Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ron Paul: Why Not?

OK. Is there any conservative out there who really wants Mitt Romney to be president? Admittedly, my world is pretty small these days. But I sure don’t know any. Romney strikes me as McCain — although without the long and heroic stay at the Hanoi Hilton.

Yet Romney appears to play well with the mainstream media. Go figure.

But how about Ron Paul?

Well, I’m not the first or only pundit to consider this since it was all over the Internet yesterday, but how come Ron Paul didn’t get any love from the Chattering Class following his strong second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll?

Here’s Roger Simon opining on Politico, “Ron Paul remains media poison“:

I admit I do not fully understand Ron Paul and his beliefs. But I do understand when a guy gets shafted, and Ron Paul just got shafted.

On Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll was conducted in Iowa amid huge media interest and scrutiny. The results were enough to force one Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, out of the race, and catapult another, Michele Bachmann, into the “top tier.”

There are so many “top tier” stories in the media today that I can barely count them, let alone read them all, and Bachmann is in all of them by virtue of her victory at Ames. The rest of the tier is made up of two candidates who skipped Ames, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

As The Daily Beast put it: “The new top tier of Bachmann, Perry, and Romney — created by Bachmann’s Iowa straw poll win, Perry’s entry into the race and Romney’s lead so far in many national and state polls — has unleashed torrents of talk about the reshaped race.”

Paul’s name was not mentioned in this piece nor in many others. A Wall Street Journal editorial Monday magnanimously granted Paul’s showing in the straw poll a parenthetical dismissal: “(Libertarian Ron Paul, who has no chance to win the nomination, finished a close second.)”

But “close” does not fully describe Paul’s second-place finish. Paul lost to Bachmann by nine-tenths of one percentage point, or 152 votes out of 16,892 cast.

If it had been an election, such a result would almost certainly have triggered a recount. It was not an election, however, and that is my point. Straw polls are supposed to tell us, like a straw tossed into the air, which way the wind is blowing.

And any fair assessment of Ames, therefore, would have said the winds of the Republican Party are blowing toward both Bachmann and Paul.

Nonsense, some would say. Straw polls are just organized bribery, with the campaigns buying the tickets and distributing them to supporters. (And, in fact, this is what I wrote before Ames.)

What they really show, many argue, is not where the philosophical heart of the party is, but the organizational abilities of the candidates.

Fine, I’ll buy that. But why didn’t Paul get the same credit for his organizational abilities as Bachmann did for hers?

I am far from a Libertarian. I believe big government is swell as long as it does big things to help the common good. But after Ames, it was as if Paul had been sentenced to the Phantom Zone.

Simon: “I am far from a Libertarian.”

Wonder how many know what Libertarianism really stands for? Let’s go directly to the source: libertarianism.

What is libertarianism?

Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians strive for a free, peaceful, abundant world where each individual has the maximum opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and to realize his full potential.

The core idea is simply stated, but profound and far-reaching in its implications. Libertarians believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life – as long as he simply respects the same right of others to do the same.

Another way of saying this is that libertarians believe you should be free to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don’t harm the person and property of others.

Libertarianism is thus the combination of liberty (the freedom to live your life in any peaceful way you choose), responsibility (the prohibition against the use of force against others, except in defense), and tolerance (honoring and respecting the peaceful choices of others).

And more:

Are libertarians conservative or liberal?

You have a better choice than just left or right. The libertarian way gives you more choices, in politics, in business, your personal life, in every way. Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. Today’s liberals like personal liberty but want government to control your economic affairs. Conservatives reverse that, advocating more economic freedom but wanting to clamp down on your private life.
Libertarian positions on the issues are not “left” or “right” or a combination of the two. Libertarians believe that, on every issue, you have the right to decide for yourself what’s best for you and to act on that belief so long as you respect the right of other people to do the same and deal with them peacefully and honestly.

I used to believe that the only libertarians I knew were students majoring in advertising. They shared an almost universal belief that people had the ability to make up their own minds and do whatever they wanted — despite the sophisticated advertising techniques and millions of dollars spent to get them to do otherwise. Your kid is glued to a death stick because of the appeal of Joe Camel. Hey Mr. and Mrs. Parent Asshat — it’s your fault. Ah, the good old days teaching media ethics. I digress.
Anyway, I kind of like Ron Paul’s message about personal liberty and responsibility.
And he’s not Mitt Romney.
Just sayin’.

