Turning Social Security Into A Welfare System

Bloomberg.com reports today that Washington-based Third Way, a Democratic-led policy group, proposed a plan that would raise the retirement age, trim or eliminate Social Security benefits for high-income retirees, limit cost-of-living increases and provide money to help young workers create private retirement accounts.

The only part of that I agree with is providing money to help young workers create private retirement accounts.  Let’s talk about trimming or eliminating Social Security benefits for high-income retirees.  Tax policy does influence behavior.  We have watched for years as senior citizens divested themselves of personal assets in order to have Medicare pay for their nursing homes.  We have seen people wait to accept jobs as unemployment benefits have been extended.  We have seen people put off marriage as the marriage tax was put into effect.  To deny people who have paid into Social Security all their lives the benefits they were promised because they were successful and planned ahead is not a good idea.  First of all, it breaks the promise made to all of us who have been paying into Social Security since we began working, second, it sends a message that if we plan for our retirement, we will be penalized, and third, it allows Congress to tell us exactly how much we are allowed to earn.  Why in the world are we even considering allowing the government to limit the amount of Social Security someone can receive because that person actually planned for their retirement?  This will ultimately be one of the government’s ‘redistribution of wealth’ plans.  Keep in mind that I posted an article in October (RightWingGranny) about Senate hearings which discussed taking over 401K plans of private citizens.  How about means testing Congressional pensions?  Or taking over the 401K plans of Congressmen?  Anyone want to comment on the likelihood of either of these things happening? 

Insulting Christians At Christmas Is OK At The Smithsonian

Please be aware that if you follow the link to the source article at CNS News, you will see some very disturbing pictures.  The article is reporting on an exhibit currently at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery which features “images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as “homoerotic.””   The exhibit is titled, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” and will be there until February 13th. 

According to the article:

“The Smithsonian Institution has an annual budget of $761 million, 65 percent of which comes from the federal government, according to Linda St. Thomas, the Smithsonian’s chief spokesperson. The National Portrait Gallery itself received $5.8 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2010, according to St. Thomas. It also received $5.8 million in federal funding in fiscal 2009, according to the museum’s annual report. The gallery’s overall funding in that year was $8 million.”

I am not opposed to free speech, but I am for respect.  An ant-covered Jesus is not appropriate at any time, much less Christmas.  Paying for this picture with American tax dollars is obscene.  Why is it that the FBI paid a visit to a pastor in Florida who was going to burn a Koran because they were afraid of the Muslim backlash, but no one cares if Christians are insulted?  Why is this not considered hate-speech?

Is John Kerry A Friend Of Israel ?

Today’s Daily Caller posted a small section of the recent document dump from Wikileaks. 

According to the article:

“On a February trip to the Middle East, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-MA) told Qatari leaders that the Golan Heights should be returned to Syria, that a Palestinian capital should be established in East Jerusalem as part of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and that he was “shocked” by what he saw on a visit to Gaza”

Israel without the Golan Heights is indefensible.  To give that land to Syria is to invite an invasion.  The article points out that the discussion of the Arab-Israeli peace process took place in Qatar with Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani and the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa in February.  To me this seems to be a total sell-out of Israel.

I guess I have one major questions–how come all the peace demands have been made on Israel?  Where is the concern for the number of rockets that have been fired into Israeli civilian areas by Israel’s neighbors?  If John Kerry is suggesting more ‘land for peace’ deals for Israel (none of which have worked in the past), is he ignorant of the history of the Middle East or is he simply not a friend of Israel?

Ballot Help In Worcester, Massachusetts

Yesterday’s Worcester Telegram posted an article about the voter irregularities that occurred in Worcester during the recent election.  Nick Kotsopoulos, who wrote the article, suggests that those people protesting some of the behavior at the polling places had best not hold their breath waiting for satisfaction from state election officials about their complaints. 

The article reports:

“That’s because members of the group Neighbor to Neighbor apparently did not violate state election laws by accompanying people into the voting booth and supposedly telling them how to vote; in some instances, they even actually marked their ballots for them, as some poll observers said they witnessed in affidavits filed last week with the Worcester Election Commission.”

The article further reports:

“Neighbor to Neighbor workers were also seen bringing pre-marked sample ballots to the polls that told people they brought to the polls what address to give poll workers and whom to vote for, according to the affidavits.

“Under state law, voters who need assistance can bring anyone they want into the voting booth to provide the help they need, even having that person fill out their ballot for them, if they so wish.”

