Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Texas Legislature Blinks

The Texas Legislature blinked Monday and passed a watered-down anti-groping bill that gives Transportation Security Administration agents carte blanche to continue groping travelers at Texas airports based on reasonable suspicion.
House Speaker Joe Straus had opposed the original bill that required a “probable cause” reason for the invasive pat-down procedure, dismissing it as a “publicity stunt.” But the fact that he favors this bill indicates just how toothless it is.
The Texas House had been scheduled to vote on the original version on June 24, but not enough representatives bothered to show up for the vote to constitute a quorum. In other words, Texas, the members of your Legislature, when faced with a choice between tyranny and standing up to a gangster government, tucked their tails and ran.
But even the watered-down version may not become law. The House and Senate must now reconcile their different versions — the House version is even weaker than the Senate’s — and must make it to Governor Rick Perry’s desk today.
Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), the chief sponsor of the bill, acknowledged it will be a challenge to get a bill to Perry by the deadline, according to a report in the Star-Telegram.
Perry has been lukewarm to the legislation at best. But Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has worked diligently with Straus to either kill the bill or remove its teeth.
Dewhurst will be trolling for votes soon as he runs for higher office, most likely for retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s seat. Texans need to remember that Dewhurst sided with the Federal government against freedom.
And anyone seriously considering supporting Perry for President needs to remember his silence on the anti-groping legislation.

Blood In The Streets

The headline above once pertained to bear markets and the pounding investors would take.* Nowadays, real blood is being spilled in Western democratic cities like Vancouver, Canada, and Athens, Greece. With America’s economy stuck in recession and with the dismal and arrogant leadership provided by President Barack Obama and Congress, it is not hard to imagine similar violence in American cities.
Such an idea would have seemed preposterous four years ago. But that was before the financial crisis of 2008. For three years, anger has been building — and not just in places like the Middle East where violence is as much a part of their culture as the Quran.
On June 15, riots broke out in Athens, the birthplace of democracy. On Tuesday, violence erupted again. The outbursts were ignited by further austerity measures ordered by the Greek government.
The free lunch Greek citizens have been getting for decades is being ripped off the table. The country has already gobbled up the first $139 billion European Union-led bailout. Any talks on a second bailout for Greece hinge on a further belt-tightening. The people of Greece, raised on socialist handouts, are in no mood to stay on a diet.
On June 15 and again Tuesday, protestors poured onto the streets throwing rocks at Parliament. Riot police finally quelled the unrest, but more violence is expected.
Last week, Greece was hit by rolling blackouts as workers at the main power utility began 48-hour rolling strikes to protest the company’s privatization, part of austerity plans needed to avoid a national debt default.
Selling off assets in the utility is a step the socialist government in Athens must take in its $71 billion privatization plan, which must be completed by 2015. The Greek people don’t want spending cuts and higher taxes. But the Greek Parliament is staring down the barrel of a gun. If it doesn’t implement changes by the end of the month, the country will not get the last $17 billion of bailout money.
To ease the crisis in Greece, EU finance ministers agreed to raise the amount of money they will provide for countries drowning in debt. The move is a last-ditch attempt to keep Greece’s financial crisis from spreading to Ireland and Portugal.
All of this has international bankers worried. Last week, Canada’s finance minister, Jim Flaherty, warned there is still “a real danger” of contagion from the ongoing debt crises in Europe, including the possibility of some damage to the country’s banking system.
“Canada is not an island — no country, any more, is an island — our economies are clearly interrelated,” Flaherty said at a breakfast appearance in Toronto following emergency discussions with other G7 countries.

It’s All Greek To Me

Flaherty should also worry about Canada’s homegrown rioters.  The same day Athens was burning, so was Vancouver.
On the evening of June 15, the team favored to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Vancouver Canucks, lost. The Cup went to the Boston Bruins, who did not cheat their way to the NHL Championship or get help from the referees. They simply were the better team.
Like most sports fans, I am often brokenhearted. At the conclusion of most seasons, I say, “Wait until next year!” But thousands of Vancouver Canuck fans didn’t say that. Instead, they said things like: “Let’s blow up cop cars; let’s beat up bystanders; and let’s throw bricks though windows!” And that is exactly what they did.
More than 100 rioters were arrested by Vancouver police; as many as 1,000 people could face criminal charges. The dragnet will be aided by the audacity of the looters who photographed and videotaped their rampage and then displayed it on social media websites like Facebook.
The physical cost for the few hours of rioting is more than $1 million, but experts say the long-term damage to Vancouver’s tourist industry could be billions of dollars.
As in Athens, the rioters in Vancouver were mostly gangs of youths bent on creating chaos. This begs two questions:
  1. What would happen in a city like Vancouver if the fledgling economic recovery collapses and the citizens face hardship?
  2. What are the chances this kind of violence will erupt in the United States?
On FoxNews.com, Bill O’Reilly wrote: “The question is: Could this kind of thing happen in America? And the answer is yes. About half the population here now believes income redistribution is the right thing to do. We’re setting the table for violence in this country. Once people start depending on the government for their livelihood, for essentials, and then those essentials are taken away, you’re going to have violence. Also, the more loons there are, the more potential for violence there is. Those anarchists want to burn down everything.
“So we can watch this stuff in Vancouver and Greece, but we shouldn’t think it can’t happen here. The pinheads in America are mounting.”

Before you dismiss O’Reilly as a fearmongering right-wing extremist, it is worth noting that someone on the far left is also frightened of chaos coming to America. Democratic strategist James Carville spoke out about civil unrest that might spring from a still-sick U.S. economy on Don Imus’ syndicated radio show, Imus in the Morning.
“(The recession) is a terrible thing that has happened to people’s lives… If 54,000 (new) jobs is the new norm – this is going to be very, very tough. Some people say it just might be one more thing. We don’t know.”
Carville added that the consequences of America’s continuing financial crisis will not be limited to politics, and he warned of civil unrest because of the bleak economic situation.
“People, you know, if it continues, we’re going to start to see civil unrest in this country. I hate to say that, but I think it’s eminently possible.”
Carville and O’Reilly have agreed on something. If you don’t believe in the possibility, you would have to be na├»ve. Economic collapse almost always leads to civil strife. What the Vancouver riots demonstrated is that citizens today are spoiled and think they are entitled to whatever they expect.
I have a feeling the world’s staggering economic recovery is about to fall over dead. And not just for Greece. When that occurs, punks like those who rioted in Vancouver will have a lot more to be upset about than the fact their hockey team didn’t win.

Regulatory reform restart

As the country emerges from one of the most serious economic downturns in recent history, the last thing we need are more regulations that impose heavy burdens on job creators. One way to get Americans back to work is by removing excessive and costly regulations that make it harder for businesses to grow.
It appears in the early going that the Obama administration’s executive order requiring a review of existing regulations “that are out of date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules” has encouraged some regulatory agencies to make recommendations that will save businesses time, money, headaches and resources. But more must be done.
That’s because the order exempts from review the huge flow of regulations in the pipeline generated by the health care and financial reform laws as well as the large number of major rules generated by the Environmental Protection Agency in the past two years.
This enormous onslaught of new regulations could well cost hundreds of billions of dollars, hamper our recovery, undermine our competitiveness and cost jobs. The regulations are being promulgated under the same system that generated the ones the administration found necessary to review. The “look back” plans do not appear to fix this problem.
If we don’t take the necessary steps now, our competitiveness and the success of America’s small businesses - the job engines of our economy - are at risk. Businesses with fewer than 20 employees incur regulatory costs 42 percent higher than companies with up to 500 employees. The average regulatory cost for each employee of a small business exceeds $10,000 per year. The Small Business Administration priced the total cost of federal regulation compliance at $1.75 trillion in 2008 - amounting to $15,000 for each U.S. household.
Consider the case of Ronald Myers, the former owner of Hot Shot Equipment Co. in Prescott, Ariz. Mr. Myers was forced to shut down his iron gate manufacturing shop because overly burdensome workplace safety and health regulations prevented metalworking from being done by hand. Unable to compete against foreign suppliers, he had no other choice than to let his workers go and close his business.
Make no mistake, we need some regulations. Businesses require certainty and “rules of the road,” and we need adequate protections for health and public safety. But when regulations suck the vitality out of our economy, it’s time we take a hard look at restoring balance and accountability to the process.
First, Congress should wrestle back the unprecedented power that it has yielded to bureaucratic agencies in the past few decades.
Today, nearly all major regulations go into effect without the people’s representatives in Congress ever voting on them. Congress needs to play a larger role by exercising more vigorous oversight regarding the implementation of the sweeping laws that it passes.
A good place to start would be to pass legislation pending in Congress to guarantee an up-or-down vote, with no Senate filibuster, on regulations with an economic impact of more than $100 million.
Second, we need more rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Major rule proposals should require independent verification and public disclosure of economic and employment impact studies. Existing rules should be reviewed periodically by independent parties, and those deemed ineffective or unnecessary should be phased out.
Finally, citizens should have the judicial access and tools they need to hold federal agencies accountable for limiting regulatory burdens and for using sound science to support proposed rules. With appropriate access to courts, citizens help enforce transparency, check bureaucratic power and hold government decision-makers accountable.
We need to restore balance, restraint and common sense to the regulatory process. It’s time to open America for business again.

