Friday, February 08, 2013

It's a promise


Misleading Food Stamp Campaign By "Progressive" Officials

by Hans Bader

As the son of a widow, and as a person who once ate on far less than a food stamp budget, I am amused by the wealthy, privileged progressive officials who make it sound like they can’t eat properly on $5 a day. You can find such people featured in a Washington Post story yesterday entitled “Montgomery Officials Try Eating for $5 a Day.” Supposedly, they are doing this in “an attempt to simulate” life for participants in the federal food stamp program, which now has a “record” “46.2 million people” in it “at a cost of more than $70 billion.” Are they really that bad at managing their money? It makes me wonder if some of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

As a young lawyer, I consistently spent less than $5 a day on food — generally less than a dollar per meal — and managed to have a well-balanced diet including nutritious vegetables and healthy proteins. Indeed, in 2007, The Washington Post itself had a story in its health section about how various people, such as a chef and a natural foods store owner, were able to live quite well on a food stamps budget. For example, Rick Hindle, executive chef for the Skadden, Arps law firm, “showed recently that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare healthful food for $1 or less per meal.” You can easily spend less on food than the poorest food stamp recipients and still enjoy a healthy, low-fat diet rich in vitamins and fiber. That’s what a Quaker vegetarian found when he decided to limit his weekly spending on food to a food stamp budget, even though he ate only organic food (which costs much more than typical food).

Earlier, Maryland food stamp official Kevin McGuire tried to rationalize spending more taxpayer money on food stamps by putting himself on the “Food Stamp Challenge,” a deceptive exercise in which participants deliberately live on less than any actual food stamp recipient has to spend on food. Participants live entirely “on an average food stamp benefit,” even though it’s just part of the food budget of the people who actually receive it. The “average” benefit is given to people who have income of their own to spend; it is less than the maximum food stamp benefit, which is what people with little other income to spend on food receive.

Back when I was single, I ate a well-balanced diet while spending far less over the long term than the “average food stamp benefit.” I ate lots of potatoes (which are cheap and nutritious, more so than the pasta McGuire ate, which, unlike potatoes, contains no vitamin C and few minerals), plenty of cheap canned fish and vegetables bought in bulk (I bought 500 cans of tuna, an excellent source of protein, on sale for 20 cents each, and filled my small car with them), plus milk, bananas, and carrots. Similarly, when my wife first immigrated to America, she managed to eat plenty of nutritious vegetables while living on a salary of less than $1,200 per month, and spending less than food stamp recipients do on food.

Record numbers of Americans are now on food stamps, food stamp fraud has risen into the billions, and even wealthy people have become eligible for food stamps in some states as the federal government rewards states for expanding eligibility to people who don’t need them. (Meanwhile, as James Bovard noted in The Wall Street Journal, “The Obama Administration is . . . cracking down on state governments’ antifraud measures.”)

More HERE  (See the original for links)


Michigan Union Tell-All

A memo shows how unions hope to keep coercing worker dues.

When Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state late last year, everyone knew unions would try to overturn or otherwise neuter the law. Less expected was that they would do so at the expense of their own members.

That's the message from a December 27-28 memo to local union presidents and board members from Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook, which recommends tactics that unions can use to dilute the impact of the right-to-work law. One bright idea is to renegotiate contracts now to lock teachers into paying union dues after the right-to-work law goes into effect in March. Another is to sue their own members who try to leave.

"Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August," Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. "We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year." Got that, comrade?

Also watch for contract negotiations in which union reps sign up members for smaller pay raises and benefits in exchange for a long-term contract. "We've looked carefully at this and believe the impact of RTW [right to work] can be blunted through bargaining strategies," Mr. Cook writes.

The union filed its inevitable lawsuit against the law last week. But in his memo, Mr. Cook admits this is a long shot, as is a challenge based on technicalities like the law's carve-out for police and fire fighters. "Because of wording contained in the Act," Mr. Cook writes, "challenging the carve out might not strike down the Act but could merely put police and fire into the same RTW pit the rest of us are in."

Unions may have learned from last year's meltdown in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker's reforms. While Big Labor waged an unrelenting campaign to overturn the law in court and to recall Mr. Walker and Wisconsin legislators, there has been little serious discussion of a similar effort against Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan. "If the goal is to undo RTW, this is the least appealing of the options," Mr. Cook writes of potential recalls.

The pattern in new right-to-work states is that union membership plunges when it is voluntary. That's what happened in Wisconsin and Indiana, and it will probably happen in Michigan too.

Yet the most revealing news in the Cook memo is how little the union discusses assisting workers so more will voluntarily join unions. Instead the focus is how to continue coercing workers to keep paying dues. No wonder that the percentage of government workers who belong to unions fell last year. The Cook memo is damning proof that the main goal of union leaders is to enhance the power of union leaders, not of workers.



The 'Obamedia' Ignore Major Events, Fabricate Others

Establishment media outlets disregard major story after major story, meanwhile a phony story gets made up. A constant diet of disinformation and outright lies does not a free, informed America make.

Have we become "AmeriKa"? Viewers of B-grade 1980s TV miniseries fare might remember that as the title of a more than 14-hour-long dramatization of life in the Land of the Free under Soviet control.

Would Communist Russia's TASS news agency or Pravda newspaper have been any more subservient to the party in power, the chief executive who leads it, or the ideology at their foundation than America's major media outlets are being to Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and their socialist-style liberalism?

How else to explain a virtual media blackout on allegations that a just-re-elected U.S. senator repeatedly patronized underage prostitutes on foreign visits?

If New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez were a conservative Republican, there would be a daily drumbeat of stories updating the latest revelations — the FBI confirming that four hookers admit attending a sex party with Menendez; the shamed senator reimbursing a big campaign donor for nearly $60,000; the thousands of dollars in contributions from that donor, Miami ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, to Al Gore, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats; plus a prostitute's e-mail stating that Menendez "likes the youngest and newest girls."

If Menendez were a Republican, the media hurricane would dwarf what drove Rep. Mark Foley from office — whose crime was sending smutty computer messages to underage congressional pages. As then, the media would insist the GOP was tainted.

It's only thanks to web-based sources like Breitbart, Daily Caller and Gateway Pundit that this story has stayed on the screen.

But how about the Obama economy sinking into negative territory for the first time since the last recession? As NewsBusters points out, the fourth-quarter GDP decline "was completely ignored by NBC Nightly News, carefully danced around on ABC World News and downplayed on CBS Evening News" on Wednesday.

The far-left MSNBC, meanwhile, is "reviewing" its tendentiously edited clip of testimony from a father of a Newtown victim, which falsely made it seem gun-rights advocates were disrupting his answers.

This has been quite a week. It started off with Steve Kroft outdoing his 1992 "60 Minutes" "Stand By Your Man" interview of Bill and Hillary Clinton, saving his candidacy from the Gennifer Flowers scandal, with a fawning session with Hillary and Obama last Sunday.

As Kroft said, Obama "knows that we're not going to play gotcha with him" — hard to do when you're busy playing footsie.

The sole cause for cheer in the media being so snugly in the pocket of Obama, his party, and the forces of ever-expanding government is its entertainment value.

Obama's AmeriKa may be losing its liberties, going broke, and getting socially radicalized by leftist elites. But at least we'll die laughing.



Taliban to Send Peace-Keeping Advisers to Chicago

As negotiations for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan have once again come to a halt, the Taliban Supreme Council has offered to level the playing field by sending a group of 400 battle-hardened Taliban peacekeepers to the U.S. city of Chicago, to help pacify one of the most violent regions in the Great Plains area of the North American continent.

With many years of combat experience in violent areas of their own country and having fought rebels, insurgents, villagers, urban militias, rival drug lords, as well as Soviet and American occupying forces on foot, horses, camels, donkeys, and trucks, they may be just what the Chicago city officials need to pacify their own population and bring the recently publicized murder rateunder control.

Details as to the logistical challenges have yet to be worked out, but already many US officials are expressing support for the idea.

"It's heart-warming to see the human interest the Taliban has taken in the plight of our inner-city minority residents," said Michael Dristun, a State Department analyst. "We're all excited about getting a fresh perspective on how to bring peace to rough, volatile neighborhoods."

