Thursday Mashup (8/6/09)

  • From the “We Decide, Then Report” file, John Lott tells us the following from Fix Noise (here, taking an off day from compiling statistics on how much safer we would be if we all had assault rifles, no doubt)…

    Only in Washington could a program that is spending money 13 times faster than was planned be labeled a “success.” The “cash-for-clunkers” program ground to a halt last week because in less than a week, a program that was supposed to last until November 1, had spent the entire $1 billion allocated to it. Let’s just hope that the government takeover of the rest of the health care industry doesn’t result in similar “success.”

    Meanwhile, in the reality based community (here)…

    The Obama administration’s much-maligned “cash-for-clunkers” trade-in system has made an immediate and indisputable impact on the struggling U.S. auto industry, with consumers flocking to dealerships in numbers not seen in years and auto companies posting strong sales they directly attribute to the government program.

    Ford announced on Monday that their July U.S. auto sales were up a strong 2.3% over results from one year ago, a result that company executives linked to “cash-for-clunkers.”

    And as noted here, the Senate is expected to vote on authorizing $2 billion more of funding for the program today.

    Yes, I’ve read that this is expected to create a mini “auto bubble” also (funny – I wish more people noting that had paid attention to the housing and dot.com “bubbles” as well), with a likely dropoff to occur when the program ends, but who knows for sure? And how can it be a bad thing when the auto industry shows signs of life?

    As noted here…

    If the Senate approves the additional money, it’s likely to lead automakers to increase production and bring back laid-off workers. Many automakers reported low inventories due to increased sales from the program at the end of July. Already Hyundai Motor Co. has added a day of production to its Montgomery, Ala., plant, and Ford is considering increases.

    Ford’s chief financial officer, Lewis Booth, said Wednesday night the company would decide this month and make an announcement in early September.

    Among states, Michigan has taken most advantage of the program, requesting more than $44 million in vehicle vouchers. California dealers had requested nearly $40 million in vouchers, and Ohio had sought nearly $38 million.

    Senate passage would send the legislation to the White House for Obama’s signature and assure consumers there will be no interruption in the program that has led to packed car dealerships nationwide.

    The deals are aimed at boosting auto sales, which have been at their lowest levels in two decades.

    Which of course means that the program is opposed by the Repugs, including Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, a state which, to the best of my knowledge, manufactures no automobiles whatsoever (maybe armored, but that’s it).

  • As noted here, President Obama is going to visit Bozeman, MT next week to pitch health care reform. As this story tells us, this is the first visit of a sitting president to this area of “big sky country.”

    (And gosh, J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times actually didn’t trash health care reform today, but wrote about a “missing ape sculpture” instead…insert your snark here).

    Maybe while Obama and his entourage are staying over, someone could remind Repug State Rep Michael More that introducing language in a bill that could be potentially interpreted to justify an armed insurrection against this country isn’t a good idea (here).

  • And the both the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are coming under attack for the following based on this (as if Obama doesn’t have enough to do – he’s been in An Oval Office for how long now? Six months and two weeks?)…

    President Obama got lots of attention last month for his drop-in visit to Ghana after the G20 meeting in Italy, where he blasted African leaders for misruling the continent and condemning its people to poverty and backwardness. “Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty,” said Obama. “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.”

    They were fine words. But not much else. Obama didn’t single out any particular leader for criticism, and he gave the speech in Ghana, one of Africa’s handful of functional democracies. In her own trip to Africa this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit bright spots like South Africa, Cape Verde, and Liberia. But she also has a perfect opportunity to name and shame the continent’s worst leaders. There’s only one problem: she’s going to blow it.

    See how our corporate media cousins have moved from magnifying perceived misdeeds of the Obama Administration to now forecasting what they will do wrong instead; Newsweek must be in possession of tarot cards, tea leaves, an Ouija board, and maybe even Harry Potter’s wand…amazing!

    The article specifically singles out Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria, Mwai Kibaki, of Kenya and Joseph Kabila of the Congo as people who are particularly bad actors. And yes, Hillary Clinton has said here that not having a USAID agency head named by the White House is “frustrating beyond words.”

    But I think the following should be considered (from here)…

    The Obama administration inherited a foreign aid system starved of civilian experts and burdened by a bewildering array of mandates. USAID’s full-time staff shrank by 40 percent over the past two decades, but the assistance it oversees doubled, to $13.2 billion in 2008. The agency has a skeleton crew of technical experts, with four engineers for the entire world, Clinton noted recently. Increasingly, USAID has become a conduit for money flowing to contractors, who have limited supervision from the agency.

    As USAID has weakened, foreign assistance programs have proliferated across government agencies, especially the military, causing duplication and confusion. Meanwhile, aid budgets have been saddled with presidential directives, “buy America” provisions and congressional earmarks that raise the cost of aid and reduce its effectiveness, development specialists say.

    “In the USAID budget, every dollar has three purposes: help build an Air Force base, support the University of Mississippi, get some country to vote our way,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of the aid group Bread for the World, describing the plethora of political claims attached to aid. The development program, he said, “is a mess.”

    The waste of billions of U.S. reconstruction dollars in Iraq and the growing role of development in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan have given new urgency to long-running debates about reforming the aid system.

    And as noted here (last year)…

    …the United States currently provides economic aid and security assistance to such repressive African regimes as Swaziland, Congo, Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Gabon, Egypt, and Tunisia. None of these countries holds free elections, and all have severely suppressed their political opposition.

