Hillary Nabs 6th Hsu-Tainted Senate Endorsement
Today, the Clinton campaign is trumpeting an endorsement milestone, as Maria Cantwell (D-WA) became the 10th Senator to throw her weight behind Hillary. A statistic the campaign doesn't mention is that Cantwell is now the 6th Senator with financial backing from Norman Hsu and/or his network of alleged straw donors to endorse Senator Clinton.
Other Hsu-greased Democratic Senators already in the Clinton camp include Dianne Feinstein (CA), Robert Menendez (NJ), Mark Pryor (AR), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), one of Hsu's most richly funded politicians, has not made a formal endorsement, but his wife Ruth endorsed Clinton in July.
Cantwell received financial support from Norman Hsu directly and at least 8 members of his suspected illegal straw donor network in 2005 and 2006. If the 15-count indictment against Hsu is accurate, the illegal contributions he funnelled to Cantwell were financed with money stolen from dozens of innocent victims who are still awaiting restitution. That illicit financial support helped Cantwell win re-election in 2006 and to maintain the office from which she now endorses Clinton's Presidential bid.
According to FEC records, it appears Cantwell has yet to refund a dime of the tainted funds (which exceed $15,000) in the wake of Hsu's outing as a professional swindler and serial fugitive. Nor has she even disgorged Hsu's direct contributions (totaling $4,200) through charitable donations, the half-measure taken by many of her Hsu-gilded colleagues.
December 2007 Least Deadly Month In Iraq War
While the media is eagerly chalking up 2007 as the deadliest year for US troops since the start of the Iraq War (the tacit extension being that things are now as bad as or worse than they've ever been), there's far less focus on the fact that this month is on track to be least deadly since the war began.
With 21 reported US military deaths, troop fatalities averaged 0.68 per day in December 2007. That's slightly better than February 2004, the next least deadly month, which saw 20 US fatalities (0.69 per day), and markedly better than last December, which saw the loss of 112 US troops (3.61 per day).
More notable is the rate at which troop fatalities have been falling since the surge was fully implemented. Over the last 7 months, the average daily fatality rate has fallen 83% (from over 4 per day to less than 1).
Nor was December an anomaly. The three-month period ended December 31, 2007 was also the least deadly three-month period since the start of the war, with US military fatalities averaging 1.0 per day, down 67% from the same period last year.
First Lady Hillary Risked Her Life For Her Country
Don't call it a tea party.
Ever since Barack Obama suggested Hillary Clinton's eight years as first lady were a glorified tea party a few days back, she's looked for an opening to strike back.
On Saturday night in Dubuque she pounced, arguing she risked her life on White House missions in the 1990s, including a hair-raising flight into Bosnia that ended in a "corkscrew" landing and a sprint off the tarmac to dodge snipers.
"I don't remember anyone offering me tea," she quipped.
She was, in fact, leading a goodwill entourage that included baggy-pants funnyman Sinbad, singer Sheryl Crow and Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, then 15, according to an account of the March 1995 trip in her autobiography "Living History."
As the plane approached the runway, the pilot ordered the Clintons into the armored front of the plane, Clinton writes.
What's not clear is whether Sinbad or Crow were invited to the cockpit or had to brave it out in the unprotected rear.
Stuck on a plane with Sinbad and Sheryl Crow? That is harrowing.
Reminds me of that Treehouse of Horror when Homer and Bart realize the rocket they're on is the one being shot into the sun, because their co-passengers include Pauly Shore, Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Arnold, etc.
Ron Paul Zombie Revolution Still Printing Money
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul may lag behind in public-opinion polls. But after raising about $19 million for the final three months of the year, he is now among his party's front-runners in the race for campaign cash.
When the books close on the year's fourth quarter today, the plain-spoken antiwar Texas congressman will have posted one of the best fund-raising periods of any Republican presidential candidate this year.
To be sure, other Republican candidates hadn't disclosed their fourth-quarter fund-raising figures as of yesterday. But to date, only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has issued a better three-month report, and just once: $20.8 million in the first quarter, not counting loans the former venture capitalist made to his campaign.
His fourth-quarter fund-raising figures represent a remarkable acceleration; for the first three quarters of this year combined, he raised just $8.2 million.
Ron Paul Zombie Revolution Digging Deep
2007's 10 Best Financial Meltdowns
Not financial market meltdowns, mind you, but personal meltdowns and general freak-outs, concerning finance and financial markets.
Top honors were never in doubt, belonging irrefutably to the increasingly (if dubiously credibly) sanctimonious Jim Cramer.
Highlighting a freakout from James Cramer seems almost unfair – the guy operates on a level of adrenaline that most people couldn’t produce if they were running from hired killers — but this one can’t be ignored. Just a month or so after pooh-poohing the subprime crisis, the CNBC and Street.com commentator pitched a fit on CNBC, going on about how the Federal Reserve had no idea what it was doing and singling out comments by William Poole (the St. Louis Fed President) as particularly “shameful.” The Fed, interestingly, cut the discount rate not long after, which will only encourage Mr. Cramer.
He starts to lose it at about the 2-minute mark.
You can see the rest of the list at WSJ's MarketBeat Blog.
Transcript Of Al Qaeda Congratulatory Phone Call re Bhutto Assassination
From the Telegraph:
Here is a translation of the transcript of the alleged telephone conversation from senior al-Qa'eda leader Baitullah Mehsud to another militant said to have been intercepted after the assassination.
Baitullah Mehsud (BM): Congratulations to you, were they our men?
