“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
March 31, 2010 Graph of the Day for March 31, 2010 Randall Hoven
"Americans overall are far less likely to be killed with a firearm than they were when it was much more difficult to obtain a concealed-weapons permit, according to statistics collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control... In the 1980s and '90s, as the concealed-carry movement gained steam, Americans were killed by others with guns at the rate of about 5.66 per 100,000 population. In this decade, the rate has fallen to just over 4.07 per 100,000, a 28 percent drop. The decline follows a fivefold increase in the number of "shall-issue" and unrestricted concealed-carry states from 1986 to 2006." Mike Stuckey, MSNBC.
Binyamin Netanyahu's efforts to heal rift marred as Barack Obama branded 'disaster for Israel' Both sides deny snubbing the other in settlement row as insiders launch outspoken press attack on US leader
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the White House following his meeting with US President Barack Obama. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, tried to smooth over a breach in relations with the US today, speaking out against unnamed confidants who described Barack Obama as pro-Palestinian and Israel's "greatest disaster".
Netanyahu made his first public comments after a fraught visit to Washington last week, where he held a long but low-key meeting with Obama that ended with significant disagreement.
Israeli reports said the US was pressing Israel to freeze settlement construction in East Jerusalem and to extend a temporary, partial curb on West Bank settlement building. But so far Netanyahu has shown no sign that he will bow to pressure from Washington. One of his most senior cabinet ministers was reported today as saying the US demands were unacceptable and there would be no compromise.
Special relationship is over, MPs say. Now stop calling us America's poodle Barack Obama not sentimental about UK and 'sharp elbows' needed to secure British interests
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 March 2010 22.37 BST
Britain needs to use "sharp elbows" in its dealings with Washington because Barack Obama is "less sentimental" about the historic links between Britain and the United States, a former ambassador to the US has claimed.
The warning from Sir David Manning, who was Tony Blair's main foreign policy adviser during the Iraq war before serving as ambassador to Washington, was cited by a Commons select committee which called today for a reassessment of Britain's "special relationship" with the US.
Prime ministers of all hues, from Harold Macmillan to Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, have fostered the idea that the two largest English-speaking countries enjoy a historic bond which elevates their relationship to a special level.
Obama readies steps to fight foreclosures, particularly for unemployed
By Renae Merle and Dina ElBoghdady Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, March 26, 2010; A01
The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.
Banks and other lenders would have to reduce the payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower's income, which would typically be the amount of unemployment insurance, for three to six months. In some cases, administration officials said, a lender could allow a borrower to skip payments altogether.
The new push, which the White House is scheduled to announce Friday, takes direct aim at the major cause of the current wave of foreclosures: the spike in unemployment. While the initial mortgage crisis that erupted three years ago resulted from millions of risky home loans that went bad, more-recent defaults reflect the country's economic downturn and the inability of jobless borrowers to keep paying.
The administration's new push also seeks to more aggressively help borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, offering financial incentives for the first time to lenders to cut the loan balances of such distressed homeowners. Those who are still current on their mortgages could get the chance to refinance on better terms into loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration.
The problem of "underwater" borrowers has bedeviled earlier administration efforts to address the mortgage crisis as home prices plunged.
Officials said the new initiatives will take effect over the next six months and be funded out of $50 billion previously allocated for foreclosure relief in the emergency bailout program for the financial system. No new taxpayer funds will be needed, the officials said.
The measures have been in the works for weeks, but President Obama is finally to release the details days after his watershed victory on health-care legislation. Following that bruising battle on Capitol Hill, his administration is now welcoming a chance to change the subject and turn its attention to the economy and, in particular, the plight of the unemployed -- concerns that are paramount for many Americans.
The administration has been facing increasing pressure from lawmakers and housing advocates to overhaul its foreclosure prevention efforts. So far, fewer than 200,000 borrowers have received permanent loan modifications under its $75 billion marquee program, known as Making Home Affordable. In the meantime, there is a growing backlog of distressed borrowers awaiting help from their lenders, which threatens to undercut efforts to stabilize the housing market.
Assistant Treasury Secretary Herbert M. Allison Jr. told a House panel Thursday that "we did not fully envision the challenges that we would encounter" when the earlier program was launched.
The efforts have been hampered by the difficulty of helping unemployed homeowners, who struggled to qualify for the government's mortgage relief plan. In requiring temporary relief for jobless borrowers, known as forbearance, officials are hoping to give them time to find a new job. Some will still need more assistance after the six-month period while others will ultimately lose their homes, administration officials said.
"We certainly support a forbearance opportunity for unemployed borrowers," said John A. Courson, chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association. He said he had not seen full details of the program.
In addition to mortgage relief for unemployed borrowers, the program features four other key elements, including several steps to address the growing population of borrowers who owe significantly more than their home is worth, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made. Underwater borrowers now make up about a quarter of all homeowners, according to First American CoreLogic. Economists consider these homeowners at higher risk of default because they cannot sell or refinance their home when they run into financial troubles.
The first key element is that the government will provide financial incentives to lenders that cut the balance of a borrower's mortgage. Banks and other lenders will be asked to reduce the principal owed on a loan if the amount is 15 percent more than their home is worth. The reduced amount would be set aside and forgiven by the lender over three years, as long as the homeowner remained current on the loan.
Until recently, administration officials had been reluctant to encourage lenders to cut the principal balance, worrying that this would encourage borrowers to become delinquent. But as federal regulators have struggled to make an impact on the foreclosure crisis, those qualms have weakened.
