Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quick Hits - May 20 & 21, 2012

Apologies, other priorities took precedent the last couple of days...

Settling in to his new eternal place in hell, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer who was convicted in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, has died in Tripoli, Libya.  270 people were killed when the airliner exploded and crashed into Lockerbie, Scotland.  al-Megrahi was serving a life prison in a Scottish prison in 2008 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  He was released in August 2009 on 'compassionate grounds' which permits terminally ill prisoners to die at home.  At the time of his release, doctors estimated he only had 3 months to live.

When the convicted terrorist arrived back in Libya, he received a hero's welcome.  This welcome, along with his early release, and the fact that he was not quite as terminal as doctors proclaimed, caused outrage with many.

Which is it?

The Washington Post, shilling for President Obama's reelection, released a story on Sunday that highlighted on the results of the G-8 meetings held at Camp David.  According to the Washington Post, the G-8 leaders released a statement that rather than imposing strict fiscal austerity steps to have EU member nations spend within their means and, if needed, reform their entitlement programs which account for the majority of the government spending, more government spending is the solution for Europe to revive the struggling economies throughout the Eurozone.  This happens to match the preferred direction of both President Barack Obama and newly elected French President Francois Hollande - calling for more spending and embracing Keynesian economics despite the evidence in both Europe and the US that these steps do not revive economies and only deepen the hole that countries find themselves in.

Let's jump to a European paper to see how they are reporting the G8 meeting.  UK's left leaning paper, Guardian, apparently doesn't feel like it has to shill for President Obama.  Their article on this issue is, 'Merkel Stands Firm on Greece'.  Rather than embracing more government deficit spending, German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains consistent in her insistence that struggling nations adopt strict austerity measures around reduced spending in order to break the cycle.
Angela Merkel has declined to shift position on fresh measures to stimulate demand in the euro area, including the idea of eurobonds, leaving other EU countries hoping she will adopt a more conciliatory mood when the EU heads of government meet on Wednesday for the next round of discussions.

Barack Obama left the German chancellor in no doubt that he would like to see her adopt a less confrontational stance towards the Greek government, during a heated two-hour discussion at the G8 summit at Camp David, outside Washington.

Obama, facing a presidential election in November, cannot afford US jobless numbers to rise this autumn, a serious possibility if there is no return of confidence in Europe. He is said to understand the necessity for the Greeks to undertake spending cuts, but stressed the same austerity approach across Europe would simply lead to recession.
President Obama, as evidenced by his policies here in the US, sees no challenge with continued out of control spending in a futile effort to 'stimulate' the stagnant US economy.  He's also pressing on the German Chancellor to blink when confronted by the Greek's - and keep lending them money to cover their debt obligations because he does not want economic challenges from Europe to remind the American people in an election year that his policies are the same ones that brought Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and France to their current economic conditions.

UK newspaper, Telegraph, offered an excellent commentary about the challenges the Eurozone is facing over their decades of embracing a statist / socialistic economic and social policy asking if they are finally starting to waken from their utopian dream?
This is not just a story of bureaucratic grandiosity, or of German insistence on domination. Certainly it is true that there is an irreconcilable cultural clash between the more puritanical North and the, shall we say, more indulgent South. It turns out that Marx was wrong about economic conditions determining political behaviour: a nation’s religion and geography are much more likely to affect its economic attitudes than the other way round. But it is not the dream of European co-operation that was doomed from the start: given the ancient hatreds and unforgivable sins of the past, that was difficult, but it was not impossible. What has made the project unworkable is the insistence that the EU be a vehicle for democratic socialism: the impossible dream was not European unity but universal “social solidarity” stretching across a continent, for which the single market was simply a milch cow to produce the funds.

Unfeasibly enormous social security and entitlement promises were made on the basis that the free market would always provide. Nobody bothered to ask what would happen when the market faltered or fluctuated (as genuinely free markets do) or when the sense of entitlement outgrew the wealth that could be created. The problem is not unique to Europe. They are facing the same question in the US, where benefits programmes – particularly social security (the US federal pensions system) and Medicare – have become as untouchable, and as financially unsustainable, as they are here.
There is something intellectually bankrupt about a willingness to ignore the financially unsustainable entitlements, and maintain massive spending to achieve 'fairness' or 'social justice' as defined by a government, while not taking steps to be fiscally responsible.
We see signs of this intellectual bankruptcy all around us - with the greed (laziness?) to get something 'for nothing' or 'what we're due' dominating far too many.  Much of this is ideologically driven - where the liberal fascists continue to insist that their direction is the best solution, despite it's economic failures pretty much everywhere it's been tried.  We're told that those failures are not indicative of the bankruptcy of the ideology - but the failures to adequately implement it correctly.  Either it was a failure to do it sufficiently 'big enough' or from implementation mistakes....but, we're promised, the NEXT TIME will work...really it will.

