. . . The extra — who was playing a cop but had never held a real gun — was horrified when Tom, a lifelong gun enthusiast and board member of the National Rifle Association, spotted him and yelled, “Hey, YOU! What the HELL are you doing? That gun’s NOT a toy — stop waving it around!”
“Look at you…your finger’s STILL ON THE TRIGGER!”
According to American tabloid the National Enquirer, the extra then squirmed, “Is the gun really loaded?”
Selleck replied, “No, it’s not loaded. But when you handle a gun it’s common sense to assume it IS loaded, and NOT point it at people!”
Texas Concealed Carry on Campus passes Senate Criminal Justice Committee
It looks very likely that Texas will soon pass this bill. Even one of the two votes against the bill in committee will likely vote for the bill when it gets to the Senate floor.
The panel approved Senate Bill 354 by state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) that would allow for the carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses, moving the controversial bill one step closer to Senate approval. The bill passed the committee in a 4-2 vote, the Texas Tribune reported, with state Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) voting ‘nay’ along with Hinojosa. . . .
As part of the bailout the Federal Reserve gave a large amount of money to Libyan controlled banks
Why is our Federal government giving hard earned taxpayer money to the Libyan government? According to this article at least $5 billion was loaned by our government to the Libyan owned bank.
Arab Banking Corp., the lender part- owned by the Central Bank of Libya, used a New York branch to get 73 loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve in the 18 months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed.
The bank, then 29 percent-owned by the Libyan state, had aggregate borrowings in that period of $35 billion -- while the largest single loan amount outstanding was $1.2 billion in July 2009, according to Fed data released yesterday. In October 2008, when lending to financial institutions by the central bank’s so- called discount window peaked at $111 billion, Arab Banking took repeated loans totaling more than $2 billion. . . .
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s two-year fight to shield crisis-squeezed banks from the stigma of revealing their public loans protected a lender to local governments in Belgium, a Japanese fishing-cooperative financier and a company part-owned by the Central Bank of Libya. Dexia SA (DEXB), based in Brussels and Paris, borrowed as much as $33.5 billion through its New York branch from the Fed’s “discount window” lending program, according to Fed documents released yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Dublin-based Depfa Bank Plc, taken over in 2007 by a German real-estate lender later seized by the German government, drew $24.5 billion. The biggest borrowers from the 97-year-old discount window as the program reached its crisis-era peak were foreign banks, accounting for at least 70 percent of the $110.7 billion borrowed during the week in October 2008 when use of the program surged to a record. The disclosures may stoke a reexamination of the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers by the central bank’s role in global financial markets. . . .
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., raised a combined total of $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2011, outgaining presumed presidential contender Mitt Romney who raised $1.9 million over the same period. Bachmann's political action committee, MichelePAC, raised $500,000 while her Congressional reelection fund took in $1.7 million. The funds raised for her Congressional reelection could be transferred to any federal campaign, including one for president. Bachmann is a formidable fundraiser. The Washington Post recently ranked her the top fundraiser in the House during the 2009-2010 election cycle. This latest fundraising haul, coupled with her frequent visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, show she may be moving closer to a presidential run, and that she may have the financial backing to sustain a campaign. . . .
Departing Google CEO Eric Schmidt was known for some of his bumbling public statements -- like saying that privacy didn't matter -- but apparently he made some internal blunders as well. One of the biggest: asking Google's search team to remove information about a political donation from its search results. . . . The fact he would make such a request at all is pretty amazing -- especially since Google's lawyers have said that the company never promotes or eliminates particular sites from search results, even when trying to fight spam. Earlier this month, Google engineer Matt Cutts contradicted this stance, basically admitting that Google can use "whitelists" to exclude certain sites from changes to the algorithm. . . .
Republicans on the House Administration Committee want to shore up voter registration rules in the wake of a Colorado study that found as many as 5,000 non-citizens in the state took part in last year’s election.
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, called the study “a disturbing wake-up call” that should cause every state to review its safeguards to prevent illegal voting.
“We simply cannot have an electoral system that allows thousands of non-citizens to violate the law and vote in our elections. We must do more to protect the integrity of our electoral processes,” Harper added. . . .
One of President Obama’s top fundraisers has been rewarded with more than half a billion dollars in stimulus money for “green” projects and a coveted adviser position at the federal agency that regulates his highly profitable business ventures.
It’s the very cycle of money, influence and access that Obama vowed to break when he came to Washington, according to the investigative journalism group that broke the story this week. Not only has the president’s money man benefited from the astounding sums of cash the administration has dedicated to “clean energy” startups, he also has extraordinary access to the White House and serves as an adviser to the cabinet official (Energy Secretary Steven Chu) who regulates his industry.
