The Miracle in Iraq

Yesterday's Iraqi provincial elections were quiet and peaceful. These statistics from the Times Online are staggering to consider:

14,400 number of candidates

420 number of parties registered

400 number of provincial council seats to contest

14 number of provinces participating in the elections

260,000 Iraqi observers

50,000 polling sites

1,366 tons of election materials manufactured in China, India, Britain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, comprising . . .

607 tons of election kits, including indelible ink bottles and ballot stamps

20 tonnes of registered voter lists, wall posters and complaints forms

559 tonnes of ballot papers

180m,tonnes of polling screens

John Hinderacker over at Power Line points to significance of the event:

The elections represent a great success for the Iraqi people and one more sign that President Bush's--or rather, the country's--effort in Iraq will go down in history as a success. If Iraq's democracy succeeds and inspires similar progress in other Arab countries, it could be a success of epic proportions.

Great Expectations Or Business As Usual?

This from Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek:

I guess when you get away with your loose habits in filing taxes, you come to think you don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else. USA Today reports:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner picked a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist as a top aide Tuesday, the same day he announced rules aimed at reducing the role of lobbyists in agency decisions.

Mark Patterson will serve as Geithner's chief of staff at Treasury, which oversees the government's $700 billion financial bailout program. Goldman Sachs received $10 billion of that money.

Treasury spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Patterson "brings significant expertise to the job." Patterson, who left the investment bank in April, signed the administration's ethics pledge, which requires him to recuse himself from issues "directly and substantially related to my former employer."

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said President Obama was retreating from his own ethics rules barring lobbyists from working on the issues they lobbied about during the previous two years. "It makes it appear that they are saying one thing and doing another," she said.

It does make it appear that way, doesn't it? But Patterson isn't the only one:

The White House waived the rules Friday for William Lynn, who lobbied for a defense contractor last year, to serve as deputy Defense secretary.

Geithner issued rules Tuesday to restrict lobbyists from contacting Treasury about bailout issues.

Now a word from our sponsor, designed to please the ghost of George Orwell:

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Obama is following through on his commitment to operate under strict ethical standards.

And finally, let's hear from an unbiased source who really goes out on a limb:

Dave Wenhold, of the American League of Lobbyists, said lobbyists bring expertise to the job. "Just because you are registered to lobby doesn't mean that you are evil, " he said.

How far will smoking bans go?

From reason-tv

California became the first state to ban smoking in bars a decade ago. Since then, smoking bans in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, universities, you name it, have flourished.

But there was a time when Americans would have been outraged at the idea of politicians telling business owners how to run their own bars. Today, most gladly allow nanny state cops to snuff out smoking in bars, cars, beaches, stage plays—almost anywhere. Years ago comedian Dennis Leary quipped, “What’s the law now, you can only smoke in your apartment, under a blanket with all the lights out?”

It seems like plenty of politicians would love to ban that too, but they could never ban smoking in private homes...or could they?

Recently, the Bay Area city of Belmont passed a law that targets people who smoke in their own homes. “I’m pretty sure I still live in America,” says smoker and Belmont resident David Scott.

But if Scott lights up once the new law takes effect in January, he might just get a visit from a police officer. The mayor who championed the new law declares, “It is our responsibility to take care of everyone!’ and a pro-ban councilmember who worries about smoke wafting into neighboring units compares smoking in an apartment to shooting a gun through the wall.

Smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body, but how dangerous is second-hand smoke? As a matter of science, Goodrich is wrong; smoking is about the worst thing you can do for yourself, but secondhand smoke, especially the sort talked about above, is not killing people. Are banners saving lives or battering science? Are they progressive champions or plunderers of property rights?

Citing the proliferation of privately enforced bans, host Nick Gillespie says, “I actually like smoking bans; I just don’t like it when the government does the banning."

Indeed, smoking bans have already set the stage for all sorts of other nanny state policies to save us from ourselves. The nannies have already barged through our front doors. Just how much farther will the banners go?

Obama: This Emperor has no clothes, it will all end in tears

Gerald Warner from The Telegraph (UK) is not taken in by Obama hype:

Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is like one of those toxic packages traded by bankers: it camouflages many unaffordable gifts to his client state. With a federal deficit already at $1.2 trillion, Obama wants to squander $825 billion (which will undoubtedly mushroom to more than $1 trillion) on creating 600,000 more government jobs and a further 459,000 in "green energy" (useless wind turbines and other Heath-Robinson contraptions favoured by Beltway environmentalists).

It is frightening to think there is a real possibility that the entire world economy could go into complete meltdown and famine kill millions. Yet Western - and British - commentators are cocooned in a warm comfort zone of infatuation with America's answer to Neil Kinnock. We should be long past applauding politicians of any hue: they got us into this mess. The best deserve a probationary opportunity to prove themselves, the worst should be in jail.

It is questionable whether the present political system can survive the coming crisis. Whatever the solution, teenage swooning sentimentality over a celebrity cult has no part in it. The most powerful nation on earth is confronting its worst economic crisis under the leadership of its most extremely liberal politician, who has virtually no experience of federal politics. That is not an opportunity but a catastrophe.

These are frank, even ungracious, words: they have the one merit that, unlike almost everything else written today about Obama, they will not require to be eaten in the future.

America's Future Must Include Coal

Environmentalists Steven Chu, as Obama's Secretary of Energy and Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA are hand picked to direct policy on energy research and development in the direction of bio fuels and "renewable" energy such as wind, sun and water. Low cost energy from our most abundant source, coal, will be ignored . . . despite the availability of proven technology for coal-to-liquid synfuels. On Dr. Chu, the WSJ reported:

Big Coal won’t be very happy if Dr. Chu gets confirmed as head of the DOE—he’s really, really not a big fan. “Coal is my worst nightmare,” he said repeatedly in a speech earlier this year outlining his lab’s alternative-energy approaches.

If coal is to stay part of the world’s energy mix, he says, clean-coal technologies must be developed. But he’s not very optimistic: “It’s not guaranteed we have a solution for coal,” he concluded, given the sheer scope of the challenge of economically storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions underground.

Worried about radioactivity? Coal’s still your bogeyman. Dr. Chu says a typical coal plant emits 100 times more radiation than a nuclear plant, given the fly ash emissions of radioactive particles.

