Archive for October 7th, 2009

ACORN Awarded Grant Over Firefighters

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Acorn | Tags: , , , , |

Nearly $1 million in Homeland Security funding typically earmarked for fire departments has been awarded to ACORN, despite a clear signal from Congress that it intends to cut off federal funding to the embattled group, the Washington Times reported.

The grant to ACORN’s Louisiana office became public on Oct. 2, less than three weeks after the House and Senate voted to cut off ACORN funding after employees were caught on video advising a fake prostitute and pimp on scams.

It was one of only three such grants issued to the state and made up almost 80 percent of the firefighting money earmarked for Louisiana, prompting one of the U.S. senators from the state to demand that the funds be taken back

“I request that you rescind this grant based on a history of abuse of federal dollars by ACORN and their clear lack of expertise in this area,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican.

When asked how the money would be spent, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring issued a statement criticizing the senator, who confessed in the past to having used an escort service.

Click here to continue reading at the Washington Times. 

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Obama Moves to Muzzle Top Military Commanders

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Afganistan | Tags: , |

By: David A. Patten

Sources tell Newsmax the Obama administration is muzzling its top military leaders, and keeping them from publicly airing their views on how to fight the war in Afghanistan.

The administration’s primary target: top Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose speech in London last week apparently caught administration officials off guard.

In fact, The Daily Telegraph reported that Obama’s advisers were “shocked and angered” by McChrystal’s speech.

“This is a food fight in the war room, and it’s getting ugly,” observed Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent and Manhattan Institute scholar Judith Miller, regarding the sharply contrasting views being aired within the administration over how to fight the war.

n his speech, McChrystal defended his request for 40,000 more soldiers to wage a counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan, warning “a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a shortsighted strategy.”

Without mentioning Vice President Joe Biden by name, McChrystal said the vice president’s proposal to scale back the objectives for the war would lead to “chaos-istan.”

Shortly after those remarks, McChrystal was summoned to a face-to-face meeting with President Obama aboard Air Force One in Copenhagen, where Obama was making his ill-fated attempt to support Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 summer Olympic games. Obama’s National Security Adviser, Jim Jones, described their discussion as an exchange of “very direct views.”

On Monday, in an obvious reference to McChrystal, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Association of the U.S. Army that “It is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations — civilian and military alike — provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately.”

That statement appeared to echo remarks on Sunday from Jones, a retired Marine general. He told CNN, “Ideally, it’s best for military advice to come up through the chain of command.”

The none-too-subtle message to America’s top military leaders: Don’t share your candid views on the war in public. It appears McChrystal received the message loud and clear. According to The Washington Independent, McChrystal spokesperson and Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis stated: “General McChrystal concurs with the secretary and shares his perspective that the president’s military and civilian policy advisers need to provide candid but private advice.”

Sholtis also said that McChrystal has no current plans for additional public appearances, The Washington Independent reported.

McChrystal became the top U.S. general in Afghanistan after Gates fired Gen. David D. McKiernan in May. McKiernan, who was criticized in some circles as insufficiently innovative, presided over a troop-strength increase of 21,000 soldiers. He had filed a request with the Pentagon for 10,000 more at the time he was replaced.

At the time, Gates ordered McChrystal to provide “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes” on Afghanistan. But apparently it was McChrystal’s fresh tongue that got him in trouble.

The New York Times reported Monday that Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was widely credited with carrying out the successful surge in Iraq, has already toned down his remarks since Obama attained the presidency.

“General Petraeus’s aides now privately call him ‘David the Dull,'” the Times reports, “and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general’s ambitions in particular.”

The concern among some experts is that President Obama’s effort to tone down his military leaders may indicate he wants to triangulate a more politically palatable approach to fighting the war that may fall short of being militarily decisive.

Read the rest at NewsMax.com

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Dem: House GOP is “80 percent male, 100 percent white”

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Afganistan | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

By Glenn Thrush

The National Republican Congressional Committee is urging Gen. Stanley McChrystal to put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “in her place” for weighing in on Afghanistan — prompting one female Pelosi ally to  blast the House GOP as “80 percent male,” “100 percent white” — and completely out of touch.

On Monday night, Pelosi told Charlie Rose “should go up the line of command” instead of publicly opining on strategy — prompting a swift, sneering reaction from the GOP committee.

Mocking the first female speaker as “General Pelosi,” an NRCC spokesman wrote, “If Nancy Pelosi’s failed economic policies are any indicator of the effect she may have on Afghanistan, taxpayers can only hope McChrystal is able to put her in her place.”

