Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 1803

The “unofficial” beginning of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Meriwether Lewis sets out from Pittsburgh, PA and journeys to Louisville, KY where he will meet up with William Clark. Together, they will head to Camp DuBois, where they will train with the rest of their team for six months, before continuing their journey to the Pacific.

Polling The President–August 2011 Edition

I’ve moved this somewhat monthly post to the end of the month, so I can do it after the consumer confidence index is released.

It’s only been three weeks since I last looked at things, so there shouldn’t be much change.

As always, we’ll start with the RealClearPolitics averages. His post-Osama bin Laden raid peak on May 25th had the President’s approval numbers at 52.6/42.5. Three weeks ago, he was at 43.5/51.2. Today, as I write this, he’s at 43.0/53.2. This represents a 20.3 point change from May 25. And in the wrong direction for the President. The current numbers are all records for his Presidency. And not the kind of records the President wants. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he appears to have found a floor in approval in the low 40s. For now. Until something pushes him through the floor, his disapproval can’t get above the mid 50s.

Right Track/Wrong Track is at 18.6/74.4, 4.8 points worse than just 3 weeks ago, and a –55.8 spread. These are astoundingly bad numbers for President Barack Obama (D-USA). For reference, on the day he took office, that was 23.1/69.3, a spread of –46.2. Election day in 2008 saw these numbers at 9.9/84.9, which is a –75 point spread. He still clears that hurdle easily, but the mere fact that we can even bring that up for comparison scares the living daylights out of his campaign manager.

The last thing I look at is the Consumer Confidence Index. There are several companies that produce these, and they use different methodologies. Therefore the numbers mean different things, So, I stick with the index released by The Conference Board. I’m not convinced they’re any better or any more reliable than anyone else. But the important thing is to stick with just one index, so we know we’re comparing apples and apples.

So, how are the apples? In a word, rotten.  The latest release has the index at 44.5. It was at 59.2 in July, a fall of 14.7 points. That’s a huge drop for just one month. Recall that 90 is the number indicating a “healthy” economy. It was 84.9 in November, 2001, the low point in the 9/11 recession. Again, the President can take some solace in the fact that this number was 25.3 in February, 2009, but it’s closer to that than the peak of of his administration a 70.4 rating that occurred just six months ago in February, 2011.

In other words, people are becoming more and more frustrated with this President, and have a dimmer and dimmer outlook on the future.

The words from The Conference Board are even more discouraging than the numbers:

Consumers' appraisal of present-day conditions weakened further in August. Consumers claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 40.6 percent from 38.7 percent, while those claiming business conditions are "good" inched up to 13.7 percent from 13.5 percent. Consumers' assessment of employment conditions was more pessimistic than last month. Those claiming jobs are "hard to get" increased to 49.1 percent from 44.8 percent, while those stating jobs are "plentiful" declined to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent.

Consumers' short-term outlook deteriorated sharply in August. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 11.8 percent from 17.9 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen surged to 24.6 percent from 16.1 percent. Consumers were also more pessimistic about the outlook for the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 11.4 percent from 16.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 31.5 percent from 22.2 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 14.3 percent from 15.9 percent.

If these numbers don’t show many signs of improvement by next November, you won’t have to stay up very late on election night to find out who will be in the White House the next four years.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 1963

“Hi Nicky, this is Jack.”

The Moscow-Washington hotline, informally known as the “red telephone” goes online.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis a year earlier, the two superpowers decided that some sort of direct communication link was necessary between the White House and the Kremlin.

Interestingly, the first version of the hot line wasn’t a telephone at all, but a direct telegraph link. It was felt that verbal communication at a time of crisis might lead to further misunderstandings, so a written form was deemed more appropriate.

The first President to use the hotline was President Lyndon Johnson (D-USA), in 1967’s six-day Egypt-Israel War.

Candidate Walter Mondale (D) used the phone famously in an ad during the Democrat primary in 1984, stating that Gary Hart didn’t have the experience necessary to pick up the phone.

 

It’s also the inspiration behind several “3 am phone call” ads from various candidates over the years, most recently Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) when running against then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in the 2008 Democrat primary for President.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29, 2005

Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana. She will end up being the costliest hurricane in American history, having done some damage to Florida over the last week before wreaking havoc from Alabama to Texas.

Although Hurricane Katrina later travelled mainly through Mississippi, it began as a Category 1 hurricane on August 25, crossing the southern tip of Florida (raining 14 inches (360 mm) [36 cm][3]) into the Gulf, where it weakened, then strengthened into a massive Category 5 with 175 mph (280 km/h) sustained winds. Slowly turning north along the eastern coast of Louisiana, at 4 a.m. August 29, sustained winds were 132 mph (211 km/h), 90 miles (114 km) SSE of New Orleans.[3] As Katrina came ashore near Buras, LA at 6:10 CDT, with reported 125 mph (201 km/h) winds (Category 3),[3] it passed 40 miles (64 km) east[25] of New Orleans and headed to the Mississippi state line (mouth of Pearl River, 10 a.m. CDT),[26] with hurricane-force winds travelling up central Mississippi until weakening at Meridian,[27] and entering Tennessee as a tropical storm. Despite the hurricane force centered on Mississippi, neighboring areas were also affected: when New Orleans began slowly flooding with high east/north winds, a 28-foot (9 m) storm surge eastward from Bay St. Louis devastated coastal areas with 30–55 foot (17 m) sea waves,[28] flooding 12 miles (19 km) inland. The waves pushed barges, oil rigs, ships, and debris into submerged towns to flatten many coastal buildings across to Pascagoula with 20-foot (6 m) surge,[28] and into Alabama with 15-foot (5 m) surge[28] and 24-foot (7 m) waves battering beach houses inside Mobile Bay and tilting the battleship USS Alabama. (See extensive details below).

In particular, New Orleans, Louisiana will be mostly destroyed, with 80% or more underwater. Most of the levees protecting the city will break. Media will report unsubstantiated rumors as fact over the next several days. In fact, the Wikipedia article still presents some of the questionable information about evacuees in the Superdome (emphasis mine):

Despite increasingly squalid conditions, the population inside continued to grow. The situation inside the building was described as chaotic; reports of rampant drug use, fights, rape, and filthy living conditions were widespread. At the time, as many as 100 were reported to have died in the Superdome, with most deaths resulting from heat exhaustion, but other reported incidents included an accused rapist who was beaten to death by a crowd and an apparent suicide.[48] Despite these reports, though, the final official death toll was significantly less: six people inside (4 of natural causes, one overdose, and an apparent suicide) and a few more in the general area outside the stadium.

