We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reid and Reform

By Robert D. Novak Townhall.com

WASHIINGTON - A beaming Harry Reid last week basked in the adoration of the Democratic Party's leading Senate reformers and its nine freshman senators. They extravagantly praised the new majority leader as the exemplar of ethical reform. But within 48 hours, Reid was opposing full transparency of earmarks. This week, Republican reformers will target Reid with an amendment to the Senate ethics package.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the proposal is called the "Reid amendment" because he inadvertently inspired it. Coburn would tighten loose anti-earmark restrictions in the ethics bill by prohibiting senators from requesting earmarks that financially benefit a senator, an immediate family member of a senator or a family member of a senator's staffer.

The proposal follows the revelation that Reid's four sons and his daughter's husband all have been lawyers or lobbyists for special interests. While Reid has declared they are barred from lobbying for their clients in his office, there is little doubt they have taken advantage of their close proximity to a powerful senator.

An example is provided by earmarks that have sent millions of federal dollars to the University of Nevada at Reno. Reid's son-in-law, lawyer Steven Barringer, was a paid lobbyist for the university. In general, Republican reformers see Reid illustrating the nexus between legislators and special interests, in his case mainly real estate, gambling and mining.

Reid is far from the only prominent member of Congress who would be violating Coburn's amendment if it passed. Republican Rep. Bill Young of Florida, a senior member and former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, secured a $1 million earmark for development of military body armor -- a project lobbied for by his daughter-in-law. Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the new House majority whip, has been reported by USA Today as pushing through a $2.5 million airport earmark lobbied for by his first cousin.

Sen. Ted Stevens, senior Republican member of the Senate, has funneled $29 million in earmarks to the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board, then headed by his son, State Sen. Ben Stevens. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the new minority leader, won a $1.5 million earmark for an underground financial storage depot in his home state of Kentucky, lobbied for by the wife of the senator's chief of staff.

The "Reid amendment" is only part of a plan by Coburn and his fellow first-term Republican senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, to make sure that earmark reform is included in new ethical standards. Democratic efforts, particularly in the Senate, have concentrated on conduct of lobbyists and not members of Congress.

Although the House version passed last week is stronger, the final compromise coming out of a Senate-House conference may barely touch the surface of earmarks. The Senate version mandates transparency only for the few projects listed in legislation and not the accompanying reports. That would ignore up to 98 percent of the 12,852 earmarks in the last Congress. Reid launched his career as majority leader last Thursday with a furious fight to preserve this condition.

Reid moved to table (that is, kill) DeMint's amendment, which would substitute in the Senate ethics package the language covering all earmarks as contained in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House bill. Reid was surprised to fail, 46 to 51, with nine Democrats abandoning their majority leader. The Senate routine is that when a tabling motion fails, the bill is passed by a voice vote. But an obviously distressed Reid took the floor to hold open the vote indefinitely on DeMint's bill, contending that the Democratic-controlled House had acted in haste.

The two leading Senate Democratic reformers, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Barack Obama of Illinois, who two days earlier lavished praise on Reid's ethical leadership, voted against him on the tabling motion. However, of the nine freshman Democrats who also had honored Reid, only two -- Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana -- voted for transparency. The other seven toed Reid's party line. (Seven Republicans voted with Reid, but they included Minority Whip Trent Lott.)

Minority Whip Dick Durbin saved Reid further embarrassment Friday by proposing some minor technical changes in the DeMint amendment and claiming victory. A tougher test for Democrats will come this week on efforts to remove family, Reid's and everybody else's, from the earmark game.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It’s Time to Really Tax the Wealthy

Never in my life would I have thought that I would be advocating a new federal tax. But it is now apparent that for the last 30 years we have entrusted our constitution to the very people who seek to destroy the notion of self governance and it is time to put an end to their tyranny.

Last week while watching a rally for the minimum wage, the honorable Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) was asked about income taxes for those people making more than $75,000 per year. His response was a very emphatic “we’re gonna raise em and raise em and raise em and raise em!”

In other words, Ted Kennedy considers anyone making over $75,000 as “wealthy”.

While I would love to be wealthy, I sincerely doubt that most people making $75,000 per year have a net worth (real wealth) that is anywhere near Senator Kennedy’s $93 million. In fact I doubt that most people making double that amount have a net worth close to our Senator John Kerry’s $235 million or Senator Herb Kohl’s $234 million.

I say “most people” making $150,000 per year is because that is about the amount that these wealthy senators collect as income for “serving” the tax payers of their states.

This low income trick is not just reserved for our elected officials, America’s second wealthiest person Warren Buffet, with a net worth of $46 billion, reports an annual income of only $100,000. Ironically, during most tax debates, those in favor of raising taxes will often present the grandfatherly, Mr. Buffet to state how he actually wouldn’t mind an “income tax” increase. Of course not, you could raise his income tax to 99% and you wouldn’t make a dent in his wealth. Who needs income when you’re already wealthy?

What is even more disturbing is that even though we have heard “tax the wealthy” as the justification for all the tax increases that have occurred over the last 30 years, these people have seemed to increase their wealth year after year.

When Bill Clinton lived in the White House, he claimed that he signed his income tax forms “with a big smile on his face.” This was supposed to let people know just how much he loved contributing his fair share to the big U.S. Treasury pie, who’d then use his tax dollars to fund government cheese and Midnight basketball leagues. But if he was really contributing his fair share, how would it be possible to attain the wealth he and Senator Hillary Clinton often wave in our faces after only a few short years since leaving the White House? Certainly not from the stock market, perhaps they’re back to trading pork bellies?

So despite all the good intentions of our elected representatives to redistribute wealth among the various income groups, all they have managed to do is keep average hard working Americans from becoming wealthy or even saving enough to provide for a comfortable retirement, while doing nothing about the ever-increasing concentration of wealth among a very small group.

This is not quite without intention, I guess. By keeping people from building an adequate nest egg, they make them more dependent on government-backed programs such as social security and Medicare. The more people depend on government monies, the more will vote for people who promise them government monies.

What’s even worse, many of the wealthiest people are now becoming more and more influential about who will control our government.

In the 2004 election, George Soro’s ($8.5 Billion in wealth) spent an estimated $23 million dollars trying to get “his” candidates elected. That’s more money in 1 year than the average American will make in their lifetime. Soro’s lives in New York, however this money did not go just to Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Soro’s congressional representative, it was used to influence elections far beyond the state of New York. Who can discuss campaign finance reform with a straight face when it would take 11,500 average Americans contributing $2000 each just to match Soro’s influence?

The wealthy have actually gotten into Washington as well. As of the 2006 mid-term election, 40 of the nations 100 elected Senators were millionaires based on their own financial disclosure forms. In the 435-member House of Representatives, 123 elected officials earned at least one million dollars last year according to recently released financial records made public each year. Many of them became millionaires while in office.

So I am writing to you today my fellow American, to join me in using our constitutional right to petition government before that too is taken away by the apparent Monarchy that has crept into power. I am asking you to join me in demanding that before our Congress and President raise income taxes one more penny, that they really start taxing the wealthy by instituting the wealth tax, based on the net worth of the most privileged Americans.

You see my friends while it is easy to hide income (and the wealthier you are, the easier it is to hide), you cannot hide wealth. In order to control wealth, it must be visible at some level. You can reduce your wealth by transferring it to others, but it will only show up on their balance sheets instead of yours.

By taxing wealth, instead of income, we will finally ensure that the wealthy do pay their fair share.

Here is what I propose: all people with a net worth as determined by the IRS of $10 million or more will pay 50% of every dollar of net worth over $10 million every year.

In the case of Warren Buffet, he would pay a total of $23 Billion in 2007, based on his net worth as of $46 billion in 2006. If his net worth did not change in 2007, he would pay $11.5 billion in 2008. Of course, given the large amount of money, these tax payments would be made in 4 quarterly payments over the course of the year.

Based on a quick look at the Forbes 400 richest Americans, wealth tax revenues in 2007 would exceed $1.3 Trillion or more than 50% of the US budget. In addition to this wealth tax, anyone reaching the $10 million level of net worth would lose their claim to all Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlements. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated recently, the wealthy just don’t need it.

Why would they only pay after reaching a net worth over $10 Million? Because, unlike so many others, I do not seek to punish wealth. In fact it is my hope that Congress would actually enact a flat tax of 20% or less to allow more Americans to reach the $10 million mark faster.

