Friday, April 30, 2010

Flaws of health-care overhaul grow more apparent every day

Almost daily, the ill effects of the health-care overhaul passed by Congress last month are becoming apparent. As employers and government bureaucrats analyze the law's effect on bottom lines for the private sector and for government, the alarm bells are ringing.



The tragedy is that these ill effects could have been and should have been calculated before the law was passed, not after.



In fact, many of them were prophesied before passage of the bill, but the prophets were ignored by President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. That's because their uppermost goal was not to pass the best health-care bill possible but merely to pass anything that could be called "health-care reform" and could be claimed as a political victory by a president desperate for one.



The latest analysis of the bill's likely effects comes from the Office of the Actuary in the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The report by Chief Actuary Richard S. Foster says that, far from reducing the cost of health care, the overhaul will add $311 billion to the nation's health-care costs over the first decade the law is in effect.



That's just for starters. The report also warns that the $575 billion in Medicare reductions that are supposed to help pay for the overhaul are unrealistic. If the cuts are not implemented by Congress, then hundreds of billions of dollars will be added to the national debt.



In the extremely unlikely event that Congress allows the Medicare cuts to occur, then

15 percent of hospitals and other care facilities that rely on Medicare reimbursements would become unprofitable, meaning that they might drop Medicare patients.



This would limit the availability of care for millions of seniors in the Medicare program at a time when doctors and hospitals already will be stretched thin by the addition of millions of other Americans clamoring to use the health insurance the overhaul will provide. (And to quantify the anticipated shortage of doctors, the American Academy of Family Physicians predicts a shortage of 39,000 family physicians by 2020.)



The report notes that there are many overhaul effects that simply cannot be calculated but that could have a dramatic impact on the cost of medical care.



For example, by extending Medicaid coverage to 18 million people and offering government subsidies to 16 million others to pay for health insurance, the overhaul will drive up demand for health-care services.



The report says this increase "could result in higher total expenditures or in some of this demand being unsatisfied. Alternatively, providers might tend to accept more patients who have private insurance (with relatively attractive payment rates) and fewer Medicare or Medicaid patients, exacerbating existing access problems for Medicaid enrollees."



The actuary notes that a new, long-term-care benefit called the CLASS program that was included in the overhaul will become unsustainable in 15 years, and its deficits will be added to the national debt.



Meanwhile, Monday's New York Times reports that congressional Democrats are acknowledging that companies such as AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere and Verizon were correct for making filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing the large earnings hit they will take as a result of tax changes in the health-care overhaul.



Initially, Democratic leaders suspected that these companies were simply trying to undermine the new law by exaggerating its harm. U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California , chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, intended to subpoena these companies and subject them to a public lashing before Congress.



But after analysis of data substantiated the companies' SEC filings, he is now saying in effect, "Um, never mind."



The Times also reported that AT&T documentation shows that it spent $4.7 billion on medical costs for employees and retirees in 2009, an amount far higher than it would pay in penalties imposed by the health-care overhaul if the company dropped health-care coverage altogether. Those employees presumably then would seek government-subsidized health-insurance paid for by taxpayers.



Underlining the law's perverse incentive, documents provided to Congress by Caterpillar included an e-mail from a company executive saying that provisions of the overhaul could "drive many employers to just drop coverage for retirees altogether, and let the government foot the whole bill."



Of the ostensible goals of the overhaul - to expand coverage, to curb costs and to pay for the program without adding to the deficit - only the first has any chance of being achieved under this law.



And even the expansion of coverage may turn out to be an empty promise if there are too few doctors and hospitals willing to accept inadequate reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.



As the weeks roll by, more and more unintended and should-have-been-anticipated consequences of this ill-conceived law will be revealed.



This should be no surprise, considering that the law was slapped together behind closed doors without proper testimony and vetting by health-care, financial and insurance experts, and is a patchwork of political and special-interest deals rammed through Congress using procedural gimmicks.



The nation deserved something much, much better than this.

Harmful Regulations Video Contest: California Dust Bowl




As ALG News has previously reported, in response to an EPA video contest seeking to gather films promoting government regulations, Americans for Limited Government/NetRight Nation and the Fr33 Agents Network have announced our own contest — against government regulations.



The reward is $2,500 for the best video highlighting the harm caused by government regulations. The above video is an ALG-produced example is just how easy it is to put together a video with a cheap video camera, in this instance covering Congress' protection of the delta smelt fish at the cost of farm production in California. In fact, the regulations have caused a drought!



After you're done, just plug the camera into your home computer, drag and drop the file onto my desktop and then upload it to your YouTube account. It's pretty easy! So there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to make a video for the contest and possibly win $2,500!



Here are the rules to enter:



1.Create a video promoting how government regulations have harmed business in your area. Get creative. Examples: a video showing the rising cost of food prices due to government subsidies or the FDA preventing the release of life saving medications. Think outside the box and show us how government regulations are harming you!



2. Post your video to YouTube. Send the link to Adam@netrightnation.com.



3. Two weeks from now, on May 11, we will post the top selection of videos that have been entered. We will also announce the judges for the contest that will narrow down the field to the best video entry in the coming week. Also, we will post your video submissions as they come in.



4. We will announce a winner on May 18 and they will receive the $2,500 cash prize that has not been stolen from the taxpayer!

A New ObamaCare horror story


By Rick Manning



America is discovering in horror just what Nancy Pelosi meant when she famously stated during the health care debate that, "we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."



The past couple of days the news has been filled by reports that the Obama Administration's own actuary for the Center for Medicare Services estimates that costs of the law are anything but revenue neutral and that they far exceed the 'estimate' provided to the public by the Administration. While many are chasing the question of if Obama knew about the higher estimates, when he knew, and if he suppressed them until the vote occurred, there is another massive problem discovered within the law.



Businesses will have to file 1099 forms with both the IRS and send them to the company that provided the services or sold the product for every expenditure that exceeds $600. If you react to this sentence the way my wife, who has run a small business did, you are saying, "that can't be right, 1099s are only for contract employees."



Well forget everything you thought you knew about 1099 forms, because Obama's health care law has changed it.



In practical terms, here is what the new law means. Joe's Plumbing prints up 100 color presentations at FedEx Kinko's for a trade show in New Orleans , where they are staying at a Holiday Inn for six days.



At a minimum, Joe's Plumbing will have to contact FedEx Kinko's, the airline, Holiday Inn, the rental car company, and the organization sponsoring the trade show and get taxpayer identification numbers from them so they can comply with this tax law. The company will then have to send out 1099 forms to each of these vendors and dozens, hundreds or thousands more vendors, depending upon the size of the company, thus adding significant compliance costs to every business in America. Everyone from a company's accountant, to building supplier, to carpet cleaner to janitorial service will be trading 1099 forms.



Yes, that's right, trading 1099 forms, because at the same time, Joe's Plumbing will also be receiving 1099 forms from every one of their business customers who spent more than $600 with them over the course of the year, which they will be required to keep and reconcile against their books.



Do you have any wonder why Joe's Plumbing might be more than a tad bit irritated? The new Obama health care takeover just took a guy with a pipe wrench, pvc pipe and a plunger and forced him into Dante's eighth circle of hell – tracking and filing IRS paperwork.



So, what kind of IRS rules will be put into place to set the framework for how all these tax forms must be filed and stored?



Actually, bombshell number two is that the IRS will not be setting these rules. Instead, those noted tax experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be writing and overseeing these tax regulations. Why? Who knows? It is the Alice in Wonderland world of the Obama health care bill.



U.S. Representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) has taken the first steps in alleviating this paperwork chokehold on America 's small business by introducing legislation to repeal this new burden.

Let's hope that America 's businesses tell their Members of Congress to repeal what Lungren calls the "rat" tax, but what many observers believe should rightfully be called the preparation for the liberal Shangri-la of the VAT tax.



After all, once businesses are tracking every transaction over $600 and filing IRS paperwork on it, how much harder will it be for Congress to just say, add 10% to each bill and send it our way, extending taxation to every level of business unseen to unwary consumers who suddenly just see retail prices rise without knowing the increase is a new, hidden tax.



