Aquarian Domers Slighted By Alma Mater
Glad I snuck through before they realized of the implications of my apparently unpropitious birth month.
Many of us may often feel that we've been born under an unlucky sign. Now, new research by a pair of University of Notre Dame economists suggests that some of us are, in fact, born in an unlucky season.
In their paper, Kasey Buckles and Daniel Hungerman point out that a large body of previous research consistently has found that people born in December, January and February are, on average, less educated, less intelligent, less healthy and lower paid than people born in other seasons.
Tucker Carlson at CPAC"Watching George Bush give us a speech was anxious-making. Like watching a drunk man cross an icy street. And I say that with love, not contempt." On the media's love for Obama: "It's not a platonic love. It's a much moister, pulsating kind of love."
Hoy Hoy, Operator, Can You Connect Me With That Website?
Presidential Address Pick'em
The Dow Industrials have shed 10% over Obama's first 5 weeks in office and more than 25% since Election Day. It seems that each time he or a member of his economic team takes to the podium, the markets descend into deeper despair.
Tonight at 9 pm ET, the President will deliver a daunting 50 minutes worth of malaise-infused oration, replete with promises of sweeping tax hikes.
Your predictive challenge is simple: When the U.S. markets open Wednesday morning, how exuberant or suicidal will the reaction be?
Update: If you said "Down 0-1%" (which just 6% of you did), congratulations. With the only mild declines in early trading, the post-speech action outperformed the expectations of 85% of respondents.
Click here to subscribe to the FlipSheet, an investment newsletter for politically turbulent markets.
Locke Looking Like Less Of a Lock
The rumored successor to Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg as the next doomed Commerce Secretary nominee is former Washington Governor Gary Locke.
Lest you worry that Locke has his own closeted deal-breakers, the Washington Post assures us:
Locke is regarded as a safe choice by senior officials in the Obama administration given his long history in public life, his strait-laced reputation and his bipartisan governing credentials.
And lest you believe the Washington Post, Michelle Malkin disabuses us of the fantasy of Locke's straight laces.
Money laundering, illegal campaign contributions, pay-for-play scandals... this guy's the whole package.
Bread Lines In the Age Of Internets and Reality TV
Pimp This Bum. Sensational.
Expect to see Tim on Letterman by week's end.
(HT: Hot Air Headlines)
Spend and Tax
President Obama is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious first budget that seeks to cut the federal deficit in half over the next four years, primarily by raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy and by slashing spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration officials said.
Obama also seeks to increase tax collections, mainly by making good on his promise to eliminate some of the temporary tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. While the budget would keep the breaks that benefit middle-income families, it would eliminate them for wealthy taxpayers, defined as families earning more than $250,000 a year. Those tax breaks would be permitted to expire on schedule in 2011. That means the top tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, the tax on capital gains would jump to 20 percent from 15 percent for wealthy filers and the tax on estates worth more than $3.5 million would be maintained at the current rate of 45 percent.
Obama also proposes "a fairly aggressive effort on tax enforcement" that would target corporate loopholes, the official said. And Obama's budget seeks to tax the earnings of hedge fund managers as normal income rather than at the lower 15 percent capital gains rate.
Contending with a sharp recession by reversing demonstrably effective pro-growth tax cuts... this can't miss.
Jindal Tells Uncle Sam Where To Stick His Stimulus Money
He's not turning away the infrastructure cash, just the incremental spending on unemployment insurance (a mere $98 million), to spare his state's businesses from an expanded tax bill.
In a statement, [Louisiana Governor Bobby] Jindal, who is slated to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s message to Congress on Tuesday, expressed concern that expanding unemployment insurance coverage would lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes later on.
“The federal money in this bill will run out in less than three years for this benefit and our businesses would then be stuck paying the bill,” Jindal said. “We must be careful and thoughtful as we examine all the strings attached to the funding in this package. We cannot grow government in an unsustainable way.”
