Saturday, October 31, 2009
California to withhold a bigger chunk of paychecks
The amount goes up 10% on Sunday as Sacramento borrows from taxpayers. Technically, it's not an income tax increase: You'll get the money back eventually.
By Shane Goldmacher and W.J. Hennigan
October 31, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and Sacramento
Starting Sunday, cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners -- holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.Technically, it's not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers' annual tax bills won't change.Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You'll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less. But with rising gas costs, depressed home prices and double-digit unemployment, the state's added reach into residents' regular paycheck isn't sitting well with many. "The state's suddenly slapping people upside the head," said Mack Reed, 50, of Silver Lake. "It's appalling how brash that is."Brittney McKaig, 23, of Santa Ana said she expects the additional withholding to affect her holiday spending."Coming into the holidays, we're getting squeezed anyway," she said. "We're not getting Christmas bonuses and other perks we used to get. So it all falls back on spending. The $40 gift will become a $20 gift."The extra withholding may seem like a small amount siphoned from each paycheck, but it adds up to a $1.7-billion fix for California's deficit-riddled books.From a single taxpayer earning $51,000 a year with no dependents, the state will be grabbing an extra $17.59 each month, according to state tax officials. A married person earning $90,000 with two dependents would receive $24.87 less in monthly pay.California will probably continue to collect the tax at a higher rate for many years -- or find an additional $1.7 billion to slice from a future budget, an unlikely occurrence. All workers who have state taxes withheld will see their paychecks shrink."Many families are sitting at their kitchen table wondering how they're going to make ends meet," said state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks). "At the same time, the state of California is taking a no-interest loan."The provision is one of numerous maneuvers state lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved in the summer to paper over the state's deficit. Many of the changes, including the extra withholding, were little noticed outside of Sacramento.Savvy taxpayers can get around the state's maneuver by increasing the number of personal withholding allowances they claim on their employer tax forms, said Brenda Voet, a spokeswoman for the state's Franchise Tax Board."People can get out of this," she said, noting that most people would have to change their allowances through their employers. California's budget leaders are banking on the hope that most won't.The increase is coming at a bad time for store owners, many of whom depend on the holiday shopping season to keep their businesses alive."I don't think there's any question it's going to impact consumers' spending," said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Assn. "Any time you reduce people's disposable income, there's going to be a negative effect on the retail sector."But Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, wasn't so sure."It's having a relatively small impact on people's income," Levy said, pointing out that many families will receive only $12 to $40 less each month. Yet Erika Wendt, 28, of San Diego said she already lived on a tight budget: She rides her bike to work, for instance, to save on gasoline and parking costs."I am frustrated as this directly impacts my weekly budget -- what groceries I buy, how much I drive and can spend on gas," she said. "Now money will just be tighter, and I'm not sure where else I can cut back."The extra withholding comes in addition to tax hikes the state enacted this year. In February, state income tax rates were bumped up 0.25 of a percentage point for every tax bracket. The dependent credit was slashed by two-thirds. The state sales tax rate rose 1 percentage point. The vehicle license fee nearly doubled to 1.15% of a car's value. Lawmakers and the governor also approved deep cuts to schools, social services and prisons to fend off one of the steepest revenue losses in California history.Temporary budget bandages, such as the increase in withholding, were included at several points this year to avoid higher taxes and deeper cuts, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance. Sacramento, meanwhile, is awash in red ink again. The state controller recently said revenue in the budget year already had fallen more than $1 billion short of assumptions. Outsize deficits are projected for years to come.Such temporary measures as the withholding tax increase don't really fix the budget gap, "they just more or less hid it," said Christopher Thornberg, a principal with Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. "I call it a fraud."
Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has opened an investigation into the controversy surrounding videos that purportedly show members of community organizing group ACORN giving advice on how to open a brothel.
In a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dated Sept. 25, Chief Deputy Attorney General James M. Humes said the office has "opened an investigation of both ACORN and the circumstances under which ACORN employees were videotaped." The governor had asked Brown two weeks ago to look into the incidents.
The probe was sparked by a series of hidden-camera videos in which a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute are advised on how to set up a prostitution business by people identified as workers for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The videos were taken in Washington D.C., San Diego, San Bernardino and cities in several other states.
Members of the organization are also under investigation in other states for alleged irregularities in registering voters.
Schwarzenegger issued a statement praising Brown's decision to investigate. "I am outraged and deeply concerned by these allegations," the statement said. "If these reports are true, they warrant prosecution under the fullest extent of the law."
Friday, October 30, 2009
Friday , October 30, 2009
SHERWANGAI, Pakistan — Pakistani soldiers battling their way into a Taliban stronghold along the Afghan border have seized passports that may be linked to 9/11 suspects, as they confront an enemy skilled in operating in a mountainous terrain with endless ways to wage a guerrilla war.
The military on Thursday took foreign and local journalists for a first look inside the largely lawless territory since it launched a ground offensive here in mid-October. The U.S.-backed operation is focused on a section of the tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban are based and are believed to shelter Al Qaeda.
Soldiers displayed passports seized in the operation, among them a German document belonging to a man named Said Bahaji. That matches the name of a man thought to have been a member of the Hamburg cell that conceived the 9/11 attacks. Bahaji is believed to have fled Germany shortly before the attacks in New York and Washington.
The passport included a tourist visa for Pakistan and a stamp indicating he'd arrived in the southern city of Karachi on Sept. 4, 2001.
Another passport, from Spain, bears the name of Raquel Burgos Garcia. Spanish media have reported that a woman with the same name is married to Amer Azizi, an alleged Al Qaeda member from Morocco suspected in both the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Her family in Madrid has had no news of her since 2001, according to Spanish media. Her passport included visas to India and Iran, and the army displayed a Moroccan document with Burgos Garcia's photo and other information.
It was impossible to determine whether the passports are genuine, and German and Spanish officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman, said he had not realized the passports matched any prominent names, and declined further comment other than to say European militants were sprinkled throughout the area.
The U.S. has maintained for years that South Waziristan and other parts of the rugged frontier have sheltered Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenants.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visiting this country on Thursday, said Pakistan squandered opportunities over the years to kill or capture Al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," Clinton said in an interview with Pakistani journalists in Lahore. "Maybe that's the case. Maybe they're not gettable. I don't know."
Although the military spent months using airstrikes to soften up targets in South Waziristan, nearly two weeks into the ground offensive it has captured only a few areas, none with significant strategic value. The army has seized weapons but is still trying to secure the main roads and regularly comes under rocket fire.
"It's a long-drawn haul," Abbas said. "They are offering resistance, and we are also striking them hard."
Pakistan's tribal belt, a semiautonomous stretch of land where the government has long had little influence, is usually off-limits to foreigners. In recent years, as the militants' influence has spread, even many Pakistanis dare not venture here.
The tribal regions are some of the poorest, most underdeveloped areas in the world and have long been guided by traditional codes and councils. The Taliban have slaughtered hundreds of tribal elders in their rise to power.
