I assume MSNBC will take that as a compliment. And then resume bashing Faux News.
Michelle Bachmann draws predictable progressive ire by linking Hurricane Irene with God's wrath and Washigton's spending. Anyone watching the video would know she was kidding (the crowd's laughter is only one clue), but that would be too much reality for the reality-based.
Just to help our friends on the left - we aren't imprisoning the Israelites, either.
Irene makes landfall in NYC at 9AM as a tropical storm. Don't think of it as an overhyped hurricane; think of it as another failed jobs program of a piece with last week's earthquake. Bring on the space aliens!
BUT SERIOUSLY: The media weather-flacks hype everything. Its part of their job, just as it is part of the job of college football to deliver a "Game of the Century" every few years. But even though the public gets jaded, and even though there is the "boy who cried wolf" risk, IMHO it is generally better for public officials to over-prepare. Let me quote Brandon Loy:
...it generally takes a pretty precise “threading of the needle” to produce a worst-case scenario track; the majority of possible scenarios are not “worst-case.” So the odds are nearly always against a worst-case scenario, right up until the last possible moment. That means you’ve got to prepare for the worst case, even knowing it probably won’t happen, because if you wait until it’s likely (still less certain) to happen, it’s too late to prepare! Which is why our next misconception is so deeply wrong…
• If the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, this was all a bunch of unwarranted hype. No, no, no, a thousand times no. As I just said, the worst-case scenario is never going to be likely at 2 or 3 or 4 days out, because NO individual scenario is “likely” at that point (there are always multiple plausible scenarios when landfall is days away), and the majority of scenarios are non-worst-case. So, at least 9 times out of 10, when you prepare for the worst, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as the worst doesn’t happen. And yet somehow, in every single one of those nine cases, some people feel justified in crowing about how the “experts were wrong again!”
NOBODY ASKED, BUT... If Cory Booker and Chris Christie ran on the same ticket, I would vote for them twice. If they ran against each other, I would split my two votes.
Peter Wehner explains why Obama is a failure, with a focus on the economy (No Gitmo!?! No War Powers-shredding in Libya?!?). Mr. Wehner links to a classic interview between Obama and Matt Lauer just before the February 2009 Super Bowl. Here is Obama on the expected pace of recovery:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: that's exactly right. And — and, you know, a year from now I think people — are gonna see that — we're starting to make some progress [on the economy]. But there's still gonna be some pain out there. If I don't have this done in three years, then there's gonna be a one-term proposition.
I'm keeping hope alive! And looking forward to change we can believe in.
David Brooks gauges the temper of the times and concludes that Mitt Romney will lose the Republican Presidential nomination to Texas Governor Rick Perry. This seems to trouble him:
The events of 2009 and 2010 also concentrated the Republican mind. It used to be that there were many themes in the Republican hymnal. Now there is only one: Government is too big, and it needs to be brought under control. It used to be there were many threats on the horizon. Now there is only one: the interlocking oligarchy of politicians, academics, journalists, consultants and financiers who live along the Acela corridor want to rip America from its traditional moorings.
Perry is benefiting from these shifts. He does best among the most conservative voters. He has a simple and fashionable message: I will bring government under control. His persona is perfectly tuned to offend people along the Acela corridor and to rally those who oppose those people. He does very well with the alternative-reality right — those who don’t believe in global warming, evolution or that Obama was born in the U.S.
His advice for Romney is unconvincing:
It’s more likely that sooner or later Romney is going to have to prove his own toughness by taking Perry on directly. Two lines of attack are pretty obvious.
First, Romney could accuse Perry of being the latest iteration of Tom DeLay Republicanism. On the one hand, he is ideologically slippery. The man who sounds so right wing today was the Texas chairman of the Al Gore for President campaign in 1988. The man who now vows to appoint only anti-abortion officials to relevant administration jobs endorsed Rudy Giuliani four short years ago. On the other hand, he is unwavering in his commitment to the government-cash nexus. Even this week — amid much attention to his pay-to-play proclivities — Perry named two big donors to powerful state jobs.
Romney will want to attack Perry as an ideologically inconsistent shape-shifter? That should be fun to watch, in a "Pot Meeets Kettle In Brawl To Settle It All" sort of way.
The second line of attack is to shift what the campaign is about. If voters think Nancy Pelosi is the biggest threat to their children’s prosperity, they will hire Perry. If they think competition from Chinese and Indian workers is the biggest threat, they will hire Romney. He’s just more credible as someone who can manage economic problems, build human capital and nurture an innovation-based global economy.
I deplore this xenophobia. America's problem is not competition from India or China; America's problem is that we need to get out of our own way and start doing our American thing again. Our sprawling big government, typified by the jobs-killing ObamaCare fostered by Nancy Pelosi et al, is the target of Rick Perry and his supporters. Perry is running on the Texas jobs boom - the idea that this economic battlefield favors Romney is dubious.