Ohio State Football: Buckeyes and Black Eyes

OK. I know there are big fish to be fried. But let’s face it. Not much new for even a pajama-clad citizen journalist to rant about these days. T-Paw is history before most anyone even knew he was running for president. Congress is on vacation until after Labor Day. The Prez is going around the country on his don’t-blame-me-it’s-still-Bush’s-fault bus tour before heading on holiday.  Kim Kardashian is still getting married. But my invitation must have been lost in the snail mail.

And the Gang of 12 Super Committee remains deadlocked. Oops. That’s next month’s story. Sorry about that.

So I guess I’ll opine on Ohio State football and the black eye Jim Tressel has given the Buckeyes. The NYT had a long story yesterday about the OSU debacle and the spotlight it has put on Prez E. Gordon Gee. By all accounts, Gee appears to be an outstanding university president — but he has himself in somewhat of an ethical jam by advocating high standards for college athletics, yet pretty much passing the buck when it came to his own coach and football program.

Here’s from the article, “At Ohio State, Football Scandal Rattles Reform-Minded President“:

Until that month, Gee, 67, enjoyed his reputation as an outspoken critic of Division I athletics, as a grand reformer, bespectacled and bow-tied, who once “declared war” on the culture of college sports. He knew this reputation would collide with the transgressions of the football program, his pleas for change marked hypocritical in the wake of the investigation.

Even if he disagreed, he knew how the whole thing looked. “Because here he was, the iconic leader, out there beating the drums for college reform, and he’s got a scandal on his hands,” Gee said. “He’s just like everyone else.”

The events of the past week — a retreat among university presidents to discuss reform in college athletics and then Ohio State’s meeting with the N.C.A.A.’s infractions committee — have further exposed Gee’s predicament. Namely, what power, if any, college presidents hold over their athletic departments and whether anyone, Gee included, can actually enact change in major college sports.

Yet Gee views the scandal in opportunistic terms. He is beating the same drum, using what happened at Ohio State as proof.

“We’re in the middle of this firestorm, and everyone will be looking to us,” Gee said. “I’ve always said I wouldn’t like to have myself judged by the vicissitudes of an 18-year-old running a football. But this is the system. College athletics has gotten beyond itself. Do I think it’s broken? Yes.”

Even, apparently, under his expansive roof.

When the scandal involving the rules violations first surfaced, Gee appeared willing to give Tressel a pass. Instead, Gee should have taken the ethical high road and either fired Tressel or forced him to resign. Yeah, I know. Tressel beat Michigan. The alums were happy and I expect prone to keep the checkbooks open. And it’s only football.

Well, not really. It’s about the reputation of the university and the integrity of its chief executive officer.

The NYT article IMO was favorable to Gee — but regardless, he earned his black eye.

Baseball and the Dog Days of Summer

Well, I made my once-a-year trek to Cleveland to watch the Indians play last night. And even though they lost to Detroit, I’ll go on the record and say I enjoyed myself. Nothing better than a ballgame on a near perfect evening in the middle of summer.

And fortunately I pulled enough money out of my retirement savings account before the stock market collapse to afford a few brews. Talk about price gouging. If BP were running the concession stands I’m certain there would be some kind of congressional inquiry. I digress.

Anyway, my point is that baseball is the perfect summer game. It was designed to be slow and leisurely, without the constant frenzy of ice hockey and basketball. Or the 10-second spurt of activity in pro football — followed by a TV timeout and a series of beer commercials. Baseball, long before TV and social media, allowed people to get outside during the dog days of summer and relax and enjoy face-to-face conversation absent Twitter, text messages and so on. I get a chuckle now about how many people sit at the game glued to their smartphone, presumably letting others know where they are and what they are doing as though anyone really cares. A side note: The asshat sitting next to me dropped his BlackBerry in the top of the seventh. Not sure if he was charged with an error or not.

Folks, chill. You’re at a baseball game — not at work. You don’t have to pretend you’re busy. Oops. I digress again.

And it struck me last night that the game hasn’t changed all that much (well, OK, except for the designated hitter rule, but don’t get me started) — but the environment sure has.  Exploding graphics that make scoreboards look like a battle from Star Trek, plenty of stunts and activities to keep the crowd occupied between innings and so on. Hey, just like a classroom in any school these days at any level. Sorry, I’m drifting off message today.

