New Eric Cantor Ad Looks Desperate

April 23, 2014 Posted by

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is attacking his GOP primary opponent with a new television ad , a highly unusual move for a sitting member of House leadership that demonstrates he is taking the threat from his right back home more seriously than past months. The ad criticizes his opponent, Randolph-Macon economics professor David Brat, for a tangential association with former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who proposed raising taxes while he was in office. But a top Virginia official says the association is fleeting at best. “College professor David Brat is running against our conservative congressman Eric Cantor,” a narrator reads to kick off the ad. “But Brat worked on Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine’s Council of Economic Advisors while Kaine tried to raise our taxes by over $1 billion on cars, insurance and income. Now, liberal David Brat is running for Congress as a Republican. Liberal college professor? Tim Kaine adviser? Republican? Come on professor, you’ve got to be kidding.” In 2006, Kaine appointed Brat to the state’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists, comprised of academics, businessmen and one member from the Federal Reserve Board. Brat served on the board through the rest of Kaine’s term. Virginia Secretary of Finance Ric Brown, an economist who has served in various capacities for the Virginia government since 1971 and has been appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, said the board had nothing to do with setting tax policy at all. “The charge of the Joint Advisory Board of Economists is to come up with basically a consensus economic forecast for both Virginia and the nation,” Brown said in a phone interview. “At their meetings, they do not deal with revenue estimates. They deal with economic variables—unemployment, personal income, wages and salaries, cost of living—nationally and at the state level. They try to come up with a consensus forecast.” “They don’t deal with revenues but there is another advisory board—the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates, that he [the governor] chairs with major CEOs that do business in the state of Virginia—they deal with preliminary revenue forecasts that are derived from the economic forecasts that come out of the Joint Advisory Board of Economists meetings,” Brown added. Brat, who expressed anger at what he described as the ad’s inaccuracies, noted that Cantor ad buy shows he is treating the race seriously. “The Cantor Team says we have no race but out comes a negative ad,” Brat said in an email. “Don’t have to be a political genius to do the math on this one.” Besides his primary battle, Cantor is facing increasing criticism from the right for his actions as Majority Leader as speculation builds about whether Speaker John Boehner will return to Congress in 2015.

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New Eric Cantor Ad Looks Desperate

Alaska Energy Boom Starts Cranking Up

April 23, 2014 Posted by

In a flurry of Alaskan oil deals, London-based BP announced a sale of interests to Houston-based Hilcorp in four North Slope oil fields and the use of the proceeds for a big growth of investments on the North Slope. The major reason for America’s energy crisis over the last two decades was the 72% decline of Alaska oil production. However, passage of Bill 21’s exploration and development tax cuts is igniting a new American energy boom. Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil production accounts for over 1/3 of the entire economy of the state and contributes 90% of the state government’s discretionary budget . But since oil production began in 1992, production has fallen by 1.3 million barrels a day (mpd) from 1.8 mpd to .5 mpd. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System that was built to carry over 2 mpd of ANS oil is now 3/4 empty. More importantly, ANS lower volumes combined with distance to markets has made the Alaskan oil relatively more expensive than fracked shale oil in North Dakota (Bakken) and Texas (Eagle Ford), oil from resurgent drilling on older existing fields in the Permian basin, and new oil sands production in Canada. To try to resuscitate oil production and stay solvent, last year Alaska’s Legislature passed Bill 21 , which became law on January 1, 2014. The legislation has a number of oil and gas tax incentive items, but the biggest stimulus is “Gross Revenue Exclusion” (GRE) that on new fields or new projects within existing fields allows 20% of “new oil” to be tax free. It also extends for small-to-medium-sized independent companies loss carry forward tax credits from 2016 to 2022. This works out to a highly lucrative 45% tax credit for smaller drillers on the North Slope until 2016, and then 35% after that. Although ANWAR and numerous other colossal oil exploration and development projects in Alaska were halted by the Obama administration’s federal moratorium on offshore drilling, all the ANS projects are on State of Alaska lands. Furthermore, the administration’s new delay on the Keystone XL Pipeline Project gives ANS an advantage of guaranteed transport from existing capacity in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. London-based oil giant BP announced that because of the tax cut the company would sell interests in four existing fields for about $10 billion, so that Hilcorp, a smaller, more aggressive company based in Houston, can benefit from the independent company incentives to extract more oil out of existing fields. BP Exploration president Janet Weiss said , “Our plan is to reinvest 90 cents on every dollar we make back into Alaska. That’s a 60 percent increase over the levels” before taxes were cut. Prior to the incentives’ passage, BP only planned to add a drilling rig in 2015 and another in 2016 at Prudhoe Bay, resulting in a total investment of only $1 billion over five years and maybe 30-40 wells.  With the tax incentives and proceeds of the transaction, BP is cranking up billions of dollars in ANS oil exploration and development, with plans to: Submit a development plan in 2014 to drill for the Liberty field two miles under the Beaufort Sea to tap 100 million barrels; Start a 3-D seismic survey of the northern edge of Prudhoe Bay covering a 190 square mile area that could hold 55 million barrels of new oil and lead to 30 wells; Develop 200 or more production wells in the Sag River over next 10-year period to add 150 to 220 million barrels of new reserves to the Prudhoe Bay; Drill 7 exploratory wells in the Milne Point that could increase estimates of original oil reserves from 100 million barrels to 330 million barrels. Hilcorp believes its ability to breathe new life into mature oil basins is a great fit for the fields, said John Barnes, Hilcorp’s senior VP of exploration and production. He said the Bill 21 tax cut that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year for Alaska’s largest oil producers is “an encouraging sign for the long-term viability of its operations.” Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash said the old Alaska tax regime with rates that rose and fell with the price of oil made transactions like the Hilcorp-BP sale difficult. “Having a stable tax regime is a big factor in trying to evaluate the remaining value of any oil field.” He praised the BP-Hilcorp deal as great news because “folks at Hillcorp want to be here and have demonstrated their ability to increase production out of mature assets.” The author welcomes feedback and will respond to comments by readers.

