Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hurricane Earl: Enhanced Infrared Imagery

Pretty impressive storm, now moving northwest.  The image below is found here.


Watches are now up for the North Carolina coast, as the storm is expected to gain forward speed over the next 48.

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NOLA—and Obama—should be thankful for George W. Bush

Heritage’s Rob Bluey has a great opinion piece in the Daily Caller today, rightly placing credit for New Orleans’ degree of protection from future storms. 

Bluey gets it right and sadly, he seems to be the only conservative who does so.

Katrina was a once-in-a-lifetime combination of meteorology, geography and hydraulics.  It’s not likely to happen again for a very, very long time.  But if it does, New Orleans stands a much better chance of surviving.

Credit for that goes to George W. Bush, and Bluey lays it out:


The city’s fortunes might be different had Bush not taken a deeply personal interest. His televised speech from Jackson Square two weeks after Katrina marked a turning point. Bush created the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding to coordinate the region’s recovery — an office Obama abolished earlier this year. And in 2008, Bush struck a landmark deal with Louisiana to pay back within 30 years its $1.8 billion portion of the hurricane prevention project.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” the Times-Picayune wrote after Bush granted the executive order.

Today there is growing confidence among residents about the new system being built to shield the city from a hurricane. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 74 percent of respondents were upbeat and 70 percent said the recovery was heading in the right direction. Louisianans also give Bush higher marks for his response to Katrina than Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill — by a margin of 54 percent to 33 percent, according to Public Policy Polling.

It helped that New Orleans remained dry after Hurricane Gustav hit in 2008. Now, two years after that storm, the system is even more robust. When construction and reinforcement of levees, flood walls and pump stations are done next June, the city will be protected from a hurricane twice the strength of Katrina, which had storm surge of up to 28 feet and waves up to 55 feet — the highest ever recorded in North America.

Karen Durham-Aguilera, the civilian director of the Corps’ Task Force Hope, credits the Bush administration for securing full funding for the project. That eliminated costly turf wars and bureaucratic holdups.

“We’re not even on the same universe as we were before Katrina,” Durham-Aguilera said of the threat posed by a hurricane. “There’s just no comparison. That’s why even during Gustav, when it was only partially complete, it held up. If we get hit this year — and we very well could — we’re better off than a year ago.”


Bluey is something of an outlier among conservatives in that he’s identified a successful federal endeavor—rebuilding the levee system—and giving proper credit for why it’s been successful.  There are two reasons why New Orleans is better protected now than at any time in its history: (1) The administration forced the US Army Corps of Engineers to use good science and (2) the administration forced the agency to develop a schedule for completion and stick to it.  The result: good government.  The Obama administration is just going along for the ride, and taking credit for the success when none is deserved.

On the other hand, conservative bloggers, pundits and talkers are following this line of thought.  These kinds of comments are neither wise nor helpful, because they demonstrate either naiveté or willful ignorance about New Orleans, the Hurricane Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS), or the root causes of the levee failures five years ago.  There are no ideological or political points to be scored by dismissing the “bellowing for federal dollars” and comparing the “people down there” to helpless infants. The federal government put the area at risk by constructing poorly designed levee systems.  Ergo, the federal government should be responsible for making it right.  And don’t even start the argument about whether people should live there or not.  New Orleans was placed where it was for strategic purposes, and it remains where it is out of national economic necessity.  The port of New Orleans isn’t closing, the oil and gas industry isn’t going anywhere and all of the people who make those industries work need a place to live. 

What the Bush  administration did—and did quite well—was make sure that the Corps got it right this time.  So far, so good.  The projects are on schedule.  The projects are within budget.  The projects use good science and engineering.  That’s good government, and conservatives should take notice when government gets it right. 

It doesn’t happen very often.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.

The “art” of distancing oneself from Pelosi

Alternative headline for today’s Politico piece:  “Bobby Bright, you’re doing it wrong!”

rep-nancy-pelosi_0 Politico is warning Democrats that, while it’s Ok to run as if you never voted for her as Speaker of the House, how you go about putting distance between yourself and the polarizing Madam Speaker is important.  In other words, you can ask voters to ignore the fact that you voted in near lock-step with Pelosi and your Democrat colleagues to take over one-sixth of the American economy, wreck the US energy sector and voted for the largest pork barrel spending legislation in the history of the planet.  Go ahead and claim that you’re an “independent voice for your District,” but don’t bash the speaker while you’re at it:


Pelosi aides and allies said they understand that embattled members sometimes need to distance themselves from the speaker and note that she doesn’t take it personally, although they caution that how it is done is just as important as why it’s done.

“Don’t do something that can be used against another Democrat,” said a Democratic official close to Pelosi. “Talking against Washington insiders is not the same as the ‘Pelosi energy tax’ or ‘Obamacare.’ You have to be smart here.”

One not-so-smart way to do it: the clumsy way Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.) handled a question last week when asked about whether he planned to vote for Pelosi as speaker. Bright went so far as to joke that she “might even get sick and die” and not be able to seek her post again. Bright, who occupies a heavily Republican, Montgomery-area seat, has kept mum following his controversial and widely circulated remarks.

The art of distancing oneself from Pelosi takes many different forms. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Jason Altmire, facing a challenge from attorney Keith Rothfus in a GOP-oriented, Pittsburgh-area seat, has begun running a TV ad showing supporters praising the second-term Democrat for “stand[ing] up” to Pelosi and spotlighting his opposition to the health care bill.

In Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly — who’s trying to ward off GOP state Rep. Jackie Walorski — has begun airing a 30-second spot slamming “Nancy Pelosi’s energy tax.”

Two North Carolina Democrats are getting into the act as well. Rep. Mike McIntyre, facing his toughest general election challenge in over a decade, is up with a new TV ad saying he doesn’t “work for Nancy Pelosi.”

His home state colleague Rep. Heath Shuler went even further last week, suggesting to an audience last week that he might run for speaker himself after receiving a question about whether he supports “Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House” — a query that drew knowing laughter from the crowd.


Frankly, it’s not going to do any good.  Rats leaving a sinking ship still drown in the tide.  Yesterday, Gallup released its weekly poll on the generic Congressional ballot.  Republicans hold a historic 10-point lead. In fact, Gallup has never seen such a margin for Republicans since it started asking the generic ballot question.  Rasmussen shows somewhat similar numbers, averaging around an 8-point advantage since June, reaching as high as 12 points and never falling below 6 points. 

A lot can happen between Labor Day and Election Day, but if numbers like this hold up through the next two months, it won’t matter how much Democrats flee Pelosi.  Both their fates—and her fate as Speaker of the House—are baked in the cake.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two men arrested on flight from Chicago to Amsterdam, one fingered in Birmingham

abc_terror_suspects_100830_mn Two men were arrested from a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam, and apparently, they were up to no good.

They had stuff that you and I would look at and say, “that’s either a bomb, or it’s stuff that’s gonna be a bomb if we don’t stop’em.”

