Thursday, February 25, 2010

Andrew Koening Found Dead In Stanley Park

The search for Andrew Koenig has come to a tragic end.

After a high-profile, weeklong hunt for the former Growing Pains star, Vancouver police announced Thursday that they believe they have found the body of the 41-year-old in the park where he was last seen alive 11 days ago.

The remains were discovered around noon in the expansive Stanley Park. More details are expected to be announced at a 5 p.m. press conference.

Police launched an exhaustive search for the actor-filmmaker on Sunday, when he was reported missing after failing to board his flight back to the U.S.

Koenig, who had a history of depression, was last seen just two days earlier, on Feb. 14.

His disappearance prompted multiple public and heartfelt pleas from his parents, Walter and Judith Koenig, while numerous famous friends sounded the alarm online.

Zazi Co-Defendants Plead Not Guilty

Two co-defendants of Najibullah Zazi, the 25-year-old who has admitted to planning suicide attacks on the New York City subway, have pled not guilty. Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedazy stand accused alongside Zazi, their former high-school classmate, of travelling to Pakistan in 2008 and learning bomb-making from Al Qaeda. They are also charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda. Zazi pleaded guilty earlier this week and is cooperating with investigators.

Count On A Nosy Government

By Michael Swartz

Since 1790, every 10 years the federal government has come around to count every American in an effort to determine proportional representation. This is dictated by Article I, Section 2 of our Constitution and it's one of the rare instances the Constitution has been rigidly followed throughout our 230-plus year history.

In March, most households will receive a fairly short form intended to provide the information the government needs to determine these Congressional districts. (Others get a longer form which asks a number of questions about living situation, income, and other personal items.) In either case, though, respondents are asked about much more than the number of people living in their dwelling.

Consider the 10-question short form most Americans will receive. While Question 1 seeks the essential information about how many occupy the subject's residence, other questions on the short form ask about home ownership, gender, and race.

More importantly, the government database being created also has name, age, date of birth, and telephone number. While the Census Bureau vows that the information collected will be kept secure, one has to wonder just how private this information will remain in an age of hackers and identity theft. Remember, none of this information is truly necessary to achieve the mandated purpose of determining population numbers for proportional representation.

In truth, the Census facts and figures have grown to meet purposes far beyond the intentions of the Founding Fathers, just as the size and scope of the government they created has. According to the Census Bureau, the status of living arrangements is asked because the answers are, "used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions." Similarly, the age and date of birth are used for, "forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare services," and the gender question is asked because, "many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing, and evaluating their programs."

But even the obvious reason for the decennial count has fallen prey to overt discrimination on the part of bureaucrats in Washington, for it's not Question 1 which determines the proper number of representatives to Congress per state, but Question 9.

And what is Question 9? It asks the race of each person in the household, yet, "state governments use the data to determine congressional, state, and local voting districts." So much for the colorblind society those in power claim they wish to create. Instead, these numbers are used to create monolithic voting districts which forever doom minorities to second-class status.

The Census Bureau website claims that the count is necessary because, "(e)ach question helps to determine how more than $400 billion will be allocated to communities across the country." Their radio spots talk about the need to respond because otherwise we'd not know if a school grew enough for new classrooms or if a town needed a traffic signal. They conveniently forget, though, that there's other less intrusive measures to come up with the appropriate figures. As always, it becomes a question of following the money.

It's been said many times in several variants that, "a house divided against itself cannot stand." We see the results of pitting groups against one another – a weakening of freedom and an erosion of liberty.

In response, we should call on our leaders to return the Census to the noble purpose for which it was intended and not continue using it as the wedge it's become. While it's not advisable to ignore the Census, we should think twice about just what information we share with Washington.

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

Obama's Health Summit

The GOP: A Time for Truth

By Robert Romano

In his latest generic ballot question, Rasmussen Reports show Republicans holding a substantial 44 to 35 percent lead over Democrats for the 2010 Congressional elections. In fact, the poll shows that Republicans have led consistently since June 28th, 2009, just two days after the House passed its onerous legislation capping carbon emissions and taxing energy consumption.

