Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Going out of business

Going out of business
What’s New Today

Story #1 relates to the President’s shedding of African Americans support.  #2 brings up another inconsistency in Obama’s campaign.  #3 has Dana Milbank summarize what a horrible month June is for Obama.  #4 asks which president Obama is most like and then gives you a surprising answer.  I had my own surprising answer as well.  #5 talks about how fine the Obama campaign and the economy are.  #6 finds that Romney is leading Obama in Wisconsin.  #7shows you how your tax dollars are at work in the green sector.  #8 asks if equity is possible in view of human nature.  

Today’s Thoughts

What ever happened to the Occupy Movement?  The only time you read about them is when some of them get arrested.

Obama is having troubles raising money.  A recent study by Stanford political scientist Adam Bonica finds that roughly 90% of those who gave more than $200 to Obama haven't contributed to him this election cycle. 

Why didn’t someone predict the Euro crisis?  They did.  Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman both did. 

1.  Obama losing African America support

President Barack Obama is rapidly losing support among African-American voters in North Carolina, a new poll out today from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy polling shows.

The poll finds that Mitt Romney would get 20 percent of the African-American vote if the election were held today, compared with 76 percent for Obama. Overall, Romney has a 48 percent to 46 percent lead on Obama in the crucial swing state.

Obama received 95 percent of the support from African-Americans in North Carolina in the 2008 election, compared with just 5 percent for Republican nominee John McCain.

Obama is still way ahead, but this is a drop of 19% or put another way a 480% increase in AA for Romney votes over what McCain got in 2008

2.  Inept Obama can’t keep his Stories Straight
Just how inept is the White House these days? On Friday, President Obama was demanding that Congress put "teachers, cops and firefighters" back to work. But his own website says he's already accomplished that.

At that press briefing, Obama complained that while the private sector has been "hiring at a solid pace," the "biggest weaknesses (have) been state and local governments, which have laid off 450,000 Americans."

"These are teachers and cops and firefighters," he said. "Congress should pass a bill putting them back to work right now, giving help to the states so that those layoffs are not occurring."
On the official White House schedule, this briefing was billed as Obama "delivering remarks urging Congress to act on the 'To Do List.'"

Maybe Obama should have checked that list first, since, of the five items on it, not one has anything to do with saving state and local jobs.

Nope. The only things on that list are tax incentives for companies to create jobs at home; help for underwater homeowners who want to refinance; some targeted small business tax credits; more money wasted on "green" energy; and a silly new "Veterans Jobs Corps."

Not that it matters, since Democrats have entirely ignored Obama's picayune To Do List anyway.
However, on that same White House web page, Obama lists all his amazing job creation accomplishments, with little green check marks to show they've been done. Things like "Rescue the auto industry" and "Sign 18 tax cuts to help small businesses."

And right there on that list are these: "Keep 400,000 teachers in the classroom" and "Keep police officers, firefighters and other first responders on the job."

To paraphrase John Kerry, Obama had saved the jobs before he didn’t.

3.  Milbank:  Can it get Any Worse?

It has been a Junius Horribilis for President Obama.

Job growth has stalled, the Democrats have been humiliated in Wisconsin, the attorney general is facing a contempt-of-Congress citation, talks with Pakistan have broken down, Bill Clinton is contradicting Obama, Mitt Romney is outraising him, Democrats and Republicans alike are complaining about a “cascade” of national-security leaks from his administration, and he is now on record as saying that the “private sector is doing fine.” 

Could it get any worse? 

Early Monday morning, Obama learned that it could. His aides delivered the news to him that his commerce secretary had been cited for a felony hit-and-run after allegedly crashing his car three times over the weekend. In one incident, the previously obscure Cabinet officer apparently rear-ended a Buick, spoke to the car’s occupants, then hit the vehicle again as he left...

The Obama Administration is looking like the Three Stooges and Obama himself is not even Moe (he’s more of the Curly type). 

