31 May 2009

Tiananmen Massacre Protested in Hong Kong

Hundreds in China protest to mark Tiananmen

Hong Kong march recognizes those who 'sacrificed their lives for democracy'
Hundreds marched through downtown Hong Kong on Sunday to mark the upcoming 20th anniversary of China's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. It was one of the few public commemorations on Chinese soil.

Interest Grows in High Speed Rail for America

High speed rail can cover its operating costs, but not its capital costs. This is used as an argument against it. But the highway system was built at public expense, and does it cover its capital or operating costs? No, they are paid through taxes. The payoff is down the road as improved trasportation improves the economy and society. We need a comprehensive passenger rail system, including high speed rail.

The Atlantic: Trains for America

Many of the nation's important metropolitan corridors manage to have unbearably congested highways and airports. In the few places where intercity rail has the capacity and speed to be competitive with alternatives, Amtrak has no problem filling its trains.

Rail construction obviously has high upfront capital costs, but they're likely to prove worth it in the long run, particularly given that trains can run on electric power, which will grow steadily greener and become increasingly attractive in a world of rising oil prices (check).

And of course, airline service has not only become miserable and unreliable as the system has become overburdened and unprofitable, but it's also pretty dirty, in terms of carbon emissions. The standard approximation has planes emitting as much per mile as cars, but of course planes travel much longer distances and at higher altitudes, where emissions have a more significant effect.

Word is, the president really wants to leave office with a high-speed rail network as part of his legacy. Sounds good to me.

MEND Attacks Oil Infrastructure, Promises More Attacks to Come

While the international naval presence off the east African coast gets most of the attention, the problems in the Gulf of Guinea remain a serious problem that can spill over into a problem impacting your wallet.

No matter where terrorism strikes, it costs everyone down the line.
All it takes is one successful attack, or even one attack that goes badly, and we have a potential huge global economic impact on energy or even a regional environmental problem that could trigger a chain reaction of events throughout that region.
It isn't an accident that last year when oil prices at the pump were so high, it was during the height of conflict between MEND and the Nigerian government. Oil production at that time was down to below 1 million barrels per day. After the loss of 100,000 barrels per day due to pipeline damage of the Chevron facility, Nigeria is pumping 1.76 million barrels per day. That compares to 2.6 million barrels per day back in January 2006.
Study after study suggests the western oil companies do a better job than the Nigerian government insuring the local population gets an economic boost in the local economy from the oil production. The Obama administration must do more to encourage the Nigerian government to pump revenues from oil back into the local economy as part of improving security. It is one of many necessary steps needed to fight the MEND insurgency.

Cap and Trade = Energy Tax

If there have been any doubts about the intentions behind cap and trade, Nancy Pelosi's comments today should put them to rest.

Speaking of cap and trade in Beijing, she said "Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory ... of how we are taking responsibility."

American Solutions has a "Stop the Energy Tax" petition campaign to fight back against those who want to dictate to us how we use our energy - in our homes, in our cars, you name it.

GM prepares for Monday bankruptcy filing

It is absolutely unprecedented how involved the government has become in businesses.

General Motors Corp and the U.S. government finalized plans for the battered company to reorganize, setting the stage for America's largest-ever industrial bankruptcy filing before markets open on Monday.

Heralding a new and uncertain era for the No. 1 U.S. automaker, GM will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York
before the start of trading.

Government support for GM is expected to total up to $60 billion. Nearly half of that money has already been extended this year in emergency aid. President Barack Obama plans to speak on the auto industry Monday, according to his official schedule, as the federal government prepares to take a majority stake in the once-mighty company. After Obama's remarks, GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson is due to hold a news conference at the offices of the New York
law firm that handled the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy is the most carefully orchestrated Chapter 11 filing in the history of American business. GM's final descent to the courthouse started with the Bush administration's emergency aid announcement on Dec. 19 and accelerated in late March when the Obama government gave it 60 days to clinch concessions with unions and other creditors.

The governments of Canada and Ontario are expected to take an equity or debt position in a restructured GM. The Canadian government said Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement would make a joint announcement with Ontario's premier in Toronto on Monday.

Red Cross 'gravely concerned' about conditions in Swat Valley

International Red Cross officials are "gravely concerned" about the stark situation in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where a monthlong offensive against the Taliban has displaced more than 2 million civilians.

Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in the Swat Valley this weekend for the first time since the onset of violence there. The organization evacuated more than a dozen people in need of urgent medical care and called for an immediate humanitarian response.

"The people of Swat need greater humanitarian protection and assistance immediately," Pascal Cuttat, head of the organization's delegation in Pakistan, said Sunday. "The ICRC will do its utmost to meet those needs without delay. Given what we have already seen on the ground, we are mobilizing additional resources, but safe and unimpeded access to the area remains essential for our teams to deliver."

Those who have left their homes tell of the whole valley being turned into a battlefield as citizens flee on foot, many of them with no shoes. Some fall ill from sun and heat exposure, particularly infants and those already weak and sick.

According to the most recent United Nations numbers, about 2.4 million Pakistanis registered as displaced persons since May 2. Currently, the clashes are concentrated near Mingora, the valley's largest city.

Administration Inexplicably Drops Voter Intimidation Case

Charges Against 'New Black Panthers' Dropped by Obama Justice Dept.

The charges stemmed from an incident at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008 when three members of the party were accused of trying to threaten voters and block poll and campaign workers by the threat of force -- one even brandishing what prosecutors call a deadly weapon.

The three black panthers, Minister King Samir Shabazz, Malik Zulu Shabazz and Jerry Jackson were charged in a civil complaint in the final days of the Bush administration with violating the voter rights act by using coercion, threats and intimidation. Shabazz allegedly held a nightstick or baton that prosecutors said he pointed at people and menacingly tapped it. Prosecutors also say he "supports racially motivated violence against non-blacks and Jews."

The Obama administration won the case last month, but moved to dismiss the charges on May 15.

A poll watcher who provided an affidavit to prosecutors in the case noted that Bartle Bull, who worked as a civil rights lawyer in the south in the 1960's and is a former campaign manager for Robert Kennedy, said it was the most blatant form of voter intimidation he had ever seen

More thoughts here: Protecting Black Panthers

Chavez's Damage to Venezuela Accelerating

From National Interest online: Red Hugo

Every government action in the economic sphere has been devised to progressively undermine private economic activity, with a view to installing Hugo Chávez’s “Twenty-First Century Socialism.” Convinced his brand of state control and ownership is only possible after effectively erasing virtually all private-sector activity, he has followed a policy of price controls, punitive tax schemes and discretionary legal changes since becoming president in 1999.

When coupled with his nationalization of numerous manufacturing and commercial operations—typically paying a fraction of a company’s worth, or nothing at all—there has been a catastrophic shrinkage of Venezuela’s private sector. The industrial base has been halved from more than fourteen thousand factories ten years ago to some seven thousand today.

Foreign investment has diminished to negligible amounts during the Chávez regime, resulting from a frontal assault on foreign corporate interests, which have included propaganda attacks, obstacles to dividend repatriation, whimsical nationalizations and physical intimidation of expatriate executives.

In short, the Chávez regime is not interested in promoting production and efficiency, let alone competitiveness. The goal is to achieve as much control as possible of all economic activities. To try to explain the government’s plight, Planning Minister Jorge Giordani openly acknowledged in April “socialism can only be achieved through scarcity.”

The transcending tragedy for Venezuela and all Latin America is that by destroying the country’s economy, Hugo Chávez is critically, perhaps fatally, undermining the nation’s fifty-year democratic history as he pursues his distorted, malevolent dream.

