Thursday, May 26, 2011
To comprehend the depth of the problem, consider one episode that still shocks me. Starting in 2006, under federal law, the State of New York was required to test students in grades three through eight annually in math and English. The results of those tests would enable us, for the first time, to analyze year-to-year student progress and tie it to individual teacher performance—a metric known in the field as “teacher value-added.” In essence, you hold constant other factors—where the students start from the prior year, demographics, class size, teacher length of service, and so on—and, based on test results, seek to isolate the individual teacher’s contribution to a student’s progress. Some teachers, for example, move their class forward on average a quarter-year more than expected; others, a quarter-year less. Value-added isn’t a perfect metric, but it’s surely worth considering as part of an overall teacher evaluation.
After we developed data from this metric, we decided to factor them into the granting of tenure, an award that is made after three years and that provides virtual lifetime job security. Under state law at the time, we were free to use these data. But after the New York City teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, objected, I proposed that the City use value-added numbers only for the top and bottom 20 percent of teachers: the top 20 percent would get positive credit; the bottom would lose credit. And even then, principals would take value-added data into account only as part of a much larger, comprehensive tenure review. Even with these limitations, the UFT said “No way,” and headed to Albany to set up a legislative roadblock.
Seemingly overnight, a budget amendment barring the use of test data in tenure decisions materialized in the heavily Democratic State Assembly. Joe Bruno, then the Republican majority leader in the State Senate, assured me that this amendment would not pass: he controlled the majority and would make sure that it remained united in opposition. Fast-forward a few weeks: the next call I got from Senator Bruno was to say, apologetically, that several of his Republican colleagues had caved to the teachers union, which had threatened reprisals in the next election if they didn’t get on board.
State Government: The chief fiscal officer of tax-and-spend Illinois is preparing to warn lenders that allowing it to borrow any more money would be a major risk. Will his be the first state to go bankrupt?
Treasurer Dan Rutherford is a Republican in a very blue state, and the usual critics will say his warning is political grandstanding. We think the guy who counts Illinois' money has simply embraced fiscal reality and sanity in shouting from the financial rooftops: "Don't help us anymore; we can't afford it."
Rutherford on Monday said the state was in a deep hole and needed to stop digging and that he was willing to contact all the major bond houses and warn them that lending Illinois more money would be a "major risk."
The call comes as activists are demanding the release of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman who was jailed for defying the ban.
The page, titled "The Iqal Campaign: June 17 for preventing women from driving," refers to the Arabic name for the cord used to hold on the traditional headdress worn by many men in the Gulf, advocating the cord be used to hit women who dare to drive.
It has drawn over 6,000 "likes" on the popular social networking website.
Some on the page proposed distributing boxes of Iqals to youths and encouraging them use them to hit women who participate in the June 17 protest.
One joked about the price of Iqals going up due to men buying them before the protest.
The issue has sparked debate in the Saudi press.
Those who regard government "entitlement" programs as sacrosanct, and regard those who want to cut them back as calloused or cruel, picture a world very different from the world of reality.
To listen to some of the defenders of entitlement programs, which are at the heart of the present financial crisis, you might think that anything the government fails to provide is something that people will be deprived of.
In other words, if you cut spending on school lunches, children will go hungry. If you fail to subsidize housing, people will be homeless. If you fail to subsidize prescription drugs, old people will have to eat dog food in order to be able to afford their meds.
This is the vision promoted by many politicians and much of the media. But, in the world of reality, it is not even true for most people who are living below the official poverty line.
The Obama administration, and its media backers, have seized upon news that General Motors made a $3.2 billion profit in the first quarter of 2011 as proof positive that its auto bailout is a success. President Obama is so buoyed that he is reportedly planning to make the bailout a major part of his reelection campaign.
But by this standard, Charlie Sheen’s comedy tour ought to be declared a smash hit. Sheen’s backers will lose relatively less money on him than taxpayers will on the bailout.
No sooner had GM made its announcement than Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne dashed off a stinging rebuke to naysayers (like me) who had dared doubt the wisdom of the bailout. Likewise, the auto czar Ron Bloom credited the turnaround to the president’s “tough love” approach.
President Obama is increasing government spending even faster than the budget numbers imply. That’s because some of his increased spending is disguised as cuts in taxes.
When the government gives a tax credit to homeowners who buy solar energy panels, it’s just like giving them a cash subsidy to buy those panels. But it’s recorded as a reduction in taxes rather than as an increase in outlays.
Similarly, when the president calls for an increase in the child care credit, that’s also treated as a tax cut rather than the rise in spending that it actually is.
According to calculations of the Treasury Department that are hidden deep in the government’s annual budget, there are hundreds of billions of dollars of spending every year that are recorded as tax reductions. The biggest of these “tax expenditures,” as they are called, is the exclusion of employer health insurance premiums from the taxable income of employees. That exclusion resulted in a tax reduction of $160 billion in 2010 and is projected to be $1.4 trillion between 2010 and 2016. That’s a $1.4 trillion subsidy to health insurance that is disguised as a tax reduction.
On Saturday, the pizza magnate Herman Cain announced that he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. While he has to be considered a long shot, he has something going for him that could make him surprisingly viable: his strong support for the so-called Fair Tax.
The Fair Tax is a proposal that has been kicking around for at least 20 years. It would replace all federal taxes, including income and payroll taxes, with a national retail sales tax similar to those levied by the states. Indeed, a prime virtue of the Fair Tax, in the eyes of its supporters, is that it would be collected by the states, thus allowing for abolition of the hated Internal Revenue Service and an end to filing tax returns or keeping financial records.