Maulvi Sahib (MS): Yes they were ours.
BM: Who were they?
MS: There was Saeed, there was Bilal from Badar and Ikramullah.
BM: The three of them did it?
MS: Ikramullah and Bilal did it.
BM: Then congratulations.
MS: Where are you? I want to meet you.
BM: I am at Makeen (town in South Waziristan tribal region), come over, I am at Anwar Shah's house.
MS: OK, I'll come.
BM: Don't inform their house for the time being.
BM: It was a tremendous effort. They were really brave boys who killed her.
MS: Mashallah (Thank God). When I come I will give you all the details.
BM: I will wait for you. Congratulations, once again congratulations.
MS: Congratulations to you.
(HT: HA Headlines)
Malkin Looks Back: A Year In Quotables
Part I (January-June).
Netscape Navigator (1994-2008)
Please observe a moment of silence for the Netscape browser. Netscape Navigator, the browser that launched the commercial Internet in October 1994, will die on February 1, 2008. AOL, which acquired Netscape in November 1998 for $4.2 billion, will announce today that they will discontinue development of the browser, currently on version 9.
Antarctic Christmas Party Ends In Drunken Brawl, Emergency Polar Evacuation
Office Christmas parties are never a good idea.
Two men, one with a suspected broken jaw, have been airlifted from the Antarctic's most remote research facility after an incident described as a "drunken Christmas punch-up".
The brawl happened at the US-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, located at the heart of the frozen continent. ... [T]he man's injuries were too serious to be treated in Antarctica and he was taken on to Christchurch, New Zealand, accompanied by a nurse and a paramedic.
"There was an altercation between two people -- there's no indication of the cause or of the background between the two folks," said Peter West, spokesman for the National Science Foundation which manages the US Antarctic programme.
Bloomberg's Presidential Denials Grow Increasingly Incredible
With this, Bloomy seems to be edging close to the threshold of FEC-reportable expenditures, assuming his hat winds up in the ring.
Mayor Bloomberg, who has repeatedly said he's not running for President, yesterday placed full-page advertisements in newspapers in states hosting the nation's first presidential contests.
Bloomberg funded two full-page ads in The Des Moines Register in Iowa and the New Hampshire Union Leader to promote his anti-gun coalition.
The ads cost the billionaire mayor $22,203. They feature him and a host of other mayors in his nonprofit group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
"Where do the presidential candidates stand on gun control?" the ads ask, featuring excerpts from a questionnaire that the gun coalition released on Dec. 9, asking for the candidates' responses by Jan. 2.
Pentagon Develops Snortable "Sleep Replacement"
In what sounds like a dream for millions of tired coffee drinkers, Darpa-funded scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.
A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery's first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.
Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a "sleep replacement" drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, including raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. ... Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is "specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness" without other impacts on the brain.
Manufacturing, Housing Come In Surprisingly Strong, Weak
The bad news: according to government statistics, new home sales (pdf) were weaker than expected in November, falling 9% (give or take 14% (yes, 14%)) from October's level.
The good news: the Chicago PMI (a private survey of midwestern manufacturing conditions) came in at 56.6 for December, way ahead of the expected 52.0 and up from November's 52.9. When the indicator is above 50, it signals expansion. When it's above 50 and rising, it signals accelerating expansion.
In January, we'll get a look at the national manufacturing data, and if it's anything like the Chicago number, it will strongly suggest that rumors of recession (and even the scale of the slowdown) have been greatly exaggerated.
The housing slump appears to have deepened and that's a bummer. But the recessionary nailbiting is predicated on the idea that credit and housing market troubles will bleed over into other sectors of the economy and grind it into contraction.
Today's surprisingly strong report of accelerating manufacturing expansion (and last week's surprisingly strong report of rapidly accelerating consumer spending) tend to argue against that premise. The remarkable resilience being observed doesn't guarantee a recession-free economic cycle, but it does suggest the current level of fret is unwarranted.
With this latest bit of economic data in place, I'll go ahead and make the year-end prediction that fourth quarter GDP growth comes in at 2.0% or better.
Presidential Candidate Barack Obama delivered his "Closing Argument" speech today to Iowa's voters. Obama harped on his "outsider" perspective and even borrowed a quote from Former Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton to make his point:
The truth is you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people, and it will bring real results if we just have the courage to change.
I have no idea what "rooted in real live of real people" means, but the first sentence resonates with me. Obama has cast himself as a Washington outsider, and he is. He's also a foreign policy outsider. While he served eight years in Illinois State Legislature, he has been a member of the U.S. Senate for fewer than three years. Perhaps he has the "right experience" to be Governor of Illinois but his relevant Presidential experience is practically nil.
Alas, technicalities such as "qualifications" didn't stop him from quoting. He went on to cite a famous Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. line:
We are at a defining moment in our history.
Few would disagree with Obama, but does he expect voters to trust the nation to someone as inexperienced as he? Short of the Harvard Law Review, he has never led an organization. That scares the crap out of me.
In light of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, we are reminded of the importance of foreign policy and management experience. Obama's minimal experience with both hasn't kept him from promising voters universal health care, increasing Social Security (despite its solvency problem) benefits to seniors, and comprehensive immigration reform.
If you believe he has the "right experience," perhaps you'll also believe that he can deliver on his wild promises.
Candidates React To Benazir Bhutto Assassination
USA Today is collecting the official reactions pouring fast and furiously out of the major Presidential campaigns to today's assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Most candidates put out press releases, but some (including Clinton and McCain) used pre-planned Iowa campaign stops to address the situation in real-time. The Romney campaign has posted a YouTube video of the candidate's reaction.
