Friday, April 30, 2010

You're doing a heckuva job, Barry

In the news today:


This is just a sampling of headlines describing what could become the largest environmental disaster in decades, eclipsing even that of the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  As reported here yesterday, the impacts of this this catastrophe could have been lessened considerably, had federal officials moved more swiftly.

Who is in charge?

The Obama Regime's pathetic response to the Gulf oil spill has one of three causes--gross incompetence, apathetic negligence or political malice.  Given the regime's "baby duckling" approach to every bad news item it has encountered so far, incompetence is hard to rule out.  The people in charge are, literally, acting as if this is the very first time an oil spill has threatened the US shoreline.  Instead, as the interview with Ron Gouget showed, this is something they have planned for over the last several decades.  They knew what to do.  They just didn't do it.

It's hard to rule out apathy and negligence as well.  You see, this Regime can't be bothered with the effects of a regional disaster like this.  No, Obama has much larger objectives on his screen, like taking over the healthcare and financial sectors of the US economy and accusing Arizona's duly elected state government of racial profiling and fascism.  It's just a few hundred thousand gallons of oil down there in the Gulf, right?  It's just gonna make things a little messy for a few birds and fish, right?  We can't be worried about that.  We have much more important things to do.

What about politics?  What if this regime isn't as stupid or uncaring as it appears to be.  Maybe the regime knew what the disaster response plans were, and maybe they knew that, by taking the right courses of action very early in, they would "let a crisis go to waste."

If the regime's agenda is to place a ruinous cap-and-trade stone around the neck of the US economy, this is a useful crisis. If the regime never really intended to open more of the US offshore areas to new exploration, this is a useful crisis. If the regime has repeatedly gone after big-specter boogeymen like Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big Bank and Big Oil, then this is a very, very useful crisis.

Extra Point: Our heartfelt condolences must go out to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in the explosion. Offshore petroleum work is tough, dirty and dangerous work. I have a brother in the oilfield services industry, and I can truthfully say that they are among the hardest working and bravest men we have.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Could Federal Thumb-twiddling Have Led to Disaster?

Former oil spill response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ron Gouget, says that federal officials should have started burning off oil much sooner, even immediately after the event:


Ron Gouget, who also managed Louisiana's oil response team for a time, said federal officials missed a narrow window of opportunity to gain control of the spill by burning last week, before the spill spread hundreds of miles across the Gulf, and before winds began blowing toward shore.

He also said the heavy use of dispersants instead of burning the oil has likely knocked so much oil into the water column that portions of the Gulf may be on the threshold of becoming toxic to marine life. Add in the oil spreading into the water as it rises from the seafloor, and Gouget said he expected officials would have to begin limiting the use of the dispersants.


There's more at the link, but if Gouget is correct, then federal officials appear to have completely blown the response. What may have been a garden variety spill now has the potential to wreak havoc on one of the most productive and pristine shorelines in the country. Some experts are saying that the spill could grow into one of the worst in US history.

Why didn't Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano use the in-situ burn procedure sooner? I am not a big conspiracy buff at all, but there's something fishy here, and it's not the smell of rotting seafood floating in black soup.

Whether through incompetence, apathy or outright political malice, DHS knew last week that in-situ burning of oil was a viable alternative in their response strategy, and they failed to employ it. The question is, why?


Extra Point: Money Quote from Gouget: "This whole thing has been a daily strip tease. At first they thought it was just the diesel, then they said the well wasn't leaking. It's unfortunate they didn't get the burning going right away. They could have gotten 90 percent of the oil before it spread."

Chart of the Week: Gold vs US Dollar, 2002 - 2010

This week's chart:  A plot of gold prices versus the US Dollar from 2002 through 2010.  Click the image for a larger view. Gold is a traditional hedge against inflation.  A "loose" monetary policy is a central bank strategy of increasing the money supply over time to sustain employment and output levels, but not so much that runaway inflation destroys wealth.  A sustained increase in gold prices vis-a-vis the dollar indicates that, over time, investors are worried about erosion in value of dollar denominated assets.

Obama's pick for the Federal Reserve Board's #2 spot, Dr. Janet Yellen, is widely believed to be a "dove" on inflation, which means that she believes employment and output are at least as important as controlling inflation when setting monetary policy.

I'm not a goldbug, but I do have a nice collection of rare coins and other hard assets, whose value trends similar to gold.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arizona's Federal Lands Problem

A caller on the Rush Limbaugh show mentioned today that the Department of Interior owns much of the land on the Arizona border with Mexico, and that the National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments and National Wilderness Areas are off limits to ICE immigration patrols.

Desert Invasion has more details, including documentation of how these once-pristine areas are being devastated by drug dealers and criminals.

From the April 15 issue of the Arizona (Tuscon) Star:

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House want to give Border Patrol agents total access to public lands where they currently must adhere to some restrictions.

The move is the latest fallout from the March 27 killing of longtime rancher Robert Krentz on his land northeast of Douglas.

The legislation would prohibit the Department of Interior from restricting Border Patrol activities on public lands. Currently, land managers can create rules regarding access to certain areas to protect land, wildlife or historical sites.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, justified the legislation based on the fact that the person who killed Krentz likely fled into Mexico through the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge is 17 miles east of Douglas on the Arizona-Mexico border.

At the 2,309-acre wildlife refuge, the Border Patrol is allowed to patrol on foot or on horseback, but its vehicle access is limited to emergencies and to administrative roads, according to a May 2009 letter from Benjamin Tuggle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife regional director, to Robert Gilbert, then the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector Chief.

San Bernardino refuge manager Bill Radke could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But rancher Wendy Glenn confirmed that those rules still exist. Her 15,000-acre ranch surrounds the refuge.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., Bishop and other lawmakers accused federal land managers of "hiding behind the law" to place wilderness or endangered species ahead of border safety. "It's unforgivable," he said.


Going back to my trusty GIS application, Mapwindow, I created a layer showing federally owned or controlled properties along the Arizona - Mexico border and it took my breath away:






Click the image for a larger view.  More than two-thirds of the border is federally owned, and much of that is off limits to ICE!


Extra Point: If the GOP takes the House of Representatives in November, the Bishop Bill should receive top priority. If any immigration bill comes before the House this summer, Bishop should seek to have his bill submitted as an amendment. We can't close the border when the government won't cooperate with itself!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush -- Conservatives or Heretics?

On Tuesday, Florida Senatorial candidate (and current front-runner) issued a statement on Arizona's tough new immigration law.  Here is the full text of his statement:

"Our legal immigration system must continue to welcome those who seek to embrace America's blessings and abide by the legal and orderly system that is in place. The American people have every right to expect the federal government to secure our borders and prevent illegal immigration. It has become all too easy for some in Washington to ignore the desperation and urgency of those like the citizens of Arizona who are disproportionately wrestling with this problem as well as the violence, drug trafficking and lawlessness that spills over from across the border.


"States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona's policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don't believe Arizona's policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.

"I hope Congress and the Obama Administration will use the Arizona legislation not as an excuse to try and jam through amnesty legislation, but to finally act on border states' requests for help with security and fix the things about our immigration system that can be fixed right now - securing the border, reforming the visa and entry process, and cracking down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants."

Contrary to the media and lefty site spin, there is nothing here even approaching a 'denunciation.' It is a very carefully worded statement that walks a very fine line.

Later, in an interview with Politico, Jeb Bush, the still-popular former Governor, had this to say about the new law:

"I think it creates unintended consequences. It's difficult for me to imagine how you're going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.

"I don't think this is the proper approach."
That strays a little farther off the reservation, doesn't it?

