Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Malcolm X assassin granted parole

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 1965 file photo, New York City Police Sgt. Alvin Aronoff, left, grips hands of 22-year-old Thomas Hagan in the emergency room of Jewish hospital in New York after Hagan was wounded earlier that day. Hagan, one of three men convicted of killing civil rights leader Malcolm X, has been granted release from weekends in prison in his 17th appearance before a state parole board.

Associated Press -

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Thomas Hagan, 1 of 3 men convicted of killing civil rights leader Malcolm X 45 years ago, has been granted release from weekends in prison in his 17th appearance before a state parole board.

State Division of Parole spokeswoman Carole Weaver says the 69-year-old Hagan appeared before a two-woman, one-man parole panel on March 3 and was granted release effective April 28.

Until then, he'll remain at Lincoln Correctional Facility in Manhattan, where for the past 22 years he has spent two days a week locked up. The other five days, he's been allowed to live with his family and work for a private employer.

Hagan was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in April 1966 for shooting Malcolm X at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom. Two other convicted gunmen were previously paroled.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

King: Has Dawn Johnsen been doing the job she wasn't confirmed to?

By: David Freddoso

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has written Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to run the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.

Johnsen, who once took part in a legal action to punish the Catholic Church for its pro-life stance, and who once compared pregnancy to slavery in a legal argument, has watched her nomination languish due to various senators' concerns. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send Johnsen's nomination to the Senate floor, but some believe that could be as far as her nomination goes.

King is seeking documents that would show Johnsen has been effectively doing the job at OLC anyway, despite the Senate's failure to confirm her so far:

It is alarming that news reports have indicated that Ms. Johnsen has been performing duties prescribed to the Office of Legal Counsel, despite the fact that the Senate has not confirmed her nomination….In order to confirm or dismiss allegations regarding Ms. Johnsen's violation of pre-confirmation etiquette and potential disregard for the Constitution's clearly defined Senate confirmation process, I respectfully request that you provide my office with copies of all records of communications between any Office of Legal Counsel officials and Dawn Johnsen regarding personnel decisions that involve hiring, firing, promotion, discipline or any other personnel actions for career and non-career Office of Legal Counsel officials.

The group Americans for Limited Government requested the same documents in an October FOIA request, which has gone unanswered. Whether Johnsen was doing the job without confirmation is unproven, but the Obama administration's months-long failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act is undisputed.

Balanced Budget, or Spending Limit?

By Robert Romano

On March 2nd, in response to the escalating sovereign debt crisis spreading globally, House Blue Dog Democrats introduced a "Balanced Budget Amendment." A day later, the House Republican Caucus introduced their own "Spending Limit Amendment."

So, which is better?

A balanced budget sounds good, but if not coupled with limits on either taxation or spending, would become the means for annual automatic tax increases to "pay" for unbridled, ever-escalating spending.

Which, even without any amendments may be the plan Democrats have in mind anyway.

House Democrats, after all, have just presented another "deficit-neutral" version of ObamaCare. So, how do they balance their budget? In large part, with cuts in physician pay and Medicare, and by raising taxes by some $438 billion, including a new "3.8 percent tax would be imposed on interest, dividends, capital gains and other investment income for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000," as reported by

In short, to provide government-run health care to over 30 million new people, House Democrats plan to reduce quality, ration senior care, and put heavy burdens on an already fragile economy. All of which tells us a little bit about what a life might be like under the Democrats' Balanced Budget Amendment.

In contrast, under the Spending Limit Amendment, federal spending would always be limited to 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product except by declaration of war or two-thirds votes in both houses of Congress.

That would inherently limit taxation and spending to what the economy could afford to pay for.

Not so under the Balanced Budget Amendment. For example, if Congress votes to spend $4 trillion in a year, it has to find $4 trillion in revenue unless the declaration of war provision is invoked, or there is a three-fifths vote in Congress to deficit-spend.

