Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amateur Hour at the AP on Cheney and the Outing of Valerie Plame

Associated Press reporter Pete Yost apparently doesn't know who outed Valerie Plame--or thinks it's not an important issue in the controversy over the leaking of her identity as a CIA agent.

In an almost 800 word article on Vice-President Dick Cheney's testimony on the leaking of Plame's identity, Yost raises the issue of Cheney's knowledge of the leaker.
Citing faulty memory, former Vice President Dick Cheney told federal investigators in a 2004 interview he had no idea who revealed to reporters that Valerie Plame, the wife of a Bush administration critic, worked for the CIA.
It turns out that Cheney didn't know the leaker was Richard Armitage. It's unclear whether Yost knows it even now since he never once mentions Armitage in his long article on the issue.

More than three years ago Armitage publicly admitted he leaked Plame's identity to Robert Novak. Upon reading Novak's column Armitage immediately admitted to his boss, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and to FBI agents that he was Novak's source. From a September 7, 2006, CBS interview (easily googled):
He says he was reading Novak's newspaper column again, on Oct. 1, 2003, and "he said he was told by a non-partisan gun slinger."

"I almost immediately called Secretary Powell and said, 'I'm sure that was me,'" Armitage says.

Armitage immediately met with FBI agents investigating the leak.

"I told them that I was the inadvertent leak," Armitage says. He didn't get a lawyer, however.
Actually Yost mentions every one but Armitage:
According to courtroom testimony, Rove was one of Novak's sources for his column disclosing Plame's CIA identity and Rove and Libby were sources for Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, who also wrote a story identifying Plame.
One of the first rules of Journalism 101 is to include key facts. That Yost doesn't speaks volumes about the quality of his reporting and the Associated Press.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Krauthammer

Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Krauthammer are two smart commentators. But, who is smarter? The one who makes gratuitous hits without supporting evidence or the one who gives easily substantiated praise?

Hanson in a wide ranging piece on problems facing America under Obama policies gives praise to former Governor Sarah Palin on understanding the nation's energy resources/needs.
We should be on a dash to build nuclear plants for the coming demand from plug in hybrids and spikes in electricity usage. We should be leasing as much natural gas lands as possible, to gain the supplies to run energy plants and to power vehicles. There is plenty of oil in the Dakotas, California, Texas and in the Gulf and we should be drilling there like mad. Sorry, even Santa Barbara should either ban SUVs or have oil derricks on the horizon. Sarah Palin knows far more about ANWR than does Van Jones.
[link added]
It's pretty clear that Sarah Palin knows a lot more about ANWR and oil not only than Van Jones but than any other major political figure in the U.S. The comparison advances Hanson's overall argument that Obama policies are bad for the nation while showing that Hanson respects Palin.

On the other hand, Krauthammer in a long interview conducted by Der Spiegel criticizes President Obama. But, in talking about 2012 GOP leaders, Krauthammer goes out of his way to label Sarah Palin "not a serious contender":
SPIEGEL: Who will be the next leader of the Republican Party?

Krauthammer: Some presidential candidates from last year will return in 2012. Sarah Palin is not a serious contender, but somebody like Mitt Romney will be. He is a serious guy, he understands the economy. There will also be some young people many haven't yet heard about, such as Rep. Paul Ryan or Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Or outsiders like the mastermind behind the surge in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who might retire from the military and run for President on the Republican ticket.
What's interesting is that the polls say that Palin is in the top three--number two in the most recent poll (CNN) after Governor Huckabee, with Governor Romney coming in number three. In an earlier poll this month (Rasmussen) Palin scored third after Huckabee and Romney. Krauthammer doesn't even mention number one in both polls: Huckabee.

No one knows what will happen in 2012, but if Palin is the nominee or among the top candidates what does that say about Krauthammer's political smarts? Especially since she is the only candidate he names as "not a serious contender". Krauthammer's comment was a gratuitous hit without any basis in fact. It's basically a statement about Krauthammer's personal dislike for Governor Palin rather than a serious reading of Republican politics.

Win-win for Professor Hanson and likely lose-lose for Dr. Krauthammer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oregonian Circulation Down 12%

The Oregonian continues to see its daily circulation numbers fall. Editor & Publisher reports a 12.06% slide from 283,321 in September 2008 to 249,163 in September 2009.

