Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Administration (Again) Blames Oil Companies For Lack Of Drilling

Administration (Again) Blames Oil Companies For Lack Of Drilling
By Sean Higgins
Tue., March 29, 2011 6:30 PM ET
Tags: Obama - Oil - Energy - Natural Gas - Drilling

Earlier this month, Capital Hill predicted that a forthcoming Interior Department study would “prove” a favorite talking point of President Obama and other Democrats: One reason why gas prices are high is because oil companies are refusing to drill on land leased from the federal government.

Well, the report is out and that is pretty much what it does.

The oil industry has never denied that a lot of the leases in question are not developed. The problem, they say, is that it takes a long, long time to get to the point of drilling. They have to find out where the oil is first, and that’s not easy. Even if they do pinpoint it, there may not be enough to make it worth the expense of pulling it out of the ground.

Now maybe that is not true. Maybe it is just a cover story. (A Rand Corp. energy expert told IBD that the industry was telling the truth.)

Anyone hoping for any clarity on this from the Interior report will be sorely disappointed. Not only does the report fail to refute the industry’s claim, it doesn’t even acknowledge it. What it does do is slyly push the same argument that the administration and congressional Democrats have been using.

Here’s an Interior press release summarizing the report:

According to the report, more than 70% of the tens of millions of offshore acres under lease are inactive, neither producing nor currently subject to approved or pending exploration or development plans. This includes almost 24 million inactive leased acres in the Gulf of Mexico, which potentially could hold more than 11 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The same press release quotes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as saying:

“These are resources that belong to the American people, and they expect those supplies to be developed in a timely and responsible manner and with a fair return to taxpayers. As we continue to offer new areas onshore and offshore for leasing, as we have done over the last two years, we will also be exploring ways to provide incentives to companies to bring production online quickly and safely.”

By coincidence, this supports the very arguments Democratic lawmakers have been voicing on the subject. By another coincidence, Democratic lawmakers are pushing the kind of “incentive” that Salazar calls for, dubbed “Use it or lose it” legislation. It would penalize companies for not developing the leased land.

The Western Energy Alliance, an industry group, dismissed the report:

DOI continues to ignore all the exploratory, environmental analysis, regulatory and permitting work that companies are doing on their leases, and its own role in holding up development. Our public land managers should know that obtaining a lease is just the first step in a lengthy process filled with bureaucratic hurdles. If this Administration was serious about domestic energy production from federal lands, it would ease some of the redundant red tape that is preventing companies from developing leases they currently hold.

Community Reinvestment Act: Separating Fact From Fiction - IBD - Investors.com

Community Reinvestment Act: Separating Fact From Fiction

Posted 03/29/2011 06:26 PM ET

Cover-Up: Acorn clones using the Community Reinvestment Act to shake down banks aren't happy with our campaign to expose the truth about the CRA's central role in the financial crisis.

The Greenlining Institute is typical. The Berkeley, Calif.-based community organizer fired off a letter to us complaining about our March 21 editorial "WaMu: Guilty Only Of CRA Compliance."

In it, we argued that Washington Mutual, a CRA poster boy in the run-up to the crisis, is now a convenient whipping boy for the same regulators who pressured the bank into making the "reckless" multicultural loans they're suing it over today.

"IBD's continued insistence that the Community Reinvestment Act was responsible for the subprime mortgage meltdown has been refuted by virtually every reputable authority in the field," wrote Greenlining spokesman Bruce Mirken. "That includes nine of 10 members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, including three out of four Republican appointees."

The Greenlining official added: "While some cling dearly to the myth that the CRA was the culprit, simply repeating a statement endlessly does not make it true."

Greenlining's pique is understandable. It helped fuel the subprime crisis by using the CRA to leverage large banks like WaMu for record loan set-asides for uncreditworthy minorities. Then it extorted even more money when the banks announced merger plans, filing protests with federal regulators to delay their bids.

Greenlining even got a sweetheart WaMu mortgage for its own headquarters, according to the new book "The Great American Bank Robbery."

Now that the risky CRA loans that Greenlining pushed have led to record foreclosures, renewed inner-city blight and a widening of the racial "mortgage gap," Greenlining is lobbying Democrats to broaden the CRA's powers to close the mortgage gap and the "growing racial wealth gap."

In testimony last year, its executive director proposed subjecting all of corporate America to anti-discrimination regulation, not just banks.

Greenlining also worked behind the scenes with the Democrat-led Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, or FCIC, which misled the public by whitewashing the CRA's role in the crisis. The dishonesty in its final report, now in bookstores, is breathtaking — from its twisting and censoring of key facts to its shameless revising of history.

In light of the Obama administration's stated goal of expanding the CRA, separating fact from fiction regarding this issue is of towering importance — to set the historic record straight and to prevent another financial calamity.

FICTION: Because the CRA was passed in 1977, long before the subprime crisis, it couldn't have caused the recent explosion in bad loans.

FACT: The toothless 1977 regulations fully expired in July 1997, when President Clinton rewrote them to toughen CRA enforcement as part of a crusade to close the "mortgage gap" between blacks and whites.

For the first time, banks were required to show results. One of the five performance criteria in the "lending test" — the most heavily weighted component of the CRA exam — was adopting "flexible lending practices" to address the credit needs of poor borrowers in "predominantly minority neighborhoods." Banks that didn't bend their underwriting rules risked flunking the exam.

Ex-Federal Reserve Board Gov. Lawrence Lindsey, a staunch CRA defender, acknowledges that the changes "did contribute to a downgrading of credit standards."

Under Clinton's CRA "investment test," moreover, banks for the first time earned CRA credit for purchasing subprime securities. A wave of these securitizations in the secondary mortgage market and on Wall Street began in 1997, which also happened to mark the start of the housing bubble.

Other changes transformed the once-dormant act into a weapon in the hands of Acorn, Greenlining and other shakedown groups who were quick to brand banks with prudent lending requirements as "racist."

Clinton empowered the groups by making their public comments about bank lending in urban areas a key part of CRA evaluations and giving CRA credit to banks that provided them grants and other payola.

FICTION: "Many of these (CRA) loans were not very risky," the FCIC report claims.

FACT: Studies show that CRA loans have higher delinquencies and defaults and act as a major drag on bank earnings. In 2008, CRA loans accounted for just 7% of Bank of America's total mortgage lending, but 29% of its losses on home loans. Also, banks with the highest CRA ratings tend to have the lowest safety and soundness ratings.

FICTION: Only 6% of subprime loans were originated by banks subject to the CRA, so the vast majority of risky lending was not tied to the law.

FACT: Among other things, the figure does not count the trillions of dollars in CRA "commitments" that WaMu, BofA, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and other large banks pledged to radical inner-city groups like Acorn, Greenlining and Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America (NACA) after they used the public comment process to protest bank merger applications on CRA grounds.

The CRA requires the Federal Reserve to consider the CRA performance of the bank seeking such approvals. It's the law's chief enforcement mechanism. And community organizers exploited it to a fare-thee-well.

All told, they shook down banks for $4.6 trillion in such commitments before the crisis, boasts a report by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, or NCRC, the nation's top CRA lobbyist (which conveniently removed the report from its website during the FCIC hearings).

FICTION: The Fed "never considered pledges to community groups in evaluating mergers and acquisitions," the FCIC report claimed, failing again to tell the full story.

FACT: The Fed based its decisions in large part on input from CRA advocacy groups, who gave a thumbs up or down to the proposed mergers depending on how much the banks pledged in new urban lending. So these pledges were a form of ransom that banks paid to groups holding their expansion plans hostage.

"Banks had the impression that they could not obtain regulatory approval of a merger or acquisition unless they made all the advocates 'go away happy,'" said former JP Morgan Chase officer Mark Willis, as quoted in "The Great American Bank Robbery."

Don't take his word for it. Listen to Washington's top CRA lobbyist tell it.

"The federal agencies are required to consider public comments in issuing CRA ratings and rendering decisions on merger applications. Comments on a bank's CRA record often bolster the bank's performance," NCRC President John Taylor said in 2007. "CRA agreements are often negotiated between banks and community groups during the merger application process."

FICTION: "These commitments were generally promises by financial institutions to lend," claimed FCIC Chairman Phil Angelides, and they weren't necessarily fulfilled.

FACT: The NCRC said banks followed up on their commitments. A study by the Brookings Institution concluded that they "consistently" met their targets.

The University of Connecticut tracked $1 trillion in loan commitments pledged since 1993 and found that by 2000 the banks had made well over $600 billion of the loans.

FICTION: "These loans performed well," the FCIC report maintained.