Dr. Chu, of course, exaggerates . . . maybe lies, about fly ash radiation. Scientific American tells us getting struck by lightning is far more likely than getting sick from fly ash radiation.
Individuals living near coal-fired installations are exposed to a maximum of 1.9 millirems of fly ash radiation yearly. To put these numbers in perspective, the average person encounters 360 millirems of annual "background radiation" from natural and man-made sources ...
So despite emerging evidence that the global warming scare is junk science and carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, political cover and taxpayer cash is being provided to chase dead end projects such as disposal of CO2 underground and tilting at Picken's windmills.

This editorial from Iowa's heartland is straight to the point.

Clean coal is part of the future

POSTED: Fort Dodge (IA) Messenger - January 14, 2009

Environmental radicals have launched a new campaign against use of coal - any use of it - to meet the nation's energy requirements.

It is ironic that the campaign is being mounted via television. Without electricity from coal-fired power plants, about half of the people in America would not be able to watch an advertisement produced as part of the campaign.

Clean-coal technology is the environmentalists' target. Their television spot takes a sarcastic view. It features an announcer who says: "Clean coal. Heard a lot about it, so let's take a tour of this state-of-the-art clean coal facility." He then ushers viewers into an empty lot. The message, according to the announcer, is that "there's no such thing as clean coal."

Radicals in charge of the campaign don't want the United States to use more coal. They don't like nuclear energy, either. They prefer "green" technologies such as wind and solar power.

With that in mind, we'd love to see someone produce a television spot regarding "green" energy. It could open the same as the coal video, offering to show viewers a state-of-the-art "green" facility capable of replacing coal as an energy resource.

You guessed it: Viewers would be ushered into an empty field. That is because "green" technology - as appealing as it certainly is - simply isn't ready to replace coal, oil or natural gas.

Proponents of increased use of coal, perhaps for liquid and gaseous fuels, see it as a bridge to the time when more of our energy needs can be filled by solar power, wind power or other "green" technologies. But the radicals don't want to hear that. They don't want to face reality.

Americans have no choice but to be realistic, however. Clean-coal technology is vital to our future, in many ways. Allowing the radicals to use scare tactics to force us away from it would be a terrible mistake, resulting in a very real disaster.

Stimulus Spending Designed to Expand Government

The Foundary Blog at Heritage.Org exposes the Democrats intent to increase the size of the federal government.

Pushing for deficit spending as part of his own economic stimulus package in 1971, President Richard Nixon famously told ABC News, “I am now a Keynesian in economics.” Increasingly, it seems that everyone on Capitol Hill is adopting Nixon’s economic views … but a thousand times worse. Where Nixon wanted to deficit spend by mere billions, President Barack Obama wants to deficit spend in the trillions.

Keynesian theory, suddenly back in style, holds that government can stimulate economic growth by temporarily increasing government spending. Problem is, there was nothing temporary about increases in government spending under Nixon — and there is nothing temporary about the trillion dollars in new spending being debated in Congress.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday told Politico: “Yes, we wrote the bill. Yes, we won the election.” The House bill perfectly demonstrates how the left is using the economic stimulus bill as cover to accomplish its long-held desire to permanently increase the size of the federal government, with little or no benefit to the American taxpayer.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jack Kingston asks the question . . . STIMU-WHAT?

(Click to Enlarge)
H/T: Power Line

75-Foot Buzzer Beater - Shot of the Year!

Marshall beats SMU on 75 foot buzzer beater by Markel Humphrey

Who broke health care and how can competition fix it?

Writing in Capitalism Magazine, Richard E. Ralston asks the question . . . "Who broke health care?"

Health care was much more affordable in the 1960s. The government paid for less than 10 percent of all health care. Then the federal government created Medicare and Medicaid and wrote 130,000 pages of Medicare regulations. Now the government pays for 50 percent of all health care.

Has that fixed health care, or broken it?

In the same period, state regulation of medical insurance rapidly expanded, adding many coverage mandates that each policy must comply with. In some states you have to buy coverage for electric shock therapy, or in vitro fertilization, or acupuncture, or chiropractic, or hairpieces, or a social worker, or a marriage counselor, or a long list of other things, whether you want such coverage or not. And new mandates are added all the time, driving up insurance costs every year. Moreover, you are not allowed to buy better priced insurance from a competing provider in another state.

Has that fixed health care, or broken it?

The government could easily make reforms that would reduce the cost of insurance without any additional spending: Basic policies without mandates. Tax deductible premiums. Competition between insurance companies across state lines.

Why is it, then, that the more government controls health care in order to fix it, the more expensive health care invariably becomes?

Politicians who broke health care and now complain that it is broken do not want people to be able to afford reasonable insurance. They see that as an obstacle in their path to eliminate all private insurance. They are not in favor of fixing anything, but of making us all dependent on the favor of politicians for our health and well being.

IBD tells how we can fix the broken health care system:
We keep hearing how health care is too expensive and that too many of us lack insurance. But in markets where providers actually compete, costs go down and access goes up. The solution to the health care problems in this country is not more of what caused the problem — a growing third-party-payer system — but competition.

In markets where the procedures aren't typically covered by insurance or some other third party, and patients are responsible for paying their own bills, the providers, according to Devon M. Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis, "almost always compete on the basis of price and quality."

"And because they are not trapped in a system that pays for predetermined tasks at predetermined rates," Herrick writes in an NCPA report, "providers are free to repackage and reprice their services — just like vendors in other markets.

"It is primarily in these direct-pay markets that entrepreneurs are creating many innovative services to solve the very problems about which critics of the health care system complain."

Herrick looked at the markets in cosmetic surgery, laser eye surgery, laboratory and diagnostic testing, prescription drugs, walk-in clinics, telephone consultations and concierge medical services. He found that entrepreneurs competing for patients' business offer "greater convenience, lower prices and innovative services unavailable in traditional clinical settings."

Herrick also observed that access to health care is increased where there is competition. Advocates for the uninsured won't be persuaded because their goal is not increasing competition but forcing the public into a government-run health care system. But their biases do not diminish Herrick's findings.

Of course, the public knows little about these markets. Mainstream media, in partnership with the politicians and special interests, are obsessed with the government health care systems in Britain and Canada. In those countries, the third-party-payer arrangements have run up costs, caused artificial shortages, led to rationing of care and cut into quality — deep-seated problems that only competition can root out.

It should be obvious that when prices are set and services determined by a third-party bureaucracy, as in most of our medical care markets, the system is headed for trouble. The gross failures of the British and Canadian models are evidence that such a system cannot be sustained.

Rather than promote policies that give us more of what has corrupted most of the medical care markets in the U.S., as well as ruined treatment in Britain and Canada, lawmakers need to encourage competition. Health care is not a right but a service, and like all services, it is best allocated when government intervention is low.

