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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New GM CEO States Obvious: Bankruptcy "More Probable"

GM's new CEO says bankruptcy is 'more probable'
March 31, 2009

General Motors Corp.'s new chief executive said Tuesday that more of the automaker's plants could close and bankruptcy is "more probable" as GM works to meet new, tougher requirements for government aid. In his first news conference as CEO, Fritz Henderson said he expects the company would "need to take further measures" beyond the five plants the company said it would shutter when it submitted a restructuring plan to the government last month.

GM also is likely to offer another buyout program to workers as it looks to cut labor costs, Henderson said.

President Barack Obama said Monday that GM's initial plans to become viable didn't go far enough. He gave the company 60 days to make more cuts and get more concessions from bondholders and unions or it won't get any more government help.

The Obama administration also asked former CEO Rick Wagoner to resign, and Henderson took over as CEO on Monday.

Henderson said that although GM would prefer not to use bankruptcy protection to save itself, it is "certainly more probable" than in the past.

The company, he said, has until June 1 to accomplish changes sought by the government, or it will be in bankruptcy. The 60-day deadline should be enough time, but if it becomes evident that the changes can't be made by the deadline, GM could go into court sooner, he said.

"It doesn't have to take 60 days. If it's quite clear that we're not able to accomplish what we need to do in terms of operational restructuring, reduction of debt on the balance sheet and what we need to do to accomplish these broad parameters of having a viable business, this will be a management judgment" reviewed by the Obama administration's autos task force, he said.

Henderson also said GM is still talking with potential buyers of the Hummer brand, and a decision on the brand's fate will come in the next few weeks. GM said in a viability plan filed with the government in February that it would make the decision in the first quarter, which ends Tuesday.

In an effort to increase sales, GM launched a program called "Total Confidence" that will make car payments for customers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

GM will make up to nine payments of $500 each to qualifying customers. Consumers must qualify for state unemployment benefits to be eligible for the program.

The program starts Wednesday and runs until April 30.

Ford Motor Co. announced a similar program Tuesday, which will take over customer's payment of up to $700 a month for a year in the event of job loss.

Shares of GM fell 32 cents, or 11.9 percent, to $2.38 in midday trading. Ford shares fell 6 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $2.70.


My Thoughts

If it is "more probable" that they are going to declare bankruptcy anyway, why did we pay them billions of dollars to keep them alive? That is money that the taxpayer will never get back. Bush should've let them fail like many conservatives thought he should've last year.

Also, about the "Total Confidence" program, it is a moronic idea. It invites people who cannot afford cars anyway to try and get one. The bad thing is that many will more than likely default, and the auto companies and beacuse we are financing them right now the taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

Sen. Wicker Says Bipartisan Consensus Says No Troops Should Be Deployed to US-Mexico Border

My Thoughts

Militarizing the border should be kept on the table, but it shouldn't be done except as a last resort normally. However, the problem is increasing rapidly. The Mexican Drug Wars are expanding into the US at an alarming rate. A minimal military presence might be in order at the border. Especially after a recent report of terrorists also coming into this country through the border. We shouldn't dismiss it so easily.

Ohio Democrat Promotes FDR's New Deal Even After It's Debunked Numerous Times

Flashback to 2004 UCLA Study

FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate
By Meg Sullivan| 8/10/2004 12:23:12 PM
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

Using data collected in 1929 by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cole and Ohanian were able to establish average wages and prices across a range of industries just prior to the Depression. By adjusting for annual increases in productivity, they were able to use the 1929 benchmark to figure out what prices and wages would have been during every year of the Depression had Roosevelt's policies not gone into effect. They then compared those figures with actual prices and wages as reflected in the Conference Board data.

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

The policies were contained in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which exempted industries from antitrust prosecution if they agreed to enter into collective bargaining agreements that significantly raised wages. Because protection from antitrust prosecution all but ensured higher prices for goods and services, a wide range of industries took the bait, Cole and Ohanian found. By 1934 more than 500 industries, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of private, non-agricultural employment, had entered into the collective bargaining agreements called for under NIRA.

Cole and Ohanian calculate that NIRA and its aftermath account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. Without the policies, they contend that the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of the year when they believe the slump actually ended: 1943.

Roosevelt's role in lifting the nation out of the Great Depression has been so revered that Time magazine readers cited it in 1999 when naming him the 20th century's second-most influential figure.

"This is exciting and valuable research," said Robert E. Lucas Jr., the 1995 Nobel Laureate in economics, and the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. "The prevention and cure of depressions is a central mission of macroeconomics, and if we can't understand what happened in the 1930s, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"

NIRA's role in prolonging the Depression has not been more closely scrutinized because the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional within two years of its passage.

"Historians have assumed that the policies didn't have an impact because they were too short-lived, but the proof is in the pudding," Ohanian said. "We show that they really did artificially inflate wages and prices."

Even after being deemed unconstitutional, Roosevelt's anti-competition policies persisted — albeit under a different guise, the scholars found. Ohanian and Cole painstakingly documented the extent to which the Roosevelt administration looked the other way as industries once protected by NIRA continued to engage in price-fixing practices for four more years.

The number of antitrust cases brought by the Department of Justice fell from an average of 12.5 cases per year during the 1920s to an average of 6.5 cases per year from 1935 to 1938, the scholars found. Collusion had become so widespread that one Department of Interior official complained of receiving identical bids from a protected industry (steel) on 257 different occasions between mid-1935 and mid-1936. The bids were not only identical but also 50 percent higher than foreign steel prices. Without competition, wholesale prices remained inflated, averaging 14 percent higher than they would have been without the troublesome practices, the UCLA economists calculate.

NIRA's labor provisions, meanwhile, were strengthened in the National Relations Act, signed into law in 1935. As union membership doubled, so did labor's bargaining power, rising from 14 million strike days in 1936 to about 28 million in 1937. By 1939 wages in protected industries remained 24 percent to 33 percent above where they should have been, based on 1929 figures, Cole and Ohanian calculate. Unemployment persisted. By 1939 the U.S. unemployment rate was 17.2 percent, down somewhat from its 1933 peak of 24.9 percent but still remarkably high. By comparison, in May 2003, the unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was the highest in nine years.

Recovery came only after the Department of Justice dramatically stepped enforcement of antitrust cases nearly four-fold and organized labor suffered a string of setbacks, the economists found.

"The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened."




My Thoughts

What were the causes of the extension of the Great Depression? Strong unions, protectionism, overly meddlesome government intervention, and higher taxes. Now Obama wants to do much of the same failed policies. As much as FDR sent, they couldn't get out of it. FDR's treasury secretary even said in his memoires that they spent and they spent, but it did nothing but increase the debt.

Democrats like Brown want to keep trying to revise history. They want to make people believe that the New Deal was the greatest economic strategy of all time, but reality is much different.

They want to keep blaming Republican strategies for everything that is going wrong with the economy now. However, they conveniently leave out the Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act's role and Bill Clinton's expansion of the CRA. They ignore Congressmen like Barney Franks, Maxine Waters, and CChris Dodd's coverup of the inadequacy of AIG, Fannie & Freddie, and Contrywide.

They barely acknowledge that the UAW needs to make some concessions to keep Detroit's Big 3 afloat. They don't admit that the reason that they are in this predicament is as much the union's fault as it is the CEO's. They want to just keep on blaming the big, bad rich white guys.

It wasn't the deregulation that was the main problem. It was the overregulation by the Democrats making the banks give loans that couldn't afford it.

Law of Unintended Consequences Hits Obama's Porkulus Bill, Spending Creates More Lobbyist Jobs

Porkulus: The Lobbyist Full Employment Act posted at 12:15 pm on March 30, 2009
by Ed Morrissey

The economy is crashing. Unemployment is higher than anytime in the last 26 years.  Barack Obama has promised to save and create jobs, and according to the Washington Post, he’s succeeding — but in a peculiar way:

"Last month, just before Valentine’s Day, business at Holland & Knight was so slow that the law firm laid off more than 240 lawyers and staff, victims of the economic downturn that has dented Washington’s reputation for being recession-proof.

"But one area of the multi-service firm was thriving. Rich Gold, head of the firm’s public policy and regulation practice, was hiring more than a dozen lobbyists, bringing his federal lobbying team to about 70, every one of them scrambling to stay on top of provisions and changes in the mammoth economic recovery package that was barreling through Congress. They were handling about 240 clients, including 50 new ones, all eager to win a portion of the stimulus that President Obama wanted passed. …

"Put another way, Main Street’s gloom has been K Street’s boon.