Walter Russell Mead Takes On Al Gore, and Scores a Devastating Knockout!

Can anyone doubt that Walter Russell Mead is now our country’s most authoritative and brilliant essayist? In a series of three lengthy columns — two of which are now out — Mead takes on and destroys any pretentions to credibility that Al Gore may still have had. They appear on Mead’s blog at The American Interest. You can read part I here, and part deux, as he calls it, here.
Let me whet your appetite by reproducing the best paragraph from his first entry. In part one, Mead takes up the issue of Gore’s well noted hypocrisy. He writes:
But you cannot be a leading environmentalist who hopes to lead the general public into a long and difficult struggle for sacrifice and fundamental change if your own conduct is so flagrantly inconsistent with the green gospel you profess. If the heart of your message is that the peril of climate change is so imminent and so overwhelming that the entire political and social system of the world must change, now, you cannot fly on private jets. You cannot own multiple mansions. You cannot even become enormously rich investing in companies that will profit if the policies you advocate are put into place.
Later he adds:
But grave as that danger is, Al Gore can consume more carbon than whole villages in the developing world. He can consume more electricity than most African schools, incur more carbon debt with one trip in a private plane than most of the earth’s toiling billions will pile up in a lifetime — and he doesn’t worry. A father of four, he can lecture the world on the perils of overpopulation. Surely, skeptics reason, if the peril were as great as he says and he cares about it as much as he claims, Gore’s sense of civic duty would call him to set an example of conspicuous non-consumption. This general sleeps in a mansion, and lectures the soldiers because they want tents.
In his second installment, Mead takes up the question of why Gore’s star has fallen so fast, and why very few people at present take him seriously — even his own previous followers. The answer, Mead reveals, is the complete failure of the green movement’s own political agenda. Mead explains:
Gore’s failures are not just about leadership. The strategic vision he crafted for the global green movement has comprehensively failed. That is no accident; the entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts. Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable. The only question was whether the comprehensive green meltdown would occur before or after the movement achieved its core political goal of a comprehensive and binding global agreement on greenhouse gasses.
That question has now been answered; the movement failed before it got its treaty, and while the media and the establishment have still generally failed to analyze these developments and draw the consequences, the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore.
As for the idea of a world-wide global green treaty, Mead comments as follows:
The global green treaty movement to outlaw climate change is the most egregious folly to seize the world’s imagination since the Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war in the late 1920s. The idea that the nations of the earth could agree on an enforceable treaty mandating deep cuts in their output of all greenhouse gasses is absurd. A global treaty to meet Mr. Gore’s policy goals isn’t a treaty: the changes such a treaty requires are so broad and so sweeping that a GGCT is less a treaty than a constitution for global government. Worse, it is a constitution for a global welfare state with trillions of dollars ultimately sent by the taxpayers of rich countries to governments (however feckless, inept, corrupt or tyrannical) in poor ones.
The end result of his critique is that Al Gore is revealed as nothing less than a demagogue in professorial clothes, whose “method of arguing is to trumpet the science of climate change and to make ad hominem arguments against its opponents.” His method is to predict “an ever-crescendoing invocation of blizzards, droughts, locusts and floods” that “aims to stampede the populace into embracing one of the most dubious and unworkable policy prescriptions ever presented to the public eye.”
Gore, Mead concludes, “overstates what is known, disregards the inherent uncertainties involved in the study of a complex system like the climate, understates the significance of the remaining gray areas, and demagogues the science to get more out of it than his case really merits.”
The poor guy. His current essay in a recent issue of Rolling Stone is relegated to the back pages, where few will bother to find it or read it. Its editors know that to feature Gore is to lose sales. And now that Walter Russell Mead has decided to take him on, I predict that Gore will quickly hide out in the boondocks and concentrate on trying to get people to watch Keith Olbermann on his TV channel.
I, for one, look forward to Mead’s third essay on what Gore gets wrong about American democracy. It will be the final knockout.

Corruption Feeds Crises Worldwide

What links the Arab Spring rebellions with political agitation in China and at least another five dozen simmering or emerging crises?
If your answer is "the Internet," you have identified one of the key information technologies that spread the flames. However, the common human fire in these disparate struggles is intense disgust with embedded corruption.
Tyrants maintain control by isolating and intimidating their subjects. However, since the advent of the printing press and increasing public literacy, preserving tyrannical isolation has become a bit more difficult.
Over time, subjects become aware of social, cultural, economic and political alternatives to the despot's rule, despite the despot's propaganda. Just how deeply West German television influenced East German resistance to communism is debatable, but the Iron Curtain could not hide the overwhelming evidence of Western affluence and the West's ability to occasionally remove corrupt leaders.
Communist elite corruption amidst systemic economic failure certainly influenced resistance throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The special stores and vacation homes enjoyed by Communist Party favorites infuriated workers denied similar access. East European workers knew that they were industrialized serfs in handcuffed societies falling further and further behind Western European nations. In 1989, when the Russians concluded the Eastern European security forces could not -- or would not -- shoot everyone, the Berlin Wall cracked.
Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution (January 2011) had echoes of 1989. Tunisian security forces were reluctant to fire on demonstrators complaining about lack of jobs and an oligarchy of wealthy families and government officials who had rigged the system for their mutual benefit -- in other words, systemic corruption benefiting favored constituencies to the persistent detriment of everyone else.
Tunisia's comparatively well-educated (though underemployed) population, thanks to the Internet as well as travel, knew there were alternatives. They understood how the corrupt system stunted their own ability to create wealth.
Twenty-first century tyrants and their loyalists can still intimidate. Iran's Khomeinists, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi have crack troops and vicious secret police, and make savvy use of proxy thugs, gangsters and terrorists. However, they no longer enjoy the advantage of deep, permanent silence. The Internet and cell phones put the power of the printing press, telegraph, radio, and television literally in the hands of individuals.
This is why Beijing's communists police the Internet so vigorously. Information alone does not end the tyranny and stop the intimidation, but since backpack video cameras began televising slaughter in real time, we have seen the dynamic. Slaughter exposed provokes outrage, which escalates internal resistance and increases external political pressures on the perpetrators.
Harsher crackdowns might assure short-term regime survival, but that might lead to calls for forceful international intervention. Liberalization, to include anti-corruption drives, might weaken the regime. Losing the benefits of the regime's corruption machine risks angering or alienating favored cronies, tribes, co-religionists or kinsmen.
Iran's clerics came to power claiming they would end the Shah's corruption. Absolute power, however, corrupts absolutely. The Khomeinist regime is now more despotic and more venally corrupt than the Shah's. Discontent in Iran focuses on the regime's corruption and economic failure.
These same complaints, with local variations, appear worldwide. Political and judicial bribery undermine Mexico's complex war on drug cartels, which is one reason Mexican President Felipe Calderon emphasizes systemic reform. Popular anger at corrupt Communist officials and police fuels dissent in China. Tribal cronyism and debilitating government corruption spurred Kenya's chaotic post-election conflict in January 2008.
Corruption, to a degree, afflicts every society, organization and soul. Corruption's public and political manifestations -- the Arab Spring rebellions have focused on graft, theft, bribery, embezzlement and nepotism -- are symptoms of avarice and ambition.
The Italian poet Francesco Petrarch identified avarice and ambition as two of the five great enemies of peace resident in the human condition (envy, anger and pride being the other three). Corruption is innate to the human condition. To paraphrase Walt Kelly's cartoon character, Pogo, the enemy is us. This is the point where open, democratic systems governed by the rule of law assert their moral and creative superiority -- what the East Europeans noticed.
In free societies, sometimes justice calls the most-powerful elites to account. Crooked leaders, executives and even celebrities, along with their connected lackeys, really do go to jail.

