Friday, April 24, 2009

Gimme a break!


Your Rapier Editors Are Chillin' for Awhile

The Editors of The Rapier announce that they are on hiatus for awhile. With the economy in the tank and the President raising taxes on some of us, we've decided to pay a little closer attention to our paying work (actually we have simply found some other avocations and diversions but the work thing sounds better).

BUT our fine constantly updated sidebar content will continue to be there for you, with breaking news, quotes and insights every moment of the day, thanks to the small Thai children and cheap Punjab labor we use on the tech side of the blog.

Be back soon.





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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Let Facts Get in the Way?????


The Myth of 90 Percent: Only a Small Fraction of Guns in Mexico Come From U.S.
While 90 percent of the guns traced to the U.S. actually originated in the United States, the percent traced to the U.S. is only about 17 percent of the total number of guns reaching Mexico.

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

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

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

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

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

There's just one problem with the 90 percent "statistic" and it's a big one:

It's just not true.

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

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

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

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

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

A Look at the Numbers

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

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

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

So, if not from the U.S., where do they come from? There are a variety of sources:

-- The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.

-- Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.

- South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.

-- Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.

-- The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.

-- Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America's cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town.

'These Don't Come From El Paso'

Ed Head, a firearms instructor in Arizona who spent 24 years with the U.S. Border Patrol, recently displayed an array of weapons considered "assault rifles" that are similar to those recovered in Mexico, but are unavailable for sale in the U.S.

"These kinds of guns -- the auto versions of these guns -- they are not coming from El Paso," he said. "They are coming from other sources. They are brought in from Guatemala. They are brought in from places like China. They are being diverted from the military. But you don't get these guns from the U.S."

Some guns, he said, "are legitimately shipped to the government of Mexico, by Colt, for example, in the United States. They are approved by the U.S. government for use by the Mexican military service. The guns end up in Mexico that way -- the fully auto versions -- they are not smuggled in across the river."

Many of the fully automatic weapons that have been seized in Mexico cannot be found in the U.S., but they are not uncommon in the Third World.

The Mexican government said it has seized 2,239 grenades in the last two years -- but those grenades and the rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) are unavailable in U.S. gun shops. The ones used in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey in October and a TV station in January were made in South Korea. Almost 70 similar grenades were seized in February in the bottom of a truck entering Mexico from Guatemala.

"Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semi-automatic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Boatloads of Weapons

So why would the Mexican drug cartels, which last year grossed between $17 billion and $38 billion, bother buying single-shot rifles, and force thousands of unknown "straw" buyers in the U.S. through a government background check, when they can buy boatloads of fully automatic M-16s and assault rifles from China, Israel or South Africa?

Alberto Islas, a security consultant who advises the Mexican government, says the drug cartels are using the Guatemalan border to move black market weapons. Some are left over from the Central American wars the United States helped fight; others, like the grenades and launchers, are South Korean, Israeli and Spanish. Some were legally supplied to the Mexican government; others were sold by corrupt military officers or officials.

The exaggeration of United States "responsibility" for the lawlessness in Mexico extends even beyond the "90-percent" falsehood -- and some Second Amendment activists believe it's designed to promote more restrictive gun-control laws in the U.S.

In a remarkable claim, Auturo Sarukhan, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., said Mexico seizes 2,000 guns a day from the United States -- 730,000 a year. That's a far cry from the official statistic from the Mexican attorney general's office, which says Mexico seized 29,000 weapons in all of 2007 and 2008.

Chris Cox, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, blames the media and anti-gun politicians in the U.S. for misrepresenting where Mexican weapons come from.

"Reporter after politician after news anchor just disregards the truth on this," Cox said. "The numbers are intentionally used to weaken the Second Amendment."

"The predominant source of guns in Mexico is Central and South America. You also have Russian, Chinese and Israeli guns. It's estimated that over 100,000 soldiers deserted the army to work for the drug cartels, and that ignores all the police. How many of them took their weapons with them?"

But Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center, called the "90 percent" issue a red herring and said that it should not detract from the effort to stop gun trafficking into Mexico.

"Let's do what we can with what we know," he said. "We know that one hell of a lot of firearms come from the United States because our gun market is wide open."




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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Huffington Post Provides a Break From Politics


Huffington Post has found the perfect distraction from Tim Geithner: a 43-year-old Cindy Crawford exlaining how to defy the aging process and wearing nothing but a stimulus plan.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Will the Military be Banned from the Pentagon Next?


The president is to receive the award from the federation of black community newspapers in a White House ceremony this afternoon.

The Obama White House has closed the press award ceremony to the press.

We are not making this up:

Barack Obama was elected commander in chief promising to run the most transparent presidential administration in American history.

This achievement and the overall promise of his historic administration caused the National Newspaper Publishers Assn. to name him "Newsmaker of the Year."

From the president's official schedule:

"Later in the afternoon, the President and the First Lady will attend a reception with the National Newspaper Publisher Association in the State Dining Room, where they will be presented the Newsmaker of the Year award. This event is closed press."

Maybe they'll let the newspaper people pass the award through the fence.

-- Andrew Malcolm
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Simple Jack Vs. Barak Obama


Obama Apologizes to Special Olympics for Bowling Joke
President Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry for an offhand remark on the "The Tonight Show."

Bowling just isn't President Obama's game.

Appearing on "The Tonight Show," the president told host Jay Leno he'd been practicing at the White House's bowling alley but wasn't happy with his score of 129. The he rolled a gutter ball by quipping: "It was like the Special Olympics or something."

The audience laughed, but the White House quickly recognized the blunder.

On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry -- even before the taped program aired late Thursday night.

"He expressed his disappointed and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." Obama, Shriver said, wants to have some Special Olympic athletes visit the White House to bowl or play basketball.

Still, Shriver said, "I think it's important to see that words hurt and words do matter. And these words that in some respect can be seem as humiliating or a put down to people with special needs do cause pain and they do result in stereotypes."

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters traveling with Obama that the president's offhand remark was not meant to disparage the Special Olympics, only to poke some fun at the commander-in-chief's bowling skills.

"He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world," Burton said.

Despite making fun of his score, the president appears to be getting better the more he visits the White House lanes, which President Truman installed in 1947. During a campaign photo op a year ago at a bowling alley in Altoona, Pa., he rolled only a 37 in seven frames. The clip of the disastrous game was replayed on late night television shows such as Leno's -- one of Obama's few campaign gaffes.
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Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Repeat It


Iranian Leaders Ignore Obama's Outstretched Hand
Iran's supreme leader snubs President Obama in response to a warm video issued by the White House seeking a "new beginning" with Iran.