Giuliani: Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere -- whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi -- is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the terrorists' war on us.
Huckabee: On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.
McCain: I would be on the phone. ... I would be meeting with the National Security Council. ... I know the players, I know the individuals and I know the best way to address this situation.
Clinton: I will certainly do anything I can to support the continuing efforts to democratize a very important and critical nation to the future of that region and the world. ... When I think about our democracy and the intensity of feeling that people have demonstrated already in our election ... we take our elections seriously.
Richardson: We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately.
Romney: For those who think Iraq is the sole front in the war on terror, one must look no further than what has happened today. America must show its commitment to stand with all moderate forces across the Islamic world and together face the defining challenge of our generation –- the struggle against violent, radical jihadists.
Obama: She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.
As for the domestic electoral impact (specifically as regards Iowa), barring any reaction gaffes, and dependent on how the situation shakes out, the primary effect will presumably be one of increased focus on foreign policy in general. Who makes the most hay of that is up in the air, but the focus shift would seem to be most harmful to foreign policy neophytes Obama and Huckabee (which, in Iowa, tends to benefit Clinton and Romney).
"World Class Genius" Misses Caucus By 11 Days
At a rally featuring her husband, former President Bill Clinton on Saturday, campaign workers asked supporters to sign and mail cards that said "Yes! I'm an Iowan for Hillary" with their contact information as well as other supportive friends.
One small problem. In the upper right-hand corner of the card, it says "I, _____, pledge to support Hillary Clinton at my precinct caucus on January 14, 2008."
Unfortunately, that's 11 days too late.
(HT: Hot Air)
When Socialism Just Isn't Enough
In the universaller-than-thou Democratic Presidential battle to hobble the American healthcare system, Bill Richardson has just brandished a new instrument of destruction: spiritual medicine.
Responding to a question Saturday at a living-room gathering in snowy Des Moines, the first-tier-wannabe candidate touted his state’s expertise with nontraditional methods of healing.
“In my state, New Mexico, we’ve got more holistic healing than you do. I appreciate that kind of medical care. I appreciate dietary supplements. I appreciate oriental medicine. I think we have to open up health care delivery and access. You know how the doctors are. They want to keep it to themselves,” he said. Under a Richardson administration, government health programs would pay for alternative therapies, he said.
Taxpayer-funded snake oil. What's not to love?
The question that prompted Richardson’s expansive view of healing came from the event’s host, Jon Royal, a one-time financial planner and now master practitioner of “Unlimited Body” and “Unlimited Breath,” holistic therapies that have their origins in chiropractics and Tibetan Buddhism.
As asinine as the proposal is, it's the kind of innovative pandering that's so squarely up Hillary's alley that I'll be genuinely surprised if she doesn't appropriate it as her own within the week.
Goin' To Tent City, Gonna Have Some Fun
Dana Ford at Guardian Unlimited glances across the pond at the Hoovervilles springing up in once thriving American suburbs and weeps for our huddled foreclosees, thrust en masse into poverty by predatory, thieving mortgage lenders.
Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits "tent city," a terminus for homeless people. It is not, as might be expected, in a blighted city center, but in the once-booming suburbia of Southern California.
The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis.
The unraveling of the region known as the Inland Empire reads like a 21st century version of "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck's novel about families driven from their lands by the Great Depression.
As more families throw in the towel and head to foreclosure here and across the nation, the social costs of collapse are adding up in the form of higher rates of homelessness, crime and even disease.
Only problem is it's straight bunk.
Once you get past those those sensational, heartstring-tugging opening paragraphs, the article sets about qualifying or refuting the claims it makes in the lines above.
While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn. And it's just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city, local housing experts say.
Where the piece comes up short in its auto-retracting, QandO picks up the slack.
In fact, per RealtyTrac, they'd up 67.82% from last year but now trending down. In fact, the numbers for this November are down 10% from last November.
Nationally, foreclosures are at an all-time high. Filings are up nearly 100 percent from a year ago, according to the data firm RealtyTrac.
The Guardian further claims:Actually, the figure, per RealtyTrac is one per 325 households for California, and that is 1.9 times the national average (one per every 617).
California ranks second in the nation for foreclosure filings — one per 88 households last quarter.
No one is arguing that there isn't a housing crisis or that foreclosures are somehow a good thing. But this sort of slipshod and agenda driven "journalism" is just inexcusable.
Recession Fetishists Further Quieted
Given that consumer spending comprises nearly 70% of the American economy, this is surely unwelcome news for Paul Krugman and his perpetually despondent ilk.
Consumers put aside worries about slumping home sales and soaring gasoline prices and headed to the malls in November, pushing spending up by the largest amount in 3 1/2 years.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending surged by 1.1 percent last month, nearly triple the October gain. The gain reflected various promotional efforts by retailers such as heavy discounting and longer store hours at the start of the holiday shopping season.
The November advance was the biggest one-month jump since a 1.2 percent rise in May 2004 and was significantly above the 0.7 percent analysts had expected.
Tanc Hearts Romney, Iowans Slightly Heart Tanc, Caucus Commutativity Unclear
I'm no Tancredo fanatic, but I guess this is possibly non-trivially good news for my favored candidate, so tentative kudos to Mitt.
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo announced today he's ending his long-shot bid for the White House.
