My new book - Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench, You can click on the above picture to be linked to Amazon.
Welcome! Follow me on twitter at @johnrlottjr . Please e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Obama the Bi-partisan
Since I knew Obama at Chicago, I have no problem believing that he has a hard time getting along with those with whom he disagrees. RealClearPolitics has this:
And on a few occasions he's done what he did this past Tuesday when he made a plea for bipartisanship to Republicans during the day, and then turned right around and attacked the GOP before a highly partisan audience that night at a fundraiser for Barbara Boxer in San Francisco.
In fact, Obama made a revealing comment about his view of bipartisanship on Tuesday night. According to the New York Times, Obama related the following to the Democratic crowd about part of his lunch conversation with Republicans regarding the issue of immigration:
“You've got to meet me on solving the problem long-term. It's not enough just to talk about the National Guard down at the border,” Mr. Obama said he told the lawmakers. “You don't even have to meet me halfway. I'll bring most Democrats on these issues. I'm just looking for 8 or 10 of you.”
Notice how Obama frames himself as the bipartisan bridge builder who's willing to travel great political distances - well beyond "halfway" - to reach a compromise with Republicans. Yet in the very next breath Obama reveals he's really only interested in traveling a bare minimum in a quest for bipartisanship.
In the new edition of More Guns, Less Crime, economist John R. Lott, Jr., easily dispels any lingering doubt that allowing citizens to carry concealed handguns is strongly associated with—if not a direct cause for—lowering the rates of violent crime. . . .
Lott presents the most thorough and credible analysis of the effects of concealed handguns and crime rates. Any serious discussion by the media, legislative bodies and the courts must include a thorough reading of the 2010 edition of More Guns, Less Crime. The opinion of anyone who has not read the book but who professes an understanding of the effects of concealed handguns on crime rates should not be taken seriously.
This clip is almost painful in Sestak's unwillingness to answer the questions posed. It goes on for 17 minutes.
The second problem is the inconsistency between the WH and Sestak's stories. Here is what was said in the interview with Larry Kane from Comcast (from the first youtube clip shown above.
Larry Kane: Where you ever offered a Federal job to get out of this race? Sestak: Yes
Kane: Was it the Navy Sectary? Sestak: No comment. I would never get out for a deal.
Kane: Was there a job offered to you by the White House? Sestak: Yes . . . Someone offered me a . . .
Kane: It was big right? Sestak: Ya, it was . . . let me not comment on that.
You can read the White House response by clicking on these images immediately below here: Here are several problems. 1) Was it a "big" job or an "uncompensated advisory board option"? 2) Was it by Clinton or "by the White House"? Was it possible that there was more than one conversation: one with Clinton and one with the White House? 3) The White House's own memo raises a question (see memo above). It refers to "Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 . . ." Yet, they only detail one discussion between Clinton and Sestak. And here is the media bending over backwards to accept the White House's interpretations of what happened.
Here is an interview that Sestak gave the press on Friday. Where are the tough questions on the inconsistencies noted above? One really has to wonder if these reporters care about investigating these issues.
Big increase in Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Michigan concealed handgun permits.
more county residents applied for CCW permits in the first three months of 2010 than did in all of 2006 or 2007.
The average number of applications per month so far this year – 230 – dwarfs the monthly averages for most of the past five years (54 in 2006; 45 in 2007; 98 in 2008; and 188 in 2009, a year when many permit holders were renewing.)
In 2004, that first renewal year, the average was 85 per month – a total of 1,025 for the year. [.pdf file of Washtenaw County CCW applications, by month, from 2004 through April 2010.]
About 15% of the permit holders in Washtenaw County are women, Milligan says. The greatest concentrations of permit holders are in rural parts of the county.
With a population about 4,967 and 437 permits, for example, nearly 9% of the residents of Chelsea can carry concealed weapons. Assuming one permit holder per household, that means there’s a CCW permit holder in about 20% of the occupied households (2,093) in Chelsea.
About 23% of the permits countywide are issued to Ann Arbor residents, and 33% to residents of Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. With their larger populations, that means about 1.6% of Ann Arbor residents and 3.3% of Ypsilanti area residents hold permits. [Those figures are approximate, as data from the county gun licensing board is broken down by mailing addresses, which are imperfect reflections of actual community boundaries. Link to listing of CCW permits by location, as of April 2010.] . . .
