Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Washington Cover-up Machine At Work

Don’t look now, but Benghazi is back in the news (although not because the D.C. press corps are finally doing their due diligence). Instead, the news is buzzing about a brazen prison break in the violent, eastern Libyan city.
It’s been nearly a year since the brutal September 11, 2012 execution of American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. And the D.C. journalists have uncovered nothing. They lack investigative willpower and can’t think of any questions to ask, despite the total lack of disclosure by the Obama administration.
These attacks have shown us that a compliant media, together with corrupt politicians, can keep average Americans from knowing the truth. Cover-up in the U.S. capitol is only possible when all the sides work cohesively together, and the Benghazi cover-up machine has worked remarkably well. 

Beware the President’s Bait-and-Switch on Corporate Tax Reform

In his latest pivot to jobs and the economy, the President spoke yesterday in Tennessee.
Much of his speech was tax-spend-and-regulate boilerplate, but he did repackage some of his ideas into a so-called grand bargain.
He said he’s willing to cut the corporate tax rate in exchange for a bunch of new spending on things such as infrastructure (he didn’t specify whether it would be “shovel ready” this time) and dozens of “innovation institutes” (as if the notoriously sluggish and inefficient federal government can teach the private sector about being entrepreneurial.
In theory, however, such a deal might be worthwhile. It’s not a good idea to add to the burden of federal spending, of course, but if there’s a big enough reduction in the corporate tax rate, it might be worth the cost.

Harry Reid Helps Warren Buffett Acquire Big Energy Firm

Even if you're Warren Buffett--billionaire investor, founder of Berkshire Hathaway, and Democratic donor--it helps to have friends in high places. Through his holding company MidAmerican Energy, Buffett is currently atttempting to purchase NV Energy, a Nevada-based energy firm, and he's getting some big help from that state's senior U.S. senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Energy and Environmental Daily reports (subscriber content only) that Reid, who has been publicly supporting Buffett's acquisition of NV Energy and has criticized Nevada state regulators holding up the purchase, wrote a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting the agency give "close consideration" to the purchase agreement. If approved, the $5.6 billion purchase would make Buffett's MidAmerican the nation's "largest utility holding company." 

U.S. Outlines N.S.A.’s Culling of Data for All Domestic Calls

The Obama administration on Wednesday released formerly classified documents outlining a once-secret program of the National Security Agency that is collecting records of all domestic phone calls in the United States, as a newly leaked N.S.A. document surfaced showing how the agency spies on Web browsing and other Internet activity abroad.
Together, the new round of disclosures shed even more light on the scope of the United States government’s secret surveillance programs, which have been dragged into public view and debate by leaks from the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the newly declassified documents related to the domestic phone logging program at the start of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic. Simultaneously, The Guardian published a still-classified 32-page presentation leaked by Mr. Snowden that describes the N.S.A.'s XKeyscore program, which mines Internet browsing information that the agency is apparently vacuuming up at 150 network sites around the world. 

The Forgotten War

The Forgotten War, it's called. Which is why it was so good to have it remembered so ceremoniously and extensively this past weekend on the 60th anniversary of the tenuous armistice -- certainly not peace -- that has uneasily endured on the Korean peninsula ever since.
The Korean War is worth remembering and so are all those who fought in it, the living and the dead, the great and small, the worthless politicians who knew only how to continue it and the unsung heroes who died in the snow and ice.
And let there be no mistake: It was a war, not a Police Action, just as Iraq and Afghanistan in our time have been wars, not Overseas Contingency Operations. As always, euphemism is the first and clearest symptom of a lack of national resolve. Seldom since Korea, at least till now, has the disparity between this country's political leadership -- first unprepared and then vacillating -- and the heroism and endurance of its fighting men been so clear.

Senate global warming hearing backfires on Democrats and Senator Boxer

During yesterday’s Environment and Public Works hearings, Sen. David Vitter asked a panel of experts, including experts selected by Boxer,“Can any witnesses say they agree with Obama’s statement that warming has accelerated during the past 10 years?” For several seconds, nobody said a word. Sitting just a few rows behind the expert witnesses, I thought I might have heard a few crickets chirping, but I couldn’t tell for sure.
James Taylor from reports:
Expert witnesses called by Sen. Barbara Boxer to testify during Senate Environment and Public Works hearings yesterday contradicted a key assertion made by President Barack Obama on climate change.
Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser less than a month before directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to impose costly new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions, Obama said, “we also know that the climate is warming faster than anybody anticipated five or 10 years ago.”
“I don’t have much patience for people who deny climate change,” Obama added.

Issa Accuses White House, IRS of Stonewalling on Targeting Probe

Rep. Darrell Issa accused the Obama administration and its new IRS chief on Tuesday of obstructing his panel's investigation into the agency's targeting of tea party, conservative and religious groups.

If "the IRS continues to hinder the committee's investigation in any manner, the committee will be forced to consider use of compulsory process," the California Republican, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter to Internal Revenue Service Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel.

The letter, which was reported by The Washington Times and CNN, was also signed by Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who also sits on the committee.

'Obama's Middle Class Malaise'

Hoover Institution scholar Richard A. Epstein has a great article taking apart President Obama's basic economic philosophy, showing why his policies are failing the very people he claims to want to help; the poor and the Middle Class.

The President's speech at Knox College needs some close deconstruction because it sheds harsh light on a problem that has dogged his domestic policy agenda from the beginning: intellectual rigidity. The President, who has never worked a day in the private sector, has no systematic view of the way in which businesses operate or economies grow. He never starts a discussion by asking how the basic laws of supply and demand operate, and shows no faith that markets are the best mechanism for bringing these two forces into equilibrium.

