Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Because Nothing Says "Commerce" Like...

Lovely: Yemen in Civil War

It's on like some serious Donkey Kong in Yemen...

May 31, 2011

Republican Guard troops loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, commanded by Saleh’s son, shelled with anti-aircraft weaponry the headquarters of a defected brigade led by Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar at a military camp in the al-Khamseen area, Xinhua reported, citing an unnamed military official.

Saleh did an about-face, no doubt after looking at how Assad in Syria, Qaddafi in Libya held on.

Citizen of Monolithic Democrat/Union City Decries Government Heavy-handedness

This is an outrage, but I have little sympathy. Bridgeport, CT is a case study in the undisputed governing dominance of the Democratic Party/Public Sector Union alliance. Most of the sane people have all but left Bridgeport for greener pastures and those that remain keep electing these union stooges that prop up their failing city which is being milked dry by the unions and kept alive by taxing the wealthy Connecticutters. This story merely illustratates the natural result of entrenched unionism in the provision of government services. Residents have been asking for this type of result for along time. So cry me a river Ms. Tonya McDowell.

Public Union Outrage of the Day

Fun stuff! Today's installment of the rapacity and insanity of our public sector unions comes from my very own backyard. Yonkers, NY police sergeant William Rinaldi hauled in $300,000 total compensation in 2010. The local paper filed a Freedom of Information Law request, which enabled them to discover that Rinaldi may be the all-time master of pension padding, racking up $130K in overtime pay in his final year in order to juice his retirement haul. This is nutty on its own terms, but the story has an extra dose of outrage given Yonkers's ongoing fiscal woes and the clear degradation of quality of life they have caused. I've ceased being outraged at this crap; instead I'm planning. I'm accumulating wealth in tax deferred mechanisms and I will be long gone out of the state when New York goes bankrupt and all of these cops, firemen and teachers wonder where their pension checks are going to come from.

One note that maybe interests (astounds) only me...Yonkers's budget is $919 million dollars! That's very close to $1 billion, which is a TON of money. Yonkers is very small (196,000 people) and it is a dump. Where does a billion dollars go??? Maybe to a small army of William Rinaldis.

Barone Picks Up on "Unexpectedly!"

This end of the blogosphere has enjoyed a delicious running joke for much of Barack Obama's presidency...the strange appearance of the word "unexpectedly" in MSM coverage of the anemic economic recovery. Of course, many of us knew that Dear Leader's economic policies would either amount to nothing and/or inhibit economic growth even as they were being debated, so there was nothing unexpected about the result. Still, the joke has only gotten funnier (sadder?) as time has worn on and it becomes clearer and clearer that the man-who-has-never-had-a-real-job-yet-occupies-the-White-House has no clue what he is doing when it comes to the economy. (For our purposes here, we ignore the not-so-outlandish notion that perhaps he knows exactly what he is doing, but that robust economic growth, if it is the result of typical laissez-faire American capitalism, is not his goal.) Anyway, this joke - and the point it reveals - has finally made it somewhat mainstream via the good offices of Michael Barone, who makes it the central theme of this Washington Examiner column. Barone also hints at some other themes that I've touched on: 1) the MSM kicking the propaganda machine into overdrive for Obama's re-election, and 2) the existence of the "job market vigilantes." RTWT.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Euros Helped Give Us Obama, Who They Now Snub

Is it just me, or has Obama's European Pub Crawl been a snub-o-thon? He seems to be getting snubbed left and right, as if they don't really like the guy. (This one seems especially subtle and genius if was indeed intended.) Don't get me wrong, I am all for Dear Leader made to look like the piker that he is...but here is my one beef: don't act all high and mighty Euros, you bozos were complicit in foisting this loser on us.

Weekend Plans

Hey, did I mention that I am also blogging over at SayAnything ??? Check it out over the weekend. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet machine I'll be over there blogging at the same time I am enjoying Memorial Day weekend with friends and family at home, savoring a whole host of fine malted and vinous refreshments.

Thanks Vets!!


I originally assumed that Rick Perry has stayed, rather overtly, out of the 2012 race because there is something in his past that he doesn't want dug up. Who knows, maybe he's a playah like DSK or something. After all, why would a popular two term Governor from a huge state with awesome policy credentials shy away from entering a weak field? A buddy of mine who is tapped into DC GOP circles said that Perry is an outsider and just not really well-regarded by party poobahs. Whatever. Either way, his absence was glaring, but the tidbits coming out of late about the possibility of him running are tantalizing. The stakes are so high and he holds such a good hand, there have no doubt been hundreds if not thousands of pleas urging him to run. I even bet Haley Barbour has been working on him big time. This could be big. Perry could upend the whole race. And with Sarah Palin out there spurring the re-awakening, it could get very interesting very quick.

Reality TV Idea: Real Lives of the Job Market Vigilantes

I've said it again and again...the job market vigilantes are actual, flesh and blood, real people...

Actually I suspect that the job market vigilantes are the people described in this book...