Once they reach a net worth of $10 million though, they should be in a position to live very comfortably the rest of their lives. All I’m saying is that once you have reached that point of financial independence, it is time to give a portion of your excess to those less fortunate. And therein is the second and most important part of my proposal.

To just give the money to the government to fund the same failed social programs would be insane. Senator Kennedy just a couple weeks ago admitted that we are losing the war on poverty, unfortunately he also recommended that we “stay the course” and just throw more money into the quagmire of despair.

So instead of pouring that windfall into the general fund, I would like to see the money go directly to the poor. How? Through the creation of Life Savings Accounts (LSA) for every legal US citizen with a net worth under $50,000 and who’s income is in the bottom 25% of the population. Based on an estimated population of 300 million people, Life Savings accounts in the amount of $20,000 would be opened for the 75 million poorest Americans.

The way this would work is different than other programs. For example, instead of a qualifying family of 5 getting one account to work with, each legal social security number associated with that family would get its own corresponding account.

At its basic level, the Life Savings Accounts would work essentially the same way as the Health Savings Accounts being used by many Americans. Each account would pay for a high deductible (typically $1500 for individual accounts) health insurance policy and the account would pay for all deductibles until the policy kicked in.

The balance of the money in the account would be invested in a portfolio of mutual funds based on a formula created by Nobel Prize winning economist Dr Harold Markowitz and rebalanced annually. This model has been shown to not only be capable of providing the funds to maintain the health insurance policy for each individual, but over the long term grow the fund into a great nest egg.

Where the LSA differs from Health Savings Accounts, is in 2 key areas.

First, young children who receive these accounts at an early age could realistically accumulate a sizable sum of money by the time they reach college age. Therefore, these kids would be allowed to use money in the account to pay for tuition toward a college education or training in a skilled trade. The sum allowed would be limited to a draw down to the original $20,000 as this would be required to maintain their health care.

Second, once the owner of the account reaches the age of social security entitlement, would be able to begin to withdraw money from the account based on actuarial life expectancy, after setting aside an adequate reserve for maintaining the health care provision.

However, like HSA’s, each owner would be able to contribute more his or her own money on an annual basis as they become more affluent. When the owner dies, the LSA is distributed to his/her direct beneficiaries, which may affect their net worth.

Since these LSA’s would be owned by each individual, there would be no need for the creation of another government bureaucracy. Pre-approved Investment Banks and Mutual Fund companies would manage the accounts and the investments. Insurance companies that already participate in HSA’s have the infrastructure in place to handle LSA clients and the IRS already has the ability to determine the Net Worth of every American. Additionally, the simplification of the tax code would free up more IRS employees to handle any shift in work load. In other words, this tax would result in no additional government costs to implement.

So in summary, I’m asking you to join me in petitioning for a true tax on the wealthy:

Everyone with a net worth over $10 million will annually pay a 50% wealth tax for every dollar of net worth over $10 million.

Everyone with a net worth over $10 million will give up their right to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement.

The money collected from the wealth tax will be used to open up Life Savings Accounts for every person in the bottom 25% of wage earners with a net worth under $50,000, including children. Any left over money will go towards lowering the national debt.

Life Savings Account owners would be required to maintain a high deductible health insurance policy and use the fund to pay for all qualified medical deductibles.

Life Savings Account owners would be able to use qualified funds from the account to pay for college or trade school tuition.

Life Savings Account owners who reach the age of Social Security entitlement would be allowed to make annual withdrawals of qualified funds based on actuarial life expectancy.

Finally, upon death, all assets from the owners LSA will be transferred to his/her beneficiaries and will be included in the calculation of their net worth.

Please note that I personally will never qualify to receive a Life Savings Account, although I do aspire to someday be wealthy enough to pay my own wealth tax.

I am doing this because I am sick and tired of the taxation shell game that has been played on the citizens of this country. Helping to bring our fellow citizens out of poverty and ensure that they have access to good health care is the right thing to do and not a political stunt.

We’ve had 40 years of the Great Society and no one I know is happy with its result. It’s time for real action that can produce real results. Please join me in this quest.

I need people like you to help me champion this cause. Please talk to your family and friends, your church leaders and most of all you State Senators and Representatives.

Alone I will never succeed, together; we can finally push this country in the right direction and remind our elected officials that it is a government of all the people, not just the wealthy.

The Radical Pelosi Agenda -- What's In Store? 01-11-2007

From the Center for Individual Freedom:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and liberals in the House and Senate are not only trying to surrender a key aspect of the War on Terror and hand it over to the United Nations...

It was their FIRST order of business upon taking power!

Here's what Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council had to say:

"In an alarming provision of H.R. 1... liberals have rushed language to the House floor that would surrender a key aspect of our homeland security to the United Nations. At risk is the country's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) which allows America and its allies to intercept the transport of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in international waters and on foreign soil... Rather than expand a program that has prevented the global distribution of WMDs, Democrats are asking Congress to relinquish all control of PSI to the United Nations."

It only took Pelosi and the liberals a matter of HOURS to propose that surrender in H.R. 1 -- the VERY FIRST PIECE OF LEGISLATION PUT BEFORE CONGRESS!

But Pelosi and the liberals aren't stopping there! In fact, it would appear that she and her cohorts desperately want the United States of America to CUT AND RUN in Iraq-- lose the war against Islamic terrorists -- and will do everything in their power to ensure our defeat.

Case in point:
Many of the nation's best military strategists rejected the recommendations of the ill-conceived Iraq Study Group and are saying we need MORE troops in Iraq in order to win the war!

And President Bush is listening to them and he's listening to YOU. He wants to order a short term surge in troops to fight the War on Terror. But before the President could even announce those intentions to the American people, Senator Ted Kennedy pranced before the television cameras on Tuesday and vowed to do everything in his power to stop that from happening.

And Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to block any attempt to reinforce our troops. As they said in a joint letter to President Bush: "We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq."
Is it possible that Speaker Pelosi wants to lose the Iraq war to punish President Bush?

Consider the consequences of defeat in Iraq:

Mad-eyed Islamic terrorists will conclude that America is a whipped dog, yelping back home, tail between its legs.

No longer forced to fight on their own territory, they will have more time to plan new attacks against innocent Americans abroad and on United States soil.

And you better believe that when they succeed with their next cowardly and dastardly attack, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will point at George Bush and say, "He did it! He did it!"

What Else Does Nancy Pelosi Have in Store for America?
As if surrendering our nation's sovereignty to the United Nations and weakening our nation's chances for VICTORY in Iraq weren't enough...

... Speaker Pelosi and her liberal friends support so-called "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" -- A.K.A. AMNESTY FOR MORE THAN 12 MILLION ILLEGAL ALIENS!

Despite numerous Amnesty proposals being defeated in the last Congress -- pro-Amnesty politicians are giddy about the prospects of granting citizenship to illegal aliens now that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are in power.

If they succeed, that means the U.S. will be providing incentives for tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- more people crossing our borders illegally.

Illegal aliens, with no intention of assimilating into our culture, will have even more incentive to come here to collect Welfare and Social Security benefits -- as if those programs aren't in enough trouble as it is.

Such a surge in illegal aliens would drive down wages of everyday Americans.

It would make it harder for those people willing to come here legally, who wish to assimilate into our culture and become productive citizens, to do so.

There's More!
Pelosi and other liberals in Congress say they don't intend to impeach President Bush... but their actions say otherwise.Here's their scenario.

Several committees -- chaired by such rabid attack dogs as Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- will soon begin to investigate the White House, the War and defense lobbyists -- the usual suspects.

The New York Times, the Washington Post , and the left-wing networks will cover the stories on A-1... above the fold. Editorials and commentaries will call for impeachment day after day, week after week, month after month.

When the cries for blood have peaked, Pelosi's tune is sure to change.

Ironically... if the President were impeached and convicted, Pelosi would be just one step from the presidency.

What Else Are Pelosi's Liberals Conspiring To Impose On America?
Here's Pelosi's wish list!

The Liberals in Congress want to raise taxes on the middle class and claim they're taxing the very rich. In fact, they would like nothing more than to repeal all of the Bush tax cuts that have sparked one of the best economies in American history.

They want to repeal the death tax, and the federal government will again become a grave robber.

