Sunday, March 27, 2011

Claire McCaskill: Wait, did I forget to pay $287,000 in property taxes on my private jet?
...McCaskill has been answering questions about the plane since POLITICO recently reported that she billed taxpayers for a political trip around Missouri. POLITICO also reported that McCaskill spent $76,000 from her Senate budget on trips on the aircraft over the past four years, prompting the senator to refund the Treasury Department more than $88,000 for the cost of the trips plus pilot fees.

McCaskill’s announcement Monday is the latest twist in a political scandal that has dogged her for the past two weeks. The expensive fiasco clashes with her self-made image as a reformer and good-government advocate during her first term in the Senate. McCaskill has now shelled out more than $375,000 in payments to cover the cost the plane flights and back taxes, a series of events the senator herself has called “embarrassing.”

On top of this, McCaskill signed on in February as a co-sponsor of Senate legislation that would fire federal employees if they are “seriously delinquent” in paying their own federal taxes...

US soldiers posed with dead Afghan
Two US army soldiers allegedly involved in a 12-man "kill team"accused of murdering Afghan civilians for sport have been shown in leaked photographs posing with one of their victims.

Specialist Jeremy Morlock and Private Andrew Holmes are shown holding up the head of a man identified by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine as Gul Mudin, an unarmed Afghan they are accused of killing on January 15, 2010.

The magazine first released the images behind a pay-wall online on Sunday night and then published them on Monday.

Their release comes just head of an anticipated speech on Tuesday by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, that will announce the beginning of a transfer of security from international to Afghan control.

The photos are said to be among a number seized by Army investigators looking into the deaths of three unarmed Afghans last year.

Der Spiegel uncovered around 4,000 photos and videos taken by the so-called kill squad. The images released on Sunday were covered by a judicial order from a military court prohibiting their dissemination, and it was unclear how the magazine obtained them.

"Today Der Spiegel published photographs depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army," the army said in a statement released by Colonel Thomas Collins....

Hamburger on Waivers — Part III
... The constitutional defense of the health-care waivers has thus far been a defense of waivers in general, without attention to the realities of the health-care statute. As a result, the defense of the waivers not only is wrong on the Constitution but also is irrelevant to the statutory realities. . . .

the health-care statute says nothing about granting HHS a power to waive the restricted annual limits. As reported by David J. Shestokas, congressman Cliff Stearns of Florida — chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations — complained, “The word ‘waiver’ is not in there. We can’t find it anywhere.”

Of course, Congress could have granted the power to waive the restrictions in a more subtle manner — for example, as part of the substantive authority granted to the secretary of HHS to determine the restricted annual limits. But statutory provisions must be understood in their statutory context, and this context shows that when Congress sought to give the secretary a waiver power, it had no difficulty doing so expressly. For example, in its provision on state innovation, the statute specifies that “The Secretary may grant a request for a waiver . . . ” In contrast, in its provision on restricted annual limits, the statute does not say anything of the sort. Evidently, Congress did not delegate a waiver power for the restricted annual limits....

Media Matters boot camp readies liberal policy wonks for the camera’s close-up
...The problem for the soldiers of the left, according to Media Matters instructors, is that they are just too smart for their own good. The traditional dependence on facts and figures, on being right, is no longer germane. Too often these wonks disappear into the policy weeds or fall through the cracks of nuance.

Eager to offer a conversion parable, the instructors showed a Fox News appearance by PTI graduate Taylor West, now a communications director for National Journal, in which her good-natured teasing bested a conservative expert on Web security. She knew virtually nothing about the issue and crammed for the interview in the makeup chair. ...

Waiting for Joe and Bill
Not looking for sympathy here, but the life of a political reporter isn’t all champagne and canapes. Consider our man Scott Powers, who was sent over to the Winter Park home of Alan Ginsburg this morning as the designated “pool reporter” — aka scribe — for the fundraiser where Vice President Joe Biden is appearing on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Turns out the veep hadn’t arrived, but about 150 guests (minimum donation $500) were already in the house. So to prevent Scott from mingling with the crowd, a member of Biden’s advance team consigned him to a storage closet — and then stood outside the door to make sure he didn’t walk out without permission.

Scott e-mailed us this photo from his temporary prison. “Sounds like a nice party,” he wrote....

The government has your baby's DNA
When Annie Brown's daughter, Isabel, was a month old, her pediatrician asked Brown and her husband to sit down because he had some bad news to tell them: Isabel carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis.

While grateful to have the information -- Isabel received further testing and she doesn't have the disease -- the Mankato, Minnesota, couple wondered how the doctor knew about Isabel's genes in the first place. After all, they'd never consented to genetic testing.

It's simple, the pediatrician answered: Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center.

In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies' DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center....

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says
A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team's mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland....

Shot to Death for Nothing, Family Says
SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - Police officers responded to a family's complaint that their diabetic son may have been in danger from driving without taking his medicine by running him off the road into an interstate highway median and shooting him to death, the family says.

Joey Tucker's father, Perry Tucker, and his fiancée Brieanne Matson say they were "concerned about his health" when they called Salt Lake City Police. Joey Tucker had not taken his diabetes medication and "had possibly taken a sleeping pill," according to the federal complaint.

The family claims a Highway Patrol trooper rammed Tucker's pickup into a concrete barrier as Tucker drove on Interstate 80, then Salt Lake Police Officer Louis "Law" Jones shot him to death while he "was simply sitting," all of which was recorded on officers' dashboard cameras....

Federal judge to seniors: take Medicare or lose Social Security
...This week marks the first anniversary of ObamaCare, and if you are wondering where that coercive law is headed, we'd point to a case in federal court. That's where Judge Rosemary Collyer has ruled that Americans have a legal obligation to accept subpar government health benefits.

It remains a remarkable fact that America obliges most citizens over the age of 65 to take that rickety government health plan known as Medicare. Judging by today's growing number of health-savings options (HSAs, medical FSAs), some Americans would prefer to maintain private coverage upon retirement, rather than be compelled into second-rate Medicare....

...[T]he idea of patient choice offends many in government, and in 1993 the Clinton Administration promulgated so-called POMS (Program Operations Manual System) rules that say seniors who withdraw from Medicare Part A (which covers hospital and outpatient services) must forfeit their Social Security benefits....

...Yet in a stunning reversal, Judge Collyer last week revisited her decision and dismissed the case. In direct contravention to her prior ruling, the judge said the Medicare statute does — with a little creative reading — contain a requirement that Social Security recipients take government health care. The Medicare statute provides that only individuals who are “entitled” to Social Security are “entitled” to Medicare. Therefore, argues the judge, “The only way to avoid entitlement to Medicare Part A at age 65 is to forego the source of that entitlement, i.e., Social Security Retirement benefits.”

This is convoluted enough, but Judge Collyer’s truly novel finding comes with her implicit argument that to be “entitled” to a government benefit is to be obligated to accept it....

Judge comes down on Texas CPS in twins case
Rushed casework by Texas Child Protective Services resulted in a rare if not unprecedented legal sanction against the agency Friday for trying to take premature infant twins from their parents without proving it was justified.

