Limousine liberals? Number of government-owned limos has soared under Obama.

The State Department dominates the limo count, says purchases reflect need to protect diplomats and foreign visitors in a dangerous world ( WHO COULD EVEN IDENTIFY BY SIGHT ANY FOREIGN DIGNITARIES????

Do you know what the president of Bulgaria looks like? heck he could be driven around in a cab and nobody would notice, nor care for that matter, instead of stopping traffic and wasting time.

Limousines, the very symbol of wealth and excess, are usually the domain of corporate executives and the rich. But the number of limos owned by Uncle Sam increased by 73 percent during the first two years of the Obama administration, according to an analysis of records by iWatch News.

Most of the increase was recorded in Hillary Clinton’s State Department ( figures!).

Obama administration officials said most of the increase reflects an enhanced effort to protect diplomats and other government officials in a dangerous world. But a watchdog group says the abundance of limos sends the wrong message in the midst of a budget crisis. The increase in limos comes to light on the heels of an executive order from President Obama last week that charges agencies to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets.

According to General Services Administration data , the number of limousines in the federal fleet increased from 238 in fiscal 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration, to 412 in 2010. Much of the 73 percent increase—111 of the 174 additional limos—took place in fiscal 2009, more than eight months of which corresponded with Obama’s first year in office. However, some of those purchases could reflect requests made by the Bush administration during an appropriations process that would have begun in the spring of 2008.

The GSA said its limousine numbers are not reliable ( nothing new here, what government statistics are ever reliable?), even though the federal fleet numbers are officially recorded every year.

In a statement, GSA spokeswoman Sara Merriam said, “The categories in the Fleet Report are overly broad, and the term 'limousine' is not defined,” adding that “vehicles represented as limousines can range from protective duty vehicles to sedans.” Asked whether the GSA actually knows how many limos it has in its fleet, Merriam responded that GSA “cannot say that its report accurately reflects the number of limousines.”

Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, was outraged that the GSA’s numbers may not be accurate. “They can’t figure out a way to define a limo? How hard can it be? If the government can’t track limos, I’m not sure we should trust the numbers they put out there on anything,” she said.

Although the overall limo numbers in the fleet report were up in 2010, federal agencies and departments did not benefit equally. The State Department, with 259, had more limos than any other agency in 2010 and has gained 194 limos just since fiscal 2008. Of those new limos, 98 were defined as “law enforcement,” which the GSA said means they are equipped with sirens or lights, high-performance drivetrains, or are used for surveillance or undercover operations.

The State Department in a statement said its limos are deployed by overseas diplomats and in the United States by Secretary of State Clinton and “distinguished foreign visitors.” Many of the limos in its fleet are armored to protect against attack. The department said its Obama-era increase in armored limos is “both in proportion to the increased threat to diplomats serving overseas and is in proportion to the increase number of diplomats we have serving in high threat environments.” Appropriations documents indicate the State Department was engaged in a longer-term effort to increase the number of armored vehicles that would have stretched back to at least 2007.

The department said it defines a limo as a vehicle that carries a VIP or “other protectee,” rather than by the type of car, but said most of its limos are Cadillac DTSs, which cost the taxpayer more than $60,000 for a 2011 base model and support the additional weight of armoring. The department said it also purchased a limited number of 7-Series BMWs for ambassadors in countries where vehicles are right-hand drive.

The Department of Homeland Security, which in 2010 had the second largest number of limos at 118, dropped four limos from 2008 to 2010. A spokesman for DHS said the majority of its limos are used by the Secret Service, which is part of the department, but declined to elaborate on exact numbers, citing security concerns.

Paige, of CAGW, called the new federal limos “one more reason why there is so much cynicism in the public about what goes on in Washington.” She said terrorism and security has become the catchall justification for increased federal spending.

The increase in limos comes at a time when the Obama administration is increasingly working to burnish its green energy credentials by targeting the federal fleet. On Tuesday, Obama released a presidential memorandum requiring agencies to purchase only alternative fuel vehicles by 2015. The memorandum limits executive fleets to mid-sized and smaller cars “except where larger sedans are essential to the agency mission.” It also exempts law enforcement and security vehicles, which could make up the majority of the federal limo fleet.

According to a March report by the GAO, the federal government spent $1.9 billion on new vehicles in fiscal 2009, and burned through 963,000 gallons of fuel a day with its fleet of 600,00 vehicles.

The number of limousines in the federal fleet has varied over the years. In 2007, the number dropped to 217 from 318 a year before. But due to the fuzzy GSA accounting, it’s unclear exactly how many federal limos have been on the road.

According to the GSA report, for example, the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had zero limos in 2008, added six limos to its fleet in 2009. But agency spokesman Lars Anderson said that’s because six standard overseas sedans, including a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria in Bangladesh, and a 2009 Mercury Grand Marquis in El Salvador, were incorrectly recorded as limos.

If the data is correct, some federal employees who once rode in style now face more proletarian transportation options. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, ran a fleet of 21 limousines in 2008 under George W. Bush, according to the fleet report. It now makes do with only one. The Government Printing Office also lost one.

Limousine liberals? Number of government-owned limos has soared under Obama
The number of limousines owned by the federal government has jumped 73 percent in the first two years of the Obama administration


The Memorial Day Holiday long weekend the media always has a variety of army and war related programs, ranging from the usual reruns APOCALYPSE NOW to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. I admit to being a world history buff, and have probably seen every war movie ever made, and since I have I usually find some documentary about some aspect of war that I have not seen previously.

That happened this weekend as I stumbled upon a PBS airing of a AFGHAN documentary which followed for several years the life and travails of an Afghan General and his interaction with the "coalition" forces working with him, after the Russians left that country.

That was an eye opener like I have never seen before; the daily struggles and the hopelessness of that entire "war" effort carried on behind the scenes we never see reported on the new media.

This documentary took place over the period of time since 2001 till recently and included the struggles of the general in dealing with the constantly "rotating" American National Guard units that he has to interact with on their 1 year rotation in and out of his country. He has been in the army since he was 13 years old and no 30 years later it is the same ( he is killed by a roadside bomb later).

Every year he gets a new commander to work with, and every year they leave and a new one takes its place starting from scratch. It was like that movie GROUNDHOG DAY.

Nothing changes, just the faces. The AFGHAN army commanders are shown in their meetings with Americans sharing their frustration and desperation...inability to even have their soldiers show up on time to a roll call or go on a patrol. Their soldiers run away when a firefight starts, their soldiers desert at the first sign or a battle, their soldiers communicate with the Taliban giving away their positions, their soldiers sell the arms and bullets themselves to the Taliban, etc., etc...

The soldiers are mostly illiterate, as many as 95% at times, can not read or write so the translation of any military books or manuals is worthless.

They are not trustworthy as their tribal rivalries prevent them from being a cohesive army. They have no ability to ever a sustaining force and most have joined up to make the $61 a month which is more than they can make in Pakistan working, but will run away at the first sight of a battle.

Their own army supreme commander was shown talking to them telling them that he is ashamed of the way that they sell the bullets to the Taliban, and that they have no fighting spirit, that he is ashamed of being their commander. He is then shown going back to his office and literally crying!

Our soldiers are frustrated when they discover this upon arrival....they are shocked to see that the Afghan troops are not dependable at all. For instance they called a meeting for a training exercise at 9 am, and nobody showed up because they can not tell the time, and another a 4 pm had nobody show up either because it appeared to be at the time of the afternoon prayer.

The Afghans complained that they may have to deal with another American commander shortly and that they would have to change everything again with the one year, or what if an Italian or French commander come in, then again, and again...nothing is accomplished as most of the troops desert anyway before any training is finished?

Has anyone noticed that we have been training their army for 10 years now, and there literally is no army to speak of?

The Afghan General describes how no money gets down to his level as the corruption above him steals it all, nothing of substance gets to his level of command. He does not know who is Taliban affiliated and who is not, and never will.

This is a nation at war for over 30 years, with no end in sight!

Last week, leading Senate expert on military matters ( as explained by him, otherwise a total moron), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said he opposed dispatching more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until the U.S. has trained more Afghan military and police. This guy has no clue! This army is never going to be trained, it can not read or write or learn to use sophisticated weapons or read a manual!

The Afghan military is overwhelmingly illiterate.

According to U.S. military officers, the percentage of Afghans in the military who can read and write is likely in the single digits, certainly no more than 10 percent.

So there's perhaps a 90 percent illiteracy rate. Which means that training the Afghan army won't be as easy as translating the U.S.'s English-language training materials into the Pasto or Dari languages spoken in Afghanistan and telling Afghan recruits to study them.