The body of the nation's immigration law was horribly broken by the Hart-Celler INS Act of 1965, and more than five decades of pathetic enforcement and outright neglect have made illegal immigration a major problem. While Rubio and Bush has publicly declared support for a policy of enforcement that strongly disincentivizes employers and employees from gaming the legal system, Bush has joined his brother in calling for comprehensive reform, including amnesty for illegals already living in the US. 

It bears noting that both Bush and Rubio are products of Florida politics. Florida has a large Hispanic population. Rubio himself is a second generation Cuban, and Bush's wife is Colombian. While much of Florida's Cuban population leans Republican, there is a strong independent segment and a sizable Democrat bloc as well. Bluntly: You don't win elections in Florida without Hispanics.

By the same token, Republicans don't win elections in Florida without conservatives and right-leaning anglo independents. Cast in this light, both statements make sense.  Rubio's conservatism is on display. Bush's Compassionate Conservativism II sounds just like that of his brother.

The only approach to the nation's illegal immigration policy is law-and-order first.  It is not the arms-wide-open amnesty approach favored in 2007 by John McCain, Lindsey Graham, George W. Bush, and Ted Kennedy, resurrected and expected to see the Senate floor this summer.

I applaud Arizona's attempt to wrestle the enormous problem faced by state and local officials.  The rules of naturalization are an enumerated power granted to Congress by the US Constitution, but what is a state to do when the federal government abdicates the responsibility to reasonably execute that power? If the Congress also failed to establish a standard of weights and measures, thus throwing commerce into chaos, should a state be able to attempt restoration of order by establishing its own systems?

Both Rubio and Bush are correct that a federal reform effort is needed, and needed badly.  But Rubio is the only one of the two calling for the right approach and thankfully, he's the only one running for the US Senate.

Extra Point: Take a wild guess at who was one of Hart-Celler's biggest supporters, way back in 1965?

Monday, April 26, 2010

More on that Bogus Special Army Unit Story

I did some fact checking on a viral rumor making the rounds on twitter and a few outre blogs, regarding a scary, secret, "special army unit" that was set to deploy within the US "just before the November elections." As I expected, the story proved to be completely ginned up and provided more proof that the black helicopter crowd still has a very active imagination.

Grim at BlackFive gives his view of this Bravo Sierra from a military perspective:

What? A brigade combat team composed of 80,000 troops? That's like twenty times as large as a BCT. FT Stewart doesn't house nearly that many people, troops and family included.

When the left heard that President Bush was putting together this force, they freaked about it. Don't ya'll freak too. Commanders in Chief come and go; the sun and the moon may change, but the Army knows no seasons.

The gist of Grim's post is that whoever made up this nonsensical story has nary a clue about the military and that the notion of 80,000 combat troops deploying anywhere is a major undertaking. Grim says "Bravo Sierra," and you should, too.

Black Minister Forms PAC to Defeat Liberal Congressional Blacks

Saying that he wants to break the "death grip" that the Democrat Party has on the black community, conservative Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr. has formed a new PAC, called the STAND America PAC.  STAND is an acronym for Jackson's organization "Staying True to America's National Destiny."


Says Bishop Jackson, "The black community has been deceived into voting for liberal black leadership which does not reflect their values." Jackson's strategy is to have black voters register as independents and vote their Christian values. He argues that the black voter is a conservative church going person. "This was shown by the large black vote for Proposition 8 to ban homosexual marriage in California. The black legislative leaders supported it, but the black voters did not. What does that tell us? These leaders are out of touch with the people. It is time to vote them out."

According to Bishop Jackson, CBC members insult the black community by "conflating the black struggle for civil rights with the demands of radical homosexuals for marriage and other special rights." He calls it "one of the most preposterous frauds ever perpetrated on a people." In a recent speech before a black Christian men's group in Williamsburg, Virginia, Bishop Jackson said, "Homosexuals have no history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching or being legally defined as 2/3 of a person. I have known people who have been delivered from homosexuality. I have never known anyone to be delivered from being black. The Democrat Party's commitment to abortion, homosexuality and moral relativism is an affront to the values of the black Christian community. It is a 'Coalition of the godless.' Black Christians do not belong in a 'coalition of the godless,' and should not vote for those who are."

Black Minister Forms Political Action Committee to Defeat Liberal Blacks


The purpose of the PAC is to recruit and support conservative black candidates to run against liberal members of the Congressional Black Caucus. It should be noted that there is absolutely no room in the CBC for a conservative. It is an exclusively black and liberal caucus. It should also be noted that the Democrats in Congress needed the CBC's monolithic vote on Obamacare and cap and tax. Like the black electoral vote, the Democrats are sunk without its near unanimous support. If groups like STAND can promote conservatism among black Christians and break off even a portion of the group, the Democrat coalition can be weakened considerably.

Extra Point: This is also a goal of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Unfortunately, as I noted here, Steele may not have the traction or longevity to see it through. It will be interesting to see if Jackson and other grassroots groups can make some progress.

Whacker Alert! - Updated

A "whacker" is someone who, due to poorly understood psychological imbalances, imagines himself as a police or public safety officer. Whackers will outfit their vehicles with strobe lights, police/fire/public scanner radios and antennas out the yazoo. They will also dress in Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU's) or official looking black, tan or blue monoform clothing. You might also know whackers by other terms, such as holster sniffers, badge bunnies or [ahem] nightstick polishers.

Click the link for several instances of whackers getting caught impersonating police officers or acting out their little fantasies.

Whackers are usually harmless wannabes. Usually.

However, one was arrested Sunday at the Asheville, NC airport, the airport that President Obama had departed from just moments before:

At about 2 p.m., airport police saw the man get out of a maroon car with Ohio plates and that he had a sidearm, Smith said. Both airport police and the Secret Service questioned him and he was taken into custody. The suspect was nowhere near the president's plane, which had just departed, and was in a rental car return lot that is open to the public, Smith said.

His car was equipped with clear LED law enforcement-style strobe lights in the front and rear dash, Smith said. The car also had a mounted digital camera in the front window, four large antennas on the trunk lid, and under the steering wheel was a working siren box. Smith said the suspect was not in law enforcement. When he got out of the car, he was listening to a handheld scanner and radio that had a remote earpiece, Smith said. Police said he was monitoring local agencies and had formulas for rifle scopes on a note in his cup holder. Police did not immediately elaborate on what the formulas might mean and Smith was not available to comment late Sunday.

FOXNews.com - Armed Man Arrested at Airport as Obama Departs
So, what was this guy doing at the airport where the POTUS was departing?  In true whacker fashion, he was probably doing what he thought was his role in such a high-profile event in Asheville, NC.  He got all dressed up in his BDU or monoform, he made sure his car was absolutely tricked out with all the latest gear, and he went patroling the airport to make sure that no racist, intolerant teabagger types would cause any trouble.

Extra Point:  Oh, the whacker's name:  Joseph Sean McVey.

Update: Via the Associated Press, it's confirmed: Mr. McVey is a "public-service-minded" ham-radio, weather and police buff. Aka, "Whacker." Friends and acquaintances, according to the AP story, describe him as overly enthusiastic and dismiss the episode as a likely misunderstanding.  In all likelihood, McVey posed no threat to the President, but police acted appropriately in detaining him.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Storms of 04-24-10

The image below is from a GIS application I've developed called StormWatch, using the Open Source GIS platform called MapWindow. The blue, diagonal polygon highlights the path taken by yesterday's tornadoes. These storms have killed at least 10 people and caused millions in damage. Click the image for a larger view.