Not only did state District Judge Michael Schneider rule against CPS for what he termed a "groundless cause of action," he ordered that $32,000 of the Spring family's attorney fees be paid by the agency.

And as if to drive his point home, he ordered the caseworker and her supervisor to write the court a report proving they understand the state's child removal statutes within 30 days....

...The Millers cooperated, but also contacted an attorney to advise them of the process. Five days later, they were notified that CPS had requested — and been granted — legal custody of all three children on an emergency basis.

Neither the Millers nor their attorney, Dennis Slate, were notified of the custody hearing. Nor was Judge Schneider informed that the agency made a voluntary agreement with the family, which could have changed his mind about granting legal custody to CPS so quickly....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Price of Taxing the Rich
...Nearly half of California's income taxes before the recession came from the top 1% of earners: households that took in more than $490,000 a year. High earners, it turns out, have especially volatile incomes—their earnings fell by more than twice as much as the rest of the population's during the recession. When they crashed, they took California's finances down with them....

...Arriving at a time of greatly increased public spending, this reversal highlights the dependence of the states on the outsize incomes of the wealthy. The result for state finances and budgets has been extreme volatility.

In New York before the recession, the top 1% of earners, who made more than $580,000 a year, paid 41% of the state's income taxes in 2007, up from 25% in 1994, according to state tax data. The top 1% of taxpayers paid 40% or more of state income taxes in New Jersey and Connecticut. In Illinois, which has a flat income-tax rate of 5%, the top 15% paid more than half the state's income taxes....

...As they've grown, the incomes of the wealthy have become more unstable. Between 2007 and 2008, the incomes of the top-earning 1% fell 16%, compared to a decline of 4% for U.S. earners as a whole, according to the IRS. Because today's highest salaries are usually linked to financial markets—through stock-based pay or investments—they are more prone to sudden shocks....
Chavez says capitalism may have ended life on Mars
CARACAS (Reuters) – Capitalism may be to blame for the lack of life on the planet Mars, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

"I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet," Chavez said in speech to mark World Water Day....
New gun-control legislation would prohibit those arrested but not convicted of drug crimes from possessing firearms
...The Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 would greatly expand the definition of those legally prohibited from owning firearms to include anyone who’s ever been arrested — even if never convicted or found guilty — for drug possession within a five-year period. The legislation is certainly troubling for those who want a “common sense” debate about drug decriminalization. And it would seem fears that any new national gun-control legislation would be used to limit the gun-rights of law-abiding citizens is at least partially justified.

Sponsored by New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and introduced earlier this month, the expanded background checks bill includes a “clarification of the definition of drug abusers and drug addicts who are prohibited from possessing firearms.” Under Schumer’s bill, the definition of a “drug abuser” would include anyone with “an arrest for the use or possession of a controlled substance within the past 5 years.”...

...A little more than 1,600,000 people were arrested in 2009 on drug violations, according to statistic from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. About half of those people were arrested on marijuana charges, with simple drug possession — rather than sale or manufacturing — accounting for nine-tenths of those collars, according to Reason magazine. It’s those last set of figures that could very well rally two groups most people might consider odd bed-fellows: pot-smokers and firearms enthusiasts....
“We Are at War” – NEA’s Plan of Attack
...NEA has enjoyed substantial membership and revenue growth during the decades-long decline of the labor movement. It is now the largest union in America and by far the largest single political campaign spender in the 50 states.

But after some 27 years of increases, NEA membership is down in 43 states. The union faces a $14 million budget shortfall, and the demand for funds from its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund is certain to exceed its supply. Even the national UniServ grants, which help pay for NEA state affiliate employees, will be reduced this year.

In the past, NEA has routinely faced challenges to its political agenda, mostly in the form of vouchers, charters and tax limitations. But the state legislative and gubernatorial results in the 2010 mid-term elections emboldened Republicans for the first time to systematically target the sources of NEA’s power, which have little to do with education and everything to do with the provisions of each state’s public sector collective bargaining laws.

Hence the Manichaean battle in Madison. There has been a virtually non-stop expansion of the scope of public sector collective bargaining over the past 35 years. If the tide turns, it may take a lot longer than 35 years to get those privileges back.

“We are at war,” incoming NEA executive director John Stocks told the union’s board of directors last month, outlining a plan to keep NEA from joining the private sector industrial unions in a slow, steady decline into irrelevancy to anyone outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. ...
Union Animals Storm Bank, Demanding CEO
...Now comes a story from northeast Pennsylvania, where hordes of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) fanatics stormed a bank demanding to speak to its CEO. When the request was rebuffed, the hooligans erupted into the mindless chants of “Respect our vote” and “We’ll be back.”...
How Obama Crushed The Dreams of A Generation (of Lefties)
It isn’t just the Nobel Peace Prize Committee that must be sorely disappointed in Obama today. Few people talk about it anymore, but Obama became president riding on a number of promises: he was the rock star that would save the Democratic Party; an enlightened being who would redeem America and unite the country while immanentizing the Eschaton. He would literally make for a better planet.

After the Left successfully demagogued every single move the Bush administration made for 8 years, here he was: a candidate upon whom every single aspiration of the Left could be projected and then some. Independents flocked to him. Crowds gathered in far off countries just to hear him speak. He was The One.

But he was also a product. A product that was marketed and sold, like a Hollywood movie. And like a bad Hollywood movie, he didn’t live up to the hype. And then, irony of ironies, fate turned the tables on Obama and his administration....

...All of the above and much more present the Left with a monumental problem. Now they look like hypocrites…or fools (Rubes!). Or both. It’s almost as if they forgot about Alinsky’s rules. But they had it coming. They backed the wrong candidate. Many of them probably knew it (how could they have not known it?), but they backed him anyway. They wanted the power. Now they’ve paid for it with their credibility.

It will probably be a whole generation before the Left can effectively demagogue geopolitics and national security the way it did during the Bush years. It will be a generation before Americans respond to the siren song of Utopia in the numbers they did back in 2008. ...

CBO: Taxing mileage a 'practical option' for revenue enhancement
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released a report that said taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short.

The report discussed the proposal in great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this technology in all vehicles.....

...On how to implement the idea, CBO said it is unclear how much it would cost to "install metering equipment in all of the nation's cars and trucks."...
Biden compares Republican economic policies to blaming rape victims
At a Friday fundraiser in Philadelphia, Vice President Joe Biden said that Republicans are employing a “blame the victim” strategy in addressing falling government revenue by cutting taxes and reducing spending.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Biden compared Republicans’ economic policies to insensitivity toward rape victims. “When a woman got raped, blame her because she was wearing a skirt too short,” Biden said, drawing a parallel.

“We’ve gotten by that,” Biden continued....

CBO: Obama’s budgets double the debt in 10 years
If you thought President Obama was serious about his rhetorical appeals to fiscal responsibility, one only has to look at the latest CBO report to know better. There is nothing in the report to support any such contention by the administration. To the contrary it points to a level of fiscal irresponsibility that is unprecedented in the history of this republic. Obama’s budget would, if executed, double the public debt by 2021 to $20.8 trillion or 87% of the GDP....

