Wotka World Wide

Friday, January 30, 2009

A look at why we should be worrying more about profits and less about lending to solve the financial crisis. More:
Profits are the most cyclical component of national income. From the third quarter of 2007 through the third quarter of 2008, Commerce Department figures show that wage and salary disbursements rose by three percent. Meanwhile, profits fell by 9 percent. Fourth quarter figures, which will be available in a few weeks, are likely to show an even wider discrepancy.

Economic recovery will not come from bank bailouts. It will not come very quickly from the various public works projects in the pending stimulus proposal. The fastest way to recovery would be to inject more profits into the system. Bryan Caplan, the GMU economist who co-blogs with me at EconLog, has suggested reducing the employer contribution to payroll taxes. In today's economy, this will flow directly into profits. It would encourage business to expand. Moreover, by lowering the cost of labor, it would encourage hiring.
Read the whole thing!
Write your Congressman and express your support for Rep. John Carter's "Rangel Rule", which would give all taxpayers the same immunity from IRS penalties and interest as enjoyed by Rep. Charlie Rangel and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

This is what a principled opposition does: keep your opponents corrupt actions in the spotlight, until more and more people get outraged (Chris Dodd, we are looking at you). This is what tips the electorate back the other way. Via Instapundit.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rush Limbaugh, writing in the WSJ, suggests we could use economic stimulus and tax cuts. I can't believe more people aren't suggesting this, as it worked successfully for Kennedy, Reagan and Bush 43. However, Democrats would rather exercise their power and reward their followers than follow a bi-partisan plan that would actually work. Hopefully voters will remember this in 2010.

Many hate on Rush, but the man is entirely correct here, and Obama invoking him the other day only serves to underscore the reach of his influence, not diminish it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Arthur Herman at the WSJ looks at the lessons learned from Carterism, and suggests that Obama can avoid some of the pitfalls that occurred during Carter's tenure. More:
"The result of the 1976 election," Michael Barone writes, "was Democratic government as far as the eye could see." After the debacle of Vietnam, Jimmy Carter entered office determined to clean up America's image abroad. Abetting him in his endeavor was the fact that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress by a substantial majority, while Republicans were broken and dispirited. Much as with Mr. Obama and his team today, the basic operating assumption of the Carter team was that U.S. assertiveness abroad, or what Sen. William Fulbright called America's "arrogance of power," had become the primary source of international tension. It was time for a humbler, gentler posture: The post-World War II Pax Americana was over, discredited by Vietnam, and so were the Cold War assumptions on which it was based.
These assumptions quickly resulted in the Soviets taking immediate advantage of perceived American weakness. Between Panama, Nicaraugua, Iran and other Latin American and African states, rule by communist dictatorship was on the march throughout Carter's presidency. Now, we face the danger of Islamic fundamentalism, ignored or under-estimated by many, yet an active and ready force for negative change, nonetheless. Preventing this advance, by keeping pressure on Iran, Syria and the mullahs holed up along the Afghan / Pakistan border, will be the key issue to deal with, along with containing a resurgent Russia that is careening back towards dictatorship via rule by brute force. Management of these situations is Obama's challenge. He must not swing too far to the dove position (especially as many of his followers urge), or it will only embolden our enemies. The retention of Robert Gates and the appointment of James Jones are good signs for American foreign policy, but the lessons of history must be learned and remembered, else we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Read the whole piece for a more complete history of the failures of Carterism. Hopefully someone in the new Administration will as well.
The Guardian looks at the twenty-five people most responsible for the economic meltdown. They also list seven gurus who saw the problem developing, and tried in vain to warn everyone about it. My main quibbles are they inexplicably leave out Barney Frank, Robert Rubin and Franklin Raines. Then again, they are on the other side of the pond.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You can find a complete spreadsheet of the pending stimulus package here. Note how many times mind-bogglingly huge amounts (literally Sagan's "billions and billions") are allocated for everything conceivable, all to be disbursed by the heads of the federal agencies, newly appointed by Obama and confirmed by Congress, wherever they see fit. And everyone in Congress is just supposed to blindly follow along with the dictates of the Democratic committee heads who crafted the package, with no debate as to where the money goes. Oh, but this is a new era of transparency! And this strategy worked so well with the last stimulus package... And the Patriot Act... But this time it will be different!