Ramadullah, a concerned Taliban chieftain from the Swat Valley in Afghanistan, who follows the local tradition of only having one name, said that his people are "very troubled by the social problems in Chicago and simply want to help."

"We read the war stories coming out of Chicago and we ask ourselves, 'Why are they still fighting when their tribal chief has been elected President in 2007 and then also in 2012?'" Ramadullah said. "In our own country, we stop killing each other once we win elections. Well, mostly."

While no easy answers are expected, Ramadullah assured he knows how to keep the kill rate in check.

"When my advisors come to Chicago, all crime and murder will disappear once we impose Sharia Law," said Ramadullah, referencing the traditional form of Islamic jurisprudence.

"After the first dozen or so public executions at Wrigley Field, even the stupidest man will understand we mean business. Then we start getting some real change."



This! Ban That! Ban This and That!

 John Stossel

I like to bet on sports. Having a stake in the game, even if it's just five bucks, makes it more exciting. I also like playing poker. "Unacceptable!" say politicians in much of America. "Gambling sometimes leads to 'addiction,' destitute families!"

Well, it can.  So politicians ban it. It's why we no longer see a poker game in the back of bars. Half the states even ban poker between friends -- though they rarely enforce that.

After banning things, politicians' second favorite activity is granting special privileges to a few people who do those same things -- so big casinos flourish, and most states run their own lotteries. Running lotteries is one of the more horrible things our governments do. The poor buy the most tickets, and states offer them terrible odds. The government entered the lottery business promising to end the "criminal numbers racket." Now states do what the "criminals" did but offer much worse odds. Adding insult to their scam, politicians also spend our tax money promoting lotteries with disgusting commercials that trash hard work, implying that happiness comes from hedonism.  Hypocrisy.

Politicians also ban some medical innovations that might enhance athletes' performances. Teams buy high-tech equipment to get better results. Doctors prescribe all sorts of special medications if an athlete is injured. Competitors try dubious vitamins and "natural" food supplements.  But they better not use steroids.

The public supports this ban, but they rarely think it through. Why are steroids bad but eye surgery OK? (Tiger Woods did that to improve his vision.) Athletes will constantly try new ways to maximize their strength and endurance. Why is government even involved?

Don't get me wrong. If players promise not to use steroids but then use, that's wrong. Lance Armstrong is despicable not because he injected drugs like testosterone or did blood-doping, but because he proclaimed that he didn't, then did, then lied and bullied people, and threatened to sue them, to wreck their lives, for telling the truth. That's evil. Steroids themselves are just another form of eye surgery or better shoes.

If the NFL or Tour de France or the Big Ten wants a no-steroid rule, fine. But in America, if an athlete uses steroids, it's not just a violation of a private organization's rules, it's a federal issue. Congress has held nine -- that's right, nine -- hearings on the "problem" of steroids in sports. The pols know that yelling at baseball stars will get the pols face time on TV. There they are, bravely solving America's problems! But clumsy federal law doesn't even stop the cheating.

Politicians blithely ban this and that -- at the expense of their own constituents. Billions of dollars in banned Internet poker profits move offshore -- to countries with sensible rules.

A final stupid sports ban: Connecticut and New York will not allow MMA, mixed martial arts competitions. This booming sport is called "mixed" martial arts because it's more than just wrestling or judo or boxing, it's ... fighting. To win, one must excel at all martial arts. Yes, it's violent, but so are boxing and football. Mixed martial arts is actually safer than boxing, because the athletes don't spend 12 rounds getting hit on the head.

I can go to Madison Square Garden to watch boxers smash each other in the face. I can take little kids there to watch fake wrestling, which looks even more violent.

But Sen. John McCain called mixed martial arts "human cockfighting" and demanded it be banned. When he couldn't pass a national ban, he sent letters to governors of all 50 U.S. states asking them to ban MMA events in each state.

Fortunately, governors ignored him, and now in most of America, a new sport that brings in millions of dollars in business, opportunity and tax revenues blossoms. But not in New York or Connecticut. There, politicians wait for the lobbyists to kiss their rings. If they contribute enough to their campaigns, maybe they'll relent.

Gambling, steroid use and violent sports ought to be choices that consenting adults are free to make.  Politicians should butt out of sports.




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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Service matters

Try to imagine this from a bureaucracy

Lunchtime at the flagship In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Baldwin Park, California, is a study in efficiency. As the order line swells, smiling workers swoop in to operate empty cash registers. Another staffer cleans tables, asking customers if they’re enjoying their hamburger. Outside, a woman armed with a hand-held ordering machine speeds up the drive-through line.

Such service has helped In-N-Out create a rabid fan base -- and make Lynsi Torres, the chain’s 30-year-old owner and president, one of the youngest female billionaires on Earth. New store openings often resemble product releases from Apple Inc., with customers lined up hours in advance. City officials plead with the Irvine, California-based company to open restaurants in their municipalities.

“They have done a fantastic job of building and maintaining a kind of cult following,” said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Chicago-based food industry research firm Technomic Inc. “Someone would love to buy them.”

That someone includes billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who told a group of visiting business students in 2005 that he’d like to own the chain, according to an account of the meeting on the UCLA Anderson School of Management website.
The thrice-married Torres has watched her family expand In- N-Out from a single drive-through hamburger stand founded in 1948 in Baldwin Park by her grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, into a fast-food empire worth more than $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Famous for its Double-Double cheeseburgers, fresh ingredients and discreet biblical citations on its cups and food wrappers, In-N-Out has almost 280 units in five states. The closely held company had sales of about $625 million in 2012, after applying a five-year compound annual growth rate of 4.6 percent to industry trade magazine Nation’s Restaurant News’s 2011 sales estimate of $596 million.

In-N-Out is valued at about $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg ranking, based on the average price-to-earnings, enterprise value-to-sales and enterprise value-to-earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization multiples of five publicly traded peers: Yum! Brands Inc., Jack in the Box Inc., Wendy’s Co., Sonic Corp. and McDonald’s Corp. Enterprise value is defined as market capitalization plus total debt minus cash.



ObamaCare Blowback

I received a certified letter from my physician yesterday.  It read:

"This letter will serve as notification to you that (clinic name) is withdrawing you from further treatment as of the date of this letter. You are hereby discharged from care by all of our physicians and treatment locations. … We suggest that you place yourself under the care of another physician and medical facility immediately."

My doctor was firing me as a patient? What was up? Was I dying from some disease they had failed to properly diagnose, and they were hoping I was dead before I discovered their malpractice and sued? Did the nurse who couldn’t draw blood from my arm file a grievance against me as a preemptive move? Had I failed to pay a bill?

None of the above.  I phoned the doctor’s office today. They are no longer accepting any patient who doesn’t sign up for their “Concierge Service” — a yearly fee in four figures for unlimited clinic visits.

Cash only.  No medical insurance accepted, no Medicare, total opting out from any part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare.

Welcome to the future of private medical practice in the United States.



What Obama does best: taunt Republicans

President Obama is not committed to fixing Washington's chronic budget woes or jump-starting an ailing economy, but that doesn't mean this administration lacks focus. If there is one area where this administration delivers, it is taunting Republicans.

Think Lucy teasing Charlie Brown with the football. Except, in this case, Lucy is a twice-elected president who ought to have better things to do, like get Washington to work.

Three recent examples:

-- The White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting, in reaction to the press corps' skepticism at a recent Obama statement made during an interview with the New Republic. Obama said, "At Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time."

It's a silly story. The White House press doesn't know exactly what the president did when he learned that four Americans were killed at the Benghazi mission, but reporters had been demanding ocular proof that the president shot clay pigeons.

The photo came out Saturday, and Obama looked as contrived with a shotgun as former Democratic White House hopeful Michael Dukakis looked in a tank. Skeptics of various ideological stripes questioned the photo's authenticity. Conservatives got the blame.

This was exactly the reaction Obamaland had expected. In releasing the photo, Obama political guru David Plouffe tweeted, "Attn skeet birthers. Make our day - let the photoshop conspiracies begin."

-- Last week, the administration announced a reputed compromise on its rule that church-based institutions provide birth-control benefits in violation of a religion's deeply held beliefs. The new rules make insurers provide and pay for contraception coverage.

To the extent that church fathers object, they remind young voters that they oppose contraception. The administration scores bonus points when a Republican anywhere in the world says something really stupid about rape or conception.