This is the message that comes from the leader of the Greek far left party, Syriza, Alexis Tsipiras.  Syriza is expected to be the big winner in the next round of Greek elections on June 17.  He is already playing chicken with the EU - wanting to maintain Greece's unsustainable spending and entitlement programs and getting the EU, ECB, and IMF to continue to send billions to Greece to cover its debt obligations.  In other words- he wants things to stay the same even though the statist left policies have bankrupted his nation.

Tsipiras is betting that the EU is going to blink - back off on their demands for Greek austerity and keep the funds flowing because they don't want Greece to default....kick the can down the road.  The problem is that Greece's bill is due and it has no more credit.  Germany, the primary lender to Greece, appears unwilling to send more of its good money into the black hole that is Greece.  Germany is also unwilling to risk its own pain to let the Greeks avoid pain.  But Tsipiras has two fundamental errors in his strategy. 

One is that the Germans are very unlikely to help Greece without Greece making some fundamental changes.  The second is that the problem with Euro-socialism is Euro-socialism.  The closest a nation has come to making this work is Germany - and even with them, the bill is eventually going to come due.  (Were it not for the US basically handling Germany's national security issues for the past five decades - it would be at that point now.)

Tsirpiras looks at the election of fellow leftist Francois Hollande and thinks that this is a message telling him that the EU will be forced to blink by political pressures.  I think he is misreading the circumstances entirely - and that the Greek government is going to not only default and exit the Euro, but implode.  When that happen's, what is next?  A return to a military dictatorship?

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the Telegraph,
As for Greece, let us expose all these empty threats for what they are. Greece can leave the euro without being thrown to the wolves. It can avert disaster. Once it has lanced the boil and restored a viable exchange rate, rich Greeks will bring back their capital. The Chinese will invest, so will the Russians, so indeed will the Germans – particularly the Germans. Devaluation crises are two a penny. They happen all over the world, very frequently. We have reams of clinical data and the verdict is that countries usually recover quickly.

There may be hyperinflation if the Greeks screw it up but that would be an unforced error. They can impose capital controls to prevent a terms of trade shock and a drachma overshoot. They are already just 1pc shy of a primary budget surplus so it is far from clear why the government machinery would collapse. The IMF is there to help manage the transition. That is what the IMF is for.

It is possible – perhaps likely – that Greece would be growing briskly again within 18 months, led by a tourist boom and by import substitution as local manufacturing rebounds.

The best course for Greece is to lance the boil and take the pain today...it will be less than the pain tomorrow. That's also the best fiscal course for the EU - and the US.

Our President is an ideologue. 

That is the only explanation for the insistence to continue down a path despite empirical evidence that the path is the wrong one.  Since President Obama has taken office, spending has increased to an unprecedented in peacetime 24% of GDP.  At best, whether our highest income tax rate is 91% (the 1950's) or 28% (the 1980's) - the revenue to the Federal Government is 20% of GDP.  The delta between this revenue and the Obama level of spending has brought us to four consecutive years of budget deficits over one trillion dollars.  Compare this to the $168 billion deficit we had in 2007 - the last year before the 2008-9 recession struck. 

Today, after adding more to the national debt in 39 months (about $5 trillion) than the preceding Administration did in 8, President Obama has brought this country to a debt level that is 103% of GDP - and on a path that emulates Greece.  The spending has not been stimulative - our GDP growth remains <2% annually, and real unemployment exceeds 11%.  But with this, our President sees no reason to change course....like in tax policy.  Michael Barone notes...
Barack Obama doesn't seem to care about these things. In the 2008 campaign, ABC News' Charlie Gibson asked him whether he would increase the capital gains tax rate even if it meant reducing government revenue, as has happened in the past.

Yes, Obama said, "for purposes of fairness." He wants to take away money from people who have earned it even if government gets less to spend.

Obama argues that government spending can generate growth. But money spent propping up state and local public employee unions and funding supposedly shovel-ready projects -- major features of his 2009 stimulus package -- didn't do much for the economy.

In contrast, Obama's former chief economist Christina Romer and her husband, David, in a 2010 academic paper, wrote that "exogenous" tax increases, like letting the "Bush tax cuts" expire after the recession is over, are "highly contractionary."

"Our estimates suggest that a tax increase of 1 percent of GDP reduces output over the next three years by 3 percent," the Romers wrote. "The effect is highly significant."

Higher taxes are the prime ingredient of European austerity. The danger is that with sluggish growth, revenues will languish and the bond market will shut down, as in Greece. Then spending gets cut with a meat cleaver, not a scalpel.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan understands this. House Democrats' "balanced approach" -- with tax rate increases -- "just means let's start European austerity right now," he told The Washington Examiner last week.