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Alaska Energy Boom Starts Cranking Up

Jeb Bush Tells NY Donors He’s ‘Thinking about Running for President’

April 23, 2014 Posted by

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush received a standing ovation from donors in New York after he announced that he was thinking about running for president. Bush indicated his intentions during a Catholic school benefit in New York on Wednesday that was closed to the press.  “I’m thinking about running for president,” Bush said, according to Fox News reporter  Cristina Corbin , who spoke to an event attendee. The attendee said that Bush’s comment was met with a standing ovation, prompting Bush to say, ”Can someone call my mother so she can hear this?” In April 2013, Bush’s mother Barbara Bush said, ” We’ve had enough Bushes ,”  when asked if she wanted Jeb Bush to run for president. 

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Jeb Bush Tells NY Donors He’s ‘Thinking about Running for President’

Designer Simplifies Map of United States Highways in Style of Subway Map

April 23, 2014 Posted by

Cameron Booth, an Australian designer, has created a simplified road map of the Interstate and US highways of the continental United States that looks like a subway map, with straight lines connecting 4,385 different places along the way. Booth said: Design-wise, I just love being able to distill complex networks down to their barest elements: where do the roads go? Where do they cross other roads? When do they run concurrently with other roads? It’s a challenge for me to take something like a road map (geographically accurate, drawn in the tiniest detail) and reinvent it using the simple, pared-back design language of a subway/metro map (colored route lines, interchange markers, 45-degree angles), although the entire map ended up far more complex in its overall structure than your typical subway map. Most subway maps don’t have over 4,000 stops shown on them, though! Interestingly, the individual state maps still look relatively simple and far more subway map-like: it’s only when you see the whole thing put together that it looks so insane. However, Booth does admit that while the map is elegant and beautiful, it may not be as functional as the usual map. He concluded that his maps couldn’t “replace a proper road map or your smart phone for directions, as they only show a subset of ALL the roads in the US.”

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Designer Simplifies Map of United States Highways in Style of Subway Map