Rage Against the TSA Machine

The backdrop for my favorite science-fiction novels, Frank Herbert's "Dune" series, is something called the Butlerian Jihad. Some 10,000 years before the main events of the story take place, humanity rebelled against "thinking machines" -- intelligent computers -- controlling people's lives. The revolution was sparked because a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler.
I bring this up because I'm wondering why we can't have a Weberian Jihad.
Its namesake would be Jean Weber, a woman whose 105-pound, 95-year-old Florida mother was forced by airport security to remove her adult diaper in compliance with a body search. Weber's mother is dying of leukemia. She did not have another clean diaper for her trip.
The Transportation Security Administration belatedly denied forcing the removal of the diaper. Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the TSA, insisted that the agency was sensitive and respectful in dealing with travelers, but she also told the Northwest Florida Daily News that procedures have to be the same for everyone: "TSA cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability."
That's apparently why Drew Mandy, a 29-year-old disabled man with the mental capacity of a 2-year-old, had his 6-inch plastic toy hammer yanked from him by TSA on his way to Disney World. Mandy used the hammer as a security blanket of sorts. But the TSA agents insisted it could be used as a weapon. "It just killed me to have to throw it away because he's been carrying this, like, for 20 years," Mandy's father told WJBK in Detroit. What his dad doesn't understand is that if Islamic terrorists can't have plastic toy hammers, no one can.
Mandy's father says he wrote to the TSA and got an apology and a promise that agents would be retrained, but horror stories like these keep mounting. I'd tell you how thorough the TSA search was of blogger and advice columnist Amy Alkon (who collects such tales), but this is a family newspaper. Suffice it to say, your government left nothing to chance.
And that's what brought to mind "Dune's" Butlerian Jihad. The holy war against machines was also a war against a mind-set. "The target of the jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines," a character explains. "Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments." In the aftermath, a new commandment was promulgated: "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."
It seems the first commandment of the TSA is that every mind must be trained in the likeness of a machine. "Garbage in, garbage out," is how computer programmers explain the way bad outputs are determined by bad inputs. Likewise, if TSA workers are programmed not to use common sense or discretion -- surprise! -- TSA workers won't use common sense or discretion.
Why not? One reason is we've institutionalized an irrational phobia against anything smacking of racial or religious profiling. Once you've decided that disproportionate scrutiny of certain groups is verboten, you'll have to hassle everyone equally. Thus we're told that a 95-year-old woman's diaper is just as likely to be the front line in the war on terror as a 22-year-old Pakistani's backpack.
Defenders of the TSA insist we can't abandon such mindlessness because if we do, clever terrorists will start using adult diapers as IEDs. Others say we know that profiling isn't effective because the Israelis don't use it.
Both lines of argument assume security personnel cannot be trusted to be much more than automatons, mindlessly acting on bureaucratic programming. If that's true of the current personnel, it's not because it has to be.
In fact, the reason the Israelis don't do simple profiling is that they use intelligent profiling conducted by highly intelligent screeners. At Ben Gurion International Airport, everyone's interviewed by security. Some are questioned at length, others quickly. The controlling variable is the "living judgment" -- to borrow a phrase from "Dune's" Herbert -- of the interviewers, and not wildly expensive full-body scanners and inflexible checklists.
Does anyone think that the personnel searching Jean Weber's mother honestly thought there might be a threat? Or is it more likely they were, machine-like, just doing what their garbage-in programming dictated?

Christie Signs Bill Reining in Employee Benefits

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed landmark employee benefits legislation requiring a half-million public workers to pay more for pension and health benefits.
Christie says the move is necessary to shore up the state's badly underfunded retirement systems. He predicts New Jersey's fix will be emulated nationally by other states facing similar shortfalls.
The Republican governor says the bill he signed Tuesday got through the Legislature because of bipartisan support.
Democrats who lead the Legislature supported it. But most rank-and-file lawmakers sided with public-sector unions in opposing it.
The bill puts benefits for teachers, police and other public workers more in line with the private sector.
More than 8,000 demonstrated at the Capitol last week in the last of three union-sponsored protests.

Glenn Beck’s Wife Attacked in NYC Park

Glenn Beck says his family was accosted while watching a movie in a New York City park Monday night. On his radio show and his website today, Beck described the incident and said an angry moviegoer kicked a glass of wine onto his wife Tania’s back, and as she got up to walk away, a man shouted: “We hate conservatives here.”
“We didn’t leave. My staff this morning said: ‘Why didn’t you leave right away.’ That was uncomfortable,” Beck said, as he described the incident, which occurred while he and his family were watching a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” in New York’s Bryant Park. “I said because I have a right to watch a movie and enjoy a movie with my family in the park. I have a right.”

Beck said while he doesn’t expect “a warm welcome in New York City,” what bothered him “was the cowardly behavior of the hateful crowd,” he wrote on his website, glennbeck.com.

“Courage doesn’t come from a bag or a bottle — courage doesn’t come in mobs,” Beck said. “Courage comes alone, quietly. You won’t be drunk and you won’t be in a mob at the ultimate test of courage. You will be alone.

“It’s mob mentality,” he said. “People are braver when it’s in a bag or a bottle, and when they’re in the majority. All I can think of about the people around me all night is that I feel sorry for you — I really feel sorry for you.

"You are so arrogant and so convinced that you are absolutely 100 percent right and you are helping build a system that is fueled by hate.

“I swear to you I think, if I had suggested, and I almost did, ‘Wow, does anybody have a rope? Because there’s tree here. You could just lynch me.’ And I think there would have been a couple in the crowd that would have.”

Central Bankers: Dollar Will Lose Global Reserve Currency Status

The U.S. dollar is poised to lose its status as the global reserve currency during the next 25 years, according to a UBS survey of central bank reserve managers.

“Right now there is great concern out there around the financial trajectory that the US is on,” said Larry Hatheway, chief economist at UBS, told the Financial Times, because the dollar has dropped 5 percent so far this year, and is trading close to its lowest ever level against a basket of the world’s major currencies.

This survey stands in sharp contrast to those conducted in previous years, in which the central bank reserve managers said the dollar would retain its status as the sole reserve currency.

UBS queried more than 80 central bank reserve managers, sovereign wealth funds and multilateral institutions. The results pf the survey weren't weighted for assets under management.

The poll findings also indicate a growing role for gold bullion, with 6 percent of those surveyed saying the biggest change in their reserves during the next decade would be adding more gold.

This also contrasts with polls done in previous years, in which none of those surveyed indicated making significant sales of gold in the next decade.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Obama Pushes $600 Billion in New Taxes in Debt Talks

President Barack Obama threw the talks on the debt ceiling crisis into turmoil on Monday afternoon by proposing a $600 billion tax hike before even meeting with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Just as Democrats and Republicans seemed to be inching toward an agreement that would stave off the prospect of a default on the nation’s debts, Obama introduced a measure that is sure to have the GOP howling in opposition.

The new wrench in the works drew scorn from conservatives.

"The Democrats’ insistence on touting their desire to 'end tax breaks to oil and gas companies' is becoming quite tiresome," wrote Andrew Stiles at the National Review's website. "It’s basically their only specific new tax proposal, but would amount to saving of just $21 billion over a decade. That’s a long way to $600 billion."

Other conservatives ridiculed the idea that the White House could be taking such a proposal seriously.

"The White House has proposed raising about $600 billion in new tax revenue, including ending subsidies to oil and gas companies, an idea that failed in the Senate," wrote Bryan Preston at the conservative PJ Tattler blog on Pajamas Media.

"It failed in a Democrat-controlled Senate, and with good reason: It’s a terrible idea. I was at first tempted to post a hoary old Admiral Ackbar – “It’s a trap!” graphic on this story, but it doesn’t really merit that," Preston continued. "Calling it a trap at least implies that the GOP might fall for it. Honestly, I don’t see that happening. So if it’s not a trap, what is this? For one thing, it’s the Democrats’ answer to everything. For another, it’s class warfare, which is also the Democrats’ answer to everything."

