January 2008 Southwest Climate Outlook
The January Southwest Climate Outlook is online. This month’s outlook provides recent drought conditions and the latest seasonal forecasts. The feature article is entitled “Forecast Verification: Past, Present, and Future”
This month’s cover photo was provided by Michael O’Neill, Superintendent Agricultural Science Center at Farmington.
You can both view the latest Southwest Climate Outlook in html format or view the printer-friendly PDF file at: http://www.climas.arizona.edu/forecasts/swoutlook.html
Highlights from the January 2008 Outlook
Drought – Drought conditions have remained unchanged or improved slightly across Arizona and New Mexico due to precipitation in late November and December. These early winter storms missed much of eastern New Mexico, leaving abnormally dry conditions to persist there. The precipitation across Arizona has improved short-term drought status, but most of the state is experiencing some type of drought.
Temperature – Temperatures have been below average for the past thirty days across Arizona and New Mexico. Most locations observed temperatures 3 to 6 degrees F below average for the period.
Precipitation – Much of Arizona and New Mexico observed below-average precipitation over the past thirty days. Only northern portions of both states saw average to above-average precipitation due to storms crossing the region in early January.
ENSO – A moderate La Niña is still underway in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to persist through the spring. Forecasts point to a mature La Niña event that is impacting circulation patterns across the Pacific Ocean.
Climate Forecasts – Seasonal climate forecasts continue to indicate that above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation are in store for the Southwest through the spring.
The Bottom Line – Cool and wet conditions in December brought accumulating snow and some short-term drought relief to much of Arizona and New Mexico—a pleasant surprise given the moderate La Niña event underway. The current event is expected to persist and bring below-average precipitation to much of the Southwest through the spring. The current short-term precipitation deficits could continue if typical La Niña impacts emerge as expected over the next several months.
Kristen E. Nelson
Institute for the Study of Planet Earth
715 N. Park Ave., 2nd Floor
Tucson, AZ 85721
And now for the important news ….
By Argus Hamilton
The Weather Channel said the cold winter in the Midwest and South is likely to continue due to a northern jet stream. The meteorologists say El Nino is long gone. Apparently he went back home when the slump hit the housing and construction industry.
Economic Stimulus Plan for Michigan
Recently, I was pleased to hear President Bush discussing the need for a stimulus plan for our nation’s economy.
Michigan, more than any other state, needs an economic growth plan that includes significant tax relief for every family struggling to make ends meet and every employer willing to invest here. The President’s proposal has potential, but Congress must act quickly to give our families and employers the tools we need to get back on track economically.
As your Representative, I am aggressively pursuing solutions for Michigan ‘s struggling economy. I have authored measures to strengthen Michigan’s jobs base including increased investment in alternative fuels research, lower taxes for job providers and families, and demand for tough enforcement of international trade rules.
Specifically, I intend to continue my efforts on a number of important economic issues including:
Stopping the illegal Chinese counterfeits that are washing up on our shores
Making health care affordable for workers and employers
Helping to stem the housing and mortgage crisis
Bringing runaway energy costs under control
Ending Asian currency manipulation that puts American manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage
Cutting billions in wasteful, inefficient, and duplicative government spending
Slashing the anti-manufacturing taxes that continue to smother domestic manufacturing
Ending frivolous lawsuits that enrich trial lawyers and put Americans out of work
For more information on my work to improve Michigan ‘s economy, please click here.
Congressman Mike Rogers, Michigan’s 8th District
The WasteBasket: A Bulletin on Wasteful Government Spending - FIRST DO NO HARM
by Taxpayers for Common Sense
FIRST DO NO HARM
Volume XIII No. 4 — January 24, 2008
Like most Americans, we deplore Congressional gridlock. But a hundred billion dollar legislative train speeding down the tracks scares us too.
By all reports, there is rare agreement between the White House and Capitol Hill on the need for a fiscal stimulus package for the flagging economy. There appears to be agreement on the size and scope of the package, so as the details are finalized, we offer some advice.