It seems to me that it might be time to re-examine the current law about going into the voting booth with people or marking their ballots for them.  The article points out that some Hispanic voters claimed to need interpreters, although ballots were printed in both Spanish and English.

When Speeches And Facts Just Don’t Agree

Today’s Washington Examiner posted an article about where campaign money came from in the last election.  The numbers are basically opposite of what we have been led to believe. 

The article reports:

“Final campaign finance figures from the Federal Election Commission have come in, and they show a very different picture from the one painted by Obama and most of the media.  The Democrats’ advantage in money from traditional PAC’s was just about 10 times the size of the Republicans’ advantage from the new Super PAC’s.”

The PAC’s in the healthcare industry gave 58 percent of their contributions to Democrats.  The drug industry spent $6.68 million in PAC money on Democrats and $5.12 million on Republicans.

The article further reported:

“Obama’s liked to pose as the scourge of Wall Street, but here again, the facts clash with Obama’s rhetoric.  Democrats outraised Republicans from the “securities and investment” industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including a 27.2 percent advantage in PAC money from the industry.  Church Schumer was by far the top recipient.”

President Obama has continually claimed that the special interests and big business are in bed with the Republicans.  Well, the facts show that Democrats have received more money than the Republicans from special interests and big business.  I guess the facts really don’t matter if you can get away with the lie.

You Have To Start Somewhere With Spending Cuts

Tampa Bay Online reported yesterday that Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn are planning to let ethanol subsidies expire at the end of this year. 

On July 10th of this year, the Director’s Blog at the Congressional Budget Office posted the following: 

“The costs to taxpayers of reducing consumption of petroleum fuels differ by biofuel. Such costs depend on the size of the tax credit for each fuel, the changes in federal revenues that result from the difference in the excise taxes collected on sales of gasoline and sales of biofuels, and the amount of biofuels that would have been produced if the credits had not been available. The costs to taxpayers of using a biofuel to reduce gasoline consumption by one gallon are $1.78 for ethanol and $3.00 for cellulosic ethanol. The cost of reducing an equivalent amount of diesel fuel (that is, a quantity having the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline) using biodiesel is $2.55, based on the tax policy in place through last year.”

The bottom line here is that ethanol has cost us a tremendous amount of money as both taxpayers and consumers and has not worked.  Ethanol has also increased the cost of corn and thus the cost of food around the world. 

The bottom line of the Congressional Budget Office report:

“In the future, the scheduled rise in mandated volumes would require the production of biofuels in amounts that are probably beyond what the market would produce even if the effects of the tax credits were included.”

The bottom line here is simple–we tried, we failed, let’s move on.  The free market has always been the best way to develop new technology.  Profit is a powerful motive.  We have wasted years funding a program that would have died a natural death had the government not funded it.  It is time to let the program die and for the government to stop meddling in free markets!

Overactive Government

The Hill reported on Friday that Homeland Security appears to be shutting down websites that facilitate copyright infringement.  A website called Torrentfreak.com lists the websites that have been shut down. 

The Hill reports:

“ICE appears to be targeting sites that help Internet users download copyrighted music, as well as sites that sell bootleg goods, such as fake designer handbags.

“The sites are replaced with a note from the government: “This domain named has been seized by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations.””

Is this the same ICE that is not securing our borders and not sending illegal aliens who commit crimes home?  This is just wrong.  It seems to me that these websites would not even be under the jurisdiction of ICE or Homeland Security.  Where is the Interstate Commerce Committee on this?

This is disturbing.  The only good news in The Hill report:

“The effort comes as Congress considers the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Critics, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) say it is too heavy-handed. He has vowed to put a formal hold on the bill.” 

The practice of shutting down websites needs to end as quickly as it began!

Voter Fraud Has Its Consequences

Fox News reported yesterday that 18 former Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) workers have admitted guilt or been convicted on varying charges of election fraud. The punishment has ranged from probation to several months of prison time.

