Archive for June, 2011

Poll Position: Was Obama’s oil release a good move?

The White House caught everyone off-guard Thursday by announcing that it would release about 30 million barrels of crude oil from emergency reserves, as part of a multinational effort aimed at boosting supplies and bringing down gas prices.

In all, members of the International Energy Agency — the oil-importing nations’ answer to the OPEC cartel — plan to release 60 million barrels. The stated rationale was making up for the 1.4 million barrels a day not being supplied due to the Libyan civil war. The fact that crude prices were up almost 20 percent this year, before falling Thursday to a four-month low, was also surely a factor.

So, too, was the agony in the U.S. over gas prices that, in metro Atlanta and elsewhere, hit an average of more than $4 a gallon at one point this spring.

That said, the Associated Press reported two interesting facts about the size and timing of the release:

[T]he 30 million barrels to be sold by the United States represents less than two days’ worth …

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Ethics fight shows poor governance of those who govern Georgia

After Nathan Deal was elected governor last year, his team was understandably eager to change the conversation from the ethics allegations that dogged his campaign to how he would govern.

Months later, the talk surrounding Deal has come full circle. The state ethics agency’s director, Stacey Kalberman, claims her salary was slashed and her deputy’s job eliminated not because of budget constraints, but because they had just prepared subpoenas for their inquiry into Deal’s campaign spending.

Absent any new revelations, the story is a matter of he said, she said, with obvious motivations for each side. The benefit of the doubt for many Georgians will lie with Kalberman, given the curious timing of the budget concerns and the sheer number of complaints against Deal dating back to his tenure in Congress.

The best argument in Deal’s favor may be that going after Kalberman — and turning an under-the-radar investigation into a full-blown media frenzy — would be an awfully dumb …

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Still need a wait-and-see approach to Afghan withdrawals

Tonight, President Obama is expected to announce a reduction of our troops in Afghanistan of 10,000 by the end of this year and 23,000 more by next summer — thereby unwinding the “surge” he announced 18 months ago. The question already being debated: Is this the right time to begin the withdrawal?

Keeping in mind that removing the pre-surge contingent of almost 70,000 troops apparently is not imminent, I decided to look back at Obama’s speech 18 months ago, to cadets at West Point, and see what he said then to justify the surge. Here is the key portion of that speech:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.  This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.  In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our …

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Theft, parasites and our redistributive government

Having his chain saw stolen from his driveway and the copper wire pilfered from machinery on his farm got Victor Davis Hanson at Pajamas Media to thinking about “The Metaphysics of Contemporary Theft”:

A majority [of the public] would believe the thieves took things for drugs, excitement, or to buy things like an iPhone or DVD, rather than out of elemental need (e.g., the thief hawked the chainsaw to purchase the family’s rice allotment for the week). In this view, contemporary American crime arises not so much then from Dickensian poverty…but out of a sense of resentment, of boredom, from a certain contempt for the more law-abiding and successful, or on the assurance that apprehension is unlikely, and punishment rarer still. After all, Hollywood, pop music, the court system, and the government itself sympathize with, even romanticize those forced to take a chainsaw, not the old middle-class bore who bought it.

The remedy to address theft would be not more government help — …

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Questions for Jon Huntsman as he kicks off 2012 campaign

The GOP field for 2012 added another official contestant today when former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman formally launched his campaign. As with most of the other candidates, there was no surprise involved in his pre-announced announcement. But there’s still some mystery as to what kind — and caliber — candidate Huntsman ultimately will be.

Reviewing Huntsman’s questionable prospects at NRO, Jim Geraghty noted that Huntsman’s resume ought to make him a “dream” candidate for Republicans:

● Staff Assistant, Pres. Ronald Reagan

● Ambassador to Singapore

● Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

● Two-term governor, elected in two landslides

● Signed into law the largest tax cut in his state’s history

● From 2005 to 2010, his state’s economy expanded by 3.5 percent annually, second-fastest in the nation and three and a half times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole

● Enacted a health-care reform that raised the legal standard for malpractice claims

● Enacted the most …

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Health survey not so shadowy and nefarious after all

Remember that McKinsey & Co. survey that showed employers planned to drop their health coverage for tens of millions of their workers once Obamacare kicked in, potentially making the health law’s costs skyrocket? And then remember the outrage from Obamacare fans who claimed the survey must have been conducted along some pretty nefarious lines in order to reach such outrageous (to them) conclusions — and said McKinsey’s failure to release its methodology and full results were tantamount to proof of such nefariousness?