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is close to Pelosi, could barely contain her anger.

“I think the place for a woman is at the top of the House of Representatives,” said Wasserman Schultz.

“It’s evidence they long for the days when a woman’s place was in the kitchen. Now a woman is third in line for the presidency… But it’s not surprising, coming from a party that’s 80 percent male and 100 percent white,” she added, referring to the composition of the House GOP conference.

NRCC Spokesman Ken Spain was unrepentant, telling POLITICO that Pelosi is “playing out of her league,” and questioned the reluctance of Democrats to call for McChrystal to testify in a hearing on the war.

Spain: “Spare us the lectures and mock-outrage. The Speaker of the House is taking on a highly decorated general who has outlined a strategy in Afghanistan that she once claimed to advocate… [S]he’s playing out of her league and she knows it.”

Read more Politico.com

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ACORN: Congress can’t hurt us

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Acorn | Tags: , , , , |

By MICHAEL FALCONE

 Any successful efforts by Congress to cut off federal funding to scandal-plagued ACORN would have little effect on the community organizing group’s overall operations, its chief executive officer said on Tuesday.

 “We didn’t have government funding for years,” said ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. “We may not have government funding in the future.”

 Lewis said ACORN typically receives about $2.5 million to $3 million annually from the federal government – roughly 10 percent of its $20 million to $25 million annual budget. Member dues and private sources make up a much larger chunk of the budget, she said.

 After a series of undercover videos surfaced showing ACORN employees giving advice to conservative activists posing as a prostitute and a pimp, opponents in Congress have sought to cut the group’s sources of federal money. In recent weeks, both the U.S. Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service have also ended partnerships with ACORN.

But Lewis, who spoke Tuesday at Washington’s National Press Club, called the congressional actions a case of “modern day ACORN McCarththyism,” and she dismissed a report by the Republican staff of the Senate Finance Committee alleging that ACORN used some charitable funding for political purposes.

 Last month, the group suspended new intakes to its service programs throughout the country, pending the results of an independent review led by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.
Lewis, who said her remarks were part of a “set-the-record-straight tour,” said the group would continue to pursue a lawsuit against the makers of the videos as well as the conservative Web site, Breitbart.com, where they first appeared.
Read more of this article on Politico.com

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Transfer Machine

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: government | Tags: |

by John Stossel

“The government who robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul,” George Bernard Shaw once said.

For a socialist, Shaw demonstrated good sense with that quotation. Unfortunately, America has become a laboratory in which his hypothesis is being tested.

The theory of government I was taught says that government provides benefits, primarily security, to the entire population. In return we pay taxes. But lately the government has been a distributor of special privileges, taking money from some and giving it to others. America is now about evenly split between those who pay income taxes and those who consume them.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center recently disclosed that close to half of all households will pay no income tax this year. Some will pay less than zero — that is, they’ll get money from those of us who do pay taxes.

The Tax Policy Center adds that this year the average income-tax rate for the bottom 40 percent of earners will be negative and that their cash subsidy will equal 10 percent of the total amount the income tax brings in, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit and President Obama’s “Making Work Pay” program.

The view from the top also shows the lopsidedness of the tax system. The top 20 percent of earners makes about 53 percent of the income in America but pays 91 percent of the income tax. The top 1 percent pays 36 percent. The IRS says the bottom half of earners pays less than 3 percent.

Read the rest @ TownHall.com

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Labor Department comes clean about fake jobs

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Labor | Tags: , , , |

John Crudele

FINALLY, a confession!

I’ve been writing in this column for years that the way the Labor Department calculates the number of jobs in this country is deceptive.

In 11 of the 12 months, the government adds massive numbers of jobs — sometimes more than 100,000 — that it thinks, but can’t prove, exist.

This is because the Labor Department uses something called the birth/death model, which assumes that no matter how bad the economy is, there are itty-bitty, newly-formed companies — which can’t be reached by government surveyors — that are creating jobs.

I’ve said that this assumption is ridiculous — that these companies probably don’t exist. And non-existent companies can’t create jobs.

Not only is the public fooled by this practice, but policymakers are being led astray. So the Labor Department, essentially, lied again when it reported last Friday that only 263,000 jobs disappeared from the economy during September.

As shocking as that figure was, the more truthful number was actually worse because there were 34,000 of these phantom birth/death jobs included in the count. Nearly 1 million of these non-existent jobs have been added to the government’s count since the beginning

of 2009, mostly this past spring.