The Land Grabbing Feds

April 23, 2014 Posted by

In October 1980, Gerald Chaffin threw gasoline on his wood-frame home and burned it to the ground. He did it at the behest of the federal government. His crime? The BLM controlled the land on which his home had been located. He was the third owner of the home, which had stood for 37 years to house oil workers. His house, the BLM said, was trespassing. It would have to go. Three decades later, Americans are still fighting the same battle. On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott penned a letter to Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze opposing what he sees as a potential land grab in the northern part of the state by the federal government. The BLM is apparently considering whether or not to federalize some 90,000 acres of land on the Texas side of the Red River separating Texas and Oklahoma. The BLM says that in 1986, the feds  successfully grabbed  some 140 acres of land in that area and therefore has the precedent to grab 90,000 more acres. Abbott protested: I am deeply concerned about the notion that the Bureau of Land Management believes the federal government has the authority to swoop in and take land that has been owned and cultivated by Texas landowners for generations. The federal government already controls broad swaths of land in most Western states, including nearly 85 percent of Nevada, 70 percent of Alaska, and 60 percent of Utah. In August 2010, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) released an internal Bureau of Land Management memo exploring new strategies for grabbing territory. The memo stated, “Of the 264 million acres under BLM management, some 130-140 million acres are worthy of consideration as treasured lands. These areas, roughly equivalent in size to Colorado and Wyoming combined, are valuable for their unspoiled beauty…”  The memo suggests that the president should simply designate areas national monuments on his own. The report suggested that Obama essentially shift 12.85 million acres from  mixed-use to no-use . 17 areas would be designated as monuments – all in energy-rich areas. As Michelle Malkin  observed , “The War on the West is a war on property rights, a war on the economy, and a war on the American way of life.” In December 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar  announced  that it would be designating wilderness lands “wild lands” in order to prevent development on them. That prompted Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) to state, “This backdoor approach is intended to circumvent both the people who will be directly affected and Congress…” The federal government has upped the ante in recent months. Just last year, Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) filed a  lawsuit  against Salazar over Salazar’s attempt to have the BLM “re-inventory” public lands to check for wilderness characteristics that would subject them to further regulation. Some 1.6 million acres are “wilderness” in Utah, and the new regulations could, according to Chief Deputy Attorney General John Swallow, affect “tens of millions of acres.” The state of Alaska has joined in the lawsuit as well. In late 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency simply declared that the boundaries of the State of Wyoming and the Wind River Reservation had changed. The EPA told Wyoming that it would be treating the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes as a state for purposes of grant funding for air quality, but that it would also be expanding their boundaries. Governor Mead remarked, “I believe the EPA is in the wrong and I will not honor its decision.” The amount of land in question: over  1 million acres .  There is a long history of such land grabs. In 1996, weeks before the presidential election, President Clinton  launched his push  to grab 1.7 million acres in Utah, supposedly to protect the environment. The House Resources Committee issued a report suggesting something more nefarious at work: an attempt to fence off what was the then the largest undeveloped coal field in the country. Clinton stated, “Mining jobs are good jobs, and mining is important to our national security — but we can’t have mines everywhere, and we shouldn’t have mines that threaten national treasures.” An email from the chair of Clinton’s Council on Environmental Quality admitted, “these lands are not really endangered.” In 1976, Gerald Ford signed into law the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) that handed 260 million acres over to the control of the federal government. Jimmy Carter doubled down on the Act; according to  US News and World Report : The Carter administration and Congress have placed 37.8 million acres of land in parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and other categories that ban or curtail commercial development. Also, Congress has just approved legislation that restricts development on another 104 million acres in Alaska. Tightened enforcement of federal environmental rules and laws protecting endangered species of wildlife is further shrinking the amount of land available for farming, ranching, mining and timbering. Ronald Reagan, running for president in 1980, declared himself an opponent of federal control over such a huge amount of land. “I happen to be one who cheers and supports the Sagebrush Rebellion,” Reagan stated. “Count me in as a rebel.” The Sagebrush Rebellion didn’t succeed. But if Americans, rather than a cadre of unelected bureaucrats, are to control their own destiny, the next one had better.