But TSA in Birmingham… didn’t stop’em:

 


U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed "mock bombs" in their luggage. "This was almost certainly a dry run, a test," said one senior law enforcement official.

A spokesman for the Dutch public prosecutor, Ernst Koelman, confirmed the two men were arrested this morning and said "the investigation is ongoing." He said the arrests were made "at the request of American authorities."

Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his "bulky clothing." In addition, officials said, al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives. Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O'Hare.


It boggles the mind why someone carrying such suspicious luggage was cleared for anything except a trip to the Jefferson County lockup.

Officials believe this was a “dry run,” designed to test TSA security to see if they could board a US airliner with highly suspicious materials.  Sadly, the Birmingham airport security personnel kicked the can up the road to Chicago.  And Chicago then kicked the can up the road to…  Amsterdam?

This is why if I can get to my destination with a one-day drive, I’m on the road.  Houston.  Atlanta.  Jacksonville.  Even Charlotte or Savannah.

Hurricane Earl is now a monster Cat IV, RADAR loop shows entire eye wall

The bad news:  Hurricane Earl has been upgraded—again—to a Category IV storm.

The good news:  Earl has apparently started to make the long awaited turn towards the northwest, beginning the days-long recurvature process that will hopefully take the storm away from any major North American landmass.

The entire eye-wall of the storm is now clearly visible on the long range NEXRAD RADAR loop from San Juan, Puerto Rico.  On a historical note, my very first Hurricane deployment was for Hurricane Hugo, which devastated San Juan in 1989.

Here’s the latest project path of Earl’s hurricane force (+75 mph) winds.

Oh, and there’s some more bad news:  Fiona has formed in Earl’s wake, and both the CLPS and BAMD forecast models have that system entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Should either Earl or Fiona stray too far to the west in the next 24-48 hours (36-60 hours for Fiona), the area from the Outer Banks of North Carolina up to Atlantic, Nova Scotia could see Hurricane force winds by this time next week.

Earl striking the coast of the US is a longshot.  Fiona, not so much. 

As always, you can track any of these storms using the Tropical Update page, located here, which will let you see the same model forecast paths used by the National Hurricane Center.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.

Hurricane Earl upgraded, watches and warnings may be issued for East Coast

As of the 11:00 am advisory, Hurricane Earl has been upgraded to a Category III storm, with wind intensity estimated at 105 knots.  Forecast models continue to suggest the storm will recurve, beginning its turn in the next day or so.  But Earl has been stubbornly tracking to the west or west-northwest.  The cone of uncertainty takes the storm dangerously close to the upper east coast.

Watches and warnings are likely within the next day or so.

You can see the forecast model guidance in the StormPulse page on this blog, found here.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.

Did Obama really call for eliminating capital gains taxes?

Why, yes.  Yes, he did.  During his interview with Brian Williams of NBC News yesterday evening:


BRIAN WILLIAMS: Let's talk about another topic that's part of the firmament here and everywhere. And that's the economy. The New York Times said this weekend, "President Obama has another new plan on the economy. Now would be a good time to find out about it." Do you have anything new on the economy? And while you've been away, we had a horrible GDP number last month.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, we — we anticipated that the recovery was slowing. The economy is still growing, but it's not growing as fast as it needs to. I've got things right now in — before Congress that we should move immediately. And I've said so before I went on vacation, and I'll keep on saying when I — now that I'm back. We should be passing legislation that helps small businesses get credit, that eliminates capital gains taxes so that they have more incentive to invest right now.


I am no supporter of President Obama. Not politically, not ideologically, not philosophically.  But this is an idea I can get behind.  I only wonder how Democrats in Congress feel about the prospect of returning after the Labor Day recess and being asked to pass legislation that eliminates capital gains taxes.

One can only imagine the reaction from the “professional left.”  John Boehner should immediately submit the matter as privileged resolution.

Harry Reid’s head will explode.  Nancy Pelosi’s head will rotate 360 degrees.  Counter-clockwise.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: A First Responder’s View

katrina-08-29-2005-1315z2 Five years ago today, the mother of all Hurricanes made landfall, first near Buras, Louisiana in South Plaquemines Parish, and later near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  My home in Mobile, Alabama suffered minor roof damage and two downed oak trees.  To the south however, Bayou La Batre was swamped with a 10+ foot storm surge, devastating the small fishing village overlooking Mississippi Sound.

My background in engineering and construction makes me one of the first people to enter a storm-ravaged area.  We do damage assessments for the purposes of federal disaster declarations, insurance companies and state, local and federal government agencies.  We’re some of the first boots on the ground and we have near unrestricted access.

Right after the storm, I led an American Society of Civil Engineers’ damage assessment team in a survey of the three-county coastal area of South Mississippi.  A separate group of teams did similar damage assessments in Louisiana, but none of our people were allowed in New Orleans until many weeks after the storm.

The damage in Bayou La Batre was very bad, but nothing prepared me for the devastation I witnessed on the coast, just days after the storm passed. From Pascagoula west to Bay St. Louis, it was like a nuclear bomb had gone off.  I stood in an area that was once filled with single-family houses that had nothing standing.

The image below shows an example of what we saw.

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Entire neighborhoods were wiped from the face of the earth.  Where houses had stood in block after city block, the only things remaining were concrete foundations, the occasional concrete steps to non-existent front doors, and centuries old Live Oak trees.  The trees were still standing, but salt water inundation killed almost all of them. 

In the high-resolution satellite image below, the brownish, orangish areas are what’s called the “wrack line.” It’s the debris caused by the storm surge, and it extended as much as three-quarters of a mile inland from the coast line.  In some locations, the wrack line was 350 yards wide and piled 40 feet high.  It stretched for miles upon miles of the coast.  Everything on the seaward side of the wrack line was destroyed.  As the wrack pilled up, it became something of a breakwater, protecting everything behind it from the raging floodwaters and towering waves.

This image is scaled and rotated for faster loading and proper orientation.  You can see the ultra-high resolution version of this shot here.

Katrina-Wrack-2005

At the the port facilities in Gulfport, several hundred refrigerated containers were left in sturdy warehousing facilities to ride out the storm.  Port authorities secured them to the best of their abilities, but no one knew just how much energy all that water threw at the coast. The storm surge tossed these containers around like matchboxes, breaking them open and strewing their contents all over the place.  The stench of rotting chicken, rotting vegetables and fruit was gagging.  It was thick, wet and heavy, and no breeze from the water would blow it away from you. Since the flood water had penetrated every nook and cranny of the debris, so did the food items that floated in it.  Whole, previously frozen chicken carcasses were wedged between broken roof rafters.  Packages of bacon, sausage and processed meats were stuck between tree branches, beneath steps, into storm drains.  Breathing became nearly unbearable.  Several of our team members were overcome with nausea.  The heat, the humidity, the smell, the trauma was too much to bear.  We had to go.

