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Friday, December 31, 2010

Update: NYC Councilman Confirms Union Strike During Strike, Investigation Lauched

This is a follow-up on a story from yesterday, regarding the supposed sanitation strike in the middle of a blizzard. It seems that a city councilman has confirmed the story but limited it to Queens only. (Video here) Also, it seems that an investigation is being launched by the governor's office to see what really happened:

City Councilman Dan Halloran told the New York Post he was visited by sanitation workers and supervisors from the Department of Transportation (DOT). These workers confessed to intentionally undermining cleanup efforts after they "were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank and file."

The sources told Halloran they skipped streets on their routes to extend the process and collect overtime, according to the Post.

At a press conference on Dec. 30, both Mayor Bloomberg and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said an investigation would be launched.

"It would be an outrage if it took place," said Bloomberg. He neither denied nor confirmed the allegations, but promised an investigation. He also noted that the budget cuts the city is in the process of making haven't been implemented yet.

So, was it government incompetence, or was it more union greed? Hopefully, an investigation is done, and we find out the truth. Because we need to make sure that this level of ineptitude doesn't happen again.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ezra Klein: Who Can Understand What the Constitution Really Means? Because It’s Just So Old or Something/Update: Ezra Klein Responds

I was really debating whether or not I should cover this for two reasons. One, I usually stay away from stories involving how liberal the media is, unless it is especially egregious, because it, frankly, gives me tired head, and I’d feel like banging my head against the wall 24/7. Secondly, most people don’t know who Ezra Klein is and even less care. However, it is one of the slowest news weeks of the year. So, what the hell, I have nothing else to talk about.

Apparently , Ezra Klein, a Washington Post blogger and MSNBC contributor, seems to be confounded on how anyone can understand the US Constitution because is just so darn old (via @collegepolitico):

Now, I tore Ezra a new one on Twitter, right after I heard that, but after thinking about it for a few hours and listening to it, again, I am beginning to think along the same lines as Allahpundit on this:

I think Klein’s getting a bit of a bad rap. His formulation is idiotic — not all old texts are confusing, of course — but that’s probably just rhetorical clumsiness while live on the air. All he means, I take it, is that it’s often not clear how constitutional provisions should apply to modern circumstances not envisioned by the Founders. This is why there are 5-4 decisions all the time on the Supreme Court, and even splits within the Court’s conservative wing, on matters of huge constitutional import. (It pains me to remind you that Scalia concurred with the judgment of the majority in the Raich case.) ………

I made a variation of this point myself a few weeks ago when writing about the GOP’s insistence that all new bills contain a citation of constitutional authority. Klein thinks that’s a gimmick and nothing more; I think it’s a useful way to encourage the public to think about structural limits on government power, which is naturally why liberals don’t like it. But as a meaningful bar to congressional action, it’s worthless precisely because there’s usually some constitutional argument that can be made on behalf of any bill. Any good conservative lawyer could, if he/she had to, argue on behalf of the individual mandate; it’d be done through gritted teeth, with a facial expression suggesting constipation, but the argument itself is clear enough. Any good liberal lawyer could argue the opposite, with the same reaction. And needless to say, there are a lot of good conservative and liberal lawyers in Congress. My main problem with Klein’s argument is simply that he misidentifies the source of constitutional ambiguity: It’s not so much that the document is old, it’s that it’s remarkably terse. If we wrote a new Constitution today and limited ourselves to five pages, there’d still be a lot of headscratchers for the courts tomorrow, notwithstanding its newness.

BTW, I made a similar point, too, a while back, when I was discussing Justice Breyer’s comment that the founder would be for gun control. New technology has come that the founders couldn’t have foreseen. While I believe that they would be ok with everyone being able to own a gun, would they be ok with everyone owning a rocket launcher, tank, or a nuke? The constitution isn’t on point with everything that is being debated, today, and many have to wonder and infer what the founders would have wanted. Not surprisingly, there are many differing opinions on what the founders intended, regarding most issues.

I, sincerely, hope that he didn’t mean it how it sounded. He could have made the same point without mentioning how old it is.

If that is what he meant, though, does he, also, think that we should go ahead and stop schools from teaching Aesop or Shakespeare in schools because they are even older than the US Constitution is, and how can we expect kids to understand their works, since is just so darn old? Plus, how can we be able to trust anything that he has to say about politics or government, if he can’t even understand the basic document that said government was founded upon?

The argument of not being able to understand the Constitution because of its age is just ridiculous. After all, most of the bills that are coming out of DC are very complicated and written in such heavy legalese that even the most astute legal scholars can have a hard time comprehending them. The US Constitution is simple in comparison to today’s legislation.

However, if he meant it how I believe that he did, he has a point.

As I type this post, he has responded to his critics, regarding this clip:

This morning, I gave a quick interview to MSNBC where I made, I thought, some fairly banal points on the GOP's plan to honor the Constitution by having it read aloud on the House floor. Asked if it was a gimmick, I replied that it was, because, well, it is. It's our founding document, not a spell that makes the traitors among us glow green. It's also, I noted, a completely nonbinding act: It doesn't impose a particular interpretation of the Constitution on legislators, and will have no practical impact on how they legislate.

The rather toxic implication of this proposal is that one side respects the Constitution and the other doesn't. That's bunk, of course: It’s arguments over how the Constitution should be understood, not arguments over whether it should be followed, that cleave American politics. The Constitution was written more than 223 years ago, and despite the confidence various people have in their interpretation of the text, smart scholars of good faith continue to disagree about it. And they tend to disagree about it in ways that support their political ideology. I rarely meet a gun-lover who laments the Second Amendment's clear limits on bearing firearms, or someone who believes in universal health care but thinks the proper interpretation of the Commerce Clause doesn't leave room for such a policy.

But my inbox suggests that my comments weren't taken that way: The initial interpretation was that I'd said the Constitution is too complicated to understand because it was written a long time ago, and then, as the day went on, that I'd said the document itself is nonbinding. I went back and watched the clip -- or at least the part someone clipped and sent me, which is above -- and thought I was clear enough. But when a lot of people misunderstand you at once, the fault is usually yours. So if I was unclear: Yes, the Constitution is binding. No, it’s not clear which interpretation of the Constitution the Supreme Court will declare binding at any given moment. And no, reading the document on the floor of the House will not make the country more like you want it to be, unless your problem with the country is that you thought the Constitution should be read aloud on the floor of the House more frequently. In which case, well, you're in luck!

Is he just backtracking or is that how he really meant it? I'm thinking that it is the latter. Reading it allowed and making each bill include a reason on why it is constitutional are a bit gimmicky, but it could get the lawmakers and the American people to think more critically about the constitutionality of the proposed bills, when they draw them up and decide whether or not to pass them.

NYC Sanitation Union Bosses Tell Workers to NOT Help Clean-Up Blizzard/Should We Be Skeptical?

New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have enough to deal with just cleaning up the blizzard, in the first place. Now, the unions are intentionally making things much worse by telling sanitation workers not to help out with the blizzard clean-up. Now, that is making the Big Apple a Rotten Apple for New Yorkers, especially first-responders:

These garbage men really stink.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

This is a thug-style tactic, just like we've come to expect from union bosses. They are trying to put all New Yorkers at risk by making it hazardous for police, fire trucks, and ambulances to get to the people that are in need, and they are impeding the city's ability to clean the streets of all of the extra snow because of all of the extra trash on the roads.

Why are they doing this? Because they are upset over the fact that the city has had to trim some of the fat from their overstuffed wallets. New York City is in deep financial debt and needs to get their ship back in order. They don't need unions bullying them and holding New York hostage and endangering everyone's lives just to get a few extra bucks.

Unions need to come to terms with the fact that cuts must be made and deal with it. We all are having to deal with it. They should have to, as well. They can't be allowed to throw these temper tantrums, and we shouldn't give in to them at every turn.

Update: HotAir's Ed Morrissey makes a good point as to why we might want to be skeptical of this report:

I’m a little skeptical, but mainly because the primary source for the conspiracy theory is an elected official who can expect to be held accountable for the poor performance thus far in the Big Apple. Also, the Twin Cities had the same level of snowfall a few weeks ago, and snow removal was a problem for us, too. Minneapolis/St Paul and the first-ring suburbs have a large amount of infrastructure to deal with heavy snowfalls and about a fifth of the population, and we still have huge piles of snow blocking sidewalks downtown. Heck, we can’t even get the Metrodome fixed; now, the estimate for repair and reinflation is the end of March. I’m not sure that NYC could have done better, with its relatively smaller snow-removal infrastructure, lack of places to put the snow, and population density.