2010 NLF Draft Shows Bama Really is Back

Not since 1987 has Alabama put seven players in the NFL draft from a single class, and that was back in the day when the draft went 12 rounds, as opposed to the current seven round selection process.  The 2010 class produced the following:

Round Player Overall Team Position
1st Rolando McClain 8th Raiders ILB
1st Kareem Jackson 20th Texans CB
2nd Javier Arenas 50th Chiefs CB
2nd Terrence Cody 57th Ravens DT
3rd Mike Johnson 98th Falcons OG
7th Marquis Johnson 211th Rams CB
7th Brandon Deaderick 247th Patriots DE

Since 1987, Alabama has won four SEC championships and has played for a total of seven.  The program has also won two national titles, in 1992 and 2010.   That's not a stellar run over the last quarter century or so.  A conference title here and there and two national titles would cement most coaches' legacy as a winner and guarantee him a job until retirement.

Not so at Alabama.  Since 1987, the program has also seen seven head coaches come and go. Four of them--Bill Curry, Mike Dubose and now Nick Saban--have won conference titles, and two of them own national championship rings.

Bama fans are a demanding bunch.  We are more than a little spoiled by a storied history and a legacy of excellence.  I point out the 1987 to 2010 stretch to make the point that, despite having some absolutely awful seasons in that near quarter-decade, the program has still been able to produce hardware.  It also bears noting that the program has been on the largest capital expenditure and facilities construction program in history.  When the 2010 season opens on September 04, 2010, Bryant-Denny Stadium will host 102,500 fans for the largest football game attendance in the state of Alabama.

What the 2010 NFL Draft tells us is that we should be prepared for quite a long run of Crimson Tide excellence.  The depth and quality of the talent wearing Crimson hasn't been this impressive in a generation.  The days of a program dominating a conference like the SEC and becoming a national dynasty are over, but instead of seeing Bama play for the SEC Title once every four years or so, expect to see them in contention for the conference crown annually.  And, instead of seeing them occassionally rise into mention for BCS honors, expect to see them as a perennial candidate.

Extra Point: The 1987 NFL Draft's 2nd overall selection was Cornelius "Biscuit" Bennett, an eventual five-time Pro-Bowler.

Friday, April 23, 2010

YID With LID: Chief Medicare Actuary Report: Obamacare To Drive Up Costs/Drive Away Doctors

YID With LID: Chief Medicare Actuary Report: Obamacare To Drive Up Costs/Drive Away Doctors

Full report posted, showing Obamacare is gonna be... ahem... a little more expensive than Teh One said it would.

Imagine that.

Extra Point: Do you suppose this means they have some "tweaking" to do?

Why the left really fears the Tea Party

It is beyond their capacity to admit it, but the Tea Party movement positively scares the left witless. Last spring and summer, the Tea Party movement was greeted by the elite left as an amusement.

Many observers have opined on the Tea Party movement's loose organization. There really wasn't one clearly identifiable leader of the Tea Party.  It was, and still is, mostly a conglomeration of local activists feeding off of the energy of one another.  More importantly, the Tea Party is not a political party, per se.  It has no national committee.  It has no chairman, subcommittees or fundraising organization.  Some groups have filed the paperwork to gain recognition as a party in some states, but there is no national effort to create a bona fide third party made up of Tea Party activists.  That creates some challenges for the movement, as its amorphousness and lack of national organization makes it difficult for a single, easily communicated message to emerge. 

But the left's amusement at the Tea Partiers has changed.  Amusement gave way to mockery.  Mockery gave way to outright contempt.  Contempt has grown into concern, and as I write this, the concern is morphing into abject terror.  Why?

The left has a tried-and-true method of dealing with those who oppose its agenda of statist utopia. It is based upon a philosophy of identity politics that divides people into easily cubby-holed groups.  These groups have leaders, or easily recognizable faces or icons to associate with the identity of the group.  Favored groups are rewarded, unfavored groups are attacked and punished.  ACORN is given free reign to commit election fraud. Sarah Palin is subjected to relentless personal attacks.  Union thugs are free to trespass on executives' private property.  Keith Olbermann is allowed to spew hatred to a (shrinking) national audience while Glenn Beck is viciously and falsely accused of promoting sedition.  Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Wanda Sykes can openly espouse racism and wish death on conservative leaders.  Rush Limbaugh is singled out and attacked by the sitting President of the United States.  But the Tea Party movement is different.

What many point out as a weakness is actually the Tea Party's strength.  The Tea Party has no object to vilify.  Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were faces known well before the Tea Party movement began.  They aren't the Tea Party movement--it's bigger than them.  There's no Tea Party "frontrunner" for any national election, so there's no past to dig dirt on.  There's no chairman, so there's no party financial records to dig through for embarrassing expenditures.  There are no fundraising committees, so there are no FEC filings to dig through to see what special interests can be smeared. There is no group of leaders to isolate, identify and attack.  Attempts to paint the movement as racist are met with speeches from black Tea Party participants and growing support for black Tea Party-backed candidates. Attempts to paint it as an extremist fringe are met with interviews with retired grandmothers.

The traditional weapons of the left--Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals--are absolutely useless against the Tea Party movement. Every round they have fired has fallen harmlessly to the ground, while national polls show that the movement is growing and attracting an ever larger, more energized base of support.  This growing base of support presents an even greater terror--by Attacking the Tea Party as racist, fringe-element wackos, Democrats and the left are shown to be attacking Main Street America.  You, dear reader, are a racist.  You, dear reader, are out of touch.  You, dear reader, are promoting the rise of another Timothy McVeigh.  The more shrill and ridiculous the charges that the left hurls at the Tea Party, the more motivated you have become.

The left is now positively scared to death of you, because they've thrown everything they had at you and you're still growing.  Moreover, you've morphed again.  It's not about protests, signs and slogan chanting.  The protests are still well-attended but now, it's also about a Contract From America that lays out a set of principles that you authored and you have put before candidates for the upcoming election.  The candidates and incumbents who don't support those principles face very dim prospects in November because you are both motivated and absolutely unstoppable.

Extra Point: Could the fear gripping the left be the reason why financial market "reform," immigration "reform" and energy policy "reform" are all expected to come before the Congress before November?  Could the thieves know that the authorities are en route, and that they might as well grab as much loot as they can before the inevitable occurs?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steele vs Steele

A good conversation is developing tonight over at Riehl World View over criticism of Michael Steele's comments to a group of young black Americans.  Steele candidly told them that the GOP simply hadn't given black Americans a good reason to support the party's candidates in the past. 

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told a group of students that African-Americans “don’t have a reason” to vote for Republicans.

Steele was asked Tuesday night during a speech to roughly 200 students at DePaul University why African-Americans should vote for GOP candidates.

“You really don’t have a reason, to be honest,” Steele responded, as was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. “We haven’t done a very good job of giving you one.”


Dan thinks we need to have a more candid discussion about our willingness to do what it takes to attract more black voters, and he's right, I think.

1). The Democrats cannot win without a monolithic black vote. The GOP can, and has, but the Democrats can't.

2). The GOP needs to understand that if they're going to win the support of any voting bloc, they have to convince at least a significant portion of the bloc that their vote benefits them. It's basic salesmanship--you don't make the sale unless the customer is convinced that the benefit of the purchase (lower taxes, stronger families, secure borders, higher wages, is worth the cost(vote). Steele says the GOP hasn't done a good job of salesmanship, and I think he's right.

4). Poll after poll after poll shows that black voters are closely aligned with GOP positions on a lot of key issues. When the economic and demographic cross tabs are examined, the alignment is even stronger. Married, middle-class, church-going black Americans are just like most other married, middle-class, church-going Americans. There are a lot of people with center-right leanings that aren't being reached, and the GOP is responsible for doing the reaching. That means if the GOP finds a way to reach those voters, a big chunk of that monolith can be chipped away.