In Sherwangai, a sparsely populated district along one of the offensive's three major fronts, army commanders said they had killed 82 insurgents and lost six soldiers in their attempt to secure the area, where the hills are covered in brush, rocks and dust and strong winds whip high ridges. Many battle-hardened Uzbek militants are believed to have taken shelter here.
The military is slowly capturing isolated hamlets as it encircles the small town of Kaniguram, its next target in the push forward. But even where the army has taken control, much of the area remains dangerous, filled with land mines and roadside bombs.
After an initial surge of resistance, many militants have been fleeing. Because the army has sealed off the main passes, "they will not be able to go out in a major way," said Maj. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, a top battlefield commander.
Yet, he added, "If somebody chooses even to cross Mount Everest, he will be able to do it. So there are going to be a few, changing their disguise — taking care of their beards and long hair — they will be able to get out."
In addition to the passports, the military displayed papers and dozens of weapons and large amounts of ammunition it said it had recovered from Sherwangai.
Civilians were nowhere to be seen during Thursday's trip — some 155,000 have left the region in the past few months. South Waziristan normally has about 500,000 people.
At one military outpost, in a large mud compound in Sherwangai, smoke could be seen rising in the distance from villages under army fire. Officials assured reporters the civilians had left those areas.
The military previously estimated that the South Waziristan offensive would take at least two to three months, and officials were hesitant Thursday to give a deadline. They also declined to give a time frame for how long troops would have to stay to prevent militants from returning.
It also is unclear whether Islamabad has any plans for how to govern the territory effectively and prevent the insurgency from again taking root.
The army has deployed three divisions — about 30,000 troops — to take on some 5,000 to 8,000 militants, Abbas said, lowering a previous estimate of 10,000 militants. His estimate included up to 1,500 foreign fighters, most of them Uzbeks. Afghan fighters are also reportedly filtering in from across the border.
This is the fourth major offensive the Pakistani army has launched in South Waziristan since 2004, and this time the military has promised a fight to the finish. The previous operations ended in setbacks or peace deals that left the militant groups even stronger.
The Center for American Progress is a powerful Washington, D.C.-based think-tank that has as its main benefactors George Soros and his allies and political soul-mates, Herbert and Marion Sandler, who are also major benefactors. The Center (CAP) has become a one-stop shop for staffing the Obama administration with key officials (Van Jones hailed from the CAP and returned to his sinecure there when his radical ideas became known to the rest of us).
Bloomberg news titled an article about the Center this way "Soros-Funded Democratic Idea Factory Becomes Obama Policy Font." The CAP promises to become a hydra-headed beast as it expands its mission to promote the Obama agenda by, among other methods, hiring people to attack unfavorable to Obama media outlets.
One of their Senior Fellows is Eric Alterman. Who is he? Well, he is a left-winger who writes for The Nation; but he also is someone who felt no compunction in "outing" journalists as being Jews. Of course, he only did that in the context of their support for Israel. This is doubly shameful because he blends quite easily into charges that these journalists have dual loyalty and a tinged with treason.
Alterman had scathing criticism for a wide range of groups that support a string America-Israel alliance. But then he went onto to blame "Jewish voices in the punditocracy" and listed a long line of Jews who happen to be pundits or journalists.
This is what the Center for American Progress considers work worthy of a Senior Fellow.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the States, shall establish a process for the annual review of increases in premiums for health insurance coverage. Such process shall require health insurance issuers to submit a justification for any premium increases prior to implementation of the increase.This is the entire section, it's kind of broad and vague isn't it? It doesn't mention anything about an appeals process for insurers or anything like that or what would be automatically be considered a justification for a premium increase. So one could envision a group of bureaucrats who accept almost no justification from payors. "MLR's at 95% or over 100%? We don't care. If you go bankrupt we just get that much closer to single payor". The insurer could sue but that would take years and it won't help them when they are bankrupt.
Each health insurance issuer that offers health insurance coverage in the small or large group market shall provide that for any plan year in which the coverage has a medical loss ratio below a level specified by the Secretary (but not less than 85%), the issuer shall provide in a manner specified by the secretary for rebates to enrollees of the amount by which the issuer’s medical loss ratio is less than the level specified.
Right now insurers are incentivized to control healthcare costs in the system via the profit motive. The lower their medical loss ratio (the percentage of premiums actually spent on paying claims) the higher their profits. What this means is that no insurer will have ANY incentive to get their MLR's below 85%. Zero, zilch, none. Why would they think this is a good idea?
By Richard Galpin BBC News, Moscow
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has made an outspoken attack on those seeking to rehabilitate former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
Millions of Soviet citizens died under Stalin's rule and Mr Medvedev said it was not possible to justify those who exterminated their own people.
He also warned against efforts to falsify history and defend repression.
Some Russian politicians have recently tried to portray Stalin in a more positive light.
Under President Medvedev's predecessor, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Stalin was often promoted as an efficient leader who turned the Soviet Union into a superpower.
Mr Medvedev made the unusually critical comments in a videoblog posted on the Kremlin's website.
It appeared on the day the country is supposed to honour millions of people killed under Stalin's brutal regime which lasted from the late 1920s until his death in 1953.
Mr Medvedev said it was impossible to imagine the scale of repression under Stalin when whole groups of people were eliminated and even stripped of their right to be buried.
The president said there were now attempts to justify the repression of the past, and he warned against the falsification of history.
All this flies in the face of the current trend to promote Stalin as an effective manager and a leader who transformed the Soviet Union.
Under Mr Putin, the order was given for school history books to be re-written, highlighting Stalin's achievements.
In Moscow there is now even a Stalin-themed cafe and a metro station with one of Stalin's famous slogans on its walls. In northern Russia a historian investigating crimes committed by the former Soviet dictator was recently arrested.
It would appear there is a split within the Russian leadership on this highly sensitive issue.
H.R. 3962a1) We are free to seize any money earned by citizens of the U.S. for any reason we see fit. Once this method of raising revenue has been exhausted we are free to borrow money from clueless foreigners until they refuse to send any more at which point we may print money in the amount required.2) We can force employers to adopt any insurance standards we demand, covering any condition or elective procedure demanded by any important consituency and if they refuse we may fine them until they comply or go out of business at which point we may choose to
add them to the growing list of government run business on our way to a full fascist statebail them out if we deem the votes of their employees or creditors important enough to our future elections.3) If any citizen becomes ill we may pay for any needed treatments if we deem the condition worth treating based on the cow's remaining years of service for milkingcitizen's age and estimated present value of future tax payments from the citizen or the citizen's propensity to vote.a) the second condition may be changed based on our ability to imbed ACORN more deeply into the voting process.b) No guarantee of swift or state-of-the-art treatment is implied by this bill.Citizens who still have any money left after the clauses in paragraph (1) areimplemented may spend their own money to get actual quality care. We reserve the right to impose Canadian-style restrictions on this option as well.
