Archive for April 2nd, 2009

The Myth of 90 Percent: Only a Small Fraction of Guns in Mexico Come From U.S.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

You’ve heard this shocking “fact” before — on TV and radio, in newspapers, on the Internet and from the highest politicians in the land: 90 percent of the weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the United States.

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it to reporters on a flight to Mexico City.

— CBS newsman Bob Schieffer referred to it while interviewing President Obama.

— California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said at a Senate hearing: “It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers and mayors … come from the United States.”

— William Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified in the House of Representatives that “there is more than enough evidence to indicate that over 90 percent of the firearms that have either been recovered in, or interdicted in transport to Mexico, originated from various sources within the United States.”

There’s just one problem with the 90 percent “statistic” and it’s a big one:

It’s just not true.

In fact, it’s not even close. By all accounts, it’s probably around 17 percent.

What’s true, an ATF spokeswoman told, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency’s assistant director, “is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.”

But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing, because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.

“Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market,” Matt Allen, special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News.

Video: Click here to watch more on where the guns come from.

A Look at the Numbers

In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced — and of those, 90 percent — 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover — were found to have come from the U.S.

But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

Original Link.

Axe-Wielding Terrorist Kills Boy, 13, Wounds 7-Year-Old

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

An axe-wielding terrorist infiltrated the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin Thursday afternoon, killing a 13-year-old boy after hitting him in the head, and stabbing a 7-year-old with a knife.

World Both victims were rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Doctors pronounced one victim dead, and the other was in light to moderate condition after initially being listed as seriously wounded.

The attack ended after one resident who saw the younger boy running from the terrorist stepped in and disarmed the man.

“I saw a boy, aged 7 or 8, running past my house, and then I saw a 20-year-old man running after him,” the man who identified himself as Avinoam told Channel 10. “I approached him, and he turned to me and tried to attack me with the axe.”

“I grabbed his hand, we struggled, and I yelled for people to call for help and the police,” he continued.

“At a certain point, I managed to get the axe out of his hand,” Avinoam said. “I was on the ground, and at that point the man managed to escape.”

“I heard a little later that somebody tried to shoot him, but missed,” he said. “I saw in his eyes the urge to kill. I didn’t see what happened before I got outside, but I saw the wounded boy screaming, yelling that he was hurt.”

Roadblocks were set up throughout the area in an effort to catch the man. However, Channel 10 reported that the terrorist had most likely succeeded in escaping to a neighboring Arab village.

The settlement does not have a perimeter fence.

There was as yet no confirmation as to whether the attacker acted alone.

Security forces immediately launched an investigation to determine how the man entered the community. The initial assumption was that the terrorist was an Arab laborer and had therefore not aroused suspicion.

Less than an hour after the attack, the Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Fatah claimed responsibility. However, in the past the groups have taken credit for acts which they did not necessarily plan or perpetrate.

Following the attack, Magen David Adom raised its preparedness level throughout the country.

A Kadima MK who happened to be in the area at the time urged the Palestinian Authority to cooperate with Israeli forces to help catch the attacker.

“The first, most important thing is to find the murderer,” Gideon Ezra told reporters. “We must call on the Palestinian Authority to help catch this murderer.”

Another MK, David Rotem, from Israel Beiteinu, told reporters that the government would do everything it had to do to keep these incidents from reoccurring.

“If we need to bring back some roadblocks, we’ll bring back roadblocks,” he said. “And if we need to add new ones, we’ll add new ones.”

Original Link.

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Christian Gifts from Israel – The Jerusalem Gift Shop

Tax Hikes to Hit $250,000 Earners or Lower

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

The nation needs to face the fact that income will be redistributed and health care rationed under a federal budget plan moving through Congress at the behest of President Obama, according to an official who served under President Clinton.

The plan, according to Lawrence J. Haas, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, said Obama “wants to make permanent all the tax cuts from those years [2001 and 2003] for people making up to $250,000 a year and frankly to redistribute income a bit in a fair way so he would raise taxes on those above $250,000.”

Haas, who also was communications director for the White House Office of Management and Budget under the Clinton administration, later worked as director of public affairs for the president at Yale University.

The interview starts out with Haas’ condemnation of a GOP proposal for an alternative budget this year, saying it contains “unrealistic spending cuts.”

Haas also said in recent budgets, the income “has been redistributed … in exactly the other direction,” condemning tax cuts for anyone in an upper income bracket, a category that includes many business owners.

Haas said GOP plans for restraint are “radical.”

“They would impose … they propose to severely limit spending across the board other than for defense and veterans programs,” he said.

He explained the income redistribution plan:

“The tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 provided a disproportionate amount of the benefits for those in the top one, two percent of earners, so in essence what the president is attempting to do is make things a little bit fairer by way of asking those who have done so well in recent years to pay a little bit more … [while continuing] tax relief for people at the bottom, in the middle, in all candor who have struggled in recent years.”