Moving away from taxpayer-funded programs and toward self-sufficiency is not a popular idea. But it's a good one nonetheless. Should policymakers continue as expected on a path toward universal government care, health care in America, now the best in the world, will get worse, not better.

Another One-Sided Global Warming Story

Pine trees killed by beetles are shown in their rusty red color near Grandby, Colo., west of Denver. A new study found forest mortality has doubled and tied warming temperatures to drought as well as beetle infestations.

MSNBC is quickly climbing onto a report by government sponsored environmentalists about the demise of lodgepole pine in the Rockies to be a result of "global warming" (read AGW ) with just a little help from the Mountain Pine Beetle.

The trend is happening at every elevation, in trees of different sizes and of various species, researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and universities reported in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

The authors ruled out several factors — including air pollution, crowding and fire suppression impacts — as being significant drivers since the trend has been consistent in all areas and among all age groups studied.
To make a long story short, this Science study attributes the forest demise to warmer temperatures which take away the minus 30 degree conditions that will kill MPB larvae. Seems like a stretch since the average temperature change has been less than one degree in the region.

Another study conducted by the University of Oregon reached a far different conclusion:
The massive insect epidemics that have plagued Pacific Northwest forests in recent years are mostly a reflection of poor forest health conditions, overcrowding, overuse of chemicals, fire suppression and introduction of monocultures or non-native species, a new report concludes. Beyond that, these insect attacks are actually nature's mechanism to help restore forest health on a long-term basis and in many cases should be allowed to run their course, according to Oregon State University scientists in a new study published this week in the journal Conservation Biology In Practice.

Native insects work to thin trees, control crowding, reduce stress and lessen competition for water and nutrients, the researchers found. Some levels of insect herbivory, or plant-eating, may even be good for trees and forests, and in the long run produce as much or more tree growth. "There is now evidence that in many cases forests are more healthy after an insect outbreak," said Tim Schowalter, an OSU professor of entomology. "The traditional view still is that forest insects are destructive, but we need a revolution in this way of thinking. The fact is we will never resolve our problems with catastrophic fires or insect epidemics until we restore forest health, and in this battle insects may well be our ally, not our enemy."

Historically, Schowalter said, destructive forest insects such as the mountain pine beetle or tussock moth were native to Pacific Northwest forests and served an essential role in keeping them healthy. When trees became too crowded the insects would eliminate weaker trees and reduce competition. But since the beetles' reproductive pheromones only carried effectively about 15-20 feet, naturally open stands of mature pines were protected against widespread outbreaks.

In these same forests today, fire suppression has allowed shade-tolerant, fire-intolerant species to crowd the understory, create an entire forest stressed for water and nutrients, and beetles can skip from one weak tree to another across entire stands. But the solution in cases such as this, Schowalter said, is to address the fundamental issue of overcrowding through forest thinning, controlled fire and insect attack, allowing the pine beetles to actually help in the long-term process of restoring forest health.

"When you have a highly destructive insect epidemic, what that really should be telling us is not that we have an insect problem, but that we have a forest health problem," Schowalter said. "It's monocultures and fire suppression that cause insects to become nuisances. The pests that plague us are all too often of our own making."

Racism in Obama's Inauguration Benediction

The Reverend Joseph Lowery ended his benediction prayer at today's presidential inauguration with an obvious racial slur against whites as follows:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around . . . when yellow will be mellow . . . when the red man can get ahead, man . . . and when white will embrace what is right.
This ill-considered slight flies in the face of the obvious fact that the white majority had just elected a black man, Barack Hussein Obama to be the 44th President of the United States.

One black blogger, Lalita Amos, at American Values Alliance, believes that whites who see a racial slur are confused.
Reverend Lowery deftly reworded a very old and very terrible rhyme that is widely-known in the Black community, [that] ..., essentially, harkened to a color-based system of privilege that existed in the United States until well into the 70's and 80's and was immortalized in song!
This obscure rhyme is generally recognized only in the black community because it essentially describes a black caste system imposed on blacks by blacks! Seeking the wisdom of the orient, I found the rhyme and its explanation here.
I know that in the past, blacks in America categorized, labeled and otherwise discriminated against one another based on the shade of their skin color and texture of their hair.

If you're white, you're alright.
If you're black, get back.
If you're brown, stick around.
If you're yellow, you're mellow.
If you're red, you're already dead
If you're Black - get back!
If you're white - you alright

If you're Black - get back!
If you're white - you alright

If you're Brown - stick around
If you're Yellow - you must one mellow fellow!

I don't want nuthin' black - but a Cadillac.

This is the one that I most often heard while growing up. African-American popular expressions of color: "If you're Black - get back!" Stratification circa 1940!
It is somewhat enlightening that the basis of social stratification among blacks is skin color. Visual acuity seems to have a negative effect on social equality.

UPDATE: Rattler Gator predicts more black to white racism.

Obama and the Winds of Change

Environmental Skeptic

Professor Kunihiko Takeda

Professor Kunihiko Takeda, Ph.D., is vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University and one of the world's leading authorities on both uranium enrichment and recycling. The 65-year-old is also a bestselling author of books with titles such as “We Should Not Recycle!” “Recycled Illusions” and “Why Are Lies Accepted on Environmental Issues?” Professor Takeda should know why: Although a member of just about every prestigious academic and governmental entity, he has stayed independent and made a career out of challenging the establishment. He has never taken any garbage from anyone, not even during his 27-year tenure at Asahi Chemical Industries, where for five years he was director of the Uranium Enrichment Laboratory. He also kept his record clean as vice deputy president at the Shibaura Institute of Technology before joining Nagoya University in 2002. His fresh and original views are clear in his most recent book, “Hypocritical Ecology,” which has been flying off shelves at the speed of 100,000 a month since being published this June..

Kunihiko Takeda

Recycling is rubbish: It eats more energy and creates more waste than burning our garbage in high-tech incinerators. The most efficient way of getting rid of garbage is burning it all together. Why? Because in raw garbage, plastics turn into their own fuel so you don’t need to add anything else. Aluminum and steel should be recycled, though, as we need less energy for that than to produce them from scratch.

Fear is a very efficient weapon: It produces the desired effect without much waste. Global warming has nothing to do with how much CO2 is produced or what we do here on Earth. For millions of years, solar activity has been controlling temperatures on Earth and even now, the sun controls how high the mercury goes. CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another. Soon it will cool down anyhow, once again, regardless of what we do. Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so. What makes a whole lot of economic and political sense is to blame global warming on humans and create laws that keep the status quo and prevent up-and-coming nations from developing. Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.