Along with Plattsburgh Mayor Donny Kasprzak, the list of “Republicans for Hoffman” in the 23rd District includes more than a score of Republican county committee members. Franklin County GOP Vice Chairman Bob Dugan also came out for small businessman Hoffman and was eagerly recruiting other Republican Party officials to go “on the record” for the Conservative hopeful.
Just what is driving this strong exodus across party lines? Dugan and other party officials have made no secret for their distaste for the process in which Scozzafava was selected as the Republican standard-bearer after McHugh resigned from Congress: the ten county GOP chairmen in the district gave her the nomination.
Whether there was really grass-roots support for the pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-Employee Free Choice Act Scozzafava is debatable. In Dugan’s own Franklin County, sources told me that there was considerable backing among county committee members for another, more conservative candidate named Paul Maroun.. But the county chairman voted for Scozzafava.
Coupled with Scozzafava’s liberal record on most issues (she is rated a low 20% by the New York Conservative Party), it is easy to understand why genuine conservative activists will “switch and fight” when they have a choice.
In the campaign’s twilight, Scozzafava’s attacks on Hoffman as “out of touch” and a “spoiler” seem to be fizzling. The charge that his refusal to take earmarks would undermine the military base at Fort Drum in the district was dealt a sharp blow by Hoffman’s endorsement from four Members of the House Armed Services Committee -- Fallin and Reps. Trent Franks (Ariz), Todd Aiken (Mo.), and John Fleming (La.).
-- Ethics committee staff members have interviewed House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) about one element of the complex investigation of his personal finances, as well as the lawmaker's top aide and his son. Rangel said he spoke with ethics committee staff members regarding a conference that he and four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus attended last November in St. Martin. The trip initially was said to be sponsored by a nonprofit foundation run by a newspaper. But the three-day event, at a luxury resort, was underwritten by major corporations such as Citigroup, Pfizer and AT&T. Rules passed in 2007, shortly after Democrats reclaimed the majority following a wave of corruption cases against Republicans, bar private companies from paying for congressional travel.
Rangel said he has not discussed other parts of the investigation of his finances with the committee. "I'm waiting for that, anxiously," he said.
-- The Justice Department has told the ethics panel to suspend a probe of Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), whose personal finances federal investigators began reviewing in early 2006 after complaints from a conservative group that he was not fully revealing his real estate holdings. There has been no public action on that inquiry for several years. But the department's request in early July to the committee suggests that the case continues to draw the attention of federal investigators, who often ask that the House and Senate ethics panels refrain from taking action against members whom the department is already investigating.
Mollohan said that he was not aware of any ongoing interest by the Justice Department in his case and that he and his attorneys have not heard from federal investigators. "The answer is no," he said.
-- The committee on June 9 authorized issuance of subpoenas to the Justice Department, the National Security Agency and the FBI for "certain intercepted communications" regarding Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). As was reported earlier this year, Harman was heard in a 2005 conversation agreeing to an Israeli operative's request to try to obtain leniency for two pro-Israel lobbyists in exchange for the agent's help in lobbying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to name her chairman of the intelligence committee. The department, a former U.S. official said, declined to respond to the subpoena.
Harman said that the ethics committee has not contacted her and that she has no knowledge that the subpoena was ever issued. "I don't believe that's true," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, this smear has been over for three years."
In June 2009, a Justice Department official wrote in a letter to an attorney for Harman that she was "neither a subject nor a target" of a criminal investigation.
Because of the secretive nature of the ethics committee, it was difficult to assess the current status of the investigations cited in the July document. The panel said Thursday, however, that it is ending a probe of Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) after finding no ethical violations, and that it is investigating the financial connections of two California Democrats.
The committee did not detail the two newly disclosed investigations. However, according to the July document, Rep. Maxine Waters, a high-ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, came under scrutiny because of activities involving OneUnited Bank of Massachusetts, in which her husband owns at least $250,000 in stock.
Waters arranged a September 2008 meeting at the Treasury Department where OneUnited executives asked for government money. In December, Treasury selected OneUnited as an early participant in the bank bailout program, injecting $12.1 million.
The other, Rep. Laura Richardson, may have failed to mention property, income and liabilities on financial disclosure forms.
Female short-nosed fruit bats have been observed performing fellatio on their partners during copulation. Mating pairs spent more time copulating if the female did so.Full story and video! here.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
While police initially said they were investigating the shooting as a hate crime, officials later said it's too early to tell whether the attack was motivated by religious hate.None of us should speculate? Why can't we speculate that it's a hate crime. I know as a Russian Jew I have a genetic disposition towards paranoia (I wonder why we acquired that trait?) but this smells fishy. Could it have been a member of a group that is known to hate Jews but is currently protected by the politically correct schmucks in power who keep claiming their's is a Religion of Peace? I could be wrong and it could be a neo-Nazi but based on the original description of the assailant, I doubt that.
The initial description of the suspect was of a black man wearing a black hoodie. But law enforcement sources told The Times that the investigation is wide open and that police are investigating all possibilities, including whether the gunman specifically targeted either of the victims.
One source said detectives were not certain of the suspect's race.
Speaking to reporters outside the taped-off synagogue, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the incident "a senseless act of violence." But the mayor was careful to temper worries that the shooting was a hate crime.
"None of us should presume or speculate more about this other than it was a random act of violence," he said.
Democracy: Daniel Ortega muscled Nicaragua's courts to permit his permanent re-election, effectively making him dictator. He's not alone. After the U.S.' shabby treatment of tiny Honduras, a new wave of tyrants is rising.
'Nothing can stop me from re-election," crowed Ortega, a man Ronald Reagan once called "the little dictator." Last Monday Nicaragua's Supreme Court issued a ruling permitting the Marxist Ortega to run for a second term after he and a group of allied mayors petitioned them, overruling a one-term limit in the constitution. Same old Ortega: His dictatorial hunger hasn't changed.
But one thing is different: U.S. actions since the Honduran crisis that have only emboldened him. Last June 28, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled that then-President Manuel Zelaya's bid to hold a reelection referendum was unconstitutional and subject to the sanctions of Honduras' 1982 constitution: removal from office.
Out he went, but the U.S. cried foul, shortly after Zelaya's patron in Caracas, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, yelled "military coup." Unlike Chavez, whose means of striking at Honduras were threats and mayhem — such as sneaking Zelaya back to Tegucigalpa to whip up mobs — the Obama administration was in a position to inflict long-term punishment on the Hondurans.
Over the past four months it has: pulled visas to impede business travel, humiliated leaders, kicked out Honduran diplomats from the U.S., cut off $30 million in economic and military aid, and threatened to not recognize Honduras' Nov. 29 election.
These acts have harmed the economic climate and cost Honduras $200 million in lost business. Most significantly, they've put Honduras on the spot, creating the perception of "crisis" even as Ortega next door creates a real dictatorship. Sure, the State Department says it's "concerned" about the latter. But we don't see any OAS missions or "peace talk" initiatives coming of it.
It's based on an utter misreading of what's threatening Latin America. No, it's not military coups — which went out of style in the 1970s. It's dictators in democracy's clothing. Would-be tyrants use democratic institutions to gut separations of powers and end checks and balances, leaving just an institutional shell of a country with a democratic label. Venezuela's Chavez is its epitome.