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The Land Grabbing Feds

Supreme Court Orders Child Porn Offenders to Pay Limited Restitution

April 23, 2014 Posted by

Traffickers in child pornography must pay restitution to the children victimized by their crimes, but only to the extent that the government can show each trafficker’s connection to the video images in question. So said the Supreme Court on April 23 in a 5-to-4 decision in Paroline v. United States . Doyle Randall Paroline pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. Congress passed a 1994 law that enabled the victims of this crime—those who were underage when they appeared in pornographic pictures or videos—to claim restitution from those involved in trafficking in the illegal and obscene images.   The victim is “Amy” (her pseudonym for this case), seen in videos Paroline possessed. She sought a court order for Paroline to pay her $3.4 million, mostly for lost income, and the rest for years of future treatment and counseling. Section 2259 of the law that Congress passed requires federal trial courts to order defendants “to pay the victim … the full amount of the victim’s losses as determined by the court.” Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the issue here is how to determine the amount of restitution a possessor of child pornography must pay to the victim whose childhood abuse appears in [the videos].” Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan. This was an unusual mix of liberal and conservative justices in this 5-to-4 split decision. Kennedy described the challenge as determining which injuries were proximately caused by Paroline. That is to say, out of all the harm that Amy suffered, how much of it falls on Paroline, as compared to everyone else who produced, distributed, sold, bought, and watched the videos containing Amy. On one hand, Paroline must pay. But if certain legal principles of fault are carried too far, it could place full blame on only one person, when, in fact, many are responsible. That could cause a problem under the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines.” The Supreme Court held that courts must determine how much of the total harm any given criminal they convict should have to compensate the victims. Kennedy said there is no “mathematical formula” to arrive at a dollar amount, so federal district courts must use “discretion” and “sound judgment.” He noted such an approach has its own difficulties, but that courts routinely balance such competing concerns when ordering criminals to pay restitution to their victims. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Discussing the majority’s approach, he said, “But this inquiry, sensible as it may be, is not the one Congress adopted.” Instead, Roberts reasoned, the statute requires the government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning more than 50-50 odds) the dollar amount of harm the victim suffered, and that is the amount of restitution to be ordered. He then noted that the government admitted it did not have enough evidence to prove the amount of harm caused by this one criminal possessing the pornography depicting Amy. So he dissented, adding that he regretted having to do so. Roberts concluded his dissent: The Court’s decision today means that Amy will not go home with nothing. But it would be a mistake for that salutary outcome to lead readers to conclude that Amy has prevailed or that Congress has done justice for victims of child pornography. The statute as written allows no recovery; we ought to say so and give Congress a chance to fix it. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented separately. She would have ordered Paroline to pay restitution for all of Amy’s injuries, which could be the full $3.4 million. Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski .

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Supreme Court Orders Child Porn Offenders to Pay Limited Restitution

John Lott Announces Gun Data Research Project to Counter Bloomberg, Soros

April 23, 2014 Posted by

On April 21, economist and gun scholar John Lott Jr. announced he is launching the  Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) to produce “peer reviewed” research to counter the “bogus academic studies” of gun control advocates like Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. The center will be funded by individuals who donate to support CPRC’s research. During the launch, Lott said that his research has taught him “that allowing people to go and protect themselves saves lives, [and] deters criminals from attacking.”  However, he said the job of researching  and communicating it to people takes a team, and that is why CPRC is important to him:  That is the reason why myself and other advocates have put together the Crime Prevention Research Center to try and do quality research to go and look at these issues and try to show with the real numbers what is best for trying to go and protect people and save lives. On April 16, Breitbart News reported that Bloomberg pledged to spend $50 million to beat the NRA in the 2014 midterm elections.  Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins  Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com.

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John Lott Announces Gun Data Research Project to Counter Bloomberg, Soros

The last casualty of the cold war

April 23, 2014 Posted by

MATTHEW YGLESIAS had  an excellent piece at  Vox  on Monday pointing out a fundamental shift that has taken place over the past few years in our understanding of the economics of inequality. He begins by considering an “everything-you-need-to-know-about-economics” graduation speech by Thomas Sargent, a  Nobel prize-winning  economist, which included the line, “there are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency”. But  Mr Yglesias notes that this statement is no longer a truism. We used to believe that trying to make an economy more egalitarian, while perhaps ethically pleasing, would lead to slower growth. But in the aftermath of  Thomas Piketty’s new book  ”Capital”, recent papers by economists at the IMF and a flood of research into the economic effects of inequality, it seems this assumption is either unsubstantiated or just plain wrong. As Mr Yglesias… Continue reading

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The last casualty of the cold war

Poll: Only 15 Percent of Americans Want Jeb Bush To Run For President

April 23, 2014 Posted by

A new poll shows that only 15 percent of Americans want former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to run for president. The latest YouGov/Economist poll shows that 47 percent indicated that they did not want Bush to run. Thirty-eight percent indicated that they were not sure. The poll also shows that both Bush and former Governor Chris Christie get a 49 percent favorability rating among those that identified themselves as Republicans. Christie, however, is disliked by 37 percent of Republicans, which is a higher unfavorable rating than Jeb Bush – who got 25 percent. Forty-two percent of respondents who identified themselves as conservatives gave favorable ratings to Christie while 44 percent rated him unfavorably.  For Bush, 38 percent of conservatives rated him unfavorably compared to 33 who thought otherwise.  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), however, enjoys much higher numbers than either Bush or Christie. Sixty-three percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Paul, while only 15 percent rate him unfavorably. Sixty-one percent of conservatives polled rated Paul favorably. Among Independents, 56 percent view Christie unfavorably, while only 45 percent of Independents view Bush unfavorably. Forty-one percent of Independents view Rand Paul unfavorably. Only 15 percent of the Americans polled said that they wanted Jeb Bush to run for president while 47 percent said no. Thirty-eight percent indicated that they were not sure. The poll was based on 1000 respondents conducted from April 12-14 with a 4.2 percent margin of error

