Saturday, May 29, 2010

Off for a few days

Your humble correspondent will be away for several days, returning next Wednesday. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Will the cover up be successful?

The latest Obama White House assertion that former President Bill Clinton offered Rep. Sestak an unpaid advisory post in return for dropping out of the Senate race is about as plausible as Bill Clinton's assertion that he didn't have sex with Monica Lewinski.

Let's remember that Sestak originally said he "was offered a job" in return for dropping out of the race. Would anyone call an unpaid, occasional advisory role a "job?" When asked whether the job was Navy Secretary, Sestak refused to answer. If that wasn't the case, why didn't he just say "no?" Sestak also originally said the offer was made by "someone in the White House." Could the ex-President reasonably be described as "someone in the White House?"

It's really quite remarkable that Obama would turn to famous liar Clinton to try to cover his tracks with such a lame concoction. Does anyone really believe that Obama would employ a former President to make such a minuscule, meaningless offer? Sestak also originally said that he had multiple conversations over a period of 1-2 months. The White House announcement also said that there had been contacts over a 2 month period. Then, once Clinton was brought into the picture, Sestak said he had only talked to Clinton once about a position for less than a minute. Is this not a blatant contradiction?

The fact that Obama and Clinton had lunch before the announcement, and that Sestak's brother was called by the White House is likely evidence that Obama's people were making sure everyone had their stories straight before issuing this howler.

The fact that the White House has gone to such lengths to create an obviously implausible story can only mean they believe they have something serious to hide. The question now is whether a compliant MSM will conspire with the White House to bury this scandal before it gets out of hand.

There is almost certainly a serious cover up going on, but unless media pressure forces the Administration to appoint a special prosecutor, the cover up will be successful. The chances of the Obama lapdogs in the MSM doing that are somewhere between slim and none.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Illegal aliens driving Americans out of their homes near the border

"They spent ten winters hunting quail in the sun. But those halcyon days ended last week for Terrie and Glen Stoller. Smugglers -- armed, numerous, and brazen -- have frightened them off their southeast Arizona property.

The couple is selling their home, 45 miles north of the Mexican border in the notorious Chiricahua Corridor.

'Last winter,' says Terrie, 'as we walked the hills looking for quail with our dogs, I kept thinking, ‘What if we come upon a drug encampment? What's going to happen to us?' I carry a camera, my husband carries a 12-gauge for quail, and we have four hunting dogs. It'd be the end of us. It'd be no contest against drug runners carrying rifles and big weapons.'

Glen likens the family to frontier homesteaders loading a wagon and returning home. 'Cochise has won,' he says, referring to the Apache chief who made the Chiricahua Mountains his homeland. 'The Indians are running us off'...

The couple, both 71, made a party of their last hours in Arizona. Terrie had lunch ready for dear friends who came to help pack. Others drove to the barbed wire fence around the property, threw their arms wide and said, 'Let's have a goodbye hug.'

It was a sad day, made more so by events in Washington.

At the precise moment Americans citizens were saying a wrenching farewell to their friends and property, President Obama stood on the White House lawn and listened as Mexican President Felipe Calderón criticized SB 1070, Arizona's own effort to deal with a state under siege...

The border is a 'combat zone,' says T.J. Bonner, head of the Border patrol agents' union, too dangerous even for Border Patrol. You read that correctly. Without armored vehicles to protect them, Bonner opposes putting Border Patrol agents on the border itself...

The landscape here is among the Southwest's most beautiful, big beyond imagining, with waving grasses, dirt roads that never end, and hidden canyons that twist through the Chiricahuas and their sister mountains, the Peloncillos, on the New Mexico side.

But smugglers of both people and drugs now control those ranges, and these dangerous men have transformed life here. Some residents carry weapons inside their houses. Others grab a firearm to step out to the garage or the storage shed, or to go to the market...

The Stollers themselves were broken into in May last year and again in June, and in January, a retired couple living a mile north suffered a home invasion by two illegals, one carrying a machete. 'It all built up,' says Terrie. 'The Apache School was being totally ruined and trashed and everything taken out of it. Then Rob Krentz was killed March 27, and he was just down the road...'