Sarah Palin Is Shooting for Something Bigger Than the Presidency

I think I know what Sarah Palin is up to. I also think I know why the media is totally flummoxed about her intentions. She's going to do what nobody has really ever done, she's going to defeat a sitting President...without running for President herself.

She's going to energize not just "the base", but the entire population of the country that is not an Obama-bot. She's going to tour the country, rallying people for a rebirth of liberty, a re-commitment to the constitutional framework of limited government, and the first step in that process is to put an end to the Obama presidency. She's going to tell America that the GOP field is good, and certainly "good enough" for the task at hand, which is getting back to the energetic, independent, individualistic, innovative free people that we once were and rejecting a future of dependency and government control of every aspect of our lives. She is going to rally people for this cause and make sure they don't sit at home and view another four years of Barack Obama as a fait accompli.

She will be a one woman counter-balance to the MSM, which will be in overdrive aiding and abetting Obama's re-election. She going to whip up every Tea Party chapter across the land into a frenzy of activity and grass roots momentum. She (a woman - did you notice that Debbie Wasserman Schultz?) is going to be the talisman of the Republican Party. She's going to ensure that nobody sits 2012 out, that 2012 will not just be an election, but an inflection point for America. She's going to bury Hope and Change, and clear a path for Act II of the Reagan Revolution. She's going to attempt to steer the course of American history. That's a big task. She obviously feels that it's gonna take a woman to get it done.

But she won't run, which is why the media doesn't understand the plan. The idea is creative politics, it's selfless, it's principled, it end-runs the power of the media, and it's bigger than the Presidency - all things that the MSM just can't understand.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Is Our Friend

Some GOP Senators, led by newbie Ron Johnson, seem to get it...the debt ceiling IS the balanced budget amendment. This sucker is bullet-proof as is, why setup a new mechanism to be gamed and compromised.

"Journolist" Has New Name

It can now be unveiled..."Journolist" is now called...Bloomberg News!

You would think that organizing an overtly partisan cabal of journalists and academics for the sole purpose of trying to get candidate Barack Obama elected would taint one's standing in the journalism profession - maybe not enough to get you fired in this day and age, but at least enough to keep you from getting additional career opportunities. You would think, but you would be wrong. Not with Al Hunt running Bloomberg News. As if Al didn't have enough lefty yo-yos on the roster, he's launched something called Bloomberg View to jam more lefty drivel down the throats of his captive financial professional audience; and Ezra Klein - of Journolist infamy - appears to be one of the marquee hires (along with a host of Al Gore acolytes and a castoff from that magazine that sold for $1).

I almost couldn't bring myself to read Klein's first column, wot with permanent scarring from the Thomas Frank/WSJ episode. But one has to try new things, even if one is 99.99% sure it's the same old thing. Well, I didn't get three short, taut sentences into it before I was hit with "He’s worried that [government] doesn’t fail often enough." What?!?!??! Government doesn't fail enough!? Off the top of my head, in 2.76 nanoseconds...from NYC's disgustingly botched, corrupt whizbang employee payment system, to Fannie Mae, to the DOJ's Mexican gun-running scandal, to Amtrak, to the British healthcare system, to everything goddamm thing that government touches - it doesn't fail enough!?!?!??!?!? Government fails at the small stuff, the medium stuff, the big stuff, and the super-sized jumbo stuff. What is this yahoo talking about?? Anyway, after I picked myself up off the floor, I completed reading the article and it is a mostly forgettable soup of ignorance of healthcare economics and naive cheerleading for ObamaCare, which I guess is the mission. Al Hunt has his eyes on the 2012 election and is looking to flood the zone with this drivel as he is wont to do.

More Me, But Over There

The latest fruits of Obamanomics examined over at SayAnything.

What Is It With These People?

Global Warming, er sorry, Climate Change is the cause of every problem and "renewable energy" is the solution to every problem. Apparently, renewable energy can solve the Greek debt crisis...

"A restructuring of Greece’s debt could lead to demands for credit to be repaid immediately, warning of a potentially catastrophic situation, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview with Handelsblatt, DPA reported May 26. Schaeuble called for patience and urged EU members to invest in Greece in sectors such as renewable energy."

Yeah, dead-beat socialists who earn 13 months pay for 12 months work and a pervasive culture of tax cheats, but wind power will save the day!!!

Keep Talking James Clyburn

Seriously, I mean it. Keep saying stuff like this. In fact, please say stuff like this every third day until election day and twice on Sundays. Why? Because it'll help Republicans defeat Obama. Yes.

You see, here's the deal. Most of us aren't racists. We live, work and play among each other and our society has made enormous strides to integrate and share the opportunities of American life for all. Furthermore most of us trace our lineage to groups that represented the marginalized of society long ago ("No Irish Need Apply" and all that); we haven't forgotten where we came from and aren't interested in holding others down now that we've received good fortune in America. So we don't particularly appreciate being called racists when we aren't. In addition, we don't appreciate that particular besmirchment when the accusation comes from those who wish to blunt the cold reality that the President was the most inexperienced nominee for President in the history of the country and that we are suffering at the hands of his demonstrably failed leadership. I can see many Americans saying to themselves, 'So I'm a racist for for not liking what I am seeing with my own eyes - high gas prices, high unemployment, inflation, unrestrained regulatory assaults on individuals and businesses, feckless leadership in foreign affairs? Screw you. Lever pulled for RomlentyCainPalinWhatever.'