Jindal is one of a small group of Republican governors, which includes South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, who have said they might refuse some or all of the stimulus money targeted to their states.
Take That, Jesus!
There's a new king of kings in town.
Dr. Obama Prescribes Hair Of the Dog for Economy Crippled by Raging Housing Hangover
I guess if the New Deal and 1990s Japan didn't teach us that massive government expansion doesn't cure recessions, we were destined not to learn any useful lessons from the now plainly disastrous results of government intervention into the housing market.
Welcome to the Obama Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan — a complicated wealth redistribution scheme dressed up as a cure for the nation’s housing woes.
It is almost certainly bound to fail.
Now, there is no doubting that Obama’s heart is in the right place. With foreclosures at record highs, the American white picket fence dream is crumbling.
And the impulse of any caring President must be to do something, almost anything to keep the dream alive.
But the experience of politicians tinkering with the U.S. housing market is not a happy one. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, anyone?
That millions of homeowners were and are “irresponsible” is a harsh truth that Obama can’t really talk about.
In his America, the Obama housing plan is one neighbor helping another who is simply down on his luck. If only his America were real. Then maybe his program would actually work.
Universal Insurance We Can All Get Behind
A pair of posts on the WSJ Real Time Economics blog by Ricardo Caballero and Robert Barbera contemplate the conspicuously absent (albeit perhaps the most effective) component of a bank stabilization plan from the Treasury, namely a plan to simply insure financial institutions against losses associated with the toxic assets remaining on their balance sheets.
We've seen that direct capital injections aren't doing the trick and the prospect of buying up the infected assets (involving the nearly impossible task of accurately pricing them, the very difficulty that helped trigger this mess) is untenable. As Caballero notes, the insurance route involves its own pricing problems.
There are two issues often raised in the context of an insurance arrangement of this kind: How to determine the fair price of insurance in an environment where there are no sensible market prices? And, how to prevent financial institutions from selectively insuring their worst assets without disclosing them as such?
But the dollar amounts involved in the insurance contracts pale in comparison to the value of the assets themselves, so the inevitable pricing errors and manipulations seem like an acceptable cost of what's otherwise a very promising plan.
TARP 1.0 briefly flirted with the idea of insuring toxic assets, but that fell by the wayside as we bounced frenetically from capital injections to asset purchases and back.
Paulson never quite zeroed in on the right formula, but he did show sufficient humility to declare his original plan feckless and to set about retooling it. If Geithner is similarly able to swallow his pride and incorporate the insurance strategy at the urging of academics and economists like Caballero and Barbera, genuine stability in the financial system may be within sight.
Barbera also makes an important point about how to avoid unnecessary financial crises of our own making in the future. In short, both sides need to resist the political impetus of demonizing wealth creation and the hyper-conservatism (small "c") of our current accounting rules.
To state it another way, we simply don’t want to VALIDATE today’s super angst prices for risky assets—they are consistent with Depression level default rates and policy makers are working overtime to derail these implied forecasts of doom. BAA vs. AA credit spreads are wider than they were in the 1930s. If we take these spreads as an indication of today’s mark-to-mayhem value of bank commercial and industrial loans, then we will “price discover” our way into a Nationalized banking system if we embrace them.
There is simply no way around the fact that government polices, in an effort to rescue the real economy, have to involve driving risky asset prices higher—and borrowing costs for risky borrowers lower.
Right-wing enthusiasm for mark-to-mayhem prices is misplaced. Left wing zeal for punishing asset holders— the fat cats—is equally insane.
The View + Rush Limbaugh + Wayne's World + MST3K
= Strategy Room, apparently.
That sounds about right. To quote KT, "It's 'The View' for smart people."
Fox is a latecomer to producing live news programming for the Web. CNN and ABC News have had video channels streaming online for a few years. Those webcasts mimic the format of traditional cable news channels, with a mix of anchored newscasts and specialized programs.
