Spillionaires

A new word for people who got rich from British Petroleum from the oil spill in the Gulf:

The oil spill that was once expected to bring economic ruin to the Gulf Coast appears to have delivered something entirely different: a gusher of money.

So many people cashed in that they earned nicknames: “spillionaires” or “BP rich.” Others hurt by the spill wound up getting comparatively little. Many people who got money deserved it. But in the end, BP’s attempt to make things right — spending more than $16 billion so far, mostly on damage claims and cleanup — created new divisions and even new wrongs.

Some of the inequities arose from the chaos that followed the April 20 spill. But in at least one corner of Louisiana, the dramatic differences can be traced in part to local powerbrokers.

To show how the money flowed, ProPublica interviewed people who worked on the spill and examined records for St. Bernard Parish, a coastal community about five miles southeast of downtown New Orleans.

Those documents show that companies with ties to parish insiders got lucrative contracts and then charged BP for every possible expense. The prime cleanup company submitted bills with little or no documentation. A subcontractor billed BP $15,400 per month to rent a generator that usually cost $1,500 a month. Another company charged BP more than a $1 million a month for land it had been renting for less than $1,700 a month. Assignments for individual fishermen also fell under the control of political leaders.

“This parish raped BP,” said Wayne Landry, chairman of the St. Bernard Parish Council, referring to the conduct of its political leadership. “At the end of the day, it really just frustrates me. I’m an elected official. I have guilt by association.”

via ‘Spillionaires’ are the new rich after BP oil spill payouts – The Washington Post.

Would it be fair to say that the environmental damage from the oil spill was much less than it was hyped up to be, and that BP was the victim of extortion?

Academic bias

A new study demonstrates what might seem perfectly obvious but which still needs to be demonstrated:  That there is a distinct and measurable bias in academia against political conservatives and (especially) conservative Christians.  See Preferred Colleagues – Innovations – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

HT:  Jackie

Spain’s Postmodern Socialism

A discussion of Spain’s financial woes blames in part Prime Minister Zapatero’s postmodernist worldview:

Economists both inside and outside of Spain had been warning for many years that the country’s construction boom was unsustainable, and that urgent measures needed to be taken to diversify the economy and to make it more competitive.

Instead, Zapatero wasted valuable time and energy denying that there actually was a problem. Spanish Socialists, like many postmodern relativists, believe that all problems are by definition imaginary and can be wished away by avoiding negative thoughts. In an effort to downplay the scale of Spain’s economic troubles, the Socialist government has established a seven-year track record of using an arsenal of postmodern euphemisms to avoid unpleasantries and to create a virtual Spanish reality.

In an interview with the Socialist mouthpiece El País, for example, Zapatero famously asserted that the idea that Spain was actually in trouble was “opinionable” and said that “it all depends upon what we mean by crisis.” He said that those warning about an impending economic crisis were being “unpatriotic” and that such talk was a “fallacy, pure catastrophism.” Zapatero also warned: “Let’s not turn economic forecasting into a fetish.” Think positive, he said: “To be optimistic is something more than a rational act. It is a moral requirement, an act of decency and, if I may say so, elegance.”

After Zapatero was finally badgered into using the word “crisis” in a late-night television interview, when a journalist read him the word’s dictionary definition, his government tried to pin the blame for Spain’s self-inflicted economic woes on a foreign scapegoat. Spain’s industry minister said Spain was facing an “imported problem.” The deputy prime minister blamed Spain’s problems on “radical liberalism,” which in euro-speak means the free market. The labor minister blamed “the neo-conservative thinking preached by U.S. President George W Bush, which has resulted in capitalism without ethical limits.” Zapatero himself blamed “the neo-conservative model based on capitalism without borders nor limits nor ethics.”

In February 2010, Zapatero blamed Spain’s economic crisis on an “Anglo-Saxon” conspiracy and ordered his country’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Center (CNI), to investigate whether the Americans and Britons were conspiring to undermine the Spanish economy. . . .

Up until the austerity measures recently foisted upon Spain by international investors, one of Zapatero’s main diversionary tactics had been to try to shield Spanish voters from exposure to the reality of market economics. In doing so, he has gone on a seven-year spending spree that has left Spain deeply in debt.Just one example: Zapatero’s 2008 re-election promises totalled €22 billion, or a whopping 2.1 percent of Spain’s GDP. For the 1.7 million Spaniards eligible to vote for the first time, for example, Zapatero promised rent subsidies, and for the under-30s he promised to build 150,000 low-cost homes. In a bid for the female vote, he proposed that working women should pay less tax than men. And for low wage earners, he promised to exempt them from paying income tax altogether.

Zapatero also promised to raise pensions and the minimum wage, to create 300,000 new child care slots, to increase autonomy for the region of Catalonia, to financially compensate companies that adapt their working hours to those of schools, and to provide new fathers with one month of paternity leave.

In an effort to reverse Spain’s demographic crisis, Zapatero launched the so-called “cheque bebé,” a government scheme to bribe Spanish parents into having children by paying them €2,500 ($3,500) for every newborn baby. As a sop to the environmentalist greens, Zapatero also promised to plant 45 million new trees (at one for each Spaniard, the Socialists will have to plant 30,821.9 trees every single day for the next four years). Another €3.5 billion would go towards the postmodern-sounding “Liberty, Coexistence and Rights in a Globalized World.”

via Pajamas Media » How Postmodern Socialism Destroyed Spain.

Is this happening here?

A church and the Jackie Robinson signing

A church played a major role in baseball history:

Sometimes, matters of faith have a quiet yet powerful way of influencing history.