The prolific Democratic fundraiser, Steve Westly, worked in the Jimmy Carter Administration and was once a public official in California where he currently operates a lucrative “green” business (Westly Group) that’s boomed in just a few years. The Westly Group has raked in more than half a billion dollars in loans, grants or stimulus money from the Department of Energy which is doling out around $35 billion to politically-connected businesses that help reduce pollution.
A frequent White House visitor Westly is also a member of a government advisory board on energy policy, which means he actually “advises” Energy Secretary Chu, the administration official in charge of distributing the agency’s green startup cash. The money is supposed to help clean technology firms expand in order to meet Obama’s goal of lowering dependence on foreign oil. . . .
An Illinois House committee approved amendments on a proposal to legalize the concealed carrying of guns. The new version expands the places where firearms would still be banned. The list includes libraries, police stations, schools, sporting events, bars, and restaurants where alcohol represents the bulk of sales. Chiefs of police from around the state met Wednesday night in Springfield with state leaders of the National Rifle Association. A source said that weeks of negotiations between the police chiefs and the Illinois State Rifle Association had achieved a "hand shake agreement." Wednesday's meeting was to determine whether this "agreement in principle" could be reduced to writing, with detailed language acceptable to both sides. Sources said the compromise includes concessions by the NRA on eight different issues. Among them: any concealed carry permit would have an expiration date. To renew it, permit holders would have to re-certify their gun safety skills. Also, any permit holder stopped by law enforcers would have a "duty to inform" immediately if they carried a firearm. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only states where it is illegal in virtually all instances for private citizens to conceal that they're carrying a firearm. . . .
US privately admits that real weapon problem in Mexico is from Central American armies
It is nice to know that at least private the US is acknowledging where the real dangerous weapons are from.
The most fearsome weapons wielded by Mexico’s drug cartels enter the country from Central America, not the United States, according to U.S. diplomatic cables disseminated by WikiLeaks and published on Tuesday by La Jornada newspaper.
Items such as grenades and rocket-launchers are stolen from Central American armies and smuggled into Mexico via neighboring Guatemala, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City reported to Washington.
The assertions appear in embassy cables written after three bilateral conferences on arms trafficking that took place between March 2009 and January 2010 in Cuernavaca, Mexico; Phoenix; and Tapachula, Mexico, respectively.
The cables’ authors note that Mexican officials and politicians never hesitate to remind U.S. diplomats that Mexico’s drug war – which has claimed 35,000 lives in the last four years – is fueled by Americans’ demand for illegal drugs and by guns bought in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Yet one of the cables maintains that 90 percent of the heavy armament Mexican security forces seize from cartel gunmen comes from Central America. . . .
The LA Times has this article from March 15th:
It was a brazen assault, not just because it targeted the city's police station, but for the choice of weapon: grenades.
The Feb. 21 attack on police headquarters in coastal Zihuatanejo, which injured four people, fit a disturbing trend of Mexico's drug wars. Traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals.
Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiauto- matic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The proliferation of heavier armaments points to a menacing new stage in the Mexican government's 2-year-old war against drug organizations, which are evolving into a more militarized force prepared to take on Mexican army troops, deployed by the thousands, as well as to attack each other.
These groups appear to be taking advantage of a robust global black market and porous borders, especially between Mexico and Guatemala. Some of the weapons are left over from the wars that the United States helped fight in Central America, U.S. officials said. . . .
There are even more ominous developments: Authorities reported three thefts of several hundred pounds of blasting material from industrial explosives plants in Durango during a four-day period last month. Authorities believe the material may have been destined for car bombs or remotely detonated roadside devices, which have been used with devastating effect in Iraq, killing more than 1,822 members of U.S.-led forces since the war there began nearly six years ago. . . .
LAKE COUNTY, MICHIGAN 66% VILAS COUNTY, WISCONSIN 62% SUMMIT COUNTY, COLORADO 61% WORCESTER COUNTY, MARYLAND 60% MONO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA 59% DARE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA 57% DUKES COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS 57% SAWYER COUNTY, WISCONSIN 56% BURNETT COUNTY, WISCONSIN 55% AITKIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA 54%
No one “needs” a seat belt. After all, 99.999 percent of your driving time you don’t “need” a seatbelt. You only “need” a seat belt during an automobile crash. Do you want a seatbelt? Of course! No one would even debate this issue.
Google to be on hot seat for helping people steal property rights
Google's destruction of property rights is across the board. It is good that they are getting some scrutiny here.