Brendan Loy has the latest news, which could be worse:
As of 11:00 AM EDT, Irene’s maximum sustained winds are down to 105 mph, making it a mid-range Category 2, and the hurricane is officially no longer expected to re-strengthen at all. The forecast calls for the status quo through landfall in North Carolina, followed by weakening to 100 mph (low-end Cat. 2) and then 85 mph (mid-range Cat. 1) as the storm moves up the coast toward Long Island. If the track shifts slightly left, weakening would presumably happen faster over land. Either way, NYC & environs are now likely looking at Category 1 winds at most. (And maybe not even that, as Dr. Jeff Masters explains below.)
...Anyway, although we can now almost assuredly remove “world-historical disaster” from the list of realistic possibilities, this remains a serious situation for North Carolina and for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including the New York area.
I don't mind missing a world-historical disaster. Apaprently heavy rains, downed trees, and a notable storm surge are still in the cards:
...tree damage will be much worse than in a Nor’easter, because “the trees are in full leaf during hurricane season, and catch the wind much more readily than during the winter. Tree damage will very heavy, and we can expect trees in regions with saturated soils will fall over in high winds onto power lines. Irene is likely to cause one of the top-five most widespread power outages in American history from a storm.”
Dr. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground is being quoted there by Brendan Loy.
Another whiz-bang stimulus idea from Team Obama:
The Obama administration is considering further actions to strengthen the housing market, but the bar is high: plans must help a broad swath of homeowners, stimulate the economy and cost next to nothing.
One proposal would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today’s lower interest rates, about 4 percent, according to two people briefed on the administration’s discussions who asked not to be identified because they were not allowed to talk about the information.
A wave of refinancing could be a strong stimulus to the economy, because it would lower consumers’ mortgage bills right away and allow them to spend elsewhere. But such a sweeping change could face opposition from the regulator who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and from investors in government-backed mortgage bonds.
Well, yes. The people paying the mortgages will pay less; the people holding the mortgages will receive less. If Warren Buffet is the sole holder, then he will surely support this, since it is sort of like increasing his taxes and certainly represents an opportunity for him to sacrifice.
On the other hand, if the bondholders include the elderly and retired (by way of mutual funds or under-funded pension funds), maybe cutting their income is not such a grand idea.
As to why granny should switch to cat food so that some yuppie lawyer can hang on to the house that was bigger than he could afford, well - a friend of mine used to call the Democrats the party of random wealth transfers. I was never convinced that "random" was the precise word. Their intention is always to soak the rich and help their current notion of the deserving, and there is often some overlap between their target zone and their drop zone.
Still, this latest notion is just one more example of capricious rule changes during the game. How it will help investor confidence is beyond me.
Robert Barro explains that government borrowing to finance transfer payments is not stimulative.
Do keep in mind that this does not address the value of government borrowing for shovel-ready projects. If (IF!) the Feds could hire laid-off engineers and invent a more efficient battery, or internal combustion engine, I am sure it would be a net societal win. However, it is a win because of the (previously and mysteriously overlooked) value of the project, not the government spending per se.
As to why these fabulous spending opportunities have been overlooked, well, Obama himself ruminated about the seeming lack of shovel -ready projects.
This may not be the worst Friedman column ever, or even this summer (Who among us is not reeling from his recent attempt at fan fiction?), but my goodness - Obama is re-imagined as Tiger Woods (and then Kevin Costner) while Friedman recycles Dem talking points and offers absurd political advice.
Let's start with the strained metaphor:
Despite the carping by critics, I’m glad the president went on vacation because one of the most useful things he could do right now is play golf — a lot of golf — but not that friendly foursome thing with his aides that he usually does. No, real golf: Match play, head to head, with real money on the line. Match-play golf is a great teacher. As any good golfer will tell you, the first rule of match play is this: Never play not to lose. Do not wait and hope for your opponent to make a mistake. Always play the course, always play to win and always assume your opponent will do well — will make that long putt — so you have to do better.
Oh, brother. Now the recycled Dem talking pointabout those intransigent Republicans and the collapse of the Boehner/Obama "Grand Bargain":
Obama surprised everyone by broaching the idea during the debt negotiations of a “Grand Bargain” — roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and $1 trillion in tax increases — as a signal to the markets that we’re getting our fiscal house in order. It was absolutely the right idea — as long as it is coupled with investments in infrastructure, education and research — but House Speaker John Boehner could not deliver his Tea Party-led G.O.P. caucus.
Well, that is Team Obama's spin. Here in reality, Boehner agreed to $800 billion in tax hikes, the Gang of Six from the Senate put in a bid for for a higher number, so Obama backpedaled on his agreement and asked for $1.2 trillion in new revenue. Boehner couldn't deliver the Tea Party? Obama couldn't even deliver himself.
