Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maybe the NRA's right to be paranoid
...My daughter gave her daddy a gun for his birthday. As a law-abiding citizen he went to transfer ownership. Ten days later a letter arrived from the Department of Justice — transfer denied, stated my husband is a felon and he can’t have fire arms. Shock: He knew he was not a felon, had bought and registered guns for years, and now that department states that he is a felon since 1972 and can’t have any guns.

My husband called the Department of Justice. No, they could not tell him what his crime was or anything about it. They could only talk to him about it if he brought up what the crime was first. As he did not know what his crime was, he could not tell them and they refused to give him any information. Their answer was he would have to go to the police department and pay to have a Live Scan or copy of his record done. He did that. Three week later, still no answers.

He started calling the Department of Justice over and over. No, they did not have the Live Scan request. No, they did not know what the problem was. No, they still could not give him information about the alleged crime. ...

UN report on glaciers melting is based on 'speculation'
Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the claim which it said was based on detailed research into the impact of global warming.

But the IPCC have since admitted it was based on a report written in a science journal and even the scientist who was the subject of the original story admits it was not based on fact.

The article, in the New Scientist, was not even based on a research paper - it evolved from a short telephone interview with the academic.

Dr Syed Hasnain, an Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research.

Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped. ...

Education secretary urged his employees to attend Sharpton's rally
President Obama's top education official urged government employees to attend a rally that the Rev. Al Sharpton organized to counter a larger conservative event on the Mall.

"ED staff are invited to join Secretary Arne Duncan, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and other leaders on Saturday, Aug. 28, for the 'Reclaim the Dream' rally and march," began an internal e-mail sent to more than 4,000 employees of the Department of Education on Wednesday.

Sharpton created the event after Glenn Beck announced a massive Tea Party "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where King spoke in 1963.

The Washington Examiner learned of the e-mail from a Department of Education employee who felt uncomfortable with Duncan's request....

SSRN: The Political Economy of the Subprime Mortgage Credit Expansion
We examine how special interests, measured by campaign contributions from the mortgage industry, and constituent interests, measured by the share of subprime borrowers in a congressional district, may have influenced U.S. government policy toward the housing sector during the subprime mortgage credit expansion from 2002 to 2007. Beginning in 2002, mortgage industry campaign contributions increasingly targeted U.S. representatives from districts with a large fraction of subprime borrowers. During the expansion years, mortgage industry campaign contributions and the share of subprime borrowers in a congressional district increasingly predicted congressional voting behavior on housing related legislation. The evidence suggests that both subprime mortgage lenders and subprime mortgage borrowers influenced government policy toward housing finance during the subprime mortgage credit expansion. ...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wagram pastor charged with statutory rape
A Wagram minister was arrested this week on charges he had sex with a minor, police say.

Darryl Todd, senior pastor of Spring Branch Missionary Baptist Church, is accused of statutory rape, according to Capt. Kim Monroe. Todd was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

The 32-year-old is charged with three counts of statuary rape involving a 14-year-old girl, according to arrest warrants. All three incidents occurred in April and May, according to police....

Union thug Richard Trumka complains about Sarah Palin calling union leaders thugs
...On the orders of the United Mine Workers (UMW), 16,000 miners went on strike in 1993. One subcontractor, Eddie York (who was not a UMW member), decided it was important to support his wife and three children and crossed picket lines to get to his job. He was shot in the head as he left the job site to go home. UMW President Richard Trumka … told The Washington Times that “if you strike a match and put your finger in, common sense tells you you’re going to burn your finger.” UMW strike captain Jerry Dale Lowe was found guilty of weapons charges and conspiracy in York’s death, and York’s widow Wanda sued the union for her husband’s wrongful death. The UMW fought the lawsuit for four years, but settled with Wanda York only two days after federal prosecutors announced that they would share evidence from the criminal trial with York’s attorneys....

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oikophobia: Why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting
...Krauthammer portrays this as a cynical game: "Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. . . . What's a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument."

But this has its limits as a political strategy. Krauthammer writes that "the Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November," and no one will credit him for boldness in that prediction. Some may disagree with his reckoning as to the reason for that likely loss: that "a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them."

But can anyone argue that a show of contempt is a winning political strategy? The question answers itself and implies that the contempt is genuine.

What is the nature of this contempt? In part it is the snobbery of the cognitive elite, exemplified by a recent New York Times Web column by Timothy Egan called "Building a Nation of Know-Nothings"--or by the viciousness directed at Sarah Palin, whose folksy demeanor and state-college background seem terribly déclassé not just to liberals but to a good number of conservatives in places like New York City.

In more cerebral moments, the elitists of the left invoke a kind of Marxism Lite to explain away opinions and values that run counter to their own. Thus Barack Obama's notorious remark to the effect that economic deprivation embitters the proles, so that they cling to guns and religion. ...

...And Reich doesn't just fail to see the obvious. He dehumanizes his fellow Americans by treating their values, feelings and opinions as no more than reflexive reactions to material conditions. Americans in fact are a very tolerant people. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was no serious backlash against Muslims. What makes them angry--what makes us angry--is the bigotry of the elites. ...

...Yet the oiks' vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ."

This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting....

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Obama's Anti-Corporate BS
...As Target recently discovered, the left's culture police are prepared to jump on any corporate donation that offends their sensibilities. As Target's rapid retreat proved, corporations are basically cowardly on these issues.

In fact, if anybody's going to takeover our democracy, it'll be unions. As Obama knows very well, the Citizens United decision applies to unions and nonprofits just as much as it does to big corporations. As Obama also knows very well, union political contributions dwarf corporate contributions...

...Unlike corporations, which typically hedge their bets by giving to both parties and mainly to the party in power, union contributions flow 90%+ to Democrats...

Nearly 50 percent out of mortgage aid
WASHINGTON – Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.

The program is intended to help those at risk of foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments. Friday’s report from the Treasury Department suggests the $75 billion government effort is failing to slow the tide of foreclosures in the United States, economists say....

When Economic Policy Became Social Policy
...In 1992, Congress gave Fannie and Freddie a “mission” to promote affordable housing, and directed them to study a few very new ideas to accomplish this goal: “establish a downpayment requirement for mortgagors of 5 percent or less; allow the use of cash on hand as a source of downpayments; and approve borrowers who have a credit history of delinquencies if the borrower can demonstrate a satisfactory credit history for at least the [most recent] 12-month period.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took this for what it was—a direction to support affordable housing by reducing underwriting standards—and throughout the 1990s and 2000s it relentlessly raised affordable housing requirements for Fannie and Freddie, requiring them to buy increasing numbers of subprime and other risky mortgages. In 2004, as it raised goals again, HUD made its purposes clear with this statement: “Millions of Americans with less than perfect credit or who cannot meet some of the tougher underwriting requirements of the prime market … rely on subprime lenders for access to mortgage financing. If the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises, i.e., Fannie and Freddie] reach deeper into the subprime market, more borrowers will benefit from the advantages that greater stability and standardization create.” Fannie and Freddie, with little choice in the matter, did exactly this, eventually bringing them to insolvency in 2008....