Did Qaddafi Deserve U.S. Funding? Foreign Aid Under Scrutiny Amid Mideast Unrest
While President Obama calls Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi a threat to his own people, just one month before attacking Libya the president asked Congress to increase U.S. aid for Qaddafi's military to $1.7 million. ...

Public Employees Rush to Retire
...The moves are motivating many public employees to retire sooner than expected, as public employees take the opposite approach of many workers who have put off retirement to recoup personal wealth lost during the recession. ...

..."It wouldn't surprise me if they change the rules and say you can't retire before 55," he says. "I didn't want to get stuck."

He was earning about $9,000 per month and will collect about a third of that as a retiree. Plus, he has been hired back as a consultant...

...When the Herricks retire from Oshkosh, they each will receive health insurance until age 65, pension checks and a payment worth $600 per year of service.

"I wouldn't want to risk losing those things," says Mr. Herricks, a high school agriculture teacher who is retiring after 37 years.

Given that pensions are off-limits to certain taxes, Mr. Herricks says they will bring home close to what they did before. They also plan to substitute teach....
ATF gunwalking scandal: Second agent speaks out
...Yet ATF agents told us they were ordered to let thousands of weapons walk. Two of them, assault rifles, were later found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona last December. Another gunrunning suspect under ATF surveillance was linked to the shooting of Customs Agent Jaime Zapata. And sources say many more "walked" weapons turned up at Mexican crime scenes....
Didn’t FDR execute a few people for doing what this ex-SEIU official is caught on tape espousing?
...You were talking about why unions are so invested because of their pension plans and why ungovernability, as Frances Fox Piven and Cloward taught us, you know, poor peoples’ movements are successful when they create conditions of ungovernability. And then you win victories…...

DA Chambers offers bonuses for prosecutors who hit conviction targets
Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers has created an unusual incentive for her felony prosecutors, paying them bonuses if they achieve a predetermined standard for conviction rates at trial.

The threshold for an assistant district attorney to earn the average $1,100 reward: Participate in at least five trials during the year, with 70 percent of them ending in a felony conviction. Plea bargains or mistrials don't count....

Aiyana Jones murder turns spotlight on a nation hooked on reality TV
...Miss Jones’s killing may yet be ruled manslaughter but it is her death that has focused national attention on “ridealong” TV crews and Detroit violence.

Police claim that she was struck by a bullet in the neck after her grandmother jostled a Swat team officer who was inside the flat with a search warrant for a separate murder hunt. The family’s lawyer insists that the only shot was fired from outside the building, and claims to have seen videotape that proves it.

No one denies the existence of the tape: it was shot by a film crew following the Swat team for “The First 48, a reality series for the A & E network that focuses on the crucial first two days of murder investigations. A Supreme Court ruling bars the media from following police inside private homes, forcing the crew to wait outside while the team went in.

Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s lawyer and a prominent Michigan Democrat, believes that the cameraman missed nothing. Flanked by tearful family members at a news conference this week he told reporters that the raid began with a flash-bang grenade — or bomb — being thrown through the front window to stun anyone inside.

“Virtually simultaneously with a bomb being thrown through the window on to Aiyana, a shot is fired from outside on the porch into the home,” Mr Fieger said. “The shot is unquestionably fired from outside . . . while the officer is standing on the porch.”

The details matter because the officer in question, named as Joseph Weekley, has a record of questionable judgment and of blending TV appearances into his police work. Nicknamed “the brain” by his peers he has made regular appearances on The First 48 and has been profiled for a separate series titled Detroit Swat. He is also being sued in connection with a 2007 raid in which he and other Swat team members allegedly pointed guns at children and shot two dogs while pursuing an armed robber.

Marvin Barnett, another Detroit lawyer, suggested this week that the grenade was used mainly for the camera. Barbara-Rose Collins, a former city councilwoman, said despairingly: “Everybody wants to be John Wayne.”...

Response to Austin Frakt
...Defenders of the new law invariably ignore the supply side of the market. They assume that if you insure the uninsured or give people more generous coverage that they will all get more health care without ever asking: who is going to provide that extra care?

If you assume that primary care resources are already fully utilized (and in urban areas the evidence for that is overwhelming) then one group can get more primary care only if some other group gets less. The absolute worst feature of Obama Care (and it truly is inexplicable) is that close to 310 million Americans are going to get more primary care coverage than they had before. Not just welfare mothers, but Bill Gates, Bill Gates’ father, Warren Buffett — everyone in the whole country is going to have access to a long list of preventive care services with no deductible or copayment. If they respond to their new incentives, they will all try to get more care than they were getting before. But since more care will not be forthcoming, the waiting times will grow at every emergency room and in every primary care doctor’s office — just as they have in Massachusetts...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SEC moves to charge Fannie, Freddie execs
The Securities and Exchange Commission is moving toward charging former and current Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives with violations related to the financial crisis, setting up a clash with the housing regulator that oversees the companies, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The SEC, responsible for enforcing securities laws, is alleging that at least four senior executives failed to provide necessary information to investors about the companies’ mortgage holdings as the U.S. housing market collapsed....

25 ATF Agents write letter outlining scandals
The contents of their letter are pretty stunning. A few samples:

"The Bureaus second most powerful manager Deputy Director Edgar Domenech, himself filed a whistleblower complaint and publicly stated that the Bureau of ATF has a propensity for reprisal and he “knew” such actions would result in career suicide."

"A Special Agent attempts to resist an investigation using unlawful wiretaps. The Special Agent openly challenges and reports it to superiors. After 20 + years of exemplary service, the next 1 ½ years results in the Special Agent and his family being transferred 5 times, suspended for 3 days, attempts made to have a psyche evaluation conducted, 2 letters of reprimand, and ultimately a termination."

"Complainants or those who would challenge unethical and/or illegal acts by Special Agents in Charge or senior managers are often threatened with collecting their next pay check in Fargo, North Dakota or Anchorage, Alaska."

"An anonymous letter was sent to the Department of Justice OIG from Las Vegas, Nevada alleging government Fraud waste and abuse. The OIG provided the letter to ATF Internal affairs for follow up investigation into the allegations contained in the anonymous letter. One of the primary objectives by ATF Internal Affairs investigators was to identify the author of the anonymous letter. During theInternal Affairs investigation, ATF identified an Agent who ATF had perceived to have been the whistleblower. This Agent became the recipient of vindictive personnel actions that ranged from a letter of reprimand to a notice of proposed removal from Federal service. Further investigation identified the true author of the letter and he/she admitted to being the author of the letter. ATF management then directed their attack on the actual whistleblower. ATF continued their attack on the perceived whistleblower and terminated him from Federal service. The Agent was later reinstated by ATF after appealing his removal to the MSPB [Merit Systems Protection Board]."...

CREW sues for Arne Duncan documents
A key watchdog group issued a legal filing Thursday demanding e-mails and other documents from Education Department Sec. Arne Duncan and his top aides under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the influence of Wall Street short sellers on a controversial new regulation governing for-profit or “career” colleges.

The filing is the latest step in a lawsuit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed in October to compel the release of documents under the law.

After dragging its feet for months – and suddenly facing legal action – the Education Department released almost 2,000 pages of documents in late December, according to CREW’s March 17 filing.

