Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Category Archives: Politics

Buffett Rule Foolishness

Warren Buffett

On Monday, April 16, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a procedural motion intended to move the so-called Buffett Rule forward. The motion, if agreed to by at least 60 votes, would invoke “cloture,” stopping a Republican filibuster and allowing the Senate to proceed to a vote on the Buffett Rule itself.

The Buffett Rule is named after Warren Buffett, the Omaha investor who runs Berkshire Hathaway, a multi-national conglomerate holding company. Buffett gained notoriety when he claimed in early 2011 that he paid taxes at a lower rate than his secretary, which he said was “unfair.” The bill would implement a higher rate for taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket to ensure that they do not pay a lower percentage of income than lower income taxpayers. The minimum rate would be 30 percent on income above $2 million a year, with a sliding scale of lower rates applied to incomes between $1 million and $2 million.

Although it appears that the Buffett Rule is dead on arrival, some have predicted that, even if it were passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President, its impact on federal revenues would be modest, perhaps even imperceptible. The Joint Committee on Taxation, for instance, predicts that the rule would generate another $47 billion a year for the next 10 years, while the Tax Foundation estimates revenues raised would be $36.7 billion a year. With annual deficits exceeding $1 trillion a year, this additional revenue amounts to nothing more than a rounding error.

The rule is based on the assumption that Buffett does actually pay taxes at a lower rate than his secretary. But that is misleading, if not outright

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Romney Expected to “Reassure” NRA on Second Amendment

Summer's End. Lexington Green, 11 September 20...

On Friday, April 13, apparent Republican front-runner Mitt Romney will address the national convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in St. Louis where a nervous audience will seek “reassurance” on his stand on the Second Amendment. Said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, “I think what the members are looking for is reassurance. I think they are looking for a statement of support for the Second Amendment from Gov. Romney and we are confident that is what we will get.” Words of such support from Romney may be enough to persuade doubters to vote from him if he gets the Republican Party’s nomination.

Joe Tartaro, president of the Second Amendment Foundation, says the alternative would be a disaster: “If President Obama is re-elected as a lame duck there would be no political restraints on him.” He would be free, according to Tartaro, to push through a long list of anti-gun measures just waiting to be enacted, including reinstatement of the federal “assault-weapons” ban that expired in 2004.

Democrats defending Obama say he has no such agenda. Matt Bennett, an official in the Clinton administration and now head of the progressive think tank Third Way, said “There is zero appetite for new gun laws in Congress, and the president cannot act on his own.” Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, disagreed, reminding Bennett that Obama’s expanded use of executive orders are likely to impinge on those gun rights regardless of lack of “appetite” for such measures in Congress. Obama could use executive orders to curb the import and export of guns and ammunition, for example. And, given the opportunity, Obama could try to pack the courts with judges favorable to further restrictions on the Second Amendment. Said Gottlieb:

With all the Second Amendment litigation going on right now, if Obama is able to stack the courts with his kind of judges, he basically will be slamming the courthouse doors in the face of gun owners.

Some observers are expressing doubt that Romney, if elected, will be any better. In 2007 David Kopelwriting for National Review, questioned Romney’s veracity about his claim to being “a hunter pretty much all my life” when it was learned later that he had

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Tea Party Accepts IRS Tax Exemption, Then Complains of IRS Intrusion

Internal Revenue Service

A coalition of Tea Party groups has decided that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is making it too difficult for start-up Tea Party groups to qualify for tax exempt status and so is creating one to fight back. The group is complaining about IRS requests for thousands of pages of documentation required to obtain or to keep their exempt status under Section 501(c)4 of the Internal Revenue Code. Eric Wilson, director of Kentucky’s 9/12 Project accused the IRS of “targeting local Tea Party, liberty groups and ordinary citizens” with an 88-question IRS questionnaire and demands that it be completed and returned within two weeks.

Said Wilson:

They’re trying to bury us in time, trying to bury us in paperwork, and they are making us use up resources we don’t have, especially small local organizations and small groups. And they’re doing this during a critical election year. This is not by accident. This is coordinated and this is targeted.

Toby Walker, president of the Waco, Texas, Tea Party, said the IRS demanded every Facebook, Twitter and social media post that was sent out by her group over the last two-and-a-half years, along with transcripts of every one of the group’s radio shows. The requests for such detailed and extension information is overwhelming the small staffs of many of the groups which often have fewer than 50 members and a very small part-time staff.

