Virtual Front Page, Thursday, March 3, 2011

A really quick one, because I’m supposed to be somewhere in a few minutes:

  1. Obama Calls for Qaddafi to Step Down and Authorizes Airlift (NYT) — Which raises the critical question — how aggressively is the U.S. military prepared to act to protect this airlift? Meanwhile…
  2. POTUS mulls ‘no-fly zone’ request (WashPost) — As Gaddafi forces launch new airstrikes…
  3. World Court probes Gaddafi’s ‘crimes’ (BBC) — Again, notice how cautious the BBC is with attribution, putting “crimes” in quotes. They are very legalistic journalists. As the old saying goes, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
  4. U.S., Mexico Reach Deal to End Trucking Dispute (WSJ) — This could save the U.S. billions in punitive tariffs, which is good, considering as how under NAFTA there shouldn’t frickin’ BE any barriers to trade. Or so I thought.
  5. Blue-Chip Stocks Post Biggest Gains Since Early December (WSJ) — The Dow rallied 191.40 points, in spite of all that uncertainty over oil. Good…
  6. Illegal immigration bill stalled in Senate ( — Not all that meaningful in and of itself, but it stirs my curiosity (and optimism), and bears watching. This is the bill that would have SC goin’ all Arizona on illegals, or people who LOOK like illegals, or whatever.

9 thoughts on “Virtual Front Page, Thursday, March 3, 2011

  1. bud

    From USA Today summarizing the fantastic news that the unemployment rate is down to 8.9%. This along with the soaring stock market shows that we’re on the right path. If only government would hold the line on layoffs we could already be near full employment. Also, the soaring gas prices could be a serious problem:

    “The economy added 192,000 jobs last month, with factories, professional and business services, education and health care among those expanding employment. Retailers, however, trimmed jobs. State and local government, wrestling with budget shortfalls, slashed 30,000 jobs, the most since November.”

  2. Bart

    Gallup, certainly not a right wing company keeps up with the numbers as well. I stopped trusting the federal numbers a long time ago. I am not a pessimist but think Gallup is more realistic than anything coming from the government. If the recovery occurs as swiftly as some think it will, IMHO, it will be a false recovery and we will be in for more of what we have been and are still experiencing.

    This is from Gallup as of March 3, 2011.

    “PRINCETON, NJ — Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, hit 10.3% in February — up from 9.8% at the end of January. The U.S. unemployment rate is now essentially the same as the 10.4% at the end of February 2010….”

    “Jobs Situation Deteriorates in February

    There is essentially no difference between the unemployment rate now and the one at this time a year ago; January’s rate, in contrast, showed a 1.1-percentage-point year-over-year improvement. This suggests that the real U.S. jobs situation worsened in February. That is, jobs are relatively less available now than in January.
    Although Gallup’s Job Creation Index has improved over the past year and showed modest improvement in February, the improvement has not been significant enough to positively affect underemployment and unemployment….

    Underemployment Surges in February

    Underemployment, a measure that combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with those who are unemployed, surged in February to 19.9%. This resulted from the combination of a sharp 0.5-point increase since the end of January in the percentage unemployed and a 0.5-point increase in the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work. Underemployment is now higher than it was at this point a year ago (19.7%)…”

    Guess it all depends on your point of view and who you trust.

  3. bud

    I heard Rush rambling about the unemployment numbers. Is all conservatives have to do is slam any good news that Obama might get credit for? There is no real reason to suggest the Gallup numbers are better than the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy is growing as measured by many indices. If things weren’t improving do you think gasoline prices would be so high? Thinks are looking up and we can only hope the GOP doesn’t find a way to bring the economy down. They are very good at doing just that.

  4. Brad

    You know, I really wish I could have the faith that my partisan friends have that if only THIS party or the OTHER party has its way, the economy will be great.

    There is no way to know whether policies that have been followed by the Obama administration and the formerly Democratic Congress have contributed constructively to the present situation or not. I see no compelling evidence either way.

    And of course, either party can use these figures to “support” its insupportable claims. That’s because yes, the economy is warming up, but DAMN, it’s doing so slowly.

    But all that has been predicted by economists all along — the recession would end, but the recovery would be painfully long.

    You know what I think is going to get us out of this economic mess? Not the Democrats’ spending or the Republicans’ cuts. I think the thing that will get us out of this is for people who HAVE money to get off their freaking wallets and SPEND some of it. Basically, the country has been subjected to mass hypnosis that has convinced it that no one should spend, because times are bad.

    That’s what I think.

  5. Brad

    Another way to put it: Once everybody is convinced that things are back to normal, whether things are or not, they will act in a way that will PUT things back to normal.

    That’s my grand, Unified Field Theory of economic slowdowns.

  6. bud

    Psychology defintely plays a very important role in the economy. And if people would actually look at the progress we’re making that might actually bolster that all important consumer confidence number.

    Here’s what I think would be a pretty good summary of our economy over the last 3-4 years. The housing market finally burst wide open which triggered the recession. The fact that oil prices spiralled out of control in 2008 contributed far more than is usually acknowledged. The collapse was very dangerous and only because of the TARP program (a bipartisan piece of legislation) did we avoid a 1930s style disaster. We alway rant about how horrible the government is but that was a moment when everyone actually came together for the common good.

    The stimulus package started phase 2 of the recovery. It was too small and not very well designed but it did get us slowly going again. The auto bailout and financial company regulations also contributed to a bit of stability. These were 100% Democrat ideas. The GOP deserves no credit at all for those things. Had we not done these things our situation would be far more problematic. And if the Democrats had gotten their way completely we would be in much better shape still.