“The Strategy Room,” by contrast, resembles ABC’s “The View” mixed with a dash of Rush Limbaugh and a generous helping of “Wayne’s World.” The program began as a series of special webcasts on the evenings of some of the major presidential primaries and then during the political conventions. Then Fox turned it into a five-day-a-week, 9-to-5 session in September, produced on a budget hardly more than pocket change.
It tries to make its rough edges a virtue, defining it as a news channel for the YouTube world. Hosts, Fox correspondents and guests of all sorts wander on and off camera, drinking coffee and soda, tapping at their BlackBerrys and laptops, reading news and responding to comments from viewers.
When there is a news event, like a speech or press conference, viewers see the backs of the heads of the guests watching it on a big screen, throwing out wisecracks about the goings-on. [Executive producer Mike] Straka compares the format with the cult comedy series “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
I'll be wandering in with my soda and Blackberry on Thursday at 3 pm.
Stimulus Bill Sedates Market To Lowest Levels Since November
With the exception of November 21st, most major indices are now lower than they've been in six years. The Senate having voted in favor of the stimulus bill's conference report late Friday night, this is the first opportunity U.S. markets have had to display their resulting glee.
In the six weeks following the November bottom, stocks actually mounted an impressive recovery. By January 6th, the Dow Industrials, S&P 500, and Nasdaq had shot up 19%, 24%, and 26%, respectively.
Alas, that was the day the stimulus bill was introduced in the Senate and there ended the rally. In the weeks since, we've given up the bulk of those gains.
Update: Michelle notices a similar phenomenon.
Save the World, Kill a Hippie
In the UK, too, greenies do it dirtier.
Alas, Burris Does Bear the Blot of Blago
Some cynics saw erstwhile governor Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris as an underhanded and race-drenched way not only to dare the Senate to attempt to block him (recall Rep. Bobby Rush, at the same press conference, warning not to "hang or lynch" Burris by opposing him), but also to curry favor with black jurors who might one day sit in judgment the impeached governor at a criminal trial.
That may well all be true, but now it appears that Burris' candidacy fit the general Blagojevich template, wherein potential appointees are evaluated not only on the grounds of their qualifications and the racial cover they might provide down the line, but according to their willingness to pay up.
Powerline highlights the glaring discrepancies between Burris' testimony before the Illinois House impeachment panel, an affidavit filed last week showing he was hit up by Blago's brother for campaign cash, and revelations of additional conversations with the governor's proxies about the appointment, which had previously eluded Burris' recall.
Burris now claims he simply wasn't given a full opportunity to explain his answers during the impeachment hearing. Which is understandable. Because it would take a fair bit of time to qualify a "No, sir" in response to "At any time were you directly or indirectly aware of a quid pro quo with the governor for the appointment of this vacant Senate seat?" into something that reconciles with what we now know to be the truth.
As was gradually discovered over the course of Blagopalooza, the Senate never really had any grounds to refuse to seat a legal appointment made by a sitting governor, but they do have fairly broad authority to expel a sitting senator for misconduct with a two-thirds vote. It doesn't happen often (not since the 19th Century), but resignations pending expulsion proceedings are a bit more common (the last being Bob Packwood (R-OR) in 1995).
Given Harry Reid's dead-set opposition to seating Burris in the first place, maybe he'll take this opportunity to purge the Senate of the Blago taint.
With Stimulus Like This, Who Needs Malaise?
In case you hadn't heard, 2009 has thus far been a bad one for stocks. Piling onto the sharp declines of the second half of 2008, the S&P 500 has shed another 8.5% year-to-date.
All the while, the President-elect-cum-President and Congressional leaders have been touting the idea that a massive pork package (now tipping the scales at a true cost of more than $3 trillion) would cure our economic ills.
As the bill larded through the legislative process, ultimately passing the House despite having only single-party support and bi-partisan opposition, and scraping through the Senate with nary a vote to spare, the market gradually came to accept the inevitability of its enactment.
It's perhaps no surprise then to see how well the market downdrift has correlated with the likelihood of stimulus passage. Using Intrade's "Stimulus passes by March 31" contract as a proxy for the consensus likelihood, we see the S&P dwindle more than 100 points as stimulus inevitability set in over the last six weeks.