(Hat-tip Instapundit)
Stimulus for ACORN? Just what we need! If the Republicans vote for this, they are voting to give money to a group solely dedicated to removing them from power. Of course, many of them will. This "stimulus" just gets more and more ridiculous (sounds to me more like a payoff for supporters):

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that ACORN, the low-income advocacy group under investigation for voter registration fraud, could be eligible for billions in aid from the economic stimulus proposal working its way through the House.

House Republican Leader John Boehner issued a statement over the weekend noting that the stimulus bill wending its way through Congress provides $4.19 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities."

He said the money was previously limited to state and local governments, but that Democrats now want part of it to be available to non-profit entities. That means groups like ACORN would be eligible for a portion of the funds.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told FOX News Tuesday that the money could be seen as "payoff" for groups' political activities in the last election. ACORN generally supports Democratic candidates and actively backed President Obama last year.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jonah Goldberg considers what it means when we give a free pass to a Treasury Secretary that avoided paying taxes he was legally obligated to pay:
Timothy Geithner, President Obama’s choice to be the next treasury secretary, quite clearly tried to defraud the government of tens of thousands in payroll taxes while working at the International Monetary Fund. The IMF does not withhold such taxes but does compensate American employees who must pay them out of pocket. Geithner took the compensation—which involves considerable paperwork—but then simply pocketed the money.

His explanations for his alleged oversight don’t pass the smell test. When the IRS busted him for his mistakes in 2003 and 2004, he decided to take advantage of the statute of limitations and not pay the thousands of dollars he also failed to pay in 2001 and 2002. That is, until he was nominated to become treasury secretary.
He also looks at the implications of this for financial oversight:
So, who cares if he breaks and bends the rules? Who cares that he took a child-care tax credit to send his kids to summer camp? He’s the right man for the job, no one else can do it, he’s the financial industry’s man of the moment.

This strikes me as both offensively hypocritical and absurd. Obama has made much of Wall Street greed. He and his vice president talk about paying taxes like it is a holy sacrament. They both belittled Wurzelbacher [Joe the Plumber] for daring to suggest that the Democratic Party isn’t much concerned with how the little guy can get ahead.

Heck, Obama and pretty much the entire Democratic party insist that they speak for the little guy. But it appears they fight for the big guys.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Boston Herald nails Barney Frank for TARP abuse:
Ah, the dirty little secret is out. That $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bill was in part simply a variation on congressional pork - except this time the recipients were banks with friends in high places.

One of those powerful friends was Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. And one of the recipients of a $12 million infusion of federal cash was the troubled OneUnited Bank in Boston - a bank that had already been accused of “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” Its CEO, Kevin Cohee had also been criticized by regulators for “excessive” pay that included a Porsche.

Frank admits he included language in the TARP legislation specifically designed to bail out OneUnited. He also acknowledges contacting officials at the Treasury Department about the bank’s bailout application.

Keep the heat on this guy. He is one of the prime reasons why our economy is in the state that it is! Via Instapundit.

Charles Krauthammer considers how Bush's legacy is already being rehabilitated - by Obama himself, via his extensions of Bush Administration policies. Funny how that works, huh? From the article:
...Obama is creating a gulf between what he now calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must make as president. Accordingly, Newsweek — Obama acolyte and scourge of everything Bush/Cheney — has on the eve of the Democratic restoration miraculously discovered the arguments for warrantless wiretaps, enhanced interrogation and detention without trial. Indeed, Newsweek's neck-snapping cover declares, "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power."

Obama will be loath to throw away the tools that have kept the homeland safe. Just as he will be loath to jeopardize the remarkable turnaround in American fortunes in Iraq.

Obama opposed the war. But the war is all but over. What remains is an Iraq turned from aggressive, hostile power in the heart of the Middle East to an emerging democracy openly allied with the United States. No president would want to be responsible for undoing that success.
A look at new advances in solar-powered electric generation, from Popular Mechanics. Advances include parabolic mirrors powering Stirling hydraulic engines, creating enough electricity to power a dozen homes from one unit. We need more of this stuff quickly, especially if the government moves forward to dramatically restrict emissions from coal-based power plants.

Here is a great list of some of the items in new $825 billion stimulus spending package proposed by Congressional Democrats. Among the items:
-- $650 million to help Americans upgrade to digital cable after the official transition to digital television on Feb. 17, 2009.

-- $44 million to repair and improve the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

-- $276 million to upgrade and modernize information technology at the State Department.

-- $3.1 billion to fund “infrastructure projects” on federal land, including $1.8 billion for the National Park Service, $650 million for the U.S. Forest Service, and $300 million for the National Fish Hatcheries.

-- $600 million for NASA, including $400 million for projects such as “satellite sensors that measure solar radiation critical to understanding climate change.”

