6/30/2009

One, and Only One, Post About Michael Jackson

Greatly it pains me to comment on the death of Michael Jackson. Far more moved was I by the death of Farrah Fawcett, who's iconic poster debuted only a few years before I entered prime teenage boyhood. MJ, talented beyond description, was a serial head case (that's the charitable interpretation) who's proclivities toward defenseless kids, though enabled by their parents, render disqualification from decent society.

On to the comment. Privately last week, I told fellow RSPer Steven L. Baerson the MJ story had jumped the shark when Rev. JJ started seeking answers. In my opinion, JJ's involvement instantly casts doubt on any otherwise meritorious claim. If an issue has teeth, get a lawyer not a carnival barker.

I was wrong. Not about JJ, but about the story jumping the shark. Apparently, and luckily for MJ's kids, he may not be the father. If the story is true, MJ's kids will one day be grateful that while they didn't get his talent they also sidestepped, at least biologically, the Jackson family freakshow.

6/29/2009

The Inconvenient Oath

We know Barack Hussein Obama stumbled over the Presidential Oath on Inauguration Day last January, but who among us (other than George Soros and Rahm Emanuel) could have known the depths of his simmering contempt for the Office he swore to “faithfully execute” or the Constitution he swore to “preserve, protect and defend”?

More apparent with each passing day is that Obama spent most of his adult life resenting American prosperity at home and influence abroad, and now, the Oath be damned, is moving at warp speed to exact his revenge. He has awaited this opportunity for a very long time.

Why do Obama and his compliant comrades on Capitol Hill desire to move so fast, to pass bill upon bill before they’ve been contemplated and debated, let alone read? It is a question more people are asking. The only logical answer is that he (and they) knows the Socialist Liberals can’t possibly get away with this tyrannical agenda forever.

The trends Obama’s Mission Irresponsible are establishing, while reversible, will not be easily undone. And behind his thin veil of sincerity, he knows it.

The “Cap and Trade” Climate legislation is a massive scam based on faulty premises about so-called global warming and rooted in a massive generational wealth shift, from the productive to the “entitled”. The heavy hand this bill would impose if it became law is almost incomprehensible (except to those indoctrinated in the Obama Wealth Redistribution Society).

History might indeed prove that Obama’s only rival in the realm of wealth confiscation is the soon to be imprisoned Bernie Madoff. The Heritage Foundation’s respected Center for Data Analysis has run the numbers on Cap and “Tax”, and they are about as appealing as Madoff’s prison sentence of 150 years.

While Obama’s Teleprompter insists the bill delivers reduced dependence on foreign oil, combats the consequences of “climate change”, promotes profitable “clean energy” and creates jobs, the reality is quite the opposite.

The Cap and Trade tsunami will cripple the American economy and leave every walk of life vulnerable to passing some bogus environmental worthiness test, lest it be a target for increased taxation. The Heritage center projects unfathomable increases, including 90% spikes in residential electric bills, 74% jumps in gasoline prices and GDP reduction of around $9.6 trillion by 2035.

Obama is probably smart enough to know that government-run energy and health care programs are destined to fail, which is why he supports them. He has lusted for a lifetime for an America gripped by chaos, taken down a notch, and ridiculed by the world.

On the foreign policy front, the same twisted logic prevails. Obama stands back, tongue tied, as a dictator terrorizes the people of Iran, but then quickly and bluntly admonishes Honduras for sending its president into exile though he boldly ignored the nation’s constitution in order to extend and strengthen his power.

Obama has Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the Honduran military for unseating the renegade President Mel Zelaya, yet Clinton has been all but silent on the fraudulent Iranian election and the violence that has followed in response to uprisings in the streets.

The most unsettling part of the recent developments on Capitol Hill and in far-away lands is that we can’t know for sure which scenario Obama envisions for his own future. When America has finally awakened, will he be the equivalent of arrogant dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, backed by powerful forces in the shadows and restored to his reign against the will of a population grieving the random deaths of its sons and daughters in the streets, or will Obama be a Zelaya who has no use for his own Constitution even if it thrusts the nation into political instability, pitting the military against the corridors of the political status quo?

This weekend, I would advise contemplating America’s Independence Day solemnly and celebrating it respectfully.