However, the agency did not search for documents from Arne Duncan, his top aides in the Office of the Secretary, or several other top officials. CREW is now demanding in court the Education Department produce documents from those officials.

The documents are important because they could show the extent of involvement by Wall Street short sellers at the top levels of the agency in a bitter fight over strict new regulations of the for-profit education sector....

Bureaucrats to union thugs: Come out fighting
...The decision came in a case that arose from a 2008 workplace representation election at MasTec DirecTV that was won by the Communications Workers of America on a 14-12 vote. Several of the anti-union employees reported numerous threats of violence against them and their families by pro-union advocates. As described by the NLRB, the threats included "a statement by prounion employee Anthony Hodges to employee Matthew Abel that Hodges could 'whip [employee Dennis Sheil's] a*s' or sabotage his work; an anonymous telephone threat to employee Lou Mays that the caller would 'get even' with him if he 'backstab[bed] us'; and statements by prounion employee Chris Verbal to a group of three or four employees that Verbal would 'b*tch slap' two other employees (who were not present at the time) or 'whip their f--in' ass' if they 'cost us the election,' and that he would 'whip [supervisor] Eddie's ass' if the union lost."

Does that sound like a hostile or threatening workplace atmosphere? Prior to its most recent decision, the NLRB has historically set aside elections in which multiple verbal threats were made by either side, including most recently in a 2007 case in which a UAW effort to organize a PPG shop was overturned following a rash of verbal threats of physical assault by pro-union employees against anti-union employees. But the NLRB last Friday found the same sort of verbal threats insufficient to set aside the election because it failed to meet one of these five criteria: "(1) the nature of the threat itself; (2) whether it encompassed the entire unit; (3) the extent of dissemination; (4) whether the person making the threat was capable of carrying it out, and whether it is likely that employees acted in fear of that capability; and (5) whether the threat was made or revived at or near the time of the election."...

The Leiter Side of Union Thuggery
...But in principle, so-called collective bargaining is no less objectionable in the case of cops and firemen than of anyone else. Once the public accepts that it is over for everyone else, there won't be much political support left for privileging the police and fire unions. Thus it makes perfect sense for them to side with the unions representing teachers and others with easier jobs. Their privileges are safe as long as everyone else's are at least contested.

In the letter to Wisconsin businessmen, however, we see why so-called collective bargaining is particularly corrupting to the police. Although the letter explicitly threatens only an economic boycott, when it is written on behalf of the police--of those on whom all citizens depend to protect their safety--it invariably raises the prospect of another kind of boycott. Can a businessman who declines this heavy-handed "request" be confident that the police will do their job if he is the victim of a crime--particularly if the crime itself is in retaliation for his refusal to support "the dedicated public employees who serve our communities"?

Sykes sums up the letter this way: "That's a nice business you got there. Pity if anything were to happen to it if, say, you didn't toe the line and denounce Governor Walker like we're asking nice-like." He's right. "Organized" law enforcement bears a disturbing resemblance to organized crime....

Biden compares Republican economic policies to blaming rape victims
At a Friday fundraiser in Philadelphia, Vice President Joe Biden said that Republicans are employing a “blame the victim” strategy in addressing falling government revenue by cutting taxes and reducing spending.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Biden compared Republicans’ economic policies to insensitivity toward rape victims. “When a woman got raped, blame her because she was wearing a skirt too short,” Biden said, drawing a parallel.

“We’ve gotten by that,” Biden continued. “It’s amazing how these Republicans, the right wing of this party – whose philosophy threw us into this god-awful hole we’re in, gave us the tremendous deficit we’ve inherited...

CBO: Obama’s budgets double the debt in 10 years
If you thought President Obama was serious about his rhetorical appeals to fiscal responsibility, one only has to look at the latest CBO report to know better. There is nothing in the report to support any such contention by the administration. To the contrary it points to a level of fiscal irresponsibility that is unprecedented in the history of this republic. Obama’s budget would, if executed, double the public debt by 2021 to $20.8 trillion or 87% of the GDP....

Sayings of Chairman Maobama
First I did a double take. He said what? I read it again and the shock waves followed.

A beleaguered Presi dent Obama has told aides it would be so much easier to be the president of China, The New York Times reports.

There are two ways to read the remark, which is attributed to anonymous aides. One is that Obama resents the burden of global leadership that comes with the American presidency. The other is that he longs for an authoritarian system, where he need tolerate no dissent.

Under either or both interpretations, his confession carries a dose of self-pity that means Obama has hit a wall.

He is in over his head, and he knows it. ...

Albany pastor arrested for luring 14-year-old girl
...The investigation began in early January when the parents of a 14-year-old victim reported their daughter received sexually explicit communication via text message and online message, said Eric Carter, a police spokesman....
Congressmen as securities traders
With all of the attention being given to insider trading by hedge funds and malfeasance by corporate executives, it’s worth reminding ourselves that the politicians who seek to impose discipline are themselves no angels.

An important study published seven years ago revealed that U.S. senators were reaping returns from stock trading that strongly suggested they were trading on an informational advantage. Profits depended on their seniority, and therefore, presumably, power to influence legislation....
Fed instructs teachers to Facebook creep students
Education Department officials are threatening school principals with lawsuits if they fail to monitor and curb students’ lunchtime chat and evening Facebook time for expressing ideas and words that are deemed by Washington special-interest groups to be harassment of some students.

There has only been muted opposition to this far-reaching policy among the professionals and advocates in the education sector, most of whom are heavily reliant on funding and support from top-level education officials. The normally government-averse tech-sector is also playing along, and on Mar. 11, Facebook declared that it was “thrilled” to work with White House officials to foster government oversight of teens’ online activities....
New Tone: Union Protesters INVADE Tennessee Senate Chambers during session
In the spirit of the "new tone" some union protesters took it upon themselves to invade the Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Senate Committee room in the Tennessee state capitol. As one of the demonstrators said, "I see civil disobedience as an obligation that we have when we see injustices in the world." That is an interesting point of view. The left can't stand it when the right simply gathers on the grounds of a building in protest, but they find it to be their duty to invade an actual committee hearing and disrupt the proceedings at will for their issues...
Union Thugs Destroy Recall Petitions
This video was shot minutes after a union advocate destroyed several petitions at a recall Jim Holperin Rally in Merill, WI. The event was moved to the court house grounds because the private location originally slated to host the event was threatened with arson. It should be noted that police were present when the protestor destroyed these recall petitions, but stated to us that there was nothing they could do about it. The female protestor, who had a young child with her, approached the recall table pretending to be interested in signing the petition, then proceeded to write F— You! She then ripped up other completed petitions before being stopped. Her actions were met with great approval from the rest of the crowd, who took up the chant heard in the video....

Wisconsin Teacher in Apparent Suicide, “Distraught” Over Walker’s Cuts
Jeri-Lynn Betts, an early childhood teacher in the Watertown, Wisconsin, school district, died on March 8 of an apparent suicide.

A colleague says she was “very distraught” over Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public sector workers and public education.

Betts, 56, was a dedicated teacher who was admired in the Watertown community.

“She was an amazing person,” says the Rev. Terry Larson of the Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Watertown, where she was a member. “She really put her heart and soul in her work,” adds Larson, who officiated at her memorial service on March 15.

