Monday, December 31, 2012

Obama Seizing Sole Authority for US Defense

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC = t minus 18:19hrs)

by William Bigelow 

(Big Government) - In an attempt to seize total control over national security and bypass congress, a frightening new step by the Obama Administration is coming into play. As noted in Friday’s Wall Street Journal in an op-ed by John Bolton and John Woo, a State Department advisory group that is run by former Secretary of Defense William Perry is advising that the U.S. and Russia both reduce nuclear weapons without a treaty, as a treaty would require ratification by Congress. This would allow Obama and his executive branch to unilaterally cut our nuclear weaponry and ignore the treaty clause of the Constitution.

As Bolton and Woo point out, the US has a greater global responsibility than Russia; Iran and North Korea, neither of which is far from Russian interests, can only be countered by U.S. military strength. In addition, they note that Russia is not a trustworthy partner in weapons reduction; it has violated many arms-control agreements, such as the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.

Some of the inherent problems in the seizure by this executive branch of decision-making power is Barack Obama’s desire to deeply cut our nuclear forces. A joint decision with Russia would place long-term limits on our cache of arms, thus placing constraints on us catching up if Russia decides to go ahead and build and the blurring of the lines deliberately drawn by the Constitution’s Framers separating the executive and legislative branches power.

Obama has made no secret of his desire to dismantle our nuclear capacity; the New Start Treaty he championed in 2011 forced the U.S. to observe a ceiling of 700 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,550 strategic warheads, and this past March he stated his desire to cut our arsenal further:

“ … a step we have never taken before – reducing not only our strategic nuclear warheads but also tactical weapons and warheads in reserve.”

It is naïve to assume that Obama is simply blind to the results of his actions and trusts the world around him to act with generosity. There has been too much evidence of Russia’s support of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and Russia has cunningly avoided supporting sanctions on North Korea for its rocket launches; in December, Georgy Toloraya, Director of Korean Research at the Institute of Economics, simply said:

"In Russia we believe that resolutions must be observed and UN decisions must be implemented. We think that North Korea has the right for space explorations but only after all the issues linked with the UN sanctions banning rocket launches with the use of ballistic technologies are settled. It is necessary to divide two aspects - we support the discussion of the rocket launch issue by the UN Security Council but we don’t think that this must automatically mean tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.”

Obama knows all this. His step-by-step evisceration of the United States is not confined to its economic system but its national defense as well.

Preener in Chief

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC = t minus 18:22hrs)

The results of the 2010 elections raised the question of what the president’s role would be in the legislative process in a period when the two houses of Congress were run by two different parties. It could have turned out that such a situation would give the president more power—making the Democratic senate irrelevant and creating a dynamic of direct engagement between the Republican House and the chief executive. Or it could have turned out that such a situation would give the president less power—making it so difficult to get legislation through congress that on significant issues the president would basically have to sign anything that reached his desk, since not much would. The latter was always more likely, but perhaps a deft executive could have made the former happen.

Barack Obama is, of course, very far from a deft executive, and in the course of 2011 and 2012, especially on fiscal issues, we learned that it was the latter outcome that would come to pass. Our various budget showdowns have all begun with attempts at a House-White House deal and have all ended with a House-Senate process (or more precisely a Senate-House process, with apologies to the Constitution’s origination clause). Obviously the fact that Obama is a Democrat and not a Republican has given these deals their general direction, but the details have been worked out in Congress. This has been in part because both Boehner and Obama seem to think a House-White House deal has to a big bargain, but it’s also in part because a divided congress just naturally makes such deals difficult.

The election apparently hasn’t changed that, and the fiscal cliff “process” now seems to be making its way toward roughly the same conclusion. This has to do with the president’s ineptness at negotiation (and indeed at much of anything except self-congratulation and campaigning) but, again, it also has to do with the dynamics of a divided congress, which would take a truly exceptional chief executive to overcome. But you wouldn’t have to be all that exceptional to accept this reality and make the most of it, rather than spend the days leading up to the conclusion of each of these fiscal showdowns desperately trying to draw attention to yourself and make your role look more central and significant than it is. The president’s appearance on Meet the Press today was downright pathetic in this regard, as have been his various press statements in the past few days. This sort of preening and lecturing from a politician who has basically just failed to do his job is bizarre.

Mr. President, you’re going to sign whatever congress ultimately passes, assuming something passes. Sometimes that’s just how it is for a president, any president. Can we not just accept that? And if the fiscal cliff is followed immediately by the next round of debt-ceiling talks, might we just start those with House-Senate negotiations and have them pass a bill and send it down the street like they’re supposed to, rather than go through weeks of pointless private White House drama and public presidential hectoring about how reasonable Barack Obama is compared to everybody else?

National Review Online

Deal reached for stopping spike in milk prices

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC=t minus 18:24hrs)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top leaders in both parties on the House and Senate Agriculture committees have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill that expired in October, a move that could head off a possible doubling of milk prices next month.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., indicated the House could vote on the bill soon, though House leaders have not yet agreed to put the bill on the floor. In addition to the one-year extension that has the backing of the committees, the House GOP is also considering two other extension bills: a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would merely extend dairy policy that expires Jan. 1.

Expiration of those dairy programs could mean higher prices at the grocery store within a few weeks. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Americans face the prospect of paying $7 for a gallon of milk if the current dairy program lapsed and the government returned to a 1948 formula for calculating milk price supports.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension, though a vote could come as soon as Monday. Boehner has pushed back on passage of a new five-year farm bill for months, saying there were not enough votes to bring it to the House floor after the House Agriculture Committee approved it in July. The Senate passed its version of a farm bill in June.

The prospect of higher milk prices has motivated some action. The bipartisan extension also includes disaster assistance to farmers affected by a lingering drought this year, along with extensions to other farm programs that expired in October.

