Friday, December 31, 2010

SUVs lead U.S. auto sales growth
despite efforts to improve fuel efficiency

From Peter Whoriskey of The Washington Post on Dec. 29:
If U.S. consumers are in the midst of a green revolution, the news hasn't reached car buyers.

With the end of the recession, bigger vehicles have made a comeback, sales figures show, and it has come at the expense of smaller, more-efficient cars.

Leading the growth were sales of midsize sport-utility vehicles, which jumped 41 percent through the first 11 months of the year, led by vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Honda Pilot, each of which get about 18 miles per gallon.

Sales of small cars, by contrast, remained flat despite otherwise surging demand for automobiles. Sales of the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic declined, and even the fuel-sipping Toyota Prius, the hybrid darling of the eco-conscious, dropped 1.7 percent.

"You have about 5 percent of the market that is green and committed to fuel efficiency," said Mike Jackson, the chief executive of AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the country. "But the other 95 percent will give up an extra 5 mpg in fuel economy for a better cup holder."

Overall, car and light-truck purchases climbed 12 percent from January to November, led by the consumer tilt toward SUVs and pickups, according to recent numbers from Autodata.

Gulf spill fund czar paying for ethics advice

From Harry R. Weber of The Associated Press on Dec. 31:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The administrator of the $20 billion fund BP set up to compensate Gulf oil spill victims is using money from it to pay for advice from a law professor who backs his assertion that he is independent from the oil giant.

A spokeswoman for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility told the Associated Press on Thursday that fund czar Kenneth Feinberg has agreed to pay for advice from Stephen Gillers, a New York University law school professor who produced a letter that says Mr. Feinberg is neutral and not subject to BP's control.

Some victims, lawyers and state officials unhappy with the claims process have questioned Mr. Feinberg's independence and suggested he is a pawn in a BP effort to limit its liability.

A statement Thursday from the fund said Mr. Feinberg asked Mr. Gillers for advice about a Nov. 24 letter from Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell questioning the independence of the fund and Mr. Feinberg's role as the independent administrator.

In a letter to Mr. Feinberg, Mr. Gillers wrote: "You are not in an attorney-client relationship with BP. You are an independent administrator and owe none of the attributes of the attorney-client relationship (e.g., loyalty, confidentiality) to BP. By 'independent' I mean (and I think the context is clear) that you are independent of BP. You are not subject to its direction or control."

Spokeswoman Debra DeShong Reed couldn't say how much Mr. Gillers is being paid, only that it will be an hourly rate.

"We're waiting for the invoice," Ms. Reed said. "We've agreed to pay whatever it costs."

A condensed version of history

This was forwarded to me:
For those who don't know about history, here is a condensed version:

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalysts for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

1. Liberals.
2. Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain, and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans sat around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to barbeque at night while they drank beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the conservative movement,

Other men
who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly barbecues and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the liberal movement.

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. They became known as girlie-men.

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years, conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass for obvious reasons.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare.

Another interesting evolutionary side note: Most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men.

Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals.

Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer,
mostly Budweiser or Miller. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, engineers, corporate executives, athletes, members of the military, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively.

Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history:

It should be noted that a liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it.

A conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to piss them off.

And there you have it. Let your next action reveal your true self. ... I'm going to have another beer.

40 celebrities who are Republicans

From Matt Stopera of BuzzFeed about a month ago:
40 celebrities who are Republicans according to the Federal Election Commission, or known conservatives. Some of these may surprise you. Or not.

Drew Carey

Drew Carey is a registered Republican.

Don King
Don King has consistently supported Republican candidates throughout the years.

Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler is a registered Republican.

The 12 days of winter

From fgilly on Dec. 6:

On the 5th day of winter my teacher taught to me ... DI-VERSI-TY!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

PolitiFiction: true 'lies' about ObamaCare

From The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 23:
So the watchdog news outfit called PolitiFact has decided that its "lie of the year" is the phrase "a government takeover of health care." Ordinarily, lies need verbs and we'd leave the media criticism to others, but the White House has decided that PolitiFact's writ should be heard across the land and those words forever banished to describe ObamaCare.

"We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover," the editors of PolitiFact announce portentously. "'Government takeover' conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees," whereas ObamaCare "is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market." PolitiFact makes it sound as if ObamaCare were drawn up by President Friedrich Hayek, with amendments from House Speaker Ayn Rand.

