Saturday, December 10, 2011

The NEA’s Spending: 437 Staffers Make Six-Figure Sums

December 8, 2011
by RiShawn Biddle

For all of the National Education Association’s efforts to ally itself with the Occupy Wall Street crowd and play to progressive groups, it’s payroll has stronger resemblance to that of the Wall Street firms it decries.

Four hundred thirty-seven staffers were paid at least $100,000 a year according to the union’s 2010-2011 LM-2 filing with the U.S. Department of Labor; that’s four more six-figure salaries than the previous fiscal year. Certainly this includes union president Dennis Van Roekel’s $460,060 (a 16 percent increase over the previous year) and Vice President Lily Eskelson’s $371,904 check (a 14 percent increase). But it also includes Bill Thompson, the union’s director of financial and membership services, who earned $236,262 last fiscal year, the union’s senior policy adviser, Peter Arum (who collected $205,193), and Maria Felipe, a confidential associate who was paid $108,663 for her work. The NEA’s executive director, John Stocks, picked up $273,146 during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, while Alice O’Brien, who succeeded Bob Chanin as the union’s general counsel, collected $236,327 from union coffers. The union’s top labor outreach guy, Michael Edwards, picked up $258,309 for his work.

All together, the NEA spent $78 million on payroll, barely budging over the previous year, and another $57 million a year on benefits (a slight increase). That, by the way, is 20 percent of the union’s $399 million in revenue. The $72 million it spent last fiscal year on overhead is five percent more than the union spent last year, despite a decline in membership. The union’s payments into its retiree plan declined by 2 percent (to $25.2 million) over 2009-2010. But employee healthcare costs increased by four percent (to $7.1 million) in that time.

As for other political activities? The NEA poured $479,151 into its NEA Advocacy super-PAC at the end of its 2010-2011 fiscal year; that’s on top of the $4.9 million in poured into the fund during the last months of 2010 to fund successful efforts to help Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Washington’s Patty Murray keep their seats, and unsuccessful campaigns against eventual winners Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Rand Paul in Kentucky. Expect the union to pour more dollars into the super-PAC next year.

States expand lucrative pensions to more jobs

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY

Special retirement benefits once reserved for police, firefighters and others with dangerous jobs are now being given to tens of thousands of state workers employed as park rangers, foresters, dispatchers, coroners, even highway laborers, museum guards and lifeguards.

The trend will add heavily to the $70 billion that state taxpayers owe state retirement funds each year and is costing states such as Florida and Maryland $15 million to $30 million annually, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Thirty-one states have passed laws since 2000 that expand the range of workers who can retire when they turn 50 or 55 or after working 20 or 25 years, then collect special pensions that will pay some an extra $1 million or more in retirement. The pensions are enhanced because they are usually based on a higher percentage of a worker's salary than pensions for ordinary state workers.

"There's been a massive increase in the scope of who qualifies for (early) retirement benefits," said William Eggers, public-sector research director at Deloitte consultants. "They're supposed to be for people who are getting shot at and running into buildings that are on fire."

In Illinois, where highway maintenance workers earn up to $148,000 a year with overtime, early enhanced retirement can pay a $75,000-a-year pension at age 50 after 25 years on the job. That adds up to $2.2 million if the retiree lives to age 80 — or $1.2 million more than if the person had been in the state's regular retirement plan. A 25-year Florida crime lab analyst can get a $60,000 pension at age 50 and collect $1.8 million by age 80, compared with $575,000 if the person was not in the state's "special-risk class."

People in dangerous public safety jobs have long had enhanced early retirement to encourage them to make way for younger workers as their physical abilities decline, and to compensate them for lasting physical and mental damage.

Over the years, other state workers have lobbied elected officials heavily to be included to those plans, or have won the benefits via labor negotiations, arguing that they have similar responsibilities and stress as police. The plans now include livestock inspectors, lottery agents, electricians, elevator repairmen, coroners, sewer workers, magistrates, motor-vehicle inspectors, airplane pilots and union executive directors. Wildlife officers have early retirement in 25 states and liquor-control agents have it in 15 states.

"Everybody wants to be in our special plan," said Christine Gianopoulos, deputy executive director of Maine's retirement system. The Maine "1998 Special Plan" provides early retirement for 15% of state workers, including fisheries and wildlife officers, airplane pilots, liquor inspectors, and oil and hazardous materials emergency response workers.

Taxpayers bear added cost

Early retirement is usually far more costly to taxpayers because retirees collect a pension for additional years and are not paying into the state pension system as full-time workers.

"You could easily end up spending more on public-safety workers while they're retired than when they're working," said North Carolina State University retirement expert Robert Clark, author of A History of Public Sector Pensions in the United States. "If these folks are starting work in their 20s, they are eligible to retire in their late 40s, early 50s and get a pension and health insurance for the rest of their life."

The growth of early retirement has helped fuel massive deficits in some of the nation's largest public pension plans, including the main California and Florida retirement systems.

The deficits led 36 states in the past two years to take cost-control steps such as requiring workers to pay more toward their pension or delaying when they can retire, said Ron Snell, a pension expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "This is unprecedented," he said.

Enhanced early retirements are "one of the biggest cost drivers" in state pension plans, Eggers of Deloitte said.

'A ticking time bomb'

Florida exemplifies the cost. Elected officials have expanded the state retirement system's "special risk class" five times since the 1990s, adding prison medical workers, paramedics and forensic specialists. "Special risk" workers retire five to seven years earlier than regular workers and get a lifetime pension after 20 years on the job equal to 60% of their salary. A regular worker retiring after 20 years gets a pension equal to 32% of his or her salary.

The additions helped boost the special-risk class to 75,135 workers from 48,188 in 1993, and spike taxpayers' bill for special-risk pensions to $903 million this year, state records show. That's more than double the $383 million cost in 1993. Meanwhile, the number of workers in the "regular" retirement plan has increased only slightly and the cost to taxpayers rose to $2.4 billion from $2.1 billion in 1993.

"Our workforce is shifting into special risk. That's a ticking time bomb," said former Florida state Rep. Juan Zapata, a Republican who sought to restrict entry into the special-risk class. "It has been morphed into something that was not its original intention — into this system that everybody tries to justify being in."

In 10 other states where lawmakers have expanded early retirement eligibility since 2000, the number of workers in those plans increased by twice as much as the increase in workers in regular retirement plans. The states are Arizona, California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Vermont and West Virginia.

In California, the number of workers eligible for enhanced or early retirement jumped to 77,394 from 59,685 in 2000, while the number of workers in regular retirement plans fell to 170,942 from 175,495, state records show. Enhanced early retirement plans cost taxpayers $1.5 billion this year, up from $385 million in 2000, state records show. That cost is only slightly lower than the $1.8 billion cost of regular retirement this year, even though the regular retirement plans have more than twice as many workers.

Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano co-sponsored a measure in 2005 that shifted 386 forensic specialists into the special-risk class after the specialists asked for his help. Their jobs seemed worthy of enhanced early retirement because the workers "show up to very horrific crime scenes at times" and must prepare evidence to help prosecutions, said Fasano, a Republican.

A 2005 legislative report on Fasano's bill reached a different conclusion, saying that unlike other special-risk workers whose physical skills deteriorate with age, forensic specialists "have their skills increase over time since forensic science is an academic discipline."

Special-interest group pressure

Florida addressed its pension shortfall with a law this year requiring all employees in the state pension system to pay 3% of their salary toward their retirement, the first time the workers have had to contribute. Zapata sought in 2010 to shift thousands of workers from the special-risk class to the regular class, but quickly withdrew his bill after getting threatening phone calls. "You try to explain, look, what's happening here is unsustainable," said Zapata, who retired last year due to term limits. "Unfortunately, the conversation didn't go too far because the (state-worker) unions did a great job of shutting everything down."

Many employee groups and unions have made enhanced early retirement a major goal, particularly as states have faced growing budget deficits that make salary increases unattainable. Unlike salary hikes, the added cost of enhanced early retirement is spread over decades, and can be ignored in some years if state officials simply decide to pay less into a retirement fund than their financial analysts urge.

"It's really a lovely way for states to give employees something they could pretend isn't costing anything," said Richard Greene, a New York City government-finance consultant. "There's a domino effect because one group may get included (in a public-safety pension plan) and that leads another group to want it as well. Politically once one group is included, it's then hard to say no to the second."

In Illinois, roughly 1,000 office workers at corrections department headquarters can get enhanced early retirement because of a state law that gives the benefit to any department worker "who has daily contact with inmates." The office workers successfully argued years ago that they had daily contact with inmates who did maintenance work at the headquarters building, said Tim Blair, executive secretary of the state retirement systems.