4. Which President is Obama most Like?

…The conventional wisdom, especially on the right, is that of all past presidents Barack Obama most closely resembles Jimmy Carter. Both men, after all, presided over parlous economic times and chose ultra-typical liberal solutions that did not work, apparently worsening the situation and leading to, in Carter’s own term, national “malaise.” Both men also had to deal with serious challenges from Iran and did so, to say the least, ineffectually.

So the case for Carter — who, as we all know, was not reelected — is strong. But I have another candidate, one who to me resembles Barack Obama more, especially in personality and style.
His name is Richard Nixon.

Now I realize the comparison is unfair to Nixon who, other than Watergate of course, was a pretty decent president. He and his cohort Henry Kissinger opened Red China and effectively changed history by triangulating the Soviet Union. What those two men did helped lead to the diminution of Maoism as well and probably saved a huge number of lives.

Tricky Dick also ratified the first, and ultimately most significant, U. S. environmental legislation, the kind that actually had a positive effect on the air and water, as opposed to the destructive self-regarding nonsense we have today.

Unfortunately, Nixon, for all his political brilliance, was an overly suspicious, many have even said paranoid, man.

And therein lies the similarity to Barack Obama. Call Obama “Nixon lite.”

From the very beginning Obama gave hints of Nixonian traits, but now, with his presidency crumbling around him, the global economy in freefall, and his signature healthcare legislation loved only by members of his immediate family (and even they have probably not read it), he is approaching the apotheosis of Nixonianism – sweaty brows, furtive looks, and a generally solitary and paranoid style.
Even the normally sympathetic Vanity Fair has portrayed him as an isolated man — one who has isolated himself. Is that not Nixon?...

I’ve spoken on this before and I think we should also include Hoover in who he is most like.  Hoover was a progressive who tried to raise spending to combat the Depression and failed to significantly alter the plight of the country.  Sound familiar? 

5.  Obama Campaign:  Everything is fine

The 1990 Italian film "Everybody's Fine" is one of the most depressing films I've ever seen. Starring the late Marcello Mastroianni, it's the story of an old man who tells his wife he's going to visit their grown kids. According to their letters the kids are doing great, but he'd like to see for himself.

It turns out that the kids are all doing badly, and the whole trip is drenched in nostalgia and regret for what might have been. When the father gets home, he can't bring himself to tell his wife the truth, even though -- the audience discovers -- she's been dead and buried for years. In the last scene, we see the old man at his wife's grave, reassuring her, "Everybody's fine."

Listening to President Obama's defenders spinning his claim that the "private sector is doing fine" reminded me of those kids and their dad, all afraid to admit everything's not fine.

One common defense: He was just being ironic or sarcastic.

New York magazine's Jonathan Chait insists that Obama meant it "in the same basic way that I did this week when I was slowly recovering from a horrendous head cold and told people I was 'fine' ...." On Monday, MSNBC host Chris Hayes said on the "Today" show that Obama meant it the way somebody says "I'm fine" when they really mean "You don't have to rush me to the emergency room" after a bloody head injury.
The only problem: There's pretty much no evidence that's how Obama meant it.

In his news conference last week, Obama argued that the private sector isn't holding back the economy, the public sector is -- hence "the private sector is doing fine." When given the opportunity to retract his gaffe, he basically repeated it. "It's absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine," the piqued president said. "That's the reason I had the press conference." (Something's wrong when you have to explain why you had a press conference.)

This is a major mistake by Obama.  Kind of like McCain's the fundamentals of the American economy are sound or Kerry’s I voted for it before I voted against it.

6.  Wisconsin:  A Toss-up

Mitt Romney now leads President Obama for the first time in Wisconsin where the president's support has fallen to its lowest level to date.  

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Romney with 47% of the vote to Obama’s 44%. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.

Prior to this survey, Obama's support in the state has ranged from 45% to 52%, while Romney has earned 41% to 45%. Last month, the numbers were Obama 49%, Romney 45%. The president led his likely Republican challenger by 11 points in March - 52% to 41%.

It’s now official. Wisconsin is now a toss-up state.  A toss-up is defined as a state in which neither candidate is ahead by more than 4%.  This brings Wisconsin from Obama in March, to leaning Obama in April/May to toss-up in June. 

