Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New study documents media's servitude to Government
A newly released study from students at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government provides the latest evidence of how thoroughly devoted the American establishment media is to amplifying and serving (rather than checking) government officials. This new study examines how waterboarding has been discussed by America's four largest newspapers over the past 100 years, and finds that the technique, almost invariably, was unequivocally referred to as "torture" -- until the U.S. Government began openly using it and insisting that it was not torture, at which time these newspapers obediently ceased describing it that way...

Add Government to the List of ‘Fat Cats’
...But there is something more fundamental going on here, too, an underlying shift in the meaning of American populism. Most Democrats, after all, persist in embracing populism as it existed in the early part of the last century — that is, strictly as a function of economic inequality. In this worldview, the oppressed are the poor, and the oppressors are the corporate interests who exploit them.

That made sense 75 years ago, when a relatively small number of corporations — oil and coal companies, steel producers, car makers — controlled a vast segment of the work force and when government was a comparatively anemic enterprise. In recent decades, however, as technology has reshaped the economy, more and more Americans have gone to work for smaller or more decentralized employers, or even for themselves, while government has exploded in size and influence. (It’s not incidental that the old manufacturing unions, like the autoworkers and steelworkers, have been eclipsed in membership and political influence by those that represent large numbers of government workers.)

Since this transformation took place, a succession of liberal politicians — Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, John Edwards — have tried to run for president on a traditionally populist, anticorporate platform, with little success. That is because today’s only viable brand of populism, the same strain that Ross Perot expertly tapped as an independent presidential candidate in 1992, is not principally about the struggling worker versus his corporate master. It is about the individual versus the institution — not only business, but also government and large media and elite universities, too. ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Cost of Unions
...Unionized public sector workers have much higher average wages and benefits than nonunionized public sector workers. Bureau of Labor Statistics data in Table 2 show that union members have a 31-percent advantage in wages and a 68-percent advantage in benefits....

...This information is interesting in the context of the following chart. It shows that in 2009, for the first time ever, more public-sector employees (7.9 million) belonged to a union than did private-sector employees (7.4 million) despite there being five times more wage and salary workers in the private sector....

ADAMS: Inside the Black Panther case
On the day President Obama was elected, armed men wearing the black berets and jackboots of the New Black Panther Party were stationed at the entrance to a polling place in Philadelphia. They brandished a weapon and intimidated voters and poll watchers. After the election, the Justice Department brought a voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party and those armed thugs. I and other Justice attorneys diligently pursued the case and obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the charges. Before a final judgment could be entered in May 2009, our superiors ordered us to dismiss the case.

The New Black Panther case was the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career. Because of the corrupt nature of the dismissal, statements falsely characterizing the case and, most of all, indefensible orders for the career attorneys not to comply with lawful subpoenas investigating the dismissal, this month I resigned my position as a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney.

The federal voter-intimidation statutes we used against the New Black Panthers were enacted because America never realized genuine racial equality in elections. Threats of violence characterized elections from the end of the Civil War until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Before the Voting Rights Act, blacks seeking the right to vote, and those aiding them, were victims of violence and intimidation. But unlike the Southern legal system, Southern violence did not discriminate. Black voters were slain, as were the white champions of their cause. Some of the bodies were tossed into bogs and in one case in Philadelphia, Miss., they were buried together in an earthen dam.

Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Others still within the department share my assessment. The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department's enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election....

...Some have called the actions in Philadelphia an isolated incident, not worthy of federal attention. To the contrary, the Black Panthers in October 2008 announced a nationwide deployment for the election. We had indications that polling-place thugs were deployed elsewhere, not only in November 2008, but also during the Democratic primaries, where they targeted white Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters. In any event, the law clearly prohibits even isolated incidents of voter intimidation....

...Some of my co-workers argued that the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation. Less charitable individuals called it "payback time." Incredibly, after the case was dismissed, instructions were given that no more cases against racial minorities like the Black Panther case would be brought by the Voting Section.

Refusing to enforce the law equally means some citizens are protected by the law while others are left to be victimized, depending on their race. ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

After big 1979 spill, a stunning recovery
... For Tunnell and others involved in the fight to contain the June 3, 1979, spill from Mexico's Ixtoc 1 offshore well in the Gulf of Campeche, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico conjures an eerie sense of déjà vu.

Like the BP spill, the Ixtoc disaster began with a burst of gas followed by an explosion and fire, followed by a relentless gush of oil that resisted all attempts to block it. Plugs of mud and debris, chemical dispersants, booms skimming the surface of the water: Mexico's Pemex oil company tried them all, but still the spill inexorably crept ashore, first in southeast Mexico, later in Texas.

But if the BP spill seems to be repeating one truth already demonstrated in the Ixtoc spill - that human technology is no match for a high-pressure undersea oil blowout - scientists are hoping that it may eventually confirm another: that the environment has a stunning capacity to heal itself from manmade insults.

"The environment is amazingly resilient, more so than most people understand," says Luis A. Soto, a deep-sea biologist with advanced degrees from Florida State University and the University of Miami who teaches at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

"To be honest, considering the magnitude of the spill, we thought the Ixtoc spill was going to have catastrophic effects for decades. ... But within a couple of years, almost everything was close to 100 percent normal again."...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avertible catastrophe
...Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, "We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water--the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that." In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls "crazy."

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns. According to Floris Van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the work. "Given the fact that there is so much oil on a daily basis coming in, you do not have that much time to protect the marshlands," he says, perplexed that the U.S. government could be so focussed on side issues with the entire Gulf Coast hanging in the balance....

BP's Army of Democratic Lobbyists
BP, which has garnered the bulk of public attention and contempt for the spill, has assembled a formidable team of Democrats for its Washington lobbying, legal and public-relations offensive. There is Tony Podesta, who heads one of the District's leading lobbying firms; legal adviser Jamie Gorelick, a top Justice Department official in the Clinton administration now at the law firm WilmerHale; Hilary Rosen, a former recording-industry lobbyist who heads the Washington office of the Brunswick Group, a public-relations consultancy; and Michael S. Berman of the Duberstein Group, who was a longtime aide to former vice president Walter F. Mondale before becoming a lobbyist.

Gorelick, who also served as a member of the 9/11 Commission, proved critical in coaching the company during tense negotiations with President Obama over the creation of a $20 billion escrow fund for spill damages, according to several sources close to the talks. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the administration "forced" BP to set up the fund and to intensify its efforts to contain the spill....

The ties that bind. Remember Rahm Emanuel's rent-free D.C. apartment? The owner: A BP adviser

In case you were tempted to buy the faux Washington outrage at BP and its gulf oil spill in recent days, here's a story that reveals a little-known corporate political connection and the quiet way the inner political circles intersect, protect and care for one another in the nation's capital. And Chicago.

We already knew that BP and its folks were significant contributors to the record $750-million war chest of Barack Obama's 2007-08 campaign.

Now, we learn the details of a connection of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayoral wannabe, current Obama chief of staff, ex-representative, ex-Clinton money man and ex-Windy City political machine go-fer.

Shortly after Obama's happy inaugural, eyebrows rose slightly upon word that, as a House member, Emanuel had lived the last five years rent-free in a D.C. apartment of Democratic colleague Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and her husband, Stanley Greenberg. ...

...Greenberg's consulting firm was a prime architect of BP's recent rebranding drive as a green petroleum company, down to green signs and the slogan "Beyond Petroleum."

Greenberg's company is also closely tied to a sister Democratic outfit -- GCS, named for the last initials of Greenberg, James Carville, another Clinton advisor, and Bob Shrum, John Kerry's 2004 campaign manager.

According to published reports, GCS received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political polling contracts in recent years from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Probably just a crazy coincidence. But you'll never guess who was the chairman of that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dispensing those huge polling contracts to his kindly rent-free landlord.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Experts Say White House 'Misrepresented' Views to Justify Drilling Moratorium
The seven experts who advised President Obama on how to deal with offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon explosion are accusing his administration of misrepresenting their views to make it appear that they supported a six-month drilling moratorium -- something they actually oppose.

