May 26, 2010

How Now, Down Dow?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:53 pm

The Dow, as it hangs around 10,000, is down about 11.5% from its intraday peak of 11,309 a month ago.

In context, if an ongoing correction is in process (and yours truly knows better than to assert such things), it would mean that Obamanomics, such as it is, hasn’t come anywhere near repairing the damage to equity investments caused by the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.

This chart I made at the market’s trough in March of last year tells the tale:

MarketTroughBenchmarking030909

Dow 10,000 is over 20% below where it was when the POR Economy began in June 2008. NASDAQ 2,200 is about 15% lower. The S&P 500 at 1,075 is about 23% lower.

The thing to remember at times like these is that the stock market is supposed to be a leading indicator. So … leading to what?

UPDATE: Wednesday’s closes — Dow – 9,974, NASDAQ – 2196, S&P 500 – 1,068.

RIP …

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:27 pm

Art Linkletter.

SEIU Thugs’ Protective Blue Line

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:10 pm

SEIUpurplePeopleBeaters(Image found at PurplePeopleBeaters.com)

If the goal of law enforcement officials in America is to breed disrespect among the law-abiding for what they do, they could hardly do better than remain silent  about what District of Columbia police allegedly did on Sunday, May 16 to assist the goon squad formally known as the Service Employees International Union.

Before getting to the question of police involvement, the incident itself is deeply offensive. As reported by Nina Easton at CNNMoney.com (HTs to BigGovernment.com and Flopping Aces):

Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer. Baer is deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America, a senior executive based in Washington, D.C. And that — in the minds of the organizers at the politically influential Service Employees International Union and a Chicago outfit called National Political Action — makes his family fair game.

Waving signs denouncing bank “greed,” hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer’s steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer’s teenage son Jack — alone in the house — locked himself in the bathroom. “When are they going to leave?” Jack pleaded when I called to check on him.

Baer, on his way home from a Little League game, parked his car around the corner, called the police, and made a quick calculation to leave his younger son behind while he tried to rescue his increasingly distressed teen.

… Now this event would accurately be called a “protest” if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be “mob.” Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might “incite” these trespassers.

… After Baer’s house, the 14 buses left to descend on the nearby residence of Peter Scher, a government relations executive.

… The rest of the message these protesters brought was personal-aimed at frightening Baer and his family, not influencing a broader public.

… A lifelong Democrat, Baer worked for the Clinton Treasury Department, and his wife, Shirley Sagawa, author of the book The American Way to Change and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is a prominent national service advocate.

The blogosphere has mostly overlooked the liberal Democrat pedigree of the target. But you can take it to the bank, so to speak, that folks on Wall Street noticed, and that incidents such as these have contributed to their currently icy relationship with the Obama administration. It’s no coincidence that, as John Hellemann recently wrote at New York Magazine, “The speed and severity of the swing from enchantment to enmity would be difficult to overstate.”

The lesson is that nobody is safe from this Gangster Government — a term first coined last year by Michael Barone as Obama administration bullies in suits were intimidating certain disfavored creditors of bankrupt Chrysler Corporation — when its thugs select their targets. Party loyalty won’t spare you if you’re seen as being in the way.

A further lesson may be that said thugs will arrive with their own public employee protection.

“The police” whom Easton noted as responding to the incident were from Montgomery County, Maryland. What she missed, but others including Archy Cary at BigJournalism.com are alleging, was that another police department was already there (bolds are mine):

At least two Metropolitan Police Department units from the nearby District of Columbia were already at the scene when they (Montgomery County cops) arrived.

Why? Because police cars attached to the Washington MPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit had escorted the SEIU protesters’ buses to Baer’s home. Such cross-jurisdictional escort activity is not uncommon for both departments according to (Montgomery County spokesperson) Dan Friz and Metro Police Department spokesperson Officer Eric Frost. Still, the District police did not inform their colleagues of what was about to happen in one of their Maryland neighborhoods.

The primary role of the Washington cops in this event was to protect the protesters. The D.C. officers had no authority to act to disperse the protesters even had the homeowner been present and asked them to vacate the private property.

… the District police don’t have any authority to enforce Montgomery County laws.

Had the mob decided to torch the house, the D.C. police would not have been authorized to intervene. Not their jurisdiction. They’re just escorts.

