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

Obama's America: Soda Shop Told to Remove Candy Smokes

Dec. 28, 2012

By Todd Starnes

The owners of an old-fashioned soda shop in St. Paul, Minn. were threatened with fines and a misdemeanor citation unless they stopped selling novelty candy cigarettes.

City inspectors said Lynden’s Soda Fountain violated an ordinance barring the sale of candy cigarettes and cartoon character lighters. The ban also applies to items like Big League Chew chewing gum.

“I had no idea we were breaking the law,” owner John Lynden told Fox News. “I was shocked.”

Lynden said the white candy sticks with the red tips was a best-selling item at the store – especially among adults in their 40s and 50s.

“I never thought something candy would be contraband,” Lynden said. “We were selling them because we sell a lot of nostalgic candy and we have an old-fashioned soda fountain.”

A city spokesperson told The Star Tribune that the business was given a warning – but if they break the law – they could face a citation along with a $500 fine. The ordinance was enacted to discourage youngsters from eventually using real cigarettes.

Lynden said they’ve pulled the inventory from their shelves – including Big League Chew.

“You cannot sell Big League Chew in the city of St. Paul,” he said. “It’s legal to sell real cigarettes and real chewing tobacco, but not candy versions.”

The news has not gone over well with his customers — many voicing their outrage on Facebook.

“A lot of people are upset they can’t get their candy smokes here in St. Paul,” he told Fox News. “We have to send them over to our sister city – Minneapolis – to get their candy smokes.”

With reporting from Associated Press

Now On Twitter: Online Jihadis Disseminate Segment They Claim Was Deleted By U.S. From Latest AQAP Video; Segment Announces Rewards For Assassination Of 'The Jewish' U.S. Ambassador To Yemen, U.S. Soldiers In Yemen

Dec. 28, 2012

The following report is a complimentary offering from the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For subscription information, click here.

On Twitter, jihad supporters are currently disseminating what they are calling a segment deleted by the U.S. from the most recent video released by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The segment that is being disseminated, an audio file, includes AQAP's announcement of a reward of 3,000 grams of gold to anyone who assassinates "the Jewish" U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald M. Feierstein, as well as a reward of five million Yemeni riyals (about $23,000) to anyone who kills a U.S. soldier in Yemen.

The announcement follows a statement in the video by AQAP deputy emir Saeed Al-Shihri, in which he praises a fatwa issued in January 2010 by a number of Yemeni scholars that makes jihad mandatory if Yemen is invaded by foreign forces; this fatwa was led by radical Yemeni cleric Sheikh Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani. Al-Shihri called on Muslims to implement this fatwa.

Links to the audio first appeared around 2:50 pm Eastern Time in the U.S., in a tweet by "Abdallah Bin Mohammad" who uses the handle @ABDLLH_Bn_M7mmd. The tweet reads: "Exclusive: an audio segment of Al-Qaeda's announcement which was removed by the Americans."

The link spread quickly via Twitter among jihad supporters, using the hashtag "Jai'zat Al-Qaeda," meaning "Al-Qaeda's reward."

Earlier today, Muwahhid Shamikh, who uses the handle @mwahid_ak47, which is a new Twitter account, posted snapshots of the segment from the video in a series of tweets, asking jihad supporters to disseminate it widely.

Following the announcement in the video, the voice of Osama bin Laden is heard calling on Mujahedeen not to consult anyone in killing Americans and to go ahead with Allah's blessing while remembering the rewards Allah has waiting for martyrs.

In the past couple of months, jihadis are increasingly relying on Twitter and Facebook to dissemiate messages, due to the intermittent shutdowns of major jihadi forums.

Source: MEMRI

Anti-Death Penalty Professor Proposes Death Penalty For Global Warming Deniers

Dec. 28, 2012
Jawa Report

So let me get this straight - this professor opposes the death penalty for criminals such as mass murderers, child molesters, and rapists, but he wants people who disagree with him to be killed? By default, does that mean he agrees with what mass murderers, child molesters, and rapists did?
I have always been opposed to the death penalty in all cases, and I have always supported the clear and consistent stand of Amnesty International on this issue. The death penalty is barbaric, racist, expensive, and is often applied by mistake. Apparently, it does not even act as a deterrent to would-be murderers. Hopefully, the USA and China will come to their senses soon.