A record number of Americans are licensed to carry a concealed weapon. And Massachusetts is following the trend. A local gun maker is helping residents navigate gun laws and teaching them safety. The "right to carry" movement began in the 1980's. Since then, the number of licensed gun carriers, according to the NRA, has increased from fewer than a million to 6 million today. At Smith & Wesson Academy in Springfield, firearms instructors are seeing increased interest. Senior Firearms Instructor Jason Bathgate says "We are seeing a lot more people apply lately for licenses to carry. Lately meaning maybe the past year or so, classes are filling up. It's the first time in a long time that we've actually had to close classes because they are full." In Massachusetts, people who to carry a firearm are required to go through an eight hour course taught by a state certified instructor, like the ones at Smith & Wesson. . . . .
Given that the country is at war, why is Obama skipping the Memorial Day Ceremonies?
It is one thing for Obama to be taking his second vacation in about a month. It is another that he is skipping ceremonies honoring those who have died fighting for the country while we are in fact still fighting a couple of wars. It just seems strange that a president would do this. It is almost as if he wants to anger those serving in the military and other Americans. Presumably Obama doesn't enjoy those types of military ceremonies, but I just can't figure out why he is doing it.
If the Census is making up numbers on the number of jobs created, what are we to believe from them?
This doesn't instill must confidence. From the NY Post:
You know the old saying: "Everyone loves a charade." Well, it seems that the Census Bureau may be playing games. Last week, one of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks. The worker, Naomi Cohn, told The Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department. Below, I have a couple more readers who worked for Census 2010 and have tales to tell. But first, this much we know. Each month Census gives Labor a figure on the number of workers it has hired. That figure goes into the closely followed monthly employment report Labor provides. For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs. Labor doesn't check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month. One hour! A month! So, if a worker is terminated after only one hour and another is hired in her place, then a second new job can apparently be reported to Labor . (I've been unable to get Census to explain this to me.) Here's a note from a Census worker -- this one from Manhattan: "John: I am on my fourth rehire with the 2010 Census. "I have been hired, trained for a week, given a few hours of work, then laid off. So my unemployed self now counts for four new jobs. "I have been paid more to train all four times than I have been paid to actually produce results. These are my tax dollars and your tax dollars at work. "A few months ago I was trained for three days and offered five hours of work counting the homeless. Now, I am knocking (on) doors trying to find the people that have not returned their Census forms. I worked the 2000 Census. It was a far more organized venture. "Have to run and meet my crew leader, even though with this rain I did not work today. So I can put in a pay sheet for the hour or hour and a half this meeting will take. Sincerely, C.M." And here's another: . . .
Under the title of a jobs bill Democrats propose Giant increase in tax on venture capitalists
Venture capitalists provide the seed money for new corporations. So Dems have an idea: let's raise their Federal tax rate from 15 percent to about 35 percent. This tax was already set to increase to 20 percent next year with the sun setting of the Bush tax cuts, but Dems decided that wasn't enough of an increase. With a straight face Dems are arguing that this won't impact investments. At best, Dems don't understand that who pays the tax is not the same as who bears the burden of the tax.
The House of Representatives passed a bill today that would raise the taxes that venture capitalists and other investment managers pay on carried interest — their share of the profits from a successful start-up investment.
The Senate will vote on the bill after the Memorial Day recess.
The bill, which is called the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, would extend unemployment benefits and lending and tax relief for small businesses. But venture capitalists are upset about the provision that would raise taxes on their carried interest.
A typical venture capital firm collects carried interest of 20 percent of the profits when a start-up company goes public or is acquired. Today, that is taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. But the bill would require that 75 percent of investors’ carried interest be taxed as ordinary income.
Opponents of the change in taxation say that the capital gains tax rate rewards taking big, long-term risks on young companies. Proponents of the change say that because venture capitalists mostly invest other people’s money, they do not need to be rewarded for taking investment risks. . . .
They assert that the bill’s requirements for new forms of disclosure and other provisions unfairly target GOP allies and give a free pass to Democratic ones headed into the critical 2010 midterm elections. . . .