The experts, recommended by the National Academy of Engineering, say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar modified their report last month, after they signed it, to include two paragraphs calling for the moratorium on existing drilling and new permits.

Salazar's report to Obama said a panel of seven experts "peer reviewed" his recommendations, which included a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs and an immediate halt to drilling operations.

"None of us actually reviewed the memorandum as it is in the report," oil expert Ken Arnold told Fox News. "What was in the report at the time it was reviewed was quite a bit different in its impact to what there is now. So we wanted to distance ourselves from that recommendation."

Salazar apologized to those experts Thursday....

Did Bush & Co. Do Medical Research on Detainees?
...PHR says that declassified documents show, first, that “Research and medical experimentation on detainees was used to measure the effects of large-volume waterboarding and adjust the procedure according to the results.” As a result, saline was added “to prevent putting detainees in a coma or killing them through over-ingestion of large amounts of plain water.”

Second, “Health professionals monitored sleep deprivation on more than a dozen detainees in 48-, 96- and 180-hour increments. This research was apparently used to monitor and assess the effects of varying levels of sleep deprivation to support legal definitions of torture and to plan future sleep deprivation techniques.”

Third, “Health professionals appear to have analyzed data, based on their observations of 25 detainees who were subjected to individual and combined applications of ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques, to determine whether one type of application over another would increase the subject’s ‘susceptibility to severe pain.’ The alleged research appears to have been undertaken only to assess the legality of the ‘enhanced’ interrogation tactics and to guide future application of the techniques.” ...

Church pastors, deacon going to prison over fraud
Two pastors and a deacon of a former Houston church each was sentenced Monday to federal prison in FEMA and student loan fraud schemes. ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Agony of the Liberals
...But it’s here, with the looming fiscal crisis, that the more legitimate liberal fear comes in. Liberals had hoped that Obama’s election marked the beginning of a long progressive era — a new New Deal, a greater Great Society. Instead, from the West Coast to Western Europe, the welfare state is in crisis everywhere they look. The future suddenly seems to belong to austerity and retrenchment — and even, perhaps, to conservatism.

In this environment, the rage against Obama for not doing more, now, faster, becomes at least somewhat understandable. It’s not that he hasn’t done a great deal for liberals during his 18 months in office. It’s that liberalism itself may be running out of time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the U.S. Mortgage Default Crisis
We conduct a within-county analysis using detailed zip code level data to document new findings regarding the origins of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The recent sharp increase in mortgage defaults is significantly amplified in subprime zip codes, or zip codes with a disproportionately large share of subprime borrowers as of 1996. Prior to the default crisis, these subprime zip codes experience an unprecedented relative growth in mortgage credit. The expansion in mortgage credit from 2002 to 2005 to subprime zip codes occurs despite sharply declining relative (and in some cases absolute) income growth in these neighborhoods. In fact, 2002 to 2005 is the only period in the last eighteen years when income and mortgage credit growth are negatively correlated. We show that the expansion in mortgage credit to subprime zip codes and its dissociation from income growth is closely correlated with the increase in securitization of subprime mortgages. Finally, we show that all of our key findings hold in markets with very elastic housing supply that have low house price growth during the credit expansion years. ...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

You're Losing Your Plan
Late last week saw the first leaks of the administration's draft regulations for implementing the ObamaCare law--and everything is playing out just as the critics warned.

The 3,000-odd pages of legislation left most of the really important (and controversial) policy decisions to the regulations that government agencies were told to issue once the bill passed. Now that those regs are starting to take shape, it's clear that the Obama team is using its new power to exert tight control over the payment and delivery of all formerly "private" health insurance.

The ObamaCare law references the Secretary of Health and Human Services almost 2,200 times and uses the phrase "the secretary shall" more than 725. Each reference requires HHS to set new rules on medical care, giving control to an existing federal office or one of 160 new agencies that the bill created.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (who was once the Kansas state-insurance commissioner) has taken to these tasks with zeal. In some circles, she's now known as the nation's "insurance regulator in chief."

She's starting off by applying new regs to health plans offered by large employers--even though these costly rules were supposedly only going to apply to plans sold in the state insurance "exchanges" that don't get created until 2014. This twist is spelled out in an 83-page draft of a new regulation that leaked late last week.

Bottom line: Sebelius means to dictate what your insurance plan must look like almost from day one, no matter how you get your coverage.

Indeed, the draft regs envision more than half of all policies having to change within three years--an unmistakable break with President's Obama's oft-repeated promise, "If people like their insurance, they will be able to keep it."...

Lawmakers' committee assignments and industry investments overlap
...On the House Agriculture Committee, which holds sway over farm policies and subsidies, members had farming and agribusiness investments worth five times on average the amount held by other colleagues in the House. Many of the committee members' holdings were in family farms. Nothing prevents those members from also receiving farm subsidies, and in the past, some have.

Likewise, House Energy and Commerce Committee members, who routinely hold hearings about telecommunications and computer issues, had heavier than average investments in companies such as Oracle, Nokia, AT&T and Verizon.

House Homeland Security Committee members also had more communications and electronics holdings as a group than the House as a whole, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members as a group owned almost six times more holdings in transportation firms.

In the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee had on average almost twice the value of holdings in finance, insurance and real estate as that chamber as a whole. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members had almost three times the value of agribusiness holdings as their colleagues on other committees. ...

ObamaCare: Unions Get Better Grandfathers
ObamaCare appears to have one grandfathered standard for labor unions and another standard for everyone else.

Unions that had a health plan under a collective bargaining agreement by March 23, 2010, can switch insurers as long as the collective bargaining deal is in effect and not forfeit the grandfathered exemptions from many ObamaCare provisions. But anyone else — large business, small business, individual — who switches carriers loses their grandfathered status.

IBD reported in Monday’s issue that the administration estimates that most employers’ health plans would lose their grandfathered status under draft regulations. The government has now officially released those regulations (pdf).

But unions don’t have to follow the same rules...

Obama Begins "Lifestyle Health Modification" Program, Mandating Behavioural Changes Within US Society
Last week, with little fanfare, among the ever deteriorating oil spill crisis, the White House quietly noted the issuance of an executive order "Establishing the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council", in which the president, citing the “authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America” is now actively engaging in "lifestyle behavior modification" for American citizens that do not exhibit "healthy behavior." At least initially, the 8 main verticals of focus will include: smoking cessation; proper nutrition; appropriate exercise; mental health; behavioral health; sedentary behavior; substance-use disorder; and domestic violence screenings. Eventually we fully anticipate that the program will also target such wholesome activities as screening for precious metal holdings, monthly minimum usage of available revolving credit (and a minimum threshold thereto) and the susceptibility of an individual to stay current on one's mortgage. Additionally, the president will establish yet another Advisory Group, composed of "experts" picked from the public health field, and one which tracks the successful uptake by the US population of the precepts for a better functioning society that the president deems important. Cosmo culture has just been adopted by the White House, where Big Brother is now in the business of counting calories, and soon, your bars of gold....

Friday, June 18, 2010

The rise and rise of the Champagne Malthusians
In March 1933, the International Birth Control Movement held a Malthusian Ball in London. In the opulent surroundings of the five-star Dorchester Hotel, the great and the good gathered to discuss the problem of poor people’s breeding, the ‘Negro issue’, the best way to promote ‘family planning’, and other burning Malthusian dilemmas. All while decked out in diamonds, gowns and tuxedos, doing the foxtrot and clinking their champagne glasses as they mulled over how best to stop the lower specimens of humanity from getting knocked up with such dumb abandon.

Last week I attended a modern-day equivalent of the Malthusian Ball. It was in the luxurious crypt of St Pancras Church in Euston rather than at the Dorchester and there was no dancing this time. But we were invited to drink ‘luxury Belgian beer from champagne flutes’ and to peruse £1,500 paintings depicting ‘teeming crowds’ as we debated the ‘population problem’. The attendees were more casually dressed than their 1933 forebears - no floor-draping dresses - but once again, in between sips from champagne glasses, men and women with pronunciation far more received than mine gathered to fret over how humankind is spreading like a ‘cancer’ (their word)....

