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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Free Trade Doesn't Work

A reader, Ian Fletcher, has recently written a book and here's how he describes it. His opinions, of course, are his own.
If you already know free trade is a mistake, but don't know how to prove it or what to do about it, then this book is for you.

If you still think free trade is good for America and the world, you're in for a big surprise...

This very readable book is aimed at both ordinary concerned citizens and people with a bit of sophistication about economics. It is a systematic examination of why free trade is slowly bleeding America's economy to death and what can be done about it. It explains in detail why the standard economic arguments free traders use all the time are false, and what kind of economic ideas — well within the grasp of the average American — justify protectionism instead. It examines the history and politics of free trade and explains how America came to adopt its present disastrous free trade policy. It looks at the breakdown of specific industries and how we can rebuild them and bring millions of high-paying jobs back to this country. It examines what's wrong with NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO, and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. It explains why free trade is bad not just for America, but for poor foreign nations, too. It is sharply critical of the current establishment, but from a bipartisan point of view, so it should satisfy progressives, conservatives, and everyone in between. It is a good counterargument to the Thomas Friedman view of economic globalization. Read this book to get ahead of the curve on America's next big economic controversy.
Get the book here.

Constitutional Arguments Against the Citizens United Ruling

Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the local candidates forum held in the Blake Hotel. This included candidates from all sorts of offices including a plethora of judges. I couldn't resist asking the judicial candidates what they thought of the recent Citizens United V FEC ruling.

Because I was in Chicago, there was naturally a liberal tilt and so most of the opinions were against the ruling. Second, those that were running for the Appellete Court had to be careful because such a case may come in front of the court.

Here's the two most interesting arguments I heard. First, this ruling would in fact infringe upon people's right to free speech. This seems counter intuitive. This is how it was explained. By removing the limits, it gives corporations an unequal access to the candidates. Those without the resources to contribute in the manner that corporations have their access denied. In so doing, their free speech is infringed on.

For instance, the event I was at was free and open to the public and so it gives everyone equal access. If corporations can contribute an unlimited amount that gives them unequal access.

The other argument is that giving corporations unlimited power to contribute to campaigns lifts an entity to the status of a person. In their view, a corporation has no rights to anything free speech included. By ruling that corporations have the right to free speech, that means that corporations have the same rights as humans.

Illinois Gubernatorial Debate

The Free and Equal Elections coalition held an Illinois Gubernatorial debate. This was a unique debate because there were several Republican candidates, including Dan Proft and Adam Andrzejewski along with several candidates from smaller parties like the Green, Rich Whitney, and the Constitution and Libertarian Party. No Democrats accepted the invitation. Free and Fair is a group that fights for ballot access and, for full disclosure, they've endorsed the Putback amendment, something I've written about.

The video is having trouble embedding so please go here to watch the full debate.

On this note, the right blogosphere is a buzz by the endorsement of Andrzejewski by Lech Walesa.

Andrzejewski is a former business from down South in Illinois. He has no prior political experience. He is the unofficial candidate of the Tea Party movement. He's been endorsed by several local Tea Party groups like the Chicago Tea Party. His candidacy will be one to watch in the electoral evolution of the Tea Parties.

Eric Holder Has to Go

I was at a wedding in the summer of 2008. One of my friends, a liberal, made this provocative statement during some down time.

There's no question that Alberto Gonzales is the worst Attorney General of all time.

I didn't want to get into a heated political debate at the wedding. Had I though, I probably would have pointed out that I only needed to look two previous to Gonzales to find a worse AG. Between Ruby Ridge and Waco, Janet Reno had done plenty of bad that would have challenged Gonzales.

Now, Eric Holder is giving both Gonzales and Reno a run for their money. Currently, his decision to try KSM et al in New York is being publicly rebuked by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California Senator Dianne Fienstein, New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, as well as every Republican worth their salt including the newest elected national Republican Scott Brown. It's only a matter of time before the administration reverses his decision.

That rebuke comes at the same time when it's more and more clear that Holder or at least someone high up in his office cut off the interrogation of Farouk after less than an hour, read him his miranda rights, and as a result Farouk has been quiet since. The administration has continued to maintain, despite all reason and logic, that they got all the information they could out of Farouk in that first hour. That decision, and its ramifactions, would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous.

On a lesser note, Holder subverted the investigation of three Black Panthers that stood outside a polling place in this infamous video.

Holder's decisions have long passed embarrassing and incompetent. He has now entered into the territory of dangerous. Calls are growing for his removal. It's unlikely, for the moment at least, that President Obama will in fact remove him. In my opinion, his time has come.

The Bayh Standard for GITMO

Indiana Senator Evan Bayh was on Fox News Sunday this morning. He made a very basic standard for trying terrorists. That standard included three tenets: the cheapest, the quickest, and the one most likely to lead to a conviction.

By that standard, there's no doubt that GITMO still remains the best place to try KSM et al.

Challenging the Constitutionality of Privatizing Parking Meters in Chicago

Since the City of Chicago leased its parking meters to the aptly named Chicago Parking Meter Incorporated, the entire affair was nothing short of a debacle. Some areas have seen their rates rise as much as 400%. While that came as a surprise to many Chicagoans, it shouldn't have. That's because these increases were negotiated into the contract. In fact, the Daley administration negotiated these increases into the contract. Desperate for cash and lacking political will to do it themselves, it appears the Daley administration saw this as the only way to raise rates and much needed revenue without suffering a massive political fallout. As it turns out, the fallout was huge nonetheless. Now, the constitutionality of this contract is being challenged.

The law firm of Clint Kristov is heading a class action lawsuit against the city, it's comptroller, the Secretary of State in Illinois, Jesse White, and the State's current Comptroller Dan Hynes, challenging the constitutionality of this contract. Kristov is himself currently running for state Comptroller as a Democrat.

The nexis of the lawsuit comes from this portion of the Illinois constitution.

public funds, property or credit, shall be used only for public purposes.

CPM is, however, a private enterprise. If someone parks in a designated parking meter and they don't pay, it is the city of Chicago that issues said ticket. By extension, they are enforcing for a private entity. Thus, in the view of th plaintiffs, this would violate this portion of the Constitution. It would be no different than the city issuing a citation on behalf of Macy's.

Furthermore, five or more violations of non payment of a meter also means the suspension of one's license. Here again, the State is using public funds to enforce for a private entity.

There is also, in the view of the plaintiffs, a violation of a city code

the corporate authorities of each municipality may regulate the use of the streets and other city property.

This right, in the view of the plaintiffs, doesn't give the city the right to lease a part of the street as it's done by leasing the meters.

Finally, the length of the lease, 75 years, also violates a basic function of the City Council. That's because city councils cannot enter into contracts beyond its terms. A city council is elected for four years. This contract is for 75 years. As such, future city councils would have no power over this lease.

The case is making its way through the city's Circuilt Court system and updates will come.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day

limn (verb)

to draw or paint

Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love

Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Thoughts On O'Keefe and ACORN

I have been weary of writing about the affair of James O'Keefe because I wasn't there. Without being there and knowing his intent, it's hard to make a judgment on the situation. There are a few things that are clear. First, James O'Keefe handed ACORN a gift. ACORN can now dismiss most of what O'Keefe uncovered as the investigation of a "criminal",

Wade Rathke himself summed up the attacks best.