Some of the highlights from the story:

  • In Miami, seven former ACORN voter registration canvassers were convicted
  • In Pennsylvania, six of seven former ACORN workers who were charged in an investigation were convicted
  • In Milwaukee, three former ACORN workers have been convicted
  • Kevin Clancy was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in submitting falsified voter registration forms before the 2008 election. Clancy will start his sentence once he finishes another sentence he is currently serving for armed robbery.
  • Frank Walton pleaded guilty to submitting 54 fake voter registrations during the 2008 presidential campaign
  • In Washington state, Kendra Lynn Thill was convicted in March of voter registration fraud in the 2006 midterm election
  • In Nevada, a former ACORN supervisor pleaded the equivalent of a no-contest in a case alleging that canvassers were illegally paid to register voters during the 2008 campaign

As you read the above list, remember that these are convictions–not charges.  ACORN received taxpayer dollars for many years.  They have declared bankruptcy, but have reappeared under new names.  The only way to avoid a repeat of the fraud we have seen is to pay attention to any group that is doing mass voter registration drives in any area.  Some of these drives are legal and well-intended; some are not.

Why Bankruptcy Court Would Have Been More Equitable For The Stockholders Of General Motors

The Washington Times reported yesterday on the results of the recent Initial Public Offering (IPO) of General Motors stock.  The purpose of selling the stock was to begin paying back the government (and thus the American taxpayer) for the bailout of General Motors. 

The article reports:

“Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

The article further points out:

“For taxpayers to break even, by contrast, the stock would have to rise to at least $52 and by some estimates as high as $103 — levels that would take years to achieve.”

Aside from the fact that backruptcy laws were not followed so that unions could be rewarded for their support of Democrats in 2008, this is simply morally wrong.  The fact that the current backruptcy laws were violated is going to make investors more reluctant to invest in the future.  There were also pension funds that owned preferred stock whose rights were violated and not held up in court.  (See RightWingGranny article of May 21, 2009, for the lawsuit brought by three Indiana state pension funds for the bankruptcy law violations in the Chrysler bailout).  Either we are a nation of laws or we are a nation of elitist privileges.  The Obama Administration has caused me to wonder which of these is true.


Chicago Politics At It’s Best

I suspect there are other cities in America where the politics is as colorful as Chicago, but I really couldn’t name one offhand.  The current entertainment in Chicago is the race to become Mayor of the city.

When Rahm Emanuel resigned as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, political pundits told everyone that he resigned in order to run for Mayor of Chicago.  Shortly afterward, Mr. Emanuel announced that he would be running for Mayor of Chicago.  Knowing the history of elections in Chicago, we only needed to sit back and watch him get voted in.  Well, not so fast.

Hot Air reported yesterday:

“Election law attorney Burt Odelson, who also has served as an adviser to several of Emanuel’s opponents in the race, is planning to file a legal challenge with the Chicago Board of Elections as early as tomorrow arguing that Emanuel does not meet Illinois’ residency requirement for candidates running for municipal office. In an interview with The Fix, Odelson said that he is representing a group of Chicago citizens and that no campaign is involved in the challenge.”

Obviously, Rahm Emanuel has been living in Washington, D. C., since at least 2008.  He owns a house in Chicago, voted absentee ballot in Illinois, and has his car registered there.  According to Illinois law, candidates have to be a resident of the state for a year prior to the election.  Mr. Emanuel moved back to the state in October.

The article concludes:

“I have no idea how this case will end, though I suspect Emanuel will win it because, well, we’re talking about Chicago and Rahm Emanuel here. I can’t imagine there’s a judge in the city who would stand in the way of a guy who will chase you down and accost you in a shower to get what he wants. However, it could slow Emanuel down long enough for a relatively popular icon of Chicago politics with US Senate experience and the Barack Obama stamp of approval to sneak in and beat him.”

If Rahm Emanuel were military, I believe he would remain a resident regardless of where he was actually living; however, I am not sure if that rule applies to White House employees.  This could be very interesting, but I have a feeling it will be resolved quickly–after all, it is Chicago.


Thank You, Canada

Yesterday’s Jerusalem Post reported that Canada will not attend the United Nations conference on racism to be held in Durban, South Africa, in September of next year.

According to the article:

“(Canada’s Immigration) Minister, Jason Kenney, said Canada has lost faith in the Durban process, a conference that began in 2001 to develop strategies to defeat racism.

“Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it.””

The article further points out:

“But most offensive to Canada and several other countries were speeches laced with anti-Israeli rhetoric. Canada led a boycott of Durban II in Geneva last year, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the Jewish state.”