"We would prefer to see a required principal forgiveness program. But this is helpful," said David Berenbaum, chief program officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit housing group. "This is another tool that will help consumers weather the crisis."
Second, the government will double the amount it pays to lenders that help modify second mortgages, such as piggyback loans, which enabled home buyers to put little or no money down, and home equity lines of credit.
These second mortgages are an added burden on struggling homeowners, especially when their total debt, as a result, is greater than their home value.
Federal officials have estimated that about half of all troubled homeowners have a second mortgage and last year launched a program to encourage lenders to restructure them. That effort has struggled to get off the ground.
Third, the new effort also increases the incentives paid to those lenders that find a way to avoid foreclosing on delinquent borrowers even if they can't qualify for mortgage relief. For example, the administration is scheduled to launch a program next month encouraging lenders to have borrowers sell their homes for less than the mortgage balance in what is known as a short sale.
Fourth, the administration is increasingly turning to the Federal Housing Administration to help underwater borrowers who are still keeping up their payments. The aim is to help these borrowers refinance into a more affordable loan. The FHA will offer incentives to lenders that reduce the amount borrowers owe on their primary mortgages by at least 10 percent.
For those borrowers who have more than one mortgage on their house, the FHA will allow refinancing of the first loan only. The new loan and any second mortgage could not exceed 15 percent of the home's value. This approach is meant to benefit not only borrowers but also lenders by allowing them to offload mortgages that might otherwise fail.
Only homeowners who are refinancing their main residence, have a credit score above 500 and can document their income are eligible.
Administration official say this refinancing program should not strain the FHA's already weakened finances because the effort will be financed with up to $14 billion out of the federal bailout program.
Friday, The Obama Administration did release details of its new plan It's interesting to note the difference in the Washington Post wording. In this article, the Obama Administration was going to "demand" that lenders do this or that. In the linked article, the Obama Administration will be "asking" lenders. Demanding, asking, bribing, blackmailing...whatever works, baby - That's the Chicago way.
Digital News Report – Scientists are uncertain what the effects of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland will have on the world, but there are worries of global cooling if an event occurs. Last Christmas geologists started noticing deep earthquakes and the expansion of the earth’s crusts near the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano.
Now the volcano is spewing and burping lava at the surface. Steam and ash are being expelled form the open hole in the earth and scientists worry that if the volcano grows larger it could melt the glacier.
The bigger danger is that this eruption could trigger a major eruption of Katla, a neighboring volcano with a much larger magma chamber. Geologists believe that in the past the Evjafaillaiokull eruption was a precursor to larger eruptions by Katla.
Katla could spew much more ask and sulfur into the atmosphere causing the northern hemisphere to become bitterly cold.
I saw it last night but thought it merely an ill-omened, booze-induced dream.
And in the dream he came walking Out of the mists and crags of eldritch Ideeho Still carrying the reeking stench of corruption and despair The shadow walked, bruised and gaunt Towards the light.
Wearing chains of recrimination and regret The great self-emulating giant, Bobbo, came forth Seeking acceptance and forgiveness and one last chance.
But barring his way at the silken covered chains to the EB Stood the Gatekeeper, the dour Whit, Unsmiling and unmoved.
“What do you seek?”
“I seek redemption and the light,” quailed Bobbo.
“That is beyond my power”, spoke Whit. “Talk to the mutt.”
Bobbo faltered, knowing what awaited him at the door to the EB For there stood the three-headed monster Cerberus.
Bobbo, shaking with fear, began self-emulating again
And the first great head, White Fang, said “Stop that."
“I wish to enter the EB”
“And what oath can you offer me?”
“That I will be a good boy.”
“You may pass,” boomed White Fang.
Then Bobbo approached the second head, Black Tooth, the cunning one Somehow more frightening than White Fang even though he spoke with a decided lisp.
“What do you seek?”
“I seek the light and warmth of the EB.”
“What oath can you offer?”
“I love Israel”
White Fang frowned. “True, you already have an attitude. And if we hack off another inch of your dick you might just make it into Israel. But that doesn’t cut it here Jocko.”
“What oath can you offer?”
The question boomed (albeit with that same annoying lisp) and Bobbo quailed.
In abject terror his answer poured forth
“I am a conservative. I will fight the subtle one from the great white north and the fearsome rodent from the southwest”
The great head Black Tooth relaxed and then weaving to the sultry rhythms of the hustle said
“You may pass.”
And Bobbo approached the third head, Bear Claw.
“What do you seek?”
“I seek admittance to the light. I seek admittance to the EB.”
And Bear Claw inched forward until his foul breath poured over Bobbo and made him cower.
“And what of the woman?”
“Yes, the woman. The innocent, Dante’s Beatrice, Quixote’s Dulcinea, Paris’ Helen, the lady you have tormented, the lady who you have forced others, others who are not really pompous and pretentious but only drawn that way, others who are really good guys, others who are clever and smart and would never do such a thing on their own, to consider her as collateral damage while trying to make an innocent jest even though they know that she like all women will never forgive and never forget and will compartmentalize this incident forever so as to bring it up on occasion to punish the poor guy even though he is very sorry and will never do it again.”
And Bobbo’s eyes glazed over and he said “What woman?”
And Bear Claw said, “You may pass.”
And as Bobbo approached the swinging doors to the EB he noticed the missive carved in stone
"Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate."
"All hope abandon, ye who enter in."
And Bobbo pushed through the swinging doors and was flooded with the light
And looking up he saw another sign
“You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.”
And Bobbo wanly smiled.