The first rule should be a sort of economic Hippocratic Oath – first do no harm. Long-term changes to the tax code, tacking on unrelated pet projects, or significantly increasing the national debt for the sake of quickly passing a short term stimulus package are all examples of how Congress could take a temporary problem – a recession – and do lasting damage to the economy. Any stimulus should be targeted, limited, simple, and temporary. These guidelines will help avoid digging deeper into the economic hole (pdf) that we are in.
There is scant evidence supporting one type of stimulus over others. A 2002 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report compares the tradeoffs inherent in many of the more popular proposals for priming the economy. In the end it comes down to predicting individual behavior – a favorite pastime of economists. That said, a more recent CBO report proposes three fixes that at least do minimal harm: temporary tax cuts and rebates, temporarily extending or expanding unemployment benefits, and temporarily increasing foods stamps. Other economists suggest tax breaks and incentives for business investment, such as temporary provisions for accelerated depreciation on new equipment purchases.
A stimulus package aims to inject money into a stagnant economy with the consequent outcome being greater consumer spending. The trick is getting the most short term consumption for the least long term cost – either with tax cuts, spending increases, or some combination thereof.
One challenge is that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the economy has begun to tank. In fact, the recession may have already started and may be over by the time the stimulus is enacted – actually creating an inflationary rather than stimulating effect. Regardless, we won’t even know for certain the depth of the current problem until the final arbiter on recessions, the National Bureau of Economic Research, weighs in, which will not happen until later this summer.
Congress should quickly get a “Hippocratic” stimulus package done and then get down to the business of working on a long term plan to get our spending house in order, starting with figuring out what to do about the looming and ballooning entitlement costs that are coming with the retirement of all those baby-boomers. It also wouldn’t hurt to develop future generic stimulus packages that could be automatically triggered when the next economic slump begins. This might help with the historic problem of Congress passing a bucket of stimulus after the economic fire is already out. In the end, clear headed thinking and long term solutions are the real boosts to the economy.
Going on at Taxpayer.net This Week
Check out TCS’s Complete Coverage of FY08 Spending Bills
TCS Congressional Testimony About Reform of 1872 Mining Law
TCS in the News
ProLogic ‘believes it has acted responsibly’ (Times-West Virginian)
Corporate farmers hog our bucks (Mountain Mail Newspaper, Colorado)
GOP plans to shame Dems on earmarks (Politico)
Earmarks Seen Likely to Continue, but With Details (New York Times)
Day, Kline oppose earmarks (Post-Bulletin, Minnesota)
Federal earmarks to religious group raise constitutional concerns (Kansas City Star)
New rules make it easier to track earmarks (Salem Statesman Journal, Oregon)
Defense and the Future of Contracting (Washington Post)
One way to calculate true cost of earmarks (Nashua Telegraph, New Hampshire
“…if we’re going to stimulate the economy through fiscal policy, let’s do it correctly, not in a way that dams the economy for the future or basically gets you a short-term political headline but doesn’t get you the impact you need which is to help people through a difficult economic period.”
–Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Ethanol Fuel from Corn Faulted as ‘Unsustainable Subsidized Food Burning’
David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert, has calculated that powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow a year’s supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.
Mr. Pimentel concluded that “abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuels amounts to unsustainable subsidized food burning”.
Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what Cornell University agricultural scientist, David Pimentel, calls a fundamental input-yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.
At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers, Cornell’s David Pimentel, one of the world’s leading experts in issues relating to energy and agriculture, takes a longer range view.
For further information, contact:
What Is the Real Deal With Biofuels?
January 25, 2008
by Wilton D. Alston
“The decisions we each make about what we eat are some of the most basic ones we’ll ever encounter. But in the case of HFCS – just as one example – we in the U.S. aren’t given that choice. The FDA claims to ‘protect’ us from snake-oil salesmen of every stripe, yet when it comes to being able to choose an item of food that is among the most basic and prevalent in any diet, economic considerations trump safety. From my standpoint, while this [is] about par for the course, it is still darned unsettling.”
~ “Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Have to Be in Everything?”
About a year ago I penned the essay from which the above quote is taken. I had no idea it would be so well-received, but apparently I struck a nerve, at least with readers of LRC. Thanks to everyone who found a modicum of value in my modest musings.