The requirement goes into effect January 2012. Better get a CPA on retainer. And stock up on toner and paper.



Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government, and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Goldman: Creeping Socialism Finds A Convenient Enemy


By Howard Rich



In its quest to ram perpetual bank bailouts and draconian new government regulations through the U.S. Congress under the guise of "financial services reform," the administration of Barack Obama and its allies have seized upon a convenient new enemy – Goldman Sachs.



Armed with a government lawsuit tailor-made to stoke populist headlines, Obama and his allies want to further force Washington 's tentacles into a financial industry that it ostensibly "rescued" using trillions of dollars borrowed from future generations of U.S. taxpayers.



"If we don't change what led to the crisis, we'll doom ourselves to repeat it," Obama said recently in an article conveniently headlined "Charges Against Goldman Sachs Boost Case for Financial Reform."



Never mind that Goldman Sachs actually supports the bill. In typical Washington fashion, Obama's proposed "reforms" do nothing to address government's starring role in the most recent debacle. Nor do they protect taxpayers from future raids on the public treasury. In fact, the legislation Obama is championing would maintain (and even expand) the same federal regulatory conditions and incentives that led to the collapse of the housing market in the first place – while making taxpayer-funded bailouts for financial institutions a permanent part of public policy.



In other words, Washington has learned absolutely nothing.



"The American public has a lot to be angry about, but the spark for that rage was the bank bailouts," writes Mark A. Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute.



And yet as Calabria and others have astutely observed, government's solution to the sub-prime mess is to encourage the same loose lending practices that created it – particularly as it relates to government-owned behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose toxic assets helped sink Bear Stearns at the beginning of the current downturn. Accordingly, Obama's reforms "wouldn't bring stability to our financial system, but (would) further erode market discipline — while asking us to put all our faith in the same regulators who have failed repeatedly," Calabria writes.



Ironically, the beleaguered Wall Street firm that Obama has selected to play the role of whipping boy in this process is a familiar "enemy," having pumped $4.4 million into the coffers of Democratic candidates in 2008 (compared to $1.4 million for Republican candidates). Apparently, Goldman Sachs forgot the old adage about "not feeding the tiger in the hopes of being the last one eaten."



All of this leads us to a fundamental question that must be asked (and answered) about our economy moving forward: Specifically, is it government's job to assume the risk associated with bad business decisions? Or if you prefer to get even more Orwellian about it: Is it government's job to arbitrarily restrict free market exchanges in an effort to prevent bad decisions from being made in the future?



If the government's answer to either of those questions is "yes," then it is embracing a Soviet-style command economy and repudiating the free market principles on which this nation was founded.



Finally, in assessing Obama's populist push on "financial reform," it would be wrong not to briefly mention the flimsiness of the federal case that's at the forefront of literally tens of thousands of international headlines. At the heart of the SEC's complaint against Goldman Sachs is the allegation that the firm misled a German bank into buying toxic assets at the behest of a savvy hedge fund manager. This simplistic salvo ignores two salient facts – Goldman's $90 million loss on the deal as well as clear and compelling evidence that the German firm knew exactly what it was getting into.



In fact, just a year before the Goldman deal, the German bank referenced in the SEC filing was concluding similar agreements with other companies and bragging about its expertise in evaluating the very sort of "corporate loan portfolios" that it now claims it was misled into purchasing.



But as much as Obama and his allies are picking a fight against a convenient enemy, this debate isn't about defending Goldman Sachs – it's about defending the free market from additional government intervention.



The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

We All Love A Ruckus, But Where Does It Get Us?

By Richard A. Lee


“TV loves a ruckus.”


That’s what President Obama declared last summer when news coverage of town hall meetings on health care focused on protests, shouting and angry crowds instead of the substance of the issue at hand.


The President’s observation was correct. TV does in fact love a ruckus. So do most media outlets. Conflict is news. It’s also what people watch and what they read. TV loves a ruckus because we love one too.


With health care, this pattern continued through the passage of legislation in March. News reports on vote counts, strategy, parliamentary procedures, and threats against lawmakers outnumbered those on health care itself. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, during the week President Obama signed the bill into law, only 22 percent of the coverage focused on how it would change the nation’s health care system. Nearly half of the news reports were about the political implications of the bill.


Debating who is responsible for the focus of news coverage is a bit like attempting to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. Do news organizations cover the ruckus because that is what the public wants? Or does the public watch the ruckus because that is what media outlets offer them?


Regardless of who is at fault, we all lose when the focus is on the ruckus and not the substance; we don’t obtain the type of information we need to make intelligent, informed decisions. And, unfortunately, the ruckus is gaining momentum in New Jersey.


New Jerseyans spent a lot of time this week discussing and debating Governor Christie’s accomplishments as he completed his first 100 days in office. One of the most significant developments that occurred during this period was the plunge in the level of discourse in our state.


We had a union official who circulated an email jokingly praying for the Governor’s death. We had a Governor who charged that students were being used like “drug mules,” carrying information about their parents’ plans to vote in school board elections. The atmosphere at legislative committee hearings has escalated from contentious to confrontational, and the exchanges between opposing party members have deteriorated from the normal partisan bickering to trash talk. With every day that passes, state government is looking more and more like MTV’s Jersey Shore.


The result, once again, is that the ruckus has overshadowed the issue. We know more about the back-and-forth between Governor Christie and the teachers’ union than we do about education funding policy in New Jersey – how it works, its strengths and weaknesses, and what needs to be done to educate our children and prepare them for the future.


Assigning blame, however, is another case of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Clearly, Governor Christie is a man who speaks his mind and makes no apologies for the words he chooses. But he has had plenty of partners – Democrats and Republicans – who have helped to lower the level of civility in public discourse in New Jersey over the past 100 days.


If there is to be a change, it must start at the top. Whether it is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the manager of a baseball team or the Governor of a state, the person in charge sets the tone for the entire organization.


In his inaugural address on January 19, Governor Christie declared: “The era of partisanship and acrimony has not served the people well. Problems have festered while too much of the time of our leaders has been spent assigning blame instead of assuming responsibility. Today, we are taking a new direction.”


One hundred days later, partisanship and acrimony are stronger than ever in New Jersey. In order for our state to move away from the ruckus and foster the constructive debate and discussion we need to address the public policy challenges of the 21st Century, the Governor must lead the way – and all of those who have helped to lower the level of discourse must be willing to follow.


# # #


Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.

Halle Berry And Baby Daddy Gabriel Aubry Reportedly Split Up




Los Angeles, CA, United States - Halle Berry has reportedly split from her baby daddy. The 43-year-old “Monster’s Ball” star is said to have already worked out a financial and custody deal with model Gabriel Aubry.


According to RadarOnline.com, the couple, who raise 2-year-old daughter Nahla Ariela Aubry together, spent months trying to work out a deal with a lawyer.

The heartbreak culprit was reportedly their 9-year age gap. Aubry, 34, apparently thought dating an older woman didn’t sit well with him anymore.

A source told the website, “Gabriel just felt it wasn’t working anymore. When they were first together the 9-year age difference between them didn’t phase him, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever dated and he was totally in love.”

“But as time went on he started feeling it more and more.”

There is also the issue of being attracted to another. The insider added that although Aubry would never cheat on the Academy Award winner, he started noticing other women and now felt “it just wasn’t right to stay with Halle in those circumstances.”

“Gabriel is a really nice, decent guy and he would never cheat on her, but I suspect that he had become attracted to someone and that he felt he needed to break it off with Halle before anything developed further.”

Berry, who was married twice before, had previously stated that although she met her soulmate in Aubry, she would never get married again.

The now ex-couple, who started dating since late 2005, reportedly ironed out monetary issues with Aubry declaring he doesn’t want a dime of Berry’s vast wealth, but he wants a 50/50 joint physical custody of Nahla, which Berry agreed to.

