Monday, December 31, 2012

Play That Uncertainty Again, Sam (I Mean Barack)


That's your Drudge headline as of right now.  In other words, all the angst, wrenching of guts, depression-inducing spectacle, but above all - uncertainty - that kept the economy from doing anything but muddling along this year, will all be repeated next year!  WooHoo!  Fiscal Cliff 2.0 in '13, BABY!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Remember the Phrase "Going Postal"? It's a Bit Out of Date Isn't It?

Among the truckloads of scribblings, tweets, and multi-media commentary that has erupted in the wake of the Newtown shooting, very little of it is actually interesting and thought provoking to anyone who knows the issues well.  One small tidbit that I saw, however, that I haven't seen anywhere else, was thought provoking.  But it won't get alot of play, because it lends some perspective and legitimacy to the critique of "gun-free zones" that is just below the water level maintained by the MSM.  Here and there, you can read about the false comfort of our "gun free" places, but certainly the MSM is having none of it and you won't see this side of the debate broached in any traditional bastion of the leftward MSM.  Anyway, it took Holman Jenkins to remind me (us) what we should have known if we'd taken a moment to really think.
This column got interested in the mass shooter puzzle years ago because so many shootings at the time were happening in workplaces.
That's right folks, it's called "going postal" and not "going schoolhouse" for a reason.  Mass shootings used to be the scourge of the workplace.  But that has changed.
Mass shootings are not less common than before, but fewer are employment-related. Of 20 this year, only one killer was a disgruntled co-worker. Learning has taken place. If laws haven't changed to help corral dangerous personalities or keep guns out of their hands, at least employers, who get to see people in their everyday interactions, have become wiser about personality and risk.
 Why?  To be blunt, more or less because businesses started to be on the lookout for any crazies among their employees.  And they applied tools to help them identify disturbed people.  All those personality and aptitude tests that big companies are so fond of...did you think they were so some HR executive could determine if your job matched up nicely with your talents and skills?  Sure, maybe, but they were also to get a read on who had the potential to go postal.

Workplaces have ceded the spotlight for tragedy to schools.  It might be worth asking ourselves why that is.

Blue Voter: The Blue Model Is Failing

More (typically excellent) criticism of "blue model" governance from ... a Democrat and Obama voter.  See previous comments here.  You are free to scratch your head now.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Another Connecticut Tragedy

Like most suburban parents, I spent the weekend shuttling kids to sports and of course "Newtown" was on every parent's lips.  As it should be.  But as we prepare for another round of heated political debate over gun control and gun rights (and potentially extra-constitutional action by President Obama), another Connecticut tragedy ought to be on people's lips that could provide some needed context to the horrific events in Newtown.  I am speaking of Cheshire, CT, where in 2007 - in a town every bit as leafy, idyllic, and "safe" as Newtown - two drug-addled ex-cons invaded the Petit home and raped and murdered a mother and her two daugthers, ages 11 and 17 and beat a father, Dr. William Petit within an inch of his life.  The Petit's did not own a firearm in their home and it is not certain that if they did, the outcome would have been different, but there are numerous cases where a firearm in the home terminated a home invasion before potentially awful crimes could be committed. In Cheshire that day, in one home, the result was a body count 11% of the total from Newtown.  Add in the nature of the crimes, the rapes and arson deaths of the Petit women and girl, and you have what most would consider an equally grievous tragedy.  Everybody in Connecticut knows of Cheshire.  Many in Connecticut, indeed in the nation, were so deeply shocked by the Petit murders that they could suddenly contemplate what they hadn't before, owning a firearm to protect their homes and families.  Dr. Petit may or may not have wished he owned a firearm, but many Americans determined  that if, God forbid, they had to be in the Petit's shoes, given a choice, they'd want a gun.

This weekend The NY Post went with a front page story highlighting the mother, Nancy Lanza's, interest in firearms, which included the training of her son.  Given her son's mental illness, this appears highly irresponsible, but outsiders will never know the timing and progression of Adam Lanza's decent into madness.  However, in the wake of the Cheshire murders, Connecticutters by the thousands responded in a wholly rational way by purchasing firearms for home protection, learning how to use them properly and training responsible young people do to the same.  The media is out to portray Nancy Lanza as a "gun nut", a paranoid doomsday prepper type whacko, and she may well have been.  Maybe she did traffic in loony stuff like the zombie apocalypse, invading armies ala Red Dawn, and creeping authoritarianism here in the US.  Or maybe she was just worried about hyperinflation, insolvent governments, political instability and ominous signs of an all-encompassing surveillance state (seriously, what a whacko!).