...Obsessed with the idea of limited resources and the insatiable greed of men, Malthusians’ only solution is to save resources by reducing the number of men. A progressive possessed of a social outlook looks at the problems facing mankind and says (in a nutshell) ‘we need more stuff’ – a Malthusian looks at them and says ‘we need fewer people’. Their belief that all the world’s problems are caused by there being Too Many People has not only been proved unfounded again and again (we have continually discovered new and improved ways to make and distribute resources), but it also inevitably makes them misanthropic. Those who think human numbers can continue rising should remember that ‘unremitting growth is the doctrine of the cancer cell’, said Professor John Guillebaud in St Pancras Church, capturing well the Malthusians’ view of humanity as a virus on Gaia’s person....

...Yet when you promote ‘family planning’ on the basis that too many children will ‘destroy biodiversity’, on the basis that women are spawning ‘environment trashers’, on the basis that ‘we are doomed’ if women keep on breeding irresponsibly, on the basis that our offspring, little more than a species of ‘ape’, will do ‘sick and disgusting’ things to the Earth (all direct quotations from last week’s Malthusian get-together), then you’re not giving women a choice – you’re giving them an ultimatum: ‘Stop breeding or the planet gets it.’ You are polluting their decision-making universe with your own prejudices, using the politics of fear to get them to make the ‘right choices’. That is coercion. And whether you’re doing it in order to create a ‘strong and healthy nation’, as in 1933, or to ‘protect biodiversity’, as in 2010, the result is the same: women’s freedom of choice is undermined, and ordinary people are branded with the blame for what are in fact social problems....
The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.

“Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous,” the paper states unambiguously, adding that they rendered “the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.”...

Lawrence Solomon: IPCC insider explains embarrassing disclosure that went viral
On Sunday, I wrote a blog about an IPCC insider who stated that the IPCC had been disingenuous in claiming that 2500 scientists had endorsed the view that humans are responsible for global warming. By Monday, my blog had gone viral, appearing in thousands of locations in the blogosphere and garnering perhaps hundreds of thousands of hits. Earlier today, Hulme provided a convoluted response on his own blog site, in an attempt to counter my blog.

He should instead take his own advice, which he had given to the IPCC in his paper: Don’t be disingenuous, because it makes you vulnerable to criticism....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Transcript: Charlie Gibson Interviews President Bush
...BUSH: Well, that was, of course, the crystallization. When you have the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Fed [Ben Bernanke] say, if we don't act boldly, we could be in a depression greater than the Great Depression, that's an "uh-oh" moment. But you got to understand, leading up to that we had been bailing water in this way: AIG was failing; other big houses on Wall Street needed to be merged, one failed -- ...

Inside the Meltdown
ANNOUNCER: On September 18th, 2008, the secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, arrived for an emergency meeting at the Capitol....

JOE NOCERA: Bernanke said, "If we don't do this tomorrow, we won't have an economy on Monday."...

Bernanke says crisis 'no comparison' to Great Depression
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday the current economic situation bears "no comparison" to the much deeper crisis of the 1930s Great Depression.

"Well, you hear a lot of loose talk, but let me just ... say, as a scholar of the Great Depression -- and I've written books about the Depression and been very interested in this since I was in graduate school, there's no comparison," Bernanke said in a question period after an address in Austin, Texas.

Bernanke cited "an order-of-magnitude difference" in the current situation compared to the 1930s.

"During the 1930s, there was a worldwide depression that lasted for about 12 years and was only ended by a world war," he said.

"During that time, the unemployment rate went to 25 percent, at least, based on the data that we have. The real GDP (gross domestic product) fell by one-third. About a third of all of the banks failed. The stock market fell 90 percent."

Bernanke said the situation at that time represented "very difficult circumstances," because "we didn't have the social safety net that we have today. So let's put that out of our minds; there's no -- there's comparison in terms of severity."

He added, "We're very lucky to live in a country as rich and diversified as the one we have. And I hope that we will have a quick and rapid recovery from the current slowdown." ...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ouch! Louisianans say Bush did a better job on Katrina
...Louisianans believe that President George W. Bush did a better job handling the crisis in the state than President Obama, 50 to 35. But most Louisianans think the oil spill is far more critical than Hurricane Katrina. Louisianans overwhelmingly believe that the effects of the oil spill will be far more harmful to Louisiana in the long term than Hurricane Katrina, 76 to 17%....

A Stubbornly Passionless Speech
...Obama has a plan: “BP will pay.” Of course it will: It is legally obliged to. Did we need a president to tell us so, at prime time? But Obama has a civilizational point to make. In the opening of his address, right after al Qaeda, he spoke of the oil spill “assaulting” our shores. In language redolent of the neocon fighting words of yore, directed against Islamist terrorism, he intoned that “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes,” to “make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.” On the edge of my seat, I was waiting for the punch line: You’re either against this oil spill, or with it. It never came.

Instead, we got the rinky-dink green tub-thump against “America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels”; and the rinky-dink chest-puff that asserted that “The time to enhance a clean-energy future is now.” And don’t forget those “energy-efficient windows” that Obama talked about in reverent tones, windows the president would like all of us to have...lest we defenestrate ourselves in a state of oil-crazed madness. That is, unless we “seize the moment” and “rally together and act as one nation.” Whee!...

A Small Speech from a Big Office
...As Planet Gore contributor Chris Horner rehearses at length in his book Power Grab, the prime architect of the cap-and-trade idea was — you guessed it — former BP CEO Lord John Browne. So there is a special kind of cognitive dissonance going on in the juxtaposition of BP bullying and carbon tax cheerleading...

Worthy Proposes Punishment for Skipping Parent-Teacher
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is taking a tough stand with parents and introducing a proposal that would prosecute them for not attending any parent-teacher conferences.

The proposal is still in development, but sure to be debated. In short, if you don't show up to any of your kid's parent-teacher conference, you could end up behind bars.

"I don't think that you should be prosecuted for that. That, to me, is just like over and beyond," said one woman.

"Just to put a parent in jail because you can't attend a parent-teacher conference, no I don't think that's fair," another woman said.

Now amidst the lowest test scores in the country for fourth and eighth graders in the Detroit public school system, this is not just for DPS parents but for the entire county of Wayne. While some parents disagree with the penalty, they do agree that parents need to be more active in their child's education.

"I think it's a little strong, but I do like the approach that they're trying to get more parents involved with their children," said a third woman.

As an incentive for parents of Detroit public schools, DPS plans to give out $25,000 worth of Target gift cards just to get up-to-date information at the time of enrollment....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On a Visit to the U.S., a Nigerian Witch-Hunter Explains Herself
...So well-known, in fact, that Ms. Ukpabio’s critics say her teachings have contributed to the torture or abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children — including infants and toddlers — suspected of being witches and warlocks. Her culpability is a central contention of “Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” a documentary that will make its American debut Wednesday on HBO2.

Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.

Their fellow villagers have often seen DVDs of “End of the Wicked,” Ms. Ukpabio’s bloody 1999 movie purporting to show how the devil captures children’s souls. And some have read her book “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” where she confidently writes that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

Visiting Houston last week to lead a four-night revival for a local church, Ms. Ukpabio, 41, had no idea that “Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” which brought protesters out to greet her in London, was about to be shown in the United States. But she was eager to defend herself. ...

The U.S. wins the right to abduct innocent people with impunity
The Supreme Court today denied a petition of review from Maher Arar, the Canadian and Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government at a stopover at JFK Airport when returning to Canada in 2002, held incommunicado for two weeks, and then rendered to Syria, where he spent the next 10 months being tortured, even though -- as everyone acknowledges -- he was guilty of absolutely nothing. Arar sued the U.S. Government for what was done to him, and last November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit on the ground that courts have no right to interfere in these decisions of the Executive Branch. That was the decision which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand today, ending Arar's attempt to be compensated for what was done to him....