Read more:

Good News From The Tenth Amendment Center

The point of this article is that states must engage in the nullification process to negate the ever expanding reach and power grabs of the federal government.  Federal government powers have been expanding for a long time and are now reaching a tipping point.  The people are awakening to the reality that the federal government has far exceeded its Constitutional powers and is infringing the powers assigned by that document to the states and to the people.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us to work with our leaders at the local and state levels to stop and, indeed, reverse the growth of the federal leviathan.  Let's get to work.  

George Burns

Government Unions Break Cities

An article in today's Wall Street Journal illustrates how government union leaders halted any reforms that may have prevented Detroit's bankruptcy:
A major expense for Detroit is the cost of lawsuits filed against the city for various alleged injuries on municipal property. At the transportation department, there were hundreds of claims arising from bus accidents alone. How many of those claims were fraudulent? How many were settled (with the cost of settlement and legal fees posted against DDOT's budget) at unnecessarily high cost? ...
In the DDOT we tried to hire our own lawyers to fight these claims. But we were blocked by city charter provisions prohibiting any city department from hiring outside counsel without the approval of the Detroit City Council. When we inquired with the mayor's office we were told that the union representing the law department—in Detroit, even the lawyers are unionized—would block any such approval. 

Beauty, Brains, and Bias

Every picture tells a story and if you ever visit R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.’s office, you might notice a photo of The American Spectator‘s Editor-in-Chief grinning with a martini in his hand. There is a story behind that photo, which was taken in the lobby bar of D.C.’s fabulous Omni Shoreham Hotel, on the occasion of the publication of Bob’s 2007 book, The Clinton Crack-Up.
Tyrrell and The American Spectator had then only recently emerged from an extended period of troubles that began during the Clinton presidency, when the magazine’s investigation of the Lecher-in-Chief’s womanizing led rather directly to Clinton’s impeachment. The Spectator reported about a certain Arkansas woman named “Paula,” who later became the plaintiff in the Jones v. Clinton federal lawsuit, during the depositions for which suit the president perjured himself about his tawdry affair with a certain Miss Lewinsky. Anyone who doubts that Democrats are masters of the “politics of personal destruction” — to borrow a memorable Clintonian phrase — should ask Tyrrell about the orchestrated payback campaign against The American Spectator that ensued. The magazine was quite nearly destroyed and yet, by 2007, here was the scrappy editor still on his feet ready to do battle, with a new book published even as the former First Lady’s seemingly unstoppable 2008 presidential bandwagon was beginning to roll. 

$36 Million in Farm Subsidies Paid to Dead People, GAO Reports

The federal government has paid as much as $35.9 million in farm subsidies to dead people, a watchdog agency claims.
The subsidies were part of the $20 billion a year effort to support farmers with crop insurance, conservation efforts and disaster assistance administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2008 to 2012.
Two of the department’s  agencies do “not have procedures in place consistent with federal internal control standards to prevent potentially improper subsidies on behalf of deceased individuals,” the Government Accountability Office said in a 25-page report released Monday.
The report, entitled “USDA Needs to Do More to Prevent Improper Payments to Deceased Individuals,” looked at three departments within the USDA, the Risk Management Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Services and the Farm Service Agency. 

DEA to pay $4.1 million to student forgotten in holding cell for 5 days

A college student mistakenly left in a Drug Enforcement Administration interrogation room for five days will receive $4.1 million from the government in a settlement in advance of a lawsuit.
The settlement was announced Tuesday in San Diego by the student, Daniel Chong, 25, and his lawyer, Eugene Iredale.
"It was an accident, a really bad, horrible accident," said Chong, who added that he now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bizarre event in April 2012 began when Chong, an engineering student at UC San Diego, went to a house near campus to smoke marijuana with friends and found himself swept up in a DEA raid.
After being questioned briefly at the DEA facility in San Diego, he was told he would be released. But, for reasons that remain unclear, he was left for five days in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room without food, water or toilet facilities.,0,339260.story 

Federal Appeals Court Approves Warrantless Cellphone Tracking

On Tuesday a federal appeals court ruled that police do not need a warrant to obtain historical location data from cellphone companies because the Fourth Amendment does not protect such information. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit concluded that the Supreme Court's "third party doctrine," which holds that people have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information they voluntarily disclose to others, applies to cellphone geolocation data, despite the wealth of personal details they can reveal. That means such records have only as much protection as Congress or state legislatures choose to provide. The 5th Circuit's decision comes less than two weeks after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, based on the privacy clause of that state's constitution, that police generally do need a warrant to obtain cellphone location data. This is the first time a federal appeals court has squarely addressed the issue. 

Harvest of Power: When unions rule the land

It was mid-morning on October 1, 1981, and Peter Solomon, a young California farmer, had 24 hours to decide what to do. Over half of the 40-odd workers at his small cattle and feedlot ranch in southern California had walked off the job, irate that an election they’d held to oust the United Farm Workers union had been blocked by state labor officials.
Solomon worked out a 24-hour deal with the workers to continue vital jobs like feeding the cattle while he considered their demand: rip up the union contract, or lose most of his work force to an all-out strike. “I don’t really want to violate the law,” he told the workers picketing the entrance to his Cattle Valley Farms, “and the law says I’ve got to continue honoring the contract.” But when Solomon emerged from a meeting with his workers the next morning, he announced that he ‘would side with them in ending recognition of the United Farm Workers as their bargaining agent. The union immediately demanded that Solomon fire the workers it supposedly represented-a demand that he ignored. 