    I’ll give the GOP, or at least the Bush administration, credit for TARP. But as for the rest of the recovery they have been a huge detriment to our economy and deserve a considerable amount of scorn. Sometimes it is clear who should get credit and as far as the good economic news of late it all belongs to the Democrats.

  7. Bart

    I agree with bud on the role psychology plays in any recovery. Until the consumer either feels or believes a true recovery is underway, growth will remain stagnant.

    Blaming Obama for the recession is idiotic because it has been coming for a long time and anyone in the housing and construction industry who understood the market and what was going on tried to warn anyone who would listen.

    In 2006, the growing inventory of housing units was fast approaching an unacceptable level. The number of loans granted to people who couldn’t maintain them if the economy hit a dip grew too large. Not just the family making $25k a year buying a $250k house, it included the speculators who bought homes with the idea of flipping them and making an instant profit.

    One development on the coast ended up costing about 15 speculators who should have stayed home, well over $2.5 million. And, they were a mixed bag – Dems and Repubs – both sides were involved. In fact, the primary developer was a very liberal Dem from Chicago who tried to take advantage of the market for his personal gain.

    As for oil prices, oil has always been one of the least stable commodities simply because it is a politically driven market, subject to any unrest, rumor, or incident that could remotely affect even the most insignificant supplier in the supply chain. Gas prices are not going up because of an improving economy, they are going up because of the unrest in the ME.

    A report from the Personal Money Store MoneyBlog dated March 4th takes the subject a little further and reveals other politically motivated proposals from politicians:

    “Rising gas and oil prices tied to Middle East unrest have compelled politicians to demand that the Obama administration tap into the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve. The reaction comes despite a global surplus in oil production capacity and above-average U.S. supplies of oil and gasoline. The administration’s position is that the modest rise in gas prices isn’t enough to warrant tapping into U.S. oil reserves, which could spook international oil markets into further price increases.”

    “Why Congress wants to tap the oil reserve

    The U.S. strategic petroleum reserve, the largest in the world, contains 727 million barrels of oil, its full capacity. Nationwide, the average price of a gallon of gas has risen 28 cents in the past 10 days. Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, implored the administration to sell a major portion of the strategic oil reserve to stabilize oil prices and prevent a disruption in oil supplies. Other politicians are saying that in addition to tempering upward pressure on gas prices, selling some of the strategic oil reserve would raise billions of dollars for deficit reduction and help fund programs to reduce U.S. oil consumption, such as tax breaks for electric cars and hybrids.”

    “U.S. not running short on oil

    The Obama administration objects to tapping the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve as a reaction to the current spike in gas and oil prices, even though its 2012 budget proposal calls for selling $500 million worth of oil from the reserve to fund certain programs. The administration contends that tapping the oil reserve would send a false panic signal to consumers and markets when the U.S. is not running short on oil. A major oil storage facility in Oklahoma that supplies the interior U.S. has record inventories. Production is expanding in North Dakota, and a new pipeline is pumping fuel into the U.S. from Canada. U.S. crude oil inventories, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, are at 346.4 million barrels. U.S. gasoline inventories are at 9.86 billion gallons. Both inventories are at above-average levels for this time of year.”

    “The solution to rising oil and gas prices

    Oil industry analysts agree with the Obama administration that tapping into the strategic oil reserve now would have virtually no effect on oil and gas prices, and it would validate the fear that is driving up prices. Those who oppose tapping the reserve believe that rather than an oil supply shortage, a shortage in surplus production capacity is the real problem. Speculators are betting that spreading Middle East unrest will reduce surplus oil production capacity. If surplus oil production capacity in the future were significantly diminished, or perhaps even erased, the real oil price nightmare would begin. Adding the capacity to produce more oil, rather than a temporary infusion from the strategic oil reserve, will put the international oil markets at ease.


    New York Times

    Foreign Policy


    Getting into a discussion of the Stimulus serves no good purpose at all. It was something needed but IMHO, it was ill conceived and targeted the wrong things and job creation in the private sector were not sufficiently addressed. Saving GM and Chrysler was a good idea but the real beneficiaries were the unions, not the American consumer.

    As far as the complaints about Republicans opposing many of the measures, what the hell do you think a republic is all about anyway? After the pissing and moaning over voting along party lines, would you prefer to have a lemming congress, willing to go along with any and every proposal put on the table by one party to the exclusion of objections and opinions from the other side? I don’t want any governing body to have a rubber stamp support from elected representatives. I want a discussion, suggestions, and debate from all sides. No more of this damnable attitude of, “We won, you lost” crap.

    Obama and the Democrats are not freaking gods and the Republicans are not the answer to the economic ills of this country. If both sides don’t come together and do it soon, this nation will be screwed beyond recognition.

    Sorry for the length of the rant, not the rant itself.

  8. Herb Brasher

    Why is it considered the greatest thing if the American people spend more money to buy stuff they don’t necessarily need, or use up more resources? Is this the only way to job creativity and innovation?

    Of course I realize we all need to eat, and recreation is a good thing, too–and of course as Americans spend money, a little bit trickles down to the impoverished people of the world, including, horrors, some jobs that have been outsourced.

    I’m just wondering if the whole thing still isn’t somehow on it’s head. Let’s spend more money on stuff we don’t need so everybody will be more happy. Hmmm. There’s something flawed about this picture. Maybe it has to do something with something from the Good Book: “. . . for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).

  9. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    The only thing we have to feah is feah itself.

    The Great One said it best….

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