Click here to subscribe to the FlipSheet, an investment newsletter for politically turbulent markets.
Quote Of the Day
The ineptly named "stimulus" bill has garnered a number of appropriate nicknames in recent weeks (Porkulus, the Generation Theft Act, etc.). But none top Mark Steyn's turn of phrase in today's column "The Obamateur Hour".
The hideous drooling blob of toxic pustules dignified as “stimulus” is something the incoming Obama had months to prepare for, with oodles of bipartisan goodwill and fawning press coverage to waft him along. Instead he chose to outsource it to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and the rest of the congressional pork barons. So that too is not an “event” but merely, like his cabinet picks, a matter of judgment and executive competence.
The $3.3 Trillion Spending Plan: Stimulus or Sedative?
If you guessed sedative, congratulations.
Will the stimulus actually stimulate?
Economists say no
The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.
"I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending.
"It's unfocused. That is my problem. It is a lot of money for a lot of nickel-and- dime programs. I would have rather had a lot of money for (promoting purchase of) housing and autos . . . . Most of this plan is really, I think, aimed at stabilizing the situation and helping people get through the recession, rather than getting us out of the recession. They are actually providing less short-term stimulus by cutting back, from what I understand, some of the tax credits."
And recall that the CBO predicts the net effect of the stimulus will be a reduction in real GDP growth.
(HT: HA Headlines)
Previously: Stimulus Tab Tips $3 Trillion
Judd Gregg Withdraws To Spend More Time With His Principles
Ah, change. Finally, a Cabinet withdrawal not prompted by tax, nanny, or corruption issues.
“I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.
“However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.
“Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.
“I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.
“As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.
“Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.
“As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.”
Stimulus Tab Tips $3 Trillion
That's $27,700 per household, folks.
Voters More Confident In Random Phone Book Picks Than 111th Congress To Address Economy
Count me among that astute 44%.
When it comes to the nation’s economic issues, 67% of U.S. voters have more confidence in their own judgment than they do in the average member of Congress.
Forty-four percent (44%) voters also think a group of people selected at random from the phone book would do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress, but 37% disagree. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided.
(HT: Purple Avenger)
Another Reason For Today's Blood On the Street
The major stock indices shed between 4-5% today, dragged down by financials, after a tremendous failure by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to restore market confidence as he introduced his new "Financial Stability Plan".
But TurboTax Tim wasn't solely to blame.
It turns out wholesale inventories fell by 1.4% in December, according to a Commerce Department report released this morning, twice the decline the market expected.
It also means the preliminary 3.8% annualized drop in fourth-quarter GDP will likely be revised downward. The preliminary number would have been worse, if not for a 1.6 percentage-point boost to the figure from inventory levels that now appears to be less substantial (the government estimates many of the December data points and revises the GDP figure as the actual numbers are tallied).
Revisions to fourth-quarter GDP following today’s report put the decline at something like a 4.6% annualized drop, according to Action Economics. Ouch.
Ironically, while that report was already the weakest in a quarter-century, a deeper negative at the end of last year could translate into less pain hitting growth in early 2009, economists say.
Even so, brace yourself for February 27th, when we have to look at the first revision to the 4th quarter growth estimate.
Well That's a Relief
Here, I thought I did care about wasting hundreds of billions of dollars. It feels good to be disabused of that misunderstanding.
See, This Is Why You Take Time To Read the Trillion Dollar Bills
Even the ones billed as emergencies.
As discussed by Betsy McCaughey from the Hudson Institute (and as currently headlined at Drudge), there are multiple socialized healthcare noses that will get under the tent if the bill passes as is.
One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446).
If the Obama administration’s economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing [to the U.K.]. Defenders of the system say that individuals benefit in younger years and sacrifice later.
The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated and how much hospitals get paid. The bill allocates more funding for this bureaucracy than for the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined (90-92, 174-177, 181).