...When in 1992 Congress dragooned Fannie and Freddie into lowering their underwriting standards, it confused the economic goal of creating a viable national mortgage market for good quality mortgages with the social policy of increasing home ownership by making mortgage credit available to low-income borrowers. The added benefit for Congress was that it could achieve the social goal without budgetary consequences; the operations of Fannie and Freddie were and still are off-budget....

How egalitarian policy fueled the crisis
...This does not strike me as a story about how income inequality caused the financial crisis. Rather, this is a story about how policies intended to reduce inequality had the unintended consequence of precipitating America's worst economic slump since the Depression. It's very important that we're straight on what the story is, since different stories may have very different implications for policy. If the story is that the level of inequality itself—and not our ideas about or political reactions to it—indirectly caused the crisis, then we may think that narrowing the gap is a matter of urgent necessity. But if the story is that an ill-conceived political attempt to reduce inequality—and not the fact of inequality itself—led to apocalyptic economic devastation, then we may well conclude that it is better to refrain from equalising initiatives unless we are quite certain they will not backfire. At any rate, this is the lesson I would draw from the story Mr Rajan is telling. Now, this call for prudent restraint may not turn out to be very limiting. The upshot may be no more than the recognition that government intervention in credit markets is a particularly stupid way to try reduce inequality. Whatever the upshot turns out to be, the idea that we must be alert to the unintended consequences of policies meant to reduce inequality is rather different, and rather more helpful, than the idea that inequality as such threatens the stability of the economy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Libby Residents Relate Gains, Drawbacks of Asbestos Aid
Libby residents at the public meeting, held by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.,...

...Baucus replied that if Libby residents assembled an economic development plan, he would do what he could to help, and he took credit for “essentially” writing the health care bill that passed the Senate.

“I don’t think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill. You know why? It’s statutory language,” Baucus said. “We hire experts.” ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tea Party Group Hit With Death Threats
One of Washington's principal supporters of the Tea Party movement, former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, has been receiving death threats and profanity-laced phone calls as it gets involved in the fall elections. The number and intensity have reached such heights that the organization is leaving its downtown location near the FBI and moving to a high-security building near the U.S. Capitol.

"FreedomWorks and Dick Armey receive dozens of threatening and harassing calls and E-mails each day. Many imply violence and use of weapons," spokesman Adam Brandon tells Whispers. "As we get closer to the election we expect the harassment to increase."...

EPA Considering Banning Lead Ammunition
NSSF is springing into action, as the public comment period opens on EPA considering a regulation that will ban all traditional lead ammunition. This would basically end the shooting sports as we know it. Remember this is a no-win situation for us, because bullets made of materials other than lead are often considered armor piercing by law. Copper is your basic material, and copper is expensive, and has much poorer performance properties than lead....

EPA Considering Ban on Traditional Ammunition — Take Action Now
With the fall hunting season fast approaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Lisa Jackson, who was responsible for banning bear hunting in New Jersey, is now considering a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – a leading anti-hunting organization – to ban all traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, a law in which Congress expressly exempted ammunition. If the EPA approves the petition, the result will be a total ban on all ammunition containing lead-core components, including hunting and target-shooting rounds. The EPA must decide to accept or reject this petition by November 1, 2010, the day before the midterm elections.

Today, the EPA has opened to public comment the CBD petition. The comment period ends on October 31, 2010....

TheDC analysis: Crossing the trillion-dollar economic Rubicon
n Thursday the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced the federal budget deficit for 2010 will exceed $1.3 trillion. This is already on the heels of a 2009 budget deficit of $1.2 trillion and on top of a national debt of some $13.3 trillion. The word ‘trillion’ seems to have, almost overnight, crept into our standard economic parlance and by the looks of it is here to stay. And with the CBO’s forecast of more than $6 trillion in federal budget deficits accruing over the next nine years from 2010 to 2019, many are logically wondering if the United States has effectively crossed, or is fast approaching, a virtual economic point of no return — an economic Rubicon if you will....

Pastor Charged With Sex Assault
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The former pastor of a church in Bethlehem was charged today with sexual assault for a relationship he allegedly had with a teenage girl.

Police said Santos Adiel Rosado had sex with the 14-year-old girl during a relationship that apparently lasted for as long as two years.

Police said the victim and her family were members of the Bethlehem Community Fellowship Church on Marvine Street. They said she and Rosado would meet in both their homes....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nonprofit Fund Faces Questions About Conflicts and Selection Procedures
In late July, the Social Innovation Fund, a new $50 million federal program aimed at financing the replication of nonprofit programs that work, made its first grants.

But what was supposed to have been an emblem of the administration’s commitment to nonprofit groups has become instead a messy controversy over potential conflicts of interest and the process used to select the grantees.

Several of the 48 independent reviewers who vetted the initial 54 applications for the grants were surprised by some of the winners because they had awarded them mediocre scores.

Critics noted that the executive director of the fund, Paul Carttar, had worked at New Profit Inc., a nonprofit group that helps promising social programs. New Profit Inc. received a $5 million grant from the fund.

Similarly, Patrick Corvington, the official who oversees the Corporation for National and Community Service, where the fund resides, previously worked for a foundation that financed a program operated by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, better known as LISC. The foundation won a $4.2 million grant. ...

...Steven Goldberg, one of the reviewers, a consultant and author of “Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn’t Advance Social Progress,” said he had no problem with destroying the paperwork related to the review — “as a lapsed lawyer, I can see that you don’t want people to be looking too much at how the sausage gets made”— but thought it would be a good idea to publish the names of the reviewers and applicants. ...

U.S. Saw Drill Ban Killing Many Jobs
Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn't trust the industry's safety equipment and the government's own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Critics of the moratorium, including Gulf Coast political figures and oil-industry leaders, have said it is crippling the region's economy, and some have called on the administration to make public its economic analysis. A federal judge who in June threw out an earlier six-month moratorium faulted the administration for playing down the economic effects....

Male Aggression and the Financial Crisis
Question: Did male aggression contribute to the financial crisis?