Instead of just extending current dairy policy, the extension bill includes an overhaul of dairy programs that was included in both the Senate and House committee bills. The new dairy programs include a new, voluntary insurance program for dairy producers. Those who choose that new program also would have to participate in a market stabilization program that could dictate production cuts when oversupply drives down prices — an idea that hasn't gone over well with Boehner.

In July, he called the current dairy program "Soviet-style" and said the new program would make it even worse. Large food companies that process and use dairy products have backed Boehner, saying the program could limit milk supplies and increase their costs.

Stabenow blamed Boehner for getting to the point where an extension is the only option. "The lack of action by the House Republican leadership has put us in a situation where we risk serious damage to our economy unless we pass a temporary extension," she said.

One of the reasons Boehner has balked at bringing up a farm bill is disagreement within his caucus over how much money should be cut from food stamps, which make up roughly 80 percent of the half-trillion-dollar bill's cost over five years. House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has unsuccessfully pushed his leadership for months to move on the legislation despite the disagreement over food aid.

On Sunday, Lucas said he hoped the extension would pass both chambers quickly as GOP leadership mulled their options.

"It is not perfect — no compromise ever is — but it is my sincere hope that it will pass the House and Senate and be signed by the president by Jan. 1," he said.

source: Washington Examiner

Pathetic, but predictible..

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 17:39hrs)

Obama's description of
four murders in Benghazi.
(Sunday's Meet The Press)

A Model Society of Enlightened Wimps

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:07hrs)

Nowadays the first step to take after a school shooting, far from mourning or otherwise feeling sorry for the families whose children were killed by a maniac, is calling for new and immediate restrictions on gun ownership.

The second step is insisting that there must be some external reason why this wonderful, loving 20-year-old would commit such an atrocious crime. He must have been driven to it by society’s unrealistic expectations, our culture of violence, or something else. Certainly it couldn’t be that Adam Lanza was the problem, that he fully understood what he was doing and didn’t care.

Many seem to believe otherwise, though. They act as if it’s our collective duty to find out exactly why everyone—with the exception of Adam Lanza—is responsible for the massacre so we may change our ways and become a model society of enlightened wimps. People and organizations are taking ridiculous lengths to ensure that they don’t offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities for the next few weeks.

Stories surfaced claiming that before Lanza stole his mother’s weaponry and shot her in the face several times, he unsuccessfully attempted to purchase his own rifle at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Store employees reportedly turned him away. This unconfirmed report was still enough to scare Dick’s executives into suspending the sale of modern sporting rifles nationwide as well as the sale of all guns at its store closest to Newtown.

Walmart also erased the Bushmaster AR-15, which Lanza used at the elementary school, from its website. (This didn’t stop the surge of gun sales, though; its remaining inventory was bought up in a matter of days.) And then the private-equity firm Cerberus decided to drop its ownership of the gun’s manufacturer, Freedom Group, citing the “national debate on gun control” as a catalyst. I hope the short-term appeasement of public opinion was worth the long-term financial losses Cerberus will incur from parting ways with the nation’s largest firearm manufacturer.

As if it wasn’t enough watching businessmen bend to the will of fools who wouldn’t have purchased their guns anyway, the spontaneously compassionate celebrities were next, apologizing every which way for the content of their entertainment. Radio stations stopped playing Ke$ha’s song “Die Young,” as if Lanza had been dragged into committing violence by lyrics about “young hunks taking shots.” The singer Tweeted:

I’m so so so sorry for anyone who has been effected [sic] by this tragedy.and I understand why my song is now inappropriate. words cannot express.

The National Rifle Association, which has arguably done more to eviscerate gun rights than to protect them, came to Ke$ha’s defense…somewhat. The organization issued a statement undermining the view that violent music inspired the school shooting. What we really need to blame, it explained, are video games such as Mortal Kombat, where human beings and cyborg ninjas fight to the death in the middle of magically complex realms.

Chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre took special note of a game called Kindergarten Killer. The 10-year-old Flash game depicts a rogue janitor who takes up arms against angry cartoon children who shoot back.

“How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn’t?” he asked an intensely confused audience. “I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there…aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day.”

He was right about Splatterdays. At least the movie and television industries thought so. They, too, started doing some spring cleaning of their own.

Networks combed through scripts for Law & Order and American Dad and pulled episodes that mentioned schools, shootings, or any variant of the two. Family Guy aired repeats. Evidently the FX network didn’t get the memo about American Horror Story, which is still available on Netflix and features a school shooting as a major plot motif.

I watched the first season last week and have so far felt no inclination to involve myself in mass murder.

It is unfortunate that in a futile search for the external trigger of Adam Lanza’s murder spree, some people are willing to accept curtailing freedom of expression as collateral damage. Obscene or not, as Hustler founder Larry Flynt had to prove in court, this is a freedom without exceptions.

Every hollow self-correction we make in response to this shooting is a passive admission of guilt. We couldn’t have done anything differently, and we shouldn’t.

This massacre was no one’s doing but Adam Lanza’s.

source: Takimag

Chemical castration for pedophiles in the pipeline in Turkey: report

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:12hrs)

In addition to tougher jail sentences, Turkey is considering chemical castration of pedophiles. (Reuters)
By Al Arabiya

The Turkish government is considering chemical castration for sex offenders who target miners, a local newspaper reported Sunday.

The draft proposal, titled “Draft Law on Reproductive Health and Child Abuse,” is in the process to be made into a law. However, it doesn’t contain details on how to implement chemical castration on pedophiles, the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reported.

The daily said that the Ministry of Heath will decide on the implementation.

The draft, approved by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, proposes “medical intervention for child abusers and convicts clinically diagnosed as pedophiles,” without going into detail.

Other expected changes to be made in the new law is to take off the requirement to have an expert report from the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) in rape cases to prove that the victim’s psychology has been negatively affected.

While sexual offenders will receive longer sentences in the proposal, pedophiles and offenders sexually targeting people with disabilities will also receive tougher sentences.