The Oregonian's 12.06% decline was 1/5th higher than the national average 10.06% loss measured among 379 newspapers.

In the last two years the Oregonian has seen a 22% reduction in circulation down more than 70,000 from 319,624 in September 2007.

The circulation drop combined with the national trend of falling advertising revenue is not good news for the big O.

The only major newspaper to show a circulation increase was the Wall Street Journal at 0.06%. Its 2,024,269 daily circulation puts it number one in the nation overtaking USA Today and more than doubling the circulation of the New York Times. The list of the top 25:

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL -- 2,024,269 -- 0.61%
USA TODAY -- 1,900,116 -- (-17.15%)
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- 927,851 -- (-7.28%)
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- 657,467 -- (-11.05%)
THE WASHINGTON POST -- 582,844 -- (-6.40%)

DAILY NEWS (NEW YORK) -- 544,167 -- (-13.98%)
NEW YORK POST -- 508,042 -- (-18.77%)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE -- 465,892 -- (-9.72%)
HOUSTON CHRONICLE -- 384,419 -- (-14.24%)

NEWSDAY -- 357,124 -- (-5.40%)
THE DENVER POST -- 340,949 -- N/A
THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC -- 316,874 -- (-12.30%)
STAR TRIBUNE, MINNEAPOLIS -- 304,543 -- (-5.53%)
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES -- 275,641 -- (-11.98%)

The PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND -- 271,180 -- (-11.24%)
DETROIT FREE PRESS (e) -- 269,729 -- (-9.56%)
THE BOSTON GLOBE -- 264,105 -- (-18.48%)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS -- 263,810 -- (-22.16%)
THE SEATTLE TIMES -- 263,588 -- N/A

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 251,782 -- (-25.82%)
THE OREGONIAN -- 249,163 -- (-12.06%)
THE STAR-LEDGER, NEWARK -- 246,006 -- (-22.22%)
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE -- 242,705 -- (-10.05%)
ST. PETERSBURG (FLA.) TIMES -- 240,147 -- (-10.70%)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson: Obama is "The mouth that roared"

Victor Davis Hanson pens another priceless column. This one on President Obama's propensity to shoot himself in the foot--making big promises and keeping none of them.
President Obama keeps roaring out deadlines like a lion - only later to meow like a little kitty.

Remember, for example, how he bellowed to cheering partisan crowds that he would close down the detainment facility at Guantanamo within a year?

The clock ticks - and Guantanamo isn't close to being shut down. It once was easy for candidate Mr. Obama to deplore President George W. Bush's supposed gulag. Now it proves harder to decide between the bad choice of detaining non-uniformed terrorist combatants and the worse ones of letting them go, giving them civilian trials or deporting them to unwilling hosts.
Professor Hanson goes on to note President Obama's problems with:

2. Getting troops out of Iraq immediately
On Iraq, candidate Mr. Obama also railed that "the American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We've had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet."

Talk about "unmet" deadlines and "spin" - here we are in October 2009, and there are still 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The reason why Mr. Obama fudged on his promised deadline is that the surge in 2007 worked. American deaths plummeted. The theater is quiet. Iraqi democracy is still there after six years. Mr. Obama cannot quite admit these facts, but on the other hand he does not want to be responsible for undermining them.
3. In July Obama said Iran had to prove compliance with non-proliferation protocols by September or face the consequences. September and most of October has come and gone. No consequences.

4. Health care reform had to be passed by the August recess.

5. The Afghanistan war would finally get attention it deserved and get won.
Afghanistan: This was once Mr. Obama's promised war to win - the one we had to refocus on after supposedly taking our eye off the ball to fight in Iraq. Now, instead, we are suddenly blaming the eight-year-old Karzai government for not being the stable partner we need to finish the job.
6. Ethics reform: Candidate Obama pledged to keep lobbyists out of government, post legistlation online and have negotiations on C-SPAN. (None of it done.)

Hanson sums up:
Mr. Obama ran on the accusation that Mr. Bush missed promised targets and deadlines. Yet when the loud reformer Mr. Obama himself proves even emptier in his promises than Mr. Bush, he suffers an additional wage of theatrical hypocrisy.