More Obama Big Lies: Touting Sweatshop Amazon Warehouse Jobs as “Middle Class”

Obama needed a visual to show that, no, really, truly, jobs really are being created somewhere in America for yet another one of his exercises in trying to pretend that he’s on the side of ordinary Americans. But it’s hard finding any really good success stories in an economy with 12.2 million counted as unemployed and over 28 million as “disemployed” which is the number of people out of work relative to normal labor force participation rates when the economy is in good shape. So Obama chose as his backdrop an American success story, Amazon, which is opening a new a warehouse in Chattanooga and hiring 7,000 people.
But Obama in trying to tout this as a success story revealed either that he’s completely out of touch or that he’s conditioning American to regard a state of peonage as middle class. Not all that long ago, “middle class” meant you could after a few years of work and savings, buy a house in the suburbs, afford to have children and have a reasonably comfortable family life, and send those kids to college. “Middle class” also generally meant college educated, white collar employment plus the higher-skilled, better paid blue collar jobs. 

Bernanke to Give Deposition in AIG Bailout Lawsuit

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke can be questioned for a class action challenging the government's 2008 bailout of American International Group, a U.S. judge ruled.
     Judge Thomas Wheeler of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the deposition of Bernanke by lawyers for AIG shareholders, including lead plaintiff Starr International Co.
     The shareholders say the bailout constituted an unconstitutional government "taking," and Bernanke's testimony would help unravel the decision-making process leading up to the bailout.     
     Wheeler agreed.
     "Mr. Bernanke repeatedly has acknowledged that he was a key decision-maker on behalf of the government, and his testimony unquestionably is relevant to the Fifth Amendment taking and illegal exaction claims before the court," he wrote. 

Why Capitalism Is Awesome

Racial Warfare

Two months ago, President Obama declared again, that the War on Terror is over. As if the side under attack can simply decide that the hostilities are ended just because they are tired of defending themselves. Of course for those of us who live in the real world, which is populated not only by Obama’s liberal base, but also by hordes of blood-thirsty Islamists bent on killing us all, we know that war will only end when both sides agree to some kind of peace.
But there’s one conflict that will truly never end, or more precisely, will never be allowed to end: the perceived war of American racism. In this conflict even though, for all intents and purposes, a kind of peace was reached years ago through constitutional amendments and numerous legislative acts, the battle rages in the hearts and minds of too many Americans. And although innate prejudices cannot be legislated away, I think it’s safe to say that the hopes and dreams of the civil rights pioneers of the 1950s and 1960s have been met and some would say, wildly surpassed. But there are others whose thirst for revenge and reparation will never be satisfied: 

The College Degree Scam

For years we've heard the propaganda line that everyone needs to go to college -- that a degree will improve your status and standard of living.
It has become politically incorrect to even suggest that a higher education degree might not be right for every young American. So it's not surprising that those without a college degree often feel inferior and marginalized.
Has a college degree become the litmus test for whether a person is well educated and successful? These highly successfully individuals would likely disagree with that premise.
Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Barry Diller, Ted Turner, Ralph Lauren, Governor Jan Brewer, Governor Scott Walker, Governor Gary Herbert, Peter Jennings, Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, William Safire, Larry King, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Woody Allen, Karl Rove, and 33 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
What do they all have in common? Not one received a college degree!

The Significance of the Missing Employer Mandate

After getting over the shock of the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to delay the employer mandate for a year, supporters of the law have taken to downplaying the significance of the step. Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein, among others, have said it is just not that big of a deal to delay a provision that they claim affects so few employers. After all, they argue, most employers offer coverage today without the mandate, so it can’t be true that imposing the mandate is essential to making the rest of the law work well. Klein goes even further and says it would be best just to get rid of the employer mandate altogether because its perverse employment incentives outweigh whatever positive role the provision plays in the rest of the law.

Do we really need Keystone? As Obama dithers, Canada moves on other options

resident Obama’s latest smug comments on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline suggest the Canadian project’s odds of being approved under his watch are waning.
Thankfully, Canada hasn’t stood still while the U.S. President dithered.
So many new pipeline options have emerged that Keystone XL’s relevance is diminishing as each one gains momentum.
Sure, it will be hard to fill Keystone XL’s void and promise over the short term — perhaps a couple of years around 2016 and 2017 until new pipeline options are up and running.
But over the long-term, Canada is better off fast-tracking oil market diversification to global markets that are not beholden to U.S. anti-oil interests and that remain very motivated to buy Canadian supplies. 

White House presses for team of ‘nudge’ experts to sway American behavior

The White House has kicked off several federal projects aimed at influencing how Americans react to certain policy reforms, going so far as to solicit behavior experts to join a British-style “Behavioral Insights Team” to help nudge voters into accepting key political programs.
“Behavioral sciences can be used to help design public policies that work better, cost less and help people to achieve their goals,” a document on the government program states, Fox News reported.
The document, emailed by White House senior adviser Maya Shankar and obtained by Fox News, also seeks applicants to join the federal government’s behavior modification team.
England already has one such group; it’s called the “Behavioral Insights Team,” and has recently recommended to the government how best to compel Brits to pay their taxes, Fox News reported.

