26 Mar 2009, 10:22pm
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Expanded Americorps has an authoritarian feel

By Examiner Editorial, Washington Examiner, 3/26/09 [here]

With almost no public attention, both chambers of Congress in the past week advanced an alarming expansion of the Americorps national service plan, with the number of federally funded community service job increasing from 75,000 to 250,000 at a cost of $5.7 billion. Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the measure’s advocates is a bill that on closer inspection reveals multiple provisions that together create a strong odor of creepy authoritarianism. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly, while only 14 senators had the sense and courage to vote against it on a key procedural motion. Every legislator who either voted for this bill or didn’t vote at all has some serious explaining to do.

Last summer, then-candidate Barack Obama threw civil liberties to the wind when he proposed “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the regular military. The expanded Americorps is not quite so disturbing, but a number of provisions in the bill raise serious concerns. … [more]

24 Mar 2009, 11:34am
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Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures

The Heritage Foundation, March 24th, 2009 [here]

President Barack Obama has repeatedly claimed that his budget would cut the deficit by half by the end of his term. But as Heritage analyst Brian Riedl has pointed out, given that Obama has already helped quadruple the deficit with his stimulus package, pledging to halve it by 2013 is hardly ambitious. The Washington Post has a great graphic which helps put President Obama’s budget deficits in context of President Bush’s. … [more]

23 Mar 2009, 1:41pm
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President Obama Says National Energy Tax is Non-Negotiable

Freedom Project, March 23, 2009 [here]

The Associated Press reports [here] that President Obama’s jobs-killing national energy tax proposal won’t be “subject to wheeling and dealing.” According to AP:

President Barack Obama’s aides say the administration will work with Congress on his budget proposal, but energy independence is not subject to wheeling and dealing. …

Democrats worry the [President's budget proposal] inflates deficit spending; the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama’s budget would generate $9.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade. Republicans say it would impose massive tax increases, including on polluters; Washington could raise billions from companies that use unclean fuels, what GOP leaders called a carbon tax.

The President’s massive, new, and non-negotiable national energy tax will hit poor and middle income families hardest, and will cripple small businesses and states with manufacturing jobs. The Wall Street Journal says it could cost taxpayers more than $629 billion [here].

Governor Haley Barbour blasted the energy tax in the Republican Weekly Radio Address [here]:

The cap and trade tax and other energy taxes will drive up both electricity and gasoline prices for families and for businesses. And while Wall Street gets trillions to bail them out, small businesses will get stuck with not only income tax increases but also enormous cost increases for energy: for electricity and gasoline. Families will get clobbered, too.

Don’t take my word for it; listen to what Barack Obama himself told The San Francisco Chronicle last year, and I quote: “Under my plan of cap and trade, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

And President Obama was right. His energy taxes, like the cap and trade tax, will drive energy costs for American families through the roof.

22 Mar 2009, 12:43pm
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U.N. Proposes “Green New Deal”

$750 billion “green” investment could revive world economy: U.N.

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Mar 19, 2009 [more]

OSLO (Reuters) - Investments of $750 billion could create a “Green New Deal” to revive the world economy and protect the environment, perhaps aided by a tax on oil, the head of the U.N. environment agency said on Thursday.

Achim Steiner said spending should focus on five environmental sectors including improved energy efficiency for buildings and solar or wind power to create jobs, curb poverty and fight climate change.

“The opportunity must not be lost,” Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), told Reuters of a UNEP study that will be put to world leaders meeting in London on April 2 to work out how to spur the ailing economy.

The UNEP report said investments of one percent of global gross domestic product, or about $750 billion, could bankroll a “Global Green New Deal” inspired by the “New Deal” of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that helped end the depression of the 1930s. … [more]

Note: Roosevelt’s New Deal prolonged the Great Depression for 12 years. It was the rise of Fascism in Europe, engendering World War II, that finally ended Roosevelt’s failed socialist experiment. Capitalism won WWII and lifted Europe out of the shambles of its own self-destruction. The U.N. was created in an effort to prevent further mass insanity and debilitating “experiments” by Euro politicos. Ironically.