Well, so much for the outrage part. From Avik Roy on his Forbes health-policy blog:

McKinsey decided to release the details: the full questionnaire used in their survey, along with a 206-page report detailing the survey’s complete results. Accompanying these details was a thoughtful discussion of the survey’s methodology, one that pops the balloon of those who tried to tar McKinsey as some sort of careless, partisan outfit. Despite reporting which implied that …

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Demolishing a pro-labor-union hit job on Boeing and the South

Wow. Where to begin tearing apart the worst, most disingenuous op-ed I’ve read in a long time: Thomas Geoghegan’s anti-Boeing, but really anti-South, diatribe in today’s Wall Street Journal? Let’s try the beginning, since he gets the misrepresentations started in sentence No. 2:

It seems the president of Boeing was unwise enough to blurt out that his company would move a production line to South Carolina as payback for past strikes by machinists in Seattle.

The word “move” is key, because pro-labor people like Geoghegan have depicted Boeing’s decision to open a production line for its 787 Dreamliner jet in North Charleston, S.C., as a loss to workers in Seattle. In fact, this is a new production line; the existing production line will remain in place.

I’m sure the workers in Seattle — or, more precisely, the union leaders whom their union dues pay — would have liked for the new jobs to be in Seattle (in addition to the 2,000 jobs Boeing has added there despite its alleged …

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An opportunity on pensions that Atlanta cannot miss

Atlanta taxpayers should cross their fingers that their City Council will seize on a great opportunity this week and vote to revamp the pension scheme for city workers.

Atlanta’s pensions have been a billion-dollar time bomb ticking for years, thanks in large part to a pair of ill-considered — and possibly illegal — plan changes made during the last decade. Those changes vastly increased the city’s liabilities at an unfortunate time of stock-market stagnation.

Mayor Kasim Reed deserves much credit for his determined pursuit of a solution to the pension problem, and things came to a head last week when the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a reform plan that could come before the entire body as early as today.

City workers are understandably upset about the plan, but Reed has rightly described the issue as a matter of preserving pensions or preserving jobs; he’s estimated that up to 200 workers will be laid off if the Council doesn’t approve a solid reform plan.

What’s …

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Cutting the budget deficit by saying, “Me first!”

Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. Senate voted Thursday to end a reviled subsidy for ethanol producers, saving an estimated $6 billion a year, and it was tempting to think: Whew, maybe this whole budget-balancing thing is getting somewhere.

Then a look at the roll call revealed this: Among those voting “no” were all 18 senators from the nine states producing 80 percent of U.S.-grown corn. Ten Republicans, eight Democrats. A bipartisan reminder that some things never change.

Three of the nays came from members of the “Gang of Six” supposedly working to cut our persistent budget deficits by a reported $4.7 trillion during the next decade. One nay was cast by Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss — who, a spokeswoman said, preferred letting the subsidy expire at year’s end so as not to disrupt farmers’ budgets for the year. That might be defensible if the largesse in question weren’t so indefensible.

Thursday’s nays point to America’s broader problem: The discussion of …

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On Fannie Mae and the failure of our elites

David Brooks has an important column today about Fannie Mae, and what he calls “the most important political scandal since Watergate”:

It helped sink the American economy. It has cost taxpayers about $153 billion, so far. It indicts patterns of behavior that are considered normal and respectable in Washington.

The column is pegged to the new book “Reckless Endangerment” by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, which details causes of the financial crash including, but not limited to, Fannie Mae. Much has been said about the failings of the government-sponsored enterprise, on this blog and elsewhere. But Morgenson and Rosner, and in turn Brooks, add much more about how Fannie Mae came to be so untouchable in Washington. As Brooks summarizes it:

Fannie Mae co-opted relevant activist groups…. Fannie ginned up Astroturf lobbying campaigns….

Fannie lavished campaign contributions on members of Congress. Time and again experts would go before some Congressional committee to warn …

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