FACT: Brookings found that the loan commitments were set aside for low-income minorities with "marginal credit scores" and posed a higher risk. They were even riskier than regular CRA loans, because the banks delegated underwriting authority to the nonprofit shakedown groups, which had no experience judging credit risk.

NACA thinks traditional underwriting standards are "patronizing and racist." It advertises that anyone — "regardless of how bad your credit is" — can qualify for the mortgages it's arranged through special deals with banks. Not surprisingly, one study found that its delinquency rates were eight times higher than the national average.

Banks reported delinquency rates ranging from 5% to 50% on loans made pursuant to their merger-related commitments.

Yet the FCIC refused to investigate the more than 300 CRA agreements that banks and community organizers entered into before the subprime bubble burst.

Despite repeated requests by Commissioner Peter Wallison, the panel never examined the performance of the trillions in loan commitments.

"Commission management constrained the staff in their investigation into CRA by limiting the number of document requests and interviews and by preventing staff from following up with the institutions," said Wallison, a former Reagan Treasury official.

Without seriously looking into the issue, the FCIC published a report absolving the CRA of any blame for the financial crisis.

Why would Chairman Angelides steer blame away from the CRA? Because he's a big fan of the CRA. And as California state treasurer, from 1999 to 2007, he steered billions in state funds into unsafe CRA mortgages securitized by Freddie Mac.

At the time, Greenlining advised Angelides on where to invest California state funds, even providing him with its own CRA report card on "good" and "bad" banks. He has also personally benefited from CRA projects brokered by his real estate development firms, according to "The Great American Bank Robbery."

As part of the CRA racket, Angelides should have been a witness in the crisis investigation, not its chief inquisitor. With the cover-up complete, he now hopes that CRA critics will go away.

"The debate about the role of the CRA should now be over as evidence presented in the commission's report is clear," Angelides declared earlier this month.

Sorry, sir, but the debate will end when the public has all the facts, not just your cooked report.

American Thinker Blog: Educating Bill O'Reilly on the 'Rape Factor' in Islam

Educating Bill O'Reilly on the 'Rape Factor' in Islam
Andrew G. Bostom
Last night for a few brief shining television moments (captured here), Wafa Sultan, courageous author of the indispensible jeremiad "A God Who Hates," strove gamely to educate Bill O'Reilly -- often seemingly impenetrable by facts regarding Sharia -- about how Islamic Law, patterned on the "perfect example" of Islam's prophet Muhammad, sanctions rape.



The news "hook" for Wafa's unfortunately rare appearance was the recent alleged rape of a Libyan woman, Iman Al-Obeidi by Qadaffi's minions.

As a working physician in her native Syria, Wafa noted that she was familiar with "many such crimes" committed with the sanction of Sharia -- Islamic Law. She elaborated that under Sharia,

Any sexual activity is considered the given right of a male...A Muslim woman cannot report being raped because she will be asked to provide four witnesses otherwise she will be accused of committing adultery, and she will be stoned to death.


The scholar Ibn Warraq affirms this "iniquitous situation." He notes that Koran 24.4 states: "And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony - They indeed are evil-doers." But Warraq elaborates how this injunction renders women defenseless under misogynistic Islamic Law, past and present:

Muslim jurists will only accept four male witnesses. These witnesses must declare that they have "seen the parties in the very act of carnal conjunction." Once an accusation of fornication and adultery has been made, the accuser himself or herself risks punishment if he or she does not furnish the necessary legal proofs. Witnesses are in the same situation. If a man were to break into a woman's dormitory and rape half a dozen women, he would risk nothing since there would be no male witnesses. Indeed the victim of a rape would hesitate before going in front of the law, since she would risk being condemned herself and have little chance of obtaining justice. "If the woman's words were sufficient in such cases," explains Judge Zharoor ul Haq of Pakistan, "then no man would be safe.


Responding to Wafa Sultan's remarks, Mr. O'Reilly expressed his (uninformed) incredulity regarding the teaching, and example of Islam's prophet:

I find it hard to believe that the prophet Muhammad would preach a doctrine where any woman can be abused at any time by any Muslim man and be held not accountable.


And Wafa replied, appropriately

You need to get familiar with Muhammad's life and how he treated women in his life...Don't forget, Muhammad is the role model for every Muslim man.


Notwithstanding the predictable American Muslim Brotherhood taqiyya O'Reilly is likely to air in the coming days as a "fair and balanced" riposte to Wafa's irrefragable presentation, some salient details merit review.

What was Muhammad's "perfect" role model? And what do Islam's canonical texts, especially the Koran and the hadith (Muhammad's "guiding" words and deeds as recorded by his pious Muslim companions), opine on these matters?

Using the Koranic "revelation" as justification, Muhammad insists that he is entitled, not simply his own wives, but those captured in battle, and cousins as well, as per Allah's grant in Koran 33:50.

O Prophet, We have made lawful for thee thy wives whom thou hast given their wages and what thy right hand owns, spoils of war that God has given thee, and the daughters of thy uncles paternal and aunts paternal, thy uncles maternal and aunts maternal, who have emigrated with thee, and any woman believer, if she give herself to the Prophet and if the Prophet desire to take her in marriage, for thee exclusively, apart from the believers -- We know what We have imposed upon them touching their wives and what their right hands own -- that there may be no fault in thee; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.


Koran 4:24 extends the "privilege" of having sexual intercourse with captured slave women to all Muslim men.

For example, Muhammad and his minions attacked and subdued the prosperous Jewish tribe Banu-Mustaliq in a surprise raid (during 626 A.D.). The Banu al-Mustaliq males were slaughtered and the "booty" included the victims' women. Juwayriyya, the most beautiful captive and daughter of the leader of the Banu al-Mustaliq was taken as a "bride" for Muhammad himself. The mass rape by "coitus interruptus" of the captured women-as sanctioned by Muhammad-was described in a canonical hadith, thusly:

(Sunan Abu Dawud 2167) -- Muhairiz said: I entered the mosque and saw Abu Sa'id al-Khudri. I sat with him and asked about withdrawing the penis (while having intercourse). Abu Sa'id said: We went out with the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to Banu al-Mustaliq, and took some Arab women captive, and we desired the women, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, and we wanted ransom; so we intended to withdraw the penis (while having intercourse with the slave-women). But we asked ourselves: Can we draw the penis when the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) is among us before asking him about it? So we asked him about it. He said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born."


Moreover, according to modern Western law (for example this Canadian law), statutory rape is sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 14 - a punishable offense unless both parties are aged within two years of each other, or the accused is aged 12 to 13. Here is how the two most important canonical hadith collections describe Muhammad's "relationship" with Aisha - their "marriage contract" and its sexual consummation - when the Muslim prophet was some four decades older than his child bride (aged 6-7 at the time of her "marriage"):

Sahih Muslim, Book 008, Number 3311: Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and she was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 88: Narrated Ursa: The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151: Narrated Aisha: I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah's Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, who had not yet reached the age of puberty.)

Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 5981: Aisha reported that she used to play with dolls in the presence of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and when her playmates came to her they left (the house) because they felt shy of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), whereas Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent them to her.


The ugly living legacy of such pedophilia persists in Islamic communities across the globe from Yemen, to Afghanistan-to Britain. Here is a description of the modern horrors, including rape, engendered by Muhammad's "sacralized" example from a contemporary female Muslim child "bride" living in the West-in London:

"I told them I was terrified and desperate, that I was just a child and far too young to get married. I pleaded with them to help me escape, but no one saw anything wrong in what was happening. I begged my husband not to marry me, but he told me I had no choice." Despite being two years below the British age of consent, Ayse was moved into her cousin's family home, where she lived openly as his wife in the local Kurdish Turkish community. "I was all alone in a foreign country, unable to speak the language," she said. "I was trapped. Until I escaped, I didn't even realize that marrying at 14 wasn't legal in Britain: everyone I knew in London regarded it as normal." In the two years before she reached 16, the sex Ayse was coerced into having with her cousin was statutory rape. "It was disgusting, awful," she said. "I used to scream and cry all night. I was too young, too tender. It killed me inside. Life became meaningless."


Of course since Koran 2:223 states that women are "tilth" to be "cultivated" (or "plowed") as men please, contemporary mainstream, institutional Islam sanctions marital rape. As reported in the UK Independent (10/14/10), president of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, affirmed this view during March, 2010 interview. Sheikh Sayeed was in fact responding to an inchoate effort at modernizing the contracts which govern Muslim marriages in Britain. The good Sheikh, representing Britain's main Islamic Sharia court, the Islamic Sharia Council, promptly published a rebuttal of the contract, which included a statement on sexual abuse (page 6 here). He opined in the March interview:

Clearly there cannot be any "rape" within the marriage. Maybe "aggression", maybe "indecent activity."