The move came as Republicans signaled that they were finally prepared to talk about cuts to military spending, one of the major roadblocks to agreement.

“When we say everything is on the table, that’s what we mean,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said before Obama’s announcement.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the tax proposals after Obama met Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday morning. He is due to meet McConnell later in the day in a bid to find “common ground.” It is the first time the president has personally gotten involved in the debt ceiling talks.

Carney said the president is still hopeful that the two sides can come to an agreement but said Republicans have to realize that some taxes must go up. "It's the only way to get it done," Carney said.

Among Obama’s proposals are an end to tax breaks for big companies and the richest and taxing equity and hedge fund managers on income tax rates rather than capital gains tax rates.

Other changes include changing depreciation rules on corporate jets, limiting itemized deductions for the wealthy and repealing a tax benefit that companies use for inventory accounting.

Earlier the Republicans were making it clear that such tax increases are the only point on which there can be no negotiation, so Obama’s move seems almost assured to stall the talks once more. McConnell said, "It is my hope that the president will take those off the table today so that we can have a serious discussion about our country's economic future."

The president has just five weeks to bring the two sides to an agreement that will allow the country to raise the $14.3 trillion ceiling before August 2 or risk defaulting on its debts. Last week, bipartisan talks led by Vice President Joe Biden fell apart when the GOP representatives walked out.

House Speaker John Boehner insisted the increase in the limit must be offset with spending cuts without any tax hikes.

"These are the realities of the situation," he said. "If the president and his allies want the debt limit increased, it is only going to happen via a measure that meets these tests."

And McConnell added, “Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is not going to produce a desirable result, and it won't pass. Putting aside that Republicans don't like to raise taxes, Democrats don't either."

For the Democrats, Carney said, "We won't support an approach that gives millionaires and billionaires $200,000 tax cuts annually while 33 seniors pay for that with $6,000 per person increase in their Medicare costs.”

Biden had been leading the talks that had involved Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl on the GOP side and Sens. Max Baucus and Daniel Inouye and Reps. James Clyburn and Chris Van Holland for the Democrats. But they came to a screeching halt when Cantor walked out on Thursday and Kyl followed.

Carney said the involvement of the president, and the leaders of the two parties in both the Senate and the House had always been inevitable. "It is not as though this negotiating group could simply declare into law what they agreed on,” he said. “The process was always going to have to proceed out of the negotiating room and move forward with the engagement of the speaker, Senate leaders, the House minority leader, the president, et cetera."

Before the president’s statement, both sides seemed to be softening. Republicans had started to talk of military cuts in recent days, especially as troops prepare to leave both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Previously defense spending had been seen as non-negotiable within the GOP. But news stories that have revealed the military is spending $20 billion a year in air conditioning costs alone have suggested there is room for cuts at the Pentagon.

Freshman GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an active-duty Air National Guardsman who flew missions in Iraq, acknowledged in the Washington Post that defense spending is “a pillar of Republican strength.” But he added, “Look, I know there are sacred cows, but we cannot afford them anymore,”

And another Republican, Rep. Robert Hurt of Virginia added, “I would never support anything that would reduce the safety of the troops on the ground. But bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and there are ways to get at it, even in the Pentagon.”

The Democrats moved too. Before he left the talks, Cantor had even praised them for finding $2 trillion in cuts over 10 years.

Now the prospect of any agreement leaves Boehner with the most to lose. Many pundits believe Cantor’s decision to quit the talks was a politically motivated bid to score points with tea party members and other conservatives in the GOP.

“The speaker is now politically exposed to fire from every direction as he goes into the final phase of negotiations with President Obama and the Democrats,” Fox News analyst Juan Williams wrote in The Hill.

Williams had harsh words for Cantor, saying he “threw Boehner under the bus,” by leaving the talks and telling The Wall Street Journal before informing leaders of his own party. “Now there is a new and profoundly rude way to announce a political divorce,” wrote Williams.

“The bottom line is that Cantor’s decision to abdicate any pretense of being a political leader set a trap for Boehner.”

The political implications are also huge for Obama, who won’t want to go into next year’s election as the president who allowed the country to default.

A Gallup poll last week showed his approval rating has slumped to 45 percent, trailing his disapproval rating of 48 percent. A poll from The Hill earlier this month showed 48 percent of likely voters believe he has hurt the economy, and only 41 percent think he’s helped it.

Obama Administration to Make Calls to Set-up Fake Doctor's Appointments

The Obama administration is working on a $350,000 program that would enlist government-hired contractors to call doctor's offices and set-up fake appointments.
The goal would be for callers to see how long it takes to get an appointment, if they're accepted at all, and then see whether kind of insurance - private or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid -- has an influence on getting in to see a doctor. The administration would then use the data to assess why there's a shortage in primary care physicians.
The details were first reported by the New York Times Monday, with a lot of specificity including the states where the calls would be targeted, and even a script of a sample call.
The story noted 465 calls would be made to nine states, totaling 4,185 attempted fake appointments to Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. There would be at least two phone calls - one where the fake patient has private insurance and one call where he or she has public insurance. A small percentage would then be called a third time when it would be revealed the call is on behalf of the government.
Callers would dial from a blocked number, and follow a script, as reported by the New York Times:
Mystery shopper: "Hi, my name is Alexis Jackson, and I'm calling to schedule the next available appointment with Dr. Michael Krane. I am a new patient with a P.P.O. from Aetna. I just moved to the area and don't yet have a primary doctor, but I need to be seen as soon as possible." Doctor's office: "What type of problem are you experiencing?" Mystery shopper: "I've had a cough for the last two weeks, and now I'm running a fever. I've been coughing up thick greenish mucus that has some blood in it, and I'm a little short of breath."
When asked in Monday's White House briefing how the "stealth" operation could be so "stealth" with so many details already revealed, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn't see that as a concern.
"I think it's important to point out that this is a proposal, there will be public hearings, hasn't happened yet. We will look at this and decide after comment from all quarters about moving forward."
Carney also noted that this practice has been used by previous administrations, including George W. Bush's, who was looking into Medicare Advantage. The White House also points to the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Trade Commission using similar undercover-type techniques.
Former Deputy Health and Human Secretary under George W. Bush, Tevi Troy, says the program is going a bit too far.
"It's clearly creepy, why is the federal government spending $350,000 dollars on some kind of James Bond spy program. The real problem is that doctors don't like the impositions that the government makes in terms of payment, practice and process when you deal with the government. When you take Medicare and Medicaid patients, and if you want to address this issue, what they should do is try to fix the problem rather than spy on doctors," Troy said.
He adds that he worked under the Medicare Advantage program and said it was different - these new rounds of calls aren't looking for fraud and theirs was a quality control issue.
The program is expected to start in a few months and the administration reportedly signed on with National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to help gather the information.
Dr. Marc Siegel is part of Fox News' medical "A-team" and noted how elderly patients have more medical problems and harder to take care of and that the government knows they will be restricted.
He adds that finding out that a doctor would prefer to see a private patient doesn't help.
"There is no way they can show anything accurate by doing this except making us more upset," Siegel said.