Google's antipiracy efforts are likely to come under scrutiny during a congressional hearing scheduled for next week in Washington. Google has accepted an invitation to appear April 6 before a U.S. House subcommittee investigating Web sites accused of distributing pirated intellectual property, sources with knowledge of the witness list told CNET. Should Google testify as expected, it is believed it would be one of the first occasions the search company has been questioned publicly about whether it plays any role in Internet piracy. Trade associations representing the film, music, software, and video game industries say "rogue" sites violate copyright law and profit from their work without compensating owners. Many of them have accused Google for years of helping to fund copyright infringement by enabling site operators to post Google ads on their sites. A Google spokeswoman did not respond to an interview request. Kent Walker, Google's general counsel, is expected to appear at the hearing on the company's behalf. He should be prepared for a grilling. If members of the subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, are anything like the Senate committee conducting a similar review, they will be tough on Google. Prominent members from both major political parties appear more determined than ever to stamp out intellectual-property theft. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is preparing to reintroduce legislation that would hand the government sweeping powers to take down alleged pirate sites and try to cut off their revenue sources. Leahy tried to get a similar bill passed last year but it was held up by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). . . .
“When Android hit the scene in 2008, Google had a tantalizing pitch: Android was ‘open source.’ That is, Google would do the hard work of developing the code, and hardware and software makers were free to use the system at no charge. Carriers and device makers relished the idea of not paying royalties,” Vance and Burrows report. “As Google introduced Android updates, each named after a sweet, devices of varying capabilities flooded the market… It isn’t easy for consumers to keep up—and the same goes for software makers, who have to retool apps for every version and device to give their products a consistent look and feel.” Vance and Burrows report, “Google owes it to its partners and consumers to prevent Android from running amok. And yet murmurs abound that Android’s master has tightened up too much—that its policies limit licensees’ ability to differentiate their products. “The premise of a true open software platform may be where Android started, but it’s not where Android is going,” says Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive who recently inked a deal with his former employer instead of Google. He says he did so in part because he thought he would have more opportunity to innovate atop Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 software.” . . .
Jeffrey Immelt, the head of GE, is facing backlash from left-leaning groups who say that he shouldnt be on the White House Jobs Council or any other panel in light of reports that the company last year made $14.2 billion in profit, paid zero in corporate federal taxes and actually received a $3.2 billion tax benefit.
GE disputes that claim and says it did pay all kinds of taxes last year, though notably, not federal taxes. But it also claims that it didnt pay because it took hits for investment and other spending that is exactly what the tax code allows and is encouraged to help job creation.
Whatever the case, the optics are bad news for GE, which is facing increasing anger from the likes of former Wisconsin Sen. Feingold, MoveOn and even Jon Stewart.
In January, Obama named Immelt to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as part of an effort to improve the White House's strained relationship with the business community. Now Obama's relationship with liberals is on the rocks.
MoveOn and Feingold are calling on Immelt to step down.
"It is outrageous that GE made more than $14 billion in profits last year and paid no federal taxes," MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben said in a statement. "At a time when many in Washington, including the president, are worried about our nation's deficit, we should be punishing not rewarding companies like GE who are robbing the U.S. government and taxpayers of billions of dollars."
The White House did not reply to an e-mail seeking a response, and a GE spokesman declined to comment. . . .
The working class may be taking a beating from spending cuts used to close a cavernous deficit, Mr. Williams said, but the root of California's woes is its reliance on taxing the wealthy.
Nearly half of California's income taxes before the recession came from the top 1% of earners: households that took in more than $490,000 a year. High earners, it turns out, have especially volatile incomes—their earnings fell by more than twice as much as the rest of the population's during the recession. When they crashed, they took California's finances down with them.
Mr. Williams, a former economic forecaster for the state, spent more than a decade warning state leaders about California's over-dependence on the rich. "We created a revenue cliff," he said. "We built a large part of our government on the state's most unstable income group."
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois—states that are the most heavily reliant on the taxes of the wealthy—are now among those with the biggest budget holes. A large population of rich residents was a blessing during the boom, showering states with billions in tax revenue. But it became a curse as their incomes collapsed with financial markets. . . .
"Silencing Conservatism": Column by my son Roger in the Dartmouth newspaper
As usual, Roger's column (available here) is at the top of the most read list. His column starts this way:
Having grown up in a college town that cast more votes for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader than for George Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, I’m used to being something of a laughingstock for my conservative-leaning views. Nevertheless, it’s been an eye-opener to see my columns for The Dartmouth garner accusations of racism, calls for censorship and even the occasional personal attack such as, “Mr. Lott, I pity your future wife or husband.”
