Wednesday earning

| April 22, 2009
Federal budget go boom!

Federal budget go boom!

MORNING LINKS — yeah, I’m up early

ITEM: Jim Lindgren over at the Volokh Conspiracy does the simple investigation that no news organization (except possibly Fox) seems willing or able to do. His finding: states with the highest unemployment rates have high tax and unionization rates, while states with the lowest unemployment rates have low tax and unionization rates. Like the fact that small cars are less safe than large cars, this is not a big surprise to anyone who thinks about it for a few seconds, yet it is almost never discussed in the mainstream media and the mere suggestion of this obvious connection makes liberals’ heads explode.

ITEM: Jennifer Rubin points out the reasons for buyer’s remorse on Obama among independent and conservative voters. And it’s not like the Left is exactly happy with him, either.

ITEM: “Why is venture capital under assault?” I raised that same question two weeks ago. It still makes no sense.

ITEM: I wasn’t aware that the Obama Administration was doing this much micromanagement of GM. Calling John Galt, calling John Galt . . .

ITEM: An article on why the tea party protests will continue:

Here is an interesting set of facts. If the government increased the top tax rate from the current rate of 35% to 100% (yes, that’s right 100%), it would only collect an extra $400 billion this year. In other words, confiscating all the income that is currently taxed at 35% would not raise enough revenue to cover any of the annual deficits projected in the next 10 years. There is no way that tax hikes on the rich alone can pay for proposed spending in the current budget.

Hence the photograph above.

ITEM: The Sun labored mightily and brought forth a tiny sunspot yesterday, which is vanishing even as you read this. And the overall trend is quiet. Too quiet.

ITEM: Speaking of idiots and science, I wasn’t aware that the latest Dan Brown movie, “Angels and Demons”, posits a terrorist group with a kilogram of antimatter. As the poster points out, if you’ve got that, you’re already wildly rich, so there’s no need to threaten anyone. Of course, given the historical idiocies in The Da Vinci Code, I shouldn’t be surprised at scientific idiocies in Brown’s other works.

OVERNIGHT LINKS — I stay up late browsing so you don’ t have to.

ITEM: Keith Hennessey uses some simple examples to show the bogus nature of the “savings” that Obama is projecting over the next several years, making the actual deficits worse than the projected ones:

Suppose I bought an iPhone yesterday for $500.

Suppose I argue that I will save $2000 this week, because I intend to refraining from buying an additional iPhone today, nor will I buy one this Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

Suppose I plan to buy a new flat screen TV tomorrow for $1500.

Can I claim I that have paid for my TV by cutting other spending, and that in addition I will be saving $500 this week?

This is what the Administration has done with war costs in their budget.

ITEM: Speaking of budget problems, public universities — dependent upon help from now-declining tax revenues — are looking at substantial tuition increases, while private universities — more subject to market forces — are looking at some of their lowest tuition increases ever. However, this article doesn’t address the issue that Glenn Reynolds keeps raising: has the high availability of Federal student loans and grants for years created a “higher education bubble”?

ITEM: In the meantime, the US Treasury under Tim Geither keeps giving what can only be described (charitably) as conflicting information regarding banks and bailouts. After letting it be known over the weekend that banks could only repay bailout funds “if such a move is in the national interest“, Geithner now says that the Treasury Department is “depending upon banks to return $25 billion of the bailout funds they received last year.”

Isn’t that called a “squeeze play“?

ITEM: Speaking of Treasury, it appears that firms participation in the PPIP toxic asset program “may be subject to executive compensation caps after all.” Megan McArdle things this means the end of PPIP — after all, who in their right mind would accept the Federal government setting compenstation levels (possilbly after the fact) in exchange for being allowed the privilege of buying toxic assets? As McArdle says,

There is clearly enormous regulatory risk for anyone who chooses to get involved with any of these programs.

ITEM: Speaking of economics, Sen. John Kerry (D-France) he wants to hold Senate hearings on how to save the newspaper industry, or at least his home town paper, the Boston Globe. On the other hand, Dana Milbank reports that the House Judiciary Committee (wha…?) held hearings on the same subject, and they were less than productive:

The dominant sentiment of lawmakers was indifference; most of the 14 subcommittee members didn’t show up. The task of leading the hearing was left to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who chairs the relevant subcommittee but seemed not entirely prepared for the job. He twice misidentified the ranking Republican member and introduced a panel of witnesses by saying, “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. . . . Come forward and assume the position.” Johnson then directed reporters in the room to stand but assured them that “you will not have to assume the position.”

At one point, Johnson asked whether there were “any spies” in the audience. “Don’t forget that torture was once ruled legal,” he said. And he alarmed attendees when he asked if someone would “call the physician’s office . . . because we have several people who have developed a sudden case of colorblindness.” (Eventually, people realized he was referring to witnesses ignoring the red light on their time clocks.)

Kinda gives you confidence in the future of America, doesn’t it? Jeff Jarvis, however, gives Sen. Kerry his own opinion on “saving newspapers”:

Senator, thank you for inviting me to speak at these hearings. But, with respect, I believe you are investigating the wrong issue from the wrong angle and in any case, I am not sure what role you and government should have in this matter.

Newspapers are going to die. That is wrenching, of course, for employees – not just journalists but the rarely mentioned pressmen, drivers, and classified ad takers – who will lose their jobs, and the stock- and bond-holders who are losing their investments in these failing and over-leveraged companies.