This purported debunking persuaded Stephanie Cutter, a special assistant to the President. If "opponents of reform haven't been shy about making claims that are at odds with the facts," she wrote on the White House blog, "one piece of misinformation always stood out: the bogus claim . . ." We'll spare you the rest.

PolitiFact's decree is part of a larger journalistic trend that seeks to recast all political debates as matters of lies, misinformation and "facts," rather than differences of world view or principles. PolitiFact wants to define for everyone else what qualifies as a "fact," though in political debates the facts are often legitimately in dispute.

3 solutions where Republicans can lead America

From Newt Gingrich on Human Events on Dec. 29:
Next week when House Republicans are sworn in as a new majority, they will have a greater opportunity to enact real change than any House majority since the Democrats took over in 1930.

The American people know we are at both a values and performance crossroads.

We know that President Obama is radically out of step with the American people. For instance, a recent USAToday/Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe in American Exceptionalism, and yet nearly 40% are convinced President Obama does not.

We know that a substantial majority wants to repeal Obamacare, his greatest legislative victory.

We also know that, in terms of performance, this administration is a disaster: we have the highest sustained unemployment since the Great Depression, the largest increase in federal debt in American history, and bureaucracies that don't work but keep getting bigger, more powerful, and more expensive.

This is not 1995, when the economy was strong, unemployment was relatively low, and we were not at war. It is a very different era with a very different set of challenges.

The great opportunities today are to reassert classic American values and to develop a clear alternative to Obamaism.

The news media will want Obama to set the proposals and the Republicans to "compromise" -- an elite euphemism for conservative surrender.

Instead, House Republicans, with the largest conservative majority since 1928, should set forth the proposals they believe in and urge President Obama to negotiate on their terms.

Obama replaces costly high-speed rail plan
with high-speed bus plan

From the satirical The Onion:

President Obama's proposed high-speed train system will be replaced
with a fleet of buses that will rocket along highways at speeds up to 165 mph.

Liberals give 'til it hurts you

From Ann Coulter on Human Events on Dec. 29:
Liberals never tire of discussing their own generosity, particularly when demanding that the government take your money by force to fund shiftless government employees overseeing counterproductive government programs.

They seem to have replaced "God" with "Government" in scriptural phrases such as "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37)

This week, we'll take a peek at the charitable giving of these champions of the poor.

In 2009, the Obamas gave 5.9 percent of their income to charity, about the same as they gave in 2006 and 2007. In the eight years before he became president, Obama gave an average of 3.5 percent of his income to charity, upping that to 6.5 percent in 2008.

The Obamas' charitable giving is equally divided between "hope" and "change."

George W. Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year he was president, as he did before becoming president.

Thus, in 2005, Obama gave about the same dollar amount to charity as President George Bush did, on an income of $1.7 million -- more than twice as much as President Bush's $735,180. Again in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's.

In the decade before Joe Biden became vice president, the Bidens gave a total -- all 10 years combined -- of $3,690 to charity, or 0.2 percent of their income. They gave in a decade what most Americans in their tax bracket give in an average year, or about one row of hair plugs.

Of course, even in Biden's stingiest years, he gave more to charity than Sen. John Kerry did in 1995, which was a big fat goose egg. Kerry did, however, spend half a million dollars on a 17th-century Dutch seascape painting that year, as Peter Schweizer reports in his 2008 book, "Makers and Takers."

To be fair, 1995 was an off-year for Kerry's charitable giving. The year before, he gave $2,039 to charity, and the year before that a staggering $175.

He also dropped a $5 bill in the Salvation Army pail and almost didn't ask for change.

Boehner taps Alabama Republican
to lead ethics committee in GOP House

From Susan Crabtree of The Hill on Dec. 29:
Incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has tapped Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) to be chairman of the ethics committee in the GOP-led House.

In his announcement, Boehner said Bonner is “widely respected” on both sides of the aisle and has a “deep appreciation for the importance of both ethics education and enforcement in the House.”

“The American people have every right to expect the highest standards of ethical conduct from their elected leaders, and it is important for members of both the majority and the minority to work together to ensure that such standards are observed and respected at all times within the institution,” Boehner said in a written statement. “A functioning Ethics Committee will be central to that effort in the 112th Congress.”

