It’s not all pork

March 3, 2009

Still think that all the money in Obama’s federal economic stimulus program is going for pork, which will do nothing to help the economy?

 Well, think again. Consider the news from the West Virginia Division of Highways that they’ll be using $14.9 million from the stimulus fund to move up construction of its portion of the Mon/Fayette Expressway.

Using the economic stimulus money will mean that the highway will be open a couple years before it would have been otherwise, according to Marvin Murphy, state highway engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

He told the Herald-Standard the plans are to complete the construction to open the road in one construction season with a completion date of Dec. 28. Murphy said the road likely would be open by early 2010 at the latest.

That’s great news to the frantic folks who try to maneuver through the obstacles along Route 119 or 857 every day. The hope is that with the expressway open, Morgantown and Uniontown will be connected as never before. Planners envision some of Morgantown’s boom spreading northward giving developers much needed room to grow at Fayette County’s benefit.  Jobs and housing could give Fayette County’s economy a much needed stimulus of its own.

It’s great news overall for the expressway, which has been talked about  for 50 years or more and seemed at times to be headed for the dustbins of history. But now it appears destined to be completed from Morgantown to about 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

The entire Uniontown-to-Brownsville link of the Mon/Fayette Expressway is slated for completion in late 2011 or early 2012. After traveling on a new bridge across the Monongahela River in Washington County, the road will connect with the already built parts of Interstate 43 between California and Route 51 in Jefferson.

Overall, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that $28 billion from his economic recovery program that is being spent on road-building nationwide will save or create 150,000 jobs by the end of next year.

That’s greater than the number of jobs the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — lost in the past three years, Obama said on his first visit as president to the Department of Transportation.

“Transportation projects that were once on hold are now starting up again as part of the largest new investment in America’s infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system,” said Obama, according to Associated Press.

Outlining his plans for department employees, Obama said that just two weeks after he signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill into law on Feb. 17, “we are seeing shovels hit the ground.”

States can begin using their share of the $28 billion road-building investment immediately, he said. More than 200 highway construction projects also will be launched in the coming weeks, Obama said.

Wonder what those Republicans opposed to the stimulus project have to say about that? Kind of hard to be opposed to progress isn’t it?

 


Bush mishandled meltdown

February 6, 2009

I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention the last eight years but apparently the Bush administration severly mishandledlast fall’s meltdown of the financial industry.

According to Associated Press the governement overpaid tens of billions of dollars for stocks and other assets in its massive bailout last year of Wall Street banks and financial institutions.

AP said the Congressional Oversight Panel, a government watchdog, reported Friday last year’s overpayments amounted to a taxpayer-financed $78 billion subsidy of the firms.

AP also reported that the findings added to the frustrations of lawmakers already wary of the $700 billion rescue plan, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Congress approved the plan last fall, but members of both parties criticized spending decisions by the Bush administration and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said the overpayment was sure to “raise eyebrows.

” “I can understand some gap,” he said. “No one is expecting perfection between the price you pay and what you think you’re getting. But that’s a pretty large disparity.”

No kidding. It renews suspicion that the swiftness of the action last fall  was designed to help financial institutions more than taxpayers. After all consider that financially ailing insurance giant American International Group, which the Treasury Department deemed to be too big to be allowed to fail, received $40 billion from the Treasury for assets valued at $14.8 billion, the oversight panel found.

In December, in response to questions from the oversight panel, Paulson wrote that the value of preferred stock purchased by the government was “at or near par,” meaning Treasury paid $1 for every $1 dollar of asset.

 “The way the Treasury secretary described it does not fit with the numbers that were produced in our much more extensive valuation analysis,” panel chairwoman Elizabeth Warren told reporters Friday. “The secretary of the Treasury described it in December that these were par transaction and that is not supported by the numbers.”

 So, once again the business as usual practices followed by the Bush administration are taking a hit. Everyone should agree that more oversight was needed then and more will needed in the future.

New Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to announce Monday a sweeping new framework for helping banks, loosening credit and helping reduce foreclosures.

Treasury spokesman Isaac Baker said in a statement: “Treasury’s efforts since the fall prevented a systemwide collapse, but more needs to be done to stabilize the financial sector, increase lending and protect taxpayer dollars.”

He said the plan Geithner will announce aims to free up credit, “while strengthening transparency and accountability measures so that taxpayers know where and how their money is being spent and whether it’s achieving real results.”

Let’s hope the new system works for both financial institutions and taxpayers. It’s another example, though, of the massive ineptitude of George W. Bush.