On Fox News Sunday, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan debated former Obama Economic Advisor Austan Goolsbee on this and other economic issues that face us. Goolsbee does not do well.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer notes that it was the economic policies of Barack Obama and his team, including Austan Goolsbee, that resulted in the first downgrade of the US credit rating - and that if President Obama is reelected, we will be downgraded again.

Last August, the United States lost its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s and was downgraded to AA+, after Congress broke a stalemate and agreed to spending cuts that would reduce the debt by over $2 trillion. Krauthammer said the U.S. could suffer another downgrade if President Barack Obama is reelected.

“No, but I think if we reelect Obama, we will have a downgrade, probably a default — something like a default, not a real default,” Krauthammer said. “But we’re going to head that way, obviously, because you can’t sustain trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.”

The Washington Post columnist went on to explain why the debt ceiling fight won’t be the cause of any such downgrade.

“So a downgrade will come, but not over a debt ceiling thing, for the following reason: If Romney wins, this is a moot issue,” he said. “There’s not going to be a showdown. If Obama wins, it’s also a moot issue, because we’re going to be dealing with 18 other issues — the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, of the payroll tax, there’s going to be a tsunami of taxes and an increase in spending, as well.

American Crossroads has released a new advertisement on President Obama and his record...

President Obama's campaign is continuing to launch attacks on Mitt Romney and Bain Capital...
Watching Obama campaign ads or MSNBC, one could easily come to the conclusion that Bain Capital makes money by destroying the companies it owns. So for voters unsure about the business that Mitt Romney founded but still reluctant to trust the financial analysis offered by community organizers, some perspective might be helpful.

The basic Obama-liberal critique goes like this: Bain buys a company, loads it with debt and then sucks out cash before foisting the wounded business upon an unsuspecting buyer or a bankruptcy court. In the risk-taking world of private equity such a scenario can certainly happen, and it's true that Bain likes management fees and dividends as much as the next partnership.

The liberal critique of private equity assumes that the financial industry is full of saps who have been eager to lose money across the table from Bain for 28 years. This is the same financial industry that the same liberal critics say is full of greedy schemers when it comes to padding their own pay or ripping off consumers. But financiers can't be both knaves and diabolical geniuses at the same time.

Learning about Bain successes like Staples or Gartner or Steel Dynamics confirms the logical conclusion that Bain had to be creating value along the way—for investors, for lenders, and that means for workers too.

Powerline blog picks up on this - and the fact that despite prominent Democrats like Harold Ford or Newark Mayor Cory Booker denouncing this tactic, the Obama campaign is going to treble down on the message....

Here is the video. Obama displays his trademark incoherence as he tries to explain why Bain Capital is central to the campaign. Asked a multi-part question that included his views on private capital, he starts to say that the distinctive feature of private capital is that the people who run such firms are focused on making a profit. Then you can see the wheels turning as he realizes that what he just said didn’t make any sense, since it didn’t distinguish private capital from any other business. So he backs up and starts over, explaining that as president, he has to think about more than just making a profit; rather he has to think about all Americans’ well-being. That is true enough, of course, as far as it goes. But right now the form of well-being that Americans are most concerned about is a better job market. Businesses grow when they are profitable, and they hire employees when they grow. Obama reveals himself as just another in a long line of liberals who claim they want more and better jobs, but can’t bring themselves to endorse the profits that alone make jobs possible.
Apparently, prominent Democrats speaking out against this tactic is putting the Obama campaign into damage control mode....
The Obama campaign is in full damage-control mode one day after Newark Mayor Cory Booker publicly derided Democrats’ assault on presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney over his record at Bain Capital.

Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod today publicly rebuked Booker, a popular and high-profile surrogate for the campaign, saying he was “just wrong.”

“I love Cory Booker. He’s a great mayor. If I were, if my house was on fire, I’d hope he were my next door neighbor,” Axelrod said on MSNBC, referring to Booker’s rescue of a neighbor last month.

“I agree with what he said later. I think this was a legitimate area for discussion,” Axelrod said of Booker’s subsequent comments clarifying the issue.

But Booker isn't the only Democrat already tired and made uncomfortable by Obama's divisive attacks on the risk-takers who create the jobs and this country's wealth. Below you'll see an ad the Romney campaign released today with more Democrats going "off-script" on the subject of Bain -- an ad that not only proves Romney already has a rapid response team up and running but that it's a very effective rapid response team.

If Obama loses the Bain Capital battle, he'll probably lose the election. All a failed incumbent can do is toxify their opponent into some unelectable, and this is a failed incumbent who has staked his entire campaign on divisive class warfare and envy.

Another repeating meme from the Obama Campaign and their surrogates? Attacking private citizens supporting Mitt Romney in a manner that would result in bellowing cries of 'McCarthyism' if done from the right....

Then we have this example of liberal fascism as a North Carolina High School teacher is captured on video suggesting that a student could be arrested for their criticism of President Obama....