Video: Justice Dept. Investigating Goldman Sachs

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into possible securities fraud in mortgage trading at Goldman Sachs, law enforcement sources said Friday.

Nicole Murphy Wants Kim Kardashian's Ex to Vacate Her Property Now!


Eddie Murphy's ex-wife Nicole, allegedly wants Kim Kardashian's ex-hubby Damon Thomas out of her 9,200-square-foot mansion, because he owes her more than $100,000 in rent.


According to TMZ, Thomas has been calling the sprawling, ultra-lavish, Murphy-owned mansion home for the past few months. Apparently, Thomas, a music producer, has been failing to fork over the monthly $30,000 fee to live in the Calabasas estate.

Murphy filed an eviction notice last week in L.A. County Superior Court, claiming that Thomas owes her big time to the tune of $114,500.

When TMZ contacted Thomas, he claimed that the rent misunderstanding is due to him wanting to buy another exclusive dig in the ritzy area Britney Spears, Melissa Gilbert and Kourtney Kardashian call home.

Thomas also claims that the issue has been settled and that the outstanding rent has been paid.

"Ain't nothin' going on but the rent...."

By Ruth Manuel-Logan

Actress Aasha Davis' Brother-in-Law Arrested for Murdering His Wife

Actress Aasha Davis, best known for her roles on popular television shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Friday Night Lights" faced her toughest role yet, when she went on television a year ago to ask the public for help in finding her missing sister, Leslie Ann Herring. Now a year has passed and her sister's body has still not been found, but police think they've caught the woman's killer: her husband, Davis's brother-in-law, Lyle Herring, Sr., who was arrested Wednesday.



According to police reports, Herring had a heated argument with his wife on February 8, 2009. Aasha reported her "creature of habit," 46-year-old sister missing shortly thereafter, when she did not report to work after a few days.

When police investigators questioned Herring about his wife's disappearance, he was not cooperative, making him an instant suspect. Investigators described the man as being "fragmented, less than helpful and not behaving as a grieving husband."

During a press conference last year, Herring, a university recruiter, denied any involvement in his wife's disappearance. He appealed for his wife to come home. "Please give us a call," Herring said. "Let us know what's going on. We have a lot to talk to about." Police were not buying his act.

Herring will be arraigned today in Los Angeles. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Watch Aasha and her mom talk about the case here:



By Ruth Manuel-Logan

Media’s Fascination With Single Black Women & Why It’s Getting On My Nerves


“Don’t believe the hype…” –Public Enemy

If you are a black woman and watched ABC’s Nightline Single Black Women special panel on Wednesday night, you are probably pissed. I know that I was. And it wasn’t because of the nature of the conversation but the blatant media spin and bias that would lead the public to think that we as single black women are poor lost souls who cannot find a man. Believe you me, that is furthest from the truth. What could’ve been an intelligent conversation about problems between both black men and women turned into a fluffy headpiece about men unbraiding our hair and taking down our weaves. I was totally appalled and saddened that it has come down to this. Again, the media has taken a topic and drilled it to death, until it reached its very last compound of silliness. What is the media’s fascination with single black women?

Media will have you thinking that we are bitter bitches that need constant attention, and that we are single because we cannot keep a man, because we are self indulgent and involved, because we are all about ourselves, because we can do it on our own, because we are independent women who don’t need any help, because we are survivors, because we run our black men away and they go to white women. Um…no.

First of all, I will not be lumped into one category. I am Danyelle, first and foremost. I am an unique individual who doesn’t subscribe to the mistruths society may bare. I have been proposed to. I have been married. I have been a wife and a mother. I am successful, but I have no qualms in admitting I need the comfort and love of a man. I am independent but I do like a man around. I do like to have nice things, but that does not mean I am not self centered. I do aspire to be the best I can be, and yes that means wanting a home, and a car, and a family, and to live a comfortable life. Does that make the me the bad guy?

I have white girlfriends who find it just as hard to find a good man as we do. If we are going to have this conversation, I don’t think it should be limited to black women only. White women have the SAME problem, and other cultures do as well. Why does the media only want to spotlight us, like we are the step-children from “cannot do relationship” hell?

Someone answer that one for me, please.

I don’t have a problem dating outside of my race. I do not judge black men who do the same. I do have a problem when a brother goes out of his way to NOT date a black woman though, yes, I will admit to that, but interracial relationships do not bother me. I know who I am and what I am about. His loss is another man’s gain. NEXT!

Being a single black woman is NOT bad. Most single black women are not single because they CAN’T find a man. They are single by choice. Because they don’t want to take lightly their decision of who they will spend the rest of their life with. Are there shallow, siddity, goldigging black women? Hell yeah! But there are plenty of shallow, siddity, golddigging white women as well. We didn’t invent this group of women.

I am sick and tired of seeing these stereotypes being perpetuated in the media. But I know it continues because WE as black women do not step up and say enough is enough. WE should be telling OUR story, not the other way around. Once we own our stories and our legacies, there will be a much more well rounded picture of who we really are.

And you black men who high five and believe these stereotypes are just as wrong. You don’t want us labeling each and every one of you as lazy convicts who whine that you can’t make it. So why judge us that way as well? Step up and put in work and get to know me based on ME. Not your ex who left you because you weren’t ’successful’ enough!

I could go on and on about this subject, but it would take a book for me to fit all of the content. Simply put, we all have work to do when it comes to making a relationship work. Patience, love, understanding, are just some of the qualities needed. Stop looking at panelists who have been married five times or who have never been married to try to tell you how to find a husband or wife. Look to those in strong relationships with a positive track record for guidance in that department.

Do not let the media or anyone else tell you WHO you are. And with that. I am done *throws down the mic*

By TheCubicleChick

Spurs finish off No. 2 seed Mavs in 6


Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, of Germany, falls on his back after his shot was blocked by San Antonio Spurs' Antonio McDyess during the first quarter of Game 6 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, April 29, 2010, in San Antonio.


SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Spurs moved on, and Dallas is done early again.

Manu Ginobili scored 26 points and San Antonio survived blowing a 22-point lead to beat the Mavericks 97-87 in Game 6 on Thursday night, handing Dirk Nowitzki and second-seeded Dallas another first-round exit.

The Spurs got payback after the Mavs eliminated them a year ago, and will play either Phoenix or Portland in the Western Conference semifinals.

“For us there was no tomorrow,” Ginobili said after the Spurs finished off the Mavs in front of a raucous home crowd and avoided going back to Dallas for a Game 7.

Nowitzki nearly carried the Mavs to an unbelievable comeback, getting 25 of his 33 points in a remarkable second half. But the Mavs still stumbled to their third first-round exit in the last four years.

George Hill had 21 points for the Spurs, who are coming off their worst regular season in the Tim Duncan era — making this series all the more impressive.

It will technically go down as an upset. San Antonio is only the fifth No. 7 seed to win a first-round series, and the first since the opening round became a best-of-7 in 2003. It hadn’t been done since New York beat Miami in 1998.

But with a healthy Big Three and a championship pedigree, the Spurs could hardly be called underdogs. And with no clear favorite in the West, they might be as good a finals pick as any.

As for the Mavs, it was yet another early playoff disappointment.

It comes three years after the Mavs came into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, only to be knocked out by No. 8 Golden State. The Mavs were the NBA’s best road team in the regular season, but went 0-3 in San Antonio and couldn’t pull themselves out of a 3-1 deficit.

This one is especially tough for team owner Mark Cuban, who plunked down an extra $30 million for a deal at the trade deadline that brought Caron Butler from Washington.

Butler scored 25 points and rookie Rodrigue Beaubois had 16 points. But aside from them and Nowitzki, no other Dallas player scored more than six points.

Now comes an interesting offseason for a team that’s won 50 games for 10 straight seasons, but has only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it.

Will coach Rick Carlisle return? What about Nowitzki? Dallas isn’t likely to get rid of either. Nowitzki also could choose to become a free agent, although he’s steadily said he won’t. There’s no telling how this early exit will change Cuban’s approach toward a bumper crop of free agents.