Hiding health legislation in a stimulus bill is intentional. Daschle supported the Clinton administration’s health-care overhaul in 1994, and attributed its failure to debate and delay. A year ago, Daschle wrote that the next president should act quickly before critics mount an opposition.
Setting aside the issue of whether euro-style, rationed government care would be good for America, the notion that its groundwork belongs in the emergency stimulus bill is farcical. The very fact that it's being snuck through in the belly of a trillion-dollar Trojan horse speaks volumes about its merits as perceived by its own sponsors.
Madoff, SEC Agree to Settle Civil Case
The assets stay frozen and Bernie agrees not to contest the facts of the complaint when the time comes to determine his civil penalty.
The SEC says the basic facts of the complaint are that Madoff committed a $50 billion fraud and told his sons his investment business was a sham. Madoff told them he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," according to the complaint.
Madoff's next apperance in connection with the criminal case is scheduled for February 11, unless he's formally indicted in the mean time.
Google Portugal Gets Pushy
It seems far more likely that I've contracted a bit of (odd) malware than that Google's been hacked, but is anyone else experiencing this too?
Helpful Hints For Hollywood Obamaphiles
At Big Hollywood, Brett Joshpe has an idea how the "I pledge to smile more" set might more convincingly display their sudden love of country. It involves significant financial sacrifice by our cultural betters, but they did appear all kinds of serious in that self-lauding video, so I expect they'll embrace the suggestion.
Domestic Terrorism Finally Crosses Over Into Comic Book Genre
Stimulus. 70% of the Time, It Works... Every Time
I don't have the stomach to stay abreast of the Carnival of Squander tonight, but Allah is on top of things, including Joe Biden's curious near-candor on the fallibility of a roomful of bureaucrats deciding how best to allocate 10% of America's GDP.
Brace For Stimulation
Harry Reid says he's getting ready to pull the trigger on the now $935 billion "stimulus" bill (ignoring interest costs, which would boost it to roughly $1.33 trillion), with a Senate vote possible by the end of the day.
The President voiced his support for swift action without the "distraction" of further debate, negotiation, or sense-coming-to over what will be a wide margin the biggest (if, sadly, not the most carefully examined) government spending project in history.
"It is inexcusable and irresponsible to get bogged down in distraction and delay while millions of Americans are being put out of work. It is time for Congress to act. It is time to pass an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan to get our economy moving again.
How big is it?
Let's refresh. Admittedly, even the most recent of these visual aids is a few days old, when the bill's price tag was a measly $888 billion, so mentally append the phrase "with $50 billion leftover" wherever appropriate.
Job Losses Going Asymptotic
You wouldn't know it from the financials-led rally underway on Wall Street, but January job losses came in worse than expected this morning, showing payrolls dwindling by 598,000, worse than December's 577,000 and the 540,000 consensus estimate. This led the unemployment rate to jump from 7.2% to 7.6% (versus expectations of 7.5%).
As is being breathlessly reported just about everywhere, that's the highest unemployment rate since 1992 (though we still have a little way to go before piercing 1992's peak of 7.8% and we're still nowhere near the 1982 peak of 10.8%).
Nonetheless, when you stack up the cumulative job losses over the recession to-date, the picture is a dreary one.
If this keeps up, Nancy Pelosi's prediction of 500 million American jobs lost per month might be in the cards after all.
The Pertinence of Transparency
Welcome to the black list, ABC News.
You think Tapper made it out of that room without a leathery tongue lashing from Helen Thomas?
(HT: Hot Air)
The Sully Tapes
The FAA has released air traffic control audio and transcripts from January 15, the day Chesley Sullenberger put Flight 1549 down safely in the Hudson.
The flight in question (US Airways/America West "Cactus" 1549) is referred to as "Cactus 1549" or "AWE1549" (or, in the confusion, occasionally as 1539 or 1529). "LGA" is LaGuardia Air Traffic Control. "L116" is New York TRACON LaGuardia Departure. "TEB" is Teterboro Air Traffic Control.