7.  Our Green Dollars at Work

A Syracuse nonprofit got a $700,000 government grant last year to buy and install 68 electric car charging units around Central New York.

But this week, Synapse Sustainability Trust ripped the last of the chargers out of a downtown Syracuse parking lot.

Synapse Sustainability says it is replacing them — at no cost to taxpayers — because the manufacturer sold it the wrong type of charging units.

The goof-up will have little impact on the public. After all, there are only 30 electric or electric hybrid cars in five counties surrounding Syracuse. There are more charging units than there are cars that can use them.

But it is an embarrassment for politically connected Synapse and its affiliated for-profit businesses as they try to carve out a niche in the alternative fuel marketplace.

“We’re replacing all the units,” said Eckardt “Chris” Beck, a partner at Synapse Partners LLC and its nonprofit arm, Synapse Sustainability Trust. “It’s not a happy thing. But it’s the right thing.”

The mix-up has prompted Synapse to file a $6 million lawsuit against ECOtality, the maker of the “Blink” charging stations, according to legal papers filed in State Supreme Court in Onondaga County….

It seems Synapse is run by the County Democratic Party Chairwoman.  Can you say crony capitalism? 

8.  Is Equality Possible?

On the other side of the equation is capitalism, though no country in the world has such an economic system in its pure form.  Here, winners and losers are decided by "the market."  Bill Gates became fantastically rich by starting a company that brought the personal computer to the masses.  Henry Ford created his wealth by introducing mass production of automobiles.  People in Hollywood came to their good fortune by making movies and TV shows the public enjoys watching.  In short, wealth is often made by offering an affordable product or service that is appreciated by the public on a wide scale.
The primary problem with the capitalist system is that the currently powerful can use their money and influence to stifle new competition.  A big company can sell its product at a loss for longer than the upstart can hold out.  Or they can swamp a young company with a massive advertising campaign or endless and expensive litigation. 

 Existing companies can even enlist the help of government agencies.  Here's just one example: in the U.S. in the 1930s, the introduction of commercial television was delayed by the Federal Communications Commission for almost 20 years at the behest of the radio industry (see "The Master Switch" by Tim Wu).  Such distortions of the market are typically painted in terms of the government protecting ordinary citizens.

It can be difficult to design a legal system that gives a truly level playing field that protects the legitimate rights of existing businesses without cheating new ones of their opportunity. 
It is not particularly odd that the most visible vocal proponents of a more equitable distribution of a society's wealth typically already have more than most.  Their social and political leanings are in sympathy with the powers that will be deciding who gets what, so there is little concern that any future actions will be to their disadvantage.  With their own security comfortably stowed, they can bask in self-congratulation that they are doing the right thing for the common folk.

Imagine that a truly equal society can be created.  Unless one is a true anarchist, it will still need a government, and a government requires people to administer its functions.  How long will it be before it is decided that some functions are more critical than others, that some buildings need to be bigger or fancier than others, that certain groups need different things or more supplies, and that certain equipment is more important here than there?  This "mission creep" is inevitable and inexorable.  Over time, it will lead to the same dramatic differences in distribution that societies have always seen.

In short, the idea that a model exists somewhere for a truly equal society is folly.  North Korea is the most tightly regimented, self-described communist country in the world (though it is arguably a dictatorial monarchy).  Hong Kong may be the most free-wheeling capitalist state in existence.  Yet both have a small group of people who live like kings and many more who don't (though there is little question which one most ordinary people would pick if given the choice).

The only real question is who, or what process, chooses the "haves"?  Do wealth and position come from learning to manipulate the levers of authority and force on the government side?  Or do these advantages come from the freedom to pursue our personal creative ideas and dreams?

This is simply human nature in action.  I read once that the only true ‘communist’ societies are those with bare subsistence, where everyone shares equally or the society will starve. As soon as there is surplus, there were be fights over who gets the surplus.  Certainly in these subsistence societies, the hunters would probably want more of the extra since they create much of the surplus, need the extra calories and take the biggest risks.  “Mission Creep,”  see how easy it is?

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