The upside of being a vocal conservative at Dartmouth is that being on the receiving end of intensive scrutiny inevitably improves your argumentation skills. The attacks made on my column criticizing the Orozco Murals (“Points in Perspective,” Nov. 10) caused me to recognize that I had been too overtly provocative, and the experience proved valuable in teaching me the importance of objectivity and dispassion. Many of my critics, however, would also benefit from learning to refrain from hostile, emotional arguments that detract from intellectual discourse.
Out of my columns, “Truly Color Blind” (March 7), received perhaps the most disturbing reactions. . . .
If the energy savings paid for themselves, don't you think that businesses would do this on their own?
Why does Obama think that he has to force companies to do something that he claims will save them money? What a waste of money.
With an aggressive plan that has put businesses on notice, the White House has recently targeted the country's biggest energy guzzlers: skyscrapers and buildings. Hospitals, universities and colleges, too. Commercial and industrial buildings suck up about 49% of the country’s energy supply, worse than cars and trucks, says the Department. of Energy. President Barack Obama has tapped former President Bill Clinton and General Electric (GE: 20.12, +0.26, +1.31%) chief executive Jeffrey Immelt to lead the way in cutting buildings’ energy usage by a fifth over the next decade. The plan? Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, government loans and grants. Who pays? Oil companies, with potentially $39 billion in tax hikes. Ironically, the Government Accountability Office says the federal government is the nation’s single largest energy consumer, its buildings making up 35% of the government’s energy consumption. . . .
Bill Gates schemed to take shares in Microsoft Corp. from his co-founder during the early days of the software company following his partner's treatment for cancer, according to a new memoir by the billionaire co-founder, Paul Allen. . . .
PETA shows that it thinks that there are too many people.
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has long advocated for dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered. Now, it's extending the campaign to humans. The Norfolk, Va.-based group is offering a free vasectomy to the winner of its "Why should PETA neuter you?" campaign. Applicants enter the contest by getting their cat or dog spayed or neutered and submitting an essay to PETA. The group says human overpopulation contributes to animal suffering by draining water and land resources and causing pollution. . . .
Aides to Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the lawmakers repaid their respective tickets after being contacted by Roll Call. The District’s database showed Weiner received nearly $2,180 in tickets from 2007 to early March, including some instances in which he appears to have incurred multiple violations at the same time, such as failing to display current tags while parked in a taxi stand zone. “All of the Congressman’s parking tickets have been paid. He is pleased to have helped decrease the D.C. budget deficit,” Weiner spokesman Dave Arnold said. Thompson spokesman Lanier Avant likewise said the Mississippi lawmaker repaid $610 in outstanding tickets that his vehicle received from 2004 to 2010. During Roll Call’s survey, a second vehicle displaying Thompson’s Member parking permit also returned $250 in parking tickets, which Avant said were his own and were also repaid. According to the House Administration Committee, Members must pay their own parking tickets and are not permitted to use official funds. The D.C. registry showed California license plates used by Rep. Mike Honda (D) received $640 in tickets from 2007 to 2010. . . .
Democrats and Press upset about even tiny cuts in government spending
Republican Tea Party members are the villains because they want to cut the $3.82 trillion budget by an entire $61 billion. Democrats are having a hard time finding 10 billion in cuts.
The Capitol Hill rhetoric reached new levels of ugliness Tuesday as negotiations over some semblance of a federal budget gave way to finger-pointing, with Democrats blaming Tea Party freshmen for a potential government shutdown and Republicans calling those claims a fantasy. Over the past few days, Democrats have pounded the argument that Congress would have been able to work out a budget deal long ago if not for the extreme demands of Tea Party-aligned lawmakers. Congress has until April 8, the expiration date for the current short-term budget, to craft either another stopgap or a more substantive budget that lasts through the end of fiscal 2011, or face a partial Washington shutdown. Hopes were relatively high last week that such a coming-together could happen, but lawmakers on both sides made clear Tuesday they've made scant progress. "Unfortunately, there are a number of new people in the Congress who think that a compromise is a sellout," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday. He said there's still room for compromise, but accused the "perfectionist caucus" -- his latest term for the Tea Partiers -- of dragging down the Republican leadership. Hoyer said he put the odds of a shutdown at "five or six" on a scale of 10. . . .
Democrats view of cutting spending is to propose a lot of new programs and then say that they won't go through with all of them.