-- Given former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel's near-endorsement of Obama in 2008 and his opposition to the Bush surge in Iraq, the president had to know that his decision to nominate Hagel to serve as his defense secretary would enrage the right. Clearly, the specter of Republicans bristling at the nomination of a highly decorated Vietnam veteran was the impetus behind the Hagel pick.

Still, the administration could not have suspected how muddled Hagel would appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Hagel flubbed the administration's position on Iran - twice. He had to distance himself from old comments he had made about Israel and Iran. Hagel was so mediocre that former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that Hagel seemed "unimpressive and unprepared." Sometimes the football fumbles by itself.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he would be "stunned if, in the end, Republican senators chose to try to block the nomination of a decorated war veteran who was once among their colleagues in the Senate as a Republican." This administration never passes up a chance to blame the Republicans.



Review of "Coming Apart"

The educated elite don't believe their own b*lldust

Charles Murray's "Coming Apart" is an antidote to progressive utopianism about the social changes in America since 1960. Nostalgia for a pre-1960 American "golden age" is widely mocked, but the evidence shows that it did in fact exist.

This is an important book because it shows the downside of progress in meticulous empirical detail. The data show that after 1960 the shared culture of America ended and the upper and lower income classes walked different destinies. The upper class maintained its values and way of life. But the lower class entered into a self-destructive tailspin. In lower class neighborhoods, marriage eroded along with participation in civic groups, voting, and religiosity. Meanwhile, a growing number of lower class men no longer supported themselves. Social isolation grew and out of marriage childbirth became the norm. That bedrock of traditional American civil society - the married, working family engaged in its community - is now almost completely gone in lower class neighborhoods.

The upper class and lower class have become physically and spiritually isolated from each other. The upper class still marries, still participates in civil society, and still works hard to get ahead. But more and more these are activities limited to rich people.

More than one blogger has likened the growing cultural divide to the Vickies and the Thetes in Neal Stephenson's "Diamond Age". The cultural practices of the upper class are conservative even if their politics are not.

Murray focuses on the experience of white Americans to avoid any composition effects driven by rapidly changing racial demographics over the last 50 years. He wants to show that American culture itself has changed, not merely that the country is composed of a different cultural mix than before. In a later chapter he recalculates several key metrics for the upper and lower class of Americans of all races and finds little difference.

The centerpiece of the book is Murray's empirical analysis of the General Social Survey and other data sources. The book finishes with the author's guesses as to the causes of the growing class divide. This section is weaker, but it is an intriguing detour. He notes that the modern upper class refuses to preach the values that it lives by. Moralizing is out of style - the only remaining public morality is non-judgmentalism. Pathological behavior with high social cost has lost its stigma. So the upper class works harder than ever, but the growing numbers of men who don't support themselves are not chastised.

Murray is uncertain that non-judgmentalism alone can explain his observations. But it is an interesting coincidence. American school children used to be taught loyalty, courage, fairness, and honesty in their readings for english class. Now, such imposition of values through the education system would not be tolerated.

The last 60 years brought inarguable improvements to American culture. But even as racial and gender divides shrank, the class divide yawned larger than ever. "Coming Apart" shows the downside of progress.



The History Lesson You Never Learned! The History Lesson You Were Never Taught!

By Rich Kozlovich

This is the history lesson everyone should have gotten and never received.  As I have said they in the past – they just won’t teach history.

I have known about the Venona Intercepts for years, and I have known about the infiltration of Soviet agents and fellow travelers who worked to support and promote Stalin and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from the 1920’s and on.  I knew that Joe McCarthy was a nut job, but I also knew he was accurate in his description of Communist infiltration of the State Department.  Remember that the House of Representatives, run by the Democrats at the time also held hearings on this, known as the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  But that was only the tip of the ice berg.

Wartime agencies such as the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, the Office of War Information (OWI) and the Board of Economic Warfare (BEW) were heavily penetrated by "Communists, fellow travelers, and Soviet agents".  They were in positions to exert influence regarding intelligence, information flow and procurement. When the war ended thousands of those staffers would end up being transferred to the State Department, many of them Soviet agents.    "The security problems hatched in the war would thus come to roost at State."

Soviet spies and sympathizers infiltrated the White House, Department of Defense, and all of the agencies created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  But mostly they heavily infiltrated the Treasury Department, which had enormous influence on FDR in his frail dealings with Stalin at Yalta and Teheran, virtually giving Eastern Europe to Stalin and later Asia via the Communist takeover against the Nationalist government run by Chiang Kai-shek.
I have posted information in the past discussing this, but two things happened recently that have motivated me to really expand on this important history.  A history that is virtually unknown to most people.

First, I have been reading, Stalin’s Secret Agents, The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government, by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, and secondly I watched the attacks on Michelle Bachmann.  Mark Levin noted the scorn congressional colleagues directed at “Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and three other House members who asked for an examination of evidence that the parent organization of jihadist groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas were wielding influence on U.S. policy from within”, saying “The lawmakers were “treated like pariahs”!
It was impossible to miss the similarities to what is happening now and what happened to those who challenged this massive infiltration of Communalists in the federal government.  This included military personal whose career advancement ended for speaking up, along with investigative personnel, including the FBI.  When the upper echelon is sympathetic and those around them are able to control the information flow and decision making long term problems are created that can't be easily overcome or ever overcome.



Protection-racket "capitalism"

Arnold Kling makes some good points:  "One way to view the period 2005-2009 is as a massive destruction of property rights by the government. First, they destroy the right of Freddie, Fannie, and commercial banks to maintain lending standards. Then they confiscate the property of holders of securities in GM and Chrysler to pay off the labor unions. Then they sell off AIG’s assets in order to bail out Goldman Sachs and several large foreign banks. And of course, the government has made every effort to keep banks from enforcing mortgage contracts, while extracting large fines from banks."

Here is Charles Rowley making a similar point:  "The financial crisis was generated not by any rating agency, but by a cross-party political conspiracy to bludgeon mortgage companies to extend mortgages to minority households that had no resources to enter into home ownership. A crude vote-seeking frenzy ensued, fed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-enterprises that were shell agencies for a Ponzi scheme in the housing market.

All this is in the context of the US government suing S&P.

The problem is that S&P is not guiltless, after all as Charles Rowley tells us:  "S & P’s error was ever to take credit guarantees emanating from the government with anything except supreme contempt."

But there is a lot of guilt to go around. In the first instance the Boston Fed has questions to answer. The authors of a paper published in the American Economic Review, the publishers of the American Economic Review, and many, many regulators should join S&P in the dock:

"Substantial media and political attention was showered upon a 1992 Boston Federal Reserve Bank study of discrimination in home mortgage lending. This study concluded that, while there was no overt discrimination in banks’ allocation of mortgage funds, loan officers gave whites preferential treatment. The methodology of the study has since been questioned, but at the time it was highly influential with regulators and members of the incoming Clinton administration; in 1993, bank regulators initiated a major effort to reform the CRA regulations"

By singling out just S&P it looks a lot like pay-back for down grading US debt rather than a proper effort to bring the originators of the GFC to account.




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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Where to cut spending? Start here

Almost every federal program has a vocal cheering section, which makes it difficult to cut anything

President Barack Obama and Congress bravely led the country back from the fiscal cliff – by putting the government squarely on a path toward another series of fiscal stare-downs beginning in March. Oddly absent from this continual game of kick-the-can are concrete ideas – from either party – for getting a handle on the spending side of the ledger.

The Senate hasn't passed a budget in three years. The president proposes no spending cuts. House Republicans, despite their fondness for the refrain "We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem," find themselves speechless when asked what, exactly, they would cut.

Is there a suggestion box? If there were, here are just a few big expenses we could afford to do without.

* Farm subsidies. The Department of Agriculture doles out $10 billion to $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year (depending on crop prices, disaster outlays and other factors). More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of just five crops: wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton. Most farms collect no subsidies. Farmers' income has been booming lately, making this a particularly good time to end the subsidies.

* Head Start. Oh, no! Everyone loves Head Start. It helps poor kids. Who could be against that? But on the Friday before Christmas, the administration released a large-scale study of Head Start's effectiveness. Its conclusion: "[B]y the end of third grade, there were very few impacts found ... in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children." Head Start costs $8 billion a year, and about $200 billion since its inception. Multiple official studies have shown its ineffectiveness.