Take, for example, the behind-the-scenes story that preceded the entry of the first African-American player to major league baseball more than six decades ago.

That player, of course, was the legendary Jackie Robinson, who shattered the big-league color barrier when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. The story of faith belongs to the baseball executive who signed Robinson, the equally legendary Branch Rickey, and to a New York minister who played a quiet role in a major decision.

And the telling of that story spans generations and families, from the minister’s wife, who wrote it down, to the couple’s granddaughter who uncovered it many years later among her late grandmother’s writings.

“I had no idea that I would find a story that linked my grandfather to a part of U.S. history,” the granddaughter, Donnali Fifield, told CNN. “But as soon as I read it, I knew it was historically significant.”

What Fifield read was an account by June Fifield of her husband, the Rev. Dr. L. Wendell Fifield, and his encounter with Rickey as history was about to be made.

Fifield, who was pastor of the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn in the 1940s, counted Rickey, then general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as one of his parishioners. . . .

Fifield’s historical footnote of faith was more passive. In a paper titled “Branch Rickey’s ‘Day of Decision’,” June Fifield wrote about a visit Rickey paid to her husband’s office at the church just before his decision to sign Robinson.

“Don’t let me interrupt, I can’t talk with you,” Rickey said as he walked into the minister’s office, according to the paper. “I just want to be here. Do you mind?”

The two men passed the time without words – the minister going about his work; Richey frenetically pacing the floor, stopping only occasionally to peer out the window on the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood that surrounded the church.

Amid ongoing silence, more pacing, more stopping, more pacing, more stopping from Rickey for some 45 minutes, according to the article.

Finally, Rickey didn’t just break the silence, he shattered it.

“I’ve got it,” Rickey yelled emphatically as he banged his fist on the desk.

“Got what, Branch?” Fifield asked. “Wendell,” Rickey said, “I’ve decided to sign Jackie Robinson!”

June Fifield wrote that as Rickey regained his composure he sank into a chair and told her husband, “This was a decision so complex, so far-reaching, fraught with so many pitfalls but filled with so much good, if it was right, that I just had to work it out in this room with you. I had to talk to God about it and be sure what he wanted me to do. I hope you don’t mind.”

The article continues that as Rickey straightened his bow tie and donned his worn hat, he offered, “Bless you, Wendell,” then left the room.

via How church helped sign Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn Dodgers – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan

It’s basically to raise taxes:

President Obama called for cutting the nation’s combined budget deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years on Wednesday, countering Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts.

Mr. Obama spoke in strikingly partisan tones in parts of the 43-minute speech, offering a blistering critique of the Republican approach to reducing the deficit and laying down political markers that are sure to please even his most skeptical Democratic allies. The president vowed not to extend tax cuts for the wealthy or to dismantle the government-run health care systems for the elderly and poor. And he said there was “nothing serious or courageous” about the proposals Republicans offered this month.

Still, as he laid out the administration’s opening bid in negotiations over the nation’s fiscal future, Mr. Obama conceded a need to cut spending, rein in the growth of entitlement programs and close tax loopholes. At the same time, he insisted that the government must maintain what he called investment in programs that are necessary to compete globally. And he made clear that, despite his compromise with Congressional leaders in December, he would fight Republicans to end lowered tax rates for wealthy Americans that have been in place since President George W. Bush championed them in the last decade.

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Obama said of budget proposals put forward by Republicans in the House. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”

In his remarks, delivered at George Washington University, Mr. Obama offered an impassioned defense of the popular Medicare and Medicaid programs against Republican proposals for sweeping changes in them. “We are a better country because of these commitments,” he said. “I’ll go further — we would not be a great country without those commitments.”

To the likely disappointment of some of his most liberal supporters, though, Mr. Obama signaled that he agreed with Republicans about the need to cut spending.

He acknowledged that some people would oppose cutting spending now, “mostly folks in my party,” the president said. “I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit.”

“But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option,” he said.

Among his proposals is a “debt fail-safe” mechanism that would force lawmakers into much more severe action if the deficit has not contracted significantly by 2014.

The provision would impose across-the-board cuts on most government programs, officials said, adding that it was intended to provide an incentive to motivate potentially reluctant lawmakers to take difficult but necessary steps.

via Obama’s Deficit-Cutting Plan Balances Cuts With Tax Increases – NYTimes.com.

So do you think this approach will work?  Is this better than Paul Ryan’s plan?

The lies of embryonic stem cell research

Embryonic stem cell research, contrary to the rhetoric, will NOT lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s.  And it probably won’t for Parkinson’s disease, either.  According to Joe Carter, stem cell scientists know this, but purposefully lie about it to overcome pro-life opposition to the destruction of embryos:

Several years ago I worked for a Christian bioethics think tank when ESCR was being hotly debated in the media. Although the ethics of the issue were contested, there was not much disagreement about the basic science involved. Yet some scientists were making claims about ESCR that no one with even the most basic knowledge about the subject could honestly believe were true. But they fooled others into believing them.

For example, the Democratic Party was so convinced that it included in its 2004 platform the claim that, “Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses—from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s.” Even at the time, researchers knew that ESCR could never cure such diseases as Alzheimer’s, and would likely never be useful for treating juvenile diabetes or Parkinson’s either.

While all Christian bioethicists were quick to point out that these claims were inaccurate, few were willing to say that the scientists were lying. However, Art Caplan—the “dean of liberal bioethics”—has no qualms about calling them out on their dishonesty.

via Lying About Embryonic Stem Cell Research » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The post then links to this interview with Caplan.


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