-- $1.9 billion for the Department of Energy for “basic research into the physical sciences,” including nuclear physics and fusion energy.

-- $209 million for maintenance work at the federal Agricultural Research Service’s research facilities across the country.

About the only item I like there is the Dept. of Energy spending. And maybe the spending for the Parks and Forest Services. It just sounds like someone's wish list of government spending. Wonder how much lobbyists have spent to secure some of this funding. Why throwing all this stuff on the national credit card is a good idea, no one has explained.

Friday, January 23, 2009

So now that President Obama has announced his intention to close Guantanamo (within a year, wink), what do we do with the prisoners there? Plan on waiting awhile to find out, especially after this:
A released Guantanamo Bay terror detainee has reemerged as an al-Qaida commander in Yemen, highlighting the dilemma facing President Barack Obama in shaping plans to close the detention facility and decide the fates of U.S. captives.

A U.S. counterterror official confirmed Friday that Said Ali al-Shihri, who was jailed in Guantanamo for six years after his capture in Pakistan, has resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.

And then there is this:

A key question facing Obama's new administration is what to do with the 245 prisoners still confined at Guantanamo. That means finding new detention facilities for hard-core prisoners while trying to determine which detainees are harmless enough to release.

According to the Pentagon at least 18 former Guantanamo detainees have "returned to the fight" and another 43 are suspected of resuming terrorist activities. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell declined to provide the identity of the former detainees or what their terrorist activities were.

Of course, they are all being held unjustly, according to some, and we should just release them into the U.S. and give them job training! That is actually what was suggested on CNN today! If only the left would actually try caring about those who actually need some help and stop worrying about those who want to kill everyone in sight for being "infidels".

So now that President Obama has announced his intention to close Guantanamo, what do we do with the prisoners there? Plan on waiting awhile to find out, especially after this:
A released Guantanamo Bay terror detainee has reemerged as an al-Qaida commander in Yemen, highlighting the dilemma facing President Barack Obama in shaping plans to close the detention facility and decide the fates of U.S. captives.

A U.S. counterterror official confirmed Friday that Said Ali al-Shihri, who was jailed in Guantanamo for six years after his capture in Pakistan, has resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of al-Qaida.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barack Obama and John Roberts performed an oath of office do-over Wednesday night at the White House, after both flubbed the oath on Inauguration Day. Some officials insisted the first oath was legitimate, but they decided to be on the safe side. They shouldn't feel too bad, it has happened before, with Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur. From the AP, via Instapundit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chinese news agencies censored portions of Obama's speech that mentioned communism and and the silencing of dissent. More from the BBC:

China Central Television, the country's main broadcaster, aired the speech live with a simultaneous Chinese translation.

But when the translator got to the part where President Obama talked about facing down communism, her voice suddenly faded away.

The programme suddenly cut back to the studio, where an off-guard presenter had to quickly ask a guest a question.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jay Nordlinger of National Review has a good sit-down discussion with President Bush that mostly presents him in his own words. He is about as coherent and articulate as I have ever seen him, and he gives some rationale for his actions in the post-9/11 world. Check it out. A sample:
[Bush] said, “I’m comfortable that I have made principled decisions for eight years — that I was unwilling to sacrifice those principles for the sake of short-term approbation, approval, or whatever you want to call it. It was in [the Oval Office] that a prominent member of my political party said, ‘You must remove troops from Iraq, because it could cost us elections if you don’t.’ And it was in this room that I looked at him and said, ‘You must not understand George W. Bush, because I understand that success in Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of America, and therefore I will make decisions based upon victory in Iraq, not victory in the polls.’”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Democrats in Congress are already holding hearings in preparation for the task of writing legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions. They have already latched on to the cap-and-trade framework that is prevalent in Europe and down under. How they can consider enacting these draconian restrictions on businesses that are already massively suffering is unfathomable to me. So many companies are suffering layoffs and declining stock prices, and the solution of our government is enacting a measure guaranteed to shrink the economy. Similar legislation passed in other countries has estimated a one percent yearly decline in GDP, at least for the first few years. Of course, the trillions in new spending being proposed will not only offset the carbon trading declines, but also jolt us out the our current recession, right? While it makes sense that we need to do something about excessive carbon emissions, wouldn't it make sense to do it at a later time, when the economic harm suffered by American industry and workers won't be so dire?

