Bush vs. Obama – Disaster Edition

There is another strange disconnect just before this election. As some New Yorkers dumpster dive and many Jerseyites spend another cold night without basic services, the president has been bouncing across the map like a pinball trying to shore up his election chances. What is more strange is how the press have given him a hall pass for doing so.

In 2005 in the aftermath of Katrina, the media made it its mission to blame Bush for every hiccup in the relief efforts. Whether it was the response of the National Guard or the New Orleans Police or FEMA, it was “Bush’s Fault”. On the other side of the Mississippi though, Governor Haley Barbour and his team quietly went about rebuilding his equally damaged state and never was the breakdown in leadership in Louisiana mentioned.

In New Jersey this week non-union power crews were shunned and went to Pennsylvania instead. 1,000,000 homes and businesses are without power in New Jersey. Rescuers are still finding new victims as of this morning.

400,000 homes and businesses on Long Island are without power with temperatures in the 30′s and 30,000+ are homeless in New York City. There are few if any television cameras. The election is sucking up all the air time.

The President on the other hand left the White House this morning for stops today in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Colorado. He will not be back in Washington until Tuesday night. How can he have time to deal with the crisis if he is spending all of his time campaigning?

And the response from the media? crickets……

A new storm is moving in on New York and New Jersey and temperatures are in the icebox. Hundreds of thousands of people need shelter now. Would that the media might hold the President’s actions up to scrutiny, but we can be certain that isn’t going to happen. They have proven themselves completely partisan.

What will it take to force the media to do their job? How many people will have to die before they shine the spotlight on the limited efforts and engagement of our government?

Senator Coburn’s Government Waste List – The new phone book’s here!

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has come up with his latest Waste Book listing many of the wonderful, bizarre spending projects our federal government funds. The preface points out that since the last budget was passed on April 29, 2009, our government has spent $11.2 trillion and added more than $4.8 trillion to the national debt which is now over $16 Trillion.

One of the first takeaways is that the NFL, and many other sports leagues are classified as non-profits, costing the economy approximately $91 Million/year in tax revenue. Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones have the best of all possible worlds; rapacious ticket prices; stadiums financed by local government; and no taxes on the partnerships that are the major sports leagues. I guess we should have pity on the poor NHL owners, but the PGA is right in there as well. There’s nothing quite like subsidizing professional golfers.

Burger King, KFC, Godfather’s Pizza, and McDonald’s all accept food stamps and while cities and school districts are waging war on soft drinks, over $2 billion in Food Stamp money was spent on these products last year. In Seattle, Starbuck’s is a popular food stamp item.

Parque Alegria, a series of 10 minute telenovelas being broadcast on Spanish language stations at a cost of $3-8 Million, including time buys, instructs viewers on how much healthier the Food Stamp program is, weaning them from El Pollo Loco to Burger King, I guess.

An unused airport in the Senator’s home state comes in for over $750,000 in subsidies over tha past few years. Morroccan pottery classes for $27 Million, Alex! Yep, we funded a series of useless classes in Morocco, where they have a ceramics tradition dating back over 1,000 years. There is also funding for NASA to develop pizza on Mars.

In another project called “Look! Squirrel!”  San Diego State University and UC Davis have developed a robotic squirrel that  “will help perform public outreach, mentor students, and develop the next generation of robot animals.”

For the 1%, the government is also funding marketing programs for American caviar producers.In Alaska, $3.3 Million was spent subsidizing a ferry to nowhere in Alaska. This is not the ferry the bridge to nowhere was supposed to replace.

Senator Coburn also points out that it now costs us $0.02 to produce a penny. And we’re supposed to believe that the Health Care Bill will bring costs down? And yes, there is a program funded by the NSF to test gaydar.

Pepsi got $1.6 million to build a yogurt factory in New York. USC in Los Angeles got $40K to develop a Henry David Thoreau video game. Apparently the user simply contemplates the screen for months at a time. The Army spent $1.5 million last year to develop combat ready beef jerky.

The GSA, that hard partying junketeering fun-loving crowd, spent $24 Million on trophies and awards. Everyone gets a trophy at the GSA!