As I’ve said before, these bogus jobs are what caused the employment numbers to look slightly better in March, April, May and June, and created the notion that the economy was somehow on the mend.

Right after Friday’s report came out, Bloomberg News called Chris Manning, the national benchmark branch chief at the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, and asked about the 34,000 probably non-existent jobs.

“In this period of steep job losses, the birth/death model didn’t work as well as it usually does,” Manning told Bloomberg. “To the extent that there was an overstatement in the birth/death model, that is likely to still be there.” No freakin’ kidding! This year alone, this model has added over 700,000 jobs that don’t exist to the government’s count.

The Labor Department is not only still using this model, but it nearly doubled the number of phantom jobs for this September compared with the same month last year.

Bloomberg was the only media outlet listening when this column started broadcasting the errors of the monthly job figures.

And while this glitch in the jobs report is now hot stuff in Wall Street circles, no other news organization has even bothered to look into this use of statistical razzmatazz.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me tell you what’s next.

Over the next few months the birth/death model will be kinder and the monthly jobs report should be helped by these silly assumptions.

Then, on Friday, Feb 5., Labor will report the number of job losses for the month of January.

This is the one month in every year that the birth/death model removes jobs from the economy — lots of them.

Unless someone fixes the government’s broken system for guessing at job growth, that figure will be disturbingly bad.

And the entire discussion about the depth of this recession will turn especially glum early next year.

Mark down that date — Feb. 5! It should be a real sad affair.

More great stuff @ New York Post

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Spin Doctors for Obamacare

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: health care | Tags: , , , , |

Lights, camera, agitprop! The curtains opened on yet another artfully staged performance of Obamacare Theater this week. One hundred and fifty doctors took their places on the plush lawn outside the West Wing — many acting like “Twilight” groupies with cameras instead of credible medical professionals. The president approved the scenery: “I am thrilled to have all of you here today, and you look very spiffy in your coats.”

White House wardrobe assistants guaranteed the “spiffy.” As the New York Post’s Charles Hurt reported, the physicians “were told to bring their white lab coats to make sure that TV cameras captured the image.” President Obama’s aides hastily handed out costumes to those who came in suits or dresses before the doc-and-pony show began.

But while Halloween came early to the Potomac, these partisan single-payer activists in White House-supplied clothing aren’t fooling anyone.

Obama’s spin doctors belong to a group called Doctors for America (DFA), which reportedly supplied the white lab coats. The White House event was organized in conjunction with DFA and Organizing for America, Obama’s campaign outfit.

OFA and DFA are behind a massive new Obamacare ad campaign, letter-writing campaign and doctor-recruitment campaign. The supposedly “grassroots” nonprofit DFA is a spin-off of Doctors for Obama, a 2008 campaign arm that aggressively pushed the Democrats’ government health care takeover. DFA claims to have thousands of members with a “variety of backgrounds.” But there’s little diversity in their views on socialized medicine (98 percent want a taxpayer-funded public insurance option) — or in their political contributions.

Read the list at Townhall.com

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Obama puts union strings on job center

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Labor | Tags: , , , , |

By S.A. Miller

Delivering on President Obama’s promise to boost the labor movement, the administration has announced a $35 million federal construction project in New Hampshire that requires union representation for the workers and forces nonunion employees to pay dues and contribute to a union pension fund.

Mr. Obama issued an executive order in the first weeks of his presidency that would make the requirement, known as a “project labor agreement” or PLA, the norm for all government contracts on large-scale construction jobs. The order is under review and a final rule is not expected for months, but that did not stop the Labor Department from rushing to use a PLA to build its new Job Corps Center in Manchester, N.H.

The PLA executive order replaced a Bush administration order that discouraged the use of such agreements.

It was one in a series of early policy moves by Mr. Obama that has dramatically improved the unions’ fortunes, though the president has not delivered on labor’s top legislative priority, the so-called “card-check” bill that would make it easier to organize workplaces.

Critics say imposing the union-friendly rules on the New Hampshire job – the first federal construction contract with such stipulations since President Clinton was in office – will drive up costs, delay the project and force most of the workers to pay union dues and pension contributions for which they likely will never receive benefits.

North Branch Construction, a Concord, N.H.-based general contractor and member of the business group Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), filed a bid protest this week with the Government Accountability Office, claiming the PLA “unduly restricts competition.”

“PLAs are special-interest handouts that deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve from government contracts,” said Ken Holmes, president of North Branch Construction.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, said the scarcity of local unionized workers and a separate requirement that contractors must have completed three previous successful PLA projects to qualify to bid will essentially prevent local firms from competing for the Manchester project.