Billionaire George Soros Trying To Stack the Courts, Critics Say

Billionaire George Soros spends tens of millions each year supporting a range of liberal social and political causes, from drug legalization to immigration reform to gay marriage to abolishing the death penalty.
But a less well-known Soros priority -- replacing elections for judges with selection-by-committee -- now has critics accusing him of trying to stack the courts.
Most non-federal judges around the country are selected by voters in elections. But some states use a process called “merit selection” in which a committee – often made up of lawyers – appoints judges to the bench instead.
Soros has spent several million dollars in the past decade in an attempt to get more states to scrap elections and adopt the merit method. Supporters say it would allow judges to focus on interpreting the law rather than on raising campaign funds and winning elections.
“Merit selection would end the money race and get judges out of the fundraising business,” Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts -- a group that has received money from Soros’ Open Society Institute -- told FoxNews.com.
But critics say that if judges are picked by committee -- often, a committee of lawyers -- that will give left-wing judges the upper hand.
“The left can’t get their agenda through the legislatures anymore … so they think they can get their agenda through by taking over the courts,” attorney Colleen Pero, author of a new report titled "Hijacking Justice," told FoxNews.com.
Pero’s report found that Soros, through his Open Society Institute fund, has given $45 million over the last decade to “a campaign to reshape the judiciary.” But that number is hotly contested by Justice at Stake, the group that got the most Soros money.
“It’s a horrendously bogus distortion of numbers,” Charlie Hall, a spokesman for Justice at Stake, told FoxNews.com. Hall said the $45 million figure included groups that dealt with legal issues but had no position on merit selection. He added that he could only identify $2 million from Soros that went to groups that actively support replacing elections with “merit selection.”
In an analysis of the Open Society Institute's tax returns from the last ten years, FoxNews.com found more than $5 million was explicitly earmarked for projects about either "merit selection" or "judicial selection."
For example, OSI reported giving $90,000 to Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts in 2007 to "expand and grow a coalition in support of merit selection." It also reported giving $50,000 to Justice at Stake in 2006 to support "public education regarding merit selection."
OSI gave another $7 million-plus to Justice at Stake, or to partner organizations with specific directions to support JAS's activities.
Some recipients of Soros' money were eager to defend “merit selection,” and said they only wished Soros would give more money to the cause. "We are very grateful for their support of our efforts," Marks said. Her group received more than $500,000 over the last decade, but has not received money from OSI since 2008.
Elections, she added, discourage competent lawyers from becoming judges just because they aren’t good politicians. “They don't put their name in for nominations because they think they don't have the political connections or access to dollars.”
And judges, she said, should be kept apart from political forces. “Judges should resolve disputes based on evidence -- they're not supposed to be responsive to public pressure.”
But Pero pointed to a study by prominent law professors that found elected judges were, if anything, more independent and took on larger workloads than judges appointed by committee.
"We began this project with the assumption that the data would demonstrate that appointed judges are better than elected judges," the authors note, adding that after looking at their result: "It may be that elected judges are, indeed, superior to appointed judges."
And, Pero says, “merit selection” is inherently undemocratic.
"It would be a handful lawyers who would select judges… with elections, the people actually have a say."
Marks said it is wrong to call the merit selection un-democratic.
"Merit selection requires a change in the Constitution, so a bill must... go before the public. So when people say, ‘oh, you're changing the way we vote’ -- yes, but only if the people want to change the way we vote."


 

The UN's Terrible Record on Human Rights

A few blocks from the White House, what the State Department defines as a modern form of slavery is taking place every night in the form of sex trafficking. A CNN series -- called The Freedom Project – recently highlighted the trafficking network, a multi-million dollar business thriving on women and children, most of whom are immigrants.

“If President Obama had walked out his front door at two or three in the morning, he would go two blocks away, and he would see traffickers forcing girls and women out into the streets, every night, right here in the United States,” said Tina Frundt, a former sex slave who founded Courtney’s House, a non-profit organization that helps girls who have been victims of human or sex trafficking.

And while the United States leads the way on genuinely working to eliminate these kinds of networks, many other countries stand silent or complicit. Many corrupt governments that retain good standing in the United Nations do little to combat human trafficking, a violation of natural rights against humanity.  Part of the failure to curb the trafficking problem is a failure to understand the difference between human rights and natural rights, which are endowed by God.

Iran Threatens Turkey, Reveals Missile Silos

Iranian regime-run site Entekhab reports:
According to sources close to the Iranian regime, who were interviewed by Al-Manar [Hezbollah affiliated TV run out of Lebanon], Iran’s resolve is as strong as a rock and defending Damascus is as much of a priority as defending Beirut and Tehran. … Tehran does not meddle in any of the events taking place in Syria.
Quoting the Iraqi daily newspaper Al-Akhbar, Entekhab wrote:
Tehran has threatened Turkey by announcing that Iran will bomb every single NATO and U.S. base in Turkey, should they allow any attacks on Syria to be launched from within Turkish soil. The Iranian regime believes protecting Syria to be as important as protecting both Lebanon and Iran.
Though Iranian regime officials have claimed that this threat has not affected Turkish-Iranian relations, there are reports that privately a number of Turkish officials are extremely incensed by the Iranian regime’s belligerence. So far, neither Iran nor Turkey has publicly commented on this matter.
I revealed on May 9 that Ayatollah Khamenei held a covert meeting in Tehran with commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, representatives of the Syrian embassy, members of Hezbollah, and leaders of the Sadr movement. There, he demanded that all operational and logistic forces be applied in order to stamp out the blaze of sedition in Syria and to destroy those who are enemies of God in that country. The Iranian supreme leader called the Syrian protesters an enemy of God who are plotting against Islam. One week after that meeting, reports from sources within Iran indicated a dispatch of Guard forces to Damascus via four planes filled with guns, ammunition, and other military equipment.
The Iranian leaders are extremely worried about the situation in Syria as the fall of the Assad government will be a big blow to the Islamic regime in Tehran. Syria has provided the gateway for the expansion of the Iranian terror networks needed to influence the events in the Middle East, and a change in Syria could mean the start of the demise of radicals in Iran.
Interestingly, on Monday June 27, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps began a 10-day major missile war game, code named Great Prophet 6. During the war game, the domestically manufactured short-range, medium-range, and long-range missiles, consisting of the Qiam, Shahab, and Sejil missiles, will be test-fired. The latest military achievements by the IRGC will be unveiled — which includes underground missile silos that were revealed for the first time on Monday.
Iranian state TV footage showed deep underground missile silos, including images of missiles being fired from one silo after a large metal roof opened to facilitate the launch. They claim that the Iranian missiles stored in them are now ready to hit targets should there be any threat or aggression by the enemy. A Guards’ officer further claimed that Iran has “numerous” underground missile silos, which satellites can’t detect. Other officers from the Guards stated that only a few countries in the world possess the technology to construct underground missile silos. The technology required for that is as complicated as building the missile itself. The missiles in these silos are permanently mounted in the vertical position and ready to be launched on a moment’s notice, making it much harder for the U.S. or its allies to detect and destroy the site before the launch.
The West ignores or seems to not understand the danger that the radicals in Iran pose to the stability and security of the world. Soon those missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads, and this will be checkmate.

Shock: Iran Defense Minister — One of Interpol’s Most Wanted — Meets with U.S.