The Colorado Republican made his exit from the race official at a press conference this afternoon in downtown Des Moines. He'll throw his support behind GOP candidate Mitt Romney, he said.
[Tancredo] registered 6 percent support among likely Republican caucusgoers in the most recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll.
Catch Tancredo with Cavuto on Fox News at 4 pm.
Spoke Too Soon
Just a day after celebrating the dollar's triumphant return to valuation above 50 British pence, today it's sunk back below the Canadian dollar (C$0.999 to be precise).
Northern neighbors, you may resume trying to con your vending machines into taking our quarters.
As consolation, we do continue to appreciate versus the pound today.
Previously: Jefferson Stronger Than QE II
All I Want For Christmas Is Socialism, Surrender, and Windfall Profit Taxes
You can tie as many pretty ribbons around it as you want, Klinton Kringle. It's still a fat lump of coal.
Jefferson Stronger Than QE II
For the first time in three months, the dollar/pound exchange rate has risen above 0.5 (or, if you like, a $2 bill is once again stronger than a £1 coin). With the greenback having recently shed the indignity of trading below the looney, our dead Presidents can start holding their heads a little higher.
The 48-Hour Murder Sentence
Technically, this convicted killer wouldn't have had to serve even those two days, if only the jury had been a little snappier in their deliberations.
Traci Rhode spent two days in jail and will pay $10,000 for the crime of murder.
It took jurors two days to deliver their guilty verdict and another three days to sentence Rhode to 10 years supervised release. Judge Ben Euresti tacked on a $10,000 fine to her punishment and she was released from the Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center within a few hours.
“(They waited) for two days before they came out with their guilty verdict because they were not sure,” [Rhodes' lawyer] suspects and called his client’s detention during deliberation “cruel and unusual.”
“Can you imagine the shock of being locked-up for two days in a 4-by-8 (foot cell) with cement walls in isolation? What a culture shock,” he said.
The poor dear. So what did Rhodes do that earned her such
draconian Hiltonian punishment?
She has maintained her innocence throughout the trial, claiming Scott Rhode shot himself in their bedroom while she showered after a morning walk.
The prosecutors counter that Traci awoke at about 5 a.m. on Oct. 15, 2003, and shot her husband with a .45-caliber handgun while he slept.
She went jogging around their Briarwick Subdivision neighborhood then took a bath before calling police to report the shooting, they argued.
Scott survived the gunshot wound to the head but died the next day at Valley Regional Medical Center.
“This was a flat out cold-blooded execution,” Villalobos said.
And the jury agreed (they just didn't agree she ought to be punished for it), so we can knock off the "police/prosecutors allege" qualifier.
Prosecutors alleged that Traci killed [Scott] so that she could collect her husband’s life insurance policy and continue an affair with a co-worker.
She is the beneficiary of a $600,000 life and accidental death policy for Scott. It was not clear Thursday who would receive those benefits now that she’s been convicted in his death.
Such farcical leniency was proscribed by the state earlier this year, but Traci killed her husband early enough to be grandfathered into the pay-to-slay fine-only plan.
A new law passed by the Texas Legislature and effective since Sept. 1 prohibits murderers from receiving community supervised release. The law only applies to cases that take place after the effective date.
Putin Named Time's Person Of the Year For 2nd Consecutive Year
Hey there, you! It's been, what, a year? I don't think I've seen You since we named You Person of the Year 2006. What did we praise You for again? Oh, right: "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game." Remember? You wrote about it on Your blog! We cornered the world market in reflective film for all those mirror covers! Good times, those. Hey, You've lost weight, haven't You?
So I see You've been flipping through this issue. Ahem. This is a little awkward. Well, as You can see, we ... we went in another direction this year. Please don't take it personally. We still love You. But let's face it: You had kind of an off year.
Well, so did Time.
For the three and nine months ended September 30, 2007, Subscription revenues declined primarily as a result of lower Subscription revenues for several domestic titles...
In addition, the nine months ended September 30, 2007 also reflected a decline in newsstand sales.
It has been two weeks since U.S. Intelligence Director Mike McConnell released the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Shortly thereafter, Democrats pounced on the Intelligence Community and President Bush for not discovering this sooner.
Now that most of the rhetoric has died down, it seems fitting to evaluate the big picture.
- Iran, one of the world's most frightening regimes, does not have nuclear weapons. The Bush Administration induced Libya to give up its robust nuclear weapons program and is making progress in disarming a well-stocked North Korean regime. Iran has pursued nuclear weapons technology through the A.Q. Khan nuclear network and its failure is a success of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a frightening man. His list of bellicose rhetoric and ridiculous rationalization is extensive and exceptionally worrisome. However, Ahmadinejad, who edged a moderate to win the presidency, could be history when his term expires in 2009. Recent criticism over his handling of the economy makes this a very real and exciting possibility.
- Ahmadinejad and Iran still pose a threat. Iran continues to aggressively pursue long-range missiles and has a newfound stock of low-grade uranium (think dirty bombs). While it evidently does not currently possess nuclear weapons, I believe Iran wouldn't hesitate to employ them if it did. Furthermore, Iranian financial and military support to the Iraqi insurgency continues.
In the end, it's very welcome news that Iran doesn't have nukes and is still several years away from producing them. Ideally, Ahmadinejad will be defeated in 2009 and a moderate can put Iran on a path to democracy and economic development. Until then, the U.S and the international community should continue to monitor Iran's actions and take steps to deter it from destabilizing activity.
Whales, Dolphins Suing Oil Company
Somewhere in a sprawling house in North Carolina, little cash register dollar signs are popping up in John Edwards' eyes.