Or maybe she was one of the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents that responded rationally to Cheshire.  As we go forth from the Newtown tragedy let's also be talking about Cheshire. Let's understand and weigh what we do in regards to guns very carefully.  Let's understand that certain actions, while seemingly designed to prevent more Newtowns might give us more Cheshires by restricting citizens' ability to be ready for and prevent violent home invasions.  Where does potentially disarming the next Adam Lanza also disarm the family that doesn't want to be the next Petit family?  All of this, of course, among a host of other questions that ought to be part of the impending national "conversation".

Aside:  one quick note here on media bias.  Click on this link to a previous post here on NBfPB and then click on the link to the story about that Oklahoma mother and see where it takes you...yeah.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bloomberg News Shows How the Big Boys Spin

Today the MSM is absorbing two news items that I think can be fairly objectively deemed defeats, or maybe just setbacks, for the Lightworker.  First, today is the deadline for states to notify HHS about their intentions regarding establishing healthcare exchanges under ObamaCare.  Thirty states will be opting out and handing the task to the federal government.  It is a difficult task and there has been alot written about whether the feds can handle it.  Furthermore, although many on the left are not talking about it (because either they wish to treat the notion as a right-wing fantasy or because they know Obama will simply do what he pleases) there is a question as to the legal legitimacy of providing the necessary subsidies to make it all work through the federal exchanges.  Beyond all that though, ObamaCare was designed to work through state exchanges, so the lack of them is unambiguously a fallback, a Plan B.  And yet Bloomberg News can still spin this as an Obama victory.
"Obama to Control Most Health Exchanges As States Opt Out."
(One ticky tack thing...Obama to control?  Really?  I thought the federal government was to control.  Is Obama synonomous with the government?  I know the media wishes he were king, but...)  Anyway, see that?  The law's implementation has to revert to the fall back strategy, but that's a score for Obama?  Subtle.

Second, comes this one.
"Rice Withdrawal Clears Way for Obama Security Team Revamp"
Got that?  This wasn't a defeat, the realization that he couldn't get what he wanted (the world knows he wanted Rice).  No, no, it's an opportunity to do what he's wanted to do all along, revamp, make things even awesomer!

This is MSM spin nearly at it's most sophisticated 

Let's Unlearn MLK

I thought being black was just a biological, genetic fact, nothing more.  And certainly, growing up, that's what we were taught to believe - it's just superficial, nothing more, MLK's content of character and all that.  Apparently this is wrong, being black is some sort of a "cause".
Rob Parker, a contributor for ESPN’s “First Take” morning show, questioned Griffin’s standing as a black man, asking whether the quarterback was a “cornball brother,” and later saying that the black quarterback is “not one of us.”
“He’s black, he kind of does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause; he’s not one of us,” Parker said this morning. “He’s kind of black, but he’s not really the kind of guy you want to hang out with cause he’s off to something else.”
Cause, huh?  Good to know.  Guess it is time to unlearn all those inspiring moral foundations of the civil rights movement.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Belafonte Drops the Mask

It's at least refreshing to see them reveal themselves to be the tyrants we always knew they were beneath it all.  Although that will be little consolation if we can't reverse course and keep these leftist dickheads on the fringe of American politics, as opposed to, say, in the White House.

Fracking? Bloody Right!

Kudos to the Brits for getting on with it and lifting the ban on fracking and opening the way for economic development, energy diversity, and a more efficient-lower emission future.
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey announced Thursday that the government has allowed the resumption of exploratory hydraulic fracturing (fracking), but any fracking activities would be subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity.
The news follows the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement on Dec.5 in which he announced plans to better exploit the UK's gas resources and that the Department of Energy and Climate Change would establish an Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil.
Exploratory fracking has been suspended in the UK since May 2011 after two small seismic tremors were detected neat the country's only fracking operation in the Bowland Basin to the east of Blackpool in Lancashire, northern England. On Monday this week, Rigzone reported that the British Geological Society believes shale deposits under Blackpool are 50-percent greater than previously thought at 300 trillion cubic feet of gas.

