The Newsweek Lesson

Newsweek is ceasing their print edition at the end of the year.I would imagine, like LIFE, they will then occasionally publish special editions on potentates and celebrities but functionally it will soon be just another blog.

As I sit here in my pajamas, I have to wonder at the sheer bloody mindedness of management. In recent months I have to say that the magazine has been marginally more interesting with some excellent comment from authors who have largely been sidelined like Niall Ferguson and Ayaan Ali Hirsi. Surprise, it was their alternative perspectives that made those articles must reads.

But when the media establishment becomes so politicized, they will always risk losing 50% of their potential audience. Fox has found a gold mine in the 50% neglected by the mass media because their demographic spans the entire conservative spectrum. there are few alternatives.

On the other side of the dial are CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS and a plethora of their offspring and offshoots.

The same holds true in the national media. The New York Times is a shadow of its former self while the Washington Post struggles. The clear winner has been the Wall Street Journal, who have maintained both credibility and relevance while expanding its reach well beyond the financial pages.

Go to a newstand these days. Not nearly as many people do anymore. Magazines have become expensive and it seems that self-help, sports and lifestyle publishing dominates. There is less and less space given serious writing. The cost of printing and editing and perhaps even paying writers has forced much of what was the serious press deeper and deeper into the shadows. What is left is very unappealing to many. It represents one more phase in the dumbing down of America.

At a time when the internet has challenged traditional media for the volume of content, some rookie mistakes have multiplied the chances of failure. The creep of politics, and specifically liberal politics from the editorial page and into content; the constant shuffling with form and ‘packaging” and typefaces and gimmicks all have contributed to the slow death spiral of print media.

And yet I have to believe from all that I read on the internet and how badly packaged much of it is that there are still opportunities for serious content. There is a herd mentality that spreads from the editorial desks to the newsrooms to the bureaus that has lost the sense of good reporting. The media fiasco in reporting the Benghazi fiasco is one notable case; the lack of reporting outside the wire in Afghanistan and much of the Middle East is another. These days the herd is firmly inside the corral.

Lesson #1 from the Newsweek failure – Don’t piss off 50% of the audience. Provoke them; Intrigue them; Inform them. This is what has always sold newspapers and magazines

Lesson #2 – Quality Sells. Be the best at what you do.

Lesson #3 – Cost Performance. Add real value.
Lesson #4 – Always remember Lesson #1

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s war on conventional energy and problem with the facts

The President spoke at length last night about his energy policy. He implied that under his administration the United States was producing more energy than ever before and took credit for the current shale oil and gas boom. And yet he has a terrible record on energy.

His War on Coal began long before the 2008 election. On January 17, 2008 in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, the candidate said:

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s Thousands of jobs at both coal mines and power plants have already been lost.

Immediately, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior began to work hand in glove to re-write existing regulations on emissions; on new technology implementation; and even on the remediation of mining sites. Energy Secretary Chu re-stated this in early 2011. Credit Suisse estimated that by 2020 the targets would take over 35 Gigawatts of power off-line. Already numerous power plants and mines have been forced to close.

In the meantime, Secretary Chu, long before he took the job stated while at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories: “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” in order to reduce dependence upon foreign oil. he seems to have gotten his wish.

A few weeks into the new administration in March 2009, the President proposed his Cap & Trade Bill in the depths of the worst economic recession in 75 years. This would have done absolutely nothing to reduce greenhouse gases but would have created a market for hundreds of billions of dollars in credits to be traded. The power companies would have passed the bill onto the customer, and people like Al Gore, who has already made over $100 Million on the practice, would have made even more. The bill passed in the House but died in the Senate. Both houses were controlled by the Democrats at the time, but the bill was so egregious enough Democrats voted against it to kill it. But it was very close.

The president was proud to point out “Over the last three years my administration has approved dozens of new pipelines, including from Canada.  And we’ve opened millions of acres for oil and gas exploration.  All told we plan to make available more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico.” A small part is true, but the rest is clearly pure smoke, as will be demonstrated.

