Helicopter Ben Lives On

From Bubble Meter comes the explanation of Ben Bernanke's nickname:

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is known by the derogatory nickname 'Helicopter Ben.' The nickname comes from a speech he gave in 2002, in which he referenced Milton Friedman's metaphor of a helicopter dropping money on a community as a way to rescue the economy.

Bubble Meter then waxes poetic:

Real estate was
The way to get rich.
Just buy a home
And give it a flip.

If you bought more house
Than you can afford,
Helicopter Ben
Will dump cash your door.

He's Helicopter, Helicopter,
Helicopter Ben,
The money-throwing man
Who works at the Fed.

Money from the clouds,
Money from the sky,
Manna from heaven,
Thank that helicopter guy.

Everybody loves Ben, including Prez Zero, who just re-appointed Bernanke for his second term as head of the Fed. "As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I’m sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another." Russell Roberts from Cafe Hayek considers the effect of government bailouts:

Yes, we have avoided a depression. But let us count the costs.

Financial firms that made irresponsible and imprudent decisions have been rescued, propped up and bailed out.

AIG has received about $180 billion. That is almost $2,000 for every American household. That money has gone to sustain the bonuses of AIG and the financial health of its counterparties, such as Goldman Sachs. This is an obscene travesty.

The Fed currently holds $600 billion worth of Fannie, Freddie and Ginnie mortgage-backed securities. I am not optimistic about how that will turn out.

The Fed has injected hundreds of billions of reserves into member banks. This will fuel future inflation unless Bernanke is willing to raise interest rates when the recovery begins. There will be tremendous political pressure on him not to do so. So inflation is likely to come along with any recovery.

Worst of all, Bernanke, Paulson and Timothy Geithner have continued the disastrous policy of sustaining bondholders and creditors of reckless financial institutions. Capitalism is a profit-and-loss system. The profits encourage risk-taking. The losses encourage prudence. The bondholders and creditors are the single most important check on imprudence. They care only about one thing: solvency. By making them whole, their incentive to restrain recklessness has been greatly weakened. This sows the seeds of the next financial crisis.

I feel sorry for Bernanke. In one sense, as the world's greatest living authority on the Great Depression, he is the best man for the job. But because he is the world's greatest living authority on the Great Depression, another catastrophic economic debacle of a similar magnitude would be particularly embarrassing were it to occur on his watch. I believe he has gone too far in the other direction.

So perhaps Bernanke can explain why he supported appointment of Denis Hughes, president of the New York state branch of the AFL-CIO, as the new Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Hughes has never worked in banking.

MacGuffie's Readers

After the Obama Stimulus package made its way through congress with only Democrat votes and support, representatives from East Coast states caught up in liberal orthodoxy found angry constituents when they arrived home for the June break. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) found an angry mob waiting at his Setauket, Long Island town hall event on June 22. Suffolk county is not particularly known as a Republican stronghold.

On June 4, Rep. Jim Himes held a town hall meeting in Southport, CT that was described as a "sometimes raucous public forum" covering the issues of stimulus, cap and trade, health care and school vouchers. Prosperous Fairfield County, Ct. has its fair share of Republicans but Rep.Himes is a Democrat and a former VP for Goldman Sachs.

These two meetings became a part of the focus of Think Progress, a really radical liberal blog, to make a case that right-wing protesters required that police be used to free Rep. Bishop from the grasp of angry protesters and that a national conservative group had organized the Connecticut protest employing "astroturfing" techniques. But as Mickey Kaus, writing in Slate, noted: "If an "astroturfing" campaign gets real people to show up at events stating their real views, isn't it ... community organizing?"

Fixed into Think Progressive's sights was a document published by the titular head of a small Connecticut PAC called Right Principles. That document contains instructions on the best way to get you points across in a town hall meeting and the author was Bob MacGuffie. So now Democrats and their media supporters at ABC News, the Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, CBS and Media Matters have declared town hall events as organized rather than spontaneous protests. As Townhall's Meredith Jessups has pointed out, the Dems were getting nowhere with Limbaugh so Bob MacGuffie became the isolated and ridiculed victim of Alinsky Rule #12. However , a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Liberal 'astroturfing" documents appeared such as this one.

