Archive for November, 2010

Corporate profits hit record high; still no hiring

From The New York Times:

“The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.

American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms.

Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history.”

I know what you’re thinking: You want to see a chart.

OK, here.

profits

I still know what you’re thinking: If only President Obama and the Democrats weren’t so darned anti-business. If only corporate America was making enough money to pump back into the economy. If only we could free up business and make it possible to earn a profit again.

If only …

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North Korea: A bratty little punk with nukes

North Korea has fired an intensive artillery barrage at a South Korean island, killing two South Korean soldiers and setting dozens of buildings ablaze. Experts say the attack is somehow linked to the transfer of power from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to his son, Kim Jong-un.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has told his own military to ”respond sternly” but also to avoid aggravating the situation, which is a pretty narrow line to walk with such an unpredictable, irrational enemy. But it’s hard to envision a feasible alternative: The fact that North Korea is once again behaving like an 11-year-old juvenile delinquent with a mean streak argues strongly for responding to force with greater, even overwhelming force. The fact that the delinquent in question is armed with nuclear weapons and the world’s largest arsenal of artillery — much of it aimed at downtown Seoul, a city of more than 10 million people — takes that approach off the table.

The only strategic option is to …

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Beverly Hall’s success led to willful blindness about cheating

In the beginning, there was The Mission.

When Beverly Hall came to Atlanta in 1999 to serve as superintendent, she brought a powerful commitment to improving city schools. She did not believe that a child’s socioeconomic status determined his or her destiny, she said, and she was adamant that even in — especially in — low-income urban neighborhoods, public education could transform lives.

So she set about to prove it, and she has done so. In Hall’s 11 years as superintendent, she has produced results that current controversy should not diminish. Atlanta schools today are better run, teachers and administrators are more student-focused, graduation rates are higher and thousands of children are being given more control over their own destinies.

Yet when Hall announced last week that she would not return as superintendent in the 2011-12 school year, the news was greeted not with disappointment but relief. That’s because somewhere along the line, The Mission had given way to The …

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Voters unhappy with Obama; white voters would take Palin over him

From the new Quinnipiac poll:

“President Barack Obama does not deserve a second term, American voters say 49 – 43 percent, and he is in a statistical dead heat with possible Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Obama leads Sarah Palin 48-40 percent….

In a mythical Republican primary Ms. Palin gets 19 percent, including 25 percent of GOP women, followed by Romney with 18 percent, Huckabee at 17 percent, Gingrich at 15 percent, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota at 2 percent each.”

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, points out that although Palin is leading the Republican field, “she is very unpopular among independents and although she recently said she thought she could defeat Obama, the data does not now necessarily support that assertion.” Palin is viewed …

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GOP playing crass politics with nuclear treaty

According to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ratification of the New START treaty with Russia is “essential to our future security.” Every single member of the joint chiefs backs him in that conclusion.

Republican foreign policy experts from Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice also urge the treaty’s approval by the U.S. Senate, noting that without the treaty, the United States will be unable to inspect Russia’s nuclear arsenal, unable to carry out Ronald Reagan’s dictum of “trust but verify.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has challenged his fellow party members to have the guts to step forward and do their duty to their country.

“Every senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty,” Lugar said last week. “Maybe people would prefer not to do his or her duty right now. Sometimes when you prefer not to vote, you attempt to find reasons not …

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A little travelin’ music that’s done some travelin’

Bluegrass, in its purest form and in various mutations, seems to be seeping its way into a lot of popular music these days. I think it’s great, both because I love the music itself and because it helps to ensure that an important strain of American culture and the instruments and players that helped create it survive for at least another generation or two.

In fact, listening to Mumford and Sons, I think its preservation is pretty much guaranteed, given that these boys are from London. No, not London, Kentucky. The one in England, with the queen and the prince about to marry his princess and all that.

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Joe Biden analyzes Sarah Palin’s chances in 2012

No commentary necessary.

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A presidential debate, with a twist to the right

The first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign — among hopefuls seeking the GOP nomination — has been scheduled for sometime this spring at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. It will be co-sponsored by NBC News and Politico, which will provide journalists to act as questioners.

Hugh Hewitt, the right-wing talk radio host, is outraged. (I know, I know, saying a talk radio host is outraged is like saying an NBA player is tall. Bear with me here.)

Says Hewitt:

“Not one of the questioners that could or would be proposed by Politico or NBC would be remotely in touch with the cares, concerns, and passions of the GOP’s primary electorate. The process of choosing a GOP nominee should not be mediated by the left-wing media — again.”

You know, I can see his point, especially in the increasingly closed universe of GOP politics and media. As an alternative, Hewitt proposes a panel of right-wing agenda setters — he specifically suggests Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, …

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Legislators stand on college steps to bar entry

Erroll Davis Jr. is an engineer and businessman by training, having served as CEO of two major utility companies. He now serves on the boards of directors of General Motors and Union Pacific, and as chancellor of the Georgia university system, he has brought a business perspective to academia that frankly, it badly needs.

In a conversation earlier this fall, for example, Davis said the nation’s higher education system operates under “a medieval business model that has changed at the margins, but it has to change dramatically.”

The current delivery system is too capital-intensive and can’t be sustained long-term, he said. University faculty have to become “more productive and more efficient,” and while he says he’s willing to defend tenure, “I will not defend its excesses. Tenure was never designed as a cover for boorish behavior or insubordination.”

In other words, Davis knows the importance of focusing on real problems while ignoring the distractions. And the debate over …

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Truth is, the American people don’t know what they want

There’s a lot of fodder for thought and debate in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. But I’ll pick three questions in particular to start the evening conversation. The first involves the attitudes of President Obama and the Republican Party regarding business.

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The second addresses the federal deficit and how it might be reduced. It’s easy to criticize our political leaders for refusing to tackle the issue seriously, but these poll results suggest that they’re merely reflecting the lack of seriousness among their constituents they represent. Mathematically, the only way to make serious progress on the spending side of the ledger is to start hacking at entitlements and defense, but 70 percent say they’re uncomfortable with that approach.

The other half of the equation is of course revenue. Fifty-nine percent say they’re uncomfortable with trying to close the deficit by increasing taxes. If you’re a politician, the message from the folks back home is that you can’t …

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