Sunday, May 31, 2009
Posted May 30, 2009 @ 09:28 PM
The National Weather Service has issued a freeze watch for many parts of New York from Sunday through Monday morning, including Oneida County.Widespread frost and freeze conditions are possible tonight and into early Monday morning. The region’s low temperature for today is expected to be about 36 degrees, which also is the record low temperature for May 31, according to WKTV meteorologists and weather archives. The record was set in 1966.A low of 50 degrees is expected for Monday. The record low for June 1 is 31 degrees, which was set in 1945, according to weather archives.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
When thuggery replaces debate in the political process, society suffers. There is no room in an advanced civilization for tribal conflicts. Competing ideas should be sorted out in the light, not snuffed out by intimidation. But that is exactly what a coalition organization called Democracy for America is trying to do.
A group named Conservatives for Patients' Rights has bought time on Washington, D.C.'s NBC 4 to air a 30-minute broadcast Sunday after "Meet the Press." The group describes it as a " '60 Minutes'-style documentary" that will "let people see the very real consequences of letting the government take over their health care decisions."
We haven't seen the program, which has already run on the History Channel, A&E Network and ION, and focuses on the "stalling, waiting lists and rationing and withholding care because of red tape, politics, and bureaucratic foot-dragging" that distinguish the government-run health care systems elsewhere, particularly Great Britain and Canada. So we don't know how the points are presented. But we are aware of those systems' failures and have repeatedly listed them on these pages.
Many Americans, however, are ignorant of the rationing and nasty waiting lists that are responsible for poor health and even fatalities in nations with socialist health care systems. And Democracy for America wants to keep them that way.
Even though it hasn't seen the program either, the Service Employees International Union, part of Democracy for America, has sent a letter to NBC 4, claiming CPR's program "will be false, deceitful, and a distortion" and is asking the station to refuse to air it. The coalition is reportedly also urging its supporters to call NBC 4 and demand that it drop the broadcast.
Ideally, the groups that make up Democracy for America should wait until they've seen the program and then point out the falsehoods — if there are any. But they would rather silence a voice that threatens their goal of forcing a national, government-run health care system on the country.
Let us for a moment engage in a mental exercise and imagine the outrage from Democracy for America if the situation were turned around and a right-of-center group tried to silence its message. It would be loud. And it would be justified.
While it is sometimes hard to recognize, this is still America. We are free to speak, even when what we speak is unpopular. It is an offense to our heritage for Democracy for America to call CPR into a virtual private-sector star chamber in an effort to strip the group of its right to speak freely. By doing so, the coalition, called progressive by Politico.com, is moving us backward.
By MARTA FALCONIAssociated Press Writer
Italy's interior minister insisted Saturday that any decision to accept Guantanamo inmates must be unanimously made by members of the European Union and expressed worry the suspected terrorists might move easily through the union's loose borders.
Minister Roberto Maroni said the detainees from the U.S. military prison on the Cuban island should be sent only to countries that are able to jail them again, if need be.
"The European Union ... should reach a unanimous decision and welcome, only if so they desire, those inmates that can be put back in jail," Maroni told a news conference following a two-day meeting of interior and justice ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries.
Otherwise, the released Guantanamo inmates "arrive at the airports, are escorted out, and then are free to move" across the porous national borders of several EU countries. "This is obviously not acceptable for me, as it increases the level of terrorism risk," Maroni said.
The European Union's so-called Schengen zone is an area of open frontiers comprised of 22 EU countries and three outside the EU in which no systematic passport checks are carried out.
Maroni said the issue was discussed by Italian officials in a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier in the week. He said no concrete decision was made, and the issue will discussed again at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on June 4-5.
Italy was considering taking "not more than two or three inmates," but no formal request has been made yet, Maroni said, adding the inmates have not been identified.
U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of Guantanamo, which has been criticized in much of Europe. His administration is reviewing Guantanamo cases to determine whether the suspects remaining there should be tried in U.S. courts or released to other countries.
Separately on Saturday, the G-8 ministers agreed to increase cooperation and share information in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
In a final declaration, the ministers stressed the need to block the financing of terrorism, urging the "monitoring the activities and communications terrorist organizations rely on," especially the Internet.
The ministers also urged countries affected by sea piracy to prosecute the pirates whenever possible. Rampant piracy off Somalia's coast is now the biggest threat to merchant shipping, with most attacks ending with million-dollar ransom payments.
The Group of Eight nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Feds probe city pension deals with Daley's nephew
SUBPOENAS Mayor Daley's nephew Robert Vanecko and ally Allison S. Davis are at the center of grand jury probe on how they snared city employee investments
May 30, 2009
BY TIM NOVAK Staff Reporter
City pension officials have been hit with subpoenas from a federal grand jury trying to determine how a start-up company co-owned by Mayor Daley's nephew won $68 million in pension investments.
The grand jury issued the subpoenas Wednesday, nearly two months after city pension officials refused to comply with similar subpoenas issued by the City of Chicago's inspector general, David Hoffman.
A federal grand jury is trying to determine how city pension officials decided to invest $68 million with a company co-owned by Mayor Daley's nephew, Robert Vanecko. (Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)
Hoffman said Friday that he and federal investigators are now jointly investigating the pension fund investments with DV Urban Realty Partners, a minority certified business co-owned by one of the mayor's top African-American allies, Allison S. Davis, and Daley's nephew Robert Vanecko.
This is the second joint investigation that Hoffman and federal authorities are conducting into Vanecko's businesses.
The other investigation involves the hidden ownership stake Vanecko and the mayor's son, Patrick Daley, held in a sewer-cleaning company that won millions of dollars in no-bid contract extensions from City Hall. Vanecko and Patrick Daley have said they sold their investment in the company in late 2004 when Patrick Daley enlisted in the Army and Vanecko went into business with Davis.
Hoffman began investigating Vanecko and Patrick Daley in the wake of Chicago Sun-Times investigations into the mayor's son and nephew during the last two years.
Davis, 69, and Vanecko, 43, set up their company hoping to get money from public and private pension plans for real estate investments. But they were rejected by several private and government pension plans until 2006, when the five city pension funds agreed to invest $68 million with them.
Davis and Vanecko are guaranteed $8 million in management fees -- they've been paid $2.7 million so far -- under the eight-year deal that expires Dec. 31, 2014. They can also share in any profits from their real estate investments.
They've invested the pension funds in eight Chicago properties, but all of their real estate deals have declined in value, partly because of the recession.
Davis and Vanecko are also trying to prevent the loss of $7.9 million in pension funds they invested in a stalled project to build a Dominick's grocery store and condos at 3030 N. Broadway. They have been feuding with the developers, Michael O'Connor and Jon Zitzman, and are trying to find people to buy out O'Connor and Zitzman at an auction set for June 5 in the law offices of Patrick Daley Thompson, another mayoral nephew.
City pension officials refused to comply with Hoffman's subpoenas, arguing he had no authority to demand records from them. The federal grand jury stepped in, demanding records from the pension plans for Chicago municipal employees, laborers, police officers and firefighters, even though the firefighters pension fund refused to invest any money with Davis and Vanecko.
The other two pension funds that invested with Vanecko and Davis -- Chicago teachers and the CTA -- haven't received any subpoenas from Hoffman or the grand jury.
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.
True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.
Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.
First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.
Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.
The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.
These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?
These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.
Then came Barack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.
So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.
Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper...but a "freeman" whimper.
So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set "fair" maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses? Senator Barney Franks, a social pervert basking in his homosexuality (of course, amongst the modern, enlightened American societal norm, as well as that of the general West, homosexuality is not only not a looked down upon life choice, but is often praised as a virtue) and his Marxist enlightenment, has led this effort. He stresses that this only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.
The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.
The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.
The article has been reprinted with the kind permission from the author and originally appears on his blog, Mat Rodina
Friday, May 29, 2009
Black Panthers had wielded weapons, blocked polls
Thursday, May 28, 2009
By FABIOLA SANCHEZ
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa vowed Wednesday to speak his mind at a pro-democracy forum in Venezuela despite an official warning not to criticize President Hugo Chavez's government.
Vargas Llosa was stopped by authorities for more than an hour at Caracas' main airport, and said he was questioned and told "that as a foreigner I don't have the right to make political statements."
