Palin, Pappas, and different accounts — an update

August 16, 2011

This is a follow-on to this morning’s post about a misleading headline and Governor Palin’s phone call to a reporter in the mistaken belief that he was responsible. While really an addendum to that post, the passage of time and the number of posts since then make me think this should be its own entry.

Anyway, reporter Robert Stacy McCain (aka, “The Other McCain”) did some digging during the day and turned up some information contrary to the original report. Here are the key points:

  • Governor Palin did not personally dial up Pappas’s number. She asked around among her aides if anyone knew how to get in touch with Pappas. One member of her advance team, Jason Recher, had Pappas’s number, called him and then handed the phone to the governor.
  • Governor Palin did not summon a Politico reporter to listen in on the call. Palin was in the middle of a gigantic crowd of people at the Iowa State Fair, and her half of the conversation may have been overheard by others. There was no way, amid the press of the throng, that anyone outside that swarm could have been summoned at all, and the idea that Palin would be doing favors for a Politico reporter is ridiculous.
  • Governor Palin wasn’t screaming angrily at Pappas. Again, Palin was in the middle of a crowd, which was quite noisy, and if her voice was loud, it was because she was trying to make herself heard amid the hubub.

Stacey’s a good journalist, and I recommend reading the whole post and following his site. One interesting observation he makes, a bit of “political news” that he’s amazed no one else has picked up on, is the inference to be drawn from Palin herself making the call: that if she felt that strongly about the need to deny any hint that she was endorsing Mitt Romney, it’s a strong indication she really is planning to run.

As they say, “intriguing.”

(My guess is still that she’ll announce at Waukee on September 3rd.)

Finally, on a more personal note, I took a fair amount of heat in the comments (at ST’s blog and mine) and on Twitter for that post. Fair enough; if you’re willing to say what you think in public, you have to expect some folks won’t be happy. But I don’t believe I was out of line, hasty, unfair, or injudicious, having qualified it with enough cautions to choke a horse. Believe it or not, I am glad later information is coming out that apparently clears things up.

UPDATE: My blog-buddy chimes in with a comment. (Scroll down to the bottom of the original post.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

The Whiner in Chief compares himself to a real President

August 16, 2011

Great Seal Seal of the Pouter in Chief

I tell ya, this guy’s penchant for comparing himself to genuinely strong presidents who faced serious crises and who –unlike Obama– didn’t constantly whine about how tough they had it is really starting to annoy me. Two articles from Byron York; in the first, Obama tries to make people believe the buck stops everywhere but with him:

“We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again,” Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa.  “But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.”  Obama listed three events overseas — the Arab Spring uprisings, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises — which set the economy back.

“All those things have been headwinds for our economy,” Obama said.  “Now, those are things that we can’t completely control.  The question is, how do we manage these challenging times and do the right things when it comes to those things that we can control?”

“The problem,” Obama continued, “is that we’ve got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country, that is more interested in seeing their political opponents lose than seeing the country win.  Nowhere was that more evident than in this recent debt ceiling debacle.”

I can almost hear the chorus line from CCR’s “Fortunate Son” — It ain’t me!

Sorry, sir. What’s really holding this economy down are your outdated, statist, Keynesian economic dogmas.

Oh, but just to remind you that he’s up there with the great presidents of our history, he tells us that the slings and arrows of outrageous critics he suffers are like those of a president who fought a civil war:

Obama told the woman that “democracy is always a messy business in a big country like this.”  In addition, he said, “We kind of romanticize sometimes what democracy used to be like.”

“When you listen to what the Federalists said about the Anti-Federalists, and the names that Jefferson called Hamilton and back and forth — I mean those guys were tough,” Obama said.  “Lincoln — they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me.  So democracy has never been for the faint of heart.”

Pardon me while I hurl. Don’t even go there, chump. Yeah, you walked into a bad situation and your predecessor left you a mess — as if no other president has ever faced that situation. But the things you needed to do (and still need to do) to right the situation are straightforward and time-tested; you just don’t want to do them because they go against everything you believe and were taught, empirical evidence be damned.