Iran's supreme leader said Friday that world powers had been persuaded they could not block Iran's nuclear progress -- making no mention of a warm new-year's message sent by President Obama to his country, Reuters reported.

Neither Ayatollah Ali Khamenei nor Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noted Obama's attempt to make a "new beginning" with their country in recorded messages they issued to mark the Iranian New Year.

Obama released his video Friday to coincide with the Iranian festival of Nowruz, which marks the arrival of spring. In the video, Obama said the U.S. is prepared to end the strained relations if Tehran tones down its combative rhetoric.

"This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," Obama said.

A press adviser to Iran's president downplayed the video, saying "minor changes will not end the differences."

Ali Akbar Javanfekr told the Iranian state-run English-language Press TV satellite station that Iran will never forget U.S. meddling in Tehran's affairs. The two countries broke off relations after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Thursday, March 19, 2009

He Certainly Is A Joke


Obama Does 'Tonight Show,' But Can He Strike the Right Tone?
President Obama will appear Thursday on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" -- the first such appearance of any sitting president.

Timing is everything in comedy -- but is President Obama missing his cue with a late-night TV appearance in the middle of an economic crisis?

Obama, who is in California for a set of town hall meetings, will appear Thursday on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

Though late-night shows are a staple nowadays for any political candidate, traditionally they've been avoided by anyone in the Oval Office. The Leno visit will mark the first such appearance of any sitting president.

And with the markets still well below their highs and the sudden firestorm over bonus pay at AIG, critics suggest Obama might be showing a little tone-deafness by heading to Hollywood.

"It's not an accident that no sitting president has ever done a show like this," media analyst Steve Adubato told FOX News.

Adubato noted the difficulty any commander-in-chief would have balancing levity and sobriety in that Los Angeles setting at a time of crisis.

"He could pull it off. ... I'm not convinced this was the smartest move," he said.

Leno's not the only sticking point. After the president released his NCAA tournament picks, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wondered aloud why Obama was spending time on brackets when more pressing matters are at hand.

"As much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets," Krzyzewski said. (Obama picked Duke rival North Carolina to win the NCAA Championship.)

Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein said Obama, as he did during the campaign, is just trying to connect with as many Americans as possible -- and using every platform available, be it "The View," the Sunday morning talk shows or Leno. He saw no tonal problems with a guest appearance on late night.

"I think he's trying to project an air of normalcy and reassure people that they're working hard, at the same time that this is not a time for panic," Gerstein said. "As long as he doesn't do something that's jarringly discordant on 'The Tonight Show,' it's going to be fine."

Dan Amundson, research director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs, said Obama might just be squeezing in an appearance before Leno leaves the show later this year -- but he said the show could play in his favor as he tries to sell his economic agenda.

Obama embarked on a similar public campaign, on the stump and in the media, last month when he was trying to build support for his economic stimulus plan.

"Part of me says it's great a president is using every avenue to talk to everybody he can," Amundson said. "On the other hand there is always the potential of losing political gravitas and stature."

He said that dilemma dates back, at least, to Bill Clinton playing the sax on "The Arsenio Hall Show" during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Though the Arsenio appearance was seen as a plus for Clinton, former President George W. Bush got caught in a jocular jam in 2004 when, at a media dinner, he cracked jokes about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Too far, critics said.

Mary Kate Cary, a speechwriter for former President George H.W. Bush, wrote in a U.S. News & World Report column that Obama's Leno appearance could be damaging.

"There's a reason presidents don't do comedy on television, especially in tough times," she wrote. "Doing Jay Leno lessens the stature of the office, and diminishes the man. On Leno, he becomes just one more talk show guest."

With outcry building over revelations that bailed-out AIG was distributing $165 million in bonuses, Obama has tried to assure the public he still appreciates the somber mood of the country.

"I know a lot of you are outraged about this. Rightfully so. I'm outraged, too," he told the crowd Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif.. "Listen, I'll take responsibility. I'm the president."

No one at the town hall meeting asked Obama a question about AIG, and the White House said the questions are not pre-screened. But the AIG flap apparently is on the minds of most Americans: A Rasmussen Reports poll shows most Americans are following the controversy, and 76 percent of Americans want the employees who received bonuses to give them back.

FOXNews.com's Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Run Timmy Run


Rep. Mack Calls for Geithner to Resign or Be Fired Over AIG Bonuses
The Florida Republican becomes the first lawmaker on Capitol Hill to call for the treasury secretary's ouster.

Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack called for Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner to lose his job Wednesday, becoming the first Capitol Hill lawmakers to call for his ouster over AIG's using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for executive bonuses.

"Quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster. The Treasury Department is in disarray. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted. America's economy hangs in the balance. America needs and deserves a treasury secretary who can truly lead us forward," Mack said in a written statement.

He called on Geithner, the former New York Federal Reserve chief, either to resign or be fired, and said President Obama should nominate a new secretary with "the experience and leadership skills America deserves."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that Obama has "complete confidence" in Geithner, as lawmakers began to question why the Treasury Department didn't do more to prevent American International Group from paying $165 million in bonuses even after receiving more than $170 billion in federal bailout money.

Though the administration claims Geithner found out about the bonuses only last Tuesday, Mack suggested he was more involved.

"Before Timothy Geithner became secretary of the Treasury, he was working hand-in-hand with AIG and other financial institutions to provide them hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money as one of the key architects of the financial sector bailout," he said. "I've had serious concerns about Secretary Geithner from the moment he was nominated. In the months since, he has shown us time and again why he was the wrong choice for this critical post."

Geithner faced criticism during his nomination over personal tax problems but ultimately won confirmation.
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CHANGE! We can believe in: Hey, hijackers! Come on, fly the friendly skies!


Obama: No More Firearms Training for Commercial Airline Pilots

After the September 11 attacks, commercial airline pilots were allowed to carry guns if they completed a federal-safety program. No longer would unarmed pilots be defenseless as remorseless hijackers seized control of aircraft and rammed them into buildings.

NOW, however, President Obama is -- very very quietly -- ending the federal firearms program. The Washington Times says this is risking public safety on airlines in the name of an anti-gun ideology.