I am constantly surprised by the number of people, who in the face of all history, facts, experience, and reason, remained enamoured with socialism.

Caught In The Purity Trap

The GOP's purity problem

Republicans are in a debate pitting ideological purity versus big-tent inclusiveness. The dust-up between Rush Limbaugh and Colin L. Powell over whether Powell is still a Republican is more than the political equivalent of a show-business feud. It reflects the perennial -- but for Republicans in 2009, painfully pertinent -- question of whether it's good for a major political party to be a big tent or whether too much inclusiveness turns it into a three-ring circus.

To the delight of Democrats, Limbaugh -- described by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the other day as the 650-pound gorilla in the Republican Party -- has become the leader of the party's purity police.

The number of Americans who identify as Republicans is on a steep decline, and the party's demographics are increasingly unreflective of the nation's. Republicans are an endangered species in the congressional delegations of the Northeastern states and have suffered reverses even in traditionally Republican strongholds. (Virginia now has two Democratic senators.) Whatever the lessons of 1994, Democrats have been successful in recent years by recruiting candidates for the House and Senate who didn't pass liberal litmus tests on abortion or gun control.

In politics, like in religion, there is a problem in trying to compete to be the most pure. Because you can always be more pure, and there is always someone who thinks they can get ahead by pointing out your impurities, so you have to respond be being even more pure. So it never ends, until everyone is driven mad by trying to be the purest of all.

Examples can be found in revolutionary France and Russia, the Puritans, some Muslims today, the McCarthy era, the environmental and animal-rights movements, and the impulse behind "political correctness."

The Republicans are the latest to succumb to this impulse. In the 1980s, it was the Democrats who were caught in the purity trap, until Clinton with his "triangulation" broke free of the litmus tests of the progressive left.

Sotomayor: Higher Ed Background More Important than Race or Sex

Politico: Princeton University holds the key to understanding Sonia Sotomayor
Friends, classmates, and Judge Sotomayor herself say that sense of racial identity as a central political category — and of her own place on the stage as not just a wise judge, but as a wise Latina — were formed in the unlikely crucible of Princeton.
Further reinforcing my take on her that Princeton/Yale are the most important keys to her beliefs.

Big Brother Tex Is Watching You

From Grits for Breakfast: Big Brother Watch: TX Senate would authorize license plate readers on TX highways

[T]he Texas Senate approved an amendment authorizing the damn license-plate readers after TXDoT denied a request by the DEA last year, discussed previously on Grits here and here.

In their blog post on the story, the San Antonio Current lets us know that "Texans who are concerned about Article 33’s Orwellian implications can use a form set up by the ACLU to ask their representatives to call for it to be taken out of the bill.

"Potential for significant unintended consequences lie in these devices' deployment, particularly in Texas, where high traffic fines, sometimes with absurdist "civil" fees larded on top, have combined to leave more than one in 10 drivers with outstanding arrest warrants - mostly for traffic tickets - widespread use of license plate readers would make theoretically possible a dragnet that would overwhelm the jails and courts in a heartbeat if it were ever implemented to even a fraction of its full potential.

One of the commentators to the post above asks if it is 2009 or 1984 in Texas.

Texas Legislature Nearing End

Texas Senate passes new top-10 admissions rule for UT-Austin

A new top 10 percent admissions rule for the University of Texas at Austin is on its way to the governor after a reluctant Senate sponsor literally held her nose and voted for the bill.

It provides that the UT-Austin campus can limit automatic admissions to 75 percent of the spots in its 2011 freshman class. The bill Shapiro authored initially would have limited students in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class to 60 percent of a freshman class at any public university.

The 12-year-old rule was designed to boost diversity on campuses after a court banned the use of race and ethnicity in admissions, a ruling since overturned.

But UT-Austin, along with Texas A&M University and UT-Dallas to a lesser extent, have been overwhelmed with the must-take students, leaving little discretion to consider other talented students. This fall, UT estimates, as much as 86 percent of the freshman will have come from top-10 admissions.

At Texas A&M, those admissions are expected to take up half of its freshman class.
Because the other colleges are not yet strapped for spaces to offer exceptional and out-of-state students, the House carved out the exception for only the UT-Austin campus.

Texas Legislature moves to give small business a tax break

Small businesses would see their state taxes cut for two years under legislation passed by the Texas Senate this week.

Companies with $1 million or less in annual revenue would be exempt from paying the state franchise tax, up from the current exemption of $300,000, under the bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. The Texas House has passed a similar bill.

Texas businesses filed 730,000 reports for 2008 under the state’s revised franchise tax. About 140,000 had to pay the tax, based on the exemption for businesses with less than $300,000 in revenue or with a tax liability of $1,000 or less. Excluding businesses that asked for more time, the tax generated $4.3 billion for general revenue and the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund, which is designed to help pay for education.

An estimated 451,000 businesses didn’t owe any franchise tax last year. Raising the exemption to $1 million would let 132,000 more businesses avoid the tax, DeSilva said.

The Senate and House bills have differences that the two bodies must iron out before a final version can go to Gov. Rick Perry for signing. The Senate’s $1 million revenue exemption would expire Dec. 31, 2011, and be replaced by a permanent $600,000 exemption. In the House version, the $1 million exemption would revert to $300,000 after Jan. 1, 2012.

More bills and changes to Texas law here: Measures before Texas Legislature may affect Texans' daily routines and a summary is also here.

Sensible Approach to DWIs in Harris County Proposed

Some common sense regarding DWIs here in Harris County.

DA's plan would help some with DWIs clear record
First-time suspects would get supervision

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos announced plans Friday for a program that allows first-time DWI and drug offenders to avoid conviction, an idea she acknowledged could be a hard sell to the public.

The plan, referred to as pretrial diversion and scheduled to begin in August, was heartily endorsed by the county’s defense attorneys, supported by the sheriff deputies’ and the Houston police officers’ unions, but strongly opposed by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent recidivism. So, it’s a carrot-stick approach,” Lykos said. “With respect to DWI, that’s an absolute plague in Harris County. If we can get first offenders, get them into treatment … and divert them so they don’t become repeat offenders, that’s going to have enormous dividends. And the same thing for first-time drug possession.”

Calling it a “risky proposition in this day and age,” Lykos asked for support for the driving-while-intoxicated policy Friday morning at Rice University during a meeting of the Houston-Harris County Office of Drug Policy, garnering rousing applause from those present.

Predictibly, the prohibitionists of MADD were against it.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and I hope she carries through with it.


CNN: Treasury chief to meet with Chinese leaders
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is set to meet with several high-ranking members of the Chinese leadership this week, marking the Obama administration's first major overture to the powerhouse nation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will push for better relations with China.

Geithner left Saturday for meetings in Beijing, where he'll discuss ways to strengthen relations between China and the United States, according to the Treasury Department.
Meet with, or kowtow to? Hey, if China doesn't keep buying those bonds...
What a mess we have gotten into.

Poll Shows Support for Health Care Reform

Poll: Americans OK with more government health care influence

Sixty-three percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday said they would favor an increase in the federal government's influence over their own health care plans in an attempt to lower costs and provide coverage to more Americans; 36 percent were opposed.

The poll also suggests that slightly more than six out of 10 think the government should guarantee health care for all Americans, with 38 percent opposed.

Islamic Extremists and the Media: Misguided Sensitivity

from Reason online: The Media, Islam, and Political Correctness

Is it a right-wing scare tactic to use the phrase Islamic extremism?