Ortega was next, shifting his tactics from the days when he shot his way to power for his last dictatorship, but his goal is the same.
Some may ask what's wrong with this. In Ortega's case it's that the mayors who stood at his side at the court were mayors at all only because of elections that even the State Department called fraudulent. That gives a whiff of the integrity of the widely detested Ortega's coming re-elections now that he can hold them repeatedly.
With word out about U.S. indifference, Ortega's act accelerates a bad trend. Chavista regimes like Bolivia and Ecuador already have conducted similar moves, and now the president of Guatemala has pushed courts into permitting his re-election, too. Even higher-grade democracies like Costa Rica and Colombia are using congressional end-runs around courts for the same result. Such talk is hitting even Brazil.
It all suggests there won't be many new leaders in Latin America for a long time.
Once upon a time, Reagan led a war to rescue Central America from communist dictators and a Cuban-style takeover. Nicaragua was at its epicenter then, and now Ortega seems to have won. So long as the U.S. sees evil only in those who resist becoming democratic zombie states, there's worse on the horizon.
And tiny Honduras, which stood alone to prevent dictatorship, remains ostracized, bullied and reviled by the Obama administration, the Organization of American States, the United Nations and other places that purport to certify democracy.
The outrageous stance is fostering dictatorships. That's some legacy the Obama administration wants to create for our neighbors to our south and the cause of democracy.
The first question is about to be answered. The main object of the "new era of engagement," Iran, has settled back into its old game-playing. The joint proposal agreed to by the United States, France and Russia, to have Iran ship 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Russia this year, was a compromise, as administration officials acknowledge. It might theoretically have delayed Iran's bomb program by a year or so -- assuming we know everything about that program -- and thus bought some time to get a better and more definitive agreement with Tehran. But it would not have stopped Iran from continuing to enrich uranium, which has been the goal of the United States and Europe for the better part of a decade. The deal, blessed and promoted by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, not exactly a hawk, was really more a test of Iran's intentions than a decisive breakthrough.
So now the test results are in: Iran's intentions, it seems, are not good. Tehran apparently will not accept the deal but will propose an alternate plan, agreeing to ship smaller amounts of low-enriched uranium to Russia gradually over a year. Even if Iran carried out this plan as promised -- every month would be an adventure to see how much, if anything, Iran shipped -- the slow movement of small amounts of low-enriched uranium does not accomplish the original purpose, since Iran can quickly replace these amounts with new low-enriched uranium produced by its centrifuges. Iran's nuclear clock, which the Obama administration hoped to stop or at least slow, would continue ticking at close to its regular speed.
Tehran is obviously probing to see whether President Obama can play hardball or whether he can be played. If Obama has any hope of getting anywhere with the mullahs, he needs to show them he means business, now, and immediately begin imposing new sanctions.
“It’s pretty clear that, at least in New York-23, those who support the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party are winning, because the Republican candidate has fallen dramatically,” Van Hollen said at a Thursday morning breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
Van Hollen’s committee is trying to marginalize Hoffman as the race has shifted to a two-man battle between him and Democrat Bill Owens.
Van Hollen referred to Hoffman as a “sore loser,” a term often used for a candidate running as an Independent or third-party candidate after unsuccessfully pursuing a major-party nomination.
He said the while Democrats have been working to unite a diverse caucus on issues like healthcare reform, the ideological battles in the GOP are playing out on a much grander stage.
He noted potential GOP presidential candidate and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is supporting Hoffman, as is former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).
“Clearly, those individuals, by rejecting the Republican nominee … they’ve sent a signal that they’re more interested in purist ideology than they are in problem-solving,” Van Hollen said. “You don’t find that in the Democratic Caucus.”
Hoffman is a "sore loser"? I believe he is leading in the last couple of polls. How is that a sore loser? Plus, what exactly is he a sore loser over? There was no primary, just a bunch of political hacks taking over drinks about who they thought was most electable and they picked a corrupt RINO. He never even had his chance to lose in a fair election. And saying that Hoffman supporters are more interested in purist ideology than problem-solving? I guess problem solving is his way of saying he wants a Republican who is so close to Democrats that when they negotiate, the Democrats automatically win. It just proves that this guy really doesn't believe in anything himself except his own power with comments like that.
Government overstated figures by thousands, review of documents shows
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Thomas SowellTuesday, October 27, 2009
Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?
Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?
Did you imagine that anyone would even be talking about having a panel of so-called "experts" deciding who could and could not get life-saving medical treatments?
Scary as that is from a medical standpoint, it is also chilling from the standpoint of freedom. If you have a mother who needs a heart operation or a child with some dire medical condition, how free would you feel to speak out against an administration that has the power to make life and death decisions about your loved ones?
Does any of this sound like America?
How about a federal agency giving school children material to enlist them on the side of the president? Merely being assigned to sing his praises in class is apparently not enough.
How much of America would be left if the federal government continued on this path? President Obama has already floated the idea of a national police force, something we have done without for more than two centuries.
We already have local police forces all across the country and military forces for national defense, as well as the FBI for federal crimes and the National Guard for local emergencies. What would be the role of a national police force created by Barack Obama, with all its leaders appointed by him? It would seem more like the brown shirts of dictators than like anything American.
How far the President will go depends of course on how much resistance he meets. But the direction in which he is trying to go tells us more than all his rhetoric or media spin.
Barack Obama has not only said that he is out to "change the United States of America," the people he has been associated with for years have expressed in words and deeds their hostility to the values, the principles and the people of this country.
Jeremiah Wright said it with words: "God damn America!" Bill Ayers said it with bombs that he planted. Community activist goons have said it with their contempt for the rights of other people.
Among the people appointed as czars by President Obama have been people who have praised enemy dictators like Mao, who have seen the public schools as places to promote sexual practices contrary to the values of most Americans, to a captive audience of children.
Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn't know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House?
Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government-- people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America's influence in the world.
Any miscalculation on his part would be in not thinking that others would discover what these stealth appointees were like. Had it not been for the Fox News Channel, these stealth appointees might have remained unexposed for what they are. Fox News is now high on the administration's enemies list.
Nothing so epitomizes President Obama's own contempt for American values and traditions like trying to ram two bills through Congress in his first year-- each bill more than a thousand pages long-- too fast for either of them to be read, much less discussed. That he succeeded only the first time says that some people are starting to wake up. Whether enough people will wake up in time to keep America from being dismantled, piece by piece, is another question-- and the biggest question for this generation.
By LEONARD GREENE
A female former staff writer for David Letterman said the comedian's late-night operation was a hostile, sexually charged, male-dominated bastion where women didn't climb the ladder unless they climbed into bed.
Nearly 20 years before Letterman admitted he slept with female staffers, he ran an enterprise rife with rumors about his affairs with subordinates, and looked the other way when other high-level men were sleeping with the staff, Nell Scovell writes in Vanity Fair.
