The Dow’s Santa Claus Rally

Where’s our Santa Claus Rally?

Back in the good old 20th century we regularly had a rally in the stock market in the days leading up to Christmas. During the last decade of the century it became such a regular part of the year end, everyone expected a “Santa Claus” rally.

Every December in the 1990s, with the lonely exception of 1997, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose during the five trading days before Christmas. In fact, the Dow rose in 13 of the final 14 sessions of 1991, climbing a total of 10.7 percent. It was called “the mother of all Santa Claus rallies.”

Christmas was not so merry for investors 95 years earlier. Because of World War I, the New York Stock Exchange suspended operations in July 1914. It resumed limited trading on Dec. 12. By Dec. 24, 1914, the Dow had fallen to 53.17—its lowest reading since 1907.

Full trading did not resume until April 1915. After the nine-month closure, a new tradition was established. Henceforth, the market would never be closed for more than three days. That is why the stock market holds a half-day session on the day after Thanksgiving.

—Chip Wood

Santa Claus

One Christmas past my eldest son Richard was furious with me.

Since he was old enough to remember, his mother and I had told him about Santa Claus. It seemed like a harmless enough fib.

He loved Santa Claus. Not only was Santa a magical character of mythical proportions, but his very existence—in the eyes of a 7-year-old—meant limitless potential. If he wanted something special, all he had to do was ask Santa Claus.

Of course Santa didn’t always bring everything he wanted; but there was always the prospect that he could, or the hope that next year he would. It was the ultimate fantasy of something for nothing.

Unfortunately Richard’s fairy tale came to an end.

“There really isn’t a Santa Claus, is there Dad?”

It is one thing to perpetuate a myth and another one to outright lie.

“No son,” I said, “Santa Claus isn’t real.”

Disappointment washed over his face. He had to get the truth from his cousin. Mom and Dad couldn’t be trusted. The whole thing, even the milk and cookies set beside the fireplace, were one big lie.

Yet for our 5- and 3-year-olds—Matthew and Sarah—the myth burned on for a few more years. They knew there was a Santa. Mom mailed letters to the North Pole every year, and there were visits to the mall to see Santa himself. Sometimes Santa even brought them exactly what they wanted.

It’s been 20 years since that Christmas and I am starting to wonder if there is a Santa Claus. It is our Federal Government, and this Santa gives the gift that lasts all year.

“If you take the government to be Santa Claus,” says economist Robert Higgs, “you naturally want every day to be Christmas; and the bigger the Santa, the bigger his sack of goodies.”

That sack is certainly getting bountiful. Today the Federal Government is not only the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer and contractor; it is also Santa Claus to tens of millions of Americans.

According to the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, roughly 47 percent of Americans either pay no tax or a negative tax (Washington sends money to some people every year through such programs as the Earned Income Tax Credit).

The Federal Government has a long list and lately it hasn’t bothered checking it twice. Since October of 2008 the Federal Government has committed $700 billion and already spent $420 billion through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The Feds have also set aside another $400 billion in separate bailouts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

For companies like General Motors (GM) and AIG, which have been gifted $50.4 billion and $69.8 billion respectively, there really is a Santa Claus.

If you want to check on all the goodies that Washington has given, there is a detailed list you can see here.

Best of all, Santa wants to see all of his gifts given. On Dec. 8, President Obama unveiled plans to use some of the $200 billion in lower-than-expected spending on troubled bank assets as a fiscal stimulus. Obama claimed his proposal is aimed at alleviating the “continued human tragedy” of unemployment.

Obama said he wants to create “the greatest number of jobs while generating the greatest value for our economy.” And just like Santa, Obama is leaving the price tag off.

What we do know is that the President is calling for an extension of unemployment and health insurance benefits for the more than 15 million out-of-work Americans. According to Obama, boosting jobs—through more government spending—is the best way to tackle the deficit. That kind of deductive reasoning is every bit as magical as Santa Claus.

The list seems endless. Forty billion dollars needed in Afghanistan? Done! One trillion dollars needed for Obamacare? The Democrats are working on that. Meanwhile there is even $1.1 billion for a new agency to protect consumers. And the Greens can count on a stocking-stuffer delivered fresh from Copenhagen.

Bad Santa

There is just one problem. Santa is broke. The budget deficit is a runaway sleigh. For the year ending in September it hit a stunning $1.4 trillion. If that weren’t bad enough, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts a cumulative $9 trillion deficit over the coming decade. When I started in this business in the early 1980s some were issuing dire warnings over Reagan pushing federal debt above the $1 trillion mark. This Christmas it is $12 trillion and climbing.

“No single year’s deficit is any particular danger,” says the Dec. 8 Motley Fool, “but their accumulation quickly becomes lethal. Piling up endless sums of debt works until it doesn’t, at which time a vengeful flock of chickens comes home to roost. Those needing proof can ask Dubai, or simply refer to the recent performance of the U.S. dollar.”