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More On Economic Vigilantism

Holman Jenkins of the WSJ takes some time to psychoanalyze the bond market vigilantes, and throws in the concept of the "stock market vigilantes" for good measure. Frankly, I don't think the stock market plays a vigilante role, and, certainly as it pertains to Obamanomics, the more relevant group of vigilantes to take an interest in understanding is the "job market vigilantes."

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Lethargists Are Back

Don Surber is right, they don't want us to travel. The reasons keep changing, but the goal is the same. Travel is freedom, freedom, well, messes with the plan. Energy guru Peter Huber talked about this extensively in his fantastic book The Bottomless Well. He called the same crowd in the 1970s "lethargists." They're back although they have morphed ever so slightly.

Belgian Wobble

People's attention has been focused on the so-called PIIGS, but, as I noted several months ago, it ain't just the southern European deadbeats +1 (Ireland) with the problems. Sovereign default concerns affect even the putatively staid and steady in the heart of Northern Europe. Today, Belgium gets to be center stage in the great unraveling of EU-funded welfare statism. Thankfully Belgium is small, but the point here, and the cause of so much fear, is that perhaps even the supposedly reliable European states aren't so reliable.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sowell on Obama

Few people (four exactly) who have lived at some point during my lifetime have done more to influence my worldview than Thomas Sowell. He is a giant of economics, history, sociology and political discourse. This interview on Uncommon Knowledge is worthy as classic Sowell but if you have limited time, just skip to minute 28 where the host gets TS to talk BO. Sowell is characteristically terse yet merciless. His view of Obama's economic policy is of a piece with this and his view of foreign policy is of a piece with this. That I've even come close to Sowellian conclusions fills me with enormous joy.

Piracy Progress?

Are we finally getting serious about piracy...?

The 306,500-dwt Artemis Glory (built 2006) came under attacked at about 06:35
GMT on Monday whilst sailing south east through the Gulf of Oman.

A UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship is said to received a mayday call from the VLCC, which was relayed to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) in Dubai.

UKMTO confirmed with the master of the Artemis Glory that she was being pursued by a skiff with four men on board who were firing upon the vessel.

The US Navy destroyer USS Bulkeley then responded to the mayday
and launched her helicopter to investigate the incident.

“The helicopter observed the Artemis Glory under attack by four individuals in a
skiff, who were firing upon the ship with small arms,” the US Navy confirmed.

“Under the principle of ‘extended unit self defence’ and in order to provide protection to the crew of the Artemis Glory, Bulkeley’s helicopter engaged the pirates. All of
the pirates are believed to have been killed.”

Principle of extended unit self-defence, huh? How about the principle of "pirates suck and should be sent to a watery grave"? Still, I'll take it. It's alot better than the complete failure of the civilized world that has prevailed up until now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Romney Rakes It In

Folks, I told you exactly how Mitt Romney's fundraising efforts would go, didn't I? Yes, I did. Well...

Dems Remarkable Economic Feat

Mark Perry has a post up today that perfectly illuminates what I (and others) have highlighted about this economy - it sucks for the lower skilled but isn't too bad for investors and owners. Perry notes a guy who laments the sad state of the manufacturing recovery using Census data, while Perry highlights, using Census data as well, that manufacturing profits are booming. That's what Washington has created for us, a modest recovery that is accruing to capital and not to labor. How did they achieve this feat? Easy. First we must start with a misdiagnosis of the financial crisis. Politicians blamed it all on the banks and business, when it was largely the creation of government through highly distorted incentives. They further chose to tackle a financial panic, a monetary event, as a traditional business cycle recession and applied traditional counter-cyclical Keynesian "stimulus". Also, coming out of the financial crisis, the politicians ramped up both anti-business rhetoric and an anti-business policy agenda the likes of which this country hasn't see in seventy years. So as the monetary disruptions healed, the government was sucking the oxygen out of the economy by crowding out private capital to borrow and spend on "stimulus" and sending risk-takers to hide under their desks. So as the world beyond our borders recovered, having indulged in less over the top business bashing, US manufacturers have been able to secure alot of business exporting our great products to the world, but have little incentive to hire (ObamaCare) and expand here at home (card-check, EPA, NLRB, etc). Ergo the profits but not too much hiring. So that's how we got an economy that stinks for "workers" but is OK for "owners". (I use quotations marks because these terms are the false dichotomies of our political discourse as if "workers" don't own and "owners" don't work.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

One Legal Defeat Too Many?

Was the legal defeat that the Obama administration suffered last week - that I blogged about at Say Anything - the direct cause of his weekend flip-flop? I'll be monitoring the oil industry buzz to see what the reaction is. My guess is that they highly skeptical that this is anything more than phony rhetoric intended for public consumption only, but they'll be calling the administration's bluff for sure by submitting permit applications like nobody's business. I might add that IMHO the best web resource for what's going on in the offshore energy exploration world is RigZone, and as of right now, their coverage of this supposedly major policy pronouncement is...nada. Pretty much, it's not news in the oil patch...nobody believes it.