The Obama administration this past week diverted some $2 million from the pilot firearms training program to hire more "supervisory" staff, who will engage in field inspections of pilots.

Read more here about Mr. Obama's efforts to preserve, PROTECT, and defend the Constitution -- and us.

[end]




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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Economists Grade Obama: A Solid "F"


Wall Street Journal's Phil Izzo reports on a Journal survey of economists, asking them to grade the president's handling of the economy.

Obama's score: 59.

Timothy Geithner's score: 51.

A sampling of opinion: "The Obama team has blown it," said David Resler of Nomura Securities.

It's the banking industry, stupid.

"The most important issue in the short run is the financial rescue," said Stephen Stanley of RBS Greenwich Capital. "They overpromised and underdelivered. Secretary Geithner scheduled a big speech and came out with just a vague blueprint. The uncertainty is hanging over everyone's head."
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Another One Bites The Dust


Intelligence Pick Withdraws Name Amid Controversy
National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair announced former Ambassador Chas Freeman's decision in a statement Tuesday.

Chas Freeman, the former ambassador appointed to be the military's top intelligence analyst, has withdrawn his name following complaints from Democratic and Republican lawmakers who said he was too entangled in foreign affairs to handle the job.

National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, who originally appointed Freeman to the post of National Intelligence Council chairman, announced the move in a statement Tuesday.

"Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman's decision with regret," the statement said.

The announcement came just hours after Blair defended Freeman before a Senate committee.

But Freeman had become a political lightning rod since he was tapped two weeks ago for the post.

Lawmakers had objected to several controversial statements Freeman has made about Israel and Iraq. And they said the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia was too close to that country, as well as to China.

Following those complaints, the inspector general for the director of national intelligence agreed last week to examine Freeman's foreign ties. At the time, Blair said the inquiry would put to rest any questions about Freeman.

But a number of top lawmakers, most of them Republicans, suggested Freeman's conflicts could be disqualifying.

Among their concerns were:

-- Freeman's role as president of the Middle East Policy Council, a think tank they say received funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Fuad A. Rihani, a consultant for the bin Ladin family's Saudi BinLadin Group, also sits on the group's board of directors -- another trouble spot for Freeman's critics. And they complained the council did not disclose its donors.

-- Freeman's role on a board for the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, owned by China, and that company's reportedly $16 billion agreement with Iran to develop a gas field in the Middle Eastern country.

The controversy surrounding Freeman heated up last week when Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said he wanted Freeman to withdraw his name. That was after he wrote to Blair on Monday expressing his doubt that Freeman could restore credibility to the national intelligence estimates, or NIEs, the intelligence reports Freeman would be involved in producing.

"I am ... deeply concerned that an individual who reportedly holds radical and extreme views would be chosen to oversee NIEs, the IC's most comprehensive and authoritative intelligence assessments," Hoekstra wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by FOXNews.com.

As NIC chairman, Freeman would have been responsible for drawing from assessments from all 16 intelligence agencies and formulating mid-and-long-term strategic intelligence plans.

More than a dozen lawmakers had already called for an investigation by the time Blair's inspector general, Edward Maguire, decided to launch one. Democratic Rep. Steve Israel, N.Y., first urged Maguire to launch a probe in a letter Saturday.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Israel also asked Maguire to look into Freeman's work with the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation and its deal with Iran.

Blair argued that Freeman's rich background would make him an asset to the intelligence community and other foreign policy analysts had dismissed the criticism of him as a smear campaign.

Freeman has a formidable resume of foreign policy positions that include U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under George H.W. Bush and assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs -- a position that earned him public service awards for his role in creating a NATO-centered post-Cold War European security system. Freeman also served as Richard Nixon's chief translator in China in 1972.

Blair's office said he did not seek White House approval for the appointment, which did not require Senate approval.

But statements the former ambassador made over the last three decades on U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East and Iran's threat to the international community had also prompted some to question his objectivity in a role that requires it.

In a speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy in October 2007, Freeman said the U.S. has "abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel's efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations."

"We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists," he said.

In reference to the Iraq war, Freeman said, "Now the United States has brought the Palestinian experience -- of humiliation, dislocation, and death -- to millions more in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism and civil war in that country."

Also, The Weekly Standard recently posted a 2006 e-mail from Freeman to a listserv in which he said the Chinese government was "overly cautious" in its effort to "intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud" during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

FOX News' James Rosen contributed to this report.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Chicken in Every Pot and a Jet for Every Deomocrat


Pelosi Made Repeated Requests for Military Aircraft, Documents Show
Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents showing the requests, say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly requested military aircraft to shuttle her and her colleagues and family around the country, according to a new report from a conservative watchdog group.

Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents from a Freedom of Information request, said the correspondence shows Pelosi has abused the system in place to accommodate congressional leaders and treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."

Pelosi's office disputed the claim, pointing to White House policy enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks allowing for the House speaker to travel to his or her congressional district via military aircraft whenever possible for security reasons. Her office said she typically uses the same kind of aircraft used by her predecessor, Dennis Hastert.

But Judicial Watch said that Pelosi was notorious for making special demands for high-end aircraft, lodging last-minute cancellations and racking up additional expenses for the military.

The e-mails showed repeated attempts by Pelosi aides to request aircraft, sometimes aggressively, and by Department of Defense officials to accommodate them.

"I think that's above and beyond what other members of Congress are doing and what is expected of our elected officials," said Jenny Small, a researcher with the group.

In one e-mail, aide Kay King complained to the military that they had not made available any aircraft the House speaker wanted for Memorial Day recess.

"It is my understanding there are NO G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable ... The Speaker will want to know where the planes are," King wrote.

In another, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King wrote: "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset Speaker."

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the report seemed to be based on only "a few e-mails," and defended the requests for military aircraft for her colleagues as a "function of the speaker's office." Elshami said at least one of the requests in the above e-mails referenced requests made for other members.

Pelosi's office noted that the Department of Defense ultimately makes all decisions on use of military aircraft for travel, and that Pelosi is "extraordinarily appreciative" of the department's effort to accommodate Congress.

Click here to read the full report from Judicial Watch.




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Broken Campaign Promises Meets Bad Economics


Senate Passes $410B Spending Bill

WASHINGTON--The Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress on Tuesday approved a $410 billion bill to fund most of the government through September 30, sending it to President Barack Obama despite Republican objections to the price tag.