In fact there may be one heck of a Christmas hangover. Moody’s is looking at the debt of both the U.S. and U.K. and might downgrade it from “Triple-A” status.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Moody’s released the report as part of an effort, spurred by investor demand, to examine the creditworthiness of the world’s most highly rated countries.”

That’s very bad news for Treasury investors. And in the end it may mean the end of Santa Claus. Foreigners hold $3.5 trillion in Treasury debt. If they start unloading even a fraction of this debt the U.S. dollar will crash and the price of gold will soar.

So let me leave you with this Christmas wish; that you buy you and your loved ones some gold. Unlike Santa Claus, it will always be there for you.

Yours for real wealth, good health and, Season’s Greetings,

John Myers
Myers’ Energy and Gold Report

Panel OKs Bernanke Nomination For Second Term

Panel OKs Bernanke nomination for second termDespite much criticism from across party lines, the Senate Banking Committee voted on Thursday to recommend Ben Bernanke’s nomination for the second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The panel’s chairman, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), said Bernanke’s "wise leadership" means that "better days do lie ahead," but many others expressed their criticism of his handling of last year’s financial crisis.

Among the most vocal opponents of the Fed chairman has been the National Inflation Association, which has criticized the central bank for keeping interest rates low and increasing the risk of hyperinflation in the future.

The NIA has been particularly outraged now that Time magazine named Bernanke Person of the Year 2009, and responded with its own distinction, designating him Villain of the Year 2009.

"The U.S. economy is riding high on its last dose of stimulus before the entire financial system overdoses and collapses," NIA says, adding that "Bernanke has pushed the inevitable recession down the road while setting up the upcoming currency crisis."

The full Senate vote is set to take place in January. However, because Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced he will block Bernanke’s nomination from reaching the floor for a vote by placing it on hold, it will require a super-majority of 60 votes for him to win the confirmation.
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Democrats Break Filibuster On Healthcare Reform

Democrats break filibuster on healthcare reform Early Monday morning, Senate Democrats voted 60-40 to end the debate on a package of healthcare reform revisions and advance the bill ahead of the final vote.

The vote has been touted as a show of unity and prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to declare that "today, the Senate took another historic step toward our goal of delivering access to quality, affordable health care to all Americans."

He added that the bill is "about people, it’s about life and death in America and human suffering. And given the chance to relieve this suffering, we must."

Meanwhile the GOP has criticized their opponents for passing the measure in the middle of the night and against the wishes of the majority of public opinion.

"Make no mistake: If the people who wrote this bill were proud of it, they wouldn’t be forcing this vote in the dead of night," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), quoted by CNN.

Monday morning’s vote was the first of three this week, and the Senate is expected to conduct the final vote on the healthcare reform bill on Christmas Eve. The final passage of the measure will require only a simple majority vote.
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Clinton Makes Major Financial Pledge At Climate Summit, Calls Out China

Clinton makes major financial pledge at climate summit, calls out ChinaOn the eve of President Barack Obama’s arrival at the global climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the U.S. would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations combat climate change, provided that other affluent nations live up to the "transparency" demanded by the U.S.

The declaration was a clear attempt to re-energize the pursuit of a global agreement after nearly two weeks of contentious debate that has produced minimal results.

Clinton referred directly to China when she indicated that there are strings attached to the U.S.’s pledge.

"I have often quoted a Chinese proverb which says that when you are in a common boat, you have to cross the river peacefully together," she said. "Well, we are in a common boat. All of the major economies have an obligation to commit to meaningful mitigation actions and stand behind them in a transparent way."

It is still unclear whether China plans on participating in the proposed agreement or if they will even remain at the summit, Fox News reports.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said last week that the Senate would pass its own version of climate change legislation in the spring of 2010.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) responded, "there are maybe 25 votes in the Senate for cap and trade. You need 60. John Kerry misled the people. He said something binding would happen by April 22. That is not going to happen. Wait and see if I am right or John Kerry."
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House Democrat Introduces Controversial Immigration Reform Bill

House Democrat introduces controversial immigration reform bill Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) introduced an immigration reform proposal last week that has already garnered significant criticism from anti-immigration advocates.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 is the first significant proposal on the issue introduced in Congress in the last two years.

It contains far-reaching provisions, including a route to legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants—who would be required to pay a $500 fine, learn English and pass a criminal background check—and a suggestion to strip police officers of their federally-sanctioned powers to detain individuals for immigration and visa violations, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Moreover, the legislation draft calls for providing 100,000 extra visas for people from countries with high rates of illegal immigration and for expediting legal immigration for close relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful residents.

The proposal has come under fire from conservative groups that have labeled it "an amnesty."