America's Fiscal State: DEFCON 4

Just a quick note, take yesterday's announced figures on the federal budget deficit and annualize the deficit for the first two months of the government's fiscal year and you get the largest deficit that Barack Obama and the Obamacrats will have cooked up to date, close to $1.7 trillion.  That's 12% of US GDP in one year.  They've already booked new debt to the tune of 35% of GDP in the last four years.  Add on this year's 12% and a likely 10% for the next three years and you have new debt to the tune of 77% of GDP.  Remember 90% is the danger zone.  Forget about all of previous American history, the ObamaCrats will have made us France (maybe even Argentina) in eight short years.  Fundamental transformation, indeed.  Forget about the fiscal cliff, a fiscal nuclear bomb is ticking.  We're at DEFCON 4 fast approaching DEFCON 5.  Enjoy it America.

Daily Dose of Lefty Cognitive Dissonance

Ho banal is it to point out lefty hypocrisy?  THIS banal!  Anyway, it must be done, kind of like here goes.  How many on the left are going to go into high dudgeon over the ever creeping surveillance state and the death of privacy as they did under the Bush administration?  Answer:  crickets.
Through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with officials at numerous agencies, The Wall Street Journal has reconstructed the clash over the counterterrorism program within the administration of President Barack Obama. The debate was a confrontation between some who viewed it as a matter of efficiency—how long to keep data, for instance, or where it should be stored—and others who saw it as granting authority for unprecedented government surveillance of U.S. citizens.
The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.
Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans "reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information" may b.
And a bonus DDLCD, this whole debate over Right to Work in Michigan shows us, yet again that lefties like choice, except when they don't.  Choice to terminate a fetus = awesome, crucial, empowering, the very essence of womanhood.  Choice to send your kid to a non-public school with public monies otherwise earmarked for that child = terrible, awful, destructive of the fabric of society.  Choice to have a job and not be coerced into paying union dues = again, terrible awful, freeloading, destruction of the middle class.

UPDATE:  Extra bonus...of course, only elitist lefties can display an unbecoming judgmentalism without nary a thought about the prejudice behind it.  But make the same suggestion about one of the cherished minorities, and watch out...

UPPDATE:  And more (it's Bonus City Baby!)...
 “If getting employer benefits without paying union dues is BAD, why is getting government benefits without paying taxes GOOD?”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ObamaCare's Instability

This news tidbit is instructive and interesting in a number of ways:
Byron York reports that 16 Democratic Senators–all of whom voted for Obamacare!–have written a letter to Harry Reid, asking that one of Obamacare’s funding mechanisms, a 2.3% tax on medical devices, be delayed or repealed:
Echoing arguments made by Republicans against Obamacare, the Democratic senators say the levy will cost jobs — in a statement Monday, Sen. Al Franken called it a “job-killing tax” — and also impair American competitiveness in the medical device field.
First interesting point is, of course, the connection made here by Democrats that taxes cost jobs.  They only, but always, actually admit to this truism, which they otherwise vehemently deny, when their own ox is about to get gored.  Also interesting is this little gang of Upper Sausage Factory Workers are not a bunch of red state Democrat "moderates" CYAing for the God-fearing, gun-owning yokels back home.  Here's the list:
Franken, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, John Kerry, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Joseph Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Robert Casey, Debbie Stabenow, Barbara Mikulski, Kay Hagan, Herb Kohl, Jeanne Shaheen, and Richard Blumenthal. Two other Democrats, senators-elect Joe Donnelly and Elizabeth Warren, also signed the letter.
This is an All-Star list of Liberal Lions and/or fairly safe blue state senators.  The S really has to be H-ing the F in the medical device world for this crew to start sounding like Jack Kemp.  Here is my advice to Republicans:  tell Schumer & Co. that you'll be more than happy to repeal the tax permanently, otherwise they can pound sand.

Finally, this development is probably most interesting in that it is yet another pillar of ObamaCare that is crumbling before our eyes.  Despite the sanction by Chief Justice Roberts and the failure to roll back ObamaCare at the ballot box, the unwieldy, poorly-constructed law still might crater in on itself of its own weight.  We have already seen two elements of the law - the 1099 provision and the CLASS program - go completely up in flames.  Currently at risk are the state-run insurance exchanges, which 16 states, at current count, have declined to setup, which throws ObamaCare's funding legitimacy into question.  Also at risk are several of the law's provisions that appear to violate the right of religious freedom and are pending in several courts across the country.  Now, we have this medical device tax, which is at risk.  How many of these pieces have to fail or be retracted before the law itself fails - not fails to perform as advertised, it'll never do that, but fails to simply function?  It looks like we're going to see.