Scovell said that in 1990 she landed what she thought was her dream job, a writing gig on Letterman's show, then on NBC.
But after only a few months, she quit.
"I'd seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace," she recalled.
"And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part."
A spokesman for Letterman, who this month reported an extortion attempt over recent affairs with staffers, had no immediate comment on the article.
By Nicholas J.C. Pistor
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Oct. 28 2009
EAST ST. LOUIS — City officials seeking a new police chief passed up the former director of the Florida Highway Patrol, who formerly was a top commander of the Illinois State Police, because he is white, two former members of a city board claim.Wyatt Frazer and Della Murphy allege in a federal lawsuit that they were forced off the Police, Fire and Civil Service Board for their advocacy of a white candidate when the chief's job was open in 2007.Their lawyer said Tuesday the spurned candidate was Ronald Grimming, a Metro East resident who rose to be deputy superintendent of the State Police before taking the top spot in Florida in 1993. Grimming could not be reached for comment.The suit against Mayor Alvin Parks, City Manager Robert Betts and the city itself does not identify Grimming by name or qualifications.But the plaintiffs' lawyer, Thomas E. Kennedy III, said it was Grimming, and that Parks told his clients "the city wasn't ready to hire a white police chief."East St. Louis has a 97.7 percent black population, according to U.S. census records. Neither Parks nor Betts responded to messages left on Tuesday seeking a comment. The candidate chosen at the time was Michael Baxton Sr., an African-American who had been a police detective in adjoining Centreville and police chief in Brooklyn, a village of fewer than 700 residents.The suit, filed Oct. 1 in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, claims, "Shortly after Parks became Mayor in May 2007, Frazer became aware of Parks' bias against hiring white persons." It continues, "When the city was searching for a new Chief of Police, on or about August 2007, Frazer and Murphy felt that the most qualified candidate was a white male with extensive law enforcement experience and no criminal history. However, Parks told Frazer at that time that he would not recommend the Board's candidate for the position because he was white. At Parks' recommendation, the City then hired Michael Baxton, Sr., an African-American male, as Chief of Police, even though he was less qualified than the Board's candidate ... ."The suit seeks relief for alleged retaliation against the plaintiffs' free speech rights but does not ask for specific monetary damages. Grimming is not a party to the suit.The lawsuit also alleges that Parks and Betts repeatedly questioned Frazer and Murphy after they hired two white applicants for probationary police officer positions. Frazer and Murphy were fired in October 2007, the lawsuit states."[The] defendants thereafter fired all of the candidates hired by [Frazer and Murphy] and hired several new officers and employees based on their racial and political beliefs," the suit alleges.Baxton resigned as chief earlier this year after facing scrutiny over his handling of the department's unsolved murder cases and hiring practices. In 2008, the Post-Dispatch reported that of 10 police officers hired in June 2008, two had criminal histories — and that one of the two took the oath of office while sought on an outstanding arrest warrant for domestic battery.Baxton was replaced as chief with Lenzie Stewart, a veteran member of the department who also is black.
Tue Oct 27, 11:07 pm ET
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN's top investigator of such crimes said.
"The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan," UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.
"My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law," he said.
US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.
"The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren't in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons," he added.
Alston said he presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.
He urged the United States to be more forthright about how and when it uses drone aircraft, something about which the US Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) usually keep silent.
"We need the United States to be more up front and say, 'OK, we're willing to discuss some aspects of this program,' otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws," Alston said.
Since August 2008, around 70 strikes by unmanned aircraft have killed close to 600 people in northwestern Pakistan.
"I would like to know the legal basis upon which the United States is operating, in other words... who is running the program, what accountability mechanisms are in place in relation to that," Alston said.
"Secondly, what precautions the United States is taking to ensure that these weapons are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law.
"Third, what sort of review mechanism is there to evaluate when these weapons have been used? Those are the issues I'd like to see addressed," the UN official said.
Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler believes that the current laws of war are sufficient, but what really needs to be changed is their selective application to Israel alone. Instead of trying to change the laws of war, Israel and its friends should work to change the principles and procedures of the UN itself, which displays a constant country-specific indictment of Israel.
"You can't have a situation where you have special sessions targeting Israel and the rest of the world has immunity. You can't have a situation where Israel alone is excluded from the regional deliberative groups and therefore cannot participate in the drafting of resolutions....The source of the problem [is] the singling out of one member state for differential and discriminatory treatment," Cotler told the Post last week.
"During the Gaza operation and before it, Hamas committed several war crimes and crimes against humanity. You don't need to create a whole new law of war to be able to hold Hamas responsible. Goldstone did not address most of the existing laws of war with respect to Hamas, like the Genocide Convention, probably the most important of the treaties, which expressly prohibits, under article 3, incitement to genocide. Hamas' charter serves as an example of incitement to genocide and a standing violation of the Genocide Convention. Did Goldstone deal with that? No. Did he mention the charter? No. Does he talk about the violation? No."
Cotler believes that even if Israel managed to amend the laws of war, very little would change if selective prosecution and selective singling out of Israel continued. "The military people talk a lot about asymmetric warfare, but it's all there in terms of the laws of war. The laws of war are very expansive and comprehensive. The basic thing is [that] what you need is equality before the law. Israel, like any other state, is responsible for any violation of humanitarian law, but that's the point: like any other state. It's not the issue that Israel shouldn't be held responsible; it's that other states aren't being held accountable. It's not that standards shouldn't be applied to Israel. They should be applied to Israel, but they're not being applied to anybody else. It's not that there aren't any rules for international monitoring - there are, but they're only applied to Israel."
"In international law, Israel has emerged as a Jew among the nations. It's treated in the international arena [the same way] anti-Jewishness would stereotype the Jews as a minority in any diaspora country."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
According to a story — unconfirmed by me — a reporter was interviewing Albert Einstein shortly after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. In the course of the conversation, the reporter asked Einstein what the speed of sound was at sea level. The physicist said he was sorry, but he couldn’t remember exactly. The reporter expressed surprise that the world’s greatest scientist didn’t know something like that. Einstein looked at him balefully over the top of his reading glasses and said, “I know where I can look it up.”
It’s amazing how many people seem not to know where to look information up, or perhaps don’t care, as they have things other than accuracy on their agenda. Take Rocco Landesman, the new head of the National Endowment of the Arts. In a speech in Brooklyn last week, he said of Barack Obama, “This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln.”
Oh, dear, where do I begin? Well, let’s start with grammar. It’s “the first president who,” not “the first president that.”
Second, he implicitly accuses Presidents Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Hoover, Coolidge, and Wilson of having had their memoirs, autobiographies, and other works ghosted. Many of them received research assistance (one could hardly write a modern presidential memoir without it), and many, no doubt, also received a good deal of editing. Presidents are not usually professional writers. But research and editorial assistance is by no means the same thing as resorting to a ghost writer. I can’t imagine Harry Truman using a ghost writer. Herbert Hoover wrote sixteen books in his life, including Fishing for Fun — and to Wash Your Soul, published three years after his death, and a translation (with his wife) from the Latin of De re Metallica. Just a guess, but I don’t think there are many ghosted 640-page translations around.
