mm427: Obama’s restless summer

July 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Barack Obama, the black Will Smith, has been, is and will be in the news permanently, or at least until Nov. 5, 2008 should John McCain’s wet dream (of somehow overcoming the horrendous legacy of his good buddy, George III) become reality.

So there’s no shortage of worthwhile reading on all things Obama. Here are four of the most intriguing.

1) Fundraising expertise

David Brooks has spent some useful time poring over the campaign finance statements.

nytimes

Obama’s Money Class

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: July 1, 2008

Barack Obama sells the Democratic Party short. He talks about his fund-raising success as if his donors were part of a spontaneous movement of small-money enthusiasts who cohered around himself. In fact, Democrats have spent years building their donor network. Obama’s fund-raising base is bigger than John Kerry’s, Howard Dean’s and Al Gore’s, but it’s not different.

As in other recent campaigns, lawyers account for the biggest chunk of Democratic donations. They have donated about $18 million to Obama, compared with about $5 million to John McCain, according to data released on June 2 and available at OpenSecrets.org.

People who work at securities and investment companies have given Obama about $8 million, compared with $4.5 for McCain. People who work in communications and electronics have given Obama about $10 million, compared with $2 million for McCain. Professors and other people who work in education have given Obama roughly $7 million, compared with $700,000 for McCain.

So, Senator Obama, as has every presidential candidate in history, a rhetoric/reality gap.

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mm417: Sunny promises collide with black thunderclouds

June 21, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Outside the rarefied world of election campaigns, real life grinds on relentlessly.

washingtonpost

Big Promises Bump Into Budget Realities

New President Won’t Have an Easy Time Paying for New Initiatives, Fiscal Experts Say

By Lori Montgomery | Washington Post Staff Writer | Saturday, June 21, 2008; Page A01

On the presidential campaign trail, Democrat Barack Obama promises to “completely eliminate” income taxes for millions of Americans, from low-income working families to senior citizens who earn less than $50,000 a year.

Republican John McCain vows to double the exemption for dependents and slash the corporate income tax.

To which the folks who monitor the nation’s financial situation can only say: Good luck. Because, back in Washington, tax collections are slowing, the budget deficit is rising, and the national debt is approaching $10 trillion. Whoever wins the White House this fall, fiscal experts say, is likely to have a tough time enacting expensive new initiatives, be they tax cuts or health care reform. …

President Bush, who seems to be spending his last year in office trying to create a legacy, has already done so, indelibly. He’s going to leave the nation with greater fiscal obligations, and fewer means with which to meet them, mainly due to his Iraq needless nightmare, than ever before.

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mm416: Obama a pragmatic politician – we’re shocked, shocked

June 20, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would reject public financing for his campaign, after claiming this primary season that he would follow the lead of his Republican opponent. McCain had already announced (he had no choice, that well is pretty dried up for him) that he would rely on public campaign finance for the general election.

Obama is taking much heat from all sides for this change of position. For example,

nytimes

The Two Obamas

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: June 20, 2008

God, Republicans are saps. They think that they’re running against some academic liberal who wouldn’t wear flag pins on his lapel, whose wife isn’t proud of America and who went to some liberationist church where the pastor damned his own country. They think they’re running against some naïve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson….

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mm380: The return of cheap gasoline

May 15, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

…   Actually, it never left.

That’s right, faithful reader, that $3.899/gallon gasoline is still amazingly cheap.

That’s what yr (justifiably) humble svt paid yesterday to put 15 gallons of ExxonMobil’s 87 octane best into his mid-size sedan’s tank. Do the math. A Sunday paper less than $60.

Amazingly cheap, right?

Apparently so.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm370: How can you tell our president is lying?
mm347: It’s official, we’re depressed — er, recessed
mm344: Welcome to interesting times
mm337: Dare we trust the guys who got us into this mess?
mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

I’ve seen this argument before; that compared with much of the rest of the world (except places like Mexico and Venezuela, where domestic prices are kept artificially low for political reasons), U.S. residents pay proportionately less to fuel their minivans and SUVs than most.

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mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime

May 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The more you know about ethanol as a petroleum substitute, the more there is to dislike. This has been a continuing story in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, as you can see:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

We have spent some time in this space on the subject of water, and its scarcity.