Obama doing the right thing

February 4, 2009

President Barack Obama is getting off to a good start. According to Associated Press, Obama announced Wednesday that he’s imposing $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with “executives being rewarded for failure.”

It’s certainly about time that someone spoke up for the taxpayers on this issue. After all, if you’re going to get some taxpayer money then there should be certain things you agree to live with.

According to AP, Obama announced the dramatic new government intervention into corporate America at the White House, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at his side. The president said the executive-pay limits are a first step, to be followed by the unveiling next week of a sweeping new framework for spending what remains of the $700 billion financial industry bailout that Congress created last year. The executive-pay move comes amid a national outcry over huge bonuses to executives heading companies seeking taxpayer dollars to remain afloat. The demand for limits was reinforced by revelations that Wall Street firms paid more than $18 billion in bonuses in 2008 even amid the economic downturn and the massive infusion of taxpayer dollars.

“This is America. We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success,” Obama said. “But what gets people upset _ and rightfully so _ are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.” “It’s not a government takeover,” Obama stressed in an interview Tuesday with CNN. “Private enterprise will still be taking place. But people will be accountable and responsible.”

Even some Republicans, angered by company decisions to pay bonuses and buy airplanes while receiving government help, have few qualms about restrictions. “In ordinary situations where the taxpayers’ money is not involved, we shouldn’t set executive pay,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. “But where you’ve got federal money involved, taxpayers’ money involved, TARP money involved, and the way they have spent it, with no accountability, is getting close to being criminal.”

Wow, there you have it! A Republican agreeing with Obama. Maybe there’s hope for this country after all.


Palin has a point

January 13, 2009

I forgot to add in my last post that I do agree with Sarah Palin on one issue.

In her interview with conservative radio talk-show host and filmmaker John Ziegler, Palin complained about reports suggesting that Trig Palin was not her son and said she was “frustrated” by rampant rumors about her and her family.

While mainstream media stayed away from such rumors, they were fueled by bloggers and others online and the supermarket tabloids.

“I wasn’t believed that Trig was really my son,” she said. She called it a “sad state of affairs.”

“What is the double-standard here?” she asked. “Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst?”

“When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?” she asked.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s a shame that so much of what thrives on the Internet are outright, vicious lies.

The mainstream media stayed away from such rumors because there was nothing to them. That’s the way it used to be when facts mattered, but now anyone can say anything and all kinds of people believe it. Conservatives and liberals are equally guilty of it. Never let the facts get in the way of a good yard is what they believe.

Let’s hope that one day we get back to where people base their decisions on the truth not just what they want to believe.


Obama proving skeptics wrong

January 6, 2009

Remember when all those Republicans and conservatives said Barack Obama would turn us into a socialist country come Jan. 20.

Well, guess what? According to Associate Press, Obama’s actually getting some praise from Republicans and conservatives about his proposed stimulus package, which would provide businesses with billions of dollars in refunds on taxes they paid several years ago.

“This gives companies an infusion of cash just when they need it,” Dorothy Coleman of the National Association of Manufacturers said of the proposed refunds.

According to AP, Obama’s proposal to stimulate the economy includes tax cuts of up to $300 billion, including more than $100 billion for businesses.

The refund provision would enable some companies posting losses last year to get refunds for taxes paid as far back as five years earlier. The businesses could refile their old tax returns, using the losses suffered last year to offset profits made when times were good.

Under current law, businesses can use losses to offset profits the two previous years.

“I think it’s creative, I think it’s bold,” said said Bruce Wein said, who heads the U.S. tax practice law firm DLA Piper. “It’s going to get a lot of backing from Republicans for the obvious reasons.”

AP said Obama’s tax package also targets individuals, providing a $500 tax cut for most workers and $1,000 for couples, at a cost of about $140 billion to $150 billion over two years. The individual tax cuts may be awarded through withholding less from worker paychecks, effectively making them about $10 larger each week.

Another provision brought to the negotiations by the Obama team would award companies that hire new workers a one-year tax credit at a total cost of $40 billion to $50 billion over two years. Businesses also would get additional incentives to invest in new equipment.

The ability to write off losses and apply them to tax bills retroactively was “at the top of the list from businesses’ viewpoint,” said Bruce Josten, the executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Josten said the Obama transition team has held more than a dozen meetings with chamber officials to discuss a number of issues, with several of the meetings devoted to the economic recovery plan. The tax relief package detailed in press reports on Monday “fits the criteria that we’ve outlined,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said tax cuts could help boost the economy “if it’s done right.”