And behind the polished long-bar the voice of the Deuce bellowed to the assembled patrons
“Bring forth the fatted lamb. The prodigal has returned.”
And as the patrons feasted, a voice was heard from above, high in th ether parsecs into hyper-space, a laughing T (Lilith, et al) shouted
“I told you Deuce would let him back in around March. You all owe me a buck.”
And confusion once again reigned at the EB to the sounds of 'socialist running dog' and 'pineapple doo doo head'.
Surely there must be a few Democrats that may have developed a case of buyer's remorse.
G.O.P. Forces New House Vote on Package of Health Bill Changes
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ROBERT PEAR Published: March 25, 2010 NY Times
WASHINGTON — With the Senate working through an all-night session on a package of changes to the Democrats’ sweeping health care legislation, Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it.
Senate Democrats had been hoping to defeat all of the amendments proposed by Republicans and to prevail on parliamentary challenges so that they could approve the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. But the bill must comply with complex budget reconciliation rules, and Republicans identified some flaws.
Under the reconciliation rules, provisions in the bill must directly affect government spending or revenues.
The successful parliamentary challenge did not appear to endanger the eventual adoption of the changes to the health care legislation. And Mr. Obama on Tuesday already signed the main health care bill into law. Read on or not, you choose.
The rules changed. The country has changed. it did not just happen last night. It has been happening for years. Last night made it obvious. From here on out, it will only get worse.
911 disguised the change for some months. It was a blip in the slide. Flags appeared and for a season or two there was a sense of fraternity and common cause. You wanted to help, pull together and fight for our common values. It was a ground roots feeling, not a government edict.
That is over. I can see where this is going. There is a difference from being governed to being ruled. We willingly accept governance for the common good. I am repelled at the idea of being ruled for the good of others.
I do not accept that I owe a guarantee to a common outcome of luck and fortune demanded by a government statute. I do not owe the world of diversity anything and they do not deserve that which is mine. They can try and take it and I will do my best to see that they do not.
It will be harder than it was in the past stay under the radar. There are fewer places left not mapped, traced, vectored and monitored.
This is not an overreaction to the healtcare bill. This is a recognition that the takers have outflanked the makers. Emboldened with a clear victory, they will continue to take more and more.
Victimization has morphed into triumphalism. Entitlements have out-trumped title.
Diversity has resulted in the inevitable divisions that tear apart the familiar past. A common sense of purpose and ideals have been replaced by a collectivist view of the future.
The health care victory will recharge the Democrats and the Left. They thrive on group think. The Right is naturally inclined to think for themselves and act alone.
There are far too many, including some on this blog, who believe that the parties Democrat and Republican are the same and the outcome of their governance without difference.
They are wrong, but their views are shared by too many who will sit on their hands until it is too late to stop what has begun. It is always that way. It will be the same this time.
ON Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that, if enacted, the latest health care reform legislation would, over the next 10 years, cost about $950 billion, but because it would raise some revenues and lower some costs, it would also lower federal deficits by $138 billion. In other words, a bill that would set up two new entitlement spending programs — health insurance subsidies and long-term health care benefits — would actually improve the nation’s bottom line.
Could this really be true? How can the budget office give a green light to a bill that commits the federal government to spending nearly $1 trillion more over the next 10 years?
The answer, unfortunately, is that the budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out.
In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion.
Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.
Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation.
Consider, too, the fate of the $70 billion in premiums expected to be raised in the first 10 years for the legislation’s new long-term health care insurance program. This money is counted as deficit reduction, but the benefits it is intended to finance are assumed not to materialize in the first 10 years, so they appear nowhere in the cost of the legislation.
Another vivid example of how the legislation manipulates revenues is the provision to have corporations deposit $8 billion in higher estimated tax payments in 2014, thereby meeting fiscal targets for the first five years. But since the corporations’ actual taxes would be unchanged, the money would need to be refunded the next year. The net effect is simply to shift dollars from 2015 to 2014.
In addition to this accounting sleight of hand, the legislation would blithely rob Peter to pay Paul. For example, it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire. So the extra money raised from payroll taxes is already spoken for. (Indeed, it is unlikely to be enough to keep Social Security solvent.) It cannot be used for lowering the deficit.
A government takeover of all federally financed student loans — which obviously has nothing to do with health care — is rolled into the bill because it is expected to generate $19 billion in deficit reduction.
Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers.
Removing the unrealistic annual Medicare savings ($463 billion) and the stolen annual revenues from Social Security and long-term care insurance ($123 billion), and adding in the annual spending that so far is not accounted for ($114 billion) quickly generates additional deficits of $562 billion in the first 10 years. And the nation would be on the hook for two more entitlement programs rapidly expanding as far as the eye can see.
The bottom line is that Congress would spend a lot more; steal funds from education, Social Security and long-term care to cover the gap; and promise that future Congresses will make up for it by taxing more and spending less.
The stakes could not be higher. As documented in another recent budget office analysis, the federal deficit is already expected to exceed at least $700 billion every year over the next decade, doubling the national debt to more than $20 trillion. By 2020, the federal deficit — the amount the government must borrow to meet its expenses — is projected to be $1.2 trillion, $900 billion of which represents interest on previous debt.
The health care legislation would only increase this crushing debt. It is a clear indication that Congress does not realize the urgency of putting America’s fiscal house in order.
The CEO of the United States, sworn to defend the Constitution, is standing behind an argument that it is OK to work around the Constitution because it has been done before. Obama is arguing that it is OK for him to break his oath because others have as well. Obama's spokesman hints that he may do it again.