In one respect, the Stollers are fortunate. They've found a likely buyer, a fellow who grew up here and wants to return to the valley in retirement. Selling the place through a real estate agent to someone just coming in, without local ties, would've been impossible.

'Nobody in their right mind would even look at it, knowing what's going on here,' says Terrie.

Property values are plunging across the borderlands. I got an e-mail last week from retired Cochise County judge Rich Winkler, 71, who always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch. He lives outside Rodeo, six miles from the Stollers and fifty miles north of the Mexican line.

His ranch is in the Peloncillos. Here is what he wrote:

Mary and I have worked all our life to pay for this place, and now they tell me it is worth nothing because no one will buy it. I don't blame them. Helen Snyder sells real estate in the area and she said that since Rob's death, the market is dead in the water. I can't believe my country would leave me high and dry like this.

If the heartbreak Winkler feels doesn't leap from those words, read them again. Heartbreak is everywhere here, every day."

Yet Obama doesn't spend ten seconds thinking about the citizens he is supposed to protect in Arizona. Instead, he joins with the Mexican President to demean his own countrymen as they struggle against the very real Mexican invasion. Disgusting.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New research by the Harvard Business School proves that "stimulus" actually depresses private economic activity

From the National Review,

"New research from Harvard Business School shows that federal spending in states causes local businesses to cut back rather than grow. In other words, when government spending grows the private sector shrinks. Key findings in the study:

The average state experiences a 40 to 50 percent increase in earmark spending if its senator becomes chair of one of the top-three congressional committees. In the House, the average is around 20 percent.

For broader measures of spending, such as discretionary state-level federal transfers, the increase from being represented by a powerful senator is around 10 percent.

In the year that follows a congressman's ascendancy, the average firm in his state cuts back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent.

There is some evidence that firms scale back their employment and experience a decline in sales growth.

While these results are very interesting, the most intriguing part of this study is the admission by the authors — Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy — that they were stunned by these results. Check out this Harvard Business School interview:

Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state's congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.

It turned out quite the opposite. In fact, professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy discovered to their surprise that companies experienced lower sales and retrenched by cutting payroll, R&D, and other expenses. Indeed, in the years that followed a congressman's ascendancy to the chairmanship of a powerful committee, the average firm in his state cut back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent, according to their working paper, "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?"

'It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman's state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,' Coval reports."

So now we have more detailed evidence that Keynesian "stimulus" depresses, rather than stimulates economic growth. There has been consistent, overwhelming evidence that "stimulus" spending has failed on a national level around the world. Japan tried that approach over and over again in the 1980's and '90's without success, and the US has just seen unemployement rise substantially after the 2009 "stimulus."

Now the same phenomenon has been observed on a state level. But evidence doesn't count for much. As long as the MSM remains determinedly ignorant of basic economics, and thinks its role is to support Democrats, the public will keep hearing that we need more "stimulus," AKA government spending, to cure what ails us.

Money supply shrinking due to regulation -more economic woes on the way

While the economic illiterate believed that the Great Depression was caused by "the business cycle" or a "failure of capitalism", it has been known for years that the Depression was largely caused by Federal Reserve blunders which caused the money supply to plummet, combined with the Fed's failure to support banks which were hit by runs by nervous depositors.

The current downturn was initiated by the failures of government sponsored entities (GSEs) Fannie May and Freddie Mac due to mandated programs to provide mortgage loans to people who couldn't afford them. When the value of their mortgage backed securities, which were one of the foundations of the financial system, were found to be crumbling, they took down a number of major banks and other financial institutions such as AIG with them.

Now, according to an article in the London Telegraph, "The stock of money fell from $14.2 trillion to $13.9 trillion in the three months to April, amounting to an annual rate of contraction of 9.6pc. The assets of insitutional money market funds fell at a 37pc rate, the sharpest drop ever.

'It’s frightening,' said Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research. 'The plunge in M3 has no precedent since the Great Depression. The dominant reason for this is that regulators across the world are pressing banks to raise capital asset ratios and to shrink their risk assets. This is why the US is not recovering properly,' he said."