But there is an even greater problem. Overheated rhetoric got Mr. Obama into these jams - and he seems to expect that his dramatic flair can always get him out as well. So we all await more of the empty hope-and-change hocus-pocus - as Mr. Obama explains how he never really promised to get out of Iraq "now!" or to "take further steps" against Iran in September 2009.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Liz Cheney Calmly Dissects Obama's Policies

Another Cheney is becoming a major voice of intelligent analysis among conservatives. Liz Cheney is a leading figure in Keep America Safe a new organization seeking to "provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues."

In this interview Cheney calmly explains the dangers in President Obama's Afghanistan "waffling". She also touches on the dangers of a weakened dollar as well as "abuse of power" and "censorship" in the Obama administration openly calling for a "secondary boycott" of Fox News.

H/T Jennifer Rubin

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Palin on Real Hope and Change

Former Governor Sarah Palin points out smoke and mirrors in Obama administration plans and presents workable options on how to effect needed health care change.

1. The Senate Finance Committee health care bill is structured so that it is cheaper to pay the fine and not buy health insurance until a big ticket health crisis occurs in your life. This will result in less people being covered and higher costs.
"However, the maximum fine for those who refuse to purchase health insurance is $750. Even factoring in government subsidies, the cost of purchasing a plan is much more than $750. The result: many people, especially the young and healthy, will simply not buy coverage, choosing to pay the fine instead. They’ll wait until they’re sick to buy health insurance, confident in the knowledge that insurance companies can’t deny them coverage. Such a scenario is a perfect storm for increasing the cost of health care and creating an unsustainable mandate program."
2. Cutting Medicare and taxing high value health care plans, insurers, drug companies, labs, etc., will end up as a huge tax increase on the middle class and lower their wages.
"As Douglas Holtz-Eakin noted in the Wall Street Journal, these new taxes 'will be passed on to consumers by either directly raising insurance premiums, or by fueling higher health-care costs that inevitably lead to higher premiums.' Unfortunately, it will lead to lower wages too, as employees will have to sacrifice a greater percentage of their paychecks to cover these higher premiums. . . . The Senate Finance bill is effectively a middle class tax increase, and as Holtz-Eakin points out, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation those making less than $200,000 will be hit hardest."
3. President Obama's promise not to sign a health care bill that will "add even one dime" to the nation's debt is in line with previous promises that if the stimulus bill were passed, unemployment would be kept under 8% and 3 to 4 million jobs would be created or saved. None of it happened. In fact, things got a lot worse.
"With our country’s debt and deficits growing at an alarming rate, many of us can’t help but wonder how we can afford a new trillion dollar entitlement program. The president has promised that he won’t sign a health care bill if it 'adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade.' But his administration also promised that his nearly trillion dollar stimulus plan would keep the unemployment rate below 8%. Last month, our unemployment rate was 9.8%, the highest it’s been in 26 years. At first the current administration promised that the stimulus would save or create 3 to 4 million jobs. Then they declared that it created 1 million jobs, but the stimulus reports released this week showed that a mere 30,083 jobs have been created, while nearly 3.4 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus was passed. Should we believe the administration’s claims about health care when their promises have proven so unreliable about the stimulus?"
4. President Obama's promise of open negotiations with health care lobbyists is also a casualty.
"In January 2008, presidential candidate Obama promised not to negotiate behind closed doors with health care lobbyists. In fact, he committed to 'broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are. Because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process. And overcoming the special interests and the lobbyists...' However, last February, after serving only a few weeks in office, President Obama met privately at the White House with health care industry executives and lobbyists. Yesterday, POLITICO reported that aides to President Obama and Democrat Senator Max Baucus met with corporate lobbyists in April to help 'set in motion a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, primarily financed by industry groups, that has played a key role in bolstering public support for health care reform.' Needless to say, their negotiations were not broadcast on C-SPAN for the American people to see."
5. Same thing with Obama's promise that non-emergency bills would be posted for public comment five days before being signed. Didn't happen.
"Presidential candidate Obama also promised that he would not 'sign any nonemergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House Web site for five days.' PolitiFact reports that this promise has already been broken three times by the current administration. We can only hope that it won’t be broken again with health care reform."
Palin gives suggestions for how to achieve health care reform without breaking the budget. No subsidies, public option, or nationalized health care.