"It's mind-boggling to me now that they included all of them," Blair said. A 2005 law barred newly hired clerks from getting early retirement.

Maryland officials have enacted 14 laws since 1996 adding 1,500 state workers to early-retirement pension systems, including campus police, airport rescue workers and 650 laundry, dietary, maintenance and supply workers in state prisons. The laws will cost taxpayers roughly $16 million this year, according to estimates by the state legislature.

Maryland state Sen. James DeGrange, a Democrat, heard from prison laundry workers in 2008, two years after the Legislature moved prison dietary, maintenance and supply workers from a regular state pension system into a special early retirement system created for corrections officers. "They said they're having to do the same thing in many regards as corrections officers, supervising inmates," DeGrange said in a recent interview. His bill passed both legislative chambers with only one "no" vote.

Criteria vary by state

Like many states, Maryland has no standards or system for determining whether a worker should be eligible for early retirement.

DeGrange said Maryland's prison workers deserve early retirement "because of the stressfulness of the position." Maryland law says nothing about workers with stressful jobs being eligible for early retirement.

Some states list job conditions that make workers eligible for enhanced early retirement. Minnesota requires that prison workers spend 75% of their time in dealing with inmates to get enhanced early retirement, which has given priority pensions to hundreds of employees such as psychologists and cooks.

New Jersey law limits early retirement to state troopers and to state and local workers meeting a strict definition of "policeman" or "fireman." The state pension board has used the criteria to deny 60 job titles inclusion in the state Police and Fireman's Retirement System, including positions that are routinely eligible for early retirement in other states, such as prison administrators, fire marshals and arson investigators.

Without standards for determining who should get early retirement, state officials often make political decisions based on the ability of employee groups to persuade legislators and governors, said William Eggers, the Deloitte researcher. "This is the kind of thing that should be done in an objective way based on objective criteria," he said.

In 2007, the Virginia Sheriffs' Association decided that improving pensions for the state's deputy sheriffs was "our top priority," association executive director John Jones said recently. Before 2007, the Virginia Legislature had repeatedly defeated measures that would have made deputy sheriffs equal to state police, who can retire five years earlier than other state workers and get $12,000 added to their pension each year they are retired until they reach their mid-60s.

2007 was an election year for legislators, and the association intensified its lobbying. "The law-enforcement community got together and said, This is the one thing we want," said former senator Kenneth Stolle, who sponsored the 2007 measure and similar bills in earlier years. "Everybody wants the law-enforcement community to stand by them when they're running for election."

Stolle, a Republican and former police officer, was a sheriffs' association favorite, collecting $23,190 in gifts from 2004 to 2008, including five hunting trips (to Canada, Texas and South Carolina) and other trips to New York City and Key West, and 10 restaurant dinners, state records show. The gifts were irrelevant to his sponsorship, said Stolle, who left the state Legislature at the end of 2009 when he was elected sheriff of Virginia Beach, noting he had long supported law-enforcement on many issues.

Roughly 3,600 deputy sheriffs benefit from the new law, Jones said. "It's a tremendous benefit. It's an equality issue," Jones said. "Deputy sheriffs don't make a lot of money, so the only thing they could get is (better) retirement."

Deciding who qualifies

The expansion of enhanced early retirement reflects a growing sentiment that the benefit should be given to workers based on their responsibilities and qualifications, not on the danger and physical demands. South Dakota added conservation officers, park rangers and campus security officers in the 1990s.

"We saw public safety as being broader than just being a policeman, fireman or corrections officer," said South Dakota retirement system administrator Rob Wylie. "Many of the people that work in public safety aren't necessarily in the traditional spots you think of."

Some state officials acknowledge the difficulty deciding which workers deserve enhanced early retirement. When the Louisiana Legislature added six groups of workers to its "hazardous-duty" retirement plan last year, legislators set an unofficial requirement that a worker be a law-enforcement officer to qualify, said House Speaker Pro Tem Joel Robideaux, a Republican. "If you're requiring an employee to be able to handle a firearm and go through all that training, we felt like that was probably the best litmus test that there's a certain amount of danger in the job that doesn't exist in other jobs," he said.

But, Robideaux added, "We know that's not true. There are some places where teachers are more in harm's way than some university policemen. But we had to figure out a way to discern between hazardous duty and non-hazardous duty, and that seemed to be the most logical."

U.S. Money Funds Cut French Bank Debt by 68% in November

By Radi Khasawneh and Alberto Fuertes - Dec 9, 2011 8:57 AM GMT-0500

The eight largest prime U.S. money- market mutual funds cut holdings in French banks by 68 percent in November, shifting investments to Swiss, Swedish, Canadian and Japanese banks.

French bank holdings declined by $11.7 billion to $5.56 billion, according to an analysis of fund disclosures by the Bloomberg Risk newsletter. The eight funds have reduced French bank debt by $76.8 billion in the past 12 months.

The decline in short-term lending has forced French banks to increase their borrowing from the European Central Bank more than four-fold over the last four months, and adds to woes at lenders seeking to meet tighter capital requirements. European Union banks must raise 114.7 billion euros ($152.8 billion) as part of measures to respond to the region’s sovereign-debt crisis, the European Banking Authority said yesterday.

“The ECB’s open market operations have been a vital source of funding for banks in the euro zone as the sovereign-debt crisis has intensified,” Jonathan Glionna, an analyst at Barclays Capital Group in London, said in a report published on Dec. 7.

Moody’s Investors Service today cut the long-term debt ratings for French banks BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole SA (ACA), citing the funding constraints and deteriorating economic conditions. The banks’ short-term ratings, which apply to money-fund holdings, were affirmed at Prime-1.
Turning to ECB

Standard & Poor’s on Dec. 7 placed ratings of European banks, including Paris-based BNP Paribas, Societe Generale (GLE) and Groupe BPCE, as well as Montrouge-based Credit Agricole, on watch for a possible downgrade amid a similar review of 15 countries in the region.

Societe Generale, France’s second-biggest bank, in November agreed to sell $600 million of U.S. commercial property loans to Macquarie Group Ltd., people familiar with the matter said last month.

French banks borrowing through the main and long-term refinancing operations of the ECB reached 100.6 billion euros in October, compared with 22.3 billion euros at the end of June, according to figures from the Banque de France, France’s central bank. Banks across Europe raised 656 billion euros through ECB lending through open market operations on Dec. 6, approaching the highest level in over a year, according to data from Barclays Capital.
Switzerland’s Gain

Holdings by U.S. money funds in BNP Paribas (BNP), France’s largest bank by assets, fell $8.85 billion in November, or 67 percent. Holdings of debt issued by Societe Generale declined $2.37 billion, or 89 percent, and paper held by Credit Agricole, the third-largest French bank, fell by $517 million, or 39 percent.

Debt issued by Natixis, France’s fourth-largest bank, and parent company BPCE SA, in Paris, was not among holdings by the funds surveyed.

In total, the top four French banks have seen their money- market funding decline by 93 percent compared with a year ago.

That $76.8 billion decline in funding has benefited banks in Switzerland, Sweden, Canada and Japan, the data show. Holdings in the largest banks in those countries have increased by $55 billion over the same period.

Swedish banks Svenska Handelsbanken AB (SHBA), Nordea Bank AB (NDA), Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEBA) and Swedbank AB (SWEDA), all based in Stockholm, attracted a 27 percent increase in investment in November, the largest percentage rise among the countries seen as safe havens. Swiss banks UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG had the largest increase compared with a year ago, rising by 160 percent, or $17.2 billion.
Sovereign Ratings

The moves show a bias in favor of financial institutions outside the euro zone, as the continuing sovereign crisis threatens country ratings. S&P this week put 15 of the 17 European Union member nations on negative watch following concern over a resolution to the crisis. The rating company said the move could affect bank ratings also.

The funds surveyed -- the largest U.S. money-market funds eligible to purchase corporate debt -- were Fidelity Cash Reserves, JPMorgan Prime Money Market Fund, Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund, Fidelity Institutional Money Market Portfolio, Fidelity Institutional Prime Money Market Portfolio, BlackRock TempFund, Wells Fargo Advantage Heritage Money Markets Fund and Federated Prime Obligations Fund.

The figures include repurchase agreements that are backed by government collateral.

Librarian fired for not giving pornographic comic to 11-year-old

Friday, December 9

The usual pedos screech that it’s censorship, but the book is easily attainable at stores and online, and giving porn to kids is illegal. (BTW, if it’s the LXG comic I’m thinking of, I flipped through it in a store after the movie came out, and it’s REALLY nasty. The movie is practically a different series. The comics aren’t tasteful erotica- just gross, and in the one I’m thinking of, all the sex depicted was orgiastic rape… giving one to one of my kids would be grounds for shooting…

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Sharon Cook is either a hero or a villain.