Josh Holmes, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a leading opponent of campaign finance restrictions, said the senator from Kentucky “supports full disclosure of donors to candidates and party committees” but asserted that the bill “silences entities that traditionally disagree with Democrats and simultaneously exempts the big unions that spent millions electing Democrats from any restriction. . . .
homing in on an assertion made by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in introducing the bill. He said the bill’s heightened disclosure requirements would deter corporate ad spending and that people who put the ads forward are “happy to do it in the dark of night, but once sunlight occurs, they shrivel up and don’t do them, so I think there will be many fewer of them. In late April, at the event on the steps of the Supreme Court, Schumer said the bill’s “deterrent effect should not be underestimated.”
Schumer’s prediction was a “surprising acknowledgment that in this area where speech is so important, the aim is actually to prevent people from speaking, rather than encouraging speech during the election cycle,” said Eugene Scalia, outside counsel to the U.S. Chamber, which filed a brief in support of Citizens United and has emerged as a leading outside critic of the DISCLOSE Act.
On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association, an influential conservative lobby, fired off a letter to members of Congress, saying the measure “creates a series of byzantine disclosure requirements that have the obvious effect of intimidating speech.”
Citing estimates that the required CEO stand-by-your-ad announcements could take up nearly half of a 30-second ad spot, Scalia said “that, in and of itself, literally is an abridgment of free speech rights. But the aim is not actually to have the CEOs make messages of that nature. It’s recognized instead that they will be deterred from supporting speech they would have supported in the past.” . . .
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the sponsor of the Senate bill, acknowledged Thursday that part of his goal with the bill is to limit the campaign spending newly legalized by the high court.
“My view is that many CEOs of major organizations will [air ads] if they don’t have to disclose, but once they have to come up front and disclose, they will not do it,” Schumer said. “Anyone who wants to hide, will not do an ad after this legislation passes. And I think there are a lot of people who like to hide … so I think there’ll be many fewer of them.” . . .
The legislation includes provisions to limit political ad spending by companies that received government bailouts from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, as well as those with government contracts or that are more than 20 percent foreign owned. . . .
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who district has been impacted by the BP explosion, said he tried reaching the president last Thursday to discuss possible solutions. “He was called back by a staffer on Friday who said that the president was too busy to talk to him. He understood that until I turned on the TV and saw that he was golfing and went out to California to do a fundraiser. He said — six days now and he’s never even spoken to him," McCarthy said. . . .
So much for using Medicare cuts in waste and fraud to pay for Obama's government health care reform
Well, the AMA must be really happy with the deal they cut with the Obama administration right now. Wasn't this supposed to magically get rid of fraud and waste from Medicare, just by paying people less? From ABC News:
For the third time this year, Congress is scrambling to stave off a hefty pay cut to doctors treating Medicare patients — even as the Obama administration mails out a glossy brochure to reassure seniors the health care program is on solid ground.
The 21.3 percent cut will take effect June 1 unless Congress intervenes in the next few days. Recurring uncertainty over Medicare fees is making doctors take a hard look at their participation in a program considered a bedrock of middle-class retirement security.
If the problem is allowed to fester, it could undermine key goals of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which envisions using Medicare to test ideas for improving the quality of care for all Americans. Doubts about Medicare's stability can also create political problems for Democrats in the fall elections, since polls show seniors are worried about the impact of the remake on their own care.
"We will not have that cut," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed Wednesday.
How lawmakers will resolve the problem is unclear. Initially, Democrats had talked about a five-year fix, then three years. Now leaders are proposing postponement through the end of 2011. Doing away with the cuts altogether would be expensive, an estimated $200 billion or more over 10 years. That's what the American Medical Association wants. . . .
Some longtime Medicare advocates fault Congress and the Obama administration for not dealing with the doctor cuts during the marathon health care overhaul debate. That would have pushed the cost of the legislation above the $1 trillion, 10-year limit Obama set.
Economist Marilyn Moon, a former Medicare trustee, said the health care legislation's $500 billion in cuts to hospitals, insurers and other Medicare providers should have been earmarked to deal with doctor fees first, with anything left over used to help the uninsured.
"They should have used Medicare dollars to fix this," said Moon, who helped oversee program finances from 1995-2000. "It's irresponsible" that the health care law left such a major issue unresolved, she said, while at the same time claiming to reduce the federal deficit. . . .