“She was one of the good guys,” says Karen Stefonek, who used to teach with Betts. “She was very, very dedicated, and worked so well with the little special needs children. She just was very, very good with them, and very well respected in the district.”

In the days after Betts’s death, two members of the school district contacted The Progressive about her death, calling it a suicide and saying it was connected, at least in part, to the policies that Walker has proposed....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some paradox of our nature leads us, when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them the objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion.
-- Lionel Trilling

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
—C. S. Lewis

If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.
-- Henry David Thoreau

There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they still intend to be masters.
-- Noah Webster

It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.
-- Ayn Rand

Paul Ryan Uses This Chilling Presentation In The Push For Budget Cuts
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan has been using this presentation to persuade colleagues that dramatic action is needed to cut the deficit.

Ryan, the House Budget Chairman and lead debt warrior of the GOP, warns of a budget that will more than double from 2005 to 2020, reaching $5.5 trillion.

By 2080 the budget will reach 75% of GDP, dominated more than half by interest payments on debt....

WOLF: Obamacare vital signs starting to fade
Obamacare is living on borrowed time, and even its most ardent supporters are beginning to realize it. That’s why they’re racing to implement - and entrench - as much of the plan as possible before the laws of economics and the laws of the land and voters catch up. They’re like a deadbeat renter starting a remodeling project after being evicted but before the police escort them from the premises in hopes that it gives them squatter’s rights. Meanwhile, two unrelated but devastating events have caused the ground to shake beneath the feet of Obamacare supporters.

A major component of Obamacare is “totally unsustainable.” Those aren’t the words of Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin; no, those belong to the Obama administration’s own chief cheerleader, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. The program in question, the CLASS Act or Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act, is a massive long-term elderly care entitlement program that was quietly tucked into Obamacare and never got anywhere near the attention it deserves.

Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, called the CLASS Act “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.” And then he voted for it. I suspect Bernie Madoff would be proud of Kent Conrad. The White House’s sleight of hand goes like this: CLASS Act taxes begin in Year 1 but the benefits don’t begin until Year 6, so when 10 years of revenues and five years of expenses were calculated, the Congressional Budget Office declared not only that the CLASS Act paid for itself but, as a result, Obamacare overall would reduce the deficit. However, when 10 years of revenues and expenses are counted - even accepting the White House’s rosy scenario projections - the CLASS Act goes billions into the red and Obamacare itself raises rather than reduces the deficit.

Mrs. Sebelius agrees with the Medicare chief actuary that the program “is at a significant risk for failure” with or without the accounting gimmick but - channeling the spirit of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez - she claims the law gives her “administrative flexibility” to bypass Congress and the American voters and rewrite the law to her liking. Such power....

‘FistGate’ Goes Global: GLSEN Activist Promotes Masturbation at U.N. Conference
...“Oral sex, masturbation, and orgasms need to be taught in education,” Diane Schneider told the audience at a [United Nations conference] panel on combating homophobia and transphobia. Schneider, representing the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the US, advocated for more “inclusive” sex education in US schools. . . . She claimed that the idea of sex education remains an oxymoron if it is abstinence-based, or if students are still able to opt-out.
Comprehensive sex education is “the only way to combat heterosexism and gender conformity,” Schneider proclaimed, “and we must make these issues a part of every middle and high-school student’s agenda.” ...

...A panel sponsored in part by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) advocated for “comprehensive sex education” not only as a tool to combat “gender oppression,” but also as the key to achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals....

UK electricity CEO: Get used to not having any electricity, suckas!
...The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030,” he told BBC’s Radio 4. “We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be much smarter than that....

...“We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.”

Holliday has for several years been predicting that blackouts could become a feature of power systems that replace reliable coal plants with wind turbines in order to meet greenhouse gas targets. Wind-based power systems are necessary to meet the government’s targets, he has explained, but they will require lifestyle changes....

...[T]he government-regulated utility will be able to decide when and where power should be delivered, to ensure that it meets the highest social purpose. Governments may, for example, decide that the needs of key industries take precedence over others, or that the needs of industry trump that of residential consumers. Governments would also be able to price power prohibitively if it is used for non-essential purposes....

House Oversight Committee likely to investigate White House for treating non-union employees worse than unionized after GM bailout
Republican Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Dan Burton of Indiana are asking House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, to dig into the Obama administration’s decision to cut more than 20,000 private-sector workers’ pensions and eliminate their health and life insurance plans during the General Motors (GM) bailout in 2009.

A spokesman for Issa’s committee told The Daily Caller the committee “remains interested” and is “looking forward” to findings from an ongoing Government Accountability Office investigation, which is expected to come out within the next couple of months. What Turner and Burton are saying happened during the GM bailout is that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decided to cut pensions for salaried non-union employees at Delphi, a GM spinoff, to expedite GM’s emergence from bankruptcy. The problem with that, according to the congressmen, is that Geithner decided to fully fund the pensions of union workers involved in the process – including workers associated with United Auto Workers, Steelworkers and the IUE-CWA....

NPR executives caught on tape bashing conservatives and Tea Party, touting liberals
...On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said....

...O’Keefe’s organization set up a fake website for MEAC to lend credibility to the fictitious group. On the site, MEAC states that its mission is combating “intolerance to spread acceptance of Sharia across the world.” At their lunch, the man posing as Kasaam told Schiller that MEAC contributes to a number of Muslim schools across the U.S. “Our organization was originally founded by a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood in America actually,” he says.

Schiller doesn’t blink. Instead, he assumes the role of fan. “I think what we all believe is if we don’t have Muslim voices in our schools, on the air,” Schiller says, “it’s the same thing we faced as a nation when we didn’t have female voices.”...

New O’Keefe video: Sure, says NPR exec, we can hide a donation from a Muslim Brotherhood front group from the government
...Kasaam follows up by asking: “The fact that NPR is not only a tax-exempt organization, but also receives direct contributions from the government — does that invite some sort of government oversight or government examination of contributions, et cetera?”

Liley answered: “They have audited our programs at times and, I think, as part of that, they can look at our audited financials. If you are concerned in any way about that, that’s one reason you might want to be an anonymous donor. And, we would certainly, if that was your interest, want to shield you from that.”…...

Hammertime: The New Tone is Finally Here

Hammertime: Moore’s National Resources
...The grand total of the combined net worth of every single one of America’s billionaires is roughly $1.3 trillion. It does indeed sound like a “ton of cash” until one considers that the 2011 deficit alone is $1.6 trillion. So, if the government were to simply confiscate the entire net worth of all of America’s billionaires, we’d still be $300 billion short of making up this year’s deficit.

That’s before we even get to dealing with the long-term debt of $14 trillion, which if you’re keeping score at home, is between 10 to 14 times the entire net worth of all of the country’s billionaires, combined. That includes the all-powerful Koch brothers ($40 billion between them), the all-powerful George Soros ($14.5 billion), all the Walton family (of the Wal-Mart fortune), Steve Jobs, Oprah (at a paltry $2.7 billion), the Google Founders, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mars family (of the candy bar empire).