Now in a twist, and you just can’t make this stuff up, this yahoo and a couple of other dim lights from the right, were all caught redhanded by the FBI on Monday morning trying to scam their way into Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in the city. Seems they were tricked out with fluorescent vests and tried to talk their way into the phone system. O’Keefe in clownish fashion seems to have been easily observed filming his buddies on this Watergate bumblers expedition with his cell phone, although I’m betting it was a flip camera, but we’ll soon see. Once Landreiu’s office staff showed them the main GAO phone system, it seems like the secretary called the feds on their stupid butts.

ACORN will do everything they can to marginalize O'Keefe and they will largely be successful.

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who led a congressional push to cut off federal funds for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said the credibility of the conservative filmmaker who targeted the group has been badly damaged in the wake of federal charges against him.

James O'Keefe, the filmmaker, and three other men in their mid-20s, were arrested Monday for allegedly attempting to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) phones by pretending to be telephone repairmen. The four men each face up to 10 years in prison — and a $250,000 fine — for allegedly entering federal property under false pretenses.

O'Keefe says he went into Landrieu's office because he received information that Landrieu was ignoring phone calls and claiming the phone wasn't working. Whatever the reason, there's overwhelming evidence that he entered Landrieu's office under false pretense. He'll have to deal with the consequences.

For conservatives, they put their stock in O'Keefe himself and not merely the videos. Because they lionized him as they did, they invested in him. As such, any failings are now their own. The videos spoke for themselves and that should have been the story. O'Keefe himself became nearly as much of a story.

Tiger Woods is uniquely gifted golfer. Because he is, there were many that invested in his entire persona. The public at large knew little about his life outside the golf course. That's why we were shocked when his personal life spilled out. In this same way, O'Keefe made a great piece of investigative journalism. He is not infallable. None of us are. Some treated him as though he was. As such, it's not merely his own credibility that takes a hit. In fact, his investigative piece on ACORN is hit as well.

Dr. Chacko to Afghanistan?

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, for only $3.95, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 
Here's part of an email from Dr. Chacko to a colleague in Afghanistan.
Dear Jon:

this is a voice from the past. You may remember me from the past at BAMC. I had the pleasure of speaking with your Exec - seems very nice.

I retired from the Army in 2001 and went to work at the Lahey Clinic for five years as the Chair of Radiology, then went to Boston University as the Vice-Chair of the Radiology Department. I was hoping to retire in Montana and run a small department for the University - but it did not pan out - they fired the CEO (who was a delightful person and actually had a great vision) - so four of us from the Army left and joined the VA. I was recruited to address the issues of corruption and fraud and bring the radiology department into some kind of order. This has been a dreadful mistake and all they really wanted was someone with military credentials to rubber stamp their fraud. Some of the perps hired a blogger to write some unbelievable trash about me on the internet. I am merely telling you this since I don't want you to blind-sided. The FBI is handling this part of the case. Long story short, I am leaving - however not without getting the Office of Special Counsel to come in to take corrective action with the VA. I would like to be able to serve in Afghanistan to help run a hospital as well as do some radiology. I am enclosing a copy of my CV for your perusal. In order for me to go as retired recalled - you would have to get several waivers - which might be difficult given my age (65+) and my weight (quite a lot). I would be happy to work as a civilian or with an NGO. I am fluent in Urdu and lived in a Muslim country all my childhood and part of my adult life. It is painful to see what happens to the veterans when they come back especially at the hospital where I have been working.

Please let me know how I can help.

Thank you Anna
Anna K. Chacko MD

That is a transcription sent from Dr. Anna Chacko at her personal hotmail email to Colonel Jonathon Jaffin of Medical Command or MEDCOM. MEDCOM's duties include recommending jobs in military hospitals.

In this email, Dr. Anna Chacko is reaching out to Colonel Jaffin in the hopes of landing a job running a hospital in Afghanistan. The substance of this email however is what makes Dr. Anna Chacko the compelling figure that she is. The blogger is me. Dr. Chacko claims that I have been hired by her enemies to write nasty things about her. That is not true. I have been hired by no one though I do have sources within the Pittsburgh VA. I have also not yet been contacted by the FBI in this matter. Knowing that Jaffin, like everyone, has access to Google, Chacko knows that he would invariably find my articles and this is a great way of spinning reality on its head.

For instance, Dr. Chacko says she spent five years working as head of radiology at Lahey Clinic. What she doesn't say was that she was carried out of that hospital upon her termination by security and all the while she screamed

Kiss my big Indian Ass

She also doesn't mention that she left the Boston University Medical Center following complaints of sexual harassment.

Dr. Chacko also claims that she wanted to retire and work in a quiet hospital in Montana but that the CEO that hired her was let go and so she moved on. Again, reality was spun on its head. The CEO she refers to is James Kiser. Dr. Chacko arrived at St. James Hospital in Butte, Montana in July of 2007. Kiser "resigned" in March of 2008.

James Kiser, president and chief executive officer of St. James Healthcare, resigned Friday “with a heavy heart.” Kiser, 45, said he is leaving his post because his presence may be perpetuating long-brewing animosity between the hospital and area doctors.

“I felt it was time for a change for myself and my family, but also for the hospital,” he said.

Kiser, who joined St. James in 2002, faced challenges uniting doctors and the hospital, who have disagreed over competing outpatient services.

In fact, his resignation was due in large part to the deteriorating profits of St. James. Those profits deteriorated due in large part to the deteriorating profits in the radiology department. That's the same radiology department run by Dr. Anna Chacko at the time. Furthermore, while Kiser left in March, Chacko didn't leave until September.

All four doctors working in the radiology department at St. James Healthcare in Butte have quit and are being replaced by a Helena outfit.

Dr. Anna Chacko, the hospital's director of radiology, told The Montana Standard she has accepted a job with the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System in western Pennsylvania.

The hospital system cares for veterans from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. Chacko will serve as chair and regional director of radiology.

At the time Chacko left, the radiology department at St. James was deep in red. They are now on the brink of defaulting on millions of dollars of radiology equipment she purchased. All of this, of course, wasn't mentioned in the email.

As for her time in the Pittsburgh VA, I don't know if she was hired on to "root out corruption". Given her colorful past, that would be rather ironic. I do know, however, that not once but twice an administrative investigative board heard testimony regarding her behavior and twice such a board recommended she be removed. Dr. Chacko has continually claimed that she was targeted because she was attempting to root out corruption. In fact, that's what Chacko convinced Congressman Miller in the spring last year because that's what he said to General Shinseki in this letter.

Senate Letter 2009-05-19[1] -

Much like in this situation, Dr. Chacko spun reality on its head to Congressman Brad Miller and as a result he sent that letter to General Shinseki. It is her ability to spin reality on its head that makes her endlessly fascinating to me. Beyond that, she is now a national security threat. Under no circumstance can she be allowed to enter the theater in Afghanistan. I can only imagine what she might do there. Soldiers lives will be put in danger if somehow the proper vetting isn't done and she is given the proper waivers and given work there. The revelation of this email gives this story significantly more urgency.

KSM Out of New York?

If you've been following this story closely, this should come as no surprise.

Bowing to intense and deepening bipartisan opposition to conducting the criminal trials for the 9/11 hijackers in the heart of New York City, the Obama White House has begun discussing alternate locations with the Justice Department, senior administration officials told Fox News.

The White House denied a New York Daily News report that it ordered the Department of Justice to find a new location for the trials, which are sure to attract massive publicity and require intense security preparations wherever they are held.

The New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is just the latest area politician to come out against this plan. Meanwhile, the Congress is mulling not funding these trials.

Of course, the problem for the president is that there's likely to not be a community that will want KSM et al once New York is no longer an option. This will be a case of not in my backyard. Ultimately, this will work out better for the administration because they will be embarrassed now. That's much better than the multi year circus that would have embarrassed them each and every day.