Lionel Tiger: That is undoubtedly true. The question though is also, why weren’t there more women involved in those systems and will women ever be involved in the same way. The evidence we have is that women seem to not want to compete at that level with that kind of violence over a lifetime. ...

Is the Problem Really Too Little Trust in Government?
...At issue is what used to be called “Good Government” – the problem of ensuring that a centralized managerial State, with expansive powers to intervene in all matters economic, social, or hygienic, will be run cleanly, and competently, by qualified experts. Dionne insists that financial market meltdowns, oil spills, and coal-mine disasters reveal the catastrophic results of a few years of Bush-era government neglect. Those of us who remember the Bush administration may have a hard time accepting the claim that it was an era in which government was not doing enough; and we see these headline-grabbing catastrophes as only the tail end of a decades-long crisis – a bipartisan, politically created crisis of institutional incentives and industry “best practice-ism,” created, nurtured, and protected by government itself.

So when Dionne reviews a few headlines – the financial-market meltdown, the Gulf oil spill, the coal-mine explosion at Upper Big Branch – he suggests that “It’s hard to argue that the difficulties we confront were caused by an excessively powerful ‘big’ government.”

Really? Let’s try.

“Deregulated” Wall Street collapsed in 2007 after years of unsustainable bubbles and malinvestment by a handful of immensely powerful big players. The real crisis was not just the “crunch,” but the shell game and misallocation that preceded it. The shell game flourished through a private-public partnership between government central banking, cartelized financial industry incumbents, and the industry-connected regulatory enforcers of the government Money Monopoly. The crash certainly revealed powerful corporations acting recklessly. But how did they get so powerful, and why were they willing to take those risks? Because government has, for decades, as a matter of policy, encouraged their dominance, invited their investments, subsidized their loan markets, put them near the inflation spigot, and subsidized their risk-taking with the promise of tax-funded bailouts. In a freed market, “deregulated” Wall Street’s concentrated wealth and reckless business model would not exist....

...To be sure, government is not very distant from the downtown offices of the Washington Post. For the rest of us, though, access is somewhat more limited, and not “all of us” have the same influence in shaping government policy. That is done by political insiders and economic incumbents: As scholars like Gabriel Kolko and Butler Shafer have repeatedly shown, government regulatory bodies from the FTC to the MSHA to the SEC have consistently been captured by the incumbents in the industries they are supposed to regulate, systematically rigging government regulations in such a way as to build up cartels, exclude competition, and protect businessmen from liability for harmful practices.

Trickle-Down Politics

Even with the record of regulatory capture and industry-driven policy, Dionne, like many Progressives, simply insists that politicians need even more trust and fewer restraints on action to give them the independence to do the right thing. You might call this kind of Progressivism a theory of trickle-down politics: When government devotes the overwhelming majority of its power and resources to foolish or destructive programs directed by concentrated interests – subsidies, bailouts, anticompetitive regulations, or an ever-growing military-industrial “National Security” complex – the proposed solution is to give that same government even more strength and greater resources to dispose of, on the hope that some of the surplus will eventually make it through the net of insider control to reach programs that offer a pittance to the little guy....

For Obamacare supporters, judgment day approaches
...Recently a number of top Democratic strategists conducted focus groups in Las Vegas, Charlotte, Philadelphia and St. Louis. They also conducted a national poll of 1,000 likely voters and an online poll of 2,000 more likely voters. They wanted to measure the public's feelings about Obamacare and help Democrats make an effective case for the bill they passed in March.

The researchers found what they call a "challenging environment," which is a nicer way of saying "disaster in the making." Voters simply aren't buying the Democratic case that health care reform will insure more than 30 million currently uninsured people and save money at the same time. And when they think about their own health care, people worry that reform will mean less, not more, availability of care, and at a higher cost.

Faced with that bad news, the pollsters came up with several recommendations for Democratic candidates. When talking about Obamacare, Democrats should "keep claims small and credible." They should promise to "improve" the law. They should avoid talking about policy and stick to "personal stories" of people who will benefit from Obamacare. And above all, the pollsters advise, "don't say the law will reduce costs and deficit."

It's a stunning about-face for a party that saw national health care as its signature accomplishment. "This is the first time we've seen from Democrats that they clearly understand they have a serious problem in terms of selling this legislation," says Republican pollster David Winston.

The reluctance to defend Obamacare as a cost-cutter and deficit-reducer is particularly telling. Wasn't that the No. 1 reason for passing the bill in the first place? "This legislation will ... lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades," President Obama said when he signed the bill into law on March 23. Now, Democrats are throwing that argument out the window.

It's no mystery why the party is in retreat. The public's disapproval of Obamacare hasn't changed in the last five months....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why "CalPERS Manager" Is Every Stock Picker's Dream Job
California's public pension fund allowed its fund managers to take mega-jet-set kickbacks from financial companies looking to win big state investments.

In testimony related to Attorney General Jerry Brown's bribery lawsuit against a former California Public Employee Retirement System board member, a CalPERS representative has admitted that he and other CalPERS investment staffers accepted gifts, steaks at Morton's, toys, and dozens of luxury trips to exotic ports of call like Shanghai, Mumbai and New York.

Was sex part of the package? Sounds like it. ...

...These tales of Bourbon decadence are proven crowd-pleasers, but I'm never sure how seriously to take them. They always remind me of the Senate Candy Desk: You give "public servants" riches beyond imagination, force that cannot be attained in the private sector, and authority to destroy the wealth and livelihoods of others, and then you expect them to abide by penny-ante rules about gift bags?...

Liberal Health Care Activists Advised to Avoid Saying That ObamaCare Reduces Costs and Deficit
Are liberals backing down from core arguments about cost and deficit reductions in the new health care law? A leaked Powerpoint presentation put together by an alliance of prominent liberals indicates that health care reform activists are moving away from messaging that focuses on health care costs and deficit reduction.

Politico’s Ben Smith has posted a copy of the presenUh-oh. This operation isn't working out. tation, which starts by noting the “challenging” environment for reformer advocates. What’s the challenge? “Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to be moving voters’ opinions of the law,” the presentation explains, and many people “don’t believe that health reform will help the economy.” Not only are voters worried about the rising cost of health care, they “believe costs will continue to rise.” It’s a frank admission that the economic argument in favor of the law has basically failed amongst voters.

So what are activists to do? The presentation suggests that when making the case for ObamaCare, advocates must reassure seniors that Medicare benefits won’t be cut (which isn’t strictly true). And it suggests they focus on the recent decision to force insurers to offer “free preventive care” (never mind that these benefits aren’t really free). But whatever they do, the final slide of the presentation warns, activists should not “say the law will reduce costs and deficit”—which is probably a smart idea given how unlikely the administration's claims about the deficit have always been....