Finally, the absurd advice:
Yet rather than flesh out his Grand Bargain in detail and take it on the road — and let every American everywhere understand and hear every day that he had a plan but the Republicans wouldn’t rise to it — Obama dropped it. Did he ever try to explain the specifics of his Grand Bargain and why it was the only way to go? No.
This left his allies wondering whether he was committed to it — and really did have his own party on board for it.
Please. His party is not on board - Democrats want to run in 2012 as the heroic defenders of Social Security and Medicare against savage Republican cuts. They very much do not want their President wandering the countryside mumbling about the need to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Friedman delivers a Big Finish which takes us back to golf and Obama's missing mojo. Hang on:
Meanwhile, Mr. President, on a rainy day, rent the movie “Tin Cup.” There is a great scene where Dr. Molly Griswold is trying to help Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, the golf pro, rediscover his swing — and himself. She finally tells him: “Roy ... don’t try to be cool or smooth or whatever; just be honest and take a risk. And you know what, whatever happens, if you act from the heart, you can’t make a mistake.”
Hmm. As a metaphor for the Obama administration I prefer the scene where Obama - sorry, Roy McAvoy - smacks the ball into the water about fourteen times in a row, hoping for a better result each time. Maybe the tee is at Gitmo. Or the water hazard is the economy...
It smells like... victory.
But if (IF!) the rebels can capture or overthrow Qadaffi, will they be able to form a government? The aftermath in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugolslavia suggests that these artifical countries formed of rival tribes don't come together as orderly democracies very neatly.
And will Obama get a Qadaffi bounce? Alan Silverleib of CNN thinks its still the economy. To which I would add, after months of leading from behind and avoiding the topic of our seemingly stalled effort in Libya, it won't be easy for Obama to claim all the credit for what may be a success. Beyond that, it may be premature - does Obama want to claim ownership today of what may turn into a tribal civil war?
The NY Times discovers disappointment with Obama in their own backyard:
In the Race to Succeed Weiner, a Surprising Anger at Obama
Of all the places to hear fulminations against President Obama, one of the least expected is the corner of 71st Avenue and Queens Boulevard, in the heart of a Congressional district that propelled Democrats like Geraldine A. Ferraro, Charles E. Schumer and Anthony D. Weiner to Washington.
But it was there that Dale Weiss, a 64-year-old Democrat, approached the Republican running for Congress in a special election and, without provocation, blasted the president for failing to tame runaway federal spending. “We need to cut Medicaid,” she declared, “but he won’t do that.” She shook her head in disgust. “He is a moron.”
After nodding approvingly for a time, the Republican candidate, Bob Turner, signaled for an assistant to cut off Ms. Weiss. Frustration with Mr. Obama is so widespread, he explained later, that he tries to limit such rants to about 30 seconds, or else they will consume most of his day.
“It’s endemic in the district,” Mr. Turner said. “You can’t stop them once they get started.”
I am surprised by their surprise.
The NY Post claims that the new prosecutors report on the DSK accuser will contain "bombshells" that make her a non-credible witness.
"There are going to be bombshells," one source said of the lengthy document, which is expected to be filed and released to the public any time after prosecutors officially reveal its contents to Strauss-Kahn's accuser, maid Nafissatou Diallo, and her lawyer late this afternoon.
Called a Dismissal on Recommendation motion, or DOR, the document will ask Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus to dismiss the entire indictment against Strauss-Kahn when the former International Monetary Fund honcho appears in court tomorrow.
The DOR will argue that the charges cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt given Diallo's lack of credibility as sole witness to the alleged attack, according to sources on both sides of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhie, back at the Iowa Electronic Market, we see that the generic Democrat (presumably Obama, or a candidate to be named later) is given a 49.6% chance of victory. Nice to see the markets in sync.
In related Congressional news, the odds of Republicans controlling both the House and Senate after the 2012 election is priced at 53.6%; the Dems are given a 15.5% chance of controlling both. (To complete the grid, Rep House/Dem Senate is 15.1%; Dem House/Rep Senate is 12.7%; "Other" (a tie in the Senate?) is at 3.6%).
Paul Krugman called for a phony war against space aliens as a huge economic stimulus program; now "NASA-affiliated" scientists warn that the space aliens might come get us unless we curb greenhouse gas emissions.
However dumb you think that sounds, AllahP thinks its dumber. Props for the Sodom and Gomorrah reference.
Apparently the Chinese basketball teams like to scuffle, but still, this is not smart diplomacy:
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese basketball fans slammed a military team Friday for their part in an on-court brawl with visiting American players during a match that was supposed to promote goodwill during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit.
It was the latest instance of on-court fighting by China, whose players have been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the world and Asian federations for scrapping with opponents.
In October, China's national basketball coach, a manager and three players were suspended for an ugly brawl with Brazil's team that left one Chinese player in a neck brace. Fights are also not uncommon at Chinese football matches.
John Tierney hints at an explanation of Obama's leadership problem in the White House, after summarizing a study of decision making by judges:
Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?