Not surprisingly, the Administration is not letting this crisis go to waste, but is proposing more Keynesian "stimulus" AKA spending, in spite of the fact that the last huge spending blowout didn't prevent unemployment from rising. The fact that fiscal "stimulus" has never worked anywhere is no reason not to keep using it as an excuse to do what the Dems want to do anyway - increase the government share of the economy.

"Mr Congdon said the Obama policy risks repeating the strategic errors of Japan, which pushed debt to dangerously high levels with one fiscal boost after another during its Lost Decade, instead of resorting to full-blown 'Friedmanite' monetary stimulus.

'Fiscal policy does not work. The US has just tried the biggest fiscal experiment in history and it has failed. What matters is the quantity of money and in extremis that can be increased easily by quantititave easing. If the Fed doesn’t act, a double-dip recession is a virtual certainty,' he said.

Mr Congdon said the dominant voices in US policy-making - Nobel laureates Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, as well as Mr Summers and Fed chair Ben Bernanke - are all Keynesians of different stripes who 'despise traditional monetary theory and have a religious aversion to any mention of the quantity of money'. The great opus by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz - The Monetary History of the United States - has been left to gather dust.

Mr Bernanke no longer pays attention to the M3 data. The bank stopped publishing the data five years ago, deeming it too erratic to be of much use.

This may have been a serious error since double-digit growth of M3 during the US housing bubble gave clear warnings that the boom was out of control. The sudden slowdown in M3 in early to mid-2008 - just as the Fed raised rates - gave a second warning that the economy was about to go into a nosedive."

So it appears we have yet another example of government claiming it needs to regulate capitalism to avoid economic chaos, and using regulation to produce economic chaos instead. Is anyone surprised?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Neat video of stars over a mountain

Here's a cool video of the night sky in a time lapse video.

While Tea Party rallies worry the MSM, intimidation by union thugs OK

"Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer. Baer is deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), a senior executive based in Washington, D.C. And that -- in the minds of the organizers at the politically influential Service Employees International Union and a Chicago outfit called National Political Action -- makes his family fair game.

Waving signs denouncing bank 'greed,' hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer's steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer's teenage son Jack -- alone in the house -- locked himself in the bathroom. 'When are they going to leave?' Jack pleaded when I called to check on him...

Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might 'incite' these trespassers...

There were no reporters from organizations like the Washington Post, no local camera crews who might have aired criticism of this private-home invasion. With the media covering the conservative Tea Party protesters, the behavior of individual activists has drawn withering scrutiny."

According to the MSM, peaceful Tea Party rallies - dangerous - union thugs surrounding a private home to intimidate a family - not worth mentioning. Is there any wonder the MSM has no credibility?

"Just another act of deadly treason"

"Yesterday, The New York Times published another front-page article based on a leaked classified document. This time, it was an order signed by Gen. David Petraeus authorizing black operations against adversaries and such dubious friends as Iran, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Gee, thanks. We really needed to know that. The world's a better place now...

This not only increases the virulent paranoia in the region's police states, but poses a mortal danger to agents, special operators and the innocent.

Our bravest men and women will face heightened risks and difficulties in executing their missions -- and businessmen, tourists and (did the Times think this through?) journalists will also come under greater suspicion. Innocent people and regime opponents will be executed as spies. And does anyone think that publicizing this program will help those three hikers held for a year in Iran?

In fact, there's a far greater risk of harm to blundering bystanders than to skilled operatives. The Tehran regime, especially, will use the revelation of this document as an excuse to imprison more democracy advocates -- or kill them.

Think the jerk who leaked this order considered any of these consequences? ... But nobody's going to be punished. High-ranking officials can get away with manslaughter, if not murder. An Army captain would go to prison. A political appointee can expect a promotion...

Socialism, the modern form of feudalism

"The left should study history and the rhetoric of a distant political system called Feudalism. Many people have a misconception that the early socialist thinkers like Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels were original thinkers, writing ideas about collectivism and equal sharing of property. But one only has to look back a few centuries to see they were simply recycling old failed ideas with some new jive attached...

The Feudal system was nothing more than creating a ruling class who owned all the land and wealth and provided security and safety to all the serfs; in turn the serfs provided work and servitude to their master. But many people do not realize the collective aspect of how serfs lived together.