* Afghanistan. Americans are tired of America's longest war. It's costing more than $100 billion a year. Instead of vague plans to reduce the number of troops next year or thereafter, let's make the decision to end the war, bring the troops home, and save that money.

* U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The world's largest and most expensive embassy is the American embassy in Baghdad. Housing some 17,000 people, it will cost about $3.5 billion a year to operate. As we approach the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, it's time to extricate ourselves from running that distant country.

* Urban transit. Local mass-transit systems should be the responsibility of state and local governments. Why are taxpayers from around the country paying for the subway and light-rail systems of Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, New York and other cities? In this as in other areas, federal subsidies make it easier for local politicians to approve spending that isn't cost-efficient. We could save $5 billion to $15 billion a year by ending national subsidies for local subways.

Almost every federal program has a vocal cheering section, which is why it's so difficult to cut anything from the budget. But in an age of fiscal crisis, these are among the line items that should be squarely in the cross hairs; they have been clearly demonstrated to be bloated and ineffective, and cutting them would save hundreds of billions of dollars.

More is needed, of course. Transfer payments to individuals – dubbed "entitlements" to make them more difficult to cut – have doubled in real terms in the past 20 years and now account for 60 percent of the federal budget. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the Pentagon's base budget over the past five years averaged $529 billion, greater than the average budget during Ronald Reagan's Cold War-era defense buildup – and that doesn't even include tens of billions in supplemental appropriations to fund our wars.

In the long run we have to think more carefully about what government does. Do we want a government that spends 25 percent of GDP? Should the U.S. military act as the world's policeman? Do taxpayers need to provide retirement and health-care benefits for middle-class and even wealthy retirees? Could private Social Security benefits and Health Savings Accounts employ standard economic incentives to make people better off than the current Social Security and Medicare programs?

Those are hard questions the country will be forced to confront down the line. But the next "fiscal cliff"-like farce is almost upon us already. To rescue some measure of credibility, politicians should at least have the courage to embrace a few cuts that make obvious, objective sense based on the evidence.



Unemployment increases yet again

On Friday, the unemployment rate increased for the second month in a row to 7.9 percent as 126,000 more Americans reported that they were unemployed in January than in December.

To make matters worse, the number of Americans reporting that they are unemployed has increased by more than 330,000 people or roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Cincinnati, Ohio since Obama was reelected in November.

How’s that for getting Americans back to work?

As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson put it, “It is even more instructive that Obama has abandoned all pretense of caring about creating conditions where private sector job creation can occur, as this past week he let his so-called Jobs Council expire into the dust bin of history.”

Wilson concluded, “Congressional leaders need to step up and use the budget process to strike down job destroying regulations, defund rogue agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and immediately cut the budget to return our nation to the economic hope and prosperity we enjoyed prior to the dramatic explosion of the size and scope of government that we have experienced over the past five years.”

The Obama administration is heading into its fifth year of attempting to fix the economy and get Americans back working again. From employing bogus tactics only meant to make Americans think he was doing “something” to fix the problem like convening a jobs council to cramming thousands of regulations down the throats of American businesses, the Obama administration has signaled that it is hostile to private sector job creation time and again.

Even more troubling is that there is no end to the havoc that Obama and his cronies in Washington are wreaking on the economy in sight.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have the ability to freeze all action in Washington, D.C. and force Obama to pay attention. They have the power to defund organizations like the EPA that are killing job creation. They can stop the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from acting as Big Labor’s government backed advocate against business owners.

It’s time they began using this authority instead of promising to on the campaign trail every other year. The economy isn’t getting better any time soon. House Republicans have nothing to lose and much to gain by effectively using the power they possess to stop the regulatory juggernaut that Obama has unleashed.

If they cannot do that, what use are they? Unemployed Americans will soon be looking beyond Republicans and Democrats for solutions.



ObamaCare's Broken Promises

Every one of the main claims made for the law is turning out to be false.

As the federal government moves forward to implement President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services is slated to spend millions of dollars promoting the unpopular legislation. In the face of this publicity blitz, it is worth remembering that the law was originally sold largely on four grounds—all of which have become increasingly implausible.

*  Lower health-care costs. One key talking point for ObamaCare was that it would reduce the cost of insurance, especially for non-group insurance. The president, citing the work of several health-policy experts, claimed that improved care coordination, investments in information technology, and more efficient marketing through exchanges would save the typical family $2,500 per year.

That was then. Now, even advocates for the law acknowledge that premiums are going up. In analyses conducted for the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado, Jonathan Gruber of MIT forecasts that premiums in the non-group market will rise by 19% to 30% due to the law. Other estimates are even higher. The actuarial firm Milliman predicts that non-group premiums in Ohio will rise by 55%-85%. Maine, Oregon and Nevada have sponsored their own studies, all of which reach essentially the same conclusion.

Some champions of the law argue that this misses the point, because once the law's new subsidies are taken into account, the net price of insurance will be lower. This argument is misleading. It fails to consider that the money for the subsidies has to come from somewhere. Although debt-financed transfer payments may make insurance look cheaper, they do not change its true social cost.

*  Smaller deficits. Increases in the estimated impact of the law on private insurance premiums, along with increases in the estimated cost of health care more generally, have led the Congressional Budget Office to increase its estimate of the budget cost of the law's coverage expansion. In 2010, CBO estimated the cost per year of expanding coverage at $154 billion; by 2012, the estimated cost grew to $186 billion. Yet CBO still scores the law as reducing the deficit.

How can this be? The positive budget score turns on the fact that the estimated revenues to pay for the law have risen along with its costs. The single largest source of these revenues? Money taken from Medicare in the form of lower Medicare payment rates, mostly in the law's out-years. Since the law's passage, however, Congress and the president have undone various scheduled Medicare cuts—including some prescribed by the law itself.

Put aside the absurdity that savings from Medicare—the country's largest unfunded liability—can be used to finance a new entitlement. The argument that health reform decreases the deficit is even worse. It depends on Congress and the president not only imposing Medicare cuts that they have proven unwilling to make but also imposing cuts that they have already specifically undone, most notably to Medicare Advantage, a program that helps millions of seniors pay for private health plans.

*  Preservation of existing insurance. After the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of health reform in June 2012, President Obama said, "If you're one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your insurance." This theme ran throughout the selling of ObamaCare: People who have insurance would not have their current arrangements disrupted.

This claim is obviously false. Indeed, disruption of people's existing insurance is one of the law's stated goals. On one hand, the law seeks to increase the generosity of policies that it deems too stingy, by limiting deductibles and mandating coverage that the secretary of Health and Human Services thinks is "essential," whether or not the policyholder can afford it. On the other hand, the law seeks to reduce the generosity of policies that it deems too extravagant, by imposing the "Cadillac tax" on costly insurance plans.

Employer-sponsored insurance has already begun to change. According to the annual Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey, the share of workers in high-deductible plans rose to 19% in 2012 from 13% in 2010.

That's just the intended consequences. One of the law's unintended consequences is that some employers will drop coverage in response to new regulations and the availability of subsidized insurance in the new exchanges. How many is anybody's guess. In 2010, CBO estimated that employer-sponsored coverage would decline by three million people in 2019; by 2012, CBO's estimate had doubled to six million.

*  Increased productivity. In 2009, the president's Council of Economic Advisers concluded that health reform would reduce unemployment, raise labor supply, and improve the functioning of labor markets. According to its reasoning, expanding insurance coverage would reduce absenteeism, disability and mortality, thereby encouraging and enabling work.

This reasoning is flawed. The evidence that a broad coverage expansion would improve health is questionable. Some studies have shown that targeted coverage can improve the health of certain groups. But according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured, "evidence is lacking that health insurance improves the health of non-elderly adults." More recent work by Richard Kronick, a health-policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton, concludes "there is little evidence to suggest that extending insurance coverage to all adults would have a large effect on the number of deaths in the U.S."

The White House economic analysis also fails to consider the adverse consequences of income-based subsidies on incentives. The support provided by both the Medicaid expansion and the new exchanges phases out as a family's income rises. But, as I and others have pointed out in these pages, income phaseouts create work disincentives like taxes do, because they reduce the net rewards to work. Further, the law imposes taxes on employers who fail to provide sufficiently generous insurance, with exceptions for part-time workers and small firms. On net, it is hard to see how health reform will make labor markets function better.