Is it possible that this was a coordinated slowdown effort by public-sector unions to make Bloomberg and city officials look incompetent? Sure, but the simpler answers are usually closer to the truth. The simpler answers here are that this was freakishly heavy snowfall in a city not used to such things, and, well, it has a mayor more interested in salt use in restaurants than on the roads.

We should know what is really to blame for this slow response to the blizzard. Is it an indifferent mayor, unusually bad weather, or union bullies? If it is true, could at least one charge of negligent homicide be in order?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Come to This: Yale, Cornell Professors Start Website Asking Rich to Give Bush Tax Cuts to Charity


A new website is encouraging the richest Americans to give their tax cuts to charity.

Four professors from Yale and Cornell universities created the Give It Back for Jobs website after Republicans forced President Barack Obama to extend Bush-era tax cuts for even the wealthiest Americans.

"Quite possibly, the President had no good alternative," the site noted. "All the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the wealthy, were scheduled to expire at the end of this month, jeopardizing an already fragile economic recovery.

"But we citizens need not abandon ourselves to this failure of government. Instead, ordinary Americans, acting together, can create shadow fiscal policy. By acting together, we can set the country moving toward a just prosperity.

"Americans who have the means should refuse to surrender to Senate Republicans. We should act, together, to give back our Bush tax cuts, by making donations to organizations that promote fairness, economic growth, and a vibrant middle class," the site added.

I fully expect those people that were begging to pay more taxes, like Warren Buffet, to pony up the bucks, now. Right?

The name of the site, Give It Back For Jobs, is a bit of a misnomer, considering some of the suggested charities listed, like Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Children's Aid Society and Nurse Family Partnership, have absolutely nothing to do with creating jobs or have little to do with economic growth.

Now, I have nothing against giving the money to charity, but they don't have to politicize it. Giving to charity is a great thing and should be encouraged, but not to make a political point.

Also, I believe that they've inadvertently stumbled on one of the reasons why the GOP and conservatives like the tax cuts. They would much rather see the money go into the hands of charities, where the chance of waste is minimal, than in the government's hands, where waste is rampant and almost a certainty.

Uh Oh! Rep-Elect Allen West Calls For Censoring US Media Regarding WikiLeaks Coverage

Newly elected and TEA Party Favorite Col. Allen West (R-FL) has called for the government to step in and keep the media from reporting on any of the WikiLeaks released leaks:


WEST: There are different means by which you can be attacked. I mean it doesnt have to be a bomb or an airplane flying into a building. It doesn't have to be a shooting. It can be through cyber attacks, it could be through leaking of very sensitive classified information. Regardless of whether you think it causes any harm, the fact that here is an individual that is not an American citizen first and foremost, for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. So that's kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.

This is like closing the barn doors, after the cows have all stampeded out. The information is already our there, regardless of whether they read it in the New York Times or on the WikiLeaks site only. There is no extra harm in letting the media cover what has already been exposed.

He does have a point that terrorism can show up in many forms, and some would call this an act of cyber-terrorism. However, unless the media outlets are funding WikiLeaks and their attempts to break into national security databases to steal information, they shouldn't be punished for reported on what has already been brought to light.

Julian Assange should be tried for espionage for his activities related to his WikiLeaks website, but those that report on the leaks shouldn't be without direct proof that there was collusion between Assange and certain members of the media.

The freedom of the press is a basic American right that should be fiercely protected. It was in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights for a reason. It is one of the most exalted and revered rights that we have. West shouldn't have dismissed that so easily, no matter what his intent.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NJ Governor Chris Christie Takes Vacation As Blizzard Hits State, Takes Heat For Being Absent During Crisis

GOP darling and NJ Governor Chris Christie is suspiciously absent these days, while a blizzard has just blasted through his state. Instead, he went to Disney World. Don’t worry, though, his #2, the Lieutenant Governor, is in charge and getting things done. Oh, wait:

New Jersey's Constitution, in its wisdom, dictates that someone in the state must always be ultimately responsible for its bureaucracy. Normally, that person is the Governor. But when the Governor leaves the state's borders, the Constitution devolves that responsibility upon another person. Until a few years ago, the first person in line was the State Senate President, which meant that anytime the Governor left, our state government became a parliamentary system*. Then we amended the Constitution and created the position of Lieutenant Governor to prevent that sort of problem. Now it takes the absence of both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor for us to devolve back to the parliamentary system.

That is what we have right now. Chris Christie took his family to DisneyWorld for the holidays and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno took hers to Mexico, so State Senate President Steven Sweeney, elected by fewer than thirty thousand people, is now simultaneously the leading officer of the State Senate and the state's chief Executive. Paul Mulshine sees this as evidence that Guadagno's political career is limited and sees plenty of mischief for Senator/Governor Sweeney to get into, if he so chooses.

But the problem is not Guadagno's. She was not elected Governor; Christie was. She is second-in-command, in military terms. That means that he does not clear his travel and vacation with her; she clears her travel and vacation with him. While authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot. And so it was Governor Christie's responsibility to ensure that the separated powers of the executive branch remained separated. Either he should have scheduled his family trip at another time, or he should have been a boss and told Guadagno that she could not travel at the same time as he was.

For someone who seems eager to exercise the power of the bully pulpit at public events; the reticence to exercise the legitimate powers of his office responsibly is puzzling, and alarming. It is a dereliction of duty and an abrogation of responsibility. Yes, the world will keep turning. But it isn't the Governor's duty to keep the world turning. It is his duty to ensure the administration of the state government and to run the executive branch. Especially in an emergency. Especially when there is almost a week's notice that the emergency is going to hit. It is inexcusable.

If the statewide problem is irresponsibility; then the local problem (here in Jersey City) is one of ineptitude. At this point, there are still streets unplowed. Officially, the city is blaming residents for abandoning their cars, causing streets to be impassible for snow plows. Jersey City officials find this unbelievable. And, I can attest to the fact that in the decade or so that I have lived here, I've never seen cars abandoned in a snowstorm.

Ok, I am usually a big fan of Chris Christie, but this is just ridiculous. I realize that this vacation was planned for quite a while, but he should have postponed the trip, until the emergency was over. The blizzard didn’t just pop out of nowhere. If he had been paying attention to the weather at all, he would have had ample warning.

Let’s not forget that the Lieutenant Governor is on vacation, too. That is just pure stupidity for them to plan their vacations at the same time, regardless of what is going on. Even if it is perfect weather and everything is running smoothly statewide, they shouldn’t go on vacation at the same time. There should always be an executive at the helm, just in case. It makes you wonder, if Christie’s office knew that the Lt. Gov. would be gone at the same time and did they approve it. If they knew it and approved or at least allowed it, it is just beyond incompetence.

Even some conservatives in New Jersey are expressing their displeasure over the Governor’s bumbling of this crisis:

Mr. Sweeney’s graciousness is overshadowed by the sheer incompetence of the Christie administration - incompetence bordering on stupidity. Yes, I know the odds of something unfortunate happening to BOTH the Governor and Lt. Governor are infinitesimal. That’s not the point - and if you can’t see the point you are either blind or a clueless Chris Christie cheerleader.

I could certainly understand if the Governor were already on vacation when a natural disaster hit the state - in the present case, however, there was ample warning days ago (anyone watching the Weather Channel could see the massive storm system crawling its way up the Eastern seaboard) and the Governor had plenty of time to reschedule his Disney World vacation so that he could be close to home in the event some fresh hell revealed itself. Instead, he skipped town a couple of hours before most flights out of Newark were canceled and the storm system descended upon the Garden State - leaving hoi polloi to fend for themselves midst the snowdrifts. Can someone on the Governor’s staff please tell us what the hell he was thinking?

Adding insult to injury, the Lt. Governor likewise skedaddled out of Dodge City, leaving the more curious among us with lots of questions: Is there no reliable communication between the offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor? Was Gov. Christie aware that his second in command would be absent from New Jersey at precisely the same time he was absent? If not, can we expect to see an otherwise useless staff member collecting unemployment checks soon? If so, why did he not importune her to take her vacation after his return?