A recent Associated Press story had this example:

Afghan army recruit Shahidullah Ahmadi can't read — and neither can nine out of 10 soldiers in the Afghan National Army...

..."I face difficulties. If someone calls me and tells me to go somewhere, I can't read the street signs," Ahmadi, 27, a member of a logistics battalion, said while walking through downtown Kabul. "In our basic training, we learned a lot. Some of my colleagues who can read and write can take notes, but I've forgotten a lot of things, the types of things that might be able to save my life."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Michael Mullen acknowledged the illiteracy problem makes training the Afghans difficult (impossible is more like it), to say the least.

ADM. MULLEN: Well I think it's —- I mean —- basically focused in a way that we know what we need — we know what they need to learn. It is a huge challenge because of the literacy rate with the Afghan soldiers and police. It's at the single digit level, sort of 9 or 10 percent.

Yet, we've got a program with the army where we've put that in place to increase their literacy level. We haven't done that with the police, we're just starting to do that with the police right now. So we know that that's going to be a requirement.

So the U.S. is in the position of having to teach literacy and military skills simultaneously if it has any hope of leaving an Afghan force behind that can be effective.

With public support declining for the U.S. involvement in Iraq, will the U.S. military have the time it would take to both teach Afghan recruits how to read as well as fight a counterinsurgency? Based on the polls, it looks increasingly doubtful.

And at yesterday's Senate hearing, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) made the larger point, that the illiteracy rate doesn't bode well for the U.S. leaving behind a viable government, economy and civil society when it finally does depart.

Chambliss, being charitable when it came to the literacy rate, said:

With a literacy rate of somewhere, let's assume it's in the teens or assume its 20 percent. That means 80 percent of the people in that country can't read and write. What will we do — how do we leave that country in a state, non-militarily, that they can survive?

Senator, you need to watch PBS some more, and save us a lot of needless money and American soldier's lives on a "war" that is not possible to win.


Democrats have said they only intend to restore the tax rates that existed during the Clinton years. In reality they're proposing rates like those under President Carter. all these proposals will make our country have higher taxes than even many socialist "utopias" like Sweden, France and Germany.

Media reports in recent weeks say that Senate Democrats are considering a 3% surtax on income over $1 million to raise federal revenues. This would come on top of the higher income tax rates that President Obama has already proposed through the cancellation of the Bush era tax-rate reductions.

If the Democrats' millionaire surtax were to happen—and were added to other tax increases already enacted last year and other leading tax hike ideas on the table this year—this could leave the U.S. with a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s.

Here's the math behind that depressing calculation. Today's top federal income tax rate is 35%. Almost all Democrats in Washington want to repeal the Bush tax cuts on those who make more than $250,000 and phase out certain deductions, so the effective income tax rate would rise to about 41.5%. The 3% millionaire surtax raises that rate to 44.5%.

But payroll taxes, which are income taxes on wages and salaries, must also be included in the equation. So we have to add about 2.5 percentage points for the payroll tax for Medicare (employee and employer share after business deductions), which was applied to all income without a ceiling in 1993 as part of the Clinton tax hike. I am including in this analysis the employer share of all payroll taxes because it is a direct tax on a worker's salary and most economists agree that though employers are responsible for collecting this tax, it is ultimately borne by the employee. That brings the tax rate to 47%.

Then last year, as part of the down payment for ObamaCare, Congress snuck in an extra 0.9% Medicare surtax on "high-income earners," meaning any individual earning more than $200,000 or couples earning more than $250,000. This brings the total tax rate to 47.9%.

But that's not all. Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of eliminating the income ceiling on the Social Security tax, now capped at $106,800 of earnings a year. (Never mind that the program was designed to operate as an insurance system, with each individual's payment tied to the benefits paid out at retirement.) Subjecting all wage and salary income to Social Security taxes would add roughly 10.1 percentage points to the top tax rate. This takes the grand total tax rate on each additional dollar earned in America to about 58%.

Then we have to factor in state income taxes, which on average add after the deductions from the federal income tax roughly another four percentage points to the tax burden. So now on average we are at a tax rate of close to 62%.

Democrats have repeatedly stated they only intend to restore the tax rates that existed during the Clinton years. But after all these taxes on the "rich," we're headed back to the taxes that prevailed under Jimmy Carter, when the highest tax rate was 70%.

Taxes on investment income are also headed way up. Suspending the Bush tax cuts, which is favored by nearly every congressional Democrat, plus a 3.8% investment tax in the ObamaCare bill (which starts in 2014) brings the capital gains tax rate to 23.8% from 15%. The dividend tax would potentially climb to 45% from the current rate of 15%.

Now let's consider how our tax system today compares with the system that was in place in the late 1980s—when the deficit was only about one-quarter as large as a share of GDP as it is now. After the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, which closed special-interest loopholes in exchange for top marginal rates of 28%, the highest combined federal-state marginal tax rate was about 33%. Now we may be headed to 62%. You don't have to be Jack Kemp or Arthur Laffer to understand that a 29 percentage point rise in top marginal rates would make America a highly uncompetitive place.

What is particularly worrisome about this trend is the deterioration of the U.S. tax position relative to the rest of our economic rivals. In 1990, the highest individual income tax rate of our major economic trading partners was 51%, while the U.S. was much lower at 33%. It's no wonder that during the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created more than twice as many new jobs as Japan and Western Europe combined.

It's true that the economy was able to absorb the Bush 41 and Clinton tax hikes and still grow at a very rapid pace. But what the soak-the-rich lobby ignores is how different the world is today versus the early 1990s. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, over the past two decades the average highest tax rate among the 20 major industrial nations has fallen to about 45%. Yet the highest U.S. tax rate would rise to more than 48% under the Obama/Democratic tax hikes. To make matters worse, if we include the average personal income tax rates of developing countries like India and China, the average tax rate around the world is closer to 30%, according to a new study by KPMG.

What all this means is that in the late 1980s, the U.S. was nearly the lowest taxed nation in the world, and a quarter century later we're nearly the highest.

Despite all of this, the refrain from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and most of the Democrats in Congress is our fiscal mess is a result of "tax cuts for the rich." When? Where? Who? The Tax Foundation recently noted that in 2009 the U.S. collected a higher share of income and payroll taxes (45%) from the richest 10% of tax filers than any other nation, including such socialist welfare states as Sweden (27%), France (28%) and Germany (31%). And this was before the rate hikes that Democrats are now endorsing.

Perhaps there can still be a happy ending to this sad tale of U.S. decline. If there were ever a right time to trade in the junk heap of our federal tax code for a pro-growth Steve Forbes-style flat tax, now's the time.


By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst

If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it?

Question: What do the following have in common? Eckert Cold Storage Co., Kerly Homes of Yuma, Classic Party Rentals, West Coast Turf Inc., Ellenbecker Investment Group Inc., Only in San Francisco, Hotel Nikko, International Pacific Halibut Commission, City of Puyallup, Local 485 Health and Welfare Fund, Chicago Plastering Institute Health & Welfare Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Teamsters Local 522 Fund Welfare Fund Roofers Division, StayWell Saipan Basic Plan, CIGNA, Caribbean Workers' Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Health and Welfare Plan.

Answer: They are all among the 1,372 businesses, state and local governments, labor unions and insurers, covering 3,095,593 individuals or families, that have been granted a waiver from Obamacare by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

All of which raises another question: If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it?

More specifically, why are more than half of those 3,095,593 in plans run by labor unions, which were among Obamacare's biggest political supporters? Union members are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers.

Just in April, Sebelius granted 38 waivers to restaurants, nightclubs, spas and hotels in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco congressional district. Pelosi's office said she had nothing to do with it.

On its website HHS pledges that the waiver process will be transparent. But it doesn't list those whose requests for waivers have been denied.

It does say that requests are "reviewed on a case by case basis by Department officials who look at a series of factors including" -- and then lists two factors. And it refers you to another website that says that "several factors . . . may be considered" -- and then lists six factors.

What other factors may be considered? Political contributions or connections? (Unions contributed $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 campaign cycle.) The websites don't say.

In his new book "The Origins of Political Order," Francis Fukuyama identifies the chief building blocks of liberal democracy as a strong central state, a society strong enough to hold the state accountable and -- equally crucial -- the rule of law.

One basic principle of the rule of law is that laws apply to everybody. If the sign says "No Parking," you're not supposed to park there even if you're a pal of the alderman.

Another principle of the rule of law is that government can't make up new rules to help its cronies and hurt its adversaries except through due process, such as getting a legislature to pass a new law.

The Obamacare waiver process appears to violate that first rule. Two other recent Obama administration actions appear to violate the second.

One example is the National Labor Relations Board general counsel's action to prevent Boeing from building a $2 billion assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina, which has a right-to-work law barring compulsory union membership. The NLRB says Boeing has to assemble the planes in non-right-to-work Washington state.