Do it again over immigration no less. Obama will step out of his constitutional obligation to give citizenship, equal to yours, to those that have, like Obama, have also broken the law.
Is that not an argument to take this action to The Supreme Court to stop any future offense to the Constitution?
Obama is admitting he is willingly and knowingly ignoring constitutional requirements because the same offense was done before and not enforced by law. That is an audacious claim that can be made by any lawbreaker at any time for any crime.
That argument can break the Constitution itself. It makes a mockery of law and the citizenship that many millions of us have sworn to fight for and defend.
The Constitution of the United States was not written to assist politicians to govern by fiat. It was written to protect us, US citizens, from the type of politicians that would step outside of the law.
The Constitution belongs to us. It was created to protect us from the likes of Obama and Pelosi and Reid.
If Obama breaks the covenant between those elected to govern and those of us who trusted them to govern under our constitution with the argument that it has been done before, allow this citizen to remind our rulers and masters that something else has been done before. It was an American Revolution. It was a disgusted citizenry that had enough. Had enough yet?
Republicans Will Force Vote on Slaughter Rule by Connie Hair Human Events 03/17/2010
Rep. Parker Griffith, M.D. (R-Ala.) switched parties recently to escape the far-left policies of the House Democratic leadership. The newly-minted Republican is set to lead efforts to force an up-or-down vote on a resolution requiring an up-or-down vote on the Senate health care bill.
This is hand-to-hand fisticuffs, parliamentary-style, as minority Republicans battle the 76-seat Democrat majority on procedure while Democrats battle the American people on substance.
If passed by the House, the resolution would prohibit Speaker Pelosi from implementing the “Slaughter Solution” scheme by which House Democrats seek to “deem” the Senate health care bill as passed without an actual vote on it in the House.
Republicans cannot force a vote on the actual resolution but they can force a vote on having a vote. Given the toxic political climate on Capitol Hill right now -- and people nationwide paying more attention than ever to parliamentary process through the internet, cable news and talk radio -- the vote on whether or not to vote on the resolution could have political consequences for Democrats.
Ensuring an up or down vote on certain health care legislation.
Resolved, That the Committee on Rules may not report a rule or order that provides for disposition of the Senate amendments to H.R. 3590, an Act entitled The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, unless such rule or order provides for—
(1) at least one hour of debate, equally divided and controlled by the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, or their designees; and
(2) a requirement that the Speaker put the question on disposition of the Senate amendments and that the yeas and nays be considered as ordered thereon.
You know were really screwed when Dennis Kucinich is the voice of reason, and now he is the deciding factor on nationalizing health care.
Regardless, that is seriously off topic, which is mostly what this blog is about. I just wanted to be the first to go off topic, beat Doug, and you have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat him going off topic.
Just Kidding Doug!
But that said, how come we forgot to open the lock box? Where did we put that thing? There must be at least $58 bazillion in there, surely enough to refresh all our 401k's, payoff the deficits for 80 or ninety years, fund every idea that comes into Obama's head and still enjoy our retirement.
Since I have vowed to never retire, I'll just leave mine in the box and get back to work preparing to make a big pile to stick in my own box. Screw the Chinese on building their football stadium in San Jose. Maybe focus on building a private healthcare network in Costa Rica? Hmmmm.
The arguments made by the Democrats is that the "People" just want a health care bill. That argument simply stated is that the ends justify the means. Process deemed to be unimportant, means that the Constitution is deemed unimportant. That is the argument being made by the Democrats?
Break the Constitution on something as basic as how laws are to be made and you have law by fiat. It is counter-revolution. It is law without process. It is the destruction of individual rights to property and freedom. It is the taking from one to the benefit of another.
It opens hell. It can lead to who knows where. If Congress can skirt the Constitution on this bill and deemed it passed, ask yourself these questions:
Can Congress deem an extension of their terms?
If Congress can deem passed a bill about your health care, can they deem passed a bill increasing your taxes, taking your property or putting you in jail?
Can Congress deem passed a bill giving citizenship to all illegal immigrants?
Can Congress deem a Presidential Signature?
Can they deem a Supreme Court Approval of a law that on the surface is unconstitutional or that a Court decision is illegal?
The answer to all these question is yes.
Let the Democrats think about this. Congress can break the Constitution, but when the do, they break the covenant between the governed and those chosen to lead, they open a door to anarchy.
Congress breaking that trust will break the obligations of citizens to that trust. Congress breaking that trust are breaking their oath and forfeiting their legitimacy to office. They are pretenders. They are dangerous to your freedom.
Citizens will have the right and duty to remove them, take them out, and take them out we will.
It is hard to see how the Democrats can win with the health care bill. At 2700 pages there must be one fiasco after another larded into this concoction. If passed, they will be exposed one at a time and the Democrats will be on the defensive until November.
Obama has bet his presidency on this bill and the Democrats in Congress know it.
Discipline or self-preservation will dictate the outcome and certainly no one who pays attention would bet on Congress doing the right thing, but given a choice I'll throw my prediction at self-preservation.
Though Bush 41 and Bush 43 often disagreed, one issue did unite them both with Bill Clinton: protectionism.
Globalists all, they rejected any federal measure to protect America’s industrial base, economic independence or the wages of U.S. workers.
Together they rammed through NAFTA, brought America under the World Trade Organization, abolished tariffs and granted Chinese-made goods unrestricted access to the immense U.S. market.
Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services has compiled, in 44 pages of charts and graphs, the results of two decades of this Bush-Clinton experiment in globalization. His compilation might be titled, “Indices of the Industrial Decline and Fall of the United States.”
