May 5, 2011

Debra Burlingame Speaks With Obama: ‘… He Just Turned and Walked Away’ (More from Todd Beamer’s Dad and Charles Krauthammer)

RCPvideoBurlingamePic050511

See the video at Real Clear Politics.

Burlingame is the sister of Charles “Chic” Burlingame, the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. She met with President Obama today in New York during Ground Zero activities.

Full Text of Burlingame’s comments (link is to story identifying those who were interrogated):

(I) introduced myself and I was very up-front, I said, “Mr. President, I have been one of your most ardent critics” — I think that took him aback a little bit — I said “but on Sunday night I was very proud of you. I was very appreciative of what you helped make happen, and I was very proud of America. And then he hugged me.

And then I said “I, y’know, I have a question for you.” And he said, “What is it?” And I asked him, or I told him that I was aware that Eric Holder, um, was still pursuing possible criminal charges against the CIA Interrogators, the very interrogators who got the information in enhanced interrogations from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu al-Libi, even though that they’ve been cleared through three, or two, investigations.

And I said, “I know as a former attorney I know that you can’t tell the Attorney General what to do.” And he said, “No, I can’t.” And I said, “But that shouldn’t stop you from offering your opinion. After all, we wouldn’t be here celebrating today if they hadn’t done their job. And they have the hammer of a possible indictment over their heads, and can’t you at least give him your opinion?”

And he said, “No I won’t. And he just turned around and walked away.”

If Obama had any empathy with Burlingame’s plea, he would have at least said he was sorry that he wouldn’t, because it’s improper (which it’s not), or unseemly (which it’s not), or whatever.

But he doesn’t.

The presumption has to be that he is:
a) a petulant punk who doesn’t like being challenged or criticized by a mere plebe.
b) okay with what Holder wants to do to the people who ultimately helped us take out bin Laden.
c) both.

MORE: From Todd “Let’s Roll” Beamer’s dad in another RCP vid — “Obama ‘Putting Too Much Spotlight On Himself’”

EVEN MORE: From Charles Krauthammer in yet another RCP vid — “… the president has this sort of almost compulsive need to morally preen …”

Why Tomorrow’s and May’s Jobs Numbers May Deeply Disappoint

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:06 pm

Comparisons of not seasonally adjusted (NSA) and seasonally adjusted (SA) results during the past ten Aprils, but particularly in April 2007 and 2008, give off clues:

NSAandSA2001thruMarch2011

The “problem” is that April and May are very big months for hiring. During those two months last year, over 2.2 million were hired overall (with May heavily influenced by 2010 census hiring), and over 1.7 million were hired in the private sector. Seasonalized, however (excluding May overall), they translated to pretty good but not exceptional April results and a pretty weak May in the private sector.

Unfortunately for job-seekers, dramatic increases in gas prices and stronger evidence of generalized inflation have come at just the time when employers are making lots of hiring decisions.

A legitimate recovery in the employment market would require NSA numbers of at least 1.1 million for April in both categories (after all, the 2004-2006 averages were in that neighborhood of 1.1 million) and 850,000 in May (again, roughly the 2004-2006 averages), again both overall and in the private sector. I’d like to be wrong, but I think the chance of seeing any of those numbers appear is remote. April may not disappoint too badly, as it probably took a couple of weeks for the gas price and inflation shocks to sink in (it wasn’t until the last two weeks of April that initial unemployment claims seriously headed south). May looks really, really dicey.

Though it’s hard to nail down how NSA will translate into SA when there’s been so much volatility in the NSA numbers during the past few years, the boxes in the graphics above show how serious the effect may be if there is NSA slippage:

  • The green boxes in the Total Non-farm section would seem to indicate that tomorrow’s NSA number will have to be about 950,000 for the SA number to come in at or above 200,000 (to be clear, that’s really not good enough in the circumstances). If NSA slips below 700,000 (which I don’t think will happen), SA will probably come in negative.
  • The red boxes for the private sector  tell a similar tale. 950,000 NSA is roughly the number that should generate 200,000 SA jobs, and if NSA is below 700,000, SA will probably go negative.

My take has always been that the NSA numbers in historical context are more important than whatever results come out of the SA sausage-making process. That is especially going to be the case tomorrow, and on June 3.

UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: MarketWatch is carrying a forecast of 175,000 jobs added and the unemployment rate holding steady at 8.8%.