Among the most vocal critics is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which described the bill as a "wholesale sell-out of the interests of the American people."

The organization’s president, Dan Stein, stated that "at a time when some 25 million Americans are either unemployed or relegated to part-time work, the last thing the Democratic majority ought to be focused on is a massive amnesty and immigration expansion bill."
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Lieberman's Wife Under Fire For Lobbying Activities

Lieberman's wife under fire for lobbying activities Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) has emerged as one of the biggest obstacles for the Democrats on the road to a healthcare reform, a position that may have resulted in increased attacks on his wife Hadassah Lieberman.

Mrs. Lieberman has worked as a consultant for pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and ALCO, which critics claim creates a conflict of interest.

Now they have begun calling for a major breast cancer alliance—the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation—to drop the senator’s wife as its ‘Global Ambassador.’

"We are asking Ellen DeGeneres, Christie Brinkley and other high-profile celebrities who are associated with Komen to demand that no more money raised for cancer treatment be given to Hadassah Lieberman or any other ex-Pharma/Insurance strategists," said Jane Hamsher, founder of the Firedoglake blog.

The critics in turn have come under fire from many on the right side of the political spectrum who decried attempts to go after lawmakers’ families for political reasons.

Mrs. Lieberman herself pointed out to the controversy as a setback for feminism and women’s right in America.

"It’s been surprising to me as an old feminist to watch this kind of cheap attack," she said, quoted by The Washington Post.

She added, "The reality of many women is that many of us have careers and ideas and thoughts that preceded our marriages."
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Trying Alternative Medicine Is A Waste Of Time!

It must have been 27 years ago that I had my first experience with so-called “alternative medicine.” I was 13 and had been suffering chronic daily headaches and mid-back pain for half-a-dozen years. I was already seeing Philadelphia’s best mainstream medical professionals, taking a plethora of prescription meds, being put through dozens of tests, scans, protocols…. to no avail.

My father (who is an osteopath) then took me to see a chiropractor, and do you know what happened? Within minutes my back and neck felt so much looser! My restricted movement was returned within normal ranges. And I also started taking natural supplements. Over all, it was an amazing feeling…

I went back several times that week for adjustments and, at home, attempted the exercises I was instructed to do. But the pain, and my suffering, returned and continued on. This is not surprising. In fact, it is a common occurrence when people try alternative therapies.

Why This Happens
The problem is that many people turn to alternative therapies as a last resort. They have had little success with mainstream medicine, have become desperate and now are expecting a miracle cure or at least a fast turnaround of their signs and symptoms.

While I served as director of the Integrated Energy Medicine healing center in Philadelphia, I did thousands of examinations, consultations and treatments using alternative therapies and herbal medicines. I would have been delighted to offer patients both a miracle cure and fast results… if such were possible. And many times I was successful in “curing” someone in short order. But with other cases, the sheer depth, difficulty and timeline of the problem made that task impossible.

Let me explain why some patients experience great success while others simply have little to no change in their signs and symptoms and find alternative therapies to be a waste of time.

A Different Model
In general there is a vast philosophical and procedural difference in the approaches of mainstream medicine and alternative therapies. Mainstream bio-medicine uses a disease-based model of health. That is, patients see their primary care physician when they are ill, the doctor diagnoses the illness (disease) and then prescribes a protocol of curing that disease. Often there is no cure… but pain and other signs and symptoms are “managed” by prescription medication and/or surgery.

Alternative therapies, on the other hand, work from a wellness model. That is, the focus is on returning the body to homeostasis (balance) and maintaining that balance to ensure good health and long life. They proactively accomplish this through diet, exercise, mind/body techniques, herbs and supplements, massage and so on. All are methods of alleviating pain, illness and disease by restoring balance to the body. If you have back pain and take a supplement, the pain will probably remain… for a while. But if you follow a protocol of regular supplementation with safe stretches and perhaps acupuncture or chiropractic care… the body will rebalance and the issues will resolve. But this takes time.

Generally speaking, many alternative therapies aim at rebalancing the body to restore health. Chinese medicine uses herbs to balance blood, energy, body fluids and organ function. Acupuncture uses needles to open meridian lines and correct energy imbalances. Chiropractic uses manual adjustments to realign the spine to allow correct functioning of the nervous system.

Don’t Try… Do!
So why does the title of this article claim that alternative therapies are a waste of time? Well, actually, they are not. But the “trying” of alternative therapies most certainly IS. You see, there is a difference between “trying” and “doing.” Trying means “you didn’t do” something. Let’s examine some common statements I’ve heard in my practice, and what they really mean.

Statement: I tried to call you and cancel my appointment. Translation: I did not call you.

Statement: I tried acupuncture, but it didn’t help. Translation: After a few visits I was not cured and so decided not to continue and follow the protocol to the end.

