Archive for January 14th, 2010

Haiti in Ruins, Quake Survivors Grow Desperate

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Please continue to pray for the victims of the horrible disaster.
I noticed that, once again, the United States is leading the relief effort. I’m glad to see that.
For all you anti-military types, please take note that some of the first groups to arrive are military units. They can provide on the spot help in very little time. The next time you are inclined to bad mouth them, please remember this.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Turning pickup trucks into ambulances and doors into stretchers, Haitians are frantically struggling to save those injured in this week’s earthquake while hoping foreign governments will quickly send in aid.

Help began arriving early Thursday when an Air China plane carrying a Chinese search-and-rescue team, medics and aid landed at Port-au-Prince airport, and more than 50 people in orange jumpsuits got out accompanied by trained dogs.

The U.S. and other nations said they were sending food, water, medical supplies to assist the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, where the international Red Cross estimated 3 million people — a third of the population — may need emergency relief.

In the streets of the capital, survivors set up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food being scavenged from the rubble.

“This is much worse than a hurricane,” said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctor’s assistant working at a makeshift triage center set up in a hotel parking lot. “There’s no water. There’s nothing. Thirsty people are going to die.”

If there were any organized efforts to distribute food or water, they were not visible Wednesday.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders treated wounded at two hospitals that withstood the quake and set up tent clinics elsewhere to replace its damaged facilities. Cuba, which already had hundreds of doctors in Haiti, treated injured in field hospitals.

President Barack Obama promised an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort including the military and civilian emergency teams from across the U.S. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was expected to arrive off the coast Thursday and the Navy said the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan had been ordered to sail as soon as possible with a 2,000-member Marine unit.

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“Global Warming Is a Religion” by Walter E. Williams

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Manmade global warming, for many, is an Earth-worshipping religion. The essential feature of any religion is that its pronouncements are to be accepted on the basis of faith as opposed to hard evidence. Questioning those pronouncements makes one a sinner. No one denies that the Earth’s temperature changes. Millions of years ago, much of our planet was covered by ice, at some places up to a mile thick, a period some scientists call “Snowball Earth.” Today, the Earth is not covered by a mile of ice; a safe conclusion is that there must have been a bit of global warming. I don’t know the cause of that warming, but I’d wager everything I own that it was not caused by coal-fired electric generation plants, incandescent light bulbs and SUVs tooling up and down the highways.

The very idea that mankind can make significant parametric changes to the Earth has to be the height of arrogance. How about a few questions because temperature is just one characteristic of the Earth. The Earth’s orbit is another. If all 6.5 billion of us, all at once, started jumping up and down for a little while, do you think we’d change the Earth’s orbit or rotation? Do you think mankind could change the direction and timing of the ocean’s tides? Is there anything that mankind can do to stop or start a tsunami or hurricane? You say, “Williams, it’s stupid to suggest that mankind could change the Earth’s orbit or rotation, ocean tides or cause or stop a tsunami or hurricane!” You’re right and it’s also stupid to think that mankind’s activities can make globalized changes in the Earth’s temperature.

Nonetheless, there is much at stake in getting people to subscribe to the global warming religion. There is so much at stake that some scientists, using government grants, are fraudulently manipulating climate data and engaging in criminal activity, as revealed in what has been called “Climate gate.” One of the most dangerous features of the global warming religion is its level of intimidation of heretics or would-be heretics.

A few years back, Dr. Heidi Cullen, the Weather Channel’s climatologist, advocated that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) strip their seal of approval from any TV weatherman expressing skepticism about the predictions of manmade global warming. Scott Pelley, CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent, compared skeptics of global warming to “Holocaust deniers.” Former Vice President Al Gore called skeptics “global warming deniers.” But it gets worse. On one of her shows, Dr. Cullen featured columnist Dave Roberts, who, in his Sept. 19, 2006, online publication, said, “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.”