    Among the worst of these African tyrannies has been the regime of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang has been in power even longer than the 28-year reign of (Robert) Mugabe and, according to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent, makes the Zimbabwean dictator “seem stable and benign” by comparison. Obiang originally seized power in a 1979 coup by murdering his uncle, who had ruled the country since its independence from Spain in 1968. Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea nominally allowed the existence of opposition parties as a condition of receiving foreign aid in the early 1990s. But the four leading candidates withdrew from the last presidential election in December 2002 in protest of irregularities in the voting process and violence against their supporters. In that election, Obiang officially received more than 97 percent of the vote (down from 99.5 percent in the previous election.)

    Though the U.S. State Department acknowledged that the election was “marred by extensive fraud and intimidation,” the Congress and the administration devoted none of the vehement condemnation that was so evident after the recent, similarly marred election process in Zimbabwe.

    One major reason for the difference in response is oil. The development of vast oil reserves over the past decade has made Equatorial Guinea one of the wealthiest countries in Africa in terms of per capita gross domestic product. Virtually all of the oil revenues, however, goes to Obiang and his cronies. The dictator himself is worth an estimated $1 billion, making him the wealthiest leader in Africa; his real estate holdings include two mansions in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the country’s population lives on only a few dollars a day, and nearly half of all children under five are malnourished. The country’s major towns and cities lack basic sanitation and potable water, while conditions in the countryside are even worse.

    During his most recent visit to Washington in 2006, Obiang was warmly received by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who praised the dictator as “a good friend” of the United States. Not once during their joint appearance did she mention the words “human rights” or “democracy.” At the same press conference, Obiang praised his regime’s “extremely good relations with the United States” and his expectation that “this relationship will continue to grow in friendship and cooperation.” None of the assembled reporters raised any questions about the regime’s notorious human rights record or its lack of democracy, instead using the opportunity to ask Secretary Rice questions about the alleged threat from Iran.

    Does Obama have work to do in Africa? Yes. Does our Democratic Congress? Uh huh. And our media? Bueller?

    Did Dubya have work to do? Next question.

    Now, Newsweek, since we’ve settled all this for now, can you just report stories like grownups again for a change?

  • And finally, this tells us the following…

    After a period of relatively low bankruptcy filings during 2006-07, U.S. consumer bankruptcies rose sharply in 2008 and continue to climb in 2009. Consumer filings reached 126,434 in July, the highest monthly total since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) was implemented in October 2005, and pushed the consumer total for the first seven months of 2009 past 800,000 filings.

    Just to refresh our memories, here are the brave souls who opposed this horrible law (all Dems)…

    Daniel Akaka
    Barbara Boxer
    Maria Cantwell
    Jon Corzine
    Mark Dayton
    Christopher Dodd
    Byron Dorgan
    Dick Durbin
    Russ Feingold
    Dianne Feinstein
    Tom Harkin
    Ted Kennedy
    John Kerry
    Frank Lautenberg
    Patrick Leahy
    Carl Levin
    Joe Lieberman
    Barbara Mikulski
    Patty Murray
    Barack Obama
    Jack Reed
    Jay Rockefeller
    Paul Sarbannes
    Chuck Schumer
    Ron Wyden

    And here are the cowards who supported it (Dems are noted)…

    Wayne Allard
    Lamar Alexander
    George Allen
    Kay Bailey Hutchison
    Max Baucus (d)
    Evan Bayh (d)
    Bob Bennett
    Joe Biden (d)
    Jeff Bingaman (d)
    Christopher “Kit” Bond
    Sam Brownback
    Jim Bunning
    Conrad Burns
    Richard Burr
    Robert Byrd (d)
    Tom Carper (d)
    Lincoln Chaffee
    Saxby Chambliss
    Tom Coburn
    Thad Cochran
    Norm Coleman
    Susan Collins
    John Cornyn
    Kent Conrad (d)
    Larry Craig
    Mike Crapo
    Jim DeMint
    Mike DeWine
    Elizabeth Dole
    Pete Domenici
    John Ensign
    Mike Enzi
    Bill Frist
    Lindsay Graham
    Charles Grassley (he sponsored it)
    Judd Gregg
    Chuck Hagel
    Orrin Hatch
    John Isakson
    Jim Inhofe
    Daniel Inouye (d)
    Jim Jeffords (i)
    Tim Johnson (d)
    Herb Kohl (d)
    Jon Kyl
    Mary Landrieu (d)
    Blanche Lincoln (d)
    Trent Lott
    Richard Lugar
    Mel Martinez
    John McCain
    Mitch McConnell
    Lisa Murkowski
    Ben Nelson (d)
    Bill Nelson (d)
    Mark Pryor (d)
    Harry Reid (d)
    Pat Roberts
    Ken Salazar (d)
    Rick Santorum
    Jeff Sessions
    Richard Shelby
    Gordon Smith
    Olympia Snowe
    Arlen Specter (d?)
    Debbie Stabenow (d)
    Ted Stevens
    John Sununu
    Jim Talent
    Craig Thomas
    John Thune
    David Vitter
    George Voinovich
    John Warner

    (And Hillary Clinton voted Present, which I think is questionable also.)

    A pox on those “Yes” voters for all time…

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    One Response to Thursday Mashup (8/6/09)

    1. Ronney Lee says:

      The program will follow the program that caused many of families to go in to foreclosures. Most of the people that are trading in old cars more than likely can not afford the payments for a new car in the first place, if, they could they would have bought a new car when interest rate dropped, also, when there were offers of 0% for 60 months,they did not. If the the government wants to help the economy and the working people stop taxing their income for 6 months.

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