“I am confident that as chairman, he will work with the other members of the Ethics Committee to ensure there is accountability at all times in the People’s House,” Boehner continued. “I look forward to working with him, and I’m grateful for his willingness to serve.”

Although not surprising, the move amounts to a rejection of calls to reconstitute the panel and appoint an entirely new roster. Bonner served as the committee’s ranking member during a rocky period for the panel throughout the last Congress.

White House plans to push
global warming policy, GOP vows fight

From Kimberly Schwandt of FoxNews on Dec. 28:
HONOLULU, Hawaii -- After failing to get climate-change legislation through Congress, the Obama administration plans on pushing through its environmental policies through other means, and Republicans are ready to put up a fight.

On Jan. 2, new carbon emissions limits will be put forward as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares regulations that would force companies to get permits to release greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Critics say the new rules are a backdoor effort to enact the president's agenda on global warming without the support of Congress, and would hurt the economy and put jobs in jeopardy by forcing companies to pay for expensive new equipment.

"They are job killers. Regulations, period -- any kind of regulation is a weight on economy. It requires people to comply with the law, which takes work hours and time, which reduces the profitability of firms. Therefore, they grow more slowly and you create less jobs," said environmental scientist Ken Green of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Dan Howells of Greenpeace disagrees.

"I was looking at some advertisements from the 1970s where they were making the very same arguments about stopping acid rain. And that didn't turn out to be a job-killer. In fact, it created jobs in some places," said Howells, the environmental group's deputy campaign director. "The more we keep making these decades-old arguments, the more we won't be creating the jobs of the future and working towards the new energy economy."

The administration says it has the power to issue the regulation under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that directed the agency to make a determination on whether carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming, was a hazard to human health.

The agency is set to have a preliminary version of the rules in place by July and then issue final standards in 2012 after a public comment period.

From The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 30:
On the eve of Christmas Eve, while you probably weren't paying attention, the Obama Administration released the text of its new Internet regulations, which mark a significant pivot from the hands-off approach to the Web observed by previous Republican and Democratic Administrations.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski delayed the release of the "net neutrality" order so he could incorporate rebuttals to the two dissenting commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, who argued that the new regulations are unnecessary and outside the agency's purview. The closer you inspect Mr. Genachowski's justifications for his FCC power grab, the weaker they look.

The Chairman cites, for example, several instances in which an Internet service provider has been accused of blocking an application that was slowing traffic on its network. But in each case the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved using existing law. Given the countless opportunities for such antics, the news is that the FCC can produce so few examples of alleged misbehavior.

Telecom is no different from other industries with a potential for market concentration and monopoly abuse, but the Sherman Act, the Federal Trade Commission and sundry consumer protection laws already exist to police such behavior. Nowhere in his document does Mr. Genachowski explain why these and other statutes are insufficient checks on Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other Internet service providers.

Republican campaign committee names
top 2012 Senate targets

From Jordan Fabian of The Hill on Dec. 29:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has its eye on five key races it hopes will pave the way for the GOP to take the majority in the upper chamber in 2012.

NRSC Executive Director Ron Jesmer said in an interview with published Wednesday that the committee believes there is "fertile ground" for Republican gains in Montana, Virginia, Nebraska, Florida and North Dakota.

Jesmer said that centrist Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is in "serious trouble and kind of in a league of his own," and that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) also "is in a lot of trouble."

"There are other states where depending on if one candidate runs, there could be some other good challenges," he added.

The official's comments provide an early preview of the GOP's strategy heading into the 2012 Senate campaign, when the party is expected to make further gains on Democrats, potentially taking the majority.

Illegal immigration flow may be reversing

From Lee Davidson of The Salt Lake Tribune on Dec. 29:
“Vickie” says she’s tired of living in fear: the fear of immigration officials, Utah politicians targeting people like her and the bad economy here.

So after 18 years in Utah, working without documents, she says her family will probably return to Mexico.

She bursts into tears as she says it, burying her face in her hands. “My 16-year-old daughter [a U.S. citizen] doesn’t want to go. She was born here, and this is all she knows. She has never been to Mexico. But how could I leave her here alone? She’s too young.”