5). I know the MSM meme about the GOP being a bunch of white closet racists is false, and that their continued use of the mantra is patently unfair. That's just too bad--life's not fair. If you have to beat the guys in the striped shirts to win the game against other team, find a way to do it. Quit whining, and get it done.

That said, there are plenty of other reasons why Steele should be replaced after this cycle. The lavish and conspicuous spending is one thing. The committee's support for Scozzafava, Crist and other RINO's in contested primaries is another. There is no reason why the national committee should be spending precious resources in primaries. Period. He's a poor tactician, but I think his strategy for peeling off more black conservatives is a winner.

McCain, Kyl want troops on U.S.-Mexico border - Washington Times

Yesterday, The Washington Times ran a story on Senators McCain and Kyl expression of support for putting "troops" on the border to help quell the rising tide of violence:

McCain, Kyl want troops on U.S.-Mexico border - Washington Times

Some bloggers and tweeters immediately jumped on the idea--mistakenly thinking that armed, trained National Guard troops would be federalized and sent to the border to back up border patrol agents. Apparently, those people didn't read the whole Times story. Buried near the end was a recount of a similar episode in 2006, when the Bush Administration sent troops on the same mission. How'd that work out? Well:

In 2006, facing accusations from Congress that he had been lax on border security, President Bush deployed the National Guard to support the Border Patrol in the Southwest, with mixed results.
Some National Guard troops built infrastructure or handled clerical tasks to free up Border Patrol agents. In other instances, Border Patrol agents had to be assigned as bodyguards to protect Guard units, many of which were not allowed to carry loaded weapons. Border Patrol agents called the assignment "the nanny patrol."
"Mixed results" is putting it generously. It was a huge waste of resources and resulted in no real increase in border security. The reason? The same law that face plants the stupid "special army unit" hoax perpetrated earlier this month: The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

The men and women of the active duty armed services and federalized National Guard troops are forbidden from taking an active role in law enforcement activities. About the only way we're going to see federal troops patrolling the border is if the United States declares war on Mexico. That's not gonna happen, boys and girls.

Nor is there gonna be any scary "special army unit" deploying within the United States to help prevent "civil unrest" before the November elections. I swear, some people really do believe in Black Helicopters...

Extra Point: Would it be too much to ask for a little intellectual consistency?

Chart of the Week: US Debt vs. GDP, 1939-2009

Click the image for a larger view. Share, if you wish.

Would the U.S. Shoot Down an Israeli Jet?

From Wired.com's Danger Room:

In a town hall on the campus of the University of West Virginia, a young airman asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen to respond to a “rumor.” If Israel decided to attack Iran, the speculation went, those jet would need to fly through Iraqi airspace to reach their targets. That airspace is considered a “no-fly” zone by the American military. So might U.S. troops shoot down the Israeli jets, the airmen asked the chairman, if they breached that airspace?


Mullen tried to sidestep the question. “We have an exceptionally strong relationship with Israel. I’ve spent a lot of time with my counterpart in Israel. So we also have a very clear understanding of where we are. And beyond that, I just wouldn’t get into the speculation of what might happen and who might do what. I don’t think it serves a purpose, frankly,” he said. “I am hopeful that this will be resolved in a way where we never have to answer a question like that.”

The airmen followed-up: “Would an airmen like me ever be ordered to fire on an Israeli – aircraft or personnel?”


Mullen’s second answer was much the same as his first. “Again, I wouldn’t move out into the future very far from here. They’re an extraordinarily close ally, have been for a long time, and will be in the future,” the admiral said.

My sense is that by the time US commanders are given orders either way, the aircraft in question would have already completed their mission and returned safely to their own airspace.

From Article 9 of The Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq:

3. Surveillance and control over Iraqi airspace shall transfer to Iraqi authority
immediately upon entry into force of this Agreement.

4. Iraq may request from the United States Forces temporary support for the Iraqi
authorities in the mission of surveillance and control of Iraqi air space.
In reading the full agreement, it's apparent that if Iraq wants U.S. air defense forces to engage foreign aircraft flying through its airspace, the government of Iraq is expected to request assistance. I know of no formal agreement between the two countries that a violation of Iraq's airspace (a technical violation of sovereignty) would immediately place U.S. commanders in the position of having to give the order to repel or destroy the offending aircraft. This means coordination between the two countries at the highest levels of civilian authority.

I don't see any way that a decision to treat Israeli aircraft as hostile could be made by the time the mission is completed. So? Would the U.S. fire on Israeli jet? The question is moot.

Extra Point: The trip over Syria is probably just as quick and I frankly think the Israelis would get a bigger jolly out of flying over Syria (and defeating their air defenses) than a risky trip over Iraq.

Update: Allahpundit has a common sense take on the question, and believes Admiral Mullen's non-answer was the right one.  I agree--either answer would have ignited a firestorm.  But, mad right wing nuts that we are, isn't it fun to speculate just what conniptions Teh One might have?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

...And He Still Doesn't Understand

Confederate Yankee's Bob Owens provides a scathing review of Bill Clinton's garbage NYT Op-Ed piece. No matter what you think of Bill Clinton's political philosophies, the one thing that stands out about the man is that he is such an incredibly gifted liar (emphasis mine):

Clinton was always admired by liberals and reviled by conservatives for his ability to tell the American people a lie with the greatest sincerity. Perhaps that is still his greatest asset, as he tries to tell us just weeks after a far-left Democrat Party rammed through legislation that mandates we purchase a product of their choosing or face fines, that our public servants seek protect our freedoms, when it is obvious to us all that they abuse them.

Confederate Yankee: ...And He Still Doesn't Understand
This analysis is as cutting as it is correct. Today's statist liberal is Orwellian. Right is wrong. Up is down. A right is a burden and a burden is a privilege. We owe today's statism to the eight years long lie that was the Bill Clinton Administration. Or, as we used to say on AllPolitics.com, the Clintonista Regime.



Extra Point: Do not ever forget that this is a man who was impeached  and later disbarred for  failing to tell the truth under oath.

Do Democrats have a November Death Wish?

Democrat leaders either have to be batshit crazy, or they have a bona fide death wish for their rank and file. Politico reports that President Obama is trying to coax Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, gauging his support for another shot at immigration amnesty. But here's the stuff that makes me wonder about the sanity of Reid, Pelosi and Obama:

Obama’s outreach to Brown is part of a quickly hatched, coordinated effort with congressional leaders to thrust the volatile immigration debate back to the front burner. At a joint House and Senate leadership meeting late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to House leaders that he would put an immigration bill on the floor this year—and he secured a commitment from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the House will vote on immigration reform, according to a Democratic leadership source with knowledge of the meeting.

Barack Obama woos Scott Brown on immigration - Kasie Hunt - POLITICO.com
Even the rankest of the rank amateur political observer would agree that every bloody nickel of the Democrats' political capital was spent in the bruising political battle of Obamacare. If Democrats hope to get reelected in the November midterm elections, the smart money says "lay low, do the milquetoasty and uncontroversial business you usually do before campaigns begin in earnest, and hope the electorate has a short memory. "

Recall that in the lame duck term of George W. Bush's administration, a similar immigration amnesty effort (that one headed by Teddy Kennedy and John "Maverick" McCain) was met by a massive storm of public outrage. Public opinion--and the prudence of the politicians on both sides of the aisle who listened--killed that bill.

Does anyone think that the electorate is in any more receptive mood for that abomination now? Anyone, that is, except President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Even liberal-leaning election analysts are already pointing to November as a historic "wave" midterm. Another Glorious Revolution of 1994 was being thought and whispered about, but few outside of the right wing thought the GOP could take majorities in both houses of Congress this year.