Fast-forward to today and right on cue, another thrilling subject arises about everyone’s favorite multi-purpose grass. Yes, I’m talking about corn, and this time, I’m talking about the apparently widely-held belief that it can be grown as a means of mitigating the US dependence on fossil fuels. What the heck? We’re saved from the Terrorists!
If you haven’t heard, biofuels are apparently the next big thing. And corn is the king of court. Given that the conversion to biofuels from oil has been going on for so many years without success, it would probably be better called the court jester.
Complete article at:
Wilt Alston [send him mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three children. When he’s not training for a marathon or furthering his part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.
Ethanol Keeps ADM Drunk On Tax Dollars
by Doug Bandow
This article appeared in the Investor’s Business Daily.
Congress is back, and the GOP has promised to. put taxes at the top of its agenda. But rather than simplify and lower tax rates, Republicans plan to expand tax preferences for their business friends, including ethanol producers such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., the poster company for corporate welfare today.
At least 43% of ADM’s profits come from products subsidized by the taxpayers. Most of ADM’s fortunes come from ethanol, produced through the distillation of corn into grain alcohol. Ethanol can either be mixed with gasoline to yield gasohol or be turned into gin.
Over the years, ethanol has benefited from a host of taxpayer supports. The Carter administration provided hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized loans to a dozen gasohol producers and imposed a tariff on imported ethanol. The Reagan administration provided surplus corn to gasohol producers, including $29 million worth to ADM. And the Clinton administration ordered, on dubious environmental grounds, inclusion of small amounts of ethanol in gasoline.
Most expensive is Washington’s 54 cent-per-gallon tax break for gasohol. This special-interest loophole accounts for the bulk of the more than $10 billion in subsidies to ADM since 1980. All told, analyst James Bovard estimates that every dollar in profits earned by ADM costs taxpayers $30.
Complete article at:
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of “The Politics of Plunder: Misgovernment in Washington.”
Sailing OK but the Fish are Dead -Ethanol to Blame … and more
Sail World – Mandalong,NSW,Australia
And an increasing demand for corn — largely fueled by demand for the bio-fuel ethanol — could mean more runoff, leading to an increase of marine habitat …
The Case Against Ethanol & Other Plant-Based Biofuels
By GreenStyle staff
Grain prices for everything from corn to rice have skyrocketed because of ethanol (and possibly other biofuel) production. This diverts farm land from food production and causes food prices to go up. This is especially problematic in …
Blog: More Bad News for Ethanol
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)
Posted by Keith Johnson
January 23, 2008
Another brick in the wall against ethanol. Academics tasked with plotting California’s transition to a low-carbon fuel have delivered more bad news: Ethanol appears to come with a higher greenhouse-gas price tag than previously thought — higher, indeed, than fossil fuel….
THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY’S TRANSPORTATION SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH CENTER told the California Air Resources Board that ethanol could be twice as bad as gasoline, from a carbon-emissions point of view. How? Basically by turning land now covered with trees, grass, and other natural “carbon sinks” into farmland for corn and other crops used for ethanol. (Ethanol’s dirty secret has also recently been explored by Science and other magazines.)
“Simply said, ethanol production today using U.S. corn contributes to the conversion of grasslands and rainforest to agriculture, causing very large GHG emissions,” wrote BERKELEY PROFS ALEX FARRELL and MICHAEL O’HARE in a January 12 memo to California regulators. “Even if only a small fraction of the emissions calculated in this crude way [through land use change] are added to estimates of direct emissions for corn ethanol, total emissions for corn ethanol are higher than for fossil fuels.”…
The solution, according to Berkeley? Newer technologies to squeeze more ethanol out of every acre of food crop, or, better yet, ethanol from non-food cellulose such as switchgrass, which wouldn’t require a land-use change. In the meantime, the burning question is how to juggle this hot potato.
What California does about these new numbers, the professors write, “will have major implications” for the state’s low-carbon-fuel push.