CEBU CITY, Philippines -- In what could be a landmark case in the country, resident mammals of the Tañon Strait have been named petitioners in the injunction case filed on Tuesday before the Supreme Court against three Cabinet officials and a foreign oil exploration firm.
Among the animal petitioners are toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises and other cetaceans that populate the Tañon Strait protected seascape between Negros and Cebu islands.
The mammals are represented by environment lawyers Gloria Ramos and Liza Osorio as "legal guardians of the lesser life forms and as stewards of God's creations.
The Scofflaw And the Fuddy-Duddy
Comparative Clintonianism, in microcosm:
In a funny moment on the way out of the store, a woman asked Bill to sign a greenback. Bill obliged, while pointing out "this isn't legal" to the amusement of folks standing nearby.
A few minutes later, the same request was made to the senator, who said that she couldn't do it. "I can't sign money. That's illegal. I'm so sorry," she said.
Greenspan Drops S-Bomb, Wall Street Freaks Out a Little
Aren't you supposed to be retired?
Wall Street extended last week's losses Monday as investors remained concerned about flagging growth and rising prices, and were skeptical that a special Federal Reserve credit auction will be a solution.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 175 points and all the major indexes lost at least 1 percent.
A speech Sunday night by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan added to the market's ill humor. Greenspan said "stagflation" -- when inflation accelerates and the economy weakens -- is a growing possibility, given last week's data showing spiking consumer prices.
'Flation? Maybe. Stag? Maybe not.
At least not yet. Just last week we saw much stronger than expected retail sales numbers and a slew of analysts boosting their 4th quarter GDP growth forecasts in response. Combined with unemployment holding steady at 4.7% and record-settingly persistent domestic job creation, this seems like poor cause to go throwing the s-word around.
What's more, the "spiking consumer prices" were primarily confined to energy. Excluding energy, inflation for the month was 0.3%, precisely one tick up from 0.2% in October. That's not to say the impact of rising energy prices isn't felt by consumers, but it's altogether different from an inflationary condition gripping the economy and sending prices generally higher. The drivers of rising energy prices are largely exogenous and their consequences limited, unless and until those increases bleed over into prices generally, something the data suggest is not currently happening in a significant way.
Mike Bloomberg, New York Magazine Having Trouble Parsing 12th Amendment
There's a curious blurb today in New York Magazine's "Intelligencer".
Mayor Bloomberg’s political guru, Kevin Sheekey, continues his quest to get his boss in a position to run for president. According to a well-placed source, Sheekey’s latest project is to figure out if they could get California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a potential running mate. This summer, Bloomie and Arnie shared a few centrist photo ops. The East Coast–West Coast alliance would have its advantages in the Electoral College, certainly. But other parts of the Constitution are more problematic, like where it mentions that only a “natural-born Citizen … shall be eligible for the Office of President.” It doesn’t mention the veep, though. The source says Bloomberg has lawyers studying things like “succession plans” to see how it would work: If something happens, say, to President Bloomberg, does that mean Vice-President Schwarzenegger is overlooked and the Speaker of the House (Nancy Pelosi) gets to take over? A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to comment.
It's true that the Constitution as originally penned doesn't mention the Vice-Presidency in connection with the "natural-born citizen" requirement. Specifically, in Article II, Section 1, it reads:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;
But the Twelfth Amendment makes it pretty clear:
But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
The mayor's got a team of people at work on this? Is one of them Lloyd Braun? What am I missing?
Unbreakable: NYC Window Washer Survives 47-Story Plummet
Alcides Moreno was hurtling downward at a speed up to 124 mph, clinging to a 1,250-pound scaffold that acted like a surfboard in the sky.
Those grappling with why he miraculously survived his plunge from the roof of a 47-story high-rise say the aluminum platform added air resistance that slowed his descent - and blunted the tremendous force of hitting the concrete pavement in an alley below.
The tragedy occurred on Dec. 7 at about 10:15 a.m. as Moreno and his brother Edgar, 30, employees of City Wide Window Cleaning, got ready for a day's work at the Solow Tower, a luxury apartment building at 265 E. 66th St. with a black-glass surface.
The workers - not yet wearing required safety harnesses - fell or were dragged off the roof when the 16-foot-long "swing scaffold," which could slide around the building, collapsed.
Officials suspect the cause was improperly secured cables, but investigations are ongoing.
Physicists theorize it was Alcides' training, presence of mind - or luck - that he remained atop the Louisville Ladder scaffold as it plummeted that saved him.
He landed in a tangle of cables and bent railings that may have broken his 500-foot fall or absorbed some of the shock.
Coming Soon: The Al Qaeda YouTube Debate
This trend is catching on.
AL-QAEDA sympathisers have been asked to send in their questions for the terror network's second in command, which he will then answer in an online interview next month.
The bizarre stunt was announced in a new video posted on the internet in which al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, mocked today's British handover of security in southern Iraq to local forces as a sign that insurgents are gaining the upper hand.
The websites invited readers to send in questions during the next month for Zawahri to answer in an "open interview". How the interview would work was not immediately clear.
I wonder if this is available in Republican-strength.
(HT: Stop the ACLU)
December Troop Fatality Rate Down 80% Since May
Halfway through December (a month that claimed the lives of 112 U.S. troops last year), the pace of American fatalities in Iraq continues its dramatic decline, plotting an encouragingly steady trendline. While at least 12 Americans have been killed this month, the effectiveness of the troop surge continues to be remarkable.
