We previously reported the oddity that Mary L. Schapiro has been appointed chair of the SEC by Barack Obama exactly 20 years after she was named to the SEC by Ronald Reagan. Now we learn from a source that the guy who vetted Schapiro for Reagan was none other than Chris Cox, the current controversial SEC chair. Change we need notwithstanding, that's the sort of change you more likely get in Washington these days.
Washington City Paper - According to Washington Area Bicyclist Association program assistant Henry Mesias. . . WABA will be setting up bike valet stations at the Capitol on Inauguration Day.
Catherine Austin Fitts, Solari - The big question of 2008 is "Where is the money?" It just keeps disappearing. There was $4 trillion plus that disappeared from the US government between 1998 and 2002 along with the pump-and-dump of the Internet and telecom stocks and Enron. Since then and into 2008, funds keep disappearing into the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. Now we have $700 billion in bailouts and $7 trillion plus in loans by the Fed, not to mention the $5 trillion in mortgage market liabilities assumed by the Federal government with the passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The fraud in the US mortgage bubble was clearly enormous. But, where did all the money go?. . .
What this all adds up to is financial coup d'etat. Trillions are being stolen through the financial system in a manner that centralizes wealth, leaving governments bankrupt but with bigger budgets to assert control over the wider population. Not surprisingly, this leaves economies ever more dependent on defense and enforcement spending as the infrastructure of central control grows. . .
One of the few good investment categories in 2008 was building local self-sufficiency. From the success of the Financial Permaculture conference in Hohenwald, Tennessee to the rapid spread of Transition Towns around the world, to the spreading of participatory budgeting from Latin America, efforts by local communities to re-localize are very encouraging. The logical response to uneconomic centralization is to look for ways to decentralize. Despite all the difficulties in the economy, entrepreneurs doing natural home building, farmers markets, starting farms, installing solar energy and weatherizing homes enjoyed a market moving their way. These efforts will continue to grow well beyond any shakeout.
Consumerist - Former Treasury Secretary John W. Snow has told the New York Times that he, along with the entire Bush Administration, simply "forgot" that people had to be able to "afford their house.". . . From the New York Times: "The Bush administration took a lot of pride that homeownership had reached historic highs,"� Mr. Snow said in an interview. "But what we forgot in the process was that it has to be done in the context of people being able to afford their house. We now realize there was a high cost."�
This seems like an odd thing to forget... especially for someone as accomplished as Mr. Snow. From 2003 - 2006, he served as the 73rd United States Secretary of the Treasury. Previous to that appointment he worked in the Reagan Administration and earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Virginia. He's currently serving as chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, which among other things, owns 80% of Chrysler.
Washington Times - Governors want to levy higher taxes next year on clothes, soft drinks, gasoline, auto licenses and other items that likely will hit low- and middle-income families struggling to make ends meet in a deepening recession the hardest. Officials say they are required by law to balance budgets and that tax increases are necessary as state governments face sharply declining tax revenues, but fiscal analysts say raising these taxes during an economic downturn will only worsen local economies and prolong the recession. One of the most sweeping revenue packages comes out of New York, where Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson wants to raise $4 billion with 137 new or increased taxes and fees in the budget, including an 18 percent so-called "anti-obesity tax" on non-diet soft drinks. Satellite TV, cigars and professional licensing fees also are targets. In its annual report on the states' fiscal conditions, the National Governors Association reported last week that "most states experienced poor fiscal conditions in 2008, with conditions for fiscal 2009 continuing to deteriorate and expected to continue to severely decline as the national recession deepens."
High Country News - When the Bureau of Land Management announced last month that hundreds of thousands of acres of Utah's redrock country would be up for oil and gas leasing, the agency made something of an end-run around public process. It announced the sale on Nov. 4, when everyone was distracted by the presidential election, and it failed to ask the National Park Service for input, though much of the land in question was near Canyonlands, Arches and Dinosaur National Monument. (In the past, the BLM has given its sister agency months to comment on proposals that could affect views, air and water quality on national park lands.) So it seems fitting that a student protester off the street was able to make his own end-run around the BLM's auction process. On Dec. 19, 27-year-old Tim DeChristopher walked in the door of the BLM's state office in Salt Lake, got himself a bidding paddle and managed to win 22,000 acres for $1.8 million and drive up prices on other parcels by an estimated $500,000. DeChristopher has no intention of paying, and the parcels he won wouldn't be available for lease again until Barack Obama is in office, meaning they may not be leased for energy development at all.
Eco Geek - A 250 turbine wind farm planned to be built about 10 miles offshore in Wales has just been approved. The project will (hopefully) begin feeding electricity to the grid in 2012, and will have a peak power production of 750 MW, enough to power around 680,000 Welsh homes.
Portland Press Herald - Saltwater anglers will need a license to catch striped bass, alewife, pollock and other popular fish beginning in January 2010, under a rule issued Tuesday by the federal government. The rule . . . is designed to create a national registry of recreational fishermen. The government will use the registry to study the effects of recreational fishing on fish stocks and gauge the economic value of saltwater angling. . . Some 500 public comments were submitted on the proposal last summer, and many came from the Northeast, where the opposition has been vocal.
FURTHERMORE. . . .
Michelle Healy, USA Today - Minneapolis and Seattle are the USA's most literate cities, according to an annual study examining the "culture and resources for reading" in the nation's largest metro areas. For the past six years, the two cities have traded the first and second spots in the rankings, which analyze six key indicators of literacy (newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources) against population rates for cities with populations of 250,000 or more.
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