The most enjoyable part of Think Progressive's tirade against the Right is this story about the town hall protesters faced by Moderate Republican Mike Castle (R-DE).

The event rapidly devolved into a moblike atmosphere as conservative activists challenged Castle with the full spectrum of right-wing conspiracy theories:

‘Socialized Medicine’ Will Destroy The Nation ‘Faster Than The Twin Towers.’ Audience member: “I don’t have the answers for how to fix the broken pieces of our health care system, but I know darn well if we let the government bring in socialized medicine, it will destroy this thing faster than the twin towers came down.” [Applause and cheers]

The Cap And Trade ‘Tax’ Will Kill The American Economy. Audience member: “Do you have any idea what that cap and trade tax thing, bill that you passed is going to do to the Suffolk County poultry industry? That’s how chicken houses are heated, with propane. It outputs CO2. I mean, I’m outputting CO2 right now as I speak. Trees need CO2 to make oxygen! You can’t tax that!”

Global Warming Is A Hoax. Audience member: “I’m actually hopeful that this vote that you made was a vote to put you out of office. [Raucous applause and cheers.] … You know, on this energy thing, I showed you, I had in my email to you numerous times there are petitions signed by 31,000 scientists that that know and have facts that CO2 emissions have nothing to do and the greenhouse effect has nothing to do with global warming. It’s all a hoax! [Applause.] First of all, I cannot for the life of me understand how you could have been one of the eight Republican traitors!” [Applause and whoops.]

Global Warming, Like Darwinian Evolution, Is Just A Theory. Audience member: “It’s still a theory, so is Darwin’s theory of evolution! And yet we have the audacity to say global warming is accurate, it’s more than a theory? How about how cold it’s been this spring. Personal data, data shows that since 1998 average temperatures have been cooling!”

The Swine Flu Epidemic Is A Conspiracy To Force AIDS-Infected Vaccines On The American Public. Audience member: “The virus was built and created in Fort Dix, a small bioweapons plant outside of Fort Dix. This was engineered. This thing didn’t just crop up in a cave or a swine farm. This thing was engineered, the virus. Pasteur International, one of the big vaccine companies in Chicago, has been caught sending AIDS-infected vaccines to Africa. Do you think I trust — I don’t trust you with anything. You think I’m going to trust you to put a needle full of dead baby juice and monkey kidneys? Cause that’s what this stuff is grown on, dead babies!”

President Obama Is Not A Citizen Of The United States. Audience member: “Congressman Castle, I want to know. I have a birth certificate here from the United States of America saying I’m an American citizen, with a seal on it. Signed by a doctor, with a hospital administrator’s name, my parents, the date of birth, the time, the date. I want to go back to January 20th and I want to know why are you people ignoring his birth certificate? [Applause and cheers.] He is not an American citizen! He is a citizen of Kenya!” [Applause]

I love it! Wish I had been there.

Semper Fi, Marine!

Catch 22 for Milk Carton Politicians

The liberal Portsmouth (NH) Herald has some stern words for congressional wallflowers at the Health Care Town Hall dance.

The congressional schedule lists Aug. 8 to Sept. 7 as "district work period."

That means go home and meet and talk with the people of your district. And that's what many members of Congress do.

However, this year members of Congress came home to find some of their constituents concerned about the direction Washington and the Obama administration are taking the country. Some are angry about the bailouts of the banking and automobile industries. Some think the country is being pushed toward becoming a socialistic state. And some are scared about — and don't want — potential changes in health care being spurred on at a rapid pace by the president. As a result, in some districts outside New England, there have been instances of people disrupting the typical so-called town hall meetings that members hold by angrily shouting down the senators or representatives and just plain disrupting the purpose of the event.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania . . . said, "Traditionally, people who come to town meetings have objections. They may not be representative of America, but they are significant, and their views have to be taken into account."