19 Mar 2009, 4:55pm
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Obama climate plan could cost $2 trillion

Tom LoBianco, Washington Times, March 18, 2009 [here]

President Obama’s climate plan could cost industry close to $2 trillion, nearly three times the White House’s initial estimate of the so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation, according to Senate staffers who were briefed by the White House.

A top economic aide to Mr. Obama told a group of Senate staffers last month that the president’s climate-change plan would surely raise more than the $646 billion over eight years the White House had estimated publicly, according to multiple a number of staffers who attended the briefing Feb. 26.

“We all looked at each other like, ‘Wow, that’s a big number,’” said a top Republican staffer who attended the meeting along with between 50 and 60 other Democratic and Republican congressional aides.

The plan seeks to reduce pollution by setting a limit on carbon emissions and allowing businesses and groups to buy allowances, although exact details have not been released.

At the meeting, Jason Furman, a top Obama staffer, estimated that the president’s cap-and-trade program could cost up to three times as much as the administration’s early estimate of $646 billion over eight years. A study of an earlier cap-and-trade bill co-sponsored by Mr. Obama when he was a senator estimated the cost could top $366 billion a year by 2015. … [more]

18 Mar 2009, 5:47pm
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Anti-logger school book replaced in Grants Pass

by The Associated Press, March 17, 2009 [here]

Loggers made a dramatic transition from tree-killing litterers to kindhearted animal lovers in a “Help the Forest” textbook for first-graders at Grants Pass schools.

An eight-page book was replaced with a decidedly rosier version after the original copy generated criticism for its negative portrayal of loggers.

Parents objected to a spread in the book that showed loggers chopping down trees and various bits of litter on the ground. The text on page 6 read: “These people do not take care of the forest. They cut down huge trees. They drop trash on the ground.” That was followed by a tearjerker page 7: “The trees are gone. The birds cannot find homes. The animals cannot find food.”

After news broke that the book had been pulled from classrooms, the publisher sent the district 108 new copies with a different take on loggers: “These people take care of huge forests. They put out fires. They cut down sick trees. Then new trees can be planted. Animals will still have homes. They will still find food.”

The illustrations, too, have changed. Rather than a trash-littered forest floor, the new edition shows a firefighter and a tree planter, and in a tree there’s a bear.

A top official for Pearson-Scott Foresman, the publishing house, sent a letter along with the books. “The publication of this edition was an egregious error on our part, and I will not attempt to offer an explanation,” wrote Paul McFall, senior vice president. … [more]

Note: evidently the Pearson-Scott Foresman executives had an epiphany. They finally realized where the paper in their books comes from. Book publishers are in the wood products industry, if the truth be told.

16 Mar 2009, 5:43pm
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Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper goes bye-bye

By Phuong Le , Forbes.com, March 16, 2009 [here]

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has chronicled the news of the city since logs slid down its steep streets to the harbor and miners caroused in its bars before heading north to Alaska’s gold fields, will print its final edition Tuesday.

Seattle becomes the second major city to lose a newspaper this year, following Denver, as many U.S. dailies face uncertain futures, battered by quickly declining ad revenue in the age of the Internet and a teetering economy.

Hearst Corp., which owns the 146-year-old P-I, said Monday that it failed to find a buyer for the newspaper, which it put up for a 60-day sale in January after years of losing money.

The P-I’s roots date to 1863, when Seattle was still a frontier town. It will now shift to another frontier for newspapers: entirely to the Web.

“Tonight will be the final run, so let’s do it right,” publisher Roger Oglesby told the newsroom. The P-I’s closure leaves Seattle with one major newspaper, the Seattle Times.

The Rocky Mountain News in Denver closed earlier this month after its owner, E.W. Scripps Co. (nyse: SSP - news - people ), couldn’t find a buyer. In Arizona, Gannett Co. (nyse: GCI - news - people )’s Tucson Citizen is set to close Saturday, leaving one newspaper in that city.

And last month Hearst said it would close or sell the San Francisco Chronicle if the newspaper couldn’t slash expenses in coming weeks.