"I don't agree," says William Gould IV, NLRB chairman during the Clinton years. "The Boeing case is unprecedented."

The other example is the Internal Revenue Service's attempt to levy a gift tax on donors to certain 501(c)(4) organizations that just happen to have spent money to elect Republicans.

A gift tax is normally assessed on transfers to children and other heirs that are designed to avoid estate taxes. It has been applied to political donations "rarely, if ever," according to New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom.

"The timing of the agency's moves, as the 2012 election cycle gets under way," continues Strom, "is prompting some tax law and campaign finance experts to question whether the IRS could be sending a signal in an effort to curtail big donations."

In a Univision radio interview during the 2010 election cycle, Barack Obama urged Latinos not "to sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.' "

Punishing enemies and rewarding friends -- politics Chicago style -- seems to be the unifying principle that helps explain the Obamacare waivers, the NLRB action against Boeing and the IRS' gift-tax assault on 501(c)(4) donors.

They look like examples of crony capitalism, bailout favoritism and gangster government.

One thing they don't look like is the rule of law.

Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on

Read more at the Washington Examiner:


‘Free’ Countries Once Again a Minority on U.N. Human Rights Council
By Patrick Goodenough

This year’s election for the U.N. Human Rights Council has, once again, produced a body that has fewer “free” countries – 21 of a total of 47 – and has more than one-third of the seats held by members of the Islamic bloc.

Among the 15 countries to win seats on the Geneva-based HRC on Friday was Congo, which joins 11 other countries ranked “not free” by the democracy advocacy group, Freedom House, based on an annual assessment of political freedoms and civil liberties.

Nonetheless, rights advocates did find some cause for cheer: In the only two regional groups to see any contest, Latin America and Eastern Europe, countries ranked “free” by Freedom House defeated candidates scoring a “partly free” grade.

In Latin America, Nicaragua’s leftist regime was edged out in a four-way race for three seats, won by Peru, Chile and Costa Rica; the Czech Republic and Romania beat Georgia in a three-way contest for two seats for the Eastern Europe group.

As expected, Kuwait secured the seat that Syria had been in line to win until President Bashar Assad withdrew his bid last week, after initially supportive Arab and Asian states bowed to pressure from Western governments and non-governmental activists. (Even though Syria was not standing, five countries still voted for it on Friday.)

Every May for the past six years the U.N. General Assembly has held an “election” to fill a proportion of seats on the 47-member HRC, the world body’s foremost human rights watchdog.

With the exception of the inaugural vote in 2006, the procedure has been marred by “closed slates,” where regional groups endorse the same number of countries as there are seats available, thus precluding any contest.

Despite the requirement that governments take into account candidates’ human rights records, the General Assembly – voting under secret ballot – has ushered onto the council a total of 19 “not free” countries, some more than once.

In most cases, they obtained votes well in excess of the 97 required in the 192-member General Assembly.

The 19, along with the number of votes they scored, are: China (won two elections, with vote counts of 146 and 167), Russia (137, 146), Cuba (135, 163), Saudi Arabia (126, 154), Libya (155), Egypt (168), Pakistan (149, 114), Algeria (168), Tunisia (171), Mauritania (167), Bahrain (172), Qatar (170, 177), Jordan (178), Angola (172, 170), Cameroon (171, 142), Gabon (178), Kyrgyzstan (174), Azerbaijan (103) and newcomer Congo (176).

The presence on the HRC of such countries, and their tendency to vote as a bloc against initiatives promoted by Western and other democracies, has been among the issues raised most frequently by critics, including Republican lawmakers who want the Obama administration to withdraw from the HRC and to “explore credible, alternative forums to advance human rights.”

Another target of criticism has been the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the bloc of mostly Muslim-majority states that has used the HRC to target Israel and to promote its provocative “defamation of religion” campaign.

In 2010, the OIC held a record 18 seats in the council. On Friday that remained unchanged, with three OIC members (Bahrain, Pakistan and Gabon) leaving, and three joining (Kuwait, Indonesia and Benin).

UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that monitors the HRC, led a campaign both to deny Syria a seat, and to urge governments to vote for candidates with strong rights records. It argued that neither Congo, Nicaragua nor Kuwait deserved seats on the council.

UN Watch Hillel Neuer deplored the election of Congo and Kuwait, while calling the defeat of Nicaragua a significant achievement.

“It’s currently one of the most shameless defenders of Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi and Syrian President Bashar Assad. So two dictators who are killing their own people today lost a key ally,” he said.

“We’re also delighted that Syria was pressured into pulling its bid last week.”

UN Watch also called on new members India, Indonesia and the Philippines and Burkina Faso to improve their voting records in the coming months, noting that all four had either abstained or voted against U.N. resolutions relating to rights abuses in Iran, Burma, and North Korea.

The HRC for the next year comprises:

“Free” countries (21):

Austria, Benin, Belgium, Botswana, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United States and Uruguay.

“Not free” (12):

Angola, Cameroon, China, Congo, Cuba, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya (currently suspended), Mauritania, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia.

“Partly free” (14):

Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Nigeria, Philippines, Senegal, Uganda, Thailand.

The OIC members are: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Uganda.

This entire organization is such a farce...remember that Libya was the last main member! And no word from Obama, we continue to fund this worthless organization.


Leading makers of lighting products are showcasing LED bulbs that are bright enough to replace energy-guzzling 100-watt light bulbs set to disappear from stores in January.

Their demonstrations at the LightFair trade show in Philadelphia this week mean that brighter LED bulbs will likely go on sale next year, but after a government ban takes effect. Another great idea from the government, overstepping its mandate. If I want to use a bulb that costs less but more to operate why not let me?

The new bulbs will also be expensive — about $50 each — so the development may not prevent consumers from hoarding traditional bulbs. I am stocked up for old bulbs...

The technology in traditional "incandescent" bulbs is more than a century old. Such bulbs waste most of the electricity that feeds them, turning it into heat. The 100-watt bulb, in particular, produces so much heat that it's used in Hasbro's Easy-Bake Oven.

To encourage energy efficiency, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating that bulbs producing 100 watts worth of light meet certain efficiency goals, starting in 2012. Conventional light bulbs don't meet those goals, so the law will prohibit making or importing them. The same rule will start apply to remaining bulbs 40 watts and above in 2014. Since January, California has already banned stores from restocking 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

Creating good alternatives to the light bulb has been more difficult than expected, especially for the very bright 100-watt bulbs. Part of the problem is that these new bulbs have to fit into lamps and ceiling fixtures designed for older technology.

Compact fluorescents are the most obvious replacement, but they have drawbacks. They contain a small amount of toxic mercury vapor, which is released if they break or are improperly thrown away. They last longer than traditional bulbs but not as long as LEDs. Brighter models are bulky and may not fit in existing fixtures.

Another new lighting technology, organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, has had problems reaching mass production. OLEDs are glowing sheets or tiles, rather than pinprick light sources, as LEDs are. They're used as vibrant color screens for smartphones, particularly from Samsung Electronics Co.

But making OLEDs that are big, bright, cheap and long-lasting enough for use as light sources has proved difficult, in part because they use chemicals that are sensitive to oxygen and spoil unless sealed very carefully.

Acuity Brands Inc., an Atlanta-based maker of light fixtures, will be showing some OLED panels at the show. They will go on sale next year, but the price will likely make them technology showpieces rather than candidates for everyday lighting.

LEDs are efficient, durable and produced in great quantities, but they're still expensive. An LED bulb can contain a dozen light-emitting diodes, or tiny semiconductor chips, which cost about $1 each.

The big problem with LEDs is that although they don't produce as much heat as incandescent bulbs, the heat they do create shortens the lifespan and reduces the efficiency of the chips. Cramming a dozen chips together in a tight bulb-shaped package that fits in today's lamps and sockets makes the heat problem worse. The brighter the bulb, the bigger the problem is.

The most powerful pear-shaped LED bulbs in stores today — the kind that fits existing lamps — produce light equivalent to a 60-watt bulb, though there are more powerful ones for directional or flood lighting.

Osram Sylvania, a unit of Germany's Siemens AG, said it has overcome the heat problem and will be showing a pear-shaped 100-watt-equivalent LED bulb this week. It doesn't have a firm launch date, but it usually shows products about a year before they hit store shelves.

Lighting Sciences Group Corp., a Satellite Beach, Fla.-based company that specializes in LED lighting, will be showing several 100-watt-equivalent prototypes, including some that solve the problem of cooling the LEDs by using microscopic devices that move air over the chips, like miniature fans.