As a result, many climatologists have been intimidated into silence. That means the public is not informed about counter-alarmists facts such as: Over long periods of time, there is absolutely no close relationship between C02 levels and temperature. Humans contribute approximately 3.4 percent of annual C02 levels compared to 96.6 percent by nature. There was an explosion of life forms 550 million years ago (Cambrian Period) when CO2 levels were 18 times higher than today. During the Jurassic Period, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, CO2 levels were as much as nine times higher than today. Contrary to what educators are brainwashing our children with, polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 in 1950 to as many as 25,000 today, higher than any time in the 20th century.

Political commentator Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) warned that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” That’s the political goal of the global warmers.

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“OMB’s Fuzzy Math” by Jillian Bandes

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Office of Management and Budget has calculated jobs that are “saved or created” by the Recovery Act through non-existent congressional districts, phantom ZIP codes, and questionable accounting practices. To remedy these problems (and in a perfectly-timed response to bad press) the OMB has decided to re-calculate “saved or created” jobs to include those that exist independent of any Recovery Act money in the first place.

In other words, the OMB has made their accounting on a $787 billion expenditure of taxpayer money completely meaningless.

OMB director Peter Orzag says the new approach provides a way for recipients to skip over making any kind of “subjective judgment” on how many jobs were saved or created by their receipt of Recovery Act money. In lieu of actual judgment, the OMB will automatically assume a job has been saved or created after a business gets its hands on Recovery Act money.

“Recipients will no longer be required to sum various data on hours worked across multiple quarters of data when calculating job estimates… recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars,” said Orzag.

In other words, if a business receives $40,000 in Recovery Act dollars, a job is automatically tallied in the OMB ticker, regardless of whether that $40,000 went towards the actual salary of an employee or fancy office furniture. Businesses won’t even have to fudge the books to use the federal money towards things like catered lunches – non-salary expenses now qualify as a legitimate use of Recovery Act dollars.

Let’s say Joe has employed Bob for ten years, and has no plans on firing him anytime soon. When Joe suddenly receives $40,000 in Recovery Act money, Bob’s job is now the product of the Recovery Act, even though the job existed independently of that money. The new title for this accounting practice is saying that Bob’s job has been “funded” instead of “saved or created” – a phrase that, conveniently, has received the worst press.

If an employee receives a raise, that counts as a job, too. And the OMB wants the new calculations done fast, in time for the “rapidly approaching January reporting period,” just in time for President Obama’s State of the Union address. OMB announced the new changes on December 19th – that’s the Saturday before Christmas – and it wasn’t even noticed until a small nonprofit watchdog, ProPublica, noticed the memo a month later.

“The stimulus has been such a grand failure that the administration has stooped to unabashedly cooking the books,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA). “Moving the goal posts and tinkering with math formulas won’t put the country back to work. The ridiculous ‘saved or created’ label needed to go, but the administration’s new stimulus metric is even more misleading.”

Phil Kerpen, the director of Americans for Prosperity, said that the bigger issue isn’t the accounting practices – instead, it’s the fact that government thinks it can create jobs in the first place.

“The bottom line is that every dollar government spends first has to be taxed, borrowed, or printed. How can government spending make us richer when all three of those options make us poorer?”

Original Link.

Obama Administration Considers Forcing Retirement Account Investors into Treasury Debt

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

If Obama has his way, all of us with individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(K) retirement accounts, may soon be forced to buy treasury debt instead of being allowed to choose where we put our money.

The Obama administration appears to have come up with a novel way of financing trillion-dollar budget deficits – demanding IRA and 401(k) holders buy trillions of dollars in Treasury bonds.

With the Treasury needing this year to see another $1 trillion in debt to finance the anticipated federal budget deficit, and the Federal Reserve about to discontinue its 2009 program of buying Treasury bonds for the Fed’s asset portfolio, the Obama administration is scrambling to find ways to sell government debt without having to raise interest rates.