I got news for those that think that the problem would have been solved if they had only earmarked the cuts for hospitals.
An 80-year-old Chicago man shot and killed an armed intruder (who also shot at him) while protecting his wife and great-grandson. Now he will face jail time and/or a fine because Chicago is one of the few cities in the United States where law-abiding citizens are denied the right to possess handguns. . . .
They are law-abiding citizens in Chicago, but they are so worried about their own safety, they say they might have to break the law.
The last straw was the death of Chicago Police officer Thomas Wortham IV last week.
That has some African-American families in Chicago considering doing something they never would have done before: carry a pistol.
CBS 2's Jim Williams reports he grew up among those families and he's never anything like it.
Many Chicagoans have been upset for some time about violence here, but Wortham's murder has touched a raw nerve in the black community.
Now some want to do more than simply call 911 or march for peace in the streets. They want their own gun.
Mike Robinson, who runs basketball camps, is hearing it.
"I've heard parents in my basketball camps express that very fervently, just over the weekend, that they want the right to protect themselves," Robinson said. . . .
UPDATE: Yet another defensive gun use in Chicago a week later.
When police caught up to a fleeing drug suspect early Thursday, they had little problem arresting him. They found him in a private home he had entered, wounded in the chest by a resident with a handgun.
The shooting occurred about a week after an 80-year-old Army veteran used a handgun to shoot and kill an armed burglar who had broken into his home. In both cases, the weapons violated the city's 28-year-old handgun ban, but police so far have declined to press charges.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on the constitutionality of Chicago's gun ban, and many believe the justices will strike it down. But, while those on both sides of the gun-rights debate eagerly await the verdict, the decision is essentially irrelevant for many who live in Chicago.
By one expert's estimate, there is a handgun in as many as 100,000 city households, despite the ban. And gang members or those with misdeeds in mind aren't the only ones who have them. In some neighborhoods, otherwise-law-abiding citizens feel forced to violate the gun ban, they say, to protect themselves and their families. . . .
West Point is guided by tradition, and in honor of the "Golden Children of the Corps," (applause) I will observe one of the traditions you cherish most. As the Commander-in-Chief, I hereby grant amnesty to all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. (Applause.) Those of you in the end zone might have cheered a little early. (Laughter.)
Because, you see, I'm going to let General Lennox define exactly what "minor" means. (Laughter.)
During his commencement speech this weekend, Obama said this:
"To the United States Corps of Cadets, and most of all, the Class of 2010 - it is an honor to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. Under our constitutional system, my power as President is wisely limited. But there are some areas where my power is absolute. And so, as your Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.
So I'll leave the definition of "minor" to those who know better."
Do gun bans really stop criminals from getting guns? Americans need not look any further than the massive gun battle with armed gangs fighting police and soldiers that took place in Kingston, Jamaica today. At least 30 people were killed in the fighting. It is a huge number for a small island nation of fewer than 3 million people, but unfortunately murder is so common in Jamaica that these murders won't even be noticed in the annual crime numbers.
With Chicago's Mayor Daley again claiming that a gun ban is necessary to keep Chicagoans safe, Jamaica and other countries with gun bans might teach Americans a lesson.
Everyone wants to keep guns away from criminals, but the question is: who is most likely to obey the law? . . .
Burton said Obama told McCain that he has read the Arizona law himself, and his concerns remain.
So I called up the White House Press Office and asked them:
"What in the bill precisely concerns the president? What passage or passages in the law concern him and he is basing his concerns on?"
No answer so far.
Also, note that today it has become clear that the 1,200 troops Obama is sending to the border are there for desk jobs.
President Obama is planning to deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, heeding calls from border state lawmakers that security needs to be improved.
An administration official confirmed to Fox News that Obama plans to deploy the National Guard troops as needed and request $500 million for "enhanced border protection and law enforcement."
The official said the National Guard would be used to "provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support," as well as support "counternarcotics enforcement" and provide "training capacity" until the Border Patrol can bring more officers on board. The additional funding would be used to improve border security technology and increase the number of agents, investigators and prosecutors targeting drug, human and weapons traffickers.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he's heard that "the 1,200 border patrol troops are, in effect, desk jobs." . . .