He said while the president “has proposed” protecting from tax increases those who make less than $250,000, even that’s not assured.

“To the extent we need to raise taxes down the road we’re going to have to sort of work our way down that income level starting with people making over $250,000,” he said, “and maybe even going further down. I hope we don’t have to do too much of that.”

He said health care costs will play a major role in coming budgets.

“That’s going to cause us to make some real decisions as to who gets how much health care and when they get it,” he warned.

President Obama famously created an issue during the 2008 campaign by telling a plumber his goal was to spread the wealth.

WND also reported Obama believes the Constitution is flawed, because it fails to address wealth redistribution, and he says the Supreme Court should have intervened years ago to accomplish that.

Obama told Chicago’s public station WBEZ-FM that “redistributive change” is needed, pointing to what he regarded as a failure of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in its rulings on civil rights issues in the 1960s.

The Warren court, he said, failed to “break free from the essential constraints” in the U.S. Constitution and launch a major redistribution of wealth. But Obama, then an Illinois state lawmaker, said the legislative branch of government, rather than the courts, probably was the ideal avenue for accomplishing that goal.

In the 2001 interview, Obama said:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK

But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

Original Link.

House Backs New Pay Curbs at Bailed-Out Banks

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation to curb “excessive” employee pay at financial firms that receive government bailout funds, a measure that could supplant an earlier effort to heavily tax executive bonuses.

The bill, which passed on a 247-171 vote, would give the U.S. Treasury broad powers to prohibit “unreasonable and excessive” compensation and bonuses that are not based on performance standards.

The new curbs would apply to all employees, not just executives, of firms that have received capital investments from the Treasury’s $700 billion financial rescue fund. The standards also would cover compensation paid to an employee after leaving a firm or before joining it.

The “Pay for Performance Act of 2009” is among a number of efforts by Congress to claw back bonuses and curb pay in the wake of public anger over recent executive bonuses at insurer American International Group, which has received a bailout worth up to $180 billion.

“The Pay for Performance Act is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money, and two, no one should get rich off abject failure,” said one of the bill’s authors, Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat who co-authored the measure. “We should not pay an arsonist to put out his own fire, and we should not be paying an executive to ruin his own bank.”

The measure is largely expected to sideline a bill previously passed by the House of Representatives that aimed to impose a 90 percent tax on bonuses for certain executives at companies that receive taxpayer bailouts. That measure appeared to be losing momentum in the Senate.

The new and less aggressive approach would authorize the Treasury to provide the guidance on what is unreasonable or excessive, and what constitutes performance-based pay. Firms that pay back their government funds or set up a repayment schedule with the Treasury will no longer have to comply with the limits.

Also exempted are community banks that receive less than $250 million in government funds.

Original Link.

Obama’s Budget Resurrects ‘Death Tax’ – Kicks Small Businesses Again

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Emperor Obama: “Let the taxation begin!!”

President Obama’s budget keeps the estate tax at its 2009 level, which means the government gets 45 percent of a dead person’s estate valued over $3.5 million dollars or $7 million for a couple.

Republicans argue this tax doesn’t just strike the wealthy.

“It destroys a lot of small businesses and a lot of family farms and ranches in America,” said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

“People who aren’t wealthy, who may have built up value in land over generations and many family farms find themselves in situations where they’ve got to sell the farm in order the pay the taxes,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

In 2001 and 2003, Republicans helped push through President Bush’s tax cuts that lowered the estate tax from 55 percent to 45 percent this year and would have eliminated them next year.

Democrats contend that keeping the tax rate at 45 percent in 2010 is still a break from the 55 percent and insist the federal coffers would take too much of a hit if Congress completely repealed the tax.

“The total repeal would have a substantial additional impact on revenues,” said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C. “And this is also a time when we need to — we simply can’t be profligate about tax cuts. And we think we struck a good balance.”

Yet Obama’s own top economic advisor, Larry Summers, took an interesting position on the passage of wealth from one generation to the next.

“The evidence presented indicates that intergenerational transfers account for the vast majority of aggregate U.S. capital formation,” he wrote in a study that he co-authored in 1980.

If the estate tax is renewed next year, economists say small businesses need to plan ahead.

“By and large, the death tax is borne by people who own small businesses, who haven’t had the benefit of big corporate lawyers and big corporate accounting offices to prepare them for paying this tax,” said William Beach, a senior fellow in economics at the Heritage Foundation.

Ensign said he wants a zero percent death tax but since Republicans are in the minority, they’re offering a counter proposal: zero percent if your wealth is under $5 million dollars and between 15 to 35 percent for any amount over that.

Original Link.