Democrats are working on a plan that would allow them to say they tried to meet Republicans halfway on spending cuts. This is similar to the earlier effort in which Democrats said they were meeting Republicans halfway because they were abandoning $47 billion in spending requests sought by President Obama. The new effort on the Democratic side involves taking cuts already made and adjustments in other expenditures outside the realm of Republican cuts – annualized changes in farm subsidy rates, for example – to claim that they are proposing half of the $61 billion in total reductions sought by the GOP. It looks like a mess, but the goal isn’t good bookkeeping. The goal is to divide the House Republican caucus and position themselves to profit politically. While there is no sign that Senate Democrats and the White House have a real accord on cuts, the message from Majority Leader Harry Reid and his team is already in place on the assumption that some kind of plan will eventually be produced. . . . The Democratic caucus in the Senate smacked down Reid’s last gambit -- $6.5 billion in cuts for the rest of the year. “First, they didn’t believe one dime in spending could be cut. Then they relented and agreed to cut $10 billion after Republicans forced the issue. Then Democrats said they could offer $11 billion more, but most of it was gimmicks,” a senior House GOP staffer told Power Play. “And suddenly, days later, they say they can offer $20 billion, but they won’t share it with anyone. Republicans have passed a credible plan; it’s called H.R. 1. Where is the Democrats’ bill, and where is their plan?” . . .
Politico refers to this $61 billion cut this way: "If House Republican leaders are looking to tighten the nation’s fiscal belt, the budget hawks in the conservative Republican Study Committee want to apply it as a tourniquet. . . ."
Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process. After thanking his colleagues . . . Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.” A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell. Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message. “We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. Boxer . . . Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process. . . .
There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama's statements Monday night that NATO is taking over from the U.S. in Libya and that U.S. action is limited to defending people under attack there by Moammar Gadhafi's forces.
In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.
And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion - coordinated or not - to advance an offensive.
Here is a look at some of Obama's assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts: . . .
[the S&P/Case-Shiller index of prices] monitors 20 metropolitan areas and found that seasonally adjusted prices had fallen in 12 of them. In four cities, prices were at their lowest for 11 years, with the overall index down 0.2% between December and January. The average annual price fall across the 20 cities was 3.1%. Only Washington DC registered a meaningful rise in prices, gaining 3.6% over the year, while San Diego was flat at 0.1% above January's price a year ago. . . .
As much of the U.S. housing market limps along, home prices north of the border are on a fresh tear, fired up in part by a borrowing binge that has sent Canadians' debt to record levels—and now higher than their notoriously profligate U.S. neighbors—while income growth pokes along. House prices have risen to almost 5.5 times disposable income per worker, well above the long-term historical average of 3.5, he says. "We've been through a fairly hefty housing boom over the last 10 years, and the next three years is going to be an unwinding of that," Mr. Madani says. To be sure, most economists here say Canada isn't facing an American-style housing bubble, and they cite a host of reasons such as tighter lending, a buoyant economy and a robust labor market. Gross domestic product grew at a surprisingly strong 3.3% annual pace in the fourth quarter. Canada also has gained back all of the jobs it lost during the recession. . . .
Maryanne Levine is a full-time elementary school teacher with the Chippewa Valley School District who was elected to the Michigan Education Association board of directors. The district releases her from teaching responsibilities so that she can deal 100 percent with union issues. But Chippewa Valley still pays for $103,807of Levine’s $145,117 total compensation. The union pays the remaining $41,310. Larry Schulte, another of the district’s full-time elementary teachers, is allowed to spend half of his time involved in union business. Chippewa Valley pays $104,480 of his $125,135 total compensation. The union pays the remaining $20,655. Statewide, there are 39 school districts that paid teachers to work at least half their time on union activities, with 25 of those districts paying for full release time. These 39 districts combined to pay at least $2.7 million to cover the costs of teachers who work on union business. Two weeks ago, the MEA sent a survey to its membership that included a request to seek approval to initiate a “work stoppage.” Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan. Michigan Capitol Confidential sent a Freedom of Information Act request for the details of the arrangements between school districts and their local union officials. Taylor School District pays Jeffrey Woodford $96,419 in total compensation and allows him to spend 75 percent of his time on union business. The other 25 percent of the time he teaches at Truman High School. Linda Moore is a middle school science teacher in Taylor with $88,016 in total compensation, and she is allowed to spend 50 percent of her time on union business. . . .
Meanwhile Democrats are fighting to limit the number of poor and middle class children who can attend private school, even though the cost of the vouchers are less than the expenditures on public schools. From John Fund at the WSJ's Political Diary.
One of the longest walkouts by state legislators in the nation's history ended last night when Indiana House Democrats abandoned their safe house in Illinois and returned to work after a five-week absence.