The benefits of obtaining tax exempt status for these groups apparently outweighed potential concerns that the IRS would grow fangs and seek blood. Under the applicable code, 501(c)4 groups may engage in political activity and enjoy tax exemptions on purchases and other activities, but contributions from donors are not tax deductible nor are lists of donors required to be made public. But such exemption requires following the IRS’ rules which, as these organizations are now learning, are changeable. Returns must be filed in a timely fashion even though no tax is due, and failure to file on a timely basis opens the groups up to the possibility of

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The Budget Battle: Entitlements Staying, Taxes Going Up

When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Chairman of the House Budget Committeesummarized his tax and spend plan, he used standard Republican rhetoric in explaining it.

He claimed, “Our budget

  • Cuts government spending to protect hardworking taxpayers;
  • Put[s] an end to special-interest favoritism and corporate welfare;
  • Reverses the President’s policies that drive up gas prices…;
  • Strengthens health and retirement security…[and]
  • Reforms our broken tax code to spur job creation and economic opportunity by lowering rates, closing loopholes, and putting hardworking taxpayers ahead of special interests.”

In his introduction to the bill, he inveighed images of the Founding Fathers, who no doubt would have heartily approved of his efforts: “The Founders [designed] a Constitution of enumerated powers, giving the federal government broad authority over only those matters that must have a single national response, while sharply restricting its authority to intrude on those spheres of activity better left to the states and the people.” By using his interpretation, rather any reference directly to what the Constitution actually says, Ryan then goes on to assure his party that

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$5 Trillion Tax Hike Coming

Barack Obama addressing a joint session of Con...

Back in February when the Congress voted to extend the payroll tax “holiday” to the end of the year, the Washington Post was the first to notice the tsunami of tax increases coming next year. But then Lori Montgomery began to add up all the other taxes that will increase on January 1, 2013, and called it “Taxmageddon.”

Here is a partial list of taxes that will increase unless Congress intervenes:

  • The 2001 and 2003 Bush “tax cuts” expire
  • Taxes on investment income
  • Estate and gift taxes
  • Income taxes
  • Marriage penalty returns
  • Child credit drops
  • Taxes on first $8700 of wages increase by 50 percent
  • Payroll taxes go from 4.2 percent back to 6.2 percent

But that is only a start. The Heritage Foundation did an in-depth analysis of all the tax increases scheduled for next year and found that Lori forgot some:

  • The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) will increase in size and reach
  • Five new Obamacare taxes will start
  • Some 50 “tax extenders” will go away
  • Small business owners can no longer write off business equipment purchases immediately

Adding them all together, the total is $500 billion. And that’s just in 2013. Over the next decade, the tax increases will exceed $5 trillion.

The effect of this tidal wave is already having a dampening effect on the economy. Curtis Dubay, the author of the Heritage study, wrote:

Families, businesses, and investors need to know how much tax they will pay in the future before making important economic decisions. The uncertainty caused by Taxmageddon means they are stuck in neutral while they wait for President Obama and Congress to act. This is slowing job creation and stopping many of the millions of unemployed Americans from going back to work.

Sucking half a trillion dollars out of the economy is going to have a severe negative impact on growth. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimates that the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) would be reduced by at least

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CFR’s Plan to Improve Education: Change Nothing

Fraser Valley Elementary School classroom

The charge made by a report from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) that the country’s students score poorly despite U.S. schools spending more than schools in other countries surprised no one. What was surprising was their plan to improve education: Leave things alone.

The report, put out by the CFR’s U.S. Education Reform and National Security task force, outlines clearly the deficits, deficiencies, and shortfalls of what passes for education in this country:

Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk. The country will not be able to keep pace—much less lead—globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long.

The task force recited the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which measured the performance of 15-year-olds in math, science, and reading. Where once the United States was at the top of the 34-nation OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), U.S. students now rank 14th in reading skills, 17th in science, and a dismal 25th in math. It detailed the failure of education in the United States:

  • 25 percent of students fail to graduate from high school
  • It’s 40 percent for blacks and Hispanics
  • In civics only a quarter are proficient
  • Only 22 percent of high school students are “college ready” upon graduation

The report said this bodes poorly for the country in five areas: economic growth, physical safety, intellectual property, global awareness, and unity. It added, “Too many young people are not employable in an increasingly high-skilled and global economy, and too many are not qualified to

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The JOBS Bill: An Encouraging Sign of Intelligent Life in Washington

Senator Carl Levin announces at a press confer...