Imagine if a hurricane was headed to New Orleans again and Obama decided to step out for a couple of weeks the day before landfall, how much hell would come down on him for being absent, during a time of crisis? Bush was chastised just for flying over New Orleans, after Katrina, and not landing to survey the rescue efforts and clean-up, but at least, he did that. Christie is still talking to Mickey Mouse and Goofy in Florida, when she should be back home and talking to people of New Jersey and coordinating an effort to guide his state through this blizzard.

On the other hand, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) is doing a fantastic job of trying to take control of the effort in his city. He has been on Twitter all day sending out comfort and encouragement to those affected and asking for people to send him a private message through Twitter, if they are stranded somewhere, and he gets help out to them. In this case, the Governor should take a page out of Booker’s book and be on-hand and more hands-on, when dealing with this crisis.

Good News: 111st Congress Shattered Record By Adding More Debt Than Previous Congresses Combined

No wonder that they drove out them out in record numbers this past election and that "hope and change" has faded into a long lost memory.

This last Congress, led by Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid has racked up more debt than any of the previous 100 Congresses COMBINED:

The federal government has accumulated more new debt--$3.22 trillion ($3,220,103,625,307.29)—during the tenure of the 111th Congress than it did during the first 100 Congresses combined, according to official debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.

That equals $10,429.64 in new debt for each and every one of the 308,745,538 people counted in the United States by the 2010 Census.

The total national debt of $13,858,529,371,601.09 (or $13.859 trillion), as recorded by the U.S. Treasury at the close of business on Dec. 22, now equals $44,886.57 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

In fact, the 111th Congress not only has set the record as the most debt-accumulating Congress in U.S. history, but also has out-stripped its nearest competitor, the 110th, by an astounding $1.262 trillion in new debt.

This is the reason why liberals should never get carte blanche over the government purse strings. Americans don't want to become the next Greece, and they won't put up with this type of free-spending anymore, which is why the TEA Party has gained such a powerful influence over the political landscape. Republicans better take heed and not continue the past Congresses bad behavior and take charge over the finances to keep us from falling further behind.

Monday, December 27, 2010

TX Gov Rick Perry Rejects EPA's Christmas Power Grab, Let The Battle Begin

In an effort to succeed in regulation where they failed in legislation, the EPA under the Obama Administration is trying to force states to cut down on carbon pollution. However, the Texas Governor is bucking Obama and refusing to willingly comply:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will take control of carbon-emission rules in Texas after Governor Rick Perry rejected new federal regulations intended to combat climate change.

The EPA will decide directly on greenhouse-gas permits for companies seeking to build or upgrade power plants and oil refineries in Texas, the agency said today in a statement. The EPA’s nationwide carbon rules, imposed under the Clean Air Act, take effect Jan. 2.

Texas is the only state that has refused to implement the new rules. President Barack Obama is pressing ahead with the regulations after Congress failed to pass legislation capping carbon emissions. Perry, a Republican, calls the rules overreaching by the federal government that will cripple his state’s economy.

“The EPA’s misguided plan paints a huge target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers by implementing unnecessary, burdensome mandates on our state’s energy sector, threatening hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs and imposing increased living costs on Texas families,” Katherine Cesinger, a Perry spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Obama Administration couldn't get cap-and-tax or any other significant environmental bill passed in the 111st and is even less likely to get any passed over the next two years, as the Republicans gain control of the House and get stronger in the Senate. So, they are trying to do the next best thing, which is to force it through by any means necessary.

Of course, just as they did with the new "end-of-life incentives", they tried to hide this story from us by coming out with it, while Santa was coming down the chimney and when we were too stuffed to care about politics. I agree with Ed Morrissey as he questions the timing of it all:

The timing is certainly interesting. The EPA made this move two days before Christmas, when most people had stopped paying attention to political news. The EPA’s move thus got missed by most of the national media, even though it demonstrates well the Obama strategy in 2011 to win through regulation what it could not win through legislation. And by focusing on Texas, where Republicans have a chance to redistrict with practically no interference from Democrats, the move will certainly incentivize the GOP to limit as much as possible the representation of Democrats in their Congressional delegation as the Republican-controlled House attempts to stymie the EPA’s regulatory innovation.

This also will vault Rick Perry to the highest level of national politics, even as he continues to insist that he won’t run for President. With a third term as governor in hand and a perfect political battle opening in front of him, though, the opportunity may be too much to resist for a man who could possibly unite conservatives and the GOP for a big run against a stumbling Obama in 2012.

I don't know about the wisdom of this, if Obama puts his foot down on this. It'll definitely invigorate the Republican base against him going into the 2012 elections. Obama and his fellow Democrats will be having enough trouble as it is getting re-elected. They don't need any more controversies surrounding their policies.

Of course, I believe that Democrats ultimately care more about furthering their own liberal agenda that no one wants more then they care about getting re-elected. Although, they obviously care about it some, which is why they chose Christmas to release some of the more controversial regulations. They know that the more people know what it is that they are doing the more that they won't like it. So, it's better for them to try and do it, when they think that most people aren't looking.

Sen. Tom Coburn: We Will See Debt-Triggered Apocalypse, If Federal Spending Isn't Cut

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) opined that this country will see unemployment skyrocket and economic output fall simultaneously leading ultimately to the middle class being destroyed, if federal spending isn't cut significantly and soon:

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn warned Americans this Sunday of an apocalyptic economic future, with Great Depression levels of unemployment and a destruction of the country's middle class.

The Oklahoma Republican told Fox News that unless Washington cuts spending and reduces the national debt, unemployment in the United States could rise dramatically from less than 10 percent today to 18 percent or more.

At the same time, Coburn says the nation's economic output could drop calamitously — by 9 percent. Once that happens, he predicts the middle class could be destroyed.

“I think you’ll see the middle class just destroyed if we don’t do this,” Coburn told Fox News, adding that he hopes President Barack Obama and Congress can work together next year to cut $100 billion to $200 billion as a “down payment” on debt reduction.

He goes on to add that they only other way to pay down our debt would be to print money out of thin air. However, this would cause the prices on everything to be much higher without salaries going any higher. Who will this hurt the most? No, not Warren Buffet. The poor will be the ones who will hurt the most from having to pay $10 or more for a gallon of milk.

He, also, puts forth the idea that we're going to have to experience some pain any way that we go to fix this problem, but it'd be better to pick our own way to deal with the pain rather than it be dictated and forced upon us by other means. For example, if every country refused to let us borrow money from them, then, we'd be forced to make massive cuts to everything all at once, which would be devastating to our economy. We need a plan to move forward out of this debt that won't be a total shock to the economic system.

Now, some may chastise him for using such colorful language and implementing the "politics of fear" by warning of an apocalypse cause by uncontrollable debt. However, this is a very serious issue that needs immediate attention.

People have seen what has happened in Greece and what is happening in Ireland and Britain, where they've hit full panic mode over the debt, and people are taking to the streets because of all of the spending cuts to their entitlement programs. Most Americans don't want what is happening in Europe to happen here and have beginning to call for the government to get control of their pocketbooks, just as everyone else does.

One of the main tenants of the TEA Party is to cut down the deficit and to cut spending, and the rise of the TEA Party is an example of how everyday citizens are taking control of the agenda on this issue in Washington and want change to a more responsible form of government.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I'll be taking the next few days off, for the most part. So, I probably won't be posting until next week. I wanted to take this time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pelosi Reportedly Asks Steven Spielberg for Help Turning Around House Democrats’ Image

Via Fix, It looks like Nancy Pelosi might be getting a little extra help to rebrand the House Democrats:

Lawmakers say she is consulting marketing experts about building a stronger brand. The most prominent of her new whisperers is Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood director whose films have been works of branding genius. Lawmakers said Spielberg has not reported to Pelosi with a recommendation.

Apparentlly, Pelosi sees a similarity between ET/Indiana Jones and politics.