The Mother of All Secular Rotations

This will be a long post but I think it will be worth your time.  Here is the chase to which I am cutting: we are on the cusp of a massive multi-year bull market in stocks.  Now the caveats.  I don't know when, but it is within a couple of years.It could be underway now for all I know.

Why do I think this?  Well, let's revert to some foundational ideas I have laid out here.  First is the paradigm shift.  Throw out the CorpFin textbooks - developed Western government bonds are no longer "risk free".  In fact they are some of the riskiest assets out there.  Most Western governments are more or less insolvent, but on top of that they are unwieldy, sclerotic and grow more so by the day.  They are unadaptive in the extreme.  The Europeans have been staring an existential crisis in the face for years and can't seem to do anything but talk, stall and deny.  We here in the US are on the precipice of the greatest fiscal abyss to ever befall humanity and our two branches of government relevant to fiscal matters are debating whether to go into hyper-drive or to continue at mere warp speed into the abyss.  I don't know when or how, but I am certain that investors in US Treasuries will lose their shirts and have said as much.  At this point I need to digress to relate a story from my travels.

The other day at an event I sat next to a gentleman, who, upon hearing that I am an investment professional, regaled me with his journey to retirement comfort.  The guy called himself a "poor kid from the Bronx made good" as they say.  And not in the Goodfellas kinda way, the guy was a dentist and had a good practice cleaning teeth for 40 years.  He told me that he had a financial advisor - he knew nothing about stocks and bonds - that he trusted who came to him one day and said that "the curve was in a once in a lifetime position".  The advisor was referring to the yield curve and recommended a big bet on laddered zero coupon bonds.  This was sometime in the 1980s.  Well, if you know a little history, you know this was a homerun, a single call that eventually rendered this man's retirement 110% secure.  Let's not underplay smart habits, this man was a saver and a lived modestly, but the bond call was the trade of a lifetime for him.  Why do I bring this up?  Because we are at the other side of the world now.  Whereas the yield curve was set for epic gains back then, the curve today is poised for epic losses.  All manner of retirement kitties, from huge pensions to small nest eggs, are facing both negative real returns from income (inflation greater than interest income) and the prospect of monstrous capital losses.  Just today, Bank of America is noted to be bullish on stocks for no other reason than bonds are such a terrible prospect.
"What's the best thing about equities? Bonds,"
This is not just an investment bank making one of a thousand otherwise ignorable "allocation calls".  Hundreds of billions of dollars are in this pickle noted above because of decades of conventional wisdom that the retirement of the Baby Boomers would precipitate a massive secular shift from stocks to bonds, that all these wealthy, healthy, active children of the 1950s would sock their wealth into fixed income so they could live in retirement bliss with all the Viagara, Prilosec, sushi dinners and Third World travel they could handle, all funded by ample, reliable streams of regular income.  This was conventional wisdom for decades - boomers will drive down stocks in favor of bonds.  And it has been happening - the mutual fund flows tell the story - but something bad happened on the way to Boomer Retirement Bliss.  They don't have enough bonds paying them enough interest to afford the retirements they expected.  The generation just before them - the WW2 generation - sucked up the last of the sweet-paying bonds, they're keeping them and nothing like them will be issued again in time for the Boomers.  In other words, the Boomers are stuck.  I even fell for this.  My own mother at 72 was 60% in stocks and I took her financial advisor to the woodshed for having a 72 year old widow 60% in stocks.  I was operating on decades old conventional wisdom and I demanded more fixed income for her portfolio.  I got lucky and I got her out of stocks before the 2008 financial crisis, so I saved her a bunch, but that was dumb luck.  But that created another problem, what to do then?  She doesn't have enough money to accept 2% in ultra safe (my ass) Treasuries.  A couple years removed from the crash, she is forced by necessity to go back into equities to earn enough to live via the dividend yields and to simply shelter from the highly probable capital losses coming down the pike for Treasury investors.  We've had to go back on decades of conventional wisdom on investing for retirement for her, and she is just barely older than the oldest of the Baby Boomers.  Millions of these Boomers are going to confront this dilemma and realized that decades of conventional wisdom has led them down a dead end road, and many will conclude to reverse course like my mother.  The conventional wisdom of decades will need to be reversed, creating the Mother of All Secular Rotations.  BofA calls it the Great Rotation, and I think that is right.  Stocks are cheap, bonds are expensive, governments are dysfunctional, corporations are nimble, and 2% just won't pay for the retirement dreams of an entire generation, especially a generation not used to getting less than they feel they deserve.  The tsunami is coming.