Even mass murderers should not be executed, in my opinion. Consider the politically motivated murder of 77 people in Norway in 2011. Of course the murderer does not deserve to live, and there is not the slightest doubt that he is guilty. But if the Norwegian government killed him, that would just increase the number of dead to 78. It would not bring the dead back to life. In fact, it would not achieve anything positive at all. I respect the families and friends of the victims if they feel differently about that. I am simply presenting what seems to me to be a logical argument. [...]

GW [Global warming] is different. With high probability it will cause hundreds of millions of deaths. For this reason I propose that the death penalty is appropriate for influential GW deniers.

He goes on to compare a murderer to a superhero, if the victim is, again, someone who disagrees with him. In his scenario, he equates global warming deniers with an evil genius bent on destroying the world. A hero comes along and kills the genius before any potential deaths occur:
A suicidal genius develops the means to destroy most of the world’s population. A heroic woman turns up (could also be a man, if you prefer) and kills the villain just in time. Just like one of those superheroes comics. Even Amnesty International joins in congratulating the heroine.

This professor is proposing the death penalty for people who simply deny global warming. Because their beliefs and opinions differ to his. Because, in his mind, their lack of urgency could potentially cause deaths decades or even centuries later. Because, until proven wrong beyond any doubt, his theory is paramount, while the theory of those who disagree should be squelch and silenced forever, with their murderers becoming heroes among global warming alarmists.

(Hat Tip: IHateTheMedia)

The New Egyptian Morning Show: Wake Up Muslim Brotherhood

Dec. 28, 2012

Rumor has it this is on Egyptian television every weekday morning, Saturday through Thursday.

Let's go to the videotape (Hat Tip: NY Nana).

Source: Carl In Jerusalem

Finally: A True Feel Good Story Regarding From The GOP

Dec. 28, 2012

Now if only they follow through on it....

Senate Republicans refuse to confirm Kerry until Hillary testifies about Benghazi

(Hot Air) - Isn’t this pushing a jinx? If Senate Republicans insist on having Hillary Clinton testify before allowing John Kerry’s confirmation to proceed, aren’t they risking a torn ACL or turf toe for the outgoing Secretary of State?

Clinton has pledged to remain in the job until Kerry is confirmed, which Obama said he was confident would happen “quickly.” The Senate is expected to take up Kerry’s nomination in early January, but multiple Republican senators have already said they won’t agree to a vote on Kerry’s nomination until Clinton testifies about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Illness and a concussion has prevented Clinton from appearing thus far.

Clinton promised to appear before Congress at one point, but the State Department backpedaled from that position quickly after it became public. State then said that Clinton couldn’t testify until after Congress received the report from the Accountability Review Board’s investigation into Benghazi, which they hinted Congress might not see for another 90 days — or possibly never see in its entirety. They got the ARB report last week, at which point State announced the resignations of four officials who never actually resigned at all. Accountability!

So yes, there are plenty of questions to ask Hillary Clinton about the “systemic failures” and “leadership and management deficiencies” that arose under her command at State, now that Congress has seen the report. There are plenty of questions to ask Hillary Clinton about the surreal resignation dodge of the past week. Asking those questions requires her presence, however, and it’s becoming clear that Hillary has no intention of submitting herself to those lines of inquiry in public. She and State are trying to run out the clock and leave John Kerry in position to deal with the aftermath.

The question is whether Senate Republicans can actually block Kerry’s nomination. Stalwarts like Mike Lee and Tim Scott will certainly give it a go, and Marco Rubio suggested that he might put a hold on it. John McCain and Lindsey Graham may not go along with obstruction for very long, for collegial reasons concerning Kerry and Hillary as well as for “comity,” but they may come along for a little while. Harry Reid can move the question with 60 votes, which means that he only needs 5 Republicans to agree to a floor vote to break the impasse. I’d be surprised if he can’t find them, after a short period of time in which the Senate Republicans can make their objection known.

Setting the Record Straight: Adam Lanza Did use the Bushmaster AR-15

Dec. 28, 2012
Erick Erickson

(Red State) - The media did a horrible job getting its facts and figures straight during and after the tragedy in Connecticut. Gun control advocates have seized on a lot of information and ignored a lot of information in an effort to push their agenda.

But I’m seeing gun rights supporters do the same. Most troubling, over the past week on radio filling in for Neal Boortz I’ve heard from dozens of callers, tweeters, Facebook friends, and email correspondents assuring me that Adam Lanza never used the AR-15 in his possession. Most people linked to a video purportedly showing the police retrieving the AR-15 from Adam Lanza’s car after the incident.