The Senate opened debate Monday on a $58.8 billion war funding bill even as House Democrats made final adjustments to a separate, much larger economic relief package that the party hopes to send to President Barack Obama before Memorial Day.
The twin bills represent a high-stakes gamble with an almost “Pulp Fiction” cast and flavor: wars, earthquake relief, Big Oil, Wall Street, echoes of Vietnam and decades-old grievances brought by black farmers and Native Americans.
And in the absence of a budget resolution this spring, this week’s floor debate will be its own proxy war, testing how far Democrats can go to meet core priorities in the face of record deficits.
“It is our highest priority this week,” a top House leadership aide said of the jobs and economic relief bill. To play it safe and pin down final items, the anticipated floor debate will slip a day to Wednesday. “Change is hard,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D—Cal.) said, cajoling her Democrats at a lengthy caucus Monday night, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D—Mich.), the bill’s manager, said later he “fully expects” to act soon this week.
Failure to act will make it that much harder for the leadership to move ahead with its legislative agenda this summer. Yet the costs are undeniable, adding tens of billions to the annual deficit and virtually wiping out all the 10-year savings predicted for health care reform. . . .
Mixed signals from the White House are making life harder for Democrats this week as the party tries to navigate between competing demands to reduce the deficit while also investing in new jobs and a patched-up safety net for the unemployed and the elderly.
The House and Senate are struggling with two big spending bills before Memorial Day — a heavy lift that begs for a strong White House partner. But the administration appears internally conflicted and has adopted the practice of urging lawmakers to add new spending for its priorities without having President Barack Obama sign a real request.
A $23 billion emergency proposal to forestall threatened layoffs of public school teachers is now a likely casualty of this approach. In a letter to Democratic leaders May 13, Education Secretary Arne Duncan endorsed the funding, urging Congress to add the money to a pending war funding bill in the Senate. But the White House never forwarded a budget request and was conspicuously silent on the whole teachers funding issue when it issued its endorsement of the underlying $58.8 billion bill this week.
With the handwriting on the wall, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) retreated Tuesday from offering his amendment. Duncan is next scheduled to appear Wednesday morning alongside House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, who has promised to add the same $23 billion to his draft of the war funding bill Thursday. But the Wisconsin Democrat is clearly frustrated by the administration’s approach and, after the setback in the Senate, said the White House is creating conditions that only invite failure.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an issue. It’s a condition that affects results,” Obey told POLITICO. Asked if it hurt the ability to get the $23 billion, he said, “Yes.”
Coming from the opposite direction, the administration caught Senate Democrats by surprise Tuesday when the White House announced it now wants to add $500 million to the war bill for improved security of the U.S.-Mexico border, $50 million of which would go to pay for an increase in National Guard forces.
In this case, the administration is signaling that it will actually make a presidential request. But just last Friday, on a proposal by Energy Secretary Steven Chu for $9 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors, the White House reverted to the same formula of no presidential signature and, instead, having Budget Director Peter Orszag forward the request and related draft legislation. . . . .
As the national debt clock ticked past the ignominious $13 trillion mark overnight, Congress pressed to pass a host of supplemental spending bills to, among other things, fund the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, ramp up security on the U.S.-Mexico border and prevent teacher layoffs.
Taken together, the Democratic-led U.S. Congress is trying to find a way to pass about $300 billion more in unfunded spending before Memorial Day -- a spending spree that rivals anything drunken sailors have been accused of.
The debt-fueled spending would only add to the $13 trillion national debt, which breaks down to $42,000 for the average American.
The spending spree comes three months after President Obama lifted the cap on the amount of money the U.S. can borrow from $12.4 trillion to $14.3 trillion to keep the nation from going into default.
But another intervention may be needed since the administration has projected a $1.56 trillion deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30 -- a figure likely to grow in the wake of the current spending spree.
The underlying war funding measure that congressional leaders hope to pass by the end of the week would bring the amount provided by Congress for the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts to $1 trillion.
But lawmakers in both parties are using Obama's war funding request to advance unrelated pet initiatives like a $500 million administration request for border security and an Education Department request for a $23 billion teacher bailout. . . .