...Is the White House, which spent so much time and energy making the case for the fiscal responsibility of its health care law, going to push back at so many of its close allies for playing down its initial cost and deficit claims? Somehow I doubt it. Not when we’re already seeing evidence that the PPACA will push health insurance premiums higher starting as early as next year....

Epidemiologist Fired for Reporting Unhelpful Results
James Enstrom, an epidemiologist who has worked at the UCLA School of Public Health for 34 years, was recently fired, supposedly because his research "is not aligned with the academic mission of the Department [of Environmental Health Sciences]." As Michael Siegel notes, this rationale is patently false. The department's official mission is to "explore the fundamental relationship between human health and the environment," and that is exactly what Enstrom has done. The problem is not that he tackled the wrong questions; it's that he came up with the "wrong" answers. Specifically, he has failed to find a connection between exposure to fine particulate matter and disease. Worse, he is a prominent critic of the view that such a connection is established well enough to justify new regulations by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). He has not only criticized the evidence underlying the proposed regulations but has made trouble by pointing out that a key CARB staffer, Hien Tran, had falsified his academic credentials and that a UCLA colleague who supports regulation of fine particulate matter, John Froines, had served on a scientific panel that advises CARB for 25 years without being reappointed every three years, as required by law. Froines, who has publicly ridiculed Enstrom, participated in the faculty vote recommending his dismissal. Enstrom's popularity among his colleagues was not enhanced by his work on secondhand smoke, which also failed to generate politically correct results.

These circumstances have led observers such as Siegel, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, Bakersfield Californian columnist Lois Henry, epidemiologist Carl Phillips, and Jeff Stier of the American Council on Science and Health (where Enstrom is a trustee) to conclude that Enstrom's sacking was politically motivated. ...

Obvious Failure of Stimulus Becomes Obvious Even To Economists
Where do Keynesians go now that even public radio is talking about the failure of one of history's costliest Keynesian stimulus efforts?

At City Journal, Guy Sorman notes how quickly the managed-market winds have shifted. When the credit unwind started, the papers, the TV and the newsweaklies declared capitalism dead in just a little less time than it took for Kent Brockman to declare his loyalty to the Space Ants. Less than two years later, you can't buy good press for the stimulus; the economy is frozen solid in August; the nation is rediscovering -- despite the herniated efforts of local, state and federal government -- the virtues of thrift; and if you search for Keynes on the interwebs, all you turn up are headlines like "How Dr. Keynes killed the patient."

But here's the tell: We're already starting to see the first of the "Today's Keynesians are misreading Keynes" walk-back arguments....

...With only two years’ distance the TARP and the ARRA stimulus (and all the already forgotten lesser stimuli like the $400 billion Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of June 2008) can be seen as one of the great public tragedies of our time. But at the end of a tragedy, the survivors learn something and move on. That’s what’s happening now. With any luck in the mid-term elections, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and the rest of the Obama economic bureau may soon become the unemployment statistics they deserve to be. This is good news. Sorman lays out the beginnings of an important reappraisal.

Troops: Skipping Christian concert got us punished
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band's concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.

Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told The Associated Press he couldn't comment on the specifics of the investigation. At the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn't impose religious views on soldiers.

"If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy," Collins said.

Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army's Transportation Corps.

"My whole issue was I don't need to be preached at," Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. "That's not what I signed up for."...

Pampered Public Employees
Does the public sector get pampered?

When you control for the differences in characteristics like education and age, the federal government has salaries that are 12 percent higher than similar private sector workers.

You're aware that some studies have come the opposite conclusion: that federal workers are underpaid. Why are they wrong?

The government has produced numbers where they claim that federal workers are underpaid by 22 percent. We say they're overpaid by 12 percent. The difference is in the methodology. We looked at the same person -- based on age, education, all those things -- and put him in the federal government or the private sector. The government looked at the same job in the federal government vs. private sector.

They looked at jobs. You looked at people. Why does the distinction matter?

Because government promotes faster, and at a younger age, than the private sector. The federal government is saying "our senior accountants earn less than a senior accountant in the private sector." But somebody who might be a junior accountant in the private would be senior in federal government. For many people, getting more responsibility at a younger age is a reason to go to the government....

Video: Cop Promises Cameraman He'll Be Raped in Jail
Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, the NYPD raided Surreal Estate, an underground party club in Bushwick. Witnesses say that when police arrived, the hosts refused to let them in, demanding to see a warrant. The police then forcibly entered by kicking down doors and breaking through windows. Once inside, some attendees say police unleashed pepper spray. We're told ten arrests were made and nine were charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration (among other charges), but the real fun happened outside, when camera gadfly Vladimir Teichberg pestered an anachronistically dressed plainclothes cop, who promised Teichberg he'd be raped in jail if he didn't disperse....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Woah! LA OUTRAGED After Obama Fundraiser Shuts Down Traffic For Hours
Obama traveled to Los Angeles last night for a fundraiser at the home of a wealthy Hollywood producer and managed to pi$$ off the entire city after locking up traffic for hours. JSF at Valley of the Shadow was one of the Angelenos stuck for hours on the road without warning. ...

Obama, the one-term president
...Q: Will Barack Obama be a one-term president?

A: Yes, he might last that long. ...

Union Member Fired For Attempting To Unionize
... In a move of stunning hypocrisy, the United Federation of Teachers axed one of its longtime employees — for trying to unionize the powerful labor organization’s own workers, it was charged yesterday.

Jim Callaghan, a veteran writer for the teachers union, told The Post he was booted from his $100,000-a-year job just two months after he informed UFT President Michael Mulgrew that he was trying to unionize some of his co-workers.

“I was fired for trying to start a union at the UFT,” said a dumbfounded Callaghan, who worked for the union’s newsletter and as a speechwriter for union leaders for the past 13 years.

Callaghan said he personally told Mulgrew on June 9 about his intention to try to organize nonunionized workers at UFT headquarters.

“I told him I want to have the same rights that teachers have,” said Callaghan, 63, of Staten Island. “He told me he didn’t want that, that he wanted to be able to fire whoever he wanted to.”

The UFT has long strenuously resisted city efforts to make it easier for school administrators to fire teachers....

German Millionaires Criticize Gates' 'Giving Pledge'
...SPIEGEL: Forty super wealthy Americans have just announced that they would donate half of their assets, at the very latest after their deaths. As a person who often likes to say that rich people should be asked to contribute more to society, what were your first thoughts?

Krämer: I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That's unacceptable.

SPIEGEL: But doesn't the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it's not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That's a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

SPIEGEL: Do the donations also have to do with the fact that the idea of state and society is such different one in the United States?