So, what if we try to solve a smaller problem? Across the nation, 45 states are projecting over $100 billion in shortfalls, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If the government just redistributed the wealth of the top three American billionaires—Bill Gates ($54B), Warren Buffet ($45B), and Larry Ellison ($27B)— it could solve that problem in a jiffy.

Of course, the 260-275,000 people employed by Berkshire Hathaway, the 105,000 employed by Oracle, and the 100,000 or so employed by Microsoft, might have something to say about that (to say nothing of the thousands of non-profits, charities, and causes that benefit from Gates’, Buffet’s and Ellison’s fortunes). That’s over 400,000 people out of a job....

Unintended consequences in Wisconsin
...Think about it: When education unions succeed in wringing every concession they can out of their particular piece of a school system, the squeeze is felt mainly by people who have to rely on the whole of that school system: Goodbye, gym class; hello, parents' paying out of pocket for all kinds of "extras" — and these are not, by and large, parents who can just throw their hands up and say, “That's it, he's going to Buckley!” When transit workers' demands shut down services or drive up fares, it barely registers with the rich who ferry themselves in taxis and towncars from one gilded district to another. It hurts those who can't get to their jobs without a bus or subway — and who need to count every cent that commute costs them. When a city's police force receives so much in salary and benefits that the city is then unable to hire enough cops on the beat, who is going to feel it more? The professional who must ask the cabdriver to idle in front of the building until the doorman appears, or the woman who cleans that professional's office, and has to hustle up a dark street before letting herself in? In short, when any government is forced to starve one set of programs in order to feed another, it affects the people who most need those programs — people who are rarely found at the yacht club.

Remember, too, that the people who most need public services also number among the people who are forced to fund them. When it is pointed out that public-sector workers generally earn more than their private-sector counterparts, the unions typically retort that this is only true among lower-level workers. Higher-up public employees tend to be both better educated and less remunerated. But this observation only complicates the social-justice credentials of the whole exercise, for it means that lower down on the ladder, we have public-sector workers deriving benefits from taxpayers who make less than they do. ...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified."
How quickly the lefty mind turns toward violence! That's the lofty law-and-philosophy professor Brian Leiter. Here, I'll help you get your fancy-schmancy, high-tone philosophy seminar started: Acts of political violence are justified to get what you want.

Via Instapundit, who says: "This whole 'new civility' business just isn’t working out as promised. On the other hand, it is working out pretty much as expected...."

My tag for the "new civility" has always been "civility bullshit." It was always, obviously, a strategy to control conservatives (while liberals regrouped after the drubbing in the 2010 elections). Now that the Wisconsin protesters have gone so far beyond anything that could be attributed to Tea Partiers or to Sarah Palin maps-with-crosshairs, I suppose the MSM will act as if there never was a new civility movement at all. Suddenly, virulent dissent will be portrayed as noble....

Intruder Calls 911, Afraid Homeowner May Have Gun
...“[t]he suspect, Timothy James Chapek, was in the bathroom taking a shower when the homeowner returned”; he locked himself in the bathroom when confronted by the homeowner, and called for help....

Before NPR scandal, a warning about 'elite' liberals: compassion turns to coercion
...In his book "The Liberal Imagination," published in 1950, Trilling pointed to the "dangers which lie in our most generous wishes." Progressives, Trilling observed, believe that through the "rational direction of human life" they can alleviate misery. But the reformers, Trilling showed, are too often oblivious of the truth of their own motives.

In his 1947 novel "The Middle of the Journey," Trilling probes this hidden impulse in his portrayal of Gifford Maxim, a character modeled on his Columbia schoolmate and legendary Soviet spy-turned-anti-Communist Whittaker Chambers. "And in the most secret heart of every intellectual ... there lies hidden ... the hope of power, the desire to bring his ideas to reality by imposing them on his fellow man," Maxim says. This hope tempts the progressive to embrace coercive policies in the name of social equity. "The more we talk of welfare, the crueler we become," Maxim says. "How can we possibly be guilty when we have in mind the welfare of others, and of so many others?"...

...Trilling shared Maxim's skepticism about progressive motives. "Some paradox of our nature leads us," Trilling wrote in "The Liberal Imagination," "when once we have made our fellow men the objects of our enlightened interest, to go on to make them objects of our pity, then of our wisdom, ultimately of our coercion."...

...The "ultimate threat to human freedom," Trilling wrote in an account of George Orwell, might well come from a "massive development of the social idealism of our democratic culture." Such idealism is dangerous because the idealists have disguised their deepest motives even from themselves. In his essay on Henry James's novel "The Princess Casamassima," Trilling described the willfulness of the progressive reformer "who takes license from his ideals for the unrestrained exercise of power." In today's ostensibly benign social policies, there is more than a whiff of the coercive "will" Trilling dreaded, the "will which masks itself in virtue."

Civility Alert: WI Protesters Tell GOP Senators “YOU WILL DIE!”
Charlie Sykes, a talk radio show host who broadcasts on Milwaukee station WTMJ, claims to be in possession of an email sent to 13 Wisconsin state senators after they voted last night to limit the collective bargaining rights of public unions. The email threatens to murder the legislators and their families (h/t The Blaze).

From: XXXX
Sent: Wed 3/9/2011 9:18 PM
To: Sen. Kapanke; Sen. Darling; Sen. Cowles; Sen. Ellis; Sen. Fitzgerald; Sen. Galloway; Sen. Grothman; Sen. Harsdorf; Sen. Hopper; Sen. Kedzie; Sen. Lasee; Sen. Lazich; Sen. Leibham; Sen. Moulton; Sen. Olsen
Subject: Atten: Death threat!!!! Bomb!!!!

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes [sic] will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we’ve had enough. We feel that you and the people that support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand for it any longer. So, this is how it’s going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it’s a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult [sic] you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn’t leave it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message to you since you are so “high” on Koch and have decided that you are now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a demorcratic [sic] process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, [sic] your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it’s necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We Will “get rid of” (in which I mean kill) you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked everything to go aganist [sic] what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel that it’s worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!

White House seeks child-speech oversight
Roughly 150 various advocates — lobbyists for gays and lesbians, legislators, White House officials, at least one cabinet secretary and the first lady — gathered around President’s Obama’s bully pulpit in the White House Thursday to cheer for increased government monitoring and intervention in Facebook conversations, in playgrounds and in schoolrooms around the country.

No officials at the televised East Room roll-out of the White House’s anti-bullying initiative suggested any limits to government intervention against juvenile physical violence, social exclusion or unwanted speech. None mentioned the usefulness to children of unsupervised play. None suggested there were any risks created by a government program to enforce children’s approval of other children who are unpopular, overweight, or who declare themselves to be gay, lesbians or transgender....

Leave the Fat Kids Alone
...This idea—that we've gone soft in more ways than one—has come up again and again in Slate's effort to crowdsource a remedy for overweight children. "Schools should actively stigmatize being fat," writes one member of the Hive; "few things are more terrifying to a kid than being an outcast." Another declares, "We need to stop telling children to 'love themselves the way they are.'" ...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Witness to Rep. Pantelakos: F—K you!
...WMUR reported on a visibly upset Concord resident who recounted to the Criminal Justice Committee how he recently had to cancel a visit with his mother because he did not want to submit to pat downs. The man made a point of overemphasizing the word “submit.”