The list goes on, but during this hard-fought election season, some light reading helps break the tension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Krugman’s harmonic dissonance on UK economic policy

Paul Krugman today ripped into the British Government’s efforts to get the country’s economy back on track, calling austerity fundamentally mad. As one of the world’s most prominent Keynsians I am not surprised, but as a rational thinker I am deeply disturbed.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has also expressed her reservations regarding deep government cuts. And yet profligate spending policies without corresponding balance have drained government coffers around the world and we are standing on the edge of a deeper crisis than in 2007 based upon exactly the economic policies so strongly advocated by Mr. Krugman. The fundamental rule that at some point governments run out of other peoples money has still not sunk in.

John Maynard Keynes was reacting to the Great Depression when he formulated his policies and they began to be implemented. His work on government stimulus assumed that  structural deficits were acceptable in the short-term but did not address a long-term in some cases running for decades with interest compounding along the way.

The postwar economic boom funded the extension of the social welfare state. Huge and incredibly expensive promises were made that Mr. Keynes would not have comprehended. Keynes argued that nations avoid deflation even at the cost of allowing their currency to depreciate in order to keep internal prices stable.

But now we are faced with core commodity inflation. There simply are not enough resources to go around. There are deep structural changes occurring in the global economy.

Both the ECB and Federal Reserve have been running the printing presses at an accelerating rate which has set off the first salvos of currency wars. Mr. Krugman and respectfully, Ms. Lagarde have also failed to note the results of expansive monetary policy and public spending in their host country. The Yen continued to rise in value from the ¥180/$ level of the early 90′s to ¥78/$ today, making their economy uncompetitive. The massive shift of manufacturing in China partially driven by the currency shift not only in Japan but elsewher has also had a deep impact on the pillars of the global economy.

Since the early 1990′s after the Japanese banking collapse, that government has engaged in a Keynsian stimulus program aimed at reviving the economy. The Great Tohoku Earthquake was in many ways another Keynsian  economic event, but the result has still been deeply damaging economically. Imports are cheap, but there are no jobs and the debt burden of the Japanese government is growing, not shrinking.

Japanese national debt as a percentage of GDP is the highest in the world with the United States and the UK right behind. This is financed primarily by Japanese savings, which mitigates the damage somewhat, but the reality is that the government is still teetering on the edge of its own abyss, but simply owed to its rapidly aging citizens, who are now putting an even greater strain on retirement funds.

The horrific debt of the United States was one of the other primary topics of the IMF meeting.

While Keynes argued for government spending to even out the depths of financial crises, the constant reliance by modern governments on public debt not only creates the environment in which we find ourselves, but sucks the oxygen from private capital markets where the real engines of growth reside.

Krugman has been hectoring world leaders for more stimulus for the past year just as he has ignored the economic realities staring him right in the face. The bill must eventually be settled and government does not create value; it simply redistributes and regulates economic activity.

He has gotten the stimulus he sought in the world’s two largest economies; Europe and America. But he seems to have forgotten the study of history. Massive stimulus is a very limited weapon with unintended consequences.

The news out of this weekend’s Tokyo meeting is not good. There are many brushfires in the global economy and the tinder for a major economic event is very dry. Every night I pray for some answer, for if we do not find new answers, we are doomed to repeat the past.

 

Twitiots threaten riots if Obama loses

The media has begun to pick up stories of thousands of Twitter tweets threatening riots and mayhem should Barack Obama lose the upcoming election. Among them are:

“If obama dont get re-elected & romney wins .. on life every white persons getting pistol whipped and im startin a riot.” (SOURCE)

“If Obama don’t win lets start a riot so Romney know what he’s getting himself into.” (SOURCE)

“You know you ain’t shit if you gotta “MAKE” Mafukas vote for ROMNEY ! …. Mannnn OBAMA better get back in office . Or BLACK FOLKS will riot.” (SOURCE)

“If Romney wins im goin on a rampage.” (SOURCE)

“If Mitt Romney wins the election I think its our duties as Black folks to riot and fuck shit up.” (SOURCE)

“If every action IS met with an equal and opposite reaction ..what should workers do to employers if Romney’s elected? #Riot in the streets!!” (SOURCE)

“If Romney becomes president let’s all start a riot.” (SOURCE)

“I Heard Mitt Romney , Tryna Take Away Food Stamps , If He Do .”IMA START A RIOT , IMA START A RIOT.” (SOURCE)

“If romney wins, imma start a mf’n riot! Rns.” (SOURCE)

If Romney wins I’m Starting a Riot….Who’s WIT ME???”