After the ruling class reaped the finest of the crops and livestock for themselves, the serfs were to distribute all the yield of their labor amongst everyone equally. They had no rights to any crops or land for themselves, all belonged to the community, which was bestowed upon them by their feudal lords. They also shared in utilities. Most peasant societies had a communal oven that was also shared to save on resources...

This is exactly the type of rhetoric we hear from the left all the time. With their ideas of the redistribution of wealth, and a central controlling nanny state, we're told things such as: ‘You should listen to those who know better. You should care more about the community over your own desires; conservatives are just a bunch of ignorant hillbillies clinging to old ideas and must be forced into a better and more ordered society.'

In actuality, the left is leading us right back into feudalism, where men are enslaved to lords, knowledge is left to the ruling class, and freedom and ingenuity are hindered to prevent man from reaching his full potential. This is exactly why our founders pulled us away from the ideas of Europe and gave us every right and freedom the feudalists said were wrong to have."

Massachusetts shows what will happen under ObamaCare

"The future of US medicine under ObamaCare is already on display in Massachusetts. The top four health insurers there just posted first-quarter losses of more than $150 million. Most of them blamed the state's decision to keep premiums at last year's levels for individual and small-business policies, when they'd proposed double-digit hikes to match the soaring costs they've seen under the state's universal-coverage law.

The companies have gone to court to challenge the state's action -- it apparently had no basis for its ruling beyond the political needs of Gov. Deval Patrick. If they win, Bay State health premiums will continue their rapid rise; if they lose, they'll eventually have to stop doing business in Massachusetts -- and the state will be that much closer to a 'single payer' system of socialized medicine...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More carnage caused by illegal aliens

While Obama jokes about the failure of the federal government to secure the borders, across America this is happening all the time:

In Seattle, "Jose Lopez Madrigal, an illegal alien was arrested last Sunday and accused of raping a woman near Edmonds Supermarket...

Madrigal's arrest and immigration record includes a staggering number of contacts with law enforcement since 1989. That's the year he was convicted of theft using a firearm in California.

He was deported a couple of times after that. Then in 1999, he was arrested for drug sales in both San Diego and San Francisco. Records show that he was deported three times that year between April and August.

He was arrested for drugs again in Stockton, Calif. in 2000. In 2002, he pleaded to third degree sexual assault in Denver. Later that year, he was deported again. And in 2003, records show he was deported three more times."

Gotta love that secure border. Meanwhile an illegal alien was recently convicted for this horrendous crime in Newark:

"In 2007, a gang of MS-13-tied illegal aliens ambushed a group of young college students in Newark and murdered them execution-style in a schoolyard...

The four students were hanging out behind Mount Vernon School on Aug. 4, 2007, when they were confronted by their attackers with a handgun and a machete. Three of the victims — Terrance Aeriel, 18, Dashon Harvey, 20, and Iofemi Hightower, 20 — were killed when they were lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head. Terrance’s sister, Natasha Aeriel, survived after being shot in the face and left for dead.

All of the victims were robbed, and Aeriel and the group’s other female, Iofemi Hightower, were sexually molested and cut with machetes and knives...

Yesterday, a family member of one of the slain victims, Iofemi Hightower, described the level of savagery of the attack. He said the thugs used a machete to hack their victims.

'They cut my niece’s face off,' said John McClain, who is Hightower’s great-uncle, and the chaplain of the Newark Police Department. “They cut her from cheek to cheek. They left her head hanging.”

McClain said the mortician told him he had to work for three days to put his grand-niece’s face back together...

Rodolfo Antonio Godinez Gomez entered the U.S. from Nicaragua on Oct. 24, 1992. He was ordered deported on May 5, 1993, but it isn’t clear if he ever left the country, according to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontura...

He...obtained permanent legal residency in 2001.

He had eluded cops for four years after becoming a fugitive on July 7, 2003, when he ditched a Superior Court hearing on charges that he robbed and attacked three people in Irvington a year earlier."

And Obama thinks the real problem is Arizona's efforts to defend its citizens.

Yet another "stimulus" spending bill

Some people use crack cocaine. Democrats in Congress get high by spending trillions of dollars of everyone else's money. The next big high is being readied. From the Wall Street Journal:

"President Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill are publicly fretting about the dangers of spending and debt, which can mean only one thing: Another big spending 'stimulus' bill is in the works. And sure enough, the House plans to vote this week on $190 billion in new spending, $134 billion of which it won't even pretend to pay for.