The mental work of ruling on case after case, whatever the individual merits, wore [the judges] down. This sort of decision fatigue can make quarterbacks prone to dubious choices late in the game and C.F.O.’s prone to disastrous dalliances late in the evening. It routinely warps the judgment of everyone, executive and nonexecutive, rich and poor — in fact, it can take a special toll on the poor. Yet few people are even aware of it, and researchers are only beginning to understand why it happens and how to counteract it.
Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.
The 2008 campaign indicated that Obama tires easily. Of course, at this point most of the country is tired of Obama's decisions.
Real breakthrough stuff on the exercise front:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don't despair if you can't fit in the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise. Growing evidence suggests that even half that much can help.
It's still no excuse to slack off. Regular exercise strengthens muscles, reduces the risk of some diseases and promotes mental well-being. The more exercise, the better.
But not everyone has the time or willpower. So researchers set out to find the minimum amount of physical activity needed to reap health benefits. The findings by a study in Taiwan suggest just 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day can lead to a longer life.
I think it would be hard not to get fifteen minutes a day - do other people have attendants to carry them to their cars?
The Republican primaries won't lack for candidates with important hair. But even more important, if Perry finds traction (If? When!) will be the story of the Texas drought. Apparently, Texas has had a long history of monster droughts, which gives global warming skeptics an escape hatch. However if the drought continues and gets worse, there is this:
Up in Austin, Gov. Rick Perry is moving toward a run for the presidency. But he has had precious little to say about the drought that is devastating his state. He did organize a prayer for rain back in April. Looking at that blazing hot, clear blue sky up there, it seems heaven isn’t listening.
I have no idea what he ought to be doing, but I suspect the answer is "Something".
Former Enron advisor Paul Krugman outlined his latest stimulus idea on Fareed Zakaria's Sunday talkie:
It's very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you had a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So, if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish, you know, a great deal.
If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.
So the economy would recover if the government hired a bunch of us to rush around with colanders on our heads staring at the sky? Well, that surely extends the list of things I am glad Sarah Palin didn't say. And Obama has tuned this guy out? Go figure.
As to the notion that prominent libs now view Cheney's misplaced emphasis on WMDs in Iraq as a failed jobs program, well, color me surprised. "Bush Lied, Not Enough Were Hired" - geez, that doesn't even rhyme.
Finally, if Paul Krugman read the NY Times he would not make "Give War A Chance" pronouncements such as this:
Think about World War II, right? That was actually negative social product spending, and yet it brought us out [of the Great Depression].
Former Obama economic advisor Christina Romer wrote this just last weekend:
AFTER the grim economic developments of the last few weeks, it’s easy to lose hope. Could the Great Recession of 2008 drag on for years, just as the Great Depression did in the 1930s? Adding to the despair is the oft-repeated notion that it took World War II to end the economic nightmare of the ’30s: If a global war was needed to return the economy to full employment then, what is going to save us today?
Look more closely at history and you’ll see that the truth is much more complicated — and less gloomy. While the war helped the recovery from the Depression, the economy was improving long before military spending increased.
DARE WE TACKLE THS SUBSTANCE? Krugman and Zakaria are advocating for valueless make-work programs as a stimulus tool, drawing this comment from the invaluable Noel Sheppard:
On the other hand, isn't it fascinating that a man that is always opposed to tax cuts - which is government allowing people to keep more of THEIR money - and doesn't think that stimulates the economy believes it would be economically stimulative to give people someone else's money to do absolutely nothing?
Well, when pressed Krugman will admit that a payroll tax cut (which puts money in lower-income pockets) is about as likely to be spent and is therefore roughly as stimulative as extended unemployment insurance. In fact, back in the run-up to Obama's inauguration Krugman described payroll tax cuts as a "pretty good" stimulus tool. Well, briefly - a few days later they were "ineffective"; presumably that reflected a shift in the political winds.
My impression of the general economic consensus is that hiring people to dig and re-fill holes, or monitor for space aliens, does not provide any more stimulus than any other cash transfer to a person likely to spend it. Handing out money on street corners, the Bernanke helicopter drop, and payroll tax cuts should all be in play, subject to caveats about the marginal propensities to consume of the various beneficiaries.
If a proposed stimulative shovel-ready project adds social value (e.g., a useful bridge, or a useful bridge repair), then borrow the money, hire some people, and start digging; if the project adds nothing, it won't be more stimulative than a cash transfer to someone with a similar marginal propensity to consume. Krugman's belief in the power of make-work and his preference for that over tax cuts, is motivated by something other than standard economic textbook theory.
LAST GASP: There is a widespread economic consensus that temporary tax cuts (e.g., cash for clunkers) don't produce permanent changes in spening or investment. So why, one might ask, would a temporary uptick in government transfer payments by way of wacky make-work projects produce a permanent change in spending or investment?