Krämer: Yes, one cannot forget that the US has a desolate social system and that alone is reason enough that donations are already a part of everyday life there. But it would have been a greater deed on the part of Mr. Gates or Mr. Buffet if they had given the money to small communities in the US so that they can fulfil public duties. ...

Bryan Pastor Arrested, Accused of Luring Man into Sex
...Scott served at the church since 1990.

"Please keep the Scott family in your prayers," he added.

According to court documents the incident occurred on November 24, 2009 after the victim and Scott exchanged about 12 e-mails over 2 days.

Eventually the victim agreed to let Randy Scott come to his house but,
"When the person showed up, it was an older man. The man told him that he was the stepfather of the person the victim had been emailing. The subject said that he is protective of his stepson and has set up his stepson's email to forward him all of the emails that they have been exchanging. The victim said that the man told him that he is going to call the Police unless the victim pleasured him sexually," court documents stated.

Police said several of the e-mail exchanges came from a computer at the church.

"One of the things the Lord has been sharing with us the last couple of day is we shouldn't keep our eyes on circumstances but keep our eyes on Him and as we continue to focus on Him, He'll take care off all the circumstances we go through," Dr. Quartemont said.

In court documents Scott told police he had sexual contact with ten men with two of the encounters happening in Waco.

Randy Scott is out of the Harris County Jail after posting bond....

Great Outdoors Initiative a federal land grab?
... In April, President Obama issued a memorandum outlining his “21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors.” It was addressed to the Interior Secretary, the Agriculture Secretary, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. The memo calls on the officials to conduct “listening and learning sessions” with the public to “identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government” to “protect” outdoor spaces. Eighteen of 25 planned sessions have already been held. But there’s much more to the agenda than simply “reconnecting Americans to nature.”

The federal government, as the memo boasted, is the nation’s “largest land manager.” It already owns roughly one of every three acres in the United States. This is apparently not enough. At a “listening session” in New Hampshire last week, government bureaucrats trained their sights on millions of private forest land throughout the New England region. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack crusaded for “the need for additional attention to the Land and Water Conservation Fund — and the need to promptly support full funding of that fund.”

Property owners have every reason to be worried. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a pet project of green radicals, who want the decades-old government slush fund for buying up private lands to be freed from congressional appropriations oversight. It’s paid for primarily with receipts from the government’s offshore oil and gas leases. Both Senate and House Democrats have included $900 million in full LWCF funding, not subject to congressional approval, in their energy/BP oil spill legislative packages. The Democrats have also included a provision in these packages that would require the federal government to take over energy permitting in state waters, which provoked an outcry from Texas state officials, who sent a letter of protest to Capitol Hill last month:

“In light of federal failures, it is incomprehensible that the United States Congress is entertaining proposals that expand federal authority over oil and gas drilling in state water and lands long regulated by states… Given the track record, putting the federal government in charge of energy production on state land and waters not only breaks years of successful precedent and threatens the 10th Amendment to the United Sates Constitution, but it also undermines common sense and threatens the environmental and economy security of our state’s citizens.”...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Too Big Not to Fail
...Despite their central roles in the housing bubble, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now back more than 95 percent of new mortgages. In 2006, at the height of the housing boom, the F.H.A.’s share of the mortgage market was 2 percent; today it’s around 30 percent. Given that the agency’s requirements on down payments and creditworthiness have been less stringent than Fannie Mae’s, that should concern all taxpayers.

Just about everyone agrees that the government’s extraordinary role in supporting the housing finance market should be curtailed. Most government officials, however, insist that the time for serious reform will be when “the housing market is clearly recovering,” as the former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. recently put it.

But by waiting for a recovery before reforming the government’s mortgage-backing trio, we are getting things backward. Far from being the last bulwark supporting the housing market, the F.H.A., Fannie and Freddie are very likely holding back the private loan industry. And, unfortunately, a little-noticed provision of the Dodd-Frank act threatens to undermine efforts at rebuilding an innovative and healthy private sector for mortgages.

Under Dodd-Frank, financial firms that securitize mortgages are required to retain 5 percent of the risk of those securities. The goal, a laudable one, is to encourage companies to more closely monitor the quality of the mortgages they securitize. But it is also likely to increase the cost of affected mortgages, because banks will seek to pass on the costs of that risk to home buyers.

Mortgages guaranteed by the F.H.A., however, are exempt from the 5 percent risk-retention requirement. This means that lenders will find that it costs far more, and involves more risk, to offer mortgages they back themselves than those covered with a guarantee from the agency. There’s little doubt this will lead to a huge increase in the volume of business done by the F.H.A., as banks creating securities will seek out mortgages on which they don’t have to cover the risk. Purely private mortgages will quickly be pushed out of the market. ...

Say Goodbye to Fannie and Freddie
THE Federal National Mortgage Association — known as Fannie Mae — and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation — Freddie Mac — were poorly structured from the time, 40 years ago, when they were set up as so-called government-sponsored enterprises. Both of these technically private companies, designed to foster the issuance of home mortgages, enjoyed implicit federal backing in the event they got into financial trouble but only weak regulation to prevent such trouble. Essentially, the federal government insured the companies’ liabilities but never charged a premium.

Fannie and Freddie had a license to print money. They could borrow at an interest rate only a bit over the Treasury rate and then accumulate large portfolios of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities earning the market rate. What a deal — borrow at the low rate, invest at a higher one, hold little capital and let the federal government bear the risk! Investors enjoyed high returns, and management enjoyed high salaries. Incidentally, politicians also got a steady flow of campaign contributions from the companies’ executives.

Fannie and Freddie’s risky policies led to their near collapse; in September 2008, the federal government brought them under federal conservatorship. Fannie and Freddie have cost taxpayers about $150 billion so far. ...

Federal workers earning double their private counterparts
At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.

Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.

The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year....

Congress About To Pass 'The ______Act of____' (These Are The People We Elect?)
...Anyway, the last time the House was called back early like this, it involved emergency legislation to deal with Hurricane Katrina. So what's so important this time around? Apparently, it's The ______Act of____.

Yes, The ______Act of____.

It appears that our friendly Senators were in such a rush to get this bill through that they forgot to name it. Jim Harper noticed this when the bill showed up as the oddly named The XXXXXXAct ofXXXX on his always excellent WashingtonWatch site. Apparently, the Library of Congress' Thomas reporting system converted the underscores into X's. And, yes, even The Congressional Record (pdf) notes that "This Act may be cited as the "_______Act of______".

