowed six months after it set up camp in a park near Wall Street, igniting the Occupy movement across the United States.

A report by Occupy Wall Street's accounting group for the week ended March 2 showed it had $44,828 in a general fund in addition to $90,000 set aside to bail protesters out of jail during planned "American Spring" protests.

The report said, "At our current rate of expenditure, we will be out of money in THREE WEEKS."
You mean the union members that are key members of the OWS as well as Marxist organizations are no longer ponying up funds?  Wonder why?

Frances Fox Piven, the leftist professor and activist, is predicting that OWS is moving to their phase 2 - a more violent phase...
“It may well be that the Occupy movement is now in its second phase, in the phase where it makes trouble, in the phase where it threatens to shut down institutions,” Piven said. “The Occupy movement has moved into the neighborhoods of our cities, it has moved into the schools….This spring, we’ll see action against the banks, against the corporations.”

She added, “It is going to be a spring with lots of protests that take different forms and engage lots of people.”
The liberal legal hack, Gloria Allred, is desperate for publicity again.  She's making a formal call for Rush Limbaugh's arrest for calling Sandra Fluke a 'slut' and a 'prostitute'.  Her legal 'case' is obliterated by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh in his post here that is far more serious than Allred deserves.  Allred's publicity demands ridicule over her asinine hypocrisy and ignoring of far more vile language coming from Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, Keith Olberidiot, Mike Malloy, et al who are of the progressive left.

Greece Defaults, and Tries to Move On...
Greece will reap fast relief from a historic €200 billion ($266 billion) debt restructuring sealed Friday, but the default isn't likely to end the debt-strapped country's epic financial problems.

A panel of market participants ruled later in the day that the restructuring constitutes a credit event and would trigger insurance-like contracts that pay off if creditors suffer losses. On Friday, ratings firms Fitch and Moody's declared Greece in default.

The restructuring will cut some €100 billion from the face value of Greece's obligations. Yet, Greece remains mired in a long recession; unemployment is at 21%; and even after the write-off, the debt level is well in excess of a year's economic output.

In Syria, former UN Secretary General and now special envoy, Kofi Anan's peace mission looks to be another failure as Assad begins a new shelling of civilians - and Syrian Army tanks roll in to besiege another Syrian city - Idlib...
The meeting came as opposition activists reported a new government assault on Idlib. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the government was shelling the Idlib region after tanks moved towards the area in recent days. There was no independent confirmation, but smoke rose into the sky behind some apartment buildings, according to an Associated Press team in the area.

Some families were seen fleeing from the violence, clutching their belongings, or taking shelter.

Reinforcements have been pouring into Idlib for days, including dozens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, activists said. The operation has raised fears that the regime is planning a new, all-out offensive in Idlib like the bloody siege last month that captured a restive part of the city of Homs, further south.

Wrapping up today's report, I have to note the takedown of the fishwrap, the Los Angeles Times, by Patterico.  Patterico has done stellar work over the existence of the blog highlighting the dishonesty, the bias, and the sheer stupidity of the iconic newspaper.  Is this post, he notes that the new decision by the LA Times to address its fiscal challenges by placing its content behind a paywall is, simply, incredibly naive and stupid.
John Seiler says they’re trying to commit suicide. The L.A. Times would likely point to the Wall Street Journal as an example of a publication that has successfully gone to a pay model. Here’s the problem as Seiler sees it:

The Journal’s model is succeeding because the Journal offers more than basic news: It offers specialty news, on finances. People will pay money to make money. The’ll also pay money for other specialty news, such as dating and game sites. That model also is working for the Financial Times, which specializes in international business news.

If you’re a bond trader making well into the six figures a year, paying for an FT or Journal subscription is chump change. It provides crucial information you use for your business. Those publications also provide large research files for checking out potential businesses to invest in. But that model doesn’t work for publications that provide news one can get elsewhere.

As to the New York Times, it lost $40 million last year. So why imitate their business model?

There is another problem: the Journal is just a better paper. I know someone who no longer subscribes to the Times, because it infuriates him, while he does subscribe to the Journal, because it’s a good paper and he likes it.

That person is me.
I'm also one of those who no longer subscribes to the LA Times but does subscribe to the WSJ.  With the WSJ, I get value for my subscription dollar.  I dropped the LA Times because it no longer offered value...just propaganda.  Here's a chart from the above link that shows just how much the LA Times has dropped off the table even as it's marketplace has grown by millions...

But what do the former customers know...

On This Day in History

515BC - Building of the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem was completed.

49BC - Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon

1776 - 'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine was published

1876 - Alexander Graham Bell makes the first successful call with the telephone - "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you."

1906 - A mine disaster in Courrieres, France kills 1,060 - an underground fire sparks a massive explosion that virtually destroyed a maze of mines.

1949 - Nazi wartime broadcaster Mildred E. Gillars, aka 'Axis Sally' was convicted of treason in Washington DC - she will serve 12 years in prison.

1959 - Tibetans rebel against the People's Republic of China and PLA occupation forces.  Motivated by fears of a plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama and take him to Beijing, 300,000 Tibetans surround the Dalai Lama's palace to protect him.

1966 - France withdraws from NATO military command and orders NATO to move its headquarters from Paris.

1969 - James Earl Ray pleads guilty to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr - sentenced to 99 years in prison.

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