"Nobody can put limits on free thinking," Vargas Llosa told journalists at Simon Bolivar International Airport, pledging to speak freely at a forum organized by Cedice, a conservative Caracas-based think tank that has come under criticism from Chavez allies.
"Antidemocratic systems proceed that way. The truth is, they are scared of ideas," Vargas Llosa later said of his brief detention at the airport. "They think ideas are like bombs, that ideas can provoke social explosions. We don't want that."
Vargas Llosa, one of the Spanish-speaking world's most-acclaimed writers, has been critical of Chavez in the past, saying the socialist leader's government restricts liberties and "believes in a type of authoritarian democracy." Chavez denies limiting individual freedoms, saying his government is expanding rather than restricting liberties.
Former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda and Colombian intellectual Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza also are expected to attend the two-day forum, which starts Thursday.
Authorities also cautioned Vargas Llosa's son, Alvaro, against making political statements when he arrived on Monday.
Mario Vargas Llosa has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including "Conversation in the Cathedral" and "The Green House." In 1995, he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor.
By: Mark TapscottEditorial Page Editor05/27/09 3:37 PM EDT
Evidence appears to be mounting that the Obama administration has systematically targeted for closing Chrysler dealers who contributed to Repubicans. What started earlier this week as mainly a rumbling on the Right side of the Blogosphere has gathered some steam today with revelations that among the dealers being shut down are a GOP congressman and closing of competitors to a dealership chain partly owned by former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty.
The basic issue raised here is this: How do we account for the fact millions of dollars were contributed to GOP candidates by Chrysler who are being closed by the government, but only one has been found so far that is being closed that contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008?
Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan learned from a House colleague that his Venice, Florida, dealership is on the hit list. Buchanan also has a Nissan franchise paired with the Chrysler facility in Venice.
"It's an outrage. It's not about me. I'm going to be fine," said Buchanan, the dealership's majority owner. "You're talking over 100,000 jobs. We're supposed to be in the business of creating jobs, not killing jobs," Buchanan told News 10, a local Florida television station.
Buchanan, who succeeded former Rep. Katharine Harris in 2006, reportedly learned of his dealership's termination from Rep.Candace Miller, R-MI. Buchanan owns a total of 23 dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.
Also fueling the controversy is the fact the RLJ-McCarty-Landers chain of Arkansas and Missouri dealerships aren't being closed, but many of their local competitors are being eliminated. Go here for a detailed look at this situation. McClarty is the former Clinton senior aide. The "J" is Robert Johnson, founder of the Black Entertainment Television, a heavy Democratic contributor.
A lawyer representing a group of Chrysler dealers who are on the hit list deposed senior Chrysler executives and later told Reuters that he believes the closings have been forced on the company by the White House.
"It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers. It really wasn't Chrysler's decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President's automotive task force," said attorney Leonard Bellavia.
RedState.com's Josh Painter has a useful roundup of what has been found so far by a growing number of bloggers digging into what could be a very big story indeed. Also, see my column on this issue and how it fits into the larger context dubbed by the Examiner's Michael Barone as "gangster government."
As part of Chrysler's bankruptcy agreement with the White House, the company plans to close roughly a quarter of its 3,200 dealerships. Lists of the dealerships being cut and those retaining their Chrysler franchises can be found here in pdf format. Many dealers contend the criteria being used to determine which dealerships survive is not clear and that many of those that are being closed in fact are profitable businesses, despite the current recession.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
TLE 28 > PART I > CHAPTER 21 > § 453
Each justice or judge of the United States shall take the following oath or affirmation before performing the duties of his office:
“I, [insert name here], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [insert title here] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
No mention of empathy anywhere that I can see. But what does the current administration care about the Constitution or oaths anyway, even though Obama made the following oath:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
By Colleen Raezler May 27, 2009 - 12:07
Here's Matt Philbin's take on the Obamas' commencement addresses:
To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To a community organizer, every citizen looks like a victim entitled to someone else's money.
The Obama campaign and administration has proved that again and again. But both the president and his wife put a fine point on it with commencement addresses this month. (Joe Biden also gave one, but it's a safe bet that nobody - Joe least of all - knew what he was talking about.) To the Obamas, grads should opt for the virtue of what Michelle has called "helping" careers, and eschew the vice and corruption of the private sector.
By SARA SHEPHERDThe Kansas City Star
Selling any used cribs or playpens at your upcoming garage sale? Children’s clothes with drawstrings or zippers? Pre-1985 books? Rubber duckies or pool floaties?
Better check them twice.
Just like megasize toy manufacturers and stores that sell products from China, the notoriously broad and confusing federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act applies to you and your front yard.
Anyone selling products, even used ones, that have been recalled or banned by the act is in violation. The act covers everything from toys with lead paint to cribs that might strangle babies.
“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse,” warns a 27-page Consumer Product Safety Commission resellers’ handbook, released this month. “But more importantly … you do not want to sell products that have the potential to harm anyone, especially a child.”
Besides people holding yard sales, the law applies to thrift or consignment stores, charities, flea markets and people who sell on auction Web sites, the handbook says.
Unlike manufacturers, resellers aren’t required to test used products for lead and phthalates.
However, they are supposed to educate themselves about safety standards and, somehow, ensure none of their products violates them.
The safety commission will not patrol garage sales, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said. But store proprietors who knowingly or repeatedly violate the law may be fined.
All sellers — and shoppers — should learn about the rules, Wolfson said.
“You could be passing on a danger to an unknowing family,” he said. “We do a great job at CPSC of getting dangerous products off of store shelves. Our challenge has always been getting those same dangerous products out of people’s homes.”
The commission studied thrift stores nationwide in 1999 and found that 69 percent were selling products that had been recalled, banned or failed to meet safety standards, according to the handbook.
After millions of lead-tainted toys from China were recalled in 2007, Congress enacted the sweeping and complicated Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in August 2008. It took effect in February.
The new handbook, available at www.cpsc.gov, summarizes the law for everyday people who sell used products.
It includes resources and guidelines for identifying risky products, plus horror stories — some with illustrations — of what has and could happen to children because of certain items:
•Drawstrings on hoods have caught on playground equipment and bus doors, causing children to be strangled or dragged and killed.
•Magnetic toy parts, if swallowed, have attracted one another inside children’s intestines, perforating them.
•Children have been hanged when their bodies, but not their heads, slipped between rails of top bunk beds.
•Others have suffocated when foam pellet stuffing from bean bag chairs clogged their mouths and noses.
Throughout Mission’s recent citywide garage sale, piles of used children’s clothes, playpens and bassinets, dolls and toys ranging from elaborate sets to cereal-box prizes were on sale — cheap.
Some sellers were mothers who said they policed their own products for their own children’s safety, but they either hadn’t heard of the new act or didn’t know it applied to them.
Karen Laughton’s wares included a bassinet and a large Fisher-Price toy once used by her children, now 4 and 7.
Laughton said she’d heard of similar products being recalled but that when she checked the list she learned hers were different models or years.
Otherwise, putting them out “wouldn’t feel right,” she said. “I would feel terrible if a kid got hurt because I sold something that I shouldn’t have.”
Stephanie Matchett was selling used toys and clothes her 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son had outgrown.
None of the clothes had neck drawstrings. Matchett said she assumed the pajamas were nonflammable because they were new not long ago.
Matchett said she has recall Web sites bookmarked on her computer but admits, “It changes so often...it’s so hard to keep up with everything.”
Stores that sell used products also are having a hard time keeping up.
As the safety act’s Feb. 10 compliance date loomed, frustrated manufacturers and retailers — including book publishers, toothbrush makers and bicycle suppliers — lobbied to have their products excluded from the act, or to be granted stays of enforcement until they could figure out how to comply.
Some succeeded. Others, including the resale industry, did not.
Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, said member stores are now doing the best they can to follow the law.
“It’s just the way it was written, it’s almost impossible to abide by this law,” Meyer said.
Some stores, to avoid any risk, quit accepting children’s products altogether, she said. Some that sold only children’s products have “reinvented themselves” by adding adult clothing or furniture to make up for lost inventory.
Stores have always checked recall lists, Meyer said, but some now call manufacturers directly to find out, for example, if a certain product contains phthalates.
Meyer said the safety commission doesn’t have the manpower to police the law among retailers, much less garage sale operators.
Merriam resident Meredith Mullen perused a table full of baby clothes at a recent sale in Mission.