New 9/11 First Responders’ Bill a Great Improvement Over the Previous Version, Republicans Received Major Concessions /Update: House Passes Bill

It seems that Republicans and Democrats have come to an agreement and have passed a new 9/11 responders bill unanimously that will take care of those that are sick as a result of dust inhaled resulting from the WTC collapse. Republicans, who were never against the main premise of the bill, just were unsure of a how much and how the money should be spent, gained some major concessions, which will help ensure that the money isn’t spent foolishly and will get to those who really need it:

The agreement includes the following changes:

• Reduction in Costs. This agreement saved taxpayers $6.2 billion from the substitute amendment and $7.5 billion from the House-passed bill. In the deal, costs are reduced to $4.2 billion in the 10 year window and eliminated outside the 10-year window.

• Permanently Close the Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) after 5 years. The original bill kept the VCF open through 2031, making it extremely susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse and incurring significant long-term costs. The fund is now open only through 2016 and has language to expressly say that it is permanently closed at after 5 years.

• Limitations on Attorneys Fees. Places a hard cap for attorneys' fees at 10 percent of the total award and allows the Special Master to reduce attorneys fees he believes are excessive

• Prevents Reinstatement of Civil Claims. Prevent claimants who are rejected from the VCF from then pursuing a civil lawsuit. This is consistent with the earlier VCF policy.

• Limitation on Infrastructure Costs. Explicitly excludes construction and capital projects from health care spending in the bill.

• Commitment to ensure eligible individuals cannot "double-dip" on benefits. The Senators all agreed to get in writing from the Special Master that he will include workers compensation benefits in collateral sources of benefits that he must offset from potential compensation awards.

• More Accountability. Require claims-level data reporting to provide accountability and opportunity for oversight, as well as GAO reports to determine less expensive mechanisms to provide nationwide care, pharmaceutical access, and health information technology promotion.

Republicans were never against taking care of these heroes, especially since they are sick because of what happened, when they were in the line of duty. They just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any money wasted, there would be oversight over the dispensing of funds, and that the people that are supposed to be getting the money are actually getting it. That was the problem with the previous version of the bill that was put forward by the Democrats. Too much money would’ve been wasted and potentially millions more could’ve been wasted through unintended consequences, like rampant fraud. All of this would have been done with very little to no oversight. This bill is much different and has closed many have these concerns.

Senator Coburn spearheaded this effort to make sure that this was done the right way and wasn’t just thrown together haphazardly just to get it pushed through. This compromise is the culmination of his efforts, and he seems pleased with the results.

The bill will now move back to the House, and I fully expect it to pass easily there and move to the White House for Obama’s signature.

Update: House passes the bill.

Alaska Gov. Parnell Files Court Papers Expressing Intent to Sue Obama Administration Over Polar Bear Habitat

It looks like Alaska is about to go to war with the Obama Administration over the Polar Bear Habitat. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) has filed papers with the court saying that he plans to sue the federal government over land that the federal took over in the name of protecting the polar bears from extinction, as a result of “global warming” and “climate change”:

Alaska officials filed notice Tuesday that the state would sue the federal government over a decision to designate a swath of the Arctic as critical habitat for polar bears faced with the effects of climate change.

Republican Gov. Sean Parnell contends the critical habitat designation, which covers 187,000 square miles and was announced by the Obama administration last month, will delay jobs and increase costs -- or even kill -- resource development projects that are important to Alaska.

"Once again, we are faced with federal overreach that threatens our collective prosperity," he said. "We don't intend to let this stand."

The added protection in the Arctic for polar bears does not in itself block economic activity or other development but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would adversely affect the polar bear's habitat and interfere with population recovery.

The Interior Department said the designation will help polar bears to stave off extinction as they face the melting of Arctic sea ice. The animals are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Parnell argues that the critical habitat designation in the oil-rich Arctic could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and tax revenue for the state.

Alaska officials and the state's oil and gas industry representatives maintain polar bears do not need the added protection of the ESA listing, which they say will hurt offshore drilling efforts and possibly result in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost economic activity and tax revenue.

Already, there are state laws, international agreements and the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect polar bears, Parnell said Tuesday.

These lands are crucial to the Alaskan economy for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is that there’s oil there that has yet to be tapped. That could bring the state billions, and it would, also, pump money into the overall country's economy, as well. Another perk of opening up this part of Alaska for oil would help us in the battle of defeating our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, as we have seen in the implementation of a moratorium of all new offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama doesn't care about that argument at all.

We must have a way to get to our natural resources without harming the habitat, and there are many safe ways that are available to us, so that we can drill for oil that won’t hurt polar bears, beluga whales, ringed seals, or whatever else the federal government might deem endangered. It is possible to drill for oil and protect the environment at the same time. So, let's get to it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giuliani Chastises Republicans: 9/11 First Responders Bill Is Beyond Politics, Must Be Passed

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani chastises Republicans for playing politics and holding up the 9/11 First Responders Bill, the bill that is supposed to take care of those fire fighters and police officers that are sick as a result of complications from the World Trade Center collapsing:

While I agree that we need to take care of these heroes, however, some Republicans do have legitimate concerns over whether the money will actually be going to those that they are supposed to be going to. The reason for the failure to pass the first time wasn’t entirely procedural. Congress will get something passed soon, and it will receive full bipartisan support.

The Obligatory “War On Christmas” Post: NPR’s Totenberg: I’m Sorry, I’m Going To Say the Word Christmas?

Sorry, this is a bit late. It came out this morning, but I was out and about all day running errands. I couldn’t pull the embed off of my phone, and I didn’t want to post this without the video. So, here it is.

Apparently, Nina Totenburg was so embarrassed about even saying the word Christmas that she had to promptly apologize for saying the word before she even said it:

“I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party,” NPR reporter Nina Totenberg interjected on Inside Washington in the weekend’s oddest cautionary separation from a common description for a common event, seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn’t say what she’d prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. “Winter solstice party”? Just plain old “holiday party”? Or a “seasonal gathering”?


Here’s the transcript:

I want to say one thing about the budget that didn’t get passed, the omnibus bill. You know, we talk a lot about – we just passed this huge tax cut in part because business said, you know, we have to plan, we have to know what kind of tax cuts we have. Well, these agencies, including the Defense Department, don’t know how much money they’ve got and for what. And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this. These are law enforcement people don’t know exactly what kind of money they can spend for what.

Ed Morrissey pointed out that there was just as ridiculous gaffe behind the more obvious one that deserves some attention, too:

Really? They don’t know what laws to enforce based on continuing resolutions? The CRs provide the ultimate in continuity; by locking in the previous year’s budget plan, they maintain the status quo. In government, it doesn’t get more consistent than a CR.

And for a reporter, Totenberg has trouble getting her facts straight. Congress didn’t pass a tax cut. They passed a bill that maintains the current tax rates in the same status they’ve been for seven years. In fact, taxes went up because of the renewed estate tax; it just didn’t go up as much as Democrats wanted. It’s only a tax cut if government feels that they were owed that tax increase and the money it would have taken out of the pockets of citizens above what they have already taken over the last decade.

The DoD and DoJ will get ample notice about the remainder of this year’s budgets when the next session of Congress sits down to develop the budget that Democrats deliberately avoided producing. That won’t likely include more money for more regulatory efforts at the DoJ, and will almost certainly mean less money for some of the regulatory efforts they’re already engaged in performing. For that, Totenberg and the DoJ can thank the outgoing Democratic majority that punted on the budget all year long despite having large majorities in the House and Senate and one of their own in the White House.

This is the woman that NPR decided to keep on, after wishing Jesse Helms and his family catch HIV, but they had to fire Juan Williams. Really? Really? She needs to pay more attention to the facts than worrying about whether or not she might offend someone by admitting that there’s this holiday that we call Christmas.

Reid: If Republicans or Anyone Else Opposes DREAM Act Than They're Insane or Something

If you could get past all of the all-too nauseating fluff piece from the New York Times that all-but expressed their undying love for Senator Harry Reid, (I barely could. I throw up a little in my mouth. Umm...forget that I said that.) You would've found something: a very noteworthy quote from the Senate Majority leader, which they conveniently hid down at the bottom of the love letter....I mean the totally unbiased, right down the middle news article.....Yeah, that's it:

For his part, Mr. Reid predicted, “We’ll get some things done,” naming comprehensive immigration legislation as one possibility.

If Republicans’ vulnerability among Hispanic voters does not persuade them to compromise, he noted, “they have real problems with their mental capacity.”