"The $787 billion stimulus package — along with an ambitious new federal budget, bank bailouts and the beginning of a regulatory overhaul — has succeeded in stimulating the economy along Washington’s avenue of influence. In the months since the November election, more than 2,000 cities, companies and associations have hired lobbyists to help them push their agendas on Capitol Hill and at the White House, easily outpacing such numbers after the previous two elections, according to disclosure records.

"Nearly every industry and every corner of the country has an issue, especially with so much money at stake."

Irony alert!  Obama campaigned on limiting lobbyist influence, and imposed a lobbyist ban at the White House so onerous that he’s been forced to issue dozens of waivers to it.  His stimulus team promulgated an unconstitutional restriction on communications with lobbyists that looks more like a scheme to avoid prostitution entrapment.  Yet K Street hasn’t been limited at all — in fact, they’re positively energized.

Why?  Government funding attracts lobbyists, and the more there is, the more you’ll get.  When government takes taxes out of the pockets of its citizens for the purposes of redistribution, especially on the massive scale of Porkulus, the rewards make it worth hiring people to get some of the money back.  As more and more people decide to organize to get their hands on government project money, more and more lobbyists get hired to represent them — and they make more and more connections with politicians in Washington to ensure their success.

If Obama really wanted to eliminate lobbyist influence, he would cut government spending and starve lobbyists out of K Street.  That’s why the Republican Revolution went off the rails when Tom DeLay concocted the K Street Project in the mid-1990s, purportedly to create a permanent Republican majority.  In order to kiss up to K Street, DeLay and the GOP had to guarantee an increasing flow of government funds as spoils to split for lobbyists and their clients. Obama’s Porkulus simply takes the same approach, magnified exponentially.

The explosion of employment on K Street is ironic … and utterly predictable.


My Thoughts

Really Ed said it the best here. I don't really have anything more to say. It is too important of a story to ignore.

Obama Promotes Backing Big 3 Car Warranties

Government to Back Car Warranties to Boost Sales
Monday, March 30, 2009

In an effort to boost sales and calm consumer fears, the Obama Administration unveiled a new warranty program Monday morning backing the warranties on new vehicles purchased from domestic auto manufacturers.

"Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it's ever been. Because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty," President Obama said in a press conference Monday.

Both General Motors (GM) and Chrysler have agreed to participate in the plan. Despite being eligible, Ford (F), which has not accepted any government assistance, has not opted into the program.

The guarantees will be available on warranties issued by the participating American auto makers during the companies' restructuring period.

Under the new Warrantee Commitment Program, the Treasury will work together with auto makers to cover 125% of the estimated warranty costs. Auto makers will provide 15% of the estimated costs, while the Treasury supplies 110%.

Consumers who purchase a GM or Chrysler vehicle during the restructuring period are eligible for the warrantee. The White House has not provided an estimated cost of the program.

Auto sales have been falling off a cliff recently as consumers curb their spending. In February, auto sales plummeted more than 41%. GM led the Big Three with a 53% drop in sales from the same time a year before. Ford posting a 48% drop, while Chrysler weighed in with 44% decrease.

Many fear that if GM or Chrysler were to file for bankruptcy, sales would drop even because consumers are leery to buy from a bankrupted company.

“However, no matter what the outcome, consumers should have confidence that if they buy new cars from either company their warranties will be honored,” the task force said in a statement.

Despite the backstop from Uncle Sam, questions regarding Detroit’s survival still linger.

Also on Monday, the White House rejected the plans GM and Chrysler submitted in February, saying they did not establish a credible path to viability.

GM was seeking more than $16 billion in fresh capital, while Chrysler was asking for $5 billion. GM has three months to rework its plans and Chrysler gets funding for 30 days as it works to complete a partnership with Italy's Fiat.

The task force, which was created by the Obama Administration instead of one “car czar,” also asked GM CEO Rick Wagoner to step down. Fritz Henderson, the company's chief operating officer, will fill the CEO spot.

“On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I “step aside” as CEO of GM, and so I have,” Wagoner said in a statement.


My Thoughts

I think that the warranty plan could be good. It could do for the car industry what the FDIC has done for the bank industry. However, it should only be a last resort backup like the FDIC.

Although, it strikes me as odd that the people that will hold the record for the biggest deficit spending in one year ever is the one telling this two companies that their recovery plan isn't good enough. After all, Obama never ran any sort of business at all. He has no track record for business success. Where does he get off telling them that it isn't good enough? They should be making the same demands for the UAW if their going to go after GM and Chrysler.

Obama Pays Little Attention to American Journalists Held Captive by N. Koreans

NKorea says 2 US journalists will stand trial By JEAN H. LEE Associated Press Writer
Mar 30, 5:32 PM EDT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Two American journalists detained at North Korea's border with China two weeks ago will be indicted and tried, "their suspected hostile acts" already confirmed, Pyongyang's state-run news agency said Tuesday.

The Korean Central News Agency report did not say when a trial might take place, but said preparations to indict the Americans were under way as the investigation continues.

"The illegal entry of U.S. reporters into the DPRK and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements," the report said, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The report did not elaborate on what "hostile acts" the journalists allegedly committed.

Euna Lee and Laura Ling, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were detained by North Korean border guards March 17.

Telephones were not answered at Current TV Monday afternoon and there was no response to messages. Ling's sister, Lisa Ling, a correspondent for National Geographic Channel's "Explorer," has declined to comment.

North Korea confirmed in a brief March 21 dispatch on KCNA that two Americans had been detained and were being investigated for "illegally intruding" from China.

A report in South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper March 22 said the two were undergoing "intense interrogation" at a military guesthouse in Pyongyang's outskirts for illegal entry and alleged espionage.

Conviction on charges of spying and illegally crossing the border could draw more than 20 years in prison for each under North Korea's criminal code.

Their Korean-Chinese guide and a third American, Current TV cameraman Mitch Koss, reportedly escaped arrest but were detained by Chinese border guards. Koss since has left the country, China's Foreign Ministry said last Tuesday.

An activist who helped the team plan their trip to China, the Rev. Chun Ki-won, said the three were on a reporting trip to interview North Korean defectors living in border areas at the time. He said he last spoke to Lee by phone early March 17 when they were near the Tumen River, which divides the two countries.

The detentions come at a time of mounting tensions in the region as North Korea prepares to launch a rocket over the objections of its neighbors.

Pyongyang has declared it will send a satellite into space sometime between April 4 and 8, but the U.S. and other nations suspect the launch will be a test of the country's long-range missile technology.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan have warned Pyongyang it risks sanctions by carrying out a launch prohibited under a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans the North from ballistic activity.

KCNA said Tuesday that consular officials will be allowed contact with the detained reporters during the investigation. The suspects will be treated "according to the relevant international laws," it said.

Washington, which does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, relies on the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital to represent the U.S.

A Swedish diplomat met with the journalists individually over the weekend, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said in Washington. Duguid provided no other details Monday about the journalists or the weekend visit, citing privacy concerns.

In Stockholm, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Cecilia Julin confirmed that the meetings took place but declined to provide any details.

Past detentions of Americans have required international intervention. In 1996, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, then a congressman, went to North Korea to help secure the release of an American detained for three months on spying charges. In 1994, he helped arrange the freedom of a U.S. soldier whose helicopter strayed into North Korea.

North Korean authorities also have custody of a South Korean citizen who works in the two Koreas' joint economic zone in Kaesong, just across the heavily militarized border, Seoul's Unification Ministry said Monday.

The man is accused of breaking North Korean law by denouncing Pyongyang's political system and inciting North Korean workers to flee the communist country, ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said. North Korea has assured Seoul his safety during an investigation, she said.

© 2009 The Associated Press.


My Thoughts

Where is Obama during this hostage crisis? He should be demanding our people back. Sec. of State Clinton should be on this situation 24/7 instead of insulting other world leaders. Instead, he's left it to low-level officials to negotiate their release. Obama hasn't even mentioned it at all. He's too busy attacking Rush Limbaugh to care about two ordinary Americans being held captive by a rogue dictator.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hillary Goofs Twice in Mexico, MSM Buries Story

Hillary's Mexico Visit Blunders Ignored by Old Media
By Warner Todd Huston
March 29, 2009 - 06:59 ET

Thus far, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made two diplomatic blunders during her visit to Mexico that the U.S. Old Media are shockingly uninterested in highlighting. One was a policy blunder and the other a cultural/religious one.