Look beyond what governments tell you. Some praise ethanol as a substitute for oil, but making fuel out of corn makes sense only if you want to increase the price of corn and fuel at the same time. In order to grow corn, one needs lots of fuel and once the corn is ready, instead of becoming a nice meal, it gets picked and turned back into fuel again. This is just a way to purposely create a food and energy shortage until only the very rich can afford to eat and move.

Three and One-Half Minutes . . .

From Patterico's Pontifications:

Three and one-half minutes. That’s how long it took from the moment the birds hit the aircraft until the plane was in the Hudson.

Those and other details were released today regarding US Airways Flight 1549. According to the NTSB, Captain Chesley Barrett “Sully” Sullenberger III intentionally ditched in the Hudson River because he knew he couldn’t get back to the airport and he didn’t want to jeopardize the urban population:

“Co-pilot Jeff Skiles, who was flying the plane at takeoff, saw the birds coming in perfect formation, and made note of it. Sullenberger looked up, and in an instant his windscreen was filled with big, dark-brown birds.

“His instinct was to duck,” said NTSB board member Kitty Higgins, recounting their interview. Then there was a thump, the smell of burning birds, and silence as both aircraft engines cut out.

The account illustrated how quickly things deteriorated after the bump at 3,000 feet, and the pilots’ swift realization that returning to LaGuardia or getting to another airport was impossible.

With both engines out, Higgins said, flight attendants described complete silence in the cabin, “like being in a library.” A smoky haze and the odor of burning metal or electronics filled the plane.

The blow had come out of nowhere. The NTSB said radar data confirmed that the aircraft intersected a group of “primary targets,” almost certainly birds, as the jet climbed over the Bronx. Those targets had not been on the radar screen of the air traffic controller who approved the departure, Higgins said.

After the bird impact, Sullenberger told investigators he immediately took over flying from his co-pilot and made a series of command decisions.

Returning to LaGuardia, he quickly realized, was out. So was nearby Teterboro Airport, where he had never flown before, and which would require him to take the jet over densely populated northern New Jersey.

“We can’t do it,” he told air traffic controllers. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”

While the first officer tried to restart the engines, Sullenberger glided over the George Washington Bridge and elected to land near the ferry terminal, so the passengers would have a better chance at rescue. It happened so fast that they never flipped the Airbus’ “ditch switch” that sealed the bottom openings on the aircraft to make it more seaworthy.

Tax Cheat To Head IRS

What do we know about Timothy Geithner, Obama's choice for Secretary of the Treasury? Jennifer Rubin over at Commentary observes:

Timothy Geithner, when at the Fed in New York, orchestrated hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout monies that have fallen into unknown nooks and crannies in our banking system. He presided over the demise of Lehman Brothers, which many now blame for the complete meltdown in our financial system. And he approved a bailout for AIG, which is regarded by Democrats and Republicans alike as a mistake. But if he fails to be confirmed as Treasury Secretary it won’t be because of any of that

Motley Fool gets to the bottom of things quickly:
As it turns out, Timothy Geithner, the man Obama tapped as the next Treasury secretary, has reportedly cheated on his taxes. Repeatedly. In addition, even after being audited, he didn't make amends for all the years he failed to pay his self-employment taxes, until being tapped to run Treasury.

Messing up once? Having to file an amended return because of a data entry error or a late-arriving and changed 1099 form? That's completely understandable. But I think that what Geithner has done, repeatedly and over the span of about a decade, makes him -- at minimum -- unfit to head the agency in charge of the Internal Revenue Service.

According to a document from the U.S. Senate, Geithner:

* Didn't pay more than $34,000 in self-employment taxes between 2001 and 2004.
* Didn't pay up on part of those back taxes until he was tapped to be Treasury Secretary.
* Attempted to deduct overnight-camp expenses for his kids as dependent-care costs.
* Failed to pay the 10% penalty on an early IRA withdrawal.
* Waited until 1996 to file Social Security and Maryland FUTA taxes for his household help between 1993 and 1995.
* Got a notice in 1998 for incorrectly calculating Medicare taxes for his household help.

It's not like Geithner is some random guy off the street, either. He has worked:

* As a senior official at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
* In the U.S. Treasury as undersecretary for international affairs.
* As president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

You'd figure someone in those positions of fiduciary trust and monetary authority would have a basic understanding of tax law, or access to decent tax accountants. At minimum, maybe he could have read the paperwork the IMF handed him, which told him that he'd owe the self-employment taxes.

If you or I or any other mere mortal were to try to pull such shenanigans, we would have been socked with penalties, on top of back taxes and interest. Instead, the IRS graciously waived the penalties on Geithner. Nice of them to treat their new boss so much better than they would treat ordinary taxpayers, eh?

Temporarily taking at face value Geithner's claim of ignorance regarding his tax problems, it explains a lot of why our nation's economy and banking system are in such disarray right now. From his current perch as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner has pretty much been the leadership at ground zero throughout the Wall Street bailout efforts.

In fact, current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has actually praised Geithner for being a key architect of the rescue plans that are in place. Perhaps that explains why it feels like things keep getting worse, in spite of all of Uncle Sam's help.

And finally from Powerline citing Byron York at NRO:
Additional facts have come to light that make this situation much more serious. Byron York reports that IMF employees received additional compensation that was earmarked for their portion of FICA taxes. Their incomes were, as the IMF put it, "grossed up." Thus, Geithner accepted "reimbursement" from the IMF for taxes that he didn't pay. Not only that, he certified that he would pay the taxes:

The IMF did not withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes -- Social Security and Medicare -- from its employees' paychecks. But the IMF took great care to explain to those employees, in detail and frequently, what their tax responsibilities were. ...

The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a "gross-up," to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information -- marital status, dependent children, etc. -- and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.

At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, "I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund." Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn't pay the tax. For several years in a row.

Marc Schrenker, the MacGyver of Money Mayhem

From Gawker:

Facing divorce and a half-million-dollar court judgment, Indiana financial advisor and stunt pilot Marc Schrenker parachuted out of a plane Sunday in an apparent effort to fake his own death. He is at large.

At least Schrenker has shown some spunk and swagger in trying to escape financial fraud — unlike, say, Bernie Madoff, the $50 billion Ponzi schemer whose idea of flirting with danger seems to be mailing $200 mittens.

Found guilty of bilking a life insurance company for $533,564 in unearned commissions, Schrenker, who ran a company called Heritage Wealth management, carefully plotted his faked demise.