CWA Is a Very Thuggish Union

Here's an uplifting story, filled with all the inspiring "protecting working families" stuff we've come to expect from unions. Note that this is the same union whose goon hit a girl during the Wisconsin brouhaha.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Enjoy Your Weekend!

Trust me folks (I'm in Finance!!), the three words "permanently cash negative" are very very BAD!

This Just In: Greeks Still Good for Nothing

Truly shocking news, the Germans have not successfully converted the Greeks from profligate and lazy cheats into hardworking, tax-paying citizens by giving them hundreds of billions of Euros. Stay tuned for mroe developments.

New York Youth Join the Flee Party

Why wouldn't they? Given just how f**ked we are, or they are because the tab will be theirs.

Go Thunder!!

Rand Paul Is Exactly Right

He presents the argument at its ad absurdem extreme but he is no less correct. I've made this point several times in rebutting the Most Asisine Platitude in America today.

Strike Three

My third post up at Say Anything.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Checking in on the 2008 Coalition

Remember that video during the campaign when Peggy Joseph was in thrall over candidate Barack Obama, as, she was convinced, he was going to pay her mortgage and put gas in her car? Well, he didn't do that I'm pretty sure. But no matter, Peggy can always find a gainfully employed man to satisfy her longing not to work, right? Umm, maybe not, chances aren't good. Listen folks, it's time to get real. There's no black economics or white economics, just economics. "There is no free lunch" is not some whitey scam pushed by the man to keep a brotha' down. So what is my point? No doubt there were tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Peggy Josephs streaming to the polls in 2008. Are they gonna come out in force, with the same passion and fire in 2012? Independents, Business, blacks, the young - these were the deciding factors in 2008. Independents, gone. Business, so gone. The young, not gone but how long will they dig this. Blacks,...who knows. Peggy?

UPDATE: Speaking of economics, just for shits and giggles, check out the fourth graph here (hell, read the whole damn post for all I care!). Is that a tight correlation or what?!?!?!

Private Pension Raid That Much Closer to Our Shores

I said "watch out, it's coming." And it is. It's now moving from a banana republic, Argentina-style move to a respectable, Euro-style fiscal remedy.

It pains me that the land of my ancestors is resorting to this.

Shocker: Dem Governor Finding Unions Resistant to "Shared Sacrifice"

Dan Malloy is, as the MSM would have us believe, the exact type of moderate, sensible Democrat governor that Americans should have elected last November in greater numbers, but failed to in favor of Nazi wingnuts like Scott Walker and John Kasich. Malloy faced a yawning budget gap upon taking office and kept his campaign promise to fix it with "shared sacrifice" of tax hikes and spending cuts. Or so he thought. He got his tax hikes easy-peasy, but left the spending cuts as a TBD: "Mr. Malloy is counting on an agreement with the unions and a restructuring that will cut the number of state agencies to 57 from 81. Although the cuts remain uncertain, the tax increases are quite clear."

Someone somewhere, I'm sure, thinks that "shared sacrifice" indeed means just that, but to conservatives it is merely code for "tax hikes." We could be forgiven for thinking such thoughts based on union behavior. It is a reasonable conclusion that to unions and big government types "shared sacrifice" is a ruse strategy meaning "tax hikes and then dig in like the dickens to protect our goodies at all costs, and only as a last resort throw our newest members under the bus." The Wisconsin showdown taught us that, and like day follows night, it turns out that Gov. Malloy is having more trouble in getting the shared sacrifice from government employee unions that he was counting on. Nutmeg State voters are right to ask if their governor had any intention of cutting spending in the first place, was hopelessly naive or considers himself a superhuman able achieve what almost nobody in the past has been able to achieve. It looks as if these putatively sensible, moderate Democrats, like Malloy, are reacting to the anti-tax, fiscal responsibility wave that is sweeping the country by striking an uncomfortable accomodation with their union supporters: they'll raise taxes and mitigate the political optics by getting the unions to tolerate throwing some of their members under the bus with LIFO-driven layoffs. This is a "live to fight another day" strategy by the Union Labor/Democrat Party nexus and is indeed "shared sacrifice" of a sort, but of a very cynical sort - taxpayers and low-seniority government workers eat the turd, but long-standing government workers come out just fine. I don't think the cynicism of this strategy will come back to bite the Democrats - they never seem to get cynical about their own power. The big question is "will there be another day?"

P.S. One delicious aspect of this is that Malloy's budget hikes taxes on yoga classes. Call me a stereotyping neanderthal, but I bet that 80% of all yoga students (and 98% of all yoga teachers) in the state of Connecticut voted for Malloy. Reap, sow, all that, Ladies.