Learn To Love A U.S. Default
...By now most are familiar with what the experts say is ahead, including, but not limited to, a downgrade of U.S. debt, no more “kindness of strangers” as investors the world over turn their backs on a country lacking any spending discipline, and finally, skyrocketing interest rates as U.S. Treasury yields rise to match their well-earned junk reputation. To believe the experts, the U.S. is Greece, only larger, and the Titanic is nearing the iceberg.

Let’s hope. Indeed, rather than fear what some say is inevitable anyway, it’s time we learn to love the idea of a U.S. default. Contrary to conventional wisdom, government spending itself is our economy’s crisis, while a default would be its cure. ...

...For Americans to worry about a debt default is like the parent of a heroin addict fearing that his dealers will cease feeding the addiction. In truth, just as the much-needed heroin withdrawals would mark the beginning of the addict’s recovery, so would a cessation on the part of investors when it comes to funding federal waste signal a United States on the mend.

The reason is basic. Government spending is the great, economy-sapping tax on the American people. Lacking any resources of its own, when our federal government spends, every dollar it consumes represents money that would have remained in the private sector were Washington more circumspect with the money of others. ...

Warren pastor charged in child sex case
A Baptist church leader is set to be arraigned today on charges of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old male student.

Christopher Settlemoir, 27, is pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Warren and principal at its small K-12 school, Antioch Baptist Academy.

He is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from contact with the student, police said. He was released Saturday on a $1 million interim bond.


"This is extremely disturbing," said Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer, who is expected to release more details on the case today.

"This ... 15-year-old was taken advantage of by a person of trust." ...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Obama pleads for $50 billion in state, local aid
President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters" and to support the still-fragile economic recovery.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Obama defended last year's huge economic stimulus package, saying it helped break the economy's free fall, but argued that more spending is urgent and unavoidable. "We must take these emergency measures," he wrote in an appeal aimed primarily at members of his own party.

The letter comes as rising concern about the national debt is undermining congressional support for additional spending to bolster the economy. ...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Morning Bell: How the White House is Making Oil Recovery Harder
Five weeks ago Escambia County officials requested permission from the Mobile Unified Command Center to use a sand skimmer, a device pulled behind a tractor that removes oil and tar from the top three feet of sand, to help clean up Pensacola’s beaches. County officials still haven’t heard anything back. Santa Rosa Island Authority Buck Lee told The Daily Caller why: “Escambia County sends a request to the Mobile, Ala., Unified Command Center. Then, it’s reviewed by BP, the federal government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard. If they don’t like it, they don’t tell us anything.”

Keeping local governments in the dark is just one reason why the frustration of residents in the Gulf is so palpable. State and local governments know their geography, people, economic impacts and needs far better than the federal government does. Contrary to popular belief, the federal government has actually been playing a bigger and bigger role in running natural disaster responses. And as Heritage fellow Matt Mayer has documented, the results have gotten worse, not better.

And when the federal government isn’t sapping the initiative and expertise of local governments, it has been preventing foreign governments from helping. Just three days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the Dutch government offered to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms and proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands. LA Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) supported the idea, but the Obama administration refused the help. All told, thirteen countries have offered to help us clean up the Gulf, and the Obama administration has turned them all down.

According to one Dutch newspaper, European firms could complete the oil spill clean up by themselves in just four months, and three months if they work with the United States, which is much faster than the estimated nine months it would take the Obama administration to go it alone. The major stumbling block is a protectionist piece of legislation called the Jones Act which requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens. But in an emergency this law can be temporarily waived as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff did after Katrina. Each day our European allies are prevented from helping us speed up the clean up is another day that Gulf fishing and tourism jobs die....

The Road to Price Controls
...When the pharma deal inevitably forces premiums—and in turn government costs—higher, it will reignite calls for drug price controls. Conveniently, the Obama plan already gives Medicare the legal tools it needs to impose them.

That authority flows from the new Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Its mandate is to cut $4 billion a year from Medicare’s spending, mostly by reducing payment rates. One way is to ratchet down existing price schedules. More efficient (and ruinous to the drug industry) would be to merely import into the Medicare benefit the lower government drug pricing schedules required by Medicaid and the Pentagon. IPAB will focus mainly on medical products, since providers like hospitals have exempted themselves from the board’s focus.

The Obama plan releases IPAB’s decisions from judicial review, the need for advance public notice, or even appeals from patients. The administration envisions that its decisions will be too unpopular to subject to public scrutiny, and for good reason. Its inevitable target will be the more expensive, but also most novel, “single source” medicines. These are drugs that don’t have treatment alternatives because they represent unique innovation. For that reason, they also command a premium, precisely because they are effective and have few therapeutic alternatives....

Friends in High Places
The case is straightforward. On Election Day 2008, two members of the New Black Panther party (NBPP) dressed in military garb were captured on videotape at a Philadelphia polling place spouting racial epithets and menacing voters. One, Minister King Samir Shabazz, wielded a nightstick. It was a textbook case of voter intimidation and clearly covered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

A Department of Justice trial team was assigned to investigate. They gathered affidavits from witnesses—one of the poll watchers was called a “white devil” and a “cracker.” A Panther told him he would be “ruled by the black man.” The trial team, all career Justice attorneys and headed by voting section chief Chris Coates, filed a case against the two Panthers caught on tape. Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of the national NBPP, and the party itself were also named based on evidence the party had planned the deployment of 300 members on Election Day and on statements after the incident in which the NBPP endorsed the intimidation at the Philadelphia polling station.

The trial team quickly obtained a default judgment—meaning it had won the case because the New Black Panther party failed to defend itself. Yet in May 2009, Obama Justice Department lawyers, appointed temporarily to fill top positions in the civil rights division, ordered the case against the NBPP dismissed. An administration that has pledged itself to stepping-up civil rights enforcement dropped the case and, for over a year, has prevented the trial team lawyers from telling their story. ...

...While the interference by political appointees in the NBPP case has been egregious, there is a critical issue with implications far beyond this single case: Whether the attorneys who populate the civil rights division of the Justice Department believe that civil rights laws exist only to protect minorities from discrimination and intimidation by whites. In a farewell address to his colleagues before his reassignment to a U.S. attorney’s office, Coates spoke about this widespread sentiment and why it was antithetical to the department’s mission to seek equal enforcement of federal laws.

Former voting rights attorneys confirm that the belief is omnipresent in the Justice Department. DoJ attorneys openly criticized the Panther case, objecting not to any lack of evidence or to the legal arguments but to the notion that any discrimination case should be filed against black defendants. There are instances of attorneys refusing to work on cases against minority defendants. In 2005, for example, Coates pursued, filed, and won a case (upheld on appeal to the Fifth Circuit in 2009) of egregious voter discrimination by black officials in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Colleagues criticized Coates for filing the case and refused to work on it....

...Liberal civil rights lawyers argue that because “a history of official discrimination” can be one subsidiary factor in voting cases it “wipes out every other factor” and prohibits cases from being brought against blacks. And further, that since “socio-economic” factors can be considered in determining whether voting discrimination has occurred, these cases cannot be brought against black defendants until there is economic parity between blacks and whites. Such attorneys use phrases like “traditional civil rights cases” and “traditional civil rights victims” to signal that only minority victims and white perpetrators concern them. Justice sources tell me that career attorneys have been “assured” that cases against minority defendants won’t be brought. In testimony before the civil rights commission, Thomas Perez denied he was aware of any such conversations or sentiments....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Administration: 51% Of Companies’ Health Plans Won’t Pass Muster
Internal White House documents reveal that 51% of employers may have to relinquish their current health care coverage by 2013 due to ObamaCare. That numbers soars to 66% for small-business employers.

The documents — product of a joint project of the Labor Department, the Health and Human Services Department and the IRS — examine the effects new regulations would have on existing, or “grandfathered,” employer-based health care plans.

Draft copies of the documents were reportedly leaked to House Republicans earlier in the week. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., posted them on his Web site Friday afternoon. ...

Thousands of hospital patients dying 'because too few senior staff work weekends'
Higher deaths rates at weekends mean thousands of patients every year are dying unnecessarily, according to the findings.