He took off in his jet Sunday for Destin, Fla. En route, he radioed air traffic control, claiming a plane window had imploded and the craft was losing oxygen. At the same time, he managed to email a neighbor, Tom Britt, with a slightly different version of the story:

“I embarrassed my family for the last time and by the time you read this I will be gone. Hypoxia can cause people to make terrible decisions and I simply put on my parachute and survival gear and bailed out."

But the bailout wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision; Schrenker had stashed a motorcycle in Childersburg, Ala. over the weekend. After parachuting to the ground as the plane went on to crash in Florida, he got on the motorcycle.

That's where the story gets weird. Schrenker turned himself into local police, claiming he'd been in a canoeing accident; they took him to a local hotel. By the time they checked his story and discovered the plane crash, Schrenker had already taken off into the woods. The only trace of him left: A YouTube video documenting his plane aerobatics. Just one question: When are we getting a direct-to-DVD movie?

Goodfellas USA Bank Cramdown

Now he's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, to Paulie. Trouble with cops, deliveries, Tommy... he calls Paulie. But now he has to pay Paulie... every week no matter what.

"Business bad? F*ck you, pay me. Had a fire? F*ck you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning? F*ck you, pay me."

Also, Paulie could do anything. Like run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody will pay for it anyway. Take deliveries at the front door and sell it out the back at a discount. Take a $200 case of booze and sell it for $100. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. Then finally, when there's nothing left... when you can't borrow another buck from the bank... you bust the joint out.

You light a match.

When the road taken is the government bailout option, then you have struck your deal with the Devil ...or maybe with the boss, Paulie from "Goodfellas"

WSJ notes the beginning of socialistic government intervention into private banking law:
At first glance, Citigroup's endorsement last week of a Senate plan to allow bankruptcy judges to break mortgage contracts looks like a scene from "Goodfellas."

Since October, the government has invested $52 billion in Citi, while agreeing to eat up to $249 billion in losses on the bank's toxic real estate portfolio. And so it's really hard to say no when those Washington "investors" call for a favor. In the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie, a restaurant owner realizes too late that a partner big enough to protect him is big enough to take everything he has. As Ray Liotta narrates, "Now he's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, to Paulie . . . But now he has to pay Paulie."

The problem with Citi's capitulation is that it means that not just Citi will have to pay the Beltway outfit if the bill passes. Other banks, borrowers and taxpayers will also suffer. In fact, this deal is looking more and more like a case of Citi colluding with its new political owners in order to force competing banks to break contracts and take more losses. This kind of politicized banking is precisely why the Bank of the United States was shut down in the 19th century.

After years of resisting, Citi has suddenly signed off on Senator Dick Durbin's plan to allow judges to rewrite mortgage contracts for borrowers in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under the Illinois Democrat's plan, which is earmarked for inclusion in the pending stimulus bill, judges could reduce the amount of principal, lower the interest rate, and change the length of the mortgage term.

Until Washington embraced the politics of housing panic, even sensible Democrats recognized that allowing such mortgage "cramdowns" was a terrible idea, sure to punish future borrowers with higher rates as lenders calculate the increased risk. The Congressional Budget Office warned in January 2008 that such a change could result in higher interest rates for homeowners and bigger caseloads in bankruptcy courts. In 2007, 16 House Democrats signed a letter opposing similar legislation.

They realized that the consequences would fall hardest on those hoping to buy a home, if markets logically respond by setting mortgage interest rates closer to those on, for example, auto loans or credit cards. A bankruptcy judge is now free to reduce amounts owed on many types of consumer debt. For mortgages, the iron-clad requirement to pay off the loan or lose the house is precisely to encourage lower rates on a less risky investment.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens described the importance of this principle in 1993 in Nobelman v. American Savings Bank: "At first blush it seems somewhat strange that the Bankruptcy Code should provide less protection to an individual's interest in retaining possession of his or her home than of other assets. The anomaly is, however, explained by the legislative history indicating that favorable treatment of residential mortgages was intended to encourage the flow of capital into the home lending market."

Mr. Durbin argues that borrowers won't be able to enjoy the benefits of a cramdown until they first make an effort to negotiate new terms with their lenders before declaring bankruptcy. Also, to counter the perception that they are harming the mortgage market, Mr. Durbin and Senate colleagues Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer are proposing that cramdowns only be available for mortgage contracts signed before their bill becomes law. But of course lenders will have every reason to assume that, whenever the going gets tough, Washington will let future borrowers break contracts too.

Mr. Durbin and his allies have tried and failed several times to break the cramdown opposition, and they believe Citi finally gives them the club to prevail. As Mr. Schumer noted in a press release, "Citigroup's support means that the dam has broken across the banking industry. We now have a real chance to pass this legislation quickly." Talking point number one for Democrats is that if giant Citigroup is for this plan, why would anyone oppose it?

In fact, Citigroup may support this plan precisely because it isn't a big player in the mortgage market. Sure, it has some dodgy mortgage-backed securities on its books, but they've been written down and the feds cover 90% of losses beyond $29 billion in any case. When it comes to making loans, however, Citi originates less than 10% of American mortgages.

Citi is falling further behind J.P. Morgan Chase, which acquired Washington Mutual; Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia; and Bank of America, which bought Countrywide. J.P. Morgan's mortgage business is now twice the size of Citi's, while Wells and BofA each originate almost three times as much dollar volume as Citi. So in agreeing to Mr. Durbin's offer, Citi is also volunteering its competitors to write down more mortgages, giving Citi a comparative advantage.

But the unintended consequences could make even Citi rue the day it got in bed with the goodfellas on Capitol Hill. If the possibility of this refinancing-via-bankruptcy encourages more people to declare bankruptcy, that would mean additional losses on Citi's credit cards and auto loans.

Having spent the past year committing taxpayer trillions to support American banks, Washington now seems not to mind at all if its latest bailout drives up bank losses on mortgages, credit cards and other loans. The Senate could soon make Paulie look like a reasonable business partner.

Israel, U.S. & The Stinking Fish

Rabbi Meir Kahane used the Talmudic parable of the king, his servant, and the fish to aptly describe difficulties in interactions between Israel and the United States:

Once there was a king who sent his servant to buy a fish The servant returned with a fish that stank. In fury the king gave the servant a choice of three punishments: “Eat the fish, get whipped for the fish, or pay for the fish.” In common with most people, the servant chose not to reach into his pocket and he decided to eat the stinking fish but after two bites the stench made him give up and he decided to get whipped for it. The pain of the lashes, however, made him stop that, too, and he cried out, “I will pay for the fish!”