They want reinstate the "marriage tax" but give tax breaks to people who cohabit.

They want to force Hillary Clinton's failed universal health care plan down the throats of American taxpayers.

One Last Warning
Nancy Pelosi is going after YOU too.

She wants to silence you and groups like the Center for Individual Freedom. Shut us down, shut us up.

Left-wing Democrats were doing great several decades ago when they controlled ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, as well as virtually all of the major newspapers.

Then innovative news sources began to appear on the Internet.

Suddenly the liberal information monopoly was broken.

All sides of the debate were aired.Example: When Dan Rather tried to smear George Bush with a manufactured lie about his service record, you had the truth within hours.

Furious, Madame Pelosi has devised legislation that will make it all but impossible for us and other groups--and the hundreds of thousands of people we represent -- to get the truth to the American people.

Under the guise of "lobby reform," Pelosi and the liberals are proposing legislation that will bog down organizations -- like The Center for Individual Freedom, Family Research Council, the American Conservative Union and a host of others -- in so much paperwork and pointless regulation that it will be effectively impossible to do our jobs, keep you informed and urge you to action!

Once again... She wants to gag us. Shut us down and shut us up!

Here's how the Washington Examiner explained this assault on free speech:
"The next step after forcing grassroots citizens lobbyists to register with Congress will be the steady encroachment of congressional inquisitors into determining whose messages are fit for the public and whose are not. Any guesses on what the officially approved messages will say about things like waste and corruption in government? Nothing. The inquisitors won't allow it."

So when we fight Nancy Pelosi, we are fighting for the right to continue sending you the straight scoop on national politics. Without us, no one will be left to combat the distortions and outright lies you get from Katie Couric, the New York Times, and the Democratic National Committee.This is a very real threat, as are the other items on Pelosi's agenda. In the past, the Republican leadership in Washington has been too weak... too accommodating.Now is the time to put some steel in their spines.

Use the hyperlink below to send your urgent and imperative 57 Blast Faxes messages to President Bush, the GOP minority leaders in the House and Senate and the GOP Members of the Senate.

Remind them that over the past six years, Democrats -- with fewer votes in the Senate than Republicans now have -- blocked virtually every good thing conservatives tried to do.

Demand that GOP leaders show some spine and stand up to Nancy Pelosi's radical agenda.


AOL Members Use This Hyperlink

If the above hyperlink does not function, please copy and paste it into the address bar of your browser.

GM’s Impending Bankruptcy

By Porter Stansberry, Stansberry & Associates
Cockeysville, Maryland

How could GM, one of the world’s largest businesses – and a market share leader for decades – find itself on the brink of bankruptcy? In the usual way: Its managers have long disregarded the impact of growing liabilities upon the company’s asset base.

The same thing happened to WorldCom and to Enron.

In WorldCom’s case, billions in debt were added over a period of 10 years to a company with a declining return on assets. Near the end, in 1998, the company paid $38 billion in cash for British Telecom’s stake in MCI. At the time of the deal, MCI’s assets were only earning 2.1% annually. WorldCom’s average cost of capital was in the 8% to 10% range. It was buying assets that couldn’t possibly produce a profit, given their funding costs. Shockingly, WorldCom steadily increased its investments in new assets after the MCI deal, spending more than $10 billion on capital investments in 2000. The result was inevitable.

Why did Bernie Ebbers drive full speed into bankruptcy? Because he believed the company’s accounting, which showed the costs of these acquisitions and their maintenance expenses spread across 40 years. In an accounting sense, that was accurate – these were long-lived assets. But the economic reality for WorldCom was totally different. You don’t get to live in your house for 40 years if you can’t pay your mortgage. The company kept reporting “earnings,” while quarter after quarter, its cash deficit worsened and its liabilities grew.

Professional investors should have recognized what was happening. Wall Street’s banks should have limited the company’s access to more debt, which couldn’t possibly have been repaid. Instead, everyone’s bonus depended on pushing the stock higher and getting the company more capital.

Essentially, the same thing happened at Enron.

The company’s investments were measured with “mark to market” accounting, which allowed the company to claim a lifetime of estimated profits from any deal, whether or not any money materialized. And, because Enron’s managers were rewarded for producing “phantom” profits, that’s what the company produced. The result was the same as at WorldCom: a steady accumulation of low-quality assets and high-cost liabilities.

How does all of this compare to General Motors?

According to the company, its troubles are the fault of bad labor negotiations that have saddled it with terrible legacy costs. It’s certainly true that these burdens are substantial. GM owes post-retirement health benefits to union employees estimated to be worth $85 billion. Last year, this cost the company $5 billion in actual expenses.

But the company’s financing costs have increased by more than twice that amount in the last three years. The real problem at GM, just as at WorldCom and at Enron, is the company’s exploding debt burden and its low-quality assets. Let me show you the numbers:

GM 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
$158 $166 $148 $167 $185 $177 $177 $186 $194 $193
Gross Profit $40 $48 $43 $50 $39 $33 $33 $33 $34 $22
SG&A $17 $33 $27 $31 $22 $23 $29 $30 $30 $32
Interest Exp $6 $6 $7 $8 $10 $8 $8 $9 $12 $16
ROA 2.2% 2.9% 1.2% 2.3% 1.5% 0.2% 0.5% 0.9% 0.6% -2.2%
Total Liab. $199 $213 $231 $253 $272 $304 $363 $425 $455 $465

The numbers above are in billions and have been rounded to the nearest billion.

Over the last 10 years, GM’s gross profits have declined 46% – a number that does not factor in legacy costs. GM’s cars have become increasingly uncompetitive because GM has not kept pace with its peers in several key areas, most notably styling, performance, handling, and interiors. To sell these cars, GM has been forced to rely on deep discounting, frequently selling cars for less than their total production costs.

That’s why its gross profits have fallen in half.

A business of this size, with a slim return on assets even in good years, cannot afford such a material decline in gross profits. You should notice that GM’s corporate overhead (SG&A) has grown by 89% during this period. Its corporate overhead alone now exceeds its gross profits.

That’s why GM has seen its total debt more than double in the last 10 years. Worse, its interest expenses have skyrocketed because not only have total debts grown by more than $200 billion, its credit rating has fallen below investment grade.

GM is already bankrupt… shareholders just haven’t realized it yet.

In 2007, GM’s corporate overhead and its interest expense will likely exceed gross profits again. In addition to these losses, the company faces its legacy obligations, restructuring expenses, and capital investments, which are constantly needed to keep its plants operational.

Quite simply, GM cannot possibly afford its overhead, its upkeep, and its interest expense. This company is upside-down. Its asset base cannot support its overhead – never mind any legacy costs.

On top of this unpleasant financial reality, there are a host of other problems, each of which could destroy the company. GM’s collective bargaining agreement with the UAW will expire in September 2007. Any UAW strikes would bankrupt GM in a matter of days. A federal grand jury is investigating the company’s accounting with suppliers. Separately, SEC and federal grand jury subpoenas have been served on GMAC insurance entities. Any federal indictment would trigger defaults on all of the company’s senior debt, forcing bankruptcy.

When it’s all over, you can be sure that Congress will demand an investigation. That CNBC will say that no one saw it coming. And that GM’s leaders will be hauled into the courts, charged with all types of fraud and “looting the company.”

The truth is more banal. GM has done a terrible job of designing, building, and selling cars – for a long, long time.

There is, however, a silver lining. Inside GM’s enormous pile of assets, there are more than a few gems. Investors who position themselves correctly now will be able to grab those assets for pennies on the dollar, after they become unencumbered by GM’s legacy costs, debts, and inept managers. For these investors, GM’s impending bankruptcy looks more like a rainbow leading to a pot of gold than just a thunderstorm.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stop Congress from Subsidizing Unnecessary Research

From Rightmarch.org:

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on H.R. 3 (the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act"), a bill that would expand the number of human embryonic stem cells eligible for federally funded research. Democrat-led supporters of this bill would like you to believe that if the federal government fails to fund this research, no one else will. But this could not be further from the truth.

The federal government already significantly funds stem cell research. Through 2006, the National Institutes of Health has spent $122 million on human embryonic stem cell research, $396 million for research on embryonic stem cells from animal sources, and $2.29 BILLION on all stem cell research.