Patients were seven per cent more likely to die if they were admitted as an emergency case on a Saturday or Sunday, the largest study of its kind shows.

The higher rates were equivalent to 3,369 extra deaths a year, more than the total number who die every year on Britain’s roads.

Conditions including heart attacks, heart failure, stroke and some cancers all had higher deaths rates at weekends than Monday to Friday.

The team behind the findings warned that a lack of senior staff, such as consultants, working weekends and reduced access to specialist services could be behind the higher death rates. ...

The Neomarxist who is helping to influence Obama’s media policy
“Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism.” Does that statement give you chills?

How about this one: “The news is not a commercial product. It is a public good, necessary for a self-governing society. Once we accept this, we can talk about the kind of media policies and subsidies we want.”

Or this one? “In the end, there is no real answer but to remove brick-by-brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”

These are the sentiments of Robert McChesney, a self-professed neomarxist media scholar and the founder of the lobbying group and think tank Free Press. McChesney’s statements should worry you, perhaps even fill you with dread. Not because the rantings of a lefty professor are particularly scary in and of themselves, but because McChesney’s views are having a direct effect on the Obama administration’s policies on the media. Don’t believe it? Check out a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission entitled, “Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism.” Portions sounds like they were written by McChesney himself....

...Those ideas, many of them culled from McChesney’s book The Death and Life of American Journalism (co-written with the Nation’s John Nichols), include:

* The establishment of a “‘journalism’ division of AmeriCorps” to “ensure that young people who love journalism will stay in the field”
* Providing “a tax credit to news organizations for every journalist they employ”
* “Establishing citizenship news vouchers”
* “Increasing postal subsidies for newspapers and periodicals”
* A tax on news aggregators, or even a policy to make news aggregation sites, like the Drudge Report, illegal
* The allocation of roughly $35 billion in public news subsidies
* A five percent tax on consumer electronics
* A ISP cell phone tax
* A revision of the tax code to allow for more nonprofit media...

ZYWICKI: Why aren't banks lending?
...Every loan bears some risk that it will not be repaid. In making a loan, a lender has two considerations: First, it must be able to price the risk of the loan accurately or, second, it must reduce its risk exposure by reducing the number of loans it makes, the amount it lends or the risk profile of those to whom it lends. Regulations that interfere with the ability to price risk accurately thus inevitably produce efforts to reduce risk exposure by curtailing lending.

Since President Obama was inaugurated, Congress has launched one of the most ambitious legislative agendas in American history - proposals that would fundamentally transform the economy: from remaking the health care system, to a far-reaching set of taxes and regulations to combat climate change and remake the energy system, to a comprehensive financial overhaul bill that would fundamentally reshape the banking system.

How, one wonders, can borrowers and lenders possibly price the risk associated with the imposition of the massive new cap-and-trade system or other new environmental regulations? How could a start-up or growing company anticipate the costs to be imposed by the health insurance reform legislation? How can a lender make a loan today knowing that a new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection or state attorney general might later decide the loan is "abusive"? Or what future taxes will have to be levied to fund our unsustainable budget deficits?

They can't.

When the new SBLF was unveiled in February, I testified before the House Financial Services Committee along with several businesspeople and bankers. Their refrain was nearly uniform: Washington's tax-and-regulation orgy was spawning unworkable uncertainty for small businesses and banks, leading to curtailed lending....

The Alien in the White House
...A great part of America now understands that this president's sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since, but the central fact stands clear. The new administration had apparently found no place in our national house of many rooms for the British leader who lives on so vividly in the American mind. Churchill, face of our shared wartime struggle, dauntless rallier of his nation who continues, so remarkably, to speak to ours. For a president to whom such associations are alien, ridding the White House of Churchill would, of course, have raised no second thoughts. ...

...It is a White House that has focused consistently on the sensitivities of the world community—as it is euphemistically known—a body of which the president of the United States frequently appears to view himself as a representative at large. ...

ACORN employees tell FBI of deliberate election fraud, according to new documents
The radical activist group ACORN “works” for the Democratic Party and deliberately promotes election fraud, ACORN employees told FBI investigators, according to an FBI document dump Wednesday.

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a watchdog group, are FBI investigators’ reports related to the 2007 investigation and arrest of eight St. Louis, Mo., workers from ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate for violation of election laws. All eight employees involved in the scandal later pleaded guilty to voter registration fraud.

Project Vote is ACORN’s voter registration arm. Project Vote continues to operate despite the reported dissolution of the national structure of ACORN.

The handwritten reports by FBI agents show that ACORN employees reported numerous irregularities in the nonprofit group’s business practices.

One employee told the FBI that ACORN headquarters is “wkg [working] for the Democratic Party.”

According to one report, an ACORN employee said the purpose of “[f]raudulent cards” was “[t]o cause confusion on election day to keep polls open longer,” “[t]o allow people who can’t vote to vote,” and “[t]o allow to vote multiple times.”

Another report quotes an employee saying, “Project Vote will pay them whether cards fake or not – whatever they had to do to get the cards was attitude.” Project Vote pays based on the number of cards and “that’s why they were so reckless,” the report says....

The Spill, The Scandal and the President
...Like the attacks by Al Qaeda, the disaster in the Gulf was preceded by ample warnings – yet the administration had ignored them. Instead of cracking down on MMS, as he had vowed to do even before taking office, Obama left in place many of the top officials who oversaw the agency's culture of corruption. He permitted it to rubber-stamp dangerous drilling operations by BP – a firm with the worst safety record of any oil company – with virtually no environmental safeguards, using industry-friendly regulations drafted during the Bush years. He calibrated his response to the Gulf spill based on flawed and misleading estimates from BP – and then deployed his top aides to lowball the flow rate at a laughable 5,000 barrels a day, long after the best science made clear this catastrophe would eclipse the Exxon Valdez....

Once a government pet, BP now a capitalist tool
...But the Kerry-BP alliance for an energy bill that included a cap-and-trade scheme for greenhouse gases pokes a hole in a favorite claim of President Obama and his allies in the media — that BP’s lobbyists have fought fiercely to be left alone. Lobbying records show that BP is no free-market crusader, but instead a close friend of big government whenever it serves the company’s bottom line.

While BP has resisted some government interventions, it has lobbied for tax hikes, greenhouse gas restraints, the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and subsidies for oil pipelines, solar panels, natural gas and biofuels.

Now that BP’s oil rig has caused the biggest environmental disaster in American history, the Left is pulling the same bogus trick it did with Enron and AIG: Whenever a company earns universal ire, declare it the poster boy for the free market....

...There’s a problem: BP was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a lobby dedicated to passing a cap-and-trade bill. As the nation’s largest producer of natural gas, BP saw many ways to profit from climate legislation, notably by persuading Congress to provide subsidies to coal-fired power plants that switched to gas....

...BP has more Democratic lobbyists than Republicans. It employs the Podesta Group, co-founded by John Podesta, Obama’s transition director and confidant. Other BP troops on K Street include Michael Berman, a former top aide to Vice President Walter Mondale; Steven Champlin, former executive director of the House Democratic Caucus; and Matthew LaRocco, who worked in Bill Clinton’s Interior Department and whose father was a Democratic congressman. Former Republican staffers, such as Reagan alumnus Ken Duberstein, also lobby for BP, but there’s no truth to Democratic portrayals of the oil company as
an arm of the GOP.

Two patterns have emerged during Obama’s presidency: 1) Big business increasingly seeks profits through more government, and 2) Obama nonetheless paints opponents of his intervention as industry shills. BP is just the latest example of this tawdry sleight of hand....

Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse
...People can also change the timing of when they earn and receive their income in response to government policies. According to a 2004 U.S. Treasury report, "high income taxpayers accelerated the receipt of wages and year-end bonuses from 1993 to 1992—over $15 billion—in order to avoid the effects of the anticipated increase in the top rate from 31% to 39.6%. At the end of 1993, taxpayers shifted wages and bonuses yet again to avoid the increase in Medicare taxes that went into effect beginning 1994."