Some believe that expanding insurance coverage is a moral imperative regardless of its cost. Most supporters of the law, however, use more nuanced arguments that depend on assumptions that are increasingly impossible to defend. If we are ever to have an honest debate about entitlement spending, we will need to distinguish these positions from one another—and see them for what they really are, rather than what we wish they would be.




More Argentine stupidity:  "Argentina announced a two-month price freeze on supermarket products Monday in an effort to stop spiraling inflation. The price freeze applies to every product in all of the nation's largest supermarkets -- a group including Walmart, Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, Disco and other large chains."

WA: Bipartisan bills would nullify NDAA “indefinite detention”:  "Washington state lawmakers will consider bipartisan legislation that would block any cooperation with attempts to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens or lawful resident aliens in Washington without due process under sections written into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. If passed, the law would also make it a class C felony for any state or federal agent to act under sections 1021 or 1022 of the NDAA."



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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Investor Norman Lizt “shrugs” over taxes

"Why this fat cat likes Obama's tax plan" was the headline of a full-page ad investor Norman Lizt of La Jolla (San Diego County) took out in the New York Times in August.

No, it wasn't really an endorsement. Lizt wrote that he has been a successful investor over the years, but if Americans re-elected President Obama and his proposed tax increase became law, Lizt would face a marginal tax rate of "well over 50 percent. This represents the crossing of an inviolate threshold to me and is entirely unacceptable."

Lizt explained that he liked Obama's tax plan because it would prompt him to shutter his business, move his money into low-risk investments and give less to charity - while he would devote his time to traveling the globe with his fiancee, Rachel Martin.

I e-mailed Lizt to see if he had made good on his warning. When we spoke Tuesday, the 71-year-old told me that Rachel and he had just returned from a two-month trip around the world. He told me he had closed down his business that invested in small-capital concerns that created jobs, even medical breakthroughs.

"We did very creative work," said Lizt. "Now we're just going to do very boring, conservative land investment."

"Maybe I'll never have income again," Lizt told me. "That's the way I want it. 'No Income Norman.' "

In buying land, Lizt can increase his worth while minimizing what he has to pay to Uncle Sam. He'll still have enough assets to leave millions to those closest to him. The rest, he said, goes to his living and to charities.



ObamaCare: Two Ominous Signs

In the last few days, there have been two ominous signs about our future under ObamaCare. Both suggest the term "ObamaCare" is more accurate than the more-often used term "Affordable Care Act," because both suggest that the term "affordable" is strongly out of place.

1. The first is from Merrill Matthews, "The Most Ominous Sign Yet: Health Insurance Premiums Will Explode,", January 30. Matthews writes:

"Most health insurers in the individual market have stopped guaranteeing a person's premiums for a year. And as one commentator quipped: they aren't doing it because they expect to be lowering people's premiums.

Traditionally in the individual market, where people buy their own (i.e., non-group) health coverage, applicants sign a contract and the insurance company guarantees that premium for a year. I'm told that about 12 percent of individual applicants would write a check for the year's premium, rather than being billed monthly.

No more. Health insurers started sending out notices in January informing insurance brokers and agents that the companies will no longer guarantee that premium rate. From now on it's month to month."

2. The second is from the IRS's own proposed regulations. In laying out some examples of what kinds of penalties (even the IRS, interestingly, despite Judge John Roberts' claim that the penalty is a tax, doesn't call the penalty a tax) people will pay for not buying insurance, the IRS gives some hypothetical numbers for the cost of an insurance policy. In my experience, the IRS tends to come up with numbers that would apply relatively widely. So, in estimating the cost of a "bronze" health insurance policy that would satisfy the government's criteria (bronze is the lowest level of coverage allowed), what estimate does the IRS use for the cost for a family of five? The answer I found on page 70: $20,000. ["Affordable"?]



Retail Workweek Hits 3-Year Low In ObamaCare Shift

As employers begin to shift workers onto a 28 hour week, it drags the average down

The fly in the ointment of January's jobs report was the apparent shift to part-time work ahead of a key ObamaCare deadline. Although retail payrolls grew by 32,600, total hours worked in the industry dipped, Labor Department data out Friday showed.

The explanation? Rank-and-file retail workers logged the shortest workweek since early 2010: just 30.1 hours, on average, vs. 30.4 in December.

Remarkably, aggregate hours worked in the retail sector fell below their January 2012 level, even though industry payrolls are up 200,000 over that period.

A similar trend showed up in leisure and hospitality: January payrolls rose by 23,000 even as aggregate hours dipped 0.3%.

Meanwhile, the ranks of part-time workers due to business conditions or because they can't find full-time work, trending lower in the past few years, rose by 212,000 to 7.8 million.

While the data are volatile and the shift to shorter workweeks in January was less than dramatic, this may be the start of something big. All signs suggest that businesses are starting to adjust their employment policies in response to ObamaCare. It's possible that much of this shift may occur in the next few months.

New Treasury Department guidelines released early last month give businesses until June 30 before their staffing levels begin to influence fines that may apply in 2014 when the ObamaCare exchanges launch.

The law exempts companies with fewer than 50 employees from providing health care coverage. Firms with at least 50 workers face fines based on the number of employees who receive ObamaCare subsidies, which are only available to people who lack affordable coverage from an employer.

But those fines — up to $3,000 per ObamaCare subsidized worker — won't apply for part-time workers, which the law defines as 30 hours per week.

An obvious strategy to minimize fines is to cut some workers to just below the 30-hour threshold. Staying below the 50-worker threshold — based on total hours rather than a simple head count — also may be an option.

TrimTabs Investment Research CEO David Santschi said last week he expects sluggish growth as "businesses prepare for the full implementation of ObamaCare," adding to the impact of fiscal-cliff tax hikes.

The National Retail Federation on Friday urged President Obama to "delay health care reform mandates that will force employers to cut their payrolls or reduce hours for workers."

A number of larger retail and restaurant employers have signaled that they may keep a lid on worker hours to avoid the responsibility of providing coverage that meets ObamaCare guidelines.



What Planet Does John Kerry Live On?

The two-day old tenure of Secretary of State John Kerry got off to a flying start today with an astonishing statement from his ambassador to Egypt, Anne W. Patterson, at a joint ceremony in Cairo to mark the delivery of four American-made F-16 aircraft:

    "Today's ceremony demonstrates the firm belief of the United States that a strong Egypt is in the interest of the U.S., the region, and the world. We look to Egypt to continue to serve as a force for peace, security, and leadership as the Middle East proceeds with its challenging yet essential journey toward democracy. … Our thirty-four year security partnership is based upon shared interests and mutual respect. The United States has long recognized Egypt as an indispensible partner."


(1) Is not anyone in the Department of State aware that Egypt is now run by an Islamist zealot from the bowels of the Muslim Brotherhood whose goals differ profoundly from those of Americans?

(2) Willfully ignorant, head-in-the-ground statements like this are the embarrassment and ruin of American foreign policy.

(3) What a launch for Kerry, whose mental vapidity promises to make Hillary Clinton actually look good in retrospect. (February 3, 2013)



It Took America’s Oldest President To Make Her Feel Young Again

Ronald Reagan’s birthday will be commemorated this week. He took office just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday in 1981 making him the oldest man elected to serve as our Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief, that is until he stood for re-election in 1984. In fact, one of the most well-known lines in Presidential debate history came in response to Reagan being questioned whether his age would be an important factor in his re-election campaign. Reagan, in his famous Irish wit, said, “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” which drew a roar of laughter from the crowd and even his opponent, Walter Mondale. Reagan won the election 49 states to 1. The irony is that it would take America’s oldest President to remind her what it means to be young again. The lessons he taught hold some key insights into not only renewing the American economy (showing strong signs of lethargy), but the American spirit.

A youthful spirit, which Reagan clearly possessed in great measure, has been described as “a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life" and manifests in a "temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” The former California Governor displayed this vitality when he made his announcement that he would seek the Presidency in 1980. He exhorted, “Someone once said that the difference between an American and any other kind of person is that an American lives in anticipation of the future because he knows it will be a great place.”