And this does not preclude the extensive amounts of funding for stem cell research -- currently more than $500 million -- coming from state governments and the private sector. Furthermore, no less an authority than the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in September 2005 that found when public funding for research lapses, private funders almost always step in to take up the slack, often funding projects at a higher rate than the government!

While we fervently disagree with these decisions by states and private donors to fund research that profits at the destruction of human life, these figures show that H.R. 3 is NOT necessary to ensure American stem cell researchers are supplied with adequate funding.

The Democrats are ready to force taxpayers to spend BILLIONS of dollars on unnecessary and controversial research -- unless they hear from US, their constituents, telling them NOT to!

TAKE ACTION: The fact is, this outside research funding also comes at a time when the scientific need for specifically embryonic, as opposed to adult, stem cells is declining. For instance, a front-page story in Monday's Washington Post stated that -- in contrast to embryonic stem cells having unique potential -- increasingly "it appears there is a continuum of stem cell types, ranging from the embryonic ones that can morph into virtually any kind of tissue but are difficult to tame, up to adult ones that can turn into a limited number of tissues but are relatively easy to control."

Given the expanding therapeutic possibilities of adult stem cell research, and the fact that a significant minority of Americans opposes research that ends the life of human embryos, should American taxpayers really be forced to subsidize something so ethically controversial -- research that REQUIRES the destruction of human life?

We need to stand up for stem cell research that does NOT require the taking of human life, and oppose this unnecessary and unethical bill. Click below NOW to send a free message to your Representative, telling him or her to OPPOSE H.R. 3, the "Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act":

NOTE: Be sure to send this Alert to EVERYONE you know who wants to tell Congress to OPPOSE forcing taxpayers to spend billions of dollars on unnecessary and controversial research. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Climate Change Revisited

"We have entered a period of global warming on steroids. It is a period in which every possible effort will be made to impose this Big Lie on all of us..."
--Alan Caruba, author of Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy

By Doug Hornig
In March 2004, we ran an article on a Pentagon-commissioned study on the possibility of abrupt and drastic climate change, such as happened 12,000 years ago when, according to estimates, the average global temperature rose by seven degrees in only twenty years and put a decisive end to the most recent ice age.

The result of the study, a brief paper titled, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, pushed certain computer models to their extreme, at which a sudden rise in global temperature results in a shutting down of the Gulf Stream and, counterintuitively, colder conditions for much of the planet.

That, of course, is just one projection among many. Other researchers have modeled quite different futures, with conditions both more and less dire.

In the past two and a half years, the debate over global warming, its potential effects, and (especially) the human role in bringing it about, has only intensified--with Al Gore's widely seen movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and his packed public lectures leading the way. Thus this seemed like an opportune time for us to revisit the topic.

The central question, it would seem, has been answered. Are we in a period of global warming?

Yes, sort of.

As always, the devil is in the details. While much has been made of record-breaking thermometer readings and "unprecedented" heat waves, the average global temperature has risen by just 1°F in the past hundred years. If this doesn't seem like much, well, it isn't and, moreover, it has been unevenly distributed: temperatures rose from 1920-1940, decreased for the next thirty years, increased again until the mid-1990s, and have been nearly flat since 1998.

This is not the result one would expect if human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which have constantly increased, inevitably caused temperatures to rise. But such fluctuations--and even more dramatic ones--are not only commonplace, they are inevitable, given a dynamic feedback system like that which exists between the Earth and Sun. There is even one current theory that posits super-cycles, within which the average global temperature varies between 120°F and minus 50. It's a wonder that life has endured at all.

How then should we address the coming 21st-century climate change (something will surely happen), and the proposition that it will primarily be driven by man who, many claim, is creating a massive greenhouse effect through the burning of fossil fuels?

There are many aspects to this but, to begin at the beginning, Al Gore and others, including most of the media, have been telling us there now exists a "consensus" viewpoint on man-made (anthropogenic) global warming (or AGW). For purposes of economy, let's call them the alarmist faction. Furthermore, we're told that the faction questioning the majority view--we'll call them the skeptics--consists of only a tiny handful of shills for the oil industry.

Not so.

Take the famous "hockey stick," for example. This is a graph that is routinely trotted out by the alarmists, and plays a large role in Gore's film. It purports to show that global temperature was flat for most of the past millennium, before suddenly and ferociously spiking upward during the 20th century, thereby creating the business end of the hockey stick. I.e., AGW is out of control.

The graph was created by Dr. Michael Mann, then a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts, in a 1999 paper, and it was immediately and rather uncritically accepted.

One problem with Mann's and others' attempts to pin down global temps is that the thermometer wasn't invented until the early 18th century. For data before that point, we have to rely on reconstructions based on inferences from historical records, and climate proxy indicators, such as tree rings (upon which Mann heavily relied), corals, lake sediments and ice core samples. And even there, most of the work has been done in, and on, the Northern Hemisphere, since that's where most of the people are; we know little about what may have been going on to our south.

(Recent satellite tropospheric temperature data from NASA indicate that the Southern Hemisphere hasn't heated up at all in the past 25 years; perhaps we should be discussing "north hemispheric" rather than "global" warming.)

Now, granted that research scientists' methodologies have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and high-speed computers have enabled the concatenation of huge amounts of data from many different sources. Many climatologists feel confident of their inferences about a given historical period. Nevertheless, it's wise to keep in mind that there are disagreements, that all estimates are subject to considerable margins of error, and that anyone who purports to "know" for certain exactly how hot or cold it was in 1066 is being disingenuous, at best.

So what are we to make of Mann's graph, in which actual thermometer-recorded temperatures for the past 150 years are casually grafted onto many more centuries of tree ring records? That's a bit like gluing an apple to an orange and calling it a new type of fruit. It's sloppy science.

Even if we completely accept the inferred temperatures scientists have given us--and even if we ignore the large margin of error Mann built into his original graph and which his disciples never bother to reproduce--there still emerges a very major problem with the hockey stick: the graph shouldn't be flat between 1000 and 1900. During those nine hundred years there were some very substantial fluctuations. Most notable are the Medieval Warm Period that began abruptly around 1000 and peaked somewhat above today's conditions around 1250 (thereby allowing the Vikings to establish farms in Greenland); and the Little Ice Age of the 15th-18th centuries, when it averaged a degree and a half colder.

The hockey stick simply ignores these periods, making them instead roughly flat, an alteration that geophysicist David Deming, of the University of Oklahoma, calls deliberate. He cites a colleague who, hoping to stir up alarmist sentiment over global warming, once wrote him that, "We have to get rid of the Medieval Warming Period."

They did. If you leave it in, along with the Little Ice Age, then the graph no longer looks like a hockey stick, but more like a snake slithering along the ground. We are at one of the peaks of warmth, but there was another a thousand years ago, along with a really frigid trough four centuries back. With this perspective, as Dr. Deming writes, "late-twentieth-century temperatures are not anomalous or unusually warm."

Dr. Deming's opinion was borne out by a June 2006 publication from the National Academy of Sciences, titled Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2000 Years. In it, the NAS slammed Mann's ignoring of the major hot and cold periods. Additionally, it said that "substantial uncertainties" surround the notion that the last half of the twentieth century was the warmest of the millennium and that, while the uncertainty increases the farther back in time one goes, "not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented [...] Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that the 1990's are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium ..."

Commenting on the NAS study, the U.S. Senate's leading skeptic, James Inhofe (R-OK), said in a September 2006 floor speech, "This report shows that the planet warmed for about 200 years prior to the industrial age, when we were coming out of the depths of the Little Ice Age [...] Trying to prove man-made global warming by comparing the well-known fact that today's temperatures are warmer than during the Little Ice Age is akin to comparing summer to winter to show a catastrophic temperature trend."

Furthermore, the line at the end of the graph has suddenly gone flat. "There is a problem with global warming," says paleoclimatologist Bob Carter of Australia's James Cook University, "it stopped in 1998." Despite all the excess CO2 our SUVs have been pumping into the atmosphere, Carter says, "official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK [show that] the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005."

All in all, that is one broken hockey stick.

But isn't there still a "consensus" about global warming? Didn't most of the world's nations agree on that at Kyoto?

Well, consider a letter written to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in April of 2006, in an effort to get the government there to review actual climate change evidence before implementing provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

The letter leads off by saying: "As accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines, we are writing to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government's climate-change plans [...]