Leaving Political Capital on the Table

A politically savvy, relatively non-partisan friend and I were discussing the Osama bin Laden killing's affect on the polls and my friend assured me that whatever gain Obama would garner would soon be mitigated ("pissed away" were his exact words) by small, unecessary PR fumbles deriving from the very nature of Obama's urban, elitist leftism. The PR handing of bin Laden's death was the first evidence that my friend was right. The overt pander to Muslim sensitivity in the news of bin Laden's proper Muslim burial was both annoying in its obviousness, open to attack on a logical basis (was OBL a super-duper Muslim worthy of respectful Muslim protocol?), and open to ridicule (did we shoot him in the head according to Islamic tradition?). Now come the additional fumbles and gaffes to remind the nation just who occupies the Oval Office. One of the latest comes from Michelle Obama. Reminiscent of her over the top Spanish vacation amid both our economic doldrums as well as her call for "sacrifice", FLOTUS invites a rapper who has laudatory gushings for cop-killers to a poetry confab at the White House. I can't get worked up about this (I don't like it, but it's a "life is too short" kinda thing for me), but it is such an obvious PR gaffe it leaves me scratching my head. After the Gates/Cambridge/"Acted Stupidly" thing, you would think the professional, all-powerful political team within the Administration could avoid another stick in law enforcement's eye, but no. New Jersey State Troopers. I'd say that's a pretty solid Democratic group. Maybe they won't take such offense as to vote against Obama come 2012, maybe they will. Why tempt fate? Answer, these people don't feel that they are tempting fate or taking any risk whatsoever; in fact it is more likely that they feel these are positive moves, pro-active enhancements both to the world and their role in it. That's fine, but reality is often contrary. This is classic Reagan wisdom about liberals knowing so much of what isn't so. Anyway, between, the PR gaffes, the genuine neophyte failures and the well-intentioned urban elitist gestures, it's pretty clear my friend was right and that Obama is not going to get as much juice from the bin Laden killing as he could have (no matter how much the MSM puts its fingers on the scale!!)

Pissing Off All the Proper People

The WSJ carries a welcome rebuke by Andrew Roberts to his fellow countrymen for their "pusillanimity" over the killing of Osama bin Laden. Naturally I recoil at the predictable, and predictably jejune, reaction of the standard snobbish, anti-American Brit; but, I suppress these feelings in favor of pride as an American that we did not take a more British approach to punishing terrorism, which is to lock someone up until they have a doctor's note and/or British Petroleum wants to cut an oil deal. If that is the way to earn favor across the pond, I'll happily endure POME sneering all day everyday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Challenges to Israel's Energy Game Changer

An old college buddy of mine has a piece on the WSJ Europe's Op-Ed pages regarding the development challenges facing Israel regarding its potentially game-changing recent natural gas field discovery. Here an enticing tidbit:

"Even under ideal conditions, few oil and gas companies are prepared to risk their relationships in the Muslim world to operate in Israel—the soft bigotry created by the geological distribution of hyrdocarbons should not be underestimated. It is one thing for a California-based technology company to develop software in Israel; it something entirely different for a serious oil and gas producer with billions of dollars of assets in Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Kuwait to establish a presence in the Jewish state. "

True indeed. Arab states and all sorts of bad actors in the Middle East DO NOT want to see the Leviathan field developed. It is likely they will do what they feel that have to do to prevent it. Read the whole thing.

CNBC's Lame Goldman Call

Goldman Sachs bought a laughably small amount of US government debt and CNBC screams "Goldman Goes Long US Government". This is dumb. The amount they upped into treasuries was peanuts - this could have been a single trader on a correlation between treasuries and Derek Jeter's batting average.

UPDATE: Some people view Jimmy Rogers as an annoying, megalomaniacal gadfly and others see him as a sophiticated, successful investor. For me, he's somewhere in between. Anyway, he thinks US debt is a short....just like Warren Buffett.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sheila Bair to FDIC: Bye

FDIC Chairperson Sheila Bair to step down. What are the odds she's got a job lined up at, say, Citibank?

Canada: Double Our Previous Estimates About Our Shitload of Gas

Actually not Canada, but British Columbia. No matter, this is a shitload of clean burning, job-creating domestic energy. And those Canucks will frack away. Low corporate taxes, cheap/abundant energy, and stable money...Canada is poised to kick our economic tookus around for the next few years. Mark Perry highlights this interesting study...hell forget Mississippi and Alabama, try Mississagua and Medicine Hat!

Debt Ceiling Sense

Brian Wesbury, one of the best economic forecasters and market economists actively engaged in the public discourse (IMHO), gives a cogent argument in favor of using the debt-ceiling limitation as leverage to extract significant spending reductions in the federal budget. He takes down the typical fear-based arguments that the reflexive debt-ceiling raisers put forth. This is from a guest appearance at a DC Tea Party event. Brian comes in at about 26min, 20sec. I very much agree with all of what BW says in this video. It should be further emphasized that the goal has to be actual, tangible reductions in spending, not some chimera as a "balanced budget amendment." The debt ceiling is a balanced budget amendment, it just needs to actually be enforced and allowed to be, like ya' know, a ceiling. Trust us (Brian and I) when we tell you that Democrats and moderate Republicans in no way, shape or form are arguing for raising the ceiling out of a concern for the well-being of the country. A big and growing federal budget is the most effective campaign effort and a near perpetual-motion-machine of incumbency from a practical perspective. From an ideological perspective, particularly for the Democrats but for both parties, an enforced debt ceiling puts nearly every "Great Society" notion and achievement of the 20th century at peril of collapse. A century's worth of advance for a "cradle to grave" state apparatus, gone in a fleeting moment.

