With the discovery of huge oil fields off the coast of Brazil in the fall of 2007 came estimates of just what impact they would have on Brazil’s already booming economy. Prior to the discovery of “pre-salt” reserves estimated to be the size of Florida and in excess of 120 billion barrels, Brazil’s economy was already considered to be the 7th largest in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the CIA.

But as the resources are developed, to many observers Brazil is a cinch to take over 6th place by replacing Great Britain in the size of its economy. It’s economy in 2004 was one-third that of Great Britain’s but by 2007 it had grown to half. With the great recession costing the United Kingdom 20 percent of its GDP between 2007 and 2010, and Brazil’s continuing to grow apace by nearly 52 percent, the IMF now estimates that Brazil will take over 6th place by the end of this year.

The technological challenges facing Petrobas, Brazil’s main oil producer, are immense. In order to reach the oil, it will have to drill through four miles of ocean and rocks and a thick layer of salt. And then retrieving it and turning it into a profitable revenue stream will be the next challenge. Brazil’s politicians are already calling it “the pot of gold at the bottom of the ocean” and are considering how the revenues might be used to further the government’s endless list of priorities.

The ideologies and demographics of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been obscured by disorganization and media rhetoric, but emerging surveys and analyses are attempting to decipher the defining attributes of the rooted crowds in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and in other cities across the country. Who are these protesters? What are their political ideologies? Are they educated? Do they have jobs? In a poll conducted by Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, a team of 15 researchers ventured out to survey 301 New York protesters to find the answers to these questions.

"We’ve had a lot of speculation about who these people are," the professor commented, adding, "Some of what we found reinforced what many already believed, and some results were surprising." In the survey, Panagopoulos and his team focused on characteristics relating to the movement’s demographics and political beliefs to better understand the catchy, but somewhat esoteric, signs and slogans that have painted the media headlines over the past several weeks.

The poll, sponsored by Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, found that New York’s OWS movement is 68 percent white and 61 percent male. While 28 percent of the protesters are unemployed, most are college graduates and 22 percent hold advanced college degrees. Of those who are currently employed, 30 percent claim to work full-time and 18 percent work part-time.

One of the great advantages to being an octogenarian is having lived through a great deal of history. That gives one a perspective on life that the young — everyone under 60 — does not have. I remember the days when I would look around and find myself perhaps the youngest person in the crowd. I took great delight in that. Today I look around and I am usually the oldest.

But I know that God has kept me around for a purpose, and I suspect that He wants me to keep doing what I have been doing for the last 40 years: writing mainly about education and promoting homeschooling.

How different is education today from what it was when I first attended a public school back in New York City in the early 1930s! That was during the Great Depression, but I don’t remember anyone I knew being depressed. My father was in the produce business; thus, we always had plenty of food on the table. My mother actually made her own noodles for chicken soup. She also made her own gefilte fish (stuffed fish), which tasted a lot better than the bottled variety they sell in today’s supermarkets. I was also able to walk to school and come home for lunch, which consisted of a fried egg sandwich and a glass of milk. I remember admiring the smiling policeman who stopped traffic so that we could cross the avenue on our way to the neighborhood school.

On Saturdays my friends and I went to the movies. Price of admission? Ten cents. In those days a penny could get you a Tootsie Roll, a package of gum, a bun. Five cents could get you a great tasting hotdog.

In various cities across the country, mobs of mostly young, mostly incoherent, often noisy and sometimes violent demonstrators are making themselves a major nuisance.  Meanwhile, many in the media are practically gushing over these "protesters," and giving them the free publicity they crave for themselves and their cause — whatever that is, beyond venting their emotions on television.

Members of the mobs apparently believe that other people, who are working while they are out trashing the streets, should be forced to subsidize their college education — and apparently the President of the United States thinks so too.

But if these loud mouths' inability to put together a coherent line of thought is any indication of their education, the taxpayers should demand their money back for having that money wasted on them for years in the public schools.

Sloppy words and sloppy thinking often go together, both in the mobs and in the media that are covering them. It is common, for example, to hear in the media how some "protesters" were arrested. But anyone who reads this column regularly knows that I protest against all sorts of things — and don't get arrested.

Although his commitment to “limited government” is unsurpassed, establishment Republicans in both politics and the so-called “conservative media” labor incessantly to discredit Texan Congressman and GOP presidential contender, Ron Paul. On its face, who couldn’t judge this phenomenon, the phenomenon of the most vocal champions of liberty ridiculing and trivializing the most vocal champion of liberty, as anything other than bizarre?  Any remotely curious observer couldn’t resist the impulse to inquire into the roots of this enigma.

We needn’t dig too deeply to discover that the establishment Republican’s apparently irrational conduct toward Paul stems from his angst regarding Paul’s foreign policy vision. Paul, you see, rejects in no uncertain terms the notion that Big Government is not only permissible, but desirable, as long as it is non-American citizens abroad upon whom our government’s designs would be brought to bear. Loudly and unapologetically, he rejects the idea that “social engineering” is a good thing as long as it is other societies that our government seeks to “engineer.” Paul makes no secret of his utter contempt, a contempt born of his passion for liberty and individuality, for the belief that policies rooted in utopian fantasy are worthy of pursuit as long as it is not America, but the world, that our government seeks to perfect.

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.

 

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.

One of the many goals of the Occupy Wall Street orchestrators has clearly been to paint America’s richest one percent of the population as the antagonists to the country's prosperity and to the lower and middle classes. Coming to the defense of the top one percent, however, is financial expert Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital Inc. and former economic adviser to GOP presidential contender Ron Paul.

Schiff visited the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations last Friday in lower Manhattan holding a sign that read, “I am the 1%. Let’s talk,” and brought along a film crew to video his encounters. His purpose, he said, was to “motivate these protesters and try to educate them about what caused the financial crisis.” He explained that he believes that their anger is “justified, but broadly misdirected.” “It’s not capitalism that has failed them,” emphasized Schiff, "it’s socialism, it’s corporatism, crony capitalism, it’s fascism. That’s the problem. Capitalism is the solution, if we can only fully embrace it.”

The video footage effectively reveals what happens when the so-called “99%” are confronted with legitimate questions regarding their philosophies.

As noted by Schiff, the protesters immediately became defensive when he asked them how much of his own hard-earned money he should be permitted to keep. They shouted that the federal government should eliminate the Bush tax cuts, prompting Schiff to respond, “I am giving the government half of what I earn. You think they should take more? [If they get rid of the Bush tax cuts] I’ll be paying more than 50 percent in taxes.”

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