What has happened to the United Nations is very simple.  A group of nations who do not support freedom or democracy has formed a very powerful bloc inside the United Nations.  Because of this, the UN’s original ideas of stopping wars, supporting human rights, and supporting freedom have been usurped by this group.  The UN has lost its original mission.  The only way to regain the UN’s original mission would be for the democracies and freedom-loving countries of the world to become more powerful within the organization than the group of dictators, thugs, and tyrants who have banned together for their own mischief.  Since that is unlikely to happen, it is time to ask the United Nations to leave New York and for the United States to stop financial support of the organization and withdraw its membership.

Cheers to Canada for being willing to take a stand!

Unbelievable Chutzpah

The Fox News Liveshots Blog reported yesterday on the request by Sharif El-Gamal, the head of SOHO Properties, the developers of the Ground Zero Mosque, for federal taxpayer money to help him build the controversial and contentious project.  The funds are designated to help lower Manhattan recover from the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  Wait a minute–I thought the people who supported the construction of this mosque said that it wasn’t part of ground zero (it was–part of the landing gear of one of the airplanes crashed through the roof of the building).

The request is for $5 million in federal money.  According to El-Gamal, the money would be used for “social service programs….such as domestic violence prevention, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, two multi-cultural arts exhibits and immigration services.”  I have a problem with this statement–it is well known that in sharia law a husband is permitted to beat his wife–that fact was used in the defense of a Muslim husband in New Jersey.  If it is legal to beat your wife, what is domestic violence prevention?

The article reports:

“(Congressman Peter) King also notes that the reported $5 million request represents nearly one-third of all the $17 million that is now available. 265 groups have applied for the funding.”

Let’s see–Muslim terrorists destroyed the area and now a Muslim group wants American taxpayer money to build a monument to their victory on the site (see the historic record on where Muslims build mosques and what they represent).  If anyone approves the taxpayer money going to this project, they deserve to be impeached or fired, whichever applies.

Something To Consider In The Current House Of Representatives

On Monday, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article on the New York Times story that the House Ethics Committee has postponed the ethics trial of Maxine Waters because it found more evidence of direct intervention by her office to benefit the bank in which her husband owned a substantial interest.  According to newly found e-mails, her chief of staff directly coordinated with other members of the House Financial Services Committee on behalf of OneUnited. 

Mr. Morrissey reports:

“That opens up questions about the ethics not just of Waters but of those committee members who cooperated with Moore and his pleas for “small bank” assistance. OneUnited ended up with millions in TARP money, and unlike other applicants, got to count that cash among its assets before actually receiving the money.  The preferential treatment the bank received — unique among over 700 applicants for TARP money — seems oddly coincidental to Waters’ status and the newly exposed machinations of Moore on her behalf.”

This may make for a very interesting investigation.  Mr. Morrissey concludes:

“How long will it be before the House takes up this case?  One would presume that the Democrats would want to conclude the ethics trial before the end of the lame-duck session in order to have a majority on the House floor for Waters’ eventual punishment, but the news of the e-mails may have them hoping they can get everyone to forget about it forever.  That’s not likely to happen, but it may be a little more likely that a future Ethics committee may be looking into the actions of other Financial Services Committee members.”

I have to agree that the Democrats would probably want this to magically disappear into oblivion or want to deal with it while they are still in the majority in the House.  To have this case still open in January seems to me to be a very risky move–if I were on the House Financial Services Committee, I wouldn’t be sleeping soundly right now!

If Congress Won’t Pass It, Use Executive Power

Townhall.com has posted an article about some of the legislative goals that have failed in Congress that President Obama will attempt to enact through other means.  Two of these items are the implementation of Cap and Trade through the Environmental Protection Agency and the implementation of ‘card check’ through the National Labor Relations Board.

The article reports:

“The EPA is currently soliciting public comments for its plan to use the Clean Air Act of 1970 to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The Clean Air Act, as the name indicates, is designed to fight against pollution — unhealthy chemicals that are belched into the air by smokestacks. It was passed to fight sulfur dioxide, particulates, nitrous oxides and other chemicals that cause human diseases. To use it to fight carbon dioxide — which we all breathe without ill effects — because of concerns about global warming is a perversion of the law.”

Does this mean the EPA is going to control how fast we breathe?

On card check, the article reports:

“Meanwhile, Craig Becker, the former chief counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — now the head of the NLRB — has secured a 3-2 party line majority to repeal the Dana decision, which mandates secret ballots in unionization elections. The NLRB will rule that if a majority of workers check off that they want a union on cards, then the union will automatically be approved without a secret ballot vote of the entire workforce.”