The rate would be set at 23 percent — but only if you accept the unconventional way in which Fair Tax supporters insist on calculating it. If calculated the way state and local sales taxes are calculated, the Fair Tax rate is actually 30 percent.
The secular, especially the anti-religious, left, enjoy these spectacles of religious foolishness. They seem to confirm for them not only how absurd these end-of-days predictions are, but how absurd religion is in general.
But the left should not laugh too loudly. The religious world has far fewer doomsday predictions than the left does. At least every few years, the secular-left frightens itself -- and tries to frighten everyone else -- about another doomsday scenario.
The most obvious current example is, of course, global warming. For years now, we have been told by the world's left-wing media that scientists are united in predicting that there will be worldwide catastrophe as a result of global warming caused by manmade carbon dioxide emissions. Oceans will rise so high that they will drown many of the world's great coastal cities; entire island-countries will disappear; vast areas of the world will dry up; and countries will fight one another for the little remaining fresh water.
Republican strategists say President Obama’s call for peace negotiations based on Israel’s 1967 borders will help them drive a wedge between Jewish voters and the Democratic Party.
GOP strategists acknowledged that their party for years has tried with little success to split Jewish voters and donors from Democratic candidates.
Obama, in one of his first steps into Middle East policy, called for Israel to suspend new settlements in the West Bank in 2009. He has since had a rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last spring was left sitting in a White House room after Obama interrupted talks to have dinner.
Japan’s ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has spawned some rapid-fire developments for future energy production. This weekend, plans to initiate the compulsory installation of solar energy panels on every building in the country by 2030 were announced, along with a proposed plan that promises to be the largest public infrastructure in human history: the LUNA RING.
Shimizu Corporation construction firm’s research branch, CSP, unveiled a long-term planning project to install a belt of photovoltaic panels across the surface of the Moon. Power gathered from the 13,000 terrawatts of continuous solar energy the Moon’s surface receives daily would be beamed back to an Earth-based receiving station via microwave or laser transmission, where it would then be used to power public offices, hospitals and schools across the globe. A staff of remotely controlled robots would be in constant rotation to make repairs and provide maintenance for the LUNA RING installation, though the structure would require some human personnel on-site. To make the process more efficient, the proposed plan includes building the LUNA RING’s solar panels on the lunar surface using local materials, rather than launching pre-built panels to the site.
Though the “very optimistic forecast” for the project’s launch is 2035, the necessary components for building LUNA RING are already in wide use: photovoltaic panels, remote controlled robots, laser and microwave transmitters are utilized in innumerable capacities right here on the ground. In this sense, LUNA RING seems not-so-far fetched. However, when trying to determine the economic requirements for such a massive undertaking, CSP’s Tetsuji Yoshida answers with a non-answer: ”[P]rice is a human tool for exchanging goods. Maybe this type of project could be out of range of cost considerations. We would have to find a new word for it?” Certainly this is indicative of the incalculable ambition of LUNA RING’s enormousness. It rings a bit of Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact; perhaps for a project like LUNA RING, one with such sweeping goals and in need of seemingly impossible resources, a global cooperative is the only means by which Shimizu Corporation’s vision can be realized.
In his commencement speech at Hamilton College on Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore told the graduates that global warming is “the most serious challenge our civilization has ever faced.” But as an undergraduate at Harvard University in the late 1960s, Gore--one of the most prominent spokesmen on climate change today--earned a “D” in Natural Sciences.
Gore’s transcript documents that during his sophomore year at Harvard he earned a "D" in Natural Sciences 6 (Man’s Place in Nature). Also, as a senior at Harvard, he earned a C-plus in Natural Sciences 118.
Gore, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on global warming.
Throughout its grand history, America has regularly been willing to reevaluate cultural norms, especially when the change that challenges the status quo promises to right a wrong or advance and improve the social welfare. Many of these watershed movements have delivered precisely and as powerfully as promised (woman’s suffrage and civil rights) while others have failed (prohibition and no-fault divorce).
Historically, American voters have been blunt in evaluating the wisdom of social change. When a bad idea, which was originally considered to be good, slips through and into law, the American people haven’t been shy about fighting for its repeal and holding corresponding leaders to account. With the benefit of the new media and widespread access to endless streams of data, voters are now able to even more quickly discern fact from fiction and evidence from mere promise.
It’s in part from this context that I’ve been following the ongoing marriage debate in the New York state legislature. Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared the legalization of same-sex marriage his number one priority. Supporters are waging a clever, celebrity-driven and well-funded campaign, suggesting that all they want is “marriage equality.” In fact, what they want to do is redefine this multi-millennial institution.
I am, naturally, personally opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage for the simple but profound reason that it violates and contradicts the sacred text of the Bible, which I believe to be true and inspired. But on what basis should I expect people who don’t believe as I do to likewise oppose same-sex marriage?
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
As for how this myth of the “stupid” Sarah Palin was created in the first place, this is where the sad tale becomes particularly depressing. It appears to me (and not just because, unlike most of those who attack her, I have had actual conversations with her) that the “evidence” Palin isn’t very bright is really just a media-created narrative which literally feeds on itself.
That legend begins with Palin having attended several colleges before graduating from a non-Ivy League institution. That this is relevant is especially ironic/nonsensical given the media’s blatant lack of regard for the intelligence of the last president (Bush 43), who graduated from both Harvard and Yale, and the obvious lack of mental acuity of two recent Democratic presidential nominees with undergraduate degrees from Harvard and Yale (Al Gore and John Kerry).