Beats me. War advocates such as Krugman could respond that WWII didn't look like a temporary blip when it started. However, Krugman is now advocating an eighteen month War on Space; maybe his real plan is to declare a seemingly open-ended war on space with the hope that it can be wound down in eighteen months. Personally, I would like to know abit more about the likely timeframe since a colander-cap is not a good look for me.
KRUGMAN GETS RESULTS! We bend space-time to find these stalwart citizens answering Krugman's call and creating jobs! (Or is that the invasion force?)
BUMPER STICKERS: "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Kodos."
The NY Times explains that tanning changes the brain, which goes a bit of the way towards explaining Snooki and the Jersy Shore. Their gist - exposure to UV lights up the same reward centers that respond to cocaine, booze and the like:
People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows.
What the researchers found was that several parts of the brain that play a role in addiction were activated when the subjects were exposed to UV rays. The findings, which appear in the coming issue of the journal Addiction Biology, may help explain why some people continue to tan often despite awareness about risks such as skin cancer, premature aging and wrinkles.
The test seems well-designed:
But Dr. Adinoff and his colleagues decided to go a step further. They recruited a small group of people from tanning salons who said that they liked to tan at least three times a week and that maintaining a tan was important to them. The frequent tanners agreed to be injected with a radioisotope that allowed researchers to monitor how tanning affected their brain activity.
On one occasion, the study subjects experienced a normal tanning session. But on another occasion, the researchers used a special filter that blocked only the UV light, although the tanners weren’t told of the change.
Brain images later showed that during regular tanning sessions, when the study subjects were exposed to UV rays, several key areas of the brain lighted up. Among those areas were the dorsal striatum, the left anterior insula and part of the orbitofrontal cortex – all areas that have been implicated in addiction. But when the UV light was filtered out, those areas of the brain showed far less activity.
And I found this fascinating:
The researchers also found evidence that the tanners appeared to know — on a subconscious level, at least — when they had undergone sham tanning sessions and not received their usual dose of UV rays. The tanners, questioned after each session, expressed less desire to tan after the real sessions, indicating they had gotten their fill. But on days when the tanners were unknowingly deprived of the UV rays, their desire to tan after the session remained as high as it was before the session began.
“They all liked the session where they got the real UV light,” said Dr. Adinoff. “There was some way people were able to tell when they were getting the real UV light and when they were not.”
I wonder what else we can sense without conscious awareness?
And how will the Supremes decide? Orin Kerr, writing at ScotusBlog, predicts a final decision in favor of the Obamacare mandate by somewhere between 6-3 and 8-1:
Here are my guesses. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg are pretty obvious votes for the mandate, as they dissented in United States v. Lopez. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor seem like safe votes for the mandate, even if only for the reason that there is almost no opposition to the constitutionality of the mandate in the Democratic establishment from which they were appointed. Chief Justice Roberts will likely vote to uphold the mandate given the very expansive views of the Necessary and Proper clause that he signed on to just recently in United States v. Comstock. I suspect Justice Kennedy will vote to uphold the mandate given his concurring opinion in United States v. Lopez. And I’m pretty sure Justice Thomas will vote to strike down the mandate given his views of the Commerce Clause. In contrast, I don’t have good sense of where Justices Scalia and Alito might come out.
Putting the numbers together, I expect 6 votes for the mandate, 1 against, and 2 uncertain. If my numbers are right, the mandate will be upheld by a vote of anywhere from 6-3 to 8-1.
Even if he is wrong about Roberts (and that is simply my exertion of the power of positive wishful thinking), Kennedy will swing the 5th vote.
Is the Sony campaign contribution to Obama 2012 (due out in October 2012) going to help Obama? I say no.
First of all, we can ask President Kerry about the impact of Fahrenheit 911, which was supposed to crush Bush like a bug.
Secondly, I don't know what Afghanistan will look like a year from now but I doubt Obama will benefit from a renewed focus on our goals and the likelihood of achieving them. If the public walks out of theatres thinking "Geez, we killed Osama two years ago, what are we still doing there?" then Sony's attempted contribution will backfire. And if people are muttering "Great - two years later Osama's still dead and I'm still unemployed", well, yikes.
Finally, people aren't dumb - seeing a major Hollywood studio foist an extended Obama 2012 advertisement onto the public a month before the election may make Obama look pathetic and desperate (and Obama doesn't need Sony's help there).
Back in Europe the bond markets in Italy and Spain are both showing tighter spreads to German bunds, which suggest that the European Central Bank is winning (or at least, not losing) for now. As to France, downgrade rumors swept the market yesterday but the bonds had been pricing in a bit of a problem for a while and don't seem to be under new pressure.
Good news from the world of medicine:
NEW YORK (AP) — Scientists are reporting the first clear success with a new approach for treating leukemia — turning the patients' own blood cells into assassins that hunt and destroy their cancer cells.
