Signs of the Times

Praise Reports

The Salvation Army recently announced that the 2008 holiday season broke two donation records in the Red Kettle campaign, according to the Christian Post. Despite hard time, donations to the charity hit $130 million, surpassing the previous record by $12 million. The charity also saw a 10 percent spike in donations over the previous year — the largest one-year jump since 1997. “The record level of Red Kettle fundraising this year is an indicator that the American public is still willing to give during times of great need,” said Salvation Army spokesperson Melissa Temme. Still, areas such as Detroit saw significant drops in donations. “So, while this (total giving) is obviously good news, we don’t want to downplay the significant struggles that certain parts of the country are having in terms of fundraising and the fact that the money raised locally stays locally,” Temme said.

Religion News Service reports that a federal appeals court on Monday (March 16) upheld a Texas law that requires public school students to observe a daily minute of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance. “The statute is facially neutral between religious and nonreligious activities that students can choose to engage in during the moment of silence,” a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. The judges quoted a decision by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that said “It is difficult to discern a serious threat to religious liberty from a room of silent, thoughtful schoolchildren.” The Texas ordinance, which took effect in September 2003, says students can use the minute to “reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.

The American Family Association, or AFA, is coordinating 1,000 Taxed Enough Already, or TEA, parties to be held at 12 p.m. in front of city halls across the nation. The organization launched a Tea Party Day website just days ago so volunteer organizers may register their protests with AFA. The website also provides a list of other protests across the nation that are not organized by AFA. Michael DePrimo, special counsel to AFA President Tim Wildmon, told WND that AFA has been inundated with e-mails from citizens who want to attend or organize tea parties in their own cities.

Forget the Bonuses: AIG Can’t Repay its Loans, GAO Says

Lost in all the shouting over the $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of disgraced insurer American International Group was this sober message delivered to Congress on Wednesday by a government watchdog: AIG’s ability repay its $170 billion in loans from taxpayers has eroded significantly. Testifying before Congress, Orice Williams, the director of the Government Accountability Office’s financial markets division, said that AIG has had only limited success in restructuring itself, despite more than $170 billion in federal aid in four separate bailouts since last September.

The House moved swiftly to quell public furor over bonuses to AIG executives Thursday, voting by a wide margin to heavily tax the bonuses awarded to employees of the insurer and other companies bailed out by the government. The 328-93 vote imposes a 90% tax on any bonuses given to employees with family incomes of more than $250,000 at firms that received more than $5 billion in bailout money. However, this tax may be subject to legal challenges.

Across Connecticut, anger is erupting against Mr. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, whose stature in Washington once reflected the state’s beneficial ties with the financial industry. Now, he finds himself a symbol of the political establishment’s coziness with tainted corporations and a target of populist wrath over their excesses, says the New York Times.

Obama may be grandstanding about AIG’s bonuses now, but it’s worth noting that Obama himself is the second biggest benefactor of AIG political contributions.  Second only to Senator Chris Dodd, who is quietly trying to tip-toe away from legislation he inserted into Obama’s “stimulus” spending spree that protected AIG’s bonuses.

· Politics as usual, unfortunately for us. Change? Only on the surface.

AIG Not the Only One giving Bailout Bonuses

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled companies that started the financial mess we are in, are set to give $1 million bonuses to some of their executives. These two companies were bailed out by our government at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to do the same thing AIG did with their tax-money bailout – give some executives $1 million bonuses. The four largest recipients of political donations by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from 1989 through 2008 were Sen. Chris Dodd ($133,900), Sen. John Kerry ($111,000), President Barack Obama ($105,849), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ($75,550).

· AIG wasn’t a “mistake,” it’s simply the tip of the iceberg. Feigned outrage plays well in the media, but the reality is far different.

Fed to Pump Another $1 trillion into U.S. Economy

The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.