DSC_0610

Since we were one of the first damage assessment teams on the ground, part of our task was to get an early estimate of the storm surge elevation.  That is, we were tasked with determining the height of the surge at “ground zero.”  In the image below, a colleague of mine observes a benchmark elevation on a bridge near Bay St. Louis.  The elevation at the location is 19.1 feet above sea level.  Immediately behind the bridge wall are pine trees with the tell-tale rub-line clearly visible.  The rub-line is caused when floating debris impacts the trees and removes bark.  At this location, the center of the rub-line is approximately 6.0 feet above the benchmark, meaning that at this location, the storm surge was estimated to be a whopping 25 feet above sea level.  Additional measurements taken further east were on the order of 30 to 32 feet. It’s the highest measured storm surge in modern US History.

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In the image below, you can see what happened to the bridge.  When this bridge was built, the construction methods of the time called for gravity mounting of the decking sections.  The sections were believed to be so heavy that simply placing them atop the bridge bents and using light steel bolts would suffice.  You can see the results of that.  The waves lifted the bridge sections off of their bents and either dropped them where they were, or moved them several yards away.

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Some of the most tragic damage caused by Katrina’s storm surge was done to the area’s historic structures.  Buildings that were constructed in the antebellum period between 1820 and 1860 had stood through storms in 1906, 1916 and Camille in 1969.  They were no match for Katrina, and some of the most architecturally unique buildings on the Gulf Coast were obliterated.  St. Stanislaus College, founded in 1854 had only the church and a recently built student center escape catastrophic damage.  Waterfront cottages in Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Ocean Springs were wiped clean.

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A favorite meme of the national news media had anchors and correspondents screaming at the camera: “WHERE ARE THE SUPPLIES?  WHERE IS FEMA?!?”

Here’s a major reason why supply lines were disrupted.  FEMA had staged hundreds of rail cars with food, water, medical supplies and other materials in areas believed to be lightly damaged by the storm.  What they didn’t anticipate was the near complete destruction of the rail lines themselves.  The railroad is more than one mile inland, and the top of the rail is supposed to be above the elevation of the 100-year flood event.  But Katrina was no 100-year event.

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In Southern Mississippi, state and local coroners estimated that 175 people lost their lives during Katrina.  The National Guard was still doing door-to-door searches as we were working our way west.  From time to time, our paths crossed. In fact, we ran into the same Virginia National Guard unit three different times.  They declined to be photographed.  But in this image, which still sticks with me today, you can see the spray-painted marking designating that the house had been searched.  USANG search teams crawled over the wrack line to reach this house, where they found two.  In the one behind it, two more.

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I pray all the time for the repose of the souls who lost their lives during the storm five years ago.  I can only imagine the horror of their last few hours, and the horrors of those who managed to survive.  At mass today, I prayed for them again, and prayed that a Katrina never comes here, or anywhere else, ever again.

I hope you will pray for the same.

REMEMBERING HURRICANE KATRINA:


  • Katrina lessons linger on Gulf Coast, 5 years after devastating hurricane came ashore
  • As national spotlight shines on Lower 9th Ward, 5 years after Katrina its residents feel forgotten
  • Louisianians Give Bush Higher Marks Than Obama for Crisis Response
  • After 5 years, Gulf coast residents risie from Katrina's wrath
  • Will South Mississippi be recovered in five more years?
  • Thanks to Doug Ross @ Journal for the linkage.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Restoring Honor Rally – Here’s your fringe extremists


    h/t Tabitha Hale

    There are more photos of today’s historic event at RightScoop.

    Around the Blogosphere: Political blogs’ coverage of the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor Rally

    “…But I am struck by the left-wing outrage over all of this.

    “The same people who have been saying for weeks it is a sign of tolerance to build a mosque at Ground Zero are screaming how intolerant it is for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to go to the Lincoln Memorial and give a speech today.” Erick Erickson, Red State, Glenn Beck Day.

    “Will this truly be apolitical, as Glenn Beck insists, or will it turn into a political demonstration? Or, rather, will Beck’s political opponents turn it into a political rally themselves? All those questions are being answered right now. And don’t forget to donate to the Special Operations Warriors Fund, the charity that Beck and the rally support today.” Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, Open Thread: Restoring Honor Rally

    “The Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend Walter Fauntroy, and the Reverend Timothy McDonald have been recently quoted in an uproar over Beck's 828 rally this weekend. They are suggesting that Beck is "hijacking" Dr. King's dream. Says Reverend McDonald, "To use this weekend when we remember that great march on Washington in 1963 as a pretense to give credence to their cause and their agenda is insulting. We were there." Had the hijacking of the dream been a sincere concern for the reverends, they would have had a standing reservation to obtain a permit in order to honor the legacy of Dr. King and the "I Have a Dream" speech that made history on August 28, 1963. But they did not.” – Lisa Fritsch, American Thinker, Who Owns 8/28?

     

    Weasel Zippers – Honor And American Pride Come To DC

    “The patriotic crowd that had already gathered at the Lincoln Memorial today in our nation’s capitol this morning stood and sang “God Bless America” at 6:30 AM during a sound check.

    “No wonder the left hates these guys.”

    Jim Hoft, Gateway Pundit,  RESTORING HONOR RALLY – Americans Honor Our Great Nation

    Around the web: National media coverage of Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally

    Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally is being held today.  Here is a smattering of the coverage from major media outlets.   Typically, the coverage dismisses the message and focuses on the controversy that they drummed up.


    Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck struck a spiritual tone in opening remarks at his "Restoring Honor" rally today. "America today begins to turn back to God," he told the crowd. – CNN 

    Glenn Beck promised his Restoring Honor rally at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday would fundamentally transform the U.S., sounding a deeply religious note in advance of the controversial event. – MSNBC

    Where Dr. King Stood, Tea Party Claims His Mantle: It seems the ultimate thumb in the eye: that Glenn Beck would summon the Tea Party faithful to a rally on the anniversary of the March on Washington, and address them from the very place where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech 47 years ago. After all, the Tea Party and its critics have been facing off for months over accusations of racism. – New York Times

    The conflict between the two rallies has drawn attention all week as civil rights groups, such as the National Urban League, have complained about the Fox News and radio-talk show host holding a rally at the site when King delivered his speech. – USAToday


    You can support the Special Operations Warriors Foundation—the charity this rally benefits—by sending the text message SOWF to 85944

    Please do so, and gimme some feedback in the comments.  If you attended the rally, please give me a link to your photo galleries, and I’ll post your favorites here.

    Featured in the News: Bloggers react to yesterday’s GDP release

    Ed Driscoll - ‘Lost Decade?  Here We Come!’