What he was saying is members of Congress can't duck the tough questions and expect to continue to be respected, or even re-elected.

N.H. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had a telephone town meeting conference call a couple of weeks ago and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter's spokeswoman said the congresswoman who represents the Seacoast plans to hold a phone call session as well. But she does not plan to hold any town hall meetings.

The whole concept of a telephone town hall meeting is flawed. We live in New England, where the town meeting form of government originated and where it still thrives. We know how a town meeting is supposed to work, and it certainly isn't by telephone. It is neighbors meeting face-to-face to discuss the issues.

In the words of Jamie Radice, a Shea-Porter spokeswoman: "The purpose of town halls is to allow members of Congress to hear from their constituents, provide information about legislation, and to exchange ideas and perspectives."

Correct. So why isn't she having any?

The conclusion has to be that she doesn't want to face questions from people who disagree with her positions, particularly on health care. We find this curious and regrettable . . .

Leo Morris, Editorial Page Editor of The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana shows us the comedic side of this very serious failure of congress to interact with constituents. In his Opening Arguments blog, Leo writes:

Well, that’s not too cowardly, is it? I’m reminded of Major Major, one of the characters in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.” As Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope summarizes:

Major Major is a commander who doesn’t command. He hates dealing with people, and is somewhat frightened of them. He therefore instructs his receptionist/orderly that, whenever he is in his office, any visitors should be told he is out. When he leaves his office (sneaking out the back window), the receptionist can send visitors in to see him. In short, the only time you can see Major Major in his office is when he’s out. If he’s in, you can’t see him.

Tom Ridge: Book Income Trumps Loyalty

“The bastards are watching.”

"We can never guarantee we will be free from another attack. We must also understand that every day thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens work here and abroad to take us to a new level of readiness and security. For in the end, Americans do not live in fear. We live in freedom. And we will let no one take that freedom away."

—Tom Ridge, from THE TEST OF OUR TIMES

No one has read Tom Ridge's "tell all" book but his publishing house, Macmillan, is hyping the book with these tidbits:

When our nation called, Tom Ridge answered. Appointed by the President to head up domestic security, Ridge established the Department of Homeland Security. In this probing and surefooted memoir, Ridge takes us through the challenges he and his new department faced, including Anthrax scares and reports (both real and false alarms) of new Al-Qaeda operations sprouting up in the United States.

A “law and order” Republican who was on the shortlist to be John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Ridge writes with refreshing candor on both the successes and missteps of the DHS. He details the obstacles faced in his new post—often within the administration itself—as well as the failures of Congress to provide for critical homeland security needs, and the irresponsible use of terrorism by both parties to curry favors with voters. Ridge also reveals:

• How the DHS was pressured to connect homeland security to the international “war on terror.”

• How Ridge effectively thwarted a plan to raise the national security alert just before the 2004 Election.

• How Ridge had pushed for a plan (defeated because of turf wars) to integrate DHS and FEMA disaster management in New Orleans and other areas before Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Times reported these additional details contained in the book:

Tom Ridge, the first secretary of homeland security, asserts in a new book that he was pressured by top advisers to President George W. Bush to raise the national threat level just before the 2004 election in what he suspected was an effort to influence the vote.

After Osama bin Laden released a threatening videotape four days before the election, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pushed Mr. Ridge to elevate the public threat posture but he refused, according to the book. Mr. Ridge calls it a “dramatic and inconceivable” event that “proved most troublesome” and reinforced his decision to resign.

Members of George W. Bush's staff have an entirely different view of the events cited in Mr. Ridge's book. The NY Times interviewed several key administration officials:

Keith M. Urbahn, a spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, said the defense secretary supported letting the public know if intelligence agencies believed there was a greater threat, and pointed to a variety of chilling Qaeda warnings in those days, including one tape vowing that “the streets of America will run red with blood.”

“Given those facts,” Mr. Urbahn said, “it would seem reasonable for senior administration officials to discuss the threat level. Indeed, it would have been irresponsible had that discussion not taken place.”