Put in tort reform. Though "a Congressional Budget Office report confirmed that reforming medical malpractice and liability laws could save as much as $54 billion over the next ten years, tort reform is nowhere to be found in the Senate Finance bill."

Embrace free market competition, allow purchase of plans across state lines, give individuals who purchase health plans the same tax benefits as those with employer paid plans. Don't cripple Medicare, but "reform it by providing recipients with vouchers so that they can purchase their own coverage."

Sounds a lot more likely to not add "even one dime to our deficit over the next decade" than any of the President's plans while effecting needed health care reform.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Health Care and Econ 101

OregonGuy gives the best summary I've seen on government health care priorities and basic economic realities.

OregonGuy points out that health care costs are going up because almost all of us would rather treat ailments that in the past have been considered untreatable rather than save money and just do the "live with it" routine.

Most of us would choose a knee replacement rather than spending life with a walker or in a wheelchair--even if the knee replacement is a lot more expensive than the walker or wheelchair.

Health care costs going up are a function of choosing to pay for treatment rather than spend money or something else--say a new car or a more expensive vacation.

But, with government setting cost cutting goals, your priorities won't count. As Mark Steyn points out:
The problem with government health systems is not that they pull the plug on Grandma. It's that Grandma has a hell of a time getting plugged in in the first place. The only way to "control costs" is to restrict access to treatment, and the easiest people to deny treatment to are the oldsters. Don't worry, it's all very scientific. In Britain, they use a "Quality-Adjusted Life Year" formula to decide that you don't really need that new knee because you're gonna die in a year or two, maybe a decade-and-a-half tops. So it's in the national interest for you to go around hobbling in pain rather than divert "finite resources" away from productive members of society to a useless old geezer like you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

National Review Becoming More Balanced on Palin?

Is National Review becoming more balanced on Sarah Palin?

After a spate of pieces either advising Palin on what to do to be a real winner* or slapping her hands for her actions** or phrasing***, NR has published two positive items in a row.

First was the small squib in the last issue (NR, October 19, 2009, p. 10):
"Sarah Palin gave her first paid speech after stepping down as governor of Alaska. In a long address to a conference of investors in Hong Kong, she defended 'commonsense conservatism.' It was substantive, plainspoken, and--as billed--commonsensical. A nice coming out for the next stage of her career."
Following that is a 1 page article by Palin in the current NR on the strategic necessity of developing and utilizing America's oil and gas reserves. (Sarah Palin, Drill, NR, November 2, 2009, p. 53)

Is NR's treatment of Palin as a serious conservative voice here to stay? One can only hope.

*Ross Douthat (yes, the "Americans are totally morally superior to Europeans and would never think of anything like euthanasia" Douthat) was given four columns of space for his musings on how Palin should remake herself to be politically viable. ("Sarah Resartus: Tailoring Palin for the Future", NR, December 1, 2008, pp. 26 and 28)

**Then there was NR editor Rich Lowry's melt down when Palin resigned the governorship in July. ("Sarah Palin: Up and Out: She didn’t do it for Alaska", NR, July 7, 2009.)

***Most recently NR's editors slapped Palin's hands for use of the term "death panels" in criticizing the Obama health care plan. ("Rationing and Rationality", NR, August 17, 2009).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Congratulations to Governor Huckabee

A current Rasmussen poll has former Governor Mike Huckabee in the lead as the preferred Republican presidential candidates for 2012.  He leads former Governor Romney by 5% and former Governor Palin by 11%.

Huckabee has maintained a positive public presence via his Fox channel opinion show.

Rasmussen says Palin has dropped about the same amount as Huckabee has gained.  Previously Huckabee, Romney and Palin were about tied. 

Palin's drop is not unusual considering the constant negative media drumbeat against her (including some conservative pundits).   In fact, the drop is extremely mild considering Palin's lack of public appearances.  Both Romney and Huckabee have been in the public eye--especially Huckabee with his weekly TV show and comments on other shows.

