Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Last Call

The notion that Barack Obama is the "most anti-business President ever" is arguably the most persistent of the zombie lies the right likes to tell.  But nobody enjoys telling fibs about how "terribly awful" this administration is for business rather than the CEOs themselves, while they continue to rake in record profits.  Hotel magnate Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts is a prime example.  He used his conference call to announce the company's second quarter numbers to blast President Obama.

Well, here's our problem. There are a host of opportunities for expansion in Las Vegas, a host of opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs in Las Vegas. I know that I could do 10,000 more myself and according to the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Convention Bureau, if we hired 10,000 employees, it would create another 20,000 additional jobs for a grand total of 30,000. I believe in Las Vegas. I think its best days are ahead of it.

But I'm afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States. You watch television and see what's going on, on this debt ceiling issue. And what I consider to be a total lack of leadership from the President and nothing's going to get fixed until the President himself steps up and wrangles both parties in Congress. But everybody is so political, so focused on holding their job for the next year that the discussion in Washington is nauseating. And I'm saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime.

And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems -- that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it's not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President.

And a lot of people don't want to say that. They'll say, "Oh God, don't be attacking Obama." Well, this is Obama's deal, and it's Obama that's responsible for this fear in America. The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution, and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don't invest or holding too much money. We haven't heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody's afraid of the government, and there's no need to soft peddling it, it's the truth. It is the truth. And that's true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I'm telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he's gone, everybody's going to be sitting on their thumbs.

Wow, with a rant like that, Wynn Resorts must really, really have crapped the bed on those second quarter numbers, right?  Well...not exactly.

Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O) posted second-quarter profit and revenue that handily topped Wall Street estimates as revenue at its Wynn Macau (1128.HK) unit soared 36.7 percent and business in Las Vegas improved.

Driven by robust demand from mainland Chinese, gambling revenue in Macau, the only place in China where gambling is legal, surged 52 percent in June from a year earlier, according to government statistics.

"They had stupendous results in both Macau and Vegas," said Janet Brashear, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "Vegas is the biggest surprise," she said, with earnings "a lot more solid for the balance of the year than we might have expected."

Yep, Obama has just been horrible for business in Vegas.

Wynn's revenue in Las Vegas rose 22.8 percent to $390.8 millon. Adjusted property earnings rose 103.7 percent to $132.7 million. The rise was due to higher margins "really across the board," CFO Matt Maddox said on the call, including in gambling revenue, VIP services, and non-gaming segments including nightclubs, catering, and restaurants.

The company's Macau revenue climbed 36.7 percent to $976.5 million, while property earnings rose 45.4 percent to $314.3 million in the second quarter.

Shareholders may see another special dividend at the end of the year, said Brashear.

"We are always looking for opportunities to distribute money to our shareholders," said Wynn.

Yep, people sure are afraid to invest with this guy.   Obama's made such a "terrible anti-business climate" for Steve Wynn that his revenues and profits are skyrocketing in his US operations.  His "weird political philosophy" doesn't seem to be hurting his company's bottom line.  22% revenue growth year-over-year, boy that Obama is just killing the guy.

I guess it's Obama's fault for Wynn not having 100% revenue growth.  Burn the Kenyan Socialist!

Even More Ironic License, Please

Our old friend Ohio Republican State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg is back in the news.

He's the wonderful gentleman who was in the midst of proposing tough Voter ID laws in Ohio saying that there was no good reason why people wouldn't have their driver's licenses when they needed to vote when he was arrested for a DUI in Indiana, leading to the suspension of his driver's license.  Oh, the irony.

Well, it looks like he won't be proposing any new legislation, as he's resigned from the Ohio legislature.

Ohio State Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, the sponsor of a controversial voter ID bill who was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence with Viagra in his system and a stripper in his car, resigned his position over the weekend.

"My recent actions have become a distraction to the additional important work that lies ahead for the members of the 129th General Assembly. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I resign from the Ohio House of Representatives," he said in a statement reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

"Most importantly, I want to sincerely apologize for any pain and embarrassment I have caused my family, my constituents, and my colleagues," Mecklenborg said. "I will be forever grateful to the many constituents and colleagues who have urged me to stay, but I believe it is in the best interests of my family and my constituents to step aside during this difficult time."

Mecklenborg didn't have a license when he sponsored a photo voter ID bill after his arrest back in April.

Ahh, if only more Republicans were this stupid on a purely Darwinian level.

Your Political Cartoon Of The Moment

John Cole of the Scranton Times provides some much-needed perspective on Murdochgate...

When you can hack phone voice mails and track people by cell phone location and get away with it, it's called "Homeland Security".

Greek Fire, Part 40

And the Greek Fire may now be ready to burn all of Europe.  Bloomberg:

European Central Bank council member Ewald Nowotny suggested the bank may compromise and allow a temporary Greek default as officials scramble to fix a sovereign debt crisis that’s spreading to Italy and Spain before a leaders’ summit in two days. 