In the meantime, the Mavs will have a long time to sulk over this one.

Plagued by slow starts in this series, Dallas got off to its worst yet when it mattered most. The Mavs trailed 22-8 after the first quarter, hitting just four of their first 18 shots. By halftime it was 47-34, a franchise playoff low for Dallas.

But the Mavs clawed back.

Nowitzki, who had four fouls in the first half, shrugged off the foul trouble and put Dallas ahead 57-56 with a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. Cuban jumped out of his chair behind the Mavs bench, while the Spurs watched their big lead evaporate in disbelief.

But Hill, the hero of Game 4 for the Spurs, came through again to finish off Dallas. He scored 10 points in the fourth, none bigger than a corner 3-pointer with 3:19 left that put the Spurs up 89-81 and deflated Dallas.

The Spurs wanted to play the Mavericks so badly that they basically forced the matchup. By benching Duncan and Ginobili in the season finale against Dallas, they made it easier for the Mavs to win and seal them as the second and seventh seeds.

It looked like a case of being careful what you wish for when Dallas won the opener by 12 points. But San Antonio evened the series with a road win in Game 2, then swept two home games.

When the arena cleared out after winning a third home game, Spurs owner Peter Holt — who’s much quieter than his Dallas counterpart — had his own words while walking across the court.

“Go Spurs Go!” he roared.

NOTES: Spurs rookie F DeJuan Blair ran his car off the interstate on the way to the game when he hit a guard rail, swerving into a ditch and deploying the air bag. He wasn’t injured, and a Spurs staffer picked him up and took him to the arena. “It’s questionable for the next game,” Blair joked about his car. … The dismal first quarter for the Mavs was just one point better than their franchise playoff low.

By PAUL J. WEBER

WSJ: Goldman Sachs Under Criminal Investigation




by Frances Martel


The situation at Goldman Sachs keeps getting more and more dire. The Wall Street Journal is reporting this evening that federal prosecutors are looking at criminal charges for Goldman after this week’s Senate hearings on the company’s activities during the 2007 housing crisis.
The profane emails between high-ranking Goldman officials released by the Senate seem to be the least of CEO Lloyd Blankfein and company’s problems. From the WSJ:

Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. or its employees committed securities fraud in connection with its mortgage trading, people familiar with the probe say.

The investigation from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is at a preliminary stage, stemmed from a referral from the Securities and Exchange Commission, these people say. The SEC recently filed civil securities-fraud charges against the big Wall Street firm and a trader in its mortgage group. Goldman and the trader say they have done nothing wrong and are fighting the civil charges.

The investigation is in its nascent stages, and whether Goldman will be found guilty of securities fraud or not is still undetermined.

FDA Approves Vaccine Treatment for Prostate Cancer

For the first time ever, a treatment that uses the body's own immunity to fight cancer cells has been proven to work.


Finding a cancer vaccine is the Holy Grail of oncology, but has remained largely an unrealized dream — until now. This week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug that actually trains the body's immune system to fight off advanced prostate cancer.

That's a big deal. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men (after lung cancer,) according to the American Cancer Society, and about one in six men will be diagnosed with it during his lifetime.

The drug, called Provenge, is the first drug to be developed by the Dendreon Corporation, which was founded in 1992 by a pair of Stanford professors. Provenge is not exactly a new drug. In fact, according to The New York Times, three years ago it failed to meet the FDA's standards for approval.

But while the drug's unique capabilities are a huge step forward, it's hardly a panacea. In clinical trials, the treatment only extended the lives of patients about four months compared with a placebo. After three years, 32 percent treated with Provenge were alive, compared with 23 percent of those who got the placebo.

"The big story here is that this is the first proof of principle and proof that immunotherapy works in general in cancer, which I think is a huge observation," Dr. Philip Kantoff, chief of solid tumor oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the lead investigator in Dendreon’s largest clinical trial for the drug told the Times.

Provenge is not a preventive vaccine like those for the measles, hepatitis or the newer vaccine developed to block the virus that can lead to cervical cancer. It's a therapeutic vaccine, used only after prostate cancer has already developed and approved by the FDA specifically for more advanced stages.

The way the drug works is a marvel of modern science: first, the patient's white blood cells are extracted from their blood, the same way they would be during blood donation, and certain immune cells are separated out. Those cells are then injected with a combination of a protein often found on prostate tumors and an immune booster. The treated cells are then re-introduced to the patient's blood supply three times over the course of a month. The main side effects of Provenge in clinical trials were fever, chills, fatigue and pain.

Typically, men with prostate cancer have to undergo surgery to remove the prostate gland (which can have undesirable side effects, such as difficulty achieving erection) along with radiation and/or chemotherapy, both of which have a host of uncomfortable side effects, followed by treatment with drugs that reduce the levels of testosterone (which contributes to tumor growth.)

According to the Times, Dendreon hopes to develop other similar cancer vaccines, including one for bladder cancer. In fact, treatment vaccines could be the wave of the future in the world of oncology: dozens of other vaccines are in development with other companies.

By Darragh Worland

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is 17-Year Sentence Right for the Garbage-Dump Dad?


By Paul Shepard

No one felt good reading the story of the Ohio dad who left two small kids in a hot garbage dumpster for hours after fussing with the children's mother, Alisha Whitehead.

But the sentence of 17 years in prison that a Montgomery County Common Pleas Court handed down to Tommie Johnson Jr. of Dayton has me wondering if justice was truly served in this sad case of child neglect.

I can understand the arguments of some who say that only the grace of God prevented this from being a story of how two young children DIED in a garbage dumpster. His act was, as a prosecutor described, "unforgivable."

And Johnson Jr., 39, a repeat offender, who pleaded no contest to two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, domestic violence and evidence tampering charges in the case, has shown little evidence that he wouldn't do something stupid and dangerous again to land him behind prison bars in the near future.

But some part of me feels that Johnson Jr. didn't get the best defense the American legal system has to offer in this case.

Did his attorney really think it was in Johnson Jr.'s best interest to plead to two counts of attempted murder? Was he really trying to kill his 23-month-old daughter, Ashonti, and her 8-month-old brother, Tommie III?

That answer was ultimately for a court to decide, but by taking all the charges, Johnson Jr. took the process out of the hands of the court and threw himself on its mercy. And little, quite understandably, was shown.

Now please don't interpret any part of this as a defense for Tommie Johnson Jr. He did something so wrong and so neglectful, he deserves to lose his freedom for a long time. And he will.

But I just wonder if Johnson Jr. had not become a national poster boy for dangerous parenting and if he could have been provided more aggressive legal counsel, would he have ended up with 17 years.

Blacks Are Accumulating More Student Loan Debt than Whites or Hispanics



By Ericka Blount Danois

Many students graduate with manageable debt or no education loans, but almost 17 percent of graduates in 2008 borrowed $30,500 or more to get their bachelor's degrees, according to a report released by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. The students who borrow the most are disproportionately black, and are more likely to have attended a private nonprofit or for-profit college than a public four-year college, although debt levels did not necessarily reflect family income.
Over all, the analysis - based on data from 2007–2008 graduates in the "National Postsecondary Student Aid Study" - revealed that about two-thirds of all those who received a bachelor's degree, graduated with some amount of loan debt.

About 25 percent of all college-degree recipients graduated with at least $24,600 in debt, and 10 percent graduated with at least $39,300, says the report.

A co-author of the report, Sandy Baum says that it's not the lowest-income students who have the most debt at graduation, but actually middle-income students. The authors, though, could not pinpoint why that is other than speculate that the types of colleges middle-income students choose to attend may have a high tuition.

Among bachelor's-degree recipients, independent students were also more likely to have high-debt levels. About 24 percent of them had at least $30,500 in loan debt, twice the percentage found among students who depend on their parents or another guardian.

"Independent students, who are disproportionately likely to come from lower-income families, are most likely to have high-debt levels," according to the report.