That week was marked by an intense call-in and write-in campaign by the American people against the takeover of the energy industry, urged on talk radio hosts such as Mark Levin who called for what he dubbed a "Levin Surge." It worked; the American people practically shut down the Capitol switchboard that week, and the bill only passed by a slim 219 to 212 margin.

The Senate has hardly done anything with the bill, which insiders and even proponents such as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) consider to be dead.

It was in this context that the debate over ObamaCare was picking up in earnest, leading to the ill-fated August recess and angry town halls where Congressional Democrats were confronted by their constituents, who intensely opposed the national takeover of health care.

Deadline after deadline was breached as Democrats fought amongst themselves, shut Republicans out of any meaningful negotiations, and finally passed on party-line votes the takeover in November and December in both houses.

And those votes promptly cost Democrats the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia — and then the Massachusetts Senate seat.

It should be noted that the same intensity by the American people pervades to date, and could turn into a true groundswell if Democrats invoke reconciliation — effectively eliminating the filibuster and the two-party system — to ram the bill down the throats of an unwilling American public. In Rasmussen's latest poll on the question, 56 percent remain opposed to the health takeover. And a full 61 percent wish that Congress would simply start over.

Instead, of course, today kicks off Barack Obama's much ballyhooed, six hour health takeover "summit," where once again, Obama will attempt to coerce and cajole Congressional Republican support for his plan. This will fail. It may prove the narrative that Republicans are against his agenda, but nothing more will come out of it.

The American people have good reasons for opposing this takeover. Republicans are certain to point out that it will cost $2.5 trillion from 2014-2023, ration care away from seniors, increase the costs of premiums, decrease quality, and put even more pressure on the nation's debt, which will top 100 percent of GDP as soon as next year.

They are also certain to point out that the "negotiations" are nothing more than a theater of the absurd. If Democrats truly do intend on invoking reconciliation, they do not need any Republican support. Without the filibuster threat, Republicans lack any leverage on this or any other issue facing the nation. Eliminating it create de facto one-party rule. A true tyranny of the tone-deaf majority.

Beyond the meaningless summit, the new generic Congressional poll means that Republicans have some substantial political capital. By merely standing against and slowing down these government takeovers of health care and energy, Republicans have won the support of political Independents and a good swath of the tea party movement.

But, the GOP faces peril after a likely 2010 win, if it fails to outline an aggressive platform meant to cope with the legitimate concerns of the American people. Republicans need to be preparing the American people for the necessary, painful cuts that are to come.

Specifically, Republicans should be presenting a balanced budget, a plan for paying off the gargantuan national debt, reforming entitlements, and implementing permanent tax relief. They need to outline two broad principles that they will oppose: 1) printing money to finance government spending and borrowing; 2) tax increases to pay for government spending and paying down the debt.

They need to make abundantly clear that they will only support balancing the budget by cutting spending. Unfortunately, as the New York Times' Paul Krugman rightly points out, Republicans have yet to comprehensively lay out such an agenda. Noting that the beast is starving, he writes, "It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut."

On the other hand, Krugman is wrong to blame tax cuts of the 1980's and 2000's for the soaring national debt. As reported by the Congressional Budget Office, revenues have soared from $517.1 billion in 1980 to a peak of $2.568 trillion in 2007 in spite of the tax cuts, and chiefly because of the economic growth they produced. In 2009, they sank to a more modest $2.104 trillion in the wake of the recession.

Nonetheless, there is no need to raise taxes to balance the budget when the budget deficit is a projected $1.556 trillion. It is an annual shortfall that will only rise should ObamaCare be enacted, an entitlement expansion that the American people overwhelmingly oppose.

Krugman makes another correct point: "Since [Republicans] are adamantly opposed to reducing the deficit with tax increases, they would have to explain what spending they want to cut." He is right. But, if he believes that is some sort of masterful trap, he is wrong.