Clinton's first mistake was in imagining she is still a Senator that can make pronouncements on pending laws and policy plans instead of a mere envoy of the president, a mouth piece that hasn't the same freedom to invent policy prescriptions and laws that a Senator does. Last week, Clinton told Mexican officials that "we" -- as in the U.S. government -- are considering re-upping the so-called assault rifle ban because Mexico's drug violence is "our" fault.

When asked on March 27 about plans to return to the 1994 law banning "assault weapons" (a vague and illegitimate term at best), Obama's press secretary replied that he was unaware of "any plans" to reinstitute the ban.

Clinton obviously spoke out of turn making promises to Mexican officials that she was not authorized to make.

"Who painted it?"

The second Clinton gaffe concerned her abstruse question at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Thursday, March 26. Her question showed that Clinton was woefully uninformed about the most important feature of the church, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe enshrined there since 1531.

Catholic tradition holds that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted by Mary on a cloak belonging to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. As Monsignor Diego Monroy brought Clinton before the shrine, Clinton asked her blundering question.

"After observing it for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked 'who painted it?' to which Msgr. Monroy responded 'God!'"

Now, perhaps Clinton being so woefully ignorant of anything religious isn't such a surprise, but for a Secretary of State to be visiting one of the most famous and important churches in the region, one holding a much beloved religious relic, without even finding her staff informing her "who painted" the image reveals a shocking lack by professionalism of both the Secretary of State and her staff.

Add this to the "button gaffe" of March 7 where Clinton's staff failed to find out how to spell a simple word in Russian and we are seeing a Secretary of State failing in the simplest of tasks making a mockery of our "diplomatic" outreach.

Sadly, the Old Media is letting her off the hook with aplomb.


My Thoughts

None of this is any surprise to anyone. The Mainstream Media will do anything to protect the golden one from any embarrassment. It must be hard for them to keep it all under wraps. Obama's State Department and their foreign diplomacy is starting to look like a SNL sketch not a legitimate foreign relations team.

S-CHIP Tobacco Tax Hike Takes Effect Wednesday, Affects Many Low-Income, Middle Class People

Smoke break gets more expensive with tax boost
Associated Press Writer
Mar 29, 2:16 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- However they satisfy their nicotine cravings, tobacco users are facing a big hit as the single largest federal tobacco tax increase ever takes effect Wednesday. Tobacco companies and public health advocates, longtime foes in the nicotine battles, are trying to turn the situation to their advantage. The major cigarette makers raised prices a couple of weeks ago, partly to offset any drop in profits once the per-pack tax climbs from 39 cents to $1.01.

Medical groups see a tax increase right in the middle of a recession as a great incentive to help persuade smokers to quit.
Tobacco taxes are soaring to finance a major expansion of health insurance for children. President Barack Obama signed that health initiative soon after taking office.

Other tobacco products, from cigars to pipes and smokeless, will see similarly large tax increases, too. For example, the tax on chewing tobacco will go up from 19.5 cents per pound to 50 cents. The total expected to be raised over the 4 1/2 year-long health insurance expansion is nearly $33 billion.

Smokers are mulling their options.

Standing outside an office building in downtown Washington last week, 29-year-old Sam Sarkhosh puffed on a Marlboro Light. His 8-year-old daughter has been pleading with him to quit, he explained, and he has set a goal to give up smoking by his 30th birthday.

"I'm trying to quit smoking, and it could help," said Sarkhosh, an information systems specialist. "I don't think it will stop me from buying cigarettes every now and then, but definitely not as often." A friend who smokes Camels went out and bought four cartons in advance, he said.

The tax increase is only the first move in a recharged anti-smoking campaign. Congress also is considering legislation to empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. That could lead to reformulated cigarettes. Obama, who has agonized over his own cigarette habit, said he would sign such a bill.

Prospects for reducing the harm from smoking are better than they have been in years, said Dr. Timothy Gardner, president of the American Heart Association. The tax increase "is a terrific public health move by the federal government," he said. "Every time that the tax on tobacco goes up, the use of cigarettes goes down."

About one in five adults in the United States smokes cigarettes. That's a gradually dwindling share, though it isn't shrinking fast enough for public health advocates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarette smoking results in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year, and costs the economy $193 billion in health care expenses and lost time from work. Smoking is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer and lung disease.

Public health officials are urging individual doctors and staff at telephone "quit lines" in every state to make the most of the tax increase by reaching out to smokers. But it's unclear how deeply the tax will cut into tobacco consumption.

Eric Lindblom, research director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says he expects a drop of at least 6 percent to 7 percent among young smokers.

Philip Gorham, who tracks the tobacco business for Morningstar, the investment research firm, said he expects an overall drop of 4 percent to 5 percent this year. What happens after that is less certain, especially as the economy recovers.

"I would expect a road bump this year," said Gorham. "But these companies will still be extremely profitable. I still think they will make their return on capital by wide margins in the long run."

Philip Morris USA, the largest tobacco company and maker of Marlboro, is forecasting a drop, but spokesman Bill Phelps said he cannot predict how big. Philip Morris raised Marlboro prices by 71 cents a pack early this month, and prices on smaller brands by 81 cents a pack. Other major companies followed suit.

The pricing moves raised eyebrows. "That's nothing more than greed," said Kevin Altman, an industry consultant who advises small tobacco companies. "They weren't required to charge that until April 1. They are just putting that into their pockets."

Responded Phelps: "We raised our prices in direct response to the federal excise tax increase, and people who are upset about that should find out how their member of Congress voted, and contact him or her."

Some policy analysts have questioned the wisdom of boosting tobacco taxes to finance health care for children. They argue that the fate of such a broad program should not depend on revenues derived from a minority of the adult population, many of whom have low incomes and are hooked on a habit. The tobacco industry is also warning that the steep increase will lead to tax evasion through old-fashioned smuggling or by Internet purchase from abroad.

But smoking control advocates such as Lindblom say tobacco taxes should be even higher. "There's a lot of room to go after cigars and smokeless," he said. "We are certainly hopeful that health care reform will include some more increases."

Standing outside a Washington department store, attorney Margaret Webster, 42, puffed on a Marlboro Ultra Light and lamented the fact that the government is reaching deeper into her pocketbook.

"I don't think we (smokers) like it," she said. "But I've heard so many people say they were going to quit when the price went up ... and they're still smoking."

New tobacco tax rates:

© 2009 The Associated Press.


My Thoughts

"Some policy analysts have questioned the wisdom of boosting tobacco taxes to finance health care for children. They argue that the fate of such a broad program should not depend on revenues derived from a minority of the adult population, many of whom have low incomes and are hooked on a habit."

That was I was saying back when the tax hike was being voted on.

Now, I agree that cigarettes are bad, and people should quit. However, should the Democrats or anyone else for than matter be using the tax codes to change our behaviors or to punish smokers? No, they shouldn't.

Plus, if it is as they say: the higher the less people smoke, then they aren't going to get enough money to pay for S-CHIP, and it'll be another big buden on the American taxpayers.

Global Alarmist Extraordinaire Al Gore Doesn't Participate In Earth Hour-200th Post

Report: Gore’s Lights Left on for Media-Hyped 'Earth Hour'
By Jeff Poor
March 29, 2009 - 17:26 ET

We're nearly 24 hours out of Earth Hour and the media are already proclaiming it a success as Michael Bates pointed out for NewsBusters in a blog post earlier today.

However one prominent global warming alarmist reportedly didn't fully participate in the Earth Hour festivities. According to Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, global warming activist and former Vice President Al Gore left his lights for the hyped Earth Hour.

"I pulled up to Al's house, located in the posh Belle Meade section of Nashville, at 8:48pm - right in the middle of Earth Hour," Johnson wrote and reprinted on the Washington Examiner's blog on March 29. "I found that the main spotlights that usually illuminate his 9,000 square foot mansion were dark, but several of the lights inside the house were on."

The mainstream media gave the actual event plenty of free publicity, as actor Edward Norton, the official U.S. ambassador for Earth Hour, made the media rounds touting the event. Norton went as far as proclaiming the event to be as symbolically important as the Selma march, on two separate occasions - on NBC's March 27 "Today" and CNN's March 25 "Larry King Live."

