Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
“The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains” -J.I. Packer
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press
Obama has not settled on a grand total, but after consulting with outside economists of all political stripes, his advisers have begun telling Congress the stimulus should be bigger than the $600 billion initially envisioned, congressional officials said Wednesday.
Obama is promoting a recovery plan that would feature spending on roads and other infrastructure projects, energy-efficient government buildings, new and renovated schools and environmentally friendly technologies.
There would also be some form of tax relief, according to the Obama team, which is well aware of the political difficulty of pushing such a large package through Congress, even in a time of recession. Any tax cuts would be aimed at middle- and lower-income taxpayers, and aides have said there would be no tax increases for wealthy Americans.
While some economists consulted by Obama's team recommended spending of up to $1 trillion over two years, a more likely figure seems to be $850 billion. There is concern that a package that looks too large could worry financial markets, and the incoming economic team also wants to signal fiscal restraint.
In addition to spending on roads, bridges and similar construction projects, Obama is expected to seek additional funds for numerous programs that experience increased demand when joblessness rises, one Democratic official said.
Among those programs are food stamps and other nutrition programs, health insurance, unemployment insurance and job training programs.
Obama advisers, including Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers, have been contacting economists from across the political spectrum in search of advice as they assemble a spending plan that would meet Obama's goal of preserving or creating 2.5 million jobs over two years.
Among those whose opinions Obama sought were Lawrence B. Lindsey, a top economic adviser to President George W. Bush during his first term, and Harvard professor Martin Feldstein, an informal John McCain adviser and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan.
Feldstein recommended a $400 billion investment in one year, Obama aides said, and Lindsey said the package should be in the range of $800 billion to $1 trillion. The aides revealed the discussions on condition of anonymity because no decisions had been reached.
"I do recommend $400 billion in year one and expect a similar amount in year two," Feldstein said in an e-mail message. "The right amount depends on how it is used."
Lindsey could not be reached.
Obama aides also pointed to recommendations by Mark Zandi, the lead economist at Moody's Economy.com and an informal McCain adviser who has been proposing a $600 billion plan.
"I would err on the side of making it larger than making it smaller," Zandi said in an interview. "The size of the plan depends on the forecast — the economic outlook — and that is darkening by the day."
"Even a trillion is not inconceivable," he said.
Only one outside economist contacted by Obama aides, Harvard's Greg Mankiw, who served on President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, voiced skepticism about the need for an economic stimulus, transition officials said.
The advisers say they agree with economic forecasts that predict that without a government infusion unemployment will rise above 9 percent and not begin to come down until 2011.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Obama has indicated that Congress will get his recovery recommendations by the first of the year.
"He's going to get that to us very quickly and so we would hope within the first 10 days to two weeks that he's in office, that is after Jan. 20, that we could pass the stimulus plan," Reid said. "We want to do it very quickly."
In a letter to Peter Orszag, Obama's choice to be White House budget chief, Reid asked, among other things, that the stimulus package include tax relief for middle-class families, including a reduction in rates and an extension of the child tax credit.
Obama's aides have said they hope to work with Republicans in writing the bill, particularly in the Senate, where the GOP could slow action if it chooses. This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats were preparing their own recovery bill in the range of $600 billion, blending immediate steps to counter the slumping economy with longer-term federal spending that encompasses Obama's plan.
A stimulus package that approaches $1 trillion could run into significant Republican opposition in Congress. It also could cause heartburn for moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers, known as Blue Dogs, who oppose large budget deficits.
"Republicans want to work with the president-elect to help get our economy on the path to recovery, but we have grave reservations about taking $1 trillion from struggling taxpayers and spending it on government programs in the name of economic 'stimulus,'" House Republican leader John Boehner said in a statement.
In February, Congress passed an economic stimulus bill costing $168 billion and featuring $600 tax rebates for most individual taxpayers and tax breaks for businesses. Pelosi largely bowed to President Bush's insistence to keep the measure free of spending on federal projects.