Both of these moves are going to have a very negative impact on our economy.  I wonder if Congress has the power to undo these decrees.  Hopefully, the new Congress seated in January will be able to undo the damage that would be done by putting these two ideas into effect.

Government Officials Need To Be Subject To The Same Laws As The Rest Of Us

My Way reported yesterday that cabinet secretaries, top congressional leaders and an exclusive group of senior U.S. officials are exempt from toughened new airport screening procedures when they fly commercially with government-approved federal security details.  Pilots and flight attendants are also exempt from the procedures.  How about also exempting 70-year-old grandmothers and children under the age of 10?

The horror stories coming out about these new procedures are coming fast and furious–from women chosen because of their body types, to small children being touched inappropriately, to a man whose colostomy bag was broken during the patdown.  The horror stories, combined with the fact that the people who may be a danger are being ignored while grandmothers and young women and children are being routinely groped, are reason enough to find a different way to do this.  There are serious questions as to whether these searches are constitutional, and I hope there will be some class action suits coming quickly.

The current screening procedure is not going to make us any safer–there are doubts as to whether the new procedures would have discovered the underwear bomber or anyone else carrying a small amount of explosive powder.  If the fear is that an explosive device would be brought on a plane, just let the bomb-sniffing dogs roam freely through our airports, or profile people with certain VISA stamps on their passports.


Escalation In Korea

Today’s CNS News posted an article today about the shelling of an island near the disputed sea border between North and South Korea. 

According to the article:

“The skirmish began when Pyongyang warned the South to halt military drills in the area, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters, albeit away from the North Korean shore, the North retaliated by bombarding the small island of Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations and a small civilian population.”

There is a lot going on here other than the shelling of the island. 

NPR reported yesterday:

“”We walked over to the window and that’s where we were stunned, because we saw row after row after row of centrifuges.”

“So says Robert Carlin, one of three Stanford University scientists who reported over the weekend about what they said is a “modern, small industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility with 2,000 centrifuges” at Yongbyon, North Korea.”

This is part of a much larger picture.  There are a few things to look at here when hearing news of the attack on South Korea by North Korea.  First of all, North Korea is not able to feed its starving population.  Their only export is weapons.  The money gained from weapons sales is their only hope for sustaining a viable economy.  North Korea is in the process of a leadership transition.  Kim Jong-il is probably dying and will be replaced by 26-year old Kim Jong-Un.  I have no idea how happy the people of North Korea are with the leadership change. 

Also keep in mind that North Korea is essentially a puppet state of China.  Regardless of the fact that America is a major trading partner of China, the government of China does not wish us well.  China is also closely aligned with Iran.  Any disruption by North Korea tends to take the focus of Americans off Iran’s nuclear program and allows Iran to move forward under less scrutiny. 

There is also a history of North Korea making aggressive moves during the American holiday season.  I am not sure what this latest provocation is about, but how the Obama Administration handles it is important.  Weakness will create more aggressive behavior from North Korea and too much strength will create a war situation.  This requires a very deft political hand.

What Happens To Our Taxes In January ?

Congress has not yet reached agreement on whether or not to extend the current tax rates (the extension being debated is not a tax cut for anyone–it is merely a continuation of the current tax rates). 

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line posted an article yesterday about some aspects of the debate.  The article points out:

“According to Continetti (Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard), the current Democratic strategy is to extend current middle class tax rates “permanently” while setting an expiration for upper-income rates. From the Democrats’ perspective, this approach makes plenty of sense. Raising taxes on the “rich,” which includes small businesses, is politically dangerous now, while the economy stagnates. The Dems likely would be far better off trying to soak the “rich” later on when (1) the issue is no longer coupled with tax rates for the those who make less than $250,000 and (2) the economy, one hopes, has improved.”

Decoupling the tax rates of those who make more than $250,000 from those who make less than $250,000 is a really bad idea.  (Just in case anyone assumes that I have a personal interest in this, I am not in danger of making $250,000 a year).  Unfortunately, inflation happens.  It will probably take at least ten years, but we will reach a point where $250,000 is middle class.  At that point the majority of Americans will be paying a higher tax rate than they imagined.

The article also points out:

“But the biggest risk would be incurred by President Obama. He still “owns” the economy in the public’s view. It would, I think, be astonishingly stupid if, in Continettit’s words, “the same team that brought you Obamacare [were to] produce, through its inaction, the largest tax increase in history.””

