Friday, January 23, 2009

Pentagon says 61 ex-Guantanamo Inmates Have Returned To Terrorism

As Obama makes closing Guantanamo Prison his first act as President, the Pentagon states that 61 ex-guantanamo inmates that were released have returned to terrorism.

US Counterterrorism Officials also announced today that a former Guantánamo Bay detainee has emerged as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch. Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Two ex-Guantanamo inmates appear in Al-Qaeda video : Two men released from the US "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a jihadist website, the SITE monitoring service reported.

As Thomas Sowell said about the Bush legacy, "That a president of the United States protected us from deadly enemies may not seem like much of an accomplishment to some. But it may be more fully appreciated when we get a president who eases up on that protection, in order to curry favor at home and abroad."

Al-Qaeda cell was developing Black Death biological weapons to use against West

An al-Qaeda cell killed by the Black Death may have been developing biological weapons when it was infected, it has been reported.

Last Updated: 6:10PM GMT 20 Jan 2009

The group of 40 terrorists were reported to have been killed by the plague at a training camp in Algeria earlier this month.

It was initially believed that they could have caught the disease through fleas on rats attracted by poor living conditions in their forest hideout.

But there are now claims the cell was developing the disease as a weapon to use against western cities.

Experts said that the group was developing chemical and biological weapons.

Dr Igor Khrupinov, a biological weapons expert at Georgia University, told The Sun: "Al-Qaeda is known to experiment with biological weapons. And this group has direct communication with other cells around the world.

"Contagious diseases, like ebola and anthrax, occur in northern Africa. It makes sense that people are trying to use them against Western governments."

Dr Khrupinov, who was once a weapons adviser to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, added: "Instead of using bombs, people with infectious diseases could be walking through cities."

It was reported last year that up to 100 potential terrorists had attempted to become postgraduate students in Britain in an attempt to use laboratories.

Ian Kearns, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, told the newspaper: "The biological weapons threat is not going away. We're not ready for it."

Is Now The Time To Entertain "Civil Disobedience"?!

Obama To Reverse Nation's Policy On Abortion

Now may be a good time to study up on our Henry David Thoreau.

Deeply affected by the abolitionists he had met in Manhattan, Thoreau returned to Concord in 1844 and dedicated much of his time to lectures and essays advocating abolition and became involved in sheltering runaway slaves on their journey north.

In 1846 Thoreau was briefly imprisoned for refusing to pay a poll tax to the village of Concord, in protest against the government's support of slavery, as well as its war of expansion with Mexico. During his imprisonment Thoreau wrote an essay titled "Civil Disobedience". As the years passed, Thoreau's commitment to the antislavery movement strengthened and even into the declining health of his later years, he remained a man of conviction and action.

The following are some of the excerpts from his essay "Civil Disobedience" that I find important today as we face a government who is willing to force over half of its citizens to support and participate (through taxation) AGAINST THEIR WISHES, something that they find morally irreprehensible and oppose at all levels. A government that wishes to force its citizens to particpate in murder.

"That government is best which governs least" (urging us to stay away from socialism)

"Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. When the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice." (This is why our country is not supposed to be a "majority rules" democracy. It is supposed to be a Republic where the majority does NOT rule and the powers and authorities of government are limited.)

"I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right."

"All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable." (There have been calls to drop the partisanship and support our new President Obama in these harsh times for our country. I believe like Thoreau that by doing so, we are not men first. We must fight for what is RIGHT. We must refuse allegiance to and resist his government and its tyranny at all costs. We can pray FOR Obama but we must oppose him and fight him at every chance we get. Not just through our votes, but through action. Just as citizens in the past had to stand up to our government to fight against the immoral practice of slavery, we must now stand against Obama and fight against the immoral practice of abortion. Time will prove us right in this battle.)

"They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret."

"The character of the voters is not staked. I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it to the majority. Voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that is should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to mercy of chance, now wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. Only his vote can hasten the abolition of slavery who asserts his own freedom by his vote."

"Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform. Some are petitioning the state to dissolve the Union, to disregard the requisitions of the President. Why do they not dissolve it themselves, -the union between themselves and the state,- and refuse to pay their quota into its treasury? Do not they stand in the same relation to the state that the state that the state does to the Union? And have not the same reasons permitted the state from resisting the Union which have prevented them from resisting the state?" (He challenges us to disobey the law here and refuse to give our money (taxes) to a government that will use our money on something that we morally opposes such as slavery or abortion. Something where millions of lives are at stake.)

"Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?"

"I meet this American government, or its representative, the state government, directly, and face to face, once a year - no more - in the person of its tax-gatherer; this is the only mode in which a man situated as I am necessarily meets it; and it then says distinctly, Recognize me; and the simplest, most effectual, and, in the present posture of affairs, the indispensablest mode of treating with it on this head, of expressing your little satisfaction with and love for it, is to deny it then." (challenging us to speak to our government our opposition through the only means we can...not paying our taxes.)

"For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be; what is once well done is done forever."

"Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison."

"If any think that their influence would be lost there (prison), and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight."

"If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution." (More innocent blood could be saved if we can oppose abortion by refusing to support this government.)

"If there were one who lived wholly without the use of money, the State itself would hesitate to demand it of him. But the rich man - not to make any invidious comparison - is always sold to the institution which makes him rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for money comes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him."

"The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor."

"they cannot spare the protection of the existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it. I should not like to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I denly the authority of the State when it presents its tax-bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly, and at the same time comfortably, in outward respects." (He is pointing out that doing the right thing in standing up to our government can cost us property, harassment, etc. but if you want to keep your material belongings you will have to "sell out" and not live and HONEST life. If you wish to live an HONEST life, you will have to give up your material belongings to the government when you stand up against them. He points out that it is tougher for rich folks to live and honest life because they stand to lose more so it is tougher for them to do what is right in standing up against the tyranny of government).

"Confucius said, "If a state is governed by the principles or reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame."

"If we were left solely to the wordy wit of legislators in Congress for our guidance, uncorrected by the seasonable experience and the effectual complaints of the people, America would not long retain her rank among the nations. For eighteen hundred years, though perchance I have no right to say it, the New Testament has been written; yet where is the legislator who has the wisdom and practical talent enough to avail himself of the light which it sheds on the science of legislation?" (We can't allow the fate of this great country to rest in the hands of our politicians. The fate of our nation rests with the experience and voice of the people).

"It (government) can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, (and now from democracy to Republic) is a progress toward a true respect for the individual."

"Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is is not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. (We will not truly be a free country until our government recognized that we the people are not its servants. All of its power is limited and given by us, We the people!)