The vast majority of American Muslims are not radicals. But, leaving aside debates about whether there is something in the Muslim religion that inherently and uniquely lends itself to a violent, extremist interpretation, the reality is that an extremist and violent strain is present in modern-day Islam to a far greater extent than in other major religions.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center two years ago found that about 13% of American Muslims—and a quarter of those under 30—felt that suicide bombings in defense of Islam were justified in at least some cases. The poll also found that in some ways, native-born African-American Muslims are more radicalized than immigrants. Radical Islamism may be an attractive ideology for those who feel disenfranchised.

To ignore or downplay these alarming facts is myopic. If the mainstream media continue to do so out of misguided sensitivity, it will only undermine their credibility when it comes to battling real bigotry.

Quote of the Day

A stand for compromise is not the stuff of heroism, virtue, or moral certainty. But it is the essense of the democratic process. -- Barbara Oberg

A Little Spat

My modem and my router and my ISP decided that didn't like each other very much, and stopped talking to each other, so I've been down for a while. I think I got it fixed now, though.

Susan Boyle Comes in Second

Who did she lose to?

Someone who didn't have 100 million hits on their Youtube video, that's who.

I wonder if the voting wasn't a bit of backlash against her popularity here in America.

30 May 2009

Pakistan Says Troops Take Control of Mingora

Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said Saturday that government troops had taken "full control" of Mingora, although they are still facing "some resistance" from Taliban militants on the outskirts of the town.

The military and insurgents had been battling for control of Mingora for a week. Government security forces launched their offensive against the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan nearly a month ago.

The Taliban are like fire ants. If you live in the south, you know what fire ants are, and if you don't, shovelling snow isn't so bad. Forcing the fire ants out only moves them to the next yard which only postpones your problems. To really do any good, you have to kill them all.

Contractor tied to Murtha suspended

A Pennsylvania defense contractor who got millions of dollars in congressional earmarks from Representative John P. Murtha has been blocked from doing business with the Navy amid allegations of fraud.

Word of the suspension came during an annual trade show featuring defense contractors gathered in Johnstown, Pa., the heart of Murtha's congressional district. Seven of the world's largest defense contractors, who have been among the veteran Pennsylvania Democrat's biggest campaign contributors over the years, helped bankroll the "Showcase for Commerce."

During a brief news conference yesterday at the event, Murtha turned aside questions about the suspension of Kuchera Defense Systems Inc., a family-run business that has supported him with $60,000 to his campaign and to his political action committee since 2002.

Over the past two years, Murtha has secured $14.7 million in congressionally directed funds known as "earmarks" for Kuchera to perform work for the military, a tiny slice of Murtha's earmarks overall.

Asked about Kuchera's troubles, Murtha said: "What's that got to do with me? What do you think, I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job."

Murtha is chairman of one of the most powerful panels in Congress, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, where he has been a member for over two decades.

At the Pentagon, Lieutenant Clay Doss, Navy spokesman, said the Navy suspended Kuchera Defense Systems on April 23 for "alleged fraud, including multiple incidents of incorrect charges, defective pricing, and ethical violations."

Whenever I hear someone say, "That's not my job", it says something to me about their work ethic. It always makes me think I don't want that type of person working for my organization. Murtha would be the captain of that club.

By the way, was this covered on the mainstream news?

Call for a New Political Party

CNN Commentary: No one represents America's center. The entire article is worth reading, some excerpts:

According to the Pew Research Group, fully 39 percent of the American people identify themselves as political independents, the highest percentage in 70 years.

As Andrew Kohut of Pew put it, "Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama era begins. ... Republicans and Democrats are even more divided than in the past, while the growing political middle is steadfastly mixed in its beliefs about government, the free market and other values that underlie views on contemporary issues and policies."

So, who represents the middle of the road?

Why is it that while centrists make up the majority of the country, they don't have a seat at the table when it comes to running the country? Why do both parties put their leaders through an ideological litmus test before they give them the keys to the car?

So the question that comes to mind is, if moderates can't get any respect from either party, why don't they form their own? Isn't it time to form a third party?

America has been throughout its history living a kind of Hegelian dialectic. One party represents the thesis, the other the antithesis, and from that springs a grand synthesis. It has been that way with our court system, which is adversarial, with a prosecution and a defense. It has been that with our politics, with a majority and a minority. It has been that with race, frankly, with the stark division between black and white.

But as we are finding with race, things aren't always as easy as black and white. And it might be time for our politics to evolve to include a third party.

The next election, like the last one, won't be decided by liberal or conservatives. It will be decided by the vast middle, those centrist voters who see the complexities in life and are unimpressed by ideological absolutists.

29 May 2009

Headline from the Onion

Obama Revises Campaign Promise Of 'Change' To 'Relatively Minor Readjustments In Certain Favorable Policy Areas'

Another Day, Another Story About The Corrupt S.O.B. Murtha

From the AP, some excerpts from Defense contractor with ties to Murtha suspended. The full article has a lot more detail. Murtha is so corrupt, it makes me want to puke. Don't forget, he and Pelosi are BFFs.

A Pennsylvania defense contractor who got millions of dollars in congressional earmarks from Rep. John Murtha has been blocked from doing business with the Navy amid allegations of fraud.

During a brief news conference Friday at the Johnstown event, Murtha turned aside questions about the suspension of Kuchera Defense Systems Inc., a family-run business that has supported him with $60,000 to his campaign and to his political action committee since 2002.

Over the past two years, Murtha has secured $14.7 million in congressionally directed funds known as "earmarks" for Kuchera to perform work for the military, a tiny slice of Murtha's earmarks overall.Kuchera is one of two firms with longtime ties to Murtha that were raided by the FBI in recent months in a Justice Department criminal investigation of campaign fundraising involving defense contractors.

In the last two years alone, Murtha has directed $78 million in earmarks to clients of a Washington-area lobbying firm, PMA, the second business that the FBI recently raided. A former staffer on Murtha's subcommittee, Paul Magliocchetti, left Capitol Hill to start the lobbying firm in 1989, the same year Murtha became chairman of the subcommittee.

From 2005 through 2007, more than one out of every five dollars Murtha collected in campaign contributions came from PMA lobbyists or their clients — over a million dollars in all, according to Federal Election Commission records.

In a 15-month span ending March 31, employees of the seven defense contractors sponsoring the Johnstown show this week put over $200,000 into Murtha's campaign account. The seven are Lockheed Martin Corp., the Boeing Co., BAE Systems PLC, Northrop Grumman Corp., General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co. and DRS Technologies Inc.

Next Wednesday, Murtha has scheduled a fundraiser in a Washington, D.C., town house next door to Democratic Party headquarters.
Murtha hasn't had a close re-election race in decades, routinely getting nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Last year, he stumbled and had to publicly apologize for saying his home base of western Pennsylvania is racist in talking about Barack Obama's prospects for winning the state, which Obama was able to do. A deluge of campaign contributions from defense contractors and congressional Democrats rescued Murtha in time for election day.

Another day in the life of the most ethical Congress, ever.

Check this site out: Boot Murtha.com

Here's an interactive graphic showing the web of corruption that surrounds Murtha.

More Thoughts on Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor

A few days ago, I offered a few of my thoughts about Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor. The point was that she was another product of the same old elite that was already represented on the court, and which is prevelant in our judiciary and our politics.
Eight of the current nine are graduates of either Harvard or Yale, and all nine will have been out of the appellate courts.
She continues to be lauded as a fresh voice by most of the media. But her skin color or ethnic background will not be as influential as the Princeton/Yale education she received, her poltical background, or her time on the federal bench. She appears to have internalized the same old elite, politically correct thinking that permeates our colleges and law schools.

Now, even the Associated Press is making the same point:

There are two sides to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor: a Latina from a blue-collar family and a wealthy member of America's power elite.