After the hearing, Rep. Laura Pantelakos (D-Portsmouth) told the man that he does not need to get on an airplane if he doesn’t want to. “That is your choice,” she said.

“F—K you!” the man barked back, though the comment was bleeped out by WMUR....

Weare police charge man for recording traffic stop
...William Alleman, 51, of 140 Helen Dearborn Road, was charged Tuesday with interception of oral communication prohibited, which is the state's felony wiretapping law RSA 570-A (click for text).

Police Chief Gregory Begin released few details of the case when reached for comment Thursday. The charges stem from a July 10 traffic stop, Begin said.

"He was making an audio recording of the officer during a motor vehicle stop without getting consent of the officer," Begin said.

Alleman said the charge is based on a cell phone call he made as an officer approached his vehicle.

Police considered it wiretapping because the call was being recorded by a voice mail service without the officer's consent....

Wisconsin Protesters Mob Republican Legislator, Block His Entrance To The Capitol
...When Democrats had to walk past tea party protesters around the time they were cramming Obamacare through Congress the media went nuts, reporting endlessly about how the protesters were trying to intimidate the lawmakers, etc.

So where’s the outrage about the union protesters blocking this legislator from getting into the capitol? Don’t expect it to happen, because there’s a double standard.

Video: Wisconsin Dem intervenes to protect GOP senator threatened by mob
You have to see it to believe it. The clip is long and the key moment doesn’t come until 2:50 in, but you won’t be able to look away. The savior here, in the orange union t-shirt and sportsjacket, is Democratic Rep. Brett Hulsey; behind him, with white hair and glasses, is Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman. Watch and try to imagine what might have happened had Hulsey not been there. Even some of the protesters are sufficiently alarmed to start a chant of “peace-ful” to calm the more unruly ones down....

Distribution of Tax Burden by Quintile
In comments on my post on Rand Paul and David Letterman, some commenters expressed interest in seeing the data on overall federal tax burden, not just the burden of the federal income tax. As it happens, the Congressional Budget Office reports such data. I would reprint their tables but I haven't yet figured out how to do that. So here is the link for 2006 data. Click on their data and you'll get an Excel spreadsheet that shows the following:

. The bottom quintile paid 4.3 percent of income in taxes,
. The top quintile paid 25.8 percent of income in taxes,
. The top decile paid 27.5 percent of income in taxes,
. The top 5 percent paid 29.0 percent of income in taxes, and
. The top 1 percent paid 31.2 percent of income in taxes....

NY Teachers Union Calls for Members to 'Agitate'
...Their self-centeredness can be exemplified by the first paragraph of its article calling for its members to 'agitate.' It cites a 2,000-strong protest in rich Long Island calling against budget cuts "in a turnout so large than [sic] it closed an exit of the Long Island Expressway." So the turnout was so large that it clogged one of the busiest roads in New York State! And cost taxpayers their time and money idling so these union thugs could pressure elected officials....

The left hates violence
...Now the most interesting thing about this stuff is this is going up on the net, right on twitter. No attempt to hide it, spoken openly.

Why because the left counts on the media to ignore it. If you want to see the face of the left take a look at the comments left for Andrew Breitbart’s on twitter.

The reason why the internet explosion has been so bad for the left is it allows them to be seen for what they are. ...

...This is the unapologetic left. They are afraid right now because they are losing and the more afraid they get the less guarded with their speech they get. ...

High Speed to Insolvency
...Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make....

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Union bosses make hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, new report shows
A new report from the left-leaning Center for Public Integrity (CPI) shows union bosses would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal salaries and Democrats would lose millions of dollars in campaign donations if governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states win their budget battles. The new CPI report calls into question union bosses’ and Democratic lawmakers’ true motives in those states, showing that they’re possibly more concerned about losing revenue and personal salary than they are with collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

Salaries for the 10 largest unions’ bosses range from $173,000 for the United Auto Workers’ Bob King to $618,000 for Terence O’Sullivan, the president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka makes about $283,000 per year. Gerald McEntee, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), makes $480,000. The AFSCME stands to lose the most from any of the governors’ budget victories, as it’s currently the nation’s powerhouse public sector union, with around 1.5 million members nationwide....

...“As membership in AFSCME has grown, so has its political activism and political spending,” the CPI report states. “AFSCME spent $90 million in the 2010 elections, and most of that went to Democratic candidates and affiliated organizations.”

‘Funny Thing About Cops, They Hold Grudges’
...But this is becoming a disturbing pattern in which the distinction between the police and the police unions becomes blurred, as documented in my prior posts:...

Lawyer for Ohio Police Union Tells Republican State Senator: ‘Funny Thing About Cops, They Hold Grudges’
Ohio’s state Senate yesterday passed S.B. 5, which would limit the power of government employee unions. Among those voting for the measure was state Sen. Frank LaRose, a 31-year-old freshman Republican from Akron. After the passage of S.B. 5, LaRose’s Facebook page filled up with comments, including one from Michael Sarge Piotrowski who — as Melissa Clouthier explains at Red State — is a lawyer representing the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.

“Funny thing about cops, they hold grudges,” Piotroski wrote on LaRose’s page.

After being criticized by LaRose’s supporters — including College Republican activists Joe Manno, Nick Willcox and John Eakin — Piotrowski tried to walk back his comment, while simultaneously lashing out at Republicans.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” Piotrowski wrote in a reply to Willcox. “When Republicans talk about ‘Union Thugs’ they may as well be calling people the n-word.”...

Longhorns 17, Badgers 1
...Perhaps because a state's "average ACT/SAT" is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion's share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition. Minority students - regardless of state residence - tend to score lower than white students on standardized test, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be.

Please note: this has nothing to do with innate ability or aptitude. Quite to the contrary, I believe the test gap between minority students and white students can be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status. And poverty. And yes, racism. And yes, family structure. Whatever combination of reasons, the gap exists, and it's mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) with a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic).

So how to compare educational achievement between two states with such dissimilar populations? In data analysis this is usually done by treating ethnicity as a "covariate." A very simple way to do this is by comparing educational achievement between states within the same ethnic group. ...

...Perhaps because a state's "average ACT/SAT" is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion's share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition. Minority students - regardless of state residence - tend to score lower than white students on standardized test, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be.

Please note: this has nothing to do with innate ability or aptitude. Quite to the contrary, I believe the test gap between minority students and white students can be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status. And poverty. And yes, racism. And yes, family structure. Whatever combination of reasons, the gap exists, and it's mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) with a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic).

So how to compare educational achievement between two states with such dissimilar populations? In data analysis this is usually done by treating ethnicity as a "covariate." A very simple way to do this is by comparing educational achievement between states within the same ethnic group. ...

...White and Hispanic Texas students indeed seem to dropout at a higher rate than their counterparts in Wisconsin, although in both cases (a) the difference is not statistically significant; and (b) in both cases, both states are significantly below the national average. Among black high school students, Texans have significantly lower dropout rates than their national cohort and Wisconsinites. Black high school students in Wisconsin have significantly higher dropout rates than national....