“It’s tricky to make sure the relief is big enough to make a dent in our huge economy and done in a way that stimulates growth,” Grassley said in a statement. “Business tax incentives should be strong enough to spur investment and create jobs.”

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said he is pleased Obama and congressional Democrats “agree with Republicans that tax relief for middle-class families and small businesses has to be a major part of this economic package.”

Hmmm. Not too bad for a supposed socialist Muslim terrorist, huh? Wonder if any of these Republicans would like to retract some of their harsh attacks on Obama from last fall. No, I guess that’s asking too much from Republicans and conservatives to ever admit they were wrong.


Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus

December 23, 2008

This is my all-time favorite editorial. It’s always amazing to me how relevant it is still today even though it was written 110 years ago. That’s really incredible. I think it also says a lot about newspapers and newspaper editors. I just hope that newspapers are around in one form or another 110 years from now. I hate to think of a world without newspaprs and not just because I’m a newspaper editor. There’s so much that newspapers do for communities and I’m afraid people won’t really appreciate them til they’re gone. Well, here’s a very Merry Christmas to everyone who reads my blog and a special thanks to all those who take the time to post to my blog. May everyone find peace and happiness in the coming year ahead.

IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?

We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor! I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon.

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.

There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal life with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


O.J. a “sweet” guy

December 8, 2008

See, O. J. Simpson isn’t such a bad guy after all.
According to a story written by By Melissa Aresenuik, O.J. bought sweets and snacks inside the Clark County Detention Center where he awaited sentencing for one misdemeanor and 11 felony offenses following a run-in with two memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas Palace Station hotel room last fall.
Yes, what a gem of a guy. A guy who richly deserved what he got last Friday when he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for those charges with no chance of parole for nine years. His attorneys naturally will appeal the decision.
The sentence was cheered by many, including the family of Ron Goldman. Ironically, Simpson’s Oct. 3 conviction of the Las Vegas charges came 13 years to the date that he was cleared of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Goldman.
“Some sort of karma. And good karma,” Fred Goldman said Monday of the conviction on that anniversary. “It is remarkable that, ultimately, now, we have seen him go to jail.”
Ron Goldman’s sister, Kim Goldman, called Simpson’s Las Vegas sentencing a “good day for us. … It’s been a long time coming.”
In a 1997 civil trial, Simpson was found liable for the deaths and ordered to pay a $33.5 million judgment to the victims’ families.
Simpson’s lawyer Gabriel Grasso said his client has been burning through his prisoner expense account buying food and candy for his fellow inmates.
“The jail has what’s known as a commissary where you can actually put in a written order and say, ‘I want two Snickers bars, a couple of ramen noodles, and whatever,’ and they actually will come to you within a day or two and you can actually eat those things and not have to eat the jail food, or not just have to live off of the jail food,” Grasso said.
“O.J. is actually buying stuff for all of these other guys who don’t have anybody on the outside (to buy it for them),” he said. “Candy bars, soup, chocolate, whatever you can buy at the commissary he’s been actually buying it for them, using his money to buy it for them.”
“You can’t buy anything like clothes or TVs,” he clarified.
“It’s basically Snickers bars,” the former NFL star’s other attorney, Yale Galanter, said.
“I was saying, where is all of this money going? How many candy bars can you eat?” Grasso said.
The inmate accounts are financed by felons’ contacts on the outside and are not funded by the state. Simpson has not used any public or tax dollars to buy his new jailhouse friends any treats.
Simpson was painted as a popular personality who makes friends quickly throughout his three-week trial in Las Vegas. Describing the scene at the Palms pool just hours before the infamous confrontation took place on Sept. 13, 2007, several witnesses told the court how strangers gravitated toward the former All-Star running back as the co-conspirators schemed by the pool.
Secretly recorded audio of the poolside planning session was used as evidence against Simpson, 61, and his co-defendant, Clarence “C.J. Stewart, 54, during their joint trial.
The recorded conversation included several interruptions that were caused when passers-by stopped to say hello to the aging star and ask for autographs.
Due in part to Simpson’s resilient charisma, Grasso indicated on Friday that he isn’t overly worried about his client’s safety in prison.
“When he does meet people in jail, when he does have to interact with people, they’re going to treat him well because he treats them well,” Grasso said.
“He’s very adaptable,” Galanter added, “(But) O.J. Simpson certainly carries with him some unique (problems) and we fully expect the officials in Nevada to … make sure that his safety is assured.”
Hmmm, if only Simpson had only assured the safety of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.