Read the Rest @ The Washington Times

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No, you can’t see the health care bill

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: health care | Tags: , , , , |

Examiner Editorial

When then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama promised not to sign major legislation until it had been posted on the Internet for public reading at least five days, trusting voters took him at his word. Now they know better. Not only is the actual language of what is likely to become the main legislative vehicle for Obama’s signature health care reform not available on the Internet, it hasn’t been given to members of the key Senate committees or the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), either. All that is available to those worried about a massive government takeover of our health care system is a 262-page description of the bill’s provisions. Bill descriptions mean nothing and bind nobody.

Brian Darling, a legislative analyst with the Heritage Foundation, believes the Senate Democratic leadership intends to use an obscure parliamentary maneuver to bring the actual health care reform proposal to the Senate floor in order to prevent a Republican-led filibuster. Once debate starts in the Senate, Democrats will only need 51 votes to add the public option provision they have long favored. The White House and the Democratic congressional leadership know that passing so monumental a proposal in this manner violates the president’s promise of greater transparency, but they don’t care. That became clear last week when Senate Finance Committee member Sen. Jim Bunning, R-KY, offered an amendment requiring the actual legislative language be posted on the Internet for 72 hours prior to final passage. Bunning’s amendment was soundly defeated. As The Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio reported yesterday, there is no reason to think that situation will change before a vote on final passage.

Technically, Senate and House rules require that all bills be read in their entirety three times before debate begins, with a 24-hour and one-week respite between readings to allow elected representatives to digest what’s in the bills before voting on them. But rules are made to be suspended, as frequently happens on Capitol Hill. Indeed, earlier this year, hardly any member of Congress read the 1,100-page stimulus bill because copies of the bill only became available barely 13 hours before the final vote. Passing the even more massive health care reform bill without reading it or allowing the public to do so will qualify as among the worse instances ever of legislative malpractice. The shameless message Democrats are thus sending to the American people, with tacit approval of the White House, is this: “We won’t read the bill, and neither will you.” The public’s response ought to have a familiar ring to it: “You won’t tread on me.”

Washington Examiner

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50 Examples of Government Waste

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: government | Tags: , , , , , |

Soaring government spending and trillion-dollar budget deficits have brought fiscal responsibility–and reducing government waste–back onto the national agenda. President Obama recently identified 0.004 of 1 percent of the federal budget as wasteful and proposed eliminating this $140 million from his $3.6 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget request. Aiming higher, the President recently proposed partially offsetting a costly new government health entitlement by reducing $622 billion in Medicare and Medicaid “waste and inefficiencies” over the next decade. Taxpayers may wonder why reducing such waste is now merely a bargaining chip for new spending rather than an end in itself.

It is possible to reduce spending and balance the budget. In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, merely returning to the 2008 (pre-recession) spending level of $25,000 per household (adjusted for inflation) would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

Not Easy, but Necessary

Reducing wasteful spending is not easy. Even the most useless programs are passionately supported by the armies of recipients, administrators, and lobbyists that benefit from their existence. Identifying inefficiencies and abuses is much easier than devising a system to fix them. Many lawmakers focus more on bringing home earmarks than on performing the less exciting task of government oversight. Exasperated taxpayers see the cost of government rise with no end in sight.

Of course, eliminating waste cannot balance the budget. Lawmakers must also rein in spending by reforming Social Security and Medicare and by eliminating government activities that are no longer affordable. Yet government waste is the low-hanging fruit that lawmakers must clean up in order to build credibility with the public for larger reforms.

Congress has allowed government employees to spend tax dollars on iPods, jewelry, gambling, exotic dance clubs, and $13,500 steak dinners. If lawmakers cannot even reduce this kind of waste, fraud, and abuse, taxpayers will be less likely to trust them to reform Social Security and Medicare.

Six Categories of Waste

The six categories of wasteful and unnecessary spending are:

  1. Programs that should be devolved to state and local governments;
  2. Programs that could be better performed by the private sector;
  3. Mistargeted programs whose recipients should not be entitled to government benefits;
  4. Outdated and unnecessary programs;
  5. Duplicative programs; and
  6. Inefficiency, mismanagement, and fraud.

The first four categories are generally subjective, and reasonable people can disagree on whether a given federal program falls under their purview. Yet the final two categories–duplication and inefficiency, mismanagement, and fraud–are comparatively easy to identify and oppose. Thus, they are heavily represented in the examples of government waste

Continued on The Heritage Foundation

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