Sander Levin, the new Ways and Means Chairman, calls this exercise the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Mr. Levin has waited 28 years to ascend to this throne and this is the best he can do? 'Jobs' were also the justification in February 2009 for the $862 billion stimulus that has managed to hold the jobless rate down to a mere 9.9%. Maybe Mr. Levin's spending can hold it down to even greater heights.

The nearby table gives a flavor of what's in this grab bag of political payoffs, corporate welfare and transfer payments. There's $24 billion to help states pay the exploding tab for Medicaid, the same program that ObamaCare expands by some 16 million new recipients. The bill also offers $1 billion for summer jobs for teens, whose jobless rate is 25.4%. Congress could do far more to create teen jobs if it merely suspended last year's minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour, which priced millions of young workers out of the labor market. But that would be too rational...

The $47 billion to extend unemployment insurance to nearly two full years will bring the total spent on this program to $137 billion during this recession—five times more than in either of the prior two recessions. That's nearly as much as the federal corporate income raised in 2009.

The sages in Congress continue to claim that these payments for not working will lead to more work. Representative Jim McDermott recently declared on the House floor that jobless payments are "one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus" because "every unemployment dollar spent returns $1.64 of economic benefits." So let's lay off everybody, pay them for not working, and watch the economy really boom. Where do they teach this stuff?"

There's much more nasty detail in this piece. Please read it all.

Massive new tax record keeping requirements in Obamacare

You might have thought Obamacare was just about reducing the quality of healthcare, but there was another hidden benefit in this monstrosity:

"The massive expansion of requirements for businesses to file 1099 tax forms that was hidden in the 2,409-page health reform bill took many by surprise when it came to light last month. But it's just one piece of a years-long legislative stealth campaign to create ways for the federal government to track down unreported income.

The result: A blizzard of new tax forms that the Internal Revenue Service will begin rolling out next year...

In essence, the 1099-Misc is having its role changed from a form for tracking off-payroll employment to one that must accompany virtually any sizeable business transaction.

'Just with business travel it would include hotels, rental cars,' Henschke says. 'Phone service: 1099. Computer service: 1099. Whoever does your postage meter: 1099. You do a little advertising, Yellow Pages: 1099. Your landlord: 1099. You might as well just keep them in your pocket and hand them out as you go around every day.'"

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said "Pass the bill so you can find out what's in it"? Just another step on the road to monster government.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another good campaign ad

Check this one out.

Image of the sun

From NASA's astronomy picture of the day,

"Suspended by magnetic fields above a solar active region this dark filament stretches over 40 earth-diameters. The ominous structure appears to be frozen in time near the Sun's edge, but solar filaments are unstable and often erupt. The detailed scene was captured on May 18 in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

While the cooler plasma of the filament looks dark, hotter, brighter plasma below traces magnetic field lines emerging from the active region. When seen arcing above the edge of the Sun, filaments actually look bright against the dark background of space and are called prominences."

Amazing photo!

Ultra radical Israeli judge is Elena Kagan's "hero"

In Powerline blog:

"From the Harvard Law Record, via Ed Whelan, we learn that Elena Kagan considers Israeli supreme court justice Aharon Barak her 'judicial hero.' According to Kagan, Barak 'is the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and justice.'

However, it would appear that Kagan's judicial hero actually has very little regard for the rule of law and, indeed, is the antithesis of what a judge should be...

Israel does not have a constitution. It has 'BasicLaws' passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which Barak has equated to a constitution by holding that the Knesset cannot repeal them. That is an amazing idea: could our Congress pass a law...and the Supreme Court declare that the law could never be repealed? And only one-quarter of the Knesset's members voted for those laws!...

What Barak created out of whole cloth was a degree of judicial power undreamed of even by our most aggressive Supreme Court justices.

Among the rules of law that Barak's judicial opinions have been instrumental in creating that have no counterpart in American law are that judges cannot be removed by the legislature, but only by other judges;...that any government action that is "unreasonable" is illegal ("put simply, the executive must act reasonably, for an unreasonable act is an unlawful act"); ...that in the name of "human dignity" a court can compel the government to alleviate homelessness and poverty; and that a court can countermand military orders...