Another older daughter, “Lizzie,” who has a visa to be here legally, says she may also need to return if her parents go. She is facing a divorce and has two young children. Her extended family provides a home, child care and emotional support, which would disappear. And if she stays without them, she says, “It would tear our family apart.”

Vickie and Lizzie (whom The Salt Lake Tribune agreed not to identify by their real names because they feared repercussions) are examples — and explanations — of a recent trend shown by some studies: More undocumented immigrants may now be going home than are coming to Utah. It is happening at the same time some of the state’s politicians are pushing tougher laws claiming that a record flood of illegal immigration has reached crisis proportions and must be stopped.

An annual study this year by the Pew Hispanic Center, using U.S. census data, estimated that the number of immigrants in Utah illegally dropped by 10,000 between 2008 and 2009 — from 120,000 overall to 110,000. But study authors caution those numbers are within statistical margins of error, so it is possible that no decrease occurred — but numbers suggest illegal immigration is at least slowing to a trickle.

Gas price rise may thwart economic recovery

From Jaclyn Trop and Christina Rogers of The Detroit News on Dec. 30:
Gas prices are spiking again, setting off new fears for the economy even as it heads toward recovery.

Gasoline costs $3.13 a gallon in Metro Detroit and Michigan — up 23 cents from last month and 46 cents or 17 percent from the same time a year ago, according to AAA Michigan. It's the highest price in more than two years — since mid-October 2008.

The economic recovery could spark demand for oil worldwide, pushing it past $5 a gallon by 2012, former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister said this week.

While oil analysts and economists disagree with Hofmeister's projection, they agree the price of gas will keep increasing and that the buck won't stop at the pump. Petroleum's rising cost would push up the cost of consumer goods, commuting and vacations.

The trend may not only cause drivers to buy smaller vehicles than they now own, but it eventually could threaten the economy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jacksonville Tea Party leader named
one of area's newsmakers for 2011

The Financial News and Daily Record on Dec. 27 named Billie Tucker, head of the First Coast Tea Party, one of the 10 most influential Duval County, Fla., citizens of 2011.

Managing editor Kathy Brune Mathis says this about the annual list:
While many people in power will make headlines in 2011, some Duval County business and civic leaders are in positions, by choice or by circumstance, to influence significant events in the coming year.

The Daily Record staff nominated, reviewed, voted and debated a list of dozens of people who are in pivotal civic or business positions and who are expected to tackle significant issues of citywide importance in the coming year.

The top 10 are presented here today, although it’s important to note that many others were strongly considered.

Those chosen are in a specific place of particular relevance to the direction of the city. Their comments and insights will signal directions in business, politics, education and the future of Northeast Florida.

Whether or not you agree with them, you might benefit from knowing their views and plans because they might well affect you.
Here's what the paper says about Tucker:
Billie Tucker, executive director of the First Coast Tea Party, is gearing up her troops for the spring elections and beyond.

The tea party movement across the country strongly influenced the November elections and the First Coast Tea Party is preparing to interview candidates on the local ballot.

An outspoken advocate for tea party principles, Tucker is putting structure to the First Coast Tea Party and setting up committees to keep watch on City, state, federal and school board issues.

Her challenge: “2010 was a year of great wins for the tea party movement. Those wins do not mean we will go away or that our work is done. Because within those great wins came many disappointments. The lame-duck session after our win on Nov. 2 showed us the absolute disregard by our leaders for the desires of the people,” she said.

“We fired them on Nov. 2, yet they kept spending our money, passing legislation to micromanage our lives and gave special deals to their buddies.”

Tucker said that in the private sector, a fired employee is “escorted out the door so they cannot do the company harm. Again, we see government doesn’t work that way and the harm caused by this lame duck will be felt by generations to come.”

Tucker said that attention now turns locally.

“With 2011 just days away, the First Coast Tea Party will turn our attention to finding and electing principled leaders to lead us at the local level. With the many issues facing us as a city, it will take men and women of character and vision who can work together to bring prosperity and jobs back to the First Coast.”

Her personal challenge:

“To keep the good fight going within the tea party movement, balance my life as a wife, mom and grandmother, move my own career to a higher level of performance and satisfaction and grow my faith in the One who sustains me.
Click here to read the other nine profiles.
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