The president may in fact even have to move these folks back to GITMO. I can't imagine any other community taking them. That will of course be a big embarrassment but that embarrassment will be temporary. It would be much worse for all of us if these trials were held in country.

Morning Market Report

The big news today is the recently released GDP numbers for the fourth quarter of 2009. That number surprised on the positive side.

The U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-expected 5.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter, the quickest in more than six years, as businesses made less-aggressive cuts to inventories and stepped up spending.

The Commerce Department said on Friday its first estimate put fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth at its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003. The economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter.

Now, if you measure recessions in the traditional way, we are officially out of the recession. Traditionally, once you have two consecutive quarters of growth following a recession the recession is over.

This number is excellent. While there will be some conservatives that will talk this number down, the markets are not. All three are up nearly 1% in pre market trading. With markets now in a near two week tail spin, that will be a welcome reversal.

Meanwhile, the ten year U.S. Treasury bond is up slightly. It's currently at 3.67% and up three basis points. The yield spread between the two and ten year has tightened slightly over the week and it's at 2.76%. The three month t bill has gotten a bit worse to .071%. Crude oil is up this morning to $74.64 a barrel. Gold is up just slightly to $1088 an ounce.

We had near mirror images in Europe and the Far East. Markets are currently up across the board and the exact opposite has occurred in the Far East. The Hang Seng in China was down 1.15%, the NIKKEI in Japan was down 2.08%, and the Straits Time Index in Singapore was down .45%. In Europe, the FTSE in London is currently up 1.09%, the DAX in Germany is up 1.35%, and the Spanish Index is up 1.16%.

The Dollar is up on the GDP news. It's up .29% against the Euro, up .49% against the British Pound and up 1.01% against the Japanese Yen. Finally, Toyota says it plans on recalling some of its European models extending this growing problem. The news that Ben Bernanke was renominated was supposed to dominate the market today but the GDP news will put all else on the back burner.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Obama Might Be Thinking Now

President Obama has been mocked and ridiculed for making this statement.

It's a fairly inexplicable statement. After all, Presidents that are great usually get a second term. Second, presidents rarely believe that sacrificing their own power is worth anything. What does Obama mean by this? Well, a clue may be found in this statement he made before he became president.

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that, for example, the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that you know Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like, you know, with all the excesses of the 60's and the 70's and, you know, government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. And I think people just tapped into – he tapped into what people were already feeling, which is we want clarity, we want optimism, we want you know a return to that sense of dynamism and you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing, alright?

It's important to note that he saw Reagan as transformational whereas Clinton wasn't. Obama doesn't want to settle for incremental change. He wants to significantly change our society in a way that will make him a mythical figure.

Clinton balanced the budget, reformed welfare, and cut the capital gains tax. All those made him successful and they gave him a second term. They didn't however make him a transformational figure in the mind of President Obama.

That may explain Obama's stubborn pursuit of health care reform, cap and trade, and possible immigration reform. No matter how unpopular health care reform gets, Obama likely in fact views it as the sort of transformative change that is worth anything. He may in fact be willing to sacrifice a second term, his party's popularity, and anything else to pass it. That's because health care reform, in his mind, will be transformative on a scale that will make him transformative.

Of course, Obama himself said that Reagan presented a governance that the "country was ready for". Clearly, the country isn't ready for his health care reform but Obama is still willing to force in on the country. In that way, he views himself differently than Reagan. He'll transform the country even if it isn't ready for it.

This makes Obama an ideologue that is more loyal to his ideology than even to his own power. As such, he's willing to advance this ideology no matter the consequences. If that's the case, that also makes him very dangerous.

Obama Still on the Brink

Dick Morris analyzes just how bad things are for the President. To show just how short term any bounce from the SOTU is, all you need to know is that another economic number came out this morning.

The weekly first time jobless claims came out and this week they were at 470,000. That number is better than it was at the beginning of his presidency but it's been choppy throughout. The four week average is roughly where it was in December. The monthly employment numbers come out a week from today. Obama's Presidency has become enslaved to that number.

That was always going to happen. Obama came in during a time of economic upheavel and his presidency was going to be judged by how the economy improved. Last month, the economy lost about 80 thousand jobs. The number will be somewhere near there this month. If its worse than last month, that will put Obama's presidency in even more jeopardy.

That's because a year in it would be unclear if things are improving. We'd have an awful jobs picture and getting more awful. At this point, there's nothing that Obama can say. Everything will ultimately depend on how jobs look come November.

We're about ten months away. The jobs picture looks bad, it may be getting worse, and it's almost certain to look awful come November. In the meantime, all we have to show for our trouble is a mountain of debt and a failed health care bill.

There's the rub. It matters little what Obama said last night. We can hyperanalyze every so called fact but they matter little. Today's first time jobless claims are much more relevant than the speech. The fact is that the economy is in much worse shape than Obama and the administration said it would be. There's little they can do to change that now.

Obama is married to a stimulus that isn't merely perceived to not work but is simply not working. That's his signature policy. Because that policy failed, he'll not be able to pass anything else. So, the Democrats are in fact looking at November with a record of a mountain of debt, double digit unemployment, and no other accomplishments to speak of. There's nothing they can do to change that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The President's SOTU Speech

As far as SOTU speeches go, this one was largely forgettable and that makes it about the same as all others. Since the stakes were much higher than normal, that makes it a failure for the President.

Let me start with what I liked. I liked the call for capital gains tax cuts. I wish he had given a number but it's still a cut. Meanwhile, the president also seems confused by exactly what a tax cut is. For instance, the president said he cut taxes for those that buy their first home, pay for college, and make their home more energy efficient. Those aren't tax cuts. You don't pay taxes, at least not federal taxes, when you buy a home. A tax credit is not a tax cut. I am all for having people keep as much of their own money as possible. Giving people someone else's money to do a basic task is another matter.

Beyond that, the president continued his more and more annoying tendency of blaming Bush. It's becoming unseemly for the President, in 2010, to still blame the prior administration. Enough already. He blamed the prior administration for the deficits even though deficits were nearly $2 trillion last year and will be near $1.5 trillion this year. The president did propose modest ideas to reign in spending that include freezing discretionary spending and some sort of a commission.

The president made job growth his top priority. That was first and that portion went on for more than ten minutes. The capital gains tax cuts were part of his prescription. That also included small business loans, a jobs bill, and those capital gains tax cuts. Some of the ideas have some merit, however we were told that the $787 billion was supposed to be a jobs bill. If that didn't create jobs, what is this mild jobs bill going to do?

National security didn't occur until an hour in. Bush always lead with national security each and everytime after 9/11. Health care wasn't mentioned until 8:42 Central Time. That was about forty minutes in and that says it all about the chances that health care reform will pass. In fact, it was mentioned after climate change which everyone agrees is dead.

The president went through a laundry list of wishes and goals. Almost none of them will be realized. In fact, it's not entirely clear that any of them will now materialize. For instance, the President spent a great deal of time talking about financial regulation and that has no chance of passing.

The president was defiant and didn't pivot all that much to the middle. That tells me that he has learned very few lessons from the last year. He's largely going to continue to pursue the same agenda he's been pursuing. As such, he's willing to continue to bang his head against the wall and get nothing done. Cap and trade, financial reform, and health care reform have no chance of passing in their current form. The president didn't acknowledge that and instead he pushed the Congress to pass these initiatives. He literally ignored the events of the last year. Instead, he sees these fights as analogous to the epic battles of our nation in the past.