As a young lad growing up in Pittsburgh (circa 1955) I spent many a day and night at Forbes Field, now defunct. You could sit in the left field bleachers for a buck — and watch the hand of a live person extend from inside the scoreboard to post balls and strikes, outs and scores from other games.

And before the ump cried “play ball,” and as the sun started to set, you got that distinct whiff of cigar smoke making its way through the stands.

Ah, the good old days.

 

 

Stock Market Madness and TV Pundits

Wow. The bears must really be on the prowl on Wall Street. Fox and Friends showed up on TV an hour earlier than usual this morning because of the market crisis – and a host of pundits in the early a.m. opined that the market debacle will continue — or not — is fueled by economic uncertainty in Europe — or not — and stems from Congressional gridlock and the S&P downgrade — or not.

Barf bag anyone?

Kent State’s own favorite news reader, Carol Costello, offered similar insight on the CNN early morning show. Market direction: up, down, sideways, all or none of the above.

The truth is few have any clue why investors — especially the large institutional investors that move the markets — do what they do. And the scary part is that includes the financial advisers and “wealth managers” who we entrust with our savings and retirement accounts.

So after listening to the TV pundits for an hour while chasing the treadmill belt, I figured that as a pajama-clad citizen journalist it was my duty to try to bring some clarity to the deep dive on Wall Street and around the world. But, alas, since I have no clue, I’ll have to turn to someone who does:  Bill Gross. Gross founded and heads Pimco, the large bond mutual fund company, and he has a history of getting things right. Here’s his view in WaPo, “America’s debt is not its biggest problem“:

For a few days there it seemed like President Obama was the master of the bond market. This is a Triple-A nation, he intoned on Monday, and always will be a Triple-A nation no matter what some rating agency says. As if in applause, Treasury bonds rallied furiously in price and yields sunk to cyclical lows. Unfortunately, what they were applauding was the slow growth and perhaps recessionary future that an AA-plus nation faces with too much debt and too little fiscal flexibility to increase demand.

It is critical for politicians and investors alike to distinguish between cause and effect, disease and symptom. Washington has been operating the past few months under the assumption that the United States and our euro-zone economic trading partners are experiencing a debt crisis that must be resolved by exorcising excessive spending in the near term. To Republicans, and even many co-opted Democrats, the debate starts with spending cuts and how much must be done to appease voters and the markets, both now and in November, when the “Gang of Twelve” committee that resulted from the debt-ceiling deal potentially follows through with its mandate.

Revenue increases may be part of the solution, but even then, at some imbalanced ratio of spending cuts — such as three or four dollars of spending cuts to one dollar of tax hikes — the thesis assumes that markets and economic growth require what in essence is a fiscally contractionary step, reminiscent of International Monetary Fund policies in emerging markets during past decades. We must, the consensus goes, become like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico from the 1980s: Tighten the budget via spending cuts, reduce the deficit and voilá — economic growth will blossom.

But while our debt crisis is real and promises to grow to Frankenstein proportions in future years, debt is not the disease — it is a symptom. Lack of aggregate demand or, to put it simply, insufficient consumption and investment is the disease. Debt has been simply an abused sovereign and private market antidote to sustain it. We and our global market competitors are and have been experiencing a lack of aggregate demand for several decades. It is now only visibly coming to a head, as the magic elixir of leverage is drained and exhausted. This potentially fatal disease of capitalism is a result of several long-term secular phenomena:

(1) Aging demographics, where boomers everywhere spend less, in contrast to their youth, as they approach retirement; babies, houses and second cars shift to the scrapbook of memories as opposed to future spending power.

(2) Globalization, where 2 billion new competitive workers from Asia and elsewhere take jobs and paychecks from complacent and ill-trained 40-somethings in developed markets.

(3) Technological innovation, where machines and robots displace human labor, resulting in corporate profits but declining wages.

The debt crisis as it crests ultimately gives way to these growth-inhibiting, spending-contractionary secular forces. Having run up our credit card to keep on spending, we have reached market-enforced limits that force deleveraging. It is not the debt, however, but the lack of global aggregate demand that is at the heart of the crisis. As the entire world strives to put its own people to work before other nations do, policymakers constructively lower interest rates and delay sovereign, corporate and household defaults to provide breathing room. Fiscally, however, an anti-Keynesian, budget-balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking. Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not.