She is either due your thanks for doing everything in her power to protect children from obscenity or she is due your disdain for wantonly taking away the constitutional rights of the people of Jessamine County.

She never meant to do the latter. She absolutely meant to do the former.

It all started in the fall of 2008, and she is still doing it. The proof is in her knapsack, in a bright yellow flexible file folder, hidden from prying eyes. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Black Dossier. It has pink and yellow highlighter tags sticking out, marking the pages that contain explicit sexual content.

It is the Jessamine County Public Library's copy, which she has checked out and not returned. She is being fined 10 cents a day for her breach of library contract — and for her moral stand.

She was, she says, simply appalled that a child could find a book that contained so many outright visually obscene graphics in the Jessamine library where she worked. So nine months ago, she challenged its right to be included in the collection, and when that failed, she simply checked it out herself.

In effect, she removed the book from circulation. She checked it out over and over and over with her library card until a patron of the library, unaware of the circumstances of the book, put a hold on it, asking to be the next in line to check it out.

When Cook went to renew The Black Dossier on Sept. 21, the computer would not allow it because of the hold. Cook used her employee privileges to find out that the patron desiring the book was an 11-year-old girl.

This would not do.

On Sept. 22, Cook told two of her colleagues at the library about her dilemma, and Beth Boisvert made a decision. She would take the book off hold, thus disallowing the child — or the child's parents — ever to see the book.

On Sept. 23, both Cook and Boisvert were fired. They were told by library director Ron Critchfield the firings were a decision of the library board.

Cook, 57, and Boisvert, 62, suddenly got support from people they didn't even know who heard about it on the Web or at church or in the news.

What followed has become a battle of principles that is larger than the women ever imagined.

It has become a question of what public libraries are enshrined to do, what role they are to play in monitoring children and whether they get to decide what people get to read.

What complicates this is that the graphic novel in question meets no standard of obscenity by the law.

While it does contain many images of varied and explicit sexual behavior, it has been the subject of academic study. It was named by Time Magazine as one of its Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007 and called "genius," applauded for its ability to "pluck out the strange and angry and contradictory bits that underlie so much of the culture we live and think with today."

On Oct. 21, at its first meeting after the firings, the library board of directors found they needed a policy for public comment. Fifty people showed up unannounced to tell the library what they thought on the board's recent personnel actions.

Also on hand were Cook and Boisvert, who had prepared a power-point presentation of their case. It wasn't, they say, about keeping their jobs. It was about the fact that they had thought the book they found on the shelves of the library had originally been a mistake.

And the shock, they say, was that it wasn't. (The book had been bought originally because a patron had requested it.)

The presentation was created to explain that the Jessamine library's collection "currently contains material, readily available on its shelves, that is improper for children to view."

Moreover, they say they wanted to warn the library board that Kentucky law prohibits distribution of pornographic material to a child and they are concerned that the Jessamine library could be in felony violation.

They wanted to offer a plan for resolution: Because the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1973 that obscenity could be determined by local community standards, Jessamine County citizens should determine what they want their children to have access to.

They wanted to then suggest that the library change its policy on censorship.

Boisvert said she wanted them to know that "because we are a conservative community, we will choose to have our children protected."

Cook and Boisvert were never given the opportunity to speak. Neither was anyone else in the gallery. The reason given: It was not on the agenda.

People left really, really riled.

Director Critchfield has repeatedly said the library will not comment on personnel matters. The library, instead, has been left to try to speak through its policies.

The one most often pointed to is that any child 17 or under must have the consent of a parent or guardian to have a library card. And no child under 11 should be in the library unsupervised. (Parents choose if their children can access the Internet or if they can check out DVDs.)

Last week, new 81/2-by-17-inch posters went up around the library. "Parents and guardians, did you know?" they blare, explaining the policy the parents signed when their children took out cards and how to review the materials the child has checked out.

The Jessamine library had, before any complaint, adopted the American Library Association's policy manual and code of ethics as its own. (It is also the policy and code of ethics adopted by the state library association.)

It states: "Expurgation of any parts of books or other library resources by the library, its agent, or its parent institution is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights because it denies access to the complete work, and, therefore, to the entire spectrum of ideas that the work was intended to express."

Further, in the ALA's Code of Ethics: "We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representations of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources."

Critchfield has made a form of public comment: an open letter in the Jessamine Journal. In part, he wrote:

"As customers of a public library there is a First Amendment expectation to respect the rights of all persons — what one person might view as questionable might be quite important and relevant to another."

As to the charge about Cook's concern that the library was in violation of the state obscenity laws?

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director of the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom, says no U.S. library employee has ever been charged with that in a situation like this. Most states, including Kentucky, have written in an exclusion provision to that law, barring prosecution of libraries and education and scientific institutions.

Cook and Boisvert are not librarians. Generally, you must have a master's degree in library science to merit the professional title "librarian." The majority of library employees do not have an MLS. These paraprofessional positions go by a variety of titles depending on the library system.

Cook and Boisvert do not pretend to be librarians. Cook was a full-time employee of the library for four years before her firing. Boisvert worked 11 hours a week for more than two years before she was let go. Both women live in Jessamine County.

Cook says she consulted with a manager at the library at almost every step in her decision-making process about the graphic novel. She says when it first came to her attention, "someone suggested we spill a cup of tea on it. Instead I checked it out."

She then went through the proper procedure of challenging the book, something any patron can do. That required a committee, including Cook, to read the book.

"People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head," she says.


Friday, December 9

Starbucks big cheese throws in the towel to campaign for anti big business Obama.

Oh and it is small, medium and large you dipwadd!

Starbucks general counsel and secretary Paula Boggs will retire April 2 to join President Obama's re-election campaign. She has been at the coffee company since 2002.

Boggs will be based in Seattle and Santa Fe and work for the campaign in communities across the country.

In 2010, Obama appointed Boggs to the White House Council for Community Solutions, which has worked on community-developed solutions to youth development, education and employment.

Boggs is well-known at Starbucks headquarters for her singing and songwriting. She is a voting member for the Grammy's and serves on the advisory board for KEXP.

Her legal career began in 1984 when she was a U.S. Army officer assigned to the Pentagon. She was a staff attorney for the White House before leaving the service in 1988, after which she served as assistant U.S. attorney in the Western district of Washington prosecuting fraud and regulatory crimes.

Boggs was a partner at Preston Gates & Ellis in Seattle from 1995 to 1997, working as a trial lawyer specializing in corporate civil litigation.

She was an executive at Dell Computer from 1997 to 2002.

Proposed S. Korean towers resemble collapsing WTC

Not coincidental.
1:17 PM, Dec 9, 2011 • By JOHN ROSENTHAL

The unveiling of pictures of planned luxury residential towers scheduled to be built in Seoul, South Korea, has sparked instant controversy. The reason is obvious. The towers, which include a so-called “cloud” feature connecting them around the 27th floors, clearly resemble the World Trade Towers in the process of collapsing following the 9/11 attacks.

The designers of the towers, Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, have responded to the controversy by quickly publishing an apology in English. “It was not our intention to create an image resembling the attacks,” the designers insist, “nor did we see the resemblance during the design process.”

They did not see the resemblance during the design process? The problem with this assertion – apart from its inherent implausibility – is that they have admitted the contrary in Dutch. Thus Jan Knikker of MVRDV told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, “I have to admit that we also thought of the 9/11 attacks.”

Moreover, given the context, the MVRDV architects could hardly have not thought of the 9/11 attacks. The residential towers, after all, are supposed to be built at the entrance to the so-called Yongsan Dream Hub: a complex of business towers that has been designed by none other than Daniel Libeskind, the designer of the original “master plan” for the reconstruction of Ground Zero. Indeed, as the below image from Studio Daniel Libeskind makes clear, Libeskind’s Yongsan Dreamhub “master plan” closely resembles his original “master plan” for lower Manhattan.

A premature Hanukkah at the Obama White House

A premature Hanukkah at the Obama White House
Andrew Malcolm
Posted 12/08/2011 08:24 PM ET

Twelve days early but better that than late. Especially with the recent strains among Democrats over their once-solid bloc of Jewish voters.

President and Mrs. Obama held a Hanukkah party this evening in the White House, including some buttering up of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; hey, he's gonna need every possible vote up there come Obamacare Armageddon day next summer.

Scroll down for Obama's full remarks. As the president put it to the Hanukkah observers: "We never need an excuse for a good party." So they lit all eight candles to start.

The eight-day Jewish holiday doesn't really start until Dec. 20. But by then the entire Obama family including his mother-in-law are scheduled to be at a luau -- or at least in Hawaii for 17 days.