However, it begs the question that if any of these same media outlets, that have had a love affair with Gore in the past - March 21, 2007 "Today" and May 22, 2007 "Larry King Live" - will pick up on the former vice president's lack of Earth Hour participation.


My Thoughts

Does Al Gore even believe what he preaches? It doesn't seem like he does because he thumbs the figurative eye all the time. Whether it be his private jet or his excessive electrical usage, he sounds more like part of the problem than the answer. Like many snooty liberals, he lives by the saying of "Do as I say not as I do".

Obama Denies Pakistani Invasion On Table After Days of Dodging Question

Obama rules out US troop raids into Pakistan
March 29, 2009

As he carries out a retooled strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama says he will consult with Pakistan's leaders before pursuing terrorist hideouts in that country.

Obama said U.S. ally Pakistan needs to be more accountable, but ruled out deploying U.S. troops there. "Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government," the president told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview broadcast Sunday.

The president also bemoaned the tenuous security situation in Afghanistan, saying, "Unless we get a handle on it now, we're gonna be in trouble." He made clear that his new strategy for the long war is "not going to be an open-ended commitment of infinite resources" from the United States.

In a wide-ranging interview, Obama sought to counter the notion that Afghanistan has become his war. He emphasized that it started on George W. Bush's watch.

"I think it's America's war. And it's the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks," Obama said. "The focus over the last seven years, I think, has been lost."

Obama taped the interview Friday, the same day he launched the fresh effort to defeat al-Qaida terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, widening a war that began after terrorists struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. He set new benchmarks and ordered 4,000 more troops to the war zone as well as hundreds of civilians and increased aid. The plan does not include an exit timeline.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," said the short-term objectives for U.S. forces in Afghanistan have narrowed under Obama's new strategy even as a flourishing democracy in Afghanistan remains a long-term goal.

"I think what we need to focus on and focus our efforts is making headway and reversing the Taliban's momentum and strengthening the Afghan army and police, and really going after al-Qaida, as the president said," Gates said.

Al-Qaida terrorists are still a serious threat and retain the ability to plan attacks against the United States even though they have been inhibited over the past several years, Gates said.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have praised the new U.S. strategy for dealing with growing violence in the region.

But Obama has irked Pakistan since taking office in January by retaining a powerful but controversial weapon left over from the Bush administration's fight against terrorism: unmanned Predator drone missile strikes on Pakistan along its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has urged Obama to halt the strikes. But Gates has signaled to Congress that the U.S. would continue to go after al-Qaida inside Pakistan, and senior Obama administration officials have called the strikes effective.

Without directly referring to the strikes, Obama said: "If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them. But our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists."

Asked if he meant he would put U.S. troops on the ground in Pakistan, Obama said: "No." He noted that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and said: "We need to work with them and through them to deal with al-Qaida. But we have to hold them much more accountable."

"What we wanna do is say to the Pakistani people: You are our friends, you are our allies. We are going to give you the tools to defeat al-Qaida and to root out these safe havens. But we also expect some accountability. And we expect that you understand the severity and the nature of the threat," Obama added.

His strategy is built on an ambitious goal of boosting the Afghan army from 80,000 to 134,000 troops by 2011 — and greatly increasing training by U.S. troops accompanying them — so the Afghan military can defeat Taliban insurgents and take control of the war.

In the interview, Obama said he won't assume that more troops will result in an improved situation. "There may be a point of diminishing returns in terms of troop levels. We've gotta also make sure that our civilian efforts, our diplomatic efforts and our development efforts, are just as robustly encouraged."

Obama agreed that things are worse than ever in Afghanistan, and then sought to clarify his point.

"They're not worse than they were when the Taliban was in charge and al-Qaida was operating with impunity," Obama said. But, he added, "We have seen a deterioration over the last several years."

"This is gonna be hard," Obama said. "I'm under no illusions. If it was easy, it would have already been completed." He also stressed the need to be flexible. "We will continue to monitor and adjust our strategies to make sure that we're not just going down blind alleys."

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, dismissed comparing the war in Afghanistan to U.S. involvement in Vietnam more than a generation ago.

"The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese never posed any direct threat to the United States and its homeland," Holbrooke, a Vietnam veteran, said on "State of the Union" on CNN.

"The people we are fighting in Afghanistan, and the people they are sheltering in western Pakistan, pose a direct threat. Those are the men of 9/11, the people who killed Benazir Bhutto," Holbrooke said, referring to the slain former Pakistan prime minister. "And you can be sure that, as we sit here today, they are planning further attacks on the United States and our allies."

© 2009 Associated Press


My Thoughts

Of course, he has to say no, but his skirting of the question over the last few days tells me more than his actual answer today. I believe that his non-answer answer caught him some heat from Pakistan. So, he had to actually make the statement that he wouldn't invade. In reality, it probably is still on the table. Although, it is thought of only as a last resort.

If It's Good for GM, Why Not UAW?

My Thoughts

As long as Obama is telling businesses like GM and AIG what to do, why not the equally inept UAW?

Bill O'Reilly:Obama Must Stop Spending, View Audience Applauded

My Thoughts

When the mostly liberal audience of The View and Bill O'Reilly agree, there must be something to it. I also loved what he said about California. They are definately headed for bankruptcy. It is clear to everyone, but they continue to spend money like they have an unlimited amount of funds.

PS. I love the look of utter disgust on Joy Behar's face because she actually had to be in the presence of O'Reilly. She has the same look with any other conservative that comes on the show.

Bill Maher: US Troops Will Have to Learn to Rape Themselves

My Thoughts

How this could be considered comedy? How could some in his audience or his guests even laugh? I don't even know. This is an example of liberals truly feel about the military. This is as insulting as Obama trying to make the wounded vets pay for their own war injuries. Horrendous and detestable doesn't even come close to describing how disrespectful this is to all vets past, present, and future.

G20 Summit Will Usher in "New Global Financial System" as "Anglo-American Capatilism" Goes On Trial

My Thoughts

Obama has an "inate capability to find the medium"? That's laughable. He doesn't ever give a real effort to work anything out with the Republicans. He couldn't find the medium if it bit him in the ankle.

How could the interviewer even think about relaying the comment that the US economy is the "Bernie Madoff" the world economies?

Obama's Grade for N. Korean Mettle Test: I

My Thoughts

Robert Gates admits that diplomacy won't work as it rarely does with despots like the "Fearless Leader" and that Obama will do nothing to stop the launch. This is a major blunder by Obama as this is a missle that should be able to reach Hawaii. He has so far failed to stand up to Russia, Venezuela, or North Korea. They continue to threaten us indirectly. He has just buried his head in the sand and pretended like it isn't happening.

To Democrats: If It Walks Like A Surge, Talks Like a Surge, It's a Surge

My Thoughts

Can't they give Bush or Republicans any credit at all? They can't rewrite history. Bush and McCain were both right about the surge. The more Democrats refuse to admit this the more they will be seen as petty and juvenile by the voters.

Did Natasha Richardson's Life End Prematurely Because of Canada's Healthcare?


March 26, 2009 --
COULD actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?

Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson's medical care haven't been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.

Richardson died of an epidural hematoma -- a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive.

Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes.

Between noon and 1 p.m., Richardson sustained what appeared to be a trivial head injury while skiing at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec. Within minutes, she was offered medical assistance but declined to be seen by paramedics.

But this delay is common in the early stages of epidural hematoma when patients have few symptoms -- and there is reason to believe her case wasn't beyond hope at that point.

About three hours after the accident, the actress was taken to Centre Hospitalier Laurentien, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, 25 miles from the resort. Hospital spokesman Alain Paquette said she was conscious upon reaching the hospital about 4 p.m.

The initial paramedic assessment, travel time to the hospital and time she spent there was nearly two hours -- the crucial interval in this case. Survival rates for patients with epidural hematomas, conscious on arrival to a hospital, are good.

Richardson's evaluation required an immediate CT scan for diagnosis -- followed by either a complete removal of accumulated blood by a neurosurgeon or a procedure by a trauma surgeon or emergency physician to relieve the pressure and allow her to be transported.

But Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts is a town of 9,000 people. Its hospital doesn't have specialized neurology or trauma services. It hasn't been reported whether the hospital has a CT scanner, but CT scanners are less common in Canada.