Mr. Urbahn said “the storyline advanced by his publisher seemingly to sell copies of the book is nonsense.”

Mr. Ashcroft could not be reached for comment. But Mark Corallo, who was his spokesman at the Justice Department, dismissed Mr. Ridge’s account. “Didn’t happen,” he said. “Now would be a good time for Mr. Ridge to use his emergency duct tape.”

Frances Fragos Townsend, who was Mr. Bush’s homeland security adviser, said that “there was a fulsome debate” about the threat level but that “the politics of it were not ever a factor.”

Politico talked to more Bush administration folks:

“We went over backwards repeatedly and with great discipline to make sure politics did not influence any national security and homeland security decisions,” former White House chief of staff Andy Card told POLITICO. “The clear instructions were to make sure politics never influenced anything.”

“I’m a little mystified,” former homeland security adviser Fran Townsend added in an interview. “Never in my experience did I see any political influence exerted on the cabinet secretary.”

Townsend said Thursday that the accusations do not match her recollection of events and that any suggestion that the White House’s political team tried to alter the threat level is untrue.

“Under no circumstance was Tom Ridge or anyone else directed to change the threat level,” Townsend said. “It didn’t work that way, and it certainly didn’t work that way in 2004. It was always an apolitical process.”

“At no point when I was working with him did he express concerns about the raising or the lowering of the threat alert level,” Townsend said.

Townsend and Card also said that the process used to change the terror threat level made almost any claim of political influence impossible. Both said any change originated with DHS and was then referred to the National Security Council. The NSC then made a recommendation to the president which was then either agreed to or rejected.

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, whose own tell-all book was disputed by several top members of the Bush team, suggested in an e-mail to POLITICO that Ridge’s claim may have some validity, though he predicted that if the former Cabinet secretary cannot completely back his claim, his former colleagues will push back hard.

“It is one thing if he is saying he simply felt it was politically motivated. It is quite another if he has specific information showing it was politically motivated,” McClellan wrote.

Tom Ridge is certainly entitled to his opinion on the motivation for elevating the color-coded security level in August 2004, but opinion counts for little these days.

Un-American Sign. Maybe Not!

H/T: Doug Ross

The Government's Proper Role In Health Care

The government's proper role in health insurance is to help subsidize those who cannot afford it, to ensure transparency so that people can shop intelligently, and to prosecute fraud, abuse, and anti-competitive behavior.

But the government should not create a state-run market that inevitably will limit competition, inflate costs, and prevent innovation. As in the rest of the economy, the American public should shop for itself.

~"Obamanopoly", by Regina Herzlinger, professor of business at Harvard University, in the National Review

H/T: Mark Perry

Scam Insurance Cooperatives

Dick Morris considers Obama's message sent through his minions on the Sunday talk shows.

President Obama's retreat from his previous insistence on establishing a government owned insurance company to compete with private health insurers will do nothing at all to mitigate the massive rationing in medical care to the elderly his legislation will force.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a rare moment of profundity, said that government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's healthcare overhaul.

How right she is.

The fundamental equation that means worse and worse medical care for our seniors remains exactly as it was before the public option was abandoned: Fifty million new patients to be treated and no extra doctors or nurses to care for them. The result will be precisely the same whether or not there is a public option -- massive rationing of medical services to the elderly.

The legislation still plans to achieve 40% of its savings from cuts in Medicare, slicing reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals encouraging them shortchange their elderly patients as a matter of economic necessity and shrinking further the population of doctors.

The standards and protocols of the newly established Federal Health Board are just as likely to direct the denial of care to seniors for such surgeries as hip and knee replacements and even coronary artery bypass as before the Obama retreat.

Socialized single-payor health insurance remains as Obama's objectve. As Morris pointed out, the progressive money machine that backs Obama have outspent opponents $56 million to $9 million. HHS Secretary Katherine Sabelius spouted the party line:

Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.

With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.

“I think there will be a competitor to private insurers,” Sebelius said.