If the Democrats try to ram through a massively unpopular "immigration reform" measure between now and Election Day, then win or lose that vote, they will be destroyed in November.


Extra Point: Would they try financial reform, immigration reform and cap and tax before election day? They're crazy, but... Really?

UPDATE:  Phillip A. Klein at American Spectator gives a few reasons why they might think it's smart politics.  He makes a few key points, and one that I neglected about the Bush era amnesty battle--that the issue divides Republicans more than it does Democrats.  In the House however, there really aren't many moderate, purplish Republicans left.  But there are several dozen purplish, conservative Democrats in swing districts.  My point is this--win or lose the battle, the Democrats are much more likely to do themselves serious harm than good with this issue in November. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Heh...



I'm White, I'm Christian, I'm Conservative, and I'm Angry

But to the chagrin of the perpetually angry left, I am not violent.  I don't squeeze the trigger unless I'm aiming downrange at a target, or my life or property is in imminent danger.  I don't stuff trucks full of fertilizer and fuel and park them in front of day care centers.  I know that Mr. Clinton finds this very hard to believe.

But you are not going to project your psychological problems on me.  Just because you react to socio-political changes you dislike with vitriol and violence does not mean that I do.  Just because it's part of your mental makeup to harbor and express hatred towards those you disagree with does not mean that I will.  

Bombs, guns and molotov cocktails are the weapons of choice by the left, not the right, in this country.

I am white, but that doesn't matter because as an American, I welcome my brothers of African, Hispanic and Asian descent.  I am Christian, but that doesn't matter because I welcome my sisters of the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faith.  I also welcome atheists and agnostics, so long as they believe in liberty.  I'm Conservative, but I welcome the moderates and independents who are tired of seeing the fruits of their labor confiscated by liberal tyrants who set their eyes on their next meal before they've even digested the last one.  We are brothers and sisters in arms, but our arms are linked and we're all marching to use the weapon you fear the most:

The ballot.



Extra Point: "Give me that damned gavel."




Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama and Goldman Sachs

What did Obama know, and when did he know it?

Opensecrets.org shows us the Top Contributors to President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign.  According to the campaign finance records compiled here, Goldman Sachs donated $994,795.00 to help Obama buy some real estate at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Today, news is breaking that the Wall Street giant is being sued by the SEC for fraud:

As part of the complaint, the SEC alleges that one of the world's largest hedge funds, Paulson & Co., paid Goldman $15 million to structure a product that would allow the fund to take a short position against mortgage-backed securities chosen by Paulson based on the fund's belief that the value of the securities would fall.

The SEC alleges that the shady goings on occurred in April 2007, which was about the time Mr. Obama was laying the groundwork for his 2008 presidential bid. Things that make you go hmmmm.

You may read the official complaint here (PDF).

Extra Point: Oh, Goldman Sachs donated to John McCain's campaign, too.  A whopping $230,095.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Judge sets health care reform lawsuit timeline | pnj.com | Pensacola News Journal

Judge sets health care reform lawsuit timeline - Pensacola News Journal

US Federal Judge Roger Vinson and the attorneys for both sides set the schedule for procedings in what could be a landmark federal court case. The states have until May 14 to file an amended complaint, which will include the six additional states that have joined as plaintiffs since the original suit was filed last March. First arguments are scheduled in September.

DOJ always represents federal agencies in cases brought against the government, and their first motion is certain to be an all-out argument supporting a motion to dismiss.

Extra Point: By the time Vinson hands down his ruling, a newly minted Republican Congress could be well on its way to repealing or dismantling Obamacare. This case is at least a year from reaching the Supreme Court, as discussed here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The "Special Army Unit" Story--BOGUS


UPDATED:  Please see the end of this post for additional confirmation.

Another conspiracy has gone viral on Twitter, this one regarding a "special army unit" to be deployed on American soil just before the November midterms.  The tweets link to a blog citing an unnamed source in the "military," and the blogger speculates on whether the unit would obey an order to open fire on US citizens.

The unit in question is the CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force (CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents). It is a combat support unit originally comprised of about 4,700 soldiers (not the 80,000 troops cited in the blog), and its capabilities include SAR, decontamination, medical/MEDEVAC, aviation, communications and logistics support.  At full strength in 2011, the unit could have as many as 20,000 troops, with three task forces:  Task Force Operations, Task Force Medical and Task Force Aviation.  While it's part of a combat unit and therefore receives some combat training, its mission is not warfighting--it's support. In a domestic deployment, its role would be to provide support for local and state first responders in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.  The only combat-level training it receives is in self defense and non-lethal crowd control, which includes beanbag bullets, spike strip deployment and roadblock construction.

It is important to remember that the use of active duty military units in domestic police enforcement was severely restricted by passage of the Posse Comitatus Act in 1878.  The law expressly prohibits active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and federalized National Guard troops from acting in a law enforcement role, unless that role is expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress.


News of the unit's stand-up on 1 October 2008 received considerable scrutiny from bloggers and media outlets, ranging from The Cato Institute to CNN.  The wiki link above includes a section on the "Sea Smurfs."

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next right wing nutcase, but this one is all about nothing.  For starters, this is a disaster response unit.  It's not a peace keeping force, and the Posse Comitatus restrictions are clear.  Second, even at full projected strength, the unit is one-fourth the size noted in the rumors.  Third, none of the three task forces have combat or traditional law enforcement roles.


Extra Point:  The unit has little (if any) lethal force capability, so even if a mob has to be subdued, it's going to be done so using beanbags and/or tear gas--the same tools police use to control angry mobs of anarchists and "peace activists" at leftwing demonstrations.

UPDATE (04/15/10):  Yesterday, I spoke with Lt. Commander Gary Ross, Public Affairs Officer for HQ Northcom, asking for clarification and correction of any known factual errors contained in the Examiner blog post.  LT CMDR Ross referred me to Don Manuszewski, Chief, Office of Public Affairs for US Army North, Ft. Sam Houston.

In a telephone interview with me this morning, Mr. Manuszewski confirmed the accuracy of my description of the unit's makeup organization and mission. Mr. Manuszewski stated that the Sea Smurf unit in question is not a combat unit, that it is not scheduled to deploy and that the original Army Times story that formed the genesis of this rumor was in error.    He then emailed me a link to a corrected Army Times story. The correction is found at the bottom of the page and (surprisingly) isn't mentioned by any of the blogs or media outlets propagating the rumor:

A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.
So, not only will the the troops that are deployed domestically not have lethal weaponry, they won't even have the non-lethal packages of bean bags, spike strips and roadblocks.

Mr. Manuszewski noted to me that the Sea Smurfs have been deployed domestically very recently--to Southeast Texas in response to 2008's Hurricane Ike, where they performed such threatening duties as logistics, operations management and medical support.While the Ike deployment date precedes the unit's formal stand-up date, they were deployed nonetheless.  Photos are herehere, and here.

"We have spent quite a bit of time trying to contact bloggers and media outlets to correct the inaccuracies," said Manuszewski.  "The Sea Smurfs are a well trained, well equipped hard working unit, as are all of our troops. We appreciate your help in correcting inaccuracies and stopping some of these rumors.  We know times are tough and people are worried, but they don't need to be scared of the Sea Smurfs."

I agree. Cased closed.

Welcome My Pet Jawa Readers!  Thanks to Rusty for the linkage.

Thanks also to Confederate Yankee's Bob Owens.

Public Policy Polling: Obama/Bush Nearly Divided




Just for LOLZ:

Public Policy Polling: Obama/Bush Nearly Divided

Remember the "Miss me yet?" billboard that popped up in Minnesota In February? Well, as it turns out, quite a few people do indeed miss George W. Bush:

Americans are now pretty evenly divided about whether they would rather have Barack Obama or George W. Bush in the White House. 48% prefer Obama while 46% say they would rather have the old President back.