After a contentious fight the Senate, by voice vote, approved the bill which funds the departments of transportation and agriculture, among others. It also begins to roll back strict limits on travel and trade with Cuba -- a move Obama supports.

"It takes care of these government agencies that have been, over the Bush years, so underfunded," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, referring to President George W. Bush's administration.

Many Republicans fought the measure because it raised government spending by 8% above fiscal 2008 levels. They said it added more money to programs already funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved last month.

The debate, at times full of bitter partisan rancor over the U.S. embargo on Cuba and abortion, foreshadows even bigger fights over Obama's $3.55 trillion 2010 budget and overhauling healthcare, which Congress will turn to in the coming weeks.

Senators from both parties objected to billions of dollars for lawmakers' pet projects, but rejected several attempts to freeze the spending at last year's levels and strip out so-called earmarks.

"The bill costs far too much for a government that should be watching every dime," said Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who called the legislation a "missed opportunity" to restrain spending amid a deep recession.

Republicans were able to slow the legislation down and get more amendments considered, but none were adopted. Amendments also rejected include ending automatic pay raises for lawmakers and scrapping language that Republicans said would end a Washington, D.C. school voucher program.

The extra debate gave the Obama administration time to address concerns by two senators about the Cuba provisions. Two Democrats, Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, were against the bill until the administration offered their views about the provisions.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote to the senators saying that the provisions about doing business with Cuba would not amount to a major reversal of the decades-old U.S. policy of isolating the communist-run island.
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Two Americas! The One He Acknowledges and the One He Hides...

Edwards Admits: I'm the Baby Daddy...
Editor's Note: Normally, The Rapier would not stoop so low as to cite to the National Enquirer. However, this is John Edwards, so naturally we make an exception...

Very legitimate journalist Alan Colmes is quoting very illegitimate* journalists The National Enquirer in saying that former senator and vice presidential candidate and solver-of-all-things-poverty John John Edwards has admitted to his wife, the long suffering Elizabeth, that he is the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby. The Edwards confession is supposedly an attempt to stop the mother of the child from going public.

*Oops - we couldn't resist...

Colmes has this important national story here.

[end]




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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Santelli Rant Draws Jon Stewart Riff


Mark Siliva of The Chicago Tribune showcases what has become an entertaining back-and-forth, with Rick Santelli's CNBC rant met head-on by Jon Stewart.

Stewart's roll call of previous CNBC forecasts is priceless.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Change We can Believe In! It is better to give and let the Government Receive. . .

President Obama's proposed budget seeks to increase taxes on charitable gifts by the wealthy.
(The good news is that it won't affect Al Gore's taxes one bit...)

In a document given the rather balsy title, “A New Era of Responsibility – Renewing America’s Promise," the Obama administration has announced plans to cap the tax rate that families with incomes over $250,000 can claim for itemized deductions at 28 percent.

Accordingly, high-income donors who are subject to the 33 or 35 percent income tax bracket and who, under current law, would be able to claim itemized deductions at this rate will, under the new proposal, have to in effect subject between a 5 and 7 percent of their charitable donations to income tax.

Example: A couple in the 35 percent bracket gives $100,000 to charity. Under current law, they will reduce their income taxes by $35,000. The net cost of their gift will be $65,000. Under President Hope's plan, the couple will only be able to deduct their gift at the 28 percent rate, thereby reducing their taxes by $28,000. In essence, they will pay an additional $7,000 in tax for the privilege of making their gift thereby increasing the after-tax cost of their gift to $72,000—a 10.8 percent increase over current law.

The Planned Giving Design Center discusses the Obama proposal in more detail here.

[end]




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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Do As I Say Not As I Do


Geithner Touts Tackling Tax Evaders After Failing to Pay Own Taxes
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday that the Obama administration, which has been riddled with tax problems, is mounting plans to go after tax evaders.

The pot has issued the kettle an ultimatum: tax dodgers beware.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was forced to fork up $34,000 in unpaid back taxes, told the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday that the Obama administration will be going after people who avoid and evade taxes.

In prepared remarks before Congress, he said the president is intent on "tackling tax shelters and other efforts to abuse our tax laws, including international tax evasion efforts."

Geithner himself never used a tax haven to avoid payment, but did neglect to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes while he was a self-employed staffer for the International Monetary Fund. He even hired an accountant for two of the years he forgot to file.

"Over the next several months," he said Tuesday, "the President will propose a series of legislative and enforcement measures to reduce such U.S. tax evasion and avoidance."

But the Treasury secretary might want to heed something of a caveat legislator: such a dragnet could quickly catch a handful of Obama's top appointees.

Tom Daschle, Obama's pick to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, had to bow out when it was disclosed that he had failed to pay $128,000 in back taxes. Nancy Killefer, who was appointed by Obama to scrutinize government spending for the OMB, also had to withdraw her nomination because of tax issues.

And just a day before Geithner's appearance in the House, Obama's designated Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, told the Senate Finance Committee that he owed some $10,000 in back taxes that he had agreed to pay.

Some of the administrations enforcement measures, put forth in good faith inside the president's proposed budget, might be hitting just a little too close to home.
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What Does Obama Know That The Wall Street Experts Don't?


Obama: It's a Good Time to Buy Stocks

President Obama said Tuesday that now is a good time for investors to buy stocks if they focus on the big picture.

The Dow plunged Monday to its lowest level in 12 years.

"What you're now seeing is a profit and earnings ratios get to the point that buying stocks is a good thing if you have a long-term perspective on it," he said to reporters after meeting in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The president compared the market to daily tracking polls used by politicians, saying that paying too close attention to Wall Street's "fits and starts" could lead to bad long-term policy.

"The stock market is story of like a tracking poll in politics. It bobs up and down day-to-day," Obama said. "And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong."

Obama said he is not measuring policies against "the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market," but by whether lending is flowing more freely, businesses are investing and the unemployed are going back to work.

He said he is "absolutely confident" that those things will happen. But the president also said it will take time fore the mistakes of the past to work their way through the system.

"There are a lot of losses that are working their way through the system and it's not surprising the market is hurting as a consequence," he said. "We dug a very deep hole for ourselves. There were a lot of bad decisions that were made. We are cleaning up that mess. It's going to be sort of full of fits and starts, in terms of getting the mess cleaned up, but it's going to get cleaned up. And we are going to recover, and we are going to emerge more prosperous, more unified, and I think more protected from systemic risk."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




Click here to read rest of entry >>

Change! Young inner city black kids can believe in...