They've only done it in three patients so far, but the results were striking: Two appear cancer-free up to a year after treatment, and the third patient is improved but still has some cancer. Scientists are already preparing to try the same gene therapy technique for other kinds of cancer.
He led the study, published Wednesday by two journals, New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine.
It involved three men with very advanced cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL. The only hope for a cure now is bone marrow or stem cell transplants, which don't always work and carry a high risk of death.
Scientists have been working for years to find ways to boost the immune system's ability to fight cancer. Earlier attempts at genetically modifying bloodstream soldiers called T-cells have had limited success; the modified cells didn't reproduce well and quickly disappeared.
June and his colleagues made changes to the technique, using a novel carrier to deliver the new genes into the T-cells and a signaling mechanism telling the cells to kill and multiply.
That resulted in armies of "serial killer" cells that targeted cancer cells, destroyed them, and went on to kill new cancer as it emerged. It was known that T-cells attack viruses that way, but this is the first time it's been done against cancer, June said.
A note of caution:
Dr. Walter J. Urba of the Providence Cancer Center in Portland, Oregon, called the findings "pretty remarkable" but added a note of caution because of the size of the study.
"It's still just three patients. Three's better than one, but it's not 100," said Urba, one of the authors of an editorial on the research that appears in the New England Journal.
What happens long-term is key, he said: "What's it like a year from now, two years from now, for these patients."
And a Lou Gehrig moment:
One of the patients, who did not want to be identified, wrote about his illness, and released a statement through the university. The man, himself a scientist, called himself "very lucky," although he wrote that he didn't feel that way when he was first diagnosed 15 years ago at age 50.
He was successfully treated over the years with chemotherapy until standard drugs no longer worked.
Now, almost a year since he entered the study, "I'm healthy and still in remission. I know this may not be a permanent condition, but I decided to declare victory and assume that I had won."
Wisconsin Republicans retain control of the State Senate in a nail-biting recall election night:
AYNER, Wis. — Two Republican state senators lost their seats in recall elections around Wisconsin on Tuesday, but Republicans maintained their control of the State Senate, ultimately handing a defeat to union groups and Democrats who had spent months and millions of dollars trying to wrestle away at least some of the state’s political power.
...In the election on Tuesday, four Republicans held onto their jobs, including Senators Robert Cowles of Green Bay, Luther Olsen of Ripon and Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. The counting of votes in a challenge to Senator Alberta Darling, who is the powerful Republican co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and someone the Democratic Party’s state chairman last week described as the “crown jewel of our recall efforts,” dragged into the early hours of Wednesday; ultimately, Ms. Darling was deemed the winner, preliminary results from The Associated Press showed.
This is a win for Governor Walker and a loss for the state unions.
Rachel Weiner of the WaPo mis-reports on a controversy that takes us back to Waukesha:
Democrats have questioned the results given that Waukesha County was one of the last to finish reporting. In April’s Supreme Court election — also seen as a referendum on collective bargaining — challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg appeared to have beaten Judge David Prosser, before thousands of lost ballots were found in Waukesha.
Well, "thousands of lost ballots were found" only metaphorically - the clerk dropped some numbers in transcribing a computer file, the AP reported the bum result, and that became the baseline by which the correct tally was measured.
In one explosive stroke Thursday, the clerk in a Republican stronghold tilted the tight Supreme Court race in favor of Justice David Prosser by recovering thousands of untallied votes for the incumbent.
Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus said Thursday that she failed to save on her computer and then report 14,315 votes in the city of Brookfield, omitting them entirely in an unofficial total she released after Tuesday's election. With other smaller errors in Waukesha County, Prosser gained 7,582 votes over his challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg, leaving the sitting justice significantly ahead for now amid ongoing official counting.
"I'm thankful that this error was caught early in the process. This is not a case of extra ballots being found. This is human error which I apologize for," Nickolaus said, her voice wavering as she spoke to reporters.
Metaphor madness as we await the Fed announcement at 2:15:
But Fed followers say there’s not much ammunition left in the central bank’s cannon. And more broadly, monetary policy isn’t really the problem.
“I don’t think you have a money problem right now,” said Jerry Webman, chief economist for OppenheimerFunds. “Monetary policy is about controlling the supply and price of money, and right now there’s ample supply, and money can be had at a very cheap price.”
Webman likened a third round of bond purchases to drinking too much coffee. The next cup, he said, probably wouldn’t wake up the economy and might even cause it to get drowsier.
Maybe an Irish coffee...
Obama has always been the man he is today. He is the very personification of cognitive dissonance — the gap between what we (especially liberals) expected of the first serious African American presidential candidate and the man he in fact is. He has next to none of the rhetorical qualities of the old-time black politicians. He would eschew the cliche, but he feels little of their pain. In this sense, he has been patronized by liberals who looked at a man and saw black and has been reviled by those who looked at a black man and saw “other.”