The American people do want cuts because they know that they are necessary. They rightly see the sovereign debt crisis spreading from Greece. They see the writing on the wall. They understand that all roads lead to Rome, and that in this case, all those unfulfilled debt obligation dominoes are falling towards Washington.

They want Washington to deal with it before it becomes a crisis that ruins the nation's full faith and credit, saddling the American people with hyperinflation, soaring interest rates, and economic desolation.

Republicans should not shy away from this debate when the winds are at their back. Otherwise, they will make the same mistake Barack Obama made in 2008, when he never outlined in specific detail his takeovers of the health care and energy industry.

Obama never prepared the American people for his Big Government agenda. Republicans, on the other hand, have an opportunity to prepare the American people for their limited government agenda, as ALG News has previously reported. If they do so with courage and specifically address these concerns, they have political support when the painful cuts begin. And they could rightly argue that they campaigned on it.

The alternative is to ride out the political opposition to Obama without addressing the legitimate concerns of the American people. If they choose to do nothing, they will assuredly find their current lead in the Congressional ballot evaporate rather quickly in 2011 and 2012, when they stand for re-election.

The support the American people now give them will come to naught, just as it did in 2006 when the voters turned on a Do-Nothing GOP majority that turned out to be a fraud.

Robert Romano is Senior Editor of ALG News.

'My heart, my choice,' Williams says, defending decision for U.S. heart surgery

Canadian Press

Tara Brautigam

February 23, 2010

An unapologetic Danny Williams says he was aware his trip to the United States for heart surgery earlier this month would spark outcry, but he concluded his personal health trumped any public fallout over the controversial decision.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Williams said he went to Miami to have a "minimally invasive" surgery for an ailment first detected nearly a year ago, based on the advice of his doctors.

"This was my heart, my choice and my health," Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota , Fla.

"I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics."

The 60-year-old Williams said doctors detected a heart murmur last spring and told him that one of his heart valves wasn't closing properly, creating a leakage.

He said he was told at the time that the problem was "moderate" and that he should come back for a checkup in six months.

Eight months later, in December, his doctors told him the problem had become severe and urged him to get his valve repaired immediately or risk heart failure, he said.

His doctors in Canada presented him with two options - a full or partial sternotomy, both of which would've required breaking bones, he said.

He said he spoke with and provided his medical information to a leading cardiac surgeon in New Jersey who is also from Newfoundland and Labrador . He advised him to seek treatment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami .

That's where he was treated by Dr. Joseph Lamelas, a cardiac surgeon who has performed more than 8,000 open-heart surgeries.

Williams said Lamelas made an incision under his arm that didn't require any bone breakage.

"I wanted to get in, get out fast, get back to work in a short period of time," the premier said.

Williams said he didn't announce his departure south of the border because he didn't want to create "a media gong show," but added that criticism would've followed him had he chose to have surgery in Canada.

"I would've been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list. ... I accept that. That's public life," he said.

"(But) this is not a unique phenomenon to me. This is something that happens with lots of families throughout this country, so I make no apologies for that."

Williams said his decision to go to the U.S. did not reflect any lack of faith in his own province's health care system.

"I have the utmost confidence in our own health care system in Newfoundland and Labrador , but we are just over half a million people," he said.

"We do whatever we can to provide the best possible health care that we can in Newfoundland and Labrador . The Canadian health care system has a great reputation, but this is a very specialized piece of surgery that had to be done and I went to somebody who's doing this three or four times a day, five, six days a week."

He quipped that he had "a heart of a 40-year-old, so that gives me 20 years new life," and said he intends to run in the next provincial election in 2011.

"I'm probably going to be around for a long time, hopefully, if God willing," he said.

"God forbid for the Canadian public I won't be around longer than ever."

Williams also said he paid for the treatment, but added he would seek any refunds he would be eligible for in Canada .

"If I'm entitled to any reimbursement from any Canadian health care system or any provincial health care system, then obviously I will apply for that as anybody else would," he said.