He further rejected both the characterization of non-consensual marital sex as rape, and the prosecution of such offenders as "not Islamic." Sheikh Sayeed, who came to Britain from Bangladesh in 1977, also brazenly expressed his Sharia-supremacism and accompanying disdain for Western, i.e., British Law, stating

...to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.


Sayeed re-affirmed these sentiments to The UK Independent:

In Islamic sharia, rape is adultery by force. So long as the woman is his wife, it cannot be termed as rape.


Crowing with pride during his March 2010 interview, Sheikh Sayeed maintained,

No other sharia council can claim they are so diverse as ours because other sharia councils, they are following one school of fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence]. Ours is diverse -we are hanafi, shafi'i, hanbali.we have Bangladeshi...we have Pakistani, we have Indian, we have Palestinian, we have Somali scholars on our board.


At present there are 16 main sharia courts around Britain, located in Birmingham, Bradford, and Ealing in West London. These institutions are "complemented" by more informal sharia-based tribunals-the think tank Civitas asserting that up to 85 tribunals currently exist in Britain.

But for those like Bill O'Reilly who naively -- and smugly -- proclaim such phenomena are absent within the Muslim communities of North America, consider AMJA, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. AMJA's mission statement claims the organization was, "...founded to provide guidance for Muslims living in North America...AMJA is a religious organization that does not exploit religion to achieve any political ends, but instead provides practical solutions within the guidelines of Islam and the nation's laws to the various challenges experienced by Muslim communities."

In response to the specific query, "Is there a such thing as Marital Rape?," the AMJA issued fatwa #2982:

In the name of Allah, all praise is for Allah, and may peace and blessing be upon the Messenger of Allah and his family. To proceed:

For a wife to abandon the bed of her husband without excuse is haram [forbidden]. It is one of the major sins and the angels curse her until the morning as we have been informed by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). She is considered nashiz (rebellious) under these circumstances. As for the issue of forcing a wife to have sex, if she refuses, this would not be called rape, even though it goes against natural instincts and destroys love and mercy, and there is a great sin upon the wife who refuses; and Allah Almighty is more exalted and more knowledgeable.


An ocean apart from Britain -- now a recognized Western hotbed for "Islamic fundamentalism" -- the same Sharia-sanctioned misogynistic bigotry prevails in a North American clerical organization openly advising US and Canadian Muslims.

Let us hope against hope Wafa Sultan's appearance opens Bill O'Reilly's eyes -- and his audience's-to disturbing reality.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Eyes of Texas Are Sparkling in the 2010 Census

The Eyes of Texas Are Sparkling in the 2010 Census
By Michael Barone

The Census Bureau last week released county and city populations for the last of the 50 states from the 2010 Census last week, ahead of schedule. Behind the columns of numbers are many vivid stories of how our nation has been changing -- and some lessons for public policy, as well.

Geographically, our population is moving to the south and west, to the point that the center of the nation's population has moved to Texas County, Missouri.


That sounds like the familiar story of people moving from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt, but that's not exactly what's happening. Instead, the fastest growth rates in the 2000-10 decade have been in Texas, the Rocky Mountain states and the South Atlantic states.

We're familiar with the phenomenon of people moving to the West Coast. But the three Pacific Coast states -- California, Oregon and Washington -- grew by 11 percent in the last decade, just 1 percent above the national average, while the South Atlantic states from Virginia through the Carolinas and Georgia to Florida grew by 17 percent.

In 2000, the South Atlantic states had 121,000 more people than the Pacific Coast states. In 2010 they had 2.8 million more.

What's been happening is that people from the Northeast and the Midwest have been flocking to the South Atlantic states, not to retirement communities but to Tampa and Jacksonville, Atlanta and Charlotte and Raleigh, which are among the nation's fastest-growing metro areas. The South Atlantic has been attracting smaller numbers of immigrants, as well.

Coastal California, in contrast, has had a vast inflow of immigrants and a similarly vast outflow of Americans. High housing costs, exacerbated by no-growth policies and environmental restrictions, have made modest homes unaffordable to middle class families who don't want to live in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods or commute 50 miles to work.

California for the first time in its history grew only microscopically faster than the nation as a whole (10 percent to 9.7 percent). Metro Los Angeles and San Francisco increasingly resemble Mexico City and Sao Paulo, with a large affluent upper class, a vast proletariat and a huge income gap in between.

Public policy plays an important role here -- one that's especially relevant as state governments seek to cut spending and reduce the power of the public employee unions that seek to raise spending and prevent accountability.

The lesson is that high taxes and strong public employee unions tend to stifle growth and produce a two-tier society like coastal California's.

The eight states with no state income tax grew 18 percent in the last decade. The other states (including the District of Columbia) grew just 8 percent.

The 22 states with right-to-work laws grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew just 6 percent.

The 16 states where collective bargaining with public employees is not required grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew 7 percent.

Now some people say that low population growth is desirable. The argument goes that it reduces environmental damage and prevents the visual blight of sprawl.

But states and nations with slow growth end up with aging populations and not enough people of working age to generate an economy capable of supporting them in the style to which they've grown accustomed.

Slow growth is nice if you've got a good-sized trust fund and some nice acreage in a place like Aspen. But it reduces opportunity for those who don't start off with such advantages to move upward on the economic ladder.

The most rapid growth in 2000-10, 21 percent, was in the Rocky Mountain states and in Texas. The Rocky Mountain states tend to have low taxes, weak unions and light regulation. Texas has no state income tax, no public employee union bargaining and light regulation.

Texas' economy has diversified far beyond petroleum, with booming high-tech centers, major corporate headquarters and thriving small businesses. It has attracted hundreds of thousands of Americans and immigrants, high-skill as well as low-skill. Its wide open spaces made for low housing costs, which protected it against the housing bubble and bust that has slowed growth in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The states, said Justice Brandeis, are laboratories of reform. The 2010 Census tells us whose experiment worked best. It's the state with the same name as the county that's the center of the nation's population: Texas.

MOBILE AMERICA

MOBILE AMERICA
By
Neal Boortz
@ March 29, 2011 8:34 AM Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (0)

As we learn more and more about our current population, thanks to the Census Bureau, we are also getting a glimpse into the American psyche - Americans are driven to seek places where there are less taxes, less government spending and less union influence. Michael Barone has a few highlights for us.

* The lesson is that high taxes and strong public employee unions tend to stifle growth and produce a two-tier society like coastal California's.

* The eight states with no state income tax grew 18 percent in the last decade. The other states (including the District of Columbia) grew just 8 percent.

* The 22 states with right-to-work laws grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew just 6 percent.

* The 16 states where collective bargaining with public employees is not required grew 15 percent in the last decade. The other states grew 7 percent.

* The most rapid growth in 2000-10, 21 percent, was in the Rocky Mountain states and in Texas. The Rocky Mountain states tend to have low taxes, weak unions and light regulation. Texas has no state income tax, no public employee union bargaining and light regulation.

The fact is that many of these states believe that the more taxes you impose, particularly on the rich, the more money they will get in order to fund their bigger-government scheme and wealth distribution plans. But that is entirely not the case. Fostering a friendly economic climate with low taxes, low spending and right-to-work are ultimately what drives people to a state, thereby increasing potential tax revenue and economic gain. Meanwhile, as these high-tax, high-spending states continue to lose revenue, they continue to raise taxes. In California, for example, "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." But it's state saw less growth compared to lower tax states, and it is also in a gigantic financial hole .. considering that the top 1% of earners are also the most volatile income group to rely upon. The Wall Street Journal also points out, "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."

It's not rocket surgery, unless you are a liberal who cannot understand why people would want less government in their lives.

American Thinker: Assassinating Gaddafi

Assassinating Gaddafi
By Paul Kengor
When we think of the French, America, and Gaddafi's Libya, we tend to think of April 1986, when America fighter planes swarmed Tripoli, lighting up the Libyan night, barely missing Moammar Gaddafi, who had been sleeping in a tent outside his compound. The French, led by President Francois Mitterand, had not exactly supported us. Today, ironically, the French are demonstrating clearer resolve and purpose over the Libyan skies than our own commander-in-chief.

In 1986, our president was Ronald Reagan; today, it isn't.

There's an especially fascinating tidbit concerning the French, Gaddafi, and America, which, to my knowledge, went unreported (and remains largely unknown) until disclosed in my 2007 biography of Bill Clark, titled, The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand.

A quick word on Clark: Bill Clark is a great man -- some would argue a national hero. He was Ronald Reagan's closest adviser. Next to Reagan himself, no American did more to defeat the USSR in the 1980s. And then, after all that, the unassuming Clark rode off into the sunset, retreating to his ranch in central California. He refused to cash in on a million-dollar book deal. Reagan insiders and biographers, from Cap Weinberger to Lou Cannon, pleaded with Clark to write memoirs, knowing he had much to tell -- things the world didn't know. A model of humility, Clark wouldn't do it.