Compounding the problem, Quebec has no helicopter services to trauma centers in Montreal. Richardson was transferred by ambulance to Hospital du Sacre-Coeur, a trauma center 50 miles away in Montreal -- a further delay of over an hour.

Because she didn't arrive at a facility capable of treatment (with the diagnosis perhaps still unknown) until six hours after the injury, in all likelihood by that time the pressure buildup was fatal. The Montreal hospital could not have saved her life.

Her initial refusal of medical care accounted for only part of the delay. She was still conscious when seen at a hospital and her death might have been prevented if the hospital either had the resources to diagnose and institute temporizing therapy, or air transport had taken her quickly to Montreal.

What would have happened at a US ski resort? It obviously depends on the location and facts, but according to a colleague who has worked at two major Colorado ski resorts, the same distance from Denver as Mt. Tremblant is from Montreal, things would likely have proceeded differently.

Assuming Richardson initially declined medical care here as well, once she did present to caregivers that she was suffering from a possible head trauma, she would've been immediately transported by air, weather permitting, and arrived in Denver in less than an hour.

If this weren't possible, in both resorts she would've been seen within 15 minutes at a local facility with CT scanning and someone who could perform temporary drainage until transfer to a neurosurgeon was possible.

If she were conscious at 4 p.m., she'd most likely have been diagnosed and treated about that time, receiving care unavailable in the local Canadian hospital. She might've still died or suffered brain damage but her chances of surviving would have been much greater in the United States.

American medicine is often criticized for being too specialty-oriented, with hospitals "duplicating" too many services like CT scanners. This argument has merit, but those criticisms ignore cases where it is better to have resources and not need them than to need resources and not have them.

Cory Franklin is a physician who lives outside of Chicago. 2009 Chicago Tribune; distributed by Tribune Media Services.


Friday, March 20, 2009
Natasha Richardson, Epidural Hemorrhage and No Help in Canada

The Death of Natasha Richardson

Kevin, M.D. today adduces that Natasha Richardson indeed had a CT of the brain at Centre Hospitalier Laurentien--after falling ill with a recent history of head trauma, but there was no neurosurgeon available to do a STAT craniotomy which would have saved her life; however, this is not a fault of the Canadian system:

in remote resort areas in the United States, small community hospitals would likely lack neurosurgical coverage. In fact, because of the huge malpractice risk associated with the field, even if there was a neurosurgeon available, whether he or she would take emergency call at a community hospital would be in question.

How Remote?

Mont Tremblant is one of the most recognized and popular ski resorts in the world. It is famous for celebrity sitings, and the rich and famous frequently take up seasonal residence there.

As of 2005, Mont Tremblant had been recognized by Ski Magazine as the #1 ski resort in Eastern North America for 8 consecutive years.

Given the popularity of the area and the nature of skiing and snowboarding, Natasha Richardson may be the most famous person that’s ever come down from Tremblant’s slopes needing emergency neurosurgery, but I doubt that she is the first.

According to JAMA :

...head injuries are common in alpine skiers and snowboarders. Head injury is the most frequent reason for hospital admission and the most common cause of death among skiers and snowboarders with an 8% fatality rate among those admitted to hospital with head injuries. Of the 3277 patients with injuries recorded, 578 patients (17.6%) had head injuries. Head injuries accounted for 288 (17.9%) of 1607 alpine skiing injuries, 248 (17.8%) of 1391 snowboard injuries, and 32 (17.9%) of 179 of Telemark skiing injuries.

Head injuries constitute only 5% to 15% of all injuries from ski and snowboard accidents, yet are the primary cause of serious disabling injuries and death. There are approximately 10 fatalities per year in Colorado from accidents on the ski slopes, and among the fatally injured in one study, head injury was the cause of death in 87.5%;

Another report lists the incidence of ski head injury incidence at 0.77 per 100 000 ski visits

And a mega-study estimated rate of one death per 1.5 million skier-days.

Comparable ski areas in the U.S. – say Vail and Park City – both list neurosurgeons in their cities. Vail, Colorado has a population of 4,589 and is home to 1 practicing neurosurgeon. Park City, Utah population 7,371 also lists 1 practising neurosurgeon.

So, ski resorts should probably think hard about neurosurgical availability, is my impression, but all of the above begs the real issue, which is the differences between the Canadian model for health care and ours -- and where ours is going.

Availability of Neurosurgeons

Kevin, M.D. rightly states that a neurosurgeon is probably just as unlikely to be available in a U.S. ski town, as in Canada, and that may be so but the reasons are diametrically the opposite.

Neurosurgeons are not so easy to find in Canada where subspecialization is not rewarded, and 50-60% of boarded neurosurgeons leave the country to practice somewhere else within 2 years of their certification.

The last good data I could find listed only 174 neurosurgeons in the entire country. In the U.S. we have 3,500. A study on the need of neurosurgeons listed the density of neurosurgeons in the U.S. to be about 1/55,000 people which means that an analogous number of neurosurgeons needed in Canada would be about 604.

It is true that neurosurgeons eschew emergency room coverage in the United States, but it is for completely different reasons than in Canada. Here, our ED’s don’t want to pay what it takes to hire a neurosurgeon for coverage; in Canada, no one wants to even be a neurosurgeon.

So, in a sense, the Candian model for health care failed Natasha Richardson because of an artificially created shortage of subspecialists, which is a purposeful design meant to keep costs low in a taxpayer-funded-system. The U.S. would very much like to go in this direction and the plan is to broaden non subspecialized care options while reducing higher-tech procedures, diagnostics and physicians.

But as we go towards a single-payer system, we can all expect that when we need it most, the system will not be there for us, as it was not there for Natasha Richardson.
Posted by Dr.T at 12:17 PM


My Thoughts

As tragic as Natasha's death is, it is even more tragic if it could have been avoided. Liberals always think that they're doing what they do for the people. However, it usually ends up hurting people more than it helps. To add something else to the story, I will also say that Democrats keep saying that they will make healthcare cheaper. People need to remember that you get what you pay for. If they are paying less for healthcare that will probably mean that it is not as good and could cost you your life.

O'Reilly Calls Far-Left Bloggers His Enemy #1

My Thoughts

As many in the far-left do want to tear this country into two, change this country into a socialist nation, and misrepresent the truth to do it, I don't blame him. Although as the Soros' liberal Think Progress is already on this. I sure a firestorm is about to come down on O'Reilly for this comment on their blogs and probably MSNBC.

Biden Pleads With Europeans "Give Us A Chance"

'Give us a chance,' Biden tells G20 protesters
Mar 28 01:38 PM US/Eastern

US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday called for tens of thousands of protesters already on the streets of Europe ahead of a G20 summit next week to give governments a chance to tackle the economic crisis.

"I would hope that the protesters give us a chance, listen to what we have to say and hopefully we can make it clear to them that we're going to walk away from this G20 meeting with some concrete proposals," Biden said at a news conference after a meeting of center-left politicians in Chile.

Copyright AFP 2008


My Thoughts

The problem with Biden's plea is that the people of Europe have heard the socialist propaganda for decades. They see where it takes them, and it is not success and prosperity. It will stifle growth and keep their economy figuratively stuck in the mud with their wheels spinning in vain. They are tired of it.

EU Leaders Led by Germany's Merkel: Rejects $2 Trillion Stimulus, Says "Enough Is Enough"

Brown snubbed over tax Germans wreck ‘global new deal’
From The Sunday Times
March 29, 2009

Jonathan Oliver and Bojan Pancevski

GORDON BROWN’S carefully laid plans for a G20 deal on worldwide tax cuts have been scuppered by an eve-of-summit ambush by European leaders.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last night led the assault on the prime minister’s “global new deal” for a $2 trillion-plus fiscal stimulus to end the recession.

“I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money,” she said.

The Spanish finance minister, Pedro Solbes, also dismissed new cash being pledged at Thursday’s London summit.

“In these conditions I and the rest of my colleagues from the eurozone believe there is no room for new fiscal stimulus plans,” he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has insisted that “radical reform” of capitalism is more important than tax cutting.

The attacks on Brown’s ambitions for the G20 to inject more money into the world economy come at the end of a week where the prime minister has travelled to three continents to build support for his proposals.

The likely deadlock at this week’s meeting will kill any remaining hope that Alistair Darling’s April 22 budget will offer significant tax cuts.