And don't think the House can easily change it, either. If it changes the name of the bill, the Senate would have to come back and vote again. In the meantime, what is the bill? Well, it's actually been quite a moving target. It was originally about taxing executives who received TARP funds. Then it was changed entirely to have something to do with aviation, and now it's about an Education Jobs Fund. At one point, prior to its current non-name, it was called "The Aviation Safety and Investment Act of 2010," but that's got nothing to do with what it is now. If you look at WashingtonWatch's own summary of the bill, it still says the bill "would impose an additional tax on bonuses received from certain TARP recipients," even though I don't believe that's in the bill any more. As Harper notes in a different blog post, since this bill (by number only) is listed on the White House's pending legislation page, anyone tracking that bill might think Obama is about to sign into a law a bill (which hasn't been approved by Congress) about taxing TARP bonuses... despite that not even being close to true.

I honestly have no idea if the specific details of this bill, requiring the mad dash back to DC for House Members is a good thing or not....

Confirmed: GE CEO Immelt Scolded NBC Journalists For Reporting Negatively on Obama
...FOX Business Channel’s Charles Gasparino told Bill O’Reilly tonight that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt gathered the CNBC reporters together in early 2009 and scolded them for reporting negatively on Barack Obama. GE owns 80% of NBC Universal....

The Obsolescence of Barack Obama
...He pronounced on the American condition with stark, unalloyed confidence. He had little if any regard for precedents. He could be forgiven the thought that America's faith in economic freedom had given way and that he had the popular writ to move the nation toward a super-regulated command economy. An "economic emergency" was upon us, and this would be the New New Deal.

There was no hesitation in the monumental changes Mr. Obama had in mind. The logic was Jacobin, the authority deriving from a perceived mandate to recast time-honored practices. It was veritably rule by emergency decrees. If public opinion displayed no enthusiasm for the overhaul of the nation's health-care system, the administration would push on. The public would adjust in due time.

The nation may be ill at ease with an immigration reform bill that would provide some 12 million illegal immigrants a path toward citizenship, but the administration would still insist on the primacy of its own judgment. It would take Arizona to court, even though the public let it be known that it understood Arizona's immigration law as an expression of that state's frustration with the federal government's abdication of its responsibility over border security.

It was clear as daylight that there was a built-in contradiction between opening the citizenship rolls to a vast flood of new petitioners and a political economy of redistribution favored by the Obama administration. The choice was stark: You could either "spread the wealth around" or open the gates for legalizing millions of immigrants of lower skills. You could not do both.

It was canonical to this administration and its functionaries that they were handed a broken nation, that it was theirs to repair, that it was theirs to tax and reshape to their preferences....

...It is in the nature of charisma that it rises out of thin air, out of need and distress, and then dissipates when the magic fails. The country has had its fill with a scapegoating that knows no end from a president who had vowed to break with recriminations and partisanship. The magic of 2008 can't be recreated, and good riddance to it. Slowly, the nation has recovered its poise. There is a widespread sense of unstated embarrassment that a political majority, if only for a moment, fell for the promise of an untested redeemer—a belief alien to the temperament of this so practical and sober a nation.

Alter Bathes Obama in Heavenly Light!
...Rabbi David Saperstein, reading from Psalms in English and Hebrew, noticed from the altar that the good men and women of the congregation that day, including the Bidens and other dignitaries, had not yet stood. Finally Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Church asked that everyone rise. At that moment Saperstein saw something from his angle of vision: "If I had seen it in a movie I would have groaned and said, 'Give me a break. That's so trite.'" A beam of morning light shown [sic] through the stained-glass windows and illuminated the president-elect's face. Several of the clergy and choir on the altar who also saw it marveled afterward about the presence of the Divine....

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Housing Policy’s Third Rail
...Fannie and Freddie amplified the housing boom by buying mortgages from lenders, allowing them to originate even more loans. They grew into behemoths because they lobbied aggressively and played the Washington political game to a T. But after both companies bought boatloads of risky mortgages, they required a federal rescue. ...

...Countrywide was the biggest supplier of loans to Fannie during the mania; in 2004, it sold 26 percent of the loans Fannie bought. Three years later, it was selling 28 percent. What Countrywide got out of the relationship was clear — a buyer for its dubious loans. Now the taxpayer is on the hook for those losses.

But what was in it for Fannie?

An internal Fannie document from 2004 obtained by The New York Times sheds light on this question. A “Customer Engagement Plan” for Countrywide, it shows how assiduously Fannie pursued Mr. Mozilo and 14 of his lieutenants to make sure the company continued to shovel loans its way.

Nine bullet points fall under the heading “Fannie Mae’s Top Strategic Business Objectives With Lender.” The first: “Deepen relationship at all levels throughout CHL and Fannie Mae to foster alignment and collaboration between our companies at every opportunity.” (CHL refers to Countrywide Home Loans.) No. 2: “Create barriers to exit partnership.” Next: “Disciplined Risk/Servicing Management” and “Achieve Fannie Mae Profitability Goals.”

(Later in 2004, by the way, the Securities and Exchange Commission found that Fannie had used improper accounting and ordered it to restate its earnings for the previous four years. Some $6.3 billion in profit was wiped out.)

The engagement plan also recommends ways that Fannie executives should mingle with Countrywide’s top management, because “fostering more direct senior level engagements with key influencers throughout their organization will be beneficial in ensuring strategic alignment and building organizational loyalty.” ...

Internal memo shows Fannie's intense courting of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo
Fannie Mae officials were so assiduous in their courting of Countrywide, the defunct corporation at the heart of the mortgage bubble at the heart of the Great Recession of 2008, that they laid out a 10-point program for the effort in 2004, according to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times.

"Outwardly, Fannie and Freddie wrapped themselves in the American flag and the dream of homeownership. But internally, they were relentless in their pursuit of profits from partners in the mortgage boom. One of their biggest and most steadfast collaborators was Countrywide, the subprime lending machine run by Angelo R. Mozilo," the Times' Gretchen Morgensen reports.

"Countrywide was the biggest supplier of loans to Fannie during the mania; in 2004, it sold 26 percent of the loans Fannie bought. Three years later, it was selling 28 percent. What Countrywide got out of the relationship was clear — a buyer for its dubious loans. Now the taxpayer is on the hook for those losses," according to Morgensen.

The internal Fannie Mae memo obtained by Morgensen laid out nine points under the heading of “'Fannie Mae’s Top Strategic Business Objectives With Lender.' The first: 'Deepen relationship at all levels throughout CHL and Fannie Mae to foster alignment and collaboration between our companies at every opportunity.' (CHL refers to Countrywide Home Loans.) No. 2: 'Create barriers to exit partnership.' Next: 'Disciplined Risk/Servicing Management' and 'Achieve Fannie Mae Profitability Goals.'”...