As someone who graduated from an allegedly elite university (Georgetown), I can assure you that the notion that someone’s intelligence can be determined by which college they went to is, at best, absurd, and, at worst, classic class bias.
Last year, prior to the defeat of California’s Proposition 19, it appeared as though unions had a budding new industry in which they could grow their memberships.
First, the United Food & Commercial Workers jumped onto the cannabis bandwagon. Then, the Teamsters waded into the weed growing business when Jimmy Hoffa’s union unionized 40 pot growers in Oakland, California.
Pretty soon, all of the unions (it seemed) had gone gonzo for the ganja, endorsing the initiative to legalize pot—Prop 19.
Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, essentially endorsed Proposition 19, as did the National Black Police Association and the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Longshoremen.
Even the purple people eaters, the SEIU (who would potentially benefit by unionizing fast food chains) endorsed the measure:
One of the principle objections to the Obama administration’s claims that Obamacare doesn’t add to the deficit is the fact that they’re double-counting revenues. And, indeed, that’s exactly what happens.
Yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute panel on Medicare, Chief Actuary Richard Foster tried to explain how the accounting works:
Transcript via Peter Suderman:
To use a simplified example, let’s say you as an individual have to pay an extra $100 in hospital insurance payroll taxes because of the Affordable Care Act. So an extra $100 in actual cash comes from you to the Treasury and it’s credited to the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. We get a bond of $100 for it. The cash itself is still sitting there and it will be spent like that [makes a motion that indicates "very quickly"]. Money does not sit around long in the Treasury. It may well be spent to help pay for other Affordable Care Act provisions or anything else that it needs to be spent on. So your $100 is spent.
Gallup released its annual abortion poll today showing Americans want all or most abortions made illegal and saying they believe abortion to be morally wrong, but the poll found Americans split on what they call their abortion position.
The Gallup polling firm conducted a national survey from May 5-8 with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older from across the nation. The poll has a 4 percentage point margin of error.
By a 24 percent margin, 61-37 percent, Americans take the pro-life view that abortions should either be legal under no circumstances or legal only under a few circumstances. Although Gallup doesn’t specify those “few” circumstances, polling data has consistently shown that, when asked about cases such as rape, incest, or the life of the mother, a majority of Americans want all or almost all abortions made illegal — leaving only life of the mother or rape and incest as the exceptions.
“Americans are rather conservative in their stance on abortion, with 61% now preferring that abortion be legal in only a few circumstances or no circumstances. By contrast, 37% want abortion legal in all or most circumstances,” Gallup analyst Lydia Saad writes. “Over the past two decades, Americans have consistently leaned toward believing abortion should be legal in only a few or no circumstances, although less so in the mid-1990s than since about 1997, when combined support for these has averaged close to 60%.”
How is it possible that most evangelical critics of Harold Camping are more dangerous than the failed prognosticator? For the simple reason that it’s no longer May 21, 2011, and Harold Camping will be relegated to the dust bin of prophetic history, but prophecy prognosticators will continue to abound by claiming that Jesus is still coming “soon” even if we don’t know the “day and hour.” In nearly every article I’ve read by evangelicals denouncing Camping, they still claim that all the signs are in place for Jesus’ “soon” return. Here are some examples:
- Even though Tim LaHaye denounced Camping’s prediction as “not only wrong but dangerous . . . not only bizarre but 100% wrong!,” he still claims “that the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan are signs of the apocalypse just as he laid out in” in his fiction end-time Left Behind novels.
- “Also joining the debate, Cal Thomas took on Camping in his recent column, saying the prophesized events of Matthew 24 haven’t been completely fulfilled yet.”
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Are you prepared for the impending zombie invasion?
That's the question posed by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a Monday blog posting gruesomely titled, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse." And while it's no joke, CDC officials say it's all about emergency preparation.
"There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for," the posting reads. "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency."
It's as if the recession never happened for many twenty-somethings.
Well-dressed young women fill the offices of Alison Brod Public Relations, a beauty and fashion marketing firm, buzzing with energy, brainstorming on the latest promotional campaigns, working tweets, phones and Facebook accounts. These are the "millennials", born in the 80's and early 90's, born to parents who praised and coddled, born to expect the world.
"These kids have been told that they're the most amazing thing on the face of this earth from the day they were born," says Alison Brod of her staff.
The four dozen millennials in her office are tech savvy and tireless. But, complains Brod, they also have a sense of entitlement, even in the face of what still appears to be a stop-and-start economy and a lousy job market.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Washington lawmakers are kicking around a new idea to help raise funds to fix our highways and infrastructure: a national driving tax charging motorists by the mile.
A driving tax could either replace the current 18.4 cent a gallon federal gas tax or, possibly, add to it.
Because greater fuel economy is letting motorists drive more miles using less gas, the current gas tax that funds the federal government's efforts to build and maintain highways isn't generating enough money.
A driving tax, officially known as a "vehicle miles traveled" tax, could close that gap.
Senate Democrats are using their proposal to raise taxes on millionaires as a stalking-horse to force Republicans to accept other tax increases.
Democratic officials privately acknowledge that raising personal income tax rates on the wealthy has little chance of passing this Congress. However, the politically popular idea is a key part of the Democrats’ strategy to attack the deficit and gain concessions from Republicans.