The favorable ratings for the three top candidates are close:
Huckabee and Romney are viewed favorably by 78% of Republican voters, Palin by 75%. Gingrich earns favorably reviews from 69% while Pawlenty is less well known and gets a positive assessment from 45% of Republicans.

All three of the top candidates are giving good critiques of the Democratic/liberal agenda. I support Governor Palin, but am happy to see progress by any conservative spokesman.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hillary Clinton More Popular than Barack Obama

The latest Gallup poll has Hillary Clinton more popular than Barack Obama.

Obama has a 56% approval rating, and Clinton bests him by 6% at 62%. Clinton beats Obama in approval from all political groups:

Byron York of The Washington Examiner points out that Hillary Clinton has gained in popularity since her presidential bid. In February 2008 she had just a 48% approval rating.
Gallup points out that in this latest survey, Hillary Clinton is now more popular than Obama. Sixty-two percent say they have a favorable impression of the Secretary of State, versus 34 percent who have an unfavorable impression. That's a big change from the height of the battle for the Democratic nomination last year; in February 2008, just 48 percent had a favorable impression of Mrs. Clinton, versus 49 percent who had an unfavorable impression.
That's a 14% gain in a year and a half. Mrs. Clinton was painted as a highly polarizing figure by the legacy media in the 2008 campaign and received negative press. (previous posts on press bias against Hillary Clinton - 1, 2, 3, 4)

H/T Drudge Report

Gaming the Health Care System

David Freddoso of the The Washington Examiner explains how to game the system under the Baucus bill.
As John Lott points out, Baucus's bill forbids insurers from turning you down because of your pre-existing conditions. That means effectively that you're always insured -- whether you pay premiums or not. If you don't mind paying for the occasional emergency, you could simply drop your health insurance, saving thousands of dollars annually, and pay the statutory penalty instead. If you happen to get cancer or get pregnant, you can just buy insurance after it happens.

The penalty under Baucus's bill is low, and it even phases in gradually over the first five years -- $0 in 2013, $200 in 2014, and on up to $750 in 2017 and thereafter.

This is why insurance companies, while supportive of President Obama's efforts generally, are upset about the Baucus bill. They have no problem with state compulsion so long as it works to their benefit, but Baucus's bill would probably increase the number of uninsured Americans by providing obvious financial incentives to game the system.
Who knew? Maybe this really can bring down health care costs for lots of individuals.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Embedded Reporters Are Newest Casualties of Associated Press Breach

In September the Associated Press published a graphic photo of marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard dying in Afghanistan with one leg blown off and the other badly mangled. Both Bernard’s family and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implored AP not to publish the photo. The pleas fell on deaf ears, and AP published Julie Jacobson's color photo anyway.

Military policy at the time was that military casualties could be photographed at a distance if done respectfully and if the casualty could not be identified.
"Casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the service member's identity and unit identification is protected from disclosure until OASD-PA has officially released the name. Photography from a respectful distance or from angles at which a casualty cannot be identified is permissible; however, no recording of ramp ceremonies or remains transfers is permitted."
Now, after AP’s breach of common sense and ethics, the military has “clarified” its policy for embedded reporters in eastern Afghanistan. Reporters will not be allowed to photograph or record U.S. casualties.
“Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action,” says a ground rules document issued September 15 by Regional Command East at Bagram Air Field.

This language is new. A version of the same document dated July 23 says, “Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties” as long as a series of conditions are met.
AP’s breach in publishing a clearly identifiable photo despite pleas from Bernard’s family (and trying to deceive the family by showing them only a fuzzy black and white copy of the clear color photo they eventually published) has resulted in a blanket no photo rule for all embedded journalists in eastern Afghanistan.
“The clarification was added to ensure that service members’ privacy and propriety are maintained in situations where media have unique and intimate access as embedded reporters,” Clementson wrote by e-mail in response to questions. “While RC East does everything possible to accommodate an embedded reporters’ ability to cover the war in this region, there is also a command responsibility to account for the best interests of its service members.”

The change occurred after the wide distribution of a photograph of a dying U.S. Marine. On September 4, the Associated Press released a photo of a mortally wounded Marine in Afghanistan.
An interesting aspect to this story is the role of blogs in getting a story out that regular news outlets ignored.
The new Regional Command East rule drew little notice before Friday, when it was reported by the blog of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It has since appeared on other blogs, including one from PDN sibling publication Editor & Publisher.
See previous posts on AP’s publication of the photo of Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard here and here.