"Observational evidence," it continues, "does not support today's computer climate models [...] While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy. The study of global climate change is [...] an 'emerging science,' one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded that it was not necessary [...]

"When the public comes to understand that there is no 'consensus' among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change, the government will be in a far better position to develop plans that reflect reality..."

After all, the authors say in conclusion, "It was only 30 years ago that many of today's global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. But the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas."

Who signed this letter? 61 of the world's most prominent experts in the fields of Earth science, climatology, meteorology, geophysics, math and economics. Without them, the "consensus" is thin indeed.

Another consensus-buster came in the form of a reexamination of a study by UCSD social scientist Naomi Oreskes, published in Science, claiming that a review of abstracts of scientific papers on climate showed a 100% agreement that global warming is not the result of natural variations. Oreskes' study was featured in An Inconvenient Truth.

Unfortunately for Oreskes and Gore, Dr. Benny Peiser, a British social scientist, took a close look at the study and found that Oreskes had referenced only 928 out of nearly 12,000 available papers on the subject. Even among those 928, Peiser found that only 2% wholly endorsed the view that human activity is driving global warming, and several of the studies actually opposed that conclusion.

Another striking image that many will remember from An Inconvenient Truth is of huge chunks of glacial ice breaking off from Antarctica and floating away, presented as "evidence" that the polar continent is warming.

Actually, no. This is what glaciers do when they're growing. "The breaking glacial wall is a normally occurring phenomenon which is due to the normal advance of a glacier," says Dr. Boris Winterhalter, a professor of marine geology at the University of Helsinki. "In Antarctica, the temperature is low enough to prohibit melting of the ice front, so if the ice is grounded, it has to break off in beautiful ice cascades."

Some sections of Antarctica are warming, true enough. But others are cooling, with variations "probably because of a small change in the position of the low pressure systems," says Dr. Wibjörn Karlén, a professor emeritus of geology at Stockholm University. Overall, Karlén says, the "mass balance" of Antarctica is positive--more ice is building up than melting off.

That's what's happening at the bottom of the world. What about at the top? Well, the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is now. It cooled significantly in the '60s. It warmed until the early '80s, then cooled again through the mid-'90s. After a sudden 30% drop in ice thickness in the Canadian Arctic between 1996-1998, it has been rebuilding and is now near "normal" levels, whatever that means.

A 2003 paper by Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska found no overall Arctic temperature rise since 1940. In fact, "For several published records, it is a decrease for the last 50 years," Karlén says.

Similarly, scare stories about the melting of Greenland's glaciers and the resulting rise of sea levels are premature. In October 2005, a study of Greenland ice was published by researchers from Bergen University's Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center (NERSC). The researchers analyzed "a continuous satellite-altimeter height record of Greenland Ice Sheet [...] elevation changes over an 11-year period, 1992-2003."

The NERSC team found that "below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is minus 2.0 ± 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice-sheet margins" (i.e., the alarmists are correct that glaciers are melting along the coast). However, "an increase of 6.4 ± 0.2 cm/year is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters." Averaged over the bulk of the ice sheet, the net result is a mean increase of about 5.4 cm/year. In plain terms, the Greenland ice is expanding, not contracting.

Alpine glaciers? Says Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, "Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century [i.e. before the Industrial Revolution], and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

There has also been steadily accumulating, supporting evidence that temperatures today bear about the same relationship to the millennial mean as did those in the Medieval Warm Period, to the upside, and the Little Ice Age, to the downside.

Researchers using proxies other than tree rings have fashioned a climate picture that is remarkably coherent, no matter where on the globe they look. To take one example, in 1996 Lloyd Keigwin, Senior Scientist of Geology and Geophysics at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, published a 3,000-year reconstruction of sea temperatures in the Sargasso Sea, using radiocarbon dating correlated with marine organism populations found in seabed sediments.

Keigwin's data clearly delineate the Medieval Warm Period (sea temps better than two degrees above the mean) and the Little Ice Age (more than two degrees below it), as well as spikes as high as four degrees above the mean in the first millennium B.C. Today, the Sargasso is right at the mean.

Other proxy studies have involved the study of coral off of Puerto Rico; of Kenyan and Taiwanese lake bed sediments; of oxygen-18 isotopes from ice cores in the Peruvian Andes and from South African stalagmites; and much more. In all of these studies, our era stands near the mid-point of temperature extremes between the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period.

Yet alarmists continue to proclaim that AGW is out of control.

One of the smoking guns they use is a 1996 report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC's website explains that it "does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature." The panel is composed of representatives appointed by governments and organizations. Participation of delegates with appropriate expertise is "encouraged."

In '96 these experts concluded that, "The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate," and set the basis for Kyoto.

However, Dr. Dick Morgan, a climatology researcher at England's Exeter University, notes that the globe is anything but uniform. Along with the warming parts, he says, there are massive areas that are cooling, including the NW Atlantic, North and South Pacific Ocean, the Amazon valley, north coast of South America and the Caribbean, the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caucasus and Red Sea, New Zealand, and the Ganges Valley in India.

Furthermore, Morgan questions the IPCC's methodology. "Had the IPCC used the standard parameter for climate change (the 30-year average) and used an equal area projection, instead of the Mercator (which doubled the area of warming in Alaska, Siberia and the Antarctic Ocean), warming and cooling would have been almost in balance."

And while we're on the subject of methodology, one further note. The alarmists' dire scenarios are based on computer models of the planet's future, and models are always iffy, to say the least. They depend on what data is put in and how that data is massaged. With regard to weather and climate, they're often way wrong.

Remember the ultra-violent hurricane season computers warned about for the summer of 2006? Didn't happen. But no doubt, after the savage storms of 2005, big hurricane seasons will continue to be predicted. Any of us can do that, with or without a super-computer and, eventually, the laws of probability will make sages of us.

Are the alarmists right about anything, then? Yes. For example, sea levels are rising. But then, they have been since the peak of the last Ice Age, 18,000 years ago. They've risen some 400 feet in the interim. "In recent millennia," writes S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist and professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia, "the rate has been 18 cm (7 inches) per century--and there is good argument for this rate to continue until the next ice age. Tidal gauges show no acceleration during the 20th century but only a steady rise [...] Evidently, the rise expected from melting glaciers and a warmer, expanding ocean is largely offset by loss of water from increased ocean evaporation and more ice accumulation on the Antarctic continent."

It is also true that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are increasing, from about 280 parts per million in the 19th century to some 387 ppm today, and that humans are primarily responsible for this. That's about a 38% jump in 100+ years, something the alarmists find, well, alarming.

It's not, Professor Lindzen maintains, writing that, "carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e. a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system."

Not to mention that the relationship between CO2 levels and temperature is far from clear. There is an intricate interplay between release of the gas by humans and natural sources, and uptake by the ocean, plants and soil. Given the dynamism of the process, it is a bit surprising that atmospheric carbon dioxide has remained as stable as it has for the past millennium, before spiking up, in hockey stick fashion, only recently.

Will the upward curve continue indefinitely, as alarmists fear? Or will some other element of the system change, bringing CO2 levels down again? No one knows. What is known is that there have been more significant surface temperature changes during the past thousand years than we are experiencing today, and that CO2 levels were not a factor.

What was the deciding factor, then? Again, no one can say, except that it was probably a combination of ingredients.

The most important of these is the amount of solar radiation that is received on the Earth's surface. Everyone agrees that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (and, much more importantly, water vapor) can serve to trap the sun's heat and raise surface temperatures. But it's a feedback system, depending not only on greenhouse gas levels, but on how much heat there is to trap, and that varies for a number of reasons.

For one, the sun itself goes through periods of greater and lesser radiation, with the presence or absence of sunspots being a good indicator. Sunspots are cyclical. So is the variation in the shape of the Earth's orbit; when it's at its most elliptical, it receives about 20% less radiation than when it's at its least elliptical, a state it's now approaching. Also of influence are the regular changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis and the effects of planetary wobbling on that axis.

Finally, there's one other question that's seldom posed: what are the benefits of global warming? Now, we're not talking about it becoming so hot that the Earth becomes a skillet and we the bacon. But no model foresees that.

Some will be negatively impacted, but that's true of any change, man-made or natural. On the other hand, warmer temperatures mean later frosts and longer growing seasons. Crops could be raised where they cannot today. Ocean evaporation would rise, increasing the global supply of fresh water. Farmers could repopulate Greenland.