Unseen Victims of NFL Lockout: Gold-Digging Skanks

Break out the Kleenex for the women and children who rely on alimony from the multi-million dollar salaries of well-paid athletes whose paychecks are now uncertain given the labor dispute currently winding its way through...wherever it is winding. Now, I don't mean to minimize what may be potential hardship for any child, but in America in the 21st century, any child whose father makes a salary of $1.7 million dollars ought not to be in jeopardy and we ought not be working up sympathy as if these kids were falling through the cracks of society. There is such a long string of mistakes and pathologies evident in a story like this; but beyond that we are talking about resources so vast, after you view the mistakes as water under the bridge, still nobody should be suffering. And don't give me all that stuff about short-lived NFL careers, everybody knows the deal going in, you make the right choices or you don't. You use your time wisely to insulate yourself from economic distress for the last of your life or you don't and you become just like all the rest of us. That this piece of reporting took the sympathy angle is a little frightening.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Inflation Update

I noted the stealth inflation that has been hitting us for some time now and predicted the non-stealth variety coming soon. Well, we're there.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tough Love, Euro Style

How tough is the EU getting with Portugal as it gives that nation a $115 billion bailout? This tough: "However, the plan does not require the abolition of the 13th and 14th month of pay for civil servants."

Post OBL Trading Day #4

Day 4. Down again.

Prediction: In 3-5 weeks, a broad range of polling will show a relatively modest OBL bounce for Obama and stocks will recover above April highs.

Flirting With Disaster?

In general, Americans aren't very good at civil disobediance. A few prominent examples notwithstanding, in general we like our rules and/or we believe we have a say in changing the rules that we don't like, so by and large we are a people that play by the rules. (Also, we still have a deep national scar left behind from a massive experiment in civial disobendiance.) But this is not to say that we are people prone to submissiveness - the American character is defined by both the ability to put up with alot but only so much. We are a "tipping point" nation. We blow things off until they become intolerable, but when they do, watch out. I have always speculated as to what sort of actions, taken by our government, would cross that line and go beyond the tipping point and send Americans into full-scale, civil disobebiance-type revolt. Despite the multiple depredations and abominations embodied in ObamaCare, I actually never considered something like the individual mandate to even go that far, although it certainly has gotten alot us (me included) highly exercised. In modern life I can only think of one maybe two things that would breach the tipping point - and, as it happens, the Obama administration has dabbled around with both of them. The first, and I am not even totally convinced that this would even get us past the tipping point, is outright expropriation of citizens' retirement savings. I'm talking the taking of actual hard, real money savings, not the abrogation of lofty promises or the ham-handed collateral destruction of economic value (the government does that all the time). I'm talking banana republic-style theft of money that Americans have set aside for their retirements. Well, the Obama administration has aggressively noodled the idea. The other thing, and this one I'm pretty sure is a tipper, is government imposed restrictions on movement. I consider a tax on movement a restriction, albeit a less draconion flavor of the larger noxious concept. Well, the idea has been out there for awhile, cooked up by radical environmentalists and even proposed at the state level; but, now for the first time the idea is being floated trial balloon style by the White House. Just imagine it - going on vacation? visiting family far away? taking that cross-country drive to see America? kids on a travelling team, moving for work? etc. - get out your wallet. I doubt that either of these proposals will get much political traction, but they are worth highlighting as a gauge of disconnectedness between a policy agenda and the fabric of American life . Of course I could be totally off on my assessment of the national view of such things, but I doubt it.

A Slew of Smart Plays on Energy from Boehner & Co.

Awhile back I said that Boehner and his new crew best be getting their act together on energy - a sweet spot where good policy and good politics are well in their favor. Looks like they took my advice, or at least deduced this smart strategy on their own (yes, I know that is hard to believe, I am a little shocked myself).

UPDATE: What timing. I kid you not, this just came across my desk, written by the President of a small, publicly traded oil and gas company in the annual letter to shareholders: "In last year's letter I was not optimistic for small independent oil companies. I remain guarded. There are several governmental agencies which, if left unrestrained and unchecked, can financially destroy small independent oil companies overnight." Is this guy just paranoid? On that note, check this out...remember who Hornbeck is? So while the President is here in my neck of the woods today letting people know that he is indeed fighting the war on terror (using Bush's playbook), it is also, unfortunately, the case that he continues to fight the war on American business.


Guess what happened? "Unexpectedly" no less. OK, it's not that much fun anymore, it's actually kind of pathetic.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Who Made the Call?