The truth of the matter is that these people should never have been housed in the Superdome, at least not in the significant numbers seen. This problem can be laid entirely at the feet of Mayor Ray Nagin (D-New Orleans). Nagin waited far too long to issue a mandatory evacuation order, and then did not deploy city buses to assist in the evacuation. The situation was exacerbated by Governor Kathleen Blanco (D-LA). Blanco, for her part, was thoroughly unprepared for the strength of the storm (she was hardly alone in that, though), and refused to allow the American Red Cross to enter New Orleans.

The long term effects of Katrina are devastating to New Orleans. The population of New Orleans in 2005 is approximately 455,000. In 2006 it will be 223,000. In 2009, it will be 355,000, still 100,000 short of pre-Katrina levels.

But the effects of Katrina were not limited to New Orleans. Mississippi was also incredibly hard hit.

The Gulf Coast of Mississippi suffered near total devastation[11][12][1] from Hurricane Katrina on August 28–29, with hurricane winds, 28-foot (9 m) storm surge, and 55-foot (17 m) sea waves[13] pushing casino barges, boats and debris into towns, and leaving 236 people dead, 67 missing, and an estimated US$125 billion in damages.[14] Since Katrina made landfall below central Mississippi, 30 miles (48 km) east of New Orleans at 6:10 a.m.,[3] the storm's powerful, right, front quadrant covered coastal Mississippi and southern Alabama, increasing wind and flood damage. After making initial landfall in Louisiana, four hours later Katrina made another landfall north at the state line (near the mouth of the Pearl River)[3] and passed over submerged towns around Bay St. Louis as a Category 3 hurricane with winds over 120 mph (192 km/h) and 28-foot (9 m) surge.[13] Battered by wind, rain and storm surges, some beachfront neighborhoods were leveled entirely, with flooding 6–12 miles (10–19 km) inland, crossing Interstate-10 (I-10) in some places.[15]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 1963

I have a dream.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous speech before 200,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The 17 minute speech is presented here in its entirety.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sadly, today his dream remains unfulfilled. But today, it’s the people who cheered King on that day that have forsaken his dream. Today, we live in a world where racism is promoted under the guise of “affirmative action”. Today, we live in a world where racism is promoted under the guise of “ethnic diversity” and “celebration of ethnic heritage”. Today, the very people who once claimed to desire never to be judged by the color of their skin instead seek to do so at every opportunity, and also seek to judge others. Yes, I’m generalizing. No, it’s not everyone. But it wasn’t everyone in King’s day either. If King were alive today, I just don’t see how he’d be happy with our so-called “progress” over the last 38 years. I think he’d be disappointed in all of us. Hopefully the next 38 years will be better.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 27, 1859

Black Gold. Tex…err, Pennsylvania Tea.

Seneca Oil Company strikes oil in Titusville, PA, and creates the first commercially successful oil well in the world, thus giving birth to the oil industry.

Oil was known to exist here, but there was no practical way to extract it. Generally, its main use to that time had been as a medicine for both animals and humans. In the late 1850s Seneca Oil Company (formerly the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company) sent Col. Edwin L. Drake, to start drilling on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville near what is now Oil Creek State Park. Drake hired a salt well driller, William A. Smith, in the summer of 1859. They had many difficulties, but on August 27 at the site of an oil spring just south of Titusville, they finally drilled a well that could be commercially successful.

Teamsters were needed immediately to transport the oil to markets. Transporting methods improved and in 1862 the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad was built between Titusville and Corry where it was transferred to other, larger, east-west lines. In 1865 pipelines were laid directly to the rail line and the demand for teamsters practically ended. The next year the railroad line was extended south to Petroleum Centre and Oil City. The Union City & Titusville Railroad was built in 1865, which became part of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1871. That fall, President U. S. Grant visited Titusville to view this important region.

Other oil-related businesses quickly exploded on the scene. Eight refineries were built between 1862 and 1868. Drilling tools were needed and several iron works were built. Titusville grew from 250 residents to 10,000 almost overnight and in 1866 it incorporated as a city. In 1871, the first oil exchange in the United States was established here. The exchange moved from the city, but returned in 1881 in a new, brick building before being dissolved in 1897.[3]

The first oil millionaire was Jonathan Watson, a resident of Titusville. He owned the land where Drake's well was drilled. He had been a partner in a lumber business prior to the success of the Drake well. At one time it was said that Titusville had more millionaires per 1,000 population than anywhere else in the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 1883

The volcano Krakotoa, which had been erupting since May, enters its climactic phase. Over the next 24 hours, the eruptions will grow to a level 6 on the VEI scale (0 to 8). This is equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT, or about 13,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima, Japan.  IN a more modern comparison, Mount St. Helens in 1980 will reach level 5 on the VEI scale. Each level increase represents an order of magnitude increase in power, so a level 6 is 10 times as powerful as a 5. In the last 10,000 years, there are only 51 known eruptions at VEI level 6, 5 known eruptions at VEI level 7, and none at 8.

The explosions will be so violent they will nearly destroy the entire island of Krakatoa, and will be heard 3,000 miles away. The pressure wave from the explosions will go around the world 7 times and ash will be shot 50 miles into the air. Tidal effects will be noticed world wide with tsunamis traveling as far away as South Africa (Krakatoa is a bit southwest of Borneo and northwest of Australia). The official death toll in the area will rise above 36,000 people, but some will later estimate it as high as 120,000.

Volcanic winter will ensue, affecting world wide weather patterns for years, and lowering the average global temperature by over 2 degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison, the warming trend between 1850-2011 will see the earth’s temperature rise by 0.7 degrees).

Finally, the large amount of sulfur and ash in the air will produce spectacular sunsets throughout the world for years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25, 1944

The French 2nd Armored Division and the United States 4th Infantry Division enter Paris from the west and east, respectively, after triumphing over the German forces there.

Americans pressured the French for a “whites only” liberation force, so black French troops were excluded from joining in the triumph. This pressure came from General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, and can be presumed to have been the desire of Eisenhower himself.