Mullen, who was shopping for gifts for her nieces, said buyers should take responsibility, too: “If you purchase something at a garage sale, you should probably check it out when you get home.”
Some things you shouldn’t sell •Any recalled product, for children or adults. Cribs, playpens, bunk beds, baby walkers and board books are among commonly recalled products.
•Toys, other children’s products or furniture with paint containing more than the legal limit of lead. Potential culprits include inexpensive children’s metal jewelry and clothes with metal decorations or closures.
•Toys or child-care articles containing more than the legal limit of phthalates. Balls, bath and pool toys, dolls, bibs and teethers are examples of risky items.
•Books with metal spiral bindings or designed primarily for play, like plastic bath books, which may contain lead or phthalates.
Some things you can sell •Items made entirely of wood, without paint or hardware.
•Clothes, blankets and other items made entirely of yarn or textiles such as cotton, wool and nylon. Thread, elastic and closures must be non-metallic.
•Traditional books printed after 1985.
•Vintage children’s books and other collectibles not primarily intended for children.
The new CPSC handbook for product resellers can be downloaded free at www.cpsc.gov.
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Benno Ohnesorg's death triggered widespread unrest
New information indicates that the killer in the controversial shooting of student protester Benno Ohnesorg in Berlin in 1967 was a West German policeman who was also working for the East German Stasi secret police.
Sifting through reams of old files from the communist state security apparatus in East Germany, two historians, Helmut Mueller-Enbergs and Cornelia Jabs, say they accidently uncovered information that the policeman, Karl-Heinz Kurras, was a so-called unofficial employee of the East German Ministry for State Security (MfS) and a member of the country's Socialist Unity Party (SED).
In reports published separately on Thursday by ZDF public television network and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper and based on the historians' findings, Kurras had been in the service of the Stasi secret police since 1955 and had been charged with spying on the West Berlin police.
Documents change a chapter in German history
Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Protesters in Munich in 1967 carrying a banner reading "Benno Ohnesorg - political murder" The documents found in the archives of the Birthler Agency - the authority which manages files from the former East Germany - also contained a message radioed to Kurras by the MfS after the fatal shooting of Ohnesorg, which read: "Destroy all material. Cease work for now. View events as very regrettable accident."
Ohnesorg was shot to death in West Berlin on June 2, 1967 during a student protest against the Shah of Iran, who was visiting Germany at the time. His death triggered widespread and violent student protests across West Germany and helped fuel sympathies for the militant Red Army Faction and its up-and-coming first generation leaders, Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin.
Espionage expert Mueller-Enbergs, told ZDF that there were no clues in the Stasi files that Kurras had been explicitly told to liquidate Ohnesorg. After the shooting, Kurras was tried for reckless manslaughter but acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
The new information raises the question: What would have happened to the German student protest movement of the late 1960s had people known that Ohnesorg's killer had been a spy for communist East Germany?
Politicians call for re-examination of 1967 Ohnesorg murder
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Benno Ohnesorg died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
The news that the perpetrator of a 1967 shooting was a spy for East Germany's Stasi secret police has sent shockwaves through Germany, shedding new light on the country's postwar history, amid calls for a fresh inquiry.
Former German interior minister, Otto Schily, and Dirk Niebel, general-secretary of Germany's liberal Free Democrats, have called for a new investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting in 1967 of student activist Benno Ohnesorg.
Schily, who, before becoming a Social Democrat and interior minister, was a Green party activist and defense lawyer for leftist German terrorists, said the new Stasi revelations meant the case had to be "politically and juristically re-evaluated."
"The files require a very precise re-examination," he said.
Niebel of the FDP urged all parties in parliament "without delay to make way for a no-holds-barred inquiry into Stasi involvement in the old West Germany."
Berlin's former SPD mayor, Klaus Schuetz, said the pension claims of the policeman, who shot and killed Ohnesorg, also needed to be reassessed.
"There is no statute of limitations on murder"
The policeman, Karl-Heinz Kurras, is still alive. He's 81 years old and could face a new trial. Charges have already been brought against him by Carl-Wolfgang Holzapfel, head of an organization for the victims of Stalinism. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Karl-Heinz Kurras (left) was on trial twice but both times aquitted.
"There is no statute of limitations on murder," Holzapfel said in a statement released after historians sifting through old files of East Germany's Stasi discovered the link to Kurras.
But, since the files apparently do not contain information suggesting that the Stasi explicitly ordered the liquidation of Ohnesorg, it is unlikely that Kurras would be convicted.
26-year old Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead on June 2, 1967, after demonstrations protesting the visit of the Shah of Iran to Berlin had turned violent.
The bullet came from Kurras who was a West German policeman. After the shooting, he was tried for reckless manslaughter but acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
After the shooting, the Stasi broke off communications with their spy in West Berlin in a final message which read: "Destroy all material. Cease work for now. Event is viewed as very regrettable accident."
The incident was a watershed in German politics
The case threw Germany into chaos. Student protests, which so far had been peaceful, took a sharp turn, becoming more radical and violent. The death of Benno Ohnesorg triggered a wave of terror and became the justification for some to take up arms against the state.
Bildunterschrift: The death of Ohnesorg triggered a wave of violent protests across Germany.
The so-called Red Army Faction (RAF) under its leaders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, began a campaign of violence against Germany's political and business elite, culminating in 1977 in what became known as the "Deutsche Herbst", or German Autumn. The RAF is believed to be responsible for more than 30 murders and only ended its reign of terror in the early 1990s.
Jochen Staadt, a historian and head of research on the former East German communist party at Berlin's Free University, says that the mere possibility that the killing had been planned by the Stasi means that history will have to be re-written.
President Obama's energy adviser has suggested all the world's roofs should be painted white as part of efforts to slow global warming.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
By S.E. CuppConservative Commentator/Author, “Why You’re Wrong About the Right”
There’s that ubiquitous word again — “historic.” It seems to follow Barack Obama wherever he goes…
After telling the world that he would choose someone with “empathy,” Obama has announced that Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a Hispanic woman, is his choice to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Women and Hispanics the nation over, rejoice. There may soon be someone on the bench who will put you first. Literally.
When a person suggests that white men are less qualified for a job than Latina women, we call that racism and sexism. Apparently Sotomayor – and President Obama – call that “empathy.”
Sorry, white guys. Ms. Sotomayor is, quite simply, not your gal. For one thing, she doesn’t think you’re anatomically or ethnically qualified to do her job as well as she is.
In 2001 she told a crowd at the University of California, Berkeley, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” White guys, blame the ups and downs of the genetic lottery.
She also doesn’t think it’s possible – or even a valid exercise – to attempt to transcend race and gender as a judge. “I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.” If you thought electing Obama meant living in a post-race America, think again. And ladies, get those bras out – it is officially 1969.
Finally, she’s hoping women and minorities win more and more prestigious judicial appointments. As for the women and men of color already populating the benches around the country, she says, “Those figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.” Hit the back of the line, white guys.
But to all the forgotten, pasty, sun-deprived, uterus-less men of America, there’s good news yet. It’s not white guys that a worldview such as this hurts most –- it’s women and minorities.
What Sotomayor and other political activists are saying when they advocate for women and minorities to be placed in positions of power –- even if they’ve earned it, and especially if they’ve earned it –- is that gender and skin color are more important than intellect, compassion, reason and experience. This is the exact opposite of what we try to teach our children about the world.
Sotomayor worked her way out of the Bronx projects, past a diabetes diagnosis, and through Princeton and Yale to become the youngest judge in the Southern district of New York. And yet, the country shouldn’t aspire to put more candidates like that on the bench, but instead to appoint more women and minorities? What incentive, then, does a Hispanic woman have to even bother going to school, when the bona fides that matter most are the ones she’s born with?
Both the women’s liberation movement and the civil rights movement sought to transcend sexual and race politics. The idea was to stop judging people on the color of their skin, or their gender, and instead on their actions and their accomplishments. When Sotomayor or any other activist chooses to promote her gender or ethnicity as some kind of currency, it is telling the world that not only does her ethnicity and her gender make her different, but she thinks it actually makes her better.