Woodrow Wilson was a college professor and president before entering politics. Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, his best known work and one that ran through many editions, was not ghost written.
Third, Landesman implicitly accuses Theodore Roosevelt of being, unlike Barack Obama, a second-rate writer. Roosevelt wrote a total of 38 books in his life (not to mention countless magazine articles and thousands of letters, all while holding a day job and living only sixty years). His first, The Naval War of 1812, written when he was 23, is considered a basic historical text on that subject and is still both highly readable and in print. Will The Audacity of Hope be in print a 125 years after it was published?
Fourth, Landesman seems ignorant of even the existence of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. They were written in the last months of Grant’s life (he died in agony from throat cancer three days after he finished the manuscript). They are universally regarded as the greatest military memoirs since Caesar’s Commentaries, and among the genuine masterpieces of American literature. Perhaps Mr. Landesman should give them a try if he doesn’t object to reading memoirs written by someone who had actually done something (like — you know — save the Union) before writing them.
Fifth, Lincoln never wrote a book.
What is it about Barack Obama that causes such cringe-inducing butt-kissing?
Addendum(s) from John Miller at the Corner:
What an absurd statement by NEA chief Rocco Landesman. He doesn't mean that Obama is a powerful writer in the sense that he is a compelling writer; he means that he is a writer who wields a lot of political power. This is not necessarily a distinguished category of authorship: It includes the likes of Lenin and Hitler. (It also includes good men, such as Churchill.) The most powerful since Caesar? Egad.
Then there's this comment:
This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln.
Wow. First of all, TR's books are pretty good. I wish I could take a red pen to them every now and then, but the man was working with great material: He wrote about hunting, the Rough Riders, exploring the Amazon, etc. They are much better than anything Obama has written. Many historians believe the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant sit at the top of the presidential literature pile. Mark Twain — presumably a better literary critic than Rocco Landesman — was a huge admirer. And since we're on the subject of presidents who write their own books, let's not forget Ronald Reagan. Sure, he used speechwriters and ghostwriters. But anybody who thinks he spent his life letting scribes put words in his mouth must sit down with Reagan In His Own Hand, a book whose contents he — um, how shall I put this? — wrote in his own hand.
When Rocco said Obama was "the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt" was he calling Calvin Coolidge a liar?
Answer: Probably not. He was just demonstrating the deep depths of his own ignorance.
An e-mailer mentioned Dwight Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe as an excellent book written by a president. I know of it but haven't read it. I asked for proof that Ike had done the work himself. Here's the reply:Make of that what you will. As long as we're in the category of leaders who are "powerful writers," I may place my bets with the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.From Travis Beal Jacobs, "Eisenhower at Columbia":"Working sixteen hours a day, he completed the draft of his five hundred-page memoir on March 26 [having started in early February]. Joseph Barnes, the foreign news editor at the Herald Tribune, told Eli Ginzberg that on one occasion Eisenhower dictated, without stopping, five thousand words that required almost no editing, and Barnes had 'never seen such a performance.'"Eisenhower wrote MacArthur's speeches while serving as his deputy. Why shouldn't he have written his own memoir?
Additional Addendum from Scott Johnson at Power Line:
Rocco Landesman is President Obama's handpicked chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Last week he gave the keynote address to the 2009 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference. Those of us concerned about the politicization of life and art in the Age of Obama will not be consoled by a reading of Landesman's speech. The speech bears examination in its entirety, but Landesman's tribute to Obama is especially worth a look:
This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.
Landesman compares Obama favorably with Julius Caesar as "a powerful writer." Landesman is not referring to Obama's skills as a writer, but rather to the power he holds by virtue of his office. Some might think that the literary comparison sells Obama short. Caesar was something of a self-promoter and propagandist in his writing.
Yet Landesman knows Obama is like Caesar, somehow -- a friend asks, is it in the transformation of a republic into an empire with a divine ruler? Perhaps if Landesman had his wits about him, he would note instead that Obama is the most powerful speaker since the other JC.
Well, so what if Landesman is a bootlicker? Landesman is also an idiot. Lincoln never wrote a book, although I believe he did compile the texts of his 1858 debates with Douglas for publication in book form. And Landesman misses a few presidential authors since Theodore Roosevelt.
Woodrow Wilson wrote several influential books as a Princeton professor. Herbert Hoover wrote books including, I am reliably advised, a classic book on fishing. Richard Nixon wrote books before and after his presidency. And even Bill Clinton wrote his apologia pro vita sua.
Landesman leaves JFK unmentioned by name. JFK was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage in 1957. My guess is that JFK and Obama share the attribute of authorship in roughly equal measure.
One reader of Landesman's speech wonders: "Isn't Obama the first president since Jefferson to more than double the size of the country? The first since Lincoln to free the slavers? The first since FDR to win a war against fascism?" Betraying the spirit of Rocco Landesman, however, the reader injects a note of caution: "I might be wrong. Can any of you fact check that?"
It would be hard to pack so much ignorance into one short paragraph if one were really trying. We can deduce that Landesman doesn't even have to try.
And, of course, all of this presumes that Dreams of My Father was not partially or completely ghost-written as has been suggested by Jack Cashill.
You can live in this town for years and still occasionally find yourself gobsmacked by what counts as "normal" by Washington standards. Take the ongoing debate over whether it's fair for us to expect our elected representatives to read the laws they pass and expect us to follow.
Recently, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, and Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, scoffed at the idea that they should read the health care legislation working its way through Congress (hey, it's only a matter of life and death). That attitude has inspired the "Read to Vote" campaign--designed to get congressmen to pledge to "read every word of every bill before casting my vote."
Read to Vote's efforts earned them a condescending Washington Post editorial last month, complaining that their proposal "would bring government to a standstill." (Heaven forbid.) "To read all 1,427 pages of Waxman-Markey," the Post fretted, "it would take at least 12 hours -- tough on a tight legislative timeline."
Is reading the cap and trade bill tough? Tough. If you're planning to regulate every industrial process in America, you may have to do some heavy slogging.
True enough, the bills Congress passes have become increasingly impenetrable over the years. In Abraham Lincoln's first State of the Union, he worried about the growing complexity of federal law, but noted that, with a modest effort at revision, "all the acts of Congress now in force [could fit in] one or two volumes of ordinary and convenient size." Today, the Senate Finance Committee's 1,502-page health-care bill would take up more than that much space by itself.
Worse still, most of the actual "law" in this country--the rules that citizens have to follow, at pain of fine or imprisonment--is generated by unelected administrative agencies, which use broad authority delegated by Congress to add over 75,000 new pages to the Federal Register every year.
It's said that the Roman emperor Caligula posted new laws high on the columns of buildings so citizens couldn't read them and figure out how to avoid their penalties. He could have achieved the same effect by covering the country with such a dense thicket of rules that no one could tell what the law commands.
Legend has it that Caligula also made his favorite horse a senator. Considering how lightly most of our legislators take their constitutional obligations, you could probably do worse.