"But I wrote out the cheque myself and paid for it myself and to this point, I haven't even looked into the possibility of any reimbursement. I don't know what I'm entitled to, if anything, and if it's nothing, then so be it."

He is expected back at work in early March.

Abusive Harry Reid

Editorial: Televised Circus at 1600 Penn

"Ladies and Gentlemen, step right up! Hurry, hurry! Here's a sight you haven't seen before: bipartisan healthcare negotiations!" That's what President Obama has been trumpeting to the American people for over two weeks now, with his healthcare summit at the historic Blair House now less than 24 hours away.

There's only one minor problem. It is literally impossible for this meeting to resemble or produce anything faintly bipartisan. You know it's true, and so does Obama and every Democrat and Republican member of Congress too.

Let's review the facts and see what went wrong. On Super Bowl Sunday, Barack Obama stated, "I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward."

Any American with a modicum of common sense could – and did – deduce from that statement that Obama was proposing a truly bipartisan healthcare discussion, one starting with a "clean-slate" if you will. Meaning, Obama and the Democrats would not show up with a partisan, trillion dollar bill already written. Nor would Democrats come loaded with a controversial plan mapped out utilizing budget reconciliation to pass the partisan bill by a party-line vote (i.e., not bipartisan) under special procedures. But, as you already know, this is precisely what has come to pass.

Obama introduced his own healthcare proposal just three days ago and declared it to be the "starting point" for the summit discussions. The proposal is not an actual bill, mind you, since it's only 11-pages long and does not contain sufficient detail to be scored by CBO. Nevertheless, it bears a striking resemblance to the Senate-passed bill that failed to garner a single Republican vote, and has been referred to as "toxic" by more than one Democrat House member. This is apparently Obama's definition of working with Republicans in a "bipartisan manner."

This fact actually explains the continued erosion of public support for the Democrats current healthcare reform efforts. Rasmussen's latest poll on ObamaCare finds 56 percent of voters opposed to the plan, including a whopping 45 percent who strongly oppose it. Rasmussen also conducted a poll just after the president first announced the summit, and discovered that 61 percent of voters believe Congress should scrap the current plan and start all over again. In the same poll, only 35 percent of voters believe Congress should pass healthcare reform before the November elections.

Republicans, for their part, have been singing with the chorus of the Rasmussen poll daily. Just yesterday, Boehner stated in a release that, "Americans want us to scrap this massive bill and start over with a step-by-step approach focused on lowering costs."

So with Obama on the record in support of true bipartisan healthcare discussions and the polls overwhelmingly in support of the Republican position of starting with a clean slate, why is the summit set up to fail? Unfortunately, largely because Boehner and McConnell failed to initially set any terms for their attendance. Yes, they criticized Obama daily as his plan became increasingly obvious, but by the time the ground rules were set – heavily in favor of the Democrats as expected – it was too late for Republicans to back out while saving face.

They were simply never bold enough to demand as little as one condition – a clean slate as the starting point of discussions – or threaten to boycott the event. Now, the optics and parameters are so lopsided, Republicans even expect to get whipped tomorrow. Consider the following: Obama is making the opening statement, followed by the Republican and Democrat leader, so it's already two-on-one. Obama is the moderator. Obama determined the "discussion points" which include "How will each side ensure universal coverage of the 30 million Americans currently uninsured." This is a false question for Republicans, since they reject the very premise of the question on constitutional and free-market grounds, but it is the key to Democrats strategy. Democrats will castigate Republicans for refusing to attend, or attack their plan as woefully inadequate for failing to meet the "bare minimum" in healthcare reform, according to Obama's own standard.

Hope still remains, since the facts are on the side of the Republicans. While many of the most articulate conservative members have apparently not even been invited – such as Rep. Mike Pence and Rep. Paul Ryan – Boehner and McConnell are well aware of the stakes and are sure to come out swinging. Let's hope they land a few for the American people, deliver ObamaCare a TKO, and send this circus packing.