16 Mar 2009, 5:35pm
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Pelosi: Suspend Monopoly Laws to Save Dead Tree Rag

Pelosi writes to Justice on saving newspapers

Seattle PI Bites the Dust

by Zachary Coile, SF Chronicle, March 16, 2009 [here]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, worried about the fate of The Chronicle and other financially struggling newspapers, urged the Justice Department today to consider giving Bay Area papers more leeway to merge or consolidate business operations to stay afloat.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, released by Pelosi’s office, the San Francisco Democrat asked the department to weigh the public benefit of saving The Chronicle and other papers from closure against the agency’s anti-trust mission to guard against anti-competitive behavior.

“We must ensure that our policies enable our news organizations to survive and to engage in the news gathering and analysis that the American people expect,” Pelosi wrote.

The speaker said the issue of newspapers’ survival and anti-trust law will be the subject of a hearing soon before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, chaired by her close ally, Rep. Howard Berman, D-Los Angeles.

Pelosi’s spokesman, Brendan Daly, said the speaker was moved by the recent announcement by the Hearst Corp., the parent company of The Chronicle, that it would be forced to sell or close the paper if it could not achieve critical cost-savings quickly. Hearst has said the paper lost $50 million last year and that this year’s losses will likely be worse.

The Chronicle’s largest union, representing nearly 500 employees, ratified a contract Saturday that will clear the way for at least 150 job cuts while also eliminating certain rights and benefits.

Another Hearst paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, will cease publication Tuesday and become a web-only news outlet, Hearst said today.

8 Mar 2009, 5:57pm
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by Victor Davis Hanson, Pajamas Media, March 8, 2009 [here]

Why is Wall Street worried? — Let us count the ways.

1) The proverbial Wall Street capitalists believe that, with new federal income tax rates, the removal of FICA ceilings, increases in capital gains rates, decreases in deductions, and simultaneous tax raises, not only will Obama remove incentives for innovation and productivity, but that he does not seem to care about — or perhaps appreciate — the consequences?

2) On the spending side, investors see too many subsidies and entitlements that may Europeanize the populace and erode incentives, while creating so much debt that in the next decade, should interest rates rise, the federal budget will be consumed with servicing borrowing and entitlement obligations. A redistributive economy in which government ensures an equality of result is Wall Street’s worst nightmare. Debt can only be paid back by floating more foreign debt, issuing more U.S. bonds at home, raising taxes, or printing money — all bad options in the mind of the investor.

3) Too many are beginning to think Obama is, well, a naïf — and hence dangerous. He chest-thumps speeches Geithner cannot deliver. He says we are near the Great Depression — but then, after the stimulus package passes, suddenly hypes future growth rates to suggest that we will be out a recession, soon after all? Add in all the talk of high-tax, Al-Gorist cap-in-trade, wind and solar, socialized medicine in the midst of a financial crisis, and at best Obama comes across as confused and herky-jerky, and at worse, clueless on the economy — as if a Chicago organizer is organizing a multi-trillion-dollar economy. Talking about ‘gyrations’ and confusion about profits and earnings, and offering ad hoc advice about investing do not restore authority. … [more]

7 Mar 2009, 7:49pm
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What Next?

by James Howard Kunstler, March 02, 2009 [here]

Isn’t that a question, though….

The Peak Oil story was never about running out of oil. It was about the collapse of complex systems in a world economy faced by the prospect of no further oil-fueled growth. It was something of a shock to many that the first complex system to fail would be banking, but the process is obvious: no more growth means no more ability to pay interest on credit… end of story, as Tony Soprano used to say. …

The collapse of complex systems is actually predicated on the idea that the systems would mutually reinforce each other’s failures. This is now plain to see as the collapse of banking (that is, of both lending and debt service), has led to the collapse of commerce and manufacturing. The next systems to go will probably be farming, transportation, and the oil markets themselves (which constitute the system for allocating and distributing world energy resources). As these things seize up, the final system to go will be governance, at least at the highest levels.

If we’re really lucky, human affairs will eventually reorganize at a lower scale of activity, governance, civility, and economy. Every week, the failure to recognize the nature of our predicament thrusts us further into the uncharted territory of hardship. The task of government right now is not to prop up doomed systems at their current scales of failure, but to prepare the public to rebuild our systems at smaller scales.