The draft will keep the 10-week legal period for abortions and 20-week in case of rape victims the same. But in the new proposal, doctors are urged to convince the victims to back off from having abortions. Doctors who perform illegal abortions will also face up to eight years in prison.

The United States, Britain and Germany have already experimented with chemical castration of rapists and molesters, especially serial offenders and pedophiles.

Unlike surgical castration, where the testicles are removed, chemical castration does not castrate or sterilize the person, but works only to reduce the offender’s libido and sexual activity.

Meanwhile, in India where are a recent deadly gang-rape of a university student incident angered and appalled the nation, pleas for chemical castration were made clear.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau, stirred uproar, when she urged legislators to consider chemical castration as a punitive measure for rapists, especially pedophiles.

Bomb hits prosecutor's office in Libya's Benghazi

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:27hrs)

AFP - An improvised bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the public prosecutor in the Libyan city of Benghazi causing material damage but no fatalities, a security source said.

"Initial evidence suggests the device was a suitcase packed with high yield explosives (TNT)," an investigator at the scene told AFP on Monday, adding that there were no casualties.

The overnight blast marked the third attack on the site in 2012, he said.

It damaged the front of the recently renovated building, which once held the people's court, a special tribunal created by the former regime of Moamer Kadhafi to crack down on opponents, particularly Islamists.

The bomb also punched a hole in the ground and shattered the glass of adjacent vehicles and properties.

December marked a tumultuous month for Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled the Kadhafi regime and ended in the killing of one of the region's veteran dictators.

A spate of attacks targeting police stations claimed the lives of seven officers this month and pushed the chief of staff to send reinforcements to bolster security there.

In 2012, Libya's second city witnessed a series of assassinations targeting security officials and judges, many of whom had served under the previous regime.

Benghazi has also emerged as a hub for jihadist groups, including militants who killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in a September 11 attack on the US consulate.

In a separate incident late Saturday, an explosion rocked a Coptic church near the city of Misrata, killing two Egyptians and wounding two others, according to local and diplomatic sources.

Obama signs warrant-less surveillance bill

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:30hrs)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama Sunday signed a five-year extension of the law allowing warrant-less electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists, the White House said.

The statement from the press secretary's office simply stated the president had signed the measure, without which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would have expired at year's end.

The Senate had given its approval to the re-authorization of the act's provisions on a 73-23 vote Friday, the Los Angeles Times said. The House had passed it previously.

The law has bee criticized by privacy advocates, the newspaper noted, because it allows the government to monitor phone calls, emails and other electronic communications between suspected terrorists and U.S. citizens without judicial approval.

Senate faults Obama, who vows Benghazi fix

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:34hrs)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- President Obama blamed security "sloppiness" in the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Libya as a new bipartisan Senate report faulted the White House.

Obama told the NBC News program "Meet the Press" he agreed with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to carry out all 29 recommendations made Dec. 18 by an independent review board that was highly critical of the State Department for failing to identify and respond to security risks before four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi.

The recommendations by the five-member Accountability Review Board, led by retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, included sending 225 additional U.S. Marine Corps guards to embassies and consulates and revamping how the State Department adjusts security at posts based on threat warnings.

"My message to the State Department has been very simple, and that is we're going to solve this," Obama told "Meet the Press" in a rare interview. "We're not going to be defensive about it. We're not going to pretend that this was not a problem. This was a huge problem, and we're going to implement every single recommendation that's been put forward."

Obama said a key review board finding -- that the State Department relied too heavily on local Libyan militias to safeguard the compound, leaving diplomats and other U.S. personnel highly vulnerable -- was similar to a finding in internal administration reviews.

"It confirms what we had already seen, based on some of our internal reviews. There was just some sloppiness, not intentional, in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don't have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies," Obama said.

Four State Department officials were removed from their posts a day after the report was released.

The report, which criticized security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi as "grossly inadequate," was to be followed Monday by a bipartisan Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report on the assault.

The new report -- written by committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, Ind-Conn., and ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine -- faulted the White House and Pentagon in addition to the State Department, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The report by the Senate's chief oversight committee -- the first bipartisan congressional investigation into the attack -- said there was no way the Defense and State departments could have rescued the Americans, with the evacuation plans they had, which the Journal said report characterized as irresponsibly inadequate.

Because the departments didn't know, for instance, how well U.S. agencies could respond to the Benghazi mission post in the event of a crisis, when the Pentagon mobilized after the attack, it was unable to respond effectively in a timely fashion, said the report, reviewed by the Journal Sunday.

Even if the Pentagon had planned more extensively, the response would still have probably been inadequate because the head of the U.S. military's Africa Command didn't know that roughly two dozen CIA personnel were stationed at an annex close to the Benghazi diplomatic post, Collins told the Journal.

That finding "came as a shock to me," she said.

The report also assailed Obama and other members of the administration for being "inconsistent" about whether the assault was a terrorist attack. The inconsistency "contributed to the confusion in the public discourse" about the attacks, the report said.

The report criticized Obama for giving differing statements about the attack -- referring to it indirectly in White House Rose Garden remarks Sept. 12 as an "act of terror" but then later that day declining in a television interview to characterize the attack.

On Sept. 18, Obama called the attackers "extremists and terrorists" in one TV interview. But days later, on another program, Obama was vaguer, saying an investigation was still under way, the report cited by the Journal said.

Obama made a similar statement about an investigation Sunday, telling "Meet the Press": "You know, with respect to who carried it out, that's an ongoing investigation. The FBI has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly. We have some very good leads, but this is not something that I'm going to be at liberty to talk about right now."

U.S. intelligence reports from the first hours after the attacks suggested they were carried out by militants tied to al-Qaida's North African affiliate and local groups seeking to follow al-Qaida.