    Ace of Spades HQ - Re-Posted For Emphasis: 2nd Quarter GDP Revised Down To Life-Support Reading of 1.6% Annualized

    Hot Air - WH: Hey, maybe Obama should be talking about the economy

    Beltway Confidential - Summer of Wreckovery: GDP revised downward to 1.4 from 2.4 percent

    Michelle Malkin - Obama jobs death toll: Layoffs, layoffs, layoffs

    Protein Wisdom - Recovery Bummer

    Gateway Pundit - Revised 1.6% 2nd Quarter GDP Renews Talk of Double-Dip Recession

    Jammie Wearing Fool - Bummer of Recovery: GDP Revised Down to 1.6%

    Calculated Risk - Q2 real GDP revised down to 1.6% annualized growth rate

    FOX Nation - GDP at 1.6%, Pres. Obama Goes on Bike Ride

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Michael Berry: Obama’s Actions Say, “I don’t feel your pain, but I’m having plenty of my own”

    Obama’s Actions Say, “I don’t feel your pain, but I’m having plenty of my own”

    by Michael Berry


    Bill Clinton famously felt your pain. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. In politics, that’s enough. Empathizing with people who are struggling financially was perhaps Bubba’s greatest gift. Barack Obama has no such empathy. His wife reprised Eva Peron’s tour of Spain, this time more as a queen than a political wife, feasting and frolicking like royalty. She took a break from lecturing us on fatty foods to eat quite a few herself.

    Now Obama’s ongoing vacation continues, this time to tony Martha’s Vineyard. He hopes to hide from media coverage, after courting it for years. He appears haggard, drawn, and gunshy. The ongoing, unavoidable release of data on the economy, unemployment, the deficit, and debt calls for an answer from the administration. They have no stand-in, certainly not the veep, and rumors are swirling that press secretary Robert Gibbs wants out.

    The president’s policy positions have caused his approval ratings to plummet, so much so that he almost claims that validates his agenda. Apparently, doing the “right thing” causes Americans to disapprove of him. Which is odd logic, considering that a mere two years ago who appealed to the wisdom and nobler ideals of the American public. His lurch to the left after his election has caused many of the voters to disapprove. His personal behavior, and lavish lifestyle, are out of touch with middle America.

    Then there is the question of party leaders. Nancy Pelosi wants the opposition to the Ground Zero mosque investigated. Harry Reid is in danger of losing his own seat. Maxine Waters is under investigation, and Charlie Rangel is embarrassingly defiant. Barney Frank is . . . well, Barney Frank. All the while, Hillary is suspiciously quiet, seemingly riding out this storm and keeping her distance from this White House. Bill Clinton appears keen to show distinctions with this administration on their vision and their version of current events, most notably the Sestak scandal.

    The Democrat brand has fallen faster than British Petroleum’s stock after the Gulf spill. Obama was the savior, and spokesman, of the party; indeed, he was the rock star. Now, many insiders feel he seems ready to step down and move on.

    Tony Hayward was no longer enjoying his reign as chairman of BP after the heat following the Gulf oil spill. He was surprised that his attempts to connect to the “small people” were considered in poor taste, and he wished for an end to the mess, so he could “get [his] life back.” He stepped down, preferring to move on and leave the hard work to someone else, presumably to go back to his passion of yachting.

    One wonders if Barack Obama isn’t envious of him. A loss in 2012 will free him of the hassles, and responsibilities, of being president. He’ll give speeches for big money, he’ll ink a big book deal, he’ll play golf, and he’ll only associate with sycophants. From community activist to bon vivant fat cat. Too bad for America he had to be president to get there.

    BP needed Hayward out of the way to rebuild their “brand.” Obama’s vacation isn’t solely because he’s tired from all his fundraising and politicking. It’s an attempt to get him out of the news, to keep him from empathizing with mosque-building near Ground Zero, because his every word is a rallying cry for the Tea Party and a growing number of working Americans. After a big loss in November, watch for Democrats to start looking to remove Obama from his perch atop the party, so they, too, can rebuild their brand.

    Usually Obama’s lapdog, Harry Reid showed a rare public break with Obama over the Ground Zero mosque. His Tea Party challenger’s strong standings in the poll may have forced his hand. Former DNC chairman Howard Dean emerged from obscurity to do so as well, and far more emphatically.

    Don’t be surprised if, after the November shipwreck for Democrats, they realize they can no longer blame Bush. And they start blaming Obama. We can only hope that a national media intent on enacting a liberal agenda may realize Obama is hurting their cause and begin objectively covering this administration. It may be their only hope to plug the leak of ratings for the alphabet soup of networks and to earn back a few subscribers for newspapers whose circulations are dropping while losses mount. This should get interesting.

    Maybe the president who loves vacations and golf so much will soon have plenty of time for both. I almost wonder if he wouldn’t prefer that. I’ll bet many Democrats will be glad to see him go.

    Posted with the author’s permission.

    Michael Berry is the host of the Michael Berry Show, a daily radio talk show, in Houston.  You can read his blog here or his Facebook Fan Page here.

    Mullen: “National Debt is a Security Threat”

     Admiral-Mullen Mullen: National Debt is a Security Threat

    He’s right on one point, wrong on the other. 

    Yes, the national debt is a serious national security threat.  But no, cutting Pentagon spending is not the answer. 

    Cutting domestic spending—especially on entitlements and other social programs—is where the opportunity lies for cutting the deficit and in turn, the level of national debt.  According to the executive.gov article: 

     


    The national debt is the single biggest threat to national security, according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Tax payers will be paying around $600 billion in interest on the national debt by 2012, the chairman told students and local leaders in Detroit.

    “That’s one year’s worth of defense budget,” he said, adding that the Pentagon needs to cut back on spending.

    “We’re going to have to do that if it’s going to survive at all,” Mullen said, “and do it in a way that is predictable.”


    Arbitrarily cutting back on defense spending is not the way to control the deficit or reduce the national debt.  As of FY 2010, the Pentagon had asked for a mere $533.8 billion in regular funding, or about 3.6 percent of an estimated GDP of $14.6 trillion.  As we know, GDP is not going to get anywhere close to $14.6 trillion in FY 2010.  That accounting period ends on September 30, 2010, and at the current rate of 1.6% of growth, we can expect to see GDP at no more than $13.5 trillion, at best.  So it’s true that defense spending will increase as a percentage of GDP for this fiscal year.

    Defense spending is not the problem, even with two wars and the effects of replacing aging or destroyed equipment.  No, the problem is the off-budget spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.  Those programs grow as fast as the population of entitled recipients grow.  Until real entitlement program reform occurs, the programs will continue to eat an ever larger portion of federal receipts, crowding out critical expenditures for defense, transportation infrastructure, education, promotion of interstate commerce and a host of other activities that are the constitutional responsibilities of government.

    When it comes to budget-cutting, the first targets of liberals are defense-related expenditures.  According to their logic, making America weaker and less able to defend herself means that our enemies are less likely to go on the aggressive.  Do you think Russia, China and Iran believe that cutting defense spending to balance the budget is a good idea?

    SRSLY?

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Red Meat: Liberal economist says we’re “Teetering on the brink of deflation.”

     

    RedMeat Liberal Yale Economist Shiller Sees Potential for 'Double Dip' Recession

    I’ve never been much of a doom-and-gloomer.  I’m an economist, but I’m also a conservative, and like other conservatives I tend to trust the power of the American consumer and the American system of free enterprise to keep recessions, short, shallow and relatively painless. 