August 25, 2001

The 9/11 hijackers begin booking their flights for the fateful day. They use their real names in almost all cases, despite many of them being on terrorist watchlists. This will continue over the next ten days. The cost of the flights exceeds $30,000.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23, 1996

Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa, the “Declaration of War against the American Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places”.

From Wikipedia:

Saudi Arabia is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. The reference to occupation in the fatwā refers to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of controlling air space in Iraq, known as Operation Southern Watch.

Apologies for my near silence here and on Twitter for the last week or so. My other obsession (politics being the first) has taken hold of me lately, but it’s finally in a state where it won’t be consuming all of my waking hours.

I think.

Oh, what’s the other obsession? Stay tuned…

August 23, 2001

FBI agents in Minnesota become convinced that Zacarias Moussaoui plans to hijack a plane, but are unable to convince HQ, which blocks their warrant application.

As the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters has already blocked an application for a criminal warrant (see August 21, 2001), the FBI’s Minneapolis field office must apply for one under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Minneapolis agent Harry Samit completes an application for a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings on August 25. To obtain the warrant, he has to show there is probable cause to believe Moussaoui is an agent of a foreign power. The memo states that Moussaoui recruited a fighter for a particular Chechen rebel group connected to al-Qaeda, so he is connected to al-Qaeda through the Chechens. However, the RFU at FBI headquarters believes that the Chechen rebels should not be described as a foreign power and that the link between the Chechens and bin Laden is not strong enough

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18, 1920

Women have the right to vote.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified by Tennessee. Tennessee is the 36th state to ratify this amendment, which is enough for it to be enacted. Eventually 12 other states ratify the amendment as well, with Mississippi being the last in 1984!

But not Hawaii and Alaska. Since they are not states in 1920, they don’t get a chance to ratify.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 1994

On this day in 1994, Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy was released.

The novel ends with a suicide pilot crashing a commercial jet into the Capitol, killing most of Congress and the President.

Clancy later describes to the BBC how he’d gone about writing this book: “I didn’t write Debt of Honor without first discussing it with an Air Force officer. And so I ran this idea past him and all of a sudden this guy’s eyeballing me rather closely and I said come on general, I know you must have looked at this before, you’ve got to have a plan for it. And the guy goes, ‘Mr. Clancy, to the best of my knowledge, if we had a plan to deal with this, it would be secret, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about it, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never looked at this possibility before.’”
In fairness to Clancy, he was not the first to envision something like this. In fact, Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, did something similar in his 1982 novella, The Running Man. In it, the story ends with the hero stealing a plane and flying it into a skyscraper.

"...and it rained fire twenty blocks away"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Palin, Perry, &…Buckley

Look, it’s no news to anyone that I’m a strong supporter of former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK). If she enters the race, I will undoubtedly support her through the primaries for as long as she’s part of them. Nothing, politically speaking, would make me happier than a Palin Presidency.

And then there’s Governor Rick Perry (R-TX). Despite my lukewarm support for his candidacy, there’s no doubt that he offers much of what Palin brings to the table. In one way, at least, he surpasses it, having been governor of TX for almost 10 years. But he’s a strong conservative. He has good fiscal and social conservative credentials. It appears that he’ll likely be a fantastic fundraiser, and he’s willing to take the fight to President Barack Obama (D-USA).

Yes, there are some things he’s done in the last 10 years that I don’t agree with 100%. But that’s part of governing. The longer a record someone has, the more likely they are to have done something that you don’t like. You need to look at the overall record, not one or two things.

He doesn’t bring the “reformer” credentials that she has, and I think she’s a tad bit to his right, but possibly not much.

In a perfect world, Palin would not have been forced, due to left wing lunacy, to resign from her governorship, and would still be governor of AK, while considering this Presidential run. And she’d have two more years of AK’s record to run on. In that world, there’s no contest in my mind. Palin’s the better candidate, and the better future President.

But that’s not the world in which we live. We live in a world where the left has done everything possible to bring down this woman over the last 2 1/2 years. They managed to twist AK’s ethics laws to work in their favor against a woman who has done everything possible to remove corruption in politics in her state, on both sides of the aisle.

This has taken its toll on the once most popular & highly approved governor in America. She is a lightning rod for the left, and instead of introducing herself to independents, she will have to re-educate them. This will be an uphill climb. Not an impossible one, but difficult. She is no longer the woman that could ride the coat tails of her 80%+ approval rating into the White House.

In other words, we live in William F. Buckley’s world.

And, here in the Buckley world, the Buckley rule must be considered. “Support the most conservative candidate who is electable.”

If Palin enters the race, she will have my support. However, if someone believes that she has electability issues and wants to invoke Buckley as their reason for supporting Perry, I can’t argue with that decision. In this case in particular, it is more than fair to consider Palin’s electability. I personally think that she’s still quite electable, but there’s no doubt that her road to the White House will be a rougher one than Perry’s.

Having said that, I think one mistake conservatives continuously make is invoking the Buckley rule too quickly. We’ve done it far too often in our history. And we end up with weak candidates because we assume that they are “electable”. If we’re going to turn this country around, it’s going to take strong conservative actions. And that requires electing strong conservatives. Which means we’re going to have to throw the dice sometimes and take a chance on the ones lower on the “electability” scale. This is true at all levels of politics, possibly even more so at the lower end than the upper.

And, it’s worth mentioning that there’s also the Limbaugh Rule.

August 15, 1971

President Richard Nixon (R-USA) takes the United States off of the gold standard. In many ways, this is the ultimate triumph of Keynesian economics over reality.

However, despite my preference for Austrian economics, I’m ambivalent where it concerns a return to the gold standard. This may be a battle that has already been lost. By my calculations, the entire amount of gold ever mined amounts to something between $8 trillion and $9 trillion at today’s exchange rates.

If you think a return to the gold standard is likely, buy gold now. $1800 an ounce will seem incredibly cheap. The price could easily triple, and that might be conservative. And know the side effects. Gold is widely used in consumer electronics. Your $200 smartphone might suddenly move out of your price range. Or more likely, gold will be replaced in consumer electronics with cheaper, and lower quality, alternatives. Hooray for lower quality! Sign me up!