Marxists. I Hate These Guys.
Those not keen on regurgitation might want to skip Terry Eagleton’s hagiography of Eric Hobsbawm, and its appreciation of the supposed glories of Marxism. But if readers feel like experiencing gastrointestinal upset, then they can allow their eyes to linger over Eagleton’s celebration of the “indomitable” Hobsbawm, who “remains broadly committed to the Marxist camp” (much to the delight of Eagleton), whose “analysis” of Marxism leads Eagleton to conclude that “History itself is speaking here, in its wry, all-seeing, dispassionate wisdom,” who allegedly states his arguments “with such honesty and equipoise,” and who, Eagleton believes, ought to be praised for his cheerleading for Marxism especially because he “has reached an age at which most of us would be happy to be able to raise ourselves from our armchairs without the aid of three nurses and a hoist, let alone carry out historical research.”...

...‘If one thinker left a major indelible mark on the 20th century,’ Hobsbawm remarks, ‘it was [Marx].’ Seventy years after Marx’s death, for better or for worse, one third of humanity lived under political regimes inspired by his thought. Well over 20 per cent still do. Socialism has been described as the greatest reform movement in human history. Few intellectuals have changed the world in such practical ways. That is usually the preserve of statesmen, scientists and generals, not of philosophers and political theorists. Freud may have changed lives, but hardly governments. ‘The only individually identifiable thinkers who have achieved comparable status,’ Hobsbawm writes, ‘are the founders of the great religions in the past, and with the possible exception of Muhammad none has triumphed on a comparable scale with such rapidity.’ Yet very few, as Hobsbawm points out, would have predicted such celebrity for this poverty-stricken, carbuncle-ridden Jewish exile, a man who once observed that nobody had ever written so much about money and had so little....

...Even if we accept the absurd and convenient argument that socialism was only “most necessary where it was least possible,” such an observation would be sufficient to show the intellectually bankrupt nature of Marxism and socialism. Of course, Eagleton offers us this “argument” as a way of excusing Marxism for its unerring capacity to bring poverty and misery wherever it is instituted. Marxism failed, you see, because it was only tried “in socially devastated, politically benighted, economically backward regions of the globe where no Marxist thinker before Stalin had ever dreamed that it could take root.” Really? Does Eagleton mean that it wasn’t tried in Europe–either through elections, or through outright Soviet imposition–where Marxist thinkers (including Marx himself) fervently hoped and firmly believed that it could and would take root?

Equally absurd is Eagleton’s and Hobsbawm’s dismissal of “the idea that Marxism leads inevitably to such monstrosities.” It’s not an idea. It’s plain historical fact. ...

...A mystery peculiar to the twentieth century is that intellectuals were eager to endorse the terror and mass-murder which characterized Soviet rule, at one and the same time abdicating humane feelings and all sense of responsibility towards others, and of course perverting the pursuit of truth. The man who sets dogs on concentration camp victims or fires his revolver into the back of their necks is evidently a brute; the intellectual who devises justifications for the brutality is harder to deal with, and far more sinister in the long run. Apologizing for the Soviet Union, such intellectuals licensed and ratified unprecedented crime and tyranny, to degrade and confuse all standards of humanity and morality. Hobsbawm is an outstanding example of the type. The overriding question is: how was someone with his capacity able to deceive himself so completely about reality and take his stand alongside the commissar signing death warrants?

Not long ago, on a popular television show, Hobsbawm explained that the fact of Soviet mass-murdering made no difference to his Communist commitment. In astonishment, his interviewer asked, “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?” Without hesitation Hobsbawm replied, “Yes.” ...

Is the Navy Trying to Start the Robot Apocalypse?
Whenever the military rolls out a new robot program, folks like to joke about SkyNet or the Rise of the Machines. But this time, the military really is starting to venture into robot-apocalypse territory: swarms of little semi-autonomous machines that can team up to manufacture complex objects (including, presumably, more robots).

That’s right, the only thing scarier than a swarm of intelligent military mini robots is a swarm of intelligent military mini robots in control of the means of production. And your Navy is hard at work on making it a reality.

The U.S. Navy recently issued a proposal for aspiring mad scientists to build it “a coordinated and distributed swarm of micro-robots” capable of manufacturing “novel materials and structures.”

This isn’t heavy industry, though. They want the robot swarm to use desktop manufacturing — a technology that allows you to “print” 3-D objects using equipment that can fit on your desk and be programmed with nothing more sophisticated than your own laptop. ...

The Loan Arranger
...In 2007, the SEIU owed Bank of America nearly $95 Million.

By the end of 2008, SEIU owed more than $156 Million in total outstanding liabilities. Only six years prior, its liabilities were $8 Million. And we're not even addressing their debts to other banks, like $15 Million with Amalgamated Bank....

Prison Rape and the Government
Back in 1998, Jan Lastocy was serving time for attempted embezzlement in a Michigan prison. Her job was working at a warehouse for a nearby men’s prison. She got along well with two of the corrections officers who supervised her, but she thought the third was creepy. “He was always talking about how much power he had,” she said, “how he liked being able to write someone a ticket just for looking at him funny.” Then, one day, he raped her.

Jan wanted to tell someone, but the warden had made it clear that she would always believe an officer’s word over an inmate’s, and didn’t like “troublemakers.” If Jan had gone to the officers she trusted, they would have had to repeat her story to the same warden. Jan was only a few months away from release to a halfway house. She was desperate to get out of prison, to return to her husband and children. So she kept quiet—and the officer raped her again, and again. There were plenty of secluded places in the huge warehouse, behind piles of crates or in the freezer. Three or four times a week he would assault her, from June all the way through December, and the whole time she was too terrified to report the attacks....

...But perhaps more shocking is that even when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs....

The Truth About Fannie and Freddie’s Role in the Housing Crisis
...Fannie and Freddie bought 25.2% of the record $272.81 billion in subprime MBS [mortgage-backed securities] sold in the first half of 2006, according to Inside Mortgage Finance Publications, a Bethesda, MD-based publisher that covers the home loan industry.

In 2005, Fannie and Freddie purchased 35.3% of all subprime MBS, the publication estimated. The year before, the two purchased almost 44% of all subprime MBS sold....

...Contrary to Paul Krugman’s assertions, Fannie and Freddie did not “fade away” or “pull back sharply” between 2004 and 2006.

As the following chart from Roberts’ study shows, during that same time Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) bought near-record numbers of mortgages, including an ever-growing number of mortgages with low down payments....

... Armed with these advantages, GSEs increased their book of business from $13 billion in 1965 to $1 trillion by 1990 and $3.4 trillion in 2003. Once the great real estate bubble had concluded by year-end 2007, Freddie and Fannie combined had purchased $4.9 trillion of mortgages, repackaging 70 percent of these into guaranteed securities for the secondary market.

This (along with Ginnie Mae) gave the GSEs roughly half of the $11 trillion mortgage market, but their share of new originations has become near dominant.

Many sources peg this at 70 percent, but an interesting take from TIME magazine business and economics columnist Justin Fox takes into account the impact of refinancing into GSE-backed loans. Juxtaposing GSE total volume ($ 539 billion) against new originations ($313 billion), GSE market share was 172 percent for the first quarter of 2008....