Archive for July 31st, 2011

Moody’s Investors

July 31, 2011

And on that note we have this from the Hill.

The “limited magnitude” of both debt plans put forward by congressional leaders would not put the nation’s AAA credit rating back on solid footing, Moody’s Investors Service announced Friday.

“Reductions of the magnitude now being proposed, if adopted, would likely lead Moody’s to adopt a negative outlook on the AAA rating,” the credit rating agency said in a new report. “The chances of a significant improvement in the long-term credit profile of the government coming from deficit reductions of the magnitude proposed in either plan are not high.”

It added that “prolonged debt ceiling deliberations” have increased the odds of a downgrade, but that the firm is still confident policymakers will avoid a default.

“It remains our expectation that the government will continue with timely debt service,” the firm said.
It also clarified that as far as it is concerned, the nation will only default if it misses an interest or principal payment on U.S. debt, not if it misses payments on other obligations like federal employee salaries or Social Security benefits.

The report also gives credence to a claim popular among Republicans: that the government has enough cash to avoid a default even past the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department.

“If the debt limit is not raised before August 2, we believe that the Treasury would give priority to debt service payments and could thus postpone a potential debt default for a number of days,” it said. “Revenues would be more than adequate for some period of time to meet those payments, although other outlays would be severely reduced as a result.”

Moody’s previously put the nation’s top credit rating on watch for a downgrade on July 13, as lawmakers continue to fight over a deal to raise the debt limit.

While Moody’s is confident it will not have to downgrade the nation’s rating because of a default, it maintained that long-term debt and deficit problems will continue to weigh on the AAA mark.

As Republicans and the White House fight over the length of a debt limit increase, Moody’s said it would not reaffirm the nation’s AAA rating unless there is at least a six-month boost to the debt limit.

However, if the nation were to default for a short period of time, Moody’s said it would knock its credit rating down to AA, under the assumption that the default would be quickly rectified and investor losses would be minimized. However, in the “extremely unlikely” situation that investors do lose on Treasury investments, a lower rating could be given.

Nobody in Washington is seriously trying to balance the budget. The Republicans are too timid. They are afraid to make anything more than nominal cuts that won’t even come close to being enough. The Democrats are oblivious. They are still trying to protect stupid stuff like cowboy poetry reading festivals from being cut. I am afraid that we are doomed.

The Debt Ceiling

July 31, 2011

I haven’t been following the debate very closely, just on and off. Right now I am not sure what is happening. I see a report through Drudge that they are very close to a deal. But, as I read through the story, I don’t see any details. Evidently there will be no new taxes but I don’t see what they might cut.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Republican in the Senate said Congress and the White House were very close to a deal on raising the limit on U.S. borrowing that would avert an unprecedented default on America’s debt, ending one of the nastiest partisan fights in recent memory.

Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell said he was nearing a recommendation of the tentative agreement to Republicans in the upper chamber. It would, he said, likely extend U.S. borrowing authority, which expires on Tuesday, beyond the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, a fundamental demand of President Barack Obama.

At the same time, the agreement would include none of the tax increases Obama has sought and Republicans had steadfastly rejected. It also includes, he said, the requirement that both houses of Congress vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. That outcome of that vote, however, would have no effect on raising the debt limit.

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that both sides are generally in agreement on an emerging package that would cut the deficit in two stages, with key details still being worked out.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said there still was no deal and talks on many issues still needed to be settled. Although he said there was “relief” in Congress and the White House because serious negotiations were now making headway.

The deal, negotiated late Saturday night, would raise the nation’s debt limit would rise in two steps by about $2.4 trillion and spending would be cut by a slightly larger amount, according to officials close to the talks. The first stage — about $1 trillion — would take place immediately and the second later in the year.

The officials who described the talks did so on condition of anonymity, citing their sensitive nature.

Obama is seeking legislation to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit by enough to tide the Treasury over until after the 2012 elections. He has threatened to veto any legislation that would allow a recurrence of the current crisis next year but has agreed to Republican demands that deficits be cut — without tax increases — in exchange for additional U.S. borrowing authority.

The alarming thing is that this isn’t the real crisis. The real crisis is that we are 14.3 trillion dollars in debt and as far as I can tell this deal only gets us further in the hole. We have got to start balancing our budget right now. We have got to come up with a credible plan to begin to pay down that literally astronomical debt. Frankly I think it might have been better to not raise the debt ceiling and deal with a default right now. If things go on as they have been, we will have a default in our lifetime, probably sooner rather than later.