“President Obama and the Danger of Overreaching” By Nathaniel Givens

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Back before the election, I summed up my view of Barack Obama’s campaign by calling it “The Biggest Con Job in American History.” The reasons for this are simple: 60 percent of Americans view themselves as conservatives and only 36 percent self-identify as liberal. If you do the math, this means that for Obama to win the election with 53% of the vote, more than one in five conservatives who voted cast their ballot for Obama.

Why would conservatives vote for Obama? Perhaps a sense of history outweighed politics. Perhaps they simply didn’t realize how astoundingly liberal Barack Obama’s record was. Most likely it was both. A pre-election Rasmussen poll found that 27 percent of Americans viewed Obama as “a political moderate.” Considering that, now you know why over 20 percent of American conservatives voted for Obama: the benefit was being part of something historical and the cost was mitigated by the mistaken belief that he was a centrist.

The problem with this scheme has always been what to do after the election. In an ordinary con, once you get the goods you skedaddle, but Obama has to stick around for 4 years and actually govern. Not just with rhetoric, but with actions: signing or vetoing bills, issuing executive statements, and so on and so forth. And he wants to get re-elected. And the powerful folks who have invested their time, money, and careers in him want him to get re-elected, too. This presents a dilemma for Obama — stick with his radical roots, or make his conversion to the mainstream genuine.

Like many Americans, I decided to make the most of the election results. I figured that Obama would take Meacham’s advice (many others said similar things), and that perhaps even if his record was liberal he would turn over a new leaf in the White House. This kind of optimism, combined with the very genuine historical significance of his inauguration, pushed his poll numbers to great heights. Immediately following the inauguration, in fact, they were up above 80 percent. They rapidly began to decline, however, and while you’d still hear about his healthy polls (in the low to mid 60s last time I checked) the decline wasn’t often mentioned. Likewise, skyrocketing negative numbers were often omitted. And the poll numbers were seldom put in historical perspective where (at this point in the presidency) Obama’s numbers are dead average.

For a president to go from national symbol of unity to merely average in such a short amount of time means that something changed. What was it?

Obama started actually governing, that’s what.

First, there was the long string of Obama appointees with tax troubles. As public attention turned to these questionable appointments, several had to jump ship. What’s worse, even journalists took note of the fact that Obama–for all this rhetoric about cleaning up Washington–was appointing primarily the exact lobbyists he promised to avoid.

Then, there was the amateur hour embarrassment of Gordon Brown’s reception at the White House. No formal press conference and disastrously mismatched gifts induced cringes here in America and indignation in the UK. The Hillary Clinton “Russian reset button” snafu occurred at roughly the same time, and hardly helped matters.

His executive orders on social issues have similarly gone over like lead balloons. One of his first acts was to overturn Bush restrictions on federal funding for abortions overseas. As a Gallup poll noted, this proved to be a spectacularly unpopular move, garnering support from just 35% of Americans. More recently, he rolled out his executive order on embryonic stem cell research at a conference which noted American columnist–and embryonic stem cell research supporter–Charles Krauthammer not only refused to attend, but then subsequently panned in a devastating critique. So far he’s managed to largely keep out of the press the accompanying executive order which undercut federal funding for embryonic stem cell research alternatives that are more immediately promising and less ethically controversial.

His aloof manner of speaking, over-reliance on TelePrompTers, and increasingly sharp tone when responding to those rare probing questions from journalists all contribute to the general feeling that Obama has his own agenda. His reckless spending–which the Congressional Budget Office has projected to run nearly $1 trillion deficits each year for the next decade–has spooked even moderates and given old-school fiscal conservatives sudden relevance and credibility. More importantly, they highlight the fact that whatever Obama is up to, it’s not merely fixing the economy. As Rahm Emanual and Hillary Clinton have been fond of saying recently: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

All of these factors have led to a steady decline in Obama’s popularity, a bleeding out which his increasingly boring press conferences are showing a decreasing ability to rectify. The celebrity is starting to wear thin, and Americans (finally) are starting to ask questions.

And, just as Americans and the media (shockingly) have started to ask questions, it looks like Obama is intent on answering them. And because of this I believe his popularity trend is about to turn a corner. And not in a good way. We’re talking about a shift in decline from “steady” to “precipitous,” from feather to lead balloon.

The fact is that with every additional day in office President Obama looks more and more like what he truly is, an extremely left-leaning ideologue, and less and less like the pragmatic centrist the American people thought they elected. And–because of previous administration blunders and the overall economic downturn–Americans are in a very skeptical mood these days. They’re going to be asking more and more questions, and they are not going to like the answers they find.

Obama appeared so unstoppable and politically deft that his political bumbling and incompetence since taking office have me wonder if there really has been some kind of Parent Trap identical twins shenanigans, or if the persona of Obama as unifying, post-partisan centrist was never more than a journalistic pipe-dream to begin with. Maybe the oratory was truly TelePrompTed. Maybe he never was the great politician he seemed to be. Or maybe–as many have begun to wonder–it is hubris that is leading him to disregard reality.