I don’t blame these people for getting the facts wrong. The media caused a lot of the misinformation in their rush to cover the story. But as the nation begins to set policy (or not) based on this random act of violence, we should all have our facts straight.

The fact is, Adam Lanza used a handgun to take his own life, but he relied on the Bushmaster AR-15 to kill most of the victims. He did use that gun. You don’t have to believe me. Believe Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance:

The primary weapon used in the attack was a “Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type weapon,” said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance.

Let’s keep to the facts, not the grainy videos on YouTube purporting to show what is not true.

FORWARD: Feinstein releases more information on proposed gun ban bill

Dec. 28, 2012

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been working furiously on new gun ban legislation ever since 2004 when the previous Clinton weapons ban expired.

Some information has slowly surfaced about her proposed gun ban bill, and now, the Senator’s office has released a summary including some information that many gun owners should find alarming:

Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:
120 specifically-named firearms;

Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one or more military characteristics; and

Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds.
Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and various state bans by:Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test;
Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test; and

Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans.

Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:

Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment;

Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes; and

Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons.

Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:

Background check of owner and any transferee;

Type and serial number of the firearm;

Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint;

Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law; and

Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.

The last paragraph is last for a reason. The Senator knows that registering currently legal firearms could only be desired for one reason: confiscation. A large segment of the American population would never want the government learning what guns they do or don’t have. Look at the outrage in New York when a liberal newspaper released the names and addresses of all gun permit holders in some counties.

Privacy, individual rights, basic human rights – call it what you will. The government has no right to know what we do in our homes unless a crime is committed.

The ATF is not currently informed of the type and serial number of a firearm bought by citizens. The identifying characteristics of the gun are NOT read to the FBI when a background check is performed by a licensed gun dealer. The purpose of the background check is only to insure that the purchaser is legally able to own a firearm – not inform the government of the particular firearm they purchased.

The transfer of the firearm is kept by the individual federal firearms licensee (FFL). Those records are not given to the government unless necessary in an investigation. Requiring that these purchases are registered with the government is unthinkable and eerily equivalent to an invasion of privacy or search without warrant. If I have not committed a crime, there is no probable cause allowing anyone to know what firearms I may or may not have.

Pure and simple, this is unconstitutional – on so many levels.

Source: CDN

Gallup Poll: NRA Way More Popular Than the Media

Dec. 28, 2012

(JWF) - No wonder the media hates the NRA so much. They’re jealous of their popularity.

Fifty-four percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the National Rifle Association, while 38% have an unfavorable opinion. The public’s ratings of the NRA have fluctuated since first measured by Gallup in 1993 — from a low of 42% favorable in 1995 to a high of 60% in 2005.

The NRA’s positions on guns and gun control legislation have received significant attention from media and politicians during the last week after the association’s top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, held a press conference in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. LaPierre denounced the idea of additional gun control legislation and instead called for armed guards in the nation’s schools. The press conference came midway through the field period of this Dec. 19-22 USA Today/Gallup poll.
Let’s contrast that with a Gallup poll of how detested the media is.

Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.

The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views — 20 percentage points — is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 — as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.
Let’s see if the media schmucks who’ve been attacking the NRA even mention this. Gun-grabbing pols should be forewarned.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Giving Misleading Titles to News Articles, a Method Used to Sway Your Opinion

Dec. 27, 2012

Example #1: Israel arrests 900 Palestinian children in 2012

An Israeli soldier stands guard next to three Palestinian boys who were arrested for throwing stones during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron. (AFP)
By Naif Zaydani
Al Arabiya Haifa
The Palestinian Authority is currently looking into the possibility of filing a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel for arresting 900 Palestinian children in 2012.

In taking such an action, Palestine will be using its newly-acquired rights as an observer state at the United Nations, said Eissa Karakea, Palestinian Minister of Detainees’ Affairs.

“We need to use the newly gained state status to take measures against Israel for its crimes especially the arrest, detention, and abuse of Palestinian children, let alone trying them before military courts,” he told Al Arabiya.

Karakea added that after being granted observer status, Palestine has the right to join international human rights organizations and through them can file complaints against Israel.

“Israel is violating the Child Protection Act and all international laws by subjecting children to such traumatic experiences. The Israeli minister of security had actually said earlier that Palestinian children have no immunity.”