Two Point Conversion: It's a shame PPP didn't include Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in the who's missed poll. That would have generated some interesting results. But more interesting is that Democrats recently floated a story that their 2010 mid-term election strategy was to run against the policies of... George W. Bush.

Whoops.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Israel warns citizens to evacuate Sinai

Via World Magazine and the Associated Press.

Citing "firm intelligence" reports, Israel is warning its citizens to leave the Sinai region.  There are approximately 1,200 Israelis believed to be in the region, and the intelligence reports suggest that they are likely going to be targets for kidnapping.

Developing...

I Have House Guests

On the Saturday night before Easter, my wife hung a pair of Easter Wreaths on our front door.  We had family from both our sides over on Easter Sunday, and on Monday we took all of the spawn down to the beachhouse for some spring break R&R.

I stepped out the front door yesterday morning, and was sternly scolded for my transgression by:




These are House Wrens.  Apparently, they're voracious little predators and eat all sorts of nasty, scum-of-the-earth little creatures like cockroaches, bloodsucking mosquitos, and liberal statists.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Civil War?


The term "civil war" has been used so many times in the mainstream media that people are beginning to think "civil war" every time they hear the word "Iraq." The truth is that, by any reasonably well accepted historical definition of the term civil war, no such conflict ever existed in Iraq. The truth is also that the prospects of the conflict ever descending into a civil war were minimal and are still diminishing by the day.

Let's get a few things out of the way, first. We let historians do history and we let the journalists do journalism. The main stream media doesn't do a very good job of analyzing history. Journalists naturally make lousy historians, despite the fact that the history of conflict is largely written from the accounts of journalists. The reason why journalists make lousy historians because they lack the academic background that historians use to put events in historical perspective. Furthermore, most historians subject their scholarly works to peers for review and criticism, a completely alien concept to journalists. Historians don't scoop one another. The journalist's job is to record events and tell the story as accurately as possible, before a competing journalist beats him to to it.

Historians interpret the stories of journalists. Historians though, make lousy journalists. Instead of focusing on reporting the facts of a story, a historian is more likely to get bogged down in the historical significance of it all. The historian tries to put things in proper historical perspective, potentially missing the opportunity to collect collaborative or contradictory factual information that might put his conclusions at doubt. He's fettered by a plodding, academic pace that seeks truth rather than disseminating the news.

Put it this way. A journalist can be forgiven for getting the story wrong if he didn't have all of the facts at the time he went to press. A historian can't get it wrong, because he's supposed to have or find all of the facts, analyze and interpret, share with colleagues, and reach consensus on what really happened.

Isn't specialization great?



Historians generally agree that armed conflicts range from general unrest and rioting to all out revolutionary and civil war. The conflicts are regarded as revolutions when the overthrow of the established government is a possible, even if unlikely outcome of the conflict. If we compare the conflict in Iraq with other modern-era conflicts that historians have recognized as civil war, it becomes clear that Iraq's conflict was not even close to being, or even becoming a civil war.

Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1991. The Lebanese Civil War was fought between Christian and Muslim militias, along with the involvement of Syria, Israel, The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Throughout much of the bloody conflict, each warring faction had control over significant portions of territory, with the Christians controlling the northwestern coastal regions, the Muslim/PLO factions controlling the southern coastal regions, and Syrian forces holding the eastern and northern regions. Territorial boundaries shifted regularly during the conflict through the 1970's and early 1980's, as did patterns of support from the various outside factions. The conflict was prolonged and bloody, with all sides suffering significant casualties during pitched battles. Each side had clearly defined systems of command and control of military forces. Each side had clearly identified political leaders, political infrastructure, and a measure of public support from part of the population. Most importantly, each side had the capacity (through internal or external means) to raise, train, equip and deploy military forces. The conflict ended in 1991, when the militias dissolved following several key engagements and political developments in 1990.

Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. The bloody Spanish Civil War devastated Spain and served as a testing ground for German military technology and tactics. The three-year conflict ended when the Nationalists overthrew the government and established a Nationalist Dictatorship under Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The atrocities of this conflict were among some of the worst in history (to be exceeded only by the Second World War). There was widescale use of terror tactics, including bombings, assassinations, and the targeting and execution of religious and civil leaders. As in the Lebanese conflict, both sides controlled major geographic regions of the country and enjoyed the popular support of some segment of the Spanish population. The patterns of external support also show significant ideological characteristics, with leftists backing the "Republicanos" and right wing support of the Nationalists. Germany and Italy supported the Nationalists; The Soviet Union and, to an extent Mexico, supported the Republicanos. Both sides fielded significant armies that were well equipped, well trained and commanded effectively. Both sides had clear political leaders and clear lines of command and control over the military forces. There were tens of thousands of casualties caused by pitched battles of historical and strategic significance.

Do you see any similarities whatsoever between the current conflict in Iraq and two of the most studied civil wars in modern world history?
Who were the political leaders of the insurgency?
What territories, or provinces, of Iraq were controlled by the insurgents?
What military capabilities did the insurgents have?
Were they capable of fielding a well equipped, well trained and effectively commanded army in battle?
What were the political objectives of the insurgents?
What level of popular support did the warring factions have?

Honest, historical interpretation of the 2004-2009 insurgency in Iraq clearly produces the conclusion that it was not a Civil War. It was protracted. It was bloody. And Iraq's future as a stable entity was in question until the 2007 infusion of combat troops known as "the surge." But at no time did the insurgents speak of their political goals, and there were no readily identifiable leaders of the insurgency. There were rag-tag militia commanders, but no single, unifying political force. At no time did the insurgents have control of any significant geographic territory. They were able to--temporarily--operate with impunity in certain regions of the country and sectors of Bagdad, but there were no geographic regions one could point to on a map and say, "this was the coalition's territory, and this was the insurgents' territory." The insurgents had virtually no organized military capability. They could not field an army, nor could they sustain operations in a prolonged, pitched battle. The insurgency had no clear lines of command and control. And, since Iraqis themselves were often the targets of insurgents' operations, there was little popular support within the areas the insurgents were operating in. Indeed, as soon as coaltion forces established a presence within a disputed region or zone, the people of the area quickly collaborated and provided intelligence on the insurgents locations, numbers and capabilities.

The conflict in Iraq is properly described as an insurrection or an insurgency. Had the insurgents gained enough political support and military capability, the conflict could have escalated into a civil war, but at no time was it one.

This however, has not stopped journalists from delcaring that Iraq was in the throes of civil war. The mantra was repeated during the political battles in the US leading up to and during the surge of troops that ended the conflict. Indeed, none of the journalists pounding the "civil war" drums are even willing to admit that the conflict is all but over, and that the good guys won.

Glenn Beck and Paul Ryan, 04/12/10

Audio Link:
The Right Scoop- Glenn Beck with Paul Ryan.


It's a 12+ minute segment, but it's worth the time to listen through. There's a little red meat at around the 2:00 mark, where host and guest both agree that progressivism "is a cancer." That set the lefty blogs into a bona fide conniption.

The impetus for the segment was a post at Hot Air, wherein that blog's resident mooshy moderate misinterprets Ryan's Oklahoma speech and calls him a "conservative progressive," or "progressive conservative," or some other equally oxymoronic half-breed between good and evil. Beck, after reading the post, went nuclear on Ryan. Ryan's people contacted Beck, Beck had him on the show, and a new alliance was formed.

Another painful mortgage crunch coming?