Yet Sotomayor did not live her entire childhood in a housing project in the South Bronx — she spent most of her teenage years in a middle-class neighborhood, attending private school and winning scholarships to Princeton and then Yale.

And Sotomayor's life and lifestyle after law school largely resemble the background of many lawyers who rise to powerful positions in Washington.

She climbed her way up through New York's Democratic power structure boosted by its ultimate brokers over those years — Gov. Mario Cuomo, Mayor Ed Koch, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. That's the access of a partner in a corporate law firm, not a kid from the South Bronx.

She now earns more than $200,000 a year and owns a condominium in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood of million-dollar-plus homes. Her brother, Dr. Juan Sotomayor, is a physician in North Syracuse, N.Y., whose practice doesn't accept Medicaid or Medicare — programs for the poor and elderly — according to its Web site.

The "riches" part of Sotomayor's rags-to-riches story began when she left her low-paying job in that prosecutor's office and joined the Pavia & Harcourt law firm. Her clients included Fendi, maker of luxury purses that she was unlikely to have seen as a child in the Bronx.

Now, don't get me wrong -- it is great that she is so successful. Good for her for getting ahead and making money, and more power to her. It is what being American is all about. It also speaks volumes about our society that someone who suspects racism at every turn experienced so little of it on her rise into the elite. Being a Puerto Rican woman didn't seem to exactly hurt her, did it?

But if you are really looking for a change, for a fresh perspective on the Supreme Court, for someone with a different perspective, who understands your life and what is important to you, you are unlikely to find it in this nominee.

Her concerns and issues are those of other products of our elite universities and institutions, regardless of her race or gender. Maybe that is progress of a sort, but it seems rather to be more of the same.

US officials: North Korea may launch new missiles

North Korea on Friday vowed to retaliate if punitive U.N. sanctions are imposed for its latest nuclear test, and U.S. officials said there are new signs Pyongyang may be planning more long-range missile launches. With tensions rising, the communist nation punctuated its barrage of rhetoric with yet another short-range missile launch — the sixth this week.

Perhaps more significantly, officials in Washington said there are indications of increased activity at a site used to fire long-range missiles.

Although I would enjoy watching another war on Fox every night after work, I don't think North Korea is going to attack anything. I don't think the best golfer in the world is crazy enough to try something that stupid.

Hope and Change?

Fund-Raising Still Has Its Perks in the Obama Era

Mr. Obama announced his selections for 12 ambassador posts on Wednesday, on top of six announced previously. Of the 18 nominees to date, just five are career diplomats, tapped for Iraq, Kosovo, Iceland, Brazil and Sri Lanka. The rest are a mix of fund-raisers, political figures, scholars and others from the private sector assigned desirable posts in places like Britain, France, Japan, China, Argentina, Ireland and Vatican City.

The practice of sending top fund-raisers to prestigious embassies is nothing new for presidents of either party. But that is what makes Mr. Obama’s nominations so noteworthy. For a candidate who made grand promises to bring change to a capital where power and position are greased by money, the latest selections are a reminder that there are limits to just how much change the new president intends to bring.

Quote of the Day

I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. -- Mark Twain


'Laodicean' launches Kansas teen to spelling bee victory
Thirteen-year-old Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, spelled "laodicean," Thursday night to take top honors in the 82nd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The eighth-grader won $40,000 in cash and prizes for nailing the final word. Pronounced lay-odd-uh-see-an, the word means lukewarm or indifferent, particularly in matters of politics or religion.

Murtha Funnels Earmark Money to Campaign Contributors

Common Dreams.org: Earmarks for Campaign Cash?

Murtha, House Defense Appropriations Panel Members Channeled $355.5 Million in Earmarks to Campaign Contributors in 2008

Rep. Murtha inserted a total of $166.5 million worth of earmarks in last year's defense appropriations bill, $73.6 million of which went to some of his biggest contributors. The recipients of those earmarks donated a total of $313,150 to Rep. Murtha's reelection campaign or his leadership PAC during the 2008 election.

"Jack Murtha is the poster boy for pay-to-play politics," said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, which has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Mr. Murtha and two of his colleagues, Rep. James Moran (D-VA) and Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), on the defense appropriations panel for allegedly steering in exchange for hefty campaign contributions millions of dollars worth of earmarks to a now-defunct lobbying firm staffed by former Murtha aides.

"But we must end the widespread practice of what appears to be trading earmarks for campaign cash. This game distorts our nation's spending priorities and erodes public trust in our government."

Government is Buying our Own Debt

The End of the American Economic Era?

Right now, the United States has responded to a lack of demand for its Treasuries through a questionable and disturbing method: we're buying our own debt. That allows the yields to remain low, but buying our own debt is somewhat akin to creating your own credit card. Eventually, you have to acknowledge that the money you create on the books never really existed, unless the United States plans to simply print money to pay off all the bonds.

That would create a level of inflation not seen in the West since the Weimar Republic, and will effectively force the rest of the world to avoid U.S. currency and investments as unsound. It would, for the first time in decades, put the United States on the financial sideline.

We need to demonstrate responsibility for investors to retain their confidence in the United States as a guarantor of stability, economic and otherwise. The downgrade in the United Kingdom's bond rating is a signal flare to the United States that we will be next – and that our ready source of bondholders will look elsewhere for that stability. Will we wake up before the United States gets sidelined?

No, no, no, no, no.

California to U.S.: Back us up for new loans

State says it needs Washington’s help to stem financial disaster

In a move with only one modern-day precedent, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Obama administration and members of Congress for federal loan guarantees to help the state out of a desperate, multibillion-dollar jam.

California is not asking for cash, like the tens of billions given to AIG, General Motors or Morgan Stanley. Instead, the state with the worst credit rating in the nation is asking that Washington act as a sort of co-signer on the state's borrowing, to be backed up with money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Come this summer, California will need to borrow money simply to pay for day-to-day operations. The state does that routinely every year. But this time, the amount California must borrow is a lot higher. And the tight credit market and questions about California's ability to repay are likely to make borrowing extremely expensive for the state.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a House committee last week that he did not have authority to use financial rescue money to help state governments. But he did not rule out assistance. He said California's request would have to be decided in Congress.

The idea's prospects in Congress are uncertain. But California has far more clout in Washington than any other state, with the nation's largest congressional delegation and a San Franciscan, Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House.

Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, said he supports legislation to help California and other cash-strapped cities.

So California wants us to cosign a loan. Well, well, well.

I give out only two bits of general legal advice:
(1) When arrested, under any circumstances, do not talk to the cops. About anything. Keep your trap shut and call a lawyer; and

(2) Never co-sign a loan. You will end up paying that loan. Why? Because if they were going to pay it back, the bank wouldn't require a co-signer. So what does that tell you? You might as well buy whatever it is, and just give it to the person as a gift, because they ain't going to pay. Why? Once again, if they were going to pay that loan, the bank wouldn't require a co-signer.

Now California is asking me to violate my general legal principle No. 2. And they got all kinds of fast talk about this and that, with patter like a cheap con artist, about to make off with my $20 bill. Hell, even Geithner isn't buying it.

Sorry, California, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck.

Burris Senate Seat is Hot

You know corruption is bad when the NY Times editorial comes down on a Democratic Senator.

When Politicians Talk in Private

In his first attempt to steer clear of the Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal, Mr. Burris swore before state legislators that he had not talked to anyone from the governor’s fund-raising machine before he was offered the seat vacated by President Obama.

That flat denial, which successfully secured the seat with Senate Democratic leaders, was later amended piecemeal by the senator into the grudging admission that, well yes, he did talk privately several times with the governor’s brother, Robert, who was intent on political fund-raising. The senator’s shifting accounts properly caused the Senate to open an ethics inquiry and an Illinois prosecutor to look into possible perjury.