The president and Congress must recognize that an AA-plus country, to remain AA-plus, must focus on growth, not debt reduction, in the short term. We have a debt problem — but primarily a crisis of aggregate demand. A 21st-century Keynes would have recognized this and sounded the alarm, pointing out that policymakers from a fiscal perspective are pointing us toward recession and the destructive 1930s instead of a low-growth but still breathing U.S. economy of the 21st century.

Ah, let’s see. It’s all about economic growth,  jobs and investor confidence. Gee, I’ve been saying that for months. Maybe this kind of analysis isn’t so tough after all.

Woot!

 

 

 

 

Riots in England: USA Next?

While chasing the treadmill belt early this a.m. I watched the killing, rioting, looting and general anarchy on the streets of London and elsewhere throughout England. Amazing — and frightening, since this follows a pattern of violence throughout Europe in recent months.

We’re not talking about another Arab Spring here. Most basically, we’re talking about a clash between the haves and the have-nots — fueled in large part by a generation of young people without jobs and without anything close to the prospect of gaining a middle-class lifestyle.

And, yeah, I know. In England — and in other parts of Europe — there are big and controversial issues about immigration, health care, taxes, social welfare and so on.

Wow. Sound like any country we know?

The USA has a host of big problems — although I don’t believe the deficit limit is the one that the Prez and Congress should be spending all their time on. Consider some others: jobs and education, for instance. And how about what the NYT describes in an opinion article by Charles Blow as “The Decade of Lost Children“:

One of the greatest casualties of the great recession may well be a decade of lost children.

According to “The State of America’s Children 2011,” a report issued last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, the impact of the recession on children’s well-being has been catastrophic.

Here is just a handful of the findings:

• The number of children living in poverty has increased by four million since 2000, and the number of children who fell into poverty between 2008 and 2009 was the largest single-year increase ever recorded.

• The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.

• In 2009, an average of 15.6 million children received food stamps monthly, a 65 percent increase over 10 years.

• A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.

• The annual cost of center-based child care for a 4-year-old is more than the annual in-state tuition at a public four-year college in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

Grim data, indeed. And there is no sign that things will get better anytime soon.

As a report issued last week by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out: “Of the 47 states with newly enacted budgets, 38 or more states are making deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key areas in their budgets for fiscal year 2012. Even as states face rising numbers of children enrolled in public schools, students enrolled in universities, and seniors eligible for services, the vast majority of states (37 of 44 states for which data are available) plan to spend less on services in 2012 than they spent in 2008 — in some cases, much less. These cuts will slow the nation’s economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs over the next year.”

We risk the creation of an engorged generational underclass born of a culture that has less income equality and fewer prospects for mobility than the previous generation.

It’s hard to see how we emerge from this downturn and its tumult a stronger nation if we allow vast swatches of our children to be lost. My fear is that we may not.

Here’s from a report by the Economic Policy Institute, “The class of 2011: Young workers face a dire labor market without a safety net“:

The Great Recession left a crater in the labor market that has been devastating for unemployed Americans of all ages. After more than two years of unemployment at well over 8%, we have a hole of more than 11 million jobs, with average spells of unemployment lasting nearly nine months. But the weak labor market has been particularly tough on young workers. In 2010, the unemployment rate for workers age 16-24 was 18.4%—the worst on record in the 60 years that this data has been tracked. Though the labor market has started to slowly recover, the prospects for young high school and college graduates remain grim. This briefing paper examines the dire labor market confronting young workers and concludes with ways that government policy could help. Specifically, our analyses found the following for calendar year 2010:

• The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-old workers averaged 18.4%, compared with 9.6% for U.S. workers overall.

• Young high school graduates have been hardest hit: The unemployment rate for high school graduates under age 25 who were not enrolled in school was 22.5%, compared with 9.3% for college graduates of the same age.

• Young high school graduates are not keeping pace with their older peers: Their 22.5% unemployment rate is more than double the 10.3% rate among high school graduates age 25 and older.

• While their degrees afford them more opportunities in the labor market than other young workers, young college graduates still lag far behind older college-educated workers: 9.3% of them are unemployed, more than double the 4.7% unemployment rate for college graduates age 25 and older.

• Since unemployment among young college graduates still shows no improvement, the class of 2011 will likely face the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates since the Great Recession began.