If Barak really is Kagan's judicial hero, and I think we should take Kagan at her word, then she is manifestly outside the legal mainstream (in 'completely different juristic universe,' to borrow the phrase Posner applies to Barak), and should not serve on the U.S. Supreme Court."

Surprise - California already has immigration law similar to Arizona's

Not only does the Arizona immigration law parallel Federal law, apparently it is also almost identical to provisions of a law on the books in California for years. One wonders whether the Obama administration will "go after" that law as well as the one they haven't read in Arizona.

Will California jurisdictions boycotting Arizona now boycott California as well?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Greenland ice sheet is melting!

A pair of NASA satellites which fly in formation studying slight variations in the earth's gravity have the ability to detect the amount of ice being lost in Greenland due to global warming. A recent article in an environmentalist blog opened this way:

"Scott Luthcke weighs Greenland — every 10 days. And the island has been losing weight, an average of 183 gigatons (or 200 cubic kilometers) — in ice — annually during the past six years. That’s one third the volume of water in Lake Erie every year. Greenland’s shrinking ice sheet offers some of the most powerful evidence of global warming...

The good news for Luthcke is that a separate team using an entirely different method has come up with measurements of Greenland’s melting ice that, he says, are almost identical to his GRACE data. The bad news, of course, is that both sets of measurements make it all the more certain that Greenland’s ice is melting faster than anyone expected."

Are you really scared yet? Are you ready to start climbing the nearest mountain to escape the rising waters?

The problem with this analysis is that it doesn't relate the amount of ice lost to the total amount of ice in Greenland. In other words, what percentage of Greenland's ice is being lost each year?

According to Willis Eschenbach, writing in the environmental blog Watts Up With That,

"Greenland is losing about 0.007% of its total mass every year … seven thousandths of one percent lost annually...

And if that terrifying rate of loss continues unabated, of course, it will all be gone in a mere 15,000 years."

If past cycles of glaciation continue into the future, in 15,000 years, the planet will be well into the next ice age, so we can rest easy knowing that Greenland will be covered with lots more ice, and so will Seattle and Chicago and New York City, not to mention Europe and Asia.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Global warming red alert

“The arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot. Reports all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the arctic zone. Expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.”

- US Weather Bureau - 1922

Some things apparently never change.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Greece - and us - by Mark Steyn

One reviewer of Mark Steyn's book "America Alone" said he had the oddest feeling of chuckling while contemplating doom.

There have been enough articles about the Greek meltdown to sink a supertanker, but Mark Steyn still manages to produce an analysis that is a sad pleasure to read. The same facts are there, but Mr. Steyn is able to put the facts together like no one else.

"From the Times of London: 'The President of Greece warned last night that his country stood on the brink of the abyss after three people were killed when an anti-government mob set fire to the Athens bank where they worked.'

Almost right. They were not an 'anti-government' mob, but a government mob, a mob comprised largely of civil servants. That they are highly uncivil and disinclined to serve should come as no surprise: they’re paid more and they retire earlier, and that’s how they want to keep it. So they’re objecting to austerity measures that would end, for example, the tradition of 14 monthly paycheques per annum.

You read that right: the Greek public sector cannot be bound by anything so humdrum as temporal reality. So, when it was mooted that the 'workers' might henceforth receive a mere 12 monthly paycheques per annum, they rioted. Their hapless victims—a man and two women—were a trio of clerks trapped in a bank when the mob set it alight and then obstructed emergency crews attempting to rescue them...

To prop up unsustainable welfare states, most of the Western world isn’t 'printing money' but instead printing credit cards and pre-approving our unborn grandchildren. That would be a dodgy proposition at the best of times.

But in the Mediterranean those grandchildren are never going to be born...Greece has one of the lowest fertility rates on the planet—1.3 children per couple, which places it in the “lowest-low” demographic category from which no society has recovered...In practical terms, it means 100 grandparents have 42 grandkids...