The hypocrisy of liberal identity politics, of course, is evident any time an empty seat requires a political appointment. Obama’s vacancy meant, for the left, that a black candidate should fill his seat – and Roland Burris did. Hillary Clinton’s vacancy meant, for the left, that a woman should fill her seat – and Kirsten Gillibrand did. On the left, voters are told they should want someone who looks like they do to represent them.
But when conservatives, and particularly Christian conservatives, vote their faith – say, by electing George W. Bush or supporting Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee – it is nothing less than bigotry, a lack of sophistication and, somehow, an injustice to the voting process. Voting on skin color or ethnicity is valid when there’s a “D” after the name, but voting on values is not if there’s an “R” after it.
Ms. Sotomayor has a reputation for being combative and temperamental, and has drawn criticism from her former clerks and colleagues. And Senate Republicans are sure to go after her liberal record. She’s hardly the kind of centrist or crowd-pleasing appointment that Obama has thus far seemed to prefer, a gesture that the far-left is sure to appreciate as a long-overdue acknowledgment of their existence. She is, in short, poised to bring President Obama the thing he is always least prepared for –- resistance — even if an eventual confirmation is a given.
Whether Sonia Sotomayor is “historic” or not shouldn’t really matter. Nor should her ethnicity or gender. When a person suggests that white men are less qualified for a job than Latina women, we call that racism and sexism. Apparently Sotomayor – and President Obama – call that “empathy.”
By Robin of Berkeley
A recovering liberal tries to do the impossible: create a social life in the most leftist place on earth.
Like most women, I'm a social creature. I need friends with whom I can confide, commiserate, complain. So when my 35 year love affair with the Democratic Party fell apart 1 1/2 years ago, I needed someone to talk to, someone who would understand that something was rotten in Denmark.
First I tried my husband, a supportive kind of a guy, but one who gets his news from Berkeley's KPFA, a radio station to the far left of Al-Jazeera.
Me: Something is seriously wrong with the Democratic Party.
Him: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Me: The brutality, the meanness, the cult like following of Obama.
Him: That's just politics as usual.
Me: But what about Obama's association with really far left radicals who hate Jews and America and Whites?
Him: I'm sure Obama would serve from the middle and bring everyone together.
Me: I don't think so. I think he'll lean toward socialism and divide everyone even more. I'm worried about paying taxes through the roof and the government involved in every aspect of our lives.
Him: (with barely contained disgust) Jeez, you're sounding like a conservative.
Ok, that didn't go so well.
My next stop was my friend, Laura, a level headed, moderate Democratic who is not very political.
Me: I don't feel good about Obama. He seems so angry and there's this weird Obama mania surrounding him.
Laura: Really? I think he's so cool.
Me: Cool, yes, as in icy cold.
Laura: (Looking infatuated, even possessed) Everyone just loves him! He's so great! I love watching him on TV!
Me: Oh, God, Laura, you've become one of them! Personally, if Obama gets the nomination, I'm voting Republican for the first time in my life.
Laura: (with a look of utter revulsion, as though I told her I microwaved a kitten) Republicans are disgusting.
My last hope was talking to my therapist, Bob; you need a psychotherapist, an acupuncturist, a masseuse, and a spiritual teacher to survive here in Berkeley. I've seen Bob for years, and we're generally on the same page. And, after all, I'm paying the dude to be nice to me.
I told him of my grave misgivings about Obama, that no one knows much about him aside from his seriously whacked out friends. He said (and these were his exact words), "I'm wondering whether your concerns about Obama have something to do with your childhood."
Bye bye Bobby. I can be humiliated for free, thank you very much.
Three strikes and I was out. So discussing my growing anxiety about Obama with my social support system wasn't working out very well. I considered my options:
A. I could close my private practice, move to Texas, and go on welfare (but I didn't want to give Obama the satisfaction, and I am not sure welfare in Texas is quite like what California hands out);
B. I could wait until I'm rich via Obamaeconomics (LOL) and then move to Texas;
C. I could numb out with megadoses of medical marijuana and vodka (though my aging body can't handle much more than my dose of Maalox.);
D. I could stay where I was and meet some new people. So my only option was finding a conservative around here, a challenge that would rival Middle East peace.
I considered running a personal ad in the Berkeley Daily Planet:
Wanted: New FriendsSize, height, weight, marital status, state of health, state of mind, age, race, income, class, hobbies, interests, jobs, length of life, unimportant.Felons, parolees, drug addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, hygiene-impaired, dwarfs, giants, heavily tattooed gang members, unemployed, unintelligible, schizophrenics, multiplepersonalities, fugitives, all encouraged.However, no Liberals.
But I worried that even this wouldn't attract any comers.
So, I put my thinking hat on and decided I should try trolling for new friends in the fancy outlying suburbs, which are largely Democratic but have small pockets of conservatives. I began hanging out weekends, keeping my eyes and ears open. Frankly, it's a miracle no one called the cops ("Officer, hurry! There's this unfashionably dressed woman from Berkeley who refuses to leave our town until she finds some friends!")
After a couple of weekends, I lucked out and discovered a downtown Farmer's Market and a nervous looking woman tabling for McCain. When I zipped over, introduced myself and said I was from Berkeley, the poor woman looked seriously scared. She calmed noticeably when I said, "I've left the Democratic Party and am voting for McCain." I told her that I was her bodyguard (joke: I'm 5'4 and have no muscle tone to speak of). Together we endured the taunts of Obama supporters; one guy shouted that we were a "cult" (hello? I'm not the one with the politico's face plastered all over my chest, car, wall, undies, etc. etc.) Anyway, this nice woman offered me her contact info and we started connecting.
I landed a few more people. I thought to call McCain headquarters out in the 'burbs and found another disgruntled former Dem. I even found a woman my age outside a Starbuck's, having a conversation with an acquaintance about her distrust of Obama. (I wasn't above eavesdropping.) When her acquaintance left, I zoomed in, and soon we were sitting together and talking for three hours.
Eventually I had assembled 5 other people and started an e tree where we offered support and shared war stories. When my new Farmers Market friend was tabling again, she had a liberal jerk dump a garbage can all over her and her table, while no one did a thing. Another person was proselytized by her Obama-loving gynecologist during a pelvic exam. Many of us were underground with others about our views (Ironic, isn't it, that that the architects of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers and his enchanting wife Bernardine Dohrn, now have a friend in the Oval Office power while law abiding citizens are forced underground.) Through our e tree we could let our hair down and find safety and sanity.
I'm very grateful to my new friends for taking this lost Berkeley waif under their protective wings. But it's still really hard to have to hide who I am, to smile blankly when old friends talk up Obama. I'm the kind of person who doesn't have a public and a private face; with me, what you see is what you get. So masquerading around as a supporter of all things Obama is just not me and, frankly, having to do so pisses me off.
But part of my recovery from being a starry eyed utopian is living in reality zone. We are in dark times, uncharted waters, and I live at Ground Zero. Until it's safe to come out of the closet, I'll have to stay in here. But finding new friends, and knowing that there are others out there as well, makes the closet a bit less lonely.
(Dedicated, with appreciation, to my new buds, my not-fair-weather underground: A, G, J, M, and N.)
Monday, May 25, 2009
Speaker Pelosi’s Controversial Marxist Connections
Cliff Kincaid Bio
By Cliff Kincaid Monday, May 25, 2009
Like the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not have to go through a background investigation in order to get a security clearance. This loophole in the law enables the president and members of Congress to automatically qualify for security clearances, even if they have controversial backgrounds and associations, by virtue of the fact that they get elected to high office in Washington, D.C.
In the case of Speaker Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency after the vice president, there is increasing concern about whether she can be trusted with national security secrets. But the concern not only involves her unsubstantiated charges against the CIA over what officials told her about the treatment of terrorists, but her close personal relationship with pro-Castro Rep. Barbara Lee and the “progressive” Hallinan family of San Francisco, once under scrutiny by the California Senate Fact-finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities for their pro-Soviet propaganda efforts.
Pelosi used a Friday news conference to offer up other members of the House Democratic leadership as “human shields” to deflect questions from the press about the CIA controversy. They droned on about the liberal legislative agenda.
At the very end of the news conference, as Pelosi was trying to leave the podium and had already issued an edict that she didn’t have anything more to say about the CIA matter, a reporter tried to ask a question about Rep. Steve King’s intention to introduce a resolution asking the House to suspend Pelosi’s security clearance until the controversy is resolved. The reporter asked, “And were you aware that Steve King is asking for your security clearance to be revoked?” But Pelosi walked away without commenting.