On Saturday, June 18, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi started his two-day visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Mr. Vahidi, who served as the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence unit and later as the commander of the Quds Force, has been involved in worldwide terrorism against America and Israel for years. He established ties with al-Qaeda and expanded his network of terrorism, which was then fully established through the auspices of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. These collaborations resulted in several major terrorist attacks, including the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 and the Jewish community center bombing in Argentina in 1994, which earned him a spot on Interpol’s most-wanted list.
However, Mr. Vahidi was warmly welcomed by the Afghan officials and held several meetings with Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghan Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili, and Afghan President Karzai. In every meeting, Mr. Vahidi blamed America for all the problems facing Afghanistan and blasted U.S. plans for the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan, warning that Washington seeks to strengthen its hegemony in the region. He further stated that:
If Americans were wise, they would avoid causing long-term trouble for themselves by trying to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan.
An informed source within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps reports that Mr. Vahidi also held secret talks with an American delegation consisting of political and military officials. According to the source, the Americans discussed Iran’s potential role in helping with stability and security in Afghanistan, while Vahidi insisted on Iran’s position of a speedy removal of U.S. forces and a rejection of U.S. plans for establishing permanent bases in Afghanistan.
Though much of the details of the meeting are not known, this serves as another black spot on America’s policy of negotiating with jihadists, who have sworn to do all they can to destroy America and Israel.
Interesting to note: just two days after the meeting, President Obama announced plans to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It appears that Iran is dictating events — and the U.S. is obliging.
President Obama also took a gamble during the Iranian uprising of 2009, when he turned his back on the Iranians who turned out in the millions and risked their lives to overthrow their regime. As he did two years ago, Obama continues with his policy of appeasement, hoping his overtures will result in better terms with the jihadists ruling Iran. Yet the Iranian leaders see every overture as a sign of weakness: see how Iran has accelerated their nuclear bomb project. They are openly mocking President Obama’s failed policies of appeasement and sanctions.
Instead of meeting with the Iranian defense minister, the U.S. forces in Afghanistan should have arrested Vahidi in order to honor the dictates of Interpol’s most-wanted list. The Iranian leaders should be given the message: we will not tolerate terrorism, and we will bring justice to those responsible for killing our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
After Mr. Vahidi’s triumphant visit to Afghanistan, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, emboldened by America’s weaknesses, lashed out again: he said the continued presence of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan is the primary reason for the problems in that country.
At the same time, the Iranian Quds Force continues to train and arm Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and the Shiite militias in Iraq. A recent report by the Iraqi National Intelligence service which has been presented to the Iraqi officials specifically highlights the Quds Force’s activities in Iraq, and states that the analysis shows the training operations are taking place in four different locations in Iran: Qom, Tehran, Mashhad, and Ahvaz. These maneuvers are overseen by Major General Qassem Suleimani, who is the chief commanding officer of the Quds (or Jerusalem) Force. The operations are also supervised and sanctioned by Khamenei.
The report elaborates further that the Iranian Quds Force specifically recruits individuals who are deemed loyal to Iraq, and not only trains them but provides them with light weapons, explosives, mortar shells the size of RPG 20s, and bombs. They also connect these individuals to other pertinent terrorist cells. The report also includes a list of Iraqi government officials and judges who are, or were, targeted for assassination.
Members of these special forces are responsible for a string of bombings (which included the use of smart bombs), which targeted six Iraqi Al-Rasafah Supreme Court judges and led to the eventual assassination of the chief justice.
It has been reported that the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, sent a message to the U.S. generals in Iraq saying that Iran controls the events in Iraq and it looks like Iran now intends to do the same in Afghanistan.
Mr. Vahidi’s trip to Afghanistan demonstrates: not only do the Iranian leaders ignore international law, but the weakness of America and the international community emboldens terrorists.
Because of my personal journey as a CIA spy in the Iranian Guards, I have become outspoken about the radicals ruling Iran. They intend to bring great harm to the West, and they truly believe it is their duty to do so — because Allah has commanded it. We cannot and should not take this threat lightly.
Mr.Vahdi has plans to make a similar trip to Iraq.

Pravda on the Potomac: Washington Post Again Covers for Gov’t on Gunwalker

Washington Post writer Sari Horwitz came off a three-month plagiarism suspension just in time to run an Obama administration-shopped smear of Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who has been instrumental in exposing Operation Fast and Furious.
The administration’s surrogates are doing their best to suppress the story, and the Post is emerging as their primary media defender. The plot to smear Issa failed miserably and backfired, in that it exposed the Post as a rabidly partisan rag that would run smears turned down by left-wing blogs.
On Sunday, the Washington Post editorial board made another run at deflecting the administration’s blame in a new editorial, in a dual-pronged assault that sought to make the National Rifle Association (NRA) the villain while limiting the scope of the problem to being issues within the ATF:
Concerned to the point of paranoia about the erosion of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, the National Rifle Association and far too many lawmakers have fought against virtually every proposal to empower the bureau to better track and crack down on illegal firearms. They have won reductions in the ATF’s already meager budget. They have restricted the bureau’s ability to share information with other law enforcement agencies. They have kept the bureau rudderless for the past six years by blocking confirmation of new directors. And they continue to fight new rules that would allow the bureau to track bulk sales of long guns that have played a major role in the drug-fueled violence in Mexico.
One could very reasonably conclude — as many Americans have — that we are a nation awash in overly restrictive laws that affect only the law-abiding. State legislatures across the country have agreed with this premise in recent years, leading to a raft of legislation to enable law-abiding citizens to carry firearms in more places, openly or concealed.
But the Post isn’t interested in debating current trends in gun law or the success these laws have had in decreasing violent crime in those areas in which the laws have been implemented. Their goal is to attack the gun lobby with grim and unsupportable generalities — and to obfuscate the depth of the Gunwalker scandal:
The ATF had hoped to move against higher-ups in the chain of command, but the operation went awry when the bureau lost track of 2,500 weapons, some of which have now been traced to criminal activity south of the border. Two such weapons were found in December at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and Congress are investigating, understandably. The probes could help to explain what went wrong and what could or should have been done differently. But Capitol Hill’s intense interest in the ATF should not stop there.
Lawmakers should give the ATF the tools it needs to fight illegal gun trafficking. They should enact stronger penalties for straw purchases and craft a federal gun-smuggling statute; close the gun-show loophole, which allows buyers under certain circumstances to purchase weapons without a background check; resuscitate the ban on assault weapons; and give the ATF the authority to collect data on multiple sales of long guns in border states. The Senate should move quickly to confirm a director for the long-leaderless bureau.
The unsigned editorial portrays Gunwalker as an isolated anomaly within ATF. It purposefully and utterly disregards the long-established fact that Gunwalker was a multi-agency operation involving not just the ATF, but officials further up the line in Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service, and possibly the State Department.
Why would the Post want to downplay these facts?
To acknowledge the multi-agency involvement is to admit that Gunwalker was not an isolated incident, but a wide-ranging operation involving the highest levels of the Obama administration, a cabal of politicians and operatives that have long favored various gun control schemes and live by the mantra “never let a crisis go to waste.”
It is utterly repellent that the editorial board of the Post is more interested in acting as a public relations department for the government than it is in investigating the latest Iran-Contra or Watergate.
Once upon a time, the Post took the lead in investigating corruption at the highest levels of government.
That time and that integrity have both long since passed.
Related: Operation Fast and Furious — How the Obama Administration Conned the Washington Post

