Thursday, January 31, 2008
Romney or McCain?
I'm leaning towards Romney but I'm not sure if he is electable in November. I did not think it would come down to this but I might just be voting against Hillary and or Obama. That is depressing but it is the way things look now.
The real dirt comes out later and Romney is somewhat unknown there to me. I thought sure McCain had no real chance after the immigration debacle last summer but now he is the front runner.
I can't see Obama winning a national election but look how far he has come having done so little. Romney sometimes make me think of Jack Ryan and I'd hate to see that in the fall.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The UN Partners With Marvel Comics
Those who killed off Captain America have partnered with those who seek to kill off America itself to produce pro-UN propaganda aimed at American school children:
Tens of thousands of children in public schools across America soon could be getting a free comic book, one that extols the virtues of the United Nations and its agenda through the words of a kids' hero, Spider-Man.The 'virtues' of the UN taught to American school children? Lou Minatti is right -- this is surreal.
The United Nations has confirmed reports it is working with Marvel Entertainment to enroll children in the U.N.'s campaign against "poverty, disease and conflict worldwide."
The effort is being led by French filmmaker Romuald Sciora and is not the first time a children's forum, such as comics, has been used for such an effort: During World War II Captain America was used to battle Hitler.
Sciora specifically said the project is to target school-aged children with the message of the U.N.
"These comics, featuring favorite Marvel characters such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, will … tell the story of how the United Nations fights the challenges of poverty, disease, and conflict worldwide," the U.N. announcement said. "By making the complex U.N. system accessible to youth, the partners hope to teach children the value of the international cooperation, and sensitize them to the problems faced in other parts of the world."
Bryan Preston comments:
The UN has to resort to fiction to bolster its image because a book about the UN doing any good would by definition have to be a work of fiction.Gais comments
Would those be the "blue hats" that set up child sex rings and force women into prostitution? Or is it the "blue hats" who abandon civilians to genocide after getting them all into one place for the convenience of their murderers? Inquiring minds really would like to know which group of "blue hats" Spidy will have his name associated with. And which Marvel superhero will help out with the corruption in various UN programs? Will the Incredible Hulk be renamed the Incredible Bribe in the interests of truth in advertising?Brett D. Schaefer recaps the more notorious UN scandals. One he neglects to mention is that the UN tried to take credit for the US led tsunami relief effort two years ago.
Seriously, Marvel, you really should be ashamed about cooperating with this outfit to brainwash American children. Parents, you are on notice to be ready to raise holy hell with your local school boards if they allow this into your children's schools. And feel free to tell Marvel just how happy you are about the company they keep.
I absolutely agree with Joe Katzman:
The U.N. has been a haven of the corrupt and a tool of the hostile for most of its history - dominated by Third-World kleptocrats who demand for themselves what they will not grant their own suffering peoples, bought as required by the Arab League, and played largely for the benefit of the Soviet Bloc. So long as it remained irrelevant to serious politics, it status as a low-cost diplomatic nexus made it worth the triviality of its monetary fees. Belmont Club, who noted that "corruption at the United Nations was only tolerable for so long as it did nothing of consequence," had it exactly right.I wish more Americans realized this.
Ah, but the U.N. has far grander ambitions now. Lofty ambitions of power untrammeled by its performance, and demonstrably unencumbered by notions of liberty, accountability, or humanitarian concern. Like Marxism before it, however, the U.N.'s dismal record of blood and failure is no mistake, and no accident. Despite apologists' untiring claims to the contrary, its record exist precisely because of its underlying concepts, not in spite of them.
What was once tolerable, is tolerable no more. What was once a simple waste is becoming something rather different: an active threat.
The U.N.'s weapons are theft and paralysis. Against it are arrayed the weapons of accountability and will. As Belmont Club notes above, the hostility is obvious, and the terms of the game crystal clear. Will the U.S. surrender, or prevail? The two sides cannot be bridged; the circle cannot be squared.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Johathan Rauch was startled by the reaction of a conservative crowd to a Bernard Lewis comment. Having been asked how things were going in Iraq, Lewis replied that conditions had improved there and would continue to improve "unless we are betrayed from within."