When Nixon took us off of the gold standard, he put in place some temporary but rather draconian measures to avoid economic turmoil (see link above). Getting back on the gold standard would require some of these same types of practices or acceptance that the stocks and bonds markets would go crazy for a while, which will likely bring economic growth to a halt.

Still, there’s no doubt that a return to the gold standard would severely limit the power of the Federal Reserve, and in my mind that’s an incredibly good thing.  It also makes absurd practices like “quantitative easing” out of the question. That is without doubt a great thing.

And there are quite a few more pros and cons than I’ve gone into in this post. In short, this is a complex issue that deserves more attention than a 30-second sound bite.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 14, 1945

United States General Douglas Macarthur, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, right, sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, officially ending World War II.

And Then There Were Eight

Eight GOP candidates that is.

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) is out. He ran an ineffective campaign. Perhaps he was limited, no matter what. I’ve seen reports that suggest that. I know that early on I found him very impressive and refreshing, and then it seemed like all the spark went out of his campaign when he refused to criticize former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) on ObamneyCare during the first debate.

But wait, there were eight just last week. And there’s still eight. So, nothing’s really changed. Well, except for the fact that the group became much more dynamic and tilted a bit further to the right. Both of those are good things.

Good luck in the future in whatever you decide to do, Mr. Pawlenty. I’ve enjoyed seeing your tweets on Twitter and look forward to hearing more from you. Public policy polling says that a campaign for Senate for you is a “non-starter” unless you want to be defeated twice in one cycle, but I believe that once again, PPP is trying to make the news, rather than report it. Go for it, if that interests you.

The Obligatory ‘Rick Perry’ Is In Post

Apparently the Governor of TX made some big splash yesterday in South Carolina. Rick Perry (R-TX) announced his candidacy for President of the United States.

Melissa Clouthier has the text of his speech, and the video on her blog.

And here’s his first campaign vid.

 

From my timeline in Twitter, Perry is apparently either the Second Coming, or the ultimate Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Everyone seems to be excited about his candidacy, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy about it.

I alone am not incredibly excited either way.

I’ve been a tepid supporter of former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN). Perry appears to be a better candidate than Pawlenty, but he’s not perfect, not by a long shot (not that I expect him to be—but the adulation I’m seeing in Twitter is somewhat disconcerting). However, some of the criticism being leveled against him appears to be unfair.

There’s the article from the Wall Street Journal called “Rick Perry’s Crony Capitalism Problem”. Frankly, this is a poorly done article, and is more of a hatchet job than a piece offering legitimate criticism. Having done business with a number of state legislatures over the years, I can pretty much guarantee that there are programs like the one mentioned in the article in 49 other states as well. Some of them are very good programs, and some are little better than organized crime. But, a hardliner would probably find something to be concerned with in every single one. It’s the nature of the beast. This one might tilt a little bit too far on the ethical question, and it might not. But without something solid, I’m going to lean in the direction of…not.

The other question that is being brought up is his stance on illegal immigration. And, frankly, he appears to be weak here. Another poorly written and poorly titled piece about his issues here appears on Politico. There’s another one on TPM. Given the source, this article also needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. Weeding out the personal distaste the authors apparently have for Perry does leave the following facts (some good, some bad):

  • He wanted children of illegal aliens (whom he called “undocumented workers”—big red flag) to be able to attend state colleges at resident rates.
  • He cracked down on sanctuary cities.
  • He’s against E-Verify.
  • He opposed AZ’s SB1070 bill.
  • He’s in favor of Voter ID.
  • He’s strongly in favor of more manpower to secure the border
  • He’s in favor of some sort of guest worker program for illegals.
  • He’s also called for more open borders (note that that’s not quite a contradiction—you can be for more openness and yet still be against crossing illegally)
  • He was in favor of some sort of Mexican-Texas toll road. Meh.
  • He said giving amnesty to 13 million illegals was “Asinine”.

I will admit that there are things here that give me pause. Illegal immigration is one of my hot button issues, and not just because I believe it’s an economy killer. Perry seems to be trying to straddle the fence on this issue, and in my mind by doing so all he’s doing is sitting on barbed wire in a silk suit. He needs to pick a side on this issue. And if he picks the wrong one, it will be a big deal for me. I see some people claiming that his stance is ok or that it somehow makes him more electable. Amazingly, some of these same people were worried that the GOP might cave on taxes in exchange for promised future cuts. In my mind, that is incredibly inconsistent. This is an issue the GOP has given in on before, just like those tax increases, and gotten burned, just like those tax increases. There’s no acceptable middle ground here, and neither is it acceptable to be on the wrong side.

There’s a pretty good bio of Perry here, but in my mind it attempts to whitewash his stances on illegal aliens, and make him look farther to the right than he appears to be.

On the good side, Perry’s on the right side on taxes, and I believe he will open up offshore drilling. I hope he’ll open up ANWR, and investigate shale oil and other alternatives. From what I read about him, most of those things appear likely.

I have said before that while I’ll vote for my toaster over President Barack Obama (D-USA), that I can’t support former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the primaries. While I don’t really think she’s a long term player in the race, I have just as many issues with Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06). I don’t believe legislators make good Presidents. I never have, and certainly the last 2 1/2 years have done nothing to change my mind. So, if I’m choosing between Perry and those two, it’s an easy choice. I choose Perry.

But assuming no new candidate enters the race, the level of my support will be one of three things, and it depends on what Perry says over the next few months:

  1. Reluctant. I end up here if he says other things that indicate that the Politico article may be correct, that he’s all bluster on this issue.
  2. Tepid. This is where I am now, but I admit I’m warmer to him than I was to Pawlenty. And this is where I’ll stay if he continues to straddle the fence.
  3. Enthusiastic. All he has to do to get here is make one simple statement, “I’m not even going to discuss what to do about the illegals (and I wanna hear that word, not ‘undocumented workers’) already here until the border is demonstrably more secure.”

My cynicism when it comes to politicians makes me believe that I’m far more likely to end up on #1 than #3, but we’ll see.

Regardless, I’m happy to have another viable candidate in the race. Welcome, Governor Perry.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Perry used to be a Democrat. I couldn’t possibly care less. That was 23 years ago. Pfft. President Ronald Reagan (R-USA) used to be a Democrat too. I care what he’s done lately, and he’s clearly a conservative. Also, it’s worthwhile pointing out that he was a TEXAS Democrat. That’s like a MASSACHUSETTS Republican, i.e., you can add the INO label without too much irony.