6/28/2009

Foreign Policy for Dummies



In general, perception is reality. This is particularly true in the realm of foreign policy. The President of the United States largely conducts foreign policy on his own. Therefore, the perception that is created is solely his. Unfortunately for President Barack Obama, the perception of him in this realm is that of weakness.

Much like one of his processors, Jimmy Carter, President Obama is faced with major foreign policy crises. And, it seems, that the President is reacting in a manner that Mr. Carter approves of.

On Mr. Obama’s watch, North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons, launched ballistic missiles and is attempting to export these technologies to Myanmar. In response, the President runs to the United Nations and says that none of this will stand. That’s all well and good, but there is no follow up. As I’ve said before, the President is really telling Kim Jong-Il, “Stop or I’ll say Stop again!” Or maybe it’s really, “If you disobey this strongly worded letter, I’ll send an new stronger worded letter!” In any event, Mr. Obama looks helpless.

The one substantive measure that the President has taken in response to North Korea is to reduce the number of missile interceptors from the missile defense budget. Even if the reduced number of interceptors makes no difference to the effectiveness of the system, the timing of this cutback could not be worse. It sends the wrong message to the generals in Pyongyang (and Tehran, as well).

Mr. Obama also looked hapless in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election. His early statements discounting the policy differences between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi, while probably technically accurate, were beside the point. The Western allies were presented with an opportunity to make life difficult for a totalitarian regime that presents the greatest threat to them and in response, the leader of the free world says that he doesn’t want to be seen as meddling in Iran’s internal matters (of which the mullahs accused him of doing anyway).

President Obama should be meddling in Iran’s internal matters. He should be publicly speaking out in favor of the protesters. He should be standing with those who want to free themselves from the shackles of a police state. But, instead, the President of the United States is waiting for the opportunity to meet with a fellow head of state who has repeatedly called for the annihilation of a fellow UN member state.

The President’s lack of action and public support for the protesters sends a signal to those who live under tyranny all over the globe - “If you attempt to stand up to your oppressors, the United States will stand by and not meddle.”

In addition, President Obama’s floundering may force the Israelis to act. No Israeli government stand idly by as Iran finalizes it acquisition of a nuclear bomb. At some point, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be forced to take military action against this threat. The shame is that strong action by Mr. Obama could result in regime change, thus avoiding the need for Israeli military action.

Mr. Obama’s failure to confront the dictators in North Korea and Iran are just the two most recent additions to a litany of actions that signal weakness to our enemies. As the sole actor on the foreign policy stage, I hate to see what this President has in store for an encore.

6/26/2009

Safe Harbors Depend on Who Builds Your Boat

Is the stated policy of the United States Government to exempt all private contracts from the implications of tax law changes or just some?

6/25/2009

Think Health Care's Expensive? Wait Until it's Free.

This story carries a perfect little microcosm about why the health care debate is so complex. Nutshell: a passenger from the U.S. Airways flight that landed in the Hudson wants the company's insurance carrier to pay her family's therapist bills. Here's the money quote, from the passenger:
I expect my family to be taken care of in the very best way possible, and I don't feel like that's happening when you're balking at my claims to a therapist and you are setting limits on that.
Her expectation is for the best possible care, as defined by the patient, exempt from limits imposed by the insurance company. Without debating the merits of her claim (I don't doubt them at all, BTW) therapy still has to be paid for by someone. Here are a few thorny questions a public plan that doesn't have to turn a profit will have to answer:
  • Will a therapist who treats patients "in the very best way possible" be legally compelled to service this level of demand?
  • Who decides what constitutes "best?"
  • What if reimbursement is, over time, inadequate and said therapists refuse to accept the public plan?
  • Will coverage be denied for some and not for others? On what basis? Who decides? Why will they be better allocators than private markets? Will it cost less? Why?
  • If some future Congress requires that a public plan accommodate this expectation, will taxpayers or policyholders be required to assume any excess costs?
  • Are these expectations price inflationary?
I don't believe for one second this woman is just being hyperbolic. I believe she believes she's entitled to the best treatment someone else's money can buy. Aggregate premiums will never overcome the cost of offering everyone the best treatment all the time. How could it? Cost improvement from electronic records, health care exchanges, wellness and prevention are all just spitting in the ocean compared to the force of unconstrained demand.

