"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Thursday, May 27, 2010

After the health care reform victory, Obama is out again fund-raising for the Democratic party in anticipation of the coming mid-term elections.* Jackie Calmes writes:
But Democrats grumble that in raising money for them, as for himself, Mr. Obama prohibits donations from lobbyists and political action committees, long the fund-raising base for both parties.
"We make up for it with the large number of new donors that we brought into the process," said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. "And we have a grass-roots fund-raising capacity that is certainly unprecedented."
The grass roots have been stingier, however, than in 2008, which Democrats attribute to the economic downturn, the delays in winning changes in health care and the fact Mr. Obama is not on the ballot. But passage of the health insurance law, Mr. Pfeiffer said, "excited the grass-roots supporters the way that nothing else has."
In the most recent quarter, unlike the previous one, the Democratic National Committee outraised the Republican National Committee.
Krugman isn't happy.

Some Democrats worry that the new jobs bill is too expensive. With unemployment at 10%, that's crazy.
Republicans have been pounding Democrats on the deficit issue -- a line of attack that infuriates Democrats, who quickly note that former President George W. Bush entered office with a federal surplus and left with a substantial debt that the Obama administration inherited and then added to with its own economic recovery initiatives.
Lengthy, infuriating, thought-provoking op-ed by the a hedge fund manager who has access to the President's economic advisors:
I recently posed this question to one of the president’s senior economic advisers. He answered that the government is different from financial institutions because it can print money, and statistically the United States is not as bad off as some other countries. For an investor, these responses do not inspire confidence.
He went on to say that the government needs to focus on jobs now, because without an economic recovery, the rest does not matter. It’s a valid point, but an insufficient excuse for holding off on addressing the long-term structural deficit. If we are going to spend more now, it is imperative that we lay out a credible plan to avoid falling into a debt trap. Even using the administration’s optimistic 10-year forecast, it is clear that we will have problematic deficits for the next decade, which ends just as our commitments to baby boomers accelerate.
Not if we continue to fix the health care system and raise taxes on people like David Einhorn. At least he says that we should get rid of the official credit rating agencies and admits the financial industry is fighting change:
Congress has a rare opportunity in the current regulatory reform effort to eliminate the rating system. For now, it does not appear interested in taking sufficiently aggressive action. The big banks and bond buyers have told Congress they want to continue the current system.
Dean Baker says:
He tells readers that. "lower official inflation means higher reported real G.D.P., higher reported real income and higher reported productivity." Actually, this is not true insofar as asset prices are the cause of understated inflation. Asset prices do not affect GDP or productivity measures. It is remarkable that Einhorn apparently does not know this.
Einhorn also complains that his assessment of the understatement of inflation:
"doesn’t even take into account inflation we ignore by using a basket of goods that don’t match the real-world cost of living. (For example, health care costs are one-sixth of G.D.P. but only one-sixteenth of the price index, and rising income and payroll taxes do not count as inflation at all.)"
Actually, the government has a wide variety of inflation measures, many of which do include the full weight of health care expenditures. They all show the same thing as the consumer price index: inflation is very low and falling. In short, Mr. Einhorn either has no clue about government data, or he is deliberately trying to mislead readers.
There are signs the economy is improving but it could still easily stumble. But at least there are good signs.
* Here in Illinois, the White House has sent Education Secretary Artie Duncan and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina to help Giannoulias, the former banker and state treasurer of Greek ancestry. (Update: A day after this post Lynn Sweet reports in the Sun Times that David Plouffe will attend a grass roots fundraiser in Chicago on June 30th.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Europe's fiscal crisis could hinder US recovery

Facebook unveils simplified approach to privacy after public and media outcry over recent changes

Electronics maker in China promises review after string of suicides
SHENZHEN, China -- Struggling to cope with a rash of suicides at his company’s electronics factories here, the chairman of an electronics maker that supplies Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard* said Wednesday that he was doing everything possible to find a solution.
Foxconn, which has about 420,000 employees on two campuses in Shenzhen, is known for its military-style efficiency, the awesome scale of its production operations and for manufacturing popular products like the Apple iPhone. But this year the company has come under intense scrutiny because of a string of suicides by distressed workers between the ages of 18 and 24
*nice to see Rhys Darby of Flight of the Concords Fame in those HP TV ads.