Obama's Party Seeks to End DC Voucher System that Allows Poor Minorities the Chance to Attend School with His Daughters

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal writes today about two young children, Sarah and James Parker. McGurn writes: "Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in our nation's capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program -- and with it perhaps the Parker children's hopes for a Sidwell diploma." What will Mr. Obama say? Will he sign the bill?

The rest of McGurn's piece can be found here.

[end]




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Friday, February 27, 2009

Piling on Jindal: Kenneth the Page Fires Back


Daily Kos is the latest to pile on Bobby Jindal for what was a calamitous national TV appearance. Today's story line is the Katrina tale.

The Louisiana governor already has taken hits from both sides.

Daniel Kurtzman is promoting the Kenneth-the-page angle.

Kenneth, of course, has issued a response.
Click here to read rest of entry >>

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ok, where are all the wingnut "Impeach Obama" Chants and T-Shirts?

Senior Democrat Senator: Obama Threatens the Constitution

Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving Democratic senator, is criticizing President Obama’s appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a "power grab" by the executive branch.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”

While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is considered by some to be a constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House.

John Breshnahan at The Politico has the rest of the story here.

[end]




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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He's (not) Young and (not) Hip, He's Our Vice President


Biden Asks for Web Site's 'Number'
The vice president made a techie gaffe Wednesday as he asked an aide to tell him a Web site's "number," stirring questions online whether he knows how the Web works.

Vice President Joe Biden, tasked with overseeing the $787 billion stimulus package, has been having a little trouble with his "numbers."

During an interview on CBS' "Early Show" on Wednesday, Biden told viewers to check out a government-run Web site tracking stimulus spending, but admitted he was embarrassed because he couldn't remember the site's "number."

"You know, I'm embarrassed. Do you know the Web site number?" he asked an aide standing out of view. "I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed."

Biden, who seemed to indicate that he thought the Internet worked like a giant telephone, sounded an unusually Luddite note inside an administration often heralded for its mastery of the Web.

Click here to see the gaffe.

Web sites, as much of the "Early Show" audience may have been aware, are generally referred to by their URLs or addresses. The one Biden was searching for was Recovery.gov, which he announced moments later when reminded of the proper address.

Bloggers wondered aloud whether the vice president knew how to use the Web, though some correctly pointed out that Web sites do indeed use a number system, and are identified by their numeric Internet Protocol address.

A spokeswoman for the vice president had not offered comment by the time this article was published.

Biden isn't the first politician to make a serious flub concerning the ways of the Internet -- former Sen. Ted Stevens called it a "series of tubes" in a now-famous address on the floor of the Senate.

But this wasn't even Biden's first error involving the name of the Web site. During a nationally televised address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Feb. 20, he directed the assembled leaders to visit the stimulus site -- but sent them to the wrong one.

"We've already set up a Web site, Recovery.com, which will show where and how the money is being spent," he said, apparently unaware that the government has its own domain. Before a government tweak last Friday, Recovery.com directed Web users to a commercial research company.
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Abu Ghraib Tactics Surface Among U of Colorado Undergrads


Eventually, we can conclude, she let go. How else would authorities have captured this darling photo of U of Colorado super soph Chalie Simon?

More details here.

A hint at Chalie's appeal: She and Jon Donkor have been through this break-up about 20 times.
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Obama Must Be Doing Something Right: Heritage Foundation Finds Only 12 Problems With Mortgage Plan


That's right. Heritage's Ronald Utt and David John can find only a dozen flaws with Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.

The simplest gripe? That's easy. No. 10:
"The program will cost $275 billion ($75 billion for problem mortgages and $200 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)."
Click here to read rest of entry >>

Hope!

GOP Rising Star Puts it to the Dems

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the 37 year-old rising GOP star, who was among the first governors to turn down "stimulus" funding targeted for his state, gave the Republican response to President Obama's marathon speech to Congress last night. In doing so, he drew contrasts in basic principles with the new President and may have given the nation a preview of the 2012 general election fight. Jindal pointedly noted that the Democrats put their faith in the federal government to solve the nation's woes, whereas he advocates putting faith the the people.

In his response from the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, Jindal defended the virtues of small government that he said even his own party had abandoned in recent years.

"Instead of trusting us to make decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest," he said of Democrats. "Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt."

Speaking of Obama, Jindal said that "we appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems like we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people."

And in response to the President's remark earlier this month that without immediate action on the economy, "our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse," Jindal retorted: "A few weeks ago, the president warned that our country is facing a crisis that he said we may not be able to reverse," Jindal said. "Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don't let anyone tell you that America 's best days are behind her."

The first Indian American elected governor is a Baton Rouge native and the son of immigrants, and he used the response to tell some of his story: "Like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land," Jindal said. "When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already four and half months pregnant. . . . To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment."

So much for any bipartisan desire for nationalized health insurance.

The full transcript of the Governor's speech can be found here.


Click here to read rest of entry >>

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living in River City


Fact Check: President Glosses Over Complex Realities

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's assurance Tuesday that his mortgage-relief plan will only benefit deserving homeowners appears to be a stretch.

Even officials in his administration, many supporters of the plan in Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman expect some of that money will go to people who should have known better than to buy that huge house.

The president glossed over a number of complex realities in delivering his speech to Congress and a nation hungry for economic salvation.

A look at some of his assertions:

OBAMA: "We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values."

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money does not go to home buyers who used bad judgment, it hasn't announced it.

Defending the program Tuesday at a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it's important to save some of those people for the greater good. He likened it to calling the fire department to put out a blaze caused by someone smoking in bed.

"I think the smart way to deal with a situation like that is to put out the fire, save him from his own consequences of his own action but then, going forward, enact penalties and set tougher rules about smoking in bed."

Similarly, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. suggested this month it's not likely aid will be denied to all homeowners who overstated their income or assets to get a mortgage they couldn't afford.

"I think it's just simply impractical to try to do a forensic analysis of each and every one of these delinquent loans," Sheila Bair told National Public Radio.

------

OBAMA: "We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

THE FACTS: Although 10-year projections are common in government, they don't mean much. And at times, they are a way for a president to pass on the most painful steps to his successor, by putting off big tax increases or spending cuts until someone else is in the White House.

Obama only has a real say on spending during the four years of his term. He may not be president after that and he certainly won't be 10 years from now.