Before the 100-watters, there will be 75-watters on the shelves this year. Osram Sylvania will be selling them at Lowe's starting in July. Royal Philips Electronics NV, the world's biggest lighting maker, will have them in stores late this year for $40 to $45.

However, 60-watt bulbs are the big prize, since they're the most common. There are 425 million incandescent light bulbs in the 60-watt range in use in the U.S. today, said Zia Eftekhar, the head of Philips' North American lighting division. The energy savings that could be realized by replacing them with 10-watt LED bulbs is staggering.

To stimulate LED development, the federal government has instituted a $10 million "L Prize" for an energy-efficient replacement for the 60-watt bulb. Philips is so far the only entrant in testing, and Eftekhar expects the company to win it soon. But Lighting Sciences Group plans its own entry, which it will demonstrate at the trade show.

Philips has been selling a 60-watt-equivalent bulb at Home Depot since December that's quite similar to the one submitted to the contest. But it's slightly dimmer, consumes 2 watts too much power and costs $40, whereas the L Prize target is $22. Sylvania sells a similar LED bulb at Lowe's, also for $40.

However, LED prices are coming down quickly. The DoE expects a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb to cost $10 by 2015, putting them within striking range of the price of a compact fluorescent bulb.

Bob Karlicek, the director of the Smart Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., thinks that price is achievable.

But, he said, "it's not necessarily clear to people in the lighting industry that LED chips were ever meant to go into a bulb."

What's really needed, he said, is a new approach to lighting — new fixtures and lamps that spread out the LEDs, avoiding the heat problem.

Let's mandate that too, and then what is next, time of the night we all have to remain the dark or get a fine?


The head of the International Monetary Fund was examined for evidence that could incriminate him in the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid, charges that stunned the global financial world and upended French presidential politics.

Now you know where all of our money is going to help fund the penthouse hotel suites and first class travel for seducers, so that they can seduce all over the world with our taxpayer money!

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a married father of four whose reputation with women earned him the nickname "the great seducer," faced arraignment Monday on charges of attempted rape and criminal sexual contact in the alleged attack on a maid who went into his penthouse suite at a hotel near Times Square to clean it.

Now let's see, how would a person earn such a nickname?

Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody on Saturday and spent more than 24 hours inside a Harlem precinct, where police say the maid identified him from a lineup, then headed to a hospital for a "forensic examination" requested by prosecutors to obtain more evidence in the case, defense lawyer William Taylor said. He was taken to a Manhattan court early Monday.

Another defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said the IMF managing director "intends to vigorously defends these charges and he denies any wrongdoing." Did we expect him to spill out a full confession?

In France on Monday, a lawyer for a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by Strauss-Kahn nine years ago said she now wants to file a legal complaint against the IMF head. And then let's get the parade of others coming out, just like the other great seducers; Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson...did you notice a pattern here?

Lawyer David Koubbi told RTL radio Monday that his client, Tristane Banon, did not file suit earlier due to pressure over the alleged 2002 assault. He said she was dissuaded by her own mother, a regional Socialist official.

Koubbi told RTL he is likely to file suit for Banon now because "she knows she'll be heard and she knows she'll be taken seriously."

A member of France's Socialist party, Strauss-Kahn was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging ( but not as of this morning!).

French viewers were shocked Monday by the images of the handcuffed Strauss-Kahn escorted and ducking stone-faced into a police car. In France, public figures are usually shielded from view in such circumstances.

Fellow Socialists increasingly defended Strauss-Kahn, citing contradictions in the investigation, and pledged to stick to the campaign calendar.

"His close friends cannot believe that he is guilty," said Socialist politician and friend Jean Christophe Cambadelis.

Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet lamented the shadow the incident could cast on all of France.

"I'm very surprised to see at what speed in France we rush to political conclusions about a subject that is a serious one. He is accused of very serious acts. We are hardly speaking at all of the alleged victim," she said Monday on Canal-Plus television. In addition to the hotel maid, Koscuisko-Morizet said there is another "clear victim, which is France."

Strauss-Kahn, 62, was nabbed less than four hours after the alleged assault, plucked from first class on a Paris-bound Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

He was alone when he checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel, not far from Times Square, on Friday afternoon, police said. It wasn't clear why he was in New York. The IMF is based in Washington, and he had been due in Germany on Sunday to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The 32-year-old maid told authorities that when she entered his spacious, $3,000-a-night suite early Saturday afternoon, she thought it was unoccupied. Instead, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne said.

The woman told police she fought him off, but then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again, escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said.

Strauss-Kahn was gone by the time detectives arrived moments later. He left his cellphone behind. "It looked like he got out of there in a hurry," Browne said.

The NYPD discovered he was at JFK and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority police officers arrested him.

The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was treated for minor injuries. Stacy Royal, a spokeswoman for Sofitel, said the hotel's staff was cooperating in the investigation and that the maid "has been a satisfactory employee of the hotel for the past three years."

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Authorities were looking for any forensic evidence and DNA.

His wife, Anne Sinclair, defended him in a statement to French news agency AFP.

"I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established," said Sinclair, a New York-born journalist who hosted a popular weekly TV news broadcast in France in the 1980s and `90s.

The arrest could throw the long-divided Socialists back into disarray about who they could present as Sarkozy's opponent. Even some of his adversaries were stunned.

"It's totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life," said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center right, on BFM television. Still, he urged, "I hope that everyone respects the presumption of innocence. I cannot manage to believe this affair."

Candidates need to announce their intentions this summer to run in fall primary elections.

"If he's cleared, he could return – but if he is let off only after four or five months, he won't be able to run" because the campaign will be too far along, said Jerome Fourquet of the IFOP polling agency.

"I think his political career is over," Philippe Martinat, who wrote a book called "DSK-Sarkozy: The Duel," told The Associated Press. "Behind him he has other affairs ... I don't see very well how he can pick himself back up."

The chief of Sarkozy's conservative party, Jean-Francois Cope, said he told the president that he asked fellow party members to "proceed with caution and restraint" in their comments, and Sarkozy supported the idea.

"I was, like all Frenchmen, very disturbed by the news, very disturbed by the images that I saw," including of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed in New York.

"There is the principle of presumed innocent," he said.

Strauss-Kahn is known as DSK in France, but media there also have dubbed him "the great seducer." His reputation as a charmer of women has not hurt his career in France, where politicians' private lives traditionally come under less scrutiny than in the United States.

In 2008, Strauss-Kahn was briefly investigated over whether he had an improper relationship with a subordinate female employee. The IMF board found his actions "reflected a serious error of judgment" yet deemed the relationship consensual.

But attempted rape charges are far more serious than extramarital flings and could do far more damage to his reputation in France and abroad.

"It's sure that a future president already mired in judicial problems is not well seen by the French," said Patricia Bous, a lab researcher in Paris' Left Bank on Monday.

"It's obvious that this is someone a lot of people were counting on, and because of this all of the cards are being reshuffled. So I don't know what's going to happen, but for me there is a presumption of innocence and we await the proof so we'll see," said university employee Hubert Javaux, also in the Left Bank.

French newspapers all put Strauss-Kahn on their front pages Monday morning, with grim headlines and photos. "DSK Out" read the banner headline on the left-leaning Liberation. "The Doors of the Elysee Are Closing for DSK" read that in Le Soir.

The New York allegations come amid French media reports about Strauss-Kahn's lifestyle, including luxury cars and suits, that some have dubbed a smear campaign. Some French raised suspicions about the sexual assault case as well.

"Perhaps this affair will unravel very quickly, if we learn that there is in the end no serious charge and that what was said by this woman was not true, and we all wish for this," former Socialist Party boss Francois Hollande said on Canal-Plus television. "To commit an act of such seriousness, this does not resemble the man I know."

A former economics professor, Strauss-Kahn served as French industry minister and finance minister in the 1990s, and is credited with preparing France for the adoption of the euro by taming its deficit.

He took over as head of the IMF in November 2007. The 187-nation lending agency provides help in the form of emergency loans for countries facing severe financial problems.

Sarkozy, who did not comment publicly Sunday, had championed Strauss-Kahn to run the IMF. Political strategists saw it as a way for Sarkozy to get a potential challenger far from the French limelight.

Caroline Atkinson, an IMF spokeswoman, issued a statement Sunday that said the agency would have no comment on the New York case. She referred all inquiries to Strauss-Kahn's personal lawyer and said the "IMF remains fully functioning and operational."

The fund's executive board was expected to be briefed on developments related to Strauss-Kahn on Sunday, but the meeting was postponed. John Lipsky, the IMF's first deputy managing director, would lead the organization in an acting capacity in Strauss-Kahn's absence.

Strauss-Kahn was supposed to be meeting in Berlin on Sunday with Merkel ( now she will not want him chasing her around the conference table) about increasing aid to Greece, and then join EU finance ministers in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday.

The IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece's existing loan package, and his expected presence at these meetings underlined the gravity of the Greek crisis.

It seems that he was doing to hotel maids what he has been going to Greece?


New Yorkers under 30 plan to flee city, says new poll; cite high taxes, few jobs as reasons

BY Kenneth Lovett

They may have come to the city to get a law degree, but a hefty percentage of young New Yorkers plans to flee the city in the next five years.

They may have come to the city to get a law degree, but a hefty percentage of young New Yorkers plans to flee the city in the next five years.

ALBANY - Escape from New York is not just a movie - it's also a state of mind.

A new Marist College poll shows that 36% of New Yorkers under the age of 30 are planning to leave New York within the next five years - and more than a quarter of all adults are planning to bolt the Empire State.

The New York City suburbs, with their high property values and taxes, are leading the exodus, the poll found.

Of those preparing to leave, 62% cite economic reasons like cost of living, taxes - and a lack of jobs.

"A lot of people are questioning the affordability of the state," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

An additional 38% cite climate, quality of life, overcrowding, a desire to be closer to family, retirement or schools.

The latest census showed New York's overall population actually increased, though parts of upstate shed population and jobs.

A full 53% think the worst is yet to come for the state's economy, while 44% say things should start improving.

"As the state of the economy fails to recover, New Yorkers see this not as a sluggish rebound, but as a sluggish economy," Miringoff said.

During a visit to Buffalo yesterday, Gov. Cuomo yesterday said attracting and retaining jobs is a priority for his administration.

"We have to keep jobs here and we have to develop new jobs," he said. "And we want to start bringing back jobs from other parts of the country."

New Yorkers are voting with their feet on state's sky-high tax burden; planning to leave in droves.

The real news is that 64% of American young adults are apparently willing to live in a dysfunctional, Socialist state, with corruption at every level of government and in every union, especially public unions, with schools that permit criminal behavior by students on a daily basis and won't teach their children anything while putting them at physical risk. If they think that any "investment" in New York housing will ever accumulate equity they are fools. What would it take to get them to move at most 100 miles?


anyone else notice that the Wall St. bailout enabled a lot of highly-paid people who don't deserve to be to keep making premium incomes, and keep paying premium rents/mortgages, making NYC and the nice suburbs even less affordable for the rest of us at a time when free market economic theory would imply that the cost of living should have come down? when the markets are booming, they price us out...when the markets collapse, they get bailed out - with our money - and price us out. if you want to complain about socialism, take a look at the corporate welfare that takes from the middle class and gives to the rich - this is not capitalism.



New Yorkers have created their own hellish cesspool where criminal politicans and public employee unions wring every last dime out of a brain-dead population of lemmings. A word of advice to these bail-out liberals who now seek to infect other cities: steer clear of Arizona.


I would erg the other Southern conservative States not to accept these children of Liberal Democrats. The NY Liberal Socialist run school systems has indoctrinated them and they will bring their liberal tax and spend values with them and ruin your State as well. Let them rot in their own Democrat voting, parent made mess.

This is a very difficult discussion to have with people. You have those who simply can't move away, and they will find small tiny positives and justify their staying, even thou they know they are miserable and will have to work till the day they die. It's kinda like listening to a man or woman in a miserable marriage, you ask them "how is married life" and they reply "well we have 2 beautiful children" or "marriage is work, but I wouldn't give it up for anything". Most people would move if they had the option to, yes many yell, I can move if I want but love it here, but then you most really know their situation. I moved out of there 3 years ago, when I left I was making 65k a year, had 0 saved as it was impossible (I lived in rego park). Now after 3 years I have 35k in savings and make the same amount of money and have a better quality of life. I am far from set up but at 27, I am doing better then most of those still trying

Read more:


The U.S. health insurance program for the elderly and disabled ( MEDICARE), and the Social Security trust for the disabled and retirees are running out of money sooner than the government had projected.

While Medicare won’t have sufficient funds to pay full benefits starting in 2024, five years earlier than last year’s estimate, Social Security’s cash to pay full benefits runs short in 2036, a year sooner than the 2010 projection, the U.S. government said today in an annual report.

Both forecasts were affected by a slower-than-anticipated economic recovery, the government said. The estimates for funding add urgency to talks between Democrats and Republicans on ways to cut spending to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.

“Projected long-run program costs for both Medicare and Social Security are not sustainable under currently scheduled financing, and will require legislative corrections if disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers are to be avoided,” according to the report summary.

The 2010 health-care overhaul backed by Democrats extended the life of Medicare, though a greater effort is needed to shore up the program’s long-term funding, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement distributed with the report.

“If we do not do more to contain health-care costs, our commitments will become unsustainable,” said Geithner, managing trustee of Medicare and Social Security, in the statement.

When Medicare and Social Security funds run short, they will pay less in benefits rather than stop paying entirely. Social Security would have to cut payments by 23 percent, while Medicare would reduce by 10 percent what it pays hospitals and other inpatient care providers.

Congress is debating potentially sweeping changes in the federal budget as part of a deal to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, which the Treasury Department said will be needed by Aug. 2.

Two groups of lawmakers have held private meetings to negotiate a deficit-reduction plan while President Barack Obama met yesterday with Senate Republicans, a day after meeting with their Democratic counterparts.

Republicans demanding that the U.S. cut its budget deficit have proposed privatizing Medicare by giving individuals a subsidy to buy coverage from private insurers. Lawmakers such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, said today’s forecasts were justification for action.

“Leadership is required from both sides to ensure that Medicare and Social Security are saved for current seniors and strengthened to meet the need of future generations,” he said.

Democrats, who have resisted changes to Social Security, said the trustees’ analysis shows there’s time to respond.

“The current situation does not necessitate rushed or severe action,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. “We must continue to protect the Social Security benefits our seniors count on.”

The Social Security trust fund that finances aid to about 10 million disabled Americans and their dependents will be the first to dry up, with funding scheduled to run out in 2018, according to the trustees.

The fund, when combined with a separate and much larger trust fund paying benefits to seniors, has enough money to stay solvent until 2036.

The new projections partly roll back last year’s trustees analysis, which credited the 2010 health care overhaul with expanding the life of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years.

Social Security law requires program spending to match revenue, so a lack of action by lawmakers by that time will mean benefits will have to be cut 23 percent -- or the Social Security payroll tax increased to 16 percent, or a combination, the report said. Congress has never allowed the program’s two trust funds to be depleted.

Medicare, to stay solvent for the next 75 years, would have to immediately raise payroll taxes by 24 percent, or cut current benefit payments by 17 percent, Cori Uccello, a senior health fellow with the American Academy of Actuaries in Washington, said in a phone interview.

The longer the U.S. waits to address the coming shortages in Medicare and Social Security, the more painful it may be, said Uccello. A U.S. delay in extending Medicare’s fiscal life may force cuts for current beneficiaries rather than diminishing them for people who enter the program several years from now.


President Obama urged businesses to hire workers now!

That statement clearly shows a total lack of understanding of why and when a business would hire employees.

Here is a quick primer Mr. President:

1. Businesses add employees when they are necessary due to business expansion.

2. Businesses hire employees when they are comfortable and gearing up for planned growth in a stable business environment.

Businesses do not just hire workers to stand around!

Let's take Illinois for instance; why would any business want to add workers in Illinois as it has just doubled its income taxes for people and businesses ? It has some of the highest rates for electricity, workman's compensation insurance and real estate taxes that can cripple a homeowner or business.

It has more government entities ( over 8,000 ) than any state in the Union, more taxing bodies and regulations for every type of business and work.

There is absolutely no reason to remain in Illinois when a business can more across the border to Wisconsin and Indiana, or even Kentucky which are all more business friendly and seeing the business.

Mr. Obama's last "home" state is a model for what not to do to attract business. It is a "model" in every possible way, including literally every former governor ending their terms in a jail cell.

Business always operates in the most efficient way possible because it watches its spending, it has its limits on what to spends its profits investing into the does not operate like a government with an endless and bottomless checkbook!

Why would any businessman or any taxpayer for instance, listen to anything the president advises from a financial standpoint when he is running the country into the ground through his unsound and reckless financial decisions.

No business, and no individual can operate like the government....we all live withing the financial guidelines we have, so who is the President telling us what to do when his financial house is a total disaster?

Obama Told Companies to 'Step Up' and Hire Workers

President Obama urged businesses to "step up" and hire workers, pressuring corporations to do more to help an economy that he said would take "several years" to recover fully. What the heck is he talking about; recovering fully? How can there be a full recovery when 8 million jobs were lost?