Battle Looms Over Huge Costs of Public Pensions
There’s a class war coming to the world of government pensions.

The haves are retirees who were once state or municipal workers. Their seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide.

The have-nots are taxpayers who don’t have generous pensions. Their 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed. And soon, many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks.

At stake is at least $1 trillion. That’s trillion, with a “t,” as in titanic and terrifying.

The figure comes from a study by the Pew Center on the States that came out in February. Pew estimated a $1 trillion gap as of fiscal 2008 between what states had promised workers in the way of retiree pension, health care and other benefits and the money they currently had to pay for it all. And some economists say that Pew is too conservative and the problem is two or three times as large. ...

Annals of executive overreach
Last week, a draft memo surfaced from the Department of Homeland Security suggesting ways to administratively circumvent existing law to allow several categories of illegal immigrants to avoid deportation and, indeed, for some to be granted permanent residency. Most disturbing was the stated rationale. This was being proposed "in the absence of Comprehensive Immigration Reform." In other words, because Congress refuses to do what these bureaucrats would like to see done, they will legislate it themselves.

Regardless of your feelings on the substance of the immigration issue, this is not how a constitutional democracy should operate. Administrators administer the law, they don't change it. That's the legislators' job.

When questioned, the White House played down the toxic memo, leaving the impression that it was nothing more than ruminations emanating from the bowels of Homeland Security. But the administration is engaged in an even more significant power play elsewhere.

A 2007 Supreme Court ruling gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate carbon emissions if it could demonstrate that they threaten human health and the environment. The Obama EPA made precisely that finding, thereby granting itself a huge expansion of power and, noted The Post, sending "a message to Congress." ...

...How did we get here? I blame Henry Paulson. (Such a versatile sentence.) The gold standard of executive overreach was achieved the day he summoned the heads of the country's nine largest banks and informed them that henceforth the federal government was their business partner. The banks were under no legal obligation to obey. But they know the capacity of the federal government, when crossed, to cause you trouble, endless trouble. They complied.

So did BP when the president summoned its top executives to the White House to demand a $20 billion federally administered escrow fund for damages. Existing law capped damages at $75 million. BP, like the banks, understood the power of the U.S. government. Twenty billion it was.

Again, you can be pleased with the result (I was) and still be troubled by how we got there. Everyone wants energy in the executive (as Alexander Hamilton called it). But not lawlessness. In the modern welfare state, government has the power to regulate your life. That's bad enough. But at least there is one restraint on this bloated power: the separation of powers. Such constraints on your life must first be approved by both houses of Congress.

That's called the consent of the governed. The constitutional order is meant to subject you to the will of the people's representatives, not to the whim of a chief executive or the imagination of a loophole-seeking bureaucrat. ...

Saturday, August 07, 2010

We’ll only listen to you if you’ve been peer-reviewed
Since it was published last year, The Spirit Level – Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s book on why equal societies do better than unequal ones – has become a sparkplug for heated, testy debate. Not one, not two, but three pamphlet-length critiques of it have been published, while others have rushed to man the book’s intellectual barricades (‘This book’s inconvenient truths must be faced’, said a Guardian editorial).

Yet now Pickett and Wilkinson have imposed an extraordinary condition on future debate about their book. Because much of the criticism of The Spirit Level has consisted of ‘unsubstantiated claims made for political purposes’ (in their view), ‘all future debate should take place in peer-reviewed journals’, they decree.

Wow. In one fell swoop they have painted any criticism of their book that appears in non-peer-reviewed journals as somehow illegitimate. They snootily say that ‘none of [the] critiques are peer-reviewed’ and announce that from now on they’ll only engage in discussions that ‘take place in peer-reviewed journals’. So any peep of a critique that appears in a newspaper, a book published by a publishing house that doesn’t do peer review, a non-academic magazine, an online magazine, a blog or a radio show – never mind those criticisms aired in sweaty seminar rooms, bars or on park benches – is unworthy because it hasn’t been stamped with that modern-day mark of decency, that indicator of seriousness, that licence which proves you’re a Person Worth Listening To: the two magic words ‘Peer Reviewed.’

One of Pickett and Wilkinson’s severest critics – the non-peer-reviewed Christopher Snowdon, author of The Spirit Level Delusion – is taken aback. ‘This displays an eagerness to close down debate and hide behind the supposed gatekeepers of knowledge’, he tells spiked. ‘Some people who don’t understand what peer review is seem determined to present it as some arbiter of truth’, he continues. ‘But it just means a study is fit for publication or is not obviously fabricated.’...

...Now there’s a lot in this that one might want to have a row with, even if one – like me – has not been peer-reviewed (which is fast becoming the intellectual equivalent of being deloused). For example, Pickett and Wilkinson argue that where the methodology in the three published critiques of their work has been ‘seriously flawed’, their methodology is based on sound scientific fact and evidence; they even flirted with the idea of calling their book ‘Evidence-Based Politics’. Yet I would argue that if they did indeed find ‘evidence’ that there’s more anxiety and other mental afflictions in well-off but unequal countries than there are in more humble but more equal societies, then it might be because the ‘therapy culture’ is more pronounced in these, largely Western parts of the world. If more people in America, for example, claim to have an angsty, emotional, brain-based issue than do people in Cuba, then I bet my weekly wage packet that it isn’t because of growth and consumerism, but because there is a widespread, very influential, Oprahite invitation to American people to define their every problem in therapeutic terms, whereas that isn’t yet the case in Havana and its surrounds....

Texas declares War on the EPA
I *strongly* recommend you go to this link and read this official response from Bryan Shaw, head of the TCEQ (the State regulatory body) and Greg Abbott, the Texas Attorney General, to Lisa Jackson and the EPA.


I have *never* read an official government document that is this bitter and contemptuous of the Federal level – I never thought I would! This is damn close to a new Declaration of Independance.

I’ll reprint a few excerpts, because William Travis himself would be proud of these words:

“In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrial development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently enacted greenhouse gas regulations — regulations that are plainly contrary to United States law.”

“On behalf of the state of Texas, we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.

The letter contains a number of very well reasoned legal points detailing why the EPA’s order to Texas is in violation of current law, including:

Instead of acknowledging that congressionally set emission limits preclude the regulation of greenhouse gases, you instead re-write those statutorily-established limits.”