Statement: I’ve been really trying to eat right and do my exercises. Translation: I eat right once in a while, and I exercise when I remember to do it.

Trying means not doing. And if you are not fully engaged in the doing of alternative therapies… seeing them through to the end… following the protocol… doing what you have been instructed to do… then they will not “work.” Not because they failed you, but because YOU failed you.

You see, the therapies themselves are not the problem (unless you have chosen to follow the wrong therapy for your health issue). They are also not time-consuming. Rather, it is the body that takes time “to allow" the method to take hold and effect change and reestablish balance. But this takes time because the body likes to stay where it is, as it requires little effort to do so. After repeated treatments, or a period of time spent doing exercises or taking herbal supplements, the body finally realizes that it is actually easier to be in a state of homeostasis (balance) than to exist in a state of imbalance. It then “lets go” of its old unhealthy holding pattern. Now it can fully embrace a healthy pattern, and positive change can take effect.

Think of it like working out at the gym. If you are out of shape and lift weights you will be sore. But little by little you will be less sore after the exercise. If you only lift weights once in a while, your muscle size, shape and density will not visibly change.  But if you stick with it (“do” it), you will notice your body changing in positive ways.

Internally this is what is happening with alternative treatments. Each day, each treatment, each bottle of supplements, each breathing exercise and dietary change brings you one day closer to the body allowing them to take hold and the body stepping out of its own way to effect a cure.

They’re No Last Resort
The worst part is, people still look to alternative therapies as a last resort, and mainstream pharma drugs and surgery as a first choice. This is perverse. Using the big guns for the beginning of a problem (depending on severity) is ridiculous. My feeling on maintaining a balance between mainstream and alternative medicine is this: Everyone needs to get a physical each year, including blood and urine tests. If a problem is found they should seek alternative, non-toxic, non-invasive methods to balance the body. After a period of time they should have more tests run to see if the problem is better or worse. If better, continue with alternative medicine. If worse, and in the red zone of health, then turn to mainstream medicine for help. Not the other way around.

As it stands, alternative practitioners tend to get chronic cases, and after years or decades of toxic drugs and surgeries have truly damaged their patients’ body. And they are left to balance these bodies, in short time, at low costs and with high hopes.

It’s time people reframe their minds on this issue. So the next time you feel un-well, seek out alternative therapies first. But you must DO it and not simply TRY it. It takes time, effort, discipline, but in the end being balanced means being healthy.

And taking personal responsibility to do what needs doing—and not depending on a doctor to do it for you—is the greatest gift you could ever give to yourself.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Expert Offers Portfolio Advice As Dollar Keeps Falling

Expert offers portfolio advice as dollar keeps falling As the U.S. dollar has fallen some 15 percent against the euro since March 2009, and it is widely expected to continue to weaken further, financial experts believe those who would like to protect their wealth and assets may consider changes to their portfolios.

Paul J. Lim, senior editor of Money Magazine, says he believes buying foreign stocks to diversify one’s portfolio is a smart way to reduce the risks associated with a falling greenback. In a recent article he pointed out that only 10 years ago U.S. stocks made up more than a half (54 percent) of the world’s stock market value. But today they only account for about a third.

"As investors shift out of the U.S. market, they exchange dollars for the currencies of countries where they’re doing their buying, reducing demand for the buck," he wrote.

Lim went on to add that the long-term decline trend suggests it may be a good idea to keep between 25 percent and 50 percent of one’s stock portfolio in foreign shares.

Meanwhile, other financial experts—such as those associated with the National Inflation Association—recommend buying gold and other precious metals as the dollar keeps loosing value.

Last Thursday morning, gold for February delivery traded at $1,115.90 per ounce on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
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Sea Water and Sea Salt

When I get near sea water I always bring two gallons home. Here is why:

These are major components of sea water (salts) according to the order of magnitude of these elements:

Natural chlorine55.2 percent
Sodium30.4 percent
Sulphur as SO47.7 percent
Magnesium3.7 percent
Potassium1.1 percent
Carbon as carbonic acid0.35 percent
Bromine0.19 percent
Boron0.07 percent
Strontium0.04 percent

There are 40 more minor elements in sea water, which no doubt contain every known or unknown trace element of nutritional significance. (From Dr. Royal Lee, The Significance of Sea Salt)

A small amount of sea water in the diet is beneficial. I take a tablespoon each day in a glass of water.

Popularity Of Marijuana Growing Among Teenagers, Study Finds

Popularity of marijuana growing among teenagers, study findsThe use of marijuana has become more prevalent among U.S. teenagers, even as they have cut down on cigarettes, binge drinking and using methamphetamines, according to a recently released national study.

Scientists who conducted the research for the National Institute on Drug Abuse speculated that the result may stem from the national debate over the possible medical use of marijuana, which may have made the drug seem safer to teenagers.