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5 Mar 2009, 2:29pm
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“Going Galt” and the Next Tea Party Wave

By Michelle Malkin, March 4, 2009 [here]

Enough. In a word, that is the message of disgusted taxpayers fed up with the confiscatory policies of both parties in Washington. George Bush pre-socialized the economy with billion-dollar bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Barack Obama is pouring billions more down those sinkholes. The camel’s back isn’t just broken. His neck and four legs have all snapped, too.

Enough. Last Friday, thousands of Americans turned out to protest reckless government spending in the pork-laden stimulus package, the earmark-clogged budget bill, the massive mortgage entitlement program, and taxpayer-funded corporate rescues. Contrary to false left-wing blog smears that the hastily-planned impromptu events were “Astro-turfed,” the crowds were packed with first-time grass-roots activists. They were people with families and day jobs whose usual definition of “community organizing” involves neighborhood yard sales or their kids’ soccer matches. They were members of the silent majority who decided to be silent no more.

Enough. These “Tea Party” protests spanned the sunny Santa Monica pier to the icy streets of Chicago and Cleveland to rain-drenched Atlanta, overflowing grounds of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, massive crowds in Greenville, S.C., several hundred each in New York City and Washington, D.C., and all points in between. Like those who demonstrated before them in Seattle, Denver, Mesa, Arizona, and Overland Park, Kansas two weeks ago, the Tea Party participants held homemade signs that said it all: “Your mortgage is not my problem;” “Liberty: All the stimulus we need; “No taxation without deliberation.”

The speed and scope with which they mobilized were due not to nefarious outside conspiracists, but to social networking websites Facebook and Twitter (where a burgeoning network called Top Conservatives on Twitter became the central clearinghouse for information). Planning for a new wave of demonstrations on April 15 has begun at www.taxdayteaparty.com.

Enough. While they take to the streets politically, untold numbers of America’s wealth producers are going on strike financially. Dr. Helen Smith, a Knoxville forensic pathologist and political blogger, dubbed the phenomenon “Going Galt” last fall. It’s a reference to the famed Ayn Rand novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” in which protagonist John Galt leads the entrepreneur class to cease productive activities in order to starve the government of revenue. (Not coincidentally, Rand’s novel sales are up and John Galt references punctuated many of the Tea Party demonstrations.) … [more]

19 Feb 2009, 1:33pm
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Grazier stopped from fuel reduction burns at Callignee

by Jane Metlikovec, Herald Sun, February 18, 2009 [here]

A FARMER says he could single-handedly have saved much of his township from being razed - if the Government had let him.

As Premier John Brumby toured Gippsland yesterday, Lindsay Pump slammed the lack of controlled burning and fuel reduction.

Until three years ago Mr Pump, 54, routinely burnt off around the Callignee hall and dozens of neighbouring houses. Now they lie in ruins after fire destroyed 90 homes in the area.

The farmer, who lost almost 40 cattle and 50 goats in the blaze, said he was often pulled up by the Department of Sustainability and Environment for illegal burning.

He was given a final warning when three fire trucks showed up at his last burn-off.

“I was always burning it off, and they wouldn’t let me. They’d come here with fire trucks and put it out. I could have saved a lot of places around here, but there were too many greenies stopping me,” Mr Pump said.

“It’s just disaster now. A lot of this is the Government’s own fault for not burning it. … [more]

19 Feb 2009, 1:33pm
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Bushfire death toll has climbed to 208

Herald Sun, February 19, 2009 [here]

THE bushfire death toll has climbed to 208, as a blaze at Wilsons Prom claimed a quarter of the land in thick bushland.

Police have just revised the toll up from 201 to 208.

The official number of people killed in Marysville was increased from 39 to 45, making it the town with the highest toll.

The five worst hit towns have been Marysville (45), Strathewen (42), Kinglake (37), St Andrews (22) and Steels Creek (10).

Meanwhile, the Wilsons Promontory National Park fire has grown to more than 13,000ha in size, but light winds have allowed firefighters time to strengthen containment lines around the blaze.

The fire has burnt through more than a quarter of Wilsons Promontory and is still out of control in thick bushland.

Firefighters are unable to access the fire so it can be fought only by using one air crane and two smaller water bombers. … [more]

16 Feb 2009, 6:26pm
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What do labs and politicians, dress socks and taxpayer dollars have in common?