The "initial" $3 billion plus in government support is troubling as Alamo City Pundit explains:

Insurance Plans like Life, Auto, or Home Insurances are required to have Reserves, as Secretary Sebelius notes. Health Insurance is about managing cash flow; the cash comes in (from monthly premiums) and gets paid out almost immediately for treatments, visits, etc. There are no cash reserves in Medical Insurance – the money comes right in and goes right out.

Noted author and lifelong Insurance salesman Marcus Henderson Wilder had these observations:

1. The co-ops will get all the uninsurables.
2. Costs will go through the roof.
3. Costs will go into orbit.
4. The government will have to bail out the co-ops again or let them crash.
5. Higher premiums will drive away the healthy.

Dafydd over at Big Lizards is thinking along the same lines:

The problem is structurally similar to the government option: If co-ops are allowed by law to operate at a loss or subsidized whenever they lose money, they can always undercut any private health-care plan; thus, employers will feel irresistable pressure to force all employees into the co-op plan... and in effect, you have a mandatory government "option" by proxy.

As a thought experiment, . . . imagine if food co-ops were allowed to operate at a loss and were continually replenished by tax money; this would give them cover to sell food at such artificially low prices that the free market could never compete. Eventually, private grocers would be driven out of business, and the government -- operating through its stalking-horse co-ops -- would be the sole provider of provender... a situation fraught with peril: Whenever government gains a monopoly, it introduces political considerations into the decision of who is allowed access to that product or service, whether food or health care.

However, if the health-insurance co-ops are not subsidized, and especially if mismanagers are allowed to go bankrupt and disappear, that would be a huge improvement in the bill.

When these considerations are factored in the health care fight by opponents should continue. Unfortunately, this cooperative ply (thanks for nothing, Senator Conrad) will likely sway fence-sitting Republican Senators Conrad, Grassley, Collins, Snow and Enzi.

Electric Vehicle Viability

We have been inundated with news heralding the advent of the emissions free, petroleum free electric car. First the newly-minted Government Motors announced that their almost all-electric Chevrolet Volt would run 236 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalents. The following day, Nissan announced that it will launch the all-electric Nissan Leaf in selected locations worldwide next year.

Not to be outdone, the spender of our children's children's life savings, Prez Zero, announced $2.4 billion in stimulus grants to battery manufacturers including a grant to LG Chemical, a Korean firm, to build a Michigan plant to produce Chevy Volt batteries and money to GM to build a 200 car Volt test fleet.

The NY Post, however, points out that all that glows is not green:

Chevrolet notes that the key to high-mileage performance to the tune of 230 miles per gallon "is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day" to get "40 miles of electric-only, petroleum-free driving."

But that won't be "petroleum-free" in much of the country -- because so many utilities use heavy fuel oil to generate that electricity.

At current electricity-production levels, these plants emit as much as hundreds of thousands of cars on the road each day. If a few thousand well-meaning dupes plug a few thousand new Chevy Volts into electrical outlets (especially in urban centers), you could actually add millions of pounds of dangerous, dirty, unregulated pollution and carbon into the air we breathe -- possibly more pollution than would be offset by putting the Volts on the road.

That's if the electricity grid can handle the added load. In fact, all across the nation, the grid is fragile, antiquated and maxed out.

This rush to make electric cars the designated replacement for petroleum-based vehicles may be, like all government "instant-gratification" schemes, ill-advised. Development focus need to concentrate on two far more important factors - infrastructure and commercial viability. To its credit, Nissan, along with its majority owner and partner Renault, has been defining, developing and emphasizing new-wave infrastructure to support its EV technology. The heavy lifting on this development work has been done by start-up Better Place, which eventually will provide charged batteries to electric vehicle drivers. Israeli entrepreneur and Better Place CEO, Shai Agassi's idea is similar to designing buildings with seven foot doorways which then require only those over seven foot tall to duck.

Agassi, formerly an executive with the global software company SAP, struck upon what he thinks will become a paradigm shift for the auto. In his plan, owners of electric vehicles subscribe with his company. In exchange for the fees they pay, they get the right to swap their batteries at a large network of re-fueling stations, or charge up at special plug-in spots located at work or even their home. The car’s computer shows the way when the charge is low.