Just remember what happened to auto sales when the cash for clunkers program ended. Or how about new housing sales when the $8,000 tax credit ended? It isn't rocket surgery, as the Ivy League professor said.

On or about Jan. 1, 2011, federal, state and local tax rates are scheduled to rise quite sharply. President George W. Bush's tax cuts expire on that date, meaning that the highest federal personal income tax rate will go 39.6% from 35%, the highest federal dividend tax rate pops up to 39.6% from 15%, the capital gains tax rate to 20% from 15%, and the estate tax rate to 55% from zero. Lots and lots of other changes will also occur as a result of the sunset provision in the Bush tax cuts....

...Now, if people know tax rates will be higher next year than they are this year, what will those people do this year? They will shift production and income out of next year into this year to the extent possible. As a result, income this year has already been inflated above where it otherwise should be and next year, 2011, income will be lower than it otherwise should be. ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Member of Financial Crisis Commission: Nah, No One's Read the Financial Reg Bills
Today, a conference committee begins hashing out differences between the House and Senate visions for financial regulatory reform. As Congress begins deliberations on another sweeping overhaul of a complex national system with broad, international implications, one would hope they are well informed about the bills over which they'll be haggling.

But just a week ago, a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission told billionaire investor Warren Buffett that "no one" has read the text of the financial regulatory reform bills, "including some of the co-sponsors."...

Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Test Scores
...Of all the forms of academic cheating, none may be as startling as educators tampering with children’s standardized tests. But investigations in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and elsewhere this year have pointed to cheating by educators. Experts say the phenomenon is increasing as the stakes over standardized testing ratchet higher — including, most recently, taking student progress on tests into consideration in teachers’ performance reviews.

Colorado passed a sweeping law last month making teachers’ tenure dependent on test results, and nearly a dozen other states have introduced plans to evaluate teachers partly on scores. Many school districts already link teachers’ bonuses to student improvement on state assessments. Houston decided this year to use the data to identify experienced teachers for dismissal, and New York City will use it to make tenure decisions on novice teachers.

The federal No Child Left Behind law is a further source of pressure. Like a high jump bar set intentionally low in the beginning, the law — which mandates that public schools bring all students up to grade level in reading and math by 2014 — was easy to satisfy early on. But the bar is notched higher annually, and the penalties for schools that fail to get over it also rise: teachers and administrators can lose jobs and see their school taken over.

No national data is collected on educator cheating. Experts who consult with school systems estimated that 1 percent to 3 percent of teachers — thousands annually — cross the line between accepted ways of boosting scores, like using old tests to prep students, and actual cheating.

“Educators feel that their schools’ reputation, their livelihoods, their psychic meaning in life is at stake,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a nonprofit group critical of standardized testing. “That ends up pushing more and more of them over the line.” ...

Meet the green who doubts ‘The Science’
...Firstly, there’s no real consensus among the scientists in the UN working groups, especially around oceanography and atmospheric physics. The atmospheric physics of carbon dioxide for example is presented as being pretty straightforward: it is a greenhouse gas, therefore it warms up the planet. But even that isn’t settled. There’s a huge amount of scientific disagreement on how much extra heating in the atmosphere you will get from carbon dioxide. It is even broadly accepted that carbon dioxide on its own is not a problem. So, you can double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and get half to one degree warming, which is within the natural variability range over a period of 50 years from now at the current rate of emissions.

The role of water vapour in planetary warming is also open to questioning. While it is presented as being a heat amplifier, in fact because it can turn into cloud it could actually regulate temperature instead. As it turned out, at the very beginning of the UN discussions, Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT, and a leading expert appointed to the committee because of his meteorological expertise, was saying precisely that: the amplification effect asserted cannot be relied upon to increase warming because the vapour could turn into cloud. This needed to be proved before basing assumptions on it. But Lindzen was overruled. Despite still being a key part of the IPPC process, he is now vilified by the press and by the environmental movement. So even on the most basic science of the atmospherics, there is doubt....

...When I first looked at the basic science, the findings were surprising. Over the global warming period – which I limit to the past 50 or so years – the globe didn’t warm at all between 1950 and 1980, even though carbon dioxide emissions were going through the roof due to the postwar expansion of industry; global temperatures stayed pretty much flat.

The real global warming took off in the 1980s and 90s, through to about 2005. (In the last 10 years it’s actually plateaued.) That period of 25 years, from around 1980 to 2005, coincided with changes in the ocean and cloud cover – that is, there was less cloud and more sunlight getting through to the ocean. And this can be seen in the satellite data on the kind of energy that’s coming through (short-wave energy, which is the only energy that heats water – infra-red energy coming from CO2 cannot heat water). So when you look at the real-world data, the warming of that entire period seems to be due to additional sunlight reaching the oceans.

In 2007, I put out a report on this, in the hope of getting feedback before I published my book, Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory. Since then, top scientists at NASA have agreed that this period of warming over the past 25 years is entirely due to the short-wave radiation from sunlight, with the ocean transferring that heat to the land.

So the crucial question is: has the cloud thinning been due to carbon dioxide? Or is it part of a cycle? If you ask some of the top people at NASA – that is, the people who interpret all the satellite data – they will say it’s 50-50. So you could say the greenhouse effect has warmed the oceans and the warmer oceans have thinned the clouds. But that is still just a hypothesis, it is not a proven scientific fact. That means you could assert with equal validity that thinning clouds have warmed the oceans, which has led to global warming – meaning the effect of carbon dioxide is minimal....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jobs report a nightmare for Obama progressivism
...Uncertainty is a consequence of hyperkinetic government, which is a consequence of the governmental confidence that is a consequence of progressivism. The premise of progressivism is that all will be well if enough power is concentrated in Washington, and enough Washington power is concentrated in the executive branch, and enough really clever experts are concentrated in the executive branch. This is why the government's perceived impotence concerning the gulf oil spill is subversive of the Obama administration's master narrative.

Obama is the first president whose presidential campaign was his qualification for the office he sought. He almost said so on Sept. 1, 2008, as a large hurricane made landfall on the Gulf Coast. Megan McArdle of the Atlantic has resurrected Obama's answer when he was asked whether could handle such a crisis.

Using perhaps the royal plural -- a harbinger of grandiosity to come -- Obama cited the size, cost and complexity of his campaign: "Our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years," and "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect."

Progressives generally, and Obama especially, encourage expectations as large as the 1,428-page (cap-and-trade), 1,566-page (financial reform) and 2,409-page (health care) bills they churn out as "comprehensive" solutions to this and that. For a proper progressive, anything short of a "comprehensive" solution to, say, the problem of illegal immigration is unworthy of consideration. For today's progressive president, the prospect of a jobless recovery is a comprehensive nightmare.

A Poisonous Cocktail
...By 2008 Bank of America was reporting that CRA loans represented only 7% of its portfolio but 29% of its losses. Numerous large banks are now in the middle of enormous CRA commitments. In 2004 J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM - news - people ) agreed to provide $800 billion of such loans over the course of 10 years.

For all the talk of unsold condos in Miami and foreclosed McMansions in California, the epicenters of the mortgage crisis are inner-city urban areas--precisely those areas where the CRA was most applicable. As the Boston Federal Reserve put it in a massive 2008 study, "In the current housing crisis foreclosures are highly concentrated in [urban] minority neighborhoods." The study found that borrowers in these areas were seven times more likely to be foreclosed on than the general population. Analysis by the Pew Research Center and another by The New York Times found that mortgage holders in these areas had foreclosure rates four times higher than the national average. ...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Unbelievably Rampant Corruption On Wall Street
...Bloomberg is reporting that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars. The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments. Apparently what was going on was that it was decided in advance who would win the auctions of guaranteed investment contracts, which public entities purchase with the proceeds from municipal bond sales, and then other intentionally losing bids were submitted in order to make the process look competitive. The U.S. Justice Department claims that this fraud has been industry-wide and has been going on for years. In fact, at least four financial professionals have already pleaded guilty in this case. ...