To us, that doesn't sound bad. What sounds much worse is that we may have the enormous good fortune to inhabit one of the most benign climatic eras ever, and that ice ages will continue to alternate with interglacials like the present. The giant glaciers tend to grow and recede on a 12,000-year cycle, which means they're about due to return again. When and if they do, they'll override our land, flatten our proud skyscrapers, and relentlessly drive humanity into ever more densely populated southern latitudes. Those already living there are not likely to open welcoming arms.

It isn't a pretty picture. Trapping a bit more of the sun's heat looks like a very viable alternative.

To sum up, in the spirit of full disclosure we cheerfully confess that we are not physicists, or climatologists, or any other kind of authority on the subject of global warming. We don't have a clue what's up for 2007, much less the coming century--best guess based on the evidence we've reviewed: continued moderate warming, due in some part to human activity--and we rather suspect no one else does, either. All we did was look into the debate, and we hope that we've brought to our readers' attention the fact that there is a debate, that the absolute "consensus" you hear about is a myth.

The consensus tale has been placed in the hands of some very potent myth makers, including prominent scientists, politicians, and most members of the media. We don't believe that all of them have been deliberately lying to us, although some have.

We do believe that the debate should be taking place out in the open, with both sides presenting evidence, rather than engaging in name calling. We also believe the mass media should do a better job of framing the debate, but we doubt that they will. Fear sells, and the absence of fear is a non-starter. It's just that simple. The media has glommed onto the alarmists' point of view, because it is apocalyptic and generates better headlines. The skeptics get short shrift.

Alarmist and skeptic alike, though, agree on one thing: The sun will eventually burn itself out, leaving Earth as a cold, lifeless rock.

Now that's global climate change.

Doug HornigDoug Hornig is an editor with Casey Research, the author of the Daily Resource column on KitcoCasey.com, and a regular contributor to What We Now Know. He has authored nine books, and his work has also appeared in Business Week, Playboy, and more. As a veteran journalist, he has been writing on a broad range of subjects for WWNK, including complex issues like the U.S. health care crisis and the Social Security debate.

The "unfairity" of charity, part 1

I don't talk about it much, but I spent some time in Africa (Uganda) a few years back. I ran a clinic there, and we saved a lot of lives. At that time, what passed for "medicine" in much of sub-Saharan Africa was appalling. Even on a shoestring budget and using ordinary things like hydrogen peroxide, we worked near-miracles. Not that it did much good in the grand scope of the medical malaise on the Dark Continent... Beyond this, I barely got out of there with my life.

Such are the rewards of attempting to help those who will not help themselves by overthrowing their ineffectual leadership. Conditions were so bad that I routinely ran the risk of infection myself - and some of the African governments are so corrupt that your fate literally depends on the momentary whims of individual officials. Those, like myself, who go there to practice "charity medicine" sometimes don't come back. I was one of the lucky ones. I mention all of this today because of a sobering expose` I read in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. It's about a group of 6 medical professionals from other countries - 5 nurses from Bulgaria and a Palestinian doctor - who've languished in a Libyan prison for 8 YEARS...

According to the Libyan government, they're being held for allegedly intentionally infecting more than 400 children with the AIDS virus at a Benghazi Children's hospital in 1998. Sentenced to death for this obviously trumped-up crime in 2004, these 6 souls cling to life under the slim hope that a final appeal scheduled for December 19th, 2006 (the very day I'm writing this), might grant them a reprieve - or rather, some actual justice. This appeal is only happening because of a growing international protest against the Libyans government's treatment of these folks...

Now, aside from the obvious fact that it would take a nearly inconceivable set of circumstances to get 6 medical professionals - one of them a doctor who's no doubt bound by some kind of equivalent to the Hippocratic oath - to enter into a conspiracy of mass murder against the very children they journeyed so far and sacrificed so much to help, there's this: There isn't even any EVIDENCE linking them to the outbreak!

According to the Journal article, a team of international experts (including some from the World Health Organization) have scrutinized what evidence the Libyan government will allow them to: Things like patient charts, virus and blood samples, and hospital procedures... Their conclusion: Without doubt, the 1998 HIV outbreak at Al-Fateh Children's Hospital stems from the reuse of contaminated medical equipment by dollar-a-day care workers - NOT intentional infection by what were likely the only medically educated staff on hand.

Among their findings: * The particular strain of HIV virus that infects most of the 400 kids in question was rampant in the hospital BEFORE the now-imprisoned aid workers arrived * The hospital has a provably horrid sanitation and infection record - most of the 400 children were co-infected with Hepatitis C because of their stay in Al-Fateh * Syringes, surgical tubing, and other equipment relating to the injection of blood products were routinely used on multiple patients without sterilization * Infusions of unscreened-for-HIV albumin were commonly administered to children through this equipment during the time of the aid workers tenure

Apparently, none of this hard evidence matters to the Libyan court system. Nor does the letter of protest about the violation of these aid workers' human rights submitted to Libya by a panel of 100 Nobel Laureates! Why? Because holding these workers isn't about justice. I'll tell you what it IS about in the next Daily Dose...

Exposing the beware-ity of charity,
William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

A Bush Tax Increase?

By Robert D. Novak

WASHINGTON - More than the ascension of Nancy Pelosi & Co.
was disturbing congressional Republicans last week. They
worried that George W. Bush may proceed down the same path
that made his father a one-term president. Thus, they ask
this question: Will the current President Bush embrace a
tax increase that would produce potential economic disaster
and guaranteed political catastrophe?

Henry M. Paulson Jr. is a shark on Wall Street but a rookie
on Pennsylvania Avenue. As Bush's third secretary of the
Treasury, he has engaged in secret bipartisan talks
discussing an increase in the current $97,500 limit on
personal income subject to the Social Security payroll tax.
That would spike up the top marginal tax rate, demolishing
supply-side tax principles that Republican administrations
have purportedly followed for 26 years.

Paulson certainly has given the impression in those
discussions that he is amenable to raising the payroll tax,
but a senior White House aide cautions this decision has
not yet been made. "There is somebody higher than Hank
Paulson, and it is George W. Bush," he told me. Presidential
adviser Karl Rove (who was not the aide I just quoted)
attended conservative activist Grover Norquist's weekly
meeting last Wednesday and offered to bet anyone $5 that
there would be no increase in the payroll tax base. But
Bush himself has not unequivocally ruled out such a move,
as he has in rejecting any increase in the personal income

White House spokesman Tony Snow, an ardent supply-sider as
a columnist and commentator who must be personally against
a higher payroll tax, dances around the question in public
briefings. Congressional Republicans are running into a
stone wall from usually cooperative Treasury and Social
Security administration officials when they request
economic data that would demonstrate the folly of lifting
the payroll cap.

But Paulson is the source of most Republican apprehension.

He has engaged in private talks with Republican Sen.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Joseph Lieberman
of Connecticut, who now calls himself an "Independent
Democrat." Graham for more than two years has been seeking
Lieberman's participation in a bipartisan Social Security
reform that includes a higher payroll tax base.

When Graham began crafting his compromise in November 2004,
the premise was that each party would accept something
painful. In return for Republicans agreeing to payroll
taxes on higher income, Democrats would have to swallow
Bush's proposed personal retirement accounts, which would
be financed by cutting into payroll taxes that now all go
into Social Security. But no Democrat, not even Lieberman,
is willing to accept that. Democrats refuse to talk with
Republicans about personal accounts "carved out" of the
present system.

Indeed, a "carve out" is now a dead letter. New personal
retirement accounts could be passed only as an "add on"
-- financed voluntarily by individuals whose contributions
to Social Security would remain unchanged. Higher payroll
taxes would be imposed only to save the present system as
part of a broader entitlement reform.

Republican concern over such an outcome stems in no small
part from the belief that multi-millionaire Paulson has
entered a realm foreign to him. One well-placed House
Republican, asking that his name not be used, expressed
alarm that a financier who sold $485 million worth of
Goldman Sachs stock in order to be confirmed at the
Treasury cannot appreciate how the payroll tax ravages
self-employed businessmen and farmers.