According to Karakea, the International Community is already aware of the crimes committed against Palestinian children.

“Several human rights organizations are launching campaigns and organizing conferences in solidarity with Palestinian children and are spreading testimonials by the victims, but this is not enough. We need to take further steps.”

The minister’s statement followed a report issued by the Ministry of Detainees Affairs, which revealed that the number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli authorities has jumped from 700 in 2011 to 900 in the present year.

According to the report, those children are usually mistreated and brutally beaten during detention in order to admit to crimes they have not committed and to tell on their friends and acquaintances who allegedly also committed crimes that threaten Israel’s security.

The report added that those children are interrogated for long hours while their hands and feet are tied and sometimes they are blindfolded. In some interrogation centers, the report noted, children are left for hours under the rain. In most cases, the children are subjected to various forms of collective punishment.

The detainees are deprived of basic rights like seeing their families and they are also not allowed to sit with psychiatrists. They are often detained with adult prisoners and subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse by fellow inmates.

Obamanomics: "Legal Guns" Traded for Food After Shooting. Certainly they were destroyed, right?

Dec. 27, 2012

Over 1,000 weapons, including Uzis and semi-automatic handguns, were handed as police promised there would be no questions asked.

Some of the weapons handed in at the LA event
Los Angeles gun owners have traded in their weapons for food vouchers worth up to $200 (£123) in a drive-thru style event brought forward after the Connecticut school shooting.

Long queues formed as people, predominantly men, handed over weapons including assault rifles and Uzis directly from their cars, in exchange for grocery store gift cards.

Police promised there would be no questions asked and by the end of the day 1,016 weapons, among them TEC-9 semi-automatic handguns, WW2 rifles and vintage shotguns, one dating from 1895, had been handed in.

There were events at two locations including one at Van Nuys, north of LA, and demand was so high that officers even ran out of grocery cards at one point.

Gun owners were given up to a $100 gift card in exchange for handguns, rifles and shotguns, or up to a $200 card for automatic weapons.

Police promised no questions would be asked
A couple of pro-gun activists turned out to protest against the Gun Buyback Programme, trying to dissuade owners from giving in weapons to be destroyed.

LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa brought forward the date of the event from next May.

It followed the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, on December 14, in which gunman Adam Lanza killed 26 people including 20 young children.

Sergeant Rudy Lopez of the LA Police Department said the buyback event was going well compared to previous years.

He said: "It's looking very positive. A lot of people are waiting an hour and a half (in line). People want to do something to do their part to get more guns off the streets."

Sgt Lopez also said police would check the weapons handed in, to make sure they are not reported as stolen or lost, and hand them back to their rightful owners if they are.

All other weapons were due to be melted.

The success of the scheme in traditionally liberal LA is in contrast to a claim by the world's largest seller of gun supplies that it cannot keep up with demand as orders for assault weapon and high-capacity magazines skyrocket in the wake of the Newtown school shooting.

Pete Brownell, president of Brownells, said that in a three-day period the company has sold an "unprecedented" three-and-a-half years' worth of inventory of magazines.

Under the buyback scheme in LA, the fact that police were asking no questions was a key incentive. "See that? That's a silencer," said Sgt Lopez, pointing to an assault weapon. "That's illegal. We didn't say anything."

Critics of such schemes have questioned their effectiveness, arguing the weapons surrendered tend to be the least likely to be used in criminal activities, such as guns which are old or malfunctioning.

In the line of cars, a 51-year-old unnamed man said he was turning in four rifles that belonged to his late father.

"The guns have been sitting around, and there's a money incentive, so why not?" he said.

Sandra Lefall, 38, said the Connecticut shooting did spur her to turn in a gun.

"I'm bringing in a 9mm handgun because I want to get it out of the house, because I have teenage children. I would hate for them to do what that guy in Connecticut did," she told the LA Times.

Source: Sky news

Radicals in local Government UPDATE: Los Angeles may ban circus elephants

Dec. 27, 2012

Elephants walk in a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus Pachyderm Parade. (File/UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch) License photo
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Los Angeles could become the first major U.S. city to ban elephant acts in circuses if it passes a measure backers say will eventually be adopted "universally."

The city council is expected to vote early in the new year on an ordinance that could force the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus either to drop its annual stop in the country's second-largest city or pull one of its most popular acts, , The New York Times reported.

Paul Koretz, the councilman who sponsored the ordinance banning elephants, predicted other big cities will follow suit if Los Angeles acts.

