Oil Prices Down For Fear Of Recession, Rupert Murdoch Against The NY Times, GOP Takes On Earmarks, And Malaysia Goes After Christians

Lots going on today as “Black Tuesday” rolls onward. Markets around the world slid yesterday on fears of a U.S. recession. Our markets were closed due to the MLK holiday but opened to expected losses, until the Fed cut interest rates by three-quarters of a point and now the market is on the rise again. I’m not sure how well that is going to play out since I am not an economist, but do I seem to recall that slashing the rates like that devalues the dollar which in turn leads to higher prices for us abroad.

That means that foreign markets will be losing confidence in the U.S. economy and it is already showing.

Here are the market indices from Asia yesterday:

But we’ve also found out that the price of oil is going down. Many people will see that as a positive sign, but I think it is a portent of more troubles ahead.

From the Associated Press:

Oil futures dropped sharply Tuesday on mounting concerns that the U.S. economy may be heading toward a recession that would dampen demand for crude.

While the Federal Reserve’s interest rate cut helped crude futures recover some of their earlier losses, many investors doubt the move will stave off a serious slowdown.

“Whenever you see a rate cut of that magnitude between (Fed) meetings … it conjures up images of desperation,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Ill.

High energy prices also have been cited as a force pushing the economy toward recession. If oil prices continue to fall, as many analysts now expect, that could relieve some pressure on the economy. At the pump, gas prices have mostly fallen in recent weeks after rising sharply earlier in the month as oil set a new record above $100 a barrel.

Overnight, the average national price of a gallon of gas held steady at $3.01 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. But prices have fallen 2.3 cents a gallon since Friday.

Other energy futures also fell Tuesday. February heating oil futures dropped 4.74 cents to $2.46 a gallon on the Nymex, while February gasoline futures fell 4.59 cents to $2.2575 a gallon. February natural gas futures dropped 17.6 cents to $7.817 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude futures for March delivery fell 4 cents to $87.47 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Did you get all that? Although it looks like prices are trying to stabilize themselves in the free market, the truth is that this is a sign of decreased spending potential and decreased amounts of capital in the overall economy. That will lead to higher unemployment and then to a recession.

Get ready. It’s coming. (But, I really do hope I am wrong.)

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Oil Prices Sink On Fears Of A Recession
Associated Press via MSNBC
January 22, 2008


Ed Lasky at the American Thinker gives us some great scoop on Rupert Murdoch and his plan to unseat the New York Times as the nations’ “newspaper of record.” Given how poorly the Times has been managed over the last few years, it shouldn’t be hard for Mr. Murdoch to accomplish.

From Mr. Lasky’s column:

Legendary media baron Rupert Murdoch has just completed his purchase of the Wall Street Journal – a paper that also enjoys nationwide reach, but one that has heretofore focused on the world of business. Change is afoot. Murdoch is a man who makes no “small plans”; he makes “big plans”.

Murdoch’s goal is to transform the Journal into a rival of the Times, and then surpass it, making the Journal the nation’s preeminent general interest newspaper. Given Murdoch’s history, zeal, resources and talents — all qualities sadly lacking in the fourth generation of Sulzbergers, as symbolized by Pinch — the Times will be toppled.

The downfall of the Times was almost pre-ordained once family members placed Pinch Sulzberger in control of the paper. He had no real world experience to prepare him to lead the Times. He had two brief sinecures working for other companies (he was a reporter with the Raleigh Times and the London correspondent for the Associated Press) before joining the family paper. Once he was “promoted” to be both the publisher and Chairman of the Board (duties that many believe should be divided between two people for ethical as well as business reasons), he was uniquely positioned to do double the damage to the paper. And damage he has done. Indeed, his greatest “accomplishment” seems to be his ability to drive the paper and his extended family fortune into the ground.

One can envision something of what the future will bring when the Wall Street Journal enjoys all the benefits that other parts of News Corporation will provide. As it is transformed into a paper geared toward all the American people, features that are developed at other Murdoch properties can be easily “parachuted” into the printed pages of the Journal.