What startled Rouch was that "no one showed surprise or discomfort" at the remark.
Noting the sharp partisan differences over the war, he worries about the consequences of a partisan retreat:
As painful and polarizing as party-line warfare has been, however, a party-line retreat would be worse. Many Republicans believe victory (however defined) is a matter of American resolve. Quite a few think that President Bush’s new strategy is working but that Democrats won’t admit it. They think Democrats are intentionally undermining the war effort, in order to improve their own political prospects by giving President Bush and the Republicans—oh, and the country—a black eye.The "some of us defeated the rest" narrative which Rauch so fears is exactly the narrative which a large majority of Republicans will believe, because it will be true. Victory, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda (who we are still fighting in Iraq) is largely a matter of American resolve and the Democrats have done everything possible to undermine it and instead bolster the resolve of the enemy. Perfidious an apt description of their behavior regarding the war effort.
So begins the narrative of betrayal: the “stab in the back” narrative, as its historical precedents (most famously in interwar Germany) have been called. “We never really lost,” goes this narrative. “We defeated ourselves.” Or, in the really toxic version: “Some of us defeated the rest.” This kind of narrative, if it develops a popular following, can poison politics for a generation.
We can assume that if the Iraq War ends badly, some Republican hard- liners, amplified by conservative talk radio, will accuse the Democrats of perfidy. The question is: Will the betrayal narrative find traction with the broader American public? In particular, will mainstream Republicans buy into it? Or will cooler heads prevail, so the country can heal and move on?
Rauch believes that our withdrawal from Iraq is inevitable. I agree, but only in the way that our withdrawal from Germany is inevitable. Just not imminent as many liberals wish. Liberals should simply accept this and move on.
Bye the way, why is it that when liberals win a policy argument conservatives are supposed to just 'move on' but when conservatives win a policy argument liberals either repackage the same argument or (more usually) continue making the same argument over and over again?
Friday, January 25, 2008
Culture Of Corruption
A $2 million earmark for the D.C. schools from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has become an issue in her campaign for re-election after an ethics watchdog group called for federal and congressional investigations, reports The Post's James V. Grimaldi.Via Captain Ed, who comments:
As reported in The Post's investigative series about the D.C. school system, Landrieu inserted the earmark in 2001 so school officials would buy a reading program from one of her major campaign contributors. School officials, who had other reading programs in mind, were initially resistant. ...
The $2 million earmark was guided into law by Landrieu in the fall of 2001, just after she had received more than $30,000 in campaign contributions at a fundraiser held by Best. Best told The Post that the idea for the fundraiser came in a call from Landrieu's office after he had met with the senator about getting funding for Voyager.
The taxpayers got stuck with a $2 million bill for a program its recipient didn't want, all so that a politician could get campaign funds and further entrench her incumbency. Pork corrupts, and it has to end.Investor's Business Daily reminds us it isn't just pork that leads to scandals like Landreiu's:
In fact, the declaration of 1.7 million Utah acres as a national monument, thereby depriving an energy-starved U.S. up to 62 billion tons of environmentally safe low-sulfur coal worth $1.2 trillion and minable with minimal surface impact, was a political payoff to the family of James Riady.
He's the son of Lippo Group owner Mochtar Riady. James was found guilty of — and paid a multimillion dollar fine for — funneling more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through Lippo Bank into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton's presidential run in 1992.
Clinton took off the world market the largest known deposit of clean-burning coal. And who owned and controlled the second-largest deposit in the world of this clean coal? The Indonesian Lippo Group of James Riady. It is found and strip-mined on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan.