Honestly, comparing yourself to Lincoln? Seriously? The man took over a nation literally tearing itself apart; he not only had to conquer the breakaway portion, but he had to keep the remainder of the Union intact while preventing foreign intervention.

And you think you’ve got it rough? What they said about him is “almost as bad” as what is said about you? Buster, you haven’t got it one-tenth as bad as Lincoln had it.

Narcissism and an inability to take responsibility. What a combination.

China will overwhelm us! Mmm…. Not so fast.

August 16, 2011

America is going through one of its periodic crises of confidence (1) in which large segments of the population are worried that our time is past and someone else will come to dominate the world. Roll up the flag, forget anything about being exceptional, and start learning Chinese; our new masters are on the way.

Ehhh… Hold on a minute there, Doc.

Those fears are predicated on our own economic problems (serious ones, not making light of them at all) and are compounded by a president and a ruling party that are trying to make us be people we aren’t and do things we’re almost genetically predisposed against. The strain and turmoil caused by all that makes us look at a rising power like China and think our run is done; it’s their turn, now.

Except they have serious, deep problems of their own. Among them are a housing bubble and a huge number of bad loans. Sound familiar?

Professor Niall Ferguson (2) recently toured out-of-the-way locations in China  and saw the warning signs of a Chinese crash:

And yet … A closer look at the Chinese economy reveals that an astonishingly large part of what is going on today is investment in urban residential real estate, which is growing at more than 25 percent a year. The evidence was all around me as I drove through my sample of Chinese provinces. On the outskirts of every city I saw, there was a veritable forest of apartment blocks under construction.

These are the fruits of China’s own stimulus. When the Western economies first tanked in 2008–09, China’s communist rulers ordered the country’s banks to lend, lend, lend. The biggest borrowers were property developers and local governments.

With inflation above 6 percent and the stock market down, the new Chinese middle class has gotten in on the act. An unknowable proportion of these new apartments have been bought as investments by people who already own one or more. With new-property prices up about 20 percent in just two years, who can blame them?

Sound familiar? Yes, this looks a lot like a real-estate bubble—with Chinese characteristics. As for debt problems, Chinese bank loans were 97 percent of GDP in 2008. Now they’re at 120 percent.

This isn’t the only article to mention the vast money (and debt) being sunk into real estate in China in perhaps irrationally exuberant hopes of big returns. Check out this piece on China’s “ghost cities” (3)

Take the New South China Mall, in Dongguan. The Dateline crew took a tour of the place, which has been 99 percent vacant since it opened in 2005, and the result is one of the most depressing things I have ever watched. Six years after its creation, what is touted as the largest mall in the world sits almost empty. One of the very few stores that’s in business is a toy shop, where the wistful owner spends his days dusting children’s bikes that no child will ever ride. He is lucky if he makes one sale a day.

And it’s not just that mall that sits empty. So do rows of massive skyscraper apartment buildings and central business districts in new cities around the country. This is at least part of the reality behind the megacities the Chinese are creating. “All the shops in this mall are empty,” says reporter Adrian Brown, walking down an immaculate but deserted street in one of the new cities, this one in north-central China. “Not that that worries the government, because they’re simply more concerned with maintaining economic growth, and one way of achieving that is building cities like this one.”

According to Hong Kong-based real estate analyst Gillem Tulloch, who is interviewed in the piece, the housing units are priced well above what an average Chinese person can afford. The result, he says, is a housing bubble that is terrifying in size, “a property bubble like which I don’t think we’ve ever seen,” he says. “It will make the United States pale in comparison. It’s said that there’s around 64 million empty apartments…. It’s essentially the modern equivalent of building pyramids. It doesn’t add to the betterment of people’s lives, all it does is it promotes GDP.”

And all this building is supported by bank loans, the extent of which has started to worry Beijing to the point that they’re laying down new regulations, which has created an underground banking economy with its own set of bad loans on top of the already-vast public bad debt.