The governor was arrested soon after, and Mr. Burris never did make a donation before he was nominated as Mr. Blagojevich fought impeachment. With the scandal raging, Mr. Burris should have had enough sense to decline the post.

But he wanted to be a senator, and now he insists that the wiretap backs his (current) version of events and he never paid to play.

Only in Illinois might a politician claim a clean bill of health from a wiretap that flatly contradicts his initial claim under oath of a clean bill of health. We hope Senate ethics investigators stick to the task of tracking Senator Burris’s unraveling tale.

I hope so, too.

28 May 2009

Do you really want the government running things?

Banks? Insurance companies? Car companies? Healthcare?

You'll find no greater example of what happens when the government runs an operation that requires coordination, business acumen, technical skill, financial management or inventory control than we've seen in the current recession. The government makes the Three Stooges look like the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team.

Think about it. The Post Office. The DMV. Can you think of anything the government makes better by getting involved?

I never wanted to own a GM product, much less the company

U.S. taxpayers soon may own 72.5 percent of a General Motors that's no longer a publicly traded company, according to regulatory filings by the carmaker and details released by the Obama administration.

GM is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors by Monday, and American taxpayers are likely to own, at least for a year or more, a 100-year-old global giant that's long been synonymous with American manufacturing prowess.

"They're in the auto business today, if they were not before," said George Magliano, the director of automotive research for forecaster IHS Global Insight.
A GM filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission early Thursday said that the U.S. Treasury would take a 72.5 percent stake in a new GM, and administration officials confirmed that the U.S. government is likely to provide $30 billion of the $50 billion to be invested in a newly reconstituted automaker.

The Treasury Department and White House, on behalf of taxpayers, will help name a new GM board of directors, and presumably will have seats at the table.

If I didn't know better, I'd say this was an excerpt from some Socialist fantasy novel.

Bacon Vodka

Bakon Vodka is a superior quality potato vodka with a savory bacon flavor. It’s clean, crisp, and delicious.

This is the only vodka you’ll ever want to use to make a Bloody Mary, and it's a complementary element of both sweet and savory drinks.

Bakon Vodka is also a great Bar-B-Q companion. Use it in a marinade or sip it chilled with a steak.

Check out their recipes section for more ideas.
The Meat and Potatoes… Premium quality, no joke.
They start with superior quality Idaho potatoes instead of the random mixed grains that make up most vodkas. It's column-distilled using a single heating process that doesn’t “bruise” the alcohol like the multiple heating cycles needed to make a typical pot-still vodka.
No tinge or burn on the tongue, no obnoxious smoky or chemical flavors, just a clean refreshing potato vodka with delicious savory bacon flavor.

Ahhhhh Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.

National Sales Tax Under Consideration -- Tax Would Be In Addition To Income Tax -- Cutting Budget Not Considered

With the ability to incur additional debts coming to an end, and under orders from China to straighten up, and wanting to spend even more money, the ever-hungry Congress is to consider a national sales tax. They are considering rates from 10% to 25% on all goods and services.

While a national sales tax is worth looking at as a replacement for the income tax, note that this proposed national sales tax is to be in addition to the income tax.

Of course, we could cut spending. But that doesn't seem to be under consideration. Every caricature of "tax and spend" liberal starts to come to mind. So here's the game plan: bankrupt the country, refuse to stop spending, and then insist on new taxes.

Washington Post: Once Considered Unthinkable, U.S. Sales Tax Gets Fresh Look

With budget deficits soaring and President Obama pushing a trillion-dollar-plus expansion of health coverage, some Washington policymakers are taking a fresh look at a money-making idea long considered politically taboo: a national sales tax.

[L]ast month, after wrestling with the White House over the massive deficits projected under Obama's policies, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee declared that a VAT should be part of the debate.

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything, from a carton of eggs to a visit with a lawyer. It is also hugely regressive, falling heavily on the poor. But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American -- a tangible benefit that would be highly valuable to low-income families.

The surge of interest in a VAT is testament to the extraordinary depth of the nation's money troubles. While some conservatives have long argued that a consumption tax would provide a simpler and more efficient alternative to the byzantine U.S. income tax code, this time it's all about the money.

The federal budget deficit is projected to approach $1.3 trillion next year, the highest ever except for this year, when the deficit is forecast to exceed $1.8 trillion. The Treasury is borrowing 46 cents of every dollar it spends, largely from China and other foreign creditors, who are growing increasingly uneasy about the security of their investments. Unless Congress comes up with some serious cash, expanding the nation's health-care system will only add to the problem.

Obama wants to raise income taxes for high earners and impose new levies on business, but those moves would not generate enough cash to cover the cost of health care, much less balance the budget, and they have not been fully embraced by Congress. Obama's plan to tax greenhouse-gas emissions could raise trillions of dollars, but again, Congress is balking.

Key lawmakers are considering other ways to pay for health reform, including new taxes on sugary soda, alcohol and employer-provided health insurance. The last proposal could raise a lot of money -- nearly $1 trillion over the next five years, according to White House budget documents.

But options on the table would raise a fraction of that sum. And while it might pay for health care, it would barely dent deficits projected to total nearly $4 trillion over the next five years and to grow rapidly in the future, as baby boomers draw on Social Security and Medicare.

In for a Penny, In for a Pound: Now We Are Stuck With GM Forever

U.S. Expected to Own 70% of Restructured G.M.

Now G.M. may stand for something else: Government Motors.

The latest plan for the troubled automaker, which is expected to file for bankruptcy by Monday, calls for the Treasury Department to receive about 70 percent of a restructured G.M.

Including the more than $20 billion that has already been spent to prop up G.M., the government will provide G.M. at least $50 billion to get the company through Chapter 11, people with direct knowledge of the situation said Tuesday. By some estimates in Detroit, tens of billions beyond that amount may be required.

The United Automobile Workers, meanwhile, will hold up to 20 percent through its retiree health care fund, and bondholders and other parties will get the remaining share. Shareholders would be virtually wiped out.

Owned by the government and the union. Wow. That is a recipe for disaster. The politicos will continue to pump billions into the wheezing operation, all paid for by you and me. And very soon, the board will be stocked by former Congressmen, who will using GM to hire their relatives. Kind of like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

What a waste of money. Money that we are borrowing from China.

Oh sure, the Obama Administration will promise to get out of the car business just as soon as possible. Don't bet on it.

I mean, the government still owns the Tennessee Valley Authority, don't they? How's that working out?

Oh -- TVA Pension Board Member Says System Is Woefully Underfunded
In a letter to TVA Board members, Leonard Muzyn said the shortfall to cover promised benefits to TVA employees could be as much as $5.1 billion.

General Petraeus Supports Closing Gitmo

Military.com: Petraeus Backs Closing Gitmo

The head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, has told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty he thinks that "on balance" the expected closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and abandonment of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques will "help" U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the struggle against transnational extremist violence.

Petraeus says that closing Guantanamo "in a responsible manner...sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees."

"I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention," Petraeus says.

The specifics of closing Guantanamo are proving contentious, including questions over how to prosecute and where to incarcerate some of the roughly 240 remaining detainees.

What To Do About North Korea?

From Slate, some reasoned advice on North Korea:

First, Take a Deep Breath

Obama shouldn't respond too quickly, or too aggressively, to the North Korean nuclear test.

So for the moment, Obama should keep the Asian allies secure and calm, try to lure China onboard, squeeze the North Koreans as hard as U.N. resolutions allow, and forget about the six-party talks, which have outlived their purpose. (If diplomacy gets serious again, it will be in the form of U.S.-North Korean bilaterals.)