UPDATE: The military has revised the ban on photos in eastern Afghanistan to allow photos of casualties but with no identifiable features of the casualty:
October 15:

“14. Media will not be prohibited from viewing or filming casualties; however, casualty photographs showing recognizable face, nametag or other identifying feature or item will not be published. In respect to our family members, names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service members will not be released without the service member’s prior written consent. If the service member dies of his wounds, next-of-kin reporting rules then apply. Media should contact the PAO for release advice.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Senator McCain's Classy, Pro-Palin Comments

Senator John McCain:
"There are fundamental facts that cannot be denied. When we selected, asked Sarah Palin to be my running mate, it energized our party. We were ahead in the polls until the stock market crashed. And she still is a formidable force in the Republican Party. And I have great affection for her.

"Well, Sarah and I -- did we always agree on everything in the past; will we in the future? No.

"But, look, let's let a thousand flowers bloom. Let's come up with a winning combination the next time. And let's all go through the process rather than condemning anybody's chances. And I'm happy to say, we have some great people out there and Sarah is one of them."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama's Class Despite Nobel Peace Committee Groupie-fication

Real life is stranger than fiction. You couldn't make up a better parody than the Nobel Peace Prize committee did in awarding President Barack Obama its 2009 award for, in Saturday Night Live parlance, "doing nothing".
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."
[emphasis added]
Who knew that was all it takes to get the Nobel Peace prize? You don't have to do anything--just say the right words. There are going to be a lot more qualified Nobel peace prize candidates in the future.

Poor President Obama. What do you do when supposedly serious people become groupies and do embarrassing things?*

President Obama has hit just the right tone. He eluded denigrating the five member Nobel committee while reiterating that he hasn't done anything concrete to deserve the award.
In a brief statement in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, the president said he does not "view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments," but rather as a recognition of goals he has set for the United States and the world.

"I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize," he said.
Pretty classy.
*the Nobel Peace Prize committee:
- Thorbjørn Jagland (Chairman) - President of the Storting, former Labor Prime Minister, vice president of the Socialist Inrternational, named by the KGB as a ”confidential contact”.
- Kaci Kullmann Five - public affairs advisor and former Conservative politican.
- Sissel Rønbeck - former minister of Left-wing Labour Party.
- Inger-Marie Ytterhorn - political adviser to the centre-Right Progress Party
- Ågot Valle - Socialist Left member of Parliament.

UPDATE: Rob Tornoe has a collection of editorial cartoons posted here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sarah Palin's Book Sales

UPDATE: Palin's first week of sales was 700,000 according to her publisher. The Nielsen count (not including Wal-Mart, Sam's and similar sales venues) is 469,000. This put's Palin second only to President Bill Clinton in first week political book sales.

One of my favorite bloggers, Oregon Guy, was curious about stats on Sarah Palin's Going Rogue book sales.

Though I haven't seen any figures, it's possible to work out a guess from some of the recent book sales figures.

The New York Times and Drudge helpfully gave some book sales figures for last week. (These figures from Nielsen BookScan track about 70% of US book sales.)

- Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol sold 214,000 copies. It is currently #1 on Amazon's bestseller list, but was #2 last week.
- Drudge reported yesterday that Glen Beck's Arguing with Idiots sold 80,000 copies last week. It is #5 on Amazon's list.
- Ted Kennedy's True Compass, sold 39,000 copies. It is #14 on Amazon.

So, the #2 book last week at Amazon sold 214,000; #5 sold 80,000; #14 sold 39,000.

There are lots of small outlets that do not take presales but most of the big sellers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders do.

The Lost Symbol gives an idea of the sort of sales Going Rogue had to have to take over the #1 spot from Lost Symbol on September 30th at Amazon and hold it for 8 days. Just yesterday Going Rogue went to #2 at Amazon.

What's a good guess at Going Rogue's presales figure? Amazon's last week #2 and #5 sold 294,000 in just one week. So, a guess somewhere between 300,000 to 350,000 doesn't seem farfetched for Going Rogue in the last week and a half.

