California is a great place for studying the thinking — or lack of thinking — on the political left. The mindset of the left was recently displayed in a big, front-page story in the October 30th issue of the San Mateo County Times. It was an investigative reporter's exposé of the "payday loan" business and its lobbyists. According to the reporter: "In California lenders charge up to $45 in fees on a maximum $300 loan. This amounts to an interest rate of 460 percent, trapping some borrowers into a never-ending cycle of debt." Let's take this one step at a time. Whatever the merits or demerits of the rest of the argument, $45 is not going to trap anyone in a never-ending cycle of debt, even if they are making only the bare minimum wage. Personal irresponsibility in managing money can trap anyone, but that is regardless of whether or not they take out payday loans. Now to the 460 percent rate of interest. You don't need higher math to figure out that $45 is 15 percent of $300. How did we get to 460 percent? Very simple: By distorting the actual conditions of most payday loans.
A little-noticed event occurred at approximately midnight on Monday, October 31, 2011: The national debt of the United States exceeded, for the first time in history, the country’s gross domestic product. The website USDebtClock.org showed the gross domestic product crossing the $15 trillion mark for the first time on Monday, while earlier in the day the numbers from TreasuryDirect showed the total public debt outstanding at $14.993 trillion and growing by more than seven billion dollars a day. Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s campaign manager, John Tate, noted the passing of the milestone: We can no longer afford politicians who play games with America’s future. As President, Ron Paul will treat the American people with the respect they deserve by being honest about our nation’s situation and implementing fundamental reforms to return America to prosperity. A closer look at the USDebtClock.org website reveals the size of the problem facing Paul if he wins the White House: U.S. federal revenues are running at $2.3 trillion while government spending is at $3.6 trillion, leaving a deficit just for the fiscal year 2011 at $1.3 trillion. If those levels hold for the next 12 months, the national debt will be at $16.3 trillion, and counting. But this is far from the entire picture. Unfunded liabilities facing the government in Social Security alone amount to $15.3 trillion while Medicare and the prescription drug programs’ liabilities exceed $100 trillion.
Prime Minister George Papandreou’s surprise call for a referendum on the new austerity measures demanded by last week’s eurozone “deal” caught everyone off guard, including his own finance minister. Analysts immediately accused Papandreou of seeking political cover for the increasingly unpopular increased austerity measures to be imposed as a condition for the next insertion of funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in two weeks. Knowing that citizens would likely vote against the measures if given the chance, the PM could then pass the blame for failure onto the citizens, leaving himself and his party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), absolved from blame as the new measures failed.
Writing in the Washington Post on Friday, Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power (which was adapted into a mini-series by PBS in 1992) explored the shift of oil’s epicenter from the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere, expressing his surprise that “what appeared to be irreversible is being reversed.” He explains: The new energy axis runs from Alberta, Canada, down through North Dakota and South Texas, past a major new discovery off the coast of French Guyana to huge offshore deposits found off Brazil. The transformation is happening not as part of some grand design or major policy effort, but almost accidentally. This shift was not planned — it is a product of a series of unrelated initiatives and technological breakthroughs that, together, are taking on a decidedly hemispheric cast. The virtual explosion in oil extraction taking place in North Dakota is detailed here with records of oil production through the technology of fracking being set every month. The oil sands in Canada are so vast that the present production of 1.5 million barrels per day could double by the year 2020, making Canada the fifth largest producer of oil behind Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and China. And the “pre-salt” resources just discovered offshore in Brazil through advances in reading seismic signals indicate that Brazil’s potential oil reserves are so large that that country could be exporting 5 million barrels of oil daily by 2020.
As brutal revenge attacks against loyalist towns and bickering between various armed factions pick up steam in Libya, the al Qaeda flag was photographed flying above the courthouse in the rebellion’s home town of Benghazi. The White House, which unconstitutionally committed American forces in the conflict, said it was not surprised by recent developments. "There is no God but Allah," read the black flag with a full moon fluttering atop the key government building, which served as the rebel regime’s headquarters throughout much of the eight-month civil war. The first media outlet to publicize the banner also noted that Islamists could be seen throughout the city flying the al Qaeda flag and shouting Muslim slogans. When a photographer with Vice.com approached the courthouse to take pictures of the flag, a guard came out and warned him to stop. “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue,” the camouflaged security officer said. “I recommend that you don't publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself.” The Libyan revolutionary also insisted the flag on the courthouse was dark black, while al Qaeda’s flag was charcoal black. Locals urged the photographer to leave too, saying Islamist fighters could be watching him.