The president is talking confidently about his support among Jewish voters. Here's how he modestly put it last week during a Manhattan fundraiser:

"This administration -- I try not to pat myself too much on the back -- but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration."

President Obama remarks on Hanukkah, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:&; Well, good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House. Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah -- even if we're doing it a little bit early. (Laughter.)

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here. The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house. (Applause.) We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here. (Applause.) We are thrilled to see her. She's one of my favorites, I got to -- (laughter.) I've got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here. Where's Jarrod? (Applause.) Hey, Jarrod.

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir —- (applause) -- the Voice of Tradition -— for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit. The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We're stretching it out. (Laughter.) But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. (Laughter.) That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart -- even us Gentiles. It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt. Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple —- which should have lasted only one night —- ended up lasting eight.

It’s a timeless story. And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling. And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else. They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives. Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -— including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel. (Applause.)

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party. (Laughter.) So we are going to see all of you in a second downstairs --

MRS. OBAMA: Aren't we in the Blue Room?

THE PRESIDENT: Or wherever we are. (Laughter.) I think we're downstairs. We are downstairs in the Map Room. So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends. We can't wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday. The guys with whiskers, I won't give you a kiss. (Laughter.) Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) ####

Criticism of Islam could soon be a crime in U.S.

December 8, 2011
Clare M. Lopez

When President Obama delivered his much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world at Cairo University in June 2009, the free world trembled while the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) gushed with praise and begged for a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The OIC is the largest head of state organization in the world after the United Nations (UN) itself and comprises 56 Muslim countries plus the Palestinians. It claims to be the "collective voice of the Muslim world," i.e., the ummah, and speaks on its behalf in effect as the seat of the next Islamic Caliphate. In 1990, the OIC membership adopted the "Cairo Declaration ," which officially exempted all Muslim countries from compliance with the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and replaced it with Islamic law (shariah).

One of the fundamental laws of Islam deals with "slander ," which is defined in shariah as saying "anything concerning a person [a Muslim] that he would dislike." At the OIC's Third Extraordinary Session, held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in December 2005, the organization adopted a "Ten-Year Programme of Action to Meet the Challenges Facing the Muslim Ummah in the 21st Century." A key agenda item of that meeting was "the need to counter Islamophobia" by seeking to have the UN "…adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments." The word "Islamophobia" is a completely invented word, coined by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) front group. OIC adoption of the term reflects the close operational relationship between the OIC and the Ikhwan.

Six years later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to host OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Washington, DC in mid-December 2011 to discuss how the United States can implement the OIC agenda to criminalize criticism of Islam. Cloaked in the sanctimonious language of "Resolution 16/18," that was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in April 2011, the WDC three-day experts meeting is billed as a working session to discuss legal mechanisms to combat religious discrimination (but the only religion the Human Rights Council has ever mentioned in any previous resolution is Islam). The UN Human Rights Council, which includes such bastions of human rights as China, Cuba, Libya, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, introduced Resolution 16/18 to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where it was passed in March 2011.

The Resolution was presented to the UNGA by Pakistan (where women get the death penalty for being raped and "blasphemy" against Islam is punished by death). Ostensibly about "combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and…incitement to violence against persons based on religion or belief," the only partnership mentioned in the text is the one with the OIC. The U.S., whose official envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, helped write Obama's Cairo speech, actively collaborated in the drafting of Resolution 16/18.

Now, the OIC's Ihsanoglu will come to Washington, DC, the capital of one of the only countries in the world with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and a judicial system that consistently defends it, with a publicized agenda to criminalize criticism of Islam. His agenda, and, apparently that of his host, the U.S. Department of State, seek to bring the U.S. into full compliance with Islamic law on slander, as noted above.

Events in the nation's capital seemed timed to ensure Ihsanoglu a warm welcome. The Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank aligned with the Democratic Party and Obama White House, published "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" in August 2011. Disturbingly specific in naming individuals associated with speaking truth about the doctrinal foundations of Islamic terrorism, the report is a blatant assault on the First Amendment and free speech in America—at least as far as Islam is concerned.

The Justice Department soon got on board the "Islamophobia" bandwagon. In the wake of the cancellation of a number of scheduled official training sessions at national security agencies by deeply knowledgeable scholars of Islamic doctrine, law, and scriptures, such as Stephen Coughlin, Steven Emerson, William Gawthrop, John Guandolo, and Robert Spencer, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole confirmed at an 11 October 2011 press conference that the Obama administration was pulling back for review all training materials used for the law enforcement and national security communities in order to eliminate all references to Islam that Muslim Brotherhood groups have found offensive.

No doubt much encouraged by national capitulation at such a level, Salam Al-Marayati, the president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), an Islamic organization that shares the jihadist agenda and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the Los Angeles Times on 19 October 2011. In his piece, Al-Marayati openly threatened the FBI with "collapse of a critical partnership with the Muslim American community." Later that same day, the Justice Department convened a meeting with Muslim shariah advocates at George Washington University in WDC, chaired by its civil rights division chief, Tom Perez. Dwight C. Holton , the U.S. Attorney in Oregon who was also present, announced that, after speaking with Attorney General Eric Holder, he wanted "to be perfectly clear about this: training materials that portray Islam as a religion of violence or with a tendency towards violence are wrong, they are offensive, and they are contrary to everything that this president, this attorney general and Department of Justice stands for. They will not be tolerated."

A phobia is an irrational fear. It is not irrational to give warning of an ideology resolutely committed to eradication of free belief, expression, speech, and even thought. It is suicidal for a free society willingly to collaborate with those, like the Muslim Brotherhood and the OIC, which are determined to destroy Western civilization from within—and have told us so, repeatedly, consistently, and publicly. Further, collaboration in such an anti-freedom campaign represents abrogation of the professional oath of office of every federal official who has sworn to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Silencing those who would warn of impending catastrophe only ensures victory to the enemy and loss of our most rare and precious inheritance: the American love of liberty.

Family Security Matters Contributor Clare M. Lopez is a strategic policy and intelligence expert. Lopez began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), serving domestically and abroad for 20 years in a variety of assignments. Now a private consultant, Lopez is a Sr. Fellow at the Center for Security Policy and Vice President of the Intelligence Summit. She is also a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund.

The Osawatomie coincidence

Submitted by Trevor on December 8, 2011 – 6:58 pm EST

Why would Barack Obama choose to give a controversial speech attacking American capitalism in Osawatomie, Kansas?

Hang on? Where have I heard that name before? Osawatomie? ….back in the ’70s? Weather Underground terrorists… Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn. Didn’t Obama used to hang out with those guys?

I remember! Osawatomie was the publication of the Weather Underground!

No, surely its a coincidence….

Just sayin.’

Germany seeks to ban far right party

Dec 9, 2:11 PM EST

BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's top security officials say they are formally launching an investigation to determine whether a far right party should be banned over its antidemocratic convictions.

Germany's Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Friday he reached agreement with his counterparts from the country's 16 states to gather material for a trial seeking to ban the NPD party. They say the National Democratic Party is "inhuman, hostile to democracy and anti-Semitic."

The move comes only weeks after a small far right terrorist group was discovered that is being blamed for 10 murders and explosive attacks that mostly targeted foreigners.

The hurdles for banning a party are high in Germany and only the country's Constitutional Court can do so - and it rejected a first attempt to block the NPD in 2003.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


By Joe Coscarelli

In John Heilemann's cover story "2012=1968?," he wonders whether Occupy Wall Street protesters will do to Charlotte's Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2012 what demonstrators did to the Chicago DNC in 1968. The North Carolina city, sometimes called the "Wall Street of the South," is not taking any chances, and is already working to pass an ordinance that would make occupying downtown spaces with tents a "public nuisance," in addition to banning "noxious substances," padlocks, and other camping equipment. The fact that it would knock out the city's current overnight demonstrators is an added bonus.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said dubiously last month that the rule, which could be enacted in January, is not aimed at a specific group. "Unlike many cities that have well-developed regulations governing protest activity, our local regulations contain gaps that need to be filled," he said. But a memo about the ordinance does note, "The recent issues related to camping on city property have further amplified the need to review whether the city wants to regulate this activity during the DNC." A city councilman added of the current Occupy Charlotte faction, "Once those ordinances go into effect, those overnight stays will end."

A local National Lawyers Guild director says that the rule's constitutionality might be challenged and could even spur "increased confrontation between protesters and police." For their part, the protesters say they don't even have a plan for the DNC yet, but acknowledge the opportunity it presents. "Everybody I talked to said the DNC is ground zero for everything," said one organizer. "Everybody wants to be involved. We're estimating several thousands of people coming especially from the Occupy community." The idea of an alternative convention has been floated, while another Occupy organizer called the DNC "a powder keg." Tents or no tents, Charlotte "has got a big target on it," he said.