Barack Obama’s clueless message to America’s middle class shows a presidency out of touch with reality

President Obama has been rolling up his sleeves campaigning across the country delivering a surreal stump speech message supposedly aimed at the middle class: big government works, Obamacare is manna from heaven, the wave of recent scandals are “phony” figments of the imagination, and all economic problems are the fault of the Republicans. Conveniently, he leaves out the bankruptcy of Detroit, a city run by his own party for more than half a century. His message is so stale and unconvincing, that even The New York Times and Washington Post have noticed. Both papers, usually loyal to Obama, remarked that Tuesday’s speech by the president in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was largely a rehash of old rhetoric, with The Post commenting that Obama’s “grand bargain” for the middle class was merely “a repackaging of old proposals,” and swiftly rebuffed by the GOP. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fed Low Interest Rate Policies Helped Commercial Real Estate More Than Housing

The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) have favored commercial real estate more than housing.
Here is a chart of Moody’s/RCA composite commercial real indices (office in white, apartments in yellow and the composite commercial index in green). Commercial property values bottomed out at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, depending on the property type. 

Why Obama let Detroit (city) go bankrupt

In June 2009 a team of Jones Day lawyers, including Kevyn Orr, defended Chrysler in federal court against some 100,000 Indiana teacher and police pensioners. They were suing the bankrupt Detroit company claiming its offer of just 29 cents for their secured bonds was illegal. The pensioners’ Chrysler investment was part of their retirement income, yet their lawsuit — filed by Indiana’s treasurer — received little media attention and no sympathy from Washington Democrats or the Obama administration. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez quickly dismissed the suit, saying the public employee pensions were less important than saving Chrysler and the economy from harm.
While public employee unions suffered, however, their auto worker cousins in the Chrysler (and GM bailouts) got preferential treatment, with President Obama’s auto task force giving the UAW significant ownership of the two companies and full funding of their pensions.
Fast forward to 2013 and once again a bankrupt Detroit, this time the municipality, is making headlines as now-Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is under siege from public employee unions and union-bound politicians demanding Washington intervention. Barack Obama, however, is nowhere to be found. He has, to quote the infamous Mitt Romney column that Obama exploited to win reelection in 2012, “let Detroit go bankrupt.”

The Tragedy of Isolation

In the 20th century, Western intellectuals' two most dominant explanations of disparities in economic, educational and other achievements were innate racial differences in ability (in the early decades) and racial discrimination (in the later decades).
In neither era were the intelligentsia receptive to other explanations. In each era, they were convinced that they had the answer -- and dismissed and disparaged those who offered other answers.
Differences in mental test scores among different racial and ethnic groups were taken as proof of genetic differences in innate mental ability during the Progressive era in the early 20th century. Progressives regarded the fact that the average IQ test score among whites was higher than the average among blacks as conclusive proof of genetic determinism. 

Obama presses lawmakers to strike new deal on tax, spending

President Obama pressed GOP lawmakers on Tuesday to strike a deal that would lower corporate tax rates in exchange for boosting spending on jobs and infrastructure programs.
The White House cast the new plan as a “grand bargain for the middle class,” as well as a new way to ease the partisan gridlock expected to intensify this fall with battles over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

Ron Binz's Rules for Radicals

President Obama's rule-makers have amped up major regulators like the Environmental Protection Agency and now they're turning to more obscure outposts. Take the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which oversees electric transmission and interstate pipelines. Or used to.
Now FERC has deputized itself as a Wall Street regulator. This month the commission squeezed Barclays BARC.LN -5.74% for $435 million for alleged energy-market manipulation, the largest penalty in FERC's history and more than all of its previous fines combined. Another $410 million fine will soon hit J.P. Morgan, according to a Journal scoop.
Yet that will seem minor if the next FERC chairman is Ron Binz—the most important and radical Obama nominee you've never heard of. An electric regulator in Colorado from 2007 to 2011, Mr. Binz is the latest Presidential nominee who doesn't understand the difference between making laws and enforcing them. 

The Age of Hyperbole: How Normal Weather Became ‘Extreme’

Said Thomas Jefferson: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Jefferson’s comment may be expanded to include most of today’s mass media; this is especially true of television. As American linguist Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa said: “In the age of television, image becomes more important than substance.” It is effectively visual lying, dictated by Marshall McLuhan’s observation: “The medium is the message.” For example, TV news programs often illustrate air pollution with a smoke stack emitting water vapor, implying it is pollution when it is anything but.
Distortion and deception are accentuated by hyperbole. Television news and documentaries frequently report normal weather as “extreme weather,” implying it is abnormal and caused by human activity. But while a hurricane, for example, may inflict serious damage to our structures and cause major loss of life, it is a normal event in hurricane-prone regions, where it is foolish to live without preparing for the weather patterns of the area. 

The Struggle To Make Government Responsible And Accountable

The US Internal Revenue Service is sued by a Tea Party group — and it looks as if the effort might be automatically doomed by laws limiting the ability of the citizenry to deal with improper acts committed by federal civil servants. Start with the WaPo story, and then consider this observation made by a commenter just below the story:
All hype by Jay Sekulow. He knows that, by statute, the Department of Justice will certify the IRS employee/defendants as acting in their official capacities, which means that the suit will actually be a suit against the United States. That’s right. True the Vote, Inc. v. The United States. 

Chattanooga Paper Tells Obama to ‘Take Your Jobs Plan and Shove It’ Before Speech

The Chattanooga Times Free Press doesn’t want any part of President Obama’s latest jobs speech. “Forgive us if you are not greeted with the same level of Southern hospitality that our area usually bestows on its distinguished guests,” the paper’s editorial board warned this morning prior to the president’s speech at a local warehouse this afternoon.
The editors blasted the president’s job plan as being nothing more than “a ridiculous government spending spree” coupled with a “punitive tax increase on job creators.” Even “regular folks with a basic understanding of math,” not just top economists, understand that these are “the most damaging policies imaginable” for the country at this point in time, they wrote. 