When President Obama signs the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Start-up Act) bill into law today it will reflect the first sign in a long time that some in Congress are waking up to reality: government regulations stifle business growth. The bill passed the House 390-23 in March and then passed the Senate 73-26 last week but not without much weeping and gnashing of teeth from regulationists decrying the bill’s alleged resurrection of “deregulation.”

Simply put, the JOBS Act will make it slightly less difficult for small successful private companies to “go public” and raise capital through a public offering of their stock. It expands slightly the number of companies who otherwise would decide that the costs of complying with the regulations under Sarbanes-Oxley and other laws passed after the Enron implosion were simply too great. It provides an “on-ramp” to these companies so that the full impact of those regulations isn’t felt until they reach a certain threshold of financial success, or five years, whichever occurs first.

One of those opposed to any sort of temporary lifting of the regulatory state from the backs of the job creators in the country is liberal Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) who said, prior to passage of the bill in the Senate, in a burst of excessive hyperbole, “We are about to embark upon the most sweeping deregulatory effort and assault on investor protection in decades.” Joining Levin was liberal Senator Dick Durban (D-Ill.) who said the ACTS bill would “allow companies to use billboards and cold calls to lure unsophisticated investors with the promise of making a quick buck investing in new companies.”

Other ultra-liberal anti-capitalists in the Senate were unhappy over the JOBS bill too, including Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.). Said Merkley, the bill is “simply a

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Obama Targets Ryan Budget to Distract from Failed Policies

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the pres...

Reaching into President Obama’s 14-page, 7,200 word luncheon speech to the Associated Press on Tuesday, some conservative observers took umbrage at a few of his choicest and more outrageous characterizations of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget bill, while leaving much behind.

Patrick Knudsen, writing on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, said the President used “shrill hyperbole” when he called Ryan’s plan “thinly veiled social Darwinism” which would, if enacted, be “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.” It would “impose a radical vision on our country” and would be a “prescription for decline.” Taking another approach, Alison Fraser also wrote on Heritage’s blog that the reason the President directed so much attention to Ryan’s plan was because he wanted to direct people’s attention away from his own failures as President over the past three years: “As a counter to his failure to lead us away from the fiscal abyss, Obama has chosen to attack Ryan and the House budget with scary rhetoric about Trojan horses, social Darwinism, and [its] radical vision for the country.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded to Obama’s comments by doubting his sincerity and chastising him for not presenting a reasonable budget alternative:

If the president were serious, he would put forward a plan to deal with our debt crisis and save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for future generations of seniors without raising taxes on small businesses that are struggling in this economy. Instead, he has chosen to campaign rather than govern, and the debt crisis he is presiding over is only getting worse.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling was even stronger, calling Obama’s speech an “unhinged attack” and an “act of desperation” to direct attention away from his failed policies. Even Darrell West of the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, agreed: Obama needs to

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President Obama Pokes the Supreme Court … Again

First Floor at the Statute of John Marshall in...

President Obama, commenting on the judicial review being undertaken by the Supreme Court on his premier signature legislation, ObamaCare, challenged the court to uphold his law or be considered “activists” legislating from the bench. Said the President:

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. I guess I would remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. For an unelected group of people to somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law is a good example of that, and I’m pretty sure this court will recognize that and not take that step.

This isn’t the first time the President has directed barbs at the Supreme Court. During his State of the Union address two years ago he looked down on the Justices seated below him and said their recent decision on Citizens United opened the “floodgates” to unlimited independent election spending.

This time the President’s use of the words “unprecedented,” “extraordinary” and “unelected” elicited howls of protest from observers such as Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who responded that “It would be nice living in a fantasy world where every law you like is constitutional and every Supreme Court decision you don’t like is ‘activist.’ ” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) joined in, saying he was “disappointed” by the President’s warning:

It is not unprecedented at all for the Supreme Court to declare a law unconstitutional; they do that on a regular basis, so it’s not unprecedented at all.

What is unprecedented is…the president of the United States trying to intimidate the Supreme Court.

