Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quick Hits - June 30, 2012

Friday witnessed one of the bloodiest days in the Syrian revolt against the dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad, with nearly 200 civilians killed in actions taken by the Syrian government.  Special UN envoy, Kofi Annan called for a renewed peace conference - but this conference appeared that it would fail before it would really begin unless either Russia or the United States would 'blink'.  The Canadian paper, The Globe and Mail would report in today's edition - 
A conference called by special envoy Kofi Annan to end the Syria crisis appeared on the brink of failure as it opened Saturday, with the United States and Russia still divided over a role for President Bashar al-Assad in a transition government.

Mr. Annan seemed confident of his plan a few days ago, but Russia has refused to back a provision that would call for Mr. al-Assad to step down to make way for a unity government, a stand that could scuttle the entire deal.

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is giving no signs of being willing to blink and to abandon his MidEast ally, Assad. Neither are there any signs that the Syrian opposition will agree to Assad remaining in power through any 'transitional' government, so the focus will be on the United States and if Obama / Clinton will remain adament in their position that Assad must be removed from power if progress is to be obtained.

If I would bet on who will 'blink' first, my bet is on the United States. It's what weakness does.

The UK's Telegraph has a commentary today that highlights the fecklessness of 'retreating' being a victory - or in this case, that Merkel's 'blink' when faced by the united adversarial front of France, Spain, and Italy, will do nothing to solve the problems of Europe's fiscal crisis...
For all the progress of the past few days, the underlying problem with the single currency remains the same – until it is backed by full fiscal and political union, the eurozone will always be prone to imbalances and financial crises. Nor does yesterday’s package of initiatives do much to address the now crushing depression which has engulfed the eurozone’s more troubled nations. The 120 billion euro growth package confirmed at the summit is mainly old money dressed up as new. For the euro to survive in its current form, European leaders will have to build on yesterday’s achievement and move with speed to full fiscal integration, or a United States of Europe. National sovereignties will need to be abandoned, with fearsome consequences for Britain and for Europe.

That's where we are in Europe - either one has to 'move forward' to the surrender of national sovereignty and fully accept the misguided vision of Jacques Delors or one has to admit the 'interim' or 'compromise' position is as big of a failure as the vision of Delors and move backwards - back to individual currencies and have Europe just as a massive free trade zone that also permits the free movement of labor throughout the zone.

Yesterday's QH highlighted yet another bankruptcy and massive loss to taxpayers resulting from a green energy (solar) company that was picked to be a 'winner' by the Obama Administration - in this case costing taxpayers $70 million.

Can President Obama name one clean energy success?

Obamanomics - Economics for Dummies
Moreover, the American historical record is the deeper the recession the stronger the recovery. Based on that historical precedent, we should be in the third year of a booming economic recovery by now. Instead what Obama has produced is the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, as I have recounted previously.

Obama always wants to measure his performance from the trough, or worst point of the recession. But every recovery is always better than the worst point of the recession. Obama’s recovery is to be measured as compared to previous recoveries from prior recessions in the American economy. By that standard, Obama’s recovery has been pitiful, again the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, especially as compared to the all-time record Reagan recovery.

Indeed, if Obama’s perverse policies are not reversed, his soaring tax rate increases next year on top of his skyrocketing regulatory burdens and runaway federal spending, deficits and debt, will just throw America back into recession, before there was even any real recovery from the last recession. Then unemployment will soar back into double digits, the deficit will soar to new records over $2 trillion, and President Obama will have added more to the national debt than all prior U.S. Presidents combined, from George Washington to George Bush. The entire period will then look just like an historical reenactment of the 1930s.

The Economy, the Courts, and Bad Laws....
If you want to get some sense of where the economy is heading, don’t ignore what the courts are doing. No need to repeat much of what you have heard—some of it may be true—about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. That decision will have a major impact both on the economy and on the health care sector. Its macroeconomic impact will be similar to any massive tax increase, which is what the Court has said Obamacare is all about: It will reduce the competitiveness of those firms that operate in global markets, hurt small businesses, and transfer income from millions of Americans to insurers and to the government…

…These courts, of course, deal with the laws handed to them for interpretation. But because laws are often vague—designedly so in order to forge a compromise in a fractious legislature—courts have considerable discretion. In past weeks alone they have transferred billions of dollars of income from younger, healthier people to older, less healthy people. They have transferred income from owners of small businesses to executives in larger ones by forcing entrepreneurs to increase payments to large insurers, and saddling small competitors with costs and regulations that larger companies can more easily accommodate. They have pushed the coal industry closer to distinction, transferring income from hard-working coal miners to more affluent environmentalists and their friends. And they might have hastened the end of the patent wars, for which income transfer—lawyers to entrepreneurs and inventors—we can be provisionally thankful.