Both sides spun the development in their favor. Republicans insisted the Democrats were forced to come back as fines against them piled up and voters became impatient with a legislature that was paralyzed. With the absence of a two-thirds quorum, the House couldn't move on any bills.
But Democrats also had some bragging rights. They said that they had left their desks in the legislature in order to wrest concessions from the GOP on a right-to-work law for private-sector workers and a bill expanding school choice.
The Democratic "fleabaggers" made tangible gains in a liberal direction. The right-to-work bill is dead for this year, despite having majority support in both houses. A bill that would have allowed private companies to take over failing public schools was also shelved. A pet project of GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels to create a voucher program for low- and middle-income students has been significantly scaled back to helping only 7,500 kids in the first year and 15,000 in the second year. . . .
Libyan War cost at least $600 million in First Week
Obama has been avoiding discussing the exact cost of the war. He mentioned the word "cost" multiple times in his speech on Monday, but there were no specifics. Here is an estimate of the costs from ABC News.
One week after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers has reached at least $600 million, according figures provided by the Pentagon. U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have launched at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals, costing $268.8 million, the Pentagon said. U.S. warplanes have dropped 455 precision guided bombs, costing tens of thousands of dollars each. A downed Air Force F-15E fighter jet will cost more than $60 million to replace. And operation of ships and aircraft, guzzling ever-more-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say. "Each sortie, even if it drops no munitions, is very pricey," said Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information. "These airplanes cost us tens of thousands of dollars to operate per hour, and the fancier you get in terms of planes, the costs get truly astounding." The three B-2 stealth bombers that flew from Missouri to Libya and back on an early bombing mission each cost an estimated $10,000 per hour to fly, a defense official said. . . .
Why don't they just make it easy and say that everyone is disabled? After all, it someone isn't smart enough to get the benefits of disability by simply claiming that they are disabled, they must not be very smart. From Fox News:
The ADA, originally passed in 1990 and updated by Congress in 2008, originally defined disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." When a worker satisfies the definition, employers must provide reasonable accommodations. For years, employers and employees have clashed over who truly qualifies for the sometimes-costly modifications to workplace duties and schedules. Attorney Condon McGlothlen says the new regulations could have a profound impact on that debate. "Before, perhaps 40 million people were covered by the ADA. That number will increase significantly," McGlothlen told Fox News. "Some people might even say that a majority of Americans are covered as disabled under the law." . . . Overall, lawyers for employers say the regulations shift the burden of proof in disability claims. They say that employers will now have to show why a worker doesn't require special accommodations, rather than employees proving that the measures are merited. "It's going to be very difficult for employers to argue in just about any case that an employee is exaggerating their disability or that the person isn't genuinely disabled," McGlothlen said. . . . .
A state Senate Commitee has passed an amendment that would strike down the Nevada statute requiring gun owners to obtain administrative approval before carrying a concealed weapon on state higher education campuses. The bill now faces the Senate proper. Friday’s session of the Government Affairs Committee in Carson City saw a 4-1 vote in favor of S.B. 231 — a bill amending current Nevada law to allow a firearm owner with a concealed carry permit (CCW) to carry their concealed weapon on Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) property without prior approval from the president of the institution. . . .
Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.
But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.
After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few. In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won’t take no for an answer. . . .
Take one of Mann's e-mail exchanges with Jones. In an e-mail entitled "IPCC & FOI" (referring to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Freedom of Information Act) Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, wrote Dr. Mann: "Mike: Can you delete any e-mails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re [the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report]? Keith will do likewise. . . . Can you also e-mail Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new e-mail address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise."
Mann acknowledges that he received the e-mail, but he claims that neither he nor anyone else actually deleted any e-mails to hide information from a Freedom of Information Act request on how the U.N.'s IPCC report was written. Yet, his response is quite damning as it seems that he goes along with Dr. Jones. Far from criticizing the request, Dr. Mann wrote back: "I'll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org. talk to you later, Mike."
After the first week of revelations of academic fraud and intellectual wrongdoing, the University of East Anglia denied there was a problem. Professor Trevor Davies, the school's pro vice chancellor for research, issued a statement on Tuesday claiming: "The publication of a selection of the e-mails and data stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has led to some questioning of the climate science research published by CRU and others. There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation."
The move to investigate the destruction of information requested under the Freedom of Information Act is a big change. In Britain, the destruction of such documents is a criminal offense and the e-mails indicate that Jones had been warned at least once against destroying such information.