The government has used the study to call for intensifying the efforts against substance abuse.

"We must redouble our efforts to implement a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to preventing and treating drug use," said Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the White House drug czar, quoted by the Associated Press (AP).

However, there are those who argue in favor of legalizing marijuana, citing its medicinal properties such as helping to treat chronic pain and nausea.

According to ProCon.org, an online resource that aims to present controversial issues in a nonpartisan way, a total of 13 U.S. states, including Alaska, Montana and Rhode Island, have legalized medical marijuana. Meanwhile, Arizona and Maryland have favorable laws, such as allowing medical use defense in court, but have not legalized it.
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The Senate’s Christmas Gift

Senate Democrats are working overtime to get an Obamacare bill passed before Christmas. They no longer even pretend to be doing it to reform healthcare. Now they’re just doing whatever it takes to get a bill passed, even if it costs somewhere between $848 billion and $2.1 trillion, depending on which math you use.

Never mind that the Realclearpolitics.com average of polls shows that Americans oppose the Democrat’s healthcare bill by a 54.2 percent to 39.7 percent margin. Democrats have gone all in, as the saying goes, and nothing is going to stop them.

As an unnamed Democratic strategist told Byron York of The Washington Examiner, “Once you’ve gone this far, what is the cost of failure?”

Comparing Democrats to bank robbers—how appropriate—who have gone past the point of no return, the strategist said, “They’re in the bank, they’ve got their guns out. They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”

Of course, money is what it’s all about. Not saving it mind you, but stealing yours.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) told The Hill that Democrats will have the 60 votes needed to pass a bill this week. They’re buying off reluctant Democrats left and right.

For Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu the price was $300 million in federal aid to her state. As columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News, if Landrieu got $300 million, Sen. Ben Nelson (D.-Neb.)—said to be holding out for removal of a provision in the bill that allows federal funding to pay for abortions—gets a Caribbean island, or two. Or, if some news reports are correct, a threat to close a military base in his state if he doesn’t join in.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) is back on board. We don’t yet know what he got in return, aside from a lot of face time on television. In an effort to get one or more Republicans to sign on so the bill can be cast as bi-partisan, Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are being courted as well. Look for Maine to get a bundle of cash for snow plows or something.

Meanwhile, Joe and Jane Citizen only get dunned. If you are a family with an annual income above $88,200 and your employer doesn’t provide coverage, prepare to fork out $15,200 a year for a federally-mandated insurance fee, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as reported by CNSNews.com. And few employers are going to provide coverage for their employees once the plan kicks in.

Why? There is an incentive not to. If employers don’t pay their share of their employees’ premiums they’ll have to pay $750 per employee fine. That’s much less than the employer contribution on a complete health plan.

What’s more, there are tax increases in the bill. Lots of them. According to the Heritage Foundation, Medicare taxes increase from 2.9 percent to 3.4 percent, the top marginal tax rate goes from 35 percent to 39.6 percent and, in the House version of the bill, a surtax of 5.4 percent is put on incomes above $500,000.

Following is a list from the Heritage Foundation of other tax increases currently in either the House or Senate bill or proposed by the Barack Obama administration to “pay” for healthcare reform:

  • An excise tax on high-cost "Cadillac" health insurance plans that cost more than $8,500 a year for individuals or $23,000 for families.
  • An excise tax on medical devices such as wheelchairs, breast pumps and syringes used by diabetics for insulin injections.
  • A cap on the exclusion of employer-provided health insurance without offsetting tax cuts.
  • A limit on itemized deductions for taxpayers with a top income tax rate greater than 28 percent.
  • A windfall profits tax on health insurance companies.
  • A value-added tax, which would tax the value added to a product at each stage of production.
  • An excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages including non-diet soda and sports drinks.
  • Higher taxes on alcoholic beverages including beer, wine and spirits.
  • A limit on contributions to health savings accounts.
  • An 8 percent tax on all wages paid by employers that do not provide their employees health insurance that satisfies the requirements defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • A limit on contributions to flexible spending arrangements.
  • Elimination of the deduction for expenses associated with Medicare Part D subsidies.
  • An increase in taxes on international businesses.
  • Elimination of the tax credits paper companies take for biofuels they create in their production process—the so-called “Black Liquor credit.”
  • Fees on insured and self-insured health plans.
  • A limit or repeal of the itemized deduction for medical expenses.
  • A limit on the Qualified Medical Expense definition.
  • An increase in the payroll taxes on students.
  • An extension of the Medicare payroll tax to all state and local government employees.
  • An increase in taxes on hospitals.
  • An increase in the estate tax.
  • Increased efforts to close the mythical “tax gap.”
  • A 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery and similar procedures such as Botox treatments, tummy tucks and face lifts.
  • A tax on drug companies.
  • An increase in the corporate tax on providers of health insurance.
  • A $500,000 deduction limitation for the compensation paid by health insurance companies to their officers, employees and directors.