Today’s Initial Unemployment Claims: Context

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:37 am

Putting today’s reported seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims of 474,000 in perspective:

  • Except for a two-month period immediately following the 9/11 attacks, initial unemployment claims were never above 474,000 from the turn of the century until the week ended September 20, 2008, after just a few months of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.
  • Today’s reported number is the highest since the 488,000 reported during the week ended August 14, 2010. Without digging, you might think that the claims numbers were generally falling from the time the recession ended to that point. Nope. In 20 of the 31 weeks in 2010 which preceded the August 14 report, initial weekly claims were less than 474,000. The average during those 31 weeks was just under 468,500.

Yeah, today’s number is just one week. But it looks from here like a sign that we may be back to where we were throughout most of 2010, and that there is no significant rebound in employment on the horizon.

Mother of All FUBARs (See Updates)

What follows is a montage of current headlines at Drudge as of about 10:00 a.m. (those who wish to go to the underlying stories can go to this Drudge archive link, and they’ll all be there):

DrudgeAsOf1045am050511

I don’t know how anyone can keep up with the constantly changing stories out of this bunch. Thanks to the gang that can’t (or won’t) talk straight, it looks like this story might be with us for the next 100 years.

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UPDATE: Go to this Drudge Archive link as of 6:39 p.m. for some fresh new “Mother of All FUBARs” stories.

UPDATE, May 7, 1:45 p.m.: Gosh, I actually agree with the first couple of minutes of what Michael Moore says here — but definitely not the rest about having trials.

UPDATE, May 7, 2:30 p.m.: Foggy at Blackfive (HT Michelle Malkin), “Squandering Our Victory” (minor edits made) —

While the political side of me sees this correctly as another manifestation of the incompetence of this Administration, this vacillation is causing real harm to the significance of our victory here and to the reputation of the SEAL Teams. Let me assure you right now that there is no such thing as a “Kill only “ mission. If that SEAL operator came through the door to find UBL with his hands up, compliant, and unarmed (including no evidence of a suicide vest) he would have taken a muzzle strike to the face, but not any rounds. He would have swallowed some teeth, been flex cuffed, and dragged roughly out to a marshalling area and then onto the helo. To start out with the story that UBL had used his wife as a shield while shooting at the assaulters and to devolve that into to a woman was wounded and UBL was unarmed and shot in the face is quite a large spectrum of “truth”. Add to that the false notion of the “Kill only” mission, and now you have the entire SEAL community being thrown under the bus as wanton killers of women and unarmed civilians.

Frankly, I am content to watch Obama shoot himself in the foot while still having presided over a tremendous effort by our intelligence community and the SEAL Teams, but I’ll be damned if he is going to be allowed to implicate my brothers out of his own incompetence or political expediency. More importantly, the killing of UBL is undoubtedly a very significant event in the War on Terror and the momentum that we have gained should not be lost by grandstanding, partisan jackassery, and rank incompetence. Get your sh*t together Mr. President!

We’ve been waiting for that for two years, three months, and 17 days.

Unemployment Claims: Economy in Freefall? It Surely Isn’t in ‘Rebound’ Mode (Update: So Let’s Look at a Mileage Tax!)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:20 am

Last week, my reaction was “Holy Crap!”

This week, O…M…G:

In the week ending April 30, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 474,000, an increase of 43,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 431,000. The 4-week moving average was 431,250, an increase of 22,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 409,000.

… The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 412,873 in the week ending April 30, an increase of 25,006 from the previous week. There were 399,350 initial claims in the comparable week in 2010.

Here’s what the last nine weeks look like:

UnempClaims043011

(Mini-update: The expectations were that initial claims would drop to 400,000. Ouch.)

For what has to be the first time in at least a year, not seasonally adjusted claims in the past week were higher than the same week of the previous year:

UnempClaimsRaw043011

This is just brutal.

Here’s the link to the historical lookback tool, which I review to verify that prior weeks are what they were before. It’s usually in the press release, but it’s not there today.

Rebound? What Rebound?

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UPDATE 1: So let’s look at imposing a privacy-invading mileage tax, and see how many more people we can throw into unemployment –

Obama floats plan to tax cars by the mile

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration’s “Transportation Opportunities Act,” an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

This follows a March Congressional Budget Office report that supported the idea of taxing drivers based on miles driven.

Among other things, CBO suggested that a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax could be tracked by installing electronic equipment on each car to determine how many miles were driven; payment could take place electronically at filling stations.

There you go. This will create lots of new jobs retrofitting every gas pump in America so that it throws on a surcharge even before you start refilling. Brilliant.

UPDATE 1A: The administration is claiming it is an “early working draft proposal,” and “not a proposal supported by the administration.”

UPDATE 2: More from yours truly here.

UPDATE 3, 9:30 p.m.: Zero Hedge writes that the miss vs. the consensus estimate is the second-biggest ever.