------

OBAMA: "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

THE FACTS: This may be so, but it isn't only Republicans who pushed for deregulation of the financial industries. The Clinton administration championed an easing of banking regulations, including legislation that ended the barrier between regular banks and Wall Street banks. That led to a deregulation that kept regular banks under tight federal regulation but extended lax regulation of Wall Street banks. Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, later an economic adviser to candidate Obama, was in the forefront in pushing for this deregulation.

------

OBAMA: "In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

THE FACTS: First, his budget does not accomplish any of that. It only proposes those steps.

That's all a president can do, because control over spending rests with Congress. Obama's proposals here are a wish list and some items, including corporate tax increases and cuts in agricultural aid, will be a tough sale in Congress.

Second, waste, fraud and abuse are routinely targeted by presidents who later find that the savings realized seldom amount to significant sums. Programs that a president might consider wasteful have staunch defenders in Congress who have fought off similar efforts in the past.

------

OBAMA: "Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs."

THE FACTS: This is a recurrent Obama formulation. But job creation projections are uncertain even in stable times, and some of the economists relied on by Obama in making his forecast acknowledge a great deal of uncertainty in their numbers.

The president's own economists, in a report prepared last month, stated, "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error."

Beyond that, it's unlikely the nation will ever know how many jobs are saved as a result of the stimulus. While it's clear when jobs are abolished, there's no economic gauge that tracks job preservation. The estimates are based on economic assumptions of how many jobs would be lost without the stimulus.

------

OBAMA: "First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running."

THE FACTS. Obama appeared to be referring to an expanded Federal Reserve program established in the Bush administration but never activated. The program would unclog consumer lending, allowing the Fed's program to expand to $1 trillion from $200 billion. The Fed said it will lend the money to banks and other financial institutions in order to spur more lending by those companies through credit cards and student and auto loans.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

A House (and Senate) Divided


Analysis: Clinton's mockery of Obama proves true

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- During the most contentious stretch of the Democratic presidential primary campaign last winter, then-candidate Hillary Clinton mocked Barack Obama for his pledge to transcend Washington's entrenched partisanship.

"The sky will open. The lights will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect!" Clinton bellowed.

Obama dismissed Clinton's sarcasm as overly cynical and further evidence she was a creature of Washington. But as President Obama prepares to make his first major address to Congress, Clinton's comments are borne out.

For a candidate who won the White House on a mantle of bringing the country's two political parties together, Washington could not be more divided on Obama's initial weeks in the Oval Office and the policies he has put in place.

Depending on who you ask, in 30 days the new president has either rescued the nation's economy from financial ruin or set in motion the most liberal government in a generation, and one that's likely to prolong -- perhaps even prevent -- the country's economic recovery.

There have also been heated debates over a string of executive orders and bill signings that have fundamentally reversed several policies of the Bush administration -- including the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a firm decree against torture, the extension of children's health insurance, and the lifting of a ban to give funds to international groups that perform abortions.

"Clinton's earlier critique of change has quickly become very valid," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. "The Washington of George Bush is the same Washington of Barack Obama. The promise of bipartisanship and hope in Washington is difficult to actually achieve."

It's the massive $787 billion stimulus bill that has drawn the most criticism -- and praise -- in the president's first month. To be sure, while former president Clinton famously declared an end to the "era of big government" 13 years ago, Obama will herald its return in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Congressional Democrats and Obama supporters argue the new president has admirably taken bold action in response to the dire conditions he inherited, swiftly accomplishing a string of dramatic reforms in a town known to operate at a sluggish pace.

Obama has also enacted dramatic Wall Street reforms, salary caps on CEO pay, and a wide-ranging plan to stem the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

"This is a presidency on steroids," wrote Eugene Robinson, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post. "Barack Obama's executive actions alone would be enough for any new administration's first month. That the White House also managed to push through Congress a spending bill of unprecedented size and scope ... is little short of astonishing."

But scorn from the right is equal to admiration from the left: He championed a new way of doing things in Washington, but Obama went about shepherding his stimulus bill in a very old-fashioned partisan way, Republicans said.

That Obama signed the historic measure into law 1,500 miles away from Washington in Denver, Colorado, was a symbol to some of just how much animosity it had stirred up in the nation's capital.

"If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, declared last week. "I know bipartisanship when I see it."

Amidst the passage of Obama's major economic reforms and the country's continued economic turmoil, was a transition process that began smooth but quickly turned rocky after embarrassing revelations regarding several of the president's appointees.

Beleaguered by tax issues or charges of impropriety, three of Obama's appointees withdrew their names, including Tom Daschle who would have led the Health and Human Services Department, Nancy Killefer, nominated as a the chief government performance officer, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped to head the Commerce Department.

A fourth appointee -- Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire -- also withdrew his name for Commerce last week, citing "irresolvable conflicts."

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each lost one cabinet appointee during their first terms. Presidents Carter, Reagan and the elder Bush lost none during their transition process.

Suddenly, a vetting process that was self-proclaimed as the most thorough in history -- and included a 60-page questionnaire -- looked downright amateur.

"It raises questions about whether the Obama team did their homework," said David Gergen, an adviser to several former presidents and a CNN contributor.

Obama's approval rating stands at 67 percent in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll -- a number any politician would envy, but still 9 points lower than it was only two weeks ago. The president saw his biggest decline among Republicans, down 19 points among members of the opposite party. The poll also said that only about half of all Americans now think Obama can put an end to partisan gridlock in Washington. Watch why Obama's approval rating dropped


Still, when Obama addresses Congress for the first time, he's certain to highlight that in an extraordinary short amount of time, the new administration has managed to make fundamental imprints on how the government operates -- accomplishments that have taken other presidents years longer to achieve.

"Major actions have come out of such a young White House," Zelizer said, "Even though he hasn't been able to get Republicans to join him, that's still a big victory."
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The Obama Plan: Gateway Drug to Dependency...

This is your state government. This is your state government hooked on Stimulus...

The Wall Street Journal opines here that the new Stimulus law sets a "long-term budget trap for the states" that The One has failed to point out.

Here's an excerpt:

Debt-laden state governments were supposed to be the big winners from the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. But at least five Republican Governors are saying thanks but no thanks to some of the $150 billion of "free" money doled out to states, because it could make their budget headaches much worse down the line. And they're right.