Even the Wall Street Journal excoriated the President over his remarks, chiding him that he “needs a remedial course in judicial review.” How could the President, allegedly a constitutional scholar and professor at the University of Chicago and president of the Harvard Law Review, not remember the pivotal case, Marbury v. Madison, decided 209 years ago and considered as perhaps the singular landmark case in the history of law? That case helped define the constitutional boundaries between the Executive and Judicial branches of the fledgling republic and was the first time in Western history that a court invalidated a law by declaring it to be unconstitutional. As noted by the Journal:

In Marbury in 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall laid down the doctrine of judicial review. In the 209 years since, the Supreme Court has invalidated part or all of countless laws on grounds that they violated the Constitution. All of those laws were passed by a “democratically elected” legislature of some kind, either Congress or in one of the states. And no doubt many of them were passed by “strong” majorities.

The decision specifically ruled that “Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. Congress cannot pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution, and it is the role of the Judicial system to interpret what the Constitution permits.” [Emphasis added.] In writing the unanimous decision, Chief Justice John Marshal said, “The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws and not of men…”

Judge Andrew Napolitano made much the same point in this Fox News commentary:

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul also weighed in on the matter by reminding his readers that not only should the Supreme Court

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Boom and Bust in Stockton, California

A view of Stockton's city center and waterfront.

When Ann Johnston, Mayor of Stockton, California, informed the city council in March that Stockton was about to go bankrupt, making it the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, it took her six hours to explain why. The primary reason was overborrowing, overspending, and thinking that the good times would go on forever. They didn’t.

Between 1998 and 2005 prices of real estate in Stockton, about 75 miles from Sacramento, tripled. For a time Stockton was attractive as a lower-cost bedroom community alternative to Sacramento as home buyers were priced out of that market. Revenues from builder fees and sales and property taxes soared, and then-Mayor Gary Podesto took advantage. First was a luxury downtown sports arena anchored by a Sheraton hotel followed by the redevelopment of the waterfront into a marina and riverwalk. Then came the inevitable expansion of government and generous pensions, including “Lamborghini” benefits for city workers: if someone worked for the city for one month he (and his spouse) became eligible for retiree healthcare benefits for life. To house its burgeoning payroll, the city purchased a high-rise municipal office building at the top of the market for $35 million.

All that has changed. The office building is now vacant, homes in the high-end Weston Ranch development that sold for $450,000 are now listed for sale at $100,000 with few buyers. Unemployment is at 16 percent, and crime has soared. Forbes ranks Stockton as one of the three worst cities to live in in the country.

Johnston told the council that they couldn’t make the interest payment on their indebtedness, that the city’s deficit is approaching

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Colorado Senator Bennet Refuses to Answer Questions About the NDAA

Michael Bennet, Colorado Politician

I have rarely been as concerned for the future of freedom and our Constitution as I have been since the passage last December of S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012.  I have rarely felt more frustrated with a politician than I am with Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (D) for responding to concerns about NDAA with nothing but disinformation and silence.

People with expertise in this area have voiced grave concerns about provisions of NDAA, particularly in Section 1031, which allow the government to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without charge or due process based on mere suspicions about their support for terrorism or terrorist organizations.

Concerns about provisions so antithetical to the Constitution would be warranted any time.  But, they’re even more ominous since the Department of Homeland Security told us in 2009 it considers ordinary citizens who exercise their rights to purchase guns or who serve in the military to be “right wing extremists” and potential terrorists.  This motivated me to look a little more deeply into what Colorado Senator Bennet, who voted in favor of S. 1867 had to say.

So, I contacted Senator Bennet’s office in mid-December, 2011 asking him to explain his support for S. 1867 and to clarify concerns about S. 1867 viz-a-viz the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.

I received an email from Senator Bennet’s office saying

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Budget Deadlock, Despite House Passage of Ryan Plan

Ron Paul's blimp

The budget plan of Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan passed the House on Thursday 228 to 191, mostly along party lines. In fact, not a single Democrat voted for it, signaling that it won’t see the light of day in the Democrat-controlled Senate as predicted here. The previous day, the House overwhelmingly rejected 382-38 the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction proposal, which incudes tax increases as well as spending cuts. Last week, the administration-supported budget bill was also voted down, 414-0, which leaves the legislative branch of the U.S. government in limbo.

Supporters of the Paul Ryan budget trumpet that his bill would simplify the tax code and modify Medicare, putting more control into the hands of the states. White House spokesman Jay Carney disagrees, saying the changes proposed to Medicare would “burden seniors and end the program as we know it,” while giving tax breaks to millionaires and cutting critical jobs programs.