With the help of the mainstream media, Pelosi is obviously hoping that she can stonewall further inquiry. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Washington Post liberal columnist Eugene Robinson, a follower of the Democratic Party line, declared that he wasn’t sure that she was “in such terrible political danger” and that “People underestimate Nancy Pelosi sometimes as a politician."
Pelosi the politician is clearly depending on the press to stop asking questions.
However, since Pelosi and other elected officials don’t have to go through background investigations, it is the job of the media to perform this function. In the case of Pelosi, it is long overdue.
San Francisco Democrat
Pelosi has represented the city of San Francisco, perhaps the most liberal in the nation, since 1987, and is a very close friend of Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents neighboring Oakland and Berkeley, California, and is the most vocal apologist for Communist Cuba in Congress today. Lee, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, recently led a delegation to Cuba to meet with the Castro brothers to discuss normalization of relations. But she paid no attention to political dissidents or political prisoners being held on the communist island.
Lee, who calls Pelosi “a magnificent woman” and “one of California’s greatest representatives,” began her career in the California state legislature as a secret member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a spin-off from the Communist Party. As a member of the staff of Rep. Ron Dellums, Lee was shown to have been collaborating with communist officials on the island of Grenada, according to documents captured after the liberation of that island nation. These revelations have not hurt Lee’s standing with Pelosi and other “progressives.” Indeed, Lee also served as the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
But even more interesting than the Barbara Lee connection is Pelosi’s long-time friendship and association with Vincent and Vivian Hallinan, one of the most radical left-wing families in San Francisco over the course of five decades.
Pelosi hailed them as “one of San Francisco’s great Irish families” in a March 17, 1999, statement, after the passing of Vivian Hallinan. “Vivian was a pioneer, a mentor and a leader,” Pelosi said. “Our community was blessed by her presence and will long remember her many significant contributions to improving society. I will miss my friend, Vivian.”
Notice use of the term “mentor.”
Pelosi called Vivian Hallinan, who openly held “socialist” views, a “pioneer” in “a wide range of progressive causes.”
But these causes included support for communists in Central America during the 1980s, when Soviet- and Cuban-backed forces were subverting Central America through violence and terrorism and fighting for control of the region.
Indeed, Pelosi paid tribute to Vivian Hallinan by inserting into the Congressional Record an article saying that she had “opposed U.S. policy in Central America” under President Reagan, had “befriended Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s [Communist] Sandinista leader,” and had met with Cuban dictator Castro.
“She was a role model for many of us,” Pelosi said. “If Vincent was the lion, Vivian was the lioness.”
“My mother and Nancy were pretty close,” acknowledges Conn Hallinan, one of their sons.
The names of the Hallinans, including some of their sons, are included in the annual volumes of the California State Senate Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities. The subcommittee was a well-regarded investigative body which examined not only communist activities in California but right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society and the Minutemen.
In the case of the Hallinans, there was a lot to examine. Vincent Hallinan, a lawyer who died in 1992, was a founding member of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, officially designated a front of the Communist Party, and defended secret Communist Party member and labor leader Harry Bridges.
In addition, he was a self-described “roaring atheist” who specialized in attacks on the Catholic Church. In one case, according to the New York Times, he “sued the Roman Catholic Church for fraud, demanding that it prove the existence of heaven and hell."
Vincent Hallinan also ran for president on the ticket of the Progressive Party, “a creature of the Communist apparatus, and completely dominated by the Communist Party from start to finish,” the subcommittee said.
A 1961 subcommittee report says that Vincent Hallinan traveled to the Soviet Union with his wife to vouch for the legitimacy of the communist show trial of Francis Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union. Powers’ mission had been to document the Soviet missile build-up. It adds, “[Vincent] Hallinan’s glowing accounts of the Soviet Union and favorable comments concerning the fairness accorded Powers at his trial were sold in great quantity by the Communist Book Stores both in San Francisco and in Los Angeles."
A 1953 edition of the report states that Vincent Hallinan was a participant in a meeting of the Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case, a “Communist front organization.” The Rosenbergs were communists executed for committing atomic espionage against the United States on behalf of the Soviet Union.
A wealthy woman, Vivian Hallinan had contributed financially to one of Pelosi’s campaigns. Her only other political contributions on the federal level, as recorded by the Federal Election Commission, went to Senator Barbara Boxer and Reps. Barbara Lee and Ronald V. Dellums.
The “Progressive Champion”
Despite her pro-communist record, Lee will be honored as a “progressive champion” at the June 2 “awards gala” sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, perhaps the largest “progressive” group in the U.S. The gala, held in conjunction with a conference, is being chaired by the AFL-CIO, whose president, John Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is also being honored; the Service Employees International Union; the National Education Association; and Hollywood producer Norman Lear, among others.
Fenton Communications, the public relations firm which represented George Soros during his attempt to buy the White House in 2004, is one of several groups and individuals on the Gala Awards host committee.
At the group’s 2006 conference, Pelosi was a featured attraction, telling the assembled “progressives” that if Democrats took control of Congress and made her speaker that Democrats would “make the most corrupt, closed Congress in history the most open and honest Congress in history.”
On Friday, however, Pelosi tried desperately to avoid being open and honest about her charges against the CIA.
Time to Drop the Matter
One reporter did note that after Pelosi charged that she had been misled by the CIA, Republican House Leader John Boehner had said that she needed to produce the evidence or apologize, and that CIA director Leon Panetta has said the CIA was not in the practice of misleading Congress.
Pelosi replied, “I have made the statement that I’m going to make on this. I don’t have anything more to say about it. I stand by my comments. And what we are doing is staying on our course and not be distracted from it in this distractive mode. We’re going forward in a bipartisan way for jobs, health care, and energy for our country. And on the subject that you asked, I’ve made the statement that I’m going to make. I won’t have anything more to that about it.”
Pressed for further explanation, she reiterated, “I won’t have anything more to say about it.”
The New York Times thought the performance was impressive, declaring that Pelosi had stuck to the “script” and had not succumbed to “the impatient media horde.”