New Tax Laws, Oregon Hypocrites, and Corporations Losing Money

The Portland Tribune’s Steve Law has a long article on the impact of the raise in Oregon taxes on Oregon corporate leaders moving to Vancouver.

It’s sort of a tempest in a teapot issue. Whether business leaders (or PERS retirees*) move to Vancouver to avoid Oregon state income tax or state capital gains taxes is not earth shaking. More important, considering Oregon’s 4th highest unemployment rate in the nation, is the number of businesses that relocate, downsize or close.

But this story has some interesting highlights. First is businessman Randy Miller’s assertion that earning money in Oregon and moving to Washington to protect it is hypocritical.
“There’s a moral issue” concerning civic leaders who make their fortunes in Oregon and then shift their assets to Washington to escape taxes, says Randy Miller, himself a former Portland Chamber of Commerce chairman. Miller sold his business, The Moore Co., but remains active in civic affairs here and resides in Portland Heights.

“As soon as they have one big capital gain, they leave,” Miller says of some of his peers. “That is so hypocritical.”
I guess. But, another view, from a lot lower down the income food chain than Randy Miller, is that Miller earning lots of money in Oregon and then trying to shield as big a chunk of it as possible from taxes is not substantially less hypocritical. If taxes are good, why not pay all you can? (And there’s the goofy photo of Miller riding his bike out of what looks to be his huge residential paved parking area that could comfortably hold 10 or 20 cars. Mr. Common Man?) The saving grace is that Miller, unlike a lot of fat cat Hollywood and media celebrities, is lecturing his fellow fat cats rather than the mice about the ethics of paying more taxes.

Another intriguing comment is that Oregon’s new tax increase laws include taxing companies losing money.
Critics of the recent tax increases point out that they’ll require money-losing companies to pay state taxes. That’s true. But supporters of the tax increases note that a majority of Oregon corporations have been escaping any state corporate tax, and paying the token $10 corporate minimum tax.
Way to shove more workers on to unemployment rolls. What kind of legislative incompetence does it take to write a bill that makes sure it taxes corporations losing money?

*Even a bunch of Oregon little guys, averaging under $23,000/yr in benefits, may have joined big time corporate leaders in making a "hypocritical" move:
It’s not just prominent or wealthy people who take advantage of Washington’s lack of income taxes. The Oregon Public Employees Retirement System pays retirement benefits to 6,567 people in Washington, plus 634 in Nevada, another state without income taxes.

Nobody knows how many of those people moved to escape Oregon’s 9 percent income tax rate.

But the average payment to those in Washington is $22,085 a year, PERS reports, so those people save upwards of $1,800 a year in state taxes, on average. PERS pays $145 million a year in retirement benefits to folks living in Washington and $14 million to those in Nevada.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Book Sales Are Down--Except for One

The New York Times reports that book sales are down.

Sales of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol fell 47% last week. It's publisher may have overprinted.
But other publishing insiders suggested that because Knopf Doubleday had printed five million copies of “The Lost Symbol” and gone back to press for 600,000 more after the first day of sales, book sales would have to reverse dramatically for the title to meet the expectations of the publishing house.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy's True Compass also saw a drop in sales of 43% from the previous week. So, the $8 million advance may have been a little high in order to actually make a profit.
And with sales of “True Compass” dwindling, some within the industry wondered how Twelve would recoup the advance of more than $8 million it paid for the memoir.
And there are other disappointing sales as well.
Other big titles showed mixed results. “Her Fearful Symmetry,” the second novel by Ms. Niffenegger, author of the best-selling “Time Traveler’s Wife,” sold just 23,000 copies in its first week, according to BookScan. Publishing insiders suggested that was a disappointment given that Scribner, the unit of Simon & Schuster that published the book, paid Ms. Niffenegger close to $5 million for it.
However, bucking the downward trend is former Governor Sarah Palin's Going Rogue: An American Life. Though not even released, it took the #1 sales slot at Amazon for over a week after the bare announcement of its publication date.