The assault by European Union leaders also represents a defeat for President Barack Obama, who is desperate for other big economies to copy his $800 billion stimulus plan.

“There will be a very long communiqué, but there won’t be much in it,” said a Washington economist.

Adding to the disarray, a draft of the agreement Brown hopes to secure was leaked to a German news magazine, prompting suggestions of “dirty tricks” by Berlin.

The draft stated that Britain wanted a “$2 trillion” global fiscal stimulus. However, the figure appeared only in brackets, indicating agreement on the package had yet to be reached.

“We believe that an open world economy, based on the principles of the market, effective regulation and strong global institutions, can ensure sustainable globalisation with rising well-being for all,” it said.

A No 10 source expressed “disappointment” at the leak and insisted the $2 trillion figure was not new money but an expression of the total tax and spending packages already pledged by G20 members.

Privately, government officials admit that no further fiscal stimulus will be announced this week, although there will be a $250 billion package for the International Monetary Fund to help rescue struggling poor nations.

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, said he sympathised with the concerns of demonstrators planning to disrupt the London summit. “There is understandable frustration and some anger. The global economic systems has stalled and what we have got to do is get it started.”

George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, yesterday warned Brown against further tax cuts in the budget. “When it comes to your plans for a second fiscal stimulus, I say this Gordon Brown: enough is enough,” he said in a speech. “We will not let you play roulette with the public finances yet again.”

UK officials have not given up on the idea there could be agreement on a fresh boost for the world economy later in the year. “It is likely that there will be another heads of government meeting probably in Asia in the autumn,” said an official.

“This will be the forum where the next round of stimulus will be discussed.” Brown still hopes to establish the IMF as an informal referee for international tax cuts. The plan is that the Washington-based body could advise on the timing of any future cuts.

Merkel’s criticism drew an angry response from Labour MPs. Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister, said: “Who does Mrs Merkel think is going to buy Mercedes and BMWs if she . . . says putting demand into the economy is a bad thing?” Another Labour MP said: “One has to ask who had something to gain from the leak of the communiqué. This feels like a dirty trick.”

There are growing fears that protests at the summit venue, the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands could be marred by violence. Scotland Yard will be deploying specialist officers trained to use 50,000-volt Taser stun guns.


My Thoughts

As most of Europe seems to be moving away from socialism the last few years since the beginning of the millenium, we will hopefully see more of this type of rejection of Obama's style of "stimulus". As Europe wakes up to reality, I wonder if Obama and those in our government will follow suit. Our children's future depends on it.

Spanish Lawyers Diagnosed With Bush Derangement Syndrome, Updated: Added AP Video

Spanish Court Considers Criminal Case Against Ex-Bush Officials
Court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay.

AP Sunday, March 29, 2009

MADRID - A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.

Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.

The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

"The charges as related to me make no sense," Feith said Saturday. "They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated."

Yoo declined to comment. A message left at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco where Bybee is now a judge was not immediately returned. A message left at Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif., where Haynes reportedly works as an attorney was not immediately returned.

Spanish law allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes under a doctrine of universal justice, though the government has recently said it hopes to limit the scope of the legal process.

Garzon became famous for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and he and other Spanish judges have agreed to investigate alleged abuses everywhere from Tibet to Argentina's "dirty war," El Salvador and Rwanda.

Still, the country's record in prosecuting such cases has been spotty at best, with only one suspect extradited to Spain so far.

When a similar case was brought against Israeli officials earlier this year, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos assured his Israeli counterpart that the process would be quashed.

Even if indictments are eventually handed down against the U.S. officials, it is far from clear whether arrests would ever take place. The officials would have to travel outside the United States and to a country willing to take them into custody before possible extradition to Spain.

The officials are charged with providing a legal cover for interrogation methods like waterboarding against terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, which the Spanish human rights lawyers say amounted to torture.

Yoo, for instance, wrote a series of secret memos that claimed the president had the legal authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions.

President George W. Bush always denied the U.S. tortured anyone. The U.S. has acknowledged that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described plotter of Sept. 11, and a few other prisoners were waterboarded at secret CIA prisons before being taken to Guantanamo, but the Bush administration insisted that all interrogations were lawful.

Boye said he expected the National Court to take the case forward, and dismissed concerns that it would harm bilateral relations between the two countries.

He said that some of the victims of the alleged torture were Spaniards, strengthening the argument for Spanish jurisdiction.

"When you bring a case like this you can't stop to make political judgments as to how it might affect bilateral relations between countries," he told the AP." It's too important for that."

Boye noted that the case was brought not against interrogators who might have committed crimes but by the lawyers and other high-placed officials who gave cover for their actions.

"Our case is a denunciation of lawyers, by lawyers, because we don't believe our profession should be used to help commit such barbarities," he said.

Another lawyer with detailed knowledge of the case told the AP that Garzon's decision to consider the charges was "a significant first step." The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

There was no immediate comment from Garzon or the government.

The judge's decision to send the case against the American officials to prosecutors means it will proceed, at least for now. Prosecutors must now decide whether to recommend a full-blown investigation, though Garzon is not bound by their decision.

The proceedings against the Bush Administration officials could be embarrassing for Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been keen to improve ties with the United States after frosty relations during the Bush Administration.

Zapatero is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama for the first time on April 5 during a summit in Prague.


My Thoughts

"When you bring a case like this, you can't stop to make political judgments as to how it might affect bilateral relations between countries. It's too important for that."-Boye

That's quote is a joke. It's all about politics. The probability that these charges will actually turn into an arrest warrant. Even if there are warrants are issued, there will be no chance at all that even the most liberal president in our history will extradite anyone to Spain or any other country that oversteps its boundries.


Iran, Venezuela revise ties ahead of Chavez visit
Mar 27 05:39 PM US/Eastern

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Caracas Friday to touch up on bilateral ties ahead of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's visit to Tehran next week, officials said.

"Some important issues were examined, including the progress of joint projects, especially as concerns industrial cooperation and technology transfers," a diplomatic source told AFP.

During a public ceremony, Chavez revealed Mottaki was visiting along with vice ministers and other government officials, and said a meeting had been planned for later in the day.

Chavez and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are both arch-foes of Washington and their governments have significantly boosted their ties in recent years, signing dozens of agreements on binational banks, energy and factories.

Cooperation between the two members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has translated into over 200 investment projects valued at more than seven billion dollars in 2007, according to Venezuelan official figures.

Chavez is among only a handful of state leaders who support Iran's controversial nuclear energy program, suspected by some of serving as a cover to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Venezuela expelled the ambassador of Iran's enemy Israel from Caracas in January to protest the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip that left over 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Chavez and Ahmadinejad last met in November 2007.

Copyright AFP 2008


My Thoughts

Our enemies keep on getting stronger as Obama wants to draw down the military budget. As they live by the saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Obama is pissing off all of our current allies.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

GOP Attorneys Answer Rep. Nadler's (D-NY) Call For “Credible Evidence” About Rotten ACORN's Fraud Charges

Video: We’ve got your “credible” right here, Rep. Nadler
posted at 4:15 pm on March 27, 2009
by Ed Morrissey

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) shocked people when he wondered aloud during testimony in Congress about ACORN’s serial violations of election-fraud law when Congress would demand an investigation.  Jerold Nadler (D-NY) attempted to get his fellow Democrat back in line by assuring him that any “credible” allegation would prompt Nadler himself to demand an investigation.  A group of GOP attorneys want to take Nadler up on that challenge.

There is plenty of “credible evidence” to launch an investigation into the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN), the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) will argue in a video to be released Friday afternoon. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) shut down a request by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) to launch an investigation into ACORN, with Nadler citing not enough “credible evidence” to proceed.

The RNLA video targets that claim by marshaling a bevy of news reports from throughout the country during the 2008 presidential election, in which ACORN activists were alleged to have facilitated voter fraud in their get-out-the-vote efforts.

We covered most of those stories here at Hot Air.  If we missed any, it was only because so many of them popped up during the campaign.  And it didn’t just happen in our imagination, either; the Attorney General of Indiana found “multiple criminal violations” committed by ACORN just in his state alone.

Isn’t that credible enough for Nadler?  Or is he too much in ACORN’s grip that nothing short of a signed and videotaped confession by all of ACORN’s leadership will pique his curiosity about election fraud?  Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.