"At some point, this will be universally banned throughout the country," he said. "The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it's time for us to stand up for them."

Elephants have been used for centuries as work animals, for military purposes and for human entertainment. The Carthaginian general Hannibal used war elephants to cross the Pyrenees and Alps and invade Italy in 218 B.C.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros. circus, said its animals are well-treated, with regular inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said giving people a chance to see elephants is likely to make them more concerned about conservation.

Obama's College Buddy and Fellow Radical Refuses to Block Contraceptives Mandate...

Dec. 27, 2012

...likely because He/She/It has not a drop of religion in He/She/It's soul. Just sayin'....

(Reuters) - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has refused to block enforcement starting next week of a requirement in President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare overhaul that some companies provide insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices.

In an order issued on Wednesday, Sotomayor said two for-profit companies controlled by Oklahoma City billionaire David Green and his family did not qualify for an injunction while they challenge the requirement in court.

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, an arts and crafts chain with more than 500 stores, and Mardel Inc, a chain of 35 Christian-themed bookstores, said it violated their religious beliefs to require that their group health plans cover treatments that could induce abortions.

They said they face possible fines of $1.3 million a day if they disobey the mandate, which takes effect on January 1.

Sotomayor, who hears emergency appeals from the 10th Circuit, said it was not "indisputably clear" that Hobby Lobby and Mardel deserved an injunction, noting that lower courts have been divided in similar cases on whether temporary relief is proper.

"Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts," and following a final judgment ask the Supreme Court at that time to consider their appeal, she said.

Sotomayor did not rule on the merits of the companies' religious-based claims.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the chains, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. At least 42 lawsuits have been filed over the issue, the fund has said.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel claimed that the contraceptives provision violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

But on November 19, Oklahoma federal judge Joe Heaton refused to issue a preliminary injunction, saying the chains did not have the same religious rights as Green family members. Then on Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver refused to issue a injunction during the chains' appeal.

Forbes magazine in September called David Green, 71, the 79th richest American, with a net worth of $4.5 billion.

The case is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc et al v. Sebelius et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12A644.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Union Thug UPDATE:

Dec. 27, 2012

Imminent threat of labor Communist unrest averted at Northwest ports

(Reuters) - The threat of imminent labor unrest at four U.S. Pacific Northwest ports was averted on Wednesday as the dockworkers union said its members would stay on the job despite "substandard" contract terms being imposed unilaterally by grain shippers.

Both sides in the stalemate left open the door to further negotiations. A spokesman for the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service told Reuters the agency was in contact on Wednesday with the parties.

The shipping companies declared a formal impasse in stalled contract talks with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) days after nearly 3,000 rank-and-file union members voted overwhelmingly to reject management's "last, best and final" offer.

The contracts at issue cover workers at six of the nine grain terminals operating in Puget Sound and along the Columbia River that handle more than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports and nearly half of U.S. wheat exports.

In calling an impasse after a last, brief round of talks on Wednesday, the shipping companies also said they planned to implement terms of their latest proposal, effective at 6 a.m. local time on Thursday.

The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents the shipping companies and grain terminals they own, stressed the move was not the "lockout" that was widely expected after management's proposal failed to win union agreement.

Under a lockout, employers typically bar union members from returning to work, and seek to keep operations running with non-union replacement workers, until a settlement is reached.

Speculation that grain shippers might take such action was fueled by union reports that the companies had hired a Delaware-based company that specializes in providing security and replacement workers in labor disputes.

The U.S. Coast Guard said in recent days it was prepared to establish "buffer zones" to keep union-related protests from interfering with navigation around two of the ports seen as most likely to be caught up in labor tensions.

"This is not a lockout," association spokesman Pat McCormick said in a statement. "The companies informed the union that ILWU members are welcome to come to work under the new terms and conditions of employment."


The companies said that under an impasse, the union essentially had three choices - to acquiesce and accept management's terms, to call a strike, or to have their members continue to report to work under the imposed work rules "but seek further bargaining."

In a brief statement released shortly after the impasse was declared the union said it was following the third course, at least for now.

The Northwest Grain Handlers left open the possibility of imposing a "defensive" lockout should the union begin to engage in "intermittent strike activity," a "partial strike," work slowdowns or sabotage.