Benghazi Update: Guilt From Lies Possible Cause Of Head Pains

Dec. 31, 2012
(FC minus 18:43hrs)

Circle the wagons!

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted to hospital with blood clot following concussion 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been admitted to a hospital with a blood clot following a concussion she suffered several weeks ago.

A spokesperson, Philippe Reines, said in a statement the clot was discovered during the course of a follow-up exam. There has been no announcement yet on the location of the clot.

"She is being treated with anti-coagulants and is at New York-Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours," Reines said.

Doctors are expected to make a determination shortly about whether any further action is required, Reines said, adding that doctors will continue to assess Clinton's condition, "including other issues associated with her concussion."

Clinton was expected to return to work next week, almost three weeks after being sidelined by the concussion.

The secretary of state had been recuperating at home.

The seriousness of a blood clot "depends on where it is," said Dr. Gholam Motamedi, a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center who was not involved in Clinton's care.

Clots in the legs are a common risk after someone has been bedridden, as Clinton may have been for a time after her concussion. Those are "no big deal" and are treated with six months of blood thinners to allow them to dissolve on their own and to prevent further clots from forming, he said.

A clot in a lung or the brain is more serious. Lung clots, called pulmonary embolisms, can be deadly, and a clot in the brain can cause a stroke, Motamedi said.

Keeping Clinton in the hospital for a couple of days could allow doctors to perform more tests to determine why the clot formed, and to rule out a heart problem or other condition that may have led to it, he said.

Dr. Larry Goldstein, a neurologist who is director of Duke University's stroke center, said blood can pool on the surface of the brain or in other areas of the brain after a concussion, but those would not be treated with blood thinners, as Clinton's aide described.

Aides and doctors say Clinton contracted a stomach virus in early December and became dehydrated, then fainted, fell and hit her head. She was diagnosed with a concussion on Dec. 13 and hasn't been seen in public since.

Clinton's illness led her to cancel an overseas trip and scheduled testimony before Congress about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

The former first lady and senator, who had always planned to step down as America's top diplomat in January, is known for her grueling travel schedule. She is the most traveled secretary of state in history, having visited 112 countries while in the job.

The secretary of state's husband, former President Bill Clinton, suffered from heart disease and underwent successful quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. In 2010, Bill Clinton had two coronary stents implanted in his heart after being hospitalized for chest pain.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Egypt: The ‘broken step’ culture

Dec. 30, 2012

Through rigging, mobilization, bribery, or religious manipulation, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood managed to deceive simple-minded people that voting “yes” for the constitution is the ticket to heaven and that “no” is only for the enemies of Islam. This way, they were able to pass a document that is going to drag Egypt to an uncertain future. It is through this document that the group plan to take control of Egypt and crush its rivals. We are now facing an ominous reality that we need to deal with and find the ways to change. Surrendering will only take us backwards and that is why we are left with no option except resisting.

For the past few months, I had seen everything I dreaded coming true and every time I struggled to remain hopeful, I was dealt another blow. Liberal powers were not able to overcome their short-sighted ambitions and unite in one strong front and none of them was able to fill the vacuum on its own. Those powers were torn between rivalry, vengeance, and revolutionary romanticism and therefore gave room to groups who claim to represent religion to prevail and to even neutralize the one power that had at the time been capable of making a difference: the army. The end result was they managed to monopolize power and to become the sole players in the political scene.

The group that has not yet emerged in its full power is the silent majority, commonly known as the “couch party.” It is true that members of this party have started breaking their silence, but the magnitude of their influence remains to be demonstrated. Those are the real majority, a majority that is not linked to rigged votes and bribed voters. They are the actual challenge. If we want to change the reality in which we have been forcefully placed by the Muslim Brotherhood, we need to instigate this majority into positive action.

We are suffering from what came to be called the “broken step” culture. When one of the steps in the staircase of a building is broken, the wife asks her husband on his way to work and her children on their way to school to “beware the broken step” and the same applies to guests. However, no one thinks of fixing this broken step and we find ourselves adapting to the problem rather than solving it. This is exactly what we need to get rid of. Instead of adapting to reality, we have to work on changing it and we have to resist falling pray to exhaustion or despair. It is, therefore, important for prominent political leaders to reject adaptation.

January 25 is approaching and I believe it could be a good opportunity for alerting this majority into fearing for the future of this country. The new rulers need to realize that the people will not accept monopoly and exclusion and that the majority that had been made silent for long is now back to take part in the decision-making process. The question is: how can this be achieved? Through utter dedication and faith in the necessity of preserving the civilian character of the state, through giving up personal ambition and prioritizing the welfare of the country over personal grudges and endless incrimination, and through realizing that if the ship is to sink everyone will drown. Before all this, it is absolutely important to rally under one common goal.

This needs to be done not only quickly, but also sincerely. Sincerity is what moves the people and is what this silent majority needs to take an action. We are only weeks away from the first opportunity to put that to the test.

source: (Abdel Latif el-Menawy is the former head of Egyptian Television’s news center. He can be found on Twitter: @ALMenawy)

Fiscal cliff: Barack Obama's trap for Republicans

Dec. 30, 2012

President Obama's purpose is political, not fiscal
America's reckless politicians may still take the country over the cliff into an uncertain land where recession looms.

But President Obama has sprung his trap. The Republicans are in a corner - over a barrel - although perilously unaware of their plight. Before the election, during the election and since his victory, he has insisted the rich must pay a little more in taxes. It is a policy that appeals to his party but doesn't really make much of an economic impact. But its purpose is political, not fiscal.

He has announced his fallback position. If there is no bipartisan deal by the leaders of the Senate, he will get Democrats to introduce a minimalist bill. It would be, Mr Obama said in his weekly address, an "up-or-down vote on a basic package that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends vital unemployment insurance for Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future progress on more economic growth and deficit reduction".

If Republicans vote it down, they will be directly voting to bring in a tax rise on "ordinary Americans".