Howard Zinn's Book "A People's History of The United States"

Read the below link.  If you or anyone you know has children in school you need to let them know that if this book is used (and it is widely used), it is nothing but a propaganda piece.  Lobby to get it replaced with a real history book.  Why?  Because the author was an admitted socialist and wanted to turn the US into a socialist country by rewriting history.  His main targets were the minds of children in public schools and students attending colleges and universities.  I briefly mention Dr. Howard Zinn in my book "Our Dying Republic".  On page 49 I quoted him as saying  "If you can control history, what people know about it, if you can decide what's in a people's history and what's left out, you can order their thinking.  You can order their values.  You can, in effect, organize their brains by controlling their knowledge.  The people who can do that, who control the past, are the people who control the present."  

The author of the article provides a summary of the book by Dr. Oscar Handlin of Harvard University.  "The book is full of errors and deliberate distortions, as Handlin noted in The American Scholar, and these are not limited to minor issues. Zinn misrepresents everything from slavery in the Chesapeake colonies to American involvement in Cuba to the Tet offensive." 

And this is a quote by the author of the article.  "Zinn himself described A People’s History as 'a biased account,' that bias being in favor of socialism, a political tendency that Zinn favored and thought would be popular but for the fact that 'the Soviet Union gave it a bad name.'  Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro didn’t help much, either, though Zinn had kind words for their revolutions."

Do you think such a person should have his history book used to mislead, misguide, manipulate and poison the minds of our children?  I don't!  I applaude Governor Daniels' efforts to have it removed from schools in the state of Indiana. 

George Burns

Defunding Obamacare: Questions & Answers, Excuses & Responses

Former RedState contributor and now Political Director of Heritage Action for America, Russ Vought, has written a pretty comprehensive “FAQ” on the Obamacare defunding fight. I asked Russ if I could post it here in its entirety. He said I could. The original is found right here. This should answer most of your questions, including the question about mandatory vs. discretionary spending.

“What do you mean by defunding Obamacare?”
Defunding Obamacare means attaching a legislative rider to a “must pass” bill (debt limit, annual spending bill, etc.) that 1) prohibits any funds from being spent on any activities to implement or enforce Obamacare; 2) rescinds any unspent balances that have already been appropriated for implementation; and 3) turns off the exchange subsidy and new Medicaid spending that are on auto-pilot.

FED STUDY: We Conservatively Estimate That The Financial Crisis Cost Us Up To $14 Trillion

Dallas Federal Reserve researchers Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell and Harvey Rosenblum have a new paper out in which they attempt to calculate the true cost of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.
"The 2007-09 Financial crisis was associated with a huge loss of economic output and financial wealth, psychological consequences and skill atrophy from extended unemployment, an increase in government intervention, and other significant costs," they write.
And they do offer a nominal range of figures, which we'll get to in a moment.
But their larger conclusion is that the combination of measurable declines in output and opportunity costs are so vast, that an accurate total cost is practically incalculable.

Finding Better Doctors by Tracking Prescribing Habits

When you need a prescription drug, often your doctor has a choice. What’s best for one patient with your condition might not be best for you—choosing the best drug is a matter of problem-solving, of matching a person’s variables—age, gender, allergies, other health issues, etc.—with the drug most likely to provide benefit with minimal risk of side effects.
But as investigative health journalists Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein point out in a Los Angeles Times commentary, “For most of us, evaluating a doctor's prescribing habits is just about impossible. Even doctors themselves have little way of knowing whether their drug choices fall in line with those of their peers.”
How can you know, for example, if a doctor generally prefers expensive brand-name drugs when generics might be an equally suitable choice? How do you know if a doctor remains current with clinical trials and the latest drug information? 

Georgia Can Look Into Immigration Statuses

A federal judge reined in his restriction of Georgia's immigration law, finding that law enforcement can check the immigration status of criminal suspects who cannot provide specified identity documents.
     Immigrant advocacy groups sued Gov. Nathan Deal and other state officials in June 2011, challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 87, also known as Georgia's Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011.
     The Northern District of Georgia dismissed most constitutional challenges to the law, but blocked two provisions of the act after concluding the plaintiffs were likely to prove that federal law pre-empted those sections.
     In August 2012, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit affirmed the block against section 7 of the law, which penalized the transportation and harbor of illegal immigrants and inducing an illegal alien to enter Georgia. 

Stop the Madness

Detroit Free Press — 45 minutes ago — The Detroit City Council unanimously passed a resolution today calling for a federal investigation to see whether civil rights charges are warranted against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.”
The aforementioned was a top news story on AOL when I opened my computer to write this column, a commentary I intended to write on the economic roots of Detroit becoming the largest city in American history to file for bankruptcy.
African-American councilman Kenneth Cockrel voted for the Zimmerman resolution but added this comment: “We need to have that same level of outrage with respect to the black-on-black crime that takes place in our community. How many people were shot — maybe even shot and killed this past weekend in the city — most likely by folks who look just like them.” 

Can Anyone See Huge Numbers of Lawsuits Coming If This Bill Passes?

Who do you think the winners and losers will be?  If you say newly amnestied illegal immigrants will be the winners, and their lawyers of course, you will likely be right most of the time.  Who will be the losers?  Fill in the blank ________ .  Answer:  If you said you and me.  You are right again.  The PC police will make sure we mere American citizens and consumers of the resulting more expensive products foot the bill due to lawsuit costs while toeing the progressive's PC line.  What do you think will happen when businesses realize it is cheaper to hire the less qualified but PC protected former illegal aliens?  Right again.  