    But with people much smarter than me sounding the alarm, it’s hard to maintain the rosy outlook.  Shiller spoke with WSJ’s The Big Interview Show, and had these grim statements to share:


    Mr. Shiller now suspects that when the National Bureau of Economic Research eventually looks back at the data, the third quarter of 2010 might mark the beginning of the second dip of the recession.

    In another indication of a faltering economy, the government estimate of second-quarter growth in gross domestic product was revised downward Friday.

    Mr. Shiller also said he thinks the U.S. economy is "teetering on the brink of deflation." Deflation occurs when the general level of consumer prices falls, as was the case in the Great Depression. He said the U.S. is ill-prepared for such an event because of the lack of "indexing" in contracts.

    Deflation is generally considered to be a worse problem for an economy than moderate inflation. The Federal Reserve has been adopting measures to add liquidity into the economy and stave off the danger of deflation.

    In addition, the co-creator of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index said he is worried that housing prices could decline for another five years. He noted that Japan saw land prices decline for 15 consecutive years up to 2006. Data released earlier this week show the housing sector is performing at the worst level in decades.


    He says unemployment is a drag on morale, and that government should be all about ‘job creation.’  It’s worth noting that Shiller is a dyed in the wool demand-side Keynesian.  Watching him nearly choke on the question of tax cuts (around the 6:30 mark in the embedded video) to stimulate business investment and hiring was amusing enough, but his recommendation for hiring millions of “teachers’ aides” is pure comedy gold.

    His “teetering on the brink” warning is an indictment of the Obama regime’s tactics of employing a 1930’s era economic policy.  But his belief isn’t that they didn’t go too far.  It’s that they haven’t done enough.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    UPDATE: GDP revision of Second Quarter growth an anemic 1.6%, double-dip fears grow

    Hot off the Bureau of Economic Analysis website at www.bea.gov:


    Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2010, (that is, from the first quarter to the second quarter), according to the "second" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  In the first quarter, real GDP increased 3.7 percent.

         The GDP estimates released today are based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month.  In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.4 percent.


    It’ll be interesting to see which one of the major media outlets is the first to trot out the MSM’s favorite adverb to describe this year’s tepid economic data.  Unexpected or not, such a sharp downward revision in GDP growth for the second quarter magnifies concerns that the economy may be on the precipice of a double-dip recession. 

    Those fears are justified because frankly, the Obama regime’s toolkit for addressing a second slip into negative growth territory is pretty much empty.  The stimulus has failed to allow the economy to gain the necessary altitude and airspeed it needed to avoid a stall, while adding hundreds of billions to the deficit and piling on more debt.  Such a development should—but probably won’t—put the last nail in the coffin for demand-side Keynesian economic policy.  There should be no Stimulus II—the federal budget just doesn’t have room for another round of wasteful, pork barrel spending.

    At this point, the best thing the government can do now is simply get out of the pockets of America, and get the hell out of the way of the American economic machine.  Extend the Bush tax cuts (in perpetuity).  Stop the onslaught of new regulations, lift the deepwater drilling moratorium, and stop creating the fog of uncertainty that clouds businesses’ outlook.  Businesses, markets and consumers aren’t stupid.  They don’t make large, potentially game- or life-changing decisions under such toxic, uncertain conditions.

    Residential investment—a key component in the outlook for potential growth—was up 20% (revised downward from the 27% advance figure) in the second quarter, reflecting the last of the new homeowner tax credit bump.  That’s not likely to carry forward into Q3, as new home sales have been dismal since the expiration of the tax credit.

    If there’s one bright spot in the current, bleak economic picture, it’s that the voting public is more likely than ever to vote for real change in November.  The Democrats’ mid-term fate seems to already be baked in the cake.

    UPDATE: Poring over the tables, nothing in particular stands out, except for the afore-mentioned growth in RI and the unlikelihood of maintaining that momentum.  The downward revision from 27% to 20% doesn’t change the prospects of maintaining housing sector growth through the third quarter.  The economy continues to be dominated by personal consumption expenditures (70% of the $13.2 trillion revised total), but that number has barely moved since Q1 of 2009.  That’s a key to understanding the sluggishness—consumers simply aren’t consuming at a rate of growth strong enough to pull the economy up.  So, if you’re an Obama supporter and you need to find a scapegoat, blame it all on Main Street.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Avowed Socialist: “Dems should propose ‘peoples tax cut’

     Roubini Global Economics - U.S. EconoMonitor


    Republicans are calling the Democrat’s proposal to end the Bush tax cuts on the richest 3 percent a “tax increase,” and demagoging that it will hurt the economy and small business. This is baloney, to put it politely. Let me count the ways: 

    – Bush’s ten-year tax cut was designed to end this year, so it’s not a tax increase.

    – Ending it for the rich simply returns them to the Clinton tax rate, which was hardly confiscatory (reminder: the Clinton years were damn good for business).

    – Small businesses would barely be affected. Only 3 percent of small business owners earn over $250,000. And because it’s a “marginal” tax, the Clinton rate would apply only to the portion of their incomes over $250,000.

    – Yet extending the Bush tax cut to the richest Americans would give them a $36 billion bonus next year. ($31 billion of this would go to billionaire households.) And that $36 billion would be added to the budget deficit.

    – And it wouldn’t even stimulate demand and jobs, because the very rich save (rather than spend) more of their disposable income than the rest of us.

    – Finally, ending the Bush tax cut for the top is fair. Income inequality has become so grotesque that the top 3 percent of households rake in almost a third of total income (the highest portion since 1928).

    But by the time Democrats explain all this, it’s too late. The Republican furor over a “tax increase” has framed the debate.


    Allow me to call BS on the “baloney” call.

    Whether or not the Bush era tax cuts were designed to end  this year or not, allowing them to sunset would indeed result in a tax increase.  Simple logic demands that you recognize that if you pay more in taxes next year than you do this year, your taxes have “increased,” No?

    Secondly, the Clinton years were good for business because Republicans pushed for—and got—tax cuts.  That, along with the end of the drags of the FSLIC/Savings & Loan and Superfund appropriations significantly reduced federal outlays, and by extension, the deficit, which allowed room for the so-called Clinton middle class tax cuts.

    Thirdly, to claim that small businesses would not be affected is patently absurd.  Those so-called “richest” Americans are small business owners, most of whom claim their enterprises’ profits on their personal income taxes.  Small business taxes are personal income taxes to these people, and raising their taxes means less money is available for hiring and capital investment (which Reich calls “saving).

    Fourthly, and most onerously, Reich says letting these tax cuts expire is “fair.”  That’s socialist-speak for picking winners and losers; social engineering through manipulation of tax policy.  It’s another attempt to redistribute wealth, a tactic that never, ever, ever results in achieving its intended consequences.

    Reich goes on:


    Accuse Republicans of being shills for the rich.

    And don’t stop there. Do tax jujitsu. In addition to ending the Bush tax cut for the rich, put forward another proposal for growing the economy that cuts taxes on lower-income Americans.