It appears what the president is really saying is that he needs a serious whooping come November to finally send him a message. In fact, that's what he'll get.

Council Submissions

The Council Submissions are up.

Identity Politics Will Boomerang on the Democrats

Dick Morris first pointed it out and it's the main reason why I thought that health care reform would never pass. The Democratic Party is in fact really a collection of factions that all have competing agendas. The far left wing of the party is entirely different from the Blue Dogs. The Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus also have their own agendas. So, trying to put a health care bill together that coalesces all those agendas seemed to always be impossible. Lose even one wing of the party and the Democrats no longer had a majority if the Republicans remained united.

That's essentially what happened and each of the factions began to fight publicly with each other. The public option was the best example. Joe Liberman held it up in the Senate. When the leadership acquiesed, the liberals were enflamed. They accused the moderate Liberman of holding up reform.

Now that the ship is sinking, the identity politics will be on full display and each faction will attempt to exert its will on the party. As the party begins its public disintegration, each faction will attempt to make it known that its way is the way to prosperity. We saw this on election day last Tuesday. With the victory of Scott Brown, the folks at MSNBC said that the election meant that Democrats needed to jam through an uber liberal health care bill. Leaving aside the absurdity of that analysis, MSNBC was accurately verbalizing the view of the Pelosi wing of the party.

Meanwhile, the Blue Dogs want to run as far away from the Obama administration's policies as possible.

As President Obama works on last-minute tweaks to his State of the Union address, there are growing signs of a simmering rebellion among moderates against the Democratic leadership.

"The moderate wing of the Democratic Party is very nervous, and they're starting to defect," political strategist Mark McKinnon, vice chairman of Austin, Texas-based Public Strategies, Inc. tells Newsmax. "They're not going to win any of these key pieces of legislation that are important to Obama's legacy unless they can get those moderates aboard."

Since Senator-elect Scott Brown's upset victory in Massachusetts last week, the president has been taking fire from all sides. House Democrats have voiced frustration that the president hasn't pushed harder for a healthcare compromise. On the right, Weekly Standard columnist Fred Barnes wrote Tuesday that Obama's presidency "is teetering on the edge of a crackup and only Obama can pull it to safety."

If the party doesn't moderate, the Blue Dogs will either not vote with leadership or watch themselves get voted out of office in November. The Congressional Black Caucus has already shown signs of grumbling with the Obama administration and that will only get worse as his presidency spins out of control.

It won't merely be these factions. You'll see the House attacking the Senate. The legislature attacking the Executive branch. Everyone will attack everyone else as each faction attempts to exert control with the party in chaos. The sum total will be a party in chaos and at war with itself. It's yet another reason why their electoral prospects look so awful come November.

The Dems in Total Disarray

Wow!!! Politico has the scoop.

President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid will be all smiles as the president arrives at the Capitol for his State of the Union speech Wednesday night, but the happy faces can’t hide relationships that are fraying and fraught.

The anger is most palpable in the House, where Pelosi and her allies believe Obama’s reluctance to stake his political capital on health care reform in mid-2009 contributed to the near collapse of negotiations now.

But sources say there are also signs of strain between Reid and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and relations between Democrats in the House and Democrats in the Senate are hovering between thinly veiled disdain and outright hostility.

This is par for the course, and the Republicans went through a similar crisis at the beginning of the year. There was a public and bloody war between the conservative wing of the party and moderates like Lindsey Graham.

The problem here is that health care reform is dead and some of the party refuses to acknowledge it. Beyond that, no one wants to be blamed for its demise and so everyone is blaming everyone else. The embarrassment and shame from this defeat is impossible to quantify. This was topic one,two, three, and one hundred for months. The president staked everything on this bill and now he won't get anything.

The ship is sinking and no one wants to be blamed. There's a few differences between this and the Republican civil war. The main difference is that the Republicans had theirs in the aftemath of an election. This one may occur in lieu of an election. That's simply deadly.

I don't know how long this circular firing squad will continue but the Democrats are dealing with a ticking time bomb. They need to right the ship quickly. The longer they continue firing shots at each other the less time they will have to stop the electoral avalanche coming.

At this point, their losses will be unprecedented. The only question is just how bloody it will be. They could lose as many as one hundred seats in the House. That's how bad things look in the House. Ten seats in the Senate appears more and more likely as well.

So, the key to this story is just how long it will be a story.

Oregon Votes to Increase Taxes on Wealthy/Corporations

Oregon seems to have bucked a trend here.

Oregon has set aside its history of shooting down tax increases on statewide ballots, with voters endorsing higher taxes on businesses and the rich amid a brutal economic slump.

Democrats in the Oregon Legislature made it as easy as they could for the voters to raise taxes on somebody else, and the electorate responded Tuesday by approving Measures 66 and 67.

The increases approved Tuesday will hit people with taxable income upward of
$125,000 -- estimated at fewer than 3 percent of filers. Many businesses who had
been paying an annual $10 minimum will see that rise to at least $150.

With 91 percent of the vote counted, the vote was 54-46 on Measure 66 and 53-47 on Measure 67.

With the elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts, the trend was toward smaller government and lower taxes. Oregon has bucked that trend with this vote.

This will be a state to watch because people vote with their feet. You can bet that the wealthy and corporations will be moving to states where the tax environment is more friendly. This is exactly what's happened in Michigan, New York, and California and those states have suffered as a result. Oregon appears to have not learned those lessons.

The Faux Controversy of the Tebow Ad

Tim Tebow will make his first appearance at the Super Bowl and it will come even before he's officially a part of the NFL. Some are none too happy abouthis appearance.

College football phenom Tim Tebow is about to become one of the biggest stars of Super Bowl XLIV — and he's not even playing in the game.

Tebow, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the University of Florida, and his mother Pam will appear in a pro-life commercial that tells the story of his risky birth 22 years ago -- an ad that critics suggest could lead to anti-abortion violence,
even though none of them have seen it.

To put this controversy into perspective, we all need to know that no one besides the execs at CBS have actually seen the commercial. In other words, some are protesting the ad and demanding that it be dropped even though they don't necessarily know the tenor of the ad.

The tenor appears to be the story of how Tim Tebow was born. His mom was in the Phillipines and her pregnancy became complicated. Doctors suggested she abort because the pregnancy was threatening her health. She refused and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, I can't seem to find what anyone could find objectionable about that. Yet, there are women's groups that are clamouring. One of them showed up on the Factor last night. The problem for this representative of a Women's group wasn't the ad itself, which she hadn't seen, but the group sponsoring the ad, Focus on the Family. In fact, here's what Ms. Green, President of the Women's Media Center, said.

This organization is extremely intolerant and divisive and pushing an un-American agenda,
(Green was referring to Focus on the Family)
That's what's really happening. The ad itself isn't the problem. Who would have a problem with the story of a mother that risks her own life to bring her child to birth. In fact, the problem is with Focus on the Family which is staunchly pro life. Their opponents fear that the Super Bowl is too large a platform for such a group. The message in this ad is one everyone should embrace. Yet, some aren't because the implication of that message is one that has significance in a very polarizing subject. That's what opponents really have a problem with. As such, they've created a controversy where there isn't one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Deborah Hamilton Interviews Dr. Paul Williams

My Watcher of Weasels cohort, Deborah Hamilton, scooped an interview with Dr. Paul Williams and you can check it all out here.

The Tea Parties Vs the Minuteman

I've been struggling to explain this political conundrum. The Minutemen were a group of largely conservative activists that rebeled against a government policy. The Minutemen were effectively marginalized by their opponents and turned into extremists and racists.