The College Board also analyzed the relationship between student debt and race, finding that black students were more likely than Asians, whites, and Hispanics to have high-debt levels. Only 19 percent of black students graduated with no debt, while the percentage of debt-free graduates from other racial groups ranged from 33 for Hispanic students to 40 percent for Asian students.

About 27 percent of all black students graduated with at least $30,500 in student-loan debt, while the portion of students with that level of debt ranged from 9 percent to 16 percent for other races.

According to the report, the problem is not that all students are borrowing too much, but that difficulties in predicting earnings after graduation, and students' lack of understanding about the financial impact of loans, leave too many of them borrowing more than they can manage.

For instance, if you're attending a Graduate Teachers College for $30,000 per year and upon graduation you're saddled with over $100,000 in debt, it would take a lifetime to pay back that loan on a teacher's salary. Do you think that tuition rates for institutions should reflect the salaries that students will receive at an entry level job upon graduation?

Cold-Case Murders From the Civil Rights Movement May Be Solved



By Ericka Blount Danois

Last weekend, more than 70 relatives of people murdered during the civil rights era gathered in Atlanta for the "Never Too Late for Justice" retreat, hosted by Syracuse University College of Law's Cold Case Justice Initiative.

"We need to come together so we can share, hear each others' stories and help heal," says Shelton Chappell (pictured above), whose mother was murdered by four white men who are still walking free. "Just as the families of victims of 9/11 have found a closeness, so can the relatives of people who died by homegrown violence," he said. "This was terrorism, too."

Janis J. McDonald, a Syracuse professor of law and co-director of the initiative, said the project was founded in 2007, after she was contacted by relatives of Frank Morris, a Ferriday, La., shoe-shop owner who was murdered in December 1964. They were frustrated because they could not get anyone to investigate his death.

Morris' shop was set ablaze and gunmen forced him back into the building, where he was burned and later died of his injuries. His case remains unsolved.

Law students, under the supervision of McDonald and co-director Paula C. Johnson pored over thousands of pages of documents and worked with local investigative journalists to find new witnesses. They also pushed for federal officials to investigate his murder.

"We realized that the families were living this daily," McDonald said. "Many of these family members were between 8 and 12 when they witnessed or experienced the loss of their relatives."

She said families are coming for different reasons: Some want to share their stories, others seek to have their relatives' death certificates changed to reflect homicide and others are pursuing justice against the murderers.

"The larger question that our society has never answered is about the role of law enforcement" in some of the deaths, she said. In some cases, they looked the other way and never fully investigated. In others, officers may have participated directly.

The families arrived last Friday for a private, facilitated retreat, which continued on Saturday. There was a public panel discussion that addressed the legal, historical and societal impact of the killings.

McDonald expects more families to come forward as word spreads.

These are the sort of cold-case files that need to be investigated and solved to bring these families closure and fulfill the civil rights mission that so many everyday people and leaders died for.

Watch McDonald and Johnson talk about the Cold Case Justice Initiative here:


Civil Rights Group Struggles To Remain Relevant

Obama to honor Height as godmother of civil rights



Hundreds of mourners are filing into the Washington National Cathedral to honor the late Dorothy Height, a matriarch of the civil rights movement.


President Barack Obama will give the eulogy at the funeral Thursday morning. Poet Maya Angelou will offer a reading, BeBe Winans will sing, and Camille Cosby will offer a tribute.

Attendees at the public funeral include Washington's powerful and others who boarded trains at 3 a.m. to take part.

Some of the women arriving at the cathedral are wearing bright hats like Height used to wear.

Leaders from Congress will share the front row with the president. Several officials from Obama's cabinet also will attend. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is also expected to attend.

Lavrov cautions Iran over sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on April 29, 2010 in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg.


In the strongest signal yet of support for the US-pursued sanctions against Iran, Russia has warned Tehran that the measure could become "inevitable."

"In the absence of cooperation on the part of Iran, it is quite possible that sanctions will become inevitable, and in the very near future the Security Council will deal with these matters," RIA Novosti quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Thursday.

He made the remarks in reply to questions during a plenary meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France.

However, Lavrov stressed that Kremlin would never support the use of force against Iran as it would entail catastrophic consequences for Europe "and not just the Middle East, Near East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region," FARS News Agency reported, citing Russia's Interfax news agency.

Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, could cripple the Washington-drafted resolution for more Iran sanctions with the use of its veto right.

But Moscow has remained vague on its stance towards the issue, shifting from support for Iran's civilian nuclear program, which Tehran has repeatedly said is completely peaceful, to veiled cautions that it may join ship with the US on more sanctions.

This is while, as one of the key suppliers in the nuclear fuel swap proposal, Russia is ultimately in favor of a diplomatic resolution.

Another veto-wielding UNSC member, China, has urged diplomacy in finding a solution to the nuclear impasse -- a call echoed by temporary members Turkey and Brazil.

In order to be passed, the resolution must be approved by at least nine members of the UNSC, granted that none of the five permanent members use their veto.

As a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran stresses that it has the right to develop its nuclear program for peaceful purposes, citing its membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Video: Florida Governor Expected to Run As Independent

Steve Jobs attacks Adobe Flash as unfit for iPhone

NEW YORK — Apple CEO Steve Jobs is going on the offensive against Adobe's Flash technology. He says it's too buggy, battery-draining and PC-oriented to work on the iPhone and iPad.

In a statement Thursday, Jobs laid out his reasons for excluding Flash — the most popular vehicle for videos and games on the Internet — from Apple's blockbuster handheld devices.

Apple has been criticized for the omission of Flash, which limits the usefulness of the iPhone. In his rebuttal, Jobs said the most important reason for excluding Flash is that it puts a third party between Apple and software developers. That means developers can take advantage of improvements from Apple only if Adobe chose to upgrade its own software, Jobs wrote.

Puerto Rican funeral home poses dead man on motorcycle

Marin Funeral Home in San Juan in Puerto Rico has made headlines before for posing a body in an unusual fashion.




Back in 2008, the company grabbed headlines for propping the body of 24-year-old Angel Pantoja Medina upright (as if standing) for his three-day wake at his mother’s home. Medina had previously told family members that he “wanted to be happy, standing” at his wake. Damaris Marin, the owner, has piqued international attention again with another interestingly posed body.



After 22-year-old David Morales Colón was shot to death last Thursday, family members brought the young man’s “Repsol-liveried Honda CBR600 F4″ to Marin for the unusual post-mortem display. The bike was given to Colón by an uncle before he died, and Marin posed the body atop the bike in a realistic racing pose, wearing street clothes and sunglasses.



According to a Puerto Rican news source, Colón survived a shooting previously, at the age of fourteen. He was buried yesterday in Rio Piedras. No word on whether the bike went with him.

NYS Sen. Kevin Parker's Inane Racist Rant

New York State Senator Kevin Parker seems to think that the mess in Albany is the result of white supremacist politicians in Albany.

In his latest off-the-wall behavior, hothead Sen. Kevin Parker Wednesday morning accused Senate Republicans - and even some Democrats - of being white supremacists.

Parker updated his Facebook status, saying he was "in Albany fighting the evil of White Supremacy!"

And Parker, who exploded in a fury during a public committee meeting Tuesday, defended his outburst during a radio interview as "par for the course of what we have to do up in Albany fighting the forces of evil."

Asked by Daily News columnist and WWRL host Errol Louis what the forces of evil were, Parker said, "these long-term white supremacist Republican senators."

He accused the GOP of not being able to handle losing the Senate majority and now having blacks, Latinos, women and gays running the chamber as part of the Democratic majority.

"They have a real problem with that and because of that they do things that are very very inappropriate," Parker said.
Where to start with this insanity?

How about the fact that Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate conspired with the GOP to stage a "coup" last year that gave the State Senate chamber back to the GOP after they lost it to the Democrats. Both are Hispanic (and Monserrate was later booted from the chamber after being found guilty on a misdemeanor assault charge). Moreover, that coup led to a reshuffling of the senior Democrat positions - between Malcolm Smith and John Sampson (who both happen to be African American).