    Democrats should propose eliminating payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income, and making up the revenue loss by applying payroll taxes to incomes above $250,000.

    This would give the economy an immediate boost by adding to the paychecks of just about every working American. 80 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes. And because lower-income people would get most of the benefit, it’s likely to be spent.


    Reich wants Democrats to engage in class warfare, plain and simple.  This isn’t helpful.  It’s divisive.  It tries to pit one group of Americans against another.  Reich also trots out another favored meme of the socialist left—the “working American.”  That’s another term for “proletariat,” the “workers of the world” they’re trying to unite.

    Reich says that since lower income earners would get an immediate boost and that the boost would most likely be spent, it would boost the economy.  I call BS again.  The consumers can only spend if the economy is producing.  And unless the people making investment and production decisions expand economic capacity, the additional goods and services sought by the consumers won’t be there.  That simply drives up prices in a fiscal inflationary spiral.  You have more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services, prices rise.  Econ 101, baby.

    The Bush tax cuts were across the board.  The economy grew out of the post 9/11 recession through a combination of higher production and higher net incomes.  They need to be extended, in perpetuity, for all Americans.

    We’re all in this together, and we don’t need avowed socialists like Robert Reich and his ilk dividing us among class.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Going to the Glenn Beck Rally on Saturday?

    If you are planning to attend Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally on Saturday, and you’ll be taking photographs and/or video of the event, please let me know.  Drop me a line at admin AT IBleedCrimsonRed DOT com and either send your photos or a link to your photo gallery. 

    I had planned to attend but day-job related travel next week won’t allow it.  I even bought a new camera for it.  But, since I can’t go and you are, I can live (and blog) vicariously through you.

    Photos and videos of the event not only help document the history of these things, but they also help to fight the left-wing media’s attempts to paint us all as extremists, racists, bigots, wackos, etc.  Remember Andrew Breitbart’s now famous offer to donate $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could provide video evidence of the use of the N-Word during the protests at Capitol Hill on Healthcare Sunday?

    I’ll post your photos, your videos and your narratives of the event, and give you credit for your efforts.  So please, drop me a line at the address above, or gimme some feedback in the comments section.

    Bobby Bright: “Pelosi Might Get Sick and Die” before I have to decide on whether to vote for House Speaker

    Uh oh.  Conservative Democrat Jokes Pelosi Might Get Sick and Die

    Bobby Bright must not be interested in any sweet committee assignments.  Although he insists he was just joking, aiming such a morbid sense of humor at the most powerful woman in Washington DC is probably not the way to get in her good graces:


    The Montgomery Advertiser reports that Rep. Bobby Bright was speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Montgomery Wednesday when he was asked about his oft-criticized decision to support her as party leader after his 2008 election.

    Trying to deflect the issue, Bright said Pelosi could lose her election, decide against running for speaker again, or get sick and die. The paper said Bright made it clear he was joking, and the remark drew laughter from the crowd.


    What’s more, Bobby Bright is somewhere to the right of a few RINO Senators, so his ideology hurts him, too.  Bright is locked in a tough reelection race with Martha Roby.  Both are veterans of Montgomery politics, with Bright having been Mayor and Roby having served on the city council.

    This gaffe probably won’t hurt him, because Roby has no use for it.  How do you go after a guy for a morbid wisecrack, aimed at a political figure who disgusts most Alabamians?

    BOMBSHELL: If it walks like ACORN, talks like ACORN and quacks like ACORN…

    Its a voter fraud scam.

    Like many large metropolitan areas, Harris County, Texas (Houston Metro) relies on volunteer Deputy Registrars to help collect and process voter applications.  And, like many of the other metropolitan areas that have relied on the honesty and integrity of its volunteer squads, Houston appears to have been victimized by the ACORN virus:


    August 24, 2010 – Harris County Voter Registrar Leo Vasquez revealed findings of possible voter registration problems perpetrated by organizations targeting the Houston area.

    “The integrity of the Voter Roll of Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name ‘Houston Votes,’” explained Vasquez. “Houston Votes is the voter registration machine of the ‘Texans Together Education Fund.’ Houston Votes and Texans Together have effectively emerged as our area’s new ‘ACORN’ organization.”

    Vasquez presented samples of voter applications being submitted by the Houston Votes/Texans Together organization showing a pattern of falsification of government documents, suborning of perjury and a deliberate effort to over-burden the Harris County voter registration processing system with thousands of duplicate and incomplete voter registration applications.

    The Harris County Tax Office will be referring problems, along with associated documentation, to the Texas Secretary of State and the Harris County District Attorney’s office for further investigation. 


    Mr. Vasquez, in his press conference, described some of the problems his office has encountered.  These included one deputy registrar turning in multiple applications for the same person, but the applicant signatures do not match.  Also, multiple deputies turning in apps on the same person, again with applicant signatures that don’t match.  But that’s not all, folks. Under the same deputy registrar number,  multiple applications were turned in with different signatures on the deputy signature line, and  there were way many apps for one deputy to have possibly done themselves. Incomplete applications included no address or an incomplete address (example, Houston, TX or Hwy 249, Houston TX).

    Not a citizen of the US?  No problem.  Multiple applications submitted with “Non-citizen box” checked.

    And, Vasquez documented numerous citizen complaints, including reports that people are being pressured to re-register for all sorts of bogus reasons, like the Tax Office computer system being down, non-citizens of Texas or the US being told that even temporary residents need to register, etc.

    Here are some of the eye-popping statistics released by Vasquez’ office:

    • Houston Votes has turned in 25,640 applications
    • Houston Votes applications have generated 7,193 "new" voter records
    • Houston Votes applications have generated 3,531 applications which were rejected
      by the SOS for failure to match TDL/SSN
    • Houston Votes has submitted 1,597 multiple applications (two or more
      applications for same person)
    • Houston Votes has submitted 1,014 applications for pre-existing voters
    • Houston Votes applications have generated 1,030 Notices of Incomplete
    • Houston Votes has submitted 25 non-citizen applications
    • Houston Votes has submitted 325 too young applications
    • Houston Votes applications have generated 129 felon rejection of applications
      (although not the responsibility of volunteer deputy to determine)
    • Houston Votes has submitted 1,133 applications where the No ID box was checked
    • Houston Votes has presented the Tax Office with 1,323 applications later than the
      5 day statutory deadline

    The legitimate Harris County citizens have also been calling the Registrar’s office.  Here are a few of the complaints recorded, so far:


    Mrs. Margaret N :
    On August 18, 2010, Mrs. Margaret N. called inquiring why she had received a request for additional information for "Anne N. one of her nicknames. She did not fill out an application recently. An application with a Deputy signature from Wyatt Anthony Charles was filed with the Tax Office. The application was dated August 3, 2010 and contained false information that elicited a request letter from the Tax Office.

    Ms. AG:
    Concerned about a receipt from a Voter application posted on her doorstep, Ms. AG contacted the Tax Office on August 18, 2010. She did not understand the purpose of the receipt. As it turns out she did not fill out an application recently. The volunteer deputy's number was that of Houston Votes Deputy, Franiqueka Fortune. Ms. AG became very concerned about this issue.