John Hinderaker at Power Line also points out that the Democrats in recent years, for reasons unknown, have become the party of the wealthy.  To raise taxes on the wealthy might easily cost the Democrats that demographic.

It will be interesting to see if the Democrat-controlled Congress will deal with the extension of the current tax rates in the lame-duck session or if they will let the Republicans deal with it in January.

Voter Fraud Charges Alleged In Worcester, Massachusetts

Today’s Worcester Telegram posted an article about a Worcester Election Commission Monday night. 

According to the article:

“In sworn affidavits presented to the commission last night, most of their allegations were leveled against the community activist group Neighbor to Neighbor. The poll observers said they repeatedly saw representatives of the group accompanying people into voting booths and telling them how to vote.”

Len Mead, who attended the meeting, noted the following:

“The memo supporters responded saying that when volunteers spotted illegalities they were constantly rebuffed or treated with hostility by Democrat Poll Wardens who said the challenges to the eligibility of voters was “discrimination.”   Further the election commission was told that in one instance, at least 20 people over the course of a day reported being called by “Neighbor to Neighbor” people who identified themselves as calling from the Election Commission with instructions that voting was required.  One individual stated, “They called to send me here – what do I do.”  Another said, “I never voted before, I need you to check it over” and the “help” was given in hushed tones, in Spanish, with much touch of the ballot – pointing to spots on the ballot, and with encouraging remarks as instructions were followed.   

“The Election Commission promised to send the 12 page list of voter fraud allegations to the Secretary of State and ask for clarification of some of the issues raised, particularly the issue of whether mentally incompetent individuals under guardianship should be allowed to vote at all even with “assistance.” 

“When asked for an estimated date when a response and action might be forthcoming,  an Election Commission spokesman responded, “We couldn’t even give a range of dates knowing the Secretary of State has many issues before them now.””

One of the problems with living in a one-party state is that the voters have no way of knowing if the complaints brought on Monday night will be seriously considered by the Secretary of State.  This is not a partisan issue–it is a voter integrity issue.  A democracy (or representative republic) cannot survive unless the integrity of the voting process is protected.  I hope the Massachusetts Secretary of State chooses to protect the election process.

Further information on this story, including the letter of complaint written to the Worcester Board of Elections Commission can be found at Fleming and Hayes.  Please follow this link for more information.

More Reasons For Repeal And Replace

This article is based on two articles, one by Guy Benson at Townhall.com and one at the Weekly Standard Blog.  At Townhall, Guy Benson reports on a regulation in Obamacare that allows the Health and Human Services department to mandate insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of the premium dollar on medical care and quality.  For employer plans covering more than 50 people, the requirement is 85 cents.  Insurers that fall short of the mark will have to issue their customers a rebate.  I wonder if the 80 cents includes customer service representatives.  Can you imagine the disaster that will occur as a result of this law if customer service is not included in the 80 cents?  When did the government discover the right to tell private corporations how they can spend their money?

The article at Townhall further explains:

“This is incredible.  By its own actuary’s admission, the federal government’s new healthcare overhaul fails to curb spiraling costs — which was a prime raison detre for the new legislation in the first place.  Not satisfied with missing the mark on Obamacare, and racking up tens of trillions in unfunded government-run healthcare liabilities, the federal government is now insisting that private insurers accede to its proven incompetence infinite wisdom on cost-reduction — under penalty of law.” 

Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard Blog reports

“The Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare Advantage funding would be cut by more than a quarter of a trillion dollars ($254 billion) in Obamacare’s real first decade (2014 to 2023), which amounts to cuts of about $25,000 for each of the roughly 10 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Those cuts wouldn’t be made if Obamacare is repealed in January of 2013, but $8 billion will be cut by the end of 2012.  These Medicare cuts — both the $8 billion and the $254 billion — wouldn’t be used to make Medicare more solvent over the long haul, but would instead be spent on Obamacare.” 

This is no way to run a healthcare program.  We need to repeal and replace as soon as possible.

This Is Almost Funny

The Boston Herald is reporting today:

“Potheads who’ve found the grass is greener under the state’s mellowed-out marijuana law have racked up as much as $64,500 in unpaid fines in Boston alone, thumbing their noses at hundreds of citations that cops have written up, but authorities are powerless to enforce.”