In any event, Parker's just blowing smoke and providing still more evidence that Albany remains a circus and not serious about fixing the state's serious fiscal problems. Moreover, Parker's insanities include being indicted for assaulting a photographer (and the felony charges are still pending).

Parker is a thug who wants to bully his way through the chamber to arrive at decisions to his liking. Others in the Senate are not taking a liking to his tactics and have called him out on it.

How The Other Side Lives


By Michael Swartz



If you consider the tea party movement a political one and support their goals, you're not alone. A Rasmussen poll taken just before the tax day protests found that 24% of Americans now considered themselves part of the tea party movement.



Yet if you look at the actual number of people who have attended a tea party, the movement is likely far smaller. While there's no good accurate count of the number who have participated, it's safe to assume that the sum total is much fewer than the 69,498,215 people who voted for President Barack Obama. And chances are the circle of Tea party regulars has little congruency with the circle of Obama voters so it's no stretch either to assume that these are two different and entrenched camps.



Those who favor tea party politics tend to be for a reined-in, smaller government which is fiscally responsible, and they're united on that front. On the other hand, the sector of the Democratic party which most supported Obama is actually made up of far smaller and more disparate groups, which fall in and out of favor quickly depending on the issue of the day.



For example, the recent push for amnesty for illegal immigrants placed the Hispanic advocacy groups and other race-baiters at the top of the heap, displacing environmental groups who were hoping cap-and-trade would lead the agenda once health care passed. Moreover, while unions and other progressive groups were thrilled at the passage of Obamacare, gay rights supporters were displeased with the lack of progress on their pet issues and vocalized their disappointment at President Obama's recent appearance with Senator Barbara Boxer in California .



Despite their differences, though, the side of those who would consolidate government power in a Washington bureaucracy, back it up with an activist judiciary system, and reduce Congress to a body where favors are bought and sold for plebiscite votes has advanced their agenda at an increasing pace. Over the 80 years since the Great Depression began, government has constantly become a more powerful force in people's lives – only the pace has changed, depending on who occupies the White House. The statist agenda won victories, even under Reagan's watch, because Democrats controlled the purse strings at the time.



Those on the left also use the tactic of asking, "where were tea partiers when the Republicans in Congress increased spending and drove up the deficit under President George W. Bush?" It's a good question, but the pace toward statism wasn't quick enough to incite alarm and economic conditions were acceptable. In addition, President Bush handled the post 9-11 period well enough to earn a second term.



In retrospect Bush's biggest mistake was assuming he could work with Democrats inside the Beltway as he could Democrats in Austin . He had no idea the disparate groups which fight amongst each other when the Democrats are in power can speak with one voice when their territories inside the Beltway become threatened. In that respect, these special interests become the image the tea parties would eventually mirror because they too took to the streets when that which they believed they'd earned for themselves was threatened.



Yet even if the Republicans win big at the ballot box in 2010, the fight has barely started. Note that the Gingrich-led Republican Congress of the 1990's couldn't starve the Beltway beast – eventually they lost their will and their way. But if they don't succeed in their reform efforts we could lose America as we know it, and the tea parties of 2009-10 will become a forgotten chapter of the closing days of our nation's history.



Michael Swartz, an architect and writer who lives in rural Maryland, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

Harmful Regulations Video Contest


By Adam Bitely



The EPA has decided to start a video contest, seeking to gather films promoting government regulations. The prize is $2,500 of stolen cash from the taxpayer.



What?! Well, two can play at this game — except we will not be robbing any taxpayers.



Americans for Limited Government/NetRight Nation and the Fr33 Agents Network have announced that we will host our own contest. The reward is $2,500 not stolen from the tax payers. Here are the rules to enter:



1.Create a video promoting how government regulations have harmed business in your area. Get creative. Examples: a video showing the rising cost of food prices due to government subsidies or the FDA preventing the release of life saving medications. Think outside the box and show us how government regulations are harming you!


2. Post your video to YouTube. Send the link to Adam@netrightnation.com.


3. Two weeks from now, on May 11, we will post the top selection of videos that have been entered. We will also announce the judges for the contest that will narrow down the field to the best video entry in the coming week. Also, we will post your video submissions as they come in.


4. We will announce a winner on May 18 and they will receive the $2,500 cash prize that has not been stolen from the taxpayer!



And if you have never made a video check out the two below (just click the image) and read just how easy it is to make one:





It's so easy to make a YouTube video, that it took less than 10 minutes to create these, and I am no video expert. Using a very cheap video camera, I recorded the above two brief videos on how food regulations drive prices up in Virginia and how labor bosses hate filling out disclosure forms. Once I had the video filmed, I simply plugged the camera into my computer, dragged and dropped the file onto my desktop and then uploaded it to my YouTube account. It's pretty easy! So there is no reason that you shouldn't be able to make a video for the contest and possibly win $2,500!



So get to work and start making some videos!



Adam Bitely is the New Media Director for Americans for Limited Government.

Republicans Strike Back?


By Robert Romano



Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled another procedural vote for today on the Dodd financial takeover bill. This follows two failed votes on proceeding to the bill this week that are solely designed to bully one or two Republicans into supporting the measure without making any significant concessions.



Senate Republicans must not take the bait. As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson said yesterday, "Republicans can wield the upper hand in this debate by holding the majority to account for covering up for the real villain of the crisis: government." And so far, that is exactly what the Senate minority is doing.



Yesterday, Republican after Republican came to the floor to criticize not only what is in the bill — which, as ALG News has previously reported, is horrendous — but what is not.



Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) said of the Dodd bill, "it sends a signal that the government will bail out institutions just as it did with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two troubled mortgage giants that have received $125.9 billion in direct government funding and now have an unlimited U.S. credit line. Yet there's no mention of Fannie or Freddie in this bill."



Senator Roberts is exactly right. A text search of the Dodd bill will find that they are not at all included, despite the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac weakened mortgage underwriting standards and mislabeled high-risk mortgage-backed securities, defrauding investors. All told, the GSE's brought some $1.835 trillion of these risky assets onto their books, out of the $4.7 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. That's about 39 percent.



"Failure to deal with Fannie and Freddie keeps taxpayers on the hook for more bailouts of these entities," Roberts continued. Again, he's right. "Too big to fail" cannot end while the government maintains the bailed-out firms like Fannie and Freddie with no end in sight and an unlimited credit line.



A Senate Republican alternative plan obtained by ALG News to the Dodd bill would begin to bring an end to government ownership of the companies. It would require the GSE's to "reduce their portfolio holdings by 10 percent of the prior year's holdings" and the President to submit a plan to reform the GSE's within six months of the bill's passage.



Although this particular provision holds some promise, it is meager in comparison to an outright requirement that the firms be sold off by the government. That must be included so that there is no mistake that, at the end of the day, the government will not be in the mortgage market.



Further, there needs to be protection such that the $4.7 mortgage-backed securities are not simply purchased by the Federal Reserve or the Treasury.



Why? Because under the Republican alternative, "Fed lending that leads to the Fed holding assets on its balance sheet for a maximum period of time shall be moved on-budget and counted as new budget authority, receipts, or deficits or surpluses for purposes of the budget of the U.S. government." The Federal Reserve has already bought $1.25 trillion of Fannie and Freddie securities. And under this provision, after a period of time, they would be transferred to taxpayers explicitly, being added directly to the national debt.



That would leave the government in charge of the mortgage industry.



Overall, moving Fed assets onto budget is actually a very good provision in comparison to current law, because it would restore honesty to accounting to the Federal Reserve and the U.S. budget. Under current law, the Fed has purchased the $1.25 trillion of securities with printed money in its program that replaced the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But, this did not appear on the government's balance sheet as it should.



New law should require those specific securities to be sold on the private market, and the Fed should be restricted from making any further intrusions into the mortgage market. The goal must be to get government out of housing finance altogether, and very explicit restrictions will need to be placed to prevent the GSE's from surviving in some other form under some other agency's regulatory umbrella.