Eliminating the cap on payroll taxes would constitute the
largest tax increase in U.S. history, estimated by the
Heritage Foundation during the last Congress at $1.4
trillion over 10 years. This analysis predicted that such
a step would cost nearly a million jobs and more than $55
billion in projected personal savings.

The economic woe resulting from higher payroll taxes would
be matched by political damage to the president if this
outcome were adopted by the Democratic-controlled Congress
with his approval but support from only a few Republican
legislators. That political calamity can be averted if
Bush takes any payroll tax increase off the negotiating
table, just as Democrats refuse to talk about a partially
privatized Social Security system.

Why Is Congress Ignoring The Incredible Promise Of Adult Stem Cells?

By Rev. Louis P. SheldonChairman, Traditional Values Coalition

January 9, 2007 - Liberal Republicans and Democrats in Congress are rushing to overturn President Bush’s ban on expanded use of human embryos in stem cell research this week. Under consideration this week is H.R. 3, a bill that is designed to institutionalize the killing of unborn humans for their stem cells.

Why are liberals so determined to expand on the killing of the unborn? They already vigorously defend the so-called “right” of an abortionist to “terminate” the life of unborn children—even those in the ninth month of life. What drives these individuals to now view human embryos as spare body parts for others?

But, more to the point: Why do liberals consistently refuse to consider the promising results of adult stem cells, which are already being used to cure diseases?

For years, physicians have used adult stem cells, stem cells from umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, placentas -- as well as gene therapy -- to help individuals with diseases. Significant progress is being made in the field of regenerative medicine – which uses the body’s own cells to regenerate damaged tissue.

The Washington Post, (January 8, 2007) reported on the promise of using cells in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women for the healing of diseases. These cells can grow into brain, muscle and other tissues!
These cells are apparently even easier to retrieve and to store than are embryonic stem cells – and don’t carry the ethical baggage with them. These cells can potentially be frozen and kept in a personalized tissue bank for future use. This is the latest breakthrough in the use of non-embryos for stem cells – and should be vigorously pursued.

Adult stem cells, on the other hand, have already been used
to treat diseases successfully. The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that 50% of those with Lupus who were treated with adult stem cells were disease-free 5 years after treatment; The Journal of Rheumatology found that 73% of those with rheumatoid arthritis could be controlled on medication after being treated with adult stem cells; and the journal Nature has reported that vision-impaired mice injected with adult stem cells showed improvement.

There is more: In 2004, the National Right To Life Committee
reported that adult stem cells are used in more than 30 anti-cancer therapies! In addition, adult stem cells injected into damaged hearts have become healthy muscle tissue. Harvard Medical School researchers have successfully reversed juvenile onset diabetes in mice by using “precursor cells” taken from the spleens of healthy mice. In addition, severed spinal cords have been regenerated in mice by the use of gene therapy!

These are only a few of the many examples that can be given of the successful use of adult stem cells to cure diseases. On the contrary, there is not one case I’m aware of showing that the use of stem cells from unborn humans has been successfully used to cure any disease.

Why is Congress so eager to normalize the killing of unborn humans for their body parts? What sort of grisly mindset compels these legislators to believe it’s ethical to kill one human to benefit another? Is it because the embryo can’t donate, scream, protest, or picket? How can a civilized society accept the high-tech cannibalism involved in the deliberate killing of a human embryo to harvest its parts?

Perhaps our Congressmen should research the horrific practice in Communist China of
killing political prisoners for their body parts. The same logic applies to the killing of unborn embryos for their parts. After all, why waste those eyes, livers, spleens, etc., of dead prisoners when they could benefit a high-ranking member of the Red Chinese Army? This is what has regularly occurred in China over the past decades. (After denying this practice for more than a decade, China’s leaders admitted what they were doing in 2006. They have now supposedly banned this practice. Lying to Capitalist news outlets is standard practice in this ruthless dictatorship so their assurance is suspect.)

So, will Chinese Communist ethics rule in Congress this week as legislators debate H.R. 3, or will our lawmakers reject this war against human embryos and focus on adult stem cell research and the promise that regenerative medicine holds?

We’ll know soon.

Time to Commie-proof your Latin American holdings

by J. Christoph Amberger

Venezuela’s reelected president Hugo Chavez went back to the business of renationalizing private companies. Yesterday, he announced plans to have the government take over Venezuela’s electrical and telecommunications companies.

According to him, these are “strategic sectors” that he feels are better off in his hands than in the hands of the markets and investors.

The New York Stock Exchange halted trading in Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, whose ADR trades under the symbol VNT:NYSE. Still, the stock plummeted over 14%.

This is a good time to reassess stock and mutual fund positions from Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in your portfolios. Chavez and his narco- and petro-communist bobbleheads in the region represent a threat to any of your assets that are invested in these countries.

Get rid of them while you can still get money for them.

Friday, January 05, 2007

More methane-related atmospheric news

Backing up the findings of oft-ridiculed U.S. research on bovine flatulence, none other than the bloated and gas-spewing United Nations itself has now concluded that cow farts contribute more greenhouse gas (methane, Co2) to our atmosphere than all forms of mechanized transportation combined.

Whether or not the EPA will soon require "cow-talytic converters" on the beasts', uh, tailpipes remains to be seen...

U.S.-Mexico Pact Revealed: Billions to Non-citizens

Dave Eberhart
Friday, Jan. 5, 2007
WASHINGTON -- As a result of lawsuits, the U.S. government released this week the actual U.S.-Mexico Social Security Totalization Agreement, an understanding signed between the Bush administration and the Mexican government in 2004 that would funnel billions of U.S. Social Security funds to Mexican citizens.

TREA Senior Citizens League, a Washington-based nonpartisan seniors group, announced this week that after Freedom of Information Act lawsuits it filed against the government, it had received the secret agreement document.

Brad Phillips, a spokesperson for TREA, told NewsMax that the language in the agreement "raises more questions than it answers — such as what is the cost and who is going to pay."

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already warned that as a result of this agreement, the number of unauthorized Mexican workers and family members eligible for social security benefits will likely increase.

The Dreaded Loophole
TREA and other watchdog groups were hopeful that the agreement would directly address, and perhaps even moot, the hot-button issue of illegal immigrants at some point claiming U.S. Social Security benefits.

"A law called the Social Security Protection Act of 2004 forbids illegal immigrants from claiming Social Security benefits — but a loophole exists," Phillips explained.

"If an immigrant gains what's called a valid ‘work-authorized' Social Security number at some point, then he or she could eventually file a claim for benefits. The government would use all earnings to calculate the retirement benefit — even earnings while working illegally," Phillips added.

The U.S. commissioner of Social Security signed the agreement with the director general of the Mexican Social Security Institute on June 29, 2004. TREA has fought to make it public for over three and a half years, according to a press release from the organization.

In the meantime, the agreement has been slowly making its way through mandated reviews by the State Department and the White House. Once the White House submits it to Congress, lawmakers will have 60 legislative days to review it.

Either chamber may vote to pass a Resolution of Disapproval of the agreement — or it will take effect automatically at the end of the 60-day period. Furthermore, the Mexican Senate must affirmatively approve the totalization agreement.

In general, Totalization Agreements are between the United States and other countries to coordinate their respective social security programs. For instance, such agreements typically work to eliminate the need to pay social security taxes in both countries — when companies in one country send workers to the other country. Also they are crafted to protect benefit eligibility for workers who split their working careers between the two countries.

According to TREA, if an illegal worker working in the United States today gets a "work authorized" Social Security number — through guest-worker immigration legislation, the Totalization Agreement, or perhaps just over time — that worker could eventually apply for Social Security benefits once the worker has met eligibility requirements.

Unfair Advantage
For example, say TREA officials, a worker who turns 62 after 1990 generally needs 40 calendar quarters of coverage to receive retirement benefits. Under Totalization Agreements, workers are allowed to combine earnings from both countries in order to qualify for benefits.

The agreement with Mexico, like other Totalization Agreements, would allow workers to qualify with just six quarters, or 18 months, of U.S. coverage.

In addition, advised TREA, that worker could be able to claim credits for work performed while in the United States illegally. The SSA maintains an "earnings suspense file," which tracks wages that cannot be posted to individual workers' records because there is no match for a name and Social Security number.

Once an immigrant gains access to a work authorized Social Security number — whether a legal citizen or not — wages earned while in the United States unlawfully could be reinstated to the worker's new Social Security account, warned TREA officers.