From 2000 to 2009, industrial production declined here for the first time since the 1930s. Gross domestic product also fell, and we actually lost jobs.
In traded goods alone, we ran up $6.2 trillion in deficits — $3.8 trillion of that in manufactured goods. Things that we once made in America — indeed, we made everything — we now buy from abroad with money that we borrow from abroad.
Over this Lost Decade, 5.8 million manufacturing jobs, one of every three we had in Y2K, disappeared. That unprecedented job loss was partly made up by adding 1.9 million government workers.
The last decade was the first in history where government employed more workers than manufacturing, a stunning development to those of us who remember an America where nearly one-third of the U.S. labor force was producing almost all of our goods and much of the world’s, as well.
Not to worry, we hear, the foreign products we buy are toys and low-tech goods. We keep the high-tech jobs here in the U.S.A.
Sorry. U.S. trade surpluses in advanced technology products ended in Bush’s first term. The last three years we have run annual trade deficits in ATP of nearly $70 billion with China alone.
About our dependency on Mideast oil we hear endless wailing.
Yet most of our imported oil comes from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Angola. And for every dollar we send abroad for oil or gas, we send $4.20 abroad for manufactured goods. Why is a dependency on the Persian Gulf for a fraction of the oil we consume more of a danger than a huge growing dependency on China for the necessities of our national life?
How great is that dependency?
China accounts for 83 percent of the U.S. global trade deficit in manufactures and 84 percent of our global trade deficit in electronics and machinery.
Over the last decade, our total trade deficit with China in manufactured goods was $1.75 trillion, which explains why China, its cash reserves approaching $3 trillion, holds the mortgage on America.
This week came a report that Detroit, forge and furnace of the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II, is considering razing a fourth of the city and turning it into farm and pastureland. Did the $1.2 trillion trade deficit we ran in autos and parts last decade help kill Detroit?
And if our purpose with NAFTA was to assist our neighbor Mexico, consider. Textile and apparel imports from China are now five times the dollar value of those imports from Mexico and Canada combined.
As exports are added to a nation’s GDP, and a trade deficit subtracted, the U.S. trade deficits that have averaged $500 billion to $600 billion a year for 10 years represent the single greatest factor pulling the United States down and raising China up into a rival for world power.
Yet what is as astonishing as these indices of American decline is the indifference, the insouciance of our political class. Do they care?
How can one explain it?
Ignorance of history is surely one explanation. How many know that every modern nation that rose to world power did so by sheltering and nurturing its manufacturing and industrial base — from Britain under the Acts of Navigation to 1850, to protectionist America from the Civil War to the Roaring Twenties, to Bismarck’s Germany before World War I, to Stalin’s Russia, to postwar Japan, to China today?
No nation rose to world power on free trade. From Britain after 1860 to America after 1960, free trade has been the policy of powers that put consumption before production and today before tomorrow.
Nations rise on economic nationalism; they descend on free trade.
Ideology is another explanation. Even a (Milton) Friedmanite free-trader should be able to see the disaster all around us and ask: What benefit does America receive from these mountains of imported goods to justify the terrible damage done to our country and countrymen?
Can they not see the correlation between the trade deficits and relative decline?
Republicans seem certain to benefit from the nation’s economic crisis this November. But is there any evidence they have learned anything about economics from the disastrous Bush decade?
Do they have any ideas for a wholesale restructuring of U.S. trade and tax policy, for a course correction to prevent America’s continuing decline?
Listen to Obama back in July of last year. Vacuous nonsense. Every dollar spent on space research stays on earth. Obama is a third rate thinker and a first class bullshit artist. Wait till the Chinese land on the moon.
Apollo astronauts dismay at axing of Nasa mission to return mankind to the Moon
Former Apollo astronauts have expressed dismay at President Barack Obama's decision to cancel the Nasa programme that was intended to return mankind to the Moon.
By Richard Gray Telegraph Published: 8:30AM GMT 13 Mar 2010
Eugene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon, and Jim Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission said they were disappointed by the decision to cancel Nasa's Constellation Moon programme. Mr Lovell warned the decision would have "catastrophic consequences" for US space exploration.
The pair spoke to the BBC at a private event held at the Royal Soceity in London on Friday evening. They were joined by the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong.
Mr Lovell said: "Personally I think it will have catastrophic consequences in our ability to explore space and the spin-offs we get from space technology.
"They haven't thought through the consequences."
Mr Cernan, who was the last astronaut to return to the Apollo 17 lunar module in 1972 making him the last man to set foot on the Moon, added:"I'm quite disappointed that I'm still the last man on the Moon. "I thought we'd have gone back long before now."
"I think America has a responsibility to maintain its leadership in technology and its moral leadership... to seek knowledge. Curiosity's the essence of human existence."
Mr Obama cancelled Nasa's Constellation programme, which was intended to build new rockets and a lander to put astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2020, after stating it was costing too much and was behind schedule. The programme had been approved by former President George W Bush and was expected to provide a stepping stone towards sending humans to Mars for the first time.
Constellation has come under intense criticism as a drain on Nasa's resources and attempts to design a new rocket system that would replace the aging Space Shuttle have been beset with problems.
Nasa insists it still intends to send humans back to the Moon but the cancellation of the programme will set back a lunar mission by decades.
Mr Armstong, who was the first man to set foot on the Moon in July 1969, refused to comment about the cancellation of the project. The former astronaut is notoriously private and rarely makes public apperances despite his fame.