Last year, President Sarkozy said that the G20 summit provided 'a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience.' European capitalism may have a conscience. It’s not clear it has a pulse. And, actually, when you’re burning Greek bank clerks to death in defence of your benefits, your 'conscience' isn’t much in evidence, either."

Vintage Steyn.

How New York City transit watches its pennies

Here's how a public monopoly saves money compared to its profit making predecessors.

"The MTA Bus Company was created in 2004 to absorb seven private companies operating under franchises from the New York City Department of Transportation...

A new audit claims that New York City Transit and the MTA Bus Company spent millions of dollars on jet fuel to power busses instead of cheaper, lower grade fuel that would power the vehicles...

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the MTA Bus Company’s records showed unexplained discrepancies in fuel delivery, quality and usage."

Let government run an enterprise and watch expenses and corruption really take off.

Goodbye, Blanche

Rasmussen's latest poll shows Repblican John Boozeman absolutely crushing either of his potential Democratic opponents for the Arkansas Senate seat currently held by Blanche Lincoln. How's that Obamacare vote working out for you, Blanche?

Even the New York Times is reporting on lavish government pensions

You know the whistle has been blown on a liberal government abuse when even the New York Times reports on it. There have been dozens, if not hundreds, of articles on this practice in the past several years, so I guess the Times couldn't avoid it any more.

"Hugo Tassone, retired at 44 with a base pay of about $74,000 a year. His pension is now $101,333 a year. It’s what the system promised, said Mr. Tassone, now 47, adding that he did nothing wrong by adding lots of overtime to his base pay shortly before retiring...

According to pension data collected by The New York Times from the city and state, about 3,700 retired public workers in New York are now getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year, exempt from state and local taxes...Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s."

And the left wants to increase your taxes to pay for this.

Krauthammer on the "Fruits of Weakness"

Here's an analysis by Dr. Krauthammer of the reasons why Turkey and Brazil, ostensible American allies, did a deal with Iran to undercut American efforts to obtain new sanctions on Iran.

"The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world.

That picture -- a defiant, triumphant take-that-Uncle-Sam -- is a crushing verdict on the Obama foreign policy. It demonstrates how rising powers, traditional American allies, having watched this administration in action, have decided that there's no cost in lining up with America's enemies and no profit in lining up with a U.S. president given to apologies and appeasement."

Of course, it really doesn't make any difference that new sanctions were made more difficult, as they have never had any chance of working anyway. That has never been their real purpose. The whole reason for sanctions is to disguise the real policy of doing nothing.

Sanctions are meant to make doing nothing appear to be doing something. Brazil and Turkey realize the sanctions effort is just posturing, and they believe it is safer for them to ingratiate themselves with the strong horse rather than the weak horse.

This administration, like the last one, doesn't have the stomach for military intervention, which is the only thing which would stop Iran from acquiring nukes. It is engaging in this endless theater about sanctions so that it has plausible deniability about its policy of doing nothing to stop Iran from acquiring them.

How Obamacare will cause employers to dump health insurance

This article in the WSJ provides an interesting analysis of the financial incentives under the new law for employers to dump coverage, which is just what Obama had in mind to convert to government run healthcare.

A sample:

"AT&T, for example, paid $2.4 billion last year to cover medical costs for its 283,000 active employees. If the company dropped its health plan and paid an annual penalty for each uninsured worker, the fines would total almost $600 million. But that would leave AT&T with a tidy profit of $1.8 billion."

Arizona governor on Obama's lack of border enforcement

In this interview the Arizona governor says the Obama administration has never responded to a single letter from her asking for help securing the border and dealing with illegals in the state. She bluntly suggests that Obama "do his job."

Apparently Obama and his minions don't have time to actually do anything about border security because they're so busy criticizing Arizona's efforts to cope with their failures. His love fest with the Mexican President bashing his own country was par for the course. Disgusting.

Sign in Marshall, Texas

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book recommendation

Nothing unusual to report on the political/economic/environmental fronts today. Just the same old stuff over again. So I thought I'd recommend a book once in awhile. I read non-fiction almost exclusively because it can be just as exciting and entertaining as fiction, while also being educational.

History is one of my favorite genres, and the Civil War is one of the most interesting periods in American history. I used to live between Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields, so started reading Civil War stuff, starting with Bruce Catton. Eventually, I decided the most interesting character of the war was General and later President Grant.