In a town-hall style meeting conducted by CBS News,Obama said the weak housing market and high gasoline prices were the biggest "headwinds" dragging on the economy.
He is the one responsible for the high prices and weak housing! His actions are causing both! Does he think that our population ( other than the 50% illiterate population of Detroit as reported this week) is so stupid they can not see that is is his policies that cause these problems.

"We've got a lot more work to do to get businesses to invest and to hire," he told the audience. No Mr. President, YOU have a lot more work to do to unravel the mess you are creating. You have agencies that make up rules to cripple the economic engines, the businesses of America. Boeing for instance was prohibited from opening a new plant in a non-union environment! This is not the old Soviet Union, Mr. President.

"It's going to take us several years for us to get back where we need to be."
What is this man talking about, nonsense?

The strength of the U.S. economy is likely to be the main factor that determines whether Obama will succeed in holding on to the White House next year.

He said businesses and banks that reaped the rewards of extraordinary measures to pull the country out of a deep recession had a responsibility now to invest hordes of cash into U.S. jobs. Hello, Mr. this post.

"It is time for companies to step up," Obama said. They are trying, they are being beat down by the government such as in the Boeing case.

"American taxpayers contributed ( but did not want to at all, as most taxpayers said do not bail out businesses or banks) to that process of stabilizing the economy. Companies have benefited from that, and they're making a lot of money, and now's the time for them to start betting on American workers and American products."

Obama said his administration was looking at ways to extend programs to help people struggling with mortgage payments on houses that had lost much of their value. I hought that this was going on for years now?

"We're going to continue to work with Congress to see if we can propose more legislation to encourage longer loan modifications," he said. "We are trying to expand the loan modification program to reach more people." What people, more people that are not in default?

Obama said the White House studied oil price movements every day and some increase in fuel prices was inevitable because the economy had improved, boosting demand for energy. DRILL BABY DRILL, is the answer.

"When the economy started growing again, worldwide demand for oil went back up," he said, noting that disruptions in the Middle East, especially Libya, had affected oil prices.

But he said his administration hoped to see gasoline prices down significantly by the summer and was working to crack down on speculation and price gouging. This stupid talk is continuing on and on, all you have to do Mr. Obama is to exploit the vast energy resources we have in the USA!

"As oil prices on the world markets go down, we want to make sure that's reflected in the pump," he said. It is, do you not understand how this works every day???

In response to concerns from small businesses about needless regulation, Obama indicated his administration would announce changes in the coming weeks in regulations to ease the burden of excessive paperwork, that was created by hiring another 180,000 federal workers to control more of every aspect of our lives.

Have you noticed the federally mandated amount of water in the urinals and toilets posted on these appliances? And he says the regulations are easing? YOU, LIE!


By Anthony Martin
Conservative Examiner

In the latest example of Barack Obama's war on oil, the EPA stopped Shell Oil from drilling in Alaska. The news comes as gasoline prices continue to skyrocket and OPEC announced cutbacks in production.

A clear pattern has developed over the last 3 years indicating that the Obama Administration is hostile toward American oil companies and the attempt to get our own oil here and offshore. Geological surveys have indicated that the U.S. possesses some of the richest oil deposits in the world, even more than the Middle East.

Yet the EPA, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Barack Obama have undertaken a coordinated effort to thwart U.S. attempts to drill for and utilize our own oil, coal, and natural gas. Salazar placed off-limits thousands of acres of land that contains enough oil, coal, and natural gas to meet America's energy needs for over a century at the very least. The EPA added new regulations after the Gulf oil spill that hamstring U.S. oil companies from doing what is necessary to get our oil. And Obama not only called a dead-halt to oil drilling in the Gulf but went to Brazil, gave them permission to conduct deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and handed over $2 billion dollars of taxpayers' money to the state-owned Brazilian oil company to conduct deep-water drilling in the Gulf.

Obama Administration policy on energy is basically incoherent, irrational, and punitive. Oil companies in the U.S. are treated as evil barons who rape the land, while Brazil is not only praised but rewarded for deep water oil drilling in the Gulf. Obama talks incessantly about the dire necessity of the U.S. utilizing its own energy resources, yet appears to have a clear disdain for oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear, all of which will be necessary to sustain the American way of life. Obama's initiatives toward 'green' energy sources are bound for failure due to the fact that these sources alone are not adequate to meet the nation's demand. Over 95% of the American economy is driven by oil. Presentlly there is no logical way for 'green' energy to replace that dependence on oil. To attempt to do so would shut down the country.

And then there is the moral issue at play in using food sources for fuel. Enviromentalist extremists love biofuels. But biofuels take crops that would normally be used for food and use them instead for energy. How can this be justified from a moral/ethical perspective, when millions of people around the world are starving?

Apparently, despite the rhetoric, Obama wants the U.S. to remain dependent on foreign oil. This keeps the price high. And that helps the government. While the 'big bad oil companies' make a mere 8 cents per gallon in profits at the pump, the government, including local and state governments, make upwards of 70 cents per gallon in taxes, depending upon the region of the country. The 'evil barons' are the ones in Washington who make windfall profits from oil. The more a gallon of gas increases, the more government collects in taxes.

Make no mistake, the development of alternative sources of energy is prudent. Wind, solar, fuel cell technology are all needed. But it will be many decades before any of these will be capable of totally replacing oil, if ever.

Continue reading on Obama's war on oil--Shell stopped from drilling - National Conservative |


It seems that every day there are several stories about the incompetence of some government agency or an ineffective wasteful government program.

Here is a story right from the Third World. Why are we building schools in Afghanistan, when we need then in Detroit?

Detroit, Michigan, once was a booming city. No more. It is dying before our eyes.

At its peak, America’s former “automotive center” was the 5th largest city in the U.S.A. Today, Detroit is the 11th largest city and can “boast” of these dismal statistics:

* 33.8% of Detroit’s residents were below the poverty level in 2007, the highest among large U.S. cities.
* In December 2010, Detroit had a 19.1% unemployment rate.
* 31.6% of households in Detroit were headed by a female with no husband present; only 26.7% of households were married couples living together.
* Whereas the city had fewer than 6,000 blacks in 1910, today blacks comprise 81.6%, while whites account for 12.3% and Hispanics 5% of Detroit’s population.
* Detroit was the 3rd most dangerous U.S. city in 2009, according to a study by the CQ Press.

Add to the above doleful list this latest statistic: Nearly Half Of Detroiters Can’t Read.

According to a report released on May 4, 2011 by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, 47% of the residents of Detroit are “functionally illiterate.”

Functional illiteracy refers to a person who can read and possibly write simple sentences with a limited vocabulary, but cannot read or write well enough to deal with the everyday requirements of life in society, such as reading a prescription or a job advertisement, and filling out basic forms like job application forms.

Illiteracy is highly correlated with poverty and crime. As examples, over 60% of adults in the US Prison System read at or below the 4th grade level; 85% of US juvenile inmates are functionally illiterate; 43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy lived below the poverty line, as opposed to 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy.

And the sad story continues with the ever increasing level of inadequate education throughout the country. All grade levels in the USA perform below the levels of many other countries....soon, we will need the various world educational charities to be working in Detroit!


The governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn ( also known as a liar Quinnochio for lying about not raising taxes)best known to residents are the most stupid governor in the country-almost doubling taxes and having the worst budget deficit and the worst underfunded, over-bloated pension system....announced proudly that Illinois will receive $180 million from the Federal Government of high speed rail funds that the governor of Florida refused to accept.

Another $180 million of wasted money, taxpayer money from every taxpayer, from every state in the nation.

The biggest joke relating to this is that this will be for a unnecessary rail project that will speed up the transit time between Chicago and the decrepit, boarded up and seedy ghettos known as St. Louis, and Detroit, the city where half of the residents are ILLITERATE ( according to a government report released yesterday)!

I heard Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary explain that the population is clamoring for those routes, and the radio host on the program he was on said that the only people that want those trains are local politicians who will see a lot of overpriced union jobs created in building the infrastructure.

There is simply no need to save 30 minutes of travel time to St. Louis and waste the taxpayer's money. Travel destinations have a magical way of obtaining private travel options when there is an actual need to travel between those places and St. Louis is already served by trains, planes and buses of every type.

Amtrak is structured as a corporation, but its board members are appointed by the president of the United States and virtually all its stock is owned by the federal government.1 Amtrak has about 19,000 employees, and its annual revenues were $2.4 billion in 2009.

Amtrak has been providing second-rate train service for almost four decades, while consuming almost $40 billion in federal subsidies. The system has never earned a profit and most of its routes lose money. Amtrak's on-time record is very poor, and the system as a whole only accounts for 0.1 percent of America's passenger travel.