So now we come to a cross roads. We know it is not right for Obama and our government to force us to support and participate in something that we morally oppose such as the murder of millions of babies. So where do we go from him. Verbal opposition? Peaceful Revolution? Is it time for revolution? Thomas Paine's Common Sense Part II? Maybe our country IS too divided on issues of moral importance, national security and preservation of our nationality. Maybe President Lincoln's vision is finally outdated. Maybe it is time to move on?

I believe the time has come for us to seriously look into the state of our Union. Can we truthfully say we are proud of our country and where it is headed? Do we want to support and defend what may soon stand for? Where is our allegiance...blindly to country or to the morals and principles it was founded on and are quickly being being ignored and reversed? It's time to take a long hard look at yourself, and your country, and the part you play in the future direction of America.

Media Frustrated Over Censorship By Obama

Liberals decry infringements on 1st Amendment such as The Patriot Act, aimed at protecting us from more terrorism but say nothing when the new Democratic President infringes on the 1st Amendment by censoring the media. ???

Media frustration spills into briefing
By: Michael Calderone
January 23, 2009 08:10 AM EST

A growing media frustration with Barack Obama’s team spilled into the open at Thursday’s briefing, with reporters accusing the White House of stifling access to his oath re-do and giving Obama’s first interview as president to a multi-million dollar inauguration sponsor.

Veteran CBS newsman Bill Plante was one of the most vocal critics, questioning the White House’s handling of Wednesday night’s second swearing in – which was covered by just a four-reporter print pool that didn’t include a news photographer or TV correspondent.

He also asked new press secretary Robert Gibbs why ABC, which paid millions to host the DC Neighborhood Ball, was granted the only inauguration day interview with President Obama – a move he equated to “pay to play.”

“We have a tradition here of covering the president,” said Plante, who is covering his fourth administration.

Gibbs defended the White House’s moves, insisting aides acted in a “way that was upfront and transparent” in allowing the standard pool into the swearing-in. And Obama himself seemed mindful of making a good impression, paying a surprise visit to the White House pressroom a few hours after the briefing.

It’s been a bumpy 24 hours for Gibbs and company, as members of the White House press corps have publicly expressed frustration with an administration promising openness and transparency.

At the same time, some members of the Obama administration’s press team have signaled that they plan to shake up some of the old traditions of White House coverage, some of the longest-standing – and most jealously guarded – in town.

In recent weeks, New York Times editors complained that its White House team hadn’t gotten a sit-down with Obama during the transition, breaking an unofficial tradition whereby recent president-elects have free-wheeling exchanges with the Gray Lady before the inauguration.
In the case of the second swearing-in, however, it seemed to give reporters a chance to lay down an early marker on questioning whether Obama would live up to one of his key campaign pledges, at least when it comes to the media.

“It is ironic, the same day that the president is talking about transparency, we were not let in,” CNN’s Ed Henry said on the air Wednesday night after news of the second swearing-in broke.

Henry’s main gripe was that television reporters weren’t permitted to cover a historic moment, when Obama once again raised his right hand and took the oath before Justice John Roberts. The only images came from White House photographer Pete Souza.

Three wire services — The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse – refused to move those images, in protest of the White House’s handling of the event.

The wire services’ photographers were also denied access to photograph Obama sitting in the Oval Office on the first day, and similarly refused to move the White House approved photos.

Michael Oreskes, the AP’s managing editor for U.S. news, told his own news outlet that “we are not distributing what are, in effect, visual press releases.”

Later, in a statement to Politico, Oreskes said that the AP believes “access for news photographers has been a time-honored tradition at the White House through many administrations and needs to be continued.”

“We are working diligently with the White House staff to ensure this access,” he added.

Jennifer Loven, the AP’s White House correspondent and president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said she and the group's board "are addressing this aggressively with the White House—our strong objections to both the issue of them releasing photo handouts from events that the press should be able to cover, and the issue of how the pool was structured last night."

Providing access is probably the easiest ways to appease the White House press corps, which feeds on it. So by not allowing the three wire services in the Oval Office for day one—a ritual that typically yields flattering shots of a new president writing at his desk or chatting with aides—the press team picked a fight that could have been avoided.

But those weren’t the only issues of access to come up in Thursday’s roughly 50-minute briefing.
Before Gibbs took the podium, reporters were given a background briefing under an agreement to only attribute information to “senior administration officials”—a policy some news organizations object to as a matter of policy.

But when Gibbs let slip the name of one briefer, Greg Craig, a couple times, The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman asked, “Are we allowed to repeat that name?”

During the earliest days of the Clinton administration, such abrupt changes in the traditional press access were often met with harsh criticism from the briefing room pack, most notably, the blocking off of access to the office of then press secretary George Stephanopoulos.

Former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who succeeded Stephanopoulos, said in PBS’s “The Clinton Years” that the move “made the press very angry because they lost access to a part of the building that they had had access to.”

“And it didn't serve us,” she continued. “And it was stupid and didn't last very long. I can't remember when the decision was made and the door was finally reopened but it was a complete waste of energy. It alienated people for no purpose. It served nothing. It served no one. And it was a rookie, rookie mistake.”

Myers said Thursday that the Obama’s decision to bar widespread access to the re-do of the oath wasn’t in the same category as shutting access to the press office, but wouldn’t help in relations with the media.

“I think not letting video, that’s a bit of a rookie mistake,” Myers said, adding that “when you can, it’s better to err on the side of inclusiveness with the press.”

On balance however, she said of Obama’s press team, “I think generally speaking they’re doing very well so far,” said Myers.

There have been a handful of rocky moments so far. Some press staffers found their name cards misspelled on Wednesday and phone lines weren’t properly hooked up. Reporters trying to reach the press staff got emails bounced back.

Also, press aides informed reporters that the doors of the lower press office will be locked until 8:30 am, an inconvenience for those on the early shift. Following a USA Today blog item, there was confusion about whether the site would regularly publish pool reports since there was a “pool report” link on the site. And in the hours before Gibbs’ briefing, the northwest gate of the White House started running out of temporary passes.

Now, given the expected learning curve, most of these wrinkles should be ironed out in time. But on broader issues of access, it remains to be seen if the Obama press team is making rookie mistakes, or simply asserting a new protocol, not bound to past traditions that White House reporters have grown accustomed to. While the press corps balks at changes in access, these rules aren’t written in stone. It may chafe veterans of the briefing room, but it’s the administration’s prerogative on such matters.

Of course, the media landscape has changed significantly over the 16 years, and getting one’s message across through establishment media isn’t the only option for the new administration.

The Obama campaign proved that one could skirt around the mainstream media at times, whether by blasting out text messages to millions of supporters (the Biden pick), or leaking to select news outlets and blogs as a means of getting out the day’s talking points out.