"Nobody messes with Joe' but when they do , Obama does nothing but sends a woman to do a man's job.
After the humilation of the US by Netanyahu and his crazies on the way far right, Obama didn't order Biden to get his sorry shanked-ass back to DC.
Biden remained in Israel with his stinging red face and for what? To wait a week for a five day old knish from Bibi?
Message to the Planet: Obama, that's the way he rolls, easy, real real easy.
Netanyahu voices regret in settlement row with U.S. Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:45am EDT Related News " (Reuters) -
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret Sunday for the announcement of a Jewish settlement plan that has strained ties with Washington and threatens the revival of Middle East peace talks.
In his first public remarks on what Israeli commentators called his most serious crisis with Washington since taking office a year ago, he gave no sign he would meet Palestinian demands to cancel a project for 1,600 new settler homes.
"I suggest not to get carried away and to calm down," Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting, after a reprimand by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"There was a regrettable incident here, that occurred innocently," Netanyahu said, referring to an announcement by a government ministry during a visit last week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, of planned construction in an area of the West Bank that Israel has annexed to Jerusalem.
The timing of the disclosure deeply embarrassed Biden, whose visit coincided with Palestinian agreement to restart peace talks suspended since December 2008 in the form of indirect, U.S.-mediated negotiations with Israel.
"It was hurtful and certainly it should not have happened," Netanyahu said of the announcement by the Interior Ministry, controlled by the pro-settler, ultraorthodox Shas party, a partner in his governing coalition.
Netanyahu said he had appointed a team of senior officials "to pinpoint the sequence of events, to ensure procedures will be in place to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future."
A senior U.S. official forecast "a dicey period here in the next couple days to a couple of weeks" as Palestinians demanded the reversal of the settlement plan.
Palestinians fear settlements on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war will deny them a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In unusually blunt remarks, Clinton called Israel's behavior "insulting" after it approved the project while hosting Biden.
Although she stressed Washington's ties with the Jewish state were "durable and strong," she told Netanyahu in a telephone call Friday he must act to repair the relationship.
Clinton accepted that Netanyahu was taken by surprise by the settlement housing approval. However, her spokesman said she told him it was a "deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship ... and had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process."
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was summoned to the State Department Friday to meet Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg in a further sign of U.S. displeasure, a senior U.S. official said.
U.S. President Barack Obama is seeking better U.S. relations with the Arab world, which backs the Palestinians, as he seeks to bolster alliances in the oil-producing region, notably against Iran as it develops nuclear technology and against Islamist enemies such as al Qaeda.
Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was waiting to meet Obama's peace envoy, George Mitchell, when he returns to the region in the coming days before deciding whether to go ahead with the "proximity talks."
A senior U.S. official indicated that Washington might focus on playing down the significance of the past week's approval for future house building -- "this was a year away at minimum," he said -- and expressing understanding for Netanyahu's difficulties.
The official described the prime minister's position as "perilous" because of his coalition's dependence on pro-settler groups.
(Additional reporting by Adam Entous and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; editing by Andrew Dobbie)
Italy to host Europe's biggest solar plant: company (AFP) –
MILAN — Europe's most powerful solar power plant is set to start operations in Italy later this year, the US company building the installation on an area as large as 120 football pitches said on Thursday.
The plant in Rovigo near Venice in northeast Italy will take up 850,000 square metres (9.15 million square feet) and produce 72 megawatts, SunEdison said in a statement announcing the start of construction.
The current biggest plant in Europe, located in Spain, produces 60 megawatts and the second biggest, in Germany, 50 megawatts, SunEdison said.
"The photovoltaic park in Rovigo province is a milestone in the development and establishment of solar energy in Italy," SunEdison's general manager for Italy, Liborio Francesco Nanni, said in a statement.
The total investment will be between 200 million and 250 million euros (273 million and 342 million dollars), the company said. Energy production will begin in the second half of 2010 and the plant will be fully operational by the end of the year, said SunEdison, which is working on the project in conjunction with Spanish banking giant Santander.
During its first year of operations, the plant will cover the electricity needs of 17,000 households and will prevent the emission of 41,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
SunEdison, a subsidiary of US company MEMC Electronic Materials, is the top solar power company in the United States and the third biggest in the world.
Italy is second to Germany for solar power production in Europe.
What you ask is the Slaughter Rule? Simply stated, it is the US House of Representatives claiming that they passed a Senate bill without actually having done so. It is a method, contemplated by the Democrats, to pass the healthcare bill. It is unconstitutional and it is illegal.
Mark Levin has rightly been calling it an attack on the US Constitution. What does the Constitution say?
The Constitution of the United States:
Article I, Section 7 says “the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.”
Minority Whip Eric Cantor, commenting on the Slaughter extra-constitutional action:
“I can infer that we’re going to see a rule that will deem the Senate bill as having passed, and at the same time not even have 72 hours to even look at what they are passing.” __________________
Slaughter says House still has options on health care procedure despite parliamentarian's ruling By: Susan Ferrechio Chief Congressional Correspondent Washington Examiner 03/12/10 2:21 PM EST
House Democratic leaders say they are prepared to take up the Senate health care bill, even though it appears it cannot be passed simultaneously with a second bill that would make corrections to it.
I talked to Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, the panel that will be responsible for formatting the way the House debates and votes on health care reform. Congress Daily reported last week the Slaughter was considering a rule that would deem the Senate bill passed only after the House approved the second bill that makes corrections to it. The Senate parliamentarian, however, ruled on Thursday that the Senate can only take up a reconciliation bill if the original Senate bill is first signed into law.