Thousands of heavily armed police and soldiers continued an assault into the capital's most violent slums on Tuesday, hunting for weapons and battling die-hard defenders of a powerful Jamaican gang leader sought by the U.S. Officials said at least 30 people have died.
Jamaica's security forces, reeling from bold attacks by masked gangsters loyal to underworld boss Christopher "Dudus" Coke, were in the midst of a nearly daylong assault in the heart of West Kingston's ramshackle slums, long afflicted by gang strife.
On Tuesday, the third consecutive day of unrest, masked gunmen in West Kingston vanished down side streets barricaded with barbed wire and junked cars intended to block outsiders. The sound of gunfire echoed across the neighborhoods in Jamaica's south coast, far from the all-inclusive tourist meccas of the north shore.
Police spokesman Corporal Richard Minott told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the fighting in West Kingston alone has killed 26 civilians one security official. Police had reported that earlier fighting killed two officers and a soldier.
It was not immediately clear what was happening inside the patchwork of slums where Coke's supporters began massing last week after Prime Minister Bruce Golding dropped his nine-month refusal to extradite Coke, who has ties to his political party.
Kingston streets outside the battle zones were mostly empty, schools and numerous businesses were closed, hospitals offered only emergency services and the government appealed for donations of blood. The government on Sunday implemented a monthlong state of emergency. . . .
President Obama has endorsed a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department, the White House announced Monday, an agreement that may sidestep a key obstacle to repealing the military's policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
The compromise was finalized in meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will now, within days, vote on amendments that would repeal the Clinton-era policy, with a provision ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops. That study is due to Congress by Dec. 1. . . .
As thick oil flows into the sensitive marshes of the Louisiana coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal called on the White House and BP today to either stop the oil spill or get out of his way.
Jindal is still waiting for the federal government to provide millions of feet in boom and to approve an emergency permit for a state plan to dredge and build new barrier islands to keep the oil from reaching the marshes and wetlands.
Jindal is so desperate for the islands, he's said he'll build them even if it sends him to jail.
"We've been frustrated with the disjointed effort to date that has too often meant too little, too late for the oil hitting our coast," Jindal said. . . .
The Justice Department has rejected a Republican request to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the White House offered a job to Rep. Joe Sestak if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary.
In a letter sent Friday to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) — but not publicly released — a Justice Department official said there was no need to have a special counsel to look into the allegations. Republicans have been pressing the issue for months, but the White House has insisted nothing inappropriate happened. Sestak himself has been the source of the allegation, stating publicly he was offered a job in order to clear the field for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Sestak ended up defeating Specter in last week’s primary, but Republicans are still pushing for a full-blown investigation of the job offer allegation. Sestak has refused to say specifically what administration job he was offered, but many think it was secretary of the Navy.
In the letter to Issa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the DOJ could handle the allegations without creating a special counsel. But Weich gave no indication that the department was looking into the Sestak matter. . . .
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) should explain more about allegations the White House offered him a job in exchange for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race, a top Senate Democrat said Tuesday.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the onus is on Sestak to say more about the offer he claimed to have received from the Obama administration in exchange for dropping his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
"At some point, I think Congressman Sestak needs to make clear what happened," Durbin told reporters at the Capitol. . . .
Durbin is arguably the highest-profile Democrat to call for more information in the incident. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) urged the White House on Monday to disclose what it knows. . . .
Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds. At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.
Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.
The trend is not sustainable, says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. "This is really important," Grimes says. . . .
Responding to the massive BP oil spill, Congress is getting ready to quadruple—to 32 cents a barrel—a tax on oil used to help finance cleanups. The increase would raise nearly $11 billion over the next decade. The tax is levied on oil produced in the U.S. or imported from foreign countries. The revenue goes to a fund managed by the Coast Guard to help pay to clean up spills in waterways, such as the Gulf of Mexico. . . .
John Morton, the assistant secretary of homeland security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reportedly stated that his agency would not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona authorities.
Morton also told the Chicago Tribune that “I don’t think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution.”
President Obama and DHS officials have ordered the Department of Justice to examine the civil rights and other implications of the law in response to Morton’s comments.
Although the administration may or may not back down from Morton’s bold words, in the early going it appears that his beliefs are more of a reflection of the administration’s own ideas concerning Arizona’s new law.
