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Habitat, Housing, Nukes and Ships: Rescuing the “Stimulus”

Saturday, January 31, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Republicans know that a huge wave of spending is going to be part of the so-called stimulus package. They ought to be willing to detail the sorts of spending that makes sense, the kind of one-time appropriations that, coupled with tax cuts, could help push the recovery forward.

I have already written in favor of a huge investment in nuclear power (accompanied by quick-start provisions) and a home purchase tax credit big enough to draw bottom-feeders into the market, with a deadline that also forces their hand (closing before July 31 perhaps?).

Another proposal that Senate Republicans should be pushing is for an increase in the number of ships under construction as the Navy has plans to decrease to around 280 ships, which is inconsistent with the number of missions the Navy has been asked to undertake. Ship cosntruction is a serious job provider that also leaves the country better defended –the sort of stimulus that makes sense.

Finally, and perhaps less obvious to many conservatives, Senate Republicans ought to be pushing for a huge allocation of funds to sensitive habitat acquisitions. Over at, a search of “habitat” turns up about $2 billion in various places connected to habitat purchases or enhancements, but the opportunity to both serve the goal of environmental protection/conservation and pump priming is far larger than that amount suggests.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of private property in the south and the west are burdened with land-use restrictions as a result of the habitats, species, and wetlands they support. The environmental laws of the country unfairly transfer to these property owners the entire cost of the national goal of species/habitat protections. Many of these landowners (I have represented scores of them over the past 20 years) are entrepreneurial and eager to invest in and develop their property but find themselves locked into endless land-use battles with the federal and state governments and activists, battles which even when they are won drain resources and productivity.

A massive allocation of the looming appropriation to the acquisition of property highly-valued by environmental activists and federal regulators would instantly serve the goals of the activists while also pushing capital into the hands of the landowners for their reinvestment and use elsewhere. Condemnation should be prohibited, but if even 5% of the stimulus was directed towards a national program of arms-length transactions securing the most sought-after private property at fair market values, many goals would be served and the federal dollars would flow quickly back into the private economy with a minimum of red tape and bureaucracy. If, say, $40 billion were allocated to the effort with at least 50% allocated on a per capita basis among the states, President Obama would oversee the expansion of federal land holdings in the name of conservation to rival that of TR’s while also lifting the extraordinary burden on private property owners forced to sit with their assets idled by these laws.

Such a program should mandate the expenditures on purchases by the end of the year, provide tax relief for the sellers and participation of the activists in the prioritization of the purchasing, but at the end of 2009 there would be something permanent to show for the stimulus and the amount dedicated to the effort would be at work in the private sector, creating jobs and searching out new opportunities.

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The New England Cottontail Rabbit

Saturday, January 31, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Most of the impacts on private property from the federal Endangered Species Act have occurred in the south and the west. This story notes that the New England cottontail rabbit isn’t on the ESA’s list of threatened or endangered species yet, largely due to workload issues at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Typically environmental activists sue to force such species on to the list, but not apparently not in this case. New England liberals have a much easier time supporting the draconian species laws when those laws don’t have any impact on their own backyards. If and when the rabbit jumps onto the list and land use suddenly becomes a swirl of delays and expensive planning, lawsuits and devalued land, it will be interesting to see how the Congressmen from up north view the ESA then.

“Then The Pirates Escaped.”

Saturday, January 31, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

That’s the last line in a fascinating WSJ article about the recent hijacking and eventual ransom of the tanker, the MV Biscaglia.

While relief at the return to safety of the crew is profound and the owner’s concern for them admirable, this and many other ransoms paid are proving the old rule true: That which gets rewarded gets repeated.

And it has to be obvious to terrorists intent on making a huge statement that there is expertise along the Somali coast on the capture of tankers.

The Latest From “Bear In The Woods”

Saturday, January 31, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The 25 Random Things Michael Steel and the New GOP Leadership Should Know, from my favorite ad exec who must remain anonymous because the business is so left-wing:

1. Creating messages that move people to action begins with an understanding of the people you want to move.
2. You cannot control the message. You can only tell your side, and hope to influence the general consensus.[# More #]
3. Popular culture is, far and away, more powerful than political rhetoric.
4. Popular culture can be created. But only with success by those who understand its nature. And even then, it is equal parts art, science, and chance.
5. People no longer interact with products (or causes) on the basis of top-down information. Communication is omnidirectional, and the world is flat.
6. You can’t force anyone to listen. You can only work hard to get them to like and trust you. When they do that, they begin to listen, but only on their own terms.
7. They don’t just listen. They talk, too. Which means you must listen, if you want to keep interacting with them.
8. Playing catch-up in the digital world is difficult. And because the digital world changes every minute, it’s a perpetual process.
9. Naive misuse of social media is exactly the same as ignorant misbehavior in real-life social settings, and it comes with the same consequences.
10. Social media is a real-life social setting.
11. There is no on-line and off-line anymore. It’s all connected. If you don’t understand it all, you don’t understand it at all.
12. Successful creation of an online communications campaign depends more on the creativity of the campaign than the technology. It’s the same as traditional communication. You don’t think “That’s a great billboard,” because of where the billboard is, or how it’s constructed. You think “That’s a great billboard,” because of the idea and execution.
13. Technology is a tool – a delivery mechanism. In the hands of a technologist, it’s an efficient machine. In the hands of an artist, it’s a powerful canvas. Lots of people understand the internet. Very few people can create a movement on it.
14. People don’t interact with websites or Twitter, or Facebook. People interact with people. They use those things to help them do it.
15. People don’t act on need. People act on want.
16. Public service is noble. But politics is a business. You’re selling a product. The product is an idea or a candidate. Marketed properly, any product will sell. A good product will sell more. A bad product will not see many repeat customers.
17. You need to understand technology. But more than that, you need to understand the market. Because technology has created a vast cultural shift in that market. Just learning the technology won’t teach you the shift.
18. Embracing the wishes of everyone, and crafting a message by consensus, guarantees mediocrity.
19. Before you take a message public, run it by your 16-year-old daughter. Not because she won’t understand, and you might need to dumb it down for the masses — but because she’s smarter and cooler than you, and you might need to listen to her suggestions.
20. Richard Nixon lost to the “first TV President.” But it wasn’t TV that did it. Kennedy presented a better image than Nixon in real life, too. Nixon lost to well-crafted (for its day) pop culture in the form of a candidate. And because he had no understanding of that, he had no real defense.
21. John McCain. See item 20.
22. It is a popularity contest.
23. Item 22 is unfortunate, and shouldn’t be, and everything you’re thinking. But it is what is, and you can’t change that. The only option is to win the popularity contest with someone who also embodies and embraces the ideals we believe in.
24. This list is just the beginning of the things you should know. It, like the communications landscape, will change in about an hour.
25. You should know why this list is written and titled the way it is. If you don’t, ask your 16-year-old daughter.
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