But, Reagan contrasted, “There are those in our land today, however, who would have us believe that the United States, like other great civilizations of the past, has reached the zenith of its power; that we are weak and fearful, reduced to bickering with each other and no longer possessed of the will to cope with our problems.” He continued, “They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been; that the America of the coming years will be a place where – because of our past excesses – it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true. I don’t believe that. And, I don’t believe you do either. That is why I am seeking the presidency.”

Reagan handily defeated Jimmy Carter (44 states to 6) in 1980 and took up the challenge of re-invigorating a weary economy, once the envy of the world, now weighed down by over-taxation and over-regulation. The economic climate Reagan inherited was every bit as bad as Barack Obama’s. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent versus 10 percent in the recent recession. Further there were the pressures of double-digit inflation (13.5 percent) and interest rates (21.5 percent prime), so the quantitative easing seen throughout the Obama Administration, with the Federal Reserve financing trillions of dollars in deficit spending with money printed out of thin air, was not an option. Instead, the Fed had to do just the opposite and shrink the money supply in order to knock down inflation.

The two men fundamentally disagreed over the role the federal government should play on the stage of American life. President Obama announced in his First Inaugural Address, “The question is not whether government is too big or too small, but whether it works, ” Reagan said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem…. It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.” He reminded America, “We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around.” In short, Reagan wanted to reduce the role of the federal government, so the roles played by the American people could increase. He knew their combined creativity and industry trumped the collective wisdom of a few “elite” Washington bureaucrats trying to tax, spend and borrow us into prosperity.

The results speak for themselves. The Reagan economy brought about the greatest economic expansion in American history. It created 18 million new jobs (with a population of 85 million less than today.) In his re-election year of 1984 alone over 4 million new jobs were created, which was the amount added during Obama’s entire first term. The unemployment rate dropped in half to 5 percent; unemployment ticked back up again last month to 7.9 percent, and if the labor participation rate were the same as when Obama took office, it would be 10.8 percent. The Reagan economy grew an entire third larger with GDP growth hitting 7.2 percent in his re-election year versus 2 percent for Obama in 2012, (-0.1 percent for the last quarter). Additionally, revenues to the federal treasury nearly doubled during the 1980s. Under Obama, revenues still have not reached the 2008 level.

For Reagan, it was all just "common sense." When you tax something more, you get less of it. Following his cutting of taxes and burdensome regulations, “the economy bloomed” like a pruned plant that could now grow “quicker and stronger.” When he left office in January of 1989, he could report with the deep satisfaction that the American dream was restored and the story of the greatest nation in the history of the world would continue. “My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.” Reagan believed that America could be young again, and that faith was so deep and abiding in political truth, he convinced her too.



A Pyhhric victory for liberals?

Let’s face facts. In many ways, the liberal’s cultural narrative has prevailed regarding gays, minorities, and the role of women (including single mothers). That’s not to say that conservatives are somehow anti-minority or anti-women – the Democrats have pushed that nonsense even as they eagerly embraced the likes of Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd and noted feminizer Ted Kennedy. Now, states are allowing gay marriage not just via liberal judges but in the right way – through referendum and legislatures. Whether conservatives like it or not, the narrative the liberals have marketed themselves as backing is largely winning. And it’s potentially a big political problem for liberals down the road.

In 2012, the Democrats certainly had a field day beating on the Republicans, but this time it was on the cultural issues that America – for better or worse – seems to have made up its mind about.

All their work over the years to normalize homosexuality, to promote acceptance of minorities, and to redefine the roles of women has succeeded. The liberals have largely won these fights – to the extent they were even being fought other than on some issues regarding gays. But that success may turn out to be a problem for them in the coming years.

After all, besides savaging Republicans for all sorts of imagined oppressions, what more remains for the left to talk about? Republicans are too sensible with our money? They want America to be too powerful and too free? Maybe immigration, except the Republican establishment is generally so eager to reform the system that Obama seems to be trying to torpedo the entire endeavor in order to keep it around to milk with chants of “¡Sí se puede!”

What’s left after the cultural issue scourging strips away the issues that most Americans hate? What remains are positions most Americans love?

In future elections, the Democrat desperately seeking to tar his opponent as anti-gay, anti-minority or anti-woman is going to have to contend with a Republican who is gay, a minority, a woman or even all three. Then what will the Democrat have to talk about? His party’s record on job creation? Ha!

Politics aren’t static – people and societies change, and what is a powerful line of attack in one election cycle may very well become a hackneyed cliché in the next. The fact is that even many conservatives are slowly embracing the cultural consensus – or just conceding the field by figuratively muttering “Whatever” (although how society is generally moving in a conservative direction on issues like life and religion is another subject entirely). Pretty soon, the liberal’s tired attacks on conservatives as culturally out of touch may draw shrugs instead of votes.

One moment, the liberals have harnessed a powerful meme; the next, it’s gone in a puff of smoke.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc



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Monday, February 04, 2013

Surprise!  Surprise! Obama Administration Secretly Recruiting Muslims With Ties to Terrorism to Work at State Department

To put the enormity of this in perspective; it would be like England recruiting Nazis sympathizers to head up negotiations with Germany, pre-WWII…

The Obama administration is covertly recruiting Muslims to work at the State Department as Foreign Service officers representing the United States in one of 265 American embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions worldwide.

It appears to be part of the administration’s Muslim outreach effort, which includes a variety of controversial moves. Among them Homeland Security meetings with extremist Islamic organizations, sending an America-bashing mosque leader (Feisal Abdul Rauf) who blames U.S. foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks on a Middle Eastern outreach mission and revamping the way federal agents are trained to combat terrorism by eliminating all materials that shed a negative light on Muslims.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even signed a special order to allow the reentry of two radical Islamic academics whose terrorist ties long banned them from the U.S.

Now comes news of a secretive State Department campaign, discovered in the course of a Judicial Watch investigation, to add Muslims to its roster. Presumably, the new recruits will be deployed around the globe to help the agency fulfill its mission of promoting the country’s international relations. The campaign seems to be headed by Mark Ward, the Deputy Special Coordinator in the State Department’s Office of Middle East Transition.

Ward held a 90-minute seminar at a recent convention sponsored by two groups—Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)—with known ties to radical Islam. Both nonprofits are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is known as the parent organization of Hamas and al Qaeda. In fact, the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that MAS was founded as the U.S. chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood which strives to indoctrinate the world with Islamic Sharia law.

Yet there was a U.S. State Department official, side by side at a radical Islamic powwow in Chicago with a number ofspeakers who advocate violent jihad. Among them was Kifah Mustapha, a fundraiser at terrorist organization (Holy Land Foundation) convicted of funneling millions to Hamas and Jamal Badawi, a MAS founder who praised the jihad of Gaza terrorists during a speech titled “Understanding Jihad and Martyrdom.”

The conference that Ward conducted focused on career opportunities for Muslim youth. Here is how the event was billed: “Besides being a citizenship duty, there are benefits that Muslims can add to the American Muslim community and the global Muslim world by joining the US Foreign Services. This session will shed light on the different career opportunities for Muslim youth in the US Foreign Services Department. It will also clear any concerns that many people have feared about   pursuing in this career.”

Joining Ward at the podium in the recruitment seminar were Ayman Hammous and Oussama Jammal.  Hammous is the Executive Director of the New York chapter of MAS and Jammal is the president of the Mosque Foundation, a conservative mosque in Bridgeview, Illinois that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Holy Land Foundation and other Islamic charities accused of financing terrorism.



How the Left Thinks


By Dennis Prager

To understand leftism, the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years, you have to understand how the left thinks. The 2013 inaugural address of President Barack Obama provides one such opportunity.

–”What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”

What American does not resonate to a president reaffirming this magnificent statement from our Declaration of Independence?

But here’s the intellectual sleight of hand: “What makes us exceptional — what makes us American” is indeed the belief that rights come from God.

But this seminal idea is not mentioned again in the entire inaugural address. This was most unfortunate. An inaugural address that would concentrate on the decreasing significance of God in American life — one of the left’s proudest accomplishments — would address what may well be the single most important development in the last half-century of American life.

–”We learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.”