In February 2003, the New York Times reported that both parties had hired lawyers to run seminars for congressmen, explaining the requirements of the McCain-Feingold campaign
finance law they had just passed. "I didn't realize what all was in it," said Rep. Robert Matsui (D.-CA); "A real education process," echoed Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R.-NY).
If congressmen can't be bothered to read a law that directly affects them, should we be surprised that they're not planning to read the health care bill, which won't?
But, even assuming we could force legislators to read the bills, would that lead to better government? Maybe not. Carper had a point when he said that modern legislative language "is so arcane, so confusing...[that] it really doesn't make much sense."
If congressmen had to read what they passed, they might draft shorter, more comprehensible bills. But one way to do that is by punting yet more lawmaking authority to the permanent bureaucracy, which can then issue its own mammoth set of unintelligible rules. That hardly solves the problem.
A better idea can be found in a resolution recently introduced by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, requiring all new legislation to be posted online for 72 hours before consideration. That could put the distributed intelligence of the web to work, ferreting out the many devils in the details of proposed laws.
However, that's still just treating symptoms. Federal law has become incomprehensible because Congress has inserted itself into every area of American life. As James Madison explained, though, Congress's constitutional powers are "few and defined.... [to be] exercised principally on external objects," like foreign policy and international trade.
Read the bills? It's more important for congressmen to read the Constitution. They'll be pleased to learn that it's short and written in plain English.
As the state-run economy hits the skids, the government responds with a crackdown on the free press.
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
One way a president can boost poll numbers in a bad economy is to wrest control of the central bank and start printing lots of pesos. There's nothing like cheap financing to restore the market's enthusiasm for buying all sorts of stuff—from stocks to houses—already on sale at fire sale prices.
The great reflation will make people feel rich again. A weak currency will also be a short-term boon to exporters, whose profits can then be taxed at ever higher rates. Complainers can be denounced for their greed.
Of course this perpetual motion machine will eventually conk out and when it does, a government that expects to survive will find it necessary to silence its critics. Just ask Argentines, who are living all of this in real time.
After more than five years of heavy state intervention in the economy, Argentina is again sliding into recession. Double-digit inflation is spiraling north and the government is running out of money. In response, President Cristina Kirchner is cracking down on the free press. Argentines are wondering if their democracy will survive.
The story of how Argentina got here is important to recall. The economy was flat on its back after the 2001-2002 collapse of "convertibility," the monetary arrangement that pegged the peso to the dollar. A demoralized nation was looking for a savior.
It thought it found one in Néstor Kirchner. He became president in 2003 and set about to restore the state-run economic model of Juan Peron; the market, he maintained, had failed. Mr. Kirchner took control of the central bank. He demonized the private-sector and investors. Using price controls, subsidies and regulation he made himself a Robin Hood to the masses. The legislature granted him extraordinary powers.
The economy bounced back as one would expect after a harsh contraction, and in 2007 his wife was elected president with 45% of the vote.
Now the illusionists are losing their touch. Not only is the economy going sour, but according to polls, the nation is growing intolerant of what many consider to be the first couple's abuse of power.
Four examples serve to make the point: First, when Mrs. Kirchner attacked the farm sector last year because it resisted her plan to impose high export taxes on its harvests, the nation rallied to the defense of the farmers, much to her surprise. Second, her decision to confiscate privately held pension accounts was loudly denounced as a violation of the rule of law. Third, there is a widespread belief that her government is using the state intelligence service to collect information against the president's "enemies." Fourth, an overwhelming majority of Argentines resent the privileges and jet-set lifestyle of the first family while national living standards plummet.
This popular dissatisfaction showed up at the polls in the June midterm elections, when Mrs. Kirchner's wing of the Peronist party lost badly. Even Mr. Kirchner did not manage to prevail in his bid for a house seat representing the province of Buenos Aires, which should have been a stronghold for the first couple.
Mrs. Kirchner and her husband have decided that they lost because of bad press coverage. They are especially upset with the Clarin media company, which though once a supporter, is now an outspoken critic. In public comments Mr. Kirchner often implies that the government is analyzing the company to see if it might not need to be downsized. In September, tax authorities launched a raid on the Buenos Aires offices of its daily newspaper. Tax authorities later issued an apology for the raid, but the paper maintains that it was an act of intimidation.
Yet the problem of bad press for the Kirchners is much bigger than Clarin. As the antimarket economic model hits the skids, the nation is turning against its architects and a free press will not remain silent. This is why the president forced a media law through the legislature two weeks ago, creating a new "audio-visual" regulatory board controlled by the executive.
The law also grants the executive control over all licensing of the radio spectrum and reserves at least two-thirds of it for state-owned and nongovernmental broadcasters approved by the executive. There is concern that Mrs. Kirchner is now preparing to take over the most important domestic supplier of newsprint and to begin using import licensing to control access to foreign supplies.
Hugo Chávez has become a dictator in Venezuela under the guise of democracy, and he has similarly shut down the free press. Argentines are worried.
Last week in the Argentine daily La Nación, philosopher and writer Santiago Kovadloff summed up opposition sentiment about the government's use of "the law" to consolidate power: "The law has become a beloved tool of corruption," Mr. Kovadloff wrote. "The executive has put it at its service. It manipulates it with skill." And where does that leave society? "Insecurity is no longer a threat. We are in the jungle."
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
Monday, October 26, 2009
The blogosphere is abuzz over a new poll showing Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman leading Democrat Bill Owens and Republican Dede Scozzafava in the race to replace Congressman John McHugh (R), who resigned to become Obama's Secretary of the Army. The Club for Growth-sponsored poll by Basswood Research shows Hoffman with 31%, Owens with 27%, and Scozzafava at 20%.
New York is a fairly unique state in that candidates run on a number of party lines (a fascinating history unto itself). Normally the Liberal and Democratic parties endorse the same candidate, while the Conservative and Republican parties do the same. But in New York 23, a district Republicans have held since the nineteenth century, the Conservative party was sufficiently disenchanted with Scozzafava to nominate its own candidate, Doug Hoffman.
On the one hand, this poll should be viewed skeptically. It is commissioned by the Club for Growth, which has heavily backed Hoffman. Candidate polls tend to somehow always show more favorable results for their candidates than other, non-partisan pollsters.
On the other hand, there's been a dearth of polling in the district, accompanied by a surge of activity. The last polling was conducted October 19-20 by liberal website DailyKos. It showed Hoffman at 23%, Owens at 35%, and Scozzafava at 30%. Polling conducted a week earlier by nonpartisan Siena showed a similar Owens lead.
By Melanie Phillips
Shifty: Jack Straw on BBC Question Time where he addressed Labour's immigration policy
So now the cat is well and truly out of the bag. For years, as the number of immigrants to Britain shot up apparently uncontrollably, the question was how exactly this had happened.
Was it through a fit of absent-mindedness or gross incompetence? Or was it not inadvertent at all, but deliberate?