It is true that the president approved the southern part of the Keystone XL pipeline but he dramatically cancelled the much more important northern portion, which would make Alberta’s massive oil sands an integral part of the North American oil infrastructure. He wildly misstated his pipeline approvals.

He also said: “In 2010, our dependence on foreign oil was under 50 percent for the first time in over a decade.  We were less reliant on foreign oil than we had been.  In 2011, the United States relied less on foreign oil than in any of the last 16 years. ” Perhaps the worst financial downturn since the great depression may have had something to do with this.

But the Energy Information Administration reported in January that production of oil and gas  on federal and Indian lands is down 40% from 10 years ago. In January, the Bureau of Land Management reported that 2010 was the worst year since 1984 for new lease sales, and there was only one lease auction in all of 2011. Once again, the president’s statement is at odds with the facts.

Between 20 April, 2010 to mid 2011, all offshore and much inshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was shut down because of the Deepwater Horizon moratorium. It was only  in early – 2011 that permits for offshore drilling began to be issued. Only recently have those levels returned to normal in the face of $4.00/gallon gasoline..Deepwater Well approvals

The war on conventional energy in Alaska alone is worth noting. In Alaska, The Department of Interior just banned drilling in 50% (11.5 million acres) of Alaska’s National petroleum reserve.The state of Alaska sued the federal government in 2010 for violating federal regulations in banning offshore drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Shell Oil has been trying to drill for several years and has been blocked by various federal agencies at every step by any means possible. Exploratory drilling in the Cook Inlet has also been blocked by methods including the Jones Act, which requires U.S. hulled ships to be used. But in this case, there are no U.S. hulled ships that can be used. Catch 22 again.

The President also touted his approval of new nuclear power plants. There have been four reactors approved; all of them additional reactors at existing plants. No new plants have been approved. New plants are caught up in a Catch 22 because the President’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) was supposed to offer a form of credit insurance that would allow the operators to go to the markets for capital, but has yet to do so. Vague, yet effective Senator Harry Reid was also been very effective in quashing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in cooperation with Obama’s NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo. Jackzo was forced to resign in May for intimidation, harassment and a harsh working environment. Jackzo was adamantly against new nuclear power plants.

Last night the President bragged about the new natural gas rush. the only problem is that the federal government has once again done its best to stop this bonanza. If you recall, in 2010 EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz, responsible for the Texas/Louisiana oil patch, recommended (video) that the EPA crucify companies engaging in fracking. he was involved in a number of controversial cases in his region where he was apparently using these tactics and was forced to resign earlier this year. This seems to be official policy as there have still been no leases granted on federal land and the EPA has repeatedly been challenged successfully on their data.

Oil, Coal, Nuclear, and Natural Gas. The facts contradict the president and yet he remains unchallenged. The war on Hydro in the Northwest is also well-known, but is not at the same level yet.

Green Energy is problematic and a niche resource at best. I am not sure what the President’s game is, but he has done his best and has lied about it. Watch what he does; not what he says.

The elephant in the living room in Benghazi

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton fell on her sword according to the national media, but without actually taking responsibility for the lies regarding who and why and how the Benghazi assassinations occurred. She took blame for the security failure, but not for the mischaracterization of the attack as from a spontaneous reaction to an obscure movie rather than its true source, Al Qaeda.

From the outset, Ms. Clinton, the President, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice hewed to the party line that it was the rioters and not the radicals; at the U.N.; on “The View”, and on the talk shows a lie was propagated.

In the meantime, after the president spiking the ball on Osama Bin Laden and after hundreds of Hellfire strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, Al Qaeda was supposed to have rolled over and died. Instead, not only were Ambassador Stevens and his team killed, but also a senior security officer at our embassy in Yemen a few days later. They know who we are and where we live. Al Qaeda is alive and well.