What about the notorious range problem for all-electric vehicles? Better Place claims their vehicle, developed by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, will have a range of 100 miles. Roughly 95% of all daily auto trips in the U.S. are less than 30 miles, and over 99% are less than 100 miles. Given a liberal smattering of battery changing stations, the range problem is vastly reduced.

The monthly charging fees will be configured much like cell phone fees.

Agassi also gave more details on how Project Better Place will sell its service and mimic cell-phone plans. First off, the consumer will buy the car, which will be similar to or below the cost of a traditional car — the electric car in Israel will be half the price of a normal gasoline car, and in Denmark could be as low as $20,000, he said.

Then he named three different possible subscription plans:

* The Prepaid card model: The EV car owner could buy, say, 300 miles in advance and ‘pay as you go.’
* The Rollover Plan model: Under this plan the consumer could buy a certain amount of packaged miles every month, and take the miles and move them from one month to the next. It’s like cell phone’s “rollover” minutes, but Agassi quipped that rollover miles might not be the best name for the car industry. Agassi said that if a car owner bought 1,000 miles, Project Better Place would guarantee the price, and focus groups have found that the average time people might want that plan is 3.5 years.
* The MetroPCS plan: The way MetroPCS offers something like $75 per month, and you can drive as much as you want and have as many drivers as you want. Like the one-rate, all-you-can-eat-plan. Agassi says if consumers sign up for that plan for a fixed amount of time, maybe six years in Israel, they’ll give away the car for free.

The real problem with electric vehicles will come from the environmentalists and their political allies. Free enterprise profitability will suffer when tax policy is imposed to guarantee that cars will be electric. In Israel, for example, the tax on a new vehicle purchase will be 10% for EVs, 79% for gasoline vehicles and 30% for hybrids. Sales demand will be curtailed by such high tax rates. Commercial viability will be a huge accomplishment when and if standardization of batteries, charging systems and customer acceptance, especially here in America is tested. Like the folks in Pennsylvania holding onto their guns and bibles, it might be difficult to wrest the Nissan Maxima keys from an aficionado, even if another Nissan is part of the swap.

All electric cars will be a long time coming to America because there is no effort to fix our electric infrastructure and I cannot say that that bothers me. What does bother me is the huge waste of financial resources here that scatters our tax money to every freaking environmentalist cause without regard to financial payback.

'lectric 'rithmetic

The bad news is that the Chevy Volt will sell for $40,000. The good news:

WARREN, MICH — General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline in city driving, more than four times the mileage of the current champion, the Toyota Prius.

The Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles. The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

GM came up with the 230-mile figure in early tests using draft guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended range electric vehicles, said Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle line director for the Volt.

The problem, of course, is that "figures don't lie, but liars figure." The 230 MPG works when a trip is under 40 miles. Read the small print:

The 230 MPG number, according to GM's Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt, is a measurement of the car's "city driving cycle" — that's the 40 miles it can go without gas, plus one daily electric charge-up, plus a little extra help from the gasoline it might need to continue to charge its batteries when they get low while driving in the city. It's basically measuring the Volt's electric-only-mode (with some help) mileage capacity. If the Volt got out on the highway — where it's powered largely by gasoline — and traveled 200 miles the MPG would drop like a stone, and likely be more in line with other hybrids.

Comparable hybrids, Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight will sell in the $25,000 range. OOPS! Nissan adds insult to injury with its recent tweet:

"Nissan Leaf = 367 mpg, no tailpipe, and no gas required. Oh yeah, and it'll be affordable too!"

The Nissan Leaf will debut at the same time as the Volt. It is an all-electric vehicle with a 100 mile range on a single charge. Oh yeah, and it'll sell for about $25,000.

Going, Going, Gone Postal

Pity the poor, really poor, U. S. Postal Service. First came the ugly financial results for the nine months ended June 30 which show a $4.7 billion dollar loss on the way to a $7.0 billion deficit for the year. Then the ultra-liberal, big government, work-for-Obama media giant, The New York Times suggested (gasp) that the USPS be privatized.