 George Burns

The New Deal Witch Hunt

Watergate has become the default historical template for the Obama scandals, as charges about enemies lists, executive-agency politicization, and high-handed federal snooping dominate the discussion. But those hunting for historical analogies would do well to consider the even closer parallels between these events and occurrences during the New Deal and Fair Deal.
Franklin D. Roosevelt routinely audited the income taxes of such critics as Representative Hamilton Fish, a Republican who represented the president’s hometown of Hyde Park, N.Y. Democrats of that era not only found creative ways to intimidate conservative and libertarian organizations, but also, like their modern counterparts, eventually attracted charges of witch-hunting. 

The Foolishness Of The Wise

Mainstream economists notoriously cannot agree nor predict; their construct, 'the economy' remains terra incognita until after some economic event. That results from the nature of their construct: the economy is no gestalt; it is aggregated people. So too, is government.
Economists assume that their economy is assembled from 'economic men' who behave rationally, seeking economic gain and avoiding economic loss. Real human beings are as much emotion-driven as logic-driven and often, more so. Economic models remain unable to recognize that, let alone predict it. Austrian economists acknowledge it and often are better predictors, but nobody listens. Too many economists are therefore reduced to what amounts to building castles in the air or manufacturing excuses for politicians. It is worse with government.

British Police Investigating $1.3 Billion Shell, ENI Nigerian Oil Corruption

The British police are probing an allegation that a $1.3 billion Nigerian oil bloc deal involving Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's Eni SpA may have involved money laundering. Most of the money was allegedly paid to a company linked with Nigeria’s former Minister of Petroleum Dan Etete. Nigerian President General Sani Abacha appointed Etete Minister of Petroleum in March 1995 and he served in that role until 1998, when he went into exile following Abacha’s death. In 2007 Etete was convicted of money laundering in France.
Last week a British High Court issued a judgment, Shell and its by-then-partner ENI paid the federal government $1.3 billion, including a $207 million signature bonus paid into a government account, in return for the right to operate the offshore OPL 245 bloc concession. A Shell subsidiary paid the signature bonus, and an ENI subsidiary paid the $1.1 billion balance. The court further ruled that convicted felon Etete should pay at least $110.5 million to Emeka Obi, the owner of Energy Venture Partners for helping him facilitate the sale of OPL-245. 

‘Phony Scandals’? No, Phony Investigations

“Phony scandals,” Mr. President? No, your scandals are as real as can be, it’s the GOP’s investigations into them that are phony. Speaker of the House John Boehner has refused to appoint a special prosecutor to the Benghazi massacre investigation. Why? Because he made a deal with Obama? Because he simply doesn’t give a damn? Whatever the reason, he’s obstructing the ability to get to the bottom of it once and for all.When the IRS scandal hit, Boehner came out to the media and burped out, “Who’s going to jail?” He’s done nothing to answer his own question.
Who has paid a price for Obama’s scandals? Can you name one individual? What has Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, done about these scandals? Has he even said anything of note about them? Now, the IRS’s profiling of Tea Party groups was a terrible thing to learn about for Americans, but for politicians in both parties, they could care less, since the Tea Party isn’t only a threat to the Democrats, but to the Republicans as well. 

U.S. Gov't to Borrow 444 Bln USD in 2nd Half

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday announced that the federal government expected to borrow 444 billion U.S. dollars from the market to fund its operation in the second half of this year.

During the July-September quarter this year, the department expected to issue 209 billion dollars in net marketable debt, assuming an end-of-September cash balance of 95 billion dollars, the department said in a statement.

During the October-December quarter, the department expected to issue 235 billion dollars in net marketable debt, assuming an end- of-December cash balance of 80 billion dollars, said the statement. 

Another Sequester Prediction That Hasn't Come True

Another story has emerged out of the Department of Defense that the economic consequences from sequestration will be less dire than what was predicted. DoD initially projected that there would be 22 furlough days for government employees. That's now joined the long list of predictions of doom that haven't come true:
Officials said no final decisions have been made, but they believe civilian workers will be forced to take six to eight unpaid days off rather than the 11 days that had been scheduled. The move comes as workers begin their fourth week of furloughs — a decision that riled department employees and prompted many to complain directly to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he visited military bases earlier this month.
Officials said the savings are the result of a number of things, including penny-pinching by the military services and Congress' decision to give the Pentagon more flexibility in moving money around between accounts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S. says JP Morgan manipulated market; settlement seen

The U.S. power regulator outlined its case of market manipulation against JPMorgan Chase & Co on Monday as industry sources said a final settlement on the issue should come on Tuesday.
Traders used improper bidding tactics in California and the Midwest to boost profits, officials said in a statement that brought to light some details of an extensive investigation.
Reports of that probe have circulated for months and a deal with the regulator could put an end to a distraction for JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon.
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff has found "eight manipulative bidding strategies" used by a JPM affiliate in 2010 and 2011, the regulator said.
JPMorgan declined to comment.

Second-quarter GDP to slow sharply on tax burden

Economic growth probably slowed sharply in the second quarter, but its pace is unlikely to change views that the Federal Reserve will start trimming bond purchases later this year.
Gross domestic product probably grew at a 1.0 percent annual rate after expanding at a 1.8 percent pace in the first quarter because government austerity and weak global demand weighed on the economy, according to a Reuters poll of economists. But there is a risk that growth undershoots expectations, with forecasts as low as a 0.4 percent rate.
If economists are right, it would mark a third straight quarter of GDP growth below 2 percent, a pace that normally would be too soft to bring down unemployment.