He was undoubtedly one of the greatest generals in US history - I think he deserves the #1 ranking. He directed more battles than just about anyone in our history, and only lost his first skirmish to overwhelming enemy forces. For the last 18 months or so he not only managed America's principal army directly in battle, but also managed all of our other forces as General in Chief. It was like combining a Patton, Eisenhower, and George Marshall into one job. He had an amazing career path - in 3 years he went from being a store clerk to the head of all US armed forces during our toughest war.

Later, he was, I think, a far better President than most historians give him credit for. One Grant biographer I read from 1895 thought he was the third greatest American after Washington and Lincoln. He had two reasons: first, he said Lincoln wanted to win the Civil War, but Grant was the man who actually won it. Without Grant, the North would almost certainly have lost the war, and the US would have become two countries. Reason enough perhaps.

Point two was that he thought Grant was the only President who could successfully put the country back together again after the war. Grant had the military respect of the South - he was the one who had beaten them, but he also had the personal respect of the Southern population by following Lincoln's policy of leniency toward leaders of the rebellion. When Grant entered office, the country was still divided, and the South was an open wound. By the time he left office, we were one country again. He was also the most active civil rights President between the Civil War and the 1960's.

One of the best books I've read on him is called simply "Grant" by Jean Edward Smith. It's not a new book, but is a classic on the subject. If you'd like to fill in the picture on arguably the most underrated American hero, this is an excellent read.

Boeing B17 with a new 787

Prior to World War 2, the B17 was one of largest planes ever built. Today, the 787 is considered a mid size widebody. How times have changed.

From Flightblogger

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama sinking, according to Rasmussen

Rasmussen has historically been among the most reliable polls on elections because they sample likely voters and don't oversample Democrats. They publish a daily tracking poll on Presidential approval, and it's not looking good for Obama right now.

"25% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today’s rating is the lowest earned by the president since the passage of his health care proposal two months ago."

According to Rasmussen, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has seen his advantage over Republican hopefuls shrink dramatically following a New York Times accusation that he exaggerated his Vietnam military service. Against Linda McMahon, Blumenthal’s lead is down to just three points.

Will another Icelandic volcano cause global cooling?

Most people know that the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull (try to pronounce that) has been erupting for a month now, and that its ash cloud has caused major flight disruptions in Europe. It is not so widely known that, historically, a nearby volcano called Katla has also consistently erupted on a ten times larger scale following its neighbor. The 3 eruptions at Eyjafjallajokull in the past 1,000 years have all been followed by eruptions of Katla.

Small earthquakes have recently been detected at Katla, which can be the precursor to an eruption. If this volcano erupts as it has in the past, not only will European air travel and climatic conditions be severely impacted, the world could see another "year without a summer" as happened when a volcanic eruption in 1815 caused crops to fail around the world in 1816.

Katla is overdue for another eruption based on past cycles. A major eruption now could be very dangerous for more than just Iceland.

DOJ trial attorney resigns in protest of Holder decision not to prosecute Philadelphia Black Panthers

This development could shed some very interesting light on the political shenanigans behind the Holder Justice Department's otherwise inexplicable decision not to prosecute Black Panthers caught on video intimidating voters at a polling booth in Philadelphia. If the attorney talks, things could get very hot for Holder and his staff. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The right of local police to detain illegal immigrants is official Justice Department policy

Criticism of the new Arizona illegal immigration law by the top Justice Department officials, who haven't read it, was dealt a setback when it was disclosed that the right of local police to detain illegals has been the Department's official position since 2002. Just when you thought the haplessness and incompetence of Holder and his associates couldn't get any more pathetic, it does.

A good video on the lack of border security

This video by an Atlanta TV station shows conditions along the Mexico-Arizona border. In particular it highlights the number of potential terrorists that slip through every year. The government used to publish a list of people other than Mexicans who have been caught on the border each year, but that list is no longer being published, though it was obtained by the station from a Congressional staff insider.

Apparently under the Obama administration the best way to solve a problem is simply not to disclose that it exists.

What have we learned?

From a reader:

What have we learned after 2,065 years?

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."

- Cicero - 55 BC

So, evidently nothing.