And the kicker is the taxes go into effect immediately after Obama signs the bill. The healthcare benefits don’t start until 2014.

All the taxes are designed to confiscate the wealth of Mr. and Mrs. Citizen and drive them into a public option—even as Senate Democrats say the bill doesn’t include one, yet.

On Dec. 16 the president went on television and said if Congress doesn’t pass a healthcare bill the Federal government will go bankrupt. Poppycock. If a healthcare bill is passed it’s Mr. and Mrs. Citizen that go belly up.

The spend-and-tax policies of Obama and the Democrats—stimulus bills, TARP bill, healthcare bill, etc.—are what is pushing us toward economic collapse.

Face it. The healthcare reform plan Democrats are ramming through is nothing more than the greatest transfer of wealth and most massive power grab in the history of the world.

Frankly, I don’t consider that much of a Christmas present.

Republicans Prepare To Dig In Heels On Clean Water Restoration Act

Republicans prepare to dig in heels on Clean Water Restoration ActDemocratic Representative James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has decided to defer introducing the Clean Water Restoration Act until next year due to heavy criticism from the GOP.

Oberstar’s proposed legislation would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the Army Corp of Engineers, to protect and control all of the nation’s waterways, according to The Washington Times.

Currently, the EPA only monitors "navigable" waters that are large enough for ship traffic. The Clean Water Restoration Act would allow the government to regulate 20 million acres of U.S. wetlands and 59 percent of the nation’s streams that do not flow year-round, regardless of whether or not they are on private property.

The proposed bill has recently come under heavy scrutiny after reports surfaced that Oberstar would try to quietly pass the legislation through the House before the end of the year. Nearly 30 Republican Congressmen publicly criticized the bill in a letter written to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"The government wants control of all water," said Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo), quoted by Fox News. "That also means that they want control over all of our land including the private property rights of people from the Rocky Mountain west, the western caucus and the entire U.S.," he said.

Oberstar said he plans on introducing the bill in early 2010.
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Holistic Salt Cave Opens In Cleveland As Alternative Health Option

Salt caves are said to help with one's allergies and sinusesThere’s a salty smell in Cleveland’s air and it has nothing to do with food.

The Europa International Salon and Spa has opened what is called a "salt cave," which some believe has anti-inflammatory properties that can treat the common cold and allergies, WKYC.com reports.

"I had somebody here sleeping for 20 minutes. And she got up, and said she had the feeling as if she slept for eight hours, completely relaxed, pink cheeks and healthy," spa owner Tanya Sigal told the news provider.

Salt therapy, which is also known as halotherapy, has reportedly increased in popularity in some Eastern European spas with many enthusiasts claiming the caves can treat various conditions, including some allergies.

Sigal added that the cave, which is surrounded in natural Himalayan salt, was a good way to relax and rid a person of stress, which may be heightened in many given the rising unemployment rate and weakened economy.

This kind of treatment could help serious conditions as well.

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Enzyme May Lead To Alternative Approach To Treating High Blood Pressure

Enzyme may lead to alternative approach to treating high blood pressureAn enzyme called ACE2 may help doctors develop an alternative therapy for patients suffering from hypertension, a new study has found.

According to researchers at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, ACE2 can break down angiotensin II, a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict and may raise blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Currently there are traditional therapies that can block the formation of angiotensin II, but ACE2 is novel because it can break down hazardous protein that is already formed in blood vessels.

"This therapeutic approach can be superior to existing therapies that block the activity of the renin-angiotensin system…and therefore provide a more complete and effective suppression of this system to treat not just hypertension but many other medical conditions where angiotensin II overactivity is undesirable," said lead researcher Daniel Batlle.

The Mayo Clinic reports that diet and exercise are the best ways to naturally lower blood pressure. There are also several supplements that may be used to help treat hypertension including calcium, cod liver oil, omega-3 fatty acids and garlic.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga or deep breathing have been known to relieve stress and temporarily lower blood pressure.
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GOP Senator Stalls Healthcare Debate With Parliamentary Tactic

GOP Senator stalls healthcare debate with parliamentary tacticOn Wednesday, as Democrats pushed forward to meet self-imposed deadlines, Senate Republicans tried to halt the healthcare debate by insisting that a 767-page amendment be read out loud in its entirety.

The amendment, introduced by Independent Senator Bernard Sanders from Vermont, would call for a single-payer, government-run public health system.

As the bill was being introduced, Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma objected to a request to bypass the reading of the amendment, a courtesy that is nearly always granted in Congress, TheHill.com reports. Sanders was soon forced to withdrawal the bill, which would have taken up to 10 hours to read aloud.