Speaker of the House John Boehner lost 10 Republican votes, including several who said Ryan’s bill was too weak. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) declared, “I’m not going to vote for a budget that takes more than 20 years to be in balance.”

Each of the bills voted on, including Ryan’s, continues deficit spending for years into the future. Ryan’s plan spills red ink of $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years, while the White House budget projects deficits of $6 trillion, with the Bowles-Simpson proposal coming in at $4.5 trillion. But none of them addresses the real issue, according to Texas Congressman Ron Paul. In a statement issued after the vote on the Ryan plan, Paul said

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In Defense of Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers, I like them.  Bumper stickers are an interesting means of expression.  They are usually short, clever, to the point statements aimed at calling our attention to a particular matter.  And that’s not a bad thing.

A good bumper sticker’s ability to capture our attention should not be underestimated.  Whatever the issue addressed by a bumper sticker, it is capable of bringing out from us strong emotional responses from one extreme to the other, and everywhere in between, depending upon our point of view.

Some are humorous:

Some are more serious:

Some are political:

 

Some are factual, others not, and some are just downright mean-spirited. There are literally thousands more of examples, but you get the idea.

Now sometimes bumper stickers are given a bad rap. This is particularly true in the context of the more serious political and social issues. People are often accused of having a “bumper-sticker mentality.” By that is meant that people engage in over-simplifying and exaggerating situations to try to make a point or gain some advantage. They seem to display an aversion to thinking and only superficially deal with problems, yet offer no solutions.

This rightly-attributed criticism toward a bumper-sticker mentality should not disparage the use of bumper stickers. Nor should it discourage us from ever using bumper-sticker comments; they are appropriate in many situations.

As seen in the examples above, not every bumper sticker warrants deep contemplation; perhaps just a good laugh or a smile in agreement. But on important matters, and there are many, in so far as bumper stickers do indeed recall to our minds the underlying principles of a thing, all well and good. Or if they invoke in us a desire to find out more about it, a good seed has been planted.

For example, the bumper sticker “Legalize the Constitution” brings to my mind that the U. S. Constitution is becoming less and less the law of the land—which is its rightful and original purpose. It reminds me that the U. S. Constitution is a document meant to ensure the political principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence. It reminds me that many of those elected to public office, who have sworn or affirmed to uphold and defend it, actually ignore it. It reminds me that the government founded upon it, and which it was intended to limit, is out of control. I wonder how this came to be. I think about words being twisted to mean things they were never intended to mean. It reminds me that I want to see it restored to its original power and purpose. And it reminds me that I have a duty to do something about it.

I started out saying I like bumper stickers, but on second thought, I love bumper stickers! They make me think more deeply about important matters. And that’s a good thing.

Legal Spat with Koch Brothers Risky for Cato Institute

Cato Institute

The death of William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, on October 26, 2011, should have been noted and his life’s work honored quietly by his friends and Cato supporters, including especially the Koch brothers, Charles and David. Instead, his death set in motion events that are likely to affect the Cato Institute, and the libertarian movement itself, significantly.

Originally known as “The Charles Koch Foundation, Inc.” the Cato Institute was founded as a Kansas non-profit corporation in December, 1974, with the initial funding from Charles Koch of Koch Industries, Inc. In 1977 the shareholders signed an agreement that, upon the death of a shareholder, his interest would first be offered to Cato to purchase or, if Cato refused to buy it, then it would be offered to the other shareholders. In 1985 the shareholder agreement was revised and signed by the four shareholders who included Charles Koch, Cato president Ed Crane, George Pearson, and Niskanen. In 1991 David Koch purchased an equal interest. In 2008 Pearson sold his shares back to Cato, leaving the remaining four: Koch brothers Charles and David, Ed Crane, and Niskanen, each with equal shares and equal interests in Cato.

When Niskanen died the Koch brothers expected that his widow would “tender” his shares either to Cato or to them, which would make them controlling shareholders in Cato. A board meeting scheduled for December 1st was postponed to March 1st to discuss and resolve the matter privately and that would have been the end of the matter. But when the shares weren’t offered,

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Jim Yong Kim: Obama’s Surprise Nominee to World Bank

a photo of Dr. Jim Yong Kim

Friday’s announcement by President Obama that his nominee for president of the World Bank would be Dartmouth College’s President Jim Yong Kim was a surprise, for a number of reasons.