Other parts of the Republican plan do not directly address the Federal Housing Administration's weakened down payments policies, nor do they repeal the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Reinvestment Act regulations that forced banks to make risky loans to low-income Americans in the first place.



A final version of the GOP plan may include such provisions (such as in their title addressing underwriting standards), and they should, because they were an integral part of how so many bad mortgages were given out. Excluding that exempts another root cause of the crisis from reform.



Another critical aspect missing is reining in the Federal Reserve's easy money policies. Specifically, its lower-than-justified interest rates allowed the credit bubble to inflate to appalling proportions in the first place. It is solely up to Congress to protect the American people from another government-inflated bubble by reining in the excesses that fueled it.



According to research by Stanford economics professor John Taylor, "the Fed's target for the federal-funds interest rate was well below what the Taylor rule would call for in 2002-2005. By this measure the interest rate was too low for too long, reducing borrowing costs and accelerating the housing boom." By not placing restrictions on the Federal Reserve to wield interest rates policy as a mechanism for inflating asset bubbles, there will be nothing in place to prevent it from happening again.



There are other parts of the GOP alternative plan which accept many of the premises of the Dodd bill, like putting the FDIC as receiver of failing financial companies. Why not use bankruptcy courts? These are not depository institutions. They are investment firms, hedge funds, insurance companies and other non-banks. And the government should be in no position to seize them.



There is good reason for this. According to the Washington Times, "the government's non-bank rescues have become the biggest drain on taxpayers, including the burgeoning bailouts of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, insurance giant American International Group, and Detroit's General Motors and Chrysler." This can only be remedied by ending the bailouts, and allowing companies to enter bankruptcy that belong there.



At the end of the day, there are some good ideas in the Senate Republican alternative, but it does not go far enough to addressing the root causes of the crisis. The American people are really expecting a comprehensive alternative plan that will end "too big to fail," reinstate risk to the markets, strengthen credit standards, and restore the faith of the American people that the government does not have aspirations upon the private sector.



Robert Romano is the ALG Senior News Editor.

Riot police deployed against Tea Party protesters



Quincy Tea Party members wanted President Barack Obama to know they were present Wednesday afternoon during his appearance in Quincy.
About 200 people protesting Obama's policies loudly chanted "USA, USA" as his motorcade made its way out of the Oakley-Lindsay Center, then sang "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye" as the vehicle went by.

The participants were vocal but well-behaved as they stood on the north side of York Street across from the OLC.
"Having the president come is really something," organizer Steve McQueen said. "But we do not agree with all the policies of Obama and the current Congress, and we wanted to make sure he knows we are here."

The crowd carried signs with messages ranging from "Give Us Liberty Not Debt" to yellow flags saying "Don't Tread On Me."

Urged on by people with megaphones, the crowd shouted slogans, among them "Remember in November" and "You work for us."

Tea party groups protest government spending and policies infringing on personal freedoms. The Quincy Tea Party had a well-attended rally in Washington Park last fall.
"We've always been respectful and acted with dignity," McQueen said. "We are out to make our case and make it peacefully."

There were a few tense moments when the crowd moved west down York toward Third Street after the president's motorcade arrived. A Secret Service agent asked the crowd to move back across the street to the north side.

When the crowd didn't move and began singing "God Bless, America" and the national anthem, Quincy Deputy Police Chief Ron Dreyer called for members of the Mobile Field Force to walk up the street.

The officers, mainly from Metro East departments near St. Louis and dressed in full body armor, marched from the east and stood on the south side of York facing the protesters.
There was no physical contact, and the officers did not come close to the crowd, but there were catcalls and more than a few upset tea party members, including a woman who shouted, "This is communism!"
McQueen also assisted in asking people to step back to the north side of York. The crowd moved back, the officers stayed for about 15 minutes and left, and there were no other incidents.

"It's just a communication issue. We were trying to get them to move across the street," Quincy Deputy Police Chief Curt Kelty said. "We were just trying to move them back, they complied, and it was fine."


Pictures of the protesters who sparked the call for police in full gear at the link.

You've got to feel for the cops in this charade.

Dana Loesch has more:

Who gave the order to call in the riot police on protesters? Word is that Secret Service from inside the venue and the presidential team pressured local law enforcement, who were against the idea. Local cops were overruled, I'm told by various sources, including a few members of local press. Moore reported that she overheard Secret Service telling the riot squad to "push them back, out of sight."

Intimidation tactic. Plain and simple. There was no violence, no arguments, just a couple hundred patriots who sang patriotic songs and wore red, white, and blue. Unbelievable.

Indeed.

Posted by Rick

Flight Bomb Scare Diverts International Travel

A recent Delta Airlines trip meant to go from Paris to Atlanta, had to detour and land in Bangor, Maine. During the flight, a bomb scare interfered and caused the authorities to take charge and alter plans. Continue below for more details, including a video.


Derek Stansberry, from Florida, used to serve in the Air Force and stated to crew members that he had explosives and false documents. The Airbus A330 carrying 234 passengers made it safely to the eastern most airport that could handle a jet of that size. Though they may have been confused, they all made it.






During the flight, bomb scares were unknown to most of the passengers.



“For some time, we were not told anything,” Adithya Sastryi said. “But the pilot came on and told us, ‘There has been a security threat,’ and that they’re trying to get it under control.”



The crew and travelers seemed to stay calm and after everyone was moved to the front of the plane, air marshals detained the suspect. Sandy Zusmann explained what happened next:



“About 45 minutes later to an hour later, they came on and they said, ‘As some of you may know, we had a security threat on the flight. That’s now under control, but we’re going to ask everybody to stay in their seats for the remainder of the flight.’”



There was no reason to previously suspect the gentleman and he seemed to have a respected career with the military. So why he decided to take this course of action, no one knows. The FBI will be heading up the investigation.



Once the plane was grounded in Maine, passengers were questioned and the jet was parked away from the gate and swept by agents and a dog team. However no bomb or other devises were found. As the investigations continue, I am sure we will find out more details. However, it seems to have just been an empty threat, though I am sure legal actions will be taken.



Let me know what you think about the flight’s bomb scare and following actions. Also check out this video.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Department of Children and Families Needs to Merge with DHS

Dear Friends,


A week ago, Governor Chris Christie’s choice to run the Department of Children and Families stepped down. Acting Commissioner Janet Rosenzweig was, by any yardstick, one of the most radical appointees New Jersey has ever seen. She served as the Executive Director of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. The kindest thing I can say about this group is that it is not known for supporting a traditional moral viewpoint.



http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/04/liberal_nominee_for_chief_of_n.html



Rosenzweig’s nomination was blocked largely through the efforts of a relatively new organization – the New Jersey Conservative Republican Leadership Committee. When other social conservative leaders were too afraid of the Governor’s office to mount an opposition, NJCRLC’s leaders (former Senator Richard LaRossa and Eagle Forum’s Carolee Adams) testified against this poor choice to head Children and Families. They lobbied individual Senators and provided the information to the full Senate that sent her nomination back to the Senate Judiciary Committee – something that almost never happens.



The vacancy created by Acting Commissioner Rosenzweig’s resignation is a great opportunity for New Jersey taxpayers. Her department was a creation of Governor Jim McGreevey’s administration. Republican legislators have talked about the savings that could be found by combining this bureaucracy with the Department of Human Services. In fact, Governor Christie’s own transition team recommended doing this just a few months ago, but for some reason, his budget team didn’t take this recommendation.



Americans for Prosperity’s Taxpayers’ Budget and Governor Christie’s transition team agree that the taxpayers of New Jersey could save at least $35 million in administrative costs by consolidating the Department of Children and Families into the Department of Human Services. The money saved could be used to help provide badly needed property tax relief to New Jersey’s taxpayers.



Call the members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees and ask them to act on this recommendation so that the money saved can be used to help relieve the property tax burden on New Jersey taxpayers.