Another problem is that Amtrak's infrastructure is in bad shape. Most of the blame for Amtrak's woes should be pinned on Congress, which insists on supporting an extensive, nationwide system of passenger rail that doesn't make economic sense.

The solution is to privatize and deregulate passenger rail. Varying degrees of private involvement in passenger rail have been pursued abroad, such as in Australia, Britain, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand. Privatization would allow Amtrak greater flexibility in its finances, in capital investment, and in the operation of its services—free from costly meddling by Congress.


Private passenger rail service thrived in America between the mid-19th century and the early-20th century. By the 1950s, however, passenger rail was struggling because the rise of automobiles and airlines cut deeply into rail's market share. Railroad companies began running huge losses. Automobiles and buses were generally less expensive and more convenient, and airlines were faster for long-haul routes. The Interstate Commerce Commission wrote in 1958 that the passenger train was destined to "take its place in the transportation museum along with the stagecoach, the side-wheeler and the steam locomotive."4

Decades of taxes and burdensome government regulations sped the demise of private passenger rail. Railway companies pay income taxes and substantial property taxes, costs that are not borne by government-owned highways. And during World War II, the federal government imposed a special 15 percent excise tax on train tickets, which was not repealed until 1962.

The railroads were rapidly losing customers in the mid-20th century, but government regulators created hurdles to letting them shed services as quickly as demand was falling. Most state governments imposed regulatory restrictions on the discontinuance of train routes. And beginning in 1958, Congress handed the ICC nationwide power to restrict the discontinuance of train routes. Attempts by the railroads to eliminate unprofitable passenger routes were met with political resistance in Congress. Needless to say, putting Congress in charge of anything will result in nothing but losses and needless hurdles to profitability.

The ICC's micromanagement of the railroads was damaging. It took the ICC a decade to approve the merger of the struggling Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads into the ill-fated Penn Central. By the 1960s, the railroads' crucial freight operations were losing ground to trucks and needed to adjust their shipping rates in order to remain competitive. However, the ICC insisted on maintaining a suffocating regulatory rate structure, which reduced the ability of the railroads to adapt to market conditions. Are we surprised by any of these stupid decisions?

The railroads were also burdened with unionized workforces, which raised labor costs and reduced the management flexibility of companies to respond to the rapidly changing marketplace. For example, even though the job of stoking the old steam engines had been eliminated, railroad unions fought for 35 years to keep firemen in diesel locomotives. They did nothing, just sat through the trip!

After a number of major railroads, including Penn Central, went bankrupt in the 1960s, Congress and President Richard Nixon stepped in to take unprofitable passenger rail off the hands of the struggling railroads by creating a new federal rail corporation, Amtrak and put the burden right on the taxpayers!. Pressure from passenger rail advocacy groups and labor unions also led to Amtrak's creation. The railroads leased their passenger trains to Amtrak, which later purchased the leased equipment outright.

Amtrak proponents claimed that housing all intercity passenger trains under one organization would be cost effective and would make trains competitive with automobiles and airplanes. Amtrak's first chairman, David W. Kendall, reflected this misplaced optimism:

"This new system can and will succeed because it unifies for the first time the operation and promotion of the nation's rail passenger service. Now, a single management can devote its energy exclusively to serving this passenger." LOL!!!

Over the decades, many other government officials have expressed optimism about the future of the government-controlled Amtrak. In 1992, Amtrak president W. Graham Claytor Jr. said, "Amtrak continues to reduce its need for federal operating support and hopes to eliminate it altogether by the end of the decade."11 His successor, Thomas Downs, claimed that Amtrak was "on a glide path to profitability." In 1999 Amtrak president George D. Warrington boasted that Amtrak would "be the envy of all transportation providers." More recently, Amtrak president Alexander Kummant told the New York Times that "the stars may be aligning" for a renaissance in passenger rail. I thought that these guys were subject to drug testing before being hired?

However, Amtrak's stars have not aligned, and some experts who supported Amtrak have changed their views over the years. Anthony Haswell, who in 1967 founded the National Association of Railroad Passengers and is referred to as the "father" of Amtrak, later said, "I feel personally embarrassed over what I helped to create."5 Joseph Vranich, a former Amtrak spokesman and rail expert, also came to recognize that it was a mistake:

Amtrak is a massive failure because it's wedded to a failed paradigm. It runs trains that serve political purposes as opposed to being responsive to the marketplace. America needs passenger trains in selected areas, but it doesn't need Amtrak's antiquated route system, poor service and unreasonable operating deficits.

Amtrak has lost money every year of its existence (LaHood keeps lying stating that it makes money), and it has consumed almost $40 billion in federal operating and capital subsidies. During the 2000s, Amtrak averaged annual losses in excess of $1 billion. In 2010, Amtrak received $563 million in operating subsidies and $1 billion in capital and debt service grants. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 pumped an additional $1.3 billion in capital grants into Amtrak.

Amtrak is also eligible to apply for a share of the $8 billion in high-speed rail grants authorized by the stimulus bill, and an additional $2.5 billion appropriated by Congress for high-speed rail in 2010. Amtrak's board of directors recently approved the creation of a high-speed rail department in order to "maximize the opportunities available in the new intercity passenger rail environment." High-speed rail is a bad idea on its own, and allowing Amtrak to be involved would likely compound the problem.

Some people argue that other forms of transportation are subsidized, so why not passenger rail? In 2004, the Department of Transportation published a report on the cost of federal subsidies for automobiles, buses, airplanes, transit, and passenger rail per thousand passenger miles. The survey covered 1990 to 2002. In every year except one, passenger rail was the most subsidized mode of transportation. For example, in 2002 Amtrak subsidies per one thousand passenger miles were $210.31. By contrast, the subsidy for automobiles was -$1.79, which means that drivers more than supported themselves through federal fuel taxes.

The findings embarrassed Amtrak supporters in Congress, and as a result, the government stopped producing the report ( a great way to solve the problem). Transportation experts Wendell Cox and Ronald Utt have updated the figures using the government's methodology and produced a similar result. They found that Amtrak subsidies per thousand passenger miles were $237.53 versus -$1.01 for automobiles in 2006.19

As it is currently structured, passenger rail is a cost-ineffective mode of transportation. As former senator Russell Long once said, why is the government trying to get people "to leave a taxpaying organization, the bus company, and ride on a tax-eating organization, Amtrak?" Passenger rail might make economic sense on some corridors in the United States, but the only way to figure out which routes and services make sense is to let private enterprise take the lead in a deregulated marketplace, as discussed below.

Money-Losing Routes

Amtrak operates 44 routes on over 22,000 miles of track in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces. Amtrak owns the trains, but 97 percent of the track is owned by freight rail companies.

In a 1976 report, Amtrak projected that ridership would grow from 17.3 million in 1975 to 32.9 million by 1980. Yet three decades later in 2009, Amtrak still carries only 27.2 million passengers a year. Ridership has been growing in recent years, but the 2009 level amounts to a less than a 1 percent share of the market for passenger travel in the United States.22 Moreover, Amtrak's load factor (percentage of seats occupied) is below 50 percent, which compares to a typical 80-percent load factor on airlines.

An independent analysis found that the average operational loss per passenger on all 44 of Amtrak's routes was $32 in 2008.24 The only profitable line was the higher-speed Acela Express in the Northeast Corridor. However, the Northeast Corridor's Northeast Regional line, which has more than twice the number of riders as the Acela, lost money per passenger. The Sunset Limited, which runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles, lost an astounding $462 per passenger.

All of Amtrak's long-distance routes lose money. According to the Government Accountability Office, these routes account for 15 percent of riders but 80 percent of financial losses. The long-distance trains exist largely for the benefit of rural populations, but the benefit is outweighed by infrequent or inconvenient service and a heavy cost to taxpayers.

There are only an estimated 350,000 rural people nationwide who depend solely on rail for public intercity travel. By comparison, intercity air and bus services provide the sole transportation option for 2.4 million and 14.4 million residents nationwide, respectively. Whereas intercity air and bus services are available to a respective 89 and 71 percent of rural America, the figure for rail is only 42 percent. The GAO says that "it appears that if rural transportation were a targeted public policy objective, other modes of transport could be better positioned to provide this benefit to a greater number of residents at lower cost."28

The demographic being served by these long-term routes does not demonstrate a strong need for taxpayer subsidies. Eighty percent of long-distance train riders use it for recreational and leisure trips, and riders tend to be retirees. Premium services like sleeper and dining cars contribute to operating losses for long-distance trains. These amenities are heavily subsidized, which means taxpayers—and not the pleasure-seeking retirees—are incurring the burden.

I remember that episode from the Sex in the City sitcom, whereby Carrie and Samantha decide to take the train and learn about its inefficiencies, bad food and first class sleeper cars that have a shower over a toilet and no room to sleep!