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Late Show (Maybe)
Dave Letterman's Christmas spirit runneth over.
THE late-night shows are quietly talking to each other about all coming back on the air at once - before the ongoing writers' strike is over.
The late-night shows, which shut down early last month when the writers walked out, do not want to alienate their union writers.
But it is becoming increasingly clear to both sides that Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and the rest will have to come back before the strike is settled.
Letterman was the first late-night host who said he would continue to pay his staff out of his own pocket while the strike was on.
While Letterman doesn't talk to the other late-night hosts, "Daily Show" host/head-writer/executive producer Jon Stewart "has been extremely active since this began, making calls, starting conversations and sending e-mails," says a late-night talk show source.
Welcome Back, Chickens Little
Macroeconomic Advisers raised its estimate for GDP growth up to 0.9%. The firm, which started the day at 0.1% and was at minus 0.1% on Tuesday, moved its projection to 0.6% due to strong retail sales, then up to 0.8% due to defense-related spending and ultimately 0.9% because non-auto retail inventories rose in October more than previously assumed.
Retail sales figures pushed Morgan Stanley’s fourth-quarter GDP estimate to 1% from 0.2%, and then the increase in business inventories pushed the tracking figure to 1.2%.
Goldman Sachs had been expecting 1% GDP growth but said the retail sales numbers “were strong enough to flip risks to our [forecast] from the downside to the upside.”
Lehman Brothers raised its growth estimate to “close to” 1% vs. the previous 0.1%. “This dramatically reduces the odds of a negative print during the quarter and suggests that second half growth could average as high as 3%,” its economists said.
J.P. Morgan economists boosted their growth estimate to 1.5% from 0.5% previously due to surprises in retail sales, government military spending and inventory growth figures. At the same time, however, they lowered their forecast for the first quarter of 2008 to 1% from 1.5% as the stronger demand in the current quarter “is viewed as borrowing from the start of next year.”
Voo Doo Doo Doo, Voo Da Da Da...
Rudy's latest radio spot is a pro-growth toe-tapper.
"There's no question. Taxes go down, revenues go up."
He'll cut taxes: lower incomes taxes, reduce business taxes, and do away with the marraige penalty and the death tax for good.
It's almost enough to sway one's affections from the thus far most convincingly growth-friendly Mitt Romney. "Make the investment income tax cuts permanent" (or, better still, "Drop rates to 0%," as the dreamy Romney proposes) is curiously absent from the list, the only thing standing between this ad and supply-side perfection.
(HT: The Hill)
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Four Democratic Presidential Candidates will be racking up their frequent flier miles as well as their carbon emissions today. Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden flew back to Capitol Hill this morning for a Senate farm bill vote and a procedural vote.
While the mundane travel of these four Senators is typically not news, the four have all chartered their own plane back to Iowa for this afternoon’s Democratic Presidential debate. Cue the youtube clips of these candidates vigorously lamenting climate change: Hillary, Barack, Biden, Dodd.
Ironically, this carbon bonanza coincides with the United Nations Climate Change Conference, currently underway in Indonesia.
Any chance this hypocrisy will come up in today’s debate?
Retail Sales Up, Jobless Claims Down, Recession Fetishists Staying In Bed
Move along, folks. There's nothing to see here.
A cheerful start to the holiday shopping season apparently produced much faster retail sales growth last month than economists had expected.
The Commerce Department said November retail sales rose 1.2 pct, twice the expected 0.6 pct increase, following an unrevised 0.2 pct September increase.
Seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims fell 7,000 to 333,000 in the week ended Dec. 8, the government reported Thursday.
Wall Street analysts were looking for initial claims of 335,000. Economists watch claims closely because an increase is a leading indicator of a slowdown.
Wholesale inflation jumped way up in November, driven primarily by rising fuel costs (which helped push the robust sales number), but excluding gas and automobiles, retail sales were still up by 1.1%.
Iowa GOP Debate: 30 Second Recap
Mitt won it in a walk, thanks in no small part to his dynamite education answer (the "my fourth graders" and "my fifth graders" formulation was superb).
Alan Keyes came off as a sanctimonious blowhard and a jerk.
That was some of the worst debate moderation since the Knibb High School Academic Decathlon back in 1995.
Update: Krauthammer weighs in, without an ounce of hyperbole. (HT: Allah)
Bill Plotting a Coup Of Hillary's Inept Campaign
Someone get Dennis Kucinich on the phone and ask him to double-check his pocket copy of the Constitution. You can still only be elected President twice, right?
This word choice is enough to fuel years of sweat-drenched anxiety nightmares.
Alarmed by his wife's slide in the polls and disarray within her backbiting campaign, a beside-himself Bill Clinton has leaped atop the barricades and is furiously plotting a cure - or coup.
Bill Clinton is mulling "a lot of different ideas and a lot of different scenarios to fix this," an official who regularly speaks with him said.
Pink On Blue 2
The rich tapestry of the Democratic Party may be starting to fray at the fringe.
Federal Reserve Language Watch
Today, the Federal Reserve announced its third consecutive interest rate cut. As was broadly expected, the Fed lowered the federal funds rate 25 basis points from 4.50% to 4.25%. Interest rate futures had suggested the market saw roughly a 1/3 chance of a 50 basis point cut and judging by the early whipsawing following the announcement, a lot of investors may have had their fingers quietly crossed that we were going to see the double.
Alas, we did not.