But even if the press team is keeping reporters and photographers at bay, perhaps the President will draw them a bit closer.

After Obama signed an executive order Thursday morning to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay within a year, “press office staffers began to shoo the pool out the door, and the camera lights were dimmed,” wrote Scripps Howard’s Bartholomew Sullivan in a pool report.

However, Obama stopped the reporter from being ushered out, saying, “there are three of these.” The lights came back on.

Obama flashes irritation in press room

President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press corps Thursday night, but got agitated when he was faced with a substantive question.

Asked how he could reconcile a strict ban on lobbyists in his administration with a Deputy Defense Secretary nominee who lobbied for Raytheon, Obama interrupted with a knowing smile on his face. "Ahh, see," he said, "I came down here to visit. See this is what happens. I can't end up visiting with you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here."

Pressed further by the Politico reporter about his Pentagon nominee, William J. Lynn III, Obama turned more serious, putting his hand on the reporter's shoulder and staring him in the eye.

More Media Rage At Censoring By Obama

The White House press operation got off to a fumbling and stumbling start Thursday, with the day's opening briefers insisting on being identified only as "senior administration officials," followed swiftly by the new president's spokesman accidently outing one of the secret aides less than two minutes into his first White House briefing.

Although President Obama swept into office pledging transparency and a new air of openness, the press hammered spokesman Robert Gibbs for nearly an hour over a slate of perceived secretive slights that have piled up quickly for the new administration. It wasn't pretty.

"Why did the administration believe it was important for the American people not to know the name of the two senior administration officials who briefed us this morning on Guantanamo?" one reporter asked in the packed and steaming hot briefing room just off the White House West Wing.

"I hope that you all found the exercise that we did this morning helpful," Mr. Gibbs offered helpfully.

"Do you know," the reporter followed, "that you've used ... one of those senior officials' first names several times in this briefing?" A very long pause ensued.

"I do," the spokesman said, his cornflower-colored tie suddenly looking a bit too tight. "Are we allowed to repeat that name?" Mr. Gibbs answered by citing as precedent of Brazilian soccer stars being known only by a single name - sure to one day be a classic White House non-answer.

Then it got uglier.

"How is it transparent," another reporter asked, "when you control the only image of the re-swearing - there's nobody in there but four print reporters, there's no stills, there's no television? And the only recording that comes out, as I understand it, is one that a reporter made, not one that the White House supplied."

"Let me take your questions separately there," Mr. Gibbs began. "Well, we'd have had to get a big room," he finally posited with a smile.

"You could have had more than four in the pool," one reporter said. "Could have had a pool!" shouted another. "The whole pool!" spat a third. "We have a tradition here of covering the president!" yelled a fourth.

And so it went at the first official White House briefing of the new Obama administration - a fiery back and forth dispelling the notion that journalists would go easy on the guy that many reports show it went easy on during the marathon primary and general election campaigns.

Halfway through the interrogation, a reporter asked succinctly: "Is the honeymoon over already?"

A smiling Mr. Gibbs answered with sublime brevity: "I should ask you that."

The warmish winter day began with heated objections from the White House press corps. Before a "background briefing" to help reporters understand Mr. Obama's complex executive order on the detention of enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay, junior press aide Josh Earnest said "for your stories, they should be attributed to 'senior administration officials.' "

When an objection came from Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, Mr. Earnest said earnestly: "It's not necessarily a precedent-setting decision, but it's a decision that we think will work best."

That set the mood for Mr. Gibbs' debut. After a session over the secret briefers, reporters moved to the debacle of the second swearing-in ceremony Mr. Obama undertook in the Oval Office on Wednesday evening. During a barrage of questions, the press secretary said eight times that the second oath of office was decided upon only out of "an abundance of caution," leaving the phrase alone only after reporters cackled at its last utterance.

Still, throughout the day's session, Mr. Gibbs was in control - affable, smiling often, answering questions in a slow, measured, slightly Southern drawl, joking with reporters who had covered Mr. Obama on the campaign trail. But he made clear who he works for: Over and over, he began his answers with "the president believes" and at least once said, "I just want to reiterate what the president said throughout the campaign and the transition."

On the creation of a new White House panel to recommend action on Guantanamo, he said: "I don't want to get ahead of the recommendations." In answer to one specific question, he said: "I don't have anything specifically." Asked the bottom line on another topic, he said it's "an ongoing discussion, ongoing planning process." When a reporter used the word "if" in a question, the new spokesman dismissed the query as "hypothetical," just as all four Bush spokesman had done before him.

And like many of his predecessors, he had his oddly unintelligible moments. Asked whether Mr. Obama should "lead by example," Mr. Gibbs said: "We'll check on that."

On more pointed questions, such as whether Osama bin Laden would be aggressively interrogated if captured, Mr. Gibbs dodged altogether: "Let me get some guidance from [White House Counsel] Greg [Craig] and members of the [National Security Council]."

"Is it fair for me then to conclude that it is an open question?" the reporter asked.

"No, it's fair for you to conclude that I want to make sure I don't make a mistake," Mr. Gibbs said to laughter.

With that, he was off. But he had a parting idea for the heaving throng of reporters. "We should sell tickets and have the money go to the deficit or something," he said before heading for the door, shouting over his shoulder, "See you tomorrow."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Bush Legacy

Thomas Sowell - Syndicated Columnist - 1/20/2009

Whatever history's verdict on the Bush administration might be, it is likely to be very different from what we hear from the talking heads on television or read from the know-it-alls on editorial pages.

President Bush's number-one achievement was also the number-one function of government -- to protect its citizens. Nobody on September 11, 2001, believed that there would never be another such attack for more than seven years.

Unfortunately, people who are protected from dangers often conclude that there are no dangers. This is most painfully visible among those Americans who are hysterical over the government's intercepting international phone calls, in order to disrupt international terrorist networks.

Many, especially among the intelligentsia, are also obsessed with whether we are being nice enough to the cut-throats locked up at Guantanamo, some of whom have already been turned loose to resume a life of terrorism. The rights of the Geneva Convention do not apply to people who neither obey the Geneva Convention nor are covered by the Geneva Convention.

That a president of the United States protected us from deadly enemies may not seem like much of an accomplishment to some. But it may be more fully appreciated when we get a president who eases up on that protection, in order to curry favor at home and abroad.

We can only hope that it will not take the sight of an American city lying in radioactive ruins to wake people up to the dangers that George W. Bush protected us against, despite an unending chorus of carping.

No one in his right mind would say that the Bush administration was flawless. But many of their worst political mistakes were the kinds of mistakes that decent people often make when dealing with indecent people, both domestically and internationally.