How America's Top Tech Companies Created the Surveillance State

`With Edward Snowden on the run in Russia and reportedly threatening to unveil the entire “blueprint” for National Security Agency surveillance, there’s probably as much terror in Silicon Valley as in Washington about what he might expose. The reaction so far from private industry about the part it has played in helping the government spy on Americans has ranged from outraged denial to total silence. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, he of the teen-nerd hoodie, said he’d never even heard of the kind of data-mining that the NSA leaker described—then fell quiet. Google cofounder Larry Page declared almost exactly the same thing; then he shut up, too. Especially for the libertarian geniuses of Silicon Valley, who take pride in their distance (both physically and philosophically) from Washington, the image-curdling idea that they might be secretly in bed with government spooks induced an even greater reluctance to talk, perhaps, than the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which conveniently forbids executives from revealing government requests for information.
But the sounds of silence from the tech and telecom sectors are drowning out a larger truth, one that some of Snowden’s documents might well supply in much greater detail. For nearly 20 years, many of these companies—indeed most of America’s biggest corporate sectors, from energy to finance to telecom to computers—have been doing the intelligence community’s bidding, as America’s spy and homeland-security agencies have bored their way into the nation’s privately run digital and electronic infrastructure. Sometimes this has happened after initial resistance, and occasionally under penalty of law, but more often with willing and even eager cooperation. Indeed, the private tech sector effectively built the NSA’s surveillance system, and got rich doing it. 


Pooping Canada geese may have spread GM wheat seeds

Canada geese may have spread viable seeds of genetically modified wheat grown at the Central Experimental Farm, documents from Agriculture Canada show.
The odds aren’t high, the department says.
But the geese ate the experimental wheat last summer at the Experimental Farm. Geese are voracious eaters and leave droppings every few minutes.
The fear is that these geese may have left poop with living GM wheat seeds that could allow GM wheat to spread outside the controlled field, or even away from the farm itself.
The issue blew up on a Friday night in 2012, taking the department by surprise. 

The FDA, Tainted Supplements, and Drug Testing

Whenever athletes test positive for steroids, the excuses come flying. My least favorite has always been that they didn’t knowingly ingest steroids or other banned compounds. Somehow, the vitamins or protein shakes must have been tainted.
I’ve been responsible for many different aspects of managing the use of pharmaceutical products for years and I have always found this excuse to be laughable.
Until now.
On July 26, the FDA released a statement warning consumer that a vitamin-B supplement has been shown to have two different anabolic steroids — methasterone and dimethazine. 

The Obama economy’s lowered expectations

In the fifth year of Barack Obama’s presidency, America’s job-starved economy remains weak, insecure and undernourished.
That’s not the economic picture reported on the nightly network news, where anchors report only good numbers and ignore the bad ones. But the painful reality is that the economy is slowing down, even from its widely acknowledged anemic levels.
The economic growth rate (as measured by the gross domestic product) has fallen, and many economists have lowered their GDP forecasts to a snail’s-pace 1.5 percent annualized rate of growth for the past three months. Some say it’s slowed to less than 1 percent.
The national jobless rate has fallen to 7.6 percent, but is still near or well over 8 to 9 percent in 18 states, including some of the most highly populated (New York, California, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois). 

Howard Dean: Obamacare's Rate-Setting Mechanism Won't Work

One of the key provisions of Obamcare -- the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- is useless in keeping costs down, and will only add to bureaucracy, says former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Dean generally likes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, but he as a few quibbles with it, he writes in a Sunday Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board is a "health-care rationing body," Dean explains, which has the power to set rates for certain procedures for Medicare and determine which procedures and drugs will be covered.

"The IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them," he said.

Shut Down ObamaCare, Not Government

I didn’t come to Washington to shut down the federal government; I came to help bring it back to its proper role. This role should create an environment where America is the easiest and best place in the world to create better paying jobs by starting a business or growing an existing one. One way to do that is by ending failed programs like ObamaCare that hurt our people, waste their money and scare businesses away from opening or growing. The looming September debate on a short-term spending plan is the last best chance to do that. That’s why we must stand united to defund ObamaCare as a condition for supporting a short-term spending plan.
We know President Obama will resist. He will insist on shutting down government unless ObamaCare is fully funded. But we simply cannot continue to pour money into this rapidly imploding program.
It will hurt seniors by altering the health plans and doctors they’re happy with, and by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage for current beneficiaries to fund other parts of ObamaCare. 

This Reveals "Much" About Our President

Can the president be so ignorant of history and so incredibly irresponsible that he openly makes such comments as cited in the below items?  Given that revelations occasionally occur when he speaks off-the-cuff (absent his scripted teleprompter) they reveal much of who he really is and affirms that he is not who he wants us to believe he is.  And, given that so much of what he and his administration have implemented and continue to implement exceeds the presidential powers granted by the Constitution, one can easily conclude that his sympathies lie with those in history with similar idologies and who revered power and control more than anything else.  

George Burns

What next for the 'Wall Street Refiners' as JPM exits physical commodities?

As JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) prepares to exit physical commodities trading, the spotlight is turning to the future of the two banks that have dominated Wall Street's involvement in the natural resources supply chain for 30 years.
Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) two decades ago became known as the 'Wall Street Refiners' for their mastery of both financial and physical commodities.
But since 2012 Morgan Stanley has looked at selling its commodity arm and Goldman has made moves to scale back its physical operations.
Letters between the banks and the Federal Reserve, received by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act, show both banks are in discussions on conforming or divesting activities that fall outside the normal scope of commercial banks.

It Is Not Good News That Obamacare Will Create Lots of Jobs to Steer People Through the System

"Which way is up?" reporting makes a big-time appearance in this Washington Post article telling us that Obamacare will create a boom in jobs since workers will have to be hired to steer people through the system. The article reports:
"About 7,000 to 9,000 new customer service agents will be needed to man phones and Web chats for the marketplace, called an exchange, the federal government will run for more than half of the states, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. Additional agents will be needed for exchanges run by the states themselves."
The next paragraph raises the stakes to:
"Altogether, tens of thousands of people could be hired over the next several years to set up and support the online marketplaces, according to some estimates." 

Wall Street and the Absence of Justice

The big indictment against SAC Capital Advisors on Thursday offers up another jarring reminder that while the Justice Department continues its old habit of pursuing insider-trading cases, it has let the biggest financial scam in history pass it by without a single conviction of a Wall Street executive. Indeed, the government's entire hope for nailing any Wall Street culprits related to the subprime securitization scandal now depends on one tiny, wriggling fish in another New York courtroom: Fabrice Tourre.
Tourre, of course, is the mid-level Goldman Sachs trader on civil trial over charges that he misled an investment company in a complex securitization deal. But even there the best hope in the civil case is that little Fab will be banned from the securities business and fined. No jail time. And it's a weak case at best: All Goldman and Fab did was out-trade a dumber firm. That's what one does on Wall Street: Dishonor among thieves is the name of the game.

Inequality of Opportunity Begins at Birth

Equality of opportunity means that we are not a caste society. Who we will become is not fixed by the circumstances of our births. Some children will do better than others, but this should result from a fair competition. Nearly every American politician espouses a commitment to equality of opportunity. For example, Majority Leader Eric Cantor wrote yesterday that
We must continue to fight for equal opportunity to a quality education for all children.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many American politicians said the same thing yesterday.
But we don’t appreciate how deep inequality runs. The graph below is from a presentation by Angus Deaton which (I believe) reported data from the National Health Interview Survey. The horizontal axis is the logarithm of family income in 1982 dollars, running from about $3600 to over $80,000. The vertical axis is self-reported ill-health (higher numbers reflect worse health). The parallel lines represent different age groups of respondents. 

Talks on NSA overhaul 'accelerated' after House vote

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) vowed to press ahead with bipartisan talks about reining in the National Security Agency's (NSA) data collections.
Wyden said this week's close House vote on an NSA amendment had emboldened Senate critics of the NSA's widespread collection of Americans' phone records. "The discussions certainly have accelerated since that extraordinary House vote … You are going to see a very strong and bipartisan effort in the Senate to pick up on the work of the House"" Wyden said in an interview on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program set to air Sunday.
The House narrowly defeated an amendment this past week that would have cut off funding for the NSA's surveillance program. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), failed 205-217.

Obamacare’s Data Hub

The Affordable Care Act is so despicable, even the Republicans are beginning to see the reality that it must be repealed, not replaced.
Barack Obama, and his minions, know that they are losing ground, and are doing whatever they can to get support back for the federal health care law, while targeting individuals, and handing out waivers to allies, and delaying business killing mandates against companies.  Never mind that from a constitutional perspective, regardless of what the ideology-influenced Supreme Court Justices say (remember, those people are supposed to be apolitical, but their rulings, and the opinions attached to those rulings, are telling us otherwise), health insurance, and health care in general, is not an authority granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution in the first place.
As time passes, the truth about the dangers that Obamacare poses become more and more apparent.  None of it surprises those that have opposed the monstrosity from the beginning, be it rising health care costs, rising insurance premiums, tyrannical mandates, and unworkable programs.  In fact, they have been illegally amending it just to try to make some of the components work.  It is so complex, the law is unworkable, unenforceable, and too general. . . by design.

American Influence Must Never Help Impose Tyranny!

During the current Egyptian unrest, where popular opinion helped depose democratically elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, we do well to reflect on America’s values and mission in the world.
Should America span the globe to spread unrest in unpopular regimes, then empower whatever type of government seems to sprout up, afterward? Or should America reserve its power and influence to help establish American Revolution-styled states? In fact, one desperately hopes it is screamingly obvious that if the US helps create any government opposed to our values, that we are helping establish our future enemies.
When the Muslim Spring movement arrived amongst much fanfare, the liberal elites heralded this as Obama’s foreign policy coming of age. Muslim Spring is the Barack inspired doctrine offer to aid resisters against Middle East dictators, helping any rebels despite whatever beliefs they espoused. How wise it was, they exclaimed, to direct wars from far-away, to keep American troops out of harm’s way, and lead from behind!

A way of political life that’s killing Republicans.

The headline writers were beset by hysteria last week at the prospect of another showdown between Congress and the White House on Obamacare, the budget ceiling, and a possible shutdown of the federal government.
The Hill published the headline, “Government shutdown looms over Obamacare.” Not to be out done, Politico proclaimed, “Fiscal Armageddon could remake Hill in 2014 elections.”
A shutdown is not out of the question. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is leading an effort to block any spending measure that funds Obamacare, regardless of the danger of Republicans being blamed for shutting down the government. Some 64 Republicans have signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him not to bring any funding bill to the floor that includes Obamacare.