Finally, two decades after leaving the Reagan administration, Clark grudgingly relented to agree to a biographer: me. Among the things Clark revealed to me was a French request to the Reagan administration to assassinate Gaddafi. Here's what I learned:

Shortly after Reagan's inauguration, French intelligence came to the new president with a highly sensitive plan. Alexandre de Marenches, director of France's external intelligence agency, arrived in Washington with a plan to assassinate the Libyan dictator during a parade, by use of an explosive device placed near the reviewing stand. As Clark and I revisited this meeting over 20 years later, we were unable to locate notes. After consulting several former U.S. intelligence officials, plus other materials, we estimated that the meeting probably occurred in early February 1981, not even a full month into the Reagan presidency. And what was Reagan's response?

"Our answer," said Clark, "was that we understood their [the French] feelings toward the man, but we don't do assassinations."

There was an executive order banning assassinations, first signed by President Gerald Ford and supported by President Jimmy Carter. The Reagan administration had no intention of violating the order, especially as one of its first foreign-policy acts. Reagan was already holding meetings with his foreign policy team, including our own intelligence chief, Bill Casey, on how to kill the Soviet Union -- not Gaddafi.

It's important to place de Marenches' request in presidential context. Jimmy Carter had allowed Gaddafi to push the American Sixth Fleet out of the Gulf of Sidra, among other stunning shows of weakness. Carter was out, and Reagan was in. Reagan had met de Marenches before, specifically in Los Angeles on December 16, 1980 during the transition for the president-elect. The Frenchman was impressed, remarking on Reagan's "modesty" and lack of "self-importance," and shared Reagan's view on the evils of communism; on that December day, he warned Reagan of "the empire of evil." (De Marenches later titled his memoirs, The Evil Empire.)

Intelligence sources that I interviewed for The Judge confirmed Clark's recollection of de Marenches' request. "He came over to the U.S. probably in early February 1981," said one source. "His interlocutor was Vice President Bush. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the removal of Gaddafi. He came to try to get us involved operationally in the plan.... He wanted not just our moral or political support but to get us involved in the actual operation."

This same source underscored the so-called "Safari Club," the group of countries -- France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Shah's Iran -- which banded together to fight the spread of Soviet communism, particularly in Africa, as well as halting Gaddafi's adventures in neighboring Chad. The group was formed by intelligence heads in the mid-1970s, with de Marenches its catalyst. They were appalled by the United States' unwillingness to no longer stand up to the Soviets, in a post-Vietnam era marked by a liberal Democratic Congress and president.

The Club sought to fill a vacuum left by weak American liberals.

In short, de Marenches' offer to Reagan was consistent with the concerns and purposes of the Safari Club.

As indication of the highly confidential nature of his overture, de Marenches, tellingly, didn't discuss his offer to Reagan in his 1986 and 1992 books. Quite the contrary, he noted that Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat on March 1, 1978 had asked de Marenches for help in "disposing of him [Gaddafi] physically." De Marenches merely recorded his confusion regarding precisely what Sadat had in mind. "The fact is," wrote de Marenches, "I was not in charge of a team of hired assassins."

Classic French behavior.

Ironically, Bill Clark was soon surprised to learn that he was an assassination target himself, by no less than Moammar Gaddafi. An NSC staffer named Oliver North informed Clark that he was being targeted.

Obviously, the Gaddafi assassination never happened. How different things might have been, even now, 30 years later, had it taken place.

I'm not disappointed in Reagan for not joining the French. He couldn't. With the ban on assassinations, championed by weak Republican and Democratic "d├ętente" presidents, Reagan's hands were tied, especially so early in the administration and with the ultimate goal focused on taking down an Evil Empire.

In fact, Reagan certainly did what he could with Gaddafi. He wasted little time, mere months later, smacking down Gaddafi in the Gulf of Sidra (click here), and then, five years later, hitting the Libyan dictator even more personally in bombing Tripoli in April 1986.

Nonetheless, this is a fascinating what-might-have-been, one that has slipped through the cracks of history. Clearly, it couldn't be more relevant right now, as Moammar Gaddafi continues to be a menace to the world.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, and the newly released Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

American Thinker: Obama's High Food Price Policy Stealing Milk from Babies

Obama's High Food Price Policy Stealing Milk from Babies
By Jeffrey Folks
The price of corn has reached a record $7 a bushel. Other basic foodstuffs, including wheat, sugar, and soybeans are selling at or near record prices. Milk prices as well have risen to record levels, making it more difficult for families to purchase milk for their children. It is Obama, more than anyone, who is responsible for this state of affairs.

While food prices have always been volatile, today's high prices are not just the result of weather and other natural forces. They are the consequence of a sinister conspiracy on the part of the left to raise prices and force an ever larger number of Americans into dependency. As of early March, milk prices were setting new record highs, along with near record highs for corn, wheat, soybean, and other staples. Where is the President on this? He is out there promoting ethanol mandates that burn 40% of the U.S. corn crop, raising the price of everything from milk and meat to pop-tarts.

Obama claims to care deeply about the lives of ordinary working Americans, but he is the one responsible for rising food and energy prices. When Americans went to the store in February and found that their food costs had risen at an annualized rate of 7.2%, they had Obama to thank for it.

It is not just the President's policy of expanding ethanol subsidies. It is also a weak-dollar policy that forces Americans into competition on unequal terms with foreign buyers. On March 25 the USDA revealed transactions that strongly suggest the return of China to U.S. corn markets. As a result, corn future prices climbed 14%. That increase of 14% will affect what American consumers can expect to pay in the months ahead for basic foodstuffs. If the dollar weakens further against the Chinese yuan, as many expect (and against other currencies), American consumers may find themselves paying more than that for global commodities like food.

The President's solution to rising food prices is, of course, more government. With 25 million Americans unemployed, over 15 million Americans on Social Security disability (SSDI or SSI), and over 43 million Americans on food stamps, Obama's "solution" is to increase dependency even further. The President's 2012 budget proposal includes increases in funding for the government's food stamp and WIC programs, while it continues funding at record levels for a myriad of other food programs.

If Obama were truly concerned about food security, he would address the fundamental issues, not try to paper them over by paying out ever larger sums of borrowed money to an ever larger number of recipients. But the Democrats are never going to address the fundamental issues -- partly because of pressure from environmentalists, unions, and corn-state lobbyists and partly because they want more Americans to be dependent on government assistance.

Democrats actually seem pleased to find that 43 million Americans are dependent on food assistance and that the number has risen by almost 30% million since Obama took office. That level of dependency translates into a large block of reliable votes.

Once they become dependent on government food aid, welfare recipients constitute a lifetime constituency focused exclusively on maintenance and expansion of benefits. No wonder Democrats aren't interested in reducing the cost of food and other essentials. Or, for that matter, increasing the number of jobs within the private sector. Their interest lies in nudging more and more Americans onto the dole.

This is not the first time that a left-wing president has consolidated his power by expanding dependency. During the Great Depression, FDR's alphabet-soup of relief agencies enrolled millions in unproductive make-work projects, even as crops went unharvested and industrial plants lay idle. As Amity Shlaes has shown in The Forgotten Man, Roosevelt's socialist boondoggles prolonged the Depression by years.

What is happening today, however, is unique: this is the first time in American history when an administration is deliberately forcing food prices higher in order to increase dependency and extend government control over the economy.

There is hardship ahead even for those not dependent on government aid. Despite our nation's vast agricultural resources, Americans are not immune to the kinds of food shortages that have existed throughout human history and that continue to exist in developing countries today. It takes only a short time for a nation to slip from abundance into impoverishment.

Most Americans do not think of Romania as a resource-rich nation, but a century ago Romania, with its productive agricultural sector, was among the richest countries in Europe. At that time no one could have imagined the suffering that lay ahead as the country descended into 80 years of war and communist rule. The abundant harvests that had once fed Romania's people were commandeered by the government and shipped abroad to bankroll the extravagant lifestyle of the rulers and to fund the state security apparatus necessary to defend it. This and fundamental mismanagement resulted in decades of hunger for the Romanian people.

For America the combination of corn ethanol mandates and a weak-dollar policy is, in effect, a "Romania-style" seizure of the nation's food supply. The left is intent on gaining control of America's natural resources -- its agricultural and energy sectors, in particular -- and for exactly the same reason they were seized in communist states such as Romania. The control of food and energy is the means by which the left hopes to gain permanent power over the American people.