CNN Wants 'Non-aligned' Analysts
CNN has banned 3 regular political analysts, all Hillary supporters, after receiving numerous complaints from the Obama campaign:
Sam Feist, CNN's political director, also confirmed the decision to me. "As we got closer to the voting, we made a decision to make sure that all the analysts that are on are non-aligned," Feist said, adding that the decision had been made around the start of December. "Carville and Begala are two of the best analysts around and we look forward to seeing them on CNN plenty of times in the future, once the nominating process has ended."Cadillac Tight comments:
One wonders as well what’s going to happen in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the nominee…will CNN continue to ban Carville, Begala, and Zimmerman so that they can’t play shenanigans against the Republican candidate? Doubtful, eh?Yes, it is. Presuming Hillary is the Democratic nominee and any of these 3 make any appearances on CNN as analysts this fall, will the GOP cite this precedent and make an issue of CNN's open support of Hillary?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Merrill Lynch: Real Estate agents should look for another job
But for those who think that the worst is over, Merrill Lynch said that housing prices still remain comparatively high. The brokerage believes that home prices are still far above historical norms when compared to other measures such as rent or GDP. "By our calculations, it will take about a 20 to 30 percent decline in home prices to correct this imbalance," said the report. [Emphasis added.]
What does that mean? Well look at that quote again. As Tracey says this is a depression level price drop. If true we could be looking at massive unemployment, huge drops in the stock market, dogs and cats living together. There is no way that this could be anything but disastrous for the economy. Of course, different cities will be hit harder by this. Housing tracker puts Chicago's mortgage/rent ratio at 1.27 meaning you save 27% by renting. San Jose ratio is 2.3 and New Orleans is 0.6.
What I am going to be watching like a hawk, when I get back from vacation, is consumer spending. That is what has held up this economy and if consumers stop spending the worst case becomes much more likely.
Color photos from the 30s & 40s
It's strange to look at photos from this era in color because I am so used to seeing them in black and white they have a feeling like they from a movie. The photos really bring alive the people and the feeling of the times. I imagine that our grandchildren will look at the grainy videos of the 80s and 90s which will mark our era and have the same feeling when they see something in high definition.
Speaking of the Great Depression, Amity Schlaes says that Ben Bernanke's knowledge of the financial markets of that era might steer monetary policy on the wrong course. 2008 is more like 1971 than 1929. It certainly seems like inflation is the bigger problem. Gold, silver, wheat, corn, and soybeans are all rallying today and very near their most recent highs.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
On Day One
The UN Foundation has launched a web site for people to post suggestions for the next US President as to what he/she should do on day one. Wikipedia describes part of what does the UN Foundation does:
The organization works to strengthen the relationship between the UN and the U.S. government—with a focus on getting Congress to pay more money to the UN. This effort—led by the UN Foundation’s sister organization, the Better World Fund—built the base for broader public outreach campaigns about the importance of international cooperation and a strong U.S.–UN relationship.Which makes the video submission the foundation chose to highlight surprising:
Via Captain Ed, who notes that most suggestions so far are of the standard progressive policy fare and calls on conservatives to offer suggestions. I have one: Formally withdraw from the UN Charter and revoke the diplomatic credentials of anyone associated with it.
No Place Else To Go
The problem is the congressional wing of the GOP is all but the second caucus of the Government Party in Washington. Bush wimping out on what could be a milestone in the fight to restore limited government and a tremendous boost for Republican prospects in the 2008 campaign simply reflects the general lack of political courage in the GOP at the national level on spending and entitlements. These people love Big Government and won't take serious actions to reduce its size and scope of power.
Pay particular attention to how the Times phrased the last two sentences quoted above. Assuming Blunt's statements are accurately reflected in the Times paraphrase, what the Missouri GOPer is saying to Bush is this: "Don't do anything concrete to take away our earmarks or we will punish you, but go along with us and we can all keep talking as if we will do something concrete if the voters will give us another chance."
It's a variation on the same old song the Republican establishment has been singing for decades - Talk a good case to get elected, but always put off taking real action till after the next election. Because the conservatives - the people who do most of the work and contribute most of the money - "have no place else to go."
Monday, January 21, 2008
Marketing a candidate: How Fred Thompson can win
The people and the pundits always say that they want a campaign to focus on the issues but they really don't. Like the girl who laments her inability to find a nice guy, the electorate whines for a serious candidate talking about substance but longs for a candidate who will ignite their passions while we lap up horse race media coverage. We lie when we say that substance is the only thing important to us. The people also want a candidate to fire them up with a rousing speech which touches upon the issues we care about. The dry lecture on the constitution is what Thompson offered at first and while important it sure wasn't worth drying miles for to sit in a crowded diner.