If there is one word that most excites progressives, it is “new.” (“Old” turns the left off: Judeo-Christian religions and the Constitution are two such examples.) The fact is that Americans did not make “themselves anew” after the Civil War. What they did was finally affirm what was old — the Founders’ belief that “all men are created equal.”

So why did the president say this? Because what he and the left want to do is to make America anew — by making it a left-wing country.

–”Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.”

The president used the word “together” four times in his speech. In no instance, did it make sense. What he meant each time is government. In the mind of the left, together and government are one.

Moreover, the point is meaningless. We determined that “a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce”? Isn’t that utterly self-evident? Isn’t it as meaningless as saying that “together, we determined that jets are faster than propeller planes?

–”Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.”  Again, “together” — meaning the government.

And, again, this is an intellectual sleight of hand in order to make his case for more government. The free market “only thrives” when individuals have the freedom to take risks. Too large a government and too many rules choke the free market. Look at Europe and every other society with too many rules governing the marketplace.

–”Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”  This is pure leftism: Individual freedom will be preserved by an ever-expanding state.

The whole American experiment in individual freedom has been predicated on as small a government as possible.

–”No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need … or build the roads and networks and research labs …

Who, pray tell, has ever said that a single person can train all teachers, build the roads, etc.? The point he is making, once again, is that only the government can do all these things.

–”The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

This is either a non-sequitur or a falsehood. Huge government programs do not increase risk taking, and, yes, they often do make “a nation of takers.” Again, look at Europe.

If such programs encouraged entrepreneurial risk-taking, European countries would have the most such risk-takers in the Western world. Instead, Europe has indeed become a continent of takers.

–”We will respond to the threat of climate change … Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

“The overwhelming judgment of science.” Just as the left has changed global warming to “climate change,” the president has now changed scientists to “science.” To differ with the environmentalist left on the sources of whatever global warming there is, or whether to impede the economic growth of the Western democracies in the name of reducing carbon emissions is now to deny “science” itself, not merely to differ with some scientists.

Moreover, all three claims of the president are false.

As the Danish environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg, who believes that there is global warming and that that it is caused primarily by carbon emissions, wrote about the president’s claims:

On fires: “Analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15 percent” (italics in original).

On drought: “The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that ‘there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.’”

On storms: “Hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century.”

–”That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”

Finally God is mentioned — on behalf of solar panels and windmills! The god of the left is the god of environmentalism.

–”We the people still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

The president’s favorite American — the Straw Man. Who exactly believes in “perpetual war?” Perhaps the president confuses perpetual strength with perpetual war.

Had he not been a leftist, he could have said:  “We the people still believe that enduring security and lasting peace require perpetual American strength.”

–”But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war.”

Whatever peace we have won has been won as a result of war and/or being militarily prepared for war. But acknowledging that would mean abandoning leftist doctrine.

–”We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naãve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”

“Not because we are naãve?” The entire sentence is an ode to the left’s naivetÇ regarding evil.

–”Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

The president didn’t say what would create more security in children than anything else — a father in their lives. Why didn’t he? Because the left doesn’t talk about the need for fathers. Such talk is deemed sexist, anti-women, anti-single mothers and anti-same-sex marriage.

But the left does talk utopian. In what universe are children “always safe from harm?” The answer is in the utopian imagination of the left, which then passes law after law and uproots centuries of values in order to create their utopia.

–”Being true to our founding documents … does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way.”

That’s more left-wing ideology: Liberty means what you want it mean. As does marriage, art, family, truth and good and evil.

–”We cannot … substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

No conservative could agree more with that. They are, after all, two of the most prominent features of left-wing political life.

–”Let us …  carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”

The president began his address citing Creator-given rights, but never mentioned either the Creator or Creator-given rights in what followed. So, too, he ended his address with a call to freedom that had nothing to do with anything he said preceding it. The address was about climate change, same-sex marriage, equal pay for women, and mostly, expanding the power of the state – not freedom.

The speech was not inspiring. But it did have one important value: It illuminated how the left thinks



Mass Vanishing from Workforce Linked to Alien Abduction‏

With over 8 million people mysteriously disappearing from the US workforce during President Barack Obama's first term, experts are working on a number of theories to explain this riddle, the most commonly mentioned reason being alien abductions occurring throughout the US on an extraordinarily massive scale.

According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of people disappearing from the US workforce rose from 80.5 million when the president took office in 2009 to the current 89 million, while unemployment has remained steady near 8-9%. In other words, 8.5 million people have simply vanished in a way that can't be explained by the usual retirement or disability trends.

"Since we can't blame it on the economy, the only conceivable explanation is that someone is taking people out of the labor market by force," said Malcolm Lenivie, noted economist for the DC-based Center for Keynesian Economics. "The President has spent $6 trillion in stimulus packages and all our studies indicate that his plan is working, so something else must be at play."

Early theories included abductions by Mexican drug cartels, but leading security experts agree that it would be impossible to move eight million people across the US border undetected.

"Our border is extremely secure," said border security analyst Jared Contrabandzis of the American Progressive Initiative, a non-partisan think tank. "No one can cross our southern border in any direction without our knowledge. The Border Patrol catches them all and reports them to the authorities."

Sources say the President is taking this matter very seriously and is putting pressure on the Pentagon to investigate the possibility of alien abductions and to find a way to stop the disappearance of the American labor force.

Insiders in Washington speculate that if top brass in the US Air Force do not take immediate action, President Obama will likely fire a number of generals and reorganize the command structure.

"The President will not let this crisis go to waste," said Lenivie, adding that heads will roll all over Washington until one of these theories can be substantiated. "We know for sure the problem is not caused by the economy, since all of our numbers indicate that recovery is well on its way. It isn't just around the corner, it is here."

The White House is ordering the Air Force to review surveillance footage from radar stations throughout the world for evidence of alien aircraft, as intelligence satellites are being re-tasked from areas like the Middle East and China to scour the continental US for possible stashes of missing workers.

SOURCE (Satire)



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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Government targeting of conservatives a disturbing trend

Remember the 2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo on supposed right-wing extremism?

It was the one that defined the ideology as “groups, movements, and adherents that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority” and “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

This was the same memo that suggested veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan might be recruited by terrorists.

In one broad swoop, it appeared that the government was targeting millions of Americans solely on the basis of their political beliefs, and even because they had served their country at war. When it became public, it caused a firestorm nationwide.

An Americans for Limited Government (ALG) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request into the memo at the time revealed several sources had been used to develop the intelligence assessment. Many were news stories and some even were outlandish websites.

But the key one to remember is the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center.

At the time ALG President Bill Wilson noted, “Not a single study or report was from any government source,” said Wilson. “There was no evidence of any actual active recruitment of ‘disgruntled veterans’ by these groups, no evidence showing that folks who purchase guns or oppose gun-control legislation are necessarily dangerous, and no evidence that the economic downturn or the election of Barack Obama that is fueling any actual ‘resurgence’ of ‘extremism.’”

“The memo did not illuminate on any actual planned attacks or any groups known to be planning attacks, or any groups with histories of perpetrating attacks that are currently conducting any types of operational recruitment, meeting, or planning attacks,” Wilson added. In other words, there was no evidence presented in the report itself.

Putting a fine point on the matter, he said, “The background DHS used was not based on credible intelligence sources, reporting, and analysis. Instead, what we found is that the Department was apparently surfing the net to see what news stories happened to turn up to support a pre-determined conclusion.”

After the memo became public, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano issued a statement defending the report, swearing up and down that the government “[does] not — nor will we ever — monitor ideology or political beliefs.”

Then, weeks later, a DHS Domestic Extremism Lexicon, whose release the Department claimed was a mistake, contained 9 pages of terms and political identifications that the DHS linked to potential domestic terrorists. The definition of “rightwing extremism” from the controversial DHS memo also appeared in that report.

Eventually the original memo was withdrawn, and Napolitano was forced to admit in congressional testimony that “The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed,” and to boot that “An employee sent it out without authorization.”

Originally, she was defending the report, but once Congress started prying, those involved were promptly thrown under the bus.

That same year, a similar memo was sent out by Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), a federal “fusion center”, to Missouri law enforcement. In that “threat” advisory, police were told to keep an eye out for Americans concerned about unemployment, taxes, illegal immigration, gangs, border security, abortion, high costs of living, gun restrictions, FEMA, the IRS, and the Federal Reserve.