This is pretty explosive if true. While I have no reason to impugn Say Anything as a source, I'm just maintaining skepticism given the nature of the revelation. But it rings true to me because I have previously analyzed and ruminated over the possibility that the military brass could very well "overrule"Obama on a critical decision. I thought it was likely to be only in a dire situation relating to Israel, but there could have been any number of scenarios where the brass could've otherwise ignored the CIC. Given my previous thoughts on this (i.e. it is well known that our top military brass have zero respect for their CIC) and the knowledge that the Obama presidency is now firmly under the stewardship of the Clintonites, this revelation makes some sense. We'll see.

Day 3 Post OBL

We are on Day 3. Obama clearly up, stocks clearly down. Call me crazy...but I think I was on to something.

Treasury-Dollar Conundrum

The best finance/markets blogger in the business treats us to some lengthy reflections on the US dollar today. Currencies are above my pay grade - I only understand them insofar as I understand supply and demand - and, as such, I am at a loss to explain why treasuries have not only held up but appreciated in the face of the crashing dollar. I suspect it has something with QE2 and the Chinese's trade position (as SG notes, the Chinese pretty much have to grin and bear it). Still, you would think that deteriorating US creditworthiness, incipient inflation and a modest but relatively consistent economic recovery would be a surefire recipe for rising bond yields. Apparently, treasury buyers don't see any of it - they don't believe in the, albeit modest, recovery, or they don't see inflation (I guess they don't eat at the California Pizza Kitchen), and/or they don't fear US fiscal deteroriation. Far be it for me to question others' views, we have markets to sort this all out, but the bond market historically does not have a good record of recognizing inflation. Also, I think we have moved beyond an era of benign "politics as usual" where we can reliably expect a mushy, middle of the road "solution" to periodic fiscal red flags, which the bond market has come to implicitly accept as the norm. So I think the bond market is missing a fair degree of political risk and hewing to the long-standing "risk on-risk off" paradigm. I don't think the critical insight here is to get the "risk on-risk off" balance right, it is to recognize a paradigm shift that produces a fallacy implicit in conventional understanding of risk. Treasury investors are misjudging the true amount of risk that resides at the "low risk" end of the scale. When the risk free/low risk end of the scale gets repriced, everything up the scale follows to keep historical risk premiums intact (of course, risk premiums, too, could be subject to a paradigm shift but let's deal with one at a time!). This implies bonds down and stocks up. Of course the conventional wisdom is saying just the opposite now. Sooner or later, I just don't see how the dollar's diminished mojo doesn't find its way into treasury prices. I'm sticking with my view.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Did Our Enemies Hand bin Laden to Obama??

Enemies? Maybe. Follow along please.

No one will ever convince me that Obama is an ardent and committed terror warrior, nor will anyone ever convince me that he was somehow smarter and savvier in the prosecution of the GWOT. So the remaining possibilties are that he got lucky or that someone dropped a dime on bin Laden purposefully. Both are probable. After ten years, it is not inconceivable that AQ functionaries got lazy and/or some analyst slaving away in a cubicle at Langley had a breakthrough. But we should not discount the very real possibility that someone gave bin Laden up. The circumstances reveal and the evidence is starting to mount that it is likely certain the Pakistani authorities knew of OBL's whereabouts. The likelier that is, the likelier the thesis that a dime was dropped - they go hand in hand. Naturally, the logical basis of Pakistani protection is that there was value in protecting OBL. So either the value of protecting OBL ceased to exist or it was time to realize (monetize?) that value, convert it to something tangible. There are a host of possibilities, such as the stability of the Pakistani state and/or its finances - they could have simply given him up for money. Moving along the complexity continuum, Spengler offers up a tempting geo-political saga where the tectonic changes sweeping the Middle East mean the Saudis can no longer afford a modus vivendi with al Qaeda and chose to end AQ once and for all via the Americans. Another line of logic is to ask who benefits from this? As has been noted, Obama does. Could the dime have been dropped to help Obama? Who would want to help Obama? More specifically, who wants to see Obama win a second term? Our friends...like who...Egypt? Ha! It is our enemies who would love four more years of Obama - the Syrian regime is slaughtering its people in a fight for survival and dearly appreciates Obama's inattention; Iran enjoys Obama's fumbling, bumbling and generally flummoxed approach to their nuclear ambitions; the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas greatly appreciate the openning Obama gave them in Egypt now that Mubarak is gone; and, just about everybody likes Obama's hatred of Netanyahu and constant hectoring of Israel. Take your pick, all of these actors have reason to want Obama to stick around because his weak and naive foreign policy gives them room to maneuver, and nearly every one has ties to the global terrorist nexus. Is it outlandish to consider that a terror-linked government would give up an increasingly irrelevant figure, OBL, in exchange for a greater likelihood that a weak (and at times Muslim sympathizing) leader retains control of the world superpower's foreign policy? Ask yourself, if you were Iran or Syria, for instance, would you make that trade...? The more I think about it, I'd make that trade all day long...

DrillDrillDrill Solves Blue America's Blues...?

