Archive for September, 2010

The Democrats are hapless, Chapter MCMXXVII…

They don’t dare to vote to extend tax cuts for the middle class.

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Who amongst us doesn’t love elitist-bashing?

Real Americans have never cottoned much to “elites.”

True, we’re not supposed to criticize hedge-fund managers who make a billion dollars a year yet whine about their taxes — that would be class warfare. We can’t point out the immense political power that the Citizens United decision handed to corporations, because corporations are just citizens who happen to pay less taxes than the rest of us. And we certainly can’t take note of the fact that so much of the income growth of the past 30 years has concentrated in the hands of a very small percentage of Americans, because after all, nobody ever got a job from a poor person.

But “ruling-class elites”? Why, we’re all agin ‘em!

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who made himself rich as a conduit for corporate largess and propaganda, rails against the elites regularly before returning home to McLean, Va., where the median household income is a cool $156,292. Sarah Palin travels with her entourage in Lear jets and gets …

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‘Obama’s Wars’, in Afghanistan and in DC


The results of a recent poll for Politico on Afghanistan

Last year, President Obama warned advisers that “I have two years with the public” in which to make a difference in Afghanistan, Bob Woodward writes in his latest book. Obama also explained to a Republican senator that in setting policy, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

As it turns out, the backing of both Democratic and Republican voters has all but vanished anyway. Poll after poll show that Americans of every political persuasion have become deeply pessimistic about what might be accomplished by further sacrifice in Afghanistan.

In the most recent poll, by Politico, just 21 percent of Americans — and 26 percent of Republicans — believe that in the end we’re going to be successful in Afghanistan. The only reason that sentiment hasn’t translated into widespread opposition among politicians in Washington is because while voters oppose continuation of the war, they also just don’t care about it very much.


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A few cracks appear in GOP attitude to taxes

Any hope we might have of addressing the federal government’s long-term financial crisis depends on bipartisan cooperation.

Which of course means that we have no hope whatsoever.

But wait! What is that off on the horizon to the far right? A prominent conservative making sense and telling the truth about fiscal issues? Why yes, it is!! Let’s go check it out!

Kevin D. Williamson is deputy editor of National Review and author of its Exchequer blog, focusing on the debt and other fiscal issues. He is also, as far as I can tell, very very conservative. But to his credit, he has run out of patience with the Republicans’ knee-jerk instinct to pretend that tax cuts are the cure for all that ails us economically.

Back in April, for example, Williamson attacked the conservative credo that tax cuts pay for themselves, noting that “a poorly applied supply-side analysis has infantilized Republicans when it comes to the budget. They love to cut taxes but cannot bring themselves to cut …

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For gays in uniform, critical Senate vote looms today

UPDATE: Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of the defense authorization bill containing a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote to end the filibuster was 56 in favor and 43 against.

Which means the side with 56 votes loses.

(Harry Reid was one of those voting against, which allowed him to move for later reconsideration.)


Jonathan Hopkins graduated fourth in his West Point class, served three combat tours, was awarded three Bronze Stars (including one for valor), served as a platoon leader in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and commanded a Stryker infantry company.

Capt. Jonathan Hopkins

Capt. Jonathan Hopkins

Last month he was forced to leave the Army after others reported that he was gay. But the Army took its sweet time in ousting him, allowing him to serve an additional 14 months before making his expulsion official.

“Four months after being found out,” he recalls, “and 10 months prior to leaving the Army, I found myself with a boyfriend for the first time in my life, because I …

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A ‘myth’ is killing coral reefs across the planet

A “myth,” a mere “theory,” is killing coral reefs across the planet.

From the New York Times:

“This year’s extreme heat is putting the world’s coral reefs under such severe stress that scientists fear widespread die-offs, endangering not only the richest ecosystems in the ocean but also fisheries that feed millions of people.

From Thailand to Texas, corals are reacting to the heat stress by bleaching, or shedding their color and going into survival mode. Many have already died, and more are expected to do so in coming months. Computer forecasts of water temperature suggest that corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching in the next few weeks.

What is unfolding this year is only the second known global bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are holding out hope that this year will not be as bad, over all, as 1998, the hottest year in the historical record, when an estimated 16 percent of the world’s shallow-water reefs died. But in some places, including Thailand, the …

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Obama: With so many suffering, billionaires and millionaires shouldn’t whine

Good for Obama.

In a sometimes painful townhall session broadcast live on CNBC, the president took questions from Americans concerned about the economy and their own futures. The fear and anguish of at least a couple of questioners was palpable, and for the most part Obama didn’t try to sugarcoat what they and the country face.

At one point, however, a hedge fund manager stepped to the microphone to complain on behalf of Wall Street that the financial community was tired of being treated like a pinata. In his response, Obama pointed out that last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of a billion dollars apiece. A billion bucks apiece. And he also suggested that a bit of perspective might be in order.

“Now, you know, I have been amused over the last couple years, this sense of somehow me beating up on Wall Street. I think most folks on Main Street feel like they got beat up on. I’ll be honest with you. There’s probably — there’s a big chunk of the country …

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The worst may be over, but the very bad will be with us for a while yet


Source: Federal Reserve

Feel better now?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which decides such things, the Great Recession is over, and in fact ended back in June 2009.

“The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion,” the NBER notes. “The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II.  Previously the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82, both of which lasted 16 months.”

As the bureau noted, “the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since (June 2009) have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity.” Put another way, it’s merely when the beating finally stopped.

The chart to the right, depicting industrial production of consumer goods, illustrates that trough pretty dramatically. The chart below, of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, tells much the same story, with the indicator …

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USA trapped in its own self-image

Last week, in a meeting of the state transportation board, I listened to a sales rep for a Spanish high-speed rail company extol the impressive virtues of his firm’s products, and once again I began to wonder:

How and when did this happen?

How and when did the United States of America become the consumer of dreams that others have made real? On video screens no doubt made in China, we watched sleek trains flowing at close to 200 mph through the countryside of Spain, a nation with per capita income roughly 30 percent lower than our own. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in that room wondering how Spain — and Germany and France and again, China — can afford such infrastructure and we, supposedly, can’t.

The answer takes many forms, but I think the overarching point is that as a nation we’ve gotten complacent and unwilling to change. We still don’t see the need. Coming out of World War II, our dominance was unchallenged in any sphere other than brute military power, and by 1991, …

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Time to surrender to the lunacy around us

Yeah, I’m afraid the country’s going a bit crazy. You might have noticed that as a recurring theme in this week’s posts.

And since it’s the end of a busy week and I lack the energy and internal fortitude to resist it any longer, I guess I have no choice but to surrender to the lunacy myself.


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