The Tea Parties were largely started for the same purpose. They were also demonized by their opponents with similar invectives.

Yet, the Minutemen were marginalized whereas the Tea Parties used the mockery of their opponents to their advantage. I'm still not exactly sure what the difference is in the dynamics of the two. My cohort, the Soccer Dad, had an interesting take. The Minutemen were largely rebeling against the Republican party they weren't seen as outsiders.

I also believe that in fact it turns out that fiscal conservatism is much less polarizing than illegal immigration. At the root of the Tea Party movement is fiscal conservatism. All other stances, strict constitutional adherence, government restraint, etc., are rooted in fiscal conservatism. Fiscal conservatism is a concept that crosses ideologies and demographics. The Tea Parties have found their issue.

In that way, they're very much in the mold of Saul Alinsky. Alinsky organized around concepts that would attract the maximum number of people: judicial reform, access to health care, equal access to education, access to housing, and access to healthy food. Those are concepts everyone would get behind. In the same way, the Tea Parties have gotten behind a broad message, fiscal conservatism, that everyone can get behind. That's why they've thrived whereas the Minutemen, pushing anti illegal immigration (a devisive message) did not.

The Real Danger of the Obama Presidency

Let's say what should be obvious to all observers of politics. The wheels have totally come off the Obama presidency and it's not yet clear that anyone in the administration has any clue on how to get things back on track.

I'm sure there are conservatives everywhere celebrating. Some are celebrating simply because they have no use for the president. Others are celebrating because it means the end of his far left agenda. There's no question that the President will never pass any of his wish list: government run health care, cap and trade, amnesty, etc.

In fact, the president may very well be totally impotent to do much of anything if he insists on moving forward as a far left president. That's what many conservatives are salivating over. In fact, if the president continues to insist on far left policies, that may wind up only helping the country domestically. Such insistence will only spur more fiscal conservatives into elective office in November. Spending will be further reigned in and the president will be controlled on any and all issues. It would also likely stop any far left judge from joining the Supreme Court.

The problem with a president as weak as some Conservatives want the current one is on the issue of foreign policy. The president has done plenty to weaken us already. Moving KSM et al to New York does us no favors. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber was so atrocious it's beyond words. A recent report gave the administration an F for WMD preparedness.

A weak president becomes a target for the likes of Vladimir Putin, the Chinese, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda. If there's any attack on the homeland under Obama, he's through. That's scary because it's after an attack that we'd need a strong President. Yet, we're headed for one of the weakest presidents in modern times. With health care disintegrating the president's entire platform is fading away. His popularity is fading fast. His power is nearly entirely intangible, and our enemies know it. That's when they'll exploit Obama like vultures. That means danger to our homeland, our geopolitical standing, and our Super power status, and our enemies know it.

Sri Lankans Vote

That country will vote for the first time since Separatist rebels were put down last year.

Polls have opened in Sri Lanka's first presidential elections since last year's defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists ended a quarter-century of war.

Tuesday's vote pits Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent, against General Sarath Fonseka, his former army chief, in a tense contest that has been marred by violence.

In the suburbs of the capital Colombo, people lined up half an hour before polls opened across the country at 7am (01:30 GMT), according to witnesses.


Morning Market Report

The budget and the deficit is in focus today. That's because the president will propose a spending freeze on all DISCRETIONARY spending. It's important to note that this discretionary spending is about 17% of the total budget and it's increased 24% since 2008. The total savings would be roughly $250 billion over the next ten years. So, how this actually works out remains to be seen.

Apple came out with outstanding earnings after the close yesterday. It's also announced that a new product that "will change the way books are read over the internet" is imminent. Apple is up 2%, mostly on the news.

Meanwhile, China announced new tightened banking restrictions.

Stocks bounced back Tuesday after a report showed consumer confidence rose for a
third straight month.

Stocks had opened lower as China weighed on the market after tightening bank-lending requirements.

This came after stocks snapped a three-day losing streak on Monday as worries about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's confirmation subsided and investors scooped up bargains.

Stocks are bouncing back again this morning as well. The Dow has crossed over 10200 and is up about 50 points an hour in. The ten year U.S. Treasury remains relatively stable. It's currently at 3.61%. That's just slightly better from yesterday and about even over the last three days. The yield spread between the two and ten year bond is now at 2.80% or just slightly tighter from yesterday. It's still pushing all time highs however. The three month t bill has gotten slightly worse this morning. It's trading at .061% or two basis points worse than the last week.

Crude oil is trading at $74.36 a barrel. That's almost a dollar off their close yesterday but about the same as this time yesterday. Gold is down just slightly. It's at $1093 an ounce. That's about $2 an ounce off the close yesterday.

We've got mirror images of each other in the Far East and Europe. The Hang Seng in China was down 2.37%, the NIKKEI in Japan was down 1.78%, and the Straits Time Index in Singapore was down 2.54%. In Europe, the FTSE in London was up .03%, the DAX in Germany was up .59%, and the Spanish index was up .95%.

The dollar is mixed this morning. It's up .68% against the Euro, up .56% against the British Pound but down .70% against the Japanese Yen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Who is Adam Kinzinger?

If you want to see the new breed of Republicans that will blitzkrieg the Democrats in November, take a look at its latest reincarnation, Adam Kinzinger.

At 20, he won a seat on the Mclean County Board. He served in the military following 9/11, but most of all, he's a consistent and unwavering fiscal conservative. That's the main tenet of the tea party movement, strict and disciplined fiscal conservatism.

That's what Kinzinger brings, and it's what will become the face of the Republican party if the Tea Party movement fuses with the Republicans cohesively. Following the stunning Scott Brown victory, that fusion appears to be taking hold.

Kinzinger is running in Illinois' 11th District. It's a district held by Rep. Debbie Halvorson, a liberal that won in this slightly conservative district in 2008 because of the Obama wave. Now, that wave is over and all these sorts of districts are up for grabs if the Republicans run real fiscal conservatives in 2010.

The Tea Party movement has come off the Brown victory and now it's getting down to business with November. So far we've seen a handful of candidates that are spawned out of the movement: Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Doug Hoffman,and Brown. You can add Adam Kinzinger to that list.

It's a still small list but it's growing and by November many more will emerge. Their prototype will be Adam Kinzinger.

The Difference is Me

Obama's hubris will, I believe, be the stuff of legend for generations to come. As we look back at his presidency (when we do of course), we'll probably view that hubris as one of his biggest fatal flaws. If, in fact, he turns things around it will be because he gets the hubris under control. That moment hasn't come yet though. (H/T to Powerline)

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., fears that these midterm elections are going to go
the way of the 1994 midterms, when Democrats lost control of the House after a
failed health care reform effort.

But, Berry told the Arkansas Democrat
Gazette, the White House does not share his concerns.

“They just don’t
seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us
how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in
one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’
We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.

Berry recently announced his retirement. He was speaking to the president about how dire he saw the Democrats' electoral prospects in November. Berry made the comparison to 1994. The President appears to think that a repeat won't happen because he's president.

To me arrogance is simply when your own self worth is so inflated that you render yourself annoying to most others. Hubris is when arrogance becomes a fatal flaw.

The president refuses to recognize that his presidency is spinning out of control. He believes that he will overcome the overwhelming electoral dynamics simply due to his own persona. Such hubris is simply fatal. Let's hope that following his stunning loss in November he'll gain some humility and that humility will keep him hungry.

No Bid Contract to Donor

Yet another Obama promise has been broken.

