Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama Still a Smoker

President Barack Obama is still smoking cigarettes. An amazing lack of judgment or disciple for a father of two young daughters to be smoking cigarettes.

See Politico at

June 23, 2009

A smoking 'struggle'
"The cap of an entertaining, wide-ranging press conference that included a spirited defense of the public health care option: A carefully-framed, detailed question from Obama on his smoking habit.

"You just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking," he told the reporter, before conceding that he has "fallen off the wagon sometimes."
"Am I a daily, a constant smoker? No," he said. "I don't do it in front of my kids. i don't do it in front of my family."
Obama said he was "95% cured" and compared himself to a recovering alcoholic.
"Once you've gone down this path, it's something you continually struggle with," he said.
It's a rare admission of personal weakness in a politician whose personal discipline has always been notable."


Monday, June 22, 2009

Laguna Art Museum Merger Pushed by Financial Dealers

Many of long-term supporters of the Laguna Art Museum were shock when the Board of Trustees on February 27, 1996, voted 26 to 0 to merge with the Newport Harbor Art Museum. I was involved in "Save Laguna Art Museum" trying to keep the art museum in town. Financial types, those who demonstrated little knowledge or even interest in art, were the driving forces behind the merger.

Making interesting reading are the following excerpts from a Los Angeles Times business section front page story entitled "The Art of the Deal" by Barbara Marsh which was published Sunday, March 10, 1996:
• "Charles D. Martin and Gilbert E. LaVasseur Jr. have built successful careers by launching, restructuring and putting complex organizations together."

• “Two of the corporate world’s distinguished movers and shakers find that reshaping O.C.’s museum scene can leave folks a little bit … well, shaken.”

• “the plan calls for making a financially sturdy museum out of two wobbly ones.”

• “Original plans suggested closing the historic Laguna museum building”

• “in their drive to cut a deal, they emphasized its financial merits while failing to articulate an artistic vision.”

• Martin says, “What we dramatically underestimated was the element of a kind of self-centered parochialism within the Laguna community.”

• Adds LeVasseur, "I thought we were doing the right thing for this institution and when anybody saw it, it'd be hands down, everybody'd go for it."

• “Indeed, the economics looked so favorable that trustees on both sides were easily persuaded, and both boards approved the plan Feb 27 [1996]. But some key constituencies …[including] the Laguna residents were left out of the loop.”

• [LeVasseur] ‘confesses that he has such trouble remembering artists’ names that while struggling to recall his favorites during the interview, he jotted them down on his palm”.

• “Laguna residents cringed as the deal makers referred to their prized museum and its collection in business lingo. ‘[LeVasseur] called our collection ‘product’ and our museum ‘land mass’”

• “LeVasseur is kicking himself for failing to read up on Laguna museum quirky bylaws until a month ago. They give 1,383 voting members – about 390 of whom live in Laguna – the power to approve or disapprove the merger. If he’d known about them a year ago, he says, he would have followed standard corporate operating procedure: change the bylaws, shifting power to the trustees.”

• “[LeVasseur] and Martin now both express a longing –not uncommon among successful business people – to give something back. … bringing your skills to try and make a difference.”


Credit Rating Agencies Responsible for Financial Meltdown

See Wall Street Journal June 22, 2009 Editorial
at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124562476664835519.html#printMode

Per this week's "Treasury reform white paper 'Market discipline broke down as investors relied excessively on credit rating agencies' … After regulators spent decades explicitly demanding that banks and mutual funds hold securities rated by the big rating agencies, regulators now have the nerve to blame investors for paying attention to the ratings. …Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch inflicted upon investors the AAA-rated subprime mortgage-backed security. They also inflicted upon the world's nest eggs the even more opaque AAA-rated collateralized debt obligation (CDO). Without the ratings agency seal of approval -- required by SEC, Federal Reserve and state regulation for many institutional investors -- it would have been nearly impossible to market the structured financial products at the heart of the crisis."


Saturday, June 20, 2009

No Quick Fix Primary-Care Doctor Demand Already Exceeds Supply

See Washington Post "Shortage May Undermine Reform Efforts" Saturday, June 20, 2009 article by Ashley Halsey III http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/19/AR2009061903583_pf.html
No Quick Fix as Demand Already Exceeds Supply
■ "virtually everyone still agreed on one point: There are not enough primary-care doctors to meet current needs, and providing health insurance to 46 million more people would threaten to overwhelm the system."
■ "the shortage of family doctors will reach 40,000 in a little more than 10 years, as medical schools send about half the needed number of graduates into primary medicine."
■ "the report warns, 'if the nation moves rapidly towards universal health coverage' -- which would be likely to increase demand for primary care and reduce immediate access to specialists -- the shortages 'may be even more severe'."
■ "The [pay] disparity results from Medicare-driven compensation that pays more to doctors who do procedures than to those who diagnose illness and dispense prescriptions.
■ "About a third of America's doctors, and half of its medical students, are women. One survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association found that female doctors reported working 38.6 "patient care" hours per week and their male counterparts worked about 46 hours."


High Taxes and Spending Lead to High Unemployment

See Wall Street Journal June 20, 2009 Editorial at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124545298617532789.html
■ “The Labor Department reported yesterday that Oregon's unemployment rate soared to 12.4% in May, the nation's second highest after Michigan's 14.1%."
■ “Oregon will soon boast the second highest income tax rate in the nation, moving ahead of California (10.55%), and only slightly behind New York City (12.6%). Corporations will pay a 7.9% tax on gross receipts, up from 6.6%."
■ [Oregon state] "government spending will climb by about $2 billion [this year], or almost 4%, which is on top of a 21% increase in the 2007-08 biennium budget."