First, Kim has little experience in or obvious connections with the usual coterie of bankers, insiders and political cronies that have served at the World Bank in the past. His expertise instead is in running Partners In Health (PIH), a highly regarded and effective enterprise in providing medical care to the poor around the world, including treatment for AIDS and tuberculosis.

Second, he has a successful track record in fundraising for PIH and for Dartmouth. Third, he is bright, unassuming and winsome. Finally, he solves a number of problems faced by the president in making his selection.

Kim was one of 12 names offered to the President including his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who expressed her interest in the position immediately after Robert Zoellick announced he would retire from the position in June. Also on the list were well-known politicos with lots of baggage, including Senator John Kerry, current UN ambassador Susan Rice, and Lawrence Summers, former head of the President’s National Economic Council. And Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, was also lobbying for the position.

The President also faced growing resistance from other World Bank members over the rule that only an American could head up the bank, established in 1944 at Bretton Woods.

And so Kim appeared to be clean and pure. The reality is different. Born in South Korea, he moved with his family to Iowa when he was five and rapidly began impressing with his intelligence and energy. Kim served as director of the UN’s World Health Organization, dedicating himself, according to his bio, “to

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New Book, White House Burning, Reprises Old Keynesian Canards

U.S. Total Deficits vs. National Debt Increase...

On April 3 the book White House Burning, authored by two hard-core Keynesian economists and internationalists, will be released, and the noisy propaganda surrounding its publication has already begun in earnest.

According to the book store Barnes and Noble, which is discounting the $26.95 hardcover book to $17.96, though the national debt amounts to $30,000 for every individual in the country, the solution is easy: Stop treating debt as a moral issue and raise taxes. Says B and N, the authors “account for the debasement of our political system in the 1980’s and 1990’s (read: Reaganomics and the Laffer Curve), which produced today’s dysfunctional and impotent Congress.” But if something isn’t done soon,

The national debt will harm ordinary Americans by reducing the number of jobs, lowering living standards, increasing inequality, and forcing a sudden and drastic reduction in the government services we now take for granted….

They debunk the myth that such crucial programs as Social Security and Medicare must be slashed to the bone. White House Burning looks squarely at the burgeoning national debt and proposes to defuse the threat to our well-being without forcing struggling middle-class families and the elderly into poverty.

The authors, Simon Johnson (formerly the chief economist for the International Monetary Fund and now a professor at MIT) and James Kwak (associate law professor at the University of Connecticut and a fellow at Harvard Law), have based their book on a set of statist foundational principles about the role of government in a free society: More is better.

They explained in their introduction that when Alexander Hamilton, as Treasury Secretary, urged Congress to declare war on Great Britain in 1812, he put the responsibility for paying for it onto a reluctant Congress. Congress refused to raise taxes and the Treasury had to go begging to a private individual, Philadelphia banker Stephen Girard, to loan the money to pay for the war. This set the stage for the end of Hamilton’s Federalists (according to the authors) and the rise of Jefferson and Madison’s Democratic-Republican party. The authors then drew the parallels to today’s “dysfunctional” government, which is engaged in the same discussion: how to pay for

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New Evidence, More Questions in Florida Shooting Incident

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford

The shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin has drawn national attention to the incident with many commentators already drawing conclusions about guilt and innocence in the matter. New information and evidence in the case continues to feed the controversy.

According to CBS News, Martin had been suspended from school three separate times for offenses ranging from tardiness and truancy to vandalism. In fact, he was on a 10-day suspension from school at the time he was shot by George Zimmerman, captain of the local Neighborhood Watch team. Preliminary evidence indicates that Martin had violated his school’s zero tolerance drug rules.

New information about exactly what happened that evening was released by law enforcement officials to the Orlando Sentinel, which published the following late Monday evening: 

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Speech: Bernanke Fails at Transparency, Rails at Gold Standard

M6 - Money

When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke donned his professorial cap and addressed 30 undergraduate students at George Washington University on Tuesday, he claimed it was all in the interest of transparency. According to the New York Times, “The Fed is concerned that it is neither loved nor understood by many Americans, and that public anger could lead to constraints on its powers.”

A close look at his actual presentation, augmented by slides, confirms his attempt to direct the students’ attention away from the Fed’s obvious dangers, faults, and failures and instead concentrate on its alleged virtues.