The upcoming effort would dwarf that earlier measure as well as a $61 billion stimulus bill the House passed just before adjourning for the elections. That measure died after a Bush veto threat and GOP opposition in the Senate.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Before the days of CGI (1974, to be exact) there was this funky sort of claymation we witness in the greatest Christmas special of all time- "The Year without Santa Claus".
Since I was a kid I have never forgotten the archnemesis brothers- Snow Miser and Heat Miser. I'll admit preferring Snow Miser over his brother, probably because he's a more "gregarious, friendly, jocular sort, given to gales of laughter and bad puns."(Wikipedia) Heat Miser on the other hand is a "vaguely demonic ogre-like being...a blustery, quick-tempered hothead."
What I'd like to see is a Celebrity Death Match type scenario with the two brothers battling it out, maybe in an MMA match format. Don't you think that would be cool? It would give a whole new generation of kiddies a vivid image of the two brothers. What warm memories it would make! Who do you think would win and why? In addition to stating your opinion in the comment section, be sure to answer the poll on the right.
Personally, I think the Snow Miser's superior reach and more agile movement would ultimately lead him to a rear naked choke victory over his chubby little brother...so long as "Mr. 101" doesn't find a way to burn him- keep in mind, what the Heat Miser touches only starts to melt in his clutch, turning to magma is not immediate, hence the Snow Miser has an opportunity.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
"There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless — boys and women — and I am neither one." -Greek saying
I received a funny response from a woman in my church (I will not mention Susan's name so as not to embarrass her) on my Facebook posting of this blog post. It shows how closely my dear parishioners pay attention to my various stylings, but it also makes a great point about the importance of wearing a robe-
"I must confess to being a little distracted in Sunday school. The combination of your Italian heritage, the black suit and the new facial hair somehow brought with it images of the mafia and I was actually on the verge of giggling. However, the robe during the service helped immensely and I now appreciate the pastoral robes (which are totally new to me) more than ever. I also confess that this probably says more about my maturity level than it does about your choice to wear a "chin beard." Giggling is not very becoming in one over 35."
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
U.S. Could Take Stakes in Big Three
Lawmakers negotiate legislation that would give the U.S. government a substantial ownership stake in the auto industry and a central role in its restructuring.
Greg Hitt, The Wall Street Journal/Monday, December 08, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Congress and the White House inched toward a financial rescue of the Big Three auto makers, negotiating legislation that would give the U.S. government a substantial ownership stake in the industry and a central role in its restructuring.
Under terms of the draft legislation, which continued to evolve Monday evening, the government would receive warrants for stock equivalent to at least 20% of the loans any company receives. The company also would have to agree to limits on executive compensation and dividend payments, much like those contained in the government's $700 billion rescue of the financial industry.
In the case of General Motors Corp., such a move could give the government a large stake in the company and may hurt existing shareholders. GM is seeking about $10 billion in short-term loans and has a market capitalization of about $3 billion. The legislation didn't specify what kind of stock the government would take, leaving open the option it could be preferred, common, voting or nonvoting.
Assuming congressional Democrats and the White House come to agreement on the plan, the car industry would be the latest to submit to strict government scrutiny in return for a bailout, joining most prominently the banking sector.
The auto industry would undergo a restructuring process akin to bankruptcy reorganization, only with fewer rigors and with the government, not a judge, in control, and with many associated political complications.
The program would be overseen by an official, tapped by President George W. Bush, whom congressional aides and lawmakers describe as an "auto czar." This person would act as a kind of trustee with authority to bring together labor, management, creditors and parts suppliers to negotiate a restructuring plan. He or she also would be able to review any transaction or contract valued at more than $25 million.
"We call this the barbershop," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. "Everybody's getting a haircut here, in terms of the conditions of the bill," she said, noting the likely impact on labor, bondholders, shareholders, car dealers, suppliers and executives. "The management itself has to take a big haircut on all of this."
Senior congressional Democrats and top Bush aides wrestled late Monday with final details of the package, which the White House would prefer were even tougher on the car makers. GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC have asked for a total of $34 billion to weather the downturn in the economy and steep slump in vehicle sales. GM and Chrysler say they need a cash infusion before the end of December to avoid shutting down.
Look out, a clone army might be next...