“A recent Gallup poll found that 47% of American households own a gun, up from 41% just a year ago.”

Social acceptance of guns explains new Black Friday record: Analysts
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2011

(Newser) – This year's Black Friday gun sales broke a record set in 2008 by nearly a third, and while fears about President Obama outlawing some types of firearms are thought to be behind 2008's record, analysts say this year's surge in sales is part of a long-term trend. Gun ownership was "politically incorrect" five years ago, but "what seems to be changing is social acceptance," an analyst at investment firm Avondale Partners tells MSNBC. "I think there might be a changing view of firearms."

Every state except Illinois now allows residents to carry concealed weapons, and a recent Gallup poll found that 47% of American households own a gun, up from 41% just a year ago. Analysts say the number of first-time gun buyers and women buying guns has been rising for several years, with handguns selling especially well. The director of communications at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, however, says this year's surge is sales is a "one-time event" which may be "the result of marketing."

Nancy Pelosi Pushing Government to Institute Hitler Youth

In 1920, Adolf Hitler formed the Youth League of the National Socialist Workers’ Party. In 1922, a new youth organization emerged that eventually became known as Hitler Youth. It targeted boys ages 14-18. Eventually a second group was formed for boys ages 10-14 and a girls’ organization that covered ages 10-18. The goal of the Youth organizations was to indoctrinate the next generation of leaders to help insure the success for the Nazi Party.

From 1922 to 1945, the Hitler Youth saw thousands of teenaged kids turning in their parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends, the government for speaking out against Hitler and his Nazi rule. Thousands of people were imprisoned, beaten and even executed. They turned in their neighbors and school mates who were Jewish.

Hitler Youth was so effective that ever today some of them still carry the hatred and prejudices they were taught. The father of a man I worked with was a member of the Hitler Youth. Today’s he’s in his early 80’s and he still hates Jews, Christians and blacks and believes that Hitler should have won the war.

And now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has announced that she intends to push for national childcare reform, supposedly modeled after Obamacare but is starting to sound more like it is being modeled after Hitler Youth.

Pelosi started by recounting her own experience saying,

“‘I could never get a babysitter — have five kids in six years and no one wants to come to your house. … And everywhere I go, women say the same thing’ about how hard it is to find the kind of reliable care that would make their family lives calmer and work lives more productive.”

Duh! Who in their right mind would want to babysit for Pelosi? I’ve read stories of witches who are more rational and realistic than what I have seen from Pelosi over the past few years.

One political pundit summarized her proposed ObamaChildcare as,
“A childcare mandate requiring all parents to buy childcare for their children and enter the workplace
“A national electronic database of all parents and their parenting habits, ostensibly to determine and enforce the use of “best practices” for raising children
“Forcing all private-sector child care professionals out of business, creating a single-caregiver government monopoly subjecting impressionable young children to government indoctrination in everything from climate change to illegal immigration and abortion.”

The government and social do-gooders have already made it difficult for a parent to discipline their children according to biblical guidelines. Parents have had their children taken from them for spanking and less. Now Pelosi wants the government to dictate how you raise your children, what you teach them, and most importantly, who will teach them.

ObamaChildcare sounds eerily like Hitler Youth, with the only difference being the age. Pelosi’s program will start soon after birth and continue to up school age. Once reaching school age, most kids end up in the government brainwashing program known as the public school system. From there, they move on to colleges and universities which are a haven for radical liberals and political Marxists. By the time they leave college, we will have a whole generation of programmed Obama clones moving into the workplace and government.

If anyone out there values family and their children, they need to wake up and smell the manure that Pelosi and her coven are about to spread across the American people to grow a crop of mind-controlled robots.

Obama Using Dictatorial Powers

Written on December 9, 2011 by Giacomo

Since taking office, President Obama has been wielding executive powers like free beer at an open bar. He has created a number of regulations without the consent of Congress. These regulations are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

In an effort to curb in the president’s dictatorial use of executive power, Rep Geoff Davis, R(KY) first introduced the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2010 of REINS Act 2010, but the measure failed. This year, Rep Davis re-introduced the REINS Act 2011 with the co-sponsorship of over 200 co-sponsors.

On Wednesday, the House passed the REINS Act 2011 by a 241 to 184 vote. The measure will now move to the Senate where the Democrats have vowed to defeat it. And if for some reason it does pass the Senate, President Obama has vowed to veto it since it will take away his dictatorial powers.

One of the main sponsors of the REINS Act was Rep Geoff Davis, R(KY) who sent out the following statement following the House passage of the measure.

Today, the House of Representatives passed Congressman Geoff Davis’ bill, H.R. 10, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, by a bipartisan vote of 241 to 184.

Congressman Davis said, “The point of the REINS Act is accountability. Each member of Congress must take a stand and be accountable for regulations that will have the greatest impact on our economy. Regulatory compliance costs small businesses an estimated $10,500 per employee annually. At a time of high unemployment, we must do something about this massive burden. No longer would Congress be able to avoid accountability by writing vague laws requiring the benefits up front and leaving the unpopular or costly elements up to the bureaucrats who will write those elements of the law at some later date.

“I want to thank all of the supporters of the REINS Act, especially Speaker Boehner, Chairman Smith, Senator Paul, and the over 200 co-sponsors for their tireless efforts to advance this commonsense legislation.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner said, “Passage of the REINS Act is a significant step towards fulfilling our obligations to the American people outlined in the Pledge to America. The REINS Act will make the regulatory process more open and accountable, and rein in unelected bureaucrats from strangling small businesses in red tape, which will give private sector job creators the confidence they need to grow our economy and hire.”

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith said, “More than once this year, the President has talked about the dangers that excessive regulations pose to our economy. But unfortunately, his actions speak louder than his words. The Obama administration is preparing numerous regulations that each will cost the economy $1 billion or more per year.

“The American people want job creation, not more regulation. The REINS Act reins in out-of-control federal regulations that burden America’s businesses and job creators. It guarantees that Congress – not unelected agency officials – will be accountable for all new major regulatory costs.”

Breaking: We were right, Obama GAVE Iran the Drone!

A couple of days ago was the first to point out that the circumstances surrounding the “crash” of the top secret RQ170 Sentinel drone simply didn’t add up. And we were right! The story continues to develop and it doesn’t look good!

To recap, first we were told that Iran might’ve shot it down and then the story changed to “the drone crashed on Iranian soil ”

After realizing that the Iranians were about to parade a perfectly functional drone with nary a scratch on it, the official story changed to “the drone landed because it wants to live” I kid you not that is the official story!

The flack we caught for running the story was typical of the the kind of BS spewed by Obama’s supporters but none the less I didn’t withdraw the story because the official version simply didn’t add up.

The immediate and obvious questions were these: 1) Why didn’t we try to recover the drone? 2) In lieu of a rescue effort why didn’t we bomb it into oblivion?

Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that apparently the Pentagon pleaded with Barrack Hussein Obama to give the order to do just that. The Pentagon initially wanted to send a special forces team to recover the drone. Obama shot down that suggestion. Then the Pentagon offered up Plan B , blow it to kingdom come. FOX News reports that there was third option and Obama struck that down also. Obama refused both whose options as well and now Iran and China have a brand spanking new fully functional top secret US RQ 170 Sentinel Drone.

The Drone was not recovered or destroyed specifically per Obama’s orders

Sesame Street Muppet Pitches Government Dependence: Free Food at School

By Eric Scheiner
December 9, 2011

( – A “food insecure” Muppet is helping to promote a national “Food for Thought” campaign that teaches poor families to seek out nutritious food and to eat on the taxpayers’ tab.

At the National Press Club on Thursday, Lily the Muppet – who worries about her family not having enough money to feed her properly -- pitched free food at school:

“Sometimes we can't always afford to buy all the food that we need,” Lily said. “I mean, but we've been finding lots of ways that we can get help...Yeah, for example, at school I get a free breakfast and a lunch...part of the meal plan."

Lily’s message is being circulated through schools, hospitals and food assistance programs as part of Sesame Street’s “Food for Thought” multi-media campaign, which includes DVDs and a booklet listing “services that can assist your family” as well as “referrals to social service agencies.”

Organizers say they have produced a million of the kits.

At the National Press Club on Thursday, the Rev. Douglas Greenaway of the National WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Association lauded Sesame Street’s ‘Food For Thought’ campaign – even linking it to federal deficit-reduction.

“What ‘Food For Thought’ does is remind people that eating healthy now gives them a good health outcome in the long term. So the folks you’re looking at up here, the programs that they represent, what ‘Food For Thought’ does is really a deficit reduction strategy, and we hope policymakers will take notice of that,” Greenaway said.