On Monday, Mann tried to justify the damaging e-mails by telling the Penn State college newspaper: "Someone being constantly under attack could be what causes them to make a poor decision." On the one hand, he denies that anything improper happened, but he then seems to accept that improper actions did occur. Regarding pressure, possibly, Mann should ask what the academics, who Mann and others involved in Climate-gate tried to prevent them from publishing in academic journals, think about these events. The e-mails discussed above involve the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's controversial assessment report and raise additional questions about what subterfuge might have been involved in its production. . . .
Should political candidates get their campaign costs covered by the government? What if a candidate chooses not to take taxpayer money? And should taxpayers give more money to his opponent if a candidate raises more money for his campaign? Those are the questions that the Supreme Court is discussing today as they hear oral arguments in McComish v. Bennett, a case challenging Arizona’s taxpayer-funding for political campaigns.
Supporters claim that such public financing encourages political debate. They contend that giving everyone the same amount of money ensures all points of view will be heard. The argument seems simple enough, but empirical research indicates just the contrary, that such restrictions actually entrench incumbents and reduce competition.
Arizona’s law essentially imposes campaign spending limits. The Constitution won’t let the governments ban candidates from raising money, so Arizona tries a less direct approach . . . .
Justice Elena Kagan was the most aggressive defender of an Arizona law that provides matching dollars to publicly financed candidates who face privately backed opponents and third-party supporters that spend in excess of government limits. "I'm not sure what it means to constitute a substantial burden if, in fact, the law does not chill speech," Kagan told lawyer William Maurer, who argued the law dissuades some people from spending money in favor of candidates who forego the public system out of concern that the publicly financed candidates will get more money. . .
But the rules penalize candidates who spend more on their campaigns. How is that not a chilling of speech?
Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner raises an interesting question. Media Matters opposed the Supreme Court's United Citizens v. FEC decision. The government wanted the power to ban movies and books because simply the mention of a politician's name constituted a campaign donation. If that is true, shouldn't Media Matters count their activity as political activity? This tax status adds an interesting twist to the discussion.
Media Matters, the George Soros-backed legion of liberal agit-prop shock troops based in the nation's capital, has declared war on Fox News, and in the process quite possibly stepped across the line of legality.
David Brock, MM's founder, was quoted Saturday by Politico promising that his organization is mounting "guerrila warfare and sabotage" against Fox News, which he said "is not a news organization. It is the de facto leader of the GOP, and it is long past time that it is treated as such by the media, elected officials and the public.”
To that end, Brock told Politico that MM will “focus on [News Corp. CEO Rupert] Murdoch and trying to disrupt his commercial interests ..." Murdoch is the founder of Fox News and a media titan with newspaper, broadcast, Internet and other media countries around the world.
There is nothing in the Politico article to suggest that Brock, who was paid just under $300,000 in 2009, according to the group's most recently available tax return, plans to ask the IRS to change his organization's tax status as a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation.
Being a C3 puts MM in the non-profit, non-commercial sector, and it also bars the organzation from participating in partisan political activity. This new, more aggressive stance, however, appears to run directly counter to the government's requirements for maintaining a C3 tax status.
Since Brock classifies Fox News as the "leader" of the Republican Party, by his own description he is involving his organization in a partisan battle. High-priced K Street lawyers can probably find a federal judge or a sympathetic IRS bureaucrat willing to either look the other way or accept some sort of MM rationale such as that it is merely providing educational information about a partisan group. . . .
A measure to allow people to carry a concealed gun without a permit from law enforcement is closer to becoming law. The Senate endorsed the measure late Friday in a 29-21 vote. The gun-rights proposal has already cleared the House. Currently in Montana, a permit and background check from authorities is needed to carry a concealed gun into cities and towns. There are also old restrictions on carrying without a permit into logging, mining and railroad camps. The new proposal would let people carry concealed guns into those areas as long as they have taken a class from a certified trainer or state agency. No criminal background check would be required, nor would the state be issuing a formal permit. . . .
Obama's inconsistent foreign policy: Libya and Syria
Despite big demonstrations and Syrian police opening fire on protestors, Obama isn't going to intervene in Syria. In Egypt, Obama said that the demonstrations showed that Mubarak had lost the support of the Egyptian people. But Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is viewed as "a reformer" despite firing on his citizens? Do we really want to get into a debate over whether Libya had the worst dictatorship? Does anyone really believe that there aren't lots of countries that are at least as bad? What is next bombing Cuba or North Korea? It will be interesting to see whether Obama can provide more of a logical rationale for why he is at war with some countries and not others.
Your cell phone documents where you are every seven seconds
Your cell phone keeps very precise information on where you are every seven seconds. That is a little concerning. I suppose that it can be used to solve crime, but it can also be used for other less desirable things too.
But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.
The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin. . . .