Above all, Obama should put the whole subject of North Korea on the back burner, at least in terms of public statements. Don't react to Pyongyang's screams and threats, which will be as hollow as they are torrential. Don't play North Korea's game.

Texas Senate Votes To Cut Small Business Tax

Houston Chronicle: Senate passes small business tax cut legislation

Small businesses would get a $172 million tax cut over the next two years under legislation that has passed the Texas Senate.

Under current law, companies making less than $300,000 in annual revenue are exempt from paying the state franchise tax.

The bill approved Wednesday by the Texas Senate would boost the exemption to $1 million for the next two years, taking about 40,000 businesses off the tax rolls.

Leaders of Muslim Charity Sentenced for Funneling Millions to Hamas Terrorists

5 men from defunct Muslim charity get long sentences

Five leaders of what was once the nation's largest Muslim charity were given long prison sentences Wednesday by a federal judge, months after they were found guilty of aiding a militant Palestinian organization.

Five leaders of the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were convicted in November by a federal jury for providing money and resources to the Palestinian group Hamas, designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Before it was shut down, the group, based in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, was hailed as the largest Muslim charity in America. The Justice Department accused it of funneling $12.4 million to Hamas in the guise of humanitarian donations.

27 May 2009

Questions About Murtha's Boondoggle

Holder pressed for answers on Murtha project

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is pressing for new answers about funding for a counter-narcotics center that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has supported for more than two decades.

Coburn sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder late last week reiterating charges that the center in Johnstown, Pa., previously known as the National Defense Intelligence Center (NDIC) is a duplicative boondoggle and asking for the explanation behind a recently proposed name change.

“The NDIC was a boondoggle at its inception 16 years ago and it continues to be a monument to congressional incompetence,” Hart said.

Murtha’s earmarks have received increased scrutiny in recent weeks and months. The FBI has been investigating a now-defunct lobbying firm and at least two defense contractors with close ties to Murtha. The powerful Pennsylvania appropriator has directed millions of dollars in earmarks to the contractors, as well as the lobbying firm’s clients.

Get Used To Taking Orders From China

Last week, I posted on Will China Now Be Able To Call The Shots?

It is bad enough when politicians use our tax money to buy support for re-election, but now they are borrowing money from China to buy their way into office.

When you are financially dependent on someone, they get to start bossing you around. So I hope you like our new boss, the People's Republic of China. Our politicians have traded them our independence and our future for largess for the voters.

Recent developments demonstrating the new relationship:

Telegraph (UK): China warns Federal Reserve over 'printing money'

China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed's direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

The Oxford-educated Mr Fisher, an outspoken free-marketer and believer in the Schumpeterian process of "creative destruction", has been running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the "very big hole" in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

"We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion," he said in February.

"This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them," he said.

His warning comes amid growing fears that America could lose its AAA sovereign rating.
Financial Times: Exploding debt threatens America
Under President Barack Obama’s budget plan, the federal debt is exploding. To be precise, it is rising – and will continue to rise – much faster than gross domestic product, a measure of America’s ability to service it. The federal debt was equivalent to 41 per cent of GDP at the end of 2008; the Congressional Budget Office projects it will increase to 82 per cent of GDP in 10 years. With no change in policy, it could hit 100 per cent of GDP in just another five years.
The Atlantic: Sovereign Woes
If the longer-yield debt again registers weak demand, the administration is going to have to address this problem.

Up until now, most of the debate over the administration's spending plans has focused on the political problem: will the American public accept higher spending? But the problem isn't the spending; it's how to pay for it.

If the spending were attached to tax hikes, this would cut into its popularity (though I don't know by how much). That's one of the reasons that administrations like to fund their new spending with borrowing.

But you can't long do this on a scale that freaks out the bond markets--just ask Argentina. And these days, the bond markets are easily freaked.

NY Times: Geithner Prepares to Meet With Chinese Leaders

Perhaps the chief issue facing global markets is the extent to which China will continue investing heavily in Treasury bills.

If China believes the dollar is going to decline in the future, given the ballooning United States debt, it could reduce its purchases. Investors worry that a spat over currency issues could push China to reduce its investments in Treasuries, putting the American economy at risk.

If you had told me ten years ago that our economic future was dependent on the decisions made by the Chinese government, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Yet here we are.

Why? Because our political class is growing increasingly corrupt and insular. Effectively elected to lifetime sinecures, they have no connection with the American people. Our political class is concerned primarily with preserving their own perks and privileges, and advancing their "careers", never intending to return to the life of the citizen. Or at least not until they have fleeced us for whatever they can get. Pensions, homes in rural Ireland, vacation homes in the Caribbean, rental property, positions on corporate boards. If that means running the country into the ground, then so be it.

Here is the chart that shows the glaring problem:

The deficits run up by the Bush Administration were an outrage. The ones being run up by the Obama Administration are dangerous.

N. Korea Threatens Attack on South If Vessels are Inspected

North Korea says it will take military action against South Korea if it participates in a U.S.-led effort to intercept ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction, as tensions increase over Pyongyang's nuclear test earlier this week.

In a statement Wednesday, Pyongyang reaffirmed that it would consider Seoul's decision an act of war and will no longer be bound by the 1953 armistice that ended the three-year Korean War.

Seoul announced Tuesday it would participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which involves intelligence sharing and naval coordination to prevent nuclear and other illegal weapons from being transported. The announcement came one day after the North Korean nuclear test.

More denouncing is expected.

Texas Legislature, Deadlocked, Nearing End

Star-Telegram: At deadline, legislators lament bills doomed by House impasse

House members have been locked in a standoff since Friday, when Democrats began a parliamentary slowdown aimed at killing the voter ID bill, which they say could disenfranchise poor, minority and elderly voters. Republicans have made passage of the bill one of their top priorities, saying their constituents demand it to strengthen security at the ballot box.

Democrats have applied a delaying tactic known as "chubbing" by talking extensively on minor local bills that normally receive quick passage. The goal was to keep the House from reaching the voter ID bill. But bills behind it on the calendar were also in danger as lawmakers moved toward the midnight deadline for preliminary passage of Senate bills.

Hundreds of Senate-passed bills endangered by a partisan dispute in the state House of Representatives faced death as the clock passed midnight this morning and the Legislature passed a critical deadline.

The imperiled legislation included toughened voter identification requirements, expanded health insurance for children, an overhaul of the Texas Department of Insurance and funding of a windstorm insurance pool for the Gulf Coast.

"Two years of work fulltime by the 31 senators and myself will go down in flames," said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Senate’s presiding officer, referring to key bills that began taking shape after the 2007 Legislature.

The collateral damage inflicted on other bills raised the possibility that lawmakers will be called back to the Capitol after the session ends Monday.

Thoughts on Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor

Nothing but Sotomayor in the news yesterday. The major media praising the choice, no surprise, while the right side of the internet grits its teeth, again, no surprise.

While it would be nice to think the very best legal minds are named to the Supreme Court, that has never been and will never be the case. Sometimes you may get someone brilliant, but the Supreme Court is an intensely political branch of government, never forget it. There is nothing wrong with picking a justice on the basis of race, or gender, or region of the country, or a certain faction of the party, or whatever, so long as they are competent. Harriet Miers would not have been competent. Sotomayor should be.

Sotomayor solves many problems for Obama -- a woman, a Latina, and a balm to the left side of the Democratic party. The progressives were getting upset with Obama for basically confirming the Bush terrorism policies, so this should quiet them down. Sure, few Americans could name the Supreme Court justices, but there a some activists and contributors who are paying attention.