These Governors -- Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Butch Otter of Idaho, Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- all have the same objection: The tens of billions of dollars of aid for health care, welfare and education will disappear in two years and leave states with no way to finance the expanded programs. Mr. Perry sent a letter to President Obama last week warning that Texas may refuse certain stimulus funds. "If this money expands entitlements, we will not accept it. This is exactly how addicts get hooked on drugs," he says.

Consider South Carolina. Its annual budget is roughly $7 billion and the stimulus will send about $2.8 billion to the state over two years. But to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to the likes of Head Start, child care subsidies and special education, the state will have to enroll thousands of new families into the programs. "There's no way politically we're going to be able to push people out of the program in two years when the federal money runs out," Mr. Sanford says.

The Medicaid money for states is also a fiscal time bomb. The stimulus bill temporarily increases the share of state Medicaid bills reimbursed by the federal government by two or three percentage points. High-income states now pay about half the Medicaid costs, and in low-income states the feds pay about 70%. Much of the stimulus money will cover health-care costs for unemployed workers and single workers without kids. But in 2011 almost all the $80 billion of extra federal Medicaid money vanishes. Does Congress really expect states to dump one million people or more from Medicaid at that stage?

The alternative, as we've warned, is that Congress will simply extend these transfer payments indefinitely. Pete Stark, David Obey and Nancy Pelosi no doubt intend exactly this, which could triple the stimulus price tag to as much as $3 trillion in additional spending and debt service over 10 years. But the states would still have to pick up their share of this tab for these new entitlements in perpetuity. Thanks, Washington.


Read the full piece here.
Click here to read rest of entry >>

Sunday, February 22, 2009

UCLA Student Project: Find Bin Laden


The LA Times reports on an ambitious class project at UCLA, where a geography class project has used space-age tools to place Bin Laden at one of three locations.

From the LA Times:

"Using standard geographical tools routinely employed to locate endangered species and fugitive criminals, the group said there is a high probability that Bin Laden has been hiding in one of three buildings in the northwestern Pakistani city of Parachinar, a longtime hide-out for mujahedin fighters.

"Osama bin Laden"He may be sitting there right now," said UCLA biogeographer Thomas W. Gillespie, who led the study published online Tuesday in the MIT International Review, an interdisciplinary journal of international affairs."
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No One Will Confuse Barak Obama with Ronald Regan


Weapons Work Ignored in Stimulus
Weapons development funds weren't a part of the $787 billion stimulus package the president signed this week, but some say boosting defense spending and innovation could create jobs and help the ailing economy bounce back.

A series of short videos released on YouTube recently showed the U.S. Army's vision of the military to come with infantrymen maneuvering robots, electronics and guided missiles that moved at lightning speed with James Bond coolness.

Called the Future Combat System, the short videos show the many moving parts of the modern military using state-of-the-art equipment to fight a common foe. But despite the cheers at the end of each presentation, the FCS program may not have a happy ending.

While the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday includes $10 billion to upgrade military barracks, hospitals, clinics and child-care centers, it doesn't add a single dollar for weapons development. And some observers think that's a mistake.

A stimulus in defense spending, they say, would be a victory not only for American servicemen and women -- but for the nation's economy, as well.

The Lockheed Corporation, linking defense spending to immediate economic stimulus, says 95,000 Americans' jobs across the country depend on the Defense Department buying more of its F-22 Raptors.

Click here for photos of weapons of the future.

"This is shovel-ready," said Larry Lawson, executive vice president and general manager of the F/A-22 Raptor program. "Our point is, this preserves jobs, and it is immediate. You don't have to develop anything."

But a new administration means new priorities, and the Defense Department is now reviewing future purchases.

The F-22 has Mach speed capabilities, but speed comes at a price. Each F-22 costs $350 million -- a sum that could make the fighter jet a target for budget-cutters.

"It does not make sense to cut defense procurement and eliminate high-paying, middle-class union jobs, in order to fund other government programs to create jobs. That's just plain stupid," said James Carafano, military affairs expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"We really haven't significantly increased the core defense budget," Carafano added. "Most additional money has gone for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, the military still has not fully recovered from the 'procurement holiday' of the Clinton years... and we've used up a lot of equipment since then."

"The world becomes a more, not a less troubled place, in tough economic times," said Carafano. "It is not a good time to cut the defense budget."

But some observers say defense budgets have been fraught with overspending and poor oversight for years.

"Last year, [defense contractors] got 127 of the F-22s," said Larry Korbs, a former Navy flight instructor and author of "Building a Military for the 21st Century."

He said conservatives and defense contractors are playing politics with the Obama administration.

"Under Bush," Korbs said, "defense spending went up 40 percent from 2001 to 2008 in real dollars," he said. "There is no defense spending cut."

"The last eight years have been a defense spending Mardi Gras," said Collin Clark, editor of DODD Buzz and the Pentagon correspondent for Military.com.

"I wouldn't say there was a lot of wasteful spending," he said. "Waste is a loaded term, these are complicated systems. Contractors will just be given a smaller margin of error now."

Defense officials planned the modernization of the military during the money-flush years of the Bush administration. Among the projects that they say would boost the nation's defense capabilities -- and conceivably stimulate the economy through the jobs created to build them -- are:

-- The Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), an all-terrain, multi-purpose robot platform that is already used by Explosives Ordinance Disposal units to handle IEDs. The Army has bigger plans for the durable little robots -- if more can be built.

-- Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), remote-controlled "robo-bugs" that the Air Force says could be deployed for a variety of purposes, including close reconnaissance. These small, sophisticated devices -- as little as six inches long -- can achieve a variety of disguises through "collapsible wings" and "sliding skins."

-- More air drones, which work around the clock and can sense human targets through voice and face-recognition. They can quickly send back real-time footage and aggressively attack their targets.

-- Quick Kill, an active protective system designed to destroy enemy weapons and literally deflect incoming projectiles, like a rocket propelled grenade. This high-tech "hit avoidance" shield may crack under budgetary constraints, a concern for Raytheon, the 72,000-employee aerospace and defense company in Waltham, Mass., that produces it.

Whether these programs will stay on course in a time of economic hardship remains to be seen.

"Cutting any major modernization program is just cutting into muscle and bone. The excuse that 'we don't need this' or 'this is a Cold War' system is just smoke and mirrors," Carafano said.