Violent Left Fights for a BP Bailout
The violent left has attacked conservative activists protesting big government, big spending and big bailout scheme proposed by Congress. Tea Party activists in Tampa and St. Louis were beaten by left wing activists earlier this year. Add Greensboro to that list. This week, a group of local citizens in North Carolina protesting the Financial Reform bill and the Durbin BP Bailout amendment were accosted and then physically attacked by a left-wing activist who blamed George Bush for America’s ills. ...

...Like a bad cold it can’t shake, the left continues to attempt to blame every ill on George W. Bush. But as one activists in the video pointed out, its actually one Barack Obama and Senator Dick Durbin who are about to hand a massive check to the very company responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

The Durbin Amendment to the financial reform bill is the latest government policy proposal that will pad BP’s bottom line. The amendment would create a government imposed price control scheme that would shift billions of dollars away from consumer to retailers (British Petroleum, Exxon, WalMart). That’s why the Durbin Amendment is supported by the big retailers like Walmart, Petroleum Marketers Association and other prominent lobbyist groups which are funded, in part, by British Petroleum.

Proponents cynically and falsely claim it would help consumers, but its hard to see many consumers feeling benefited by paying higher prices while mega corporations increase their profits.

Just look at who is pushing this amendment—oil Companies and giant retailers.

Tim Carney is one of the most astute observers of the Washington, DC K Street lobbying business. He doesn’t fall for the pro-consumer rhetoric of politicians. He looks behind the curtain of amendments and bills to see who benefits and who is paying the lobbyists to get the job done. When it comes to British Petroleum Carney has found a trail of support for big government policies that pad their bottom line. Carney writes, ” While BP has resisted some government interventions, it has lobbied for tax hikes, greenhouse gas restraints, the stimulus bill, the Wall Street bailout, and subsidies for oil pipelines, solar panels, natural gas and biofuels.”...

Goo-Goo Genocidaires: The Blood Is Dripping From Their Hands
...Of all the mass murderers, genocidaires and enablers of the twentieth century, one group of collaborators does not get its fair share of condemnation and moral loathing. Unfortunately Americans have never really come to terms with the terrible things they did, we have never really named and shamed them, and we have never diagnosed and exposed the bad ideas that led to some of America’s most fateful and costly blunders. Until we do, our society is at risk of repeating these errors.

The people I have in mind are the ‘goo-goo genocidaires,’ the willfully blind reformers, civil society activists, clergy, students and others whose foolishness and ignorance was a necessary condition for tens of millions of deaths in the last hundred years. Unreflective, self-righteous ‘activists’ thought that to espouse peace was the same thing as to create or safeguard it. As a result, tens of millions died. Unless this kind of thinking is exposed and repudiated, it is likely to lead to as many or more deaths in the 21st.

We all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; this turns out to be particularly true when it comes to the road to foreign policy hell. Over the years good people or at least people who wanted to be good or thought they were, motivated by what seemed to them to be the highest of motives, have taken political stands and made policy proposals that helped mass murderers gain power in their own countries and launch themselves on international careers of conquest and mayhem. At other times, fortunately, they’ve failed to change policy; still, they wasted a lot of people’s time and made life significantly more difficult for those whose plans to help the world ultimately worked....

Kling: Experts Knew What Went On
It is tempting to blame the financial crisis on lack of regulation. However, the problem was not the absence of oversight. Instead, the crisis resulted from policies that were self-defeating. In order to prevent another crisis, we need to change our approach....

...The financial practices that we now understand to be dangerous were encouraged by regulators who believed that these practices served public policy goals. The regulators thought they were promoting homeownership and a more stable financial system.

To foster homeownership, policymakers promoted mortgage lending that was subsidized and lenient. Requirements for down payments were relaxed, as were requirements for borrowers to prove they had the ability to repay their loans....

...Washington also was responsible for creating and supporting the process of mortgage securitization. At the time, this was viewed as a way to lower the cost of mortgage credit and stabilize the mortgage lending industry.

Finally, it was bank capital requirements designed by regulators that induced bankers to weave the crazy quilt of collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps on mortgage securities and off-balance-sheet financing. This was a gradual process, but two dates stand out. First, in 1989, the Basel Accords established capital requirements that made it more profitable for banks to hold Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae securities than to hold ordinary mortgage loans. Then, on Jan. 1, 2002, bank regulators amended these capital requirements to give the same break to securities issued by anyone, provided that those securities received AA or AAA ratings from credit rating agencies. ...

Victim's Family: Pastor Led Double Life
HOUSTON - Did the preacher do it? A 5th Ward pastor, his girlfriend and his son are accused in a murder plot that ended with the death of the pastor's wife. The murder happened a week after his church mysteriously burned down.

The Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force arrested the trio Tuesday morning and brought them to the Harris County Sheriff's Office for questioning. ...

...Sources close to the investigation tell Fox 26 Burleson ordered his son to torch the church to collect money. Ross says his mother found out about the alleged plot.

"He orchestrated that to get rid of my mom and collect insurance money. He had too much to lose if he allowed her to open her mouth so he had to shut her up," he said.

Our sources tell us Fuller, the son, was the trigger man.

"He took a whole lot away from our family, and we're damn mad about it," said Joyce Bingham, Paulette Burleson's sister.

The victim's family says Paulette wanted to leave her husband because he was unfaithful to her.

"He was a womanizer, a user. He was not a man. He did not have a backbone," said Ross. ...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

CRAven Cover-Up
...One is by a couple of Fed economists who argue that only 6% of subprime mortgages in 2006 were made to CRA-qualified borrowers or neighborhoods by CRA-regulated banks.

But that stat is misleading, since it doesn't include subprime loans — or securities — bought by CRA-covered banks. Mortgages originated by independent mortgage companies can be bought by banks to get CRA credit. Nor does the study include the billions in public commitments big banks made to lend to low-income and minority households to buy off Acorn and other CRA lobbyists....

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
...In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics. ...

...Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%)....

Pols turn on labor unions
Spurred by state budget crunches and an angry public mood, Republican and some Democratic leaders are focusing with increasing intensity on public workers and the unions that represent them, casting them as overpaid obstacles to good government and demanding cuts in their often-generous benefits.

Unlike past battles over the high cost of labor, this time pitched battles over wages and pensions are being waged from Sacramento to Springfield to New York City and the conflict is marked by its bipartisan tone, with public employee unions emerging as an intransigent public enemy number one in cities and state capitals across the country.

They're the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.

Republicans around the nation have cheered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose shouting match over budget cuts with an outraged teacher—“You don’t have to” teach, he told her without sympathy—became a YouTube sensation on the right last week. ...

...Christie is merely the most florid voice for a calculated, national effort to fundamentally reshape the debate on the labor costs that account for the bulk of government spending at every level. And at the core of the shift is a perception among many political leaders that public anger at civil servants is boiling over.

“We have a new privileged class in America,” said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who rescinded state workers' collective bargaining power on his first day in office in 2006. “We used to think of government workers as underpaid public servants. Now they are better paid than the people who pay their salaries.”

“It's a part of a very large question the nation's got to face,” Daniels told POLITICO in an interview. “Who serves whom here? Is the public sector—as some of us have always thought—there to serve the rest of society? Or is it the other way around?” ...

Congressional Dems Ask HHS To Limit 2011 MA Rate Hikes
The battle by congressional Democrats to limit the damage from major cuts imposed through the health care reform law to the politically popular Medicare Advantage program has started.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Friday, the leaders of the House and Senate committees who wrote the law are asking that the department do what it can to protect seniors from unwarranted rate hikes and high out-of-pocket costs in the program for 2011.

“Health care reform strengthened Medicare and made Medicare Advantage more competitive, but it is critical that we don’t let private insurance companies use these changes as an excuse to raise premiums or cut benefits for seniors to bolster their own bottom line,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“The Affordable Care Act increases the authority vested in the secretary to hold MA (Medicare Advantage) plans accountable for their bid submissions,” the letter said. “Using this authority, we expect the secretary and officials at CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] to ensure that the bid proposals are accurate, merit approval, and are not discriminatory in benefit design or relative to plan payments.”