OBAMA'S RATS FLEE THE SINKING SHIP OF STATE

President Obama, according to the polls, is in serious danger of losing his 2012 re-election campaign. Former Bush White House advisor Karl Rove this past week noted that the U.S. unemployment rate still floats above 9.1 percent, and no American president has been re-elected with numbers like that since the Great Depression.
Sensing the impending electoral cataclysm, Obama's toadies are fast fleeing the sinking ship of state. A few weeks ago, Tammy Duckworth, an Obama political patronage hack from Illinois, resigned as assistant secretary for public and governmental affairs at the Veterans Administration, and her boss, Secretary Eric Shinseki is also apparently poised to leave as well. Shinseki wants to run for Senate, and is apparently headed for California to do just that quite soon. Duckworth, according to local media reports in Chicago, at Obama's request, had a Congressional district created for her in Illinois in one of the most imaginative acts of gerrymandering in U.S. history.
Look for more failed, and aspiring Democratic pols, political apparatchiks of Barack Hussein Obama II, who've been keeping their upscale lifestyles on $100K plus per year bureaucrat salaries for the last two plus years, try to dupe the American public too in the coming months. It seems these Democrats know that they are going to lose the White House next year to whomever the GOP nominates – be it Michelle Bachmann or Mitt Romneey – and they are making plans for their collectivist futures, on our taxpayer dollars.
Duckworth has maintained a web site, called Tammy Duckworth for Congress , for five years, more than two of which she spent on the federal payroll at the VA, as she planned her political future. A failed Congressional candidate in 2006, Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq war, is so unpopular among those who really know her, i.e. actual veterans, that the leading advocacy group for soldiers and sailors, the Veterans for Foreign Wars (VFW), refused to endorse her when she was the Democratic nominee in IL-6. She lost that election, but was compensated with a job with Obama's good buddy, disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich in his cabinet. Because she is completely in synch with the Obama dream weaver agenda, she is still in favor with the sickeningly corrupt leaders of the Illinois Democratic party, which includes new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the foul-mouthed vulgarian, and former enforcer-in-chief for Obama.
Hatch Act Scofflaw?
Now, leaving aside the telling question of whether Duckworth violated the federal Hatch Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326) by actively marketing herself for Congress with a web site, while on the federal payroll as a political hack, there are the even more important questions of why Obama chose this Duckworth to run for Congress in his adopted state.
Duckworth and Obama share many things in common. They're both virtual foreigners to American culture. They both speak Indonesian, an odd language for any American, no doubt, to have "picked up" along the way.. Obama was born in Kenya or Hawaii. We don't know for sure. He lived for years in Indonesia. She was born overseas, in Thailand, to a foreign mother and an American father who worked for the United Nations. Like Obama, who has foreign parentage too, his father was a socialist government official overseas, she went to high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, and apparently has an "America last" mentality. That's right, Duckworth, in my opinion, was raised, like Obama, to believe that the U.N. is great, but the U.S. is badly in need of "reform."
We've seen where this kind of mentality can lead, with Obama making the most absent-minded decisions in the history of American foreign policy, i.e., letting international elites decide the fate of Egypt and Libya, rather than taking a stand for American interests, and making speeches overseas apologizing for past U.S. international leadership.
If the foreign-born Duckworth gets into Congress in the new IL-8, and defeats rookie GOP Congressman Joe Walsh, a Tea Party favorite, it will be a disaster for U.S. foreign policy in the future. She will position herself for leadership on military affairs committees, and have influence on U.S. strategy setting and budget making.
This woman, who culled conservatives from the ranks of the bureaucracy at the VA, it has been alleged, is quite ideologically dangerous. She is of the school of thought that would let the U.N. rule the world – it was her father's vision after all, drummed intoo her for years. Just like Obama has tried to fill the Leninist vision of his mother, father, and his mentor Frank Marshall, Duckworth wants us all apparently singing kum-bye-ya with Fidel Castro and other despots in a new world order of peace, love and tranquility, an age of Aquarius.
Conservatives and Tea Party activists cannot let this happen. We cannot let the utopian, idiot savant legacy of Obama continue on in the Congress for years after he is gone from Washington through the offices of politically correct hacks Duckworth and Shinseki. I was told by VA spokeswoman Gina Clemons that Duckworth disdained the U.S. so much that she did not even use VA health care services, when eligible, as a veteran, for certain prosthetic devices, and that her boss, Shinseki, didn't use the VA, period, for health care.
These two malcontents need to be ejected from U.S. politics as soon as possible. Let these two go to an U.N outpost in Burma., where they belong, and hold jobs where they can berate the U.S., openly, rather than secretly, behind the scenes. Duckworth and Shinseki don't deserve to be in Congress. Ever. (Remember, Shinseki was fired by Donald Rumsfeld for insubordination…and that's probably the only reason Obama hired him too.)
I brought up the story about Duckworth's pending candidacy to Nathan Naylor, a spokesman for the VA, and a failed founder of Soapbox.com, earlier this week, and he made veiled threats to me in an e-mail. I got the feeling he wanted to send some thugs after me for me having the temerity to question the glorious Obama administration.
We can expect more of this kind of flagrant abuse of power on the American populace, at large, if the likes of Duckworth and Shinseki are elected, somehow, to Congress in 2012. Maybe they will have federal agents from the IRS show up at the doors of Tea Party dissenters who opposed them, pretending to want to ask questions, and hoping to trip them up in a perjury trap? These socialists want to continue to exercise the power they had, however fleetingly, with Obama, when they drove the U.S. into insolvency at home and irrelevancy overseas. You know that's true.

TRIPPING UP THE TSA

It seems as if every day someone posts on the Internet a new video documenting the ever-escalating level of oppressive police-state behavior from the TSA. In many of these instances, TSA officials explicitly are heard making the claim that, because flying on a commercial air carrier is supposedly a “privilege”, rather than a “right”, passengers can be required to surrender their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment (and, presumably, under all other provisions of the Constitution as well) in order to be allowed to enter the supposedly “secured” areas of a terminal or to board a flight. Passengers are told that they have no justifiable complaint against the ill treatment they receive at the blue-gloved hands of the Blueshirts, because by entering the terminal they have implicitly agreed to “conditions” that are imposed on all airline travelers. This rationalization has been put forward on numerous occasions by various higher-ups in the TSA, and by their apologists in the big media, as well.
Unfortunately, as with most pronouncements on constitutional matters emanating from public officials and their shills these days, this claim is more than simply lame. It is an affront to the intelligence of every American.
The Supreme Court has long enforced the general rule that officials may not constitutionally condition the grant of any benefit to a particular individual on a requirement that would be unconstitutional if imposed promiscuously on the general public. E.g., Branti v. Finkel, 445 U.S. 507, 513-516 (1980); Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 597 (1972); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365, 374-375 (1971); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 627 note 6 (1969); Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 605-606 (1967); Elfbrandt v. Russell, 384 U.S. 11, 17-18 (1966); Baggett v. Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 379-380 (1964); Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 404-406 (1963); Cramp v. Board of Public Instruction, 368 U.S. 278, 288 (1961); Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495-496 (1961); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 485-486 (1960); Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 518-519 (1958): Slochower v. Board of Higher Education, 350 U.S. 551, 559 (1956); Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183, 192 (1952); American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 390 (1950); Hannegan v. Esquire, Inc., 327 U.S. 146, 155-156 (1946); West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 630-631 (1943).
This rule applies irrespective of whether the benefit at issue can properly be labeled a “right” or a “privilege”. E.g., Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 571 & note 9 (1972); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539 (1971).
(Doubtlessly, any good legal researcher can add numerous other citations to these lists.)
So, assuming for the purpose of argument that travel by commercial airliner is a “privilege” rather than a “right”, such travel can nonetheless not be conditioned on any requirement that would be unconstitutional if imposed directly on the proverbial “man in the street”. Now, perforce of the Fourth Amendment, a “man in the street” cannot be subjected to any “unreasonable searches and seizures”. Rather, as a prerequisite for any “place to be searched” or “persons or things to be seized” in a constitutionally reasonable manner, a “Warrant[ ] shall issue, * * * upon probable cause, supported by Oath or Affirmation”. Yet, as everyone knows, the TSA does not apply for “Warrants” before the Blueshirts engage in their low-handed searches—no doubt because the agency could never obtain
a “Warrant[ ] * * * upon probable cause” except in the most extraordinary situation.
To use the fashionable judicial mumbo jumbo, it is “clearly established” that what the TSA is doing would unquestionably violate the Fourth Amendment if it were done to “the man in the street”. It is also “clearly established” that the TSA cannot constitutionally condition anyone’s supposed “privilege” to travel by commercial airline on the traveler’s waiver, surrender, or forfeiture of his rights under the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, every Blueshirt who coerces any traveler into submitting to an unconstitutional search or seizure has violated that traveler’s “clearly established” constitutional rights—and, as a consequence, (i) is personally liable in his individual capacity for monetary damages, and (ii) cannot raise the defense of “qualified official immunity”, because that defense applies only when the rights at issue are not “clearly established”.
So perhaps justifiably disgruntled victims of the Blueshirts’ oppression should engage experienced and hard-bitten civil-rights litigators to sue—not the TSA as an agency—but instead the Blueshirts and their supervisors, as individuals, in order impose directly on them, as individuals, the full costs of their misbehavior, relying on an “implied cause of action” directly under the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Success in such litigation will seriously impact the TSA, too. For no tyrannical regime can long exist if its myrmidons are made to pay, as individuals, for the egregious effects of the regime’s evil policies. Once the enforcers desert in droves, or are deterred from performing dirty deeds, or must “pay the piper” out of their own personal financial resources, the regime must soon collapse.
To be sure, some (perhaps many) “judges” may attempt to whitewash the Blueshirts’ oppressive behavior. This likelihood constitutes a practical objection to any strategy for correcting the TSA’s abuses through litigation. For no one who studies, let alone has to deal with, contemporary American “courts” should be unaware that judicial decisions and the Constitution are all too often quite different from each other, to the point of being mutually antagonistic—and that, in a case involving really serious constitutional challenges to the Establishment, the first order of business for people who have a grasp of practical political reality should often be a motion for change of venue to Sydney, Australia, where at least a geographically proper Kangaroo Kourt could be convened.
Yet, on the bright side, overt obstructionism by “judges” in favor of the burgeoning national para-military police state can only draw the entire judiciary’s credibility and even legitimacy into question—for which the “judges” have no answer that any thinking American will accept. And the sooner the last vestige of credence is stripped from rogue jurists, the sooner Americans will realize what other steps need to be taken to bring this situation under control.
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Obama takes center stage on debt talks



White House officials claimed progress today in budget talks designed to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling while cutting federal spending, but said the obstacle is congressional Republicans who insist on no new revenues.
"To get significant debt reduction, there has to be a balanced approach," White House spokesman Jay Carney said after President Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Carney, who said "everybody believes a significant deal remains possible," said Democrats want to get new revenues from the elimination of subsidies and loopholes for wealthy Americans, such as the owners of oil companies and private planes.
Republicans said Obama's team is talking about tax hikes that will slow down economic growth and kill jobs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who meets with Obama later today, posted a column on CNN's website today saying "the consequences of massive new tax hikes would be fewer jobs. "
"America does not face a debt crisis because we tax too little, but because Washington spends too much," McConnell wrote. "And tax hikes can't pass the Congress."


By Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Earlier post:


As the debt clock ticks toward a potential U.S. default, President Obama and congressional leaders are finally taking center stage.
Obama meets today, separately, with top Senate Democrat Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, to talk about an impasse that involves taxes, spending, the $14.3 trillion federal debt ceiling -- and the prospect of a government default after Aug, 2.
That's the date after which the Treasury Department says it will not be able to pay the nation's obligations, unless Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling, the main plot in this latest Republican/Democratic drama over taxes and federal spending.
Obama and the Senate leaders follow an opening act featuring Vice President Biden and a bipartisan committee that fell apart when Republicans walked out last week in a dispute over taxes.
The Republicans, who had said they would oppose raising the debt ceiling without corresponding budget cuts, ended the Biden talks over Democratic proposals to increase taxes.
"Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is simply not going to produce a desirable result, and it won't pass," McConnell said Sunday on ABC's This Week With Christiane Amanpour. "I mean, putting aside the fact that Republicans don't like to raise taxes, Democrats don't like to either."
Congressional Democrats say they want to do things like limit mortgage deductions for households with incomes of more than $500,000 annually, and to eliminate oil and gas subsidies for companies that make more than $1 billion annually.
"Closing special interests tax subsidies is what they have walked away from," said Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Pelosi and the top House Republican, Speaker John Boehner, will also likely get involved in budget talks at the presidential level.
As Obama gets personally involved, Democrats say the government needs more revenue if it is to reduce the federal, yet Republicans are risking a government default that could trigger another recession.
"The Republicans should stop playing chicken," Reid said. "It's not good for our country or the world."
Republicans -- who say higher taxes will stunt economic growth, predict Obama will see things their way, and sign off on a package of budget cuts without tax hikes.
"The president has to make a decision," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., on Fox News Sunday. "Which is more important to him: solving this problem, reducing spending somewhat, or making sure that we raise taxes on American economy?"

Sen. Webb Challenges Obama's Libya Policy

Democratic U.S. Sen. James Webb lambasted President Barack Obama’s Libya policy Sunday, saying he has problems with the president’s “unilateral” decision to get involved in yet another Middle East conflict and the reasons given for U.S. Libyan involvement “defy historical precedent.”

Webb, obama, libya
Sen. James Webb: “The president did not come to the Congress — and also, the reasons that he used for going in defy historical precedent" (Getty Images Photo)
Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former secretary of the Navy, made his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as part of a broader criticism of Obama’s focus on the Middle East at the expense of problems in Asia — particularly China.

Host David Gregory asked the Virginia senator whether U.S. intervention tactics in Libya are the right way to dispose of Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi.

“No one wants to see Gadhafi remain in power, but that’s a totally different question [from] as to how the United States should be involved,” Webb said. “The president did not come to the Congress — and also, the reasons that he used for going in defy historical precedent.

“We weren’t under attack, we weren’t under imminent attack, we weren’t honoring treaty commitments, we weren’t rescuing Americans,” he said. “So on the one hand, there’s a very serious issue of precedent here — and on the other, we need to be clear that once Gadhafi is gone we won’t have Americans in there as a peacekeeping force.

“We’ve got to stop this addiction — we’ve got to start focusing on our true strategic interests,” Webb said.

Webb said he is supporting amendments to legislation making its way through Congress to prohibit ground troops in Libya.

NJ Gov. Christie: Unions Won't 'Get Their Way' All the Time

Gov. Chris Christie rebuts critics who contend that he’s trying to bust public-employee unions, but he notes with his characteristic bluntness: “They’re not gonna always get their way, all the time.”

New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, unionThe Republican New Jersey governor, who just completed a deal with The Garden State's Democratic Legislature on a bill that decreases benefits to unionized public employees, said during an interview with Politico that opponents are twisting the idea behind his bill’s four-year suspension of collective bargaining on healthcare.

“This whole idea that we’re taking away collective bargaining is just false,” Christie told Politico. “What we’re doing is setting the bar to a new normal.

“I think the future of public sector unions is still going to be important players in what happens as we move forward . . . but what we changed in New Jersey is, they’re not gonna always get their way, all the time.”

As for the fact that his name keeps popping to the top of some Republicans’ presidential candidate wish lists, Christie said with a chuckle: “Is it appealing to have people say to you, ‘We believe you’re the best person to be president of the United States and leader of the free world?’ Yeah that’s pretty good.”

But “you don’t run for president because the opportunity is there,” Politico quotes him as saying. “I would never run for president saying, ‘I think I can win, I hope I’m ready.’ I want to say, ‘I know I’m ready, I hope I can win.’ So until I can say that, I have no business asking anyone to vote for me for president.”

Ban Ki-Moon Congratulates Iranian Fox for Guarding the Hen House?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Iran is now offering to coordinate counter-terrorism activities for us all. At a two-day “counter-terrorism” conference just hosted in Tehran and attended by such eminences as the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed setting up a secretariat to define terrorism, mobilize forces against it, and — in the words of a Mehr News Agency dispatch on this endeavor — “reform colonialist and discriminatory mechanisms prevailing in the world so they incline toward justice” (unofficial short version: more of the Iranian regime’s usual “Death to Israel, Death to America,” plus, apparently, Death to the U.K.).
The absurdity — indeed, the monstrosity — is obvious. Listed by the U.S. State Department as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, Iran isn’t even bothering to play both ends against the middle.  This “counter-terrorism” farce in Tehran is all about Iran trying to hijack both the concept of terrorism and the fight against it, and, in consummate Orwellian fashion, redefine it for Tehran’s usual purposes (Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to the U.K.!). It would take a real fool to buy into this hook, line and sinker.
Enter United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who, according to Iranian reports of the conference, sent an envoy to dignify this Tehran charade with his thanks and his blessing. Hillel Neuer, executive director of a Geneva-based NGO, UN Watch, has written to Ban, asking him — if he really did send such a message — to please retract it. Neuer cited such outrages as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei opening the Tehran conference with a message denouncing such “satanic powers” as the U.S. and Britain.
All of which raises some big questions about what on earth is going on with the apparently Tehran-loving Ban, who was just “re-elected” to a second five-year term as UN secretary general. According to Iranian news reports, Ban’s giddy message of delight over the Tehran conference was delivered by a UN envoy named Muhammad Rafiuddin Shah. He’s a Pakistani diplomat who late last year became officer-in-charge of the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, or CTITF. The CTITF was set up in 2005, as part of the UN’s effort to “enhance coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations system.” If the work of the CTITF now includes sending Pakistani diplomats to thank terror-sponsoring Iran for utterly perverting the entire concept of counter-terrorism, perhaps it’s time the CTITF was dissolved. It seems to have outlived its purpose.
Whatever the full contents of Ban’s message (which, as far as I can see, has not yet been posted on the UN web site), the mere act of sending an envoy to dignify this dangerous sham in Tehran leaves us with three basic explanations from which to choose: either Ban is a complete idiot (I doubt that), or he has entirely lost control of UN envoys jet-setting to Iran to speak in his name (possible), or he is involved in some sort of elaborate horse-trading, in which he has perhaps decided it is worth pandering to Tehran to serve some larger purpose — such as, for instance, his own recent re-election as secretary-general (there is no proof of that, but one might well wonder what kind of deals were necessary for his re-election by acclamation of the entire UN General Assembly).
None of these possibilities are reassuring, especially with President Barack Obama so enamored of the UN that his administration continues to stump for billions in U.S. tax dollars to keep flowing into the institution. If one of Ban’s first acts upon being “re-elected” is to confer approval upon the latest dodges of the terror-masters in Tehran, surely it’s way past time to re-think American funding for such stunts.
P.S. — One more question, though by now, should we even bother to ask? What was the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, doing at this UN-blessed terror fest in Tehran? He’s been wanted in the Hague for some years now, what with being under indictment by the International Criminal Court.