In 2007, Credit Suisse released an unusually frank and dismal report (PDF) on what the institution saw was a coming wave of adjustable rate mortgage resets.  Adjustable rate mortgages, or ARM's, "reset" when their terms call for a review of the mortgage terms and changes in the interest rates and payments are made, if necessary.  Factors influencing the magnitude of ARM term changes include the borrowers' credit histories, market interest rates and other effects. As we saw in 2008 and 2009, the report was as accurate as the ensuing meltdown was painful.

But as Credit Suisse continues to warn, it's not over, yet.  In the updated chart below, ARM resets are going to be a problem for several years to come.  While the percentage of sub-prime loans in the future waves of resets are smaller than those in the 2008-2009 crisis, there are large numbers of shaky mortgages left on the horizon, and the horizon is closing quickly. From 2010 through 2012, more than $1 trillion in ARM's will reset.  Pay particular attention to the proportion of unsecured and Option ARM's:


(Click the image for a larger view)

This does not mean that another trillion dollar meltdown is coming. At least not necessarily, based on the information available.  This is part of the uncertainty the financial markets face--there is no single clearinghouse for third-party data on the mortgage market like we have for stocks, bonds and Treasury securities.  Credit Suisse's estimate is a best guess calculation, based on its knowledge of the markets.  Their 2007 prescience is enough to convince me that, if they say a problem could be looming, there probably is.

What economists do know is this:

  1. The economy is not well situated to absorb the impacts of another financial crisis.  Unemployment remains high; business confidence levels remain low.
  2. Interest rates are likely headed higher over the next year or so, which means the ARM resets will be flying right into a period of higher interest rates, causing mortgage payments to increase and more homeowners to get squeezed.
  3. The Homeowners Affordable Refinance Program, designed to help borrowers refinance risky loans, has failed miserably.  It could have taken a lot of sting off of the coming round of resets.
  4. The Option and unsecuritized ARM's in the chart are major portions of the instruments that are resetting (these are the most likely to go into default, all other things being equal).
  5. There is not enough money for a TARP II.
The country is already trillions in debt.  Of the original $800 billion to $1 trillion in TARP I, there is only about $200 billion left, and President Obama wants to use some of it for job creation programs this year (something he can't do, but it won't stop him).  Obamacare's costs are just now becoming known, but will add billions more debt.

So, when will we know whether it's time to head for the hills?  Look for the first indications in late spring to early summer, 2010, but don't expect to wake up one morning to breaking news of an impending meltdown.  The process will take place over a nearly two year period, characterized by increasing personal debt levels, credit default rates and foreclosures.  If the economic activity improves dramatically between now and the end of the year, the next round of resets might only cause a minor second dip in the current recession (where a few quarters of growth are followed by a few quarters of anemic or negative growth).  But if the current economic conditions are still in place by January 2011, there could be blood in the streets.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Palin plays Obama

Sarah Palin played Barack Obama like a $10 flute.

On Monday, April 05, 2010, President Obama released his new Nuclear Posture Review, which Charles Krauthammer politely calls "morally bizarre and strategically loopy."

Knowing that she was going to speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on Friday, April 09, 2010, Ms. Palin had this to say on Wednesday, April 07, 2010, regarding the President's new policy and the new START treaty with Russia:

"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.' "

Teh One, right on cue, had this to say in response, on Thursday, April 08, 2010:

“I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”

And on Friday, April 09, 2010, Ms. Palin gave her remarks to a cheering crowd at the SRLC:

"And President Obama, with all that vast nuclear expertise he acquired as a community organizer, a part-time senator, and a candidate for president, has accomplished nothing to date with Iran or North Korea!"

Heh. Brilliantly Played.

via Gateway Pundit, it looks like Mr. Obama's policy is not quite the final word he thought he said it was, or something.  All bets that were on could be off again, kind of like how the time for talking about how the time for talking being over, is like, well...  over and stuff.

Palin: 1
Obama: 0

Will Obamacare reach the SCOTUS?

Legal scholars and court historians are divided on the question of whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will reach the US Supreme Court, and divisions are just as deep on the question of whether the court will strike the measure down as unconstitutional.

Regardless of where you fall on the question, don't expect quick resolution.
 
In this story at The Hill citing an interview on MSNBC, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says he believes the fruit won't be ripe for at least a year:

In an interview on MSNBC, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) said that he believes the challenge filed Tuesday will reach the nation's highest court as soon as a year from now.


"We filed it in the Northern District of Florida...We expect it will go onto the 11th Circuit and on to the Supreme Court," he said. "That takes a while, probably 12 to 18 months but I think it would go all the way."
 
Idaho's AG, Lawrence Wasden, is a little more optimistic, saying 11-13 months in comments he made to the Huffington Post. 

The Northern District of Florida is argued to be the quickest route to the high court. I won't dispute that because as a lawyer, I make a great blogger and political observer.  One of the things I've observed is that the Northern District of Florida is in the 11th Circuit, and the 11th Circuit is assigned to Clarence Thomas, one of the Court's most reliable conservatives.  Thomas will thus have great influence on whether the Court takes the matter up and when.

It's not a stretch to see the legal battle and election year politics play out over the same timeline.  The issue will certainly be at the forefront of November's mid-term elections.  Shortly after that fight's dust settles, the positioning of potential 2012 presidential candidates will begin, probably about the same time that appeals and decisions move the legal challenges forward (or stop them dead).

Opponents of the bill are in for at least a year of legal wrangling, with the outcome and its aftermath probably not known until frontrunners are emerging for the parties' nomination for President.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stevens Retirement = Conservative Opportunity

Not an opportunity to gain ground--no one expects John Paul Stevens' replacement to fundamentally alter the ideological makeup of the court.  However, the confirmation fight could get heated and ugly if Teh One decides to go all out and nominate a hard-left radical.

Senate conservatives could use this to make the hay fly, adding the nomination of a radical to a long and growing list of hard left, out-of-touch transgressions.  Overly liberal, far-reaching federal courts are favored targets of conservatives and the argument has traction with independents who don't much care for radical swings in either direction.

Unless Obama nominates a Center Wing Nut Job and bona fide moderate, Conservatives should try to paint the prospective nominee as another Goodwin Liu, or perhaps Obama's version of Robert Bork.  Let the fight drag through the summer, let it get as ugly as it needs to be, and let's see how it all shakes out in November.

Healthcare Hemorrhage Update

Figures are in millions and are up to date through Friday, April 9, 2010.


Company Charge
Kroger $2
Allegheny Technologies $5
Carpenter Technology $6
Goodrich $10
Honeywell $13
Xcel Energy $17
Valero  $20
Illinois Tool $22
Eaton $25
AK Steel $31
Ingersoll Rand $41
Exelon $65
Alcoa $80
Brush Materials $85
PPG $85
3M $90
Lockheed Martin $95
Caterpillar $100
Prudential $100
Boeing $150
Deere $150
Wheeling Steel $170
Verizon $970
AT&T $1,000
   
To Date: $3,332

That's now 24 companies announcing $3.332 billion in charge-offs related to ObamaCare's new tax provisions.  With a US median family income around $50,000 this represents the equivalent of approximately 67,000.  Steelcase and DTE Energy were also expected to announce the impact of ObamaCare on their earnings, but had not announced as of 04/09/10.

Stay tuned for future updates, and if you know of a publicly traded company announcing earnings charges related to the new policy, please tweet me at @GulfCoastTider.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

American Communist Survey

Stop me if you've heard this one, before.

Ok, you can't stop me.  But please read the whole post.  I'm still pissed.