Now is also the time to see who will set the upcoming legislative agenda in Washington. Will it be Democrats in Congress, or the incoming President? That situation will tell us a lot about the new President, I believe. If he acts decisively to set his own agenda, that will be a sign that he plans to be an active President, rather than a reactive one (at least as much as he can be). However, I fear that Congress will dictate the agenda, just like the Republicans in Congress did to Bush. Obama needs to demonstrate his willingness to veto legislation, especially if it is bad for the economy right now. Otherwise, Democrats will be setting themselves up for a fall in 2010, just as voters rejected the Democratic leadership in 1994 after they got too carried away with reforming health care and raising taxes.
Wow, this is cool! More advances in cloaking technology are on the way! More here:
[T]he new material is easier to make and has a far greater bandwidth. It is made from a so-called metamaterial -- an engineered, exotic substance with properties not seen in nature.

Metamaterials can be used to form a variety of "cloaking" structures that can bend electromagnetic waves such as light around an object, making it appear invisible.

In this case, the material is made from more than 10,000 individual pieces of fiberglass material arranged in parallel rows on a circuit board.

I always wanted a cloaking cape...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steve Jobs of Apple is taking a leave of absence from the company to deal with a still-undisclosed health issue. He is a pancreatic cancer survivor, but denies that is the culprit behind his problems. The company has no clear succession plan, although Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will take over day-to-day operations. Some investors are upset, and a lawsuit for less-than-timely disclosure may be filed soon. Will Apple stay a top company without Jobs at the helm? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More controversy for Obama, this time with his Treasury pick, Timothy Geithner. Turns out he failed to pay thousands in social security and medicare taxes while employed at the IMPF and had an illegal housekeeper. Funny how that illegal housekeeper thing sunk Clinton's nominee for AG, Zoe Baird, back in 1993, as well as Linda Chavez, Bush's nominee for Labor Secretary in 2001. But I'm betting it won't hold up Geithner's nomination. After all, we can't expect our Treasury Secretary to be able to follow our horribly complicated tax laws, especially when the man who helps write them, Charlie Rangel, can't either. Read more here and here.
A suggestion for Obama and Daschle: look at the train wreck that is universal health care in Massachusetts, which has already become a huge flop in just two years, roughly doubling everyones healthcare expenses while shrinking the coverage available. And there are still many uninsured. Please don't rush to "fix" health care and make the problem immeasurably worse! More:
To much fanfare from both right and left in 2006, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to require all residents to buy health insurance. A new state health insurance clearinghouse was created, with taxpayers subsidizing those who couldn’t afford to buy coverage. Then Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, promised that “every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance.” Yet just two years later, Romney’s much-heralded “solution” — touted by many as the model for a national program — has become an embarrassing flop.

Just a year after the universal coverage law passed, The New York Times reported, state insurers were already jacking up rates to twice the national average. According to Dr. Paul Hsieh, a physician and founding member of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, 43 mandatory benefits — including those that many people did not want or need, such as invitro fertilization — raised the costs of coverage for Massachusetts residents by as much as 56 percent, depending upon an individual’s income status. So much for “affordable” health care.

Read the whole thing.

States pushing for taxation on internet sales. The states still need Congress to change the law banning taxes on out-of-state internet sales before they can do much of anything to the likes of Amazon. That is why Amazon is suing New York after they announced a tax on their sales to New York residents. It would seem prudent to me to allow one of our last remaining strong industries to continue growing and creating jobs, especially in a recession, but never underestimate a politician's ability to tax anything they can.
Some suggestions for President-elect Obama, on ways to address the Israeli-Palestinian issue differently from the outgoing Bush Administration:

•Declare his determination to pursue from his first day in office, not the final six months, full peace between Israel and all its neighbors. Only by doing so can he win support among Israelis, Palestinians, the Congress, and the international partners we'll need to support this historic effort.

•Name an outstanding peace envoy to be resident full time in the region with authority over our missions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He or she must have the presidential backing and stamina to withstand the pressures and pitfalls of a comprehensive peace process over the long haul. In addition, this envoy must have authority over all US interactions with the Palestinians and Israelis and later, with other parties, reporting directly to the president in collaboration with the National Security Adviser and secretary of State. Assisted with staff comprising the US government's foremost experts, this envoy would be the single US voice on this issue.

•Empower the envoy to engage with all parties to the conflict, regardless of current prohibitions, on all issues, overturning long-established policy.