    Ms. M:
    Ms. M contacted our office on August 3,2010, very concerned. She was approached by a man wearing a lanyard with the name Joseph Garrett on it. The man insisted that she register even though she was already registered. He told her that he needed the application or he would not get paid. He also told her that she had to fill out the application because her registration expires at the end of the year and it would not get
    renewed unless she took action.
    He also stated that the Tax Office switching from postcard certificates to plastic certificates and unless she filled out a new card she would not get her plastic certificate effective for 2011.  Ms. M was uncomfortable with giving him any information since she knows her registration certificate will get renewed at the beginning of next year. She asked for identification but the deputy didn't have any other than the lanyard.


    Mr. Vasquez and the Voter Registrar’s office provided specifics, along with photocopies of questionable applications. 

    • Six Applications, Five different deputies, all on the same day for Carmella Bellazer.
    • Five different applications, five different deputies, all for one applicant, Anthony Roy.
    • Shakay Swazer was deputized on 8/3/10, and provided different addresses on five different applications.
    • Three different applications, turned in by three different deputies, all with questionable signatures, different addresses and a change to the date of birth for one Rayon Jurrell.
    • Three different applications, three different addresses, and two applications turned in on the same day for one Jason Roberts.
    • Four different applications, four different deputies, all turned in over a two week period for one applicant, Derrick Chatman.
    • Two different applications, two different deputies and two different signatures for one Ronnishia Johnson.
    • Two different applications, two different deputies, turned in over a one week period, with different signatures for one Tawana Pounds.
    • Two different applications on the same day, but with different signatures for one Cedric Bernard.
    • Two applications submitted in two days, by the same deputy for the same applicant, one Devona Robinson.
    • Three applications, two from the same deputy, for one applicant--Kizzy DeRouen.

    Minor issues with incomplete applications, misspelled names, or incorrect addresses are typical in large, metro areas like Houston.  These are not just annoying little irregularities.  Mr. Vasquez’ office has direct evidence of voter fraud.  Multiple crimes have been committed here, including fraud, falsification of government documents, impersonating a lawful officer of the county, and who knows what else.

    This is ACORN’s stock in trade, folks.  It hasn’t gone away, and it’s as ugly as it’s ever been.

    h/t Texas Watchdog

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Jobless claims about as expected, but it’s still not good news

    The US Department of Labor released the latest weekly jobless claims data today.  These numbers are about what I expected. In the week ending Aug. 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 473,000, a decrease of 31,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 504,000 and despite the slight  decrease, it’s still not good news.  The 4-week moving average was 486,750, an increase of 3,250 from the previous week's revised average of 483,500. Last week’s 504,000 (revised upwards from 500,000) was something of a fluke—some decent numbers rolled off the seasonal adjustment while some really BAD numbers moved on.

    Last week’s jobless claims decrease is not “unexpected,” nor does it indicate improvement in the prospects for reducing unemployment, nor does is show that we’re absolutely “moving in the right direction,” as Joe Biden exclaimed earlier this week. Don’t buy the CNN/CNBC/Reuters media spin.  The job market has retreated into a shell, and businesses are getting by with who and what they’ve got until the future becomes less clouded with uncertainty (a bit more on that later).

    The four week moving average, used to smooth out fluctuations from week-to-week and mitigate the impacts of weather and other factors contributing to volatility, is at its highest level in nine months.  This average has been in a fairly tight range between 450,000 and 500,000 since January, and nothing indicates that a breakout is imminent.  It points to a very weak job market.

    fredgraph

    This economy needs to ADD jobs, not seek solace in reductions in the numbers of jobs lost. Increases in the numbers of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits are not good news, and do not point to an improvement in a very sluggish economy.

    Employers are not adding jobs because of a climate of uncertainty.  They are uncertain about the effects of Obamacare.  They are uncertain about the effects of newly-passed financial regulation reform (which defines almost any enterprise as a “bank” if the engage in certain risk-control activities).  They are uncertain about the effects of allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to sunset, which would raise taxes on Subchapter S corporations in which the small business owner claims profits on his personal income taxes.  And, in an election year, they are uncertain about the business climate in 2011 and 2012.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Cash for Clunkers = Sky high prices a year later

    Here’s another one you could see coming a year away. 


    With home prices falling, fewer people employed, and every economic indicator on the dashboard flashing red, deflation has started to become a big enough worry that the Fed has adjusted its monetary policy to account for it.  There are no such worries in the used-car industry, however.  Prices have jumped 10% overall and in some cases as much as a third for used cars, thanks not to demand as much as a restricted supply after the government destroyed billions of dollars in assets as part of its Cash for Clunkers program last year (via Instapundit):


    This is something I can personally relate to.  Two years ago, I bought my then 16-year old a 2004 Saturn L300.  I paid $6,000 cash for a car that was in “extra clean” condition.  It had one owner, and just below average miles.  I got a great deal, she got a great car.

    But as a typical teenager, she had a propensity to bump into things.  A telephone pole knocked off the passenger rear-view.  She backed into my Silverado.  And then, when stopping suddenly for another car pulling in front of her, her car was rear-ended and was a total loss.  The insurance company settled for $4,600, which was about right considering we had a $500 deductible. 

    So, I take the $4,600 shopping for another car, and there was another 2004 L300 on the lot.  Different color, higher miles, and in very good (not extra clean) condition.  The no-haggle price?  $6,500.  This is after two years of depreciation, and for a vehicle with higher miles and not as well maintained.  I sucked it up and paid the difference—the L300 is a nice, safe care for teenagers, but as soon as I heard the price, the first thought in my mind was:

    “Gee thanks, Mr. President.  You just cost me $1,900.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Envirolarmists in a Tizzy: Microbes are eating all the damned oil plumes!

    Who woulda thunk it? 

    Scientists have not only discovered a previously unknown oil gorging germ deep in the Gulf of Mexico, they now also think that microbial action in the water has been so effective that virtually all of the oil really is gone.


    A top scientist studying the ability of bacteria to break down the oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico says that microbes have been so successful that the oil may be gone.

    Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who published a groundbreaking study of microbial activity Tuesday in the online research journal Science Express, has had a team of researchers out in the Gulf since May 25 collecting water samples. They noticed a dramatic drop-off in the amount of oil in the Gulf immediately after the well was idled July 15, and now they can't find any oil in the ocean.

    "In the last three weeks we haven't been able to detect a deep plume anywhere," Hazen said. "We can't see it now. We can't see anything at the surface. We can't see anything in the deep subsurface either."


    Hah.  The Gulf of Mexico is a resilient, warm, germ-rich environment.  For millions of years, oil has seeped from the bottom, giving rise to a large population of microbes that are floating appetites for oil.  The little buggers probably rival the US in terms of crude oil consumption, and that was before the spill.  As soon as the Macondo crude hit the water, the microbes went to work.  But the real nut-grabber for the environmental wackos and conspiracy nutjobs has to be this:


    That the oil-munching bacteria were able to consume tiny droplets of oil could validate the use of the Corexit chemical dispersant for helping to speed the biodegradation of the oil, Hazen said, although the long-term effects of Corexit on the ecosystem in the Gulf remains to be seen.