So, about six weeks ago, I get this 679,812 page survey, innocuously called the "American Community Survey," from the US Census Bureau. I opened it up and started looking at it, and I could not believe the invasiveness of this thing. Not only do they want to know how many people live here, they want to know their ages, races, marital status, physical problems (like the ability to walk or climb stairs and leave the house alone) and all kinds of other probing, personal data that I don't think the government needs or has a right to know. My privacy is important to me.

To make matters even more insulting, this stern warning is included:

YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW

And the FAQ that came with it threatens a fine if I don't comply.

No way am I divulging this kind of information to the government, and if they want to fine me, they're gonna have to come and get me, something I don't think is very likely from the Census Bureau. I shred the thing and then throw it in the recycling bag (along with all the other junk mail).

A week or so after this attempted invasion of my privacy, I start getting calls from the Census Bureau, which I generously allow to go straight into voicemail. These calls become more frequent, and they start coming at all times of the day, from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm and all points in between. It's obvious that they're going to be persistent and bug the living hell out of me.

Finally, in a gallant attempt to stop this government harrassment, I answer one of the calls and the following parphrased conversation takes place:

ACORN Worker: "Is this [my name] who lives at [my address] in Mobile, Alabama?"

Resolute GulfCoastTider: "Yes, it is."

AW: "You were recently mailed the American Community Survey and we have not received your responses yet."

GCT: "I've decided not to participate."

AW: "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW under Section blah-blah-blah of Title whatever of the US Code."

GCT: "I'm sorry, but I don't have time to fill that out, and the questions are an invasion of my privacy. So I've decided not to participate."

AW: "Are you aware that there are penalties and fines associated with your refusal to provide your answers?"

GCT: "Fine me."

AW: "What did you say?"

GCT: "I said, 'fine me.' I'm not participating in this and I've already thrown it in the garbage."

AW: "Thank you for your time sir." click.

I'm thinking "problem solved." But not so fast, my friend. The very next day, I get a call from a 205 area code number [that's Birmingham, for those of you not blessed enough to live in Alabama], but with "no name" in the Caller ID. I answer and the following paraphrased conversation takes place:

Surly ACORN Supervisor: "Mr. GCT?"

GCT: "Yes."

SAS: "Yesterday, you told a member of my staff that you were refusing to participate in the American Community Survey. This call is to remind you that YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW under Section blah-blah-blah of Title whatever of the US Code and you will be subject to a fine if you don't participate."

I distinctly hear giggling in the background, as if someone is standing in SAS' cubicle and listening to SAS give that uppity citizen the what-for.

GCT: "I'm not paying any fines, and I shredded the form and threw it in the trash. If you send another one, I'm having it returned to sender."

SAS: "Mr. GCT, you need to stop being uncooperative and provide your answers, for your own good."

GCT: [clenches teeth like Clint Eastwood] "Now, you listen here. You will get the answers to your little survey when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers. I am not participating and I am not paying you one red cent."

I know that's an adaptation of a Heston quote in a speech before an NRA convention, but Eastwood's clenched teeth growl sounds more convincing. It works, too. After a moment of stunned silence, there's a mumbling voice in the background and then SAS goes Aunt Esther on me, raising her voice:

SAS: "Mr. GCT, you are going to violate federal law!!! If you do not comply then I will have no choice but to send someone to your home to collect this survey!!!" There's a "BAM" noise in the background, like a desk-slap.

She goes on for a few more seconds about Section blah-blah-blah of Title whatever of the US Code before I interrupt.

GCT: [still Eastwood clenching] "If I get one more call from you or anyone else from the Census Bureau, I am reporting you for harrassing communications under Section blah-blah-blah of Title whatever of the US Code. And if anyone shows up at my house, I am having them arrested for trespassing and harassment. You will leave me alone, and you will leave my family alone. Have a nice day."

click.

A few days later, there's a knock at my door.  You guessed it--a Census rep.  This was a largish, middle-aged nice looking lady, who I politely informed that I was not participating and that I had better not see or hear from the Census Bureau, ever again, or I was filing charges of harassment.  I didn't have the heart to call the law on this nice lady--she looked surprised and more than a little embarrassed, as if no one had told her about my resolve.

The next guy that showed up, though--he got it.  He showed up at nearly 8:00 pm, on a Saturday night, with an official looking ID badge and a very stern look on his face.  He started to introduce himself and as he spoke, I pulled out my cell and dialed 911.

911 Operator: "911, what is your emergency?"

GCT: I want to report trespassing and harassment, and the perpetrator is on site now.

911 Operator: What is your address?"

[I give my address]

Stern Male ACORN Dude: "What are you doing, sir?"

GCT: Reporting you for trespassing and harassing communications.  You stay right where you are, the police are on their way.

Mr. Stern Male ACORN Dude turns around and quickly walks down to his car.  He gets in, closes the door, starts the engine, puts the car in gear and pulls forward, just in time for Johnny Law to round the corner and put his lights on.

To make a really long post a little shorter, Mr. Stern Male ACORN Dude did not get himself formally detained that night.  But he did get to spend a few minutes in the backseat of a police cruiser.  As he was being released, the officer told him that he'd better not see him bothering "these nice people any more, or you're going to my jail."

I haven't seen hide nor hair of ACORN since, but something tells me that the story is not over, yet.

For the record, I dutifully completed the regular survey form that only asks for names, ages and ethnic origins and sent it back on April 1, 2010.  I have no problem with the government asking questions on a voluntary survey.  However, as a private citizen, it is my right to refuse to divulge information I consider private. It is your right as well.  The American Community Survey is an obnoxious invasion of privacy.  It was designed to replaced the Census Bureau's Long Form, which asks questions in more detail but goes nowhere near the invasiveness of this thing.  

“If you like your health plan, you can keep it." Wait what?

As is documented in the Healthcare Hemorrhage post below, scores of publicly traded companies are being forced to write off billions of dollars against future earnings, eroding shareholder value and costing the equivalent of tens of thousands of jobs. 

But there is perhaps a more onerous result of the impact of Obamacare:  These charges are because companies are losing a tax break for funding retiree's prescription drug coverage.  When Congress passed prescription drug coverage for seniors in 2003, companies that chose to pay for coverage for their retirees were given a tax break.  The favorable tax coverage was an incentive for the companies to keep millions of older Americans out of the less efficient, more costly (to the taxpayer) Medicare coverage.  Obamacare wiped out the tax break.

The Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and SEC regulations forced the companies listed below to announce the effects of the change as soon as the information was known to management.  But what neither these companies nor the Democrats in Congress are likely to tell you is that without this incentive, companies no longer have a reason to fund their retiree's drug coverage.  As a result, millions of retired seniors are going to see their drug coverage plans changed drastically, or ended altogether.  One of three things is going to happen:

1.  The company eats the change in the tax code and continues to fund the plan for existing retirees, but accepts no new enrollments.  In this economic environment?

2.  The company continues to fund the plan for existing and future enrollees, but passes the cost of the tax change on to them in the form of higher deductibles and co-payments.

3.  The company ends the plan altogether and pushes current and future retirees into the Medicare Part D program.

Some combination of the latter two is the most likely, with potentially millions of seniors facing significant cost increases.  They'll either pay for the cost of the tax code change (on the order of about 25 to 30%), or they'll pay the cost of the so-called "donut hole," which is an out-of-pocket cost of prescription drugs under Medicare.

While ObamaCare puports to close the "donut hole," the first year benefit is only $250 and the closure won't be complete until 2014, at the very earliest.

This only serves to highlight and illustrate the lie told by President Obama--repeatedly--throughout the summer and fall of 2009.  He said, over and over again:  "If you like your health plan, you can keep it."  Unless you retired from a company like AT&T, Caterpillar or Prudential, and you enrolled in their retiree prescription drug plans after January, 2004.  

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