• Young blacks and Hispanics are suffering disproportionately. The unemployment rate for black high school graduates under age 25 and not enrolled in school was 31.8%, compared with 22.8% for Hispanic high school graduates and 20.3% for white high school graduates. The unemployment rate for young black college graduates was 19.0%, compared with 13.8% for young Hispanic graduates and 8.4% for young white graduates.

• Young workers as a group have not been “sheltering in school” during this downturn. School enrollment rates since the start of the Great Recession have not increased by noticeably more than the long-term trend.

I also watched part of the news conference that Prime Minister David Cameron held this morning. He was everything that Obama has not been recently: direct, forceful and in control. Here’s one statement that he made that resonated with me and I expect others:

Mr Cameron, who has previously referred to “broken Britain”, said: “There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but are frankly sick.

“It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and their actions do not have consequences. Well, they do have consequences.”

Let’s hope that what is happening now on the streets in England and elsewhere never happens in the US. But without jobs for the millions of Americans who need and want one, don’t be surprised if an American President some day is making the same type of statement that Cameron made this morning.

Just sayin’.

 

 

Stock Market Meltdown: No Leadership but Plenty of Excuses

Well, as Dutch Reagan would say, “Here we go again.” Financial markets in the United States and around the world tanked yesterday. Hey, it’s time to fret over our retirement savings just like in 2008. I expect that the periodic cheery calls from my “wealth adviser” at Merrill Lynch are now on hold. Snort. I digress.

Anyway, I don’t buy the notion that this mess is the result of a “Tea Party Downgrade.” That’s just a talking point provided to the chattering class by politicians and their operatives who didn’t have the guts — or the smarts — to come up with a plan in 2009 or 2010 to address the very real problems of federal government debt and spending.

And at this point it doesn’t do any good to blame Standard and Poor’s. Granted, the management of that pathetically inept organization couldn’t find their asses with both hands in the dark during the mortgage debacle. But they are like baseball umpires without the benefit of an instant replay. No matter how stupid or wrong the call, it stands.

So what we have now is an economic crisis fueled by a slowing economy in the U.S. and throughout Europe, high unemployment, and a housing market that is all but dead unless you are fortunate enough to live Inside the Beltway.

And we have a crisis of leadership. I voted for Obama because I believed we needed a change — not just in policy but in how Washington could work together in the common interests of the American people. Oops. My bad. Let’s face it. Obama’s been a dud. He’s a mediator, not a leader. He’s a compromiser, not an advocate.

This, by the way, is not just the rant of one pajama-clad citizen journalist. When pundits like Dana Milbank at WaPo start to question the Prez, somebody in the administration may want to start checking on the availability of moving vans following the election in 2012.  Here’s from Milbank’s opinion article, “The most powerful man on Earth?“:

A familiar air of indecision preceded President Obama’s pep talk to the nation.

The first draft of his schedule for Monday contained no plans to comment on the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s. Then the White House announced that he would speak at 1 p.m. A second update changed that to 1:30. At 1:52, Obama walked into the State Dining Room to read his statement. Judging from the market reaction, he should have stuck with his original instinct.

“No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country,” Obama said, as if comforting a child who had been teased by the class bully.

When he began his speech (and as cable news channels displayed for viewers), the Dow Jones industrials stood at 11,035. As he talked, the average fell below 11,000 for the first time in nine months, en route to a 635-point drop for the day, the worst since the 2008 crash.

It’s not exactly fair to blame Obama for the rout: Almost certainly, the markets ignored him. And that’s the problem: The most powerful man in the world seems strangely powerless, and irresolute, as larger forces bring down the country and his presidency.

The economy crawls, the credit rating falls, the markets plunge, and a helicopter packed with U.S. special forces goes down in Afghanistan. Two thirds of Americans say the country is on the wrong track (and that was before the market swooned), Obama’s approval rating is 43 percent, and activists on his own side are calling him weak.

Yet Obama plods along, raising gobs of cash for his reelection bid — he was scheduled to speak at two DNC fundraisers Monday night — and varying little the words he reads from the teleprompter. He seemed detached even from those words Monday as he pivoted his head from side to side, proclaiming that “our problems is not confidence in our credit” and turning his bipartisan fiscal commission into a “biparticle.”