And so the fool ate the fish, got whipped for the fish and, in the end, had to pay for it, anyhow. Those in Israel and without, who refuse to understand that nothing will deter America from demanding that Israel make the maximum concessions, play the same fool. Those who do not understand that there is nothing that Israel can possible do, that there are no compromises it can make, that there is nothing short of full retreat to the 1967 borders that will satisfy the United States -- are the same fools as the servant who ate, got whipped and in the end had to pay anyhow,

Their refusal to make the difficult choice of telling the Americans “no”, now, at this moment, will see them making the retreats they hope will avert American anger; it will see this effort fail even as the frontier moves from its present lines within the Arab heartland to new ones close to the Jewish cities; and most important, the Americans will make the same demands they always have envisioned since the days of the Roger Plan-total Israeli withdrawal. And since this is a thing that not even the most dovish of Israelis will agree to, the result will be an ultimate Israeli firm “no,” an ultimate American anger of the kind all men of “new initiative” propose to avert today by compromise, and exactly the same conditions of confrontation that would come anyhow if the Israelis said their “no” today. There would be one great difference, however, a “no” today will bring the crisis while Israel stands poised near the Arab capitols. A “no” tomorrow, after all the hapless and confused compromises and “initiatives,” will bring the same crisis near Tel Aviv, Beersheva and Netanya.

This is what happens when foolish and confused Israelis, by refusing to pay the price of saying “no” to the stinking fish of pressure, attempt to eat it, submit to getting beaten over it and then learn to their dismay that there is no escape from the difficult decision that they should have made in the first place.

Let the Israeli government, its men of “new initiative” and the Jewish leaders in America understand several basic axioms:

1) America is committed to the world’s interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242, i.e. Israeli withdrawal from all (but insignificant) parts of the lands of 1967. This includes the Golan Heights, Gaza, the entire West bank and the entire Sinai as well as changing Jerusalem’s present Jewish sovereignty status.

2) American interests lie, in the minds of most officials in Washington, with Arab oil, the huge potential Arab market and with supplanting Soviet influence with American. This means, at best, an “even-handed” policy rather than a pro-Israeli one.

3) America is moving steadily to recognition of the “Palestinians” as a people and of whomever they decide to have as their leaders. Those leaders are clearly the PLO and already the move to “moderate” the PLO, “public-relations-wise” is underway so that Washington can more easily pressure Israel into recognizing them.

4) The [incoming] administration is determined to prevent stagnation and will pressure Israel into concession after concession.

5) No administration will go to war for Israel and no administration will continue the present aid level no matter what Israel does or concedes. The frantic search for human allies will end as unsuccessfully as those Jews in the past who forgot what faith in the Jewish G-d was and who turned to Egypt or Assyria or other “allies” for help, only to learn to their dismay that the allies betrayed them.

Stinking fish are not made to be eaten or to get whipped for. One must have the courage to look at the truth and pay the bitter price of honesty. America is tired of the Israeli nuisance and wishes it would eat the fish already. The time to loudly proclaim “no” is now.

Amazingly this article was published by Rabbi Meir David Kahane in 1976 and remains relevant today. The prescient Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, was a controversial Israeli nationalist in his time. His writings and philosophy remain popular today. Below is his message to the world.

Unions Lobbying For Economic Stimulus

Barack Obama announced a change in his economic stimulus plan this week:
"No. 1 goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector.”

Republicans quickly figured out that 20% percent were government jobs. The Christian Science Monitor connected the story to public service unions:

“I remain concerned about wasteful spending that might be attached to the tax relief,” said House Republican leader John Boehner in a statement after the meeting. “Simply put, we should not bury future generations under mountains of debt and create 600,000 new government jobs which, according to reports, the plan under consideration would do in the name of economic stimulus.”

Underlying the Obama strategy is not economic stimulus but saving the bacon for all the public service unions that supported him. As CSM points out:

“Combined budget gaps for the remainder of this fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 are estimated to total more than $350 billion,” according to a Dec. 23 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Because most state governments cannot by law run a deficit, states have already begun drawing down available reserves or rainy day funds. What’s left are spending cuts, including potentially massive layoffs of state and local employees, or tax increases, the report notes. “Budget cuts are often more severe in the second year of a state fiscal crisis, after reserves have been largely depleted and thus are no longer an option for closing deficits.”

So the Democratic plan is to circumvent the sane economic policies built into state constitutions.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans favor offering help to state and local governments as a loan: 5 percent interest over five years and then 9 percent after that.

“I think the states that did take advantage of the loans would be very careful about how they spent the money,” he said in a press briefing on Monday.

The high-profile role of public-employee unions in the lobbying over this bill is troubling for some Republicans, who see the unions as key players in GOP defeats in the 2008 election. They see a boost for public-sector jobs as a boost, too, for partisan unions.

The best overview of the stimulus package and a better solution resides here:
Iowa Rep. Steve King, R-5th District, is not feeling stimulated by President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan that calls for the creation, according to the Congressman, of 600,000 government jobs.

"The federal government is bloated, inefficient and spends too much of your hard-earned money," King said Monday through his press office. "Not coincidentally, the federal government is also the largest employer in America. Now, President-elect Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want more of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars to pay for more unneeded government workers."

The proposed plan would increase government employees by 33 percent, which comes out to 600,000 new jobs, King said. This would do nothing but add to the waste, fraud and abuse coming out of Washington and fails to provide a true economic stimulus, he said.

Not long ago, Japan faced the same problems currently ailing the American economy and policymakers there created more government jobs in the belief the economy could turn around, King said. It only intensified the problem, he said.

"Rather than follow this failed blueprint, the president-elect should look to cut taxes and reduce government spending to encourage business growth and long-term performance," King said. "A national sales tax, like the Fair Tax, would grow the private sector and create new, good-paying jobs that would stimulate the American manufacturing industry. The American economy needs a shot in the arm, but the answer is not a legion of new government workers."

Click The Ball To Change Its Color

You will like this game from The Reference Frame:


A Solution For Palestine

From the days of yesteryore, looking back through the Wayback Machine, comes the last best solution for the Palestinean Authority. Daniel Pipes writes in the JPost:

[There is] only one practical approach, which worked tolerably well in the period 1948-67: Shared Jordanian-Egyptian rule, with Amman ruling the West Bank and Cairo running Gaza.