In either case, his disturbingly reckless and increasingly feckless attempt to radically reshape America is increasingly going to put him at odds with his own disenchanted electorate. It’s time for Obama to either pull back, or risk going so far that he earns a significant and damaging backlash.

Read the complete article here.

“The Illegal, Unconstitutional Bush-Obama Auto Bailout” by Terry Jeffrey

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

When the president takes an official action, let alone one fundamentally altering the relationship between government and a major industry, two questions must be asked: Is it constitutional? Does the president have legal authority to do it?

In the case of the auto-industry bailout and restructuring program begun under President Bush and now escalating under President Obama, the answer to both questions is: no.

The Bush-Obama intrusion into the auto industry is an illegal use of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) enacted by Congress in October, and it flatly violates a fundamental constitutional provision.

TARP authorized the treasury secretary to spend $700 billion, but it did not authorize him to spend it anywhere on anything. While the definition of what he could spend it on (“troubled assets”) was broad, the definition of where (“financial institutions”) was narrow.

“The secretary is authorized to establish the Troubled Asset Relief Program (or ‘TARP’) to purchase, and to make and fund commitments to purchase, troubled assets from any financial institution,” says the law.

The law gives “troubled asset” a two-part definition — and part two is admittedly a wild card.

“The term ‘troubled assets’ means — (A) residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before March 14, 2008,” says the law.

But part “(B)” says a “troubled asset” can also be “any other financial instrument that the Secretary, after consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, determines the purchase of which is necessary to promote financial market stability.”

Definition “(B)” allowed then-Secretary Henry Paulson to use TARP funds to purchase ownership stakes in banks rather than the mortgage-backed securities he initially told Congress he intended to purchase.

Nonetheless, the “troubled assets” Paulson purchased were indisputably from “financial institutions” as defined by the law.

“The term ‘financial institution,'” says the law, “means any institution, including, but not limited to, any bank, savings association, credit union, security broker or dealer, or insurance company, established and regulated under the laws of the United States or any State, territory, or possession of the United States … .”

In other words, no matter how much wiggle room the law gives the secretary in defining “troubled assets,” it does not give him the authority to purchase them from food, furniture or fishing rod makers. These are not “financial institutions.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Liberal Civil War in California; Enviros vs. Enviros

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

This one made me laugh. Apparently in energy strapped California, an attempt to generate “green” energy, in this case solar, has run headlong into the…desert tortoise.
So here’s the situation:
California wants to set up solar arrays in the Mojave desert. You know, lots of sun, very little rain, no people, buildings, roads, etc. to get in the way. But apparently to some other California enviros, Senator Dianne Feinstein included, it would be an ecological disaster of Biblical proportions. In the words of one enviro, one Mr. David Myers, executive director of the Wildlife Conservancy, installing the solar arrays “would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem”. Wow, Biblical proportions, I tell you.
Now if I’m not mistaken, the tortoise has been around for a really long time. They have successfully survived for thousands of years. To hear Mr. Myers speak, Mr. Tortoise is going to go extinct if he has to detour around the pedestals of a solar array, instead of having a straight shot to his succulent dinner of desert cactus plants.
I love it when enviros go head to head. It means the rest of the rational world is spared from their insanity, at least for a short time anyway.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, thinks he has a partial solution to America’s dependence on foreign oil. But he says liberals and environmentalists are rejecting his plan to make it easier to build solar and wind power stations. California’s Mohave Desert is an inhospitable place, he notes, but 19 companies think it’s perfect for siting solar or wind facilities on 500,000 acres owned by the federal government there.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who used to be San Francisco’s mayor, is having none of it. She is pushing legislation to turn the land into a national monument, which would prevent such development.

Mr. Rohrabacher — who notes 130 pending applications for solar power projects on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management — is appalled that environmentalists are blocking such plants by demanding time-consuming environmental-impact studies. He tells me that though the BLM has lifted a moratorium on new solar projects on public land that it imposed in 2005, applications are still being clogged up in a bureaucratic pipeline and no new permits have been issued to date. “We need solutions on many levels, and freeing up bottlenecks to alternative energy is one of them,” he says.

But Senator Feinstein says the Mojave land was purchased by the government a decade ago at a discount from the former Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroad with the expectation the land would remain pristine. David Myers, executive director of the Wildlife Conservancy, says putting solar projects on it would be threatening to local desert tortoises. “It would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem,” he told the Associated Press.

Senator Feinstein concurs. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, she called the proposed solar projects “unacceptable” and urged him “to suspend any further consideration of leases to develop former railroad lands for renewable energy or for any other purpose.”

Even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a noted environmentalist, has had enough of such arguments. “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it,” he told students at Yale University last year.

Original Link.