Mr. President, it won't be easy but please end the employer health care exclusion.

6/24/2009

Crazy Dumb

Let it not be said this blog, ordinarily critical of the left's judgment, does not believe there are plenty of seriously stupid people on the right.

Dead Horse Beating Time

My new favorite phrase is "saved or created." From now on, if I do poorly at something I'll just argue things would have been much worse if I'd done nothing at all. The unfalsifiability is bulletproof. Rarely have three words simultaneously been entirely empty of substantive meaning and a political masterstroke. "Whip Inflation Now," "Just Say No," and "vast right-wing conspiracy" are each, at best, second-rate by comparison. If the press wasn't broadly in love with PBO (which, for all our sakes, is starting to turn) this phrase would receive the sneering disdain it deserves.

On the off chance you've wondered how the administration intends to calculate SoC jobs, here's a little hint: the way that generates the highest number. Here's the money quote for non-WSJ subscribers (emphasis mine):

All we're asking them to do is a simple headcount; tell us how many people you hired," said Rob Nabors, the deputy director of the office (OMB), in an interview. Recipients won't be asked to grapple with complicated estimates, he added. Instead, they may use their best guess whether a job would have been created or saved in the absence of a recovery plan, and to not count it if they are uncertain.

You just can't make up this stuff, unless of course you work for OMB, in which case it's your job to make up stuff. I wish I'd seen this coming. Oh, wait. . . .I did.

6/23/2009

Even Half a Percent Is Too Much

Remember the pride taken by Team Obama when the $17 billion in savings was announced last month? Believe it or not, Congressional Dems think that's roughly $17 billion too much.

Actually, that's a misstatement. Congressional Dems aren't opposed to cutting $17 billion, just the $17 billion Obama proposed. They're all in favor of cutting elsewhere, which is code for cutting nowhere. I'm no deficit scold, having thought it should have been bigger in 2001 and unopposed to the government levering up in a downturn. I am, however, opposed to using such a levering moment to expand entitlements that will never be withdrawn.

Have 535 winners of rigged popularity contests, through the use of countless tax deductions, exclusions, credits, subsidies and exemptions, organized the other 300 million into so well calibrated a social order that rolling back a sliver of the special interest monstrosity we call the Federal Budget bring chaos, anarchy and ruin? Will the Republic fall if the purchasers of imported drywall aren't reimbursed by the rest of us if it fails?

To twist Churchill, never before in human history have so few been given so much by so many.

6/21/2009

The Silence Is Deafening


A week has passed since the so called Iranian Presidential election and President Obama has once again showed weakness to radical Muslims. As opposed to making public announcements in support of the those protesting the Iranian regime, Mr. Obama has chosen to basically remain silent. He gives some ridiculous excuse to the effect that he does not want to give the mullahs the excuse to say that the United States in meddling in Iran’s internal affairs. The President then issues a written statement saying that he is modestly encouraged by the Iranian spiritual council’s supposed investigation into the allegations of election fraud. The written statement goes on to say, “You’ve seen in Iran, some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understand the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.”

Then, on Friday, during Friday prayers, the Iranian “Supreme Leader”, Ali Khamenei, thanks the President of the United States for not meddling in Iranian internal affairs by issuing a warning to the protesters to stop immediately or they will feel the full weight of the police state pressing down upon them. Khamenei also blames the United States and the United Kingdom for causing the protests (really, he blamed the US and the UK for meddling in Iranian internal affairs). Khamenei also got in a few shots at the “dirty Zionists”. I wonder if that is the US or the UK, but it is probably both.

The notion that the President of the United States would even refer to a third world dictator such as Ali Khamenei as “Supreme Leader” is a sign of weakness in and of itself. Instead of attempting to help the citizens of a totalitarian dictatorship overthrow their overlords, President Obama sticks to diplomatic niceties and coddles the man who is the single biggest sponsor of worldwide Islamic terrorism. Evidently, this is part of Mr. Obama’s mutual respect for the Muslim world (never mind the thousands of Americans who have died in the past twenty years attempting to free Muslims from other dictators such as Ali Khamenei).