By Krayton Kerns, MT state legislator, Western Ag Reporter, Feb 5, 2009 [here]

Do you know Molly? She has a muscular build, beautiful blonde hair, and a long nose. She also likes her belly scratched and chases cars. The Molly I am speaking of is a six-year-old yellow Lab that I see on a regular basis at my veterinary clinic. Recently, it’s been too regular.

Last fall Molly was helping with the household chores by sorting the laundry into two piles: things she can swallow and things she couldn’t. It took about a week before Molly discovered that one of the items in the “can-swallow” pile actually belonged in the “can-swallow-but-can’t-pass” pile so… Molly went to surgery. During the exploratory surgery, we found one dark, green dress sock permanently lodged in Molly’s small intestine. It was the dreaded “toxic-sock syndrome.” We surgically resected the sock plus 18 inches of Molly’s bowel. Molly and the sock recovered well and bounded home a couple days after surgery. (The story would have a happy ending if I stopped here.)

A month and a half later Molly resumed vomiting. Within an hour, we were back in surgery where again we resected a segment of bowel and removed another green dress sock. It was either the same sock or it was the littermate of the sock we had delivered previously. What could possibly make a dog do something as reckless as swallowing the same sock twice?

It is this: For hundreds of years, the Labrador retriever has been selectively bred to sniff out hiding birds and retrieve them. Their life’s purpose is focused in the front four inches of their face. If there are no birds around, absolutely everything else must be sniffed, nudged, chomped, and packed around. So it is instinct that drives Molly to chew and swallow without thinking of the consequences, and this brings me to my point.

The majority of politicians in Washington DC and Helena have the same instincts as Molly; she swallows socks, and they spend money. Molly’s weakness is the clothes hamper; the politician’s is YOUR wallet. Don’t expect either to break their bad habit anytime soon.

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17 Jan 2009, 11:04am
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Rescue of U.S. banks hints at nationalization

By Edmund L. Andrews, International Herald Tribune, January 16, 2009 [here]

WASHINGTON: Last fall, as Federal Reserve and Treasury Department officials rode to the rescue of one financial institution after another, they took great pains to avoid doing anything that smacked of nationalizing banks.

They may no longer have that luxury. With two of the nation’s largest banks buckling under yet another round of huge losses, the incoming administration of Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve are suddenly dealing with banks that are “too big to fail” and yet unable to function as the sinking economy erodes their capital.

Particularly in the case of Citigroup, the losses have become so large that they make it almost mathematically impossible for the government to inject enough capital without taking a majority stake or at least squeezing out existing shareholders.

And the new ground rules laid down by Obama’s top economic advisers for the second half of the $700 billion bailout fund, as explained in a letter submitted to Congress on Thursday, call for the government to play an increasing role in the major activities of the banks, from the dividends they pay to shareholders to the amount they can pay executives.

“We are down a path that this country has not seen since Andrew Jackson shut down the Second National Bank of the United States,” said Gerard Cassidy, a banking analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “We are going to go back to a time when the government controlled the banking system.”

The approximately $138 billion aid package on Thursday for Bank of America — including injections of capital and absorbed losses — as well as a $300 billion package in November for Citigroup both represented displays of financial gymnastics aimed at providing capital without appearing to take commanding equity stakes.

Treasury and Fed officials accomplished that trick by structuring the deals like insurance programs for big bundles of the banks’ most toxic assets.

Instead of investing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in exchange for preferred shares in the banks, which has been the Treasury Department’s approach so far with its capital infusions, the government essentially liberated the banks from some of their most threatening assets.

The trouble with the new approach, analysts say, is that it is likely to conceal the amount of risk that taxpayers are taking on. If the government-guaranteed securities turn out to be worthless, the cost of the insurance would be much higher than if the Treasury Department had simply bailed out the banks with cash in the first place.

Christopher Whalen, a managing partner at Institutional Risk Analytics, said the approach also covers up the underlying reality that the government is already essentially the majority shareholder in Citigroup.

“There’s nobody else out there to invest in them,” Whalen said. “We already own them.” … [more]

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