 

UPDATE 2: I should point out here that the good that I see in Perry far outweighs the bad. Illegal immigration is the ONLY thing I’ve seen so far that concerns me, and he’s not exactly on the wrong side. As I said, he appears to be straddling the fence. That just makes me nervous about him, not ready to throw him over the side. As I said, I was a supporter of Pawlenty, and from what I’ve seen so far, Perry is a far better candidate than Pawlenty.

August 14, 1996

See here.
A “United Press International” article draws from a State Department fact sheet released the same day (see August 14, 1996), and states, “Earlier, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Usama Bin Ladin drew on his family’s wealth ‘plus donations received from sympathetic merchant families in the Gulf region’ to organize the Islamic Salvation Foundation, or al-Qaida. The group established recruitment centers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan that enlisted and sheltered thousands of Arab recruits to fight the Soviets. ‘This network remains active,’ the State Department said.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13, 2004

Hurricane Charley makes landfall in Punta Gorda, FL and travels up FL’s Atlantic coast. It is less than 24 hours after Tropical Storm Bonnie also hit FL. Orlando’s Walt Disney World closes that day for the first time in its history.

Charley is the first hurricane to make landfall in the record breaking 2004 hurricane season.

While a relatively minor storm in that season, it has personal significance to me. My wife and I and our first daughter were staying at the Walt Disney World Resort as Charley came on shore. We decided to cut short our vacation and left the Orlando area about four hours before he arrived.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 1981

The IBM PC is born.

Millions learn how to play solitaire, VisiCalc is created, and Bill Gates Jr. becomes insanely rich.

We had a TRS-80 Model I Level II at the time, but did upgrade to a PC a couple years later. Have spent countless hours sitting in front of various monitors ever since.

GOP Debates: Round 3-Iowa

As always, the video of the entire debate is at the end.

Most of the GOP hopefuls squared off in Ames, IA last night for our third Presidential Primary debate. Like last time, the good news for many of these candidates is that very few people were likely watching. Because there wasn’t much good news in this debate other than that.

If you’re interested, you can find my thoughts on the first and second debates by following the links.

Last time I said that former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) was the “winner” but didn’t have the best performance. As the perceived front runner, he just has to look Presidential and not screw up. This time he was both the winner and had the best performance. His first three answers were fantastic, easily the best of the candidates. I felt that he started slipping a bit when asked about his record on taxes. Sometimes Romney reminds me of a used car salesman, and this inner voice in my head starts saying “I don’t believe what you’re saying”. That happened on that answer. And I think that answer was the tipping point for him. He was considerably less impressive after that, including flailing as usual on defending RomneyCare. And later in the debate he seemed to become the invisible man. Still, that’s a win for him. If he’s invisible it’s because no one is going after him. And if no one is going after him, he’s still going to be the front runner.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) had his best debate by far, and at times really shone. I’ve said this now many times and it’s still true. When Santorum is good, he’s great. And when he’s not good, he’s terrible. As usual, we saw a little bit of both last night. The good news for Santorum is that for once we saw more of the good side than the bad side. I admire him for standing firm on his pro life credentials, but his no exceptions at all stance is not going to win him many votes. Still, if he’d been like this in the first two debates, the race might be a bit different. Now, though, it seems like too little too late. My big peeve with the Senator is that I believe he’s too thin skinned. And he allowed that to cause him to lose his patience with Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX-14) and Fox News’ Chris Wallace last night.

Now, it gets tricky. Other than those two, I don’t think anyone did a very good job last night. Herman Cain (R-Godfather’s Pizza) was probably the next best, but still stumbled on foreign policy, particularly Afghanistan. Wallace went after him on Cain’s statements on Muslims, and I don’t think Cain helped himself any with his answers. He clearly showed that he’s not Presidential material. I should copy-paste that last sentence. I may use it often from here on out in this post.

I guess I’d have to go with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA-06) for the next best performance, but he bickered far too much with Chris Wallace, claiming that the debate questions were “gotcha” questions. I think they were questions these candidates are going to be asked many times over the next 15 months, and they better have good answers for them. His bit on calling Congress back to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, ObamaCare, Frank-Dodd, the Super Committee,  and a few others fell completely flat for me. And he mentioned it twice. The second time it more than fell flat, it annoyed me. Good ideas, but we need to be honest in these debates. Most of those proposals would struggle to exceed 40 votes in the Senate right now. You can forget about 60. I’ve said this before about Newt as well. He’s a great idea man. He’s the guy you want in your company to sit around and come up with new directions for the company. But you don’t want him running it. You need someone else to say “Good idea, Newt, but…no.”

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) probably comes next, but his performance, especially the first hour, was dismal. In fact, he lost my support. I was very impressed with him after the first debate, not so much after the second, and he’s fallen off the map now. He and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) went after each other with ferocity and bitterness. It wasn’t pretty on either side. People had differing impressions of who pulled down whom, but both came out of it looking awful. Not saying he couldn’t change my mind again, but right now, I’m in search of a candidate. And I’m not looking towards MN to find one. When he wasn’t bickering with Bachmann he looked ok, but not the guy I remember from the first debate. His best moments last night were like the guy he was in the second debate. Not good.

Next, former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT). All it says by having him sixth is that the other two below him were completely terrible. There’s nothing that Huntsman says that endears him to me or makes me want to vote for him. I’m sure he was a decent governor for Utah, but there’s no doubt that he’s a big government Republican, and I don’t think he’s ready for a larger stage. Not Presidential material.

I guess I’d put Ron Paul in seventh, but again, only because he wasn’t quite as bad as Bachmann. His foreign policy ideas are frankly scary. He’s a big L libertarian, and an isolationist. And last night he was even less solid than usual on domestic policy. I think when he expresses his ideas on a national stage it hurts the entire party. He either makes us look foolish, or he hands talking points to the left. Sometimes both. I’d honestly prefer it if he were not at any future debates.