So, basically, all those that disagree with him are insane, he is the sane one. Of course, what was I thinking?

Of course, the New York Times reporter glossed right over this and would rather tell you what a swell guy Reid is. I'm shocked....shocked. I tell you.

Quid Pro Quo: Did Senate Republicans Trade Food Bill For Uncontested Continuing Budget Resolution?

The Republicans shocked everyone last night by completely folding their advantage over the Democrats regarding their flawed Food Safety Bill:

The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by unanimous consent Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error.

The Senate passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act on Nov. 30 by a vote of 73-25. But the bill was later invalidated by a technical objection because it was a revenue-raising measure that did not originate in the House — Senate staff had failed to substitute the food safety language into a House-originated bill. …

Reid announced he would send the legislation — this time properly attached to a House-originated measure — back to the lower chamber for final approval.

So, the GOP went 60-to-0 in 10 seconds flat on this debate. Why did the Republicans go from having this bill all but blocked to acquiescing to Harry Reid and the Democrats and voting unanimously with them on this? Ed Morrissey explains that they may have done this in order to get the Democrats to agree to a clean, simple continuing budget resolution that'll last until next session of Congress:

From that sequence, it appears the GOP may have given up the food-safety bill for a clean CR.  They didn’t want the CR to become a “minibus,” a concern that had arisen when Congress passed a three-day CR on Friday night to fund the government through Tuesday.  Rumor had it that the Democrats wanted a blend of CR and omnibus that would set funding for the rest of the year on some key agencies, and the GOP want to go through a normal budget process instead.    It shouldn’t take three days to write a CR anyway, and the fact that they gave themselves that kind of breathing space indicated that Democrats intended to treat the CR like a Christmas tree.

If that’s the deal, then at least the unanimous consent on the food-safety bill would be explicable.  If the Senate produces a minibus anyway, then this gift to Reid is a strange collapse by the Senate GOP.

If this is the case, then, this would be a good compromise. I just hope that Senator Reid and the rest of the Democrats hold up their end of the deal. If not, they just tapped out for nothing.

Mike Pence: It's Time to Stop Funding Abortion Providers With Federal Money

In a statement recently made to LifeNews, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) said that the federal government needs to stop funding organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide abortions:

“It is morally wrong to end an unborn human life by abortion.  It is also morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use those funds to promote abortion.

“Planned Parenthood’s own report shows that the largest abortion provider in America is being bankrolled by American taxpayers.  With a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, there is simply no reason during these tough economic times why taxpayers’ hard-earned money should fund the activities of abortion providers and equip them with the resources they need to end innocent human life.

“The time has come to deny any and all federal funding to Planned Parenthood by passing the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which I intend to introduce again in the next Congress.”

Pence goes on to argue that, while these organizations aren't using the federal money to directly fund abortions, they are funding them indirectly:

When Title X money goes to clinics that provide both abortions and family planning services, even though the money cannot directly fund abortions, it is being used to offset operational costs with federal funds, freeing up money to promote and provide abortions.

With the mood in the country leaning towards cutting costs wherever we can pro-life sentiments growing, this has a shot at happening.

However, the liberal Democrats are going to fight this tooth and nail, and I don't see Obama signing off on this, either, unless he totally wants to alienate his base.

Abortion is one of the "holy grail" issues for his liberal base, and I don't see them forgiving him for this and his other "disappointments", like not shutting down Gitmo, not letting Bush tax cuts expire for the rich, and not drawing down troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Rasmussen: Majority of Americans Believe ObamaCare WILL BE Repealed For First Time Ever, Here's Why?

There has been a dramatic shift in ObamaCare debate over the past few weeks. According to a new Rasmussen poll, a majority of Americans believe that it is at least somewhat likely that the bill WILL BE repealed, for the first time ever. For months, a majority has felt it should be, but now, people are believing that it could actually happen:

For the first time since Democrats in Congress passed the health care bill in March, a majority of U.S. voters believe the measure is likely to be repealed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% of Likely U.S. Voters think it is at least somewhat likely that the health care plan will be repealed. Thirty-three percent (33%) view repeal as unlikely. Those figures include 16% who believe repeal is Very Likely and 5% who believe it is Not at All Likely.

The number who view repeal as Likely is up from 47% last month  and from 38% in early April. Belief that the plan is likely to be repealed has been hovering in the 40% range in surveys since April but began to rise in late October. Last week, a federal judge found a key provision in the law to be unconstitutional.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of voters now favor repeal of the health care law, including 40% who Strongly Favor it. Forty-one percent (41%) are opposed to repeal, with 31% Strongly Opposed. Support for repeal has ranged from 50% to 63% in weekly tracking since the bill became law in late March. Last week, support for repeal was at 60%.

Why is this happening? The overall mood of the country really hasn't changed much. Just as many believe that it should be repealed as before. The reasons for this shift is two-fold.

One, the Republicans are taking over the House and gaining power in the Senate, although not total control.

Secondly, there are the court cases in Virginia and Florida that is deciding the constitutionality of the law. The judge in Virginia has already declared the individual mandate unconstitutional, and the Florida case doesn't seem to be breaking the administration's way, either.

As the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner has already said that a bill to reapeal ObamaCare will be one of the first things on his agenda, and with the Republicans in control of the House, it is almost a certainty that it'll pass the House.

On the other side of Congress, the Senate is much more tricky. The Democrats will still control the agenda on that side, and it'll need a significant amount of support from the Senate Democrats, in order for it to get passed.

If it does somehow pass both sides of Congress, there's 0% chance of it being signed by Obama, at this point. In a recent conversation with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the president said that ther was no way that he would sign anything that would repeal his key piece of legislation that was a core component of his dopmestic agenda.

However, if public opinion gets too bad, he may have to do it, in order to get re-elected. Also, if the Supreme Court declares part or all of it unconstitutional, he may have no choice.

So, a repeal is still a long shot, but the tide is turning in that direction.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breaking: DADT Repeal Passes Cloture, Heads to Passage Vote / Update: DADT Falls 55-31

Repealing of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy, which banned gays from serving in the military openly, has passed cloture. This will lead to a passage vote later on today or next week:

The U.S. Senate voted Saturday morning to end debate on whether to repeal the military's policy banning gay men and lesbians from military service.

The 63-33 vote on the cloture motion sets the stage for a direct vote on ending the policy, known as "don't ask, don't tell."

Again, this isn't that big of a surprise, either. Based on the votes and overall sentiment in the country that favors repealing the policy, I believe that it will easily get the 50 votes needed.

Update: DADT has been repealed. The vote was 65-31. The bill will now go to Obama to sign.

Breaking: DREAM Fails 55-41

It wasn't much of a surprise, but the DREAM Act failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass the bill:

A measure that would have offered provisional legal status to some adults who came to America illegally as children failed to advance in a Senate vote Saturday.

Democratic backers of the legislation fell short of the 60 votes to move the DREAM Act legislation forward. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana, Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted against bringing the bill to the floor; Republican Sens. Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, and Robert Bennett voted for it.

The vote was 55-41.

The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act would have allowed illegal immigrants with a high school diploma or a GED to apply for conditional U.S. status if they are under the age of 30 and arrived the U.S. before the age of 16. After a long process -- including two years of service in the military or enrollment in college -- they would then have been eligible to apply for legal immigrant status.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, who led GOP opposition against the legislation, called the measure “amnesty” and argued that it "incentivizes" illegal immigration. GOP opponents also noted that it would have allowed some illegal immigrants with criminal records to gain citizenship

Nothing about this vote was too surprising. It was close, and all of the likely suspects voted the for and against the bill. So, the DREAM should be dead, at least for this session of Congress.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Palin: People Would Not Take It Easy On Me If I Cried As Much As Boehner Because I’m a Woman

Sarah Palin took a swipe at incoming Speaker John Boehner for crying and said that people wouldn’t be so kind to her for crying because she a woman:

Sarah Palin says there's a double standard when it comes to politicians who cry in public.

The former Alaska governor and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate says she would be "knocked a little bit" if she cried while giving a speech. But Palin tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that House speaker-in-waiting John Boehner gets a "pass" when he cries in public.

Palin says that's OK, but that it makes women in politics work harder and "be that much tougher."