Despite President Obama's long history of criticizing the Bush administration for "sweetheart deals" with favored contractors, the Obama administration this month awarded a $25 million federal contract for work in Afghanistan to a company owned by a Democratic campaign contributor without entertaining competitive bids, Fox News has learned.

The contract, awarded on Jan. 4 to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a Washington-based firm owned by economist and Democratic donor Vincent V. Checchi, will pay the firm $24,673,427 to provide "rule of law stabilization services" in war-torn Afghanistan.

Of course, this was something that Obama railed against during the campaign.

During the campaign I remember Rudy Giuliani saying that the problem with presenting yourself as holier than thou is that it magnifies your weaknesses. The problem here isn't the contract itself but that President Obama was so visible in claiming such things would never go on.

Chemical Ali Executed

Saddam's cousin was executed earlier today.

Iraq's government spokesman says Saddam Hussein's notorious cousin "Chemical Ali" was executed Monday about a week after being sentenced to death for the poison gas attacks that killed more than 5,000 Kurds in 1988.

News of the hanging came shortly after three suicide car bombs struck downtown Baghdad. It was not immediately clear whether the attacks were linked the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid.


Morning Market Report

After yet another bloody day in the markets on Friday, the equity markets are up early this morning. The markets have been dealing with both the fear of Bernanke's renomination going bad and worries over the new banking regulations proposed by the Obama administration. Those fears have been put to rest, however, this morning. The Dow has crossed back ove 10200 at least temporarily.

In individual corporate news, Ed Whitacre is now the permanent CEO of GM.

General Motors Chairman and acting Chief Executive Ed Whitacre will take the CEO role on a permanent basis, CNBC has learned.

The move has been seen as likely since Whitacre, 68, announced he would take over as acting CEO on Dec. 1 when Fritz Henderson was ousted after eight months as chief executive.

Bonds are slightly worse this morning. The ten year bond is at 3.62%. That's three basis points worse. Bonds have improved nearly twenty basis points as equities weakened. The yield spread between the two and ten year continues to challenge all time records and is currently at 2.81%.
The three month t bill is also steady as well and it's currently at .041%.Meanwhile, crude oil continues it's step back started when equities took their own step back. It's down slightly this morning but is now trading at $74.33 a barrel. It was over $80 a barrel before the market crash last week. Gold is trading at $1097 an ounce. That's up slightly but it's also taken a hit when equities took their hit.

We have a rather bloody day in both Europe and the Far East. The Far East was down across the board today and that's nearly the case in Europe as well so far. The Hang Seng in China was down .62%, the NIKKEI in Japan was down .74%, and the Straits Time Index in
Singapore was down .28%. In Europe, the FTSE in London is down .61%, the DAX in Germany is down .79% and the Spanish index is down .33%. The Italian and Swedish indices lead a small group of European indices up this morning.

The Dollar is weaker this morning. It's down .13% against the Euro, it's down .42% against the British Pound and it's down .29% against the Japanese Yen. So, that inverse relationship against equities continues.

Finally, there's breaking economic data to report. Existing home sales were down 16.7% in December. The so called experts expected a loss of about 10% in the month of December. Interest rates weakened throughout the month of December and so that is likely some of this loss. Beyond that, the increased home buyer's credit was originally supposed to expire in November and that also contributed to the number. It's also a sign of the choppiness of the real estate markets. The Dow has stepped back about 50 points since the news.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Palestinian Wife Beating Israel's Fault

So says the British science journal the Lancet.

It’s official. Britain’s premier medical journal Lancet has been completely Palestinianized. It no longer bears any relationship to the first-rate scientific journal it once was. Perhaps Lancet is no longer a leader but has become a follower in the global movement in which standards have plunged, biases have soared, and Big Lies now pass for top-of-the-line academic, scientific work.

The post-colonial academy is itself thoroughly colonized by the false and dangerous ideas of Edward Said (please read, my dear friend, Ibn Warraq’s book Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism). However, I once believed that Said’s paranoid perspective had primarily infected and indoctrinated only the social sciences, humanities, and Middle East Studies. We now see his malign influence at work in a new article, just out today, by professors who work at the Department of Medicine at Harvard University; the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at Minnesota University’s School of Public Health; The Boston University School of Medicine; the School of Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and at the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University

The Lancet became famous a few years ago when they were part of this global warming hoax.
The Lancet also published a series of bogus death totals for Iraqi war casualties. So, this latest study appears to be par for the course.

The State of Illinois on the Verge of Bankruptcy

That's the sad state of affairs in the state.

Illinois’ finances are in dire straights.

Some fear the state is a hair’s breath from (gasp!) bankruptcy.

"We would like all the stakeholders of Illinois to recognize how close the state is to bankruptcy or insolvency," Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a fiscal
watchdog in Chicago told Crain’s Chicago Business.

Bankruptcy is defined as an inability to pay debts out of current assets, and it’s no secret that Illinois can’t pay its bills. The latest count puts Illinois’ unpaid bills at
around $5 billion – a contentious fact among the state’s gubernatorial hopefuls.

This has occurred from decades of corruption as well as funny accounting. The state of Illinois, like most states, mandates a balanced budget. Through a series of budget tricks the legislature has run a deficit through a series of budget tricks.

Obama on the Brink

This Wednesday, the President will make the most important political speech of his life when he delivers his first State of the Union. It was supposed to celebrate the newly minted health care reform bill. Instead, he must explain his way forward following a stunning and humiliating defeat in Massachusetts. Make no mistake, we're only a year in and the President is already on the brink of collapse. At the same time, three years is a very long time and the President has plenty of time to turn things around.

I've been loathe to write much about Scott Brown's victory in its aftermath. That's because I was almost 100% correct about its implications in my predictions. It was a political tsunami. Health care reform, in anything near its current form, is dead. The president and the Democrats are in real trouble. The tea parties are huge winners and the biggest winner of all is Scott Brown himself.

The key going forward is if and when the President realizes that this election in Massachusetts was a massive repudiation of his liberal agenda. If Democrats lose in Massachusetts, you know the country despises your policies. So far at least, it appears that time has not arrived. The President and his allies have blamed almost everything, George Bush included, but their own policies. If that attitude continues, the SOTU will be a massive dud.

The President is trying to take on a populist tone. He wants to side himself with the people against the banks, insurance companies, and big business. That would work if that was the populist revolt. The current populist revolt, however, is against the D.C. policies. So, if the President promises in his SOTU speech to move forward with health care reform, he'll miss a very real opportunity to right the ship. It appears that's where the President is still headed.

Make no mistake. The Massachusetts election was a repudiation of the health care bill in its entirety. It wasn't merely the backroom deal. It wasn't merely the massive price tag. It wasn't merely the fact that it's a massive government expansion. It was all that and more. The Massachusetts vote, more than anything, was a message to moderate.

The President will accomplish nothing, go down among the worst Presidents every, and be a one termer if he insists on liberal policies. You'd think that preserving his legacy and his presidency would be most important. Yet, it appears that pushing his ideology is more important right now.

If the President surprises us all and delivers a manifesto to moderate on Wednesday, it will be the beginning of his moderate presidency. Such a presidency will see health care reform, energy reform, financial reform, education reform, and it will cut the federal budget. It will make him a wildly successful president. If he insists on moving forward as a liberal, he will continue to waste precious time stuck in a stance that accomplishes nothing and leads him one step closer to infamy.

The Politics of Bernanke's Renomination

If you've read this site some, you know I have no use for the Federal Reserve. I also believe that Ben Bernanke is wilfully repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Still, I am watching most of the opposition, from both sides, to the renomination of Bernanke and almost all is political in nature.