Pause.  Rewind.

and allow a temporary Greek default  

Well now.  That explodey sound you just heard was what was left of the Greek short term bond market cratering.

In the CNBC interview broadcast this morning, Nowotny said there’s “a full range of options and definitions, from a clear- cut default, selective default, credit event and so on.”

“This has to be studied in a very serious way,” he said. “There are some proposals that deal with a very short-lived selective default situation that will not have major negative consequences.” 

Not have major negative consequences?   Surely we forget what happened to credit markets are Lehman went under.  The same thing is bound to happen here.  That Thursday ECB meeting could be very, very interesting.

Kevin Drum sums it up:

This is not, repeat not, a good time to be screwing around with the possibility of defaulting on U.S. debt. Repeat: not, not, not. It's time for the Republican leadership to start facing reality and getting their troops in line. Play time is over.

This week could be very, very important to the world financial picture, folks.

Blind Hope

I have spent many years following advances for the visually impaired.  My father lost his sight when I was a teenager, and I watched him struggle with daily activities and give up many things we take for granted.  Below I've linked to an article that centers around cars made for the blind (yes, you read that right).  The technology isn't quite there but the author does a great job of explaining what they have accomplished and what surprisingly few obstacles are left.  Not only will this open a world of opportunities for transportation, it is the beginning of a unified way to use technology to assist blind citizens with responding to the world.  From improved security to getting around independently, this type of effort will someday be recognized for the groundbreaking changes that are surely to follow.

Sighted people, myself included, do it every day and take it for granted. Unfortunately, because of physical challenges, not everyone has the privilege to drive. My team of researchers wants to find a way to give the blind the ability to drive.
When we first announced that we were going to take up this challenge, many thought we were crazy, and most of the critics doubted that it could be done. Even some of my colleagues challenged us on the idea of developing a vehicle for the blind.
Regarding the capability of the blind, I believe that with the right nonvisual user interfaces, once we can deliver all the information needed to safely operate the vehicle to the driver, the blind can perform as well as, or possibly even better than the sighted. Mark Riccobono, the first blind driver who drove our vehicle on the Daytona International Speedway, is a better driver than I am -- at least with this vehicle.

It's a start, and a darned good one. Kudos to them, and a pleasant surprise. 

Google Scores Privacy Appeal

A federal judge sided with Google on Monday, granting the search giant the right to appeal his ruling that packet-sniffing on non-password-protected Wi-Fi networks is illegal wiretapping.
The decision by U.S. District Judge James Ware tentatively sets aside his June 29 ruling in nearly a dozen combined lawsuits seeking damages from Google for eavesdropping on open, unencrypted Wi-Fi networks from its Street View mapping cars. The vehicles, which rolled through neighborhoods across the country, were equipped with Wi-Fi–sniffing hardware to record the names and MAC addresses of routers to improve Google location-specific services. But the cars also secretly gathered snippets of Americans’ data.

Lord knows I'm in favor of privacy.  I'm glad it was reviewed and I'm not convinced the judge made the wrong call given the context.  However, to grow our data infrastructure, this was a necessary concession.  If you password-protect your data it should be protected.  If you do not, then it is up for grabs.  It's the same as leaving an office door open or closed.  To ensure that data can move smoothly this had to be declared.  The problem may be with some tech dinosaurs that don't understand the need for data protection.  It will be a difficult adjustment for people who are not used to taking ownership of their accounts or privacy.   Eventually they will come to understand that it's a jungle out there and if you don't take the minimum steps necessary you have little room for complaint.

Now, if it's protected and attacked, that's different.  Nail them to the wall and make an example.  But first things first, make that elementary attempt to close that door so data that is intended to travel freely can do so.  I'm all for privacy protection, not so much for dummy proofing or crippling on behalf of those who make no effort.

Rocking The Boat

Almost a decade after Bruce Ivins supposedly sent deadly anthrax spores through the mail and killed five, the Justice Department is now openly questioning the FBI's conclusions in the case that drove Ivins to commit suicide.

Shortly after Ivins committed suicide in 2008, federal investigators announced that they'd identified him as the mass murderer who sent the letters to members of Congress and the news media. The case was circumstantial, with federal officials arguing that the scientist had the means, motive and opportunity to make the deadly powder at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.

Now, however, Justice Department lawyers have acknowledged in court papers that the sealed area in Ivins' lab — the so-called hot suite — didn't contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined powder that floated through congressional buildings and post offices in the fall of 2001.

The government said it continued to believe that Ivins was "more likely than not" the killer. But the filing in a Florida court didn't explain where or how Ivins could have made the powder, saying only that his secure lab "did not have the specialized equipment . . . that would be required to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters."

The government's statements deepen the questions about the case against Ivins, who killed himself before he was charged with a crime. Searches of his car and home in 2007 found no anthrax spores, and the FBI's eight-year, $100 million investigation never provided direct evidence that he mailed the letters or identified another location where he might have secretly dried the anthrax into an easily inhaled powder.