I don’t think that he has really gotten a pass. The media, especially the left-wing media, has ridiculed him for his overly-emotional nature. For example, some have said that it might be a sign that he’s an alcoholic. In reality, I think that most of the media doesn’t really know what to think of it.

She is somewhat right, though. If she cried as much as Boehner does, people would say that she cries too much and couldn’t handle the stress of the office of the presidency because of how much she cries. However, I think that people might say the same thing of Boehner, if he ever ran for president. Palin is considered one of the lead-runners for the GOP nomination next cycle, and presidential contenders will be held to a different standard than those in the Speakership. So, it not exactly an even comparison.

ObamaCare, Individual Mandate Looks to be Facing Another Blow in Florida Court Case

There is more bad news for Obama and his key piece of legislation. In the Florida court, ObamaCare is looking to be facing another blow to the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision, based on comments by the judge that is presiding over the case. Judge Vinson has expressed his doubts about the provision in the new healthcare law:

A federal judge in a 20-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's health overhaul signaled Thursday he is sympathetic to the plaintiffs' argument that requiring Americans to carry health insurance violates the Constitution...........

The plaintiffs consist of governors and attorneys general led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, all but one of them Republicans. They argue that the "individual mandate" requiring Americans to carry insurance is beyond the federal government's power under the Constitution's commerce clause. Failure to buy insurance is "inactivity," they argue, not "activity" that Congress can regulate.

Judge Vinson, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, signaled he saw the requirement as unprecedented and a potential imposition on Americans' individual liberties. The case is one of some two dozen federal lawsuits that are ultimately expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.

"It would be a giant leap for the Supreme Court to say that a decision to buy or not to buy is tantamount to activity," Judge Vinson told the court.............

"If they decide that everyone needs to eat broccoli," then the commerce clause could allow Congress to require everyone to buy a certain quantity of broccoli, the judge said.

Liberals are already trying to tell you what not to eat. It would not be a huge move for them to start telling people what to eat and mandating people that they do it. A lawyer for the administration tried to dismiss the judge’s broccoli comparison, but as Ed Morrissey points out, that comparison is more apt than he is willing to admit to:

The Department of Justice attorney representing the Obama administration argued that the food argument wasn’t relevant because at some point in time, everyone buys health care services. Everyone buys food, too, and this particular argument is not only relevant but also linked. Since diet is a part of health maintenance, setting this kind of precedent not only allows the federal government to issue a must-purchase order of broccoli (or vegetables in general), it will almost certainly result in the issuance of such mandates — followed by the inevitable subsidies. And as with the nanny-state ObamaCare bill, food-police advocates will insist that they are doing it to save public funds wasted on Americans who insist on
making occasional unhealthy choices in food.

That individual mandate is a slippery slope that the liberals will be more than willing to go down in the future, in order to turn this country into a full-blown nanny state. They feel like they know what is better for us and will make us behave, and if we don’t do what they want us to do, they will punish us with fines and/or jail time.

The other argument that ObamaCare will force states to expand their Medicaid programs seems to be a losing argument for the states, though. From what he has said, so far, he doubts that argument is valid because states can opt out of the Medicaid program.

Also, he has expressed his concern that once parts of this bill are implemented that it may be impossible to pull it all back:

Judge Vinson likened the law to a clock when taking one wheel away would prevent the whole from functioning. But he also acknowledged that peeling back certain pieces of the law would be tricky. Already in effect, he said, is a provision of that law that gives nursing mothers lactation areas inside the workplace. "How can you possibly undo some of these things?" he asked.

He’s exactly right, when he says that it would be very hard to pull back on some of these provisions in the bill, and that is exactly why we need to stop this monstrosity before it goes too far. It needs to be repealed and they need to start anew.

WV Senator Rockefeller (D) Planning to Throw Monkey Wrench in Obama's Climate Change Policies

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is continuing his crusade against any possible climate change regulations that the Obama Administration might try to implement over the next two years:

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is pressing forward on his drive to vote this month on his plan to delay Obama administration climate regulations for two years, threatening to go directly to the Senate floor and force a vote to include it in a catch-all spending bill.

Rockefeller has told Senate leadership “that he will insist on a vote” on his measure to block the Environmental Protection Agency global warming rules set to take effect next month.

“If left with no other option, Senator Rockefeller will seek to suspend the rules on the Omnibus Appropriations bill to bring up his legislation,” his office said in a statement. Such a maneuver would require 67 votes, which he is unlikely to get.
A POLITICO analysis shows at least 56 senators would likely support Rockefeller’s amendment.

Rockefeller has been trying for months to get Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote on his amendment. The West Virginia Democrat has said he would hold Reid to a promise he gave Rockefeller to hold a vote this year.

"The time has come for us to make a decision on the energy future of our country," Rockefeller said in a prepared statement. "While there are still ongoing discussions about how Congress should proceed, I want to make it clear that I intend to get a vote this year on my EPA-suspension legislation. I know there is bipartisan support for this legislation, and if necessary, I will seek to suspend the rules and bring this up for a vote. This is too important for us to delay any further."

But holding a vote on the two-year delay could be an embarrassing symbolic rebuke to the Obama administration. Rockefeller’s plan has no realistic shot of becoming law even if it passes the Senate, given the lack of desire by House Democratic leaders to take it up and a White House veto threat.

Maybe he won't have that much of a shot in this House, but the next house, when the Republicans will be the majority, he’ll have a much better shot to pass any such bans on new climate regulations or taxes.

He tried to get into the omnibus bill, last night, but of course, the omnibus bill died last night. So, he will have to try and add it to future legislation like the DREAM, DADT, or START bills, before the end of this Congress, but I think that it would be better for him to wait until next month, when the GOP will play a much bigger role in what is passed.

When he does bring it back up, he needs to be sure not just focus on the EPA like he has been. As Michelle Malkin reports, Janet Napolitano making "environmental justice" a big priority at the Department of Homeland Security. What does global warming have to do with national security? Who knows.

He is doing this to curry favor with the voters in his state of West Virginia, which is heavily reliant on coal mining for their economy. Any sort of legislation that might be passed limiting or putting taxes on carbon emissions would kill the economy for the whole state and would, in turn, kill any chances at his re-election. I know that he isn’t up for re-election until 2014, but passing any such enviromental bill, now, would have such a devestating effect on the economy that the it would still be feeling the effects four years from now.

H/T to Ed Morrissey

CNN/TEA Party Express to Join Forces For Putting Together Republican Primary Debate

As a showing of how influential the TEA Party movement has become in everyday politics, CNN and the Tea Party Express will hold a Republican primary debate next year on Labor Day:

CNN is teaming up with the Tea Party Express for a first-of-its-kind presidential primary debate, both organizations announced Friday. The Tea Party debate, featuring 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is scheduled for Labor Day week 2011. It will take place in Tampa, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Since the spring of 2009, the Tea Party movement has been increasingly vocal in advocating for less government spending, lower taxes and shrinking the deficit. The Tea Party debate will place specific emphasis on those issues.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer talked to CNN about what activists hope to hear from Republican presidential candidates. "We want to hear what their ideas are – what their thoughts are – on turning this economy back around and getting us on a sound economic footing, paying down some of our deficit, getting a balanced budget, and reining in the spending," Kremer said.

Kremer added, "We've proven ourselves in this last campaign, election cycle of 2010, we're the only Tea Party group that engaged in election activity. And we got involved because we simply believed that if we're going to affect change we're going to do it at the ballot box. And the tea party movement has proven how powerful it is."

Sam Feist, CNN Political Director and Vice President of Washington-based programming said, "The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country's political landscape."

This could be huge for the next presidential race. It’ll help to frame the debate to issues that are important to the TEA Party and those that are sympathic to many of their concerns.

Was Obama's Royal Wedding Invitations Lost in the Mail? No, He Was Snubbed

Looks like the English are still upset at Mr. Hope-and-Change for how he has treated our closest allies over the past two years. The guest list was released for the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and guess guess who wasn’t on it:

Oh, the humiliation. Once not so long ago one of the world's top celebrities in his own right, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle did not make the cut for invitations to the royal wedding in London next spring.