The relevant bits are excerpted below (prettied up a bit for readability and annotated in italics with elements from the NTSB timeline).
3:24:54: [Flight 1549 cleared for takeoff]
3:24:58 (LGA): Cactus 1549.
3:25:51 (AWE1549): Cactus 1549 - 700 climbing 5,000.
3:26:00 (L116): Cactus 1549, New York departure radar contact. Climb and maintain 15,000.
3:26:04 (AWE1549): Maintain 15,000, 1549.
3:27:32 (L116): Cactus 1549, turn left heading 270.
3:27:36 (AWE1549): Ah, this is, uh, Cactus 1539. Hit birds, we lost thrust in both engines. We're turning back toward LaGuardia.
3:27:42 (L116): Okay, yea, you need to return to LaGuardia. Turn left heading of, uh, 220.
3:27:46 (AWE1549): 220.
3:27:49 (L116): Tower, stop your departures. We got an emergency landing.
3:27:53 (LGA): Who is it?
3:27:54 (L116): It's 1529. He, ah, bird strike. He lost all engines. He lost the thrust in the engines. He is returning immediately.
3:27:59 (LGA): Cactus 1529, which engines?
3:28:01 (L116): He lost thrust in both engines, he said.
3:28:03 (LGA): Got it.
3:28:05 (L116) Cactus 1529, if we can get it, do you want to try to land Runway 13?
3:28:11 (AWE1549): We're unable. We may end up in the Hudson.
3:28:31 (L116): Alright, Cactus 1549, it's going to be left traffic to Runway 31.
3:28:34 (AWE154): Unable.
3:28:36 (L116): Okay, what do you need to land?
3:28:46 (L116): Cactus 1549, Runway 49-- Runway 4 is available if you want to make left traffic to Runway 4.
3:28:50 (AWE1549): I'm not sure if we can make any runway. Oh, what's over to our right? Anything in New Jersey? Maybe Teterboro?
3:28:55 (L116): Okay, yea, off to your right side is Teterboro Airport.
3:29:02 (L116): Do you want to try and go to Teterboro?
3:29:03 (AWE1549): Yes.
3:29:05 (L116): Teterboro, Empire-- actually LaGuardia Departure got an emergency inbound.
3:29:10 (TEB): Okay, go ahead.
3:29:11 (L116): Cactus 1529 over the George Washington Bridge, wants to go to the airport right now.
3:29:14 (TEB): He wants to go to our airport, check. Does he need any assistance.
3:29:17 (L116): Ah, yes. He, ah, he was a bird strike. Can I get him in for Runway 1?
3:29:19 (TEB): Runway 1, that's good.
3:29:21 (L116): Cactus 1529, turn right 280. You can land Runway 1 at Teterboro.
3:29:25 (AWE1549): We can't do it.
3:29:26 (L116): Okay, which runway would you like at Teterboro?
3:29:28 (AWE1549): We're gonna be in the Hudson.
3:29:33 (L116): I'm sorry, say again, Cactus.
3:29:51 (L116): Cactus, ah, Cactus 1549, radar contact is lost. You also got Newark Airport off your two o'clock and about 7 miles.
3:30:14 (L116): Cactus 1529, uh, you still on?
3:30:22 (L116): Cactus 1529, if you can, ah, you got, ah, Runway 29 available at Newark off your two o'clock and 7 miles.
3:30:30: [Splashdown. Radar and tower notify Coast Guard, which responds, "We launched the fleet."]
3:31:30 (unknown): Was that Cactus up by the Tappan Zee?
3:31:32 (L116): Uh, yeah, it was Cactus. He was just north of the, uh, George Washington Bridge when they had the bird strike.
3:33:38 (L116): Alright, alright. Departure, we're stopped on departure Runway 4 - 360s runway.
3:33:44 (L116): Okay.
3:33:45 (L116): You know about the Cactus?