I'll say it again. Republicans are voting for a tax rise on most people.

It is a powerful incentive to reach a better deal. Some Republicans will glory in sticking to their principles and know the folks back home may agree with them - the rich should have tax cuts too, that it is a matter of principle.

But enough may realise that Mr Obama is manoeuvring to stick their party in aspic and stop them changing in the wake of their defeat in November. He would stick a label on them that would brand them not only out of touch, but so fanatically wedded to the demands of the rich that they are unconcerned about the damage they could do to their country and its people.

It could turn out differently, but I suspect the Republicans are either about to cave in or to lose the blame game.


French 75% income tax struck down by constitutional council

Dec. 30, 2012

Francois Hollande has favoured tax rises over spending
cuts to tackle France's deficit
France's constitutional council has struck down a top income tax rate of 75% introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Raising taxes for those earning more than 1m euros (£817,400) has been a flagship policy for Mr Hollande.

The policy angered France's business community and prompted some wealthy citizens to say they would emigrate.

Mr Hollande's government said it would rework the tax, due to take effect in 2013, to meet the council's complaints.

In its ruling on Saturday, the Constitutional Council said the new tax rate "failed to recognise equality before public burdens" because, unlike other forms of income tax, it was to be applied to individuals rather than households.

For example, that meant a household in which one person earned more than 1m euros would pay the tax, but a household in which two people earned 900,000 euros each would not have to pay.

The council also rejected new methods for calculating the tax.

Pressing ahead

But Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government would press ahead with the new tax rate.

"The government will propose a new system that conforms with the principles laid down by the decision of the Constitutional Council," he said.

The new rate was seen as largely symbolic since it would have only applied to some 1,500 people for a temporary period of two years.

But along with other tax rises, it has still been the subject of fierce debate in France.

French actor Gerard Depardieu recently announced he was moving to Belgium to avoid taxes, sparking a furious reaction from some on the left.

There was also speculation that people employed in high-income jobs like banking and finance would move elsewhere, including to London.

Mr Hollande campaigned against the austerity policies used in many European countries affected by economic crisis, favouring higher taxes rather than spending cuts to bring down the deficit.

The 75% rate for high earners was included in the government's 2013 budget, approved by parliament in September.

source: BBC

Petition To Place Obama In A Safe “Gun Free Zone”

Dec. 30, 2012

URGENT!!! The lives of "Leaders of the Free World" have always been in danger. Sadly though, several of these lunatics, with the most evil intent have succeeded at wounding and even taking the lives of several U.S presidents. Even worse, in this day and age of social media, threats have become far more common than in previous generations. Those threats are taken very seriously. The downside however is, those with the intent to succeed will not be sharing their evil plan with the cyber world. Instead  these "lonewolf" terrorists will plot silently, making the odds of carrying out evil desires to do malice even more likely.

BUT WAIT!!! We the people, teaming up with government, will do any and everything in our power to nip this in the bud. We WILL NOT allow such a tragedy to occur.

Politics aside, Whether republican or socialist democrat, at the end of the day, we are all Americans. And protecting our leader is one thing we can all agree on.  After much brainstorming, it is essential that we enforce the existing laws and expand those available to accomplish our mutual goal. Particularly, the enforcement of Gun-Free Zones...

Listen up America! Why in the world would such an effective tool be overlooked? That is why WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! 

God knows, with each passing day, we grow one day closer to such an horrific tragedy. As Americans, together we need to do our part. *PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.

What you can do RIGHT NOW:

The first thing to do is head on over to for further instruction, some background info and even more useful tips.


I would personally like to thank those who have made this possible. Particularly Dave over at Moonbattery.

But most of all I would like to take this opportunity to THANK YOU, THE READER in advance for your signature. 

God Bless America!!!

*if you prefer, you can go directly to the White House petition using this direct link. Whichever way you choose, we have until January 22, 2013 to gain another 10,000 plus signatures. So spread the word to everyone you know. Again, Thank You for all your help.

Hypocritical Irony Exposed: Anti-Gun Senator Shoots Home Intruder

Dec. 30, 2012

Well known anti-gun state senator R.C. Soles (D-NC) pulled a gun on two men breaking into his home, shooting one of them.

The senator, who has spent his political career fighting against the individual right to keep and bear arms, apparently believes the right to keep and bear arms is still valid for elected officials.

The guy he shot, Kyle Blackburn is pictured in the thumbnail on the homepage.

I don’t suppose pointing out the utter hypocrisy of a guy who dedicated himself to gun control will matter much, you can’t shame the shameless.

What it does do is highlight the mindset of our aristocratic ruling elites. People like David Gregory who scoff at the idea of putting armed guards in our schools while he sends his own kids to a private school that employs 11 armed guards or Michael Moore who mocks gun owners for being cowards while he himself employs armed bodyguards for protection or even Diane Feinstein who admitted that she herself carries a concealed weapon.

When did America degenerate into a medieval society where certain individuals entitled by reason of their wealth, power or celebrity status grant themselves license to do as they please while denying the rest of us the same privileges that they take for granted?

What became of our classless society where all men are deemed equal under the law? The great American experiment rejected royalty and the abuses that resulted from that system. But now all that seems to be different is the titles we give our leaders. Congressmen are defacto Barons, Senators defacto Lords and the President a defecto King sitting on his throne next to his Queen.

Shall we have to bow to them next?

Hat tip: BC's Hot Bites

Source: Big Government via Blurbrain

Saturday, December 29, 2012

$1 Trillion Obamacare Tax Hike Hitting on Jan. 1

Dec. 29, 2012

On January 1, regardless of the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations, Americans will be hit with a $1 trillion Obamacare tax hike.