The folks are ticked off. They are looking for someone to blame and the Fed Chairman is an easy target. It's also the wrong target. The Federal Reserve itself has plenty of blame, in my opinion, for the current financial crisis. Furthermore, I believe that the Bernanke's current loose money policy will have a devastating effect on our economy down the road.

What most politicians are trying to do is blame Bernanke for the current crisis. That's, of course, nonsense. Bernanke took over at the end of 2006. By then, the wheels were already long in motion for our current crisis and nothing was going to stop it. It's clear, however, that most in Congress haven't the faintest clue what the role of the Fed is and what Bernanke has done in his office. Here's what Boxer said.

In a statement Friday morning, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, came out against Mr. Bernanke, who was named to his post during the Bush administration. She said she had “a lot of respect” for him and praised him for preventing the economic crisis from getting even worse. “However, it is time for a change,” she said. “It is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed.”

“Our next Federal Reserve chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past,” Ms. Boxer said.

I'd ask Senator Boxer two questions. First, what Fed Chairman represented the interests of Main Street and second, how can we have a Fed Chairman that has a clean break with the past. The Federal Reserve is the bankers' bank. By nature, he represents the interests of the banks. Ordinary citizens can't get a loan at the Fed's window. Only banks can. How would a Fed Chairman represent the interests of Main Street as Fed Chairman? Given that this crisis touched all parts of our financial world, how exactly would we get someone with a clean break from the past. To do that, we'd need to get a Fed Chairman entirely void of financial experience over the last ten years.

Both Jeff Sessions and Jon Cornyn have put some of the blame for the current crisis on the shoulders of Bernanke, and here's how Oregon Senator Jeff Merkey characterized the scenario.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said Friday he would vote against granting a second term to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, concluding that Bernanke was partly to blame for the nation's deep recession and that he is ill-equipped to lead a recovery.

In explaining his decision in a floor speech, Merkley credited Bernanke for the major role he played in keeping the nation from tumbling into a depression.

That is not enough to justify another four-year term, Merkley said, suggesting that that Bernanke was too close to bankers and Wall Street financiers. Merkley, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, also opposed Bernanke's nomination for a second term when the question came before the committee.

Let's try and put this into perspective. What Fed policies caused the crisis? Wasn't it the loose monetary policies that caused interest rates to be kept far too low far too long? This is what Merkey blames Bernanke for even though it was Greenspan's leadership that had these policies. What policies is Merkey crediting Bernake for in lessening the current crisis? Isn't it the same loose money policies that have caused interest rates to be even lower for an even longer period?

Senator Merkey is blaming Bernanke for the policies of Alan Greenspan. Worse than that, he's then congratulating Bernanke for instituting the same policies. This is the level of political thought on the Federal Reserve out of Congress.

In 2002-2003, these same Senators were congratulating Alan Greenspan for saving the same country from the brink for the exact same policies. Now, years later they are blaming the same Fed for the policies of the past. At the same time, they are congratulating the same Fed for those very same policies in the present.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dr. Chacko on E Boss Watch

If ever there was a match in cyber heaven it is the story of Dr. Anna Chacko and the website E Boss Watch. That website tracks and exposes bad bosses. So, it goes without saying that the story of Dr. Anna Chacko is right in their wheel house. They have the latest here.

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

Dr. Chacko on Conservative Voice

If the player doesn't work, go to this link and listen to the cast here.

Lisa Madigan: No Right to Secret Ballot

Earlier this week, I voted early in Cook County's February 2nd primary. The new touch screen machines have come a long way. After making my votes, the computer automatically moved me to a new screen in which all my votes were laid out. They were laid out in a color coded and column format. For all the offices in which I made a legal vote, that was one color and in one column. For all the offices for which there was no candidate (voting Republican in Cook County has many of those), there was a second color in a second column. For all those office for which I simply didn't vote (even though there were candidates), there was a third column and color. In other words, all my votes, and non votes, were laid out very neatly and very organized. In any given election, there can be as many as one hundred different votes to cast so such organization is vital to help the voter make sure they've done everything correctly.

I say all of this because starting in November of this year, the State of Illinois will institute new voting procedures. If anyone's ballot has an so called undervotes, the election judge will flag that ballot and go over this ballot one on one with the individual. This is a well meaning law with all sorts of unintended consequences. The law, SB 662, was created in 2007. Any ballot that has any under votes will then be inspected by an election judge. An under vote is when the voter doesn't vote for anyone in a given race. In other words, you may vote for President and the Senate but you skip entirely the race for your local state rep.

One problem is that the procedure set up to inspect the ballot is entirely vague. That judge can put said ballot onto the table in front of all judges so that everyone knows who you voted for. With vague rules, there naturally comes abuse. Here in Chicago, that will almost certainly lead to abuse. Election judges are often machine members. What's to stop them from pressuring folks into voting a certain way? There's very little in this bill. So, you can bet that election judges in Chicago will use this bill as a license to pressure voters a certain way.

Most troubling is the stance of the Illinois Attorney General. The Champaign County Solicitor brought a case into the Champaign Court arguing that this law violated our right to a secret ballot. Madigan argued that there is no such right. Madigan claimed that the secret ballot is merely a couresy the city, county and state gives the voters. As such, if a law comes along that violates this "privilege", that's perfectly Constitutional since the Constitution, state and American, doesn't have any such protection. Our right to vote is our most fundamental, and without a secret ballot, that ability is infringed. There's plenty of influence on your vote before you get into the booth. Once you're in the booth, that process must be entirely personal.

The worst part is that it should be clear that this law is entirely unncessary. The level of the machine technology already does what this law hopes an election judge will do. The votes are now organized in such a fine manner that all voters can easily inspect their ballot to make sure they didn't make any errors. This process can easily remain personal and still make sure that no mistakes are made.

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Hour With Wyatt Mcintyre of Patriot Action BTR

If the player doesn't work, go to this link and listen to the cast here.

Council Winners

The Council Submissions are up.

First place with 2 1/3 points! – Joshuapundit - Pat Robertson, The Devil And Me
Second place with 2 points – Mere Rhetoric - Government Labor Protections And Welfare Policies Keeping French Youths Jobless, Alienated
Third place with 1 2/3 points – Soccer Dad - Rachel’s tomb and the protection of jewish holy sites
Fourth place with 1 1/3 points – The Glittering Eye - The Triumph
Fifth place with 1 points – Wolf Howling - Wailing & Lamentations
Sixth place with 2/3 points – (T*) – Right Truth - Here Come the Orphans
Sixth place with 2/3 points – (T*) – Bookworm Room - A perfect statement about the balance of power between government, citizens and business
Sixth place with 2/3 points – (T*) – Rhymes With Right - Getting It Right On Palin
Seventh place with 1/3 points – (T*) – American Digest - Bring. It. On.
Seventh place with 1/3 points – (T*) – The Provocateur - Some Thoughts on Dr. Chacko’s Dismissal
Winning Non-Council Submissions
First place with 2 points! – American Spectator - The Scott Heard Round the World
Second place with 1 2/3 points – (T*) – Sippican Cottage - Quincy Market (Election Day)
Second place with 1 2/3 points – (T*) – Seraphic Secrets - Haiti: No One But the Israelis Has Come to Help
Second place with 1 2/3 points – (T*) – Common Sense Political Thought - My health care anecdata
Second place with 1 points – A New Conservative Lesbian - Obama’s ‘Enabling Act’ trial balloon
Second place with 2/3 points – (T*) – Volokh Conspiracy - The Supreme Court’s Cult of Celebrity
Second place with 2/3 points – (T*) – The Coast Guard Compass - Guardians Report In: HS1 Larry Berman
Second place with 2/3 points – (T*) – The Muqata - Israel’s emergency response
Second place with 2/3 points – (T*) – YouTube - Martin Luther King “I have a dream”
Second place with 1/3 points – Danger Room - Visualizing the Underwear Bomber’s Online Life

Appearance Alert

Once again, I'll be on Blog Talk Radio again tonight to talk about Dr. Anna Chacko on the Conservative Voice USA Online, and I'll be on at 11PM ET.