The idea with which President Bush arrived in Washington, that he could gain bipartisan support by going along with the Democrats, and not vetoing any bills that Congress passed, ignored the fact that it takes two to tango.

Having proclaimed his goal as bipartisanship, it was he who was blamed when the bipartisanship failed to materialize. Wooing Ted Kennedy and going along with massive government spending did not stop Kennedy from getting up in the Senate and loudly proclaiming that Bush "lied, and lied and lied!" about Iraq.

Whatever the merits or demerits of going to war against Saddam Hussein, the question whether he had weapons of mass destruction immediately at hand makes a better talking point than a serious argument.

President Bush was not the only national leader who thought Saddam Hussein had such weapons, nor were such weapons the only reason why the Iraqi dictator posed a continuing danger that all diplomatic efforts, over more than a decade, had failed to extinguish.

This issue can be debated, and no doubt will be debated for years, if not generations, to come. But the irresponsible charge that "Bush lied" for some nefarious purpose -- to trade "blood for oil" or to generate business for Halliburton, for example -- is more than a slander against him. It undermines our whole nation and gives comfort to our enemies around the world.

Domestically, the Bush legacy leaves a lot to be desired. Going along with the McCain-Feingold bill restricting free speech was perhaps the Bush administration's biggest dereliction of duty. Maybe they figured that they could pass the problem along to the Supreme Court to stop it, since this bill so clearly violated the First Amendment to the Constitution.

But the Supreme Court was also guilty of a dereliction of its duty and let the McCain-Feingold bill stand.

Advocating amnesty for illegal aliens was another political disaster, especially when accompanied by denials of the obvious.

Although the Bush administration went along with the chorus of calls for promoting home ownership among people who could not afford home ownership, President Bush at least sounded a warning while others were still pushing lenders to lend to people who proved unable to repay their loans.

A mixed bag? Aren't we all? But an honorable man.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Doctors vs. Gun Owners

No Offense Craig. Hope you can sense the sarcasm here! ;-) If not...well, you probably shouldn't be a doctor then anyway! ha ha! :-)

Doctors vs Gunowners

(A) The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
(B) Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000.
(C) Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.

Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services.


Now think about this:


(A) The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000. (Yes, that's 80 million)
(B) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is 1,500.
(C) The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is .000188.

Statistics courtesy of FBI


So, statistically, doctors are approximately 909.57 times more dangerous than gun owners.


Remember, 'Guns don't kill people, blood letting doctors do..'




Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK's Dream Still Not Realized With Obama's Election

Obama's coronation is certainly not the realization of Martin Luther King's vision.

King's "I have a dream" speech envisioned a world in which a man would be judged not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character.

But Obama's election came about not in spite of his race, but because of it.

Geraldine Ferraro, was correct in saying that Obama was "given a pass" because he was black, and that no white candidate, man or woman, could ever have overcome the handicap of his unscripted verbal gaffs, shady associations, and astonishing lack of experience.

While I sincerely hope that he will govern from the center, and turn out to be greater than the sum of his parts, his election was the direct result not of color-blindness, but very color-conscious racism on the part of blacks, guilt-stricken liberal whites, and many who just wanted the novelty of a black man in the White House.

p3orion -

Lincoln Would Not Applaud Obama...

By Leonard Pitts Jr. Miami Herald

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and take an oath making him the nation's first president of African heritage.

The statue of Abraham Lincoln, which sits facing the Capitol in a temple two miles away, will not give two thumbs up. Neither will it weep, commune with the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. or dance a Macarena of joy.

The point is obvious, yes, but also necessary given that when Obama was elected in November, every third political cartoonist seemed to use an image of a celebrating Lincoln to comment upon the milestone that had occurred. Lincoln, they told us, would have been overjoyed.

Actually, Lincoln likely would have been appalled. How could he not? He was a 19th century white man who famously said in 1858 that "there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which . . . will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality.''

How do you reconcile that with all those cartoons of Lincoln congratulating Obama? You don't. You simply recognize it for what it is: yet another illustration of how shallow our comprehension of history is, yet another instance where myth supersedes reality.

Not that this is anything new -- or that political cartoonists are the only ones susceptible. Indeed, African Americans once tended to regard Lincoln with an almost religious reverence.

Consider another Lincoln statue, this one in a park east of the Capitol: It depicts Lincoln towering over a newly freed black man who kneels at his feet. While modern eyes might find the image unbearably paternalistic, it represented the heartfelt sentiment of the black men and women who gave it to the city in 1876 in gratitude, they said, for Lincoln freeing the slaves.

Of course, Lincoln freed no slaves. That's the myth. His Emancipation Proclamation was a military measure to demoralize and destabilize the rebellious South; it covered states he did not govern but did not apply in slaveholding states that remained under his jurisdiction.

None of which is to deny or diminish the greatness of the 16th president. His greatness stands unquestioned, unquestionable. We would be a very different nation, a lesser nation, without his political genius, his dogged faith in the unsundered Union, his refusal to accept less than Union, even when haunted by reversals and setbacks that would have broken anyone else.

No, the argument is not about Lincoln's greatness. Rather, it is about our tendency to cherish untextured myths that affirm our preferred narratives. George Washington confessing that he chopped down the cherry tree is one, a parable of honesty that has survived for generations despite the minor inconvenience of not being true. Lincoln the Great Emancipator is yet another.

Abraham Lincoln did not believe in the equality of black people. He did, however -- and this was no minor distinction in his era -- believe in their humanity. He also abhorred slavery. But he was willing to countenance it if doing so would have vindicated his primary goal: to save the Union.

For him, nothing mattered more. Lincoln held with an indefatigable fervor to the belief that there was something unique, something necessary to preserve, in the union of American states, this government of, by and for the people. He held to this even when common sense, casualty reports and political reality demanded otherwise.

So, remarkable as it is that America has elected a black man its 44th president, Lincoln might find it more remarkable simply that the country has elected a 44th president at all. That was not always a certainty. He would be glad to know that, 144 years after his death, America continues to surprise itself.

The Union endures.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Immigrants ravage U.S. infrastructure ($1.6 trillion to repair)

Immigrants ravage U.S. infrastructure
Financial analyst: $1.6 trillion required to repair devastation

Posted: January 15, 2009
11:50 pm Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

The United States will need $1.6 trillion to repair damage to its infrastructure from a massive influx of immigrants, a new report reveals.

In his report titled, "The Twin Crises: Immigration and Infrastructure," prominent researcher Edwin S. Rubenstein examines 15 categories of infrastructure: airports, border security, bridges, dams and levees, electricity (the power grids), hazardous waste removal, hospitals, mass transit, parks and recreation facilities, ports and navigable waterways, public schools, railroads, roads and highways, solid waste and trash, and water and sewer systems.