The prospect of favorable acceptance of Jordanian control of the West Bank Palestinians is viewed somewhat favorably by influential Arabs.
The failures of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and the "peace process," has prompted rethinking in Amman and Jerusalem. Indeed, the Christian Science Monitor's Ilene Prusher found already in 2007 that the idea of a West Bank-Jordan confederation "seems to be gaining traction on both sides of the Jordan River." The Jordanian government, which enthusiastically annexed the West Bank in 1950 and abandoned its claims only under duress in 1988, shows signs of wanting to return. Dan Diker and Pinhas Inbari documented for Middle East Quarterly in 2006 how the PA's "failure to assert control and become a politically viable entity has caused Amman to reconsider whether a hands-off strategy toward the West Bank is in its best interests."

Israeli officialdom has also shown itself open to this idea, occasionally calling for Jordanian troops to enter the West Bank.

Despairing of self-rule, some Palestinians welcome the Jordanian option. An unnamed senior PA official told Diker and Inbari that a form of federation or confederation with Jordan offers "the only reasonable, stable, long-term solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

Hanna Seniora opined that "the current weakened prospects for a two-state solution forces us to revisit the possibility of a confederation with Jordan." The New York Times's Hassan Fattah quotes a Palestinian in Jordan: "Everything has been ruined for us - we've been fighting for 60 years and nothing is left. It would be better if Jordan ran things in Palestine, if King Abdullah could take control of the West Bank."

Nor is this just talk: Diker and Inbari report that back-channel PA-Jordan negotiations in 2003-04 "resulted in an agreement in principle to send 30,000 Badr Force members," to the West Bank.

Gaza is more of a problem despite the fact that most native Palestinians speak in an Egyptian dialect.
And while Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak announced a year ago that "Gaza is not part of Egypt, nor will it ever be," his is hardly the last word. First, Mubarak notwithstanding, Egyptians overwhelmingly want a strong tie to Gaza; Hamas concurs; and Israeli leaders sometimes agree. So the basis for an overhaul in policy exists.

Secondly, Gaza is arguably more a part of Egypt than of "Palestine." During most of the Islamic period, it was either controlled by Cairo or part of Egypt administratively. Gazan colloquial Arabic is identical to what Egyptians living in Sinai speak. Economically, Gaza has most connections to Egypt. Hamas itself derives from the Muslim Brethren, an Egyptian organization.

Is it time to think of Gazans as Egyptians?

Thirdly, Jerusalem could out-maneuver Mubarak. Were it to announce a date when it ends the provisioning of all water, electricity, food, medicine and other trade, and accepts enhanced Egyptian security in Gaza, Cairo would have to take responsibility for Gaza. Among other advantages, this would make it accountable for Gazan security, finally putting an end to the thousands of Hamas rocket and mortar assaults.

Daniel Pipes presents his case for a possible Palestinian Solution, but reason has never prevailed over hate in the Middle East.

A New Bogeyman ...Thirdhand Smoke

Smack dab in the middle of my MSN home page appears this headline:

Now as an ex-smoker who puffed on and inhaled two and a half packs of Merits every day for nigh on to 30 years, I cannot begin to understand why inconsiderate smokers, including my wife, choose to blow foul-smelling smoke on me to make my life miserable. I made myself an expert on the harmful effects of smoking and quit, but at the same time I found out that the nanny state we live in has exaggerated the effect of smoke on non-smokers. In reading about second-hand smoke, I found no significant correlation between second-hand smoke and lung cancer, heart disease or death. Further, I have asked to be shown empirical evidence in the form of death certificates listing cause of death as "second-hand smoke".

So I chased the MSNBC article about "Thirdhand Smoke" displayed on my browser to "Pediatrics - The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics." There I found the Study entitled "Beliefs About the Health Effects of 'Thirdhand' Smoke and Home Smoking Bans."

I read the abstract below and found out that the title of the study was accurate. The researchers appear to have reached out to tell the participants in the study that there was a "gorilla in the room" and that they suffered from inattentional blindness causing them to not notice the obvious. Invisible smoke lingered in an area after smokers finished smoking and this smoke could harm babies. Researchers then asked study participants to complete a questionnaire about their perception of this newly defined danger. Guess what ...most thought "Thirdhand Smoke" was the reenactment of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima. Here is the abstract for the study:

OBJECTIVE. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Thirdhand smoke is residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after the cigarette is extinguished. Children are uniquely susceptible to thirdhand smoke exposure. The objective of this study was to assess health beliefs of adults regarding thirdhand smoke exposure of children and whether smokers and nonsmokers differ in those beliefs. We hypothesized that beliefs about thirdhand smoke would be associated with household smoking bans.

METHODS. Data were collected by a national random-digit-dial telephone survey from September to November 2005. The sample was weighted by race and gender within Census region on the basis of US Census data. The study questions assessed the level of agreement with statements that breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of children.

RESULTS. Of 2000 eligible respondents contacted, 1510 (87%) completed surveys, 1478 (97.9%) answered all questions pertinent to this analysis, and 273 (18.9%) were smokers. Overall, 95.4% of nonsmokers versus 84.1% of smokers agreed that secondhand smoke harms the health of children, and 65.2% of nonsmokers versus 43.3% of smokers agreed that thirdhand smoke harms children. Strict rules prohibiting smoking in the home were more prevalent among nonsmokers: 88.4% vs 26.7%. In multivariate logistic regression, after controlling for certain variables, belief that thirdhand smoke harms the health of children remained independently associated with rules prohibiting smoking in the home. Belief that secondhand smoke harms the health of children was not independently associated with rules prohibiting smoking in the home and car.

CONCLUSIONS. This study demonstrates that beliefs about the health effects of thirdhand smoke are independently associated with home smoking bans. Emphasizing that thirdhand smoke harms the health of children may be an important element in encouraging home smoking bans.

Metaphorically, the "gorilla in the room" refers to a problem that is immense and yet “so common that no one talks about or discusses it.” In this case, "Thirdhand Smoke" is most assuredly not a Gorilla but a Bogeyman.

Miriam Cherry at Concurring Opinions has these observations about the Bogeyman:

The Bogeyman is a symbol or a rhetorical strategy that is an exaggeration of a perceived threat or possible risk, usually raised in response to proposed change...

So perhaps change and an exaggerated tendency to be risk averse is in itself the Bogeyman. Its enemy? Logic. Empiricism. Bogeymen, I think, hate statistics, because it is in their nature to be irrational and play upon one’s fears.

I could not have said it better myself.

UAW Union Bosses Scam Ford

From Carpe Diem:

WDIV-TV News 4 in Detroit did an expose of two union bosses who routinely rip off the UAW and Ford Motor Co. with fake time cards that allow them to get paid for not working, including unworked overtime hours (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

One of the bosses, Ron Seroka, a union job security officer, takes off half a day nearly everyday to go home to lounge around the house while he is on the clock. Seroka punches in at the plant at 6 a.m. every single day and is home by 11:30 a.m. for some nice leisure time at home. Yet he gets a steady 10 hours pay every single day despite the fact that he is rarely at work.