Thompson's Socratic style of addressing those early crowds was a good way to discuss issues on a substantive level but a lousy way to run for president. Voters more attuned to snappy, one sentence solutions to the problems of the world coming from other candidates found that when listening to Thompson, they had to think, not react emotionally.
In this way, Thompson appealed to people more on an intellectual level. This was fine as far as it went but it brought him few converts and elicited nothing but contempt from the media.
To his credit, Senator Thompson did change his approach and his stump speech became more impassioned. His message of being the Clear, Consistent Conservative is succinct and honest. Fred even began to contrast his message with Mike Huckabee's which paid dividends in SC. All this begs the question, why now?
On a number of occasions, the crowd — somewhere between 300 and 400 people jammed into the ballroom — interrupted with chants of FRED! FRED! FRED! And at one point, I heard the woman standing next to me — we had talked earlier, and she was a Thompson fan from the very beginning — say, to no one in particular, “Where was this six months ago?” A few minutes later, when Thompson made an especially powerful point, she said it again.
This is important because I think it holds a clue as to why Thompson got in the race and whether he will stay in. I think Fred got into the race with the idea that the field did not have a strong conservative and that his friend, John McCain, was effectively finished. I do not think Thompson likes campaigning, he has made this abundantly clear, so a field without a strong conservative voice probably looked weak to him and that much easier to sweep in and garner the support he needed without the retail politicking. But something happened on the way to the coronation.
The electorate, even conservative voters, like to have a candidate who is willing to do all the hand-shaking, baby kissing, and speechifying that most other candidates are willing to do. Without a willingness to make a fool of yourself even a conservative in a field of moderates will not catch fire. Add to this the Republican tendency to reward those who have put in their time then a late comer really was a huge hurdle to overcome and you can't do that while playing Professor Conservative lecturing the plebs.
What does work and can still work for Thompson is good, old fashioned hardball politics. Thompson has got the speaking skills. If you caught any of his South Carolina talks you would have been impressed. That is not Thompson's problem. Thompson's problem is his unwillingness to contrast himself with the other candidates in a consistent manner. It is ironic that Fred is the consistent conservative because he sure hasn't been the consistent candidate. Fred started in on Mike Huckabee at the South Carolina debate and it won him plaudits from the media and punditry. He kept it up enough to sting Huckabee who made time to attack Fred for doing nothing while in the Senate and for being a lobbyist. Fred must have been over the target. But that was it. Fred never went after John McCain about immigration other than to mention it in passing in the debate.
All is not lost for Thompson, not by a long shot. The field is still weak. Conservatives are still clamoring for a candidate. Thompson could win. However, the only way this is going to happen is if Fred is willing to throw away his inhibitions about retail politics and continues his campaign by taking the attack to the other candidates in the field. Politics is marketing ideas and Fred has failed to market his ideas by repeating his message over and over again and by contrasting his views with the other candidates. I want to hear from Fred Thompson that he is the only candidate who can be trusted to secure the border. I want to hear that 20 times a day until the Florida primary. Call the other candidates RINOs. Take the heat and give it back to them by quoting their records. Hardball does not mean dishonesty, it means brutal honesty. Fred has the facts on his side.
Right now some conservatives are thinking of 2008 as a rebuilding year they are that disgusted with the choice of candidates besides Fred. A lot of people are disgusted with the media and/or the voters for not seeing in Thompson what they see. I don't. How can you blame the people for acting like they always have and demanding to be entertained as well as lead by their candidate? We all know the game and how it is played.
No, I blame Thompson. Fred is a good and loyal friend and that is really what is holding him back. Fred has not decided to do whatever it takes to win. The road to the nomination has a huge yellow stripe over John McCain's back. I supported Thompson because I liked his record but I am not blind to the fact that he has not given his full effort. So all of the talk of Fred staying in the race is for nothing unless Fred is willing to crawl his way to the top. I think he knows this and I think he is likely to leave the race. What a shame.