Now wait a minute. As best I can tell, Mr. Cohen is saying that when an earnest liberal looks at Obama he figures that Obama must be both a great speaker and a believer in all sorts of earnest, feel-good liberal theories - because he is black. However, if and when a right wing Neanderthal looks at Obama and mutters "Oh, geez, I bet he believes in all sorts of loopy, never-worked liberal theories - because he is black", well, that nasty right-winger is a racist for projecting beliefs onto a person without waiting for actual evidence.
Puzzling. I will take it as yet more evidence that I will never be smart enough to be an earnest lib.
As of 9AM Eastern, the stock futures indicate that the end of the world has been deferred. The Asian markets closed down but off their lows; European equities are down-ish, but it is not carnage. ANd US stock futures are up nicely (S&P +15, Dow +117).
And if (IF!) the real battleground is the Italian bond market, so far the ECB seems to be finding traction - the ten year Italian-German spread continues to narrow to 2.8%, down from 3.9% last Thursday. Of course, that is far too high to declare victory but the direction is right.
Apparently the Fed statement this afternon will be critical. Why I am not sure - there is not much the Fed can do (build on the glorious success of QE I and II?) but perhaps it will be reassuring to learn that adults are aware and concerned.
What's the Latin for "Krugman is a mad bull on Italy?" Well, by "mad bull", I really mean that he's not a grim bear - his thoughts on the Italian job are quite interesting:
The big question, I believe, is whether the Italian and maybe Spanish crises are the kind of thing that might be brought under control by ECB bond purchases. This is often phrased in terms of whether they are facing liquidity or solvency problems; but I think it’s better phrased in terms of the possibility of self-fulfilling crises, a la Obstfeld.
...In the Italian case, you have big debt but also a primary budget surplus. So if interest rates stayed low, as they would if no default were expected, it wouldn’t be hard to service the debt with only modest further fiscal adjustment.
But if people expect a default – and also if they believe that once a country takes on the fixed cost of default, it might as well impose a big haircut on creditors – then you could see interest costs rising to a point where default indeed becomes the preferred option.
So there is a reasonable case that what we’re seeing in Italy is a self-fulfilling crisis trying to happen, in which fear of default is precisely what leads to default. And that’s exactly the kind of case in which intervention could short-circuit the crisis. Let the ECB buy lots of Italian bonds, in effect guaranteeing a low interest rate, and the possibility of default fades – which in turn means that further intervention isn’t needed. It’s certainly worth a try.
If I can trust Bloomberg, Italian bonds are rallying relative to German bonds. Maybe that is just German bonds getting hammered as it becomes ever more obvious that the German taxpayer will be saying "Ich habe den scheck"? No, the German government bond page is currently all green (on price!), with the ten year yield at 2.29%.
On the gloomy side, Reuters had this over the weekend:
Whether deficit reduction measures, even brought forward by a year, will do much to address Italy's major economic problem of declining productivity and weak growth is also questionable.
Italy already runs one of the lowest budget deficits in the euro zone at 3.9 percent of GDP this year, which together with its conservative banking system and high rate of private savings, has kept it largely clear of the euro zone debt crisis until last month.
Ratings agencies have been much more worried about the chronically weak growth which makes it impossible to catch up with and contain a steadily increasing public debt burden which now amounts to 120 percent of gross domestic product.
Successive governments have managed the debt successfully, running primary budget surpluses, excluding interest rate payments, to help pay debt servicing costs estimated in a UBS research note last week as running at 4 percent of GDP.
However as the UBS analysts wrote: "The recent turbulence is not about fundamentals. It looks more like a crisis of confidence."
OK, as of 8:30 Eastern time on Sunday evening the Dow futures are down 224 to 11,178 and the S&P 500 is down 20 to 1178. Evidently someone is finding something meaningful in the US debt downgrade by S&P.
Why can't Obama be a tough negotiator and a committed progressive like... Nixon?
...Obama’s nonconfrontational reasonableness isn’t looking like such a virtue.
It’s frustrating. We’ve had presidents who were intelligent and progressive but also cynical and ruthless when necessary. Effective, tough-minded, visionary liberals such as F.D.R., Clinton ... and Nixon.
In popular imagination, Nixon remains nothing but a great goblin — scowling bomber of Southeast Asia, panderer to fear and racism, paranoid anti-Semite, dispatcher of burglars — but the truth is, he governed further to the left than any president who followed him. The overreaching Euro-socialist nanny state that today’s Republicans despise? That blossomed in the Nixon administration.
Spending on social services doubled, and military budgets actually decreased. He oversaw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His administration was the first to encourage and enable American Indian tribal autonomy. He quadrupled the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, almost tripled federal outlays for civil rights and began affirmative action in federal hiring. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment and signed Title IX, the law granting equality to female student athletes. One of his Supreme Court appointees wrote the Roe v. Wade decision.
