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Debating Gitmo With Susan Estrich

Monday, January 26, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

I have agreed to do the point-counterpoint with Susan Estrich this week over at the Los Angeles Times. Susan and I have worked together in the past, providing a variety of groups with the “instant panel,” and she’s smart and funny.

Today’s topic: What do we do with Gitmo terrorists?

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The Not-A-Stimulus Bill That Triggers a Disco Revival?

Monday, January 26, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Call it whatever you like, the massive spending spree being pushed forward by House Democrats won’t stimulate the economy, though it will certainly stimulate Democratic Party special interests. The Wall Street Journal does a fine job explaining.

House GOP leader John Boehner also did a good job slicing and dicing it yesterday on Meet the Press, but more needs to be done to communicate to the public just how absurd are the claims being made for the bill. The $50 million in Arts spendning is a great place to start, but the GOP House and Senate need to dust off the charts and post up the summaries of the worst aspects of the spending. The next couple of weeks should be spent defining for America why the bill isn’t a stimulus package but a giant pork payout to special interests amounting to a giant swing-and-a-miss on the economy. Coupled with the immediate onslaught of economy-slowing tactics from both within and outside the government, the recovery that will come from the ordinary turning of the business cycle is going to find its climb uphill long and hard. Not so elsewhere in the world which will be pursuing rapid restarts to growth, but certainly at home.

The decision by President Obama to allow his great opportunity to be hijacked by House Democrats is a strange one. He must be confident that the business cycle will right itself, because this approach won’t have much to offer it. If as many suspect the massive bill as “inflationary non-growth” all over it, it should be called the Jimmy Carter Memorial Bill, as well all seek to relive the late ’70s. Can the return of disco be far behind?

Good News From Banks

Monday, January 26, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

They are European banks, but good banking news has been scarce, and its arrival helps moderate the chicken-little talk:

Barclays shares skyrocketed after it said it expects pretax profits of over 5.3 billion pounds ($7.3 billion) for the full year 2008 despite writing down 8 billion pounds on bad assets. The bank also said it would not need any bailouts beyond some guarantees on toxic assets — dispelling fears it was set to be part-nationalized.

The news was a breath of fresh air for the banking sector, which was braced for the worst in Britain. Separate news also showed that banks are taking measures to fix their balance sheets and boost lending to the economy.

France’s Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole SA said they will merge their asset management businesses.

Dutch ING announced 7,000 job cuts, the resignation of its CEO and a euro3.3 billion ($4.22 billion) loss for the fourth quarter. But it also said the state would take on 80 percent of a euro27.7 billion portfolio of risky assets in exchange for a nominal sum. Its shares were down 4.3 percent.

In France, BNP Paribas SA said it expects to report a euro1.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter due to weaker investment banking, but predicts a net profit of around euro3 billion for the full year thanks to the “good performance” of retail banking and asset management.

For a balanced look at the quarter ahead (and the ugly one in the rear view mirror) read Rex Nutting in Market Watch.

Critical Habitat for the Florida Panther

Sunday, January 25, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In the eight years of the Bush Adminstration, the environmental groups learned to play the Endangered Species Act like a violin, and one of their favorite tunes is the demand for “critical habitat,” a series of maps that, once promulgated, have the effect of greatly complicating the use of private property even if the species connected with the maps is nowhere near the property so designated. Because landowners rarely if ever get word of such designations or understand them when the occur, the property rights time bomb gets planted and starts ticking with very few people aware of the rule-making or its consequences.

Landowners in Florida should know that on day one of the Obama Administration, the Conservancy of Southwestern Florida filed a “petition to label huge swaths of South Florida as critical habitat for the Florida panther. “ A successful petition will greatly impair the property rights of landowners in the region without doing anything to enhance the survival of the panther.

It is the first such petition of what will surely be four years of aggressive appeals to the Department of the Interior to diminish the property rights of landowners across the United States. This will be good for my business as an ESA and Clean Water Act lawyer, but bad –very bad– for the economic recovery.

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