Labels: Fred Thompson
FYI S&P 500 futures are down 3.6%
I came into work from my long commute from the bedroom to the living room and I noticed that the CBOT note futures weren't trading and that the Dow did not open at 8.30 am so I typed January 21 holliday into google and sure enough it is MLK Jr. day. I had completely forgotten. Then I looked at the S&P 500 futures and noticed they were down quite a bit. At first I thought that they too were closed and the decline reflected last weeks trading but after looking at a chart it was obvious that this is todays trading and that stocks were down for no apparent reason. (Other than the relentlessly bad economic news.)
Look for surprise rate cuts coming from the Fed very soon. Their next scheduled meeting is Jan. 30th but I am sure they will act before then. That is one of the reasons I won't be trading today, a thin Holiday market with a Fed poised to cut rates. No thanks.
Labels: crash alert
Friday, January 18, 2008
Is Huckabee the Republican Al Sharpton?
When Fred Thompson accused Mike Huckabee that he was following the model of the Democratic Party he was right. He might also have been right to accuse Huckabee of being a Democratic plant. [Emphasis added.]
It's the only thing that makes sense other than the possibility that his corruptibility knows no bounds and Huckabee is willing to say anything to get his hands on the levers of power. This possibility is just to evil to contemplate.
More from Hitchens:
People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.
Labels: The Huckster
$3 billion Cosmopolitan casino project faces foreclosure in Vegas
It's the big project going up right next to the Bellagio and it has dominated the strip for some time. This is an artists rendering and it is beautiful. It will fit in nicely with the other huge hotels that surround it. The question I have is will the coming recession/downturn have any effect on Americans love of gambling and all things Vegas? This project's troubles might be a sign of that.
We are very early in the bubble popping process
The fourth-quarter net loss of $9.83 billion, or $12.01 a share, compared with earnings of $2.35 billion, or $2.41, a year earlier, the New York-based firm said today in a statement. The loss was almost three times bigger than analysts estimated and resulted in the first full-year loss since 1989, sending Merrill down 10 percent in New York trading, the biggest decline since the 2001 terrorist attacks. [Emphasis added.]
When we have a big bubble and it pops the first to take it on the chin are the money center banks. Then mom and pop take a while to adjust to reality. There are other early warning signs, anecdotal of course.
When “times are tough, you’ve really got to trim the fat in your business, and our software will help you do that”. So said Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle, seven years ago – just weeks before a collapse in orders forced him to issue a profit warning, signalling the beginning of a severe tech recession.
Similar bravado has been in evidence this week, even as Wall Street took fright at a cautious forecast from Intel and braced for the fall-out from an economic slowdown in the US, the technology sector’s biggest market. [Emphasis added.]
Labels: Credit Crunch
Russian Airline Passengers Uneasy About Safety-Driven Vodka-Free Flights
Short story, the first time my wife flew she was very nervous and got up to go to the toilet which was next to the cockpit. She accidentally opened the cockpit door. This was post 9/11.
Ok, now buy stocks
The Dow is currently at 12, 291 and I won't be extremely optimistic that the correction is over until we cross over Dow 12,500. If the Dow goes under 12,150 we have to start entertaining doomsday scenarios i.e., rate cuts won't work and the deflationary spiral I expect to come later this year is here now.
Update: Well that was fast. Time to start working on those doomsday scenarios.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
We'll see if Bernanke's ploy works. I am guessing it will. Maybe not immediately but an aggressive Fed is not something you want to fight.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
As high as oil prices are, they must be thinking, the U.S. is obviously willing to pay them. How else to explain the unwillingness of its politicians and public to increase domestic production, one slam-dunk move that would bring prices down.Among the Republican presidential candidates, Romney, Giuliani, and Thompson call for increasing domestic energy production and only Giuliani calls for increasing our refining capacity.
OPEC, and Saudi Arabia, which can produce oil very cheaply no matter what the world price, will lower prices if they can raise the comparative costs of offshore drilling to preserve its monopoly. But right now they have no reason to do it.
More drilling, and even the threat of more oil drilling, will lower the cost of oil faster than any "alternative" energy solution. But in the high U.S. presidential campaign season, it's much easier for politicians to instead blame private oil companies.