Bloomberg reported Friday that Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Mark Iwry are planning to stage a public comment period before implementing regulations that would require private investors
to structure IRA and 401(k) accounts into what could amount to a U.S. Treasury debt-backed government annuity.

CNBC’s Rick Santelli broadcast the rumor the same day from the trading floor during CNBC’s “Power Lunch” show.

Spokesmen from both the U.S. Treasury and Department of Labor confirmed to WND that the federal agencies about to enter a pre-regulation public comment phase on the proposed rule change.

But the agencies are getting serious pushback from the mutual fund industry, objecting to what some financial planners see as a government attempt to divert hundreds of billions of dollars of private retirement accounts into federal government debt, regardless whether the investment in Treasury bonds is in the best interest of the retirement-oriented investor.

On the Department of Labor website, the transcript of a Dec. 9 webchat with Borzi confirms the Employee Benefits Security Administration is about to issue a Request for Information on how annuity lifetime options should be structured into a wide range of defined contribution retirement plans, including 401(k)s.

Under ERISA, the Department of Labor regulates approximately 700,000 private pension plans, with approximately $4.7 trillion in assets.

“Lifetime Income Options,” code words for annuities, are also listed in the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, issued Dec. 7 and filed in the Federal Register.

The government’s argument is that IRA and 401(k) investors lost principle in the stock market when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted from a closing of 14,164.53 on Oct. 9, 2007, to 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009.

For instance, Fidelity Investments reported the average fund balance on the approximately 11 million accounts Fidelity manages dropped 31 percent to $47,500 at the end of March, from $69,200 at the end of 2007.

With the stock market rally since March, Fidelity further reports 401(k) account balances increased 128 percent by the end of the third quarter 2009, to an average of $60,700, from the low at the end of the first quarter 2009 of $47,500.

While U.S. Treasury bonds have had historically lower yields than equity returns, government proponents of the idea argue Treasury bonds are safer, guaranteed by the federal government to pay principal and interest regardless of market conditions.

Furthermore, annuities as life insurance contracts have a unique investment advantage of being able to pay a specified lifetime income, regardless how long the annuitant lives.

The Investment Company Institute, a national trade organization representing the mutual fund industry, argues that the distinction of the Obama administration proposal would be to require annuities funded with Treasuries to be embedded within IRAs and 401(k) programs, using the fear of loss as a reason to demand retirement investors own Treasuries.

Right now, IRA holders and investors in 401(k) plans are free to invest in Treasury bonds, if they choose.

Also, annuities are a popular settlement option for IRAs and 401(k) plans that transition from the accumulation phase to the payout phase.

Annuities are an attractive payout instrument, because annuities offer the part of lifetime income and only a portion of each payout installment is considered taxable as return of investment principle.

Interest or investment earnings in annuities accumulate income tax-deferred until the annuitant takes out money, either in an unscheduled withdrawal, or in a payout option extending over a specified number of years in retirement, or for the lifetime of the annuitant.

The unusual nature of the Obama administration’s proposal would be to place as an investment a tax-deferred instrument like an annuity within a tax-deferred retirement program. Investment advisers typically use annuities as an investment option for after-tax dollars, not as a required investment option within a retirement program like an IRA or 401(k) that is already income-tax deferred.

A survey conducted by the Investment Company Institute showed more than 70 percent of all households disagreed with the idea of requiring retirees to buy annuities with a portion of their assets, whether the annuity is offered by an insurance company or by the government.

Moreover, 96 percent of households in the survey responded that retirees rejected the idea that the government should mandate turning IRA or 401(k) assets into annuities, asserting instead that retirees should make their own decisions about managing retirement assets and income.

The Investment Company Institute member companies manage some $11.62 trillion in mutual fund assets for some 90 million mutual fund shareholders, including retirement-oriented investors participating in defined contribution plans such as employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts.

Original Link.