    "It certainly looks like it may have had some positive effect by keeping that oil down there and allowing it to be biodegraded," Hazen said, adding that his team hasn't been able to find the presence of any Corexit, either, because it's water-soluble.


    The long term effects of Corexit are on the order of the long term effects of your average bottle of generic dishwashing liquid.  Hell, it’s probably even good for your skin.  The stuff is also a miracle of modern chemical engineering.  It breaks the oil into tiny droplets, then it dissolves in the water and goes away.  Just like…  Well, dishwashing liquid.

    If they have any left, maybe they should host an eco-protest and when all the nutjobs show up, bathe them by hosing’em down with Corexit and cold Gulf water.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    President says: “I’m having a great time!” on vacation


    Halo-pose Last night President Obama and First Lady Obama dined at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard.

    Their dinner companions were family friends Dr. Eric and Cheryl Whitaker, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and lawyer and business executive Vernon Jordan and wife Ann Dibble Jordan.

    As they departed the restaurant at 9:55 pm ET, reporters asked the president if he was enjoying his vacation even with the rain.

    "I'm having a great time,” the president said.


    How wonderful that Dear Leader is enjoying himself.

    Meanwhile:

    America needs a vacation.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Analysis: New home sales tumble, show downside of government intervention

    Ugh. The news just doesn’t get any better.  If this is a “recovery summer,” I shudder to think what fall might bring.  Reuters even manages the gall to slip the media’s favorite adverb, glumly reporting that new home sales plunged “unexpectedly.”

    The 276,000 unit annual rate of new home sales is the lowest since Commerce began the series in 1963.  Let that sink in a moment.  Not since John F. Kennedy was shot has the new home market been this dead.


    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales unchanged at a 330,000 unit pace last month.

    "What we are seeing is the downside of government intervention. It had fanned expectations of a market bottom when in fact, it created a false bottom," said Tom Porcelli, a senior economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York. "We expect home sales to stay at this remarkably low range with remarkably high unemployment. There is also little demand for lending."

    The housing market has wobbled following the end of a popular home tax credit in April, which had boosted sales and construction. The sector was at the center of the longest and deepest recession since Great Depression and its continued weakness is holding back the broader economic recovery.

    Data on Tuesday showed sales of previously owned homes dropped in July to their slowest pace in 15 years. While the end of the tax credit is distorting the housing data, a 9.5 percent unemployment rate is also worsening the situation.

    The weak sales pace last month resulted in the supply of new homes available for sale spiking to 9.1 months' worth from 8.0 months' worth in June.


    The only thing the tax credit did was front-load transactions in the housing market, causing people who would likely buy anyway to do so ahead of schedule.  And, since they were probably already qualified, it means that the program needlessly added to the deficit while deceiving markets into thinking the housing sector had bottomed out.  It clearly hasn’t. Combining this with yesterday’s existing home sales bloodletting paints a very ugly picture for the real estate market. 

    But the new home sales data are much more important in terms of economic growth, for a very big reason.  Residential Investment (RI) is a leading indicator for GDP and only reflects investment in new homes.  Sagging numbers in existing home sales don’t have much of an impact on GDP, because their contribution to GDP represents transactions costs only (brokerage fees, survey cost, loan origination fees, etc).  New home sales have a much larger impact, because the value of the home itself and all associated transactions costs are counted in the measure of output.

    With July figures this bad, and with very sluggish job creation over the summer, there is no indication that August and September are going to get much better. As a result, RI could be a major millstone for Q3 GDP.   We’ll get the first revision in Q2 GDP tomorrow Friday.  A key component of that will be the RI figure, which showed some strength in the preliminary release.  If the RI component is revised downward, and the current trend in employment and income continue, it doesn’t portend well for Q3 GDP, or Q4 GDP going forward.

    Update:  Calculated Risk has a post about the “distressing gap” between existing an new home sales, and how that gap won’t be closed until inventory is worked down (especially “distressed” inventory, which isn’t gonna work down until prices work down).

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

    Florida primary election results show that GOP voters are fired up

    Jim Geraghty touched on this last night, but with the 99% tallies in, it's worth a closer look.

    First, let’s look at the Florida Governor’s race, which had two high-profile candidates duking it out in an expensive, brutal primary campaign on the GOP side and a less intense race on the Democrat side.

    Republican

    Rick Scott 595,484 46%
    Bill McCollum 557,455 43%
    Mike McCalister 130,059 10%
    Total 1,282,998
    Democrat
    Alex Sink 664,063 77%
    Brian Moore 199,918 23%
    Total 863,981

    An argument could be made that the vote total difference —419,017 —was due to the high profile nature of the GOP campaign.  Rick Scott spent $30 million of his own money; McCollum had the financial support and backing of the party apparatus. But that argument doesn’t hold up too well when you look at the other major statewide races yesterday.  Let’s look at the Attorney General’s race, next:

    Republican
    Pam Bondi 455,069 38%
    Jeff Kottkamp 394,752 33%
    Holly Benson 351,508 29%
    Total 1,201,329
    Democrat
    Dan Gelber 486,962 59%
    Dave Aronberg 337,633 41%
    Total 824,595

    The difference between GOP and Democrat turnout in this election is on the same order of magnitude as the Governor’s race, in this case 376,734 votes, as is the total turnout for both major parties.  This was nowhere near as much of a high-profile primary election as the Governor’s race, yet turnout and turnout differential are about the same.

    Last of all of the major statewide elections is the Florida Senate primary:

    Republican
    * Marco Rubio 1,059,546 85%
    William Kogut 111,590 9%
    William Escoffery 81,875 7%
    Total 1,253,011
    Democrat
    * Kendrick Meek 523,106 57%
    Jeff Greene 283,497 31%
    Glenn Burkett 59,587 7%
    Maurice Ferre 44,508 5%
    Total 910,698

    In this race the GOP winner Marco Rubio garnered more votes than the entire field of the Democrats candidates, combined,  and the difference between total GOP turnout and turnout in the Democrat race is 342,313.  There was a higher total turnout in this race than the other two, and the difference is less than the other two.  These figures are still in the same neighborhood though, and these three races demonstrate a pretty clear pattern. In the three major statewide races, each shows a similar proportion of Republican vs. Democrat votes in the primary, with vote totals and differences consistent across all three.

    There are similar patterns in US House of Representative races as well, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats in a handful of key races.

    The only conclusions that can be reached is that Republican voters in Florida are more motivated than their Democrat counterparts, and since primary voters are the ones most likely to return to the polls for the general election, it’s safe to say that Florida is setting up as a 2010 battleground that Republicans look very likely to win, and win big.

    All election results come from this site.

    Gimme some feedback in the comments.

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