Unemployment Jeopardizing U.S. Recovery Dismal jobs numbers continue to threaten the economy. By Mortimer B. Zuckerman Posted: May 13, 2011 It’s jo
Is democracy incompatible with long-run economic growth? One’s initial reaction may be that this is a silly question, but in this day of a global debt crisis, it is worth recalling the warnings of America’s Founding Fathers that when the people find they can vote themselves benefits, that will bring along the end of the republic.The Founders understood the problems of democracies and why all of the previous democracies had failed, going back to ancient Athens.
A fundamental flaw with majoritarian democracy is that politicians get votes by promising their constituents benefits, particularly when they can promise those benefits will be paid by others or future generations. As the old line has it, “Any politician who promises Peter benefits to be paid by Paul will always have the vote of Peter.” The inherent problem with this model is that as the number of Peters who must be satisfied grows, more and more costs are shifted to the Pauls, who eventually rebel by not working or leaving. The United States may have reached the tipping point, where half of the population pays almost no income tax and the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay almost 40 percent of the tax revenue. The nation already has about the most progressive tax system in the world, so it is doubtful that the remaining taxpayers can be squeezed much further.
Unemployment Jeopardizing U.S. Recovery
Dismal jobs numbers continue to threaten the economy.
It’s jobs, stupid. As we celebrate the execution of America’s No. 1 enemy, we are jerked back to the horrible reality of America’s greatest domestic challenge. Unemployment claims in the last week of April surged to their highest level since last summer. The recovery is in peril—and so is the fabric of American society.
The best social program, the best economic program, and the best family program in America has long been a job. Not anymore. The jobs are not there.
Those of us who see the danger of the Islamist invasion of America have been sounding the warning that Islamic Shariah law is creeping into our system, and now we have an alarming report from the Center for Security Policy confirming the fact that Shariah is usurping the Constitution in courts all across America.
I have not yet read the full 635-page report, which was just released on Tuesday, but I thought I would quickly get the word out about it, so those of you who are interested may go ahead and download the PDF file for the report titled, “Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases” and read it for yourselves.
The legal study was begun last year, but there will be more studies on this topic yet to come from the Center. Those working on the current report include the Center’s general counsel, attorney David Yerushalmi, along with Center staff and volunteers from Act for America. The synopsis of findings in the current report is apparently only a fraction of the number of times Shariah law has been used in our American court system.
Americans may be postponing marriage, and fewer are wedding at all. But what about the people who do get married? They’re staying together longer than they have in years.
Three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrated a 10-year anniversary, according to census statistics reported Wednesday. That was a rise of three percentage points compared with couples who married in the early 1980s, when the nation’s divorce rate was at its highest.
On the rare occasion that New Yorkers talk about farming, it's usually something along the lines of what sort of organic kale to plant in the vanity garden at the second house in the Adirondacks. But on a recent afternoon, The Observer had a conversation of a different sort about agricultural pursuits with a hedge fund manager he'd met at one of the many dark-paneled private clubs in midtown a few weeks prior. "A friend of mine is actually the largest owner of agricultural land in Uruguay," said the hedge fund manager. "He's a year older than I am. We're somewhere [around] the 15th-largest farmers in America right now."
"We," as in, his hedge fund.
It may seem a little odd that in 2011 anyone's thinking of putting money into assets that would have seemed attractive in 1911, but there's something in the air-namely, fear. The hedge fund manager and others like him envision a doomsday scenario catalyzed by a weak dollar, higher-than-you-think inflation and an uncertain political climate here and abroad.
The bill, which would have pushed the Obama administration to lease more territory for drilling, only got 42 votes of support from the GOP, well short of the 60 needed to advance. Five Republicans joined 52 Democrats in opposing the measure.
Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who voted against the bill, said the Republican bill offered by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would actually add a new layer of safety regulations that could slow companies that are finally coming to terms with drilling a year after the BP oil spill.
Yes, world, it is true: not all Mormons are alike. That's the news that's making headlines as buzz continues to build about the nascent presidential campaign of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.
Of course, I've been saying it for months here at RD: Romney is what many Mormons call a TBM--or "true-believing Mormon"—an orthodox believer and devout practitioner of the faith. Huntsman? Well, he's something else—an other-than-orthodox Mormon of a variety that contemporary Mormonism may not yet have the vocabulary to describe.
Early Thursday morning, Matthew Bowman at the New Republic tried to spin the differences between Romney and Huntsman as generational and Huntsman's more easygoing Mormon style as evidence of the LDS Church's evolution from mid-20th century models of "business Mormonism" to a more cosmopolitan 21st century outlook. (Both Romney and Huntsman are baby boomers. Generational? I'm not so sure.)
Even more astounding is that by using this technique, America won't run out of natural gas for 100 years or more! Time to break out the Champagne?
Not so fast, say environmentalists. To get gas out of the ground, companies use pressurized chemicals to blow up rock. It's called hydraulic fracturing -- fracking. An Oscar-nominated movie, "Gasland," says that fracking contaminates our water supply with chemicals. In the movie, some homeowners set their tap water on fire.
On the bright side, Huntsman has absolutely zero shot of securing the Republican nomination.
(The Hill) — GOP White House hopeful Jon Huntsman is sticking by his view that climate change is under way, even while reversing his past embrace of cap-and-trade.
Time magazine has posted excerpts from interviews with the former Utah governor — who recently left his job as President Obama’s ambassador to China — conducted for a recent profile.