But this upheaval is no different from that overtaking automakers, auto dealers, retail chains, banks, airlines, music companies, and soon other media sectors that are suffering and dying in a reshaping of the economy that is more profound than a mere financial crisis and more fundamental even than a recession or depression. We are undergoing a millennial transformation from the industrial, mass economy to what comes next. Disruption and destruction are inevitable.

ITEM: Speaking of journalism, in a move reminiscent of Jesus’ parable of the unjust steward, the Society of Professional Journalists has decided to oppose any attempt to reinstate the so-called Fairness Doctrine.

ITEM: And speaking of Sen. Kerry, he must still be smarting from not getting the Sec’y of State position he was anticipating: he’s visited Pakistan and is now criticizing the Obama Administration’s approach:

Just back from a visit to Pakistan, Sen. John Kerry says the Obama administration’s plan for that volatile country, rolled out last month with great fanfare, “is not a real strategy.”

“Pakistan is in a moment of peril,” Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a session with USA TODAY reporters and editors. “And I believe there is not in place yet an adequate policy or plan to deal with it.”

The real pain for Kerry probably wasn’t Hillary Clinton getting the job he wanted; it was likely hearing that Joe Biden had been offered that slot as well.

ITEM: Kerry is not the only one critiquing the Obama Administration. Former Sec’y of State Henry Kissinger spends several paragraphs acknowledging Obama’s “kumbaya/mea culpa” diplomacy before making his real point:

Proliferation is perhaps the most immediate illustration of the relationship between world order and diplomacy. If North Korea and Iran succeed in establishing nuclear arsenals in the face of the stated opposition of all the major powers in the U.N. Security Council and outside of it, the prospects for a homogeneous international order will be severely damaged. In a world of multiplying nuclear weapons states, it would be unreasonable to expect that those arsenals will never be used or never fall into the hands of rogue organizations. A new, less universal approach to world order would be needed. The next (literally) few years will be the last opportunity to achieve an enforceable restraint. If the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia cannot achieve this vis-à-vis a country with next to no impact on international trade and no resources needed by anyone, the phrase “world community” will become empty.

North Korea has recently voided all concessions it made in six years of talks. It cannot be permitted to sell the same concessions over and over again. The six-power talks should be resumed only if Pyongyang restores the circumstances to which it has already agreed, mothballing its plutonium reactor and returning international inspectors to the site. When those talks resume, the ultimate quid pro quo must be the abandonment of the Korean nuclear weapons program and the destruction of the existing stockpile in return for normalization of relations at the end of the process. Since the outcome affects all neighbors of North Korea, and since the Korean nuclear program threatens them more than it does the United States, calls to place the emphasis on bilateral Korean-U.S. talks amount to a call for isolating the United States.

You tell them, Henry.

ITEM: Speaking of nuclear terrorism, even David Ignatius — no arch-conservative he — thinks that Obama’s approach to the so-called “torture memos” has done damage within the CIA:

Sad to say, it’s slow roll time at Langley after the release of interrogation memos that, in the words of one veteran officer, “hit the agency like a car bomb in the driveway.” President Obama promised CIA officers that they won’t be prosecuted for carrying out lawful orders, but the people on the firing line don’t believe him. They think the memos have opened a new season of investigation and retribution.

The lesson for younger officers is obvious: Keep your head down. Duck the assignments that carry political risk. Stay away from a counterterrorism program that has become a career hazard.

Yeah, that will help us when “rogue organizations” get their hands on nuclear devices from Iran or the Norks. Keep that photo at the top of the post in mind.

ITEM: And speaking of repressive regimes, Fidel Castro rose from his deathbed to set the record straight on Obama’s conversation with his brother Raul:

Fidel Castro said Tuesday that President Barack Obama “misinterpreted” his brother Raul’s sentiments toward the United States and bristled at any suggestion Cuba should free political prisoners or reduce official fees on money sent to the island from the U.S.

Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw in nearly a half-century of chilly relations last week, when he said Cuban leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss “everything,” including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners on the island.

I think this is Fidel’s way of saying “I’m not dead yet.”

ITEM: Broke? Unemployed? Your mortgage underwater? Try looking for gold underwater instead:

Not since the Great Depression have so many hard-luck people been lured by prospecting, hoping to find their fortune tumbling down a mountain stream. The recession and high gold prices are helping to fuel the latest gold craze, especially among workers who have lost jobs.

“I guess there’s always hope. At home, I don’t have any right now,” said Steve Biorck, a concrete finisher who headed west because construction work dried up in Tennessee. Now he spends days standing knee-deep in an icy creek coaxing gold flakes from a swirling pan of gravel.

ITEM: We all know — or should know — the difference between causation and correlation. But it should give one pause for thought that (a) the Earth has been cooling down for nearly a decade now and (b) the Sun is very, very quiet:

The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century.

There are no sunspots, very few solar flares – and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time.

The observations are baffling astronomers, who are due to study new pictures of the Sun, taken from space, at the UK National Astronomy Meeting.

The Sun normally undergoes an 11-year cycle of activity. At its peak, it has a tumultuous boiling atmosphere that spits out flares and planet-sized chunks of super-hot gas. This is followed by a calmer period.

Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

Of course, the AGW proponents rush to say that there’s no link between the sun and climate change.

ITEM: Speaking of buffoons, New Hampshire State Democratic Chair Ray Buckley called last week’s Tea Party demonstrators “an unhinged mob.” Trust me, Ray — you haven’t seen unhinged yet.

More links as the day goes on, maybe.  ..bruce w..

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Category: Climate Change, Credit Backlash, Economics, Environment, Geopolitics, Journalism, Links roundup, Main, Media, Obama Administration, Sea of deficits, Stimulus, US Politics, You Say You Want a Revolution?

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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