A Republican aide confirmed to CNN that GOP members had discussed the parliamentary tactic at their caucus meeting and had expected the move.

Coburn immediately defended the decision, blaming Democrats for trying to hurry a much needed debate. "It’s unfortunate that (Majority Leader Harry) Reid waited until the last minute to introduce his bill and now wants to rush it through the Senate," he said.

Reid quickly responded, stating that the tactic only pushed back other time-sensitive pieces of legislation.

"The only thing that Sen. Coburn’s stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the [defense] appropriations bill that funds our troops," he told CNN.
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Judge Decrees ACORN Funding Cut-off Unconstitutional, Conservatives Outraged

Judge decrees ACORN funding cut-off unconstitutional, conservatives outragedA federal judge has ruled that the U.S. government’s decision to cut off funding to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon issued a preliminary injunction against the government, saying that it is in the public’s best interest to continue to fund the controversial and embattled anti-poverty group, according to the Associated Press (AP).

In its lawsuit, ACORN claimed that Congress’ decision to cut off its funding was unconstitutional because it targeted an individual organization without due process.

Gershon agreed, stating in her ruling that ACORN raised a "fundamental issue of separation of powers."

"They have been singled out by Congress for punishment that directly and immediately affects their ability to continue to obtain federal funding, in the absence of any judicial, or even administrative, process adjudicating guilt," said Gershon.

Meanwhile, two congressmen have called on the Justice Department to appeal the decision, calling it "nothing short of preposterous," according to Fox News.

Representatives Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder explaining how the ruling would set a dangerous precedent.

"The district court’s decision is troubling in many respects, but most significantly, if allowed to stand, it would effectively excise from the Constitution Congress’ express Spending Clause power to refuse to appropriate federal funds to an organization that has shown itself likely to misuse those funds in the future," the letter states.
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The Lollipop Tree

Every year around this time our home becomes a veritable museum of Christmas art and artifacts—and I love it!

Decorations that my wife and I have collected over the years and from around the world come out of boxes and fill the Christmas tree. Her extraordinary collection of Santa Clauses is carefully unwrapped and she begins the lengthy process of deciding which one goes where. Thanks to gifts from family and friends, and her own enthusiastic shopping, she owns nearly 100 visitors from the North Pole. They range from a life-sized Father Christmas to the handcrafted Santa fairies on the mantel above our fireplace.

There are music boxes and carousels everywhere. A Santa train, pulling a colorful elves’ workshop, makes its merry way around one corner of the living room. (I confess, I have as much fun tooting the whistle, ringing the bells and having Santa call out a cheerful “Merry Christmas!” as any child who visits us.) Candles are in the windows, wreaths are on the doors and a colorful garland with big red bows is draped over the front door.

There are twinkling stars near the ceiling in our family room, thanks to some tin decorations we brought back from Mexico a while ago. In the living room, Mickey Mouse and his friends play Christmas carols on a xylophone. Everywhere you look there are things that twinkle or light up or play Christmas carols.

But of all the items we bring out of storage for Christmas, none gives me more pleasure or fills me with more nostalgia than a simple plywood Christmas tree my father made more than 50 years ago.

Each year we take the Lollipop Tree out of its box, put various colored lollipops in the spaces on its branches, add a string of red baubles around it and put it on display somewhere in the house.

Over time my Lollipop Tree has become a bit battered and stained. There are chips in some of the paint. And compared to all of the bright, shiny, electronic marvels that fill every corner of every room, it is very plain and simple. In fact, it looks old.

But I am thrilled to have it. It brings back vivid memories of my father’s one venture into entrepreneurship.

Back in the early 1950s we lived in an old farmhouse in northeastern Ohio. The land had been sold to neighboring farms long ago. But there were several sheds and a large barn on the property. All that space got my father wondering what he could build there.

The idea he came up with was the Lollipop Tree. The tree consisted of two pieces of plywood cut in the shape of a Christmas tree with a base on the bottom. Slots were cut in each tree, half running from the top down, half from the bottom up.
When slid together, you had a four-sided tree that stood on its own.

Two large vats of paint filled one side of a shed. One held red paint, the other green. The trees hung on racks, with their tops pointing down, as they were lowered into the green paint. Later, when they dried, the process was reversed and the bases were dipped in the red paint. Then, after the base dried, the edges of each limb were hand-painted in sparkly silver, to imitate snow.

Next came the scary part, at least to a 9-year-old. There were two large stapling machines, each one taller than me, on the opposite wall. The operator would guide each tree around a pattern, step on a foot pedal and—wham!—a staple was banged into the tree. The noisy process was repeated again and again until each branch had two staples in it, about an inch apart, pointing slightly upward. The machine was set so 1/8-inch of the staple was exposed—perfect for sliding a lollipop into it.