My Thoughts

What more could Jerold Nadler want? ACORN is a huge scourge of our country's integrity.

Is Afghanistan Bringing US, Iran Together?

US, Iran could work together in Afghanistan: official

Mar 27, 2009
MOSCOW (AFP) — Afghanistan is a "very productive area" for engagement between the United States and its arch foe Iran, a US official declared Friday, at a meeting in Moscow aimed at curbing rising violence in the conflict-torn country.

The meeting, led by the Shanghai Group which groups China, Russia and Central Asian states, came amid mounting international concerns over the resurgence of the Taliban Islamist militants in the country.

"We see Iran as an important player related to Afghanistan. We see this as a very productive area for engagement in the future," the US official, who asked not to be named, said on the sidelines of the conference.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic ties for almost three decades but President Barack Obama in a message on March 20 offered to end the animosity, in a departure from the previous administration's tough line.

Obama was Friday to unveil a new offensive against terror havens in Afghanistan, by dispatching 4,000 extra troops to train the Afghan army and sending in hundreds more civilians.

The Moscow meeting is also being attended by Shanghai Group observers, NATO officials, delegates from Afghanistan and Iran as well as representatives of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries.

The United States has sent Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Patrick Moon to the conference but there appeared little chance he could meet Iranian delegates.

"Such a meeting is not on the agenda," Iran's ambassador to Russia Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The meeting comes ahead of another international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague on March 31, due to be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats.

Iran said on Thursday it would also attend the Hague conference, in a signal it is ready to help the new US administration restore stability to its eastern neighbour.

© 2009 AFP


My Thoughts

Whatever role Iran would play should be extremely limited as in almost non-existant. The arsonist in charge of the fire department comes to mind when reading this story.

Kansas: New Abortion Law Requires Offering Ultrasounds Before All Abortions

New Kan. law: Before abortions, offer ultrasounds
Mar 27, 6:10 PM EDT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has signed a bill ensuring that clinics give women and girls seeking abortions a chance to see ultrasound images before performing the procedure.

The legislation was signed Friday and takes effect July 1. It also requires clinics to offer abortion patients a chance to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Sebelius signed the measure as she awaits U.S. Senate confirmation as federal Health and Human Services secretary. Anti-abortion groups in Washington have criticized her nomination because she supports abortion rights.

The bill amends a state law requiring doctors to obtain a patient's informed consent before performing an abortion.

© 2009 The Associated Press.


My Thoughts

Kansas had a weird day with the abortion issue. First, Dr. Tiller was exonerated, and now the NARAL favorite and Obama's HHS department nominee signed an odd amendment to the abortion law.

I'm not quite sure what they are trying to accomplish with the new law. Why give an ultrasound to a baby that your going to kill anyway? I suppose they are trying to reduce the number of abortions by pulling on the mother's heart strings by having them see and hear the baby alive.

Kansas: Late-Term Abortionist Found Not Guilty

Jury finds Kan. doctor not guilty in abortion case
Mar 27, 5:07 PM (ET)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - One of the nation's few late-term abortion providers was acquitted Friday of misdemeanor charges stemming from procedures he performed, but moments after the verdict was announced the state's medical board announced it was investigating similar allegations against him.

Prosecutors had alleged that Dr. George Tiller had in 2003 gotten second opinions from a doctor who was essentially an employee of his, not independent as state law requires, but a jury took only about an hour to find him not guilty of all 19 counts.

Tiller, who could have faced a year in jail for even one conviction, stared straight ahead as the verdicts were read, with one of his attorneys patting his shoulder after the decision on the final count was declared. His wife, seated across the courtroom, fought back tears and nodded. The couple declined to speak to reporters afterward.

Tiller, 67, has claimed that the prosecution was politically motivated. An attorney general who opposed abortion rights began the investigation into Tiller's clinic more than four years ago, but both his successor, who filed the criminal charges, and the current attorney general support abortion rights.

Soon after the verdict was announced, the state's Board of Healing Arts made public a complaint against Tiller on allegations similar to those at issue in the criminal case. The complaint was filed in December but not released until Friday.

The board, which regulates doctors, could revoke, suspend or limit Tiller's medical license, or fine him.

Tiller has been a favored target of anti-abortion protesters, and he testified that he and his family have suffered years of harassment and threats. His clinic was the site of the 1991 "Summer of Mercy" protests marked by mass demonstrations and arrests. His clinic was bombed in 1985, and an abortion opponent shot him in both arms in 1993.

Kansas law allows abortions after a fetus can survive outside the womb only if two independent doctors agree that it is necessary to save a women's life or prevent "substantial and irreversible" harm to "a major bodily function," a phrase that has been interpreted to include mental health.

Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus provided second opinions on late-term abortions before Tiller performed them.

According to trial testimony, Tiller's patients paid Neuhaus $250 to $300 in cash for providing the consultation and the only way patients could see her was to make an appointment with Tiller's office.

Tiller testified that he used Neuhaus based on advice from his lawyers and from Larry Buening, who was then executive director of the Board of Healing Arts.

Prosecutors tried to show that Tiller ultimately relied on his lawyers' advice - an important distinction because the judge told attorneys before their opening statements that relying on the advice of an attorney cannot be used as a legal defense to criminal charges. They also questioned Tiller about the conversation with Buening, noting that Tiller had testified that Buening said he couldn't quote him.

Tiller also testified that in about five cases each year, Neuhaus would disagree with him about the necessity of a late-term abortion. When she declined to concur, the abortion was not done, he said.

Tiller estimated that he performed 250 to 300 late-term abortions in 2003, each costing an average of $6,000.

Tiller said he is one of three doctors in the U.S. who currently perform late-term abortions. The others are in Boulder, Colo., and Los Angeles, he said.


Associated Press Writer John Hanna in Topeka contributed to this report.


My Thoughts

This is a sad day for unborn babies. As an employee of Tiller, Neuhaus is nothing but a rubber stamp for a second opinion of late-term abortions.

Texas: Judge Upholds "Under God" In Pledge of Allegiance

Judge Rules 'Under God' May Stay in Texas Pledge of Allegiance
Saturday, March 28, 2009

DALLAS —  A federal judge has dismissed the claims of a parent who wanted to remove the words "under God" from the Texas pledge of allegiance recited each morning by public schoolchildren.

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade ruled Thursday the state pledge may continue to reference God because the national pledge and four other states reference God or divine grace in their pledge, The Dallas Morning News reported Friday.

"A voluntary recitation of the Texas Pledge of Allegiance simply does not coerce students in the same way a school-sponsored prayer might," Kinkeade wrote in his opinion.

David Croft had argued that inserting the words were unconstitutional and amounted to a violation of separation of church and state. He and his wife, Shannon, sued on behalf of their three children who are enrolled at the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.

Previously, the Crofts unsuccessfully sued after an elementary teacher told one of their children to keep quiet because a minute for silence after the pledge was a "time for prayer."

A provision that took effect September 2003 changed the way schools start their days in Texas. Children are now allowed to "reflect, pray, meditate or engage in any other silent activities" for one minute after the state and national pledges of allegiance have been recited. A federal appeals court ruled last week that the law is constitutional.


My Thoughts

As this is my hometown of Carrollton, Texas, I was very interested in this story. I'm glad to see that the childrens' freedom of religious expression was held up in this case.

Although, I don't agree with the judge that the school sponsored prayer wouldn't be voluntary or would coerce anyone to pray. That didn't make sense.

Our freedoms our under fire by liberals and judicial activists. We must stand up and fight to make sure that we get the freedoms that we have lost and keep them from taking more freedoms away.

Obama Won't Confirm Nor Deny Possible Pakistani Invasion Plans

White House Won't Rule Out Troops for Pakistan War (Updated)

By Noah Shachtman
March 27, 2009 | 6:08:00

President Obama has just laid out his new war strategy. And he's made it clear that the fight is both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So I asked Dennis McDonough, with the National Security Council: Does that mean U.S. ground forces in Pakistan? Or more drone attacks? "I'm not going to comment on the notions you laid out there," he answered, during a White House conference call with bloggers.

But during a separate press conference, Bruce Reidel, who recently completed a strategy review of the region for the White House, offered some hints. "Thus far, our policy sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but one theater of operations for our diplomacy, and one challenge for our overall policy," he said. "We have very concrete proposals for increasing economic assistance to Pakistan, proposals that have already been put forward by the Congress. We're also looking at what we can do on the military side."