In updates at a Washington Examiner editorial, the DC Fraternal Order of Police is denying that its members were involved in protection at the protest site, while the DC Metro Police Department is saying that their escort service ended at the DC-Maryland boundary.

Cary at BigJournalism.com is sticking to his story:

Two police departments offer varying accounts of the involvement of the Metropolitan Police Department in the SEIU protest at the home of the B of A executive.

… The MCPD (Montgomery County Police Department) states, through its spokesperson, that when its four patrol units arrived on scene at the private residence, at least two D.C. units were already present.

The FOP’s and Metro Police’s limiting assertions, even if true, are far from fully comforting. What self-respecting police agency in its right mind would agree to perform this kind of “service,” even if only within its home territory (even if compensated, about which nothing that I know of has surfaced)?

It’s one thing to hire off-duty cops to protect property or otherwise provide security at private businesses. It’s quite another to provide protection in another jurisdiction (or even part of the way on their journey) to a group whose obvious intent to use extralegal means to assert its influence. A police protective presence or involvement could be seen by the targets of such actions as indicating that they will find no refuge in the law. Maybe that’s the point.

One might expect that other police departments would be expressing outrage at how willingly DC cops appear to have sacrificed their integrity. It may be out there, but I haven’t seen it.

If police departments won’t police themselves, perhaps it’s time for city councils and county governments to do it for them by passing laws strictly limiting the scope of activities permitted to use police resources, especially when they involve crossing jurisdictions.

There already is a financial pushback underway against the excessive costs of basic county and municipal services. Nothing will accelerate this trend faster than the majority of citizens concluding that the cops are spending their time giving cover to mobs of fellow public employees instead of protecting the public.

So Who Is Wrong?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:47 am

Considering whether the White House or agents acting on their behalf offered Joe Sestak a job to not enter the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary to run against Arlen Specter, who’s wrong?

Is it Joe Sestak (HT WND), who says “Yes,” or Robert Gibbs, who says that nothing “problematic” occurred?

(Well of course it’s not “problematic” — yet. The question is whether anything “illegal” occurred.)

From Andrew Napolitano in the video:

It wouldn’t matter if it was a job as a janitor. Offering him anything of value to get him to leave a political race is a felony, punishable by 5 years in jail.

I think Joe Sestak owes us more than what he’s telling us. Who made the offer, and who did that person or persons say was authorized to make that offer?

ORPINO (Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) Post-Primary Watch: Day 22 (John Who? Mary Who?)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:20 am

As was the case on Saturday, Golden Boy and Mike DeWine’s path-clearer are still the featured GOP politicians at ORPINO’s front page:

ORPINOfrontPage052610at1015am

Criticizing “Turnaround Ted” is fine and necessary, but where’s his opponent?

With each passing day that the above continues, there is less reason to believe that ORPINO is really interested in seeing John Kasich become this state’s next governor.

As was asked on Saturday: What the heck is wrong with you people?

______________________________________________

UPDATE, May 27: There was speculation during last week’s TIB broadcast that perhaps ORPINO spent so much money fending off sensible conservative challengers to Dave Yost and Jon Husted that it can’t afford to pay for any updates to its front page. Note to potential vendors: I’d go COD only.

Cliff-Diving Into Dependency, and Trolling for Democratic Votes

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:28 am

money-down-the-drainWelfare-related enrollment and spending is out of control — and the recession has very little to do with it.

______________________________

Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Monday.

_______________________________

While writing up my column on Oklahoma’s relatively strong economy earlier this month, I came across many sets of troubling statistics about the growing dependency culture.

It started when I noticed at this USDA table that average monthly enrollment in “SNAP,” which the rest of us still know as Food Stamps, had risen by almost 13% in the Sooner State during the most recent federal fiscal year after going down the previous two years. I noticed that this increase was much lower than the national average of 19%. Then I remembered seeing a headline telling me that Food Stamp enrollment had almost reached 40 million as of February. It turns out that this is an increase of 25% over the number enrolled in December 2008, just 13 months earlier.

After further research, I’ve learned that welfare-related “entitlement” program enrollment and spending are up in virtually every major federal program. Eligibility rules are looser. Individual and family benefit amounts provided have shot up. Costs are going through the roof. The menu of available benefits continues to expand.