Apparently winning these debates is not a good thing. I thought Pawlenty won the first, and looked bad in the second. I thought Bachmann was the clear winner of the second and looked horrible last night. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it was one of the worst debate performances I’ve ever seen. Her bickering and sniping with Pawlenty was not useful, and really her best moment was when answering an absolutely ridiculous question by Byron York on whether she’d submit to her husband as President. The question obviously caught her off guard (as I think it did to us all), but she kept her cool, responded, made some nice key points about love, marriage, family, and children, and generally made York look like a doofus for even asking it. Bachmann has been polling well, but I believe it’s more because the “anybody but Romney” crowd has jumped on her bandwagon, not because she has much strong support. I think when Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) enters the race, and if former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) enters, she disappears.

I’ve said both of the last two times that I thought Palin, assuming she runs, was hurt by not being there. Last night was the opposite. For both her and Perry, it was good to not be there last night. They didn’t get pulled down into the mud, and will get the stage to themselves for a while this weekend.

I think in general the candidates all made two significant mistakes. None of them really went after Romney. I keep hammering on this. He is the perceived front runner. If you don’t go after the front runner, he will remain the front runner. Second, there was almost no mention of President Barack Obama (D-USA). Obama needs to be center stage at all of these debates. In fact, they should add an extra empty podium just for him. He’s the person all of these people are running against. They need to show his faults and make clear distinctions between what he’s done and what they would do.

The bottom line? The only candidate that was there last night that can win the GOP nomination was Mitt Romney. The others are wasting their time and ours. Our GOP nominee will be one of Romney, Perry, or Palin, and you can bet the farm on that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11, 3114 BC

The most recent world cycle of Mesoamerican Long Count calendar begins.

Click pic above to see full size.

Without it, crazies would have to come up with an end of the world date other than December 21, 2012. According to mythology, the gods created the world four times, the first three being failures. The previous creation ended on 12.19.19.17.19 on the calendar, which was August 10, 3114 BC. Therefore, since the fourth and (up to now) final creation started the next day, the calendar was reset to 0.0.0.0.0 rather than 13.0.0.0.0.

December 20, 2012 represents the next time we will hit 12.19.19.17.19 on the calendar. December 21, 2012 will be 13.0.0.0.0 and life will go on.

For those interested in understanding the periods:

Representation Long Count subdivisions Days ~ solar years
0.0.0.0.1 1 k'in 1 1/365
0.0.0.1.0 1 winal = 20 k'in 20 0.055
0.0.1.0.0 1 tun = 18 winal 360 0.986
0.1.0.0.0 1 k'atun = 20 tun 7,200 19.71
1.0.0.0.0 1 b'ak'tun = 20 k'atun 144,000 394.3

 

Other than the fact that the last creation ended at the end of the 13th b'ak'tun, there’s no good reason to assume that we couldn’t have 20 b'ak'tuns. The end of the 20th b'ak'tun will be on October 12, 4772. Will that be the end of the world, then?

Well, I don’t think that I’ll be around to see it, but I sincerely doubt it.

August 11, 2001

Around this time, the flight instructors for Zacarias Moussaoui become suspicious and fear he may be planning to hijack a commercial flight.

In addition, it is unusual that he has no aviation background, very little experience, and no pilot’s license. All other pilots at the center, even “vanity pilots”—wealthy individuals who just want the thrill of flying a large jet—have many times more flying hours than Moussaoui and are all licensed; [US CONGRESS, 10/17/2002; STAR-TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS), 4/24/2005; RAKE, 5/2005]
bullet He has flown for 57 hours at flight school in Oklahoma, but not yet flown solo, which is unusual. The school’s manager of pilot training, Alan McHale, will later comment, “My worst student was a grandma, and I got her to solo after 21 hours;” [STAR-TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS), 4/24/2005]
bullet He is not just buying a one-period joyride, but a whole course; [STAR-TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS), 4/24/2005]
bullet He seems determined to pack a large amount of training in a short period for no apparent reason; [NEW YORK TIMES, 2/8/2002]
bullet He is “extremely” interested in the operation of the plane’s doors and control panel. [US CONGRESS, 10/17/2002] He also is very keen to learn the protocol for communicating with the flight tower, despite claiming to have no plans to become an actual pilot; [NEW YORK TIMES, 2/8/2002]
bullet He talks to some Syrian airline pilots training at the facility, and the pilots tell Nelson that Moussaoui is fluent in Arabic. Nelson, who is already worried Moussaoui might be up to no good, thinks, “One more red flag;” [STAR-TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS), 4/24/2005; CNN, 3/2/2006]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Polling The President

A month ago I looked at the President’s polling numbers for the second time. I intend to do this on a semi-regular basis between now and the election.

To say that this has been a bad month for the President is an understatement. He showed little leadership during the debt ceiling standoff, and S&P and the stock market are taking him to task for it now.

As always I look at the RealClearPolitics averages. Any one pollster might have an off day, and may show some bias. The average tends to even that out. Eventually I’ll write some blog posts about that as well, but the earliest that will happen will be some time in 2012.

When I did my first look at President Barack Obama’s (D-USA) numbers, he was near his post-Osama bin Laden raid peak, which was on May 25th. May 25th had the President’s approval numbers at 52.6/42.5, a whopping 10.1 point spread. In the 77 days since then, his numbers have nearly flipped. Today, Obama’s RCP average is 43.5/51.2, a –7.7 point spread. 43.5 is the lowest his approval has been his entire Presidency, and –7.7 is the largest the spread has been by a full point. 51.2 ties the highest disapproval he’s had, set last September. He’s underwater in every recent poll, in fact the last poll having him above water was released almost a month ago, on July 11.

Last month, I noticed that Obama seemed to have reached a plateau for a while, due to an increasing number of undecideds in all the polls. The undecideds have made up their minds now, and they’ve all decided Obama’s doing a terrible job.

Consumer confidence near the end of July had rebounded a bit up to 59.5. This is still far below the magic 90 number that indicates a healthy economy.

Right Track/Wrong Track is at 20.8/71.8, a spread of –51.0, a fall of 16.4 points from where things stood just a month ago. Even worse news, the right track/wrong track numbers for the country were better on his inauguration day.

When I reviewed things a month ago, I said that things looked awful for the President. I think he’d kill now to have the numbers he had then.

August 10, 1519

Ferdinand Magellan sets sail in an attempt to sail around the world. He will take with him, five ships: the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Santiago, and Victoria (right).

A little more than three years  later, the Victoria will be the only ship that completes the expedition, led by Magellan’s second in command after his death in the Philippines.