Iowa: Ethanol boom raising food prices
BusinessWeek – USA
By HENRY C. JACKSON
The nation’s fascination with ethanol is pushing food prices upward and raising the specter of potential shortages, according to a …
Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in …
Cherry Creek News – Denver,CO,USA
Then came the explosion in demand for grain used in US ethanol distilleries, which jumped from 54 million tons in 2006 to 81 million tons in 2007. …
Ethanol production driving up food prices, critic says
By John Funk
Oil prices are driving up global food prices, including the American grocery bill, says the head of a Washington think tank opposed to turning corn into ethanol. The burgeoning ethanol industry has sharply increased the demand for corn …
Cleveland Business News – The…
Corn Crops Causing Gulf Dead Zone to Grow
Powerboat-World.com reports that a 7900 square mile area in the Gulf of Mexico is becoming more and more polluted from fertilizer runoff the drifts down the Mississippi. Nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer used in cornfields harm the marine habitat by stripping oxygen from the water. Some say the added corn crops to produce ethanol are making the dead zone even worse.
From: Biodiesel and Ethanol Investing
Four Types of Government Operatives: Bullies, Muggers, Sneak Thieves, and Con Men
December 20, 2007
Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer—except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs.
—George Orwell, Animal Farm
The beginning of political wisdom is the realization that despite everything you’ve always been taught, the government is not really on your side; indeed, it is out to get you.
Sometimes government functionaries and their private-sector supporters want simply to bully you, to dictate what you must do and what you must not do, regardless of whether anybody benefits from your compliance with these senseless, malicious directives. The drug laws are the best current example, among many others, of the government as bully. Our rulers presently enforce a host of laws that combine the worst aspects of puritanical priggishness and the invasive, pseudo-scientific, therapeutic state. They tolerate our pursuit of happiness only so long as we pursue it exclusively in officially approved ways: gin, yes; weed, no.
Notwithstanding the great delight that our rulers take in tormenting us with their absurdly inconsistent nanny-state commands, they generally have bigger fish to fry. Above all, the government and its special-interest backers want to take our money. If these people ran a store, they might aptly call it Robberies R Us. Their credo is simple and brazen: “you have money, and we want it.”
Unlike the sincere street criminal, however, the robber in official guise rarely puts his proposition to you in the blunt form of “your money or your life,” however much he intends to relate to you on precisely such terms. (If you doubt my characterization of these intentions, test what happens if you steadfastly resist at every step as the brigands escalate their threats: first ordering you to pay, then billing you for unpaid balances plus penalties and interest, sending you a summons, and ultimately beating you into submission or killing you for resisting arrest. Your sustained, open resistance always ends in the state’s use of violence against you, in either your forcible imprisonment or your removal from the land of the living, after which your memory will be defamed by your designation as a criminal—governments never settle for mere brutality, but always supplement it with unabashed presumptuousness.)
Complete article at:
Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation. He is the author of many books, including Depression, War, and Cold War.
Why the right loves a disaster
Ideologues use times of crisis as an opportunity to foist their economic policies on desperate societies.
By Naomi Klein
January 27, 2008
Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, claims the key to solving the United States’ economic woes is slashing spending on Social Security. The National Assn. of Manufacturers says the fix is for the federal government to adopt the organization’s wish-list of new tax cuts. For Investor’s Business Daily, it is oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “perhaps the most important stimulus of all.”
But of all the cynical scrambles to package pro-business cash grabs as “economic stimulus,” the prize has to go to Lawrence B. Lindsey, formerly President Bush’s assistant for economic policy and his advisor during the 2001 recession. Lindsey’s plan is to solve a crisis set off by bad lending by extending lots more questionable credit. “One of the easiest things to do would be to allow manufacturers and retailers” — notably Wal-Mart — “to open their own financial institutions, through which they could borrow and lend money,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal.
Never mind that that an increasing number of Americans are defaulting on their credit card payments, raiding their 401(k) accounts and losing their homes. If Lindsey had his way, Wal-Mart, rather than lose sales, could just loan out money to keep its customers shopping, effectively turning the big-box chain into an old-style company store to which Americans can owe their souls.
If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is. Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It’s a maneuver I call “disaster capitalism.”