The United States and our allies have been afforded a chance. The fall of the Islamic republic in Iran may also bring about an end to the Iranian nuclear program. The fact the President Obama has done virtually nothing to assist an indigenous rebellion in Iran is both astounding and perplexing. Through no use of our military, the President could be taking aggressive action to bring down a regime that possesses what is potentially the single greatest threat to our national security and the security of our allies. Mr. Obama should make it clear that the United States stands with the Iranian protesters, much like President Reagan did for the members of Solidarity in Poland in the 1980s. Instead, we get double speak about not meddling and politically correct references to third world tyrants.

The Iranian regime may be on the verge of losing credibility with its own people. There are reports of Iranian security forces refusing to engage their fellow citizens. Plus, the pictures of the secret police clubbing peaceful protests generally does not play will in the world wide media. However, the longer Mr. Obama remains silent, the greater the chance that the current regime will be able to re-establish its credibility with other nations. Mr. Obama should also be using the videos and reports from the streets of Tehran to convince our European allies to impose stricter sanctions. The French and the German’s should be reminded by these videos exactly what the current Iranian theocracy is about.

We may very well be at a major turning point in human history. If this regime that has caused so many problems in the world does fall, the underwriting of worldwide Islamic terrorism may be significantly reduced and nuclear proliferation to a rouge regime may be avoided. President Obama must seize the moment and take strong and decisive action. Unfortunately, so far, he seems content to let actions unfold without him. This is hardly the sign of a strong leader. I guess the change that we can believe in will come from those risking their lives on the streets of Tehran.

6/17/2009

Identity Politics

A good essay from a Democrat wondering if the age of identity politics is ending or has ended with the election of BHO. Here's an answer from the CBC:

Never, never, never.

Updated Stimulus/Unemployment Graph

Newsweek was kind enough to post this graph (courtesy of innocentbystanders.net) updating the effects on unemployment of Obama's stimulus plan.

Hint: it's not an improvement

6/16/2009

The Love Affair Continues


If you needed more proof that the mainstream media is in the bag for President Obama, be sure to watch ABC on June 24. As Drudge is reporting, we certainly would not want to give equal time to opposing points of view!

Stimulus Plan Wasn't Political. Why Would Health Care "Reform" Be?

From The Hill.com (emphasis mine):

Senate Democrats are bracing for what they expect will be a huge price tag connected with revamping the nation’s healthcare system.

The soon-to-be-delivered estimate on Democratic healthcare reform proposals is expected to be so expensive that lawmakers are talking about changing the chamber’s normal accounting procedures.

Some Democrats are arguing behind the scenes that they should not use the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) cost estimate, as is custom. Instead, they would use cost estimates from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Don't like the facts? Change the facts.

Next thing you know, the White House will be saying it doesn't support Ted Kennedy's health care bill, now that CBO has preliminarily reviewed it.

Oh, wait, that's what the White House did this morning.

Now, why would the WH put some daylight between it and EMK's bill (even though the WH hasn't explicitly endorsed it yet)?

Perhaps, and I'm just spitballing here, because CBO estimates the legislation will:
  • Increase federal budget deficits ~$1.0 trillion between 2010 and 2019.
  • Decrease the number of people uninsured ~16 million.
  • Allow parents to claim as dependents for the purposes of the legislation children up to 27 years old (the budget estimates don't include this, nor does it include administrative cost estimates).
I'll concede "fixing" health care is really f**king hard. There are huge vested economic and political interests, an uninformed electorate and perverse incentives built up and reinforced over decades. I'll also concede federal and state governments have a meaningful role. But the smartest guy ever was happy to use fear to sell a crap stimulus bill that could have been a good one because he's as political as anyone who's ever been President, maybe even more.

Keep that in mind when he says he doesn't intend to make health care, like GM, an owned and operated subsidiary of the U.S. Government.

6/15/2009

In Iran, 'Dissent'. In the USA, 'Rage'.

Sometimes, the hypocrisy is so blatant, so pronounced, very little commentary or “set up” is required.

When U.S. citizens last year were concerned that a junior Senator from Illinois with a thin voting record, and an inclination to befriend social radicals, was gaining momentum in the Presidential race, it was denounced as “hateful” rage among hotheads. But when voters in Iran take to the streets to protest the suspect “re-election” of their notoriously dictatorial President, it is embraced by Obama as "the ability of people to peacefully dissent.”

Compare and contrast. Talk among yourselves.