Asked about his views on climate change, Huntsman replied:
The free market needs and deserves a moral defense. Cato senior fellow Tom G. Palmer delivers part of that defense, regarding economic profits, in a n
He forgot to mention Gingrich and the rest of the RINO brigade.
(CBS News) — In a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago Monday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) suggested President Obama and Ryan’s Democratic critics are “sowing social unrest and class envy” by pushing a tax increase on the wealthiest individuals in order to help address the deficit and debt.
“The president says that only the richest people in America would be affected by his plan,” Ryan said, arguing that “class warfare may be clever politics, but it is terrible economics.”
This is an installment in a series entitled “The Morality of Free Enterprise,” a joint project of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, where Palmer serves as the vice president of international programs, and the John Templeton Foundation.
Tuesday’s New York Times featured a rare excursion into print by Timothy Egan, liberal Times reporter turned leftist nytimes.com blogger, excoriating Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan and the "Tea Party political illiterates" as greed-heads for wanting to reform the bankrupt Medicare system: "The Need for Greed."
The bet was audacious from the beginning, and given the miserable, low-down tenor of contemporary politics, not unfathomable: Could you divide the country between greedy geezers and everyone else as a way to radically alter the social contract?
But in order for the Republican plan to turn Medicare, one of most popular government programs in history, into a much-diminished voucher system, the greed card had to work.
The plan’s architect, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, drew a line in the actuarial sand: Anyone born before 1957 would not be affected. They could enjoy the single-payer, socialized medical care program that has allowed millions of people to live extended lives of dignity and decent health care.
A hearing is scheduled Monday before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that could determine if students in elementary schools have the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The case arose in the Plano Independent School District in Texas where Thomas Elementary School Principal Lynn Swanson and Rasor Elementary School Principal Jackie Bomchill were sued for restricting student speech when it referenced "God" or "Jesus."
According to the Liberty Institute, in the first incident, officials banning 8-year-old Jonathan Morgan from handing out candy canes with Jesus' name on them to classmates at a school party.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Now that two of the top three candidates for the Republican nomination have pulled out of the race, the big winner is the one candidate left standing: Mitt Romney. The polling before Huckabee and Trump pulled out was -- in my survey -- Romney-22, Huckabee-20, Trump-15, Gingrich-11, Palin-9, Bachmann-6, Pawlenty-3, and Daniels-2. Now, Romney will inherit a large proportion of the votes left on the table by Huckabee's and Trump's withdrawal. My polling suggests that, based on the expressed second choices of the Huckabee and Trump voters, Romney will get 30% of Huckabee's voters and 40% of Trump's. These additions should lift him over 30% of the vote and give him a 2:1 lead over the nearest contender (Gingrich). Romney was having a terrible week. His speech on health care was terrible. With Massachusetts up in arms over Romney-care and Republicans dead set against the individual and employer mandate, his failure to repudiate his program would have cost him dearly. But now he is sitting on top of the world. Republicans are a legitimist group. Having run before and paid his dues since, Romney is broadly attractive. He is seen as most likely to handle the economy successfully and most likely to defeat Obama. He new has the decided edge. Gingrich, Bachmann, Daniels, and Pawlenty are the obvious other beneficiaries of the shifting cast of characters.
If you’re too busy to think about Armageddon, as prophesied in the Bible, think again. It’s next Saturday.
At least that’s what followers of the California-based Family Radio ministry are saying. Since last October, Family Radio believers have fanned across the county in buses announcing that a tremendous earthquake will shatter the world on May 21. On that day, Jesus will reappear and take to heaven around 3 percent of humankind -- true Christians chosen long ago by God. Other humans will endure 153 days of death and horror until they are annihilated on Oct. 21, the end of the world.
Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader of the Family Radio group, bases his apocalyptic prediction on numbers in the Bible, which he sees as absolutely trustworthy. According Camping’s Bible-based math, Noah received God’s message in 4990 B.C. (7,000 years ago) that the destruction of the world would come in 7 days -- or 7,000 years, per the statement in Peter 3:8 that one Bible day equals a thousand years. Another part of the equation is April 1, A.D. 33, the supposed date of the crucifixion of Christ. Camping uses a multiplication formula of 5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17, with each number having divine significance, that produces 722,500, the number of days between the crucifixion and the day of the divine Rapture.
Four weeks after the government moved to shut down Amish farmer Dan Allgyer for selling fresh, unpasteurized milk across state lines, angry moms who made up much of his customer base rallied on the Capitol’s grounds Monday to demand that Congress rein in the food police.
The moms milked a cow just across the street from the Senate and served up gallons of fresh milk, playfully daring one another to drink what, if sold across state lines, would be considered contraband product.
“The FDA really screwed up this time. They got between a mom and a farmer,” said Mark McAfee, who runs Organic Pastures Dairy Co. in Fresno, Calif., which under his state’s laws he legally sells at 400 markets, but which he cannot ship across state lines without running afoul of the Food and Drug Administration.
Raw milk has been making a comeback in recent years as consumers try to eat locally and fresh. But the FDA has been fighting back, arguing that there are big risks to drinking fresh milk and that it brings no benefits over the pasteurized version.
The weakening of the dollar since 2008 has added 56.5 cents to the price of gasoline, the congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) has found. The average price of gasoline would be $3.40 per gallon, instead of the current average price nationally of nearly $4, if the dollar hadn’t declined.
The study of the dollar’s impact was conducted by Republican congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, vice-chair of the bipartisan committee, and Republican staff. They blamed the Federal Reserve and its efforts to spur economic growth for the price increase.