UPDATE:  Don't just take it from me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Unions Show How to Win Friends and Influence People...Again

Unions show, again, how to win friends and influence people.

This ain't 1937 and there is no overpass.  Too many American leadership industries have been bankrupted and the once great American public education system has been reduced to ineffective rubble.  And thanks to the Internet and cellphones cameras, their fellow Americans know exactly what they are all about and most don't think a civil debate with these goons is possible, so they go through their elected representatives as they should.  That is why, despite seemingly contradictory evidence, Americans are empowering their local politicians to rein them in.

Smart Liberals With Zero Wisdom

Ya' know, this has been nagging me.  This is just one of hundreds (it seems) critiques of what he calls "the Blue Model" that I have read over at Walter Russell Mead's fantastic blog.  It is not a stretch at all to say that no one has covered more extensively, more intelligently, more clearly, and more powerfully the utter failure of the "Blue Model" at all levels of government than WRM.  And yet the guy is a Democrat.  His choices, his type people, have heaped this stinking pile of dysfunction and unsustainability onto our backs and yet in all the time I've been reading him, he makes nary a mention of that, or of any regret or any personal reflection whatsoever that I can detect.  I hope I just missed it because reading these critiques without the inevitable conclusion (at least to me it ought to be inevitable) that ought to follow is starting to stir up typical feelings of frustration I have with that portion of the left that I can bear to hear out - they're all smarts but no wisdom.  How can they know their policy dreams lead to misery and yet not only still be committed to them, but wish to accelerate them?  They know our current fiscal behavior leads to Greece, and yet they still want to go there.

Can California Do Anything Right?

I've chronicled all this stuff before, but let's bring it all together to ask some basic questions.  The occasion is this article in Bloomberg, which has a strange naive "who knew?" quality to it.  The geniuses at Bloomberg News are just now catching on that public-sector union rapacity is destroying state solvency and that California is leading the nation into the fiscal abyss with a profligacy and insanity that is not to be believed, and that the result has been population out-migration.  Here's the Bberg headline:

$822,000 Worker Shows California Leads U.S. Pay Giveaway

Then there is the $100 million loan that will cost a school district $1 billion when it is all said and done (actually it probably won't since the district will almost surely default, which makes me wonder, who buys these stupid bonds?).

Then there is this tidbit about free cellphones and cell service for low income folks to "bring them into the mainstream of society."

Then, they've plowed ahead with the nation's first cap-and-trade scheme that is already killing jobs in the state and demonstrating other problems.

Plus, they are still moving forward with the already insanely expensive and always increasingly costly high speed rail that will never pay for itself.

So, now the questions.  1) Is there ANY aspect of public policy and civic life that has not been grossly mismanaged in California?  2) Is there ANY doubt that California won't go bust in our lifetimes?

UPDATE:  Apparently, migration patterns such as the one noted above are something that the powers that be don't want you to know about.

Another Signpost in the Death of Global Warming Nonsense

I have long chronicled the the demise of, for clarity's sake let me call it the Global Warming Policy Movement.  I have laid the foundation of why this policy movement was doomed to fail.  Many will, of course, dispute this and pretend that all is moving along just as before, but they will be wrong and eventually we'll all know it.  There are and will be numerous sign posts along the way to make this clearer.  This is one of them.