Sotomayor is steeped in the politically correct culture and thinking of elite law scholarship, and has faithfully integrated identity politics into her sense of self, so all in all, a reliable vote on the court. To be fair, she rose up from nothing, did exceptionally well academically, and has been plugging away for years in the federal courts. She may be on the left, but she doesn't appear to be out of the Democratic mainstream. Her confirmation is assured.

She backed the First Amendment in a dissent (good), but ruled against property rights (bad), and there is some concern over her commitment to the Second Amendment (bad).

My only hope is that the next Supreme Court pick would come from outside of the judiciary. Choosing a state governor, or someone from private practice or business would make a welcome change, and might truly bring a new perspective to the court, instead of the usual Ivy League/academia/federal bench route. Eight of the current nine are graduates of either Harvard or Yale, and all nine will have been out of the appellate courts.

Pelosi And Her Base

Pelosi’s Lies Roil Dem Establishment

If at any time in the last eight years Nancy Pelosi had telephoned the CIA about being lied to in a briefing, heads would roll and careers would be broken as soon as she hung up the phone.

But if Pelosi admits lying to her own voters for eight long years, the unavoidable implication is that all the other Democrats also lied about the evil Bush administration, along with those wellsprings of truth and integrity like the New York Times and the Washington Post. So Nancy’s lie drags down the entire Leftist sucker narrative.

It was a deft move, leaking those CIA documents about Pelosi being briefed.

If she loses support among her base, she is in real trouble. Republican criticism is just prompting her supporters to defend her. They could probably do more damage if they were quiet.

Asserting the Tenth Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. -- U.S. Constitution, Tenth Amendment

Tenth Amendment Movement Aims to Give Power Back to the States

Fed up with Washington's involvement in everything from land use to gun control to education spending, states across the country are fighting back against what they say is the federal government's growing intrusion on their rights.

Fed up with Washington's involvement in everything from land use to gun control to education spending, states across the country are fighting back against what they say is the federal government's growing intrusion on their rights.

At least 35 states have introduced legislation this year asserting their power under the Tenth Amendment to regulate all matters not specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

"This has been boiling for years, and it's finally come to a head," said Utah State Rep. Carl Wimmer. "With TARP and No Child Left Behind, these things that continue to give the federal government more authority, our rights as states and individuals are being turned on their head."

The power struggle between the states and Washington has cropped up periodically ever since the country was founded. But now some states are sending a simple, forceful message:

The government has gone too far. Enough is enough.

Six of One, a Half Dozen of Another

McLeroy opposed as board of ed leader

Senate Democrats say they have more than enough votes to remove Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education Tuesday when McLeroy’s confirmation reaches the Senate floor.

The Bryan dentist has presided over a contentious 15-member State Board of Education that fought over curriculum standards for science earlier this year and English language arts and reading last year. Critics faulted McLeroy for applying his strong religious beliefs in shaping new science standards.

McLeroy believes in creationism and that the Earth is about 6,000 years old.

There is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board.

Cynthia Dunbar! The one person even more of a nut than McLeroy.

26 May 2009

We are safe: North Korea has been denounced

North Korea, facing international sanction for its nuclear test this week, has restarted a plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium, a South Korean newspaper reported.

Pyongyang also appeared to have fired off a third short-range missile late on Tuesday after it added to tensions with a launch of two others earlier in the day, the South's Yonhap news agency quoted a unnamed government source as saying.

U.S. President Barack Obama is working to form a united response to Monday's nuclear test, widely denounced as a grave threat to stability that violates U.N. resolutions and brings the reclusive North closer to having a reliable nuclear bomb.

The secretive state also appears to have made good on a threat issued in April of restarting a facility at its Yongbyon nuclear plant that extracts weapons-grade plutonium.

So, our enemies are working night and day to make nuclear weapons and perfect their delivery systems and all we do is "widely denounce" this.

In case you have never been denounced, it doesn't hurt that bad.

The manual on how to get into politics today

A federal judge on Tuesday approved sending to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee recordings of secretly taped conversations between Sen. Roland Burris and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother, which took place before the Burris appointment.

The conversations, in which Burris offers to cut a check to the governor's campaign, were taped in November, about a month before the governor appointed Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

However, Burris' attorney Timothy Wright told CNN that his client eventually decided against writing the check, thinking it would be a bad idea.

The tapes were requested by the Ethics Committee as part of an investigation into Burris' appointment and seating.

During the November 18 conversation, Burris tells Robert Blagojevich, "I know I could give him a check," then says he may make the contribution under Wright's name (his attorney) " because Tim's not looking for an appointment." Burris promises he'll write the check by December 15.
Throughout the talk, Burris presses Blagojevich to tell him how he can help with the campaign without looking like he bought the appointment. "I'm trying to figure out how to deal with this and still be in the consideration for the appointment," he says.

"I hear ya. No, I year ya," Robert Blagojevich responds.

If you want to get into politics, this is how it's done. Forget about making a difference. Forget about the idea of being a servant. Forget about working for the people. It's all about self-importance and self-enrichment.

Obama Planning Now for 2010 Midterm Elections

Obama Aims to Sway Midterm Elections

Just four months in office, President Barack Obama and his White House are taking steps to shore up Democratic Congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections.

No one anticipates the Democrats losing control of Congress. Indeed, in the Senate, the Republicans are the ones on the defense, with endangered seats in Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Only one Democratic seat, Sen. Christopher Dodd's in Connecticut, currently is considered a toss-up.

Worries Over Value of Dollars Prompts Move to China's Yuan

China's Yuan: The Next Reserve Currency?
Are the Chinese finally getting serious about loosening their ties to the dollar—and even replacing the greenback with the yuan as the global economy's reserve currency? The evidence is mounting that they are.

There is Trouble. And Then There is Big Trouble.

And here's the Big Trouble.

Telegraph (UK): US bonds sale faces market resistance

The US Treasury is facing an ordeal by fire this week as it tries to sell $100bn (£62bn) of bonds to a deeply sceptical market amid growing fears of a sovereign bond crisis in the Anglo-Saxon world.

The Obama administration needs to raise $2 trillion this year to cover the fiscal stimulus plan and the bank bail-outs. It has to fund $900bn by September.

The US Treasury is selling $40bn of two-year notes on Tuesday, $35bn of five-year bonds on Wednesday, and $25bn of seven-year debt on Thursday. While the US has not yet suffered the indignity of a failed auction – unlike Britain and Germany – traders are watching closely to see what share is being purchased by US government itself in pure "monetisation" of the deficit.

"There isn't enough capital in the world to buy the new sovereign issuance required to finance the giant fiscal deficits that countries are so intent on running. There is simply not enough money out there," he said.

"If the US loses control of long rates, they will not be able to arrest asset price declines. If they print too much money, they will debase the dollar and cause stagflation. The bottom line is that there is no global 'get out of jail free' card for anyone", he said.

The US is acutely vulnerable because it relies heavily on foreign goodwill. China and Japan alone hold 23pc of America's $6,369bn federal debt. Suspicions that Washington is trying to engineer a stealth default by letting the dollar slide could cause patience to snap, even if Asian exporters would themselves suffer if they harmed their chief market.

The dollar has fallen 11% against a basket of currencies since early March.

Mutterings of a "dollar crisis" may now constrain the Fed as it tries to shore up the bond market. It has so far bought $116bn of Treasuries as part of its "credit easing" blitz, out of a $300bn pool.

What a disaster!

I am beginning to fear that everything we as a nation have worked so hard for is about to go down the drain, while the crowds applaud, our Congress robs us blind, and our news outlets report on Mel Gibson and his girlfriend.