It would be one thing if we had individuals and families starving in the streets by the millions before this wanton expansion began. But of course we didn’t. Welfare rolls were continuing 12 years of decline until about a year ago. Food Stamp enrollment was growing, but in current context not by much. In August 2007, about a year before the floodgates opened, Robert Rector described the status of those deemed as being “in poverty” in the US as follows:

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrig­erator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had suf­ficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

What happened?

In the case of Food Stamps, it has become easier to qualify for them. As I noted in March of last year, a Warren County, Ohio couple was able to qualify for benefits even though they had $80,000 in the bank, a paid-off $300,000 home, and two fairly up-to-date vehicles (one a Mercedes). Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion, the blogger who originally exposed this situation, also “received additional emails … (from people) who provided two other (similar) case stories.”

You can even be a college kid with rich parents and qualify for Food Stamps, as long as you strike an impoverished pose:

… the USDA has made it easy for them, regardless of their socioeconomic background, to qualify. Many college kids are “poor” on paper even if they’re from well-to-do homes.

And if they live at home with Mom and Dad, they still may qualify — so long as they can show that Mom and Dad prepare only half of their meals.

And how about those benefits? Well, what’s known as the Maximum Monthly Allotment, or the amount you or your family will receive if you have no available income or resources with which to buy food under the program’s rules, went up by 9% and 13.5% in fiscal 2009 and 2010, respectively. If you don’t recall food prices increasing by 23% or so during the past two years, you’re not alone. “Food and Beverages” as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics went up 3.3% during the 12 months that ended in April 2009; the new category “Food at Home” has not gone up at all in the past twelve months. Until two years ago, benefit levels closely resembled USDA’s estimated budget for what it called its “Thrifty Meal Plan.” Now I guess it’s just too much to expect eligible Food Stamp recipients to be frugal with taxpayers’ money.

Not that proving eligibility is particularly important. The Daily Caller carried a story in mid-February entitled, “Record numbers receive food stamps as USDA turns blind eye to recipients’ finances.” It quoted a letter from SNAP Associate Administrator Jessica Shahin to the program’s regional administrators, telling them that “Applicants will not need to provide documentation verifying their resources.” This makes Food Stamps the no-doc loans — er, make that grants — of the entitlement world.

Beyond that, there’s a built-in rules dodge that from all appearances is a recent “innovation” of the federal bureaucracy. Known as “categorial eligibility” (again, per the Daily Caller, supported by the letter from Ms. Shahin), it specifies that, “Anybody who receives other federal aid, such as Medicaid, automatically qualifies for food stamps in most states.”

More than a few recipients realize, especially considering the myriad other government bennies they are already receiving (and I can cite a specific personally relayed example of this) that their Food Stamp allotment is far higher than what they really spend on food each month. So they let relatives or friends share in the redistributed wealth. There’s also rampant fraud and abuse that the government never seems to be able to stop, to the point that one has to wonder if it really wants to stop it.

It should not surprise anyone that SNAP/Food Stamp program costs rose 45% from $37.7 billion in fiscal 2008 to $53.6 billion in fiscal 2009. Costs are now running in excess of $5 billion a month, and are on track to reach at least $63 billion by fiscal year-end.

Similar narratives could be written about “traditional” welfare (total caseload went up about 10% during the year ended September 30, 2009 to about 4.25 million recipients, after adding estimates for Michigan and Guam that are not at the link), Medicaid (enrollment was 46.9 million on June 30, 2009, up by 3.3 million during the previous 12 months), school lunches and breakfasts (a combined 7 billion meals served, obviously duplicating Food Stamp benefits in many cases), subsidized Section 8 housing, college aid that includes “living costs,” and even cell phones.

That’s right, cell phones. The SafeLink program, which provides free phones and a set number of minutes per month to over 2 million people, is so embarrassing that its sponsor tries to pretend that taxpayers aren’t paying for it. The site that supposedly “debunks” the claim admits that the money for the program comes from the Universal Service Fund, and that phone companies “often charge customers to fund their contributions in the form of a universal service fee you might see on your monthly phone bill.” Those of us who pay phone bills know that “often” really means “almost always.” Sorry, factcheck.org; that “fee” is a tax.

But wait. I thought that the economy was recovering, that unemployment may have peaked, and that more people are finding jobs. Shouldn’t that bring the dependency numbers down?