“When the Federal Reserve uses loose money to boost the economy in the short-term, consumers pay the price,” the study said. Because oil is traded in dollars, oil prices increase to compensate for the falling value of the dollar. And the price of gasoline at the pump also increases.
“Since the Fed launched its program of quantitative easing in late November 2008, the value (trade-weighted) of the U.S. dollar has declined 14 percent,” the study calculated. “The declining value of the U.S. dollar has added $17.04 per barrel to the price of oil (Brent Crude),” thus driving up the price of gasoline.
Economists Timothy Conley and Bill Dupor have studied the effects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the purported stimulus bill) with great rigor. Earlier this week, they reported their findings in a paper titled "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Public Sector Jobs Saved, Private Sector Jobs Forestalled." The paper is dense and rather lengthy, and requires considerable study. Here, however, is the bottom line:
Our benchmark results suggest that the ARRA created/saved approximately 450 thousand state and local government jobs and destroyed/forestalled roughly one million private sector jobs. State and local government jobs were saved because ARRA funds were largely used to offset state revenue shortfalls and Medicaid increases rather than boost private sector employment. The majority of destroyed/forestalled jobs were in growth industries including health, education, professional and business services.
With the current debate over ending oil producers’ subsidies the question arises as to what subsidies do the producers actually get. It is a surprisingly complicated question. Wind producers also get subsidies that take complex forms—investment tax credits, production tax credits, mandates, property tax exemptions, etc. But the major federal subsidy for wind producers is the option to take a 30 percent investment tax credit or to receive a 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour production tax credit.
“2.2 cents” doesn’t seem like much, but, depending on the time of year, it falls somewhere between 25 percent and 100 percent of the wholesale price of electricity. Forty percent if frequently used as the average.
So, what would an oil-production subsidy look like if it were the same magnitude?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Social Security will run a permanent yearly deficit when looking at the program’s tax revenues compared to what it must pay out in benefits, the program’s trustees said Friday in a report that found both the outlook for Social Security and Medicare, the two major federal social safety-net programs, have worsened over the last year.
Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund is now slated to run out of money in 2024, or five years earlier than last year’s projection, while Social Security’s trust fund will be exhausted by 2036, a year earlier than the prior projection.
The trustees stressed that exhaustion of the trust funds doesn’t mean the programs will stop paying all benefits. Social Security could fund about three-fourths of benefits past 2036, and Medicare could pay 90 percent of benefits past 2024 under current trends.
The U.S. government is expected to hit the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling Monday, setting in motion an uncertain, 11-week political scramble to avoid a default.
The Treasury Department said Monday it will stop issuing and reinvesting government securities in certain government pension plans, part of a series of steps designed to delay a default until Aug. 2.
The Treasury's moves buy time for the White House and congressional leaders to reach a deficit-reduction agreement that could clear the way for enough lawmakers to vote to raise the amount of money Congress allows the nation to borrow.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has warned for months that the government would soon hit the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling — a legal limit on how much it can borrow. With that limit reached Monday, Geithner is undertaking special measures in an effort to postpone the day when he will no longer have enough funds to pay all of the government’s bills.
Geithner, who has already suspended a program that helps state and local government manage their finances, will begin to borrow from retirement funds for federal workers. The measure won’t have an impact on retirees because the Treasury is legally required to reimburse the program.
Raise your hand if you think Herman Cain won Fox News Channel’s debate last week among contenders for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination?
Frank Luntz, the bestselling author and GOP pollster, held an instant focus group after the debate which overwhelmingly declared the Cain the winner. "In all the years I have been doing this, I have never seen a reaction like this to a debate.” Luntz exclaimed. “Something very special happened here tonight.”
Traffic and contributions to Cain’s website have increased sharply in the days since the debate. The conservative media, particularly the blogosphere, were praising the 65-year-old talk radio host from Georgia all weekend. On Friday, the date after the debate, he won a presidential straw poll at a Washington state GOP convention and drew a crowd of several hundred people in Las Vegas.
As one of the moderators for that debate, I am very surprised at the rave reviews for Cain – both in the media and in Greenville that night.
Many liberals in the media are expressing shock over Obama’s apparent willingness to increase oil production. We all know that he is full of …, I mean ethanol, and they do too.
Those of you who were befuddled at the news that Obama will ‘expand drilling’ in Alaska are not missing anything. Obama has pulled this political chicanery a number of times. Whenever a specific proposal that he so adamantly opposes becomes too popular to ignore, he announces his support for it by promising to implement inconsequential reforms. To that end, he declared during his Saturday radio address that he is “directing the Department of Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, while respecting sensitive areas, and to speed up the evaluation of oil and gas resources in the mid and south Atlantic”.
So we are to believe that the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and ANWR, all of which are impounded from drilling leases by the administration, are more sensitive than Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve? Caribou, baby, Caribou in ANWR; drill, baby, drill in ANPR? Think again.
His name is Rafael Anchia, and he is the elected state Rep. from district 103 in the Dallas area. He is also said to have his eye on one of Texas’ new seats in Congress. Speaking in the Texas House to oppose an Arizona-style immigration reform bill in the Texas legislature (House Bill 12), Anchia openly says that he represents illegal aliens.