Rubenstein, a financial analyst and former contributing editor of Forbes and economics editor of National Review, claims the nation is facing a crisis – with immigration responsible for at least 80 percent of spending needed to expand the U.S. infrastructure before the middle of this century.

"If the infrastructure crisis could be fixed by spending money, there would be no crisis," Mr. Rubenstein explained in a statement. "Since 1987, capital spending on transportation infrastructure has increased by 2.1 percent per year above the inflation rate. At $233 billion (2004 dollars), infrastructure is already one of the largest categories of government spending. Our infrastructure is 'crumbling' because population growth has overwhelmed the ability of even these vast sums to expand capacity."

While immigration policy has been hotly debated for a number of years, Rubenstein writes that its impact on infrastructure is rarely discussed.

Public schools

Immigrants make up 21 percent of the school-age population in the U.S.

"In California, a whopping 47 percent of the school-age population consists of immigrants or the children of immigrants," the report states. "Some Los Angeles schools are so crowded that they have lengthened the time between classes to give students time to make their way through crowded halls. Los Angeles' school construction program is so massive that the Army Corps of Engineers was called in to manage it."

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 18 percent of all schools are considered overcrowded, and 37 percent use trailers and portable structures to accommodate growing student bodies. Public facilities are an average of 40 years old. Cities with high populations of illegal aliens are spending large amounts of their budgets on constructing new schools.

"Our anticipated gains in the number of foreign-born students alone will require us to build one elementary school a month to keep up," Miami-Dade, Fla., school Superintendent Roger Cuevas said.


Rubenstein cites a recent construction boom among the nation's hospitals. As many as 60 percent of America's hospitals are either under construction or have plans for new facilities.

"But we have a two-tier hospital system in the U.S. Hospitals in poor areas – that serve primarily uninsured immigrants and Medicaid patients – cannot afford their facilities," he writes. "The uncompensated costs are killing them. In California, 60 emergency departments (EDs) have closed to avoid the uncompensated costs of their largely illegal alien caseloads."

Illegal aliens use emergency rooms more than twice as often as U.S. citizens, and providing their uncompensated care has been the death of many emergency departments.

In 2006, more than 46 percent of illegals did not have medical insurance. Although illegal aliens are not supposed to be eligible for Medicaid, they receive Emergency Medicaid and their children are entitled to all benefits that legal immigrants receive.

Because hospitals are forced to care for Medicaid recipients, the government program never covers full costs of service. It underpaid hospitals by $11.3 billion in 2006, he wrote.

Water and electricity

Rubenstein referenced immigration trends revealing that aliens often choose to live in cities with strained water supplies – especially near the border – and their sheer numbers have made conservation efforts nearly impossible.

"Cities like San Antonio, El Paso, and Phoenix could run out of water in 10 to 20 years," he writes. San Diego's water company has resorted to a once-unthinkable option: recycling toilet water for drinking."

Due to immigration, demand for water exceeds the California State Water Project's capacity. Now Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed building a $6 billion reservoir. Approximately one-fifth of the state's electricity is tied up in collection, storage and transportation of the water.

Electric utilities are expected to require an additional $142 billion to keep generator capacity at recommended levels before 2050 due to the increasing population.

National parks

America's national parks are also bearing the brunt of immigration. Illegals wear roads and paths through parks.

"Their fires, trash, and vandalism have despoiled thousands of acres of pristine parkland," he writes.

According to Rubenstein, illegals leave beer, water and milk bottles, personal hygiene items and medications, clothing and shoes, food and food cans, jewelry, paper trash, sanitary pads, disposable diapers, backpacks, blankets, towels, plastic bags, homemade weapons, disintegrating toilet paper and human feces on U.S. property while they journey into the country.

They damage vegetation, leave abandoned vehicles and bicycles, spray paint trees and boulders and create campfires that turn into wildfires.

Border security costs

Costs for securing the nation's borders are expected to increase 20.6 percent in fiscal year 2009. These include expenses for border patrol, electronic surveillance, the border fence and other security needs. President Bush allocated $44.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security – a 4.5 percent increase from last year's budget of $42.4 billion.

"While the U.S. builds a fence across much of the border, many illegals are taking a different route. Underground," Rubenstein reveals. "Authorities have discovered dozens of illegal tunnels across the international border in recent years. Smuggling of drugs, weapons, and immigrants takes place daily through these underground passageways."

Illegal aliens also use drainage systems to travel across the U.S.-Mexico border – from El Paso to San Diego.

"One tunnel, actually a system of two half-mile passages connecting Tijuana with San Diego, is by comparison a superhighway," he wrote.

While the Border Patrol attempts to stop these underground incursions with steel doors, cameras and sensors, harsh weather conditions and human smugglers destroy the equipment and barriers.

These costs, and the expenses of providing "enhanced driver's licenses" as alternative passports for citizens, RFID chips, government databases and watch lists are expected to soar.

Fiscal burden

In his research, Rubenstein finds that the average immigrant household generates a fiscal debt of $3,408 after federal benefits and taxes are considered. At the state and local level, the fiscal debt amounts to $4.398 per immigrant household.

"There are currently about 36 million immigrants living in about 9 million households, so the aggregate deficit attributable to immigrants comes to $70.3 billion," he writes. "… Immigrants could deplete the amount of funds available for infrastructure by as much as $70 billion per year."

Rubenstein cites figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, projecting that the U.S. population will reach 433 million by 2050 – increasing 44 percent, or 135 million, from today's numbers.

A full 82 percent of this increase will be directly attributable to new immigrants and their U.S.-born children.

"The brutal reality is that no conceivable infrastructure program can keep pace with that kind of population growth," he wrote. "The traditional 'supply-side' response to America's infrastructure shortage – build, build, build – is dead, dead, dead. Demand reduction is the only viable way to close the gap between the supply and demand of public infrastructure."

He concludes, "Immigration reduction must play a role."

Edwin Rubenstein's complete report, "The Twin Crises: Immigration and Infrastructure," released Jan. 13, is available here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SUN-TIMES: Journalists Being Censored and Blackballed By Obama

By Warner Todd Huston (Bio Archive)
January 12, 2009 - 21:43 ET

According to Sun-Times columnist and long-time Chicago journalist, Carol Marin, journalists at Barack Obama news conferences have come to realize that Obama has pre-picked those journalists whom he will allow to ask him questions at the conference and many of them now "don't even bother raising" their hands to be called upon.