A number of disturbing questions remain in the Bruce Ivins case. Only circumstatial evidence was ever brought against him, and now, finally, the DoJ is looking into the issue.  If Ivins wasn't the real culprit, then who was?  The FBI is satisfied that Ivins was the mastermind, but the Justice Department now isn't sure.

We'll see where this goes.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 39

Conservative group Club For Growth is warning Republicans that they must vote to make massive, immediate spending cuts, must vote not to raise the debt limit, and must vote for a balance budget amendment...or else.

"Cut, Cap, and Balance will fix our fiscal mess. The McConnell-Reid plan does not," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement accompanying an alert that these votes will be counted on the group's scorecard. "McConnell-Reid simply punts our budget problem further down the road and is everything that's wrong with Washington. Congress has proven that they are unable to balance the budget without reform. Cut, Cap and Balance is the only plan that permanently handcuffs politicians from spending more money than they take in."

If you're a Republican, voting for Plan B means you're that much likelier to face a primary. By holding the test votes on Cut, Cap, and Balance, and the Balanced Budget Amendment, they can at least meet the Club for Growth, and similar groups half way. 

True, but the Club For Growth is also saying that anyone who votes for the McConnell-Reid escape hatch will also find themselves the target of the organization and that means Club For Growth is basically asking Republicans to force a massive government shutdown or default crisis.  Either way, serious damage will be done to our fragile economy.

Imagine that.  The Club For Growth wants a recession or even a depression.  The irony.  Meanwhile, back on the Senate side, Kent Conrad and the Gang of Six (minus Tom Coburn) will present their own plan to cut spending, "reform" tax loopholes and entitlements and cut $3.6 trillion or so from the deficit...that's right, the Catfood Commission plan is back.

Members of a bipartisan group of senators who worked for months to forge an agreement to make deep reductions in the federal debt will unveil a plan to slash trillions of dollars off that debt over the next 10 years.

The former Gang of Six members will reveal their plan privately Tuesday to a group of 40 to 50 senators.

"We're presenting the progress we've made," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, the Budget Committee chairman. "It's a comprehensive approach that reforms entitlements, reforms the revenue code, cuts spending, is balanced and is in the range of $3.6 (trillion) to $3.7 trillion."

"We're going to ask people if they are interested in pursuing this," he said.

You knew Simpson-Bowles was going to make a return somewhere in all this mess.  Hopefully it will be ignored along with Coburn's crazy $9 trillion plan.  On the other hand, Greg Sargent reminds us what's at stake here:

The problem for GOP leaders, however, is that the Tea Party and the right are dead serious about this stopping-the-debt-ceiling-hike thing — reality and the consequences be damned. Solid majorities of Republican voters and Tea Partyers don’t even think failure to raise it will be a problem. Symbolic votes to “disapprove” of debt ceiling hikes aren’t enough. Anything short of stopping the debt ceiling from going up is unacceptable. The McConnell plan would surrender the GOP’s ability to do this. Therefore it’s a total cave-in.

Business leaders and sane GOP leaders want the debt ceiling raised and understand that failure will be catastrophic. The Tea Party wants a hike blocked at all costs. The problem in a nutshell is that there’s no putting that ideological genie back in the bottle. One party is going to have to walk out of this situation not getting what it wants. Hint: That party’s name begins with the letter “T.”


[UPDATE] David Brooks is as angry at the Tea Party as I think I've ever seen him be over this issue.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 4

A number of Murdochgate developments in the last 24 hours or so has seen News Corp's position and credibility disintegrate at lightning speed.  First, one of the original whistleblowers in the case, former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, has turned up dead.

Sean Hoare, a former News of the World employee who said Andy Coulson "encouraged" phone-hacking, "was discovered at his home in Watford, Hertfordshire, after concerns were raised about his whereabouts," the press association said.

"The death is being treated as 'unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious,'" the report quoted Hertfordshire police as saying.

The Guardian reported that Hoare had recently injured his nose and his foot in an accident. It was unclear whether those injuries were linked to his death.

Hoare had publicly accused News of the World of phone-hacking and using "pinging" -- a method of tracking someone's cell phone using technology that only police and security officials could access -- according to the New York Times.

Next, former FOX News producer Dan Cooper is publicly accusing FOX of having a "brain room" --  where the network regular coordinates information operations, including collecting phone records.

According to former Fox News executive Dan Cooper, whose gripes with his former employer run quite deep after being fired in 1996, Fox News chief Roger Ailes allegedly had him design the so-called "Brain Room" to facilitate counter-intelligence efforts and other "black ops."

In a lengthy 2008 diatribe said to have doubled as a book pitch, Cooper claimed his own phone records had been hacked by Fox News employees, who he says used them to pinpoint him as a source used by David Brock, who founded liberal watchdog group Media Matters.

"Ailes knew I had given Brock the interview," he wrote. "Certainly Brock didn't tell him. Of course. Fox News had gotten Brock's telephone records from the phone company, and my phone number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, News Corporation's New York headquarters, was what Roger called the Brain Room. Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie."

(Much more after the jump...)


Related Posts with Thumbnails