Water, water, anywhere?

mm317: Water, the theme — part two
mm269: Water: Accept no substitutes!
mm253: Water: casus belli for a new civil war
mm206: It’s 10:30pm — Where’s your water been?
mm101: Technology / Water — It’s a theme!

Now, the two concepts: the wrong-headed use for fuel of a key foodstuff; and the menace of the growing shortage of water in the U.S; come together courtesy of a new member of Left-Handed Complement‘s blogroll, fellow WordPress.com blog Optimal Functioning.

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mm349: What’s Mike really going to do next?

April 16, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Thought I was done with Michael Bloomberg.

Not so fast, tiger.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC for U.S. President 2008

mm024: Bloomberg?
mm038.1: Jews Sorta Like Bloomberg Even Though…
mm051: Bloomberg.com: Bloomberg’s Money, Visibility…
mm054: Chicago Tribune news: An Idea for Bloomberg
mm057: Bloomberg for President?
mm058: What Kind of President would Michael Bloomberg?
mm064: How to take down plutocrat Michael Bloomberg…
mm066: Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions
mm069: The Votes Are In for New York’s Mayor Mike
mm086: Bloomberg Takes School Plan… to Midwest
mm110: Grading Mayoral Control
mm117: The cure for the Electoral College is worse…
mm208: Overdue a Bloomberg post
mm238: Bloomberg’s candidacy — closer to real?
mm248: Political Potpourri
mm254: Bloomberg – just won’t go away…
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger
mm280: Bloomberg for Vice President? Take 2
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm290: Gassing ’bout birds and supermen
mm300: Bloomberg: I’m not running, but…
mm301: Sorry, Mudge, the answer is no!
mm304: Mike, now I’m done!

This is all good sport in New York City, where, after all, Bloomberg is the two-term mayor, in a term-limit district. What’s a billionaire to do? Next?

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mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show…

January 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

On more and more minds, and lips, lately is that dreaded R-Word, recession.

First some news that we won’t have to work too awfully hard to relate to the topic at hand.

1. A critical gear in the export engine gets stripped

The aerospace competition between Europe’s Airbus and the U.S.’s Boeing has been hard-fought (think: Saturday-night saloon, brass-knuckles style) commercial dueling of a classic nature.

Boeing, complacent after lucrative decades owning global airline sales was embarrassed when upstart Airbus, an amalgam of several European aerospace firms unable individually to compete with the Boeing colossus began to outsell the arrogant giant.

Thus it was with no small satisfaction that Boeing watched Airbus announce delay after delay delivering its latest product, the immense 600-passenger A380, finally released to its first customers late in 2007.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as Boeing yesterday was forced to admit that its latest product, the new-age, environmentally sensitive 787 Dreamliner, has encountered delivery glitches of its own, the impact of which will push deliveries back to 2009.

Here’s the word from Boeing’s home-town paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (sorry, Chicago Tribune, but Boeing’s head may have relocated, but its heart remains in Washington State).

seattlepi

Boeing explains new 787 delay

Company ‘underestimated’ time to finish partners’ work

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

It was 90 days ago Wednesday that Boeing troubleshooter Pat Shanahan took over the 787 program after then-Dreamliner boss Mike Bair was sacked.

A week earlier, The Boeing Co. had announced an embarrassing six-month delay, with the first Dreamliner deliveries to airlines slipping from May until the end of 2008.

Boeing believed at the time that it would be able to complete work on the first plane in its Everett factory and have it flying by the end of March. It is the first of six that will be needed for the flight test program before the 787 can be certified by regulators to carry passengers.

The story rings true enough; the 787 is a new aircraft, being assembled a new way.

The 787 represents a new way of building airplanes for Boeing, which turned over most of the manufacturing and assembly work to key partners in Italy, Japan and elsewhere in the United States.

But those partners were unable to complete a significant amount of work before the unfinished sections of the first of six test-flight planes arrived in Everett for final assembly. Boeing has struggled to catch up on all this “travel” work.