This is a signal to the rest of the press that they should drop the matter.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
By Nancy Morgan
I want to be a liberal, because then everyone will like me. My family will start talking to me again, and chances are, my ex-husband will want to renew the marriage vows he broke when I started spouting conservative opinions. I'd like to be a liberal because its ever so much easier to allow others to form my opinions for me instead of researching an issue myself. That always gets me in trouble, especially when the facts I discover diverge from the latest politically correct consensus.I'd like to be a liberal because then I'd be rewarded for all my shortcomings and nothing would ever be my fault. I'd be an important cog in the wheel of social justice, and a cherished warrior in the current fight for equality.If I were a liberal, I would be free to have sex whenever and with whomever I want - and be considered 'empowered' to boot. I could abort any inconvenience with nary a thought because my rights to my body trump the life I would have suctioned out of me.I'd like to be a liberal because any guilt I would normally feel for what used to be considered deviant, irresponsible behavior may be assuaged by merely advocating the expenditure of other people's money on whatever the cause du jour is. Very cool. Especially since my stock portfolio has been pretty much decimated.I want to be a liberal because they care so much. They have a lock on all the fashionable emotions, like tolerance, diversity, equality and patriotism. And as long as my intentions are pure and I 'care', I won't have to accept responsibility for any negative consequences that my actions might cause.I'd like to be a liberal because everyone knows that conservatives are racist, homophobic, stupid and, well, beneath contempt. Conservatives are motivated by gasp, profit, instead of being nice. Enough said.I'd like to be a liberal because I'd be able to redefine reality to my own specifications. I could turn failure into success, murder into choice, lies into 'misstatements', and theft into investment. I would automatically be considered wise, instead of opinionated. Best of all, I could make up the rules as I go along, change them in midstream and then demonize anyone who doesn't agree with me.I want to be a liberal because everyone knows they hold the moral high ground. They don't lie, cheat or steal. Oh, and they don't condone torture. The media says so, so it must be true. Before I am able to join this community of man, however, there are a few ground rules:I have to acknowledge that government is the best and only solution for any problems America has. Despite the fact that pretty much every government solution to date has been a disaster.I must agree that America is bad and white Christian males are responsible for all that is wrong with the world. Further, I must agree that terrorists and third world dictators are either freedom fighters or misunderstood men of good will. Oh, and I must acknowledge that dialogue is better than war. Even though decades of dialogue haven't worked, things are different, now that Obama is president. I must have faith. After all, the times, they are a changin'.I'd, of course, be expected to not only condone, but happily embrace gay marriage and the long list of newly minted sexual behaviors, and swear to never mention the adverse health risks or the proven harm they do to traditional families.I'd also have to quit judging people (except for conservatives). After all, liberals will allow me to do whatever I want, free from moral censure, and its only fair I do the same for them.I'd have to immediately quit smoking, in public at least. I'd be required to agree that global warming is real and man is the cause. Even though the earth has cooled in the last decade, everyone knows its still getting warmer. I'd also have to renounce Christianity in favor of Mother Earth and believe that the Constitution is a 'living instrument'. I'd have to agree that victimhood trumps merit and that liberals know best. Always. And lastly, I'd have to support the notion that racism is still rampant, even if it is the silent 'institutional' type.In return, I'll be accepted, popular, and invited to the best parties. I'll be eligible for the right to housing, health care, a living wage (even if I don't work) and happiness. And as long as I remain a liberal, no-one is allowed to insult me. How cool is that?I'll finally get my columns published in my own hometown paper and will have a good chance of getting face time on MSNBC. Best of all, I'll be able to atone for my sins by merely paying Algore for a few carbon credits. Then, I will live happily ever after. Isn't that worth sacrificing such ethereal and frivolous notions like freedom, individualism and principles?SOURCE
(Hat tip to Dissecting Liberalism)
By: Examiner Editorial-05/24/09 5:53 AM EDT
Under the guise of due process concerns, congressional Democrats have opened the way for organizations with criminal histories to gain greater access to taxpayer funds. Exhibit A here is the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN), now under investigation in at least 14 states for voter registration fraud.Earlier this month, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-MA, sponsored an amendment to the $140 million Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The Frank measure allowed organizations being investigated by state or federal authorities on corruption charges to receive federal funds as long as they avoid conviction. Frank argued that his amendment, which was approved by the House, protected the presumption of innocence in federal spending.But federal ethics rules have long stipulated that either an actual or apparent conflict of interest can put a government employee at risk of prosecution for ethics violations. So, if the Frank amendment becomes law, the federal government will have a double standard, ignoring the presumption of innocence for its employees with apparent conflicts of interest, but extending the presumption to its funding recipients.ACORN claims to be non-partisan, but it and its many affiliates have ardently supported Democratic incumbents and candidates at all levels of government. For example, the Obama campaign in 2008 paid more than $880,000 to Citizen Services Incorporated, an ACORN affiliate that helps organize get-out-the-vote efforts that always seem to focus on heavily Democratic precincts. Seen in this light, the Frank amendment has the look of a pay-back from grateful Democrats, especially since, as The Examiner has previously reported, ACORN is eligible for billions of dollars under the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has crafted legislation to block ACORN from receiving such funding, but Frank and his Democratic colleagues are determined to block her effort. Only four Democrats voted against Frank’s amendment, which overturned an earlier amendment from Bachmann that would have precluded ACORN from receiving funds. This means 245 House members are on record supporting – or are unconcerned – about federal funding going to groups suspected of criminal behavior. “It is not only legitimate for Congress to decide the threshold for accessing taxpayer funds; it is incumbent upon us to do so,” Bachmann said. “And, for far too long, Congress has cavalierly distributed taxpayer money.” This is a shameful abdication of our fiduciary duties.” We couldn’t agree more.
BY M.L. ELRICK and NAOMI R. PATTON • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS • May 24, 2009
Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson paid only $68 in property taxes this year because city records say her well-kept, brick Tudor-style home doesn't exist. Although the home has occupied its west-side plot since 1926, city records have classified the parcel as an empty lot for the past decade.
Large, cold country has bigger carbon footprint for a reason
By IAN ROBINSON
I always knew that if we just waited long enough, the enviro-twits would start self-selecting themselves from the gene pool.
This was inevitable, given the green movement's inability to grasp such complexities as cause and effect.
Remember when they started demanding better gas mileage in cars?
The U.S. government passed such laws and the car companies reacted by reducing the amount of metal in vehicles and making the cars smaller and smaller. Now there are automobiles on the road today that resemble nothing so much as a skateboard with a seatbelt and offer as much protection in a collision as a T-shirt against a .30-06 round.
Happy motoring, greenies! (Can I have your Blu-Ray when you get T-boned by a pickup?)
Their latest idiocy relates to the evils of plastic grocery bags.
If we take home our groceries in plastic bags, or so the argument goes, these plastic bags will then clog landfills.
While the reality is we don't actually have a shortage of landfill space and it costs more in terms of energy and environmental impact to recycle plastic bags into other plastic bags so ... never mind the facts. Reality isn't important.
What's important is that the Kool-Aid drinkers quit using plastic bags a while ago and switched to re-useable grocery bags.
And according to a recent study, when you examine these re-useable bags in the lab, you wind up with something worse than Courtney Love's latest blood test.
They are petri dishes replete with yeast, mould, bacteria and -- get this -- fecal matter.
Note to greenies: We know you hate toilet paper because trees die to make it, but given these findings, you might want to either start using the stuff or really, really, really, really wash your hands well after using the toilet ... or whatever waterless, ecofriendly, backyard composter you use.
Nearly 30% of the bags tested had bacterial contamination higher than that considered safe in drinking water.
By contrast, new plastic bags are clean.
So while the Kool-Aid drinkers throw their veggies into whatever toxic goo is growing in their re-useable bags, I'll stick to a nice, clean, plastic bag.
Bon appetit, folks.
Virtually simultaneously with this great news, the National Geographic has slammed Canada for its environmental choices compared to countries like India.
Apparently, in terms of environmental impact in the areas of housing, transportation, food and consumer goods, India is way ahead of us.
There's a very good reason for this.
We have houses designed to keep out excessive cold, heat and precipitation, which are then heated and/or cooled depending upon the season.
In Bangalore, for instance, on Friday, it was 26C and fell to a low of nearly 21C -- Brrrr!
Thursday night in Calgary?
Guess nobody had to crank the furnace up in Bangalore, eh?
And, as recent news footage has revealed, if you live in India and even appear in a wildly successful movie -- say, Slumdog Millionaire -- you can still wind up living in a structure that can only charitably be described as a shanty.
My kid has built forts in the backyard that appear more robust.
We use more energy and resources than the average Indian consumer because we're richer, live in a cold, nasty place that requires us to heat our homes, and we drive a lot because it's a big country and, well, because we can.
There's a reason we have so many Canadians of Indian descent in this country. It's because this is a better place to live ... no matter what the National Geographic says, and no matter how many plastic bags we use to tote home our groceries.
British banks and stockbrokers may refuse to take on American clients if new international tax proposals outlined by President Obama are passed.
By Louise ArmitsteadLast Updated: 12:02AM BST 24 May 2009
The decision, which would make it hard for Americans in London to open bank accounts and trade shares, is being discussed by executives at Britain's banks and brokers who say it could become too expensive to service American clients. The proposals, which were unveiled as part of the president's first budget, are designed to clamp-down on American tax evaders abroad. However bank bosses say they
are being asked to take on the task of collecting American taxes at a cost and legal liability that are inexpedient.
Andy Thompson of Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers (APCIMS) said: "The cost and administration of the US tax regime is causing UK investment firms to consider disinvesting in US shares on behalf of their clients. This is not right and emphasises that the administration of a tax regime on a global scale without any flexibility damages the very economy it is trying to protect."
One executive at a top UK bank who didn't want to be named for fear of angering the IRS said: "It's just about manageable under the current system - and that's because we're big. The danger to us is suddenly being hauled over the coals by the IRS for a client that hasn't paid proper taxes. The audit costs will soar. We'll have to pay it but I know plenty of smaller players won't."
The British Bankers Association (BBA) and APCIMS had a meeting with European counterparts 10 days ago to discuss the crisis. A delegation is set to meet the US Treasury's Internal Revenue Service on 16th June to demand they drop the reforms.
Ahead of the meeting APCIMS, whose members manage £400bn of Britain's wealth and employ 25,000 people, has sent a letter to the IRS complaining that the "unfair" proposals represent "no benefit but... significant cost" to its members.