“I Hope The USA Is Well Aware That If In The Event This Character Romney Wins The Election, The People Will Start A Country Wide Riot! #Power”

“If Romney is elected president, its gon be a riot its gon be a riot.”

“If ROMNEY GETS IN THE WHITE HOUSE …U MIGHT AS WELL KILL ME NOW …..CAUSE ITS GONNA BE A ************ RIOT !!!”

“If Romney became President and took away welfare Downtown Cincinnati would become a riot”

“If Romney takes away food stamps 2 Chainzz in this bit IMMA START A RIOT”

“If Romney wins. (which i highly doubt) THERE WILL BE A RIOT—”

In this age of instant communication there is no mute button for the most inane comment, much less insane. In this age of Homeland Security where a huge surveillance network is now in place and hundreds of millions of rounds of small arms ammunition have been purchased recently by government agencies ranging from Homeland Security to the Weather Service and police departments around the country are better armed than the Belgian Army, it is foolish to say the least to make such comments.

Having experienced Watts first hand and the Rodney King riots from nearby, mob violence is a terrible thing and hurts those communities most which can least afford it.

The only solution is for leaders in the communities affected take to the internet and the media to condemn such action forcefully now.  Such idiocy needs to be nipped in the bud. We are all Americans. We are all Americans together and want the best for our country.

We face difficult times and tough choices, but we can only succeed if we work together in our mutual self interests. The language of division and demagoguery have already taken a toll on civil society. It is time to grow up and get back on track.

 

A Disengaged President

There has been a strange turn in the last few weeks as we have learned more about what gos on in the White House and the political and personal isolation the President has created. In Bob Woodward’s latest book, “The Price of Politics”, the Woodward describes a president antagonistic to his opponents to a toxic degree and who has distanced himself even from his own party leadership. Woodwards describes a “monumental communications gap” between the President and House Majority Leader John Boehner at the critical moment in the 2010 budget negotiations.

Then, the New York Times ran an article regarding the President’s response to the Arab Spring in which he is described as having distanced himself from Arab and Middle eastern rulers and leaders, engaging them through intermediaries and minimal direct contact. This is especially strange in view of his attempt to engage the Islamic world when he spoke at Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2009.

That he did not consult with any of those leaders prior to pulling the rug out from under Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 sent our relations in the Gulf into the freezer.

We were told early on in the Obama Administration that the President had surrounded himself with a highly loyal cadre, and at the same time we have seen an unprecedented number of czars reporting directly to the President and subverting the normal communications channels.

His complete disengagement with the loyal opposition in Congress is also an established fact. But when you are not talking to your own people, that becomes a real problem. This includes his various and sundry Cabinet members and advisers as well. His truancy at national security meetings is legendary.

Last night in the first debate we once again saw a disengaged president. He was ill prepared, disjointed, and quite obviously off of his game. Prior to the debate, the party spinners were out in force reducing expectations, but it is generally agreed that the first debate was a disaster for the President.

The President is more comfortable, it seems, campaigning and schmoozing. Neither requires real engagement and speaking to worshipful audiences roaring their approval is a great salve to the ego.

The country has at different times had a number of presidents who have for reasons of health been unable to completely fulfill their obligations. Wilson after his stroke and Ronald Reagan in the latter half of his second term come to mind. At a critical time in his administration, Wilson was unable to campaign for his greatest program, the League of Nations and for a less onerous treaty with Germany after World War I.

But President Obama is a man in the full flower of life at an age when his achievements could have been herculean. Instead as Mr. Romney pointed out last night he instead placed all of his prestige and wasted his political capital on a highly unpopular health care bill that was one of the most imperfect pieces of legislation in our history.