Leftists Doing Poorly in Europe Elections

See Wall Street Journal June 20, 2009 Editorial at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124545309071432827.html
■ “For decades, Europeans have been frustrated with low growth, chronic unemployment and fading competitiveness.”
■ “Of late, the winning political formula in Europe is simple: Promise to ease heavy tax and regulatory burdens and shake up stagnant economies. The welfare system is seen as broken. France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi took this path to power. In the largest economy, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel looks poised to defeat a divided left in September's elections.”
■ “Consider the results last week of elections for the European Parliament. Center-right parties gained in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and across most of eastern Europe.”


Friday, June 19, 2009

Hope and Change but Not for Iran

See Charles Krauthammer Washington Post Friday, June 19, 2009 column "Hope and Change -- but Not for Iran" at
It includes:
 "The [Iran] demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side."
 "Three days in, the president [Barack Obama] makes clear his policy: continued "dialogue" with their clerical masters."
 President Obama "speaks favorably of 'some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election'."
 "people aren't dying in the street because they want a recount of hanging chads in suburban Isfahan. They want to bring down the tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy that has imposed itself with the very baton-wielding goons that today attack the demonstrators."
 "What's at stake now is the very legitimacy of this regime -- and the future of the entire Middle East. This revolution will end either as a Tiananmen (a hot Tiananmen with massive and bloody repression or a cold Tiananmen with a finer mix of brutality and co-optation) or as a true revolution that brings down the Islamic Republic."
 "Now, with Hezbollah having lost elections in Lebanon and with Iraq establishing the institutions of a young democracy, the fall of the Islamist dictatorship in Iran would have an electric and contagious effect. The exception -- Iraq and Lebanon -- becomes the rule. Democracy becomes the wave. Syria becomes isolated; Hezbollah and Hamas, patronless. The entire trajectory of the region is reversed."
 "That's our fundamental interest. And our fundamental values demand that America stand with demonstrators opposing a regime that is the antithesis of all we believe."


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Less Support Now for Major Overhaul of Health Care System than 1993

See June 18, 2009 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press " Opinions About Health Care" at http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1534

"As health care reform legislation moves forward in Washington, the political environment is somewhat different than the last time a major overhaul of the health care system was attempted sixteen years ago. In early 1993 the sense of a health care crisis was far more widespread than it is today – a 55% majority in 1993 said they felt the health care system needed to be “completely rebuilt” compared with 41% today. Health care costs were also a broader problem in 1993 – 63% of Americans said paying for the cost of a major illness was a “major problem” for them, compared with 48% currently."


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Presidential Leadership on Iran

Sarkozy denounces Iran vote 'fraud'

■ "The extent of the fraud is proportional to the violent reaction"
■ "It is a tragedy, but it is not negative to have a real opinion movement that tries to break its chains"
■ "If Ahmadinejad has really made progress since the last election and if he really represents two thirds of the electorate... why has this violence erupted?"

French President Nicolas Sarkozy June 16, 2009



Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama Faces Stimulus Doubts Says Los Angeles Times

See June 9, 2009 front page Los Angeles Times article by Peter Nicholas:

“Obama confronts doubts on stimulus, vows faster spending
His assertions -- that 150,000 jobs have been saved or created already, and that the summer goal is 600,000 more -- appear to be elastic and are hard to verify.”
“Two of the president's top economic advisors put out a report Jan. 9 predicting that with the stimulus spending, the U.S. unemployment rate this year would not exceed 8%. It now stands at 9.4%.”

"Though some signs suggest the recession is abating, the economy lost about 1.5 million jobs over three full months after the passage of the stimulus bill, from March through May. Unemployment in that period jumped to 9.4%, from 8.5%."

"Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank in Washington, put it even more bluntly: 'The actual unemployment rate is worse than their baseline -- suggesting that their stimulus plan was harmful. And yet, despite that, they're asserting it has been successful. That shows an incredible amount of gall'."

"At this point, the largest share of stimulus spending has gone to states in the form of Medicaid grants, federal records show."



Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama Plans Annual Interest Payments to Increase from $170 to $806 Billion Dollars Per Year

See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/business/economy/04rates.html?pagewanted=print
See New York Times June 4, 2009 article "Rising Interest on Nations’ Debts May Sap World Growth" by Nelson D. Schwartz
■ "As governments worldwide try to spend their way out of recession, many countries are finding themselves in the same situation as embattled consumers: paying higher interest rates on their rapidly expanding debt."
■ "For now, the cost of more debt is the price government is willing to pay to spend its way out of recession, hoping that a return to fiscal health will increase tax revenue and repay the debt."
■ "But in the last three weeks, the pace of the increase in the 10-year Treasury note’s yield has quickened, spurred by a Congressional Budget Office estimate that net government debt will rise to 65 percent of the gross domestic product at the end of fiscal 2010, from 41 percent at the end of fiscal 2008."
■ "In 2009 and 2010, Washington will sell more than $5 trillion in new debt, according to Citigroup. A decade from now, according to the Congressional Budget office, Washington’s outstanding debt could equal 82 percent of G.D.P., or just over $17 trillion."
■ "Under President Obama’s 2010 budget, total interest payments by the federal government could rise to $806 billion in 2019, from $170 billion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office."
■ "The long-term situation is particularly perilous, because the added interest costs will worsen what have become record deficits as Washington has rushed to bail out industries and stimulate the economy."
■ "A year ago, under old budget and policy assumptions and before the financial crisis escalated, the Congressional Budget Office projected that outstanding federal debt would hit $5.3 trillion in 10 years."

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