But don’t put all of the blame on the judges. It is not their fault if the law they are asked to apply is bad. The bucks in their billions stop with the legislators.

And our legislators, both Republican and Democrat are still at it...

Congress managed to pass yesterday a massive legislation package which extends the halving of student loan interest rates for an additional year, extend federal highway programs through 2014, and extended the National Flood Insurance Program for 5 years. Dropped from the package in a compromise deal with Democrats was a provision that required the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. In return for dropping the demand for approval of the pipeline, the GOP received a concession from the Democrats to streamline the permit process for transportation projects. The costs for the legislation are supposedly covered by changes in how corporate pensions are calculated and new revenues are expected in the higher premiums being paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Unfortunately, this is nothing more than the typical government accounting shenanigans that we're supposed to be moving away from with the Republicans in Congress. It's a bug spending bill that we cannot afford - and rather than really account for the costs, another shell game is being played to make it appear as if it is paid for as the Wall Street Journal notes...
For decades, highways have been paid for out of a transportation trust fund financed with the 18.4 cents a gallon federal gasoline tax. Those gas tax funds have been dwindling, so Congress has begun to fund transit and road projects with money from general revenues—in a federal budget that is already $1.2 trillion in arrears.

House Republicans originally sought sensible reforms for transportation funding—more state flexibility over how road money is spent, eliminating some of the $6 billion for white elephant transit projects, streamlining environmental laws that make building roads very expensive, and expanding oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

At the insistence of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, nearly all these money savers were stripped from the final bill. Republicans also folded on their demand for a green light on the Keystone XL pipeline. In the end, budget trickery replaced spending savings. (A silver lining: no earmarks.)

The bill pays for 27 months of highway funding with 10 years worth of revenues and spending cuts. This promise to "pay for" spending now with cuts in the future is a fiscal ruse Republicans denounced when it was used to finance ObamaCare, but they can't resist using it to spend money on roads back home. This makes the funding shortage for highway projects more severe two years from now when the gimmicks expire.

Did you know that the Obama donor who helped enact the 1994 Assault Weapon ban ran Operation Fast and Furious?
Dennis K. Burke, who as a lawyer for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1990s was a key player behind the enactment of the 1994 assault-weapons ban, and who then went on to become Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s chief of staff, and contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential primary campaign, and a member of Obama’s transition team focusing on immigration issues, ended up in the Obama administration as the U.S. attorney in Arizona responsible for overseeing Operation Fast and Furious.

Ann Coulter blasts the Administration over Fast and Furious in her latest column...
The Obama administration has almost certainly engaged in the most shockingly vile corruption scandal in the history of the country, not counting the results of Season Eight on "American Idol."

Administration officials intentionally put guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, so that when the guns taken from Mexican crime scenes turned out to be American guns, Democrats would have a reason to crack down on gun sellers in the United States.

Democrats will never stop trying to take our guns away. They see something more lethal than a salad shooter and wet themselves.

But since their party was thrown out of Congress for the first time in nearly half a century as a result of passing the 1994 "assault weapons ban," even liberals know they were going to need a really good argument to pass any limitation on guns ever again.

So it's curious that Democrats all started telling the same lie about guns as soon as Obama became president. In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced to reporters on a trip to Mexico: "Since we know that the vast majority, 90% of that weaponry (used by Mexican drug cartels), comes from our country, we are going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place."

As she sentimentally elaborated on Fox News' Greta Van Susteren show: "The guns sold in the United States, which are illegal in Mexico, get smuggled and shipped across our border and arm these terrible drug-dealing criminals so that they can outgun these poor police officers along the border and elsewhere in Mexico."

Suddenly that 90% statistic was everywhere.

Usually, the cover-up is worse than the initial crime - but is that the case in a project that is created to justify draconian gun control laws at the cost of over three hundred dead Mexican civilians, a US Border Patrol Agent, and possibly a agent for the Department of Homeland Security? Former US Attorney, Andrew C. McCarthy notes in his latest update the position of the Department of Justice senior officials is becoming increasingly untenable...
The attorney general, of course, has adamantly denied that he and other top Obama DOJ officials were aware of the use of gunwalking in the Fast and Furious operation until weeks after Agent Terry’s murder. Indeed, in a letter to the Committee in March 2011 (about three months after Agent Terry’s murder), the Justice Department falsely denied that gunwalking had even been used. Holder subsequently “retracted” that falsehood. Moreover, as the public began to be educated about the federal law’s requirements for wiretapping applications, the Justice Department changed its story on that, too. It began claiming that, while it is true the wiretap applications were reviewed by DOJ’s office of enforcement operations, the Department’s top political appointees only perused “summaries” of the applications — which, it was implied, did not allude to gunwalking.