· The “thin air” actually results in more debt that is ultimately laid on we the taxpayers

Treasury Gives Auto Parts Suppliers $5 billion in Loans

Fearing a bottom-up failure of the auto industry if parts makers collapse, the Treasury announced $5 billion in loans for the auto suppliers in an effort to keep the industry running while the government works on a broader restructuring plan. “The program will provide supply companies with much-needed access to liquidity to assist them in meeting payrolls and covering their expenses, while giving the domestic auto companies reliable access to the parts they need,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. More news is expected early next week on government aid for General Motors and Chrysler — which have asked for a total of up to $39 billion in aid.

· What are the odds that such “loans” will ever be repaid? In recovering from risky real-estate loans, does it make sense to continue making risky loans? The debt-ridden economy is so far out of whack that nothing short of a depression can sort it all out.

Fairness Doctrine

The Left is launching a new and more deceptive strategy to implement the so-called “Fairness” Doctrine — under different names and without a vote in Congress. But their goal remains the same – the silencing of conservative and Christian talk radio. This stealth tactic was exposed in the last few weeks as grassroots opposition threw a wrench in their plans to openly impose the so-called “Fairness” Doctrine. So now, Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to use substitute regulatory terms like “diversity,” “localism” and serving the Left’s definition of the “public interest” as new, backdoor “Fairness” Doctrines to indirectly impose this radio censorship. Obama’s acting FCC Chairman, Michael Copps, says he believes the government has a role in enforcing media “diversity” — including the re-examination of station licensing and making popular conservative and Christian radio programming somehow “more reflective” of “public interest!”

· Christian persecution is well underway, but still under the radar

House Passes Mandatory National Service Bill

The House passed a bill yesterday which includes disturbing language indicating young people will be forced to undertake mandatory national service programs as fears about President Barack Obama’s promised “civilian national security force” intensify. The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, known as the GIVE Act, was passed yesterday by a 321-105 margin and now goes to the Senate. Under section 6104 of the bill, entitled “Duties,” in subsection B6, the legislation states that a commission will be set up to investigate, “Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.”

· Government coercion and intrusion is being ramped up in our steady march into socialism

Iraqi’s Worried about Troop Withdrawal

President Obama has said he will withdraw all combat troops by August 2010 and plans to pull out the remaining U.S. troops by the end of the following year. Talk of such an exit strategy has been greeted with a mixture of disbelief and concern on the Baghdad streets. Since violence plummeted to the lowest levels since 2003, the U.S. military focus has shifted in recent months away from combat operations toward missions of training and equipping Iraqi forces and rebuilding Iraq’s tattered infrastructure. The progress on the security front has resulted in a greater sense of normalcy in the capital, but it has yet to bring many Iraqis the confidence that their own security forces and politicians will be ready to take sole control of governing and protection in the near future. the Iraqi government is still unable to produce enough electricity to meet Iraq’s growing demand, ethnic and sectarian rivalries still beset Iraq’s political scene, and although the level of violence has diminished, bombings and assassinations remain commonplace.

· It’s an odd time to be withdrawing, just when the war has almost been won

Obama Reaches Out to Iran with Video Message

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama is reaching out to the Iranian people in a new video with Farsi subtitles, saying the U.S. is prepared to end years of strained relations if Tehran tones down its bellicose rhetoric. The video released Friday was timed to the festival of Nowruz (no-ROOZ), which means “new day” and marks the arrival of spring. It’s a major holiday in Iran. “We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community,” Obama said in the video. “This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

· Diplomacy doesn’t work with Islamic militants, except when they use our weakness to their own benefit

34 Militants Killed in Two Days of Afghanistan Clashes

Afghan and international forces killed 34 militants in two days of clashes in Afghanistan, U.S. forces said Friday. The operation also destroyed a cache of bomb equipment, the U.S. said.

· While Iraq cools down, Afghanistan heats up. Some called Iraq Bush’s Vietnam. Afghanistan will turn out to be Obama’s Vietnam.

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