Entertainment news? No problem. News Corporation has wonderful connections via its Twentieth Century Fox operations.

More religious coverage for an increasingly religious America? News Corporation recently purchased Belief.Net, a key website for people who want to better understand their faith (an acquisition that would be unlikely to pass muster at the religiously secular New York Times).

More local news, more international news? Easy access with ownership of over 100 newspapers around the world and Fox radio and TV outlets throughout America. The News Corporation can be its own in-house Associated Press combining the people in place with the wherewithal to put even more of them in place) to report from outposts around the world.

In short, look for the Wall Street Journal to supplant the NYT in the years ahead.

Think it can’t happen? Notice that the New York Post, also owned by Murdoch, already has a larger circulation in New York City than the Times has.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Toppling The Times: Rupert Takes On Pinch
Ed Lasky
The American Thinker
January 21, 2008


During the 2006 Congressional midterm campaigns, the Dems loudly proclaimed that they would put and end to Congressional earmarks. But alas, they’ve done no such thing. According the Jed Babbin at Human Events:

The process of earmarking — despite conservatives’ efforts this year and Democratic leadership promises to the contrary — was kept concealed from the public’s view last year. Congressmen such as John Murtha (D.-Pa.) — the uncrowned king of earmarks — have fought successfully against disclosure because they do not want any accountability for what most observers agree is the waste of billions of tax dollars.

Now, a small group of Republican House conservatives is planning a move that could force reform on House Democrats and the Senate.

These conservative members — including Representatives Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), Mike Pence (Ind.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — are planning a major initiative against congressional earmarks on which they will try to get conference-wide agreement at the Republican retreat scheduled for Wednesday through Friday of this week at the Greenbrier Resort.

According to a congressional source, the conservatives plan to ask the entire Republican House Conference to agree to a yearlong moratorium on earmarks.

Will this plan work? Jed goes on:

The impact of this moratorium could be significant. First, it would demonstrate the commitment of House Republicans to real reform of how the peoples’ money is spent. Second, if it is followed by the appointment of Flake to the Appropriations Committee, it would be, in the words of our source, “putting our fox in the henhouse.”

The source also said that the House GOP meeting at which committee members will be chosen was, only last Thursday, postponed until after the retreat, which opens the window of opportunity wider for the conservatives’ move.

If the conservatives succeed in obtaining agreement to the moratorium and then in getting Flake on the Appropriations Committee, the Democrats will be under enormous pressure. They will be Flake’s only targets.

Sounds good to me! Looks like someone on the GOP side of the ailse finally got some brains and a backbone to go with them. I, for one, will be very anxious to see how the Dems respond if the GOP can actually get this plan into place.

You can access the complete column on-line here:

House GOP Prepares One-Two Punch On Earmarks
Jed Babbin
Human Events Online
January 22, 2008


And finally, we have more disturbing news coming out of an Islamic dominated nation. (Are you really surprised by this?) Malaysia is confiscating Christian Children’s books because they violate Sharia Law. From the Washington Times:

Malaysian authorities confiscated Christian children’s books, claiming the illustrations of prophets such as Moses and Abraham violate Islamic Shariah law.

The independent news agency Malaysakini reported the Internal Security Ministry confiscated the literature from bookstores in two cities and one small town in mid-December.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Malaysian Council of Churches, confirmed the report and accused the government of persecuting Christians.

“The officials have offended the sensitivities of Christians because their publications and depictions of their Biblical personalities have now become targets of unscrupulous Muslim officials bent on curtailing religious freedom in the country,” Mr. Shastri said.

“Immediate steps should be taken to amend administrative rules and regulations, especially in the Internal Security Ministry, that give a free hand to enforcement officials to act on their whim and fancies,” he said.

Christians, Hindus and other religious groups in Malaysia say they are increasingly being targeted as the nation gradually cedes jurisdiction to Shariah courts.

Tolerance? Diversity? Religion of peace? Hello?

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Malaysia Seizes Christian Books
Elizabeth Eldridge
The Washington Times
January 22, 2008

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