And man did we have lollipops. They arrived by the thousands in huge cardboard boxes. They were yellow, orange, red, green and purple. Each one was wrapped in cellophane. There were always dozens of broken lollipops in each box. My friends and I were allowed to eat the fragments, but there were so many remnants we couldn’t eat them all. It wasn’t long before we completely lost our appetite for the colorful candy. Mine has never returned.

When the tree was assembled and each branch held a colorful lollipop I thought it was one of the most beautiful Christmas decorations I had ever seen. Sadly, the market did not agree. My father sold a few to friends and neighbors. A couple of stores in our small town agreed to carry them and he sold a few more. Dad used the last of his savings to run an ad in a popular magazine of the time. I don’t remember the exact results, but I do know he did not sell enough to cover the cost of the ad.

The temporary help he had hired was let go. The fans and heaters in the sheds were turned off. The stapling machines were sold to someone who could use them. And Wood Enterprises’ first (and only) enterprise was shut down. As Christmas approached the vast majority of lollipop trees were stacked in our sheds, along with paint, lollipops, shipping boxes and who knows what else.

I never knew how much money my dad lost on his one and only effort to launch his own business. He would work for somebody else the rest of his life. Nor do I know what happened to his inventory of lollipops and the trees to hold them. I thought all of them were lost forever until I got a call from a cousin several years ago. In preparation for a move to another state she was cleaning out a long-neglected closet. In the back of it she found a Lollipop Tree in its original box. Would I like to have it?

Would I! I asked her to send it to me right away. It arrived in plenty of time for Christmas. As soon as it did, I rushed out to the nearest candy store and bought dozens of lollipops in various shapes, sizes and colors.

Every Christmas since then I conduct a small and private ceremony as I get dad’s Lollipop Tree out of storage. I set it up and go through my collection of lollipops, carefully selecting which ones will go on the tree this year. (As I travel, I keep buying more lollipops, especially when I see unique shapes and sizes in other countries.)

This year the Lollipop Tree is on a stand in the hallway that leads into my home office. As a result, I pass by it several times a day. Every time I do my mind drifts back to memories of Christmases past.

This Christmas, I hope your home is filled with wonderful memories of long-ago holidays. Chances are you’ll be with children and grandchildren who have no memory of the time before iPods and Xboxes. They won’t care to hear about the times when our Christmas pleasures could be as simple as fragments of broken lollipops.

Nowadays, I love seeing them roll their eyes at my stories and exclaiming “Oh, grandpa!” when they suspect I have been exaggerating a tad too much.

But there is no exaggeration today. The story of the Lollipop Tree is completely true. And so are my wishes to each and every one of you for a very Merry Christmas.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

—Chip Wood

Conservatives In Dem Caucus Push For More Concessions

Conservatives in Dem caucus push for more concessionsAppearing on weekend talk show programs, prominent lawmakers that caucus with the Democrats have called on the party to offer more concessions in exchange for their support of the healthcare reform bill.

Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), told CBS Face the Nation that they will continue to oppose the bill if the Medicare "buy-in" option for those aged 55-64 is not removed.

The proposal was an attempt to introduce an alternative to the government-run insurance option.

According to Nelson, the Medicare buy-in idea is "the forerunner of the ultimate single-payer plan," and he also said he could not support a bill without tighter restrictions on federal funding for abortion. Meanwhile, Lieberman cautioned that "we don’t need to keep adding on to the back of this horse until the horse breaks down and we get nothing done," quoted by CNN.

The Connecticut legislator added that the Democrats will have to eliminate a government insurance program focused on home healthcare for the disabled and ensure better cost-control provisions, according to the news provider.

Given the unanimous opposition from the GOP, Senate Democrats need all 60 votes in their caucus to have a chance of passing the healthcare bill.
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House Passes Nearly Half A Trillion Spending Bill

House passes nearly half a trillion spending bill Despite the growing federal deficit and debt, the House of Representatives voted 221 to 202 to approve a spending bill last week that provides $447 billion in funding for several government departments and agencies for the next budget year.

The partisan nature of the vote stems largely from the fact that, as several media outlets have pointed out, the bill reflects in large part the priorities of Democrats who currently control all branches of government.

Among its provisions, the legislation includes measures that authorize billions in mandatory federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and $3.9 billion in earmarks to fund 5,224 projects in various lawmakers’ home districts, according to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the bill a "tough choice" for "tough budgetary times," saying it will help create jobs by expanding access to capital and credit, and investing in infrastructure development and clean energy.

However, the move was blasted by House Republicans who called the 2,444-page bill an irresponsible spending increase at a time of escalating government deficits, according to The New York Times.

"When are we going to say enough is enough?" asked Minority Leader John Boehne of Ohio, quoted by CNN, while Representative Jerry Lewis of California complained that "there is no question that the era of big government has returned to Washington," according to The Times.
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