He reminded all that the situation isn’t his fault (the need for deficit reduction “was true the day I took office”), he blamed the other side (“we knew . . . a debate where the threat of default was used as a bargaining chip could do enormous damage to our economy”) and he revisited the same proposals he had previously offered to little effect: extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut, and spending more on infrastructure projects.

This, he said, is “something we can do as soon as Congress gets back,” along with further deficit reduction. “I intend to present my own recommendations over the coming weeks,” he said.

Over the coming weeks? As soon as Congress gets back?

In the White House briefing room after Obama’s statement, the press corps grilled Jay Carney about the lack of fire in the belly.

“The president said our problems are imminently solvable, and he talked about a renewed sense of urgency,” CBS’s Norah O’Donnell pointed out. “Why not call Congress back to work?”

Carney chuckled at this suggestion.

“I mean, the Dow dropped below 11,000 — where’s the sense of urgency?” O’Donnell persisted.

The press secretary uttered something about the founders and the separation of powers.

NBC’s Chuck Todd was not swayed. “Why not bring Congress back now?” he repeated, pointing out that “the American public seems to be in a little bit of a panic” while Washington says, “We’re going to stand back and wait until school starts.”

“I think we’re getting a drumbeat here,” Carney said. “The press corps is leading here — always appreciated.”

At least somebody is.

Various reporters tried to elicit more information about Obama’s economic plans and deficit-reduction proposals, but Carney declined again to take the lead.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of the process,” he explained to the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler, adding that Obama “will be contributing to that process, not driving it or directing it.”

“Why?” inquired Politico’s Glenn Thrush. “He’s the leader of the free world. Why isn’t he leading this process?”

That is the enduring mystery of Obama’s presidency. He delivered his statement on the economy beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, but that was as close as he came to forceful leadership. He looked grim and swallowed hard and frequently as he mixed fatalism (“markets will rise and fall”) with vague, patriotic exhortations (“this is the United States of America”).

“There will always be economic factors that we can’t control,” Obama said. Maybe. But it would be nice if the president gave it a try.

 No leadership. Plenty of excuses.

Just sayin’.

 

Crazy Eyes and Conservative Women Candidates

I’ve opined previously that there is nothing that the mainstream media — and liberal women of all ages — like to do more than bash conservative women who run for political office. You know.  Too dumb, inexperienced, weak, strong, insensitive. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Now with Michele Bachmann portrayed on the cover of Newsweek — remember when Newsweek used to be a real publication? — as someone on holiday from a lunatic asylum, here’s an interesting perspective from Michelle Malkin, “The Conservative Crazy Eyes Cliche & Other Stupid MSM Photo Tricks“:

Sigh. Seriously, Tina Brown?

Yes, I’m talking about you, Oxford University-educated Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown.

You’ve resorted to recycling bottom-of-the-barrel moonbat photo cliches about conservative female public figures and their enraged “crazy eyes?” Really?

Who’s in charge of Newsweek cover graphics now — a Media Matters Soros Monkey? A random Daily Kos commenter? Keith Olbermann’s intern’s intern?

The once-mighty Newsweek magazine-turned-Beast is apparently so proud of its Democratic Underground-pandering Michele Bachmann cover and title that its editors are promoting the photo and pushing the hashtag #QueenofRage on Twitter.

And the left-wing press is eating it up:

Gawker, predictably: “Ha ha, just kidding—they don’t call her CrazyEyes for nothing.”

The Village Voice rejoices after receiving a high-res image of the cover (and dutifully cropping Bachmann’s eyes).

More reax: Newsbusters and Dana Loesch (who launches her own caption contest for Tina Brown).

Rep. Bachmann is unabashedly conservative, willing to take both parties’ leaders to task, passionate about her work, popular with grass-roots activists on the Right, committed to reining in the size, scope, and power of government, and yes, expressive. For all this, she must be destroyed.

No doubt the editors and photog will deny doing anything to make Bachmann look bad.

At some point, I expect that we will have a woman at the top of a ticket running for president. If she’s conservative, my advice is to invest in a good pair of sunglasses.

And here’s the Newsweek article about Michele Bachmann, via The Daily Beast.

Still bet “crazy eyes” wins in Iowa.

Just sayin’.

Stock Market Decline: Goodbye Optimism, Hello Reality

Wow. It’s the end of the first week of August, and shouldn’t we be fretting about whether the Cleveland Indians can hang in there and make it to the MLB playoffs in November or December? Instead, the stock market during the past week or so has confirmed what most outside the Beltway have known for months: the economy bites, there ain’t no job creation (except for GE in China), and if you own a house and need or want to sell it, well, good luck and God bless.