The CBO’s Long Term Budget Outlook

In June, the CBO released their Long Term Budget Outlook (LTBO) for the United States. It does some guesstimating on our fiscal future through the year 2085. It made the papers because it had some scary numbers, but some that weren’t so scary. People talked about it for a few days, and then forgot about it.

After a few minutes of looking at it, I determined that it might be the scariest financial document ever released by our government. Three days of in depth study on the details have not changed my mind.

After my review, I can say one thing for certain. No one in Washington examined this report in detail. No one. Had anyone done so, S&P would not have downgraded our credit rating as there would have been no need. Congress and the President would have come up with a better plan.

You think that statement is naïve? Wait until I get finished.

This will be fairly long, so for those without the patience to read the whole thing, here’s the spoiler ending. The CBO projects two scenarios, one of which is like being doused with gasoline and lit on fire, and the other is more like being covered in barbecue sauce and slow roasted.

The other point I have to make before I get started is this. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf should be embarrassed that his office put this thing out. Part of the reason it’s taken me a while to get around to writing this blog post is because there’s so much in the spreadsheet that is either nonsensical or impossible. I’ve spent the last three days trying to reconstruct where all their numbers came from, what they mean, and determine where exactly the problems exist. It has not been fun.

The LTBO examines our fiscal situation and projects it out 75 years. Of course, this should be examined with a high degree of skepticism. Economists aren’t generally very good at projecting things out even 1 year, much less 75 (and Reuters’ economists can’t even project out next week—but I digress).

The CBO makes no attempt to guess at future law changes or new programs or the possibility of some unforeseen economic boom or bust. It merely attempts to project the effect of current law and current policy.

The LTBO examines two fiscal scenarios, one they call the extended baseline which is based on current law, and one they call alternative which is based more or less on current policy.  In short, the alternative is the doomsday scenario and the extended one is the “good” version, if you can call it that.

The differences between the two scenarios amount to two significant things: continuation of the Bush tax cuts, and continuation of changes to the AMT. The AMT is is the liberals way of making sure our tax code is more “fair”. Basically the AMT says that if you make enough money, you aren’t allowed to take any deductions. It’s a fairly flat tax set around 25%, and you’re required to pay the greater of it or whatever you calculate as your regular income tax using all the deductions available to you. Your income has to reach a certain threshold for the AMT to apply to you. The problem is that the threshold is not indexed, so every couple of years, Congress has to change the AMT law so that it still only affects the high income people and not the middle class.

Neither scenario envisions any sort of entitlement reform. Both scenarios assume an average of somewhat anemic 2.28% GDP annual growth over the next 75 years. That’s disturbing enough itself. That’s the best case scenario. There are some additional tables that assume even lower economic growth down to an average of 1.33%.

The alternative scenario projects that the Bush tax cuts will remain in place for the foreseeable future and that Congress will keep adjusting the AMT. The extended scenario assumes the opposite.

In both scenarios the CBO projects GDP growth, growth of U.S. debt held by the public, and makes projections of government receipts and outlays.

Ok, enough preamble. You with me so far?

Ready for the bad news now?

We’ll start with the alternative scenario. It assumes revenue vs. GDP at roughly 18.4% throughout.

I said the report goes out to 2085, remember? Well, that’s not completely true. Under the alternative scenario the CBO stops projecting the U.S. debt after 2037, 26 years from now. There’s no point in continuing past that point. We’re at 200%. Those are end-of-the-country type numbers. The weight on the economy from that would be so high that it’s hard to see how the country would ever recover. We’d have to just default and start over. It’s likely this would happen long before 2037, and that’s a mere 26 years away. This is the douse yourself with gasoline and light a match scenario. We’ll almost certainly experience riots like what we’ve seen in Greece, Italy, and now the UK this year, only possibly worse.

Remember the alternative is the scenario that I consider far more likely. Cheery news, huh?

Then there’s the extended baseline. This is the Keynesian good news scenario and it assumes that none of the bad things that you’ve ever heard about Keynesian economics are true. It assumes that there’s a 1:1 relationship between taxation and revenue. The CBO has never heard of the Laffer curve, apparently. It’s also never heard of Hauser’s Law, either.

The extended baseline looks much more encouraging, at first glance. Publicly held debt never exceeds 87% of GDP. That’s great news. But outlays reach a mind boggling 34.1% of GDP. Huh? How is it possible to keep the debt down, then? Well, revenues under the extended baseline scenario reach 30.6% of GDP. This is where the CBO begins to engage in outright fantasy. I’m sure that most people who glanced at the CBO report saw that if we don’t make any changes to existing law that things stabilize, and it’s not that awful a situation, and didn’t look at the details.

The details show that it IS an awful situation. Possibly worse than the alternative baseline.

But there’s missing data in the spreadsheet for this one as well. And there’s no mathematical reason for this data to have been scrubbed. The tab containing the data on the AMT stops in 2035. There’s no good reason for this. The other tables show the tax revenue projections out to 2085, which means that AMT had to have been calculated out that far. Yet, for some reason the CBO elected not to show it. The only reason I can see that it was left out was to keep from terrifying people. So, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag and terrify you.

The last year for which AMT calculations are shown, 2035, estimates that 49.5 of all American households will be affected by the AMT. This would hit household income levels at about $50,000 in 2008 dollars. When I attempted to extend this table out to 2085, it becomes quickly apparent why they stopped. Based on my calculations, sometime after 2050, depending on inflation, the AMT reaches all the way down to the poverty level. And that’s how they blast through Hauser’s Law and get to 30.6% revenue.

Let me show you what this means with a simple chart showing about what you’d pay in Federal income tax. This is just the income tax, not social security, Medicare, state & local taxes. And I’m going to base it on the quintiles used by the Census Bureau and the CBO. The data is from a June 2010 CBO report that includes tax data through the year 2007.

Quintile Effective Tax Rate Now Avg. Income Tax $ Paid Effective Tax Rate ~2050 Tax $ Paid (2007 dollars) Growth
1st -6.4% $18,400 $(1,178) -6.8% $(1,178) 0%
2nd 0.1% $42,500 $425 20% $8,500 1900%
3rd 4.1% $64,500 $2,645 25% $16,125 505%
4th 7.0% $94,100 $5,834 25% $23,525 303%
5th 19.0% $264,700 $50,293 25% $66,450 32%


Gulp.