Instead of trying to find short-term, piecemeal solutions to the current crisis, those involved in managing and overseeing the Postal Service ought to be thinking harder thoughts about blowing up its business model. Maybe the Postal Service should turn itself into a giant out-sourcer, handling some tasks but handing out others, for a fee, to more efficient companies. Maybe the government should allow companies to bid on lucrative urban delivery — with the proviso that they also deliver to rural areas. Maybe some areas should get mail deliveries less frequently than others. Maybe there should be radically different pricing structures. Maybe it should even lose its monopoly on first-class mail. I mean, why not?

Mr. [Rick] Geddes, the Cornell professor, says he believes that the only solution is for the Postal Service to become “just another company” — lose its monopoly, shed its bureaucratic mind-set, become able to negotiate freely with its unions, and answer to shareholders instead of Congress, which is always going to resist significant change that might upset a constituent. Only when that happens will it be able to bring its costs in line with its revenue.

Even Prez Zero stepped all over his beloved big quasi-government agency today while fumbling to justify government-run health care.

Jon Stossel drives home the final nail in to the USPS coffin:

Give me a break.

I’m sure that years ago, people wailed when their ice man went out of business. Should government have propped him up? “Where will I get my block of ice?!”

The postal service, like all government monopolies, is an inefficient sinkhole. Private companies like UPS and Federal Express give much better service. Consumer Reports found that, again and again, the private deliverers get it there faster.

The private competitors also make a profit doing it, so they don’t ask for taxpayer handouts. They outperform the post office, even though the post office has huge advantages. It pays no federal tax, no state tax, and no parking tickets. Often they don't even pay rent. They don't pay to register their vehicles. Check out a license plate spot on a post office truck -- nothing there.

The postal service always promises future solvency, but keeps losing your money: $7 billion this year despite a 2-cent rate increase.

The monopoly should be allowed to die, as free marketers have argued for years.

Continued sophistication of electronic applications via the internet are accelerating the Post Office demise, but the politicians seem content to continue to make and deliver ice. Ultimately, there will be no mail to deliver because the electronic competiton is already here in the form of Microsoft's postal project (which could become their first venture into a retailing business) and Earth Class Mail. These businesses will "cherry-pick" business mail first because large customers are more interested in cost savings. Businesses eventually have to deal with individual buyers at the retail level, so delivery to connected consumers will follow quickly . . . and unless the Congress changes the law, USPS has no monopoly hold on electronic mail.

Sayonara, U.S Postal Service. Don't let the door slam you in the ass!

Obama Birth Controversy Continues

Democrat leaders and their government-controlled allies in the press are on the attack against those who ask for empirical proof of Obama's qualifications under the Constitution to be president. These folks, usually conservative bloggers and media personalities are labeled as ”birthers” (after the “truther” kooks who believe that 9/11 was a U.S, government conspiracy) and ridiculed as sore losers and racists, all those who cannot accept Obama's victory. Ridicule is, of course, Rule #5 among Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

The noise levels has now turned up to such an extent now that “new evidence” proves Obama's Hawaiian birth. The new data, which isn't new at all, includes a second Honolulu birth announcement and a second statement from Hawaii Department of Health's director reasserting that she has seen and has examined Barack Obama's birth certificate. The simple truth is that Barack Obama has not produced even a certified copy of his original birth certificate for view by the American public nor has he shown it to any public officials or the courts in the other "57" states (at least none who will so testify). Oh, his supporter and past employer, the Annenberg Foundation, on their FactCheck website, declare that they have seen the COLB, touched it, and offer nine images to "prove" that a Certification of Live Birth (not a birth certificate) exists. However the documents shown at FastCheck.org may be just as phony as the images at Fight the Smears and Daily Kos which were photoshopped.