Greenaway didn't elaborate further on how this would work towards deficit reduction.

The Food for Thought Web site urges people to “feel good about food.”

“It is not easy to make healthy food choices when options are limited,” the Web site says. “But eating a healthy breakfast and snacking on fruits and vegetables are small changes you can make together as a family. Taking time to plan your meals before you shop and cook will help you stretch your dollar and serve healthy meals.”

Officials with Sesame Street say reaction to Lily and the Food for Thought program have been so strong they are looking to expand her message.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind the TV show, announced on Thursday that it plans to appoint a Poverty Advisory Board in 2012. The first meeting will be in Washington on Jan. 10.

Satellite Images Suggest Something Happened at Iranian Nuclear Facility

But Was It an Explosion?
By Amy Kellogg
Published December 09, 2011

The first clear pictures of Iran’s nuclear site near Isfahan have been published and analyzed following an explosion at or near the site on Nov. 28, and they provide another piece of the puzzle. But what happened there remains a mystery.

Iran’s uranium conversion facility sits outside Isfahan. It is there that yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6), which is then fed into centrifuges and turned into enriched uranium. The enriched uranium then can be made into fuel for power stations, or it can be highly enriched for a nuclear bomb.

Fox News obtained satellite pictures of the Isfahan nuclear site between Dec. 3 and 5, less than a week after reports of explosions in the area were heard. Analysts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which employs some of the most widely respected experts on Iran’s nuclear sites, scrutinized the images and said there is no evidence of an explosion -- but there wouldn’t be clear evidence several days after an event.

Click here to view the ISIS report.

Iranian officials have issued conflicting comments about the blast, which, if it occurred at the uranium conversion facility, could be very damaging to the nation’s nuclear program.

A report of the explosion was first mentioned in the semi-official Fars News website. Then the report was removed. Then it was finally described as an explosion deriving from a military exercise by Isfahan’s governor, Alireza Zaker-Isfahani.

Israeli sources have suggested that the blast occurred at the nuclear facility; Iran, in turn, has denied that any sort of blast happened there.

But others find Iran’s denials suspicious, given that there have been numerous acts of sabotage against its nuclear and military sites and scientists in the last few years. Just last month, an explosion occurred at a sensitive missile site, killing 20 people, including the father of Iran’s Shahab 3 missile. It is not clear what caused that blast, or whether it was accidental, but many believe it was no coincidence.

ISIS analysts who looked at the images from Isfahan said there had been a dramatic change in the landscape around a tunnel leading down to a storage facility on the periphery of the uranium conversion site. Several structures above that storage facility, which had been there for 15 years and stood intact as recently as August, are gone. There now is evidence of bulldozing around the old structures.

It is not clear what is stored in that facility, which used to be a salt mine, or whether the underground storage was damaged. But Iran has been known to store UF6 underground, ISIS says, so it is possible that converted yellowcake was in that facility. According to ISIS, there is no evidence of an explosion, but there wouldn’t be clear evidence several days after an event.

“After five to seven days, that’s what you would be looking at anyway — clean-up,” ISIS senior analyst Paul Brannan told Fox News.

“The pictures we have seen were dramatic insofar as the buildings were there for at least 15 years,” he said. “On Dec. 5, they were gone. Whether or not that is circumstantial is not clear, but it warrants further scrutiny.”

Brannan says much of Iran’s yellowcake has been converted to UF6, but the Iranians still have some stock. Beyond that, however, the nation’s ability to mine and mill yellowcake is limited.

“There is something strange going on,” he said. “It is not clear what it is. There was the recent blast at the missile facility with people killed. There was a report of a blast at Isfahan’s uranium conversion site. A U.S. drone has been downed.

“Something is going on. It’s not clear what it is.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

House bars EPA from cracking down -- on farm dust

By Pete Kasperowicz and Elise Viebeck - 12/08/11 02:47 PM ET

The House on Thursday approved legislation Republicans said was aimed at ensuring the EPA cannot regulate so-called "farm dust."

The House on Thursday afternoon approved legislation Republicans said was aimed at ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot regulate so-called "farm dust."

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, H.R. 1633, which would prevent the EPA from issuing any new rule over the next year that regulates coarse particulate matter, or "nuisance dust," passed in a 268-150 vote.

Like other environmental bills the GOP has brought forward this year, the bill enjoyed some support from Democrats: 33 voted along with Republicans in favor of the bill.

The bill is a reaction to the possibility that the EPA might issue a new rule that affects farmers. Republicans have cited that possibility all year as an example of overreach by the EPA.

A statement from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this year that the agency now has no plans to issue any such rule did not deter Republicans from pushing ahead with the bill, which they said would create certainty that no rule would come out.

"Despite Administrator Jackson's statement, there is nothing currently on the books preventing the EPA from adopting a stricter regulation," Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) said. "This legislation provides iron-clad certainty to farmers, ranchers, small business owners that farm dust would stay off the EPA's to-do list for at least another year."

Democrats said the bill is unnecessary, given Jackson's assurance that there is no need to fear a rule.

"Once again, House Republicans are wasting the Congress's time on a bill that has nothing to do with creating jobs or dealing with the pressing issues that confront us before the end of the year," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act is based on the same failed claim that deregulation will lead to job growth."

"This session of Congress has felt to many of us like a trip into Alice's Wonderland," Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said during closing debate. "While our nation struggles with a devastating economy, we do nothing about jobs or getting Americans back to work. Instead, we repeatedly fall down the rabbit hole of extreme legislation, and now with this [bill] … it seems that we're even having tea with the Cheshire cat.

"To paraphrase our friend the Cheshire Cat, 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad. You must be mad, or you wouldn't have come here.' … [The bill] is a mad solution to an imaginary problem," she added.

Democrats also charged that the bill could be used to help industries other than farming avoid federal pollution regulations.

"It is not really about farms at all," House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. "It's real effect is to exempt industrial mining operations and other large industries from regulation under the Clean Air Act, and it threatens to overturn the particulate pollution standards that protect families in both rural and urban communities."

Waxman said the bill would ban regulations related to nuisance dust, but defines "nuisance dust" in a way that could exempt not just farmers, but coal mining operations and cement plants from new particulate-matter rules. He also said Republicans rejected amendments aimed at ensuring that the bill only blocks potential new rules on dust related to farms.

Under the bill, nuisance dust is defined as particulate matter that is "generated primarily from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, or other activities typically conducted in rural areas."

Republicans rejected this argument by pointing out that mining operations are still subject to several environmental laws, and that dozens of agricultural organizations support the bill.

"Listen to the American Farm Bureau Federation and all its state affiliates," Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. "Listen to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and over 185 other organizations who collectively represent a significant portion of the rural economy. These organizations believe that this bill is necessary, and so do I."

House passage sends the bill to a Senate that is unlikely to take it up at all. The Obama administration has already said it would veto the bill.

China's Hu urges navy to prepare for combat

By Robert Saiget
AFP – Tue, Dec 6, 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat, amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should "accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security," he said.

Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: "Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building."

His comments, which were posted in a statement on a government website, come as the United States and Beijing's neighbours have expressed concerns over its naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Several Asian nations have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea, believed to encompass huge oil and gas reserves, while China claims it all. One-third of global seaborne trade passes through the region.

Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.

In a translation of Hu's comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China's navy should "make extended preparations for warfare."

The Pentagon however downplayed Hu's speech, saying that Beijing had the right to develop its military, although it should do so transparently.

"They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do," said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added, "We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that's part of the relationship we're continuing to build with the Chinese military."

"Nobody's looking for a scrap here," insisted another spokesman, Admiral John Kirby. "Certainly we wouldn't begrudge any other nation the opportunity, the right to develop naval forces to be ready.

"Our naval forces are ready and they'll stay ready."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: "We want to see stronger military-to-military ties with China and we want to see greater transparency. That helps answer questions we might have about Chinese intentions."

Hu's announcement comes in the wake of trips to Asia by several senior US officials, including President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

US undersecretary of defence Michelle Flournoy is due to meet in Beijing with her Chinese counterparts on Wednesday for military-to-military talks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month warned against interference by "external forces" in regional territorial disputes including those in the South China Sea.

And China said late last month it would conduct naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, after Obama, who has dubbed himself America's first Pacific president, said the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia.

China's People's Liberation Army, the largest military in the world, is primarily a land force, but its navy is playing an increasingly important role as Beijing grows more assertive about its territorial claims.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon warned that Beijing was increasingly focused on its naval power and had invested in high-tech weaponry that would extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond.

China's first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial last week after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said.

The 300-metre (990-foot) ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier, underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China's widening naval reach.

Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the old Soviet ship and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier poses no threat to its neighbours and will be used mainly for training and research purposes.

But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.

China, which publicly announced around 50 separate naval exercises in the seas off its coast over the past two years -- usually after the event -- says its military is only focused on defending the country's territory.

November Trend Report

November Trend Report

December 1, 2011 by talkstreamlive

TSL Trend Report

Rank / Share / October Trend / November Trend

1 Rush Limbaugh 16.8 / +0.83% / +1.66%
2 Michael Savage 10.8 / +27.12% / +18.60%
3 Glenn Beck 10.7 / +6.66% / +1.05%
4 Laura Ingraham 9.6 / -13.48% / -21.00%
5 Tammy Bruce 6.3 / -5.37% / -17.78%
6 Sean Hannity 5.1 / -12.93% / -6.53%
7 Mark Levin 4.8 / -17.73% / -17.02%
8 George Noory 3.7 / +0.11% / -1.53%
9 Bill Bennett 3.2 / -18.62% / -23.35%
10 Dennis Miller 2.1 / +10.47% / -10.25%
11 Michael Medved 2.0 / -0.91% / +0.26%
12 Neal Boortz 2.0 / +28.89% / +10.74%
13 Dennis Prager 1.8 / -2.90% / -6.82%
14 John Batchelor 1.3 / +4.03% / -7.92%
15 Jerry Doyle 1.2 / -55.29% / +70.37%
16 John Gibson 0.9 / +4.72% / -11.27%
17 Quinn and Rose 0.9 / -4.17% / +2.59%
18 Monica Crowley 0.9 / +0.62% / -13.32%
19 Alex Jones 0.8 / +12.54% / +20.41%
20 IMUS 0.7 / -6.59% / -6.48%
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FDR's Class Warfare: A Tutorial For Obama

By Burton Folsom, Jr. & Anita Folsom from the December/January issue

Not that he needs any further lessons from the master of confiscatory taxation.

"It's only right that we ask everyone to pay their fair share," President Obama has declared, while calling for higher taxes on the group he refers to as "millionaires and billionaires." Redistribution is the key concept--President Obama again and again demands that the U.S. redistribute wealth from one group of Americans to another.

Where does this emphasis on redistribution come from? Not from the Founders. The Constitution mandates that "all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." The Declaration of Independence entrenches the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens. And once slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment required that no state deny "equal protection of the laws" to "any person."

In fact, the Founders, and the American leaders of the 1800s, disdained the income tax. In 1872, President Grant rid the nation of the Civil War income tax; two decades later, the Supreme Court struck down another attempt at an income tax. If we must have taxes, the Founders urged, let them be consumption taxes--a luxury tax on imports, for example, or a vice tax on whiskey. As Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 21 of such taxes: "The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources." He added, "If duties are too high, they lessen the consumption; the collection is eluded; and the product in the treasury is not so great.…This forms a complete barrier against any material oppression of the citizens by taxes of this class, and is itself a natural limitation of the power of imposing them."

In other words, if the government taxes whiskey, tobacco, or imported French wine at too high a rate, people will drink less and smoke less--and revenue will go down. That is "a natural limitation" on the greed of politicians. Thus, a system of tariffs and excise taxes formed the basis of U.S. revenue collection from Presidents Washington to Teddy Roosevelt.

In the early 1900s, the progressives argued that more power needed to be centralized in the executive branch, and more money should be spent by government to attack social problems. But where could the money be found to pay for such huge government bureaucracies? Progressives had a solution: tax the rich and regulate their income. On August 31, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt, who became a key progressive spokesman, announced: "The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes." In other words, uniform taxes, equal protection of the laws, and full property rights do not apply to those people with fortunes that are swollen. "A graduated income tax on big fortunes" is needed, Roosevelt insisted, as part of society's right to "regulate the use of wealth in the public interest."

But who is to determine how much money constitutes a swollen fortune? And what will the proper tax on it be? Under an income tax, politicians are the ones who judge ability to pay, and they choose the rates they think rich people can afford. And here, unlike with a consumption tax, there is no real check on the greed of politicians. If politicians choose rates too high they may lose the support of the rich, but they may gain support of those larger groups receiving subsidies from the redistributed swollen fortunes.

The income tax became law in 1913 through constitutional amendment, and immediately politicians enacted a progressive tax and began the arbitrary process of setting rates. Over time, politicians discovered incentives to increase taxes on the small group of rich people and redistribute their wealth to the larger group of voters. In 1913, for example, the original top tax rate was 7 percent on all income over $500,000. Three years later the top rate was 15 percent. During the 1920s, the top rate became 25 percent on all income over $100,000, but in 1932, during the Great Depression, it was hiked to 63 percent on incomes over $1,000,000. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the top rate to 79 percent on multimillionaires. Thus, even before the income tax was 22 years old, politicians had steadily jacked up the top rate from 7 to 79 percent. FDR had no experience running a profitable business, but his cries for the rich to pay their "fair share" profited his political career.

FDR USED THE CRISIS of World War II to do three things: first, to tax the rich even more; second, to begin taxing the majority of Americans; and third, to introduce "withholding" to get cash immediately and guarantee a regular flow of revenue into the federal treasury. These three changes were dramatic events in U.S. history, and few historians have studied them. Rows of books have been written on the bombing of Pearl Harbor and on the dropping of the atomic bomb, but little is known of how 39 million Americans suddenly had to pay income taxes and why the cash was withheld from their monthly pay envelopes. In our new history FDR Goes to War, we tell the story of these three dramatic changes.

On the first point, FDR hiked tax rates even further on the rich because he wanted more of their money to fight the world war. In the 1940s, he gradually boosted marginal rates on top incomes to 94 percent on all income over $200,000. But even at those high rates, he ran out of rich people before he ran out of places to spend the money. As Senator Tom Connally complained, "We cannot get much more from the very high brackets, because as to them we have already reached the point of unproductiveness."

FDR's solution was to convert the income tax from a class tax to a mass tax. Before World War II, fewer than 5 percent of Americans paid income taxes. "Too many people," Roosevelt lamented, "are earning money and not contributing to the government." When a Treasury official suggested lowering personal exemptions, Roosevelt was delighted. "Of course I want that. I have been trying to get it for years but nobody will help me do it." From 1939 to 1944, with Roosevelt's blessing, the amount of money families could earn before they had to pay income taxes declined from $2,500 to $1,000 for married couples. That meant that from 1940 to 1942, the number of Americans paying income taxes jumped almost tenfold, from 4 million to 39 million. Furthermore, the starting tax rate skyrocketed from 4 percent to almost 24 percent. The government used the wartime emergency as a tool to encourage tax payments. "Taxes to Beat the Axis" became the slogan of the day. Songs on the radio, speeches by movie stars, and even Walt Disney cartoons in movie theaters urged all Americans to pay their income taxes.

Just as 1942 was the year of the first mass tax in U.S. history, 1943 would be the year of withholding taxes at the source. The case for withholding was simple: the war was expensive, and FDR wanted to get more revenue more quickly from the tens of millions of new taxpayers. To sell the idea of withholding to Americans, the government called the practice "pay as you go," which made higher taxes sound more like payments on layaway merchandise in a store. "Pay as you go" also subtly implied that everyone was paying a debt that they owed, when in reality, most Americans had never paid an income tax before. But if employers could be forced to extract pay from their workers' wages each week or month, and then send that cash to Washington, the government could secure a steady flow of revenue--not only for the rest of the war, but for generations to come.

The campaign for withholding, however, hit a snag: Tax payments in the United States were not on a current basis. The 1942 tax bill, for example, was not due until 1943, and there was no system of withholding. That system of earning revenue in one year and paying nothing until the next year started with the first income tax law passed in 1913. Congress did not pass that tax until October and, to extract instant cash from wealthy people, made the tax retroactive. To ease the pain, Congress allowed taxpayers to pay their 1913 tax in 1914, and that practice had continued for the next 30 years. Thus, the more than 30 million new taxpayers in 1942 could delay their payments to Uncle Sam until 1943. But since FDR wanted withholding immediately in 1943, that meant most taxpayers would be subject to "double taxation," in 1943--they would be paying withholding tax immediately, and they would still owe their 1942 taxes on top of that.

Some observers favored the government forgiving people of their 1942 taxes in return for withholding, but FDR insisted on "double taxation" even if it meant that rich people owed more than 100 percent of their 1943 income to pay both years' taxes all at once. The Current Tax Payment Act of 1943, passed on June 9, forced millionaires to pay some double taxation--one-fourth of their 1942 tax bill was due in 1943, and they also had to pay withholding on 1943 income immediately. Married people with no dependents who annually earned $500,000, for example, would have to pay a 98.7 percent tax rate in both 1944 and 1945. Those who earned $1 million each year of the war would owe a whopping $1,006,750 in both 1944 and 1945. When asked how some people, admittedly a small minority, could pay more than they earned in taxes, Senator Allen Ellender (D-LA) responded, "I submit that the [rich] taxpayer is likely to have accumulated sufficient assets with which to make the necessary income payments."