Michele Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, added, "I certainly believe we are going to be increasing our intelligence focus in this [Afghan-Pakistan] theater, and as opportunities arise that may increase the pace of operations, as well."

Richard Holbrooke, the administration special envoy to the region, said about Pakistan: "of all the dilemmas, problems and challenges we face, that's going to be the most daunting, because it's a sovereign country and there is a red line. And the red line is unambiguous and stated publicly by the Pakistani government over and over again: No foreign troops on our soil." Last week, Holbrooke said "we must respect" that "red line." Yet, when given the opportunity today to state unambiguously that U.S. troops won't go to Pakistan, administration officials didn't give a clear answer. If anything, they side-stepped the question.

Draw your own conclusions. Maybe I'm reading too much into this. But to me, they're saying: Yes, there could well be more forces (both human and robotic). We'd just rather not talk about them.

UPDATE: In an interview on the Pentagon Channel, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked whether American troops would go after Osama bin Laden or one of his top lieutenants, if they were found in Pakistan. His answer:

"I don't anticipate that U.S. troops would be going into Pakistan in that way. A big part of what the President announced today is a new kind of partnership with Pakistan, including economic assistance. But also a willingness to help train their forces and provide the gear that would allow them to improve their own capabilities in counterinsurgency. What is key here is the regionalization of the problem and getting Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together on both sides of that border to go after al Qaeda and it allies...

"Al Qaeda operates on both sides of that border. And you really have to go after al Qaeda and its allies on both sides of that border. And what's required here is just greater coordination and collaboration -- first of all, between the Afghans and the Pakistanis, but also between each of them and ourselves. Both on a bilateral basis and on a trilateral basis, I think we have to go after these guys on both sides of the border." (emphasis mine)

Later in the blogger conference call, Spencer Ackerman asked McDonough about what the President really means by "disrupting" and "defeating" al Qaeda. His answers were... well, a little unexpected.

McDonough defined "disrupting" as making sure Osama's pals couldn't carry out attacks in Europe or America any more.  The terror cell or cells could still be intact - just impotent. Which is different from how I've imagined a "disrupted " al Qaeda before.

But the really interesting answer was about "defeating" the Osama-ites. Sure, there's a harcorde element that "has to be met by force alone." But not everyone has to to be turned into Predator flambe. To make sure new recruits don't take the place of the fried ones, "the violent, hopeless future offered by Al Qaeda is outshone by different opportunities" in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As Ackerman points out, "Notice that 'defeat' here is has an ideological meaning, and its primary measurement comes from the perceptions of Afghans and Pakistanis themselves."


My Thoughts

This could just be posturing by Obama. I find it a little hard to believe that a hardcore anti-Iraq war congressman would turn into a president who is willing to invade another country. That is something he criticized Bush for relentlessly for 2 years on the campaign trail. It could be seen a too big of a flip-flop or hypocritical of Obama to send troops into the Afghan neighbor.

When is Code Pink and the other anti-war protestors going to protest Obama for implementing a surge in Afghanistan and implying that a war with tribal leaders in Pakistan might be possible? Is Ed Schultz going to call Obama a "warmonger" as he did McCain?

Hezbollah Terrorists Crossing US-Mexico Border Along With Mexican Drug Cartels, Threatens National Security


My Thoughts

Apparently, it not just the Mexican drug gangs that have been invading the country from the south.

Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the left wonder why we want a border fence and want use the National Guard to protect the border. They think it's because we are racist, but it's to protect citizens from the drug gangs and terrorists that cross over with the decent migrants. We need to be able to separate the good immigrants from the bad. We need to be able to expel those who wish to harm our citizens. She thinks it's "un-American" to kick illegals out, but I think it is un-American not to protect our sovereignty and people's lives.

Clinton said that we need more gun bans to lessen the violence caused by the gangs at the border, but with all of those guns that Sara said they are bringing over, homeowners like George Barnett need guns to defend themselves from the army crossing into our country everyday.

"Brokaw's Embarrassment" Grows, MSNBC Moves Further Left With Addition of Ed Shultz

Is MSNBC Set to Create Yet Another Left-Wing Propaganda Hour?
By Rich Noyes
March 26, 2009 - 10:53 ET

If you thought MSNBC could not possibly tilt any further to the left, you may — sadly — be wrong. According to the New York Observer, the cable network may be about to give liberal radio host Ed Schultz his own program. Schultz has already filled in three times this month as anchor of the 6pm ET 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the one-time venue of Meet the Press moderator David Gregory.

“Schultz, with his rustic delivery, blue-collar bona fides and copious hunting references, would presumably add some heartland credibility to MSNBC's wonky cosmopolitan lineup without disrupting the lefty story line,” The Observer’s Felix Gillette noted on Tuesday.

Schultz has been a favorite with the NBC/MSNBC crowd since his national radio show debuted in January 2004. NBC’s Today show quickly brought him on as a pundit during the Democratic primaries, and treated him to a gooey profile in March of that year. Katie Couric touted Schultz as a liberal version of radio mega-star Rush Limbaugh, though at the time Schultz’s affiliates consisted only of stations in North Dakota, Montana, and Needles, California.

“Who in the heck is Ed Schultz? We’re gonna profile the man being called the liberals’ answer to Rush Limbaugh," Couric chirped in setting up the segment. "There’s a different sound coming from your radio days these days. It’s a liberal talk show host. Some say it’s the left wing’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. And you might be surprised to hear that this liberal host originates from the conservative heartland. We’re gonna meet him in this half-hour.”

The report, by correspondent Jamie Gangel, revealed that Schultz was actually a stooge of Democratic activists. "It is no secret that you are on the air for the next two years because Democratic donors have put up $2 million to launch this. Can you really say what you think?" Gangel challenged. Schultz insisted: "I'm not beholden to anybody."

In 2008, NBC and MSNBC both pounded conservative radio host Bill Cunningham after he referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” prior to a McCain campaign event. A few weeks later, however, after the liberal Schultz blasted McCain as a “warmonger” at an Obama event (for which the Obama campaign rebuked Schultz), his friends at NBC and MSNBC helped shield him. MSNBC’s Countdown and Hardball — which feverishly went after Cunningham — were silent on Schultz, while David Gregory’s 6pm Race for the White House offered Schultz a friendly forum to explain himself.

Appearing on the April 7, 2008 show, Schultz stuck by his venomous attack: “He is a warmonger. His policies and his positions on Iraq certainly parallel that of a warmonger. And he fits the description.”

On his radio show, Schultz has polluted the airwaves with rhetoric far nastier than what liberals claim about talk radio conservatives. Last Friday, for example, Schultz called GOP Senator Jon Kyl a “spineless scumbag” for daring to criticize President Obama’s joke about bowling “like Special Olympics or something.” Other recent examples chronicled here on NewsBusters:

■ On March 2, Schultz compared Limbaugh to Adolf Hitler: “If you watch Limbaugh with the sound down...he looks like Adolf Hitler!...The parallel is so striking.”
■ On November 25, Schultz rued how, after years of bashing George W. Bush, the outgoing President never extended his hospitality to left-wing talkers: “We lefties with microphones, we were never invited to the White House. Never got a chance to even urinate on the yard.”
■ On November 17, Schultz blasted Republican Senator Richard Shelby as a “terrorist” for opposing a taxpayer bailout of the auto companies: “It is his mission to kill the Big Three.... Senator Shelby from Alabama is a terrorist on the American worker. He is a terrorist on wage workers.” Two weeks later, on December 3, Schultz attacked network news (presumably including NBC?) for not “cheerleading” a socialist bailout: “They should be cheerleading. They should. Forget all this journalist crap! I’m serious.”

Last August, retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw refused to defend the one-sided left-wing rants that have replaced professional journalism on MSNBC, telling a forum on campaign reporting: “I think Keith has gone too far. I think Chris has gone too far.” If MSNBC adds Schultz to the line-up, Brokaw’s embarrassment will only grow.


My Thoughts

MSNBC had already hit rock bottom. Now, they've took out a shovel and started to dig.

The MSM and the left pounded Limbaugh just for saying that he wants Obama's agenda to fail. Imagine what would have happened if he would've called Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid a “spineless scumbag” or said that Obama looked like Hitler while stumping on the campaign trail.