If ICE, Morton and the Obama White House continue on their current path, various pundits who refer to our government as a “regime” may be closer to the truth than we wish to believe.
Given the wishes of the American public (which don’t seem to mean much anymore), President Obama and the Democrats continue to sail dangerous political waters. Some may now stop referring to the administration as a regime and may be so bold as to call it a rogue government if it continues to not enforce its own laws and condemns states that do try to enforce them. . . .
Here is an excerpt from a 2008 letter then Gov of Arizona Janet Napolitano (now Secretary of Homeland Security) to then Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff:
Date: March 11, 2008 "[r]eal solutions to fix our broken borders cannot wait that long. Human and drug smuggling rings continue to thrive in Arizona, crossing our border and using our cities as major hubs to transport crosser throughout the country. While we wait for real progress on the "virtual fence," border communities in Arizona will continue to be strained by the millions of dollars in costs they must absorb due to the state of border security." .... Yours very truly, Janet Napolitano Governor
A Democratic senator is introducing legislation for a bailout of troubled union pension funds. If passed, the bill could put another $165 billion in liabilities on the shoulders of American taxpayers.
The bill, which would put the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation behind struggling pensions for union workers, is being introduced by Senator Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), who says it will save jobs and help people.
As FOX Business Network’s Gerri Willis reported Monday, these pensions are in bad shape; as of 2006, well before the market dropped and recession began, only 6% of these funds were doing well.
Although right now taxpayers could possibly be on the hook for $165 billion, the liability could essentially be unlimited because these pensions have to be paid out until the workers die.
It’s hard to say at the moment what the chances are that the bill will pass. A hearing is scheduled Thursday, which will give the public a sense of where political leaders sit on the topic, said Willis. . . .
Senator Judd Gregg says that that Financial Reform Bill is a "Disaster"
He has a very scary discussion about the new Consumer "Protection" Agency here.
Meanwhile, the provision on consumer protection will expand the reach of government and create conflicts with the banking industry, Gregg said.
“You’ll basically have a consumer protection agency which decides to go out and in the morning and say, ‘well everybody who’s XYZ should have a loan, even though the local community bank says XYZ shouldn’t have a loan, because if we give them a loan, we know they’re not going to pay back,’” he said. “It’s going to become an agency that defines lending on social justice purposes instead of safety and soundness purposes.”
Gregg also blasted derivatives language in the bill, saying that it lacks coherence.
“You’ve got this Alice in Wonderland tea party atmosphere around derivatives,” he said. “Basically, the construct is it will make the derivatives in the market less sound, it will cause a huge contraction of credit—maybe up to three-quarters of a trillion dollars—and it will push massive amounts of derivative activity offshore and out of our control. So they will become even less controllable in the sense of having oversight.” . . .
The United States reversed policy on Wednesday and said it would back launching talks on a treaty to regulate arms sales as long as the talks operated by consensus, a stance critics said gave every nation a veto.
The decision, announced in a statement released by the U.S. State Department, overturns the position of former President George W. Bush's administration, which had opposed such a treaty on the grounds that national controls were better.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would support the talks as long as the negotiating forum, the so-called Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, "operates under the rules of consensus decision-making." . . .
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton says:
"After the treaty is approved and it comes into force, you will find out that it has this implication or that implication and it requires the Congress to adopt some measure that restricts ownership of firearms," he said. "The administration knows it cannot obtain this kind of legislation purely in a domestic context. … They will use an international agreement as an excuse to get domestically what they couldn't otherwise."
With budget cuts depleting local police and sheriffs departments, concealed weapons permit applications have bumped up slightly.
"We are seeing an increase in students asking for concealed weapons classes," said Terry Wingert, firearms instructor with Advanced Security Institute in Rancho Cordova. "It hasn't been a huge increase, but the concern over personal safety is driving a bump in business."
Success in acquiring a concealed weapons permit in California varies greatly from county to county. California is a "may issue" state, which gives sheriffs in each county much more discretion over who is approved for a permit. . . .
In general, rural California counties tend to approve more permits, such as Butte's 1,700; while urban counties are more reluctant to issue permits, like the six allowed in San Francisco. . . .
Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March. Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%. Currently, just 32% oppose repeal. The new findings include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal of the health care bill and 25% who Strongly Oppose it. . . .
Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state's congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.
It turned out quite the opposite. In fact, professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy discovered to their surprise that companies experienced lower sales and retrenched by cutting payroll, R&D, and other expenses. Indeed, in the years that followed a congressman's ascendancy to the chairmanship of a powerful committee, the average firm in his state cut back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent, according to their working paper, "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?"
"It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman's state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending," Coval reports.
Over a 40-year period, the study looked at increases in local earmarks and other federal spending that flowed to states after the senator or representative rose to the chairmanship of a powerful congressional committee.
We asked Coval about the relationship between the government and the private sector, and how policymakers should critically evaluate federal stimulus plans to help local companies. . . .
In Arizona, you have to have reasonable suspicion for stopping somebody in the first place. So it has to be, they call them lawful stop or detention or arrest. So that's number one. Not required under federal law. And number two, there has to be a reasonable suspicion to then inquire your immigration status. Not required under federal law. And number three, under Arizona law, you cannot consider the person's race in determining whether you have that reasonable suspicion. Also not a problem under federal law. . . .
See also this:
KELLY: Not only did I read the law, but I actually read case law, U.S. Supreme Court history, and other interpretations of that law. And I have to tell you, this is the first time I've taken a seriously hard look at the claim that this is just like the federal law, and the claim that, you know, by the detractors that it's actually discrimination or will lead to discrimination more so than the federal law. And my legal opinion is, it is a little bit like the federal law, but if anything, it's less problematic. Did you know that the Supreme Court already ruled a few years ago that under federal law, cops can pull you over for no reason and demand to see your immigration papers? For no reason. They don't have to have reasonable suspicion. . . .
And that was about under what circumstances can a police officer stop you and ask you certain questions. And the court, this was written by then-Chief Justice Rehnquist who said in that case, hold on, let me get it because it's here in front of me some place. He said the officers did not need reasonable suspicion to ask Menia for her name, date, and place of birth, or immigration status. The cops do not need reasonable suspicion to ask you about immigration status. . . .
Caine's new new vigilante movie “Harry Brown” is getting a lot of flack on the left. The interview mainly goes after Caine for that movie, but here is an interesting quote:
AVC: It has drawn criticism for presenting what some have called a “Daily Mail take” on things—that it’s tabloid fear-mongering.
MC: That was exactly the reaction. Because one of the things is that if you’re a Socialist newspaper, well, the Socialists have been in power for 12 years, and these are the very poorest people in England, and this is what’s happened to them. So you’ve got to say it’s a load of crap. [Laughs.] . . .
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) even wants C-SPAN there, he said, to capture their decision making — and expose members who vote with Wall Street. . . .
All of the negotiations will continue to take place in private, with squadrons of lobbyists for financial firms trying to grab their last chance to shape the legislation. . . .
When lawmakers are ready to ratify their decisions, Frank said they will go into an open session to debate and vote on changes to the bill. He called this kind of conference “old-fashioned” — and it would be a notable change from recent past practice in Congress — but it might be only a daylong session at the end of weeks of closed-door talks. . . .
“Democrats will try to get together and work out differences on their own, and the White House will be involved,” said a senior Senate Republican aide. “And then they will try to offer a manager’s type of amendment and move it.”
Republicans embraced the conference committee and Frank’s C-SPAN pledge because it gives them one more public platform to press their vision of reform — and score points. . . .
The Chamber of Commerce has identified two provisions as its top priorities — eliminating the Senate bill’s requirement that banks spin off their derivatives operations and blunting the independence of a new consumer financial protection agency.
Wall Street’s biggest fight will be over Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln’s derivatives ban. “We’re simply not convinced that the Lincoln provision will come out in conference, despite what the administration might be telling you,” said one financial services lobbyist.
And as for their strategy, the lobbyist said, “I think the strategy on derivatives is political. They’re going to need to wait until after June 8 [Lincoln’s primary], to get the political will to do something about this. They’ve all said that they understand it’s bad policy. So it’s a matter of politics now.”
The White House will fight any further carve-outs for specific industries from CFPA oversight and will press hard to undo an exemption written into the House bill for auto dealers. . . .