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

Up to 1 Million Displaced in Haiti

The humanitarian crisis is growing in Haiti.

Haiti has approved plans for more than a dozen sprawling tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince, the first step in an epic relocation effort that could reshape the country as up to one million people displaced by the earthquake find new places to live.

Here in one of the cities hardest hit by the earthquake — as in Port-au-Prince, the capital — the housing needs are acute, and demand for shelter has intensified. Officials with the Haitian government and the United Nations said Thursday that they were moving as quickly as possible to establish organized camps, with water, food and health care, before the rainy season starts to peak in May.

The situation continues to spin out of control there.

Bernanke on the Brink

As the media breathlessly tracks every move of Scott Brown and watches over the remnants that was the centerpiece of the President's agenda, here's just one story that should be getting more attention.

Ben Bernanke's confirmation for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman will go down to the wire and could be a closer vote than seemed likely just a few weeks ago.

Bernanke's current term as Fed chairman expires at the end of the month, and a Senate confirmation vote has been pushed off until next week at the earliest. Bernanke met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday as Democratic and Republican leaders surveyed senators to tally votes on the nomination. Bernanke needs 60 supporters to win approval for another four-year term.

I don't remember any Senate vote that was anything but a rubber stamp. So, the fact that it's even close is itself unusual. Bernanke is a controversial figure but then again, every Fed Chairman winds up being controversial.

You simply can't take on as much power as the Fed chair without drawing some controversy. His handling of the financial crisis will be a major point of contention. Bernanke is drawing fire from the far left and many conservatives so this nomination fight could draw some very unusual political bedfellows.

This nomination fight could be an opportunity for our news cycle to examine the role of the Fed within our economy but our twenty four hour news cycle simply hyperanalyzes one or two stories and this one hasn't made the cut yet.

Morning Market Report

It was a bloody day in the markets yesterday. The Dow lost more than 200, and it's lost over 300 since Wednesday. Some of the blame, at least, is being put on the shoulders of the President's new plan to curb bank activities.

Stock futures indicated another rough day for Wall Street on Friday after the previous day's selloff on the back of President Obama's proposed new restrictions on the financial industry.

Futures were well off their lows for the morning after General Electric posted earnings that beat analyst estimates, sending its shares up 1.2 percent in premarket trading.


A plunge in financial stocks weighed heavily on the broader market as President Barack Obama proposed the most extensive curbs on banks' risk-taking since the
outbreak of the recent financial crisis.

J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America were two of the worst performers. J.P. Morgan fell 4.2% and Bank of America was down 3.9%. Goldman Sachs Group fell 3.5%, despite reporting stronger-than-expected earnings before the bell. Citigroup slid 4.1%.

The President is trying a new populist approach...

President Obama will travel to the Cleveland suburbs Friday -- the second leg of his "White House to Main Street" jobs tour -- where he will meet and talk with local employees and visit a sporting goods factory to see the production of baseball and football helmets.

Considering the mood in the country, his aides might recommend that Obama wear one of those helmets.

The president planned to use his visit Friday to Elyria, Ohio, to test-drive an
aggressive populist push on jobs, a top concern for voters across the country as the White House begins a message shift heading into fall elections expected to be difficult for Democrats.

If this new found populism causes the equity markets to take a big step back, that won't do anyone any good. The equity markets have been performing well during the last nine months. Dumping on banks, big oil, and insurance companies may seem like a good idea but it won't do their stocks any good.

Bonds continue to improve while equities are getting hurt. The ten year is worse this morning but still much better over the last week. It's down to a yield of 3.62%. It fell below 3.60% yesterday. The yield spread between the two and ten year is now at 2.87%. That's a new record. The three month t bill is steady at .041%.

It was a bloody day across the board in both the Far East and so far in Europe. The Hang Seng in China was down .65%, the NIKKEI was down 2.56%, and the Straits Time Index was down 1.1%. In Europe, the FTSE in London is down .92%, DAX in Germany is down 1.06%, and the Spanish index is down 1.39%.

The Dollar is mixed this morning. It's down .26% against the Euro, up .59% against the British Pound, and down .24% against the Japanese Yen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Appearance Alert

Once again, I'll be on with Wyatt Mcintyre in an hour and a half to talk about the Dr. Anna Chacko saga. It will stream live at this link. It will be available there afterwards anytime if you can't catch the show live.

Also, tomorrow evening at 11PM ET, I'll be on with the Conservative Voice talking about the same topic.

Also, Dr. Mary Johnson, a local North Carolinian doctor/activist, and someone I've gotten to know a bit recently, has given her thoughts on the fiasco that Congressman Miller got himself caught up in when he decided to write a letter on Dr. Chacko's behalf.

UPDATE: Please also check out my new book, The Definitive Dossier on PTSD in Whistleblowers, in which I dedicate chapter four entirely to the exploits of Dr. Anna Chacko. 

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day

durance (noun)

imprisonment or confinement

Humor results when society says you can't scratch certain things in public, but they itch in public.

Tom Walsh

An Interesting Thought on Health Care

A doctor I frequently communicate with passed along this thought.

If the democrats are going to pass health care coverage for everyone, what do we need charitable care hospitals for?

Charitable hospitals, almost entirely, are "non profit" which makes them avoid paying taxes.

Southers Withdraws

As if things weren't already bad enough for the President, his TSA nominee officially withdrew his name.

President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name Wednesday, a setback for an administration still trying to explain how a man could attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on Christmas Day.

Erroll Southers said he was pulling out because his nomination had become a lightning rod for those with a political agenda. Obama had tapped Southers, a top official with the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, to lead the TSA in September but his confirmation has been blocked by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who says he was worried that Southers would allow TSA employees to have collective bargaining rights.

Southers originally took some heat because it appeared he was in favor of unionizing the TSA employees. He simply became toxic when details trickled in about activities he engaged in while an FBI agent. He tapped his ex's new boyfriend's phone and he either lied or accidentally, initially, gave false testimony about it during his hearing.

So, a year into his term, President Obama still has no TSA chief. That simply doesn't look good with his image weakened as a terror warrior by the Christmas day attempted hijacking and its aftermath. With the Massachusetts defeat and health care on the brink, this is yet another drip of bad news.

The Logic Behind a Progressive Tax

Introduction and disclaimer: Please note that I don't necessarily subscibe to this logic but I've recently had the logic behind the progressive tax explained to me.

The progressive tax is the hallmark of both the Democratic Party and the Green Party. It is the scourge of conservatives. Conservatives view the progressive tax system as patently unfair and punishing success. So, what is the logic behind the progressive tax system?

Those favoring a progressive system that the first $20,000 anyone makes is much more vital than the second million. So, you probably need all of the first $20,000 you make and so a progressive wouldn't want any of that taxed. You probably need most of the next $10,000 and so that's taxed vey slightly. Now, you probably need little of your second million and so that's taxed very heavy. So, the logic behind the progressive tax is entirely based on need.