Seroka’s union boss is even worse. Union chairman Jim Modzelewski buys beer on a daily basis while on the clock and clocks himself in for overtime pay hours before he even wakes up to go into the plant. TV 4 found that after he punches in, he typically leaves for a beer run mere hours later. Again, all this is on a daily basis. He is also paid overtime pay on a daily basis as he sits home drinking his daily beer. With over 2,500 hours of overtime, Modzelewski made a six-figure salary last year. TV 4 also discovered that Modzelewski even played in a bowling tournament while on the clock — at overtime pay, too!

Together, just these two union chiefs clocked in over 3,500 hours of overtime pay for the year. Makes one wonder how many union bosses are abusing their positions this way, doesn’t it?

Politically Correct Company Policies

Don't pity the Palestinians

Pity is the worst form of patronizing, and will ensure Gazans continue to whine instead of acting.

From ynetnews:

Observers worldwide have been expressing great pity for the people of Gaza, many of whom have been killed, injured, or forced to flee their homes during the ongoing IDF operation. This pity may be a natural emotional reaction, yet it is unethical and immoral.

To pity the people of Gaza is to patronize them, in essence implying that they do not control their fate, the state of their government, or their own actions. It is to assume one of two things: Either that Gazans are too stupid to oust the cancerous Hamas presence in their midst, or that they are unable to do so.

Just as a crying baby who only elicits pity will continue to cry, the citizens of Gaza will continue to cry out to the world instead of taking matters into their own hands. As long as they are told that they are helpless victims or mere pawns at the hands of terrorists, Gazans will only see their suffering prolonged.

The residents of Gaza, and the Palestinians as a whole, say they would like their own state. Yet such state must be earned. And earning a state – a piece of land to call your own – takes much more than incessant whining to the international community coupled with a desire to drive out the Jews. It requires inner strength and the ability to create rather than destroy. This is what Israelis proved time and again for over 60 years, and this is what Palestinians have yet to prove.

Yet before the people of Gaza are able to build, Hamas must be obliterated. Moreover, Hamas' ultimate defeat must not be at the hands of the IDF, but rather, it is an endeavor that must be undertaken by Gaza residents themselves. After all, Hamas is the true reason for their misery.

Those who believe that Gazans are capable of this should do away with their pity. As to those who do not believe Gazans can do it - why waste time pitying them in the first place?

Environmentalists Overreact to Tennessee Sludgeslide

In the early morning hours of December 22, 2008, the earthen wall of a containment pond at Tennessee’s Kingston Fossil Plant gave way. The coal ash left over after burning in the nine boilers of the Kingston Fossil Plant pictured here is stored in three ponds, one of which collapsed.

This disaster was initially reported this way:

The residue of millions of tons of coal burning at Kingston Fossil power plant in the Watts Bar Reservoir in Tennessee burst the bounds of the pond in which it was contained, burying as many as 400 acres of land in up to six feet of sludge. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the coal-fired power plant—first operated in 1955—announced that 15 homes were buried and no injuries were reported.

A combination of rains and accumulating sludge likely contributed to the disaster—one of two major ash pond collapses in the past decade. All told, about 2.6 million cubic yards of so-called coal ash slurry escaped, the TVA says. The collapsed pond is one of three on the site.

First a little background: In 1974, TVA began a program to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide gasses from its so-called fossil fuel power plants. TVA achieved an 80 percent reduction of these gases for $5 Billion or so. The installation of scrubbers in the smokestacks of TVA's coal-fired plants did the job, but left the problem of disposing of the fly-ash as well as the bottom ash from the burning process. The stuff that comes out of the stack scrubbers is nasty.

The nasty stuff requires an elaborate handling process of the ash through several ponds as prescribed by the EPA. The nasty stuff that caused a pond system to exist was just what the doctor ordered for our whacko environmentalists, whose goal appears to be to send us back to the stone ages with no energy.

Environmental nutjob Dave Cooper at the highly unreliable HuffPo wrote:
Coal ash contains heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead. An article in Scientific American magazine dated Dec 13, 2007 states that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.

Not surprisingly, Scientific American did not say that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.

Despite water testing done at Kingston, TN water reservoir, and by the TVA in conjunction with the EPA, which indicated that water was safe to drink, environmentalist with names like Waterkeepers, Appalachian Voices,and Dave Cooper's friends United Mountain Defense rushed in to search for negative water sample readings. Guess what ...if you sample directly in the path of the sludgeslide, you can find such readings.

Piling on the disaster is an ambulance-chasing law firm with friend, environmentalist heroine Erin Brockovich.

For those of us we believe that coal-fired electric power plants will be needed forever, this incident is like the Three Mile Island disaster and its effect on developing and building cheap, clean nuclear energy plants. This NBC video is depressing.

Obama Must Now Shoo Hsu

DECEMBER 31--As if being linked to one high-profile criminal case weren't enough, President-elect Barack Obama's name may soon pop up in another federal prosecution, this one involving a massive Ponzi scheme (no, the other massive Ponzi scheme). In addition to the Rod Blagojevich pay-for-play probe, Obama could figure in the upcoming fraud trial of Norman Hsu, the disgraced Democratic fundraiser who was charged last year with operating a $60 million pyramid scheme. According to investigators, Hsu, a major Hillary Clinton fundraiser, pressured investors to donate money to political candidates with whom he was aligned. In a letter last week to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, Hsu's lawyer, Martin Cohen, requested a 60-day delay in the start of Hsu's trial, scheduled to open January 12 (Cohen cited the "extraordinary level of negative publicity" generated by the recent arrest of alleged Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff). In his December 22 letter, a copy of which you'll find below, Cohen also noted that Hsu was already "notorious for his political activities" and that it was "inevitable" that his client's "connections" to Bill and Hillary Clinton "and other democratic notables--including perhaps the president-elect--will be introduced at trial." Before becoming a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, Hsu co-hosted a 2005 California fundraiser for Obama's political action committee and introduced the Illinois Democrat to Marc Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who later joined the Obama campaign's national finance committee. Prosecutors allege that Hsu directed his investors to donate money to specific candidates, and then reimbursed them in violation of federal campaign laws. Unswayed by Cohen's argument, Marrero declined to delay the trial, which will begin a week before Obama's inauguration.(Smoking Gun)