In addition to investment and jobs, shale gas drilling activity has brought a mini-tax revenue boom to Pennsylvania. Some states are starting to learn that welcoming and nurturing a healthy energy industry within their borders is about as close to a fiscal silver bullet as they are gonna find. And the unions get it too, they know that one of their best shots at keeping their jobs intact and ensuring their fat pension and healthcare bennies get paid, is to lock arms with the energy industry. Told ya' so.

UPDATE: Chevron comes to town big time. Meanwhile the NY Assembly continues to keep shale-related investment capital at bay. How long can New York sit by and watch Pennsylvania capture the lion's share of the investment and collateral development from the Marcellus shale deposit?

Bad News for Global Warmists

Here is the latest on Brazil's space program. They're under budget, ahead of schedule and likely to exceed goals. How? Mostly because the global oil services industry - the most technologically advanced industry on the planet - has been tripping over itself to help out/get a piece of the action.

Osama and Obama

You can't avoid it. All the speculation revolves around what the killing of Osama bin Laden means for Obama's re-election chances. Obviously one school of thought, is that he is now a lock to get re-elected having just shown what a smarter, awesomer guy he is than, well, anybody ever (although to many of Obama's supporters, a Navy SEAL conducted execution killing on foregin soil of an American enemy might not be something too worthy of praise...but no matter, the ends justify the means with this crowd, so they are free to praise this if it helps their secular messiah). Another school of thought is that Obama, while worthy of some credit, benefited from the GWOT architecture put in place and maintained by President Bush against withering criticism. Some look to history and note that popular leaders with military victories under their belts like Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and George H.W. Bush all went down to subsequent defeat. All very well. I am inclined to believe that this helps Obama undeniably, but that he is still not a lock to win in 2012. Obama's only real advantages up to this point were incumbency and uninspiring opposition. Now his advantages are those two plus a big score against bin Laden. Good but not great. Naturally, partisan America will stick to the two emerging schools of thought as noted above; the independents, as always, are the key, and the key to independents is the economy. For example, the business community, who pay very close attention to the regulatory environment and who were a key element of Obama's 2008 coalition, will not be swayed by the bin Laden news. That is one element of the coalition that is not coming back into the fold. It boils down to heartland independents, red state Democrats and young people. Will these folks view this victory as a sufficient positive to outweigh economic conditions such as gas prices (last week was the fourth bad week in a row, three of which were very bad), unemployment, broad-based inflation, etc.? Will bin Laden's death be enough to rebuild the coalition that Obama needs and/or dampen the significant fervor seeking to defeat him? How will young people view the death of bin Laden against their employment/career prospects, which, if they don't improve, will look still look poor come election time? We'll see. Restoring optimism among the first job-seeking set is a tough nut to crack. Regaining that post-partisan, world-class temperment gloss is a tough restoration project after the last two years. Was bin Laden high enough on their electoral punch list to get black voters to turn out just as enormously for Obama in 2012 as they did in 2008? Does the bin Laden achievement do all this? These are the things to watch. My take, this slightly sways heartland independents, but doesn't move the needle with blacks and job-seeking young people. Jobs and paychecks remain #1. So, despite having proven that he is indeed fighting the war on terror, which many feared he was not, Obama also remains robustly committed to the war on business. The tandem has a distinctly one-step-forward-two-steps-back feel to it.

I think the market is saying that this is good for Obama and thus is selling off. That is a controversial view, the conventional view is that the death of bin Laden augers a reprisal and thus a "risk off" posture (stocks down, dollar, treasuries up). Even though the political conditions have changed drastically since Obama first took office, I think the inverse relationship that I have argued for still holds. The stock market had a great April with Obama clearly spiralling down in the polls as inflation worries heated up and the head-scratching Libyan foray bogged down. Granted it's only one day, but the trend seems to have been broken as May kicks off with the bin Laden news (check out an opposing view here). This is my very early take that necessarily needs to unfold as it is not supported by alot of data, and there are alot of wildcards: the debt ceiling, Syria and the Middle East, inflation, etc.

On another note, it will be very interesting to follow yet another direct experiment in contrasting governance given the election results in Canada. Harper now has the majority he's craved and can build on his success to date or disappoint. Conservative governance in Canada will contrast markedly with life here at home and the comparisons will be illuminating (again). Canada is likely to do many of the things that Republicans in Congress are arguing for, and that Democrats are arguing are extreme, here in the US. We'll have a mini-laboratory right next door. If Harper plays it well and the results are noticable, Canada could be an embarassment for Democrats come election time, for example if they are sporting a sub-6% unemployment rate and we are still mired @9%.

Monday, May 02, 2011

This "Islamic Burial" Stuff Is PR

For anyone irked at all this "according to Islamic" whatever in regards to Osama bin Laden's body's disposal...take consolation in the fact that it is a near certainty that the Navy SEALs and/or chopper crews who brought OBL's remains from his compound to the USS Carl Vinson did not treat the body according to Islamic anything. I'm sure post-Abu Ghraib nothing was filmed but I'll bet the ranch that OBL's mortal remains wound up marinating in at least some bodily fluids courtesy of US armed forces.