Tuesday 26 February 2013

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Photo, above:  Saul Alinsky excoriated by the Right.

JOHN BATCHELOR SHOW

Co-host: Larry Kudlow, The Kudlow Report, CNBC; and Cumulus Media radio

Hour One

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Larry Kudlow, in re: real tax burden as a share of the economy??  Wilbur Ross on Kudlow Report tonight.  One quarter of one per cent of the economy will be affected by the sequester. This has been the slowest recovery since 1947. Since pouring money into the economy doesn't work, why do you think taking out more taxes will work? Need to downsize, cut expanses, and reduce staff.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual congressional testimony confirmed that the FOMC is paying a lot more attention to the potential costs of continuing with its quantitative easing this year. Bernanke still appears to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs, but the net benefits will continue to shrink as the Fed buys more assets this year. It is looking more likely that the Fed will slow the pace of its monthly purchases soon, even if it doesn't see the desired improvement in labour market conditions. Repeating the message from January's FOMC minutes, Bernanke argues that "keeping longer-term interest rates low has helped spark recovery in the housing market and led to increased sales and production of automobiles and other durable goods." In an extended box in the Monetary Policy Report that accompanied Bernanke's testimony, the first two rounds of QE are estimated to have boosted real GDP by 3% and added 3 million additional jobs. But the benefits of QE have been known for a long time. What has changed is that new in-house research from the Fed is making officials think again about the potential costs. According to Bernanke, the FOMC is "monitoring closely" those costs. In particular, the FOMC is worried that a further expansion of its balance sheet could trigger a rapid rise in actual or expected inflation. Bernanke also reiterated some of the potential risks to financial stability raised several weeks ago in a speech by Fed Governor Jeremy Stein, although he concludes that "to this point we do not see the potential costs of the increased risk-taking in some financial markets as outweighing the benefits of promoting a stronger economic recovery and more-rapid job creation." Finally, Bernanke also notes that shrinking the Fed's bloated balance sheet when the time comes to reverse its unconventional measures could lead to net losses and halt remittances to the Treasury. Overall, even if he still believes that the benefits are greater than the costs, the time Bernanke devoted to running through those costs in his testimony illustrates how the debate within the FOMC is changing.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 1, Block B:     Jodi Schneider, Bloomberg senior tax expert, in re:

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 1, Block C: . Joseph Rago, WSJ & Pulitzer prizewinner, in re: Christie Will Accept Medicaid Expansion  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will expand the state's Medicaid program to cover 300,000 uninsured residents, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. Christie joins Republican governors from Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Florida and New Mexico as well as Gov. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, an Independent, in embracing the larger Medicaid program. Politico notes Christie's "status as a potential 2016 presidential contender adds political intrigue. He's already taken flak from fellow Republicans . . . The Medicare expansion covers about half the people in the Affordable Care Act. . . . "A disappointing turn in theor intellectual development, I guess you could say."  "HHS is not a competent organization –it's one of the more dysfunctional part of government.  HHS will tax all participants by 3.5% - consumers will route it through the insurer, which will route it back to the govt – probably illegal. The failure of Natl Health Exchange will send a lot of poor people back into Medicaid. Nothing the governors can do.  Natl Health Exchange will operate in New Jersey, a federal operation; Christie and 34 other governors have rejected having their states run it. Comes into effect in October of this year. Huge disruptions, convulsive change.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post, Right Turn blogger, in re: Tea party owes this victory to ‘establishment’ Anti-spending clique claims victory on a deal it opposed. Shd runt the whole rest of the Obama Administration on continuing resolutions – that's their only hope. Peak of fed spending was 23% of GDP; now it’s 22.8%  growth rate is flat, so we’re actually getting some spending restraint. CPAC wouldn’t invite Christie to speak; from GOPAC, the gay coalition.

Despite lower household income and surging gasoline prices, US consumers were relatively upbeat in February. The Conference Board's measure of consumer confidence rose for the first time in four months to 69.6 in February, from 58.4. The consensus forecast was 62.0. The latest increase presumably reflects the upward trend in equity prices seen during the survey period, which has gone into reverse in recent days. The expectations index, which is driven by changes in both equity and gasoline prices, rose quite sharply to 73.8, from 59.9. This index is now at a level consistent with annualised consumption growth of around 1% in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the increase in the current conditions index was relatively modest to 63.3, from 56.2. More generally, the headline index is still well below the long-term average of 92, and with gasoline prices rising and equity prices reversing some of the recent gains, it is possible that confidence will drop back in the coming months. Since the cutoff date for this survey, which was mid-February, gasoline prices have risen by an additional 10 cents a gallon, while equity prices are below their five-year high levels.

