The Baehr Essentials

1. If you are on the left, or just  very pleased with yourself, you believe the New York Times is the paper of record. This Times story (hat tip: Greg Collins) argues that the recession greatly REDUCED income inequality in America. The top 1% saw their share of national income drop by 6%.

2. It looks like sanctions directed at Iran's Central Bank  will come out of Conference Committee in a form that Obama can live with.  The takeaway from this is that members of Congress , concerned about Iran's nuclear program, acted on their own to push forward with this.  The Obama administration fought them every step of the way, including in the Conference where Obama had a few puppets from his side of the aisle (e.g. Carl Levin)  do his bidding and weaken the bill.   The Obama team did not want to do anything on this issue.

It will only be a matter of days until Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the DNC, and a local Chicago blogger will claim that Obama got tough sanctions passed against Iran.

Here is a summary of what got changed from Senator Mark Kirk's office:

Last night, conferees filed the final conference report - including Iran provisions - for the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  You can view the bill online here (Iran provision on page 879).  As I'm sure you've been reading over the last week, the Administration -- especially Secretary Geithner -- waged an all-out effort to weaken the Menendez-Kirk amendment imposing crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.  This was a surprise to Senators Menendez and Kirk because they already had agreed to put two presidential waivers in their amendment to give the Administration the flexibility it requested.  Despite strong Administration opposition and a letter from Secretary Geithner, all 100 U.S. Senators supported the Menendez-Kirk amendment. 

Following that defeat, the Administration worked overtime with some members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to weaken the amendment.  Outside the conference committee, Senator Menendez, Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Berman (D-CA) argued that the original amendment should stand.  Inside the committee, Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) successfully resisted most of the Administration's attempts to weaken the bipartisan Menendez-Kirk amendment.  Moving forward, the Congress will need to hold the Administration's feet to the fire to actually collapse the Central Bank of Iran and force international financial institutions to choose between doing business in the U.S. and doing business in Iran.

For your situational awareness, here are the four changes to the Menendez-Kirk amendment agreed to by the conference committee:

1) Imposition of Sanctions.  Under the original Menendez-Kirk amendment, if a foreign financial institution continues to conduct transactions through the Central Bank of Iran, the President was required to prohibit that institution from opening or maintaining correspondent and payable-through accounts in the United States.  Under the conference report, if a foreign financial institution continues to conduct transactions through the Central Bank of Iran, the President is required to "prohibit or impose strict conditions on" that institution maintaining correspondent and payable-through accounts in the United States, and outright prohibit that institution from opening such accounts -- 'strict conditions' is weaker than 'prohibit'.

2) National Security Waiver.  Under the original Menendez-Kirk amendment, the President could waive the imposition of sanctions if he notified Congress that such a waiver was "vital to the national security" of the United States.  Under the conference report, the President can waive the imposition of sanctions if he notifies the Congress that such a waiver is "in the national security interest" of the United States -- a weaker standard.

3) Report on Energy Supply.  Under the original Menendez-Kirk amendment, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, is required to report regularly to the Congress on the availability and price of non-Iranian oil on the global market.  Under the conference report, the EIA report must also be made in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.  This opens other pressure points on what such a report would say.

4) Technical Affirmation of Powers.  The conference report adds a new section, implied but not specifically contained in the Menendez-Kirk amendment, that the President has the power to publish rules to implement these sanctions, to order the publication of documents, and to levy penalties against those who conspire to violate the law.  This was a good change clarifying enforcement powers if used against Iran's bank.

In the end, the House and Senate will now send the first-ever sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran to the President's desk soon for his signature.  The increased flexibility provided to the Administration by sympathetic conferees means we will all have to work very hard in the coming year to hold the Administration accountable to ensure that any financial institution doing business with the Central Bank of Iran is actually forced by our own government to choose between doing business in the U.S. and doing business in Iran.  Rest assured, we will do our part.

3. There is an interesting chart  in this article that seems to suggest that except for gaming of the size of the  work force, the real unemployment rate at the moment would be over 11%. In other words, work force size has grown through the years, in both good times and bad,  with population growth.  But since late 2008 , the workforce size has stayed flat. If it continued to grow with population, there would be five million more unemployed people. This is why the unemployment rate can drop from 9% to 8.6% in a month- over 300,000 people are classified as having given up looking for work, and are therefore not counted as part of the workforce.  This is just one more bit of evidence to suggest that the recovery has been very weak, and Obama and his stimulus accomplished almost nothing.

Actually the stimulus did work for some- public employee union members, and Obama campaign bundlers. The process for the bundlers worked as follows: some wealthy Democrats raised big bucks for Obama in 2008. The Obama administration then showed its appreciation by directing billions in stimulus money for new "green technology" to create "green jobs" to companies run by these bundlers.  This is what I call "green recycling" of taxpayer money to the donors, or a flushing process, given the track record of the various recipient companies.  Step 3 occurs when the recipients of the stimulus monies step up again to bundle for Obama 2012.   The left and the media love to complain about the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. In reality, the much bigger problem is crony capitalism, never practiced with as much relish as by Barack Obama. 

5. One off the cuff remark Newt might want to take back came yesterday afternoon, when he channeled Occupy Wall Street, arguing that Mitt Romney should return the money he made at Bain. This is stupid, and reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of  the risk involved in investing in companies. No, Romney's income from Bain is not at all like the money Gingrich took from "advising" FNMA and Freddie Mac.  Brit Hume spells it out

My guess is that Gingrich will be damaged more by his sniping at Romney for making money  at Bain, than he will benefit from his comments on the Palestinians.

6. As part of its campaign to hide the true face of  militant Islam and jihad from Americans, the Administration labels the Fort Hood massacre as "workplace violence."  You can't make this stuff up.

7. You want some more evidence of the damage from the fall of Hosni Mubarak? The Egyptian army has allowed Hamas to set up bases in Sinai for weapons production. Israel can bomb Gaza weapons facilities,  but not those in Sinai, unless it is looking for war with Egypt.

Barry Rubin sums up the worldview of the Muslim Brotherhood, including their tactical approach of advancing without scaring the West.  This is the picture the New York Times and its roving fool Nick Kristof is trying to hide