Nor did we see quarter-point cut complemented by a half-point cut to the discount rate, which had been mulled by financial pundits in recent days as a possible middling ground between the quarter- and half-point cut to the primary fed funds target. The equity markets have been quite strong in the days leading up to the Fed decision (with the Dow putting on nearly 1,000 points in the 10 sessions since it hit the bottom of its correction) and at this point, it looks like investor sentiment may have been counting on a bit more love than the Fed was willing to show.
Still, as always, nearly as important as the rate decision is the tweaking of the language in the accompanying policy statement. The tweaks are substantial enough that our typical "compare documents" trick is a bit ungainly for this installment, but the key passages that are either new or significantly altered are highlighted below.
Release Date: December 11, 2007
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 25 basis points to 4-1/4 percent.
Incoming information suggests that economic growth is slowing, reflecting the intensification of the housing correction and some softening in business and consumer spending. Moreover, strains in financial markets have increased in recent weeks. Today’s action, combined with the policy actions taken earlier, should help promote moderate growth over time.
Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year, but elevated energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put upward pressure on inflation. In this context, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully.
Recent developments, including the deterioration in financial market conditions, have increased the uncertainty surrounding the outlook for economic growth and inflation. The Committee will continue to assess the effects of financial and other developments on economic prospects and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Charles L. Evans; Thomas M. Hoenig; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; William Poole; and Kevin M. Warsh. Voting against was Eric S. Rosengren, who preferred to lower the target for the federal funds rate by 50 basis points at this meeting.
In a related action, the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 25-basis-point decrease in the discount rate to 4-3/4 percent. In taking this action, the Board approved the requests submitted by the Boards of Directors of the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Here's October's statement for comparison. I think the market is seeing the language changes as incrementally hawkish (less inclined toward future cuts) or at best, simply more vague, but I read a possible signaling of an incrementally dovish (more inclined toward future cuts) stance.
In October, the statement declared that "the upside risks to inflation roughly balance the downside risks to growth" (suggesting a neutral stance). That was something of a surprise to those who believed that the growth risks had begun to outweigh the inflation risks and who were hoping to see the inflation language curtailed in today's statement. Instead, the inflation section (the third paragraph in the statement) is carried over word-for-word from October. But I'm not so sure that implies the Fed is still telegraphing neutrality.
After all, the only significant difference with regard to inflation discussion is the removal of the line about inflationary risks "roughly balanc[ing] the downside risks to growth." Stripping out the line about risks being balanced, while adding discussion about slowing growth and deteriorating financial conditions, strikes me as a sign that the committee now sees slowing growth as the predominant risk (and correspondingly, that they can be expected to move forward with an easing bias).
Still, Wall Street's feelings seem to be hurt and the major indices threw off roughly 2% in the half hour following the announcement.
I don't think the severity of the sell-off is fully explained by the disappointed minority of investors who were expecting 50. I think we may have a failure in the language parsing.
Meet Bob Nash, Hillary's Illiterate Mudslinger
Like sands through the hourglass, the Clinton campaign is continuing its "opposition research" efforts on chief rival Barack Obama, following last week's silly kindergarten attack. Former Clinton White House personnel director Bob Nash has apparently been tapped with probing Obama's more recent exploits, including his work as a community organizer in Chicago.
Unfortunately for Clinton (assuming she's hoping to restore some credibility to the "I only attack Republicans and problems" motif), one of the people Nash reached out to saw fit to forward his atrociously composed, dirt-digging e-mail, which eventually found its way to New York Times political blogger.
From: Bob Nash
Sent: Sun Dec 09
HOW ARE YOU ?? I AM FIGHTING HARD >
SECOND ARE YOU PEERSONALLYAWARE OF TH EWORK BARACK DID ON THE SOUTH
SIDE WITH COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION S , ETC ./. BOB
WHAT DI DHE DO AFORE HOW LONG AND WITH WHO ??
PLS TELL BOB HELLO BOB
Bob J Nash
Deputy Campaign Manager
Hillary Clinton for President Exploratory Committee
4420 N. Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
Hukt on fonix appears not to have worked for Bob.
Republicans Do It More Economically
According to a WSJ.com survey, economists (despite skewing academic) overwhelmingly prefer Republicans in the 2008 election, by a margin of 69-12.
Asked which presidential candidate would be best for the economy, only half responded but most threw their support behind Republicans. Thirty-five percent said Rudy Giuliani would be best, while 19% chose John McCain and 15% picked Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton got the support of 8%, while John Edwards was the only other Democrat to register with 4% of the vote.
Tale of the Tape
Tomorrow, CIA Director Michael Hayden will testify before Congress on the destruction of video tapes from the interrogation of senior Al Qaeda leaders. Democrats such as Senator Joe Biden are accusing the CIA of a cover-up and are calling for a special prosecutor. While others such as Senator Jay Rockefeller have cast a broader but still accusatory net:
Were there things on those tapes that they didn't want to have seen, that didn't conform to what the attorney general would allow them to do? Were they just trying to bury the general subject?
In the rush to create a scandal amid progress in Iraq, Democrats are missing a very likely explanation for the destruction of these tapes: they weren't useful anymore. The CIA has admitted that the tapes were made in 2002 as part of a "secret detention and interrogation program" initiated after the arrest of senior al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. This secret program led to the implementation of several novel interrogation techniques including waterboarding.