Obamacare contains twenty new or higher taxes. Five of the taxes hit for the first time on January 1. In total, for the years 2013-2022, Americans face a net $1 trillion tax hike for the years 2013-2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The five major Obamacare taxes taking effect on January are as follows:

The Obamacare Medical Device Tax: Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. Obamacare imposes a new 2.3 percent excise tax on gross sales – even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year. In addition to killing small business jobs and impacting research and development budgets, this will increase the cost of your health care – making everything from pacemakers to artificial hips more expensive.

The Obamacare Flex Account Tax: The 30-35 million Americans who use a pre-tax Flexible Spending Account (FSA) at work to pay for their family’s basic medical needs will face a new government cap of $2500. This will squeeze $13 billion of tax money from Americans over the ten years. (Currently, the accounts are unlimited under federal law, though employers are allowed to set a cap.)

There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children. There are several million families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education. This Obamacare tax provision will limit the options available to these families.

The Obamacare Surtax on Investment Income: This is a new, 3.8 percentage point surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single). This would result in the following top tax rates on investment income:

The table above also incorporates the scheduled hike in the capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent, and the scheduled hike in dividends rate from 15 to 39.6 percent.

The Obamacare “Haircut” for Medical Itemized Deductions: Currently, those Americans facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). This tax increase imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI. By limiting this deduction, Obamacare widens the net of taxable income for the sickest Americans. This tax provision will most harm near retirees and those with modest incomes but high medical bills.

The Obamacare Medicare Payroll Tax Hike: The Medicare payroll tax is currently 2.9 percent on all wages and self-employment profits. Under this tax hike, wages and profits exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 in the case of married couples) will face a 3.8 percent rate instead. This is a direct marginal income tax hike on small business owners, who are liable for self-employment tax in most cases. The table below compares current law vs. the Obamacare Medicare Payroll Tax Hike:

 Click here for a PDF of this document

Posted by John Kartch on Friday, December 28, 2012 5:10 PM EST at

"Big $ystem" Dropped The Ball With Adam Lanza and Others

Dec. 29, 2012

During the last 20 years, mental health inpatient number have dropped dramatically because the vast majority psych med being pushed are marketed as a replacement for actual in-patient treatment and therapy.  Regardless what these medications are marketed as, any health care professional who prescribes them as a replacement for actual therapy or dealing with issues we face in our lives deserves consequences.  - me

Deadliest U.S. mass shootings 1988-2012

A look back at some of the most notable mass shootings in re­cent U.S. history: from Killeen, Texas, in 1991 to recent ram­pages at a movie theater in Au­rora, Colo. and Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Read more »

source: Los Angeles Times
additional editing: mine

Chinese law for real-name internet registration passed

Dec. 29, 2012

(Neowin) - Internet in China is heavily regulated, and the infamous "Great Firewall of China" is often cited in media as a prime example. Through this firewall, sites we take for granted are blocked or limited; famously, mentions of Tiananmen Square are censored, with users reportedly bypassing filters by referring to the incident as 'May 35'.

New legislation has entered pls that could impact Chinese internet use further, according to reports from state media. Before coming into effect, it will be subjected to revisions and discussion among the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Officially meant to “enhance protection of personal info online” and to “safeguard public interests," the rulings have been a cause of some concern due to internet registration with your real name. Some clauses exist allowing usage of pseudonyms, though it remains a controversial topic.

Posts deemed illegal can be deleted, even if you're not aware you are breaking any laws. Outlawed groups like the Falun Gong may find it difficult to communicate as a result of these changes. Sites like Facebook (which seems to be unavailable in China) likely will not have content removed, though China's own Twitteresque social network, Sina Weibo, most likely will remove illegal posts.

Source: The Next Web | Image via Shutterstock

Seriously: Microsoft Bans Windows 8 Complaints Application

Dec. 29, 2012

(Softpedia) - The Windows Store is growing up pretty fast and although Microsoft has previously said that it keeps an eye on the quality of the available apps, there still are some tools that do not please the company at all.

The Windows 8 Complaints app for example was a software solution that allowed users to “complain” about Microsoft’s new operating system and read other users’ complaints.

The Redmond-based technology company has decided to remove the app from the store, even though a spokesperson initially told Neowin that it “follows certification policies,” so there was no reason to remove it.

The listing has been removed completely, but a cached version of the page is still available. Here’s what the app description reads:

“Windows 8 Complaints app allows you to post your complaints and read/listen to the complaints of others. Whether you miss the start button or you don't like the color purple that they use, let it be known and listen to the thoughts of others to gain new ideas on why you don't like Windows 8.”

Microsoft hasn’t commented on this so far, but one thing is clear: Windows 8 is one of the most controversial products ever released by the software giant.

Of course, most Windows 8 adopters have used the Complaints app to emphasize the need for a Start button and to criticize the Metro UI.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has always replied that it’s only just a matter of time until everybody gets used to the new interface, emphasizing that this process doesn’t take more than approximately two weeks.

The company has no intention to bring back the Start button and sources familiar with the matter have hinted that Microsoft plans to stick to the Start Screen for the next Windows version too, due in mid-2013.

*Originally written December 29, 2012 by Bogdan Popa for

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wealth Creation vs. Wealth Redistribution

Dec. 28, 2012

In his Dec. 20 op-ed “America’s Dangerous Powerball Economy,” Arthur Brooks quite correctly points out that earned income, indeed earned success generally, affects our happiness very differently than unearned income or success.

I would like to extend his point further with something I’ve told my college students for years.

In general, the creation of wealth is edifying. When only voluntary transactions are permitted, the creation of wealth requires cooperation, and this brings out the best in us.

Piles of wealth, however, tend to be corrupting. The fixed nature of a pile is all about apportionment, not cooperation, and this zero-sum game tends to bring out the worst in us.

It follows directly that no matter how noble the ends, government redistribution (which is hardly voluntary) tends to bring out the worst in us. Rising government redistribution over the past 75 years has produced ample evidence of this point.

We are in this mess because we have allowed our culture to be dominated by those who are bent on spreading the false and self-serving narrative that our economy is a giant zero-sum game.