The United States Department of Justice filed suit Monday in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina seeking to enjoin and have declared invalid the state’s recently adopted immigration law. The measure (S.B. 20) was signed into law in June by Governor Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, and was set to go into effect on January 1, 2012. According to the complaint filed by the Justice Department, if enforced, the South Carolina law would unlawfully conflict with federal immigration statutes and would contribute to a patchwork of state and local laws many of which would contradict currently operative federal immigration policies and principles. Specifically, the filing claims: In our constitutional system, the federal government has preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters and to conduct foreign relations. This authority derives from the Constitution and numerous acts of Congress. Governor Haley’s office doesn’t expressly disagree with the DOJ’s version of the grant of constitutional authority over immigration, rather it is the federal government’s lack of effective exercise of that power that prompted passage of the strict immigration law.
The constitutional arguments against the Central Intelligence Agency’s assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki and, two weeks later, his 16-year-old son have been widely discussed. Less well known, however, is the case against CIA assassinations to be made on the basis of the law of war. Into the breach has stepped Howard University law professor Morris Davis, who in a recent column presented a well-researched case that the CIA’s drone assassination program is illegal under the law of war and that, as a result, CIA personnel participating in drone strikes could be prosecuted for murder. Davis knows his subject well. He was a U.S. Air Force judge advocate for 25 years and served as chief prosecutor of the Guantanamo Bay military commissions from 2005 to 2007, resigning from that post in disgust at the use of torture to extract evidence from prisoners and the interference in the proceedings from the Pentagon. He is now executive director and counsel of the Crimes of War Education Project. In other words, Davis’ opinion on the matter of war crimes should not be taken lightly. Central to Davis’ argument is the indisputable fact that the CIA is not an arm of the military but “a civilian agency made up of civilian employees and civilian contractors.” For those still not convinced, columnist Nat Hentoff reminds us that “when Gen. David Petraeus (who had led U.S. forces in Afghanistan) became the present head of the CIA, he removed his military uniform.”
A candy wholesaler is targeting kids with a new product line: lollipops, gummy sours, and ring pops shaped like marijuana leaves. While the manufacturer says the candy, aptly named Potheads, is selling well so far, the trend has some community leaders upset. “We spot trends that are in the marketplace and we make products to capitalize on those trends,” the candy's distributor, Andrew Kalan was quoted by CBN News as saying. He said that although the target market for Potheads is obviously children, he isn’t overly worried that the candy will lead kids to actually start smoking pot. He added that whatever the case, he is well within his rights to sell the product. “I don’t personally view candy as a gateway drug,” he said. “They’re expressing a political position and it’s a First Amendment right.” CBN reported that in Buffalo, N.Y., business leaders were outraged by the appearance of Potheads in local stores. “To make a product like that appealing to young adults, knowing the consequences just boggles the mind,” said Fred Merukeb of the Arab-American Business Association. In fact, some community leaders have begun a campaign to pressure stores to stop carrying the candy. “People need to know that any store that we learn of this disrespect and immorality, will be dealt with swiftly by whatever measures necessary, warned one Buffalo community activist, Charley Fisher III.
Shareholders of PepsiCo have filed a resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission in an effort to force the company to stop contracting with a research firm that uses cells from aborted babies in its process of producing artificial flavor enhancers. According to LifeNews.com, Pepsi has “ignored concerns and criticism from dozens of pro-life groups and tens of thousands of pro-life people who voiced their opposition to PepsiCo contracting with biotech company Senomyx even after it was found to be testing their food additives using fetal cells from abortions.” On its website Senomyx explains that its flavor research programs “focus on the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products. Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.” But Debi Vinnedge of Children of God for Life, a pro-life group that has focused its attention on Pepsi’s relationship with Senomyx, pointed out that what the company does not reveal is that it is “using HEK293 — human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors. They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors.”
As an investigation unfolds over a controversial U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program, another "green" loan recipient lingers at the brink of financial collapse. Massachusetts energy firm Beacon Power Corporation, which develops "flywheel-based" energy storage systems, filed for bankruptcy Sunday after receiving a $43 million Energy Department loan guarantee in August 2010 — only months after taxpayers were put on the hook for a $535 million loan guarantee granted to the now-defunct solar energy company Solyndra. Beacon Power’s bankruptcy filing arrived just two days after the White House ordered a 60-day "independent analysis" of the DOE’s loan program, where officials will evaluate and improve the monitoring process to "ensure" that government leaders are being "strong stewards of taxpayer dollars." In August 2010, the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank awarded Beacon Power the loan guarantee to finance a new energy storage plant in Stephentown, New York. But the company claims a run of bad fortune has burdened its financial standing, especially after it was delisted by the Nasdaq following an 80-percent plunge in its shares this year. "The current economic and political climate, the financing terms mandated by DOE, and Beacon’s recent delisting notice from Nasdaq have together severely restricted Beacon’s access to additional investments through the equity markets," CEO F. William Capp alleged in papers filed during Sunday’s bankruptcy proceedings.