And this is the President’s problem.  The facts don’t fit the narrative.

The Administration has a problem with the truth. But they have an even bigger problem.

11 years after 9/11, Al Qaeda and our enemies still have the ability to penetrate our intelligence and security and carry out complex attacks based upon that information.

Just like they did on December 30, 2009 when a Jordanian double agent went through 5 layers of security and penetrated a top security CIA facility at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan and detonated himself, killing 7 top analysts trailing Al Qaeda.

Just as the Taliban did in penetrating Camp Bastion in a complex attack on September 14.

There is a message being sent with these attacks that the Administration is desperate to cover up. The enemy have penetrated our security and can strike when they feel the time is right.

Our government and those of our allies have erected an Orwellian security apparatus costing hundreds of billions of dollars. This apparatus violates our civil liberties as it taps pretty much anything it pleases; traces financial transactions all over the globe, and stares at us through the cameras on the street or drones 60,000′ in the air.

And now we find that there are basic security leaks. The watchers have been penetrated. The all-powerful Oz, in this case our President, is a man behind a curtain peddling lies. And we are less safe than we were 11 years ago.

 

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.

 

Indicting Obama on Intelligence

Today’s London Dail Mail has an article written by Toby Harnden, their America watcher, in which he notes that former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and former CIA Director Michael Hayden have damned Vice President Joe Biden and his boss for blaming CIA employees for the confusion caused by the Administration’s insistence on blaming an obscure video for the terrible attack in Benghazi.

This is the second time in recent months that former intelligence officials have blasted the Administration for its cavalier way with the facts. The last time was a chortling insider account of a secret mission in Yemen where high level White House insiders described in detail the capture of another underwear bomber. But it was actually an allied secret agent.

The UK was forced to exfiltrate a deep cover agent within Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) because he was compromised. This was virtually the first human intelligence asset we had been able to place within this incredibly paranoid organization. The Administration came in for widespread criticism both here and abroad once more.

In June, Senator Feinstein called for an investigation to leaks from high places revealing details of the Stuxnet computer virus attack on Iran. These leaks were once again attributed to the White House.”In recent weeks, we have become increasingly concerned at the continued leaks regarding sensitive intelligence programs and activities, including specific details of sources and methods,” said Chambliss; Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California; Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan; and Ranking Member C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, in the statement.

We were informed in incredible detail by the New York Times in June of a secret “kill list” as well. Senator John McCain called for an investigation.The FBI was ordered in June to investigate these leaks. Since then there has been a complete blackout. I might remind you, dear reader, who the FBI reports to.

Last year our government abandoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped locate Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. Dr Afridi is now serving a 33 year term for treason. In an interview with the UK Independent he said that Pakistan’s ISI considers the United States its prime enemy, even before India. Dr. Afridi was outed by news leaks made to American newspapers by Administration officials. The White House was the source of a number of leaks in the immediate aftermath of the Bin Laden raid and again there were calls for an investigation.

If you recall, early in the Administration seven former CIA Directors dating back to the Reagan Administration issued a joint condemnation of the Administrations reckless conduct in pursuing a politically motivated vendetta against CIA interrogators.

The history of the politicization of intelligence matters in the Administration dates to its opening months.

The problem is that everyone knows where these leaks and distortions have come from. The information released is of such a highly secret nature that there can only be a few people on the list, and believe me, there is a list and those who knew had the highest of security clearances with corresponding penalties up to and including life imprisonment without parole.

The black farce that the Benghazi blame game has become; the leaks; the vendettas all point to the very top. The buck clearly stops on the President’s desk on this  3 1/2 year fiasco.

Anyone else would have had their security clearance revoked and be facing criminal charges. That’s the way the system works.

It is time to take away the President’s secret decoder ring. It is time to change the codes. To change the locks. To change the policy. It is time to do a kiss ass tour of every major intel agency we have pissed off around the world with our cavalier and smirking conduct.

He is the president, but he is also a danger to himself and the country.