President Barack Hussein Obama on Iranians reacting to recent presidential election results, June 15, 2009:
“The democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all those are universal values and need to be respected.”
Op-Ed columnist Frank Rich, NY Times, June 13, 2009:
“… There have been indications that (American citizens’) rage could spiral out of control. This was evident during the (2008) campaign, when hotheads greeted Obama’s name with “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” at G.O.P. rallies. At first the (John) McCain-(Sarah) Palin campaign fed the anger with accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.”

Won't You Please Come To Tehran?

Keep these pictures in mind next time someone complains about "stolen elections" here in the U.S. We sure aren't perfect but we're a hell of a lot better than this.




Real Theft

Actual stolen election.

I've been waiting eight and a half years to put up this post.

BTW, wear green this week.

The Iranian "Election" - An Aftermath


As if there was any question, the aftermath of Friday’s Iranian presidential showed the Iranian regime to be the police state that it truly is. We must always remember the site of Iranian security forces beating their fellow citizens who had taken to the streets to protest the results of the fake presidential election. Of course, the beatings were followed up by the arrests of protesters and journalists. When the opposition candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi had his press conference canceled by the Mullahs, some of the journalists who were in attendance where themselves beaten and arrested.

Also, the Iranian government has blocked cell phone service and access to anti-government websites. In addition, they have order the shut down of opposition publications. These are hardly the actions of a democratic government.

Shame on the Obama Administration for pretending, in the lead up to the so-called election, that it was, in fact, a free and fair election. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to even appear on the presidential ballot, the candidates had to be approved by the Mullahs who screened all candidates for their Islamic credentials. There was in no sense free access to the ballots.

International observers were denied entry to monitor the election. It’s funny how the United Nations wanted to monitor our presidential election and made quite a scene about that. Why, then, didn’t the UN make a fuss about not being allowed to monitor this election? It seems to me that it’s just more pacification of dictators!

Then, the results themselves were a farce. Incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was said to have received twice as many votes as Mousavi. This included Ahmadinejad winning Mousavi’s home town by a wider margin than that. The odds of that actually occurring are beyond calculation.

Having played into the hands of the religious zealots who run Iran in the period before the election, President Obama now has a chance to try to influence the aftermath of the elections in a way that will benefit US national interests. First, the President must make a public statement that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate leader of Iran. Next, Mr. Obama should spend money to encourage the indigenous Iranian opposition. They should be funded in a way that will get them to continue to take to the streets in protest of their totalitarian government. Their actions should be encouraged by high ranking US government officials.

Mr. Obama should order the use our technology to open blocked communication channels. Anti-regime websites should be reopened with our help. We should try to stop the blocking of cell phone channels.

Secretary of State Clinton should publicly call Mr. Mousavi to make sure that he is not under house arrest. During this conversation, Mrs. Clinton must clearly state that the United States will demand that international observers be sent in to audit the election results in order to obtain evidence of the fraud that was the election.

President Obama has backed himself into a corner by stating numerous times that he will meet with Ahmadinejad. With whatever legitimacy Mr. Ahmadinejad had as the leader of Iran now completely gone, the President can no longer continue to offer this. Doing so would not only make Mr. Obama continue to look weak, but it would also be completely demoralizing to the opposition forces that are our best hope of changing the totalitarian regime that rules Iran.

President Obama now has an opportunity to try to peacefully end the regime that poses a great threat to our national security. Let’s hope that he seizes this opportunity. The world may be safer for it.

6/11/2009

A New Direction for Europe


The results of this past week’s European election was surprising. In every European country, except Greece, the center-right parties made gains at the expense of the center-left parties. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of sixty years of European consolidation and the degradation of the nation state.

These results may also be the beginning of the stand for traditional European culture and the rejection of the Islamification of the continent. The Islamification of Europe is detailed in Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone. In this book, Mr. Steyn explains the demographic shift and immigration patterns that are occurring all across Europe.

The election results in the Netherlands, for example, had the libertarian Freedom Party receive 17% of the vote and 4 of the 25 Dutch seats in the European Parliament. In Hungary, the center-right Fidesz Party defeated the Socialists by a vote of 56% to 17%. Because of the results in Hungry, the right wing parties are demanding that a new national election be called immediately.