The one thing a president has is access to the most remarkable set of advisers and data in the history of our planet. And yet with all of these tools at his disposal, he has made a conscious decision to be remote and to go it alone.

Mr. Obama himself argued for the Lincolnian “team of rivals” when he formed his own cabinet and yet has done more end runs around his Cabinet than any of his predecessors.

The Presidency is the loneliest job in the world. It all comes down to one man’s decision. But to isolate oneself as the President has done is to create an echo chamber where decisions are made in a vacuum. As this is a very dangerous thing. Consensus and consent are critical to any major decision, and while the President’s party has marched in lockstep, very little has been accomplished because of the polarization that originates at the top.

It’s not just about policy. It is also about the ability to do the job effectively, and in this, the president has failed.

Propaganda 101 – The Tight Focus Media

A few years ago I attended a function for a controversial political figure who was being targeted by Latino rights groups for his hard-line stance on immigration rights. I wanted to hear what this boogeyman said and make up my own mind about him.

When I got there in addition to the crowd attending the event, the driveway of the hotel was jammed with television trucks from all of the major Los Angeles television stations as well as a large number of national Spanish language stations.

Few of them were covering the event inside. Rather they were focused on a small crowd of perhaps 20 protesters outside. It was a symbiotic relationship. The media were there for the protesters. The protesters were there for the media. 20 news crews were broadcasting this protest into the living rooms of millions of Spanish-speaking families along with the 11:00 o’clock news on every major English language channel in Los Angeles.

By the look on the screen when I got home that night, one would have thought there were hundreds of outraged protesters. In fact, it was only when the klieg lights came on that it was anything but a very casual affair. The protesters joked and smoked with the news crews and reporters, and then went home before the event ended. They had made their point and sent their message to the masses.

Yesterday morning, it was reported that MSNBC had altered another video of a Romney/Ryan rally showing the Republican candidates in an unfavorable light.This is the second time the network has been caught.

On September 22, the major media including the networks, the Wall Street Journal, and other outlets reported a crowd on 18,000, Obama’s largest yet, in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, the BMO Harris Pavilion where it took place seats only 5,000, and video images taken by attendees showed large swathes of empty seats. The video from the major media naturally was tight focus.

It’s an old trick from the 60′s. Visual media feeds off of motion and noise. It’s the shiny object theory. It is also a pack of lies.

This morning, the ombudsman for the Washington Post challenged the paper to recognize its left-wing bias and a recent Pew poll found that only 46 percent of the population feels that the news coverage of the candidates by the media is fair.

When the Obama administration tried to enlist the National Endowment for the Arts to develop a media campaign to promote the President’s health care bill, it was not the mainstream media but alternative media that blew the whistle on a clear violation of the law.

Camera phones and iPads are challenging the received narrative. Breitbart, the bete noir of the Left repeatedly caught the farce on video, shutting down ACORN and “exposing” the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. It wasn’t that the major media had no interest in these stories. They didn’t fit the political narrative, so they said nothing. Same thing with the John Edwards scandal. It was the National Enquirer that broke the story. A major presidential candidate was cheating on his dying wife and engineered a criminal coverup, and the media knew and said nothing.

The decisions on what to report, and what not to report, and how it is framed are made by a handful of editors and executives, almost all of whom have cast aside any measure of objectivity.

But when there is a clear pattern of propagandizing for one side or the other, a Rubicon of our freedoms has been crossed. A fair and impartial press is vital to our democracy. The media themselves claimed that people sitting at home in their pajamas were creating a false narrative but today, it is those same citizen journalists who have been catching the media in their lies.

There is a growing cry against this propaganda machine but sometimes it is hard to find since the machine is intent on self-preservation. But when 46% of the audience no longer believes what it reads in the paper or sees on TV, the death knell has rung.

Punch Sulzburger died yesterday. He was an iconic figure to many in the East Coast media posse. But he and his successors failed to realize that by catering to a left-wing audience they lost 50% of their subscribers in a nation that is relatively moderate.

The propaganda machine is self imploding while it blames free content and 100 other causes other than its own alienation of its audience. Propaganda works when it is government subsidized but not in a capitalist economy.

We may differ on our ideas, but we cannot afford to differ on the facts.