"We knew that," Slaughter told The Examiner. "That's not news to me. We always believed we had to have a signed bill before we reconcile." Slaughter would not say what strategy the House would employ to pass the bill. "We're looking at a lot of things," she said, adding that the Senate parliamentarian, "cannot rule on what we have to do over here."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also acknowledged Friday that the House would have to pass the Senate's $1 trillion health care bill first before either chamber can take up the second bill, which would remove the Senate legislation's tax on expensive insurance policies and some special deals cut for certain senators.
Pelosi left up in the air whether the bill would have to be signed into law, though she acknowledged a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian Thursday that it would.
"We'll pass the Senate bill, once we pass it the president signs it, or doesn't," Pelosi said. "People would rather he wait until the Senate act..."
Pelosi said the ruling by the parliamentarian, provided at the request of Senate GOP leaders, "isn't going to make any difference except maybe the mood that people are in. The fact is, once that it is passed in the House it is going to be the law of the land."
House Democrats have been staunchly opposed to passing the Senate bill first because they worry the corrections bill will never pass in that chamber.
When asked about that opposition by a reporter at her news conference Friday, Pelosi said, "That's another thing," but she suggested her rank-and-file would ultimately vote for the bill because it would expand health care coverage to 31 million people.
A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn't slow a train very much, a billion of them would. With that in mind, read the following, obviously written by a good American ..
Good idea .. . . one light bulb at a time . . . .
Check this out . I can verify this because I was in Lowes the other day for some reason and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose attachments . They were all made in China . The next day I was in Ace Hardware and just for the heck of it I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in USA . Start looking ..
In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else - even their job . So, after reading this email, I think this lady is on the right track . Let's get behind her!
My grandson likes Hershey's candy .. I noticed, though, that it is marked made in Mexico now. I do not buy it any more.
My favorite toothpaste Colgate is made in Mexico ... now I have switched to Crest. You have to read the labels on everything ..
This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60 W light bulbs and Bounce dryer sheets . I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off-brand labeled, "Everyday Value . " I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats - they were the same except for the price ..
The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in - get ready for this - the USA in a company in Cleveland , Ohio .
So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here .
So on to another aisle - Bounce Dryer Sheets . . ... yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada . The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA ! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!
My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA- the job you save may be your own or your neighbors!
If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! Stop buying from overseas companies!
(We should have awakened a decade ago .. . .. . . . )
Let's get with the program . . . .. help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the U . S.
A settlement of up to $657.5 million has been reached in the cases of thousands of rescue and cleanup workers at ground zero who sued the city over damage to their health, according to city officials and lawyers for the plaintiffs.
They said that the settlement would compensate about 10,000 plaintiffs according to the severity of their illnesses and the level of their exposure to contaminants at the World Trade Center site.
Lawyers from both sides met on Thursday to discuss the terms of the settlement with Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Payouts to the plaintiffs would come out of a federally financed insurance company with funds of about $1.1 billion that insures the city. At least 95 percent of the plaintiffs must accept its terms for it to take effect. If 100 percent of the plaintiffs agree to the terms, the total settlement would be $657.5 million. But if only the required 95 percent agreed, the total would shrink to $575 million.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs estimated that individual settlement amounts would vary from thousands of dollars to more than $1 million for the most serious injuries.
The settlement, which took two years to negotiate, raises the prospect of an end to years of complex and politically charged litigation that has pitted angry victims against city officials, who questioned the validity of some claims and argued that the city should be immune from liability.
“This is a good settlement,” said Marc Bern, a lawyer with a firm that represents more than 9,000 plaintiffs, “and we are gratified that these heroic men and women who performed their duties without consideration of the health implications will finally receive just compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, medical and other expenses, as the U.S. Congress intended when it appropriated this money.”
In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the settlement “a fair and reasonable resolution to a complex set of circumstances.”
Under the settlement, a claims administrator, who will be chosen by the lawyers in the case, would decide whether a given plaintiff had a valid claim, whether the plaintiff qualified for compensation and if so, for how much. The system is similar to the one used for payouts from the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund to families of those killed in the terrorist attacks. The process is meant to screen out fraudulent claims.
Since 2003, thousands of firefighters, police officers, construction workers and emergency responders have filed lawsuits against 90 defendants — including the city and the private companies it hired to remove debris at ground zero — over illnesses they say developed after they spent days, weeks or months working at the World Trade Center site after the attacks.
The plaintiffs claimed that their conditions — most commonly asthma and other respiratory illnesses — resulted from the toxic brew of contaminants at ground zero and the defendants’ failure to adequately supervise and protect them with safety equipment, like respirators. Among the first cases chosen for trial was that of a 47-year-old firefighter, Raymond W. Hauber, who died of esophageal cancer in 2007 before his case could be heard.
Some of the cases that fall under the settlement involve plaintiffs who are not ill now, but fear they will develop illnesses like cancer that can take years to manifest themselves. The settlement provides for a $23.4 million insurance policy to cover future claims by such plaintiffs.
The first 12 cases were scheduled to come to trial on May 16 in Manhattan, and those trials will now not take place. But under the settlement, plaintiffs have 90 days to opt out of the settlement and pursue trials.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs would collect a third of the settlement amounts in legal fees. The city-controlled insurance fund financed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already paid out more than $200 million in legal fees to defend the city and its contractors and in administrative costs.