For a full contact list of Senators and Assembly members, go to http://www.njcrlc.org./

On to Victory,
 
Steven Lonegan

SEC chairman says no timing link between Goldman fraud suit and overhaul legislation

Goldman charges not linked to bill: SEC boss



WASHINGTON — The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission says there was no connection between the timing of the agency’s fraud charges against Goldman Sachs and efforts in the Senate to speed passage of sweeping legislation overhauling financial regulation.



SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro was speaking Wednesday to a Senate panel weighing the agency’s budget request. Some Republicans have accused the SEC of timing the April 16 announcement of civil fraud charges against Goldman to bolster prospects for the legislation, now at a critical stage in the Senate.



Schapiro, asked if there was a connection, said “absolutely not. We don’t time our enforcement actions by the legislative calendar.”

Laura Bush book: Car wrecks, poisonings and petty politics

By Thomas Hart,

Laura Bush killed a guy. That’s one of the biggest stories in the new Laura Bush book, “Spoken from the Heart.” Laura Bush killed a guy in a car crash when she was 17, but it wasn’t her fault. Laura Bush, her husband President George W. Bush and their entourage got sick during a visit to Germany, and guess what? They were poisoned. The Laura Bush book also lets the world know that the former president’s wife is deeply hurt by Democrats calling her husband names.




Laura Bush pay day

The Laura Bush book, in the patented shift-the-blame, paranoid style popular among certain hard-right conservatives, is billed by amazon.com as an “intimate portrait of the first lady.” “Spoken from the Heart” is due to be released in early May, but the New York Times managed to score a copy from a bookstore. Laura Bush is the latest of many people involved in the Bush Administration to cash in on book deals. Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc., outbid several publishers in an auction for rights to her story. The Huffington Post reports that rival publishers doubted the information Bush wants to share is the same that the public wants to read; they also question whether her advance matched the $8 million in instant cash Hillary Clinton scooped up for “Living History.”



Laura Bush killed a guy

The New York Times review said the Laura Bush book devotes considerable pages to a car wreck that killed a star athlete at her high school. In a world where Vietnam war veterans are Swift-boated and candidates–even Republicans–are slandered with lies about fathering illegitimate black children, it’s a wonder that journalists who must have known about Laura Bush’s fatal car accident long ago never reported it. In November 1963, she ran a stop sign with her dad’s Chevy Impala and killed Michael Douglas.



Laura Bush book details car accident

In the Laura Bush book the New York Times said the former first lady said she was troubled with guilt after the crash. But she didn’t reach out to the Douglas family or attend his funeral because her parents didn’t want her to. She also said it was dark, the stop sign was too small and the victim was driving an unsafe car: “It was sporty and sleek, and it was also the car that Ralph Nader made famous in his book Unsafe at Any Speed,” according to the Laura Bush book.



Laura Bush book: red meat for Republicans

The Laura Bush book throws red meat to the Republican base by calling out Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, for calling George W. Bush “an incompetent leader.” She also reacts to comments about W by Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, who is quoted in the Laura Bush book calling her husband a “loser” and a “liar.” Considering the current belligerent stance of the Republican party, she comes across as somewhat of a hypocritical whiner:



“The comments were uncalled for and graceless,” she writes. “While a president’s political opponents, as well as his supporters, are entitled to make what they see as legitimate criticisms, and while our national debates should be spirited, these particular worlds revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress.”



Laura Bush book: best of

Other tidbits in the Laura Bush book the New York Times considered worth noting include her suggestion that W’s universally ridiculed fly-over of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was in the best interests of the victims and aid workers on the ground. Any GOP true believer will get out the credit card to read her revelation of the insidious plot to poison the president. On a trip to Germany for a G8 Summit, everyone got sick and W was bedridden. The Secret Service investigated the possibility they were poisoned, she writes, but doctors could only blame a virus.

Will Republicans Cave on Wall Street Reform Today? *No*

by mcjoan

The next vote to see if the Senate can continue debate over whether they'll agree to allow Wall Street reform forward starts at 12:20 eastern today, and there are some hints that the Republicans have played out the game. TPM's Brian Beutler reports:




Now that both sides acknowledge that a grand deal is not in the offing, Republicans are inching toward breaking their filibuster. This morning on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, sounding resigned to the fact that the Democrats outlasted him, dropped all talk of allowing negotiations to continue, and turned his attention to measures in the Democrats' bill he wants to see fixed.



"[T]his has been a very useful exercise," McConnell said. "By giving people time to actually look at this bill and study the details for themselves, we've enabled them to assess not only the potential impact of the actual text of the bill itself, but also some of the unintended consequences it could have."

That could be the result of yesterday's blistering Levin hearings with Goldman Sachs. After that spectacle, it would be harder for the GOP to justify blocking this effort. It could also be because yesterday Sen. George Voinovich signalled that he was tired of this and would inevitably switch his vote. Whether that's today is the unknown until they actually vote. For instance, Politico reads the tea leaves and finds that the Republicans are still obstinate.



They also find divergent stories: Harry Reid says there is no more negotiating, and Chris Dodd says that he and Shelby are still talking, and that "they had come very close to a compromise on "too big to fail" provisions and were now working through the details on derivatives and a federal consumer protection agency." Which would mean that there are two shots at the strongest too big to fail and CFPA provisions--through amendments or in conference with the House.



Today's other soon-to-be-resolved mystery is what Ben Nelson will do if he doesn't have Republican cover to vote no. If a Republican switches, is he going to be the vote to keep blocking the bill? He has as many as 6 million reasons to do so.



April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Ben Nelson, who supported an exemption to proposed derivatives rules sought by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., [which was stripped from the bill] owned as much as $6 million worth of stock with his wife in the Omaha, Nebraska-based company, financial disclosures show.



A Nebraska Democrat, Nelson reported last year that he owned between $500,000 and $1 million of stock in Berkshire in 2008, and his wife owned between $1 million and $5 million. Senators report their holdings each year in broad ranges. New financial disclosure reports are due May 15.

If Nebraska voters were pissed at Nelson over the Cornhusker Kickback, how are they going to react to the news that he has two constituents: Warren Buffett and his own portfolio? We'll find out soon, if not today.



Update: Snowe, Corker, Brown (MA), Collins all early "no" votes. If Voinovich switches, he'll have to switch alone.



Update 2: Doesn't look like it's happening today. Ben Nelson just voted "no" again.



Update 3: That seals it for today. Voinovich is a "no."



Update 4: And Harry Reid just switched his vote to "no" so that he can bring the bill back up again tomorrow.



Update 5: Fail 56-42. Robert Byrd was not there to vote, hence the loss of one "aye" from the previous votes.

Apple Buys Siri, A Mobile Assistant App, As War With Google Heats Up

Apple has acquired Siri, a mobile "assistant" app maker, a Siri representative has confirmed.

This puts Apple in even closer competition with Google, as we believe that mobile assistant apps are one of the many ways that search will look on mobile platforms.
So, in a sense, Apple just got into the search business. (More on that topic here.)


Here's how Siri describes itself: "You can ask Siri to find a romantic place for dinner, tell you what’s playing at a local jazz club or get tickets to a movie for Saturday night."


Basically, you type stuff into your phone, and it connects to APIs across the Web to bring you a result.
Sure sounds like search. (Without having to scrape and index the web, build a formal search engine, etc.)
How much did Apple spend? Siri reps wouldn't comment, but given how early the company sold, and how much money it raised -- $24 million -- we assume that somewhere between $100 million to $200 million could be possible. However, Google only spent $50 million on Aardvark, whose software solves a sorta-similar problem.
Siri's exec team -- CEO Dag Kittlaus, VP of Engineering Adam Cheyer, CTO Tom Gruber, and VP Product Gummi Hafsteinsson -- includes veterans of the telecom, mobile, artificial intelligence, and semantic technologies. Hafsteinsson used to work at Google. (Wonder how long it'll take before the BlackBerry on their website goes away.)
The acquisition was listed in a Federal Trade Commission document (PDF) as a deal granted early termination under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.


We first read about the deal in a tweet from Robert Scoble.

Siri's investors include Menlo Ventures, Morgenthaler Ventures, The Li Ka Shing Foundation, and SRI International.