Right from the beginning, members of Congress have been burdening Amtrak with money-losing routes. In mapping out Amtrak's first routes in 1971, Montana's senators ensured inclusion of a sparsely-populated route in their state, Indianapolis received three routes but Cleveland none because of the political pull of Indiana senators, and West Virginia grabbed an extra route courtesy of one of its senators.

Politicians add unprofitable lines and they also prevent routes from being cut. In the late 1970s, Transportation Secretary Brock Adams proposed a major overhaul to cut unprofitable routes and reduce Amtrak's total mileage by 43 percent. Congress went along with a reduction of just 16 percent.

Amtrak reform legislation in 1997 stipulated that its board be replaced with a "reform board" of directors. The Clinton administration nominated, and the Senate confirmed, politicians that included the then-governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, and the mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, John Robert Smith. Mayor Smith tried to create a route that would have lost millions linking Atlanta and Dallas via Meridian. Governor Thompson succeeded in creating a route from Chicago to Janesville, Wisconsin. It was eventually discontinued after Thompson's departure from the board due to low ridership and financial losses.

In 2001, Amtrak's deteriorating financial situation triggered a legal requirement that it develop a liquidation plan. Instead, then-senators Joe Biden (D-DE) ( the bumbest vice president ever) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC) attached an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that prohibited Amtrak from spending funds to prepare the plan.

It makes no sense to continue subsidizing money-losing routes, but Congress essentially demands that Amtrak keep wasting money by maintaining a national system of intercity rail. The result is that Amtrak's nationwide network looks much as it did almost 40 years ago, despite the fact the nation's population distribution and other factors have changed dramatically. The only way to solve these problems is full privatization to get the politicians out of the decision making process for passenger rail.

Poor Service Quality

Aside from its money woes, Amtrak has long suffered from poor on-time performance, which is the share of trips in which trains arrive at the scheduled time. For the overall system, Amtrak's on-time performance has hovered below 70 percent in recent years. For long-distance routes, the on-time record falls to an abysmal 42 percent.

The Department of Transportation's inspector general found that only 4 of 13 long-distance routes regularly achieved an on-time performance of at least 60 percent in recent years. Two lines, the Sunset Limited and the Coast Starlight were hardly ever on time. When long-distance trains were late, 75 percent were more than an hour late, and 25 percent were more than three hours late.

With a rail system plagued by late trains and endless operating losses, Amtrak's management has been subject to a constant stream of criticism, much of which is warranted. A comprehensive report by the GAO found serious deficiencies, including a lack of strategic planning, inefficient procurement policies and procedures, weak financial management, as well as insufficient accountability, transparency, and oversight. Amtrak's inspector general recently acknowledged that "a number of its key information systems and the underlying technological infrastructure are outdated and increasingly prone to failure."

Amtrak's management also has a reputation for painting an artificially rosy financial picture. An independent analysis of Amtrak's routes found substantially larger losses than reported by Amtrak. The GAO says that Amtrak has "omitted or misallocated key expenses in several areas, substantially understating operating expenses in reports that managers use to assess performance." When the GAO recommended that Amtrak report under SEC regulations, Amtrak responded that "it would not be cost effective." Finally, a seven-year federal investigation found that Amtrak officials intentionally manipulated financial statements in 2001 to obscure the fact that the company was in dire financial shape. Nobody went to jail, and no investigation ensued.

All that said, the ultimate blame for Amtrak's long record of red ink and poor performance lies with Congress. As a consequence of congressional mandates, Amtrak spends a huge amount of money maintaining money-losing routes at the expense of routes with heavier traffic like the Northeast Corridor. Corridors that do need more investment are starved because Amtrak is wasting money elsewhere.

Several years ago, the GAO estimated that Amtrak had $6 billion in deferred infrastructure maintenance. Sixty percent of the deferred maintenance was attributable to the Northeast Corridor. The deteriorating condition of Amtrak's infrastructure contributes to service delays, which drives away potential riders. It's a vicious cycle created by government ownership.

During the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations, Amtrak presidents threatened service cuts if they did not receive added funds to upgrade the company's infrastructure. Congress has provided occasional infusions of extra capital funding, as it did in the 2009 economic stimulus bill, but that has only papered over the deep structural problems with the current passenger rail system.

Costly Workforce

Another problem that Amtrak management deals with is an expensive and inflexible workforce. Amtrak has about 19,000 employees, about 86 percent of whom are covered by collective bargaining. Compensation represents almost half of Amtrak's total operating costs. The average Amtrak employee earns more than $91,000 a year in wages and benefits.

In 2008, Amtrak signed labor agreements with 13 unions that awarded pay increases retroactive from 2002 through 2008. It's hard to square such pay increases in a company that operates in the red and can't fund needed maintenance. An Amtrak inspector general report found that even prior to the 2008 pay increases, "the average annual cost of an Amtrak infrastructure worker is 2.3 times that of the average European railroad infrastructure worker." The GAO has found that expensive retiree benefits and protections under the federal injury compensation system raise Amtrak's costs compared to non-railroad industries.

Besides raising compensation costs, Amtrak unions stand in the way of rail efficiency in other ways. Labor unions tend to protect poorly performing workers and push for larger staffing levels than required. Unions generally resist the introduction of new ways of doing things and create a more rule-laden and bureaucratic workplace.

As an example, if Amtrak wants to contract out some of its operations, it has to go through costly negotiations with the unions. Or if Amtrak wants to cut costs by closing a facility, terminated employees are entitled to receive separation benefits for up to five years. According to the GAO, when liquidation of Amtrak was being considered in 2001, employee claims for immediate separation benefits could have been as much as $3.2 billion.


The Department of Transportation's inspector general summed up Amtrak's situation:

The current model for providing intercity passenger service continues to produce financial instability and poor service quality. Despite multiple efforts over the years to change Amtrak's structure and funding, we have a system that limps along, is never in a state-of-good-repair, awash in debt, and perpetually on the edge of collapse. In the end, Amtrak has been tasked to be all things to all people, but the model under which it operates leaves many unsatisfied.

Amtrak's monopoly over intercity passenger rail travel leaves it with little incentive to provide high-quality and efficient service. The threat of potential budget cuts or elimination has been undermined by Washington's perpetual willingness to bail Amtrak out. At the same time, congressional micromanagement has prevented Amtrak from cutting routes and reducing other costs. Its unionized workforce reduces management's ability to run an efficient business.

The solution is to end federal subsidies, privatize Amtrak, and open up the passenger rail business to new entrants. Routes like the Northeast Corridor, which has the population density to support passenger rail, could probably be run profitably by a private firm. Money-losing routes, such as numerous rural routes, would likely disappear. But far more cost-effective modes of transportation, particularly bus systems, already exist to support those areas.

If Amtrak is privatized, passenger rail will be in a much better position to compete with resurgent intercity bus services. The rapid growth in bus services in recent years illustrates how private markets can solve our mobility needs if left reasonably unregulated and unsubsidized. A Washington Post reporter detailed her experiences with today's low-cost intercity buses: "This new species offers curbside pickup and drop-offs, cheap fares, clean restrooms, express service, online reservations, free WiFi and loyalty programs . . . The bus fares undercut Amtrak and, depending on the number of passengers, personal vehicles."

Let's privatize and deregulate passenger rail to see if it can compete with bus services and other modes of transportation. After all, dozens of countries around the globe have enlisted the private sector in the operation of their national rail systems in the last couple of decades. Joseph Vranich counted 55 nations that had either turned to the private sector or devolved their rail systems to their regional governments. Rail systems that utilize the private sector have generally provided better passenger service, increased ridership, and more efficient operations. There have been reform missteps, such as in Britain, but U.S. policymakers can learn from those mistakes to chart a smoother course.

The United States has its own positive experience with rail privatization—the privatization of freight railroads in the 1980s. When the Penn Central Railroad collapsed in 1970, it was the largest business failure in American history. Six other railroads soon followed. In 1973 Congress established the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) to replace the seven private freight railroads. Conrail, which consumed $8 billion of federal subsidies, floundered until Congress finally provided regulatory relief in the early 1980s. Deregulation allowed Conrail to become profitable and the company was sold to private shareholders in 1987 for $1.6 billion, which at the time was the largest initial public stock offering in U.S. history.

Over the last two decades, U.S. freight railroads—operating in a deregulated environment—have been a dramatic success. Rail's share of total U.S. freight has increased substantially. Passenger rail might also succeed if Congress ever lays aside its parochial concerns and puts America's passenger rail system back into the private sector.

Speaking as a businessman, it is clear that the best way to have rail service io turn it over to private industry and allow those services that have high demand continue as a private enterprise.