Good Question

Curiously, however, hardly anyone has noticed that today’s sentiment is a flip-flop for just about any Democrat who has run for any political office any time in the past decade — from the presidency on down. Why? First, consider the Left’s decade-long mantra deriding the Bush tax policies as “tax cuts for the rich,” then ask a simple question: how could the expiration of “tax cuts for the rich” hurt anyone but the rich?
 I think you know the answer...
In other words, if the Bush cuts actually were just “tax cuts for the rich,” then their expiration couldn’t hurt the middle class. On the other hand, if their expiration would hurt the middle class, then characterizing them as “tax cuts for the rich” was a false message all along.
Distortion and lies from the Left.  Shocking, I know.  As the Good Professor says, "the narrative changes to fit the politics."

Full post here.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Poverty As Progress...Again

They're doing it again.  They're telling you that poverty is awesome and expecting you to swallow it.
It’s odd… You only read stories about how great it is to be poor, how empowering it is to settle for less, when a Democrat is president. If a Republican was in charge, would WaPo be doing stories about how awesome it is to live in a breadbox?
They’re just trying to prepare you for the inevitable crash. Their ideas don’t work and they know it, so now all they can do is try to make you think their failure is somehow a statement of principle.
Not the first time.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

What A Country Built On Borrowed Money Eventually Looks Like

Another account of the escalating misery befalling Greek society
Anastasia Karagaitanaki, 57, is a former model and cafe owner in Thessaloniki, Greece. After losing her business to the financial crisis, she now sleeps on a daybed next to the refrigerator in her mother’s kitchen and depends on charity for food and insulin for her diabetes.  
“I feel like my life has slipped through my hands,” said Karagaitanaki, whose brother also shares the one-bedroom apartment. “I feel like I’m dead.”
For thousands of Greeks like Karagaitanaki, the fabric of middle-class life is unraveling. Teachers, salaries slashed by a third, are stealing electricity. Families in once-stable neighborhoods are afraid to leave their homes because of rising street crime.
This ought to be a cautionary tale about what a society built on borrowed money eventually comes to, but I doubt it will register where it needs to.  Please note the euphemism used throughout the article, "middle class" is a stand-in for 'government workers paid for by government borrowing'.  When there comes a day where there can be no more government borrowing, there can be no more of these government workers.  There was alot of this rhetoric flying around here in the US during the presidential campaign just concluded (and the fiscal cliff campaign Obama is currently waging).  If the "middle class" we've built here in America relies on continued borrowing of $1 trillion per annum, that middle class is doomed.  This article, then, describes the future unless we change course.  On present evidence, we ain't changin'. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

NRA-KKK? Really?

We've been waiting for this...despite the previous input of Ice-T, the more recent thoughts of Charles Barkley and others, we've been waiting for Mr. Colion Noir to rebut one 4'11' midget who travels to and fro from his job accompanied by armed guards.  NRA=KKK?  Really?

Then again, what do you expect from a guy who would cow-tow to a Communist regime to further his career?

CNBC In Bullsh*t Anti Anti-ObamaCare Survey

Sometimes (OK, very often) there are things published in the media, based on "surveys" that are preposterous and simply defy common sense.  This is one of them.
The brand perceptions of Papa John's, Applebee's and Denny's took beatings after high-ranking representatives of the companies said Obamacare would force them to stop building restaurants, cut worker hours and raise prices.
First, despite what you might think, given the re-election of the guy who never had a real job, ObamaCare remains solidly unpopular.  So why would we assume that businesses who talk honestly about the consequences of the legislation diminish their reputation.  Secondly, didn't we recently see a shockingly large and unprecedented outpouring of support for a restaurant business that challenged government dictats, and isn't ObamaCare, while not directly analogous, in many ways a government dictat?  Thirdly, healthcare costs are demonstrably higher across many sectors of the economy, why would people assume that this phenomenon would somehow bypass the fast food restaurant sector?  Fourthly,  the survey comes from "an online YouGov" brand index, ergo it's bullshit.

Talk to me when sales are down at these companies.

"...Potential of Several Hundred Million Barrels..."

 I repeat - look for oil, find oil...shocker!  In remote hinterlands far far away I might add...not!
Total announces a significant oil discovery at its North Platte prospect on Garden Banks Block 959 in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The discovery well encountered several hundred feet of net oil pay in Lower Tertiary sands which included several high-quality intervals.