One wonders why journalists are allowing this corralling of the press? Would they have allowed George W. Bush to pre-pick journalists like that? Would they meekly sit by and allow themselves to be systematically ignored, their freedom to ask questions silenced by any Republican? Would journalists so eagerly vie with one another for the favor of Bush like they are Obama's?

For her part, it seems that Carol Marin is starting to wonder at the "bizarro world" that is being invented by the pliant and smitten Obama loving press corps.

As ferociously as we march like villagers with torches against Blagojevich, we have been, in the true spirit of the Bizarro universe, the polar opposite with the president-elect. Deferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance.

The Obama news conferences tell that story, making one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.

Will the rest of the press retake their manhood and again become the tough guys they have always claimed to be or are they going to stay so smitten by Obama and their love for The One that they will allow themselves to continue being forced into a subservient role?

One has a sinking suspicion that the press is allowing itself to become Obama's lapdog extraordinaire.

(H/T NewsBusters reader Matthew Stahlhut)

(Photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

Pentagon: 61 ex-Guantanamo inmates return to terrorism

Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:32pm EST
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday that 61 former detainees from its military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed as "returning to the fight" and 43 are suspected of having done in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Morrell declined to provide details such as the identity of the former detainees, why and where they were released or what actions they have taken since leaving U.S. custody.

"This is acts of terrorism. It could be Iraq, Afghanistan, it could be acts of terrorism around the world," he told reporters.

Morrell said the latest figures, current through December 24, showed an 11 percent recidivism rate, up from 7 percent in a March 2008 report that counted 37 former detainees as suspected or confirmed active militants.

Rights advocates said the lack of details should call the Pentagon's assertions into question.

"Until enough information is provided to allow the press and the public to verify these claims, they need to be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism," said Jennifer Daskal, a Washington-based lawyer for Human Rights Watch.

Rights advocates contend that many Guantanamo detainees have never taken up arms against the United States and say the Defense Department in the past has described former detainees as rejoining "the fight" because they spoke out against the U.S. government.

"The Defense Department sees that the Guantanamo detention operation has failed and they are trying to launch another fear mongering campaign to justify the indefinite detention of detainees there," said Jamil Dakwar, human rights director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office next Tuesday, is expected to issue an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also favors shuttering Guantanamo.

But the prison is unlikely to shut until after U.S. officials settle a myriad of legal and logistic issues, including a solution on where to house its occupants.

About 255 men are still held at the U.S.-run naval base in Cuba, a symbol of aggressive interrogation methods that exposed the United States to allegations of torture.

Pentagon officials say that about 110 detainees should never be released because of the potential danger they pose to U.S. interests.

Washington has cleared 50 of the detainees for release but cannot return them to their home countries because of the risk they would be tortured or persecuted there.

The Pentagon said it considers a former detainee's return to terrorism "confirmed" when evidence shows direct involvement in terrorist activities. U.S. officials see a "suspected" terrorism links when intelligence shows a plausible link with terrorist activities.

"Propaganda does not qualify as a terrorist activity," the Pentagon said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray, editing by David Alexander and David Wiessler)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


This written by Dan Westerbeck, retired lawyer from Chicago.

Fellow Citizens,

Since most of you do not understand the "Chicago way" of doing things and come from places that are, relatively speaking, governed by elections, you may need an interpreter for news from Chicago, especially about Cook County politics. That's why I'm here.

You may think today's story is about the crooked Illinois governor selling Obama's Senate seat. What you don't know is how the Bush Justice Dept. probably steered Obama away from disaster even before taking office . Here's how the pieces of the puzzle fit, based on the known facts as well as those alleged in the abCriminal Complaint, my knowledge of federal criminal case management and protocols, and some deductive reasoning.


As you know by now the beloved Governor of Illinois was arrested for, among other things, attempting to auction off Obama's US Senate seat. The federal criminal Complaint (three pages backed up by a 76 page FBI affidavit) states that Gov. Blagoyovich (Blago) was attempting to set conditions for filling that seat with the Obama transition team. This implies a certain level of communication between Blago and Obama or their staffs, although the Complaint does not specifically state that. (You'll see why not.) David Axelrod, Obama's chief political strategist (from Cook County) said two weeks ago that he, Obama, and the Obama team had been in constant contact with Blago and his staff about filling the seat and had liked a number of the candidates mentioned. (He obviously hadn't gotten the word then.)

Today Obama himself denied having anything to do with naming his successor, denied having any communications with Blago, and generally felt sorry about everything. Now the press will ignore Axelrod, accept Obama's statement, shift the spotlight to Blago, and search for the other conspirators, including who was willing to pay for the Senate seat. End of story for Obama; just another corrupt Cook County scam miraculously not involving Obama in any way. Yawn.

But let me tell you what really went down and how the nation just averted a Constitutional crisis.
Three critical facts must be noted. The Illinois governor appoints people to vacant US Senate seats. Second, the feds have wiretapped Blago off and on since 2004 in their "Pay to Play" investigation. You had to pay him money in order to play--bid for state contracts to manage money, pave roads, supply linens, etc. (That's the Chicago way.) He is destined for a federal penitentiary because the tapes have been rolling for 5 years now. A number of his cronies have been indicted and convicted on the basis of the wiretaps. Third, and most important, Blago's offices have been bugged by the feds for the past 4-6 weeks, possibly longer--that's around election time for you senior citizens. (The feds probably detected sufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy on the wiretaps and through informants such that they could plant the bugs in Blago's offices.)

Obama's hand picked successor for his Senate seat was Valerie Jarrett who is on his campaign staff. This was well known before the election and Ms. Jarrett had even announced her candidacy. She was a slam dunk. The ONLY question on the table after the election was what price Blago would extract from Obama for appointing Ms. Jarrett--appointing Blago as ambassador to Lithuainia, naming him Secy. of Transportation, some Democrat party post, establishing a library and foundation a la Bill Clinton, whatever. Blago was constantly talking on the tapes of his need for more cash and how the "fucking Senate seat was worth a lot of money" (per the federal complaint).


The US Attorney here, Patrick Fitzgerald, is fearless and has jailed Republicans (former Governor Geo. Ryan) and Democrats alike. Some guys on Richie Daley's staff are doing time for the same thing--taking bribes (sometimes described as campaign contributions). Ironically Blago was elected as a reformer and a break from the George Ryan school of corruption. In any event, Fitzgerald has kept the Justice Dept. fully informed of all the Blago investigations, wiretaps, bugs, etc., and where they were headed since he needed their approval (as well as a court's) to run them. It is a certainty that the Attorney General knew of the Blago investigation because the target was the governor of a state (very high profile).