The fact that the videotaping of these particular interrogations ended in 2002 (although the practice of waterboarding continued until 2003) tells us something. I predict that General Hayden will admit tomorrow that these tapes were made to ensure that the new interrogation techniques were being properly implemented. As designed, the new techniques carefully navigated legal waters and the CIA had a duty to ensure that they were being carried out as conceived. The tapes were destroyed in 2005 because the legality and proper implementation of the techniques had been established. In addition, since the use of waterboarding, the most controversial of the techniques, ceased in 2003, there was no need to retain the tapes.
Some detractors have argued that the destruction does not make sense because the video tapes had intelligence value. I would postulate that the CIA either conducts video or audio recordings of all interrogations. After all, the purpose of the interrogation is to create intelligence and the people that need the intelligence are all over the world. To meet these needs, the CIA probably immediately transcribes the interrogation so that the text can be searched and discovered by U.S. intelligence analysts. Since intelligence is perishable, the CIA probably keeps the tapes for a few months should any analyst request a retranslation.
I know that Director Hayden has stated that the tapes were destroyed because of a fear of reprisal. While that may be one of the factors involved, I suspect it was not the primary motivation.
Check back tomorrow to see how well this prediction has fared.
Update: The closed nature of Director Hayden's testimony has made it difficult to ascertain the Agency's motivation for destroying the tapes. More commentary to come as the details begin to emerge.
Deck Chairs On S.S. Hillary Ready For Some Rearranging?
As linked by Drudge, Albert Hunt at Bloomberg has an interesting piece today on some of the behind-the-scenes flailing about within the Clinton campaign, as Her Inevitability continues to flag in the polls.
Hot Air: Glutton For Fatwa
The newest item in Hot Air's Christmas catalog is a blasphemous plush toy that you ought to be slayed for even looking upon. The "cuddly Mo Bear" can be had for the low, low price of $18.50 and the swift, judicious surrender of your life for insulting Islam (includes shipping and handling).
NYC Banwagon Set To Put Carriage Horses Out To Pasture
Now that Broadway is back in business, the New York City Council is looking for a new way to hobble city tourism.
AVELLA: We've grown up as a society and the mistreatment of animals and the abuse of animals cannot be tolerated in any way, shape or form. The only legitimate way to end this abuse is to put the industry out to pasture."
New York's century-old Hansom cab industry is an iconic (if pungent) fixture on Central Park South and employs nearly 300 drivers, but when a horse died three months ago after being spooked by street drummers and running amok, the animalists went into overdrive.
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages (along with PETA, Friends of Animals, the League of Humane Voters, and Rational-Animal) joined Avella today at City Hall to support the ban.
For his part, Councilman Avella has designs on Gracie Mansion in 2009, when he'll be term limited out of the Council. He's running on the ever popular anti-development platform, despite having raised significant campaign cash from realtors and developers, including Trump-affiliated Bayrock/Sapir.
GOP Ways and Means Delegation Continues To Crumble
Bad news, methinks. With such a thoroughly unserious lawmaker as Charlie Rangel in the chairman's seat, these departures couldn't come at a worse time.
Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, will not run for re-election next year. McCrery is the highest ranking Republican to announce his retirement since Democrats took control of the chamber. A congressional source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said family pressures coupled with increasingly low expectations that Republicans will win control of the chamber next year contributed to McCrery’s decision to leave.
McCrery was not rumored to retire, so his surprise exit will surely prompt maneuvering among lawmakers on the powerful tax writing panel for the top slot. Rep. Wally Herger (R., Calif.) is next in seniority, but Republicans do not follow strict seniority rules to dole out committee assignments. McCrery is the third member of the committee, along with Reps. Jim Ramstad (Minn.) and Jerry Weller (Ill.) to announce their retirement this year. McCrery was known for a gentler style than his predecessor Rep. Bill Thomas (R., Calif.). McCrery was poised to take the gavel before Republicans were swept into the minority in both chambers in the 2006 elections.
Rangel's recently proposed trillion-dollar "mother of all tax" hikes and his unambiguous intent to allow the 2003 tax cuts to expire in 2010 leaves the health of the U.S. economy hinging on this peculiar man's ability to push his peculiar ideas through to the Senate floor. If Republicans are unable to recapture the House majority next year, we'll need to have as many powerful and persuasive minority members on Ways and Means as possible if we want to keep Charlie from going completely off the rails.
McCrery's farewell is a disappointing step backward on that front. He does tend to vote with the porkers, but he's rock solid on taxes and I'll take that combination over the inverse in a heartbeat.
51st Consecutive Month of Job Growth
The Department of Labor has released its preliminary report on November's employment summary, estimating an increase in payroll employment of 94,000 during the month. That was less than the private ADP report suggested, but above the recently upgraded estimate of 70,000.
The unemployment rate stood pat at 4.7%, lower than the 4.8% the market was expecting.
Based on the preliminary report, November was the 51st consecutive month of positive job growth, further extending the Bush economy's record-setting streak that dates back to the summer of 2003, shortly after the enactment of the investment income tax cuts.
Based on the better-than-expected job gains and the roaring productivity growth we learned about yesterday, the 1.0-1.5% GDP growth expected in the fourth quarter is looking increasingly likely to be surpassed. That probably won't quiet the recession fetishists of the world, but reasonable people can take heart knowing a recession continues to be unlikely.
Job Growth Turns 50, Accelerates
It's Official: Bush Economy Achieves Longest Period Of Job Creation On Record
D'oh! Economy Fumbles At the 1 Yard Line
47th Consecutive Month of Job Growth, 1 Away From Record
46th Consecutive Month of Job Growth
45th Consecutive Month of Job Growth
43rd Consecutive Month of Job Growth