3:33:46 (L116): Right.
3:33:47 (L116): I guess it was a double bird strke and he lost all thrust, so...
3:33:52 (L116): (Unintelligible) What do you want to do as far as departures?
3:33:55 (L116): Okay, I'll figure it out.
Economy Much, Much Worse Than Feared
If we don't enact the stimulus bill promptly, every American will be out of work within a month. Most will lose at least two jobs.
Porktastic Stimulus Returns to Drawing Board
Join me in a tentative, half-hearted hallelujah, won't you?
Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy.
To remove obstacles from the measure's path, Reid said numerous items could fall by the wayside. "The president, the Democratic leaders, the Republican leaders certainly have every intention of moving forward to getting everything out of the bill that causes heartburn to a significant number of senators," he told reporters yesterday.
What Senate leaders cannot predict is which provisions will stay in and which will fall out. It also remains unclear whether Democrats are willing to tamper with measures that are considered high priorities for Obama, but that tackle longer-term challenges such as health-care reform and alternative energy development, rather than providing the quick jolt of expanded unemployment and food-stamp benefits and individual tax relief.
The most ambitious effort to cut the bill is being led by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), moderates in their parties who share a dislike of the current version. Collins is scheduled to visit Obama at the White House this afternoon. "I'm going to go to him with a list" of suggested deletions, she said.
Stimulus, Illustrated - Part III
The stimulus bill that passed despite bi-partisan opposition in the House continues to swell as it's being deliberated on the other side of the Capitol. With a current sticker price of $888 billion, its total cost including the interest expense associated with the new debt (assuming the same interest:sticker ratio we saw in the House version) is likely closer to $1.3 trillion.
To commemorate this latest expansion, let's take one more stab at wrapping our heads around just how much money that is.
Click the image for a higher-res version.
"Strike Up the Music, the Band Has Begun.." (Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum)
The world's most famous groundhog saw his shadow Monday morning, predicting this already long winter will last for six more weeks.
Punxsutawney Phil emerged just after dawn in front of an estimated 13,000 witnesses, many dressed in black-and-gold to celebrate the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl victory the night before.
"There's significant buzz from the Steelers win and quite a few Terrible Towels floating from the crowd," said Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary for tourism in Pennsylvania.
The annual ritual takes place on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in Punxsutawney, a borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club announced the forecast in a short proclamation, in which Phil acknowledged the Steelers' 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
If Phil has graduated from meteorological prognostication to sports commentary, shouldn't we keep him out of his hole long enough to probe his rodent mind on other current affairs? He does after all hail from the bitter, racist swath of Pennsylvania - aren't you curious whether his bigotry has softened since the dawn of the New Times? Or whether he supports Jack Murtha's plan to import Gitmo terrorists to live in his neighborhood?
In other news, there are 13,000 people willing to turn out for the hog? Maybe Obama was right about these backward rubes.
Rendition Suddenly Back In Vogue
Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street.
The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.
The sequel ought to be considerably more upbeat. Maybe people will go see this one.
Take a Page From Keynes: Reduce Government Spending
From The Corner:
Is Keynes really "the newly fashionable economist"? That's great news!
Interestingly, John Maynard Keynes would probably be aghast at how his theories have been used to support bigger government. Before his death, he stated that economic performance would be undermined if government spending exceeded 25 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Since the burden of government … is more than 30 percent in the United States (including state and local government spending), Keynes would probably be a vigorous advocate of smaller government today.
(From here, though you need to squint to read the text.)
If we fritter away the "stimulus" money at a pace of roughly $150 billion a year, that'll increase the G part of C+I+G+NX by another 1% or so.
When economic intervention grows to the point that both Laffer and Keynes argue against it, it's a good bet that more government expansion is suboptimal.
Tasteless Superbowl Ads Through the Years
Mass suicide, robo-suicide, hunting shoeless Kenyans, and re-animating Christopher Reeve...
A decent collection, although the robo-suicide spot is harmlessly comical (if depressingly prescient).