Archive for December, 2009

Happy new year, everyone

Not many people will be sorry to see 2009 leave us tonight, I’d guess. Here’s hoping that better days are close at hand, and that you and yours have a safe and happy start to 2010.

Continue reading Happy new year, everyone »

11 months later, Obama still as the ‘blank screen’

On the eve of the Senate’s approval of a sweeping, secretive health-reform bill last week, opinion writer Miles Mogulescu had this to say:

“For the first time in American history, Democrats are about to pass a bill that uses the coercive power of the federal government to force every American — simply by virtue of being an American — to purchase the products of a private company.”

The rant of a tea-party activist? Hardly. Mogulescu is a self-described “progressive Democrat” who writes for The Huffington Post, a decidedly left-of-center online news site.

In fact, the Senate bill has been pilloried by much of the progressive left pantheon. Among the disgruntled are former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, and such organizations as MoveOn.org, labor unions AFL-CIO and SEIU, and Progressive Democrats of America.

The motivation to oppose ObamaCare for liberals like Mogulescu is quite different …

Continue reading 11 months later, Obama still as the ‘blank screen’ »

How the Mississippi River made capitalists out of us

In looking at another of the endless “best of 2009″ lists, I came across this fascinating article about geography as a nation’s destiny. The author, Peter Zeihan, notes that (as of the time he was writing, June 2009) the U.S. was not as hard-hit during this recessi0n as a number of other countries, if you can imagine that. He then describes the geography of North America, Russia, China and the European continent in terms of farmland and the navigability of its rivers and ports.

Zeihan comes to some conclusions about why various countries tend toward different political and economic systems, which in turn make them apt to suffer more or less in a global recession, relative to other nations.

A sample:

Taken together, the integrated transport network, large tracts of usable land and lack of a need for a standing military have one critical implication: The U.S. government tends to take a hands-off approach to economic management, because geography has not cursed the United States …

Continue reading How the Mississippi River made capitalists out of us »

One set of predictions for 2010

Not mine, but the forecast of an economist whose blog I read regularly: Scott Grannis, a.k.a. Calafia Beach Pundit. He did very well in 2009 as far as the crystal-ball gazing biz goes — see his recap of his 2009 predictions and results here — so it will be interesting to see how he does in 2010.

In short, he’s more bullish, and expects more hawkishness, than most economists seem to be right now. He expects the economy to grow twice as fast, for instance, as the forecasts given by S&P and UGA economists earlier this month. But, like them, he points out that this growth will be slower than the usual rebound from a deep recession.

I’m a little more bearish than Grannis, but who knows? Who out there is bullish about 2010?

Continue reading One set of predictions for 2010 »

Don’t count on a death panel for new health legislation

While I was away, the Senate passed a health-care bill; you may have noticed. Ever since, there’s been lots of talk about whether the House and Senate might be unable to reach a compromise combining their respective (and very different) bills; talk about legal challenges to various provisions of the bill; and talk about Republicans running in 2010 and 2012 on a pledge to repeal the legislation.

I’m not getting my hopes up for any of these options. We’re going to be stuck with this monstrosity for a long time — most likely until it sends the federal government into bankruptcy, as this bill, along with the slow-motion fiscal train wrecks of Medicare and Social Security, will inevitably do.

The talk about the House and Senate having difficulty resolving their differences strikes me as political theater. Are there liberal House members who are reluctant to vote for a bill without an explicit public option, which will probably be necessary in any compromise with the Senate? …

Continue reading Don’t count on a death panel for new health legislation »

The system didn’t work, and neither did the spin

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano finally admitted today what she should have said yesterday — that the “system” failed to prevent a 23-year-old Nigerian man from trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet as it prepared to land in Detroit on Christmas Day.

Napolitano’s remark Sunday on CNN that “the system worked” came off as another tin-ear moment in the still-short history of the Obama administration, given that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reportedly received a U.S. visa and boarded the flight despite his being listed in a database of people suspected of having ties to terrorists.

As she backtracked, however, Napolitano invoked the ever-handy “taken out of context” excuse for her earlier comment. Well, let’s take a look at the context of her remark to CNN host Candy Crowley:

CROWLEY: So, just to finish up on the question– I do want to talk to you about security measures — but do you think — has there been any evidence of the Al Qaida ties that this suspect has been …

Continue reading The system didn’t work, and neither did the spin »

Not just a decade of greed

Here’s a prediction about the past: The decade about to end will be popularly branded an era of great greed, a time when our worst instincts got the best of us.

It will be a selective, unhelpful remembrance.

Greed is a convenient target for the failures we saw in the aughties. When banks hand out seven-figure bonuses just before facing collapse, and then return to profitability just a year after a taxpayer bailout, their executives are easy marks for a president railing against “fat cats.”

The sentiment isn’t entirely misplaced, but it is overly simplistic. Our failures ran far deeper than mere greed.

William Isaac, who was chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 1981 to 1985, puts it this way:

“You don’t see headlines saying, ‘Gravity caused plane crash.’ We understand gravity is there, it’s a force of nature…and our job is not to blame gravity when something goes wrong. We blame the FAA and the airlines or whoever is not training pilots …

Continue reading Not just a decade of greed »

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good…week

I’m away this week, looking forward to enjoying some rest and peace. I wish the same for all of you.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and see you on the 28th.

Switzerland_Christma

Continue reading Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good…week »

Honoring those who stand and wait

By the end of this week — that is, by Christmas Day — another 1,500 U.S. Marines will be on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the surge which President Obama ordered this month.

Victoria Turney knows how they feel. And how their families feel.

Turney, who lives in Cobb County, retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years, including deployments to Japan and to the Middle East as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Now her son is a Marine sergeant who has served two tours in Iraq and may go to Afghanistan next.

“Now I’m on the other side, and I didn’t realize what my parents were going through when I was overseas, be it during peacetime or during conflict,” Turney says. “Just getting a voice mail or an e-mail from my son, no matter how brief — you keep the voice mail as long as you can because that is their voice.”

This understanding of the two sides of absence has driven Turney to pursue a new monument in Marietta — a statue to honor …

Continue reading Honoring those who stand and wait »

The partisan stimulus

Why am I not surprised? From the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (and via the Washington Examiner):

A new analysis of the $157 billion distributed by the American Reinvestment and Recovery act, popularly known as the stimulus bill, shows that the funds were distributed without regard for what states were most in need of jobs.

(snip)

Additionally, Mercatus found that stimulus funds were not disbursed geographically with any special regard for low-income Americans. “We find no correlation between economic indicators and stimulus funding. Preliminary results find no statistically significant effect of unemployment, median income or mean income on stimulus funds allocation,” said the report.

That’s what happens when the goal is to spend as much money as quickly as possible, without taking the time even to know where the money might be needed. And it’s one reason why this recovery, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that the feds have dropped from their …

Continue reading The partisan stimulus »