As such, we might as well have the government do the dividing.

Small wonder why our politics have become increasingly about who you are for rather than what you are for.

David C. Rose

Department of Economics

University of Missouri-St. Louis

St. Louis, Mo.



I feel compelled to offer a kinda, sorta apology for the title of this post.

David Henderson convinced me long ago that there’s a real problems in talking about wealth redistribution in a market-oriented society – the reason being that redistributing wealth requires that any wealth that is redistributed must earlier have been distributed. In market economies, though, wealth isn’t initially distributed; it is created, and is first owned, by its creators and then flows naturally, without any plan – insofar as the economy is governed by the rules of private property and freedom of contract (rather than of cronyism and rent-seekers) - to where it will, according to the particular patterns of market demands and other conditions that are outside of anyone’s conscious control.

So while it’s possible for Sam to take wealth from Suzy and then give it to Sally, Sam here – properly speaking – isn’t redistributing anything, for that which we now conventionally speak of as being redistributed wasn’t ever initially distributed.

All that said, I continue to use the term “redistribution” because it is so well-established. (It’s all that I can do to fight my futile battle against ever using “law” as a synonym for “legislation,” and against using “liberal” as a descriptor of those who, perhaps with the most kind-hearted motives, believe that the state is justified in using force in order to structure society in ways that these “liberals” statists fancy society should be structured.)

I remind readers again of Ludwig Lachmann’s deeply insightful 1956 essay on this matter.

Source: Cafe Hayek

MSNBC’s Toure: Gun Owners Should Be Treated Like Sex Offenders

Dec. 28, 2012

Libs are insane, what else can I say?

Hat tip: Weasel Zippers

America's Crisis of Big Government Cronyism and Corruption

Dec. 28, 2012

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs is now available online. I just finished reading Fareed Zakaria's marquee essay, "Can America Be Fixed? The New Crisis of Democracy." While I disagree little on the problems we face, I differ substantially on the remedies he identifies. (And my respect for the man has plummeted over the years amid his increasingly predictable progressive sensibilities, but especially of late because of the allegations against him this year of plagiarism, for which he acknowledged and apologized for publicly, with permanent damage to his reputation.)

The article is gated but a quick summary and block quotes are sufficient for the purposes here. Zakaria sees the fiscal cliff stalemate as a signal of our political immobility. The gridlock we're facing means that the political establishment once again is delaying needed reforms on some of the biggest problems facing the country, most notably for Zakaria infrastructure and entitlements. The fatal flaw of the piece is that Zakaria's a hopeless advocate for expanding the size and scope of government. He actually offers an excellent discussion of the entitlement problem, but he refuses to see any role for markets and for the possibility of scaling back government commitments. His biggest problem is on infrastructure. Again, while he puts his finger on the problem quite deftly, he ignores some facts that make his case problematic --- one of the biggest being the fact that the U.S. spent nearly $1 trillion in "infrastructure" and "investment" in the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus legislation, and the country has virtually nothing to show for it in terms of long-term economic growth. Indeed, the administration's stimulus was a crony capitalist boondoggle that will likely be repeated again and again if the so-called investments Zakaria proposes are to indeed become public policy. In any case, some key block quotes. Here's a bit on the problems identified in the paper:

As the United States continues its slow but steady recovery from the depths of the financial crisis, nobody actually wants a massive austerity package to shock the economy back into recession, and so the odds have always been high that the game of budgetary chicken will stop short of disaster. Looming past the cliff, however, is a deep chasm that poses a much greater challenge -- the retooling of the country's economy, society, and government necessary for the United States to perform effectively in the twenty-first century. The focus in Washington now is on taxing and cutting; it should be on reforming and investing. The United States needs serious change in its fiscal, entitlement, infrastructure, immigration, and education policies, among others. And yet a polarized and often paralyzed Washington has pushed dealing with these problems off into the future, which will only make them more difficult and expensive to solve....

Is there a new crisis of democracy? Certainly, the American public seems to think so. Anger with politicians and institutions of government is much greater than it was in 1975. According to American National Election Studies polls, in 1964, 76 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "You can trust the government in Washington to do what is right just about always or most of the time." By the late 1970s, that number had dropped to the high 40s. In 2008, it was 30 percent. In January 2010, it had fallen to 19 percent.

Commentators are prone to seeing the challenges of the moment in unnecessarily apocalyptic terms. It is possible that these problems, too, will pass, that the West will muddle through somehow until it faces yet another set of challenges a generation down the road, which will again be described in an overly dramatic fashion. But it is also possible that the public is onto something. The crisis of democracy, from this perspective, never really went away; it was just papered over with temporary solutions and obscured by a series of lucky breaks. Today, the problems have mounted, and yet American democracy is more dysfunctional and commands less authority than ever -- and it has fewer levers to pull in a globalized economy. This time, the pessimists might be right.

And here's the key bit on "infrastructure investment":

If the case for reform is important, the case for investment is more urgent. In its annual study of competitiveness, the World Economic Forum consistently gives the United States poor marks for its tax and regulatory policies, ranking it 76th in 2012, for example, on the "burden of government regulations." But for all its complications, the American economy remains one of the world's most competitive, ranking seventh overall -- only a modest slippage from five years ago. In contrast, the United States has dropped dramatically in its investments in human and physical capital. The WEF ranked American infrastructure fifth in the world a decade ago but now ranks it 25th and falling. The country used to lead the world in percentage of college graduates; it is now ranked 14th. U.S. federal funding for research and development as a percentage of GDP has fallen to half the level it was in 1960 -- while it is rising in countries such as China, Singapore, and South Korea. The public university system in the United States -- once the crown jewel of American public education -- is being gutted by budget cuts.