Lefty blogger Daily Kos commissioned a poll ( I wonder if Soros was involved) that found that 58% of "Repubs" believed that Prez Zero was not a citizen. Lou Dobbs is being told by CNN not to talk to or about birthers. Dobbs, Limbaugh, Mark Steyn and Hannity support open questions about the missing COLB. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, National Review Online, Power Line, Little Green Footballs and some Pajama Media guys think that Obama is qualified to be president or that the theory is distracting and unproductive controversy. Another Soros site, Media Matters spends all day every day trying to knock down Limbaugh and the other talkers, but the controversy lives.

Surprisingly, Mark Joseph at the left-wing Huffington Post gets the controversy right:

The only thing weirder than the Birthers are the anti-Birthers, who blame the Birthers for being conspiracy theorists yet actively feed the conspiracy by refusing to call for President Obama to release his birth certificate.

To date some 60 lawsuits have been filed to contest Obama's citizenship. Obama's legal bills must be mounting into the millions of dollars. Since every lawsuit could have been settled before any hearings simply by filing a certified copy of his detailed Certificate of Live Birth from Hawaii, the courtrooms full of defense lawyers raises more questions than answers. Judges, God love them, do not want to be drummed out of the judiciary for bringing down a seated government administration, so all cases are being dismissed for lack of standing . . . and the beat goes on.

UPDATE: WND reports that Hawaii DOH refused to authenticate either the COLB at Obama's Fight the Smears site nor the Certification of Live Birth shown in FactCheck.org's website.

Just a Cop, Skip and a Chump

H/T: Patterico's Pontifications

Quote of the Week

"Divorce Todd? Have you seen Todd? I may be just a renegade hockey mom, but I'm not blind!"

Simon Malls Boots Conservative Tenant

Simon Malls loves bad publicity. First the world's largest mall owner shut down a 4th of July Tea Party in Atlanta's Gwinnett Place Mall and now a kiosk was kicked out of their Concord Mills (NC) Mall for selling what a single liberal female called "provocative , conservative merchandise" (such as baby bibs reading “My parents chose life. Thanks Mom and Dad!”)

"Impeach Obama."

"Al Qaeda's favorite days: 9/11/01 and 11/04/08."

"Work Harder. Obama needs the money."

The bumper stickers and posters sold at "Free Market Warrior" at Concord Mills are meant to be "biting," the kiosk's owner Loren Spivack said.

At least one passerby found them racist and bigoted, and took time to tell the mall in a letter and a letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer.

The kiosk chain's owner shared e-mail correspondence with NewsChannel 36 that explains that the mall management has decided that the items sold are not "neutral" enough. The lease will be allowed to expire July 31, 2009 without an option to renew.

Spivack, who first leased the space this spring, says the decision came as a shock to him. He says mall management seemed pleased with the kiosk just a few weeks ago.

"Nobody in that mall is selling anything from a conservative perspective. Plenty of people are selling things with a liberal perspective, with a pro-Obama perspective," he said. "Given that we are in America and not North Korea, we probably should have some stuff on the other side."

Spivack says he is careful not to sell things that personally attack a politician and wants a fair exchange of ideas. "The material that I sell is about politics and ideas," he told Newschannel 36. "It's all legitimate criticism."

Spivak pointed out to the Charlotte Observer:

“It's completely about politics,” said Loren Spivack, owner of the Free Market Warrior. “Half the stores in that mall sold pro-Obama merchandise for months. All I did was present an alternative opinion, and that's what became so controversial.”

He notes that Mel Simon, co-chair of mall owner Simon Property Group, has given generously to Democratic candidates.

Spivack also says he's found other stores at the mall that sell T-shirts and other merchandise with offensive X-rated slogans.

At the Free Market Warrior website, Loren Spivak relates that the end to his tenant relationship with Simon Malls has occurred. Simon agreed to permit the kiosk to remain in the mall if certain merchandise was removed from sale. Future merchandise offered would rest with Simon's sole discretion as to whether or not the merchandise was "offensive".

This is probably a good moment for America, as Simon Property group’s sole discretion is laid bare. It is time for millions of consumers to start exercising their sole discretion about where to shop. There’s a Simon Mall near you. There’s also another option near you. That’s a beautiful thing about free markets.