Across Europe, anti-immigrant parties made surprising electoral gains. In Austria, they took almost 18% of the vote. In Italy and Finland, they took just over 10% of the vote. In Denmark, they received almost 14.5% of the vote.

The European and local elections in the United Kingdom also showed significant gains for conservative parties. The British National Party received 8.5% of the vote and won two seats in the European Parliament. In addition, the BNP won 7% of the vote in local council races, resulting in several seats on a few of these councils.

The new United Kingdom Independence Party (whose stated objective is that the United Kingdom “shall again be governed by laws made to suit its own needs by its own Parliament, which must be directly and solely accountable to the electorate of the UK”) won 17% of the European parliamentary vote, beating the ruling Labour Party by one percentage point (It’s hard to believe that the ruling party in Parliament was only able to get 16% of the European vote). The Tories have reason to be concerned in that they only received 27% of the vote, not that great of a showing for Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. Some even attribute the Tories modest success to their joining of the new Czech and Polish led Euro-skeptic bloc in the European Parliament.

Prior to last week, it was unthinkable that about 25% of British subjects would not vote for one of the three major parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat. Instead, those one in four British voters cast their ballots for the disreputable BNP or the brand new UKIP. In either event, the status quo was not acceptable to a large number of voters.

If the major political parties of Europe do not reassess their policies to reflect the will of the people, other new, and maybe even less reputable, parties will step in to fill the void. The political elites across the continent should understand that their fellow countrymen believe that Europe, like all parts of the world, has a distinct and unique culture that is worth preserving.

6/09/2009

Make It Stop. . . .

Courtesy of Center Right News comes the following clip of Sarah Palin's interview on Fox News this weekend. I'm sure I'll piss off any number of my fellow travelers, but can we just admit despite being savaged by a merciless, elitist, condescending press, she's a lightweight who on her best day mostly just spits out cliches and talking points stuffed into her head by her handlers (badly, I might add) with few original, let alone informed, thoughts? She's probably great at privately navigating the egos of Alaska's political culture but in public she's totally cringeworthy.

There, I said it. I feel much better.

6/08/2009

The Left Likes Secret Ballots. Sometimes.

Britain's Labour demands a secret ballot to determine its leadership.

How un-Employee Free Choice Act of them.

6/07/2009

Austan Goolsbee, Hussie

If there is a better example of an academic economist prostituting himself for the sake of partisan politics I would like to see it. On Fox News Sunday Austan Goolsbee, in response to Chris Wallace’s question regarding the Obama administration’s micromanaging the auto industry, dutifully pounded the administration’s “it’s all Bush’s fault” line by asserting the Bush administration “kicked the can down the road” and “shook up the can, opened the can and put it our laps”. Neither Chris Wallace, who is usually on his game, Richard Shelby, whose game seems to be picking dandelions in center field, nor Fred Malek (Fred who?), whose game was over 30 years ago, had the wits to remind viewers that Obama not only voted for the $15 billion GM/Chrysler bailout bill, but he publicly advocated for it. On December 7 on Meet the Press, for example, Obama said, "I don't think it's an option to simply allow [the auto industry] to collapse." Indeed, to the extent there was any bona fide opposition to the bill, it was solely on the part of several Republican senators. If the December 2008 bailout was a mistake, there was no reason the Obama administration could not have imposed a structured reorganization when it assumed power rather than do so $50 billion later. If the (Sen. Obama-supported) December 2008 bailout made no sense, why has the current administration doubled and tripled-down on that policy? It would have been nice if one of the other panelists sleep-walking his way through the discussion (including Eric Schmidt whom Chris Wallace failed to identify as a strong Obama campaign-supporter) had mentioned that the individual who was among the first to advocate the policy that Goolsbee seems to think would have been the correct one was Mitt Romney who called for a structured bankruptcy of GM in November (though in fairness to Goolsbee, his responses were so mushy it’s not at all clear what he thinks should have been done other than whatever it was that Bush didn’t do). Goolsbee’s intellectually dishonest performance was a disgrace to his profession and to my alma mater.
Update: For a far more extensive treatment of the same subject, go to http://keithhennessey.com/2009/06/07/dr-goolsbee-gets-it-wrong-on-the-auto-loans/

6/06/2009

Worth Watching, Worth Remembering

6/05/2009

Some Official Reaction

Here's a first taste of official reaction after yesterday

U.S. Must Stop Supporting Israel: Iranian Cleric

Israel Closes West Bank Checkpoints

More to come. . . .