Goodbye optimism. Hello reality.

And I’m not going to pretend that I understand why the stock market tanked yesterday. There are plenty of smart people out there who do that for  a living. Most can’t time or predict the market any better than the rest of us.

Anyway, here’s a perspective on yesterday’s financial debacle from Mohamed A. El-Erian, opining on a CNBC blog. This guy heads Pimco, and makes his living by making the right calls on the economy.

Technical factors played a role in Thursday’s unsettling market moves, including the disorderly across-the-board collapse in the price of risk assets in the final hour of trading and the related surge in U.S. Treasurys. But they were not the cause. Rather, they amplified three factors that will determine the fate of markets in the weeks ahead.

First, it is now undeniable that the U.S. economy is weakening across the board — a phenomenon aggravated by a concurrent slowdown elsewhere in the world.

Obviously, this translates into lower corporate earnings and profits. It also put pressures on the unfortunate households already burdened by un- and under-employment, excessive debt, and upside down mortgages.

And more:

We should not underestimate the markets’ ability to recover if, for once, policymakers were to surprise on the upside. After all, there is lots of cash on the sidelines and most large companies (particularly multinationals) have impressive rock-solid balance sheets.

If, however, policymakers continue to disappoint, markets are staring at the regrettable prospects over the next few weeks of continued volatility and further losses.

Gee. “If policymakers continue to disappoint.”

Goodbye optimism. Hello reality.

Jobs Decline and Congress Takes a Break

OK. I opined yesterday about members of Congress being on vacation now until after Labor Day even as the nation still faces high unemployment and an economy that may be heading back into recession.

And I realize that in many ways this is a matter of perception. Members of Congress and their staffs merit some time off and if they are running for re-election, they have to be available and visible in their home districts and states. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are now on a forced vacation: no job and few prospects.

Here’s an interesting perspective from Mort Zuckerman in USNews, “Job Numbers Go From Grim to Ghastly“:

Washington, Wall Street, and the business world were astounded and dismayed by the dismal employment statistics recently put forth by the government. We need 125,000 jobs every month just to account for people entering the workforce, but the numbers show only 18,000 more jobs in June and 25,000 in May. And the June numbers included the assumption that 131,000 net jobs were created by newly formed companies, a generous assumption that has proved to be consistently overstated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the past three years. Equally concerning is that the underlying employment numbers are even worse than Washington’s gloss.

Almost ignored by the press is the fact that full-time employment dropped by 435,000 in the last month and, over the past three months, it is down by a combined total of 868,000 jobs. There has been a 3 percent increase in the number of people working part time, but full-time employment has been down 0.5 percent for the full year. In fact, all of the net job increases since President Obama came into office were part-time employees and not full-time employees, a critical distinction. All of this is in the context of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policy in the history of this country.

This is scarily abnormal. We are 24 months into a recovery. Normally we’d be enjoying about 180,000 more jobs a month. We have only a tenth of that. We have lost over 8.5 million jobs in the Great Recession, and only 1.5 million have returned; contrast that to a normal recovery, where all job losses have been recovered two years into a recovery. The total ranks of the unemployed jumped 173,000 and crossed over the 14 million mark for the first time this year.

And here’s Lila Shapiro on The Huffington Post, “Layoffs Surge As Recovery Shows Little Sign of Momentum“:

The early days of the recession were characterized by massive layoffs across industries, and while economists caution that the labor market isn’t there yet, a surge of private sector layoffs in July may indicate that the American recovery is stalling out.

This week has been a worrisome one for economists who monitor the health of the U.S. economy, with mounting signs all pointing in the same direction: For the average American worker, a rebound will not be soon forthcoming. In fact, things seem to be moving in the other direction.

GDP growth is weak; new hiring is not keeping pace with population growth, according to fresh data; and growth in manufacturing — which once lead the recovery — has practically ground to a halt. But most worrisome of all the signs, perhaps, is the return of mass layoffs.

For the past three months, American companies have been cutting their workforce in increasing numbers, according to a new report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consultancy group in Chicago. In July, the number of planned job cuts surged to a 16-month high of 66,414 — a 60 percent increase from June.