Democrats ‘Plan to Steal the Vote’

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

I’m wondering how people can be Democrats and still call themselves Christians. The policies and behaviors of this political party is so far removed from the values Christians are supposed to espouse.
Many would argue that Republicans are just as bad, and in many cases I would have to agree with them. But at least the core values of Republicans tends to more closely mirror Christian principals than what we are seeing from the current group of Democrat politicians.

A political correspondent is making waves with his stern warning that Democrats are scheming to manipulate the electoral process this election year by implementing a federal mandate to involuntarily register millions of people to vote – making the system ripe for unprecedented fraud and abuse.

“Democrats were very rattled by the Nov. 3 election results,” Wall Street Journal reporter and political commentator John Fund told a crowd in November 2009, at a David Horowitz Freedom Center forum. “What do liberals do when they lose elections? They change the rules.”

‘Definitely introducing a bill’

Fund is warning that Sen. Charles Schumer, D.-N.Y., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., plan to propose universal voter-registration legislation – possibly within weeks.

“The idea, embraced by Barack Obama when he was a presidential candidate, is to shift responsibility for registering to vote from the individual to the federal government,” Fund writes in his book. “All eligible citizens would automatically be registered to vote, which existing lists such as DMV records, income-tax returns, welfare rolls and unemployment lists being used to enroll everyone. Once registered, individuals would stay on the federal rolls, even if they move to another state or district.”

Fund warns that the government databases contain names of non-citizens, mentally incompetent individuals and felons – factors that would usually disqualify a person from voting in most states.

“One main concern that has been raised is that most of these databases don’t indicate citizenship status,” the staffer said. “It’s not clear that there is any available way to determine whether the people being added to the rolls are or are not citizens.”

Fund notes that many people own property in more than one location and pay taxes to numerous government entities.

“[U]niversal voter registration would automatically register them in more than one location, allowing them to vote more than once – either in person or by mail,” Fund explains.

He said the plan would destroy the integrity of the registration process, much as widespread registration drives by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, were reportedly rife with criminal actions, including people registered multiple times under fraudulent names and addresses. The “community organizing” group deployed thousands of get-out-the-vote workers in 2008 and purportedly provided them with registration quotas. Larry Lomax, registrar of voters in Las Vegas, Nev., told the Wall Street Journal he believed 48 percent of ACORN’s forms had been “clearly fraudulent.” In the 2008 election, ACORN’s practices led to investigation in more than a dozen states.

“Now they will sell this very cleverly,” Fund explained at the forum. “They will say, well, OK, ACORN did have some problems with voter registration. We shouldn’t have these third-party rogue groups out there. So, let’s put ACORN out of business, and let’s register everybody.”

Voters currently enjoy a variety of convenient registration methods. People may register by mail, at driver’s license registration centers, at schools and libraries or sometimes even on the Internet. Arizona, Washington, Kansas and Indiana allow voters to register online with a click of a button.

Michigan’s Democrat state lawmakers have sponsored a similar state law that would require registrants to submit a driver’s license number, an electronic signature and a valid e-mail address to register online to vote. People would be allowed to electronically register through 4 p.m. the day before the election.

Oregon is also establishing online registration, scheduled to begin March 1, in time for the May 2010 primary election. Likewise, a newly introduced bill in the Nebraska state legislature would require development of an online voter registration system in that state.

If an individual fails to register in advance, nine states currently allow them to register on Election Day: New Hampshire, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa and North Carolina. The District of Columbia adopted same-day registration in November. Now Massachusetts is seeking to join that list.

Nonetheless, proponents of universal voter registration believe the process should be an automatic process overseen by the federal government. However, Fund said the Democrats’ plan for universal registration is sure to open the system up to widespread error and rampant abuse.

“They don’t care,” he said during the Horowitz Freedom Center forum. “The path between the day this bill is introduced and the day this hits the House floor will probably be less than two weeks. Get ready for it. You can’t stop it; don’t get me wrong. But this is their stealth bill that is even sneakier than the health-care bill.”

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