On April 29 in Westminster Abbey with all the grace and pageantry sure to capture international imaginations, commoner Kate Middleton will marry Prince William, son of Princess Diana. And don't forget the horsedrawn carriage perhaps.

But the current residents of the White House will not be there, according to the Daily Mail.

The official excuse provided to the British paper by royal sources is that the royal couple wants to share their special nuptial moment with ordinary citizens. Anyway, it is not an official state event, they said. And, you know, Westminster only seats 2,000.

Nice try.

So then how to explain the invites to French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni?

And how to explain the invitations to England-loving President and Mrs. Reagan for the wedding of Diana and Prince Charles back in 1981? And the subsequent invitations to the American first family for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson five years later?

The English snubbed Obama? Don’t they like his policy of “smart diplomacy”? Hasn’t he raised our standing in the world, brought our allies closer, and turned enemies in to allies by just being the awesome one that he is? What possible reason could they have to be upset at the Chosen One? It’s not like he’s ever been called “the most unpopular man in Britain”. Right?... Oh, yeah! What has Obama done to deserve such a dubious honor?:

On that grand occasion in Buckingham Palace, President Obama on behalf of the people of the United States presented the British sovereign with the gift of an iPod. She gave him a photograph framed in silver.

That came a few months after Britain's visiting Prime Minister Gordon Brown was denied the traditional Oval Office photo op with the American president. And Obama gave Brown a couple of toy helicopters of Marine One and classic American movie DVD's, reportedly in a format incompatible with British players. Thanks for stopping by.

He, also, returned a bust of Winston Churchill, which was a gift from the British to the White House years ago.

Let’s not, also, forget, when Obama sent Gitmo detainees being sent to the British island of Bermuda, without even consulting with the British government. Obama was in such a hurry to try and fulfill his promise to close Gitmo that he didn’t even have the common courtesy to ask the prime minister permission before sending terrorists to one of his territories. Why would they be upset about that?

This is just another example of the fact his “smart diplomacy” skills has resulted in lowering our standing in the world with our allies and enemies not raising it, like he campaigned to do, when he was running for the presidency.

No matter how they try to spin this, this is a huge snub on Obama and, by-extension, America. He’s going to have to mend some fences across the pond in England and the rest of Europe, if he wants to get anything done on the foreign policy front.

Tax Compromise Survives US House, Goes to White House For Signature

Obama’s tax compromise with the GOP survived liberal opposition in the House, late last night.

Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under president George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery.

The package, brokered by President Obama and Republican leaders in the wake of the November elections, angered many Democrats, who have long argued that the Bush tax cuts were skewed to benefit the wealthy. But their last-minute campaign to scale back the bill's benefits for taxpayers at the highest income levels failed, and the House passed the measure 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting "no."

"This bill, the president of the United States believes and I believe, will have a positive effect on the economy," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "I will vote for this bill because I don't want to see middle-income working people in America get a tax increase, because I think that will be a depressant on an economy that needs to be lifted up."

The $858 billion package now goes to the White House. With his signature expected as soon as Friday, Obama will prevent taxes from rising on New Year's Day for virtually every American household. The measure also will guarantee unemployed workers in hard-hit states up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits through the end of next year. And it will create major new incentives for business and consumer spending in 2011, including a two-percentage-point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax that would let workers keep as much as $2,136.

The package breezed through the Senate earlier this week on a vote of 81 to 19, giving Obama his strongest bipartisan victory on a major initiative since he took office.

This was a bit of a victory for both sides, really. The GOP was able to get all of the tax rates extended for two years, and Obama and the Democrats were able to get unemployment compensation extended for another year.

However, what ever benefit that Obama would have received from being able to broker this compromise was largely negated, when he called the Republicans “hostage takers” and Democrats “sanctimonious”.

While some on the right might argue that it would have been better to let the tax cuts lapse, in order to get a better deal, next year, when the Republicans gain control the House and get stronger in the Senate. However, I don’t believe that letting taxes go up, even if it is just for a month, is a good idea, when we are still struggling economically. It could have been a disaster and cause businesses to panic, and unemployment could have gone up a few points. This was the best thing that we could do, at this point in time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Senate Republicans Hold It Together, Pork-Filled Omnibus Bill Killed

The Senate Republicans were able to hold it together and force Harry Reid to back down and pull the omnibus bill full of Christmas goodies to various special interests because of a lack of support:

Sen. GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has long been known as an effective whip, and Thursday night he showed his prowess as he effectively stripped Democrats of the GOP votes needed to pass the $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill, killing the measure for good.

A visibly frustrated and angry Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, lashed out, saying that he had nine GOP senators supporting the measure, but that suddenly the support evaporated.

"This action taken by my friends on other side of aisle going to cause people to lose their job," Reid predicted.

"There's only one reason why cloture is not being filed...He doesn't have the votes.," McConnell chided, as he referred to the term for the process to shut down a filibuster. "And the reason he doesn't have the votes is because members on this side of the aisle increasingly felt concerned about the way we do business."

A McConnell aide said the leader "worked the phones" for days, pressing his members to quash the bill which contains $8 billion in earmarks (1% of the overall bill), several that belonged to the leader, himself, before he agreed to a pork moratorium.

Tempers flared in the chamber quickly, as Republicans gloated.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, crusader against pork, tweeted all day Wednesday and Thursday with earmarks he found in the bill, from money for disease-resistant wine grapes to a ceramics museum in Biloxi, Miss. And Thursday night, with a big grin, he praised GOP members for ditching the deal.

Two cheers for the Republicans for, actually, standing up for Republican principles. This bill needed to be tossed out and started anew. Hopefully, they will be able to do another one soon. Hold the pork, though.

They needed to do this to keep or regain the confidence of the people that elected them to turn things around. The GOP has been just as bad in this area over the last decade as the Democrats, which is why they got the boot in 2008. Luckily, the TEA Party was able to wake up the Grand Old Party this past year before were exiled into oblivion forever.

They are still are on probation with the voters. So, they need to keep working on being the fiscally responsible and cutting spending, if they ever want to get regain our trust for good.

Breaking: Democrats to Add "Fix" to Tax Cut Compromise That Would Could Seriously Jeopardize Passage, Update: Pomeroy Failed

In order to ensure that the liberal Democrats will vote for the tax compromise, leaders have are attempting to pass an amendment that will likely kill the bill in the Senate:

Moments ago, House Rules Committee chair Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) told reporters “we are going to put an extra vote in” to the rule governing debate on the tax deal.

House Democrats say there will likely be a total of four votes tonight related to the tax bill:

1) A vote to amend the existing rule to include a simple up-or-down vote on the tax deal.

2) A vote on the rule itself

3) A vote on the Pomeroy amendment, which would increase estate tax rates from the levels in the Senate bill.

4) A vote on final passage of the bill.

If 1-4 all pass, the bill would go to the Senate, where it is likely dead in the water. If the Pomeroy amendment fails, and the Senate version of the bill is passed unchanged, it would go directly to the president’s desk.

If this passes, they would raising the estate tax in the House version of the bill, which would be an ender in the Senate.

Update: Pomeroy failed:

Opposition in the House crumpled in the face of that overwhelming showing, though House liberals insisted on offering an alternative that would levy a higher tax on estates than the Obama-GOP compromise will impose. That effort failed shortly before midnight, 194 to 233.

Sen. Sessions: There’s “No Way” That I Can Read This Omnibus Bill and Master It Before We Vote

Republican Senator Jeff Session (AL) expressed his concern over the size and the limited timetable that the Senate has to comb through the bill before it would have to be voted on at the end of the week:

Sen. Jeff Session (R.-Ala.) told on Wednesday that there is “no way” someone could master the full 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill before Congress votes on it later this week.

Other senators said they were working through the bill with their staff, and one remarked he would be “lucky” if he was able to read all of it.

The current government-funding package expires on Saturday at midnight, making it imperative for Congress to approve new funding of some sort before then. The House of Representatives passed a 13-month continuing resolution last week while the Senate is considering the massive omnibus package that combines each of the 13 appropriations bills that normally make their way through Congress.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he was currently in the process of reading through the measure, noting that it was nearly 2,000 pages long.

“We’re certainly in the process of doing that right now,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s a lengthy bill – 1,924 pages long – and we’re going through it as others have and discovering a lot of bad stuff in the bill.”