To determine individual settlement amounts, the administrator will use a point system to determine the severity of a plaintiff’s illness, as documented by medical history. Other factors that will be considered include evidence of a link to ground zero and adjustments for age, pre-existing conditions, time of diagnosis, smoking history and length of time spent at ground zero.
The process could take up to a year.
Mindful of the intense public interest in the cases, Judge Hellerstein has told lawyers on both sides that he planned to review each settlement and hold “fairness” hearings to determine whether the settlements were reasonable, which legal experts said was unusual for litigation not involving a class action.
“Many of them are similar, but in fundamental aspects they have an individual plaintiff — they all revolve around one person,” Judge Hellerstein told the lawyers at a Jan. 21 hearing. “I’ll be looking carefully, if there is a settlement, at how individual members are treated.”
The city argued that it was immune from damages in cases involving a national emergency or a civil defense disaster. Lawyers for the city also questioned the connection between the illnesses and exposure at ground zero and cast doubt on many of the claims themselves, for example, arguing in the case of a mechanic for Consolidated Edison, which was also to be among the first trials, that the man’s lung and respiratory problems predated 9/11.
Israel blindsided Vice President Joe Biden's fence-mending mission Tuesday by announcing a settler building boom in East Jerusalem.
The move to expand an Orthodox Jewish settlement by 1,600 units embarrassed Biden, who was trying to jump-start "indirect" talks with the Palestinians.
Biden showed his anger by arriving 90 minutes late for dinner at the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I condemn the decision" by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to build in the area of the West Bank annexed to Jerusalem by Israel, Biden said in an unusually undiplomatic statement.
He called the announcement "precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel."
The flareup came ahead of Biden's visit Wednesday to the West Bank for meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose aides suggested the proposed talks with Israel through U.S. special envoy George Mitchell might now be canceled.
"Israel is not interested in negotiations, nor in peace," Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudainah told Reuters.
Earlier, Biden pledged an enduring U.S. commitment to Israel's security and to preventing Iran from going nuclear. Netanyahu repeated Israel's longstanding demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Israeli newspapers said the blowup with Biden had effectively scuttled immediate prospects for direct talks with the Palestinians and damaged relations with Israel's closest ally. New York Daily News
First praise, then a rebuke: Biden’s Israel visit turns sour
US Vice-President condemns plans for hundreds of new homes in occupied territory
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem Tuesday, 9 March 2010 Independent
The Israeli government last night managed to overshadow a high-profile visit by the US Vice-President, Joe Biden, with an announcement of controversial and politically highly sensitive plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jewish residents in Arab East Jerusalem.
The announcement from the Interior Ministry – which drew a sharp and swift rebuke from Mr Biden himself – came only hours after the Vice-President had personally congratulated the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for "taking risks for peace".
The disclosure of the plan, infuriating the Palestinian leadership the day after it had finally agreed to US-brokered indirect "proximity" talks with Israel – followed an explicit appeal on Monday by President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, to both sides in the conflict "to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks".
The Vice-President declared last night that he condemned the "substance and timing" of the announcement, "particularly with the launching of proximity talks" as "precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel".
The Interior Ministry had said earlier that there would be 60 days to allow appeals against the plan for a substantial expansion of the existing Ultra-Orthodox East Jerusalem "neighbourhood" of Ramat Shlomo. Most of the international community, which has never accepted Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, regards the district as a settlement.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, reacted angrily to news of the expansion. "With such an announcement, how can you build trust?" he said. "This is destroying our efforts to work with Mr Mitchell. It's a really disastrous situation. I hope that this will be an eye-opener for all in the international community about the need to have the Israeli government stop such futile exercises."
Israeli officials indicated last night that the revelation had come as a "surprise" to Mr Netanyahu, who was not consulted about its timing by the right-wing Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, leader of the Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox party Shas, and a key component of Mr Netanyahu's ruling coalition.
In a hasty damage limitation exercise last night, Mr Yishai's spokesman said the meeting of the committee which approved the plan had been "determined in advance" and insisted "there there is no connection to US Vice-President Joe Biden's visit to Israel". His statement added that Mr Yishai had "updated" Mr Netanyahu "this evening".
Nevertheless Palestinian leaders will point to the disclosure as strong evidence of what they see as the relentless growth of Jewish settlement construction in East Jerusalem and a further vindication of the demands they have made – in vain – for a total halt to such expansion in order to improve the atmosphere for negotiations with Israel.
Mr Netanyahu last year rejected the urgings of President Barack Obama for a settlement freeze to help kick-start peace talks and instead announced a 10-month temporary and partial freeze, one which did not stop Israel's announcement on Monday of 112 new homes in the – also Ultra-Orthodox – settlement of Beitar Illit.
The rapid expansion of Ultra-Orthodox housing east of the "green line" that was Israel's border up to the Six Day War in 1967 is driven as much by the desire to accommodate the large families of Israel's rapidly growing Ultra-Orthodox population as by the ideology which informs much of the rest of Jewish settlement in occupied territory.
But that makes little difference to the fears of Palestinians that "facts on the ground" are being created which make it increasingly difficult to envisage the contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza which they regard as the only acceptable outcome of peace talks.
Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem council member for the leftist Meretz Party, said that "the fact that Eli Yishai couldn't restrain himself for another two-three days until Biden left Israel means his intention was to slap the US administration in the face". He added that the announcement was "a provocation to the US and to the Prime Minister".
The latest row will create unwelcome difficulties for a visit in which Mr Biden has been seeking to proclaim strong US loyalty to the security interests of Israel – which is increasingly restive about Iran's nuclear ambitions – as well as helping to kick-start negotiations with the Palestinians.