I've Never Been So Right So Quickly

Day four of Congress keeping its hands off of GM.

6/04/2009

Any Change?

Last week I posted on the pitfalls of leading by example in negotiations with hostile counterparts (altruism generally gets pocketed, not reciprocated). Today PBO gave a speech in Cairo which tried mightily to thread a foreign policy needle, a monumental challenge to say the least.

I'll be tracking published reports over the next week for signs that Israeli or Arab leadership take PBO's tough talk as an opportunity to soften on hitherto intractable issues.

Full disclosure: I'm not optimistic.

The Fall of Her Majesty's Government


For the first time since March of 1979, Her Majesty’s Government faces the possibility of a “No Confidence” vote in the Parliament. While this vote is unlikely (but it is not impossible) to succeed, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is under increasing pressure due, primarily, to a scandal that has rocked the United Kingdom. Multiple members of the British Parliament have been caught defrauding the British taxpayers by receiving government reimbursements for personal expenses. These expenses include the payment of the mortgage on a second home, the cleaning of a moat (something could never happen here in American because I don’t know if there is an American who has a moat around his residence) and the paying for the pornographic movies of the husband of a Member of Parliament.

However, this is not the only reason. Mr. Brown and his cabinet ministers are seen as being ineffective in dealing with the global recession. Mr. Brown, in his role as First Lord of Her Majesty’s Treasury, has emptied the British treasury with little or no results.

The Prime Minister is no longer in control of the government. So far, he has lost four government ministers, including two Cabinet Ministers. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to resign because of the scandal. (The British Home Secretary is roughly the equivalent of a combination of the US Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security.) Imagine the political toll it would take on President Obama if Attorney General Eric Holder or Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were forced to resign because of financial misdeeds.

However, on Wednesday, Mr. Brown was dealt his biggest blow. On the eve of local and European elections in the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, announced her resignation due to the expense scandal. Ms. Blears is the cabinet minister with direct responsibility for Thursday’s elections. Her resignation came despite pleas from the Prime Minister to wait until Friday when the election was over. Ms. Blears’ actions are seen as a direct assault on Mr. Brown’s authority as the leader of the Labour Party and, therefore as Prime Minister.

It has been reported that the Queen is so personally troubled by the scandal that she has told Mr. Brown that his failure to get control of the situation is running the risk of having the elected government lose the moral authority to legitimately govern her realm. In an action that would break with the tradition of modern Britain, there is speculation that the Queen may call for a new general election without the request of her government. This would be an extremely bold step and is highly unlikely in that such an action by a constitutional monarch would endanger the monarchy itself.

As the Labour Party suffers humiliating losses in the local elections, the European election, the by-election for the seat of the Labour Speaker, Michael Martin (who was also forced to resign as a result of the expense scandal), there is a growing danger that the Labour Party will no longer be one of the two major parties in the United Kingdom. The Liberal Democrats may become the second of the two major parties. After today, Labour Party officials may no longer be able to claim to voters that they shouldn’t waste their votes on the Lib Dems because they are a third party.

The prospect of the status as a third party cannot be a pleasant thought for the Labour Party members. With its historical link to organized labor no longer a selling-point, what does a third place Labour Party stand for?

The Conservative Party is poised to win big victories in today’s elections. This will set the stage for a return of the Tories to power in the next British general election, which must be held by June 3, 2010. Current projections show that the Tories will have a 15 seat majority in the new Parliament. Hopefully, as Prime Minister, Tory leader, David Cameron, will show the free world that through conservative economic principals, an industrial Western democracy can recover from a recession without significant government intervention. It certainly appears as if he will be given the chance.

6/03/2009

535 Automaker CEOs

Congress will definitely be able to keep its hands off of GM.

6/02/2009

The Trip to the Middle East




As President Obama gets ready for his first presidential trip to the Middle East, I am afraid that it will just be a continuation of the Obama apology tour that began with his European trip last April and continued with his South American trip later that month.