Democrats are a different story, as Doug Ross points out:
Democrats oppose drilling in deepwater, even though Hurricanes Katrina and Rita proved that modern offshore drilling platforms pose little or no pollution risk. Democrats oppose exploration in a tiny, postage-stamp sized region of Alaska. As for new refineries or nuclear energy, well, the Democrats oppose those, too. The net impact of Democratic behavior is that America will become increasingly dependent on foreign oil.Ross created a map he called "The No Zone" and notes that China is drilling for oil 50 miles off of Florida's coast.
As for alternative energy, Steven Den Beste did the math a few years ago and concluded:
There is no technology for generation, transmission, conversion or storage of energy which we currently understand or could plausibly develop which would be efficient enough, and which could be deployed soon enough, cheaply enough, and at a scale large enough, to significantly aid us in winning this war. And if it can't do those things, I don't care about it.
Monday, January 07, 2008
California To Control Thermostats?
California is about to revise its building codes:
What should be controversial in the proposed revisions to Title 24 is the requirement for what is called a "programmable communicating thermostat" or PCT. Every new home and every change to existing homes' central heating and air conditioning systems will required to be fitted with a PCT beginning next year following the issuance of the revision. Each PCT will be fitted with a "non-removable " FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose. During "price events" those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes. During "emergency events" the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them.The solution to California's power shortages is to build more power plants, not to increase the power of the bureaucrats at the expense of individual freedom.
In other words, the temperature of your home will no longer be yours to control. Your desires and needs can and will be overridden by the state of California through its public and private utility organizations. All this is for the common good, of course.
Joseph Somsel notes the hypocracy:
But the discomforts of compliance will fall unevenly across the state. Come the next heat wave, the elites might be comfortably lolling in La Jolla's ocean breezes or basking in Berkeley by the Bay, while the Central Valley's poor peons are baking in Bakersfield and frying in Fresno. California's coastal climate, where the elites live, seldom requires air conditioning.Yet another demonstration of the complete disdain this country's elites have for the common man.
The Consumer Electronics show is here
Saturday, January 05, 2008
The Congressional Effect
With predictable results for investors. From the abstract of a paper written by University of Cincinatti's Michael F. Ferguson and the University of Missouri's Hugh Douglas Witte:
We find a strong link between Congressional activity and stock market returns that persists even after controlling for known daily return anomalies. Stock returns are lower and volatility is higher when Congress is in session. This “Congressional Effect” can be quite large - more than 90% of the capital gains over the life of the DJIA have come on days when Congress is out of session.Via Will Franklin, who graphically compares the return one would have gotten investing only while Congress was in or out of session over 100 years. Very interesting. Here's a look at 2007 results. Quite shocking.
He also observes:
Meanwhile, back in Austin, Texas, the state legislature meets in 2007 for its first regular session since 2005, as Texas' booming economy and population growth both continue to outpace the strong national economy and population growth overall.Via Tigerhawk.
Other states-- mostly of the "red" variety-- share Texas' infrequent legislative schedule and enjoy similar results. Fewer, shorter legislative sessions are abhorred by those who would like to see "more results" from their elected representatives and by those who directly depend on active legislatures for their livelihoods, but shorter sessions are the ultimate term limit. These session-shortening rules, typically mandated by state constitutions, are a built-in pro-growth provision that gives "term-limited" states a leg up in the competition for commerce, industry, and people.
Obama Is Now The Favorite
Obama last traded at 52, Clinton at 47, on Intrade. This is the first time I've seen any Democrat trade higher than Clinton and is significant because bettors now rate Obama at better than even money to win the nomination.
As for the GOP, McCain last traded at 34.7, Giuliani at 32, Huckabee at 15.2, Romney at 11.9, Thompson at 2.5, and Paul at 3.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
The reason I don't put bumper stickers on my car
This story is so Chicago it makes me puke a little in my mouth. Indifferent legal system, check. Lawyer misusing court system, check. Moonbat vandalism, check. Spurious claim of antisemitism, check.
Scroll down the Black Five post and you will see that there might not be the typical Chicago ending to this story.