But they save their best shots for the end:

"Each of these objections to EPA’s demand for a Loyalty Oath from the State of Texas would suffice to justify our refusal to make one. Indeed, it is an affront to congressionally-established judicial review process for EPA to force states to pledge allegiance to its rules (or forfeit their right to permit) on the final day by which states must exercise their statutory right to challenge those same rules. Texas will not facilitate EPA’s apparent attempt to thwart these established procedures and ignore the law…. Those objections will now be resolved in litigation now pending in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals."...

Show Me ObamaCare
...Earlier this week, the Congressional Research Service reported that the new bureaucracy the bill created is so complex and indiscriminate that its size is "currently unknowable." Capitol Hill's independent policy arm added that among "the dozens of new governmental organizations or advisory bodies," it is "impossible to know how much influence they will ultimately have."

No wonder Missourians rebelled, as with voters in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia last year. There will be more such what-have-they-done ObamaCare moments. Wait until the public discovers the government is now literally determining what qualifies as "health care" in America.

That isn't a typo. ObamaCare mandates that insurers spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on benefits, but Democrats never got around to writing the fine print of what counts as a benefit. So a handful of regulators are now choosing among the tens of thousands of services that doctors, hospitals and insurers offer. Few other government decisions will do more to shape tomorrow's health market, or what's left of it.

This command-and-control mechanism is the bill's mandate for insurance "medical loss ratios" (MLR) of 85% for large employers and 80% for small businesses and individuals. The MLR is an accounting statistic that measures the share of premiums paid out in patient claims ("losses"). In the individual market, MLRs typically run between 65% and 75%, and Democrats like Jay Rockefeller and Al Franken think this is evidence of excessive profits, executive pay, marketing and other supposedly wasteful overhead....

Friday, August 06, 2010

Girard pastor charged in child pornography case
SPRINGFIELD - A former Girard church pastor indicted this week by a federal grand jury is accused of using his position as a nursing home chaplain to access child pornography.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Springfield said Howard D. Shockey, 59, is charged with possession of child pornography for an incident on July 7.

He was a pastor of the Church of Brethren Church in Girard, where he served almost seven years, and was chaplain of the Pleasant Hill Nursing Home in Girard. He has been terminated from both positions, officials said Thursday....

Umberger resigns from St. Pat’s
Members of St. Patrick’s Catholic parish in Onalaska learned over the weekend their pastor, charged last month with possessing child pornography, has stepped down....

Church Pastor Charged With Sexual Abuse
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that a church pastor has been charged with sexual abuse.

Authorities said a weeklong investigation ended with the arrest and charges of crimes against a child being filed against Timothy Parker, 40, of Westgate.

Parker is the pastor at the St. Peter Lutheran Church in Westgate.

Authorities said they launched their investigation after a 13-year-old talked about an incident.

Parker is charged with two counts of lascivious acts with a minor and one count of third-degree sexual abuse. The charges could result in 30 years in prison if Parker is convicted....

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Controversial Minneapolis pastor: I'm attracted to men, but I'm not gay
A Lutheran pastor in Minneapolis who opposes homosexuals being allowed to lead congregations said Monday he is attracted to men, but that he's not a hypocrite because he never acted on his urges.

The Rev. Tom Brock told the Associated Press he has known for years he is sexually attracted to men, but doesn't consider himself gay because he never acted on it.

In June, the Minnesota gay magazine Lavender reported that Brock was a member of a support group for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction. Brock's church, the Hope Lutheran Church, placed him on leave while a task force looked into the matter. The Rev. Tom Parrish, the church's executive pastor, said the investigation determined Brock's story checked out.

"I am a 57-year-old virgin," Brock told the Hope Lutheran congregation during services upon returning to the pulpit on Sunday....

Hinkle: On Government, Right and Left Are Each Half Right
...Conservatives tend to be rather less blasé -- and liberals more so -- about waste, fraud, and abuse in other governmental sectors, such as education and health care. There's nothing like a juicy report on Medicare fraud or union rules that protect incompetent teachers to get the right-wing blogosphere gleefully abuzz with righteous indignation.

To conservatives, the lesson to draw from such stories is that government is inherently wasteful, ineffective, mendacious, and corrupt. But ask them to extrapolate that conclusion and apply it to the armed forces or the CIA, and you're likely to get blank stares. Go further and suggest that, just perhaps, soldiers and spooks can make mistakes, so maybe persons accused of terrorism ought to have a means of asserting their possible innocence, and you're likely to get hotheaded rebuttals.

By the same token, liberals often linger with almost pornographic delight over the details of waste, fraud, and abuse in homeland security -- "At Military Contractor's Trial, Telltale $100,000 Belt Buckle," exulted a front-page article in The New York Times the other day. For those on the left flank, the abuses inflicted in the name of homeland security -- bureaucratic bloat, warrantless wiretaps, civilian casualties, indefinite detention without trial, waterboarding, and so on -- provide inescapable proof that government is inherently wasteful, cruel, mendacious, and corrupt.

But ask them to extrapolate that conclusion and apply it to, say, nationalized health care, and -- well, you get the idea. For many liberals, a single exposé is enough to discredit the war on terror. But a thousand exposés will never give them cause to question the war on poverty.

Now it is at least theoretically possible that the world is populated by two types of people: supremely intelligent, kind, wise, capable, honest, and well-meaning persons on the one hand, and thoroughly vicious, corrupt, and incompetent dolts, cretins, and thugs on the other. And it is at least analytically conceivable that these two types of people have neatly sorted themselves along domestic/foreign policy lines, with all the good people gravitating to one camp, and all the bad people gravitating to the other.

That would be extremely convenient for liberals and conservatives. Or inconvenient, depending on which camp the good people and bad people sorted themselves into. But does it seem likely? Not very....
The Value of a Volt

G.M.’s Electric Lemon

Let Them Eat Cake
...According to news reports, Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to investment banker Mark Mezvinsky on July 31 is costing papa Bill $3,000,000. According to the London Daily Mail, the total price tag will be about $5,000,000. The additional $2,000,000 apparently is being laid off on US Taxpayers as Secret Service costs for protecting former president Clinton and foreign heads of state, such as the presidents of France and Italy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are among the 500 invited guests along with Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, and Clinton friend and donor Denise Rich, wife of the Clinton-pardoned felon.

Before we attend to the poor political judgment of such an extravagant affair during times of economic distress, let us wonder aloud where a poor boy who became governor of Arkansas and president of the United States got such a fortune that he can blow $3,000,000 on a wedding.

The American people did not take up a collection to reward him for his service to them. Where did the money come from? Who was he really serving during his eight years in office?

How did Tony Blair and his wife, Cherrie, end up with an annual income of ten million pounds (approximately $15 million dollars) as soon as he left office? Who was Blair really serving?

These are not polite questions, and they are infrequently asked....