President Obama's proposals are built on the so-called Qualified Intermediary system which was intended to ensure Americans paid the correct tax wherever they were domiciled. Foreign financial institutions that handle American money have to fill in a US tax form on behalf of the client that has to be audited too. In return, the banks receive a QI seal of approval as a qualified intermediary.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Renee Gill Pratt, ex-N.O. councilwoman and state representative, indicted
Renee Gill Pratt, a former state representative and New Orleans city councilwoman, was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday on federal racketeering charges that accuse her and members of the Jefferson political family of operating a "criminal enterprise" that raided nonprofit organizations created to help disadvantaged people.
The indictment of Gill Pratt comes nearly one year after a grand jury indicted her longtime boyfriend, Mose Jefferson; his sister, 4th District Assessor Betty Jefferson; and Angela Coleman, Betty Jefferson's daughter; on various charges of skimming money from nonprofit organizations that were supposed to help impoverished communities. A trial in that case was scheduled for early August but will be pushed back.
The indictment of Gill Pratt also includes the two Jeffersons, siblings of U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, and Coleman. The four operated "a criminal enterprise for the financial and political benefit of the defendants" from 1991 through 2006, according to a news release issued by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office.
The indictment issued Friday incorporates Gill Pratt into the alleged conspiracy to launder money from nonprofit groups, while offering up some new details of how the money was spent. Gill Pratt is also accused of improperly taking possession of vehicles donated to the city after Hurricane Katrina, channeling city rent money to one of Mose Jefferson's buildings and using state and city dollars to pay Carnival krewe dues.
Betty Jefferson, as one of the city's elected assessors, is also accused of using her position to obtain taxpayer dollars to pay her personal bills, including her mortgage payment.
Many of the descriptions of the intertwined political and financial relationships among Gill Pratt and members of the Jefferson family were first detailed in articles that ran in The Times-Picayune in 2006.
The grand jury indicted all four defendants under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is considered to be an effective prosecutorial weapon because of its enhanced penalties and forfeiture provisions.
"To put it bluntly, the government has more bricks to hit the defendant with, " said Shaun Clarke, a former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.
A RICO case also allows federal prosecutors to expand beyond the five-year statute of limitations for most federal crimes, bringing up alleged criminal acts that occurred farther in the past, said Harry Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney.
The money trail
Gill Pratt funneled money to nonprofit groups controlled by the Jefferson family both as a state legislator for more than a decade and as a member of the New Orleans City Council. The specific appropriations mentioned in the indictment date to 1999, when Gill Pratt was a member of the state House of Representatives.
As a state legislator, Gill Pratt obtained financing for nonprofit organizations controlled by Betty Jefferson and Coleman from the now-defunct Governor's Office of Urban Affairs, a pot of money used by African-American lawmakers to support charities in their districts. She also tapped a fund run out of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District that allowed New Orleans lawmakers to earmark financing for certain projects, according to the indictment. The nonprofit groups also obtained federal money, according to the indictment.
One of the nonprofit groups that benefited from Gill Pratt's largesse was Care Unlimited, a group that she went to work for after she was defeated in her 2006 re-election bid for the District B seat on the City Council. That group was supposed to offer a variety of programs for people in the Uptown district she served as a state representative, programs such as those helping impoverished teenage boys or giving academic assistance to pregnant teenage girls trying to finish their schooling.
Instead, the indictment accuses Betty Jefferson, Coleman and Brenda Jefferson Foster, another sibling of the Jeffersons, of writing checks directly to various companies controlled by the Jeffersons, unnamed family members and themselves. In several cases, some of the money was used to pay for remodeling projects at property owned by the defendants.
They also are accused of writing checks to "straw payees, " who are described as employees but who did not exist. The money would eventually end up in the bank accounts of Betty Jefferson, Mose Jefferson and Coleman, the indictment stated.
Brenda Jefferson Foster pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony last year and has agreed to testify against her siblings.
Trucks returned to city
ELLIS LUCIA / THE TIMES-PICAYUNEThis 2005 Dodge Durango was donated to the City of New Orleans by DaimlerChrysler. Renee Gill Pratt, as a New Orleans councilwoman, used the Durango as her personal vehicle until a public outcry forced her to return the truck and three other vehicles to the city in July 2006.
The indictment accuses the leaders of Care Unlimited of misusing state money even after Gill Pratt left the Louisiana Legislature to join the City Council.
Additionally, as a city councilwoman, Gill Pratt is accused of improperly appropriating the use of four vehicles donated to the city of New Orleans by DaimlerChrysler. The 2005 Dodge Durango and three 2006 Dodge Ram pickup trucks were used by Gill Pratt, Mose Jefferson and others as their personal vehicles, according to the indictment.
When she was defeated in her May 2006 re-election bid, Gill Pratt transferred title of the vehicles to Care Unlimited and another nonprofit agency controlled by the Jeffersons. She continued to use the Dodge Durango as her personal vehicle until a public outcry about the deal forced her to return the trucks to the city in July 2006.
Gill Pratt is also accused of misusing her position on the City Council to obtain city money to pay for an office in a building owned by Mose Jefferson. The city paid rent for this "satellite office" in Central City to a Jefferson company called Southwind Consultants. On March 31, 2003, the company paid back $5,000 of that money to Gill Pratt, according to the indictment.
In March 2005, Southwind, using rent money paid by the city and money from Care Unlimited, paid $1,250 that Gill Pratt owed the Krewe of Muses for membership dues and other charges, presumably Carnival throws, according to the indictment.
The racketeering conspiracy outlined by the U.S. attorney's office accuses Gill Pratt of participating in another case pending against Mose Jefferson.
In that case, Mose Jefferson is accused of bribing former Orleans Parish School Board President Ellenese Brooks-Simms in exchange for her support for software he was trying to get both the public schools and various private schools to buy. The new racketeering count against Gill Pratt and Mose Jefferson notes that while she was a state representative, she obtained a $300,000 line-item appropriation to enable two private schools to buy the software.
This appropriation meant Jefferson got a $30,000 commission, of which Gill Pratt was given $3,500, according to the indictment.
Along with the racketeering charge, Betty Jefferson, Mose Jefferson and Coleman all face myriad other charges, including mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Mose Jefferson also was charged with making false statements to the FBI when he was questioned by agents in July 2006 about the finances of the nonprofit organization Orleans Metropolitan Housing and Community Development Inc.
Additionally, Betty Jefferson is charged with tax evasion, and both she and Coleman are accused of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The additional charges dramatically increase the potential sentences faced by the Jeffersons and Coleman if they are found guilty. While Gill Pratt faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted, the maximum penalty for Mose Jefferson would be 70 years. Betty Jefferson and her daughter would face even tougher potential sentences, totaling 339 years and 257 years of imprisonment, respectively.
Amid all the shocking details in the disrupted plot to bomb Brooklyn synagogues and fire missiles at American military aircraft, one component of the case should come as no surprise - the alleged culprits met in prison, where three of them converted to Islam.
Radical Islamists have targeted prison populations for recruitment for years. That's where Jose Padilla, suspected of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb and convicted of conspiracy to murder people overseas and of providing material support to terrorists, converted and was radicalized.
That's where a California man, Kevin James, created his own cell, called the Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), and recruited other inmates to plot attacks against military and Jewish targets in and around Los Angeles.
In New York, the man who was the head Muslim chaplain for state prisons considered the 9/11 hijackers to be martyrs. Warith Deen Umar spent 20 years working with New York prisons, overseeing the hiring of Muslim chaplains and leading prayer services.
My organization, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, obtained an audio tape of a speech Umar gave in 2004. In it, he told his audience that victory for Islam would not come without loss:
"Brothers, be prepared to fight, be prepared to die, be prepared to kill. It's a part of the deen, and this ain't your brother just saying this, this is history, this is Quran, nobody can deny it. and we need to let the enemies know."
"Rise up and fight. And fight them until turmoil is no more and strike terror into their hearts. You think there is no terror in Quran? It's called [word unclear] read it in the 56th surah of the Quran. There's no lack of translation, there's no mistranslation There's not one Sheikh says one thing, no, it's very clear. When you fight, you strike terror into the heart of the disbeliever.'" (Both audio clips are available at investigativeproject.org)
According to a 2003 column in the Wall Street Journal, a protégé of Umar's was a man named Salahuddin M. Muhammad, hired by Umar to serve as chaplain at the Fishkill Correctional Facility. Today, Muhammad is an imam at the Masjid Al-Ikhlas in Newburg, NY, where the first conversation about attacking American between defendant James Cromitie and the FBI informant took place (Muhammad is not named in the criminal complaint).