Once Obama was elected Fitzgerald and the Attorney General saw what was coming--a Blago-Obama negotiation over the Senate seat. Given what they knew about the corrupt process Blago was engaged in through their taping/bugging, such a negotiation would be disastrous politically for Obama and possibly even criminal. Those tapes will have to be played in court some day. (That may be why Obama looked a little rattled today in announcing his total absence of knowledge and communication on the entire subject of his successor.)

After the election Obama and his staff began to get briefings as part of the transition process. It is likely that the Attorney General informed him of the ongoing investigations of Blago and of the wiretaps and bugs. Obama got the clue, but perhaps forgot to tell Axelrod. But he did tell Valerie Jarrettt something because four weeks ago she withdrew her name from consideration for the Obama Senate seat. Of course, this was an extraordinary thing to do under normal circumstances.

Normally in a federal conspiracy prosecution you let the tapes roll and the conspiracy play out in order to catch all the big fish. (I was a federal prosecutor in my distant past.) Remember, the feds have wiretapped Blago since 2004, per previous testimony in court. Once you get one of the conspirators to wire up, as the feds did here, you let him meet and talk to everybody forever--weeks, months, years even. However, since they already had the governor nailed, the only bigger fish left in the pond were Obama and his staff. And listening to Blago on the tapes they knew where he was headed--right to Obama to get his price for the Senate seat.

So after the election, as Patrick Fitzgerald and the Attorney General pondered this, their choice was stark: 1. do we follow the normal protocol and let the tapes roll and may be reel in Obama staffers (or, God forbid, Obama himself) bargaining with Blago in the US Senate seat auction; or, 2. do we tip Obama in a briefing and abruptly terminate the investigation at the governor's level and thus preclude it from reaching Obama and his staff

I think they made a political and legal calculation in the nation's interest and chose the latter course. They saved Obama, or certainly his staff, from the taint of the criminal auction and also prevented the sale of a US Senate seat by a corrupt Cook County Democrat politician by arresting Blago.

That's why Obama has been saying for weeks that he himself has nothing to do with the selection of his successor. Although such a position is contrary to common sense and political tradition, in this case, he's probably telling the truth at least insofar as the past month is concerned.

So Obama now owes the Justice Dept. and US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, in particular, a big one because he kept the president elect from stepping in to a first rate criminal scandal by tipping him on the Blago wiretaps and bugs. And the Bush Attorney General and US Attorney Fitzgerald probably saved the country a huge new scandal as well since Obama's team would have been further ensnared in a federal criminal investigation after inauguration


What job does Patrick Fitzgerald want since Obama owes him big time--pope, federal judge (even Supreme Court), ambassador to Ireland, attorney general (Eric Holder may not make it anyway because of the Marc Rich pardon and Obama would throw him over in a minute if Fitzgerald asked for it). We shall see, but the Cook County Democrat Machine certainly wants to be rid of Fitzgerald and the only way to do that is kill him (that went out with Capone) or promote him. Unfortunately for them, Fitzgerald professes to like his current job. And there is no way Obama asks for his resignation now or appoints a new US attorney unless Fitzpatrick wants to go.

So you see, things are never quite what they seem to be here in Chi-town. You thought this was all about a lone crooked Cook County politician who became governor...That's where the press will be headed because it will be entertaining.

But now you know the likely story of how close we came to having a federal criminal case swirling around a new president.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Obama Steals From GOP Playbook

Is is Bush? Is it McCain? NO....It's Obama...swooping in with the tax cuts touted by the GOP as the answer to the economic crisis. Agreeing to stay in Iraq longer if needed, not repealing Bush's tax cuts, offering more tax cuts, keeping Bush's appointees on at the DOD?! Is this guy really a democrat? Could have fooled me but I'm really starting to dig him! I guess when you're up against the ropes you can cling to the wrong ideals (democrats) or you can do what you know is best for the country (republican ideals). Good for you Obama!

Obama Eyes $300 Billion Tax Cut

Huge Breaks for Firms, Individuals Are Aimed at Winning GOP Support for Stimulus


WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer about $300 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts -- which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years -- is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated. It may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely more heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush's tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut -- the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush in 2003 -- contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

Republicans and business leaders hadn't seen specifics of the proposals Sunday night, but welcomed the idea of basing a bigger proportion of the stimulus plan on tax cuts. Their response suggests the legislation could attract relatively broad support, and it highlighted the Obama team's determination to win backing from varied interests.

Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), have warned against a careless stimulus plan that enables unfettered spending.

The largest piece of tax relief in the new plan would involve cuts for people who pay income taxes or who claim the earned-income credit, a refund designed to lessen the impact of payroll taxes on low- and moderate-income workers. This component would serve as a down payment on the "Making Work Pay" proposal Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, giving a credit of $500 per individual or $1,000 per family.

What is the right balance between tax cuts and spending for the economic stimulus package?On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama said he would phase out a similar tax-credit proposal at around $200,000 per household, but aides said they haven't settled on an income cap for the latest proposal. This part of the plan is similar to a bipartisan initiative launched in early 2008, which sent out checks worth $131 billion.

Economists of all political stripes widely agree the checks sent out last spring were ineffective in stemming the economic slide, partly because many strapped consumers paid bills or saved the cash rather than spend it. But Obama aides wanted a provision that could get money into consumers' hands fast, and hope they will be persuaded to spend money this time if the credit is made a permanent feature of the tax code.

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. Obama aides note that businesses would have been able to claim most of the tax write-offs on future tax returns, and the proposal simply accelerates those write-offs to make them available in the current tax season, when a lack of available credit is leaving many companies short of cash.

A second provision would entice firms to plow that money back into new investment. The write-offs would be retroactive to expenditures made as of Jan. 1, 2009, to ensure that companies don't sit on their money until after Congress passes the measure.

Another element would offer a one-year tax credit for companies that make new hires or forgo layoffs, which could be worth $40 billion to $50 billion. And the Obama plan also would allow small businesses to write off a broad range expenditures worth up to $250,000 in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the limit is $175,000.

William Gale, a tax-policy analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the scale of the whole package is larger than expected. He called the business offerings a true surprise, since most attention has been focused on the spending side of the equation, especially the hundreds of billions of dollars being discussed for infrastructure and aid to state and local governments.

"On the other hand, it was hard to figure out how they were going to spend all that money in intelligent ways, so it makes sense to do more on the tax side," Mr. Gale said. His biggest question about the latest proposal concerns the credits for hiring new workers or refraining from layoffs. Much of that money would likely go to companies that would have hired more people anyway, he said, adding that it is impossible to know what firms would have done without such a credit.