25 May 2009

The Number of Vets in Government in Long-term Decline

The Decline of Veterans in Washington

The long Memorial Day weekend may be as good a time as any to ponder the question of whether the gap is widening between those who serve in the military and those in the political sector who help determine what the military does.

Certainly the number of Washington decision-makers with military experience continues to decline. In its profile of the Congress that convened at the beginning of the year, the Congressional Research Service notes that it continues a long-term slide in the number of lawmakers in Washington who have served in the military.

Obama Admits: USA Out Of Money

Quadrupling the deficit in one year has consequences.

NY Times: As Dollars Pile Up, Uneasy Traders Lower the Currency’s Value

The dollar skidded to its lowest point in five months this week, battered by creeping fears that Washington’s costly efforts to stimulate the economy are growing harder to finance and may set off an unwelcome bout of inflation. Analysts are increasingly concerned that a rise in prices could hurt consumer spending, deepening the recession.

The Federal Reserve is printing money from thin air, and the government is issuing trillions of dollars in new debt as it tries to spend its way out of the recession with a huge stimulus package, new lending programs, health care overhauls and automotive rescues.

Experts warned there might not be enough demand to sop up all those new dollars and dollar-denominated Treasury securities. That led investors to fret about the sustainability of the United States government’s AAA sovereign credit rating after the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency warned this week that the sovereign rating of Britain — which is spending hundreds of billions of pounds to engineer a recovery — is under threat.

The dollar’s sharp slide has renewed concern that investors worldwide were beginning to favor other currencies, foreign economies and commodities like oil and metals.

College Conference on College Men Conclusions to Run Men Off from College

Academic types have noticed that fewer young men are attending college, and those that do attend get into a lot of trouble. So they had a conference to talk about doing something about it. Here was their conclusion:
Edwards and Harris also recommended providing opportunities for critical self-reflection about what it means to be a man – “to disrupt the functioning of hegemonic masculinity” – including through facilitated student affairs programming and academic courses (a course in women’s studies, for instance). They recommended a need to build "cultural competence" for faculty and staff in issues of gender. While many in the audience lauded the transformative impact of small group discussions among men, one common point was the need for a facilitator who really understands gender dynamics.
Aaahhh, right. That will bring men running back to higher education. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Yeah, that's why I went to college -- to disrupt the function of hegemonic masculinity, to attend classes on womyn's studies, and to attend small group discussions with gender dynamic facilitators.

No, No, No.

Rasmussen Reports: Just 24% Favor Federal Bailout for California

Twenty-four percent (24%) of voters nationwide favor federal bailout funds for states like California that are encountering “serious financial problems.”

Forty-eight percent (48%) say it would be better for the economy to let California go bankrupt rather than provide federal bailouts. Just 38% said it would be better to provide federal subsidies so the state can continue to pay its bills and provide services.

Voters from outside the Golden State oppose federal loan guarantees by a 69% to 20% margin.

Voters have consistently opposed federal bailout funds for the auto industry, the banking industry and insurance companies. Looking back on the bailouts that were provided, most continue to believe they were a bad idea.

People keep saying NO! but no one is listening. The people have one opinion, the political elites are of a different opinion. All of these bailouts were a bad idea. I guess the industries involved have more lobbyists that regular taxpayers do.

Maybe regular citizens should band together and hire some lobbyists to advocate for us.

How did we get in the situation where we need lobbyists to lobby the people we supposedly put into office? Something's not right.

Buying Frenzy At The Fed

Fed’s Plosser Says Inflation to Increase, Warns of Complacency

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said prices may rise 2.5 percent in 2011, a rate well above central bankers’ preferred range, and cautioned against complacency on inflation.

Reiterating his call for an inflation target, the regional bank chief also said the Fed has potentially put its independence at risk with its responses to the crisis, by directly lending to non-financial institutions and buying asset- backed securities.

“We need to draw a bright line once again between monetary policy and fiscal policy,” Plosser said. “The recent crisis has muddied that separation considerably and we must restore it. The Fed must not be seen by the public or the Congress as a piggy bank that can substitute for difficult fiscal policy decisions.”

Fed Open to Buying More Securities

Some Federal Reserve officials are open to raising the amounts of mortgage and Treasury securities purchase programs beyond the $1.75 trillion that they have already committed to buying, according to minutes from the Fed’s April meeting.

Officials, meanwhile, projected an even deeper recession than they expected three months earlier and a more sluggish recovery over the next two years as labor markets remain under pressure.

Fed officials see the economy contracting between 1.3% and 2% this year, versus forecasts for only a 0.5%-1.3% decline in January.

Gross domestic product is only expected to advance 2% to 3% next year, which is below what officials thought in January. They also downgraded their 2011 forecasts, though they are still centered around a solid 3.5% to 4.8% rate of growth.

The unemployment rate is expected to end 2009 between 9.2% and 9.6%, significantly higher than what officials expected in January. One official expects it to reach 10% this year. It’s expected to stay above 9% in 2010, too.

Islamist Insurgency in Dagestan, Russia

What is being described as a full-scale Islamist insurgency is building in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan.

Russia recently ended its decade-long "counter-terrorism operation" against separatist rebels in the neighbouring republic of Chechnya, but the fighting has spilled into other regions.

New Corruption Probe of Rep. Murtha (D-Pa)

Members of Congress use our tax money to campaign for re-election. Murtha is more blatant than most. Why shouldn't he be? He has gotten away with it for decades, and has risen to the top of the House heirarchy, where he has a powerful position and is Speaker Pelosi's right hand man.

Justice Dept. probes contractor tied to Murtha

Feds examine company that doled out grants on Pa. lawmaker's behalf

Over the past five years, a local defense contractor with close ties to Rep. John P. Murtha, a Democrat who has represented southwestern Pennsylvania for three decades, has selected several small police departments in the region to receive $10 million in Justice Department grants.

The company, Mountaintop Technologies, was selected by the lawmaker in a series of earmarks to hand out and monitor the grants. As it distributed the money to the departments, the firm would explain each time that it was arriving through the largess of Murtha -- often just before fall elections.

The Justice Department investigation stems from an effort by Murtha's office to use earmarks to steer money to local police in 2002 and its choice of Mountaintop to oversee the funds. Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department, under a new presidential order, will block this kind of earmark in the future. The order bars earmarks that lawmakers do not publicly detail.

Is California America's Future?

State of Paralysis

California, it has long been claimed, is where the future happens first. But is that still true? If it is, God help America.

America’s projected deficits may sound large, yet it would take only a modest tax increase to cover the expected rise in interest payments — and right now American taxes are well below those in most other wealthy countries. The fiscal consequences of the current crisis, in other words, should be manageable.

But that presumes that we’ll be able, as a political matter, to act responsibly. The example of California shows that this is by no means guaranteed. And the political problems that have plagued California for years are now increasingly apparent at a national level.

To be blunt: recent events suggest that the Republican Party has been driven mad by lack of power. The few remaining moderates have been defeated, have fled, or are being driven out. What’s left is a party whose national committee has just passed a resolution solemnly declaring that Democrats are “dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals,” and released a video comparing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Pussy Galore.

And that party still has 40 senators.

So will America follow California into ungovernability? Well, California has some special weaknesses that aren’t shared by the federal government. In particular, tax increases at the federal level don’t require a two-thirds majority, and can in some cases bypass the filibuster. So acting responsibly should be easier in Washington than in Sacramento.

But the California precedent still has me rattled. Who would have thought that America’s largest state, a state whose economy is larger than that of all but a few nations, could so easily become a banana republic?

On the other hand, the problems that plague California politics apply at the national level too.