President Obama might be wishing he had ruled on the Keystone XL pipeline back in the fall of 2011 rather than postponing his decision until now. It has since ballooned into a major test of his presidency, with protests and arrests at the White House gates and a nation sharply divided between those heralding energy independence delivered by a deus ex Canada versus others sounding the tocsins to warn us of climate cataclysm from dirty oil.
Obama’s pointedly delaying his decision until after the election intimated that he favored the pipeline and was avoiding angering his environmentalist base with that decision. Those concerned about climate change were naively jubilant, reading the postponement as an indication that he would let the matter die. We thought the opposite, predicting on this page at the time that he intended to approve the pipeline, and there’s little reason to change that bet.
Now, a year and a half later, the State Department, involved because… Read More »
That the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of call records for office, home and cell phone numbers used by possibly 100 AP reporters is the latest in the Obama administrations aggressive actions against the press. For background see Obama Has a Problem with the First Amendment from a year ago.
Canada’s Alberta Province tar sands are a viscous bitumen, described as peanut-butter thick, that releases more carbon dioxide than other forms of oil. Just how much more is debated. We’ll get to that.
The first strike against the oil is that to get at the sand requires felling the natural carbon reservoir of the original boreal forests. The doubling to 1.8 million barrels of tar sands production daily that is projected by Canada's environmental ministry over the coming decade leads to cutting down some 740,000 acres of trees that will release their carbon into the atmosphere.
Bitumen near the surface is strip mined. The deeper bitumen is drilled for. Strip-mining uses the world’s largest dump trucks to carry the sludge to nearby separation plants, where the tar sand is crushed… Read More »
Congress appropriated $436 million over the last two years on the Abrams M1 tank,
but, now, faced with the sequester's $487 billion in cuts over the next ten years, that's one item where we can save, right?
Of course not. The Pentagon wants to halt tank production. They apply to neither our current wars nor theoretical conflicts over the horizon. No less than Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno says that in this time of budget crisis, the army would rather use the money on sensible alternatives.… Read More »
It controls your checking account; it governs your brokerage account; it’s in those “terms” on the internet to which you clicked “Accept”; it’s in the contract with your cable company, your cell phone service; it’s probably in your mortgage’s fine print or any other loan agreement; it’s even in the contracts you signed with local merchants such as a gym or a tanning salon; and you can be sure it governs every credit card in your wallet or handbag.
What we are writing of, as if it were a fungus or invasive species, is the fine print to which you effectively agreed when you signed on for any of these services terms that stipulated that any dispute may be resolved only by arbitration, a process whereby an arbitrator will be assigned to hear the claims of parties to… Read More »
The implicit “deal” of Social Security is that we are forced to set aside money to pay for our elderly years, but we eventually get the money back. At least, that’s how we the people view the transaction. There are now claims, though, that because of longevity, we are getting back more than we put in, and that is what threatens the viability of the system.
The fact is, the reverse is more likely to be true. Past recipients have certainly been getting back more than paid in far more, the older the person. And not just because of collecting benefits for more years. The other reason is that the older the person, the lower the rate of tax they were paying into the system in their early working years. The combined rate of Society Security payroll taxes paid by an employer and someone now 80 was only 4% in 1955, for example. Today workers and employers pay 12.4%. The Urban Institute, which has studied the matter, says someone who retired in 1960 would have gotten back more than eight times what they paid in.
As for someone signing up for social Security today, first the question of how much over… Read More »
A year and a half ago, “60 Minutes” unearthed a pattern of stock trading by members of Congress who were using their insider knowledge of pending legislation affecting corporations for personal gain. The exposé was based on the work of one Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution, who poked into congressional financial disclosure records when he learned there were no restrictions to bar members of Congress from dealings that “would send the rest of us to prison”. Even in a small sampling, he immediately found examples of suspect trades.
Featuring Steve Croft questioning a startled Nancy Pelosi about a bloc of Visa's initial public offering worth millions normally reserved for the best clients of the underwriting investment banks allotted to her and her husband to buy, the CBS piece raised a storm of protest. The full story we ran of our principle-deficient legislators can be found here.
To its credit, Congress hastily dusted off and passed a bill… Read More »
He thought he was just being conciliatory: still hopeful that if he gives a little to placate the Republicans, maybe he’ll get a little back. So President Obama’s recent budget proposal put forth his hopes spending on infrastructure, pre-school education, manufacturing research, and so on but in return he put Medicare and Social Security into play. The cuts to Medicare didn’t cause a stir, because they were reduced payments to health providers, not beneficiaries. What has Democrats in an uproar was his willingness to cut Social Security benefits. “A shocking attack on seniors” said one, and others are asking “Is Obama really a progressive”?
Why is Social Security even a consideration in budget negotiations? Democrats insist it is independent, self-funding and adds nothing to the deficit. Well, yes, in an accounting sense, but the cash-basis government does have to come up with money to repay what for decades it has borrowed from the Social Security “trust fund”. Historically, Social Security has run a surplus. The money it… Read More »
Congress was suddenly faced with a calamity. The media was reporting delays of 1200 flights a day because of the sequester’s furloughing of air traffic controllers, but they had to get home for yet another break, a week off after the two weeks they just took for Easter. They shouldn’t have to wait like just plain civilians whom the sequester was greatly inconveniencing and never mind that the sequester is a law that they themselves had passed.
So they voted funds to return the controllers to work full time. And Obama signed it. Evidently he negotiated with himself and decided that Congress owed him nothing in return for this favor. Perhaps he thinks Congress will now be inspired to cooperate with him; that has gone so well in the past. Besides, the unions and airlines were clamoring for it.
Those who are all for cutting the deficit should be outraged to see Congress spending on themselves. Those who think it is not the time for austerity are disgusted that interest groups are served but all other sequester cuts remain in force, principally social programs… Read More »