When their crash hits –and it will, inevitably– it will undoubtedly affect their global reach, just as ours is being hindered by our problems. Only, given the potential size of the bad debt, I suspect theirs will be far worse and far more disruptive, including affecting the stability of their political system, which has little experience with the ups and downs of market economics. (4)

So let’s not write ourselves off and turn China into SuperNation just yet; they may soon be finding they’ve swallowed economic Kryptonite.

via Real Clear World

RELATED: Don’t get the impression that I’m dismissing the strategic challenge and even threat posed by a rising, aggressive China. In my opinion, the dynamics resemble that of Imperial Germany’s rise before World War I, when the new power became the rival of the guardian of the old order, Great Britain. For something to chew on, consider that China has just launched its first blue-water aircraft carrier. Gee, I wonder who that’s aimed at? Meanwhile, this must-read article by J.E. Dyer looks at Chinese intentions in the South China Sea and, by extension, one of the world’s major choke-points, the Strait of Malacca. The Dragon and the Eagle are keeping an a wary eye on each other, believe me.

(1) I’m old enough to remember the 70s and 80s when Japan, Inc., was going to eat our lunch. How’d that turn out?
(2) Smart man, should be on everyone’s must-read list. Have fun as he rips Obama’s clueless foreign policy.
(3) Here’s a fascinating satellite pictorial.
(4) How China’s rulers will react to that crisis, however, should be worrisome.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

Why California is circling the drain: the Amazon Tax Effect

August 16, 2011

I’ve written before of the self-defeating, bloody-minded stupidity underlying my state’s recent passage of a law forcing internet retailers with in-state affiliates to collect sales tax. (The “Amazon tax,” for short.) A few days ago, provided a good example of the unintended consequences of this law with the story of a young, successful entrepreneur who left for Texas because the business environment here wasn’t worth the trouble:

Unnecessary Paperwork: The state mandates that all businesses that gross over $100,000 a year set up an account where they report quarterly on the sales tax that customers pay for goods sold. Although her company sells services, which are not taxed, rather than goods, the state told Douglass she would still have to fill out the laborious paperwork four times a year.

  •     “When I closed the account (by going into a local office and spending nearly an hour explaining my situation), they forced it open again and sent me a nastygram explaining that I would owe fines for not filing the quarterly report,” wrote Douglass.

High Taxes Plus Business Fees: The state charges an income tax of 10 percent on all income over $47,055, which comes on top of federal income tax of 25 percent on income over $34,000. On top of that, state residents pay sales tax ranging from 8 to slightly over 9 percent.

  •     “I paid enough in income tax for 2010 to the state of California alone to hire another new worker for my business,” wrote Douglass.

The state also charges an annual fee of $800 for a business to be a corporation in California.

The Amazon Tax: The final straw for Douglass, though, came when Jerry Brown, the state’s governor, signed a budget that included the so-called “Amazon tax.” The argument is that if Amazon has affiliates in California it has to collect sales tax. Douglass, who sells products on Amazon as a modest side business that yields a “few thousand dollars per year,” is one of the affiliates. Amazon cut California affiliates out because of the law, and according to Douglass, both she and the state of California lost out because of Brown’s move, since she paid income tax on the money she made via Amazon.

Douglass notes that she chose Texas because because it is one of only four states (the others are Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming) that has no personal income tax, plus no corporate income tax.

(Emphases added)

In other words, not only did a state desperately in need of new jobs lose out on at least one (and how many others at other companies?), but the state didn’t just not get new revenue, it lost existing revenue, an outcome anyone with sense would have foreseen.

Times are bad enough without Sacramento aiming a shotgun at the state’s feet and pulling the trigger.

via Big Government

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

#Palin: This is disappointing, if true

August 16, 2011

Anyone who knows me or who has read my posts for any length of time knows I’m a fan of Sarah Palin. A big fan. I like her politics, I like her outlook, I like her record, and I think she has the makings of a good president.