THE PROGRESSIVE IDEA that income should be limited by law raised profound questions for American society. Do rights, such as the right to property, come in a natural way from God--as stated in the Declaration of Independence--or do they come from government? If Americans have a natural right to life, liberty, and property, then high progressive taxes violate that right. If, instead, rights come from government, then the leaders of government have the legitimate authority to confiscate wealth, or redistribute it from one group to another. In time of war, Roosevelt argued, and perhaps afterward, government had the right to most, if not all, income of wealthy citizens in the national interest.

For the first time in U.S. history, the redistributionists dominated political life. For example, on the Senate floor on May 14, 1943, Senator Happy Chandler (D-KY) said, "All of us owe the government; we owe it for everything we have--and that is the basis of obligation--and the government can take everything we have if the government needs it." Chandler wanted to be clear on this point. "The government," he added, "can assert its right to have all the taxes it needs for any purpose, either now or at any time in the future." Chandler, however, did not redistribute much of his own income. Already investigated in 1942 for accepting large gifts from war contractors--including a 60-foot in-ground swimming pool--Chandler had a history of securing government contracts for friends and donors, and then reaping rewards for himself.

Not all congressmen agreed with Chandler. Many opposed Roosevelt's "capital levy," as Senator Robert Taft (R-OH) called it. Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI) called it "prejudicial class baiting." During the congressional debate, Rep. Charles Gifford (R-MA) said, "The administration [has] set loose the forces of prejudice and disunity." Rep. John Jennings (R-TN) said of the American taxpayer, "Heretofore, we have sheared him annually--now it is proposed to skin him." Jennings added, "I do not hold any brief for Henry Ford, but I am glad that he started life with a pair of blue overalls and a monkey wrench and the genius that God Almighty put into his brain, and became a millionaire, because he made other men rich and paid the highest wages that up to that time had ever been paid to the American workingman and covered this whole country with a network of highways."

Jennings concluded, "The time will come if we continue on down the slippery, steep road we are now on to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pit, the abyss of financial bankruptcy and ruin, the time will come when we can put a taxpayer on exhibition and make money charging admission for people to see him."

FDR, however, clearly wanted Congress to pass a tax bill that gave him withholding and double taxation on the rich. When the Senate refused to pass such a bill, FDR threatened a veto. "The Senate bill," the president wrote, "would result in a highly inequitable distribution of the cost of the war and in an unjust and discriminatory enrichment of thousands of taxpayers in the upper income groups." Yet this "unjust" Senate bill already taxed large incomes almost 90 percent. The Senate-House conference committee, however, under threat of an FDR veto, turned out a bill that taxed million-dollar incomes at 100.6 percent per year for 1944 and 1945. Six months later, however, when Congress refused to raise those rates further in the Revenue Act of 1943, FDR vetoed it and called it "not a tax bill but a tax relief bill providing relief not for the needy but for the greedy."

FDR's ACTIONS SEEM PUZZLING. Why "soak the rich" for 100 percent of their income (more or less) when they already face rates of 90 percent in both income and corporate taxes? He knew that rich people would shelter their income in foreign investments, tax-exempt bonds, or collectibles if tax rates were confiscatory. In fact, he saw it happen during his early New Deal years. When he raised the top rate to 79 percent in 1935, the revenue into the federal government from income taxes that year was less than half of what it was six years earlier when the top rate was 24 percent. After that, FDR admitted privately, "Barney Baruch has been saying right along that you have got to reduce the top taxes and that if you do that people will take chances." But he refused "to pay usury in order to get recovery," and he kept rates high. Why?

Three points are important here. First, FDR, as a progressive, believed with his cousin Teddy that "swollen fortunes" needed to be taxed at punitive rates to redistribute wealth. In fact, as we can see, redistributing wealth was more important to FDR than increasing it. FDR was the first U. S. president to take redistribution that far.

Second, high taxes on the rich provided excellent cover for his having made the income tax a mass tax. How could a steelworker in Pittsburgh, for example, refuse to pay a new 24 percent tax when his rich factory owner had to pay more than 90 percent?

Third, and possibly most important, class warfare was the major campaign strategy for FDR during his whole presidency. He believed he won votes when he attacked the rich, or they attacked him, and he discussed that with Ray Moley, his speechwriter, and later with Henry Morgenthau, his secretary of the treasury. During the 1936 campaign, when FDR still had double-digit unemployment, he used the rich again and again as scapegoats. Two weeks before the election, FDR announced that wealthy people had long been refusing "to pay a fair share" of the cost of government. Therefore, he boasted, "we increased still further the taxes paid by individuals in the highest brackets--those with incomes over one million dollars a year. Wasn't that the American thing to do?" Later, when those millionaires sheltered their income to escape the high new rates, Roosevelt publicly denounced them for "tax avoidance" and for not paying their "fair share." In 1937, perhaps thinking of his next reelection campaign, he told two prominent Democrats, Senator Pat Harrison and Rep. Robert Doughton, that if they would form a "subcommittee to investigate tax avoidance," that the Democrats would gain "at least 10,000,000 [votes]" by publicly exposing those who sheltered income.

FDR won his long-term battle to retain the withholding tax and keep a large percentage of Americans paying incomes taxes. But in the next generations, Presidents Kennedy and Reagan were each able to slash the top rates; Presidents Clinton and Bush were able to cut the capital gains tax as well. Because these rate cuts created more revenue, and sparked economic growth in the U.S., the old campaign for redistribution slowed down until the arrival of Barack Obama on the political scene.

NO POLITICIAN SINCE FDR has locked into the campaign for redistribution as faithfully or as enthusiastically as Barack Obama. He clearly admires FDR and compares himself to FDR. Perhaps tongue-in-cheek, Obama said FDR was "pretty fiscally conservative," but in practice Obama has copied Roosevelt's tax strategy, using his main tactics and even some of his words.

During the 2008 campaign, we saw Obama parallel FDR's commitment to the principle of redistribution -- even if it reduced wealth in society. In an ABC News segment, for example, on April 16, 2008, Obama said he wanted to raise the capital gains tax. Interviewer Charlie Gibson asked:

George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

Obama replied, "Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness...." When Gibson retorted, "But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up," Obama said, "Well, that might happen, or it might not."

Thus, whatever the impact on revenue, Obama has fought during his presidency to raise the capital gains tax. Not only is it a matter of principle, it is for Obama, as it was for FDR, a useful campaign strategy. Both FDR and Obama had huge spending programs that resulted in high unemployment, increased national debt, and a stagnant economy. The class warfare theme that worked so well for FDR is a major part of Obama's campaign for reelection. Regardless of whether massive federal spending and high taxes hurt the economy, the political point is that few Americans earn $1 million a year and those who don't can be riled up at those who do. That's how, as FDR showed, an incumbent campaigning for reelection can win and win again during hard times.

Republicans put "party over country," Obama said during an October 6, 2011 press conference. "Millionaires and billionaires…have lower tax rates in some cases than plumbers and teachers." True, capital gains taxes at 15 percent are lower than income taxes for some middle-class Americans, but that is because the capital gains tax is, in a real sense, a second tax on top of the income tax. All cash invested toward capital gains has already been shrunk by the income tax (and possibly the corporate tax as well). But census data reveal that the top 1 percent of income earners pay 38 percent of the federal income tax; and the bottom 50 percent shoulder less than 2 percent of that total tax burden--which is not a statistic shared by the president. Instead, Obama promotes his new surtax on millionaires, thus "making our tax system fair and just and promoting growth."

Those who thrive on class warfare, like FDR and Obama, seem to have insurmountable advantages. They can divide America, demonize the rich, and fish for votes among the middle-class and poor. But, as FDR and Obama have discovered, when you penalize the rich, they shelter their wealth, or take it elsewhere. That makes an already depressed economy even more stagnant. Ronald Reagan, by contrast, slashed tax rates on incomes and corporations, and then watched as unemployment and inflation plummeted. The U.S. dramatically expanded its industrial hegemony in the world. Along the way, Reagan carried 49 of 50 states when he ran for reelection. What's more, when the economy opened up, the poor really did get something from the rich--computers, iPhones, Garmins, the Internet, and flat-screen TVs, for starters. That beats the WPA, the OPA, cash for clunkers, and Obamacare. And it gives those who believe in freedom hope that the votes for President Obama will be redistributed in 2012.