Under the new law, federal payments to the Medicare Advantage plans would be cut by about $136 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

But, an official of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the cuts will not start until 2012 and the payment levels for the 2011 year will remain as this year.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said in a statement, “Washington can’t slash $200 billion out of Medicare Advantage and then try to shift the blame to the health plans that administer the program when those cuts inevitably result in higher premiums and benefit reductions for seniors.”...

Monday, June 07, 2010

Fannie, Freddie Were at Center of Financial Crisis But Are Not Included in Obama’s New Financial Regulations
...In analyzing the mortgage crisis, economist Walter E. Williams has written: “Starting with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, that was given more teeth during the Clinton administration, Congress started intimidating banks and other financial institutions into making loans, so-called sub-prime loans, to high-risk homebuyers and businesses.

“The carrot offered was that these high-risk loans would be purchased by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Anyone with an ounce of brains would have known that this was a prescription for disaster but there was a congressional chorus of denial,” he added.

“The financial collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is not a failure of the free market because lending institutions in a free market would not have taken on the high-risk loans,” said Williams. “They were forced to by the heavy hand of government.”

During Geithner’s Senate testimony, he admitted that both Fannie and Freddie played a central role in the financial crisis, telling Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSE) were a “core part” of the country’s financial woes.

“Absolutely,” Geithner said. “Fannie and Freddie were a core part of what went wrong in our system.”...

The Folly of Blindly Trusting the Government
Democracy breeds gullibility. Lord Bryce observed in 1921, "State action became less distrusted the more the State itself was seen to be passing under popular control." The rise of democracy made it much easier for politicians to convince people that government posed no threat, because they automatically controlled its actions. The result is that the brakes on government power become weakest at the exact time that politicians are most dangerous.

Blind trust becomes a substitute for informed consent. But mass trust in government compounds the political damage brought about by pervasive ignorance.

The bias in favor of trusting government brings out democracy's worst tendencies. The normal defenses that people would have against alien authority are undermined by a chorus of politicians and government officials continually reminding people that government is themselves, and they cannot distrust the government without distrusting themselves.

How should people think about their rulers? This is a question that is rarely asked. Instead, it is preemptively squelched by myths pummeled into people's heads from a very early age.

Since it has not been possible to neuter political power, citizens' thinking on government has been neutered instead. Fear of government is portrayed as a relic of less civilized, unrefined times. There is a concerted effort to make distrusting the government intellectually unacceptable, a sign of bad taste or perhaps ill breeding, if not downright ignoble.

The central mystery of modern political life is: Why are people obliged to presume that politicians and government are more trustworthy than they seem? The question is not, Why do people distrust government? The question is, Why do people follow and applaud politicians who they recognize are lying to them? The mystery is not that politicians lie, but that citizens believe. It is not a question of giving rulers one benefit of the doubt -- but of giving such benefits day after day, year after year, ruler after ruler. ...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Guessing At CO2 Emissions
Supposedly, human activity is responsible for the detected rise in atmospheric CO2 levels over the past century. But do we really know were gas emissions come from and how great they are? As it turns out, greenhouse gas emissions are measured using statistical data without testing the results against the actual increases of these gases in the atmosphere. Regardless, climate change alarmists insist that human emissions must be reduced. A revealing perspective article in the June 4, 2010, issue of Science states “this is like dieting without weighing oneself.” Currently, science is only guessing at where CO2 emissions come from.

Scientists are coming to the realization that claims about greenhouse gas emissions can have integrity only if verified by direct atmospheric measurements. Emissions data are produced by greenhouse gas emitters of all sizes—farms, factories and entire nations. These emissions are often quoted with high precision but, as Euan Nisbet and Ray Weiss state in their article, “misreporting still occurs, whether by simple error, ignorance, or intention.” They claim that carbon-equivalent emissions are currently assessed by “bottom-up” methods, which are made up from a variety of local statistics such as fuel consumption or numbers of cows. When these measured “bottom-up” emissions are rolled up to a global scale, the amounts can disagree by factors of two or more when compared with direct atmospheric measurements....

Agency’s ’04 Rule Let Banks Pile Up New Debt
...Many events in Washington, on Wall Street and elsewhere around the country have led to what has been called the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. But decisions made at a brief meeting on April 28, 2004, explain why the problems could spin out of control. The agency’s failure to follow through on those decisions also explains why Washington regulators did not see what was coming.

On that bright spring afternoon, the five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission met in a basement hearing room to consider an urgent plea by the big investment banks.

They wanted an exemption for their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on. The exemption would unshackle billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments. Those funds could then flow up to the parent company, enabling it to invest in the fast-growing but opaque world of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments.

The five investment banks led the charge, including Goldman Sachs, which was headed by Henry M. Paulson Jr. Two years later, he left to become Treasury secretary. ...

...In loosening the capital rules, which are supposed to provide a buffer in turbulent times, the agency also decided to rely on the firms’ own computer models for determining the riskiness of investments, essentially outsourcing the job of monitoring risk to the banks themselves....

Ex-SEC Official Blames Agency for Blow-Up of Broker-Dealers
...In 2004, the European Union passed a rule allowing the SEC's European counterpart to manage the risk both of broker dealers and their investment banking holding companies. In response, the SEC instituted a similar, voluntary program for broker dealers with capital of at least $5 billion, enabling the agency to oversee both the broker dealers and the holding companies.

This alternative approach, which all five broker-dealers that qualified — Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley — voluntarily joined, altered the way the SEC measured their capital. Using computerized models, the SEC, under its new Consolidated Supervised Entities program, allowed the broker dealers to increase their debt-to-net-capital ratios, sometimes, as in the case of Merrill Lynch, to as high as 40-to-1. It also removed the method for applying haircuts, relying instead on another math-based model for calculating risk that led to a much smaller discount.

The SEC justified the less stringent capital requirements by arguing it was now able to manage the consolidated entity of the broker dealer and the holding company, which would ensure it could better manage the risk.

"The Commission's 2004 rules strengthened oversight of the securities markets, because prior to their adoption there was no formal regulatory oversight, no liquidity requirements, and no capital requirements for investment bank holding companies," a spokesman for the agency, John Heine, said.

In addition to computerizing the risk calculations, the new program required time-consuming oversight of the broker dealers by SEC officials, and in many cases, the use of subjective judgment calls....

Fannie, Freddie Subprime Spree May Add to Bailout
...``We've heard a lot of people stand up and say, `Fannie and Freddie really did not promulgate the problems; they weren't big players,''' said Joshua Rosner, an analyst with Graham Fisher & Co., an independent research firm in New York. ``Actually, they were.''

The biggest suppliers of the securities to Fannie and Freddie included Countrywide Financial Corp. of Calabasas, California, as well as Irvine-California-based New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest Mortgage Co., lenders that either went bankrupt or were forced to sell themselves. Fannie and Freddie were the biggest buyers of loans from Countrywide, according to the company. ...

...The companies said they were urged to increase purchases of subprime debt by the Bush administration. The Department of Housing and Urban Development said in 2005 that Fannie and Freddie should increase financing for low-income areas or moderate-income regions with high minority populations to 37 percent of new business from 34 percent in 2001 through 2004. That rose to 39 percent last year.

The updated goals ``were significant enough to force them to go down the credit curve to meet them, which meant participating in some way or form in the higher-risk areas of the mortgage market,'' said David Stevens, a former head of Freddie's single- family mortgage business who now runs lenders affiliated with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Fairfax, Virginia. That included ``the subprime business.'' ...

...[Countrywide]'s chief risk officer, John McMurray, told analysts in a conference call in July last year that Fannie would buy loans to borrowers with credit scores from Minneapolis-based Fair Isaac Co., known as FICOs, that would typically be considered subprime. Fannie used those loans to meet its affordable-housing goals, McMurray said.

``There is a belief by many that prime FICOs stop at 620,'' McMurray said. ``That's not the case. There are affordability programs and Fannie Mae expanded approval, as an example, that go far below 620, yet those are still considered prime.''

Borrowers were at least 60 days late on about 31 percent of the loans ...