Such writing-on-the-wall concerns are not just being sounded by TREA, however.

Warnings by the GAO
In a recent special report to Congress, the GAO voiced a number of issues latent in the agreement:
SSA has no written policies or procedures it follows when entering into Totalization Agreements, and the actions it took to assess the integrity and compatibility of Mexico's social security system were limited and neither transparent nor well-documented.

SSA provided no information showing that it assessed the reliability of Mexican earnings data and the internal controls used to ensure the integrity of information that SSA will rely on to pay Social Security benefits.

The proposed agreement will likely increase the number of unauthorized Mexican workers and family members eligible for Social Security benefits. Mexican workers who ordinarily could not receive Social Security retirement benefits because they lack the required 40 coverage credits for U.S. earnings could qualify for partial Social Security benefits with as few as six coverage credits.

Under the proposed agreement, more family members of covered Mexican workers would become newly entitled because the agreements usually waive rules that prevent payments to non-citizens' dependents and survivors living outside the United States.

The cost of such an agreement is highly uncertain. In March 2003, the Office of the Chief Actuary estimated that the cost of the Mexican agreement would be $78 million in the first year and would grow to $650 million (in constant 2002 dollars) in 2050. The actuarial cost estimate assumes the initial number of newly eligible Mexican beneficiaries is equivalent to the 50,000 beneficiaries living in Mexico today and would grow six-fold over time.

This previous proxy figure does not directly consider the estimated millions of current and former unauthorized workers and family members from Mexico and appears small in comparison with those estimates. The estimate also inherently assumes that the behavior of Mexican citizens would not change and does not recognize that an agreement would create an additional incentive for unauthorized workers to enter the United States to work and maintain documentation to claim their earnings under a false identity.

An analysis performed at the GAO's request shows that a measurable impact would occur with an increase of more than 25 percent in the estimate of initial, new beneficiaries. For prior agreements, error rates associated with estimating the expected number of new beneficiaries have frequently exceeded 25 percent, even in cases where uncertainties about the number of unauthorized workers were less prevalent.

Because of the significant number of unauthorized Mexican workers in the United States, the estimated cost of the proposed Totalization Agreement is even more uncertain than in prior agreements.

Playing by the Rules
"The Social Security Administration itself warns that Social Security is within decades of bankruptcy — yet, they seem to have no problem making agreements that hasten its demise," said Ralph McCutchen, chairman of TREA.

"Our 1.2 million elderly members didn't play by the rules and sacrifice through difficult times so we could fund millions of workers who crossed the border and decided to work here illegally," McCutchen added.

TREA officers also warn that Mexico's retirement system is radically different than that of other participating countries.

For example, only 40 percent of non-government workers participate in Mexico's system, whereas 96 percent of America's non-government workers do. In addition, the U.S. system is progressive, meaning lower wage earners get back much more than they put in; in Mexico, workers get back only what they put in, plus accrued interest.

Uncovering the Ugly Truth
"I applaud the persistent efforts of TREA Senior Citizens League to try to get documents from the U.S. government about the U.S.-Mexico Social Security Totalization Agreement," said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. "The American people are finally beginning to get some of the information regarding this Agreement that they have been seeking for so long."

According to the Social Security Administration, the Social Security Trust Fund will begin paying out more than it is taking in by 2017, and will be exhausted by the year 2040.

Phillips noted that [before the emergence of the agreement] "the Administration always called it ludicrous to suggest that illegal immigrants could get their hands on our Social Security."

"We not hearing that anymore," Phillips lamented.

© NewsMax 2007. All rights reserved.

Count Me In!

From a MD. resident to his senator
The Honorable Paul S. Sarbanes
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Sarbanes,
As a native Marylander and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted.

If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for fiveyears, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out.

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

Additionally, as an illegal alien I could begin using the local emergency room as my primary health care provider. Once I have stopped paying premiums for medical insurance, my accountant figures I could save almost $10,000 a year. Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications, as well as "in-state" tuition rates for many colleges throughout the United States for my son.

Lastly, I understand that illegal status would relieve me of the burden of renewing my driver's license and making those burdensome car insurance premiums. This is very important to me given that I still have college age children driving my car.

If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative. Thank you for your assistance.

Your Loyal Constituent,
Pete McGlaughlin

Get your Forms (NOW)!! Call your Internal Revenue Service 1-800-289-1040.
Please pass this onto your friends so they can save on this great offer!!!!

Pro-life Democrats?

I am and have always been opposed to embryonic stem cell research based on the idea that the technology will create a "market" for fetus harvesting and the poor will become nothing but "fetus farms for sale" which will eventually lead to nothing positive for these people either emotionally for physically. Unfortunately, it has already started see:

Women Paid to Carry Baby to 12 Weeks before “Harvesting” for Beauty Treatmentshttp://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/aug/06080805.html

Ukraine Killing Newborns To Harvest Stem Cells Says BBC With Video Evidencehttp://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/dec/06121202.html

By Robert D. Novak Townhall.com

WASHINGTON -- Near the top of the new Democratic congressional majority's agenda is passage of federal embryonic stem cell research legislation vetoed last year by President Bush, a measure that will answer a major question. There is no doubt the new bill will pass both houses of Congress.

What remains in doubt are the votes to be cast by newly elected Democrats who campaigned as pro-life advocates, particularly Sen. Bob Casey Jr. Outside the boundaries of his state of Pennsylvania, Casey is best known as the son of the Democrat most revered in the pro-life movement: the late Gov. Robert Casey. Denied the podium at the 1992 Democratic national convention because of anti-abortion views, the elder Casey planned a serious independent campaign for president before being stopped by poor health.

But will the son, less ardent a pro-lifer than the father, vote against the stem cell research bill as he once promised during the campaign? Will seven self-described pro-life Democrats newly elected to the House do the same?

Casey's vote may determine whether Bush's second veto is overridden by the Senate. The House will probably sustain a veto, with or without help from the seven Democrats. But apart from the stem cell bill, at stake is whether pro- lifers have any place in today's Democratic Party.

Certainly, that small fraction will be under intense pressure from party leaders. Casey won a nationally spotlighted contest, defeating eminent Republican conservative Sen. Rick Santorum. He cut into Santorum's conservative base by winning 36 percent of the state's hard pro-life vote.

The only recorded statement by Casey on stem cell research came in an interview on the Catholic website IgnatiusInsight.com on July 29, 2005: "I am and I have always been pro-life. I support the current [Bush administration] policy on embryonic stem cell research and would oppose the Castle bill to expand federal support of embryonic stem cell research."

That referred to the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware that died in 2006 when the House sustain- ed Bush's veto. But a new version is likely to be consider- ed now in the Senate, where a supporter -- then Majority Leader Bill Frist -- conceded in a private session last year that the Castle bill was flawed and must be rewritten.

So, would Casey oppose any legislation that authorizes federally financed stem cell research on "left over" embryos from in-vitro fertilization clinics, as the Castle bill did? Casey the younger plays his cards close to his vest, and my efforts to get a commitment one way or another from the new senator or an aide were unavailing.

This is the arithmetic in the Senate, where a vetoed bill will go first. It would take 33 senators to sustain a Bush veto, if ailing Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.) is unable to vote. Of the 36 Republicans who voted against the Castle bill, five were defeated for re-election: Santorum, George Allen in Virginia, Conrad Burns in Montana, Mike DeWine in Ohio and James Talent in Missouri. Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was the only Senate Democrat who voted no last year, and that means one more Democrat would be needed this year. Casey's vote could be central.

The House sustained last year's veto by a 50-vote margin. Thirteen of those members were defeated in November. So, even if there are Republican defections, the burden will not fall on seven avowedly pro-life Democrats newly elected to the House: Heath Shuler (N.C.), Charlie Wilson (Ohio), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Chris Carney (Pa.). With Speaker Nancy Pelosi putting this legislation on her 100-hour list, these pro-life House Democrats, nevertheless, will be under intense pressure, as will Nelson, Sen. Jon Tester, a pro-lifer who defeated Burns in Montana last year, and Bobby Casey.

Casey was embraced by pro-choice Democrats -- led by Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, as the best bet against Santorum. But they may not have bargained on Casey opposing them on the central party issue of stem cell research. The question of how much of a pro-lifer Casey is or can be in the 21st-century Democratic Party may be answered soon.