The President is scheduled to deliver a major speech in Cairo on Thursday. Hopefully, the content of the speech will not signal the weakness that this President demonstrated in his first official Presidential interview (you know, the one with the Arab network, Al Arabiya). The time for speaking of mutual respect is over. America has shown the utmost respect for the Muslim world with the showing of very little respect in return. Thousands of American lives have been lost in the liberation of Muslims across the globe – remember the Balkans, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama should demand that the so called Muslim world assist us in the War on Terror. Extremists must be stopped all across the Middle East. The regimes in the Arab countries should be told that they must not aide and abet terrorists. Their banks can no longer be used as conduits to fund the Islamist ideology. The education in the Arab schools must stop demonizing America and Israel. The curricula in these schools must be expanded beyond Koranic studies and include the skills that will enable the children to compete in the global market place.

President Obama should also speak of the goal of replacing the dictatorial regimes that currently occupy the seats of power in the Middle East with those of freely elected. He must remind them that free elections do not mean one man, one vote, one time.

The President should explain to our Arab friends that a nuclear armed Iran benefits no one, including them. The Iranians are no friends of the Saudis or the Egyptians. The mullahs in Iran have exported trouble to these nations and others across the region. Nuclear weapons only add to the potential for trouble. Therefore, our allies should assist in pressuring the Iranian government so that they cannot continue with their nuclear program.

Unfortunately, the early signals of Mr. Obama’s trip are not reassuring. His decision to not stop in Israel is troubling, to say the least. It sends the wrong signal when the President of the United States refuses to make a stop to visit our only democratic ally in region. Instead, he’d rather spend more time bowing and kowtowing to the King of Saudi ruled Arabia.

I hope that the Presidential snub of Israel does not signal an end to our sixty year support of that nation. However, this coupled with some of President Obama’s actions makes one wonder. For instance, isn’t it odd that the President is said to be outraged by the Israeli settlements in the West Bank while showing no such outrage over the Iranian nuclear program, which, of course, presents a clear and present danger to our national security (not to mention the security of our allies).

Once again President Obama is stepping front and center on the world stage. He has a choice. He can use it to send a clear message to our enemies (like Iran, North Korea and Al Qaeda) that we are strong and will defend our interests and those of our democratic allies. Or, he can use it to continue his role as apologizer-in-chief. Mr. President, it is up to you. But, remember, this time, the security of our nation may be at hand.

Three Examples of Washington Managing GM (and it's only June 2)

Keeping GM's headquarters in Detroit
A genuinely disinterested investor would say he has no opinion on the matter.

Rent seeking dealers
Local dealerships mean jobs, sales taxes and more, the preservation of which is irresistible to individual members of Congress. Congressional pressure to sustain those dealerships will continue without regard for the individual dealership's impact on, or contribution to, GM.

Production
As with dealers, parts and finished goods will continue to be subject to Congressional demands for local production and assembly.

Maybe GM should be HQ'd in Detroit. Maybe it should have a wide, diverse distributor base. Maybe its production should be domiciled in the United States. The point is I don't know what's right for GM and individual members of Congress don't know either.

Think I'm wrong? Here's Sen. Sherrod Brown:
If taxpayers commit more resources to GM, they deserve to know those funds will be used to build cars at home rather than abroad . . . More government assistance to GM is about supporting domestic manufacturing, rather than just upholding a brand.
Here's Sen. Debbie Stabenow:
If we have learned one thing from the global economic crisis it is that in order for our economy to thrive we must build things in this country. Now is the time for America to recommit to a strong manufacturing strategy that will rebuild our middle class.
Or this letter from Sens. Rockefeller and Hutchison:
With nearly 2,000 dealerships closing and over 100,000 jobs at risk combined, I believe it is imperative for Chrysler and General Motors to immediately address the insufficient transition period, help dealerships recoup full inventory costs, minimize job loss, and provide consumers with access to quality service.
Brown, Hutchison, Rockefeller, Stabenow, and their 531 colleagues all have their own opinions about what's good for GM, the country and their constituents. They also all have their own opinions about what constitutes an appropriate management prerogative. A genuinely passive owner would express no opinion on almost every topic, especially in public. There's no possible way Congress will keep its collective mouth shut during Treasury's ownership of GM. Over time, management will start shaping decisions to please what it thinks ownership wants. Ownership in this case has very different ideas about what makes for a successful car company. Profit and quality are irrelevant considerations for Washington, no matter what they say.