Hour Two

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  . Larry Johnson, NoQuarter, in re: While I don't think Hagel is all that bright, I'm shocked by the extreme rhetoric from the Republicans, who describe him as a spawn of Satan. Saudis giving Syrian rebels money via Croatia. Syrian "rebels" have VBIEDs from – not the US. Note that thies week were giving them weapons, but last week we emphatically were not . . .   WH was running an off-the-books op using Saudi money and anther govt, drafting jihadis, training them in Libya, and shipping them in to Syria to fight Assad.    We call them rebels – Syria has collapsed into a failed state; we're arming the Islamists.  A very strange network that specializes in criticizing this administration knows perfectly well what actually happened in Benghazi. [They're engaged in] a lot of carnival-acting. The Saudis are much afraid of [Syria.] The US is trying to push Iran to the breaking point.

Backdoor Deal on Syria to Win McCain and Graham Fold on Hagel and Brennan?    Current Affairs  Perhaps today’s vote sealing Chuck Hagel’s future as the new Obama Secretary of Defense had nothing to do with news leaked that Obama is getting ready to help Syrian rebels. But call me skeptical:  The Obama administration is moving toward a major policy shift on Syria that could provide the rebels with equipment such as body armor, armored vehicles and possible military training and could send humanitarian assistance directly to Syria’s opposition political coalition, according to U.S. and European officials.  The administration has not provided direct aid to either the military or political side of the opposition throughout the two-year old Syrian conflict, and U.S. officials remain opposed to providing weapons to the rebels.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  John Fund, National Review Online, in re:

Fund: Obama Trots out Full Alinksy  President Obama and MSNBC’s Al Sharpton share a common philosophical connection despite their different styles. Both are disciples of Saul Alinsky, the late community organizer whose book Rules for Radicals, has inspired many liberals to demonize and demagogue their opponents as a means of securing political advantage.  So when Obama gave an interview yesterday on Al Sharpton’s radio show, the resulting exchange was revealing. Obama used his platform to paint a horrific picture of what America would look like after March 1 if sequestration spending cuts went into effect. "Alinsky says: Personalize, demonize, isolate, and use anecdotes."

“We could see mental-health services affected, head start slots taken away. . . . It’s going to have an effect on cutting back on things like meat inspections, or folks at our airports, which means that airport lines may be longer,” Obama said. “Whether or not we can move Republicans to do the right thing is something we’re still trying to gauge.”  Why would Republicans want to go through with such draconian actions? Well, the president explained, it’s all about their wanting to do the bidding of the rich.  “My sense is that their basic view is nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations,” he said. “And they would prefer to see these kinds of cuts that could slow down our recovery over closing tax loopholes, and that’s the thing that binds their party together at this point.”  Obama went on to explain that if only Republicans could think clearly they would say that raising taxes again (they already went up on 77 percent of Americans as part of the fiscal-cliff deal in January) would help today’s weak economy.

“When you look at the polling, 75 percent of the American people agree with me that the way to reduce the deficit sensibly is through a combination of spending cuts and tax revenue, and if we spread that out over several years, it wouldn’t have a bad impact on our economy — and, in fact, would strengthen our economy by putting us on a more stable financial footing,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think Republicans right now have been so dug in on this notion of never raising taxes that it becomes difficult for them to see an obvious answer right in front of them.” All of Obama’s rhetoric is straight out of Alinsky’s playbook. The fact that he is now becoming more explicit and resolute about his liberal agenda is rooted in the simple fact that he no longer has to face the electorate. That’s why he feels comfortable trotting out the Full Alinsky.

 Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman, behindtheblack.com, in re: The competition heats up: SpaceX has reported that its static fire test today of the Falcon 9 rocket was a success.  Don’t they have better things to do ? The House yesterday voted to rename the Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong.  As I noted previously, I disagree strongly with this action. To honor Armstrong properly we should name something really important after him. But it is shameless and wrong to steal the honor from Hugh Dryden in doing so. Armstrong, a modest and honorable man, would have surely protested this action himself.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Robert Zimmerman, behindtheblack.com, in re: Boom! A newly discovered comet has an orbit that might have it collide with Mars in October 2014.  “Vulcan” and “Cerberus” win the poll to name Pluto’s two unnamed moons. "Vulcan was a late addition to the Pluto moon name contenders, and pulled into the lead after Shatner, building on his Capt. James T. Kirk persona, plugged the name on Twitter. Vulcan, the home planet of Kirk’s alien-human hybrid first officer Spock, is not just a fictional world in the Star Trek universe. It is also the name of the god of fire in Roman mythology, and officials at SETI added the sci-fi favorite to the ballot for that reason."

Hour Three

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 3, Block A:   Mary Anastasia O'Grady, WSJ, in re: Mexico's new PRI government and the PEMEX mandate in the 1917 Constitution. THE AMERICAS  O'Grady: Will Mexico Welcome Wildcatters?

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Bret Stephens, WSJ, in re: Italy and the US, together in debt cynics.  Roman Decadence, American Sequester
Keeping bunga-bunga politics—and especially entitlementitis—from America's shores.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 3, Block C:   Cora Currier, in re: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About
ProPublica  The focus on the targeting of American citizens overlooks many other strikes in which the U.S. doesn’t know who it’s killing.

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Olga Kharif, in re: Google to Apple [All] Gird for FTC-Led Mobile-Privacy Crackdown As the government clamps down on alleged privacy violations by mobile applications, Google Inc., Apple Inc. (AAPL) and legions of software developers are girding for fines and rules that analysts say threaten to stifle growth. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which this month fined Path Inc., a social-networking site, $800,000 for unauthorized collection of user data, is investigating a rising number of mobile apps for privacy violations. California Attorney General Kamala Harris is stepping up scrutiny of app makers, and congressional lawmakers are planning legislation that would require programmers to bolster disclosure and data protection. 

Hour Four

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  Frederik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam  (1 of 4)

“In a world full of nascent, potentially protracted wars, Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War is manifestly an important book, illuminating the long, small-step path we followed into the quagmire of Vietnam. But I was also struck by the quality of Logevall’s writing. He has the eye of a novelist, the cadence of a splendid prose stylist, and a filmmaker’s instinct for story. Embers of War is not just an important book of history, it is an utterly compelling read.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Embers of War is a truly monumental achievement. With elegant prose, deft portraits of the many fascinating characters, and remarkable sensitivity to the aspirations and strategies of the various nations involved, Logevall skillfully guides us through the complexities of the First Indochina War and demonstrates how that conflict laid the basis for America's war in Vietnam.”—George C. Herring, author of America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Frederik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam (2 of 4)

“For too long, Americans have debated the Vietnam War as though it started in the 1960s. As Fredrik Logevall masterfully demonstrates in Embers of War, the American imbroglio has deep roots in the 1940s and 1950s. This is a deeply researched, elegantly written account that will instantly become the standard book on a poorly understood and decisively important event in world history.”—Mark Lawrence, author of The Vietnam War: A Concise International History, and Associate Professor of History and Senior Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin

“Fredrik Logevall gives us an extraordinary account of how Americans, overestimating their own power and underestimating the historical morass they were entering, committed themselves to a twenty-year war against the Vietnamese. Beautifully told and exhaustively researched in French and Vietnamese as well as U.S. sources, Twilight War is now the standard for understanding how the United States became immersed in Vietnam while appearing to a great many Vietnamese themselves as ‘just another big, white Western power, there to impose her will on them, to tell them how to conduct their affairs.’ More than a half century later, and a decade after 9/11, it remains true that the more things change, the more they remain the same—at least to those ignorant of the story Logevall tells.”—Walter LaFeber, author of The American Age: The U.S. at Home and Abroad, 1750 to the Present and Andrew and James Tisch University Professor Emeritus, Cornell University

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Frederik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam  (3 of 4)

“Fredrik Logevall’s excellent book Choosing War (1999) chronicled the American escalation of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. With Embers of War, he has written an even more impressive book about the French conflict in Vietnam and the beginning of the American one. . . . It is the most comprehensive history of that time. Logevall, a professor of history at Cornell University, has drawn from many years of previous scholarship as well as his own. And he has produced a powerful portrait of the terrible and futile French war from which Americans learned little as they moved toward their own engagement in Vietnam.”Alan Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review *Editor's Choice*