“The immigrant population in district 103 includes some of the finest and most hard working people in the state of Texas. They’re people that you’re gonna find on roofs, or in construction crews, in the middle of the summer when the temperature gauge says 100 degrees. You trust them to take care of your children and you give them the keys to your house to do your dirty laundry. They’re people of faith who fill the churches of all traditions….The constituents who I represent who are undocumented hate criminal gangs, hate drug dealers, hate narcos, hate terrorists as much as any of us in this room.”
May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Medicare, the U.S. health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, and the Social Security trust for the disabled and retirees are running out of money sooner than the government had projected.
While Medicare won’t have sufficient funds to pay full benefits starting in 2024, five years earlier than last year’s estimate, Social Security’s cash to pay full benefits runs short in 2036, a year sooner than the 2010 projection, the U.S. government said today in an annual report.
Both forecasts were affected by a slower-than-anticipated economic recovery, the government said. The estimates for funding add urgency to talks between Democrats and Republicans on ways to cut spending to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.
Unless things change, the man (or woman) elected in 2012 will be the last American president to preside over the world's leading economy. If things get really bad, he will find himself presiding over the early stages of American collapse.
Not "decline" but "collapse." "Decline" is what happens when you're Britain in the 1940s and you cede global dominance to a major ally that shares your language, legal system, cultural inheritance and broad geopolitical objectives. That deal isn't on offer this time round.
Nor was the United Kingdom circa 1948 in thrall to anything like the same levels of spendaholic insanity. The current debate on the "debt ceiling" testifies to how thoroughly public discourse has flown the coop of reality.
Monday, May 16, 2011
When liberal investor George Soros gave $1.8 million to National Public Radio , it became part of the firestorm of controversy that jeopardized NPR’s
This time they were caught. A NASA-funded group at the University of Colorado discovered that sea levels were not rising nearly as much as expected. Their solution: just arbitrarily make the number higher.
Unfortunately for the University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group, global sea rates rose a mere .83 inches for the last decade. That's .083 inches a year, or the width of twenty-five pieces of hair. These scientists decided that wasn't nearly enough, so they decided to add over 10% of "growth" to their data.
When liberal investor George Soros gave $1.8 million to National Public Radio , it became part of the firestorm of controversy that jeopardized NPR’s federal funding. But that gift only hints at the widespread influence the controversial billionaire has on the mainstream media. Soros, who spent $27 million trying to defeat President Bush in 2004, has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets – including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC.
Prominent journalists like ABC’s Christiane Amanpour and former Washington Post editor and now Vice President Len Downie serve on boards of operations that take Soros cash. This despite the Society of Professional Journalists' ethical code stating: “avoid all conflicts real or perceived.”
This information is part of an upcoming report by the Media Research Centers Business & Media Institute which has been looking into George Soros and his influence on the media.
Drowning in debt and faced with unpopular, unrealistic, ridiculously unpopular austerity measures, the government has announced that it will now tax private pension savings in order to raise 470 million euros (roughly $675 million) per year... a lot of money in a country of only 4.4 million people.
Somehow, the government expects to be able to create 100,000 jobs to bring down an unemployment rate at 14.7%. Perhaps they plan on hiring 100,000 new workers to go around the country and collect the tax.
Obama joins Michelle at racially charged White House reception for rapper who praised Black Panther cop killer and singer who condemned mixed race mar
- Rapper who celebrated convicted cop killer and called for burning of George W Bush welcomed to White House poetry night on Wednesday
- Hip-hop artist has links to Obama's shamed former pastor who blamed America for 9/11 terror attacks
- Police unions voice disgust at event held during week commemorating deaths of officers
- Sarah Palin and ex-Bush adviser Karl Rove condemn invitation
- Predominantly black guest list also included singer who said marriage between a black man and a white woman made her 'wince'
- White House says President opposes 'harmful' lyrics but stands by rapper
President Obama and wife Michelle faced a storm of protest after they played host to a rapper who praised a convicted cop killer and a poet who condemned inter-racial marriage.
Police officers and politicians voiced their disgust at the bizarre guest list for the racially charged event at the White House celebrating America poetry, which included rapper Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr who called for the burning of George Bush.
The First Lady also welcomed controversial poet Jill Scott who declared her opposition to marriage between black and white people, saying it made her ‘wince’.
President Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd Tuesday when he spoke in El Paso about liberalizing federal immigration laws. Audience members exhorted the president to "tear down" the border fence and called immigration hard-liners "racist."
Yet Obama acknowledged that his administration has stepped up immigration enforcement. "We are deporting those who are here illegally," he said. "And that's a tough issue. It's a source of controversy."
Those were not applause lines. Nor were Obama's statements that alluded to his Secure Communities program, which automatically cross-checks the fingerprints of individuals booked at local jails for criminal offenses with immigration databases. As Obama noted, the program directs Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target illegal immigrants who are "violent offenders and people convicted of crimes."
Pressure from homosexual activist groups has compelled the head of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team to quit.
Two-time gymnastics gold medal winner Peter Vidmar has resigned upon receiving harsh criticism from homosexual and lesbian athletes and activists, who complained that he had donated $2,000 to promote California's Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
"I wish that Peter Vidmar had not resigned," laments Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). "I wish that he'd stood up for his right to defend marriage, and I wish that he'd forced them to fire him if that's what they were going to do, because that would engender the sort of national discussion that we need against this escalating intolerance against...opposition to gay marriage."
Transparency and accountability in government advocates were elated in September 2006 when President George W. Bush signed into law the Financial Accountability and Transparency Act that established USASpending.gov, a Google-like searchable database to put most federal spending within a few mouse clicks of anybody with an Internet connection.