Business lobbyists are pushing hard for Congress to allow companies that haven't paid corporate income taxes to get a break, too. Start-up companies, alternative-energy firms and large corporations that have been swallowing losses for years -- such as automotive and steel companies and some airlines -- have already begun lobbying for such "refundability."

They argue that a provision to claim losses on back taxes will have little effect on the economy if firms that need it most -- struggling companies that weren't obligated to pay any taxes -- can't benefit from a tax break.

Mr. Obama, however, doesn't back payments to companies that haven't paid taxes, aides said. Instead, businesses that haven't been paying taxes would be able to get payments from tax credits they would have taken in 2008 and 2009 for incentives offered by Congress, such as the production tax credit offered to renewable-energy firms. These amounts would likely be relatively small.

"We're working with Congress to develop a tax-cut package based on a simple principle: What will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private-sector jobs and strengthening the middle class?" said transition-team spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "We're guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests."

As these details are being worked out, Mr. Obama and his family left Chicago during the weekend for Washington. He will be on Capitol Hill Monday, first to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), then with the broader bipartisan leadership of Congress. The stimulus package will be front-and-center in those discussions.

Democratic leaders and Obama aides acknowledge that congressional Democrats' initial goal of passing the recovery package before Mr. Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration is unrealistic. Now, they hope for passage before the Feb. 13 congressional recess.

Republicans are already criticizing parts of the stimulus package. Sen. McConnell, speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," questioned one of the biggest items, which would send as much as $200 billion to states largely to expand the federal share of Medicaid, the health program for the poor. He suggested structuring that aid as a loan, saying it would encourage states to "spend it more wisely."

An array of business tax cuts could help overcome such GOP opposition, enabling the Democrats to present their plan as a balanced mix of tax cuts and spending. It also would likely encourage business interests to lobby hard for its enactment.

Mr. Obama's team has spoken of wanting to attract significant Republican support, not simply picking up votes from a Republican moderate or two.

Obama aides have already enlisted business groups to rally behind spending for public-works projects. Norman R. Augustine, a former chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp., will testify before the House Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee Wednesday in favor of an infusion of federal infrastructure spending. But the tax cuts may hold more sway with Republicans.

—Amy Chozick contributed to this article.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Obama, Clinton Now Linked To Norman Hsu's Fraud Trial

Obama And That Other Ponzi Scheme

President-elect's name may emerge in Norman Hsu fraud trial

DECEMBER 31--As if being linked to one high-profile criminal case weren't enough, President-elect Barack Obama's name may soon pop up in another federal prosecution, this one involving a massive Ponzi scheme (no, the other massive Ponzi scheme). In addition to the Rod Blagojevich pay-for-play probe, Obama could figure in the upcoming fraud trial of Norman Hsu, the disgraced Democratic fundraiser who was charged last year with operating a $60 million pyramid scheme.

According to investigators, Hsu, a major Hillary Clinton fundraiser, pressured investors to donate money to political candidates with whom he was aligned. In a letter last week to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, Hsu's lawyer, Martin Cohen, requested a 60-day delay in the start of Hsu's trial, scheduled to open January 12 (Cohen cited the "extraordinary level of negative publicity" generated by the recent arrest of alleged Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff).

In his December 22 letter, a copy of which you'll find below, Cohen also noted that Hsu was already "notorious for his political activities" and that it was "inevitable" that his client's "connections" to Bill and Hillary Clinton "and other democratic notables--including perhaps the president-elect--will be introduced at trial." Before becoming a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, Hsu co-hosted a 2005 California fundraiser for Obama's political action committee and introduced the Illinois Democrat to Marc Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who later joined the Obama campaign's national finance committee.

Prosecutors allege that Hsu directed his investors to donate money to specific candidates, and then reimbursed them in violation of federal campaign laws. Unswayed by Cohen's argument, Marrero declined to delay the trial, which will begin a week before Obama's inauguration. (6 pages)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Environment Minister Says Man-Made Climate Change Is A Con

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Spending billions on trying to reduce carbon emissions is one giant con that is depriving third world countries of vital funds to tackle famine, HIV and other diseases, Sammy Wilson said.

The DUP minister has been heavily criticised by environmentalists for claiming that ongoing climatic shifts are down to nature and not mankind.

But while acknowledging his views on global warming may not be popular, the East Antrim MP said he was not prepared to be bullied by eco fundamentalists.

“I’ll not be stopped saying what I believe needs to be said about climate change,” he said.

"Most of the people who shout about climate change have not read one article about it

“I think in 20 years’ time we will look back at this whole climate change debate and ask ourselves how on earth were we ever conned into spending the billions of pounds which are going into this without any kind of rigorous examination of the background, the science, the implications of it all. Because there is now a degree of hysteria about it, fairly unformed hysteria I’ve got to say as well.

“I mean I get it in the Assembly all the time and most of the people who shout about climate change have not read one article about climate change, not read one book about climate change, if you asked them to explain how they believe there’s a connection between CO2 emission and the effects which they claim there’s going to be, if you ask them to explain the thought process or the modelling that is required and the assumptions behind that and how tenuous all the connections are, they wouldn’t have a clue.

“They simply get letters about it from all these lobby groups, it’s popular and therefore they go along with the flow — and that would be ok if there were no implications for it, but the implications are immense.”

He said while people in the western world were facing spiralling fuel bills as a result of efforts to cut CO2, the implications in poorer countries were graver.

“What are the problems that face us either locally and internationally. Are those not the things we should be concentrating on?” he asked.

“HIV, lack of clean water, which kills millions of people in third world countries, lack of education.

“A fraction of the money we are currently spending on climate change could actually eradicate those three problems alone, a fraction of it.

“I think as a society we sometimes need to get some of these things in perspective and when I listen to some of the rubbish that is spoken by some of my colleagues in the Assembly it amuses me at times and other times it angers me.”

Despite his views on CO2, Mr Wilson said he does not intend to backtrack on commitments made by his predecessor at the Department of the Environment, Arlene Foster, to make the Stormont estate carbon neutral.

He said while he wasn’t worried about reducing CO2 output, he said the policy would help to cut fuels bills.

“I don’t couch those actions in terms of reducing Co2 emissions,” he said. “I don’t care about Co2 emissions to be quite truthful because I don’t think it’s all that important but what I do believe is, and perhaps this is where there can be some convergence, as far as using fuel more efficiently that is good for our economy; that makes us more competitive. If we can save in schools hundreds of thousands on fuel that’s more money being put for books or classroom assistants.

“So yes there are things we can do. If you want to express it terms of carbon neutral, I just express it terms of making the place more efficient, less wasteful and hopefully that will release money to do the proper things that we should be doing.”