Asked by CNSNews whether he would read the bill before the vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said there was “no way” senators could thoroughly examine the bill, but that he would do his best to read it through.

“There’s no way you can really thoroughly master that bill in two or three days time, to tell you the truth,” he said. “But yes, I’m going to try to look at each [provision], what’s in it.”

There is no way that any part of the government should ever have to “pass a bill, so they’ll be able to find out what’s in it”. They should have released this bill at the beginning of the lame-duck, in order to give people plenty of time to digest all of the pork that is in the bill. Of course, they do it, so they can hide things in this bill that they hope won’t see the light of day before it is too late, and it is already passed.

Reid: It’s My Constitutional Duty to Pass This Pork-Laden Omnibus Bill

Here are some tweets coming from Washington reporter Jamie Dupree, who was at the Harry Reid press conference, today, regarding the omnibus bill , full of thousands of earmarks, that’s being debated in the Senate:

1. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) telling reporters right now that "we have a constitutional duty " to approve earmarks
2. More Reid on earmarks: "I can't understand why more conservative members want to give up their power"
3. BROADSIDE ON REPUBLICANS: Reid labels GOP Senators who have earmarks but vote against them "hypocrites”

This isn’t the first time that Reid has said that it is his “constitutional duty” to spend your money. It not shocking about how clueless that Reid is on this. True, it is Congress’ duty to appropriate funds, but he is leaving out that the reason why there is so much angst against this type of spending is that it is often wasteful, and most of them wouldn’t pass muster, if it was ever given full-debate in Congress. It is, also, a problem that many of them look like bribes to certain representatives and senators in exchange for their vote on a particular piece of legislation.

He does have a point that many Republicans that are fighting this bill, now, have earmarks in the bill that they fought for before it was cool to be against them. Although, some of them say that they have “seen the light”, after last month’s elections.

As long as they continue to fight against the bill and vote against it, I don’t think that their flip-flop here won’t hurt them too much. However, I think that they should even go a bit further and push for amendments that would strike their earmarks from the bill. In the future, though, if they return to their old ways and include any earmarks in any future legislation, then, they should be chastised and protested against for such wasteful spending.

Number of Bodies Found Along Tucson, Arizona/Mexico Border Rise to Highest Ever

This past year has seen more people being found dead along the US/Mexico near Tucson, Arizona than ever before:

The discovery of record numbers of bodies along the Tucson sector of the US-Mexico border suggests that border crossings for illegal immigrants are becoming deadlier as heightened security forces migrants into remoter and more forbidding areas.

In fiscal 2010, which ended Sept. 30, authorities reported fewer border crossings overall. But the 252 bodies recovered surpassed the previous record of 237 in fiscal 2007.

“People go through areas that are harsher, where a lot of people are getting hurt and dying,” says Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, coordinator of the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute.

A record-breaking heat wave last summer could also have played a role. Moreover, there are more border patrol agents on the ground, and some of these agents patrol more isolated spots, increasing the likelihood of finding bodies, Ms. Rubio-Goldsmith says.

Because the border is fortified with manpower and high-tech surveillance, smugglers do whatever it takes to get their human cargo into the country and collect profits – including going into far-flung regions. There, they sometimes abandon sick or weary border-crossers who can’t keep up with a group, says Colleen Agle, a border patrol agent in the Tucson sector, which covers most of the Arizona international line.

Why is this happening? It probably is a combination of factors. There was a huge heat wave this year in Arizona. People are going to more dangerous parts of the border, in order to get around the patrols. Patrols are going into these more dangerous areas more often than before and are finding bodies that may have been there a while but were in too remote of an area to have been found previously. Plus, coyotes are being more aggressive in their tactics in getting these people across the border as fast as they can, in order to make as much money as possible.

Many amnesty activists will use this as an example of how “cruel” our immigration laws are. However, what they don’t understand is that making them more lax would only make things worse, in the long run. With the drug war intensifying just across the Mexican border, we need to keep things tight on the border, so that the cartels won’t bring the war onto this side of the border.

We still need to protect our borders, though, to keep people that do intend to inflict harm on our citizens out, like terrorists and violent criminals. We must know who is coming into our country, in order to be able to protect all Americans.

What is needed is an easier way for people to come into this country legally. There needs to be less red tape and less waiting time needed before people can come into the US without jeopardizing our immigration officials’ ability to vet and run checks on these potential immigrants. If a legal path to immigration is made easier, then, people will feel less of a need to cross the border illegally, and less people will have to risk their lives to come to America to live the American dream.

Absurd: Registered Sex Offenders Allowed to Get New Teaching Jobs

How ridiculous is this? School districts have been caught turning a blind eye to known sex offenders being allowed to continue teaching our children without any consequences:

Registered sex offenders work as U.S. school teachers and administrators despite laws barring them from contact with children, a U.S. government report says.

School officials in some states enable misconduct to continue by disregarding procedures and warning signs during hiring or by covering up firings of sexual offenders, the U.S. Government Accountability Office report said.

The report, obtained by USA Today, is based on a review of 15 cases in 11 states over the past decade involving people with histories of sexual misconduct working in public or private schools.

Of those, 11 offenders previously targeted children -- and six continued to abuse children in their new positions, the report indicated.

For example, a teacher and athletic coach forced to resign from an Ohio school because of inappropriate contact with girls was hired by a neighboring district, the report said.

The superintendent at his first school had called him an "outstanding teacher" in a recommendation letter, the report indicated.

The teacher was later convicted for sexual battery against a sixth-grade girl in the new district.

When questioned by investigators about why such lapses occur, officials usually said the time and money involved in background checks made it hard to monitor job applicants. Fear of lawsuits also was a factor, the report said.

Thank you, Captain Obvious! Of course, they’re afraid of lawsuits. That’s why they keep the real reason why they were fired quiet. They don’t want the parents to sue. However, they could be doubly liable for the harm the teachers caused those children. They have to worry about the kids from their school and the kids from the new school that were abused because of their failure to come forth with information that could have saved them from these predators.

Every one of these school officials should be immediately fired and blacklisted from ever being able to have anything to do with the school system ever.

Palate Cleanser: Jon Bon Jovi Hired By Obama to Serve As White House Advisor

I'm stealing this from one of the commenters: "So, it appears that Obama is trying to get the 80s rocker vote in 2012.":

This may not be the year for Jon Bon Jovi to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the rocker is the recipient of a different kind of honor. Megyn Kelly just reported that JBJ will serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions. The new 25-member group will reportedly provide advice on the best ways to mobilize citizens, non-profits, businesses and government to solve community needs.

In addition to having great hair, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has been actively working to combat homelessness for some time now.

Rep. Gohmert: Repealing DADT Will Lead to End of America or Something

In response to the passage of a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the US House, Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, pontificated that he is worried that letting gays serve in the military openly will be the end of the United States, as we know it:

To my friend who said that history would judge us poorly, I would submit if you would look thoroughly at history -- and I'm not saying it's cause and effect -- but when militaries throughout history of the greatest nations in the world have adopted the policy that "fine for homosexuality to be overt" -- you can keep it private and control your hormones fine, if you can't, that's fine too -- they're toward the end of their existence as a great nation.

If you’re not saying that it is cause and effect, then, why say it? Of course, that is what he was insinuating. I hate to break it to him, but gays are already in the military. We haven’t been made any weaker because of it, and we won’t be any weaker, if they came out of the closet to their fellow soldiers.

Now, he has a point that some restrictions on their freedoms are put on soldiers that civilians don’t have to deal with on an everyday basis, but there would be no harm done by letting this policy go away. Restrictions should obviously be put on these relationships, just like they do with male/female relationships, but not so much that they have to hide what they are.

Many worry that, if gays came out, then, soldiers would be less likely to watch their backs or vice versa, when they are in the heat of battle. I will admit that there would be a few that might be uneasy, at first, but they would learn to deal with it. There may be a few idiots that might react in a homophobic way, but they should be dealt with, just as anyone would be that made a racist comment to a fellow soldier.

Many worried about the same thing, when Dwight Eisenhower integrated the races in the military. Nothing major came of it, and I believe that there was much more to fear, at the time, from integrating the races than letting the gays that are already in the military come out. Believe me, when they are getting shot at, the last thing that they are thinking about is what orientation their buddies are.