U.S. booksellers are hoping for a reversal of the current dip in book sales.
Gerry Donaghy, new book purchasing supervisor at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., said he and his co-workers wondered, “How many of the fall books are people holding off buying themselves and hoping to get them as gifts?” He added, “Maybe that’s just optimism.”
There's a good chance Palin will give them the hoped for merry Christmas sales season when Going Rogue is released November 17.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Palin Encourages Obama on Afghanistan

Governor Palin with U.S. forces in Kuwait, 2007

For two years as a candidate, Senator Obama called for more resources for the war in Afghanistan and warned about the consequences of failure. As President, he announced a comprehensive new counterinsurgency strategy and handpicked the right general to execute it. Now General McChrystal is asking for additional troops to implement the strategy announced by President Obama in March. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers in harm's way in Afghanistan right now. We owe it to all those brave Americans serving in uniform to give them the tools they need to complete their mission.

We can win in Afghanistan by helping the Afghans build a stable representative state able to defend itself. And we must do what it takes to prevail. The stakes are very high. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, and if we are not successful there, al Qaeda will once again find a safe haven, the Taliban will impose its cruelty on the Afghan people, and Pakistan will be less stable.

Our allies and our adversaries are watching to see if we have the staying power to protect our interests in Afghanistan. I recently joined a group of Americans in urging President Obama to devote the resources necessary in Afghanistan and pledged to support him if he made the right decision. Now is not the time for cold feet, second thoughts, or indecision -- it is the time to act as commander-in-chief and approve the troops so clearly needed in Afghanistan.

- Sarah Palin

Dalai Who?

President Bush and the Dalai Lama
at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony
October 17, 2007

President Obama is putting human rights way down on the presidential priority list.

Though Congress has cleared its schedule to meet with the Dalai Lama and give him the Lantos Human Rights Prize, President Obama seems intent on avoiding the Dalai Lama for fear of offending China.

The Washington Examiner reports that Obama will be the first American president not to meet with the Dalai Lama since 1991. Almost two decades of presidential concern for human rights violations ignored.

Change, indeed.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Week: Palin Up; Obama Down

Former Governor Sarah Palin has had a smashingly good week.

Her 432 page memoir Going Rogue: An American Life has taken the #1 sales spot at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble almost since the moment its publication date was announced. Going Rogue is still a month and a half from release, but lack of a finished product ready to sell has not hurt sales.

Palin has given no interviews on the book--or on anything else. Just the bare mention of the book's November release date fueled a flurry of interest and buyers sufficient to overtake all the other books on the market.

This success follows hard on the heels of Palin's well received speech given less than two weeks ago in Hong Kong--her first as a public speaker since leaving the governorship. The speech received widespread coverage in the press even though the event was closed to the press and Governor Palin gave no interviews.

Compare that with President Obama's week. He's everywhere--even flying to Copenhagen (with Michelle--though on separate planes) to woo the International Olympic Committee. You name it--he's doing it. And he is the president of the most powerful nation in the world.

What does he have to show for the effort?

Chicago came in dead last among the Olympic city competitors. It was, as The Washington Times noted, "a very public humbling experience" for President Obama:
President Obama's failed Olympic gambit Friday was a blow to his image on the world stage and a very public humbling experience for a man who has grown unaccustomed to losing elections.

After carving out 20 hours to try and secure the games for his hometown of Chicago - about 15 of them spent in the air between Washington and Copenhagen, where the International Olympic Committee ultimately voted for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympics - Mr. Obama emerged sheepishly from Marine One Friday afternoon and loped, head down, across the South Lawn.

(But President Obama was a good sport. Obama called the winner, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, twice from Air Force One to congratulate Lula. The second call came after the first call went dead because of air turbulence.)

Then there's the health care bill. This week the Senate Finance Committee rejected two amendments to include a government-run public health insurance option. Committee Republicans were joined by moderate Democrats in the vote. This despite President Obama's high powered plea last month in a rare presidential address (aside from the president's annual State of the Union address) to a joint session of Congress.

And, of course, despite Obama's $787 billion stimulus package signed in February to jump start the economy, it was announced Friday that the nation's unemployment rate has now risen to 9.8%--highest it has been since June, 1983.

A great week for Governor Palin without any effort. A very bad, no good week for President Obama despite a whirlwind of activity. Maybe she could beat him in a race.