Negotiations have stalemated over numerous work-rule changes sought by the companies to improve efficiency and lower costs but have been opposed by the ILWU as onerous give-backs ultimately designed to break the union.

Meanwhile, some 15 container cargo ports on the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts are bracing for a strike threatened on December 30 by nearly 15,000 union dockworkers unless shippers extend their contract.

So far, the ILWU has not asked its members to authorize a strike, nor has it set a strike deadline or made mention of a walkout.

(Additional reporting by Teresa Carson in Portland; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer and Eric Meijer)

Los Angeles police offer gift cards to take guns off streets

Dec. 27, 2012

Better Idea #1: Instead of stupid gift cards, trade crack for the guns

LOS ANGELES - Police traded gift cards for guns in Los Angeles on Wednesday, in a buyback program Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced as a crime-fighting response to the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.
(Reuters) - Police traded gift cards for guns in Los Angeles on Wednesday, in a buyback program Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced as a crime-fighting response to the deadly shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.

Police officers handed out $200 grocery store gift cards to people who turned in an automatic weapon, and $100 gift cards to those who provided a handgun, rifle or shotgun.

Los Angeles has held an annual gun buyback since 2009, and similar events have been organized in years past in several other cities, including Detroit and Boston. Police in San Diego had a buyback earlier this month.

Some experts say the buybacks have little effect in reducing gun violence, but Villaraigosa touted the buyback program as one step that can be taken in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14 that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members.

The shooter, Adam Lanza, killed himself and also shot to death his mother at the home he shared with her, police said.

Los Angeles normally has its gun buyback in May, but Villaraigosa announced last week that the city would have this special buyback in response to the Newtown tragedy.

"There are a number of things we can do. This is just one of them," Villaraigosa said on CNN. "We've got to also address the culture of violence that we've got in this country."

At last count, the Los Angeles gun buyback had collected 1,366 firearms, including 477 handguns and 49 assault weapons, said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

The buyback ended at 4 p.m. local time, but a final tally of guns collected was not expected to be released before Thursday. In May, the city's annual gun buyback program collected 1,673 firearms at six locations, compared to two locations used for the program on Wednesday, Curry said.

At each of the locations where the buyback was held, a line of cars stretched around the block, Curry said. People dropping off their guns were asked to leave them in the trunks of their cars, where officers retrieved the weapons. Those surrendering their guns were allowed to remain anonymous.

While officials in Los Angeles and elsewhere have said the gun buybacks help keep streets safe, a 2004 report by the National Research Council of the National Academies questioned that conclusion.

Among the report's findings were that guns surrendered in buybacks tend to be old or inherited from previous owners, and not likely to be used in crime. Also, gun owners find it easy to replace their firearms, according to the report, which was titled "Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review."

(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Todd Eastham)

China seizes TVs, satellite equipment in Tibetan area

Dec. 27, 2012

(Reuters) - Chinese authorities have confiscated televisions from 300 monasteries in a heavily Tibetan part of the west of the country and dismantled satellite equipment that broadcast "anti-China" programs, prompted by Tibetan self-immolations in the region.

Some 94 Tibetans, including 81 this year, have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule. Five self-immolations occurred in Tibetan-dominated Huangnan prefecture in Qinghai province, the state-run Qinghai news agency said on Thursday.

The government in Huangnan said its approach in tackling self-immolations comprised of "guiding public opinion on the Dalai issue", increasing patrols and "blocking outside harmful information", according to the news agency, which is managed by the Qinghai government.

"At this critical moment for maintaining social stability in Huangnan prefecture ... (we must) strengthen measures and fully fight the special battle against self-immolations," the article said.

"We do not know anything about it," an official from the Huangnan prefecture government told Reuters by telephone, when asked to confirm the report, before hanging up.

Beijing considers Nobel peace laureate the Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

The article said the prefecture's agricultural and pastoral areas had relied on certain satellite equipment "to watch and listen to overseas, anti-China programs".

The local government would invest 8.64 million yuan ($1.39 million) to install 50 transmitters that would broadcast 70 percent of the prefecture's television channels, the report said.

China has repeatedly denounced the Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetan groups for fomenting the self-immolations.

The United States and several other countries have called on China to end repressive policies and to negotiate with the Dalai Lama.

Beijing has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the remote region suffered from dire poverty, brutal exploitation of serfs and economic stagnation until 1950 when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it.

($1 = 6.2353 yuan)

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Additional reporting by Huang Yan; Editing by Nick Macfie)