“We are all walking around with little tags, and our tag has a phone number associated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic information at Columbia University’s architecture school. “We don’t even know we are giving up that data.”
Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted. . . .
So who knew about the BATF gun running? The quotes here indicate that DOJ, thus Holder, probably knew about it.
Since our first report in which ATF agents told us they allowed thousands of weapons to cross into Mexico, one crucial question has been: Who knew -- how high up? This week for the first time, President Obama addressed the controversy. It was in an interview Tuesday evening with the Spanish language network Univision.
Watch: Obama on "gunwalking"
"Well first of all I did not authorize it. Eric Holder the Attorney General did not authorize it. He's been very clear that our policy is to catch gun runners and put 'em into jail," Mr. Obama said of the controversial ATF operation called "Fast and Furious."
"You were not even informed about it?" asked Univision reporter Jorge Ramos.
"Absolutely not," said Mr. Obama. "There may be a situation here which a serious mistake was made and if that's the case then we'll find out and well hold somebody accountable."
But who? In an exclusive interview with CBS News, the lead ATF official in Mexico at the time Darren Gil says somebody in the Justice Department did know about the case. Gil says his supervisor at ATF's Washington D.C. headquarters told him point-blank the operation was approved even higher than ATF Director Kenneth Melson.
"Is the director aware of this," Gil asked the supervisor. Gil says his supervisor answered "Yes, the director's aware of it. Not only is the director aware of it, D.O.J.'s aware of it... Department of Justice was aware of it."
Gil goes on to say senior Justice official Lanny Breuer and several of his deputies visited Mexico amid the controversy last summer, and spoke to ATF staff generally about a big trafficking case that they claimed was "getting good results." Gil says Melson, ATF's Acting Director, also visited Mexico City. Gil's Deputy Attache and his Analyst questioned Melson about the case that surrounding all the weapons showing up in Mexico. "His response was 'it's a good case, it's still going on,'" recalls Gil, "and we'll close it down as soon as we possibly can." . . .
AS THE VISUAL OP-ED COLUMNIST FOR "THE NEW YORK TIMES," CHARLES BLOW TALK ABOUT CHARTS AND GRAPHS. "I REALLY DO SEARCH FOR DATA FIRST AND SEE IF IT SAYS SOMETHING INTERESTING, SOMETHING THAT KIND OF AGREES WITH AN OPINION THAT I HAVE OR SOMETIMES SURPRISES." "Q&A," SUNDAY NIGHT ON C- SPAN.
5 Myths that Movies have Given Us About Guns that Everyone Believes
Here is a very interesting article about the misinformation that people get about guns: Silencers Turn Gunfire Into a Gentle Whisper, Machine Guns are Magical Death Machines, Bulletproof Vests Are Magical Force Fields, Gratuitous Cocking, and Bullets Explode Everything.
Caterpillar is an Illinois institution. If the company leaves the state, it will be a big blow. It would be interesting to see how much increased tax revenue Illinois is actually going to get from this tax increase.
The chairman and CEO of Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. is raising the specter of moving the heavy equipment maker out of Illinois. In a letter sent March 21 to Gov. Pat Quinn, Caterpillar chief executive officer Doug Oberhelman said officials in at least four other states have approached the company about relocating since Illinois raised its income tax in January. "I want to stay here. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what's right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest," Oberhelman wrote in the letter obtained Friday by the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau. "The direction that this state is headed in is not favorable to business and I'd like to work with you to change that." Oberhelman said he's being actively courted to move. "I have been called, 'cornered' in meetings and 'wined and dined' -- the heat is on," Oberhelman wrote. "Before, I never really considered living anywhere else and certainly never considered the possibility of Caterpillar relocating. But I have to admit, the policymakers in Springfield seem to make it harder by the day." Cat spokesman Jim Dugan said the letter was designed to show Quinn that Oberhelman wants to be involved in finding solutions that benefit the company, which employs 23,000 people in Illinois. . . .
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deficits that President Obama proposes between 2011 and 2020 come to a staggering $126,000 per family of four (see Table 1-3 and divide the total deficits by 310 million than multiple by four). That is on top of the $35,000 per family already chalked up under the first two years of Obama’s administration.
The results of GE’s tight relationship with the Obama administration are starting to show.
The company’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, went from being an Obama ally on green energy to being one of his top outside advisers on the economy in the last two years.
In the process, The New York Times reports, GE had one of its best years in 2010, in part by getting a huge tax benefit from Uncle Sam.
Last year, the company paid nothing to the government. Instead, the government paid GE $3.2 billion in tax breaks.
“Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore,” according to The Times. . . .