The latter explanation seemed just too outrageous. After all, a deliberate policy of mass immigration would have amounted to nothing less than an attempt to change the very make-up of this country without telling the electorate.
There could not have been a more grave abuse of the entire democratic process. Now, however, we learn that this is exactly what did happen. The Labour government has been engaged upon a deliberate and secret policy of national cultural sabotage.
This astonishing revelation surfaced quite casually last weekend in a newspaper article by one Andrew Neather. He turns out to have been a speech writer for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
And it was he who wrote a landmark speech in September 2000 by the then immigration minister, Barbara Roche, that called for a loosening of immigration controls. But the true scope and purpose of this new policy was actively concealed.
In its 1997 election manifesto, Labour promised 'firm control over immigration' and in 2005 it promised a 'crackdown on abuse'. In 2001, its manifesto merely said that the immigration rules needed to reflect changes to the economy to meet skills shortages.
But all this concealed a monumental shift of policy. For Neather wrote that until 'at least February last year', when a new points-based system was introduced to limit foreign workers in response to increasing uproar, the purpose of the policy Roche ushered in was to open up the UK to mass immigration.
This has been achieved. Some 2.3million migrants have been added to the population since 2001. Since 1997, the number of work permits has quadrupled to 120,000 a year.
Labour in open borders storm: Demands for inquiry into claims migrants were let in so Tories could be accused of racism
Unless policies change, over the next 25 years some seven million more will be added to Britain's population, a rate of growth three times as fast as took place in the Eighties.
Such an increase is simply unsustainable. Britain is already one of the most overcrowded countries in Europe. But now look at the real reason why this policy was introduced, and in secret. The Government's 'driving political purpose', wrote Neather, was 'to make the UK truly multicultural'.
It was therefore a politically motivated attempt by ministers to transform the fundamental make-up and identity of this country. It was done to destroy the right of the British people to live in a society defined by a common history, religion, law, language and traditions.
It was done to destroy for ever what it means to be culturally British and to put another 'multicultural' identity in its place. And it was done without telling or asking the British people whether they wanted their country and their culture to be transformed in this way.
Spitefully, one motivation by Labour ministers was 'to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date'.
Even Neather found that particular element of gratuitous Left-wing bullying to be 'a manoeuvre too far'.
Yet apart from this, Neather sees nothing wrong in the policy he has described. Indeed, the reason for his astonishing candour is he thinks it's something to boast about. Mass immigration, he wrote, had provided the 'foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners' without whom London could hardly function.
What elitist arrogance! As if most people employ nannies, cleaners and gardeners. And what ignorance. The argument that Britain is better off with this level of immigration has been conclusively shown to be economically illiterate.
Neather gave the impression that most immigrants are Eastern Europeans. But these form fewer than a quarter of all immigrants.
And the fact is that, despite his blithe assertions to the contrary, schools in areas of very high immigration find it desperately difficult to cope with so many children who don't even have basic English. Other services, such as health or housing, are similarly being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers.
But the most shattering revelation was that this policy of mass immigration was not introduced to produce nannies or cleaners for the likes of Neather. It was to destroy Britain's identity and transform it into a multicultural society where British attributes would have no greater status than any other country's.
A measure of immigration is indeed good for a country. But this policy was not to enhance British culture and society by broadening the mix. It was to destroy its defining character altogether.
It also conveniently guaranteed an increasingly Labour-voting electorate since, as a recent survey by the Electoral Commission has revealed, some 90 per cent of black people and three-quarters of Asians vote Labour.
In Neather's hermetically sealed bubble, the benefits of mass immigration were so overwhelming he couldn't understand why ministers had been so nervous about it.
They were, he wrote, reluctant to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all to Labour's core white working class vote. So they deliberately kept it secret.
They knew that if they told the truth about what they were doing, voters would rise up in protest. So they kept it out of their election manifestos.
It was indeed a conspiracy to deceive the electorate into voting for them. And yet it is these very people who have the gall to puff themselves up in self-righteous astonishment at the rise of the BNP.
No wonder Jack Straw was so shifty on last week's Question Time when he was asked whether it was the Government's failure to halt immigration which lay behind increasing support for the BNP.
'No wonder Jack Straw was so shifty... when he was asked whether it was the Government's failure to halt immigration which lay behind increasing support for the BNP'
Now we know it was no such failure of policy. It was deliberate. For the government of which Straw is such a long- standing member had secretly plotted to flood the country with immigrants to change its very character and identity.
This more than any other reason is why Nick Griffin has gained so much support. According to a YouGov poll taken after Question Time, no fewer than 22 per cent of British voters would 'seriously consider' voting for the BNP.
That nearly one quarter of British people might vote for a neo-Nazi party with views inimical to democracy, human rights and common decency is truly appalling.
The core reason is that for years they have watched as their country's landscape has been transformed out of all recognition - and that politicians from all mainstream parties have told them first that it isn't happening and second, that they are racist bigots to object even if it is.
Now the political picture has been transformed overnight by the unguarded candour of Andrew Neather's eye-opening superciliousness. For now we know that Labour politicians actually caused this to happen - and did so out of total contempt for their own core voters.
As Neather sneered, the jobs filled by immigrant workers 'certainly wouldn't be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley - fascist au pair, anyone?'
So that's how New Labour views the white working class, supposedly the very people it is in politics to champion. Who can wonder that its core vote is now decamping in such large numbers to the BNP when Labour treats them like this?
Condemned out of its own mouth, it is New Labour that is responsible for the rise of the BNP - by an act of unalloyed treachery to the entire nation.
"The New York Times stayed in third place at 927,851, down 7.3 percent from the same period of 2008."
"Of the top 25 dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle saw the worst circulation decline, falling 25.8 percent to 251,782."
Top 25 Daily Newspapers in New FAS-FAX
Obama has set a spending limit of roughly $900 billion over a decade for the legislation, but has already agreed not to count more than $200 billion to raise fees for doctors treating Medicare over the next 10 years.
He also appears willing to bow to the wishes of House Democrats, whose bill is expected to total roughly $1 trillion. Democrats argue some of that spending shouldn't be counted against Obama's total because it doesn't deal directly with the cost of providing coverage.
It covers items such as improved benefits for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as money spent on disease prevention programs.
It's funny how he "agreed to not count" $300 billion in a $900 billion piece of legislation. I guess in Chicago agreeing to keep 25% of the costs of something off the books is okay. Also, it's not really his decision to make is it? A cost is a cost is a cost. It doesn't matter if he chooses to count it or not. That sort of reminds me of the 80's campy kids horror movie The Monster Squad. In order to create a vortex into purgatory (or limbo, I forget) a virgin has to read some text in German. Of course the group of teenagers decides to ask one of their older sisters, who is a hot 17 year old blonde, to recite the text. She took German and I guess it was assumed she was a virgin. Anyway, she read the text and nothing happened. Her brother asks her "you're not a virgin are you". She shakes her head and says something like "well only Barry but he didn't count". But he did. Saying something doesn't count really doesn't make it so. It either is or it isn't.