•Fund a political and economic development process second only to those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These ideas are a good start. But first a cease-fire that actually ceases rocket attacks and armed invasions must be agreed upon. The author also doesn't mention how to get around Hamas' belief that Israel must be destroyed. That isn't exactly a position from which negotiations for peace can easily proceed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama has announced that Guantanamo will not close immediately, certainly not during his first 100 days in office. Apparently, he has realized that some of those held there "are intent on blowing us up." Glad he has realized that it isn't just the U.S. being evil, as he implied throughout the campaign. It will be interesting to see how the left reacts to this announcement...

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Senator Kit Bond of Missouri has announced today that he will not seek a 5th term in the Senate in 2010. This is yet another setback for Congressional Republicans, as Bond likely would have won, however removing the incumbent factor makes things a complete toss-up.

Bond has a mixed legacy as Missouri Senator. He has been known for pork-barrel earmarks, but he has also worked diligently to ensure jobs stay in Missouri. He has a big influence on foreign affairs as sometime chairman, currently vice chairman, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He is also well-known for his work on agricultural issues, and he has always been an advocate for small businesses. Recently, he was the primary Republican proponent of the auto industry bail-out. Missouri will miss having someone with his level of influence and expertise in the halls of power. He also was a two-time Missouri governor, and has been in public service for over forty years.

Here is a concise time-line of his career and some of his achievements.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A nice roundup of some of Bill Richardson's lies and indiscretions, from The Huffington Post. How did Obama even consider this guy for anything in the first place? And this list is somewhat generous; things look much worse when you follow some of the links in the article.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check, from Kimberely Strassel at the WSJ:

It hasn't been much noticed, but the political ground is already shifting under Big Labor's card-check initiative. The unions poured unprecedented money and manpower into getting Democrats elected; their payoff was supposed to be a bill that would allow them to intimidate more workers into joining unions. The conventional wisdom was that Barack Obama and an unfettered Democratic majority would write that check, lickety-split.

Instead, union leaders now say they are being told card check won't happen soon. It seems the Obama team plans to devote its opening months to important issues, like the economy, and has no intention of jumping straight into the mother of all labor brawls. It also seems Majority Leader Harry Reid, even with his new numbers, might not have what it takes to overcome a filibuster. It's a case study in how quickly a political landscape can change, and how frequently the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Read the whole thing. Hopefully common sense will prevail and they end up killing this legislation, as I can't think of one single thing that will cripple our economy even more than it already is than instituting the Employee Free Choice Act. This has to be the most blatant misnomer for a piece of legislation ever, since it does nothing but eliminate an employee's freedom to choose unionization free from coersion.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Stealing an election is Minnesota, just like everyone on the right knew would happen. The State Canvassing Board...
"...has been flagrantly inconsistent. Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency."
This is how Democrats steal elections in America. It is a shameful practice, and it occurs in full view of the public, which makes it even more galling. This has occurred in other elections, most recently the Washington state governor's race. And it is always the same, keep counting "ballots" until the Democrat is ahead, and then immediately halt the counting and certify the winner as quickly as possible. Hopefully Norm Coleman has the money and the chutzpah to keep fighting this thing. And if he loses, he can always lobby for some rich donor to put him on the radio so he can bash the opposition... Voters in Minnesota deserve better.
Speaking of Clinton Administration retreads, apparently Leon Panetta, former White House Chief of Staff, has been picked to head the CIA. Just what we need to restore faith in the intelligence capabilities of the CIA... a blatantly political pick.
Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn himself from consideration for Secretary of Commerce in the new Obama Administration following a grand jury investigation into how some of his major donors won lucrative state contracts. Look for a Clinton Administration retread to fill this slot...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Laurence Tribe, Harvard law scholar, on the Senate's constitutional duty to seat Ronald Burris. He makes it clear they can keep him out if they want to. It will be interesting to see what they do.
Check out James Reynolds' China blog. He is the BBC's Beijing correspondent, and he has a unique take on life in China. His latest addresses the government's policy of mass-texting everyone, and how they had the dairy companies responsible for the tainted milk apologize via text to half the country. Very strange.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

For sheer brazenness, nobody surpasses Rod, from John Kass at the Chicago Tribune. He nails it. And he is right that the Senate won't have much choice when it comes down to seating the only black American in that democratic body, or they risk looking intolerant. Congressmen Rush's statements likening this episode to a lynching were deplorable though. I thought this was the beginning of a post-racial era? Nope, just business as usual for the old guard black Democrats. If at first you don't succeed, tar your opponents as pre-civil rights racist. Or even better, do it preemptively, so no one can argue against you. Still, I will take Roland Burris over a Jackson any day of the week.

Oh, and Happy 2009!