America is approaching a future in which food will be expensive and in short supply. The combination of an ever expanding corn ethanol program and the demands of a tighter global market will make food less affordable and less available. What may not be so obvious is that the American left, led by Obama and Democrats in Congress, actually want food prices to rise, just as they want energy prices to rise, so as to create further dependency. If they did not, they would take simple measures to lower prices: eliminate ethanol mandates, eliminate protective tariffs, strengthen the dollar, and allow the free market to govern prices. But none of this will happen with the left in charge because high prices and shortages serve the interest of a party intent on centralized control of the economy.

This disaster can only be averted by the defeat of Obama and of the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2012, and by the removal of leftists from government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture. Above all, the nation must return to a free-market economy in which prices for food and all else are determined by supply and demand, not by the ambitions of leftists in Washington.

Obama Administration Under Mounting Pressure for Botched Gun Trafficking Investigation - FoxNews.com

Obama Administration Under Mounting Pressure for Botched Gun Trafficking Investigation

By William La Jeunesse

Published March 28, 2011 | FoxNews.com

Congress and the Department of Justice appear to be headed for a showdown this week over documents detailing Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gunrunning sting set up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that funneled more than 1,700 smuggled weapons from Arizona to Mexico.

The Justice Department has until Wednesday to deliver to congressional investigators a stack of records and emails naming the individuals responsible for the gun trafficking operation that may have killed dozens, if not hundreds of Mexicans, and is becoming a growing embarrassment for the Obama administration.

Under Project Gunrunner and the Phoenix off-shoot, dubbed Fast and Furious, the ATF encouraged gun store owners to sell to straw buyers -- consumers who they suspected of working on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.

Project Gunrunner purposely allowed the straw buyers to illegally buy and export guns only to see where they surfaced in Mexico. Using this investigative technique, the ATF hoped to take down the entire gun trafficking organization. Instead, records show it allowed more than 1,700 guns, including hundreds of AK-47s and high-powered, armor-piercing .50-caliber rifles to be trafficked to Mexico

Buying guns for non-personal use is illegal. Yet gun store owners were assured by ATF agents the buyers were under investigation and the guns were being intercepted before crossing into Mexico.

Instead, whistleblowers say the guns were allowed "to walk."

President Obama, speaking for the first time about the growing scandal, conceded last week Fast and Furious may have been "a serious mistake," but he claimed, "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 gunrunners and put them into jail."

But an investigation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, could show otherwise.

The ATF operates under Justice Department, and two assistant U.S. attorneys in Phoenix authorized virtually every wiretap, affidavit and investigation conducted in Operation Fast and Furious.

Some, like Issa, wonder how Holder could not have known about an investigation that size.

"One of the questions we always ask is who is lying," Issa told Fox News. "We lose our credibility if we don't come clean and make the changes necessary to save lives on both sides of the border."

If the Justice Department and ATF refuse to deliver the records Issa requested, as it already has done with similar requests by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Issa can subpoena the records.

"We will subpoena if we have to, we'll hold hearings if we have to, we'll call in officials if we have to. But at the end of the day, the two Americans likely to have died as a result of this action pale in comparison to the countless numbers of Mexicans who have been killed," said Issa.

He is referring to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jamie Zapata. The guns used to kill both men were bought in the U.S. and investigators will now see if they are linked to Project Gunrunner.

Humberto Trevino, a senior Mexican lawmaker, says at least 150 people have been shot with ATF-monitored guns.

Two of the gun stores involved were Carter's Country in Houston and J&G Gun Sales in Prescott, Ariz.

"Let me tell you something about Carter's Country. They have been co-operating with ATF from the get-go," says Carter's County attorney Dick Deguerin.

"They were told to go through with what they considered to be questionable sales. They were told to go through with sales of three or more assault rifles at the same time or five or more 9-mm guns at the same time or a young Hispanic male paying in cash. It's all profiling, but they went through with it."

Both gun stores felt burned by the ATF -- first by leaked records to The Washington Post that showed the two stores responsible for dozens of guns found at Mexican crime scenes, and now by Operation Fast and Furious.

"You assumed they had your back," added J&G President Brad Desaye. "Absolutely, we felt like partners with ATF in a lot of ways."

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in a Feb. 4 letter the operation's purpose was "to dismantle the entire trafficking organization, not merely to arrest straw purchasers."

"The allegation -- that ATF 'sanctioned' or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico -- is false," he wrote.

Holder also says his department policy is not to "let guns walk."

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/03/28/obama-administration-mounting-pressure-botched-gun-trafficking-investigation/#ixzz1I0SnBycW

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is TSA Readying An All-Out Attack On General Aviation Access To American Airports?

Subject: The TSA and MTJ (Montrose, Colorado Airport)

It seems "they" are at it again. We were told AOPA was quite unaware of this Special Directive

While I am not the MTJ rep, and do not know who is (maybe you could tell me) I attended, though I am the [ID information redacted], with some 60 plus others tonight, a meeting no one had even heard about until two days ago. And really only email amongst folks on the field and the EAA chapter caused anyone to be there. It was a full house, even though the address given was incorrect. I would guess the average age was 50 with a lot of former military and airline pilots in attendance, or folks having other long time security clearances professionally, and who were a bit amazed at all this. Nearly all pilots.

Four TSA reps were there from Grand Junction, we think that is where they were from: Rennie (sp?) Dunn, Chris Putnam, Dick Wiles and a Peter Cook. Two never said a word, Wiles offered two or three sentences, and Rennie carried the freight. They all left in the same US Govt black SUV. One was reputed to be a former special forces Lt Col in the mid east and therefore familiar with security concerns. Frankly, none were very impressive but on the other hand, they had been volunteered for a clearly thankless role.

The basic overall concept is another "Federal Unfunded Mandate" which several in the crowed noted, in this case known as a Security Directive affecting all individuals having access to commercial service airports to become effective April 30.

Anyone wishing access after that date must, on only four near term days, apply on a preliminary basis for security threat screening. Those dates are 2/25/ 2/28 3/4 and 3/7.

Anyone not able to be present on those four near term dates must pay a $50 fee to begin the screening process. Persons must bring approved identification from the approved list to be found at www.montroseairport.com

Reportedly the SD is fourteen pages, but no one except the TSA is allowed to know what the rules are, as we ALL understood it, until or unless you break one of the rules. Each of the four TSA people there acknowledged they had seen the document. A Catch 22 - Alice in Wonderland moment.

A question was raised, what redress or appeal process is available. The answer was surely it would be reasonably handled.

A local prominent attny who was a former prosecuting attny opined that not only is this all backwards, in his view it was simply unconstitutional.

It presently appears that anyone on the ramp without a TSA ID is subject to fines or convictions in unknown amounts and arrest or detainment by unknown persons as it seems not to be known how enforcement will be conducted, or by whom. The sole female TSA person, I could not fathom or match the persons to the names, quietly said, the one time she even dared look at the crowd, that patrolling would likely be random and infrequent. Or something very like that.

Of course the question was then raised, why bother. No answer.

It further appears that each airport will need to conduct is own application and fee process and then TSA will do the screening. It further appears that each of the 450 commercially served airports will have to issue its own security badges, raising a bit of an issue for those who are professional pilots, travel to more than one airport, or, put rather dramatically, stop for fuel at self service pumps. The self service fuel vendor from Grand Junction, Colo traveled down to this meeting and advised that at a similar meeting yesterday, the first time fee for a screening and badge there will be $175 per person. Montrose said their first badge will be free, and subsequent ones on expiry of the first will be an as yet unknown amount. I myself flew three states last weekend. The west is a bit larger than the area within the beltway.

One fellow asked why not have identical badges at all airports so folks know what to look for.

One on field commercial operator said it would be cost prohibitive for all employees who might escort someone to be screened and badged. And there are certainly are no excess personnel available for such duty. The airport manager then volunteered the same answer for his staff.

A couple of ag spray operators who necessarily fly into a variety of airports here, and are always on call from various counties, were a bit troubled by the multiple badge requirement, and since they often are called out to do SEAT wildland fire fighting as first responders, (until from what I can see the BLM can figure out what to do,) they felt that waiting for a badge to get fuel and slurry water might be just a bit of an issue. How are they to anticipate where to apply, in advance? No answer. Multiple pleas were made of one badge, nationally, and the response was that concept would be taken back for discussion.

A local Colorado Dept of Wildlife pilot felt it might be a bit of a burden to get credentials from all his typical airports, plus those for the areas served by the other three pilots when they are on vacation, or out of town, not to mention the economic costs, or the time to go and apply at different places, etc.