Which makes this news both disturbing and disappointing:

What happened was that Alex Pappas of The Daily Caller, one of the rising stars among political scribes and a meticulously careful and wonderfully polite, fair-minded young man (an aside: I’ve known him since he was in junior high school), wrote a perfectly fine story about Palin’s current stances vis-a-vis the presidential race. In it, one of the things she said was that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, well, of course she would endorse him over Barack Obama.

Fox Nation picked up the story and, in its own headline (not Pappas’, not the Daily Caller’s, but its own headline completely apart from anything Pappas ever wrote) played up the “Romney endorse” angle in a way that apparently did not make it clear that the endorsement might be in the general election, rather than the primary campaign. (The headline is no longer available at Fox Nation, so I can’t say exactly what the wording was.)

Anyway, the Palin team pounced. Specifically inviting over reporter Kasie Hunt from Politico so she could hear the exchange, Palin called Pappas’ cell phone and began berating him in a very scolding manner for writing a headline suggesting she supports Romney. Pappas didn’t even know what she was talking about. When he tried to say that neither he nor his editors had written such a headline, she said she didn’t have time for this, that she needed to go back to the “real people” at the State Fair, and hung up on him.

Later, when it became clear that Fox Nation, not Pappas or The Daily Caller, had written the semi-offending headline, a Palin press aide called Pappas back not to apologize but to say that they now realized it was Fox and that the headline had been taken down. “No,” Pappas said, far more bemused than angry or upset, “he didn’t come close to apologizing.”

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Let’s set some context here. The article’s author, Quinn Hillyer, is a solid conservative. American Spectator is an old-line conservative magazine. Both Hillyer and the magazine have defended Sarah Palin in the past. And, while The Daily Caller tends toward the tabloid style, it’s well to the Right, too.

This was not a Lefty hit-job.

What jumps out at me is not that the former Alaska governor blew her stack at a reporter. We know how miserably she’s been treated by the press and, well, everyone can have a bad moment. (Even I’ve been known to have one from time to time. Ahem…) That I can write off.  In this modern age of flip cams and 24-by-7 coverage, every politician will at some time or another reveal their warts.

No, I’m bothered by two other items: first, that Mrs. Palin apparently called over another journalist to witness her reaming of Pappas — what was the point? It reeks of pettiness and unprofessionalism. She is a serious contender for President of the United States. This kind of “Watch me burn this guy” behavior should be beneath any candidate.

Second, once it became clear that Pappas and The Daily Caller were not at fault, Governor Palin owed him a personal call to apologize. Not a non-apology call from an aide.

Not only is that simple courtesy and the decent thing to do, but it’s smart politics. Once you, a contender for high office, have been shown to be wrong, admit it, apologize, and defuse the issue immediately. In the process you show yourself to be a good person and you disarm your opponents’ talking points. To do what Sarah Palin is accused of doing, however, is to compound boorish, childish behavior with poor political judgement.

In a candidate with ambitions for high office, that’s a bad combination.

Again, that’s if this is true. I say “if” because we all know the dangers of first reports and how there can be many wildly different viewpoints regarding the same set of facts. (Ever see Rashomon?) And it just doesn’t sound like Sarah Palin, for several reasons. But here we have witnesses, and I suspect what was reported is at least close to what happened.

And if that’s the case, then Sarah Palin owes Mr. Pappas a sincere apology.

PS: In case you’re wondering, no, this does not change my support for her. Not by itself, at least. However, it does go into the “Hmmm… File” as something that bears watching for signs of a trend.

PPS: I won’t at all be surprised to be fired at by both Palin-haters shouting “SEE? WE TOLD YOU SO!!!” and Palin-bots who go into attack-badger mode at even the least criticism. To the latter I suggest looking at my prior posts to see what kind of a supporter I’ve been.

PPPS: Rick Perry also had a serious unforced error moment in Iowa. Like I said, it’s going to happen to every candidate. Perhaps both should blame the deep-fried butter on a stick.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)