Complete article at:
Naomi Klein is the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”
The Financial Tsunami: The Financial Foundations of the American Century
By F. William Engdahl
Global Research, January 16, 2008
The financial foundations of the American Century
The ongoing and deepening global financial crisis, nominally triggered in July 2007 by an event involving a small German bank holding securitized assets backed by USA sub-prime real estate mortgages, can best be understood as an essential part of an historical process dating back to the end of the Second World War—the rise and decline of the American Century.
The American Century, proudly proclaimed by Time-Life founder and establishment insider, Henry Luce in a famous 1941 Life magazine editorial, was built on the preeminent role of New York banks and Wall Street investment banks which had by then clearly replaced the City of London as the center of gravity of global finance. Luce’s American Century was to be built in a far more calculated manner than the British Empire it replaced.1
A then top-secret Council on Foreign Relations postwar planning group, The War & Peace Studies Group, led by Johns Hopkins President and geo-political geographer, Isaiah Bowman, laid out a series of studies designed to lay the foundations of their postwar world, already beginning 1939, well before German tanks had rolled into Poland. The American Empire was to be an empire indeed. But it would not make the fatal mistake of the British or other European empires before, namely to be an empire of open colonial conquest with costly troops in permanent military occupation.
Instead, the American Century would be packaged and sold to the world, above all the emerging countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, as the guardian of liberty, democracy. It would clothe itself as the foremost advocate of end to colonial rule, a stance which uniquely benefited the only major power without large colonies—namely, the United States.
The new American Century world was to be led by the champion of free trade everywhere, which also uniquely benefited the strongest economy in the early postwar years, the United States. It was a brilliant, if fatally flawed concept. As State Department planning head, George F. Kennan wrote in a confidential internal memo in 1948, “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” 2
The core of the War & Peace Studies, which were designed for and implemented by the US State Department after 1944, was to be the creation of a United Nations organization to replace the British-dominated League of Nations. A central part of that new UN organization, which would serve as the preserver of the US-friendly postwar status quo, was creation of what were originally referred to as the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or World Bank.3 The GATT multinational trade agreements were later added.
The US negotiators in Bretton Woods New Hampshire, led by US Treasury deputy Secretary Harry Dexter White, imposed a design on the IMF and World Bank which insured the two would remain essentially instruments of an “informal” US empire, an empire, initially based on credit, and later, after about 1973, on debt.
New York and the New York Federal Reserve Bank were the heart of the new empire in 1945. The United States held the overwhelming majority of world central bank monetary gold reserves. The postwar Bretton Woods Gold Exchange Standard uniquely benefited the role of the US dollar, then and even now world reserve currency.
All IMF member country currencies were to be fixed in value to the US dollar. In turn, the US dollar, but only the US dollar was fixed to a preset weight of gold at $35 per ounce of gold. At this fixed rate, foreign governments and central banks could exchange dollars for gold.
Bretton Woods established a system of payments based on the dollar, in which all currencies were defined in relation to the dollar. It was ingenious and uniquely favorable to the emerging financial power of New York, whose bankers actively shaped the final agreements.
In those days, in stark contrast to the present, the dollar was “as good as gold.” The US currency was effectively the world currency, the standard to which every other currency was pegged. As the world’s key currency, most international transactions were denominated in dollars.
Maintaining the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency has been the foremost pillar of the American Century since 1945, related to but more strategic even than US military superiority. How that dollar primacy has been maintained to now encompassed the history of countless postwar wars, financial warfare, debt crises, and threats of nuclear war to the present.
Important to place the emergence of the asset securitization revolution in global finance which is now impacting the world financial system in wave after wave of new shocks and dislocations, and to appreciate Alan Greenspan’s substantial contribution to preserving the dominance of the dollar as world reserve well beyond the point the US economy ceased being the world’s most productive industrial manufacturer, a brief review of the distinct phases in postwar dollar hegemony is useful.
The Golden Years of America’s Century
Complete article at:
F. William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,Pluto Press. His most recent book published by Global Research is Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, www.GlobalResearch.ca.
Contact at: www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net
three thousand words
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