Several FBO employees or free lance mechanics, or the Western Skyways Engine shop to which has customer s routinely coming in from Brazil, Mexico and other south and central American countries, were told, directly, they will need to staff and accompany anyone not credentialed who is on the field. All of course said this would break them financially, and the self fuel operators said they too could not staff a self fuel op 24 x 7.

It is clear the Montrose Airport Appreciation day, when several hundred people visit with old classic cars, motorcycles, balloon rides, flybys, the LIONS cooking hotdogs and burgers to raise funds, homebuilts on display, Civil Air Patrol handling off tarmac vehicle parking and on tarmac crowd control, Americana if you will, could be a bit of an issue and the TSA suggested local law enforcement could somehow staff the escort necessities on the field. How exactly do you escort a large milling crowd? As it happens, I am also the [ID information redacted]. We typically have about 100 Young Eagles we fly with a variety of pilots on those fall days, and as a general rule, with mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; you could expect maybe 300 or more people in the course of a day, not to mention grand parents, media folk, etc as a part of that operation.

Montrose airport serves the ski crowd, and movie stars going to Telluride, when A.) the particular aircraft can not get into Telluride due to size or B.) Weather. And that field is to close shortly for extended runway re-work. The Montrose FBO asked how he was to possibly monitor 30 limousines simultaneously, not to mention accompanying or escorting anyone within the vehicles, apart from getting changing and independent drivers to apply for credentials. I have seen easily 30 limos there myself, this is not an exaggeration, may be an understatement.

Questions were raised about what is or are the levels of thresholds for pass/fail on a security clearance, no answer.

One asked the TSA folk to verify the fine was $10,000 a day. They could not verify anything they said. Might be less.

Questions were raised about whether a DUI or childhood infraction would be cause for a turndown, no answer.

A question was raised whether an existing fire arm permit would be adequate. (Presumably concealed but unclear.) No answer.

Questions were raised about whether if a person were to escort someone who had failed a clearance, but the escorter, not the escortee, did not know it, if that escorting person would be charged with a violation? (How were they to conduct their own clearances?) No answer.

Questions were raised about how many persons one with a security badge could escort. No answer. It is being looked at….

Questions were raised about on field ppties or buildings with ramp access and non-secure or public access, i.e. two doors on opposite sides of a building, were to be dealt with, and the answer was the doors must all be locked and monitored, or screened. The following question arose, what if a mechanic was in or under a plane servicing it, and someone undetected walked through, who was liable. The impression was the County might be liable.

An unfielded question was raised, what if locking doors is in violation of the national or local fire code that all doors must be unlocked during business hours…

Questions were raised about whether this was wheels or boots on the tarmac, and which would constitute a violation. NO answer.

Questions were raised why an existing Federal ID, was not adequate, say a pilots license, perhaps with a security clearance stamp on the corner. NO answer.

Questions were raised why not a national one time clearance for all airports, no answer.

Questions were raised about how it would be possible to get all this done by the deadline, no answer. There were ambivalent responses that this was only version F or G and that further "refinements" were likely.

Questions were raised about how this was all to be paid for; the answer was the County or City that owned the airport. The airport manager made it clear, especially in these economic times; they simply could not pay for this.

Questions were raised that since by far the largest part of the airfield is surrounded by old tired three strand barb wire fence, why require all the pilots and assorted folks to go through the clearance process, when anyone could simply walk onto the field. Answer County responsibility to build new fences. County has been trying to expand what is there, but there are of course multiple demands for funds.

No one thought to ask what would happen if the hundreds of dairy cattle immediately north of the field were to break down the fence and an unauthorized herdsman were to enter the field to keep cattle off the runway.

Questions were raised about any cost-benefit analysis. No answer.

Questions were raised about any risk-benefit analysis. No answer.

Questions were raised about the likely source (s) of risk. No answer.

Questions were raised about what good can any of this possibly do. No answer.

Questions were raised about how this Directive was promulgated, and by whom, no real answer except it was signed off on by the Bush TSA administrator.

Questions were raided about how to contact someone who knew at least some of the answers. No answer.

Questions were raised about how this clearance would rate as compared to the various ranges of FBI clearances, no answer.

Questions were raised about whether any of the four TSA folks had pilot licenses and current medicals, none were current or active.

It appeared these four were selected to stand in front of the pilot question firing squad, and they acted appropriately enthused.

One young lady said if as a part of her job she would have to get a clearance and badge, free at first, then renewing, she could not afford to work at her wage at the airport.

Several questions were raised about what event caused this directive to be promulgated; we were told they could not answer.

Questions were raised about what would happen if a transient pilot landed, needed unknown repairs, or fuel, walked about the ramp without clearance, trying to find a shop or mechanic, and each turned the pilot away and would not escort him to wherever, were they liable? No answer.

Questions were raised about what would happen if a pilot landed, say at night, at an unattended field except maybe the tower, if there even were one, and needed fuel, and were spotted by a local police or sheriff. What was either the pilot or sheriff to do? No answer.

The six county representative for the newly appointed Senator Michael Bennett was in attendance, made a few notes, and urged a group letter or email, not individual contacts, and assured the crowd the Senator would not see individual contacts but would be aware of a group letter from someone on his staff.

Virtually every commercial operator said the plan, to the extent it was disclosed, was either totally unworkable, or will bankrupt them. One self service fuel vender said it would immediately break them. Some noted this was not highly desirable for the vendor, the pilot, or the national financial recovery.

A comparison was made between this directive and early TFR's which had no areas defined, and were not published anywhere, until AOPA began publishing them, but pilots were advised they would be dealt with harshly if they violated those unpublished TFR's since release of the data was secret and a national security issue..

The TSA lead suggested pilots look at the World Aeronautical Guide to see what airports had commercial service before landing. Several pilots said what were they to do if weather, turbulence or lack of in in-flight Guide, or inability to read it and fly the plane simultaneously, and in-flight mechanical issues were to cause them to make a precautionary landing at an unplanned airport for which they had no badge.. No answers.

It was noted this concept was brought by the Dept of Homeland Security whose first head on national TV proposed everyone getting visqueen and duct tape to wrap their houses against chemical attacks, and the TSA who mandated a certain very ill considered pistol holster for Federal Flight Deck Officers, which most thoughtful and knowledgeable gun folk thought was sure to result in accidental discharge, and did, in an Airbus, by a captain who was nearly brought up on charges til covert circulation of an actual demonstration of how this gun would have inevitably been accidentally fired.

A wide variety of questions were posed as to whether the TSA or Department of Homeland Security had really thought all this through. No real answer.

I raised the question of if there are some 600,000 licensed pilots, and untold numbers of passengers, limo drivers and their passengers, mechanics, vendors, etc why not have the TSA and FAA do a mass clearance by pilots' licenses, rather than all these one off clearances nationwide, which would be far more efficient, with a high volume and low cost per pilot, paid for by the TSA, not the Counties, or pilots, and at least get those 600,000 clearances to people statistically unlikely to be a problem, then move on to all the other groups. NO answer, except it appeared the TSA said they had no funding. Actually, who does?

What is the estimated cost? Aren't new proposals supposed to be accompanied by reasonably estimated cost?

There were a variety of questions and intramural mumbling about how effectiveness could be measured, whether a program this dumb could be continued, and whether the real goal, perhaps by the commercial carriers, was either to kill off general aviation, or at least get it totally off the 450 air carrier airports? No answer.

A question, by a recently former US Army helicopter pilot, how long would it take to get clearances, now, or subsequently, if an ID/clearance was needed for a new or differing airport, where access was needed? No answer?

A question was raised about whether local police, sheriffs, fire dept or their volunteers would need clearance to get on the field. The answer seemed to be, probably not.

It was clear the airport manager and county commissioner were trying to be gracious in view of a new surprise regulation, for which they too were not given any or many answers, but were supposed to somehow make work, and fund, when they are already unable to fix roads, bridges, human services etc. They made it abundantly clear, they did not see how they could fund or staff badging on an ongoing basis, much less the escort issue.

A former county commissioner who does a great deal of heavy and timely airfreight shipments, asked how that was to be done with a variety of vendors or delivery services coming to the field with differing drivers at all hours that needed access to load planes. No real answer on how he could continue to ship.

I could go on but I can not recall with any specificity all the issues raised, I might be able to identify and get you a contact for one person who worked feverishly to record it all on a laptop. The meeting, opened by one Montrose County Commissioner, was really rather civil, which that commissioner and the airport manager both charged the crowd to be. In view of the near total lack of answers, or real responsiveness, this was remarkable. It certainly did not inspire confidence in the TSA or Homeland Security folk.

This was not TSA's finest hour.

Hope this representative recollection helps. I am sure I overlooked some things, and could not hear others.