Is this really a surprise?  The Herald further reports:

“Of the more than 760 $100 fines written up in Boston this year as of Nov. 4, police list 645 as unpaid with no way of accounting if any were cleared up at courts or by drop-ins to City Hall, a Herald review found.”

If this new law was supposed to raise money for the state, it has obviously failed. 

The Herald points out the problem:

“Cheryl Sibley, chief administrator of Boston Municipal Court, said there is “very limited recourse” for the courts to force payment if potheads don’t request a hearing to fight the ticket and police don’t seek a civil contempt hearing to enforce it.”

Meanwhile, the other side of the story:

“But Bill Downing, director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, insists the new right to toke should not have a price tag.

“”There’s this concept called freedom. The people of Massachusetts voted to tell the cops to leave these people alone. If they don’t pay their tickets, who cares? What, are you going to float city and town budgets on the backs of the pot-smoking public?””

I have two comments on this.  If cigarette smokers pay excessive taxes on their cigarettes, why shouldn’t pot smokers pay to smoke?  Also, no one has caused a car accident because they were driving under the influence of tobacco, can pot smokers say the same?

Why I Don’t Believe Everything I Hear

Yesterday I posted an article about a bill in the lame-duck session of Congress that would allow the Attorney General to shut down a website if he (or she) perceived copyright infringement issues.  This could be done on the Attorney General’s orders without proof or other inconvenient items.  The danger here of course is that the power would be used politically.  I say that to preface an article that shows how the internet can influence our perspective and refresh our memories.

I guess I am naive to believe that politicians tell the truth, but I actually believe that some of them do.  The internet, even with its faults, makes it very easy to review the recent history of a person’s statements.

When I watched Fox News Sunday yesterday, I heard Hillary Clinton say that she is not runing for President in 2012, 2016, or ever again.  RealClearPolitics has the video and the write-up of Hillary saying, “I am very happy doing what I’m doing and I am not in any way interested in or persuing anything in elective office.”  As soon as I heard that I was reminded of a previous statement Mrs. Clinton made in when she ran for the Senate in New York.  When she initially ran in 2000, she vowed to finish her term–not run for President.  When I went looking for news reports from 2006 to see if she made the same pledge when she ran for re-election, I couldn’t find any reports on whether or not she had made the pledge.  If anyone reading this has better information, I would love to hear it.  My question is this, “When Mrs. Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate in 2006, did she say she would finish her term and not run for President?”  Was her statement yesterday more of the same?  I don’t know.  This could be an interesting year. 

More Mischief In The Lame Duck Session

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced on 9/20/2010 by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.  On 11/18/2010 it was placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 648.  On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill.

Thomas.gov summarizes the bill as follows:

“Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act – Amends the federal criminal code to authorize the Attorney General (AG) to commence an action for injunctive relief against a domain name used by an Internet site that is “dedicated to infringing activities,” even where such a domain name is not located in the United States. Defines an Internet site that “dedicated to infringing activities” as a site that is: (1) subject to civil forfeiture; (2) designed primarily to offer goods or services in violation of federal copyright law; or (3) selling counterfeit goods.

“Requires the AG to maintain a public listing of domain names that the Department of Justice (DOJ) determines are dedicated to infringing activities but for which the AG has not filed an action. Allows parties to petition the AG to remove such a domain name from the list and obtain judicial review of the final determination in a civil action.”

This really sounds like a good idea, but there are a few problems.  A website called Wired.com points out:

“…bill that would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed “central to the activity” of the site — regardless if the website has actually committed a crime. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the “nuclear option,” which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites “off.””

Wired further points out:

“But the law’s critics do not believe that giving the federal government the right to shut down websites at will based upon a vague and arbitrary standard of evidence, even if no law-breaking has been proved, is a particularly good idea.”

The idea here is to stop the pirating of music, music videos, and creative properties where the creators should be paid for their work.  That is a noble idea.  Pirating music is not a good thing, but it is evidently fairly common among college students.  I have no problem with efforts to put a stop to this practice, but the risk of abusing the law are tremendous.

If the AG wants to shut down a site that is politically opposed to an administration, this law would give them the right to claim copyright violations and shut down the site without due process.  I don’t trust any politician with that kind of power. 

This is a well-intentioned bill that needs more work.  I am hopeful that it will not be rushed through in the lame-duck session.  It needs some sort of controls built into it that will protect free speech rights of people who disagree with whatever party is in power.  It would be a really good idea to postpone this until it can be looked at more closely and brought into line with First Amendment rights.