Is This a Great Country or What?

Filed under: Economy,Marvels,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:15 am

FlagRecounting a 1,500-mile, 30-hour trip.

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Note: This column went up in slightly edited form at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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Just before Easter, I brought a vehicle to my son down in Florida. The whole enterprise, including the return, took all of 30 hours. During that time I experienced many of the marvels of a country and its system that for all of their current challenges remain the most impressive on earth.

The drive was about 750 miles, and began in Mason, Ohio. Over 600 of those miles were on interstate highways. Several decades ago, a Wall Street Journal editorial angered public transportation zealots by asserting in essence that autos, trucks, and the highways and roads that support them represent the single greatest mass transit system ever devised. Though there’s always room for improvement, I don’t see how anyone can reasonably disagree. The drive itself took only 12 hours, point to point — no nodes, no tolls, and virtually no hassles.

Given that it’s springtime, there were of course a few construction delays, particularly in the hilly section between Cincinnati and Louisville. Otherwise, traffic moved nicely and safely at or slightly above the posted speed limit, which was usually 70 (Governor John Kasich in Ohio, where only the Ohio Turnpike has this limit, please note).

It’s been over a decade since I’ve driven the stretch of I-65 between Louisville and Nashville. I barely recognized much of it. Most of the “country” stretch between Louisville and Nashville was three lanes wide in each direction. Before that, the Metro Louisville portion of the trip revealed a robustly growing area. Indeed, according to the 2010 census, Jefferson County’s population increased by almost 7% during the past decade, while the majority of urban counties in Ohio, most notably Cuyahoga and Hamilton, suffered significant declines. Nashville’s highway improvements since I was last there have been simply stunning, but they needed to be; Davidson County has grown by 10%.

I stayed at a well-appointed hotel south of Nashville whose brand was synonymous with the word “dive” not that long ago. Since the directions seemed to conflict with the hotel’s address, I had to call it from the road on my wireless phone to clear things up. An effort which would usually have been quite expensive or would have required a separate stop to use a pay phone just 15 years ago cost me nothing. Does anyone think that the old AT&T monopoly would ever have evolved to this point without the competition from entrepreneurial upstarts in the long-distance and wireless businesses, or that it would have thought up the type of “friends and family” plans that gave me about an hour of free talk time during the trip?

The hotel stay itself was also free, courtesy of reward points. Does anyone think that a government-run hotel chain would ever come up with the idea of frequent-stay incentives on its own? Or that a government-run or government-controlled Internet would ever have moved wireless access at hotels from a fee-based rarity a dozen years ago to a routinely expected free commodity today? Oh yeah, breakfast was also free, and I otherwise spent less than $8 on food during the entire trip down. Additionally, even with prices higher than they should be, it also only took about $120 in gas to complete the outbound journey.

The next day’s drive was predominantly through Alabama, a state I haven’t visited in decades. Memo to East and West Coast elites: Your stereotypes about the economically backward South would not survive drives though Metro Birmingham or Metro Montgomery. (Update: Some of the areas through which I drove were subsequently hit hard by devastating tornadoes. Go here for a list of donation links and ideas.)

Even the trip’s one downer was easily handled (it’s an almost ironclad rule that yours truly cannot travel without the occurrence of at least one Murphy’s Law event). Fifteen miles from the end, an oncoming truck on a two-lane highway threw off a stone which created a silver dollar-sized crack in the bottom left of the front windshield. Insurance will cover it, with no deductible.

I had a few hours to visit with my son, who is in his first year of serving his country. Though I would never minimize the day-to-day challenges and stresses of military service, I can report that the “barracks” at Eglin Air Force Base looked more like the outside of a Comfort Inn, up to and including keycard access. We went out to a nice restaurant in town, and ate well while researching the ins and out of insuring cracked windshields on my son’s Droid and exchanging texts with his mother.

My son doesn’t know the area very well yet, so after dinner he set the GPS on his Droid to direct us to the Fort Walton Beach Airport. Despite heavy construction activity in the area, the unit’s spoken directions were virtually perfect.

While waiting for my flight back to Ohio to board, I remembered that I didn’t have it tied to my frequent flyer account. In less than five minutes, I found the airline’s toll-free number on my computer using the airport’s free Internet access, called the airline, and got the miles credited to my account, even without knowing the account number. In between the two legs of the trip, I was able to let the folks picking me up know that I would arrive as scheduled, while also finding time to fix a typo (imagine that) at my home blog.

Most of the wonders just described have come about because of the efforts of private companies operating in a capitalist, free-market system. Though most don’t seem to recognize it, we’re in more than a little danger of giving it all away. We must not let it happen.