For example, his attack on the gold standard was filled with falsehoods and half-truths that failed to convince, only to confuse:

The gold standard as an alternative to a central bank: The gold standard sets the money supply and [the] price level generally with limited central bank intervention.

What the professor fails to state is that there is the gold standard and there is a paper standard that can only be enforced when a central bank is given a monopoly over what citizens may use as money. He fails to make clear that it’s the quantity of gold that “sets the money supply” and from that is derived the value of each piece, which is reflected in its purchasing power in the marketplace. It’s the citizen, freely accepting, using and exchanging gold for goods and services in the marketplace, who sets the price level. Buried in the comment “with limited central bank intervention” is the core of the problem: Bernanke doesn’t want people making those choices and decisions for themselves. Those decisions must be left to experts like

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Obama Economic Recovery Still Underwater

President Barack Obama signs the Tax Relief, U...

For proof that the Obama “recovery” remains unimpressive compared to previous recoveries, Cato Institute scholar Dan Mitchell gathered evidence from a number of sources to make his point.

President Obama promised that at this point in the recovery unemployment would be down to six percent, but it remains stubbornly above eight percent if one believes the government numbers. At least five million people who lost their jobs in the recession are still unemployed or underemployed. The number of Americans living below the poverty level has set a new record. Government spending is virtually out of control with annual deficits now admitted to be above $1 trillion for the foreseeable future. Higher taxes are coming unless the Bush tax cuts are somehow permitted to remain in force. And the housing market is still looking for a bottom.

But according to President Obama everything is coming up roses: More than three million jobs have been created in the past two years and the Dow Jones Industrial Average just exceeded 13,000, nearly doubling from under 7,000 in March 2009.

Thanks to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve’s interactive website, the Obama recovery can easily be compared to (and contrasted with) 10 previous recessions all the way back to 1948. Whether looking at jobs or at economic output, the performance under Obama has lagged behind each of the previous recoveries very significantly. As noted by Mitchell, “Under Obama’s policies…we’ve just barely gotten back to where we were when the recession began…[and] the jobs chart is probably even more discouraging…. [It] is still below where it started.”

On February 2, 2012, Phil Gramm and Mike Solon wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Never before in postwar America has…employment still been lower four years after a recession began….

If in this recovery our economy had grown and generated jobs at the average rate achieved during the 10 previous postwar recessions…13.7 million more Americans would be working today….

President Ronald Reagan’s policies ignited a recovery so powerful that if it were being repeated today…some 16.9 million more Americans would have jobs.

The negative impact of the Obama administration’s policies is also evident when America’s economic performance is compared to that of

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NSA’s Spy Program “Stellar Wind” Exposed

MILSTAR: A communication satellite

The lead story in Wired magazine for April exposed the Stellar Wind program for its intended purpose: to spy on every jot and tittle of every American citizen’s life all the way down to his “pocket litter:” parking-lot stubs, receipts from McDonald’s, tickets from his haircut at Cost Cutters, as well as all the way up to the content of his every e-mail, every Google search, every telephone or cellphone conversation.

Stellar Wind is the code name for an effort approved by President George W. Bush following the September 11, 2001 attacks to mine a large database of communications of American citizens but which was allegedly terminated when Congress pushed back against it.

However, the National Security Agency, awash with funds provided by Congress, is nearly finished constructing its Utah Data Center as the collection point for data provided from around the country and around the world. Its purpose: “to intercept, decipher, analyze and store vast swaths of the world’s communications…[including] all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls and Google searches.” In other words, according to James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, when the $2 billion facility (consisting of four 25,000 square-foot buildings full of computer servers and their air conditioning units plus a 900,000 square-foot building to house its technical and administration people) is completed in September, 2013,

virtually everything one communicates through any traceable medium, or any record of one’s existence in the electronic medium, which these days is everything, will…become the property of the US government to deal with as its sees fit.

William Binney, a former NSA crypto-mathematician who quit NSA after he realized it was openly and deliberately ignoring privacy limitations built into the Constitution, said in an interview with Bamford, holding his thumb and forefinger close together: “We are this far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Binney headed up a team that built the infrastructure to spy on everyone all the time and, at the time, recommended that NSA install its “tapping gear” only at the nation’s “landing sites”—physical locations where fiber optic cables come ashore—to limit its eavesdropping to international communications only and preserving Americans’ right to privacy. But NSA ignored Binney’s recommendation and instead decided to

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.