Radicalism in prisons is a problem that has been festering for years. The Department of Justice's Inspector General issued a report in 2004 with a host of recommendations for tamping it down, but there's little sign any action has been taken.
That President Obama now wants to transfer hundreds of hardened jihadists into American prisons is a guarantee that they will serve as emissaries and proselytizers of jihad to the thousands of prisoners they are exposed to. In virtually no time, it is all but certain - based on past patterns of radical Islamic growth in jails that we have investigated - that we will witness the number of radical Islamic inmates multiply by thousands, maybe more.
The Guantanamo prisoners will be looked up as jihadi rock stars and each one could potentially produce a hundred new ticking time bombs ultimately walking the streets of America. Although the President tried to reassure us that no inmate has ever escaped from a super maximum security prison, what about the newly indoctrinated jihadists among the existing inmates who will be certainly released after their terms are up? In light of the massive damage and death that only four converts to Islam in prison could have carried out as witnessed in the interdiction of the recent terror plot, one cannot even begin to imagine the potential for damage and death a thousand times greater were there to be a whole new generation of hardened jihadists walking the streets of the US with an agenda of nothing but murder and destruction. FBI agents with whom I have spoke say that the transfer of prisoners to the US is insane, pure and simple.
Part of the problem is that there is no single agency which can change the nation's prison system, since states are responsible for their own penitentiaries and each has its own religious programming. Imams recruited by the likes of Umar continue to work, library shelves are stocked with the words of radical ideologues like Syyed Qutb and Sayyid Mawlana Abul Ala Maududi. Some prison libraries include the Nobel Quran, an extreme interpretation of Islam's holy book that includes a call for jihad.
These books are not reviewed by prison officials, perhaps due to language differences or because they are perceived simply as religious texts. DOJ, which has oversight over BOP, refuses to acknowledge the problem.
Meanwhile, federal records identified by the Investigative Project on Terrorism and available on the Internet show a number of Muslim Brotherhood-tied organizations receiving government contracts, including contracts with the Bureau of Prisons, to perform work such as chaplain services and Islamic studies.
Some, like the Muslim American Society, have dedicated prison projects in which they specifically collect money to send religious dogma to prisoners and underwrite volunteer chaplains. This effort is aimed not only at existing Muslims convicts but to convert non-Muslim inmates.
In light of the 2004 IG report, these contractual relationships with radical Islamic groups show that there still is very little oversight concerning the messengers importing religion into U.S. prisons.
Wednesday night, we saw what happens when they leave prison and follow an extremist path, buying into propaganda that the America is at war with Islam and they mobilize to act. It is time someone paid attention.
The first thing that needs to be done is to get the Bureau of Prisons to stop being able to stick its head in the sand. The Department of Justice, which oversees the Bureau of Prisons, needs to immediately set national vetting standards for all religious clergy - not just Muslim Imams but Rabbis and Priests - and all religious texts and propaganda being allowed into federal prisons. Congress needs to impose new rules that force BOP to mandate and operate strict investigations of those who preach in the prisons and the material they are allowed to import.
Wahhabist literature, Muslim Brotherhood tracts calling for Jihad, Saudi produced Qurans that exude hatred for Jews and Christians - all of this continues to flow into federal and local prisons unhampered.
To those who say this is a violation of the free practice of religion or free speech, that is pure nonsense: Like government officials who are denied clearances based on background checks, Islamic chaplains who do not pass certain clearance standards can also be denied the right to enter prisons. That does not stop them from practicing their religion; it only stops them from spreading their ideology in government institutions. And, incidentally, the Bureau of Prisons should not be allowed to set the criteria: We found out that in 2004, the way the BOP determined whether an Imam was a radical was to simply ask them if they supported terrorism. If they said no - and of course they all all did - they were granted admission.
Another problem that needs to be fixed is that in jail, Islamist converts generally avoid violence for fear of upsetting the prison authorities. Therefore there is little if any incentive for the warden or prison officials to keep tabs on the activities of the Islamist prisoners - or for that matter Aryan nation prisoners - or what they are being taught or what is in their libraries.
Unless prison authorities start collecting intelligence on those in prison who belong to radical groups and who talk about carrying out violence once they get out, law enforcement is faced with a total blank slate, critically dependent upon confidential informants to help them thwart terrorist attacks. If not for the serendipitous appearance of a confidential informant in the current Bronx case, chances are that today we would be witness terror and death in the Jewish Community Center of Riverdale.
Steven Emerson is head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (investigativeproject.org) a counter-terrorism organization that tracks and investigates that threat of radical Islam on American soil.
May 23, 2009 --
One Saturday afternoon in the fall of 2007, I lay picking pebbles and asphalt from my epidermis on the jogging path in front of the U.S.S. Intrepid. The top layer of skin on my entire right side, from wrist to foot, looked like it'd been removed by a sushi chef. My right foot was useless (and still hurts as I write this). The bicyclist who had just hit me at approximately the speed of a proton accelerator stood over me screaming that I had gotten in his way. The guy was encased in body armor from head to toe. If he'd had a mohawk and an Australian accent he could have been one of the bad guys in "The Road Warrior." I was in his way in the same sense that a nail is in the way of a hammer.
My editor Mackenzie Dawson, who was sent flying into the middle of an Upper West Side street by a biker going the wrong way a couple of weeks ago, will be on crutches for three months. Post photographer Lizzy Sullivan broke a rib and needed months of treatment after she was mowed down by a delivery biker. Our features writer Reed Tucker was crossing Broadway and Bleecker with the light when he was knocked down and scraped up by a bike messenger trying to slalom through a thick crowd of pedestrians. How many people in your office have similar stories?
Imagine if cab drivers behaved like bicyclists - with total disregard for red lights, the direction of traffic, and the presence of 8.3 million other people. The matter would be looked into. The occasional arrest might even be made. Yet the bike Blitzkrieg rolls unchecked. A Hunter College study this week found 37% of bikers didn't stop at a red light and 13% were going the wrong way - and that's just during the few seconds it took for the bikers to pass stationary observers. What would the numbers be like if someone actually followed bikers around?
Bikers fall into three categories:
* Messengers of Mayhem. These are young, aggressively fit men, often clad in futuristic outfits complete with face-obscuring visors that make them look like Boba Fett. They're professional bike messengers who primarily operate in Midtown during business hours. They won't stop or even slow down for red lights or for pedestrian-heavy intersections, so to warn you they're coming they've developed terrifying bird call-like whistles that make them the pterodactyls in the prehistoric fight for survival that is life in Manhattan. When you hear the whistle, though, you don't know if you're supposed to stop or keep going on a predictable trajectory. Cops watch them barrel through red lights while discussing the relative merits of French roast vs. house blend.
* Szechuan Psychos. Working for tips and of questionable immigration status, they serve in the mechanized infantry of General Tso's army. Rusted rides and dumpling physiques generally prevent these wonton warriors from building up much speed - but they prowl residential neighborhoods at night. You'll never see the one that gets you. Nor will you be able to sue him for all he's worth, unless you don't mind being paid in moo shu pork.
* Lance-a-Louts. You can tell by their high-performance bikes, their high-performance yellow-spandex racing jerseys, the high-performance dorkiness of their wee caps with precious little upturned visors: These weekenders think they're l'il Lance Armstrongs as they pedal furiously down your street on the way to the park.
And what is making the fast so furious? Here's a guess. The urologist Dr. Irwin Goldstein once said, "There are only two kinds of male cyclists - those who are impotent and those who will be impotent." Even bike seats designed to be friendly to man-parts were linked to impotence in a 2005 Journal of Sexual Science study. Guys, we know why you love your bikes. All those gleaming titanium shafts.
Question for the Bloomberg administration, which, in the interest of "going green," is encouraging the use of bikes: Are your cops, who squeezed out the squeegee men and once gave a guy in the Bronx a ticket for sitting on a milk crate, so mindful of the "broken windows theory" of cracking down on small offenses that they've forgotten about scofflaws who are actually dangerous? How about some renewed emphasis on the broken bones theory?