“Superb . . . penetrating . . . Embers of War is a product of formidable international research. It is lucidly and comprehensively composed. And it leverages a consistently potent analytical perspective. . . . Outstanding.”—Gordon Goldstein, The Washington Post

“A monumental history . . . a widely researched and eloquently written account of how the U.S. came to be involved in Vietnam . . . certainly the most comprehensive review of this period to date.”—Wall Street Journal

“The most comprehensive account available of the French Vietnamese war, America’s involvement, and the beginning of the US-directed struggle. . . . [Embers of War tells] the deeply immoral story of the Vietnam wars convincingly and more fully than any others. Since many of the others, some written over fifty years ago, are excellent, this is a considerable achievement.”—Jonathan Mirsky, New York Review of Books

“Magisterial.”—Foreign Affairs

“The definitive history of the critical formative period from 1940 to 1960 [in Vietnam]. . . . lucid and vivid . . . As American involvement escalated, Bernard Fall, the highly respected scholar-journalist of Vietnam’s wars, wrote that Americans were ‘dreaming different dreams than the French but walking in the same footsteps.’ Fredrik Logevall brilliantly explains that legacy.”—Gary R. Hess, San Francisco Chronicle

Embers of War is simply an essential work for those seeking to understand the worst foreign-policy adventure in American history. . . . Even though readers know how the story ends—as with “The Iliad”—they will be as riveted by the tale as if they were hearing it for the first time.”—The Christian Science Monitor

Tuesday  26 Feb  2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Frederik Logevall, Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam  (4 of 4)

“A remarkable new history . . . Logevall skilfully explains everything that led up to Vietnam’s fatal partition in 1954 . . . [and] peppers the grand sweep of his book with vignettes of remarkable characters, wise and foolish.”The Economist

“Fascinating, beautifully-written . . . Logevall’s account provides much new detail and important new insights. . . . It is impossible not to read the book without being struck by contemporary parallels.”—Foreign Policy

“[A] brilliant history of how the French colonial war to hang onto its colonies in Indochina became what the Vietnamese now call ‘the American war.’”—Charles Pierce, Esquire

“Huge and engrossing . . . [Logevall] writes with an ambitious sweep and an instinct for pertinent detail. . . . If Logevall’s earlier work stood up well in a crowded field, Embers of War stands alone. . . . What if [Embers] had been mandatory reading for Kennedy and his policy makers?”—The National Interest

“Very much worth the read, both for the story and the writing. . . . Embers of War has the balance and heft to hold hindsight's swift verdicts at bay. . . An excellent, valuable book.”—The Dallas Morning News

“An encompassing, lucid account of the 40-year arc in which America’s Southeast Asian adventure became inevitable . . . Logevall’s prose is clean, his logic relentless, his tone unsparing, his vision broad and deep, his empathy expansive.”—Vietnam Magazine

“How easy it is to forget how it all started. The events pile on one another, new battles begin each day, demands for decisions encroach—and soon enough everything is incremental. Cornell historian Fredrik Logevall steps back from the edge and—parting from most Vietnam War studies that focus on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations—reaches back to World War II to give a fresh picture of America imagining itself into the Vietnam War. . . . [Embers of War puts] flesh on barebones assertions that occupy a few sentences or paragraphs in many Vietnam accounts. . . . startling.”—The VVA Veteran

“A superbly written and well-argued reinterpretation of our tragic experience in Vietnam.”—Booklist

“[Logevall] masterfully presents the war’s roots in the U.S. reaction to the French colonial experience.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fredrik Logevall has gleaned from American, French, and Vietnamese sources a splendid account of France’s nine-year war in Indochina and the story of how the American statesmen of the period allowed this country to be drawn into the quagmire.”—Neil Sheehan, author of A Bright Shining Lie, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award

“Fredrik Logevall is a wonderful writer and historian. In his new book on the origins of the American war in Vietnam, he gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the French war and its aftermath, from the perspectives of the French, the Vietnamese, and the Americans. Using previously untapped sources and a deep knowledge of diplomatic history, Logevall shows to devastating effect how America found itself on the road to Vietnam.”—Frances FitzGerald, author of Fire in the Lake, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award