Typical complexity issues, perfectly understandable, if disappointing.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Boeing explains new 787 delay

It will take a more adept macroeconomist than yr (justifiably) humble svt (not a very high bar to scale either) to tell us the effect of this delivery delay on the economy. Exports are an important piece of the economic pie, and Boeing a critical element of that slice.

Boeing sneezes, and we all should start looking around for our Nyquil.

2. Okay, it’s a recession. Which candidate makes the most sense?

There’s a presidential election campaign going on, you may have noticed.

NYTimes’ Paul Krugman, one of our favorite economic analysts, takes a look at their positions. Voters are getting nervous; tell us you know how to make us feel better:

nytimes

Responding to Recession

By Paul Krugman | Published: January 14, 2008

Suddenly, the economic consensus seems to be that the implosion of the housing market will indeed push the U.S. economy into a recession, and that it’s quite possible that we’re already in one. As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about plans for economic stimulus.

Since this is an election year, the debate over how to stimulate the economy is inevitably tied up with politics. And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy?

In fact, recent statements by the candidates and their surrogates about the economy are quite revealing.

And he proceeds to get to the heart of each candidate’s economic sound bites.

  • McCain: ruefully admits he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about the economy
  • Giuliani: his cure, a huge tax cut, isn’t
  • Huckabee: just wrong
  • Romney: who just might know something, won’t say anything, fearing to offend
  • Edwards: driving the agenda with a clearly designed policy
  • Clinton: following suit
  • Obama: after an awkward false start, now has a plan, although less progressive than the other leading Dems

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Responding to Recession – New York Times

Can’t help but wonder what Michael Bloomberg thinks… Mike, Mr. self-made billionaire, what get’s us out of our funk, fast?

3. Recession: Bitter but necessary medicine?

Another of MUDGE’s favorite economists, Daniel Gross of Slate, weighs in on our looming distress, and how it could provide a wake-up call to U.S. business:

slate

The Good News About the Recession

Maybe it will finally teach Americans how to compete globally.
By Daniel Gross | Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008, at 11:53 AM ET

House for saleA sign of the housing slump

A recession may be upon us, which would mean fewer jobs, declining tax revenues, and sinking consumer confidence.

But for some (congenital Bush-bashers, the Irvine Housing Blog, critics of rampant consumerism), the parade of bad news is an occasion for schadenfreude….

(By the way, schadenfreude is defined thusly. Admit it, you always wanted to know but never bothered to look it up. Sequitur Service© at your service!)

… They enjoy seeing inhabitants of the formerly high-flying sectors that got us into the mess—real estate and Wall Street—being laid low. Others hold out hope that a recession will iron out distortions in the housing market, thus allowing them to move into previously unaffordable neighborhoods. Some econo-fretters hold out hope that reduced imports and the weaker dollar—both likely byproducts of a recession—will help close the trade deficit. And a few killjoys believe recessions can be morally uplifting. “High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life,” as Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon put it in the disastrous aftermath of the 1929 crash and ensuing Depression. Not for him stimulus packages and enhanced unemployment benefits. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” (Thanks in part to such comments, voters liquidated Republicans for a generation.)

With the exception of a few gleaming stars, like our friends Boeing, U.S. companies have been woefully ineffective at selling to global markets.

The world is running away from us. The volume of global trade in merchandise has been increasing rapidly. And it’s not just the United States importing goods from China. It’s China importing natural resources from everywhere and building infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, sub-Saharan Africa buying oil from the Persian Gulf, Dubai investors purchasing Indian real estate, Indian builders buying German engineering products and services, and German engineers buying toys made in China. With each passing day, an increasing number of transactions in the global marketplace do not involve the United States. We’re still a powerful engine. But the world’s economy now has a set of auxiliary motors.

We know we’ve been floundering; the way out may well be to find business leaders with global skillsets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The good news about the recession. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

It’s going to be an uphill fight. We’ve earned our way into this economic distress: outsourcing our jobs instead of figuring out how to become competitive; living high on borrowed money that is now coming due big time; wasting geopolitical and real capital, and thousands of young American lives, on a poorly designed, inadequately executed, military misadventure in Iraq.

The R-Word

We hope you enjoyed this week’s three-part episode, and hope to heaven that we don’t have to do run too many more of them!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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