“We’re beginning to see patterns that are disconcerting, and the really troubling part is this: Nothing is happening in the economy which is going to boost job growth,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

The pattern, if it continues, could spell serious trouble for the American labor market.

Gee. Really? Serious trouble to say the least.

And I recognize that there is only so much that government at any level can do to create and sustain jobs, but if I were an elected official these days I would be giving the issue of job growth some thought while on vacation.

Wouldn’t want to risk becoming one of the unemployed in 2012.

Just sayin’.

Congress and Vacations: Really?

OK. I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news. Members of Congress — and just about everyone else Inside the Beltway except the K Street lobbyists who are the big winners in the debt debacle — are on vacation now until after Labor Day.

Wow. Nice work if you can get it.

OK. I know. Members of Congress and their staffs do work hard — even if they don’t accomplish much. They deserve some time off. And many are running for re-election. So it doesn’t hurt any to get out of DC and mingle some with people in the real world.

But it seems like there are still some big fish in the skillet waiting to be fried: the biggest being jobs and an economy that appears stalled at best and possibly headed back into recession. If you are out of work, fretting about the value of your house and savings, do these worries go away when members of Congress go away for four or five weeks?

This just isn’t the view of one pajama-clad citizen journalist. I’ve got at least the Maine Congressional delegation on my side. Here’s from the Bangor Daily News:

Although the Congressional delegation says vacationing in Maine in August is just wonderful, they all agree they should remain in Washington to do more work.

“Most people I have talked with and heard from in Maine on the debt ceiling have asked why are we not dealing with jobs, helping to create jobs,” said Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe in an interview. “We should not be taking August off; we should be working to create an economic package that will help get this economy going again.”

She said she had met with GOP Senate leadership and other Republican senators and urged them to oppose taking the month off. The Senate is not scheduled to convene until after Labor Day.

“This super commission simply cannot do everything that needs to be done,” Snowe said. “They need to seek help from the regular committees that have the expertise. I think they should ask the Finance Committee to work on tax reform. We have done a lot of work on overhauling the tax code.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins said it is “irresponsible” for Congress to take the month off from dealing with the current budget bills, particularly with the additional workload created by the new deficit reduction committee. She said it is unlikely that all of the spending bills will be ready by Oct. 1, resulting in the need for another resolution to keep government operating.

“The House should not have gone home without resolving the [Federal Aviation Agency] authorization bill that is holding up work on airport projects in Maine that need to be done,” she said.

Oh well. Maybe since we are now forming a new Super Congress to wrestle with the debt and spending issue there is no need for the members of the Regular Congress to return to DC at all. Just sayin’.

And I know there are plenty of different spins on what was accomplished — or not — with the just-passed legislation to hike the debt ceiling. But here’s one from Sen. Tom Coburn in WaPo “Why I voted against the debt deal” that strikes me as being accurate:

The good news out of the debt debate is that Washington is now debating how much we can cut instead of how much we can spend. The American people deserve all the credit for forcing that change. Unfortunately, it’s still all talk in Washington. This deal is a victory for politicians but a defeat for families.

In spite of what politicians on both sides are saying, this agreement does not cut any spending over 10 years. In fact, it increases discretionary spending by $830 billion.

I voted against this agreement because it does nothing to address the real drivers of our debt. It eliminates no program, consolidates no duplicative programs, cuts no tax earmarks and reforms no entitlement program. The specter of default or a credit downgrade will still hang over our economy after this deal becomes law.

Politicians on both sides are misleading the country by calling a slowdown in the growth rate of new spending a “cut.” Spending will increase at a time when real cuts are necessary to make us live within our means, repair our economy and preserve our credit rating.

It is true that next year there will be a genuine cut of $7 billion when discretionary spending drops from $1.05 trillion to $1.043 trillion. But with our government borrowing $4.5 billion a day, that $7 billion is enough to fund the government for about 36 hours. And after our day and a half of restraint, spending will increase $830 billion over 10 years.

Supporters say the real savings will come when the joint committee the deal empowers makes recommendations to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion (as we increase the debt limit by the same amount). But the enforcement mechanism designed to force these hard decisions — across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs — will never work. Congress will easily evade these caps. In the Senate, all it will take is 60 votes — the threshold for passing anything. Some have complained about defense cuts, but everyone in Washington knows those cuts can be avoided through supplemental or “emergency” spending bills.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see when the Super Congress returns from vacation.