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Poll: Only 15 Percent of Americans Want Jeb Bush To Run For President

Stockton Facing May 12th Trial to Invalidate Public Pension

April 23, 2014 Posted by

With Franklin Tax-Free Income  going to court on May 12th  to invalidate the pension for making Stockton, California, insolvent, all unfunded public pensions in California may be at risk of being invalidated by the court. In the corporate bankruptcy business, turnaround managers always worry about their restructuring efforts failing years later and the client being forced to file a Chapter 22 (Chapter 11 bankruptcy twice). But there has been no such concern in the city of Stockton’s municipal bankruptcy reorganization. The city’s fathers sucked up to unions with a huge pension spike, the city was forced into bankruptcy for missing payroll, and now the city is demanding  that Franklin’s mutual fund holders take a 97.5% haircut to make spiked public pension benefits 100% money-good. There have been 8 General-Purpose Local Government Bankruptcy Filings since 2010 under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Code, including Stockton, CA; San Bernardino, CA; Town of Mammoth Lakes, CA (dismissed); Detroit, MI; Jefferson County, AL; Harrisburg, PA (dismissed); Central Falls, RI; and Boise County, ID (dismissed). At least California is number one at something! When the city of Stockton declared Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in 2012, they had accumulated nearly $1 billion in debt for questionable civic improvements and offered the most generous healthcare benefits in the state, including coverage for life for all retirees and a dependent, no matter how long they had worked for the city. But the issue that broke Stockton’s back was missing their $29 million annual payment to California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and $7 million repayment of previous pension borrowings, together equaling 21% of its $168 million in total general-fund spending. Two years earlier in March 2011, it blamed the city’s crumbling finances on “ uncontrolled pension, health, and other benefit cost increases .”  But despite owing almost $1 billion to CalPERS to cover those “uncontrollable pensions,” the city now claims that they need a strong pension plan to retain their workforce. A dubious example of Stockton’s pension spiking is the pension awarded to former Police Chief Tom Morris, who was recruited in 2008 to supposedly “bring stability to law enforcement.” He lasted eight months, then left the city at age 52 with an annual pension of more than $204,000. Morris is one of the four recent chiefs who held the position for less than three years and then retired with lifetime pensions of 92% of final salaries. Shortly after Stockton filed for bankruptcy to preserve those pension spikes, U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein ruled in April 2013 that public employee pension obligations are nothing more than a “garden variety creditor.” The ruling was a shock-wave regarding the management of 1.2 million public pensions by CalPERS. But then CalPERS management has been rather controversial. After running up huge amounts of unpaid debts, California labor leader Charles Valdes filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s—twice. At the same time, he held one of the most influential positions in the American financial system as chairman of the CalPERS Investment Committee that manages $277 billion as the nation’s largest pension fund for government workers. Valdes left the board in 2010, after facing scrutiny for accepting gifts from another former board member, Alfred Villalobos, who is indicted for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to influence how CalPERS invested its assets. When questioned by the FBI about Villalobos, Valdes invoked the Fifth Amendment 126 times . Stockton seems miffed that Franklin mutual fund holders, having loaned the city $35 million in 2009, are now upset that the city’s reorganization plan pays public pensions in full and repays Franklin only about $94,000. According to the city’s attorney Marc Levinson, “We’d like you to see [Franklin's offer] .” Dismissively, though, he added, “You may say it doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t impact anything whatsoever.” Federal Judge Christopher Klein has scheduled a four-day bankruptcy trial that will begin on May 12th to decide if “it doesn’t impact anything whatsoever” if money is owed to mutual fund holders or if it “doesn’t impact anything whatsoever” if spiked public pension plans are paid in full. The author welcomes feedback and will respond to comments by readers .

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Stockton Facing May 12th Trial to Invalidate Public Pension

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