Scientology Book Author Reveals Church’s Inner Workings

July 31, 2011

From Yahoo News and Reuters. Janet Reitman has written a book on the mysterious and somewhat frightening Scientology cult titled Inside Scientology. They really don’t like negative publicity so I imagine that researching this book must have been at least a little dangerous. Of course I don’t think they still break into offices but you never know. L. Ron Hubbard’s  paramilitary organization SeaOrg is still in business.

Judging from this interview though, I am not sure that Ms. Reitman has revealed anything particularly new or surprising to those who already know about this cult. We already knew they were more of a business than an actual religion, that they attract not too bright celebrities to improve their public image, etc. Here are some excerpts

A: Is Scientology still a big religion in celebrity circles?

Reitman: I totally think that celebrity Scientologists are hesitant to be public about it these days, but I don’t think they’ve ever had as many celebrities as people think. There are really very few. Cruise is a big celebrity. Travolta is a long-time celebrity. Jenna Elfman had a TV show, but most of these people aren’t huge celebrities. Kabbalah has gotten the superstars. Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Madonna — those are big stars.

Q: How effective has Cruise been as the public face of Scientology?

A: I don’t believe he’s been an effective face in terms of getting new members, but he’s been very effective in terms of getting the existing members excited. There was a specific strategy in place to make Cruise into the model Scientologist. It was a promotional strategy and it’s been good and bad.

Existing members are not necessarily aware of how the church is perceived. They are told they should not read newspapers, they would not have watched the “South Park” episode that makes fun of them, and they would not have read the magazine article that became the basis for my book. So from their viewpoint, Cruise’s behavior would be perceived completely differently than what we see. It would have made them really excited to see him jumping on Oprah’s couch.

 

Q: Why do you think Scientology remains so controversial?

A: I think it has to do with its history of secrecy and also its history of litigiousness. I do think that’s changed slightly. In so many ways it tries to not be so secretive anymore. It tries to be less aggressive than it was in the past. You don’t see them filing those giant lawsuits any longer. I think it’s a residual effect. They pled guilt to conspiracy once. They conducted a domestic espionage operation. And you have all these people who left the church coming out about their experience.

Q: What shocked you the most about Scientology?

A: I didn’t expect to find out how much of a business they were. They are almost like a multi-level marketing firm. They have a very shrewd marketing sense. They are drilled on how to sell. They use a book written by a car salesman that talks about sure-fire sales techniques and it shows you how to close the deal. It’s an essential part of their training.

I think that L. Ron Hubbard’s death might have caused them to mellow a little, along with the very negative publicity when the details of more of their more unsavory and illegal actions came out.

I am not sure I will get around to reading this book. I already know enough about Scientology. On the other hand, if I discover hundreds of one star reviews on Amazon.com that were obviously written by the kool-aide drinkers, I might just buy it out of spite.

 

 

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming

July 31, 2011

Whether you are a true believer worried about the terrors of global warming (climate change/climate catastrophe) or a skeptic who wants some solid information to convince your friends, you have to read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and the Environment. If this well-researched book does not play an important role in finally debunking the global warming scare, then nothing ever will. Alas, I fear that nothing ever will since the hypothesis of manmade global warming has proved to be strangely unfalsifiable.

Even those who have followed this issue closely are sure to find at least one eye opener in this book. Just a few examples include,

 

  • The earth has not gotten warmer since 1998
  • There is no direct link in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the earth’s temperature. Solar activity has far more influence
  • The 1990’s had a higher temperature than average because the weather stations in Siberia were closed down after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • The Kyoto treaty is completely ineffective. Most of the countries that are increasing their carbon emissions, including China, India, Brazil, are exempt. Assuming the alarmists are correct, then at best, the Kyoto treaty will reduce the temperature increase by .07 ° C. That is assuming that the emission targets are met, which is impossible.
  • Evil corporations do not fund the global warming skeptics. In fact there are several corporations that stand to benefit from global warming legislation, including Duke Energy, DuPont, and BP

 

If after reading this book, you still are not convinced, ask yourself this. Why do the alarmists resort to deception so often?  From the climategate scandal to the hockey stick fraud, they exaggerate and lie. Why do they try to suppress dissenting views, if the science is all on their side? Why do they claim a consensus when none exists?

 


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