Don’t be silly. If that were the case, they should have started declining several months ago. This isn’t about solving poverty. The loosened requirements and look-the-other-way attitude betray the sad truth that this is all about expanding dependency as quickly as possible and buying votes. Sensible conservatives who believe that their fortunes will go positive in November are going to have to deal with the fact that the statists have already locked in roughly 25%, and counting, of the vote.

Meanwhile, government receipts, especially from those who pay quarterly estimated taxes, continued to plummet during the first month of what is allegedly the fourth quarter of our “recovery.” As the productive people in society peruse the landscape, is it any wonder that “going Galt” has yet to come to a halt?

Positivity: Catholic Church announces adult stem cell venture with Neostem

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 8:26 am

From New York City:

May 25, 2010 / 10:49 am

The Vatican issued a communique on Tuesday announcing a joint initiative with an international bio-pharmaceutical company to raise awareness and expand research of adult stem cell therapy.

Neostem Inc. and the Pontifical Council for Culture will combine the efforts of their respective foundations, the Stem for Life Foundation and STOQ (Science Theology and the Ontological Quest) Foundation, to advance research and explore the use of adult stem cells in regenerative medicine.

Fr. Tomasz Trafny from the Council for Culture remarked in a May 19 press release, “Considering the potential implication of scientific investigation, medical applicability and the cultural impact of research on adult stem cells, we view the collaboration with NeoStem as a critical effort.”

“Through educational initiatives with NeoStem and sponsorship of scientific research programs involving cutting edge adult stem cell science which does not hurt human life, we come one step closer to a breakthrough that can relieve needless human suffering,” he said.

The pontifical council is particularly excited about the company’s VSEL technology, which utilizes adult stem cells that behave like embryonic stem cells in their ability to regenerate and repair. Fr. Trafny said the technology could receive a significant financial investment from the Church.

“For over 40 years, physicians have been using adult stem cells to treat various blood cancers, but only recently has the promise of using adult stem cells to treat a significant number of other diseases begun to be realized. There are tremendous clinical and economic advantages to autologous stem cell transplantation (receiving your own stem cells) as there are no issues with immune rejection. Engraftment with your own stem cells is faster, safer and much less costly than receiving someone else’s stem cells (allogeneic),” said Dr. Robin L. Smith, Chairman and CEO of NeoStem.

The initiative will also explore the cultural relevance and theological impact of adult stem cell therapy.

Go here for the rest of the story.

Gibbs Scolds WH Reporters for Asking So Many BP Questions

BPgibbsQuoteAndLeakScoreboard0510Doesn’t everyone remember in 2005 when George W. Bush’s Press Secretary Scott McClellan (bless his back-stabbing heart) called reporters into the West Wing of the White House and scolded them for asking too many questions about Hurricane Katrina? That following a similar admonishment earlier in the year about the press’s obsession with anything and everything to do with the Iraq War.

You don’t remember those things? That’s because they didn’t happen. Oh sure, someone will be able to find examples of McClellan, as well as successors Tony Snow (RIP) and Dana Perino occasionally expressing irritation with reporters for their silly and/or repeat questions on these and other subjects. But summoning them to the West Wing for a beatdown? Hardly.

That’s what Obama administration Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is said to have done last Friday with White House reporters. Here’s the full text of audio that can be heard at Breitbart; a somewhat expanded text report, along with a the continually updated original graphic screen-grabbed and incorporated into the image at the top right, are at Capitol News Connection:

Press secretary Robert Gibbs disputes the notion that the White House is behind the curve on the BP catastrophe – he appeared yesterday on the CBS program “Face the Nation”:

“I don’t think anybody could credibly say even as frustrated as they are, and as frustrated as we are, that the government has stood around, done nothing and hoped for the best.”

But in a sign of defensiveness, Gibbs called White House reporters into the West Wing Friday and criticized them for asking too many BP questions.

Don’t even think about how intense the firestorm would have been if any Republican or conservative administration ever tried to intimidate reporters like this. And yes, it’s intimidation, as in, “If you as an individual reporter keep on asking questions about BP, I’m going to lose interest in taking questions from you on any subject. It will get mighty lonely in here for you.”

Anyone who minimizes the power play behind what Gibbs should be asking themselves why someone from a non-establisment media outlet had to be the one to tell the public about this.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.