There are some assumptions in this table. I assumed that no matter what the AMT would never dip into the 1st quintile. That’s probably optimistic. It looks like to me that it would hit the very top end. Also, the AMT isn’t completely flat. There is an exempt level. That’s the reason for the 2nd quintile’s effective rate only going up to 20%. Yes, that’s mostly a guess, but if anything I feel I’m on the low side here. Also, I would’ve preferred to use median income over average income, but I was unable to obtain that data.

Here’s the same chart including social security and federal excise taxes, assuming those rates stay at constant 2007 levels.

Quintile Effective Tax Rate Now Avg. Income Tax $ Paid Effective Tax Rate ~2050 Tax $ Paid (2007 dollars) Growth
1st 4% $18,400 $736 4% $736 0%
2nd 10.6% $42,500 $4,505 30.5% $12,750 183%
3rd 14.3% $64,500 $9,224 35.2% $22,704 146%
4th 17.4% $94,100 $16,373 35.4% $33,311 103%
5th 25.1% $264,700 $66,440 31.1% $82,322 24%

 

Ok, imagine you’re a politician running for office. Go tell the guy making $42,500 that his total federal taxes are going to nearly triple. Tell the guy making $64,500 that his will more than double. Same for the guy making $94,100. Let me know how those conversations work out for you. I’m guessing you’re not going to get elected. This scenario isn’t happening. Thank God.

These are economy killing numbers. Very very few of the people would have any disposable income under this scenario. That means people who earn their livings based upon products and services paid for with disposable income would have no jobs. These are easily Great Depression type scenarios. At the very least. It’s easy to envision a Great Depression here as a best-case outcome.

And yet the CBO envisions near 4% annual growth in wages, 2.25% GDP growth, and 5% unemployment. These things are quite literally impossible.

So, which scenario is worse? Hard to say. I’d probably prefer the alternative baseline, because at least we get through the pain quicker and can move on. The truth is that both of these scenarios are beyond awful. Anyone, whether you’re a member of the Democrat, Republican, or even The Rent is Too Damn High Party should look at this and realize we need to make significant changes. Now.

I may have issues with President Barack Obama (D-USA), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-08), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the rest of the gang up on Capitol Hill, but I do think they’re as good at panicking as the next guy. Anyone studying this report should be panicking. They aren’t. Therefore I stand by my earlier statement that they didn’t read it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9, 1969

Helter Skelter.

Members of the “Manson family” brutally murder actress Sharon Tate & four others at Tate’s home in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, CA.

The next night they will repeat the process at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, killing everyone there.

Deputy District Attorney named Vincent Bugliosi will make a name for himself from the successful prosecution of this case and go on to write a book about it called Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 1974

I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.

To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.

 

Entire speech can be found here.

You can watch it here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 7, 1782

General George Washington orders the creation of a new medal called the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. Today we know this medal as the Purple Heart.

The General ever desirous to cherish virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings over the left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward. Before this favour can be conferred on any man, the particular fact, or facts, on which it is to be grounded must be set forth to the Commander in chief accompanied with certificates from the Commanding officers of the regiment and brigade to which the Candadate [sic] for reward belonged, or other incontestable proofs, and upon granting it, the name and regiment of the person with the action so certified are to be enrolled in the book of merit which will be kept at the orderly office. Men who have merited this last distinction to be suffered to pass all guards and sentinals [sic] which officers are permitted to do. The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all. This order is also to have retrospect to the earliest stages of the war, and to be considered as a permanent one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How Big Is Our Debt? Do We Really Have A Spending Problem?

Yes, I know our debt $14.580 trillion as I write this, but how big is that?

No, I’m not going to do some cutesy pictures. I’m going to do some math. Scary math, but simple. Even a Democrat Senator could understand it.

The entire tax revenue in the history of the United States through fiscal year 2010 is $49.531 trillion. Tax revenue so far this year is $2.201 trillion. Simple addition gives me the number $51.732 trillion. That’s it. That’s the sum of the entire tax revenue in the history of the United States. For the rest of this post I’m going to call that ETR to avoid repeating myself endlessly.

$51.732 trillion.

Our debt is $14.580 trillion.

14.580 / 51.732 = .2818.

Our debt is 28.18% of ETR.

This year we will spend $3.7 trillion.

3.7 / 51.732 = .0715

We will spend 7.15% of ETR this year. That’s about 1/14th of the total. 1/14. In one year.

When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007, our combined tax revenues were $42.740 trillion. Since then, the Democrats have managed to spend $13.563 trillion.

13.563 / 42.740 = .3173

In the last four years, the Democrats have spent 31.73% of the entire amount of revenue we’d collected before their spending binge.

I can be nicer and include revenue up until now, but it doesn’t get much better.

13.563 / 51.732 = .2622

In the last four years, the Democrats have spent 26.22% of ETR.

You think I should only include President Barack Obama’s (D-USA) numbers? Ok.

Outlays for FY 2010 and 2011 (generously giving 2009 to President George W. Bush (R-USA), even though budget wasn’t passed until after he left office) total $7.063 trillion. Total revenue before FY 2010 = $47.369 trillion.

7.063 / 47.369 = .1491

Obama has spent 14.91% of the entire revenues preceding him.

7.063 / 51.732 = .1365

Obama has spent 13.65% of ETR. About 1/7th of ETR. In two years.

If you’ve forgotten since the beginning of this post, ETR means “entire tax revenue in the history of the United States”. Now go back and reread the statement above.

In fairness, so we can see how much it’s grown, if I go back to FY 2007, I get the following: $42.740 trillion gross receipts & total debt of $9.008 trillion.

9.008 / 42.740 = .2108

Before the Democrats took over, our debt was 21.08% of the ETR at the time. That’s bad. No denying it. But, in four years, it has grown from 21.08% to 28.18%. This is why S&P downgraded us. That kind of growth is obscene.

America has a spending problem. Anyone who says otherwise falls into one of four categories. 1) They’re lying, 2) they’re not in possession of the facts, 3) they’re incapable of understanding basic arithmetic, or 4) they’ve lost their minds.

It’s one of those four. There are no other options.

New And Noteworthy

What’s Going On?

Well, I really have missed doing my September 11 timeline. My daughters have asked about that, and I want them to understand it a little bet...

All The Best