By the time Bush left office, USASpending.gov was up and running and provided a serviceable tool for accessing billions of bytes about where Washington politicians are spending trillions of tax dollars.
But in January 2009 when President Obama and members of his administration came into office, they saw USASpending.gov as a potential propaganda tool and the utility of the site became an open issue.
The following information concerning carrying concealed firearms (CCW) statistics may be of interest to listeners of "Tom Gresham's Gun Talk." These facts debunk the distortions and outright lies fostered by the gun-grabbers. It should be noted, that almost without exception, the media is equally as guilty in disseminating these distortions and falsehoods. These figures are compiled from the FBI's annual report on crime (Uniform Crime Reports), and from other law enforcement agencies.
"Violent crime rates are highest overall in states with laws severely limiting or prohibiting the carrying of concealed firearms for self-defense". (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1992)
The total Violent Crime Rate is 26% higher in the restrictive states (798.3 per 100,000 pop.) than in the less restrictive states (631.6 per 100,000).
Saturday, May 14, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • A controversial comment by an Illinois lawmaker about taking away state tax deductions from parents who have obese children has drawn attention nationwide. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, bloggers on Gawker, the New York Times and the United Kingdom's Daily Mail are among the outlets running with the story.
"It's the parents' responsibility that have obese kids," state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, said Tuesday, when lawmakers took a shot at solving the state's obesity epidemic. "I think you need to look at a bill to take the tax deduction away for their child if he's obese."
He added: "In poorer families, they actually get money for their kids. I'd take that money away."
Businesses have reported requests from one in five people to have time off work and many are also keeping children away from school and heading to the beach or country for the day.
Romans are taking it so seriously that local newspapers have even been publishing survival guides with tips of what to do – if – the ground starts to tremble.
The panic has been fanned by Facebook, Twitter and text messages around a prediction by Raffaele Bendani, a seismologist who forecast in 1915 that a "big one" would hit Rome on Wednesday.
Take those basic three-megawatt wind turbines -- the gleaming white towers that march in majestic phalanx over hill and dale, gracefully etching three-bladed Mercedes-Benz emblems against the azure sky (or those ugly, noisy, bird-killing scythes that desecrate land and water, take your pick). Where do we get one of those?
The bank, first. Or the U.S. Department of Energy, for a subsidy from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. You'll pay about $4 million to $4.5 million to install a three-megawatt wind turbine (more for all the bells and whistles, like a taller tower, de-icing for cold weather operation, and self-adjusting blades to catch the wind better). Figure another $1 million for incidentals such as Big Green lawsuits.
Senate Republicans are proposing to rewrite the law covering union-management disputes to stop a federal agency from giving Big Labor the power to punish companies that try to move operations to right-to-work states.
Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are working on the legislation. It is a reaction to a recent complaint by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing (BA).
"It would clarify that the board cannot order an employer to relocate jobs from one location to another, and guarantee an employer the right to decide where to do business within the U.S.," said a top aide to one of the senators.
The legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act, which governs labor-management relations and created the NLRB. The proposal has not been formally introduced. The lawmakers are still working on the details, the aide said.
The government, at various levels, have been fighting a war on food for some time now. From attempts to regulate sugary drinks to attempts to regulate salt intake to the banning of fast food restaurants and even happy meals, fat is the new smoking. Meaning the government wants to regulate what you eat and where you eat it. And that’s not hyperbole. Last year, in support of a lawsuit they filed against Amish people selling raw milk, the Obama administration argued that Americans “do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”
Well a town in Maine is thumbing its nose at these attempts to manipulate our diets. In Sedgwick, town ordinance declares that citizens have a right to sell, buy and eat whatever they want.
This isn’t just a declaration of preference. The proposed warrant added, “It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.” In other words, no state licensing requirements prohibiting certain farms from selling dairy products or producing their own chickens for sale to other citizens in the town.
What about potential legal liability and state or federal inspections? It’s all up to the seller and buyer to negotiate. “Patrons purchasing food for home consumption may enter into private agreements with those producers or processors of local foods to waive any liability for the consumption of that food. Producers or processors of local foods shall be exempt from licensure and inspection requirements for that food as long as those agreements are in effect.” Imagine that–buyer and seller can agree to cut out the lawyers. That’s almost un-American, isn’t it?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Torture is not nice. Nice people do not torture (except in rare circumstances). We can all agree on that much - depending, of course, on the definition of “torture.” The New York Times, for example, says it hates torture, but having to read a New York Times editorial is the pure torture forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
“Waterboarding,” the “enhanced interrogation technique” that makes a suspect think he’s drowning when he actually isn’t, is not very nice — but it is effective. The CIA estimates that up to 70 percent of what it knows about Osama bin Laden’s terrorist empire was obtained through “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 operation, sang his entire repertoire of insider detail after the CIA interrogators gave him a bath.
Neither side is budging in an increasingly bitter fight over aerospace giant Boeing’s plans to start production on its 787 Dreamliner fleet at a new $2 billion plant in South Carolina — a move the National Labor Relations Board says was made to punish the company’s union workers.
NLRB officials insist they are simply enforcing existing labor laws, relying on statements and internal evidence from Boeing that they say clearly show company officials discussing the South Carolina investment as a way to circumvent its union, in violation of federal law.
But Boeing, leading business groups and nearly two dozen Republican senators say the board — now dominated by President Obama’s appointees — has greatly overstepped its authority and interfered with a private business decision, all to placate Mr. Obama’s labor supporters.