NC teacher captured on video suggesting student could be arrested for Obama criticism –
A North Carolina high school teacher was captured on video shouting at a student who questioned President Obama and suggesting he could be arrested for criticizing a sitting president.

The Salisbury Post, which first reported on the YouTube video, did not identify the teacher in question, who is reportedly on staff at North Rowan High School. The video does not show faces, but the heated argument in the classroom can clearly be heard.

"Do you realize that people were arrested for saying things bad about Bush?" the teacher said toward the end of the argument, telling the student, "you are not supposed to slander the president."

We know there is a double standard, but.....

Speaking of liberal pinheads, a new biography of Walter Cronkite written by acclaimed historian / biographer Douglas Brinkley, reveals that the Mr. Cronkite was not only very biased, but extremely unethical in his journalistic practices - using his postiion as America's top anchor to promote the hard left and damage the right.
All of this apparently comes as a surprise to Howard Kurtz, who grew up idolizing Cronkite and can't quite shake off the worship of his false idol even when confronted with the facts. Still, there is an interesting admission early on in Kurtz's piece about how the media landscape has changed:

Had Cronkite engaged in some of the same questionable conduct today—he secretly bugged a committee room at the 1952 GOP convention—he would have been bashed by the blogs, pilloried by the pundits, and quite possibly ousted by his employer. That he endured and prospered, essentially unscathed, until his death in 2009 reminded me of how impervious the monopoly media were in those days, largely shielded from the scrutiny they inflicted on everyone else.

Cronkite, who probably did more for the North Vietnamese victory in South Vietnam than a dozen divisions, apparently also taught these values to the man who succeeded him at the CBS Evening News anchor desk - Dan Rather, the man behind 'Fake, but Accurate', who continues today to argue that his use of fraudulent and fake documents to press an attack against President George W. Bush were a legitimate story and ethical behavior.

Remember this bio of President Obama done by his literary agent?

This is the one that declared Barack Obama was 'born in Kenya'.  Obama's literary agent said that the description of him being born in Kenya was the result of the agent's typo - and was his mistake.

No one buys that.  This existed from 1991 to April 2007 in this form.  The information didn't come from the agent, but came from Barack Obama.  Why?  So Barack Obama could market and differentiate himself - just as Elizabeth Warren described herself as a Native American to get jobs (and be celebrated) in the Ivy League schools of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Another item that blows the literary agent's argument out of water - the bio was edited multiple times before Obama's birthplace was corrected. 

The biolgraphy provided by Barack Obama to his literary agent specified his birthplace as Kenya. Over the next 17 years, despite multiple revisions to the bio, the Kenyan birthplace remained a fundamental part of the bio. In December 2004, the bio was updated to reflect Barack Obama's election to the US Senate - but the Kenyan birthplace remained. When Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the US on Feb. 10, 2007 - as the above link shows - his Kenyan birthplace remained. The above link shows another image of the bio from April 3, 2007, the Kenyan birthplace is still referenced. Sometime between this date and April 21, 2007, the bio was edited, because on April 21, 2007, the bio finally reflected the birthplace as Hawaii.

The ends justifies the means - and with progressives like this, all that counts is the ends for them - and their agenda.

Ethics and character just get in the way. And words like 'fairness' and 'social justice' are just more means to the ends (duping real people to subscribe to the ends of fairness, liberty, and freedom).

This Day in History

May 20th

1862 - President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act into law.  The act gave 160 acres of land to any applicant who was the head of a household, over 21 years old, and settled on the land for 5 years or paid a fee to accelerate the transfer of ownership.  By the end of the Civil War, more than 15,000 land claims had been made.

1873 - Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a US Patent for blue jeans.

1927 - Charles Lindbergh, piloting a single engine monoplane named 'Spirit of St. Louis', takes off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, NY attempting the world's first solo non-stop flight between New York and Paris. 

1940 - German army units in northern France capture the port city of Abbeville on the English Channel - cutting off the British Expeditionary Forces from the main French armies in the South and pinning the BEF with their backs to the sea.

1941 - German paratroopers begin an airborne invasion of the Greek island of Crete.

1956 - The US drops a hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll.  This was the first air drop of a hydrogen bomb - and the bomb was the equivilant of 15 megatons of TNT.

May 21st

1881 - The American Red Cross is founded

1927 - After covering 3,610 miles in 33 1/2 hours, Charles Lindbergh lands in Paris, France - completing the first transatlantic solo non-stop flight.

1932 - Five years to the day of Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, Amelia Earhart becomes the first pilot to repeat his solo nonstop transatlantic flight flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in 15 hours.

1982 - During the night of May 21st, British forces conduct an amphibious landing on the beaches around San Carlos on East Falkland Island - a major step towards evicting the invading Argentinian forces from the Falklands.  By dawn, the British established a secure beachhead for offensive ground operations.

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