Total estimates this discovery can have a potential of several hundred million barrels of oil. Further appraisal will be needed to confirm its size and commerciality.
"We can't drill our way out of our problems."
A) Why not?
B) Let's Try.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Obama's Head-Scratching Negotiating Tactic

We've got an odd one on our hands here folks:
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that while tax rates must go up for a "fiscal cliff" deal, it may be possible to lower rates at the top end of the scale late next year as part of tax reforms that would close loopholes and limit deductions.
"Let's let those go up," Obama told Bloomberg Television in an interview, referring to tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.
"And then let's set up a process with a time certain, at the end of 2013 or the fall of 2013, where we work on tax reform, we look at what loopholes and deduction both Democrats and Republicans are willing to close, and it's possible that we may be able to lower rates by broadening the base at that point."
There are a couple things wrong here both from a negotiations theory standpoint and from an economic perspective.  First, this looks too overtly like a bait and switch.  Obama is not the most trustworthy of negotiating partners, so this "pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" gambit looks and smells alot like the Tip O'Neill phony baloney that Republicans need to be, justifiably, on guard against.  Why is he still asking for trust from the Republicans when he knows that he doesn't have their trust and hasn't presented anything to earn it?  Second, this undermines his insistence so far on higher taxes for the rich.  Isn't Obama equating his push for higher rates with a revenue stream over 10 years?  Wouldn't raising rates now only to lower them in a year or so mean only a year or so of revenue?  The 10 year figure barely put a dent in our looming fiscal catastrophe, one or two years won't even register.  Unless there is more to this, Obama just neutered an already pretty lame argument for higher taxes.  Furthermore he is confusing his base; he is stating, even more nakedly, that he wants to raise taxes for purely emotional reasons - "fairness" - but then saying that he ultimately wants to lower taxes on the rich and raise them on the non-rich (that's what "broadening the base" means).  He's all over the board here, seemingly trying to appeal to everyone and no one.

Now to the economics.  The tax landscape is already highly uncertain and the economy is plagued by this uncertainty.  So what does Obama do?  Go ahead and inject more uncertainty.  Tax rates are to go up, but then only to come back down in a short, but still indeterminate, time frame and in an indeterminate manner?  Huh?  That means more planning, more fretting and more sitting on the sidelines.  If the prospect of a new tax regime is a year or two away, investors and high-earners will duck, dodge and game the system for that time period.  Witness the rash of dividends flowing out of companies to beat the end of year deadline.  Lastly, in economics, as in most of life, if something is the right thing to, it is the right thing to do now.  So if Obama is admitting that the right thing do is to reform, which includes lower rates for high earners and a broadened tax base, why isn't that the right thing to do now?  Why the interim step, which is by definition not the optimal policy?

Very strange.  Is this Obama walking back his position?  Normally, I'd say yes, it's a clear opening for a broader reform process to begin.  However, given that this is Obama we're talking about, it could just be horrible negotiating and/or economic incoherence.  We've seen plenty of that to know he is thoroughly capable of such.  Head-scratchin' time.

Empty-Suit Conventional Thinking Drone Even Thinks Dems Are Irresponsible

It's one thing for Krauthammer to say it, but when the Font of All Conventional Wisdom and Mainstream Thinking says it, well, it's crossed the Rubicon into undeniable.
Via Eliana Johnson at NRO, David Gergen comes to the same conclusion that most of us did after the election — that Barack Obama and the Democrats aren’t really interested in solving the massive number of problems in the fiscal cliff coming in less than four weeks.  Their priority is to inflict as much damage on House Republicans as possible, and if that inflicts damage on America, well, you gotta break a few eggs to make omelettes, too.
When Gergen unmasks your strategy to be dishonorable scorched Earth, it's time to rethink, because you're not fooling anyone anymore.

Monday, December 03, 2012

No Sympathy for Shuttered California Oyster Farm

This is a tough story.  A business will be arbitrarily closed and people will lose their jobs.  It's tough, but I have no sympathy.  Californians vote as uniformly lock-step as you're gonna get in a truly free society for ever bigger and more intrusive government. And Californians, in particular, are known for the dictatorial, 'I know better than you' form of liberalism.  These are not midwestern Democrats.  And big intrusive government does what it does.  Scorpion. Frog.  All that jazz.

Californians - not uniquely but especially visibly -  have contributed their out-sized electoral vote cache to ever larger and ever more power-ravenous federal government.  Why should anyone expect them not to experience its depredations?  I feel no sympathy.  In fact I chafe at the very idea of unthinking shock emanating from the Golden State at anything the federal government does.  Own it.