The MIAC advisory also stated that potential domestic terrorists would be attracted to gun shows, shortwave radios, action movies, movies with white male heroes like Rambo, Tom Clancy novels, and presidential candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Chuck Baldwin.

Much like the DHS memo, the Southern Poverty Law Center was cited, this time directly in the MIAC memo itself, as a top source of information.

And much like the DHS memo, it was withdrawn by the agency that put it forward, followed by public apologies from government officials. Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R-MO) even asked that Missouri Public Safety Director John Britt be placed on administrative leave.

And who could forget the written exam administered by the Pentagon that defined “protests” as a form of “low-level terrorism,” raising serious concerns among civil liberties advocates about how the military views the exercise of First Amendment freedoms like civil dissent?

Next up was retired Army Colonel Kevin Benson, seminar leader at the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and former head of the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies, who wrote an article in Small Wars Journal depicting a scenario where a “tea party” militia led by “race-baiting and immigrant-bashing by right-wing demagogues” had overtaken the government of Darlington, South Carolina with the tacit consent of law enforcement and a tea party-sympathizing governor.

Most recently, another report has emerged, “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” by Dr. Arie Perliger, director of terrorism studies at the West Point’s Center for Combating Center (CTC).   That was just published on Jan. 15.

This report warns of the rising militancy of so-called “anti-federalists” that Perliger says embrace ideas like “civil activism, individual freedoms and self-government.” And so-called “anti-federalists” who “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights.”

In light of the report, ALG’s Wilson in a letter called on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to defund the CTC pending withdrawal of the report and the termination of Perliger from public service.

“Not one more dime of taxpayer money should be wasted on CTC, which is indoctrinating our servicemen and women with brazen propaganda against the American people,” Wilson declared.

In that report, the Southern Poverty Law Center was referenced no less than 24 times.

Which is little wonder. That organization appears to have the ear of the entire military, security, and law enforcement establishment nationwide.

While no smoking gun, a recent exchange of emails exposed by Judicial Watch between the Department of Justice and Southern Poverty Law Center, arranging for the organization’s co-founder Morris Dees to speak at a Department event, does reveal the cozy relationship between the nation’s top law enforcement and the organization.

Judicial Watch notes that Southern Poverty Law Center lists as hate groups several conservative organizations like the Family Research Council, American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has, in the past few years, taken to labeling organizations with conservative views on social issues as ‘hate groups,’” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Fitton added, “Given these fawning emails, one would have thought that a head of state was visiting the Justice Department.  The SPLC is an attack group, and it is disturbing that it has premier access to our Department of Justice, which is charged with protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”

The fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center has been used so prominently in three major intelligence assessments by DHS, Missouri’s “fusion center,” and now even at West Point confirms that the organization’s reach into the security apparatus of the U.S. is far and wide indeed.

Wilson said the West Point memo was “part of a wider pattern of targeting Americans by the military and security establishment that ought to be disturbing to all Americans regardless of political stripe.”

Yet, except for some right-leaning outlets and organizations that are crying foul, the story is receiving little attention in the mainstream media.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found 53 percent of Americans view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms.

Perhaps one reason why is on account of a growing body of evidence that the American people are being targeted by security officials, law enforcement, and now the military, singularly based on their political beliefs. And apparently at the behest of a politically motivated, radical left-wing organization. All the while, a complicit or complacent media turns a blind eye.

“When a liberal group like the Pew Research Center finds that more than half of the American people feel the government is a threat to their liberty, this a hardly a fringe concern,” Wilson noted, concluding, “Maybe the American people have every right to be afraid of the government after all.”



The coming regulatory recession?

Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce reported the stunning news the U.S. economy actually contracted by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. The immediate response by many politicians and the establishment media was to blame spending cuts, or the threat of them, rather than even look at the dramatic increase in regulation over the last few years.

The Washington Post sent a news bulletin shortly thereafter that blamed the problem on “cuts in government spending, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.” The “cuts in government spending” part is wrong on its face. According to the U.S. Treasury Department (and hat tip to John Nolte of, government expenditures actually increased by more than 10 percent from the previous quarter.

The Associated Press story The Post linked to in the bulletin did not repeat the error and was technically accurate in noting reduced defense spending. But a more likely cause of the economy contracting was the very real threat — and realization — of the “regulatory cliff.” If there’s one thing worse than uncertainty, it is the certainty thousands of pages of new regulatory policies will go into effect. It’s far more likely the contraction was caused by entrepreneurs and investors seeing this future of shackling regulations and pulling back their investment in response.

President Obama’s reelection made it highly unlikely job creators would get any substantial relief from costly new provisions of the Affordable Care Act or the Dodd-Frank banking overhaul that hits many community banks and non-financial businesses. As Adam J. White noted recently in The Weekly Standard, “The Obama administration’s first three years of major rules, costing up to $26.7 billion, were five times more burdensome than the Bush administration’s first three years ($5.3 billion) and three and a half times more burdensome than the Clinton administration’s ($7.6 billion).” White adds that these “major rules” were only a fraction of the 3,500 total regulations Obama has issued so far, and the cost figures did not even included the opportunity costs for the economy in his blocking of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In addition, government entities that faced bipartisan criticism for being out of control, such as the EPA and Department of Labor, now had free rein. Indeed, a torrent of new regulations that had been on hold for more than a year suddenly were released — in President Obama’s post-election Unified Regulatory Agenda and elsewhere. National Journal reported just after the election that “federal agencies are sitting on a pile of major health, environmental and financial regulations that lobbyists, congressional staffers and former administration officials say are being held back to avoid providing ammunition to Mitt Romney and other Republican critics.”

As my Competitive Enterprise Institute colleague Ryan Young has put it: “Now that this ammunition will no longer have electoral consequences, the EPA can move ahead on delayed rules on everything from greenhouse gas emissions to ozone standards. Rules from the health care bill and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill also likely will make themselves known in the weeks to come.”

In addition to the domestic rules, the Basel III international banking accord that was scheduled to go into effect this year threatened to severely constrict banks of all sizes from making loans even to high-quality borrowers. Under the regime, banks would have been forced to hold two to three times as much capital against most mortgages and small business loans.

The good news is slow growth — or even negative growth — can be dramatically reversed if the regulatory onslaught is reversed or at least significantly reduced. For instance, the first quarter of 2013 may be better because Basel III was delayed and somewhat revised to allow banks to hold different types of capital. To get growth going again, President Obama and Congress’ first priority should be to reduce or reverse the “regulatory cliff.”



Some Israeli satire

You need to know a bit about Israeli politics to follow it.  A centrist party (Yair Lapid) got an unexpectedly large vote in the recent election and the conservatives under Netanyahu (Likud) just scraped a plurality


Is this guy the most disgusting RINO yet?

Hagel faulted for calling US “world bully” in Al Jazeera interview

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel on Thursday faced a barrage of criticism about his fitness to be the next defense secretary, including his agreement with a controversial statement that the United States is the “world’s bully.”

President Barack Obama’s nominee to be defense secretary ran into sharp opposition from Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee who questioned Hagel on an array of controversial policies.

Senators questioned Hagel about his opposition to tough U.S. policies toward Iran, his calling the successful U.S. military surge in Iraq a “blunder,” and his support for sharp unilateral cuts in U.S. nuclear forces.

Hagel also backtracked on past statements that a “Jewish lobby” was intimidating the Senate into adopting “dumb” policies.

Hagel maintained a calm demeanor but at several points in the hearing appeared unprepared for some questions during seven hours of testimony.

Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), in his first public appearance as a member of the committee, played portions of a 2009 Al Jazeera interview in which Hagel was asked how the United States could lead in reducing nuclear arms when the “perception and the reality” views the United States as “the world’s bully.”

Hagel, in the video, responded saying: “Well, her observation is a good one, and it’s relevant. Yes, to her question.”

A visibly upset Cruz then asked Hagel during the hearing: “Sen. Hagel, do you think it’s appropriate for the chief civilian leader of the U.S. military forces to agree with the statement that both the perception, quote, ‘and the reality’ is that the United States is, quote, ‘the world’s bully’”?

Hagel disagreed with the email and said his comment was a “relevant and good observation.”

Much more HERE



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