But absent any future funds, Future Combat Systems will remain a concept for YouTube. The Army has pulled down its FCS Web site.
Click here to read rest of entry >>

I Wonder if Michelle Obama Is Proud of This?


Holder Calls U.S. 'Nation of Cowards'

WASHINGTON -- Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was "a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues.

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Holder's speech echoed President Barack Obama's landmark address last year on race relations during the hotly contested Democratic primaries, when the then-candidate urged the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years" and bemoaned the "chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." Obama delivered the speech to try to distance himself from the angry rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Holder cited that speech by Obama as part of the motivation for his words Wednesday, saying Americans need to overcome an ingrained inhibition against talking about race.

"If we're going to ever make progress, we're going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified," Holder told reporters after the speech.

Holder urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education and economic disparities.

Race, Holder said, "is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable... If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

In a country founded by slave owners, race has bedeviled the nation throughout its history, with blacks denied the right to vote just a few decades ago. Obama's triumph last November as well as the nomination of Holder stand as historic achievements of two black Americans.

Holder told hundreds of Justice Department employees gathered for the event that they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Even when people mix at the workplace or afterwork social events, Holder argued, many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called "race-protected cocoons."

"Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad," said Holder.

Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, praised Holder's general message but said the wording of the speech may alienate some.

"He's right on the substance, but that's probably not the most politic way of saying it. I'm certain there are people who will hear him and say, 'That's obnoxious,"' he said, adding that what was missing from Holder's speech were specific examples of what painful subjects need to be addressed.

Hilary Shelton, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the speech "constructively provocative."

"Nobody wants to be considered a coward. We've learned to get along by exclusion and silence. We need to talk about it. People need to feel comfortable saying the wrong things," said Shelton.

Holder is headed to Guantanamo Bay early next week to inspect the terrorist detention facility there. Obama has assigned Holder to lead a special task force aimed at closing the site within a year.

Holder's Justice Department will have to decide which suspects to bring to U.S. courts for trial, which to prosecute through the military justice system, and which to send back to their home countries.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Psst? Mr. President, Tell Timmy that the "Hell, I don't know if this is true either" look is no way to turn an economy around...

Today's Rapier Essay in Pictures:
Has Anyone Noticed that Treasury Secretary Geithner is the LEAST Confident Looking Man Ever Appointed to a High Post in Washington?






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Monday, February 16, 2009

Venezuela or USA? Getting Hard to Tell


Mandate for Socialism

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says a referendum victory that removed limits on his re-election is a mandate to intensify his socialist agenda for decades to come. Opponents warn of an impending dictatorship.

Both sides had called the outcome of Sunday's vote key to the future of this South American country, split down the middle between those who worship the president for redistributing Venezuela's oil riches and those who see him as a power-hungry autocrat.

"Those who voted "yes" today voted for socialism, for revolution," Chavez thundered to thousands of ecstatic supporters jamming the streets around the presidential palace. Fireworks lit up the Caracas skyline, and one man walked though the crowd carrying a painting of Chavez that read: "Forever."

Josefa Dugarte stared at the crowd from the stoop of her apartment building with look of dismay.

"These people don't realize what they have done," she muttered.

With 94 percent of the vote counted, official results showed the amendment passing 54 percent to 46 percent, an irreversible trend, and opposition leaders accepted the results. Tibisay Lucena, president of National Electoral Council, said turnout was 67 percent.

The constitutional overhaul allows all public officials to run for re-election as many times as they want, removing barriers to a Chavez candidacy in the next presidential elections in 2012 and beyond.
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Funny How Just a Few Weeks Ago Democrats Were Complaining That the Executive Branch had too Much Power Under Bush


GOP Threatens Legal Action Against Obama for Plan to Oversee 2010 Census

House Republican leaders said Thursday they're ready to go to court against President Obama if he doesn't scuttle his plan to move the census into the purview of the Oval Office, saying it's an unconstitutional abuse of power.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., also called on Obama to withdraw his nominee to head the Commerce Department, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, if Obama didn't have the confidence in him to lead the Census Bureau. Gregg has been a long time opponent of increased funding to the bureau.

Under Obama's plan, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who has yet to be named, would report to White House senior management in addition to the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau.

A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing next month on the potential change. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are also pushing for an investigation.

GOP leaders sent Obama a letter to the White House on Wednesday demanding a reversal of the plan.

"If the president doesn't acquiesce to our letter, then we will seek the courts," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at a news conference Thursday.

"Ultimately I don't think there's any question among federal courts about whether or not this is a personal power of the presidency or whether or not executive privilege would be waived if he started doing functions like this," Issa said.

A spokesman for Issa told FOXNews.com that the lawmaker wouldn't initiate a lawsuit but would lend his support to any individual or group that did.

At the news conference Thursday, House Republican leaders announced the formation of a census task force to keep an eye on developments. Republicans displayed a large placard with a 2006 quote from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that read, "If you think redistricting is always partisan and political which it is...it's going to be on steroids this time."

Census numbers determine everything from government pay-outs to how many people represent each state in Congress. Past censuses have sparked fights over issues as varied as how to ensure remote population groups are counted accurately to how such terms as "poverty" are defined.

The controversy began when Obama nominated Gregg to head the Commerce Department.

Gregg once voted for a broader budget measure that would have abolished the agency, and he opposed increased funding for the 2000 census. Gregg's record raised concerns about his commitment to an accurate census count, a priority for minority groups that have historically been undercounted.

Gregg's nomination initially pleased Republicans because he has opposed increased funding to the census and once supported abolishing the agency. But now they have begun to question his silence.

"If President Obama doesn't trust Sen. Gregg to oversee a fair and accurate census, he should withdraw the nomination," said GOP conference chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind.

The White House sought to soothe those concerns in a statement late last week reassuring that the census director would "work closely with White House senior management."

That in turn sparked an uproar from Republicans, who accused the White House of injecting partisan politics into the census and seeking to cut out agency professionals in favor of political operatives.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday, emphasizing Obama's commitment to a "complete and accurate count through a process that is free from politicization" even while seeking to explain that no real change was being made to the census director's chain of command.

"As they have in the past, White House senior management will work closely with the census director given the number of decisions that will need to reach the president's desk," said the statement from White House spokesman Benjamin LaBolt.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has pushed legislation to create an independent census agency, complained about the move by House Republicans, saying their "answer is to have a press conference and create a tempest over the Census Bureau, even before the president has had a chance to unpack his bags."

FOX News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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