New Maine Governor

New Maine Governor

Sounds like he and Sheriff Joe should get together!! This is what America needs to get back on track!

The new Maine Governor, Paul LePage is making New Jersey 's Chris Christie
look like an enabler. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks. And, judging by
the comments, every time he opens his mouth, his popularity goes up.

He brought down the house at his inauguration when he shook his fist toward
the media box and said, "You're on notice! I've inherited a
financially-troubled state to run. Observe.... cover... but don't whine if I
don't waste time responding to your every whim for your amusement."

During his campaign for governor, he was talking to commercial fishermen who
are struggling because of federal fisheries rules. They complained that
President Obama brought his family to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park
for a long Labor Day holiday and found time to meet with union leaders, but
wouldn't talk to the fishermen. LePage replied, "I'd tell him to go to hell
and get out of my state." Media crucified LePage, but he jumped 6 points in
the pre-election poll.

The Martin Luther King incident was a political sandbag which brought him
national exposure. The 'lame stream' media crucified him, but word on the
street is very positive. The NAACP specifically asked LePage to spend MLK
Day visiting black inmates at the Maine State Prison. He told them that he
would meet with ALL inmates regardless of race if he were to visit the
prison. The NAACP balked and then put out a news release claiming falsely
that he refused to participate in any MLK events. He read it in the paper
for the 1st time the next morning while be ing driven to an event and went
ballistic because none of the reporters had called him for comment before
running the NAACP release.

He arrived at that event & said in front of a TV camera, "If they want to
play the race card on me they can kiss my butt", and he reminded them that
he has an adopted black son from Jamaica and that he attended the local MLK
Breakfast every year that he was mayor of Waterville. (He started his
morning there on MLK Day.)

He then stated that there's a right way and a wrong way to meet with the
governor, and he put all special interests on notice that press releases,
media leaks, and all demonstrations would prove to be the wrong way. He said
any other group which acted like the NAACP could expect to be at the bottom
of the governor's priority list!

He then did the following, and judging from local radio talk show callers,
his popularity increased even more: The state employees union complained
because he waited until 3 p.m. before closing state offices and facilities
and sending non-emergency personnel home during the last blizzard. The prior
governor would often close offices for the day with just a forecast before
the first flakes. (Each time the state closes for snow, it costs the
taxpayers about $1 million in wages for no work in return.)

LePage was CEO of the Marden's chain of discount family bargain retail
stores before election as governor. He noted that state employees getting
off work early could still find lots of retail stores open to shop. So, he
put the state employees on notice by announcing: "If Marden's is open, Maine
is open!"

He told state employees: "We live in Maine in the winter, for heaven's sake,
and should know how to drive in it. Otherwise, apply for a state job in
Florida !"

Governor LePage symbolizes what America needs; Refreshing politicians who
aren't self-serving and who exhibit common sense!

American Thinker Blog: Would the last business leaving Illinois please turn out the lights?

Would the last business leaving Illinois please turn out the lights?
Rick Moran
Caterpillar, Inc, one of the largest employers in the state of Illinois and an iconic symbol of heartland solidity, is seriously considering a move to another state.

CEO Doug Oberhelman sent a letter to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, saying that "the pressure was on" from other states who are trying to woo the tractor maker and their 23,000 jobs away from their home in East Peoria.

The Pantagraph:

"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.

"I view it as an olive branch to offer our help," Dugan said.

[...]

"The governor welcomes frank and open exchanges between the business community and government, and we are always open to new ideas that can help our businesses grow, innovate and create jobs," Callahan said.

Illinois recently almost doubled its business tax and income taxes for employees. Oberhelman has a fiduciary responsibility to the company's shareholders to examine options that would increase the profitability of Caterpillar. He could be fired (or charged with a crime) if he failed to do so. The huge tax increase makes staying in Illinois an unprofitable option.

It would be hard to overstate the effect of Caterpillar leaving downstate Illinois. It would devastate the local economies who depend on Caterpillar and their employees to pump tens of millions of dollars into these communities.

And then there's the uncertainty:

Republican leaders, who unsuccessfully fought Quinn on the tax hike, say the letter confirms why they were opposed to the increase.

"These are the kinds of letters we fear," said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. "Even more worrisome are the hundreds of businesses being wooed that we don't know about."

Indeed.

God v. Science

"Let me explain the problem science has with religion."

The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely '

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'

'Yes'

'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it.. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?'

The student remains silent. 'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. 'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

'Is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one.. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?'

'Yes'

'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them ?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. 'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. 'Tell me,' he continues onto another student. 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?'

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'

'Yes'

'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist... What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies.. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat? '

' Yes.

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. 'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy.. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat.. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?'

'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.' 'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.' 'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. 'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.' The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter. 'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so.. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.' 'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I Guess you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?' Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it Everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in The multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world.. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God.. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.'

The professor sat down.

If you read it all the way through and had a smile on your face when you finished, mail to your friends and family with the title 'God vs. Science'

PS: The student was Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein wrote a book titled 'God vs. Science' in 1921.....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guest Commentary: The proposed state income tax increase

Guest Commentary: The proposed state income tax increase
Posted: 03/24/2011 1:00 AM


In the world of politics bad ideas never die, they just keep coming back in new and more obnoxious forms. On Feb. 5, The Denver Post reported that something called the Colorado Center on Law and Policy is planning to put a proposal on the state ballot that would bring back the graduated income tax.

The graduated income tax is an income tax that increases in percentage with an individual's income. Colorado currently has a flat income tax rate of around 4.63 percent that everybody pays. The Center wants to replace it with a tax that would rise to about 9 percent as incomes increase. The idea behind this is to raise enough revenue to balance the state budget.

Colorado is facing a serious budget shortfall because of insufficient tax revenues.

That idea is quite dubious because news stories indicate that other states with a high income tax like California and Illinois face serious budget deficits. Texas which has no state income but relies on sales tax does not.

The Center itself estimates that its increase would only raise about $1.5 billion a year. This doesn't seem like enough to solve Colorado's budget woes. If more income isn't the agenda, here what is?

A quick glance at the proposals the Center's made quickly shows their true agenda. Three of six proposals the center has made will make the earned income tax credit for the poor permanent. The Earned Income Tax Credit, AKA EIC, is a payment the state gives to poor people based on a percentage of their income tax.

The Earned Income tax credit does help the poor but it's an even bigger boon to tax preparers. To get the earned income tax credit, most poor people go to tax preparers like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty and Instant tax. These companies make big bucks by charging a fee on tax preparation.

They make even bigger bucks by giving the poor and working classes high interest refund anticipation loans. Preserving the state income tax and the state EIC, means more money for tax preparation outfits.

If that wasn't bad enough increasing the state income tax means more money for accountants, lawyers and other tax professionals who work with the rich and upper classes. Under our current state system many affluent people and corporations simply pay the income tax as it is cheaper than paying a preparer. If it goes up there will be more work and more money for tax preparers.

Indeed, the state is likely to get less money because more people with money will be using tax preparers who will help them get more exemptions and pay less tax. Anybody who knows anything about our tax system should be able to see this. Yet the Center doesn't or more likely ignores it.

Call me cynical but this whole initiative looks like a scheme by tax preparers to increase their business not a revenue increase. This can be born out because the center's proposals didn't include a measure to extend the state sales tax to services which would actually raise revenue for the state.

A services tax would undoubtedly include tax preparation and related services such as lawyers and accountants fees. So the Center is preserving a tax break for tax preparers and other affluent professionals in its "Fair Income Tax System Proposal."

When quizzed about this by Denver Post reporter Tim Hoover, Center propagandist Carol Hedges said a sales tax on services is "regressive" and hurts the poor. How does such a tax hurt the poor? Do the poor hire lawyers, accountants, and other service providing professionals?

Why is an organization that claims to be fighting for the working poor so anxious to help an obnoxious tax break that helps the affluent? Could its real agenda be boosting tax preparers" bottom lines?

Fortunately the people of Colorado are not going to go for this nonsense. I predict that the Fair Income Tax System proposal will be defeated by a huge margin. The voters unlike certain reporters at the Denver Post and certain Post columnists are not so easily deceived. Unlike self proclaimed journalists the working people of Colorado know that an income tax is a tax on them and a welfare system for accountants and tax preparers.

If the Center really wanted to be fair to Colorado's working people it would put a proposal abolishing our state's property tax system which is unfair and does hurt the working people on the ballot. Abolishing property tax and going to an across the board state sales tax on goods and services with no exemptions (like they have in Texas or the Canadian province of Ontario, which recently got rid of income taxes for most of its citizens) would be a truly fair state tax system.

Unfortunately, the centers and institutes on the right and left that push these proposals won't go for that because under an across the board sales tax, the special interests who fund these propaganda outlets would have to pay a fair share of the tax burden.