Nixon made Social Security cost-of-living increases automatic, expanded food stamps and started Supplemental Security Income for the disabled and elderly poor. It helped, of course, that Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But it was the president, not Congress, who proposed a universal health insurance plan and a transformation of welfare that would have set a guaranteed minimum income and allowed men to remain with their welfare-recipient families. It was Nixon who radically intervened in the free market by imposing wage and price controls, launched détente with the Soviets, normalized relations with Mao’s China and let the Communists win in Vietnam.
And, for good measure, the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts grew sixfold, by far the biggest increase by any president.
Sorry, Obama is Jimmy Carter. On a losing streak.
The Times editors wring their hands about the Mubarak trial,expressing the hope that it sends an important message to all Arab leaders, but they irk me because they are missing the message:
How the trial is handled will tell a lot about what Egypt is to become. If the proceedings are scrupulously transparent and adhere to the best traditions of the country’s judicial system, which is based on French and Shariah law, it will send an important message to all would-be leaders that they too will be held to account.
Uh huh - they will be held to account if they step down. If.
The trial won’t solve all the country’s problems. It is one significant step in a long process of building the new Egypt. The rest of the Arab world is watching.
I have no doubt Assad is in Syria.
“There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one,” Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, said last year at a Congressional hearing on drilling.
It is a refrain that not only drilling proponents, but also state and federal lawmakers, even past and present Environmental Protection Agency directors, have repeated often.
And the debunking:
But there is in fact a documented case, and the E.P.A. report that discussed it suggests there may be more....
The report is not recent — it was published in 1987, and the contamination was discovered in 1984. Drilling technology and safeguards in well design have improved significantly since then. Nevertheless, the report does contradict what has emerged as a kind of mantra in the industry and in the government.
And this may not be an isolated result:
Researchers, however, were unable to investigate many suspected cases because their details were sealed from the public when energy companies settled lawsuits with landowners.
Current and former E.P.A. officials say this practice continues to prevent them from fully assessing the risks of certain types of gas drilling.
Well, I don't trust Big Oil (or even mid-sized oil), but I don't trust the agenda-driven Times either.
Apparently Texas Governor Rick Perry put his money (and his backside) where his mouth is and underwent an adult stem cell procedure of the sort he has been calling for Texas to take the lead in. I am hazy as to why this might be a scandal, but the reporting is pretty breathless:
When Gov. Rick Perry emerged from back surgery on July 1, he tweeted that his “little procedure” — a spinal fusion and nerve decompression designed to treat a recurring injury — had gone “as advertised.”
The possible presidential contender didn’t reveal that he’d undergone an experimental injection of his own stem cells, a therapy that isn’t FDA approved, has mixed evidence of success and can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.
Well, more research is needed and the Governor stepped up as a guniea pig. To be clear:
The governor’s procedure did not involve embryonic stem cells, which he and many other conservatives ardently oppose using for medical research on both religious and moral grounds. His treatment involved removing his own adult stem cells from healthy tissue and injecting them back into his body at the time of surgery, with the belief that the cells would assist tissue regeneration and speed recovery.
As they eventually note, this sort of technique is developmental but promising:
The infusion of adult stem cells to repair tissue and organ damage is highly controversial. For every Bartolo Colon, the New York Yankees pitcher whose near-miraculous comeback is being attributed to the procedure, researchers say there are botched jobs and patients who spend tens of thousands of dollars with no results.
Perry picked up the tb for everything not covered by insurance. If this procedure might help and probably won't hurt, what is the big deal?
But researchers say that despite the great potential adult stem cells may have, so far they’ve seen nothing more definitive than the so-called “placebo effect” — patients who convince themselves they’re feeling better simply by nature of having had the procedure. In some lab tests, stem cells that have been effectively deprogrammed to help regenerate a particular organ have appeared to turn cancerous. In others, patients have traveled around the world, spending $10,000 to $50,000 for stem cells that simply die off, with no effect on health.
“Most of this stuff is pretty experimental at this point,” said Heather Rooke, the science director for the International Society for Stem Cell Research. “People are pushing these things into the clinic before there’s real evidence of safety or an indication that they’ll work.”
First of all, what's the matter with the placebo effect, as long as it is long-lasting? One might note that the sensation of pain is largely a mental process - a compressed nerve obviously has a physical reality, but the signals it sends are just signals. If Perry has convinced himself that a slightly lighter wallet is helping him feel better, well, good for him.
If Tea Partiers are terrorists, as Joe Biden suggested, and if the President has Executive authority to assassinate American terrorists on foreign soil (as Obama claims), shouldn't Tea Partiers do the patriotic thing and confine their vacations to our glorious 57 states?
if i had a magic riot wand, i would wave it now. #debtdeal
Maybe she had in mind a friendly, peaceful riot? #leftyhypocrisy #whatelseisnew
I just know the left will denounce this apparent call to violence, although I don't notice the denunciations starting here. I do notice the White House distancing themselves from Biden's remarks, or assent, or whatever.
The always insightful James Taranto has more on incivilty and the left.