The modern history of the United States suggests a correlation between investment and growth. In the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government spent over five percent of GDP annually on investment, and the economy boomed. Over the last 30 years, the government has been cutting back; federal spending on investment is now around three percent of GDP annually, and growth has been tepid. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence has noted, the United States escaped from the Great Depression not only by spending massively on World War II but also by slashing consumption and ramping up investment. Americans reduced their spending, increased their savings, and purchased war bonds. That boost in public and private investment led to a generation of postwar growth. Another generation of growth will require comparable investments.

The problems of reform and investment come together in the case of infrastructure. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country's infrastructure a grade of D and calculated that repairing and renovating it would cost $2 trillion. The specific number might be an exaggeration (engineers have a vested interest in the subject), but every study shows what any traveler can plainly see: the United States is falling badly behind. This is partly a matter of crumbling bridges and highways, but it goes well beyond that. The U.S. air traffic control system is outdated and in need of a $25 billion upgrade. The U.S. energy grid is antique, and it malfunctions often enough that many households are acquiring that classic symbol of status in the developing world: a private electrical generator. The country's drinking water is carried through a network of old and leaky pipes, and its cellular and broadband systems are slow compared with those of many other advanced countries. All this translates into slower growth. And if it takes longer to fix, it will cost more, as deferred maintenance usually does.

Spending on infrastructure is hardly a panacea, however, because without careful planning and oversight, it can be inefficient and ineffective. Congress allocates money to infrastructure projects based on politics, not need or bang for the buck. The elegant solution to the problem would be to have a national infrastructure bank that is funded by a combination of government money and private capital. Such a bank would minimize waste and redundancy by having projects chosen by technocrats on merit rather than by politicians for pork. Naturally, this very idea is languishing in Congress, despite some support from prominent figures on both sides of the aisle.

The same is the case with financial reforms: the problem is not a lack of good ideas or technical feasibility but politics. The politicians who sit on the committees overseeing the current alphabet soup of ineffective agencies are happy primarily because they can raise money for their campaigns from the financial industry. The current system works better as a mechanism for campaign fundraising than it does as an instrument for financial oversight.

In 1979, the social scientist Ezra Vogel published a book titled Japan as Number One, predicting a rosy future for the then-rising Asian power. When The Washington Post asked him recently why his prediction had been so far off the mark, he pointed out that the Japanese economy was highly sophisticated and advanced, but, he confessed, he had never anticipated that its political system would seize up the way it did and allow the country to spiral downward.

Vogel was right to note that the problem was politics rather than economics. All the advanced industrial economies have weaknesses, but they also all have considerable strengths, particularly the United States. They have reached a stage of development, however, at which outmoded policies, structures, and practices have to be changed or abandoned. The problem, as the economist Mancur Olson pointed out, is that the existing policies benefit interest groups that zealously protect the status quo. Reform requires governments to assert the national interest over such parochial interests, something that is increasingly difficult to do in a democracy.
Every now and then we see a new story on some collapsed bridge tragedy or massive urban flooding from busted water mains or broken levees, and on cue progressives start wagging their fingers about how we've got to start spending on infrastructure. I don't research this area but my regular reading on the politics of the stimulus isn't very reassuring. The administration's push for "investments" was mostly about the Democrat politics of job creation, and that didn't turn out so well. Conn Carroll has a good example, "$787 Billion in Stimulus, Zero Jobs “Created or Saved”." And while Zakaria's obsessed with government spending as "investmnent," there's little in the record of the last couple years that recommends doubling-down on it. See Romina Boccia, "New Stimulus Plan Same as the Old: Spend, Spend, Spend." And notice while Zakaria minimizes the corruption inherent in "infrastructure" spending as possibly "inefficient and ineffective," the facts of the past few years are devastating to his case. See Veronique de Rugy, "Stimulus Cronyism." And Michelle Malkin, "Obama's $50 Billion Union Infrastructure Boondoggle."

The United States is not some developing country that's going to be eviscerated by "draconian" spending cuts or devastated by some horrible "austerity package" that leaves the poor to fend for themselves. That's Krugmanite scare-mongering. We need to unleash the natural dynamism of the American economy. To put it as plainly as possible: We need robust and sustained economic growth, in the 4 or 5 percent range. We need to increase incentives for private investment. We need to reduce regulations and taxes on business job creators. And we need to rely on the system of federalism to shift real infrastructure investment from the federal to state governments. This isn't rocket science. The solutions to America's economic problems are self-evident. And the political crisis is largely one of a dramatically changed American electoral and political demographic. As the population base of the Democrat Party comes to increasingly favor policies of dependency, the productive, working sectors of the economy are required to bear a heavier load to keep everything afloat. Tea party Republicans, bless them, are resisting higher taxes because they know that'll be more of the same. As noted here yesterday, President Obama's not interested in fixing our politics or avoiding a recession should we go over the fiscal cliff. He's obsessed with punishing the most productive members of society in furtherance of his class warfare agenda of reducing inequality and promoting social justice. As long as we have one party that is objectively uninterested in growing the economy to create a rising tide that lifts all boats we will continue to have a crisis of political immobility. The electorate can fix the problem by choosing a government not fatally infected with cronyism and corruption. Both parties are implicated, although getting the Democrats out of power is the first order of business. We need to restore our faith in liberty and markets and unleash the innate innovation and dynamism of the individual. Our crisis is one of big government. Obama hasn't even been sworn in for a second term and its already clear that the public was duped in November. We must keep on with the hard work of real reform, which is what the tea party has represented, smaller government and fiscal responsibility. Without that we'll continue to stagnate and ultimately perish like the beached whale on the sand at Barbra Streisand's oceanfront estate.

BONUS: Zakaria dismisses the late Samuel Huntington's work in this report from the '70s-era Trilateral Commission: "The Crisis of Democracy." But our prospects for reform would be immeasurably greater if had more voices like Huntington's a less of those like Zakaria's.

ADDED: Linked at Blazing Cat Fur and Lonely Conservative. Thanks!

Source: American Power Blog