American Thinker Blog: Not a war: A 'kinetic military action'

March 24, 2011
Not a war: A 'kinetic military action'
Rick Moran
A "war" is a war, is a "war," right?

Not if you live in the Rabbit Hole and have to answer to Alice as commander in chief.

Byron York:

In the last few days, Obama administration officials have frequently faced the question: Is the fighting in Libya a war? From military officers to White House spokesmen up to the president himself, the answer is no. But that leaves the question: What is it?

In a briefing on board Air Force One Wednesday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes took a crack at an answer. "I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone," Rhodes said. "Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end."

Rhodes' words echoed a description by national security adviser Tom Donilon in a briefing with reporters two weeks ago as the administration contemplated action in Libya. "Military steps -- and they can be kinetic and non-kinetic, obviously the full range -- are not the only method by which we and the international community are pressuring Gadhafi," Donilon said.

Rhodes and Donilon are by no means alone. "Kinetic" is heard in a lot of descriptions of what's going on in Libya. "As we are successful in suppressing the [Libyan] air defenses, the level of kinetic activity should decline," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a meeting with reporters in Moscow Tuesday. In a briefing with reporters the same day from on board the USS Mount Whitney, Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, said, "The coalition brings together a wide array of capabilities that allow us to minimize the collateral damage when we have to take kinetic operations."

Why can't they just say we're at war and leave it at that? Probably didn't want to put Alice's Nobel Peace Prize in jeopardy. That, and the knee jerk liberal opposition to war in any form - even if it's for self defense, which this war is decidedly not.

What we are doing in Libya is making war whether the Obama administration admits it or not. People aren't getting killed by "kinetic" anything. They are dying the old fashioned way - they are getting blown up.

This gives a whole new meaning to "KIA."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Government's Work Is Never Done - Reason Magazine

Government's Work Is Never Done
The endless expansion of big government

A. Barton Hinkle | March 22, 2011

"When," humorist P.J. O’Rourke has asked, "can we quit passing laws and raising taxes? When can we say of our political system, ‘Stick a fork in it, it’s done’?... The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop."

Alas for O’Rourke and those who sympathize with him, the project of contemporary liberalism is never done. You might look upon the vast expansion of the regulatory state over the past couple of decades and conclude that government could afford to take a breather—maybe even a three-day weekend. Wrong. To the liberal or progressive eye, the remarkable thing is not how much government does—but how much it has yet to do.

Take the recent tragic crash of a tour bus in the Bronx, which killed 15. Nobody knows yet what caused it. No matter. "Lax Rules for Discount Buses Cited After I-95 Crash," ran the New York Times headline over a story which began: "Discount tour buses transport millions of passengers a year"—sounds good so far, but here comes the but—"but the federal government has little control over who gets behind the wheel." Better pass some more rules, stat.

Warning about too little regulation is a house specialty at the Times, which over the past couple of years has run a "Toxic Waters" series about "the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators’ response"; a "Radiation Boom" series about advanced medical techniques ("As Technology Surges, Radiation Safeguards Lag"); and a "Drilling Down" series on natural-gas fracking ("Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers").

But it’s not just The Times. The default position for most major media outlets is that more regulation is good—and whenever a new problem arises, the obvious and necessary answer is a firmer government hand.

Or even when a new problem does not arise. A few days ago The Washington Post ran a lengthy story on car booster seats for children who weigh more than 65 pounds, which "are not held to any government safety requirements." Missing from the story: Any evidence that this has increased carnage on the roadways. To the contrary, the article quotes a car-seat specialist for the Safe Kids advocacy group, who confirms that "we’re not seeing large numbers of kids affected by shoddy products." Nevertheless, the article lamented the fact that "parents are confronted with a barrage of safety seat choices"—why can’t the government mandate just one?!—and "many parents say they find little information about seats beyond what they cull from private testing organizations, such as Consumer Reports magazine and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety." Oh, is that all?

"Just when you thought it was safe to pull up to a table to eat," warned NPR’s Joanne Silberner not long ago, "infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota says think again." Even though a new food safety measure recently has been signed into law, even though the number of people sickened from eating tainted food has actually declined, not all is well, because—ready for it?—Republicans in Congress have been "expressing great reluctance" about meeting the FDA’s $326 million request for new food safety activities, Silberner reported.

Note what her story did not say: that Congress had refused the request. Or that the new activities could not possibly be performed for less than the sum requested. Or, more pertinent, that the regulatory activities would actually produce commensurate gains in food safety. Or any gains at all, for that matter. Those gains were simply assumed.
But not all regulations are created equal. A 1980 ban on unvented space heaters cost around $100,000 per life saved (in 1995 dollars), according to an article in the Fall 2002 issue of Regulation magazine. By contrast, a 1991 rule governing the chemical 1,2-Dichloropropane in drinking water cost $1.9 billion per life saved.

Since money is finite, it makes sense to spend regulatory dollars where they will do the most good. The platitudinous statement that "if it saves one life, it’s worth it" is not only wrong, but tragically wrong if the resources used to save that one life could have saved 500 others. And sometimes, regulations actually have the opposite effect of that intended. There is even a term for the phenomenon—the Peltzman Effect, named after Sam Peltzman, a University of Chicago economist who found that seat-belt laws and other safety measures often encourage more reckless driving. (This has been demonstrated in, among other places, Drachten, Holland, where the frequency of accidents at a particular intersection declined after lights and traffic signals were removed.)

Considerations such as these seem to carry little weight with fans of the regulatory state such as The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson—who noted, in the wake of the once-in-a-millennium tsunami that has devastated Japan, that "we haven’t defeated risk." Once we have—presumably after the Rapture comes—then maybe the expansion of the regulatory state can throttle down. Until then, this much is clear: If O’Rourke wants to stick a fork in anything, he better have a permit.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TaxProf Blog: Tax Foundation: No Country Leans on Upper-Income Households as Much as U.S.

Tax Foundation: No Country Leans on Upper-Income Households as Much as U.S.
Tax Foundation logo The Tax Foundation yesterday released No Country Leans on Upper-Income Households as Much as U.S.:

[T]his table shows the share of taxes paid by the richest 10% of households, the share of all market income earned by that group, and the ratio of what that 10% percent of households pays in taxes versus what they earn as a share of the nation's income.

Progressivity of taxes in selected OECD countries, mid-2000s



1. Tax Share of Richest Decile


2. Income Share of Richest Decile


3. Ratio (1/2)

Australia


36.8


28.6


1.29

Austria


28.5


26.1


1.10

Belgium


25.4


27.1


0.94

Canada


35.8


29.3


1.22

Czech Republic


34.3


29.4


1.17

Denmark


26.2


25.7


1.02

Finland


32.3


26.9


1.20

France


28.0


25.5


1.10

Germany


31.2


29.2


1.07

Iceland


21.6


24.0


0.90

Ireland


39.1


30.9


1.26

Italy


42.2


35.8


1.18

Japan


28.5


28.1


1.01

Korea


27.4


23.4


1.17

Luxembourg


30.3


26.4


1.15

Netherlands


35.2


27.5


1.28

New Zealand


35.9


30.3


1.19

Norway


27.4


28.9


0.95

Poland


28.3


33.9


0.84

Slovak Republic


32.0


28.0


1.14

Sweden


26.7


26.6


1.00

Switzerland


20.9


23.5


0.89

United Kingdom


38.6


32.3


1.20

United States


45.1


33.5


1.35

OECD-24


31.6


28.4


1.11

The first column shows that the top 10% of households in the U.S. pays 45.1% of all income taxes (both personal income and payroll taxes combined) in the country. Italy is the only other country in which the top 10% of households pays more than 40% of the income tax burden (42.2%). Meanwhile, the average tax burden for the top decile of households in OECD countries is 31.6%.

By contrast, column #2 shows that the richest decile in America earned 33.5% percent of the market income in the country. ... But, a few other countries do have a greater or similar concentration of income as does the U.S. For example, the OECD table shows that the wealthiest decile of households in Italy and Poland earn a greater share of their country's market income than do our "rich" -- 35.8% and 33.9% respectively -- while the share of income earned by the top decile of households in the U.K. is about on par with those in the U.S. at 32.3%.

The table then adjusts for the underlying allocation of income by showing the ratio of income taxes paid to the share of income earned by the top decile in each country. The ratio for U.S. households is 1.35, far greater than the ratio of taxes to income in any other country. Even in the three countries with a comparable distribution of income, the ratio of taxes to income was less, 1.18 in Italy, 0.84 in Poland, and 1.20 in the U.K.

Update: Tax Update Blog, America's High-Income Taxpayers Lead the Way