Having worked on and supervised numerous wiretapping investigations in eighteen years as a federal prosecutor in New York, I found these claims implausible. In my experience, the Justice Department reviews wiretap applications from the district U.S. attorney’s offices extremely carefully — Justice is mortally embarrassed if wiretap evidence gets suppressed due to misstatements, errors, or omissions in applications that the Justice Department headquarters has reviewed. Further, because wiretaps are resource-intensive and thus expensive and burdensome to conduct, they tend to be approved only in very important cases — the cases that get a lot of DOJ attention. Finally, Fast & Furious was an “OCDETF case”: the investigation qualified for extraordinary funding and resources under Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force — a coveted designation reserved for the Department’s most significant organized crime cases, the cases DOJ tracks most closely. (See here.) It has been inconceivable to me that top DOJ officials would have been unaware of what was happening in Fast and Furious.

In more discussions and debate around the SCOTUS decision on Obamacare - and the declaration that Obamacare is now 'Obamatax' - a massive tax increase on the middle class, Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal highlights in this interview that 75% of the costs of the bill will fall on those who make less than $120,000 per year - terming it 'a big punch in the stomach to middle class families'...

Laura Ingraham, guest hosting on The O'Reilly Factor for the vacationing Bill O'Reilly, hosted a superb segment with two Constitutional scholars analyzing the Roberts decision - and if conservatives should be 'mortified' about the decision...
Ingraham asked her guests if conservatives are right to feel “mortified” about Roberts being a turncoat. Michael Carvin, a constitutional lawyer opposed to Obamacare who argued before the Supreme Court on this case, boiled Roberts’ decision down to “What Congress did… was unconstitutional, so I’m gonna pretend they did something different and make it constitutional.” He credited Roberts for being “a terrific lawyer who understands the rule of law,” but admitted that unlike Coulter, he did not see a ruling like this coming.

Law professor John Eastman also found the ruling somewhat questionable, stating that the role of the Supreme Court is to tell Congress whether they have or don’t have the authority to do something. And for Roberts to do what he did and find and alternative way to keep it constitutional, Eastman concluded that the chief justice needs to resign.

Earlier in the week, QH reported on Politico White House Correspondent Joe Williams being suspended by the increasingly biased online news site for repeated racist tweets against Mitt Romney - and his subsequent blaming of the suspension on a 'right wing conspiracy' from the conservative blogosphere. Today, Politico announced that they, and Williams, reached an agreement where Williams would leave the organization...
"After some cordial discussions, Joe Williams and I mutually decided that the best step for him is to begin a transition to the next phase of his career," POLITICO editor-in-chief John Harris wrote in a memo to staff, sent early Saturday morning. "Joe is an experienced and respected journalist, with keen insights into politics. After nearly 30 years in the business, he has the authority and is ready to give voice to his insights and conclusions in a new setting."

"He’ll be on leave of absence during this transition, and he’s got my gratitude for the contributions he made here, both as reporter and editor. I have told Joe—and it’s a sentiment others who worked closely with him here share—that he’ll have my support as he prepares for what I expect will be a good and prominent next chapter in his career," Harris wrote.

Finally, someone on the left being held accountable for their irresponsible ravings. If only HBO, NBC, and MSNBC would follow this path - but then, in the case of the last, who would host their programs?

Today in History

1775 – Continental Congress drafts its rationale for taking up arms against Great Britain in the Articles of War

1900 – 4 German boats burn at the docks in Hoboken, NJ – killing between 325 and 400 people when the piers and nearby buildings also caught fire – in today’s dollars, property owners had nearly $100 million dollars in damage from the inferno which could be seen throughout the NYC area.

1934 – Night of the Long Knives – Adolf Hitler orders a bloody purge of his own
political party, assassinating hundreds of Nazis whom he believed had the potential to be political rivals in the future – targeting especially the leadership of the Nazi Storm Troopers (SA) – and elevating the SS, under Heinrich Himmler in their place.

1970 – Cooper Church Amendment passes Senate to limit Presidential power in Cambodia – barring funds to retain US troops in Cambodia, provide military advisers, mercenaries, or conduct any combat activity in Cambodia…the first effort in the Senate to limit President Nixon’s powers as commander in chief – and showing a desire to abandon the region to the communist forces of North Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge.

1971 – Three Soviet cosmonauts who served as the crew of the world’s first space station die during reentry when their spacecraft depressurizes due to a mechanical fault.

2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs the ‘E-Signature’ bill – giving the same legal authority to an electronic signature as a signature in pen and ink.

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