Curiously, for the first time ever in the history of the Federal Constitution, the "Balanced Budget Amendment" includes entitlements: disbursements to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund can never be cut. Although, there appears to be no provision prohibiting the Congress from borrowing money out of those funds to pay for other items.

In short, a balanced budget can be good, but only if it includes a spending limit. Otherwise, raising taxes annually will become Congress' preferred means to pay for so-called "mandatory" spending on entitlements.

The hour grows late, and a spending limit is exactly the right prescription. As ALG News has previously reported, the U.S. could have its credit downgraded as soon as 2014, which would result in much higher interest rates, higher taxes, an even weaker dollar, and a devastated economy. As soon as possible, the U.S. needs to reduce interest payments on its debt. That number must stay below 14 percent. If it doesn't, the U.S. Triple-A debt rating will be downgraded.

The nation has to decide how it will restrain itself. Congress needs to be constitutionally constrained in how much it can spend, not constitutionally permitted to tax as much as it wants to maintain the entitlement state. The Spending Limit Amendment fits the bill.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of ALG News Bureau.

Slaughter Solution is Anti-Democratic, Risky for Dems

By Chris Slavens

The first half of March was marked by a renewed Democratic effort to ram some kind—any kind—of health-care reform down the throats of we, the people, as the ruling party worked to meet President Obama's meaningless March 18 deadline, the most recent in a string of health-care deadlines that began last year. Artificial deadlines come and go, while the debate goes on.

The voters aren't buying it. New Rasmussen polls indicate that 57% predict the current plan will "hurt the U.S. economy," while 55% think Congress should scrap it and start from scratch. This is one of two reasons why House Democrats are considering pushing ahead with the unpopular legislation by resorting to the aptly-named "Slaughter Solution," which would allow them to "pass" the Senate's health-care bill without actually voting on it. This option appeals to Democrats who are worried about the November election; they would be able to tell constituents that they did not, in fact, vote for (or against) the legislation.

Whether voters are stupid enough to fall for this tactic remains to be seen.

The second reason why Democrats would like to pass the bill without, well, passing it is because it is quite possible that they will be defeated if an honest up-or-down vote is held. Never mind the unbending Republican opposition; even fellow Democrats are nervous about following Comrade Pelosi and her radical cohorts off a legislative cliff, by attaching their names to a 2,000-page political suicide note.

Their misgivings are justified, but it might be too late; the Democratic Party now owns ObamaCare, and even semi-conservative Blue Dogs will have a difficult time distancing themselves from its taint during campaign season.

Democratic proponents can sidestep both Republicans and moderate members of their own party. Dirty dealing and icy pragmatism of this sort would impress even Machiavelli, who literally wrote the book on getting things done at any cost.

There are a number of problems with this approach. Passing controversial legislation without a vote is sneaky at best, and might be unconstitutional, as well. It is ironically antidemocratic and disturbingly un-American to force a federal health-care takeover upon millions of citizens without giving their elected representatives an opportunity to vote for or against it. That doesn't seem to matter to proponents, whose collective argument is, essentially: "Screw the rules. Screw the Constitution. Just pass the bill, no matter what!" Or, as Pelosi threatened on March 16, "We will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill."

This anything-goes approach is a dangerous way to govern (a term which must be used loosely in reference to the current administration). It reflects an elitist disdain for the well-being and wishes of the American people, as well as a callous disregard for the Constitution and the basic principles that the House of Representatives is based upon.

There is a way out for moderate Democrats caught in the middle of an ideological tug-of-war. Just stop. Refuse to cave in to pressure from Obama (who does not have to worry about reelection this year), and refuse to accept the antidemocratic Slaughter Solution, and there is a chance that you will manage to hang onto a few seats in November. Ram the bill through without a vote, and you will have invited the inevitable political fallout.

Chris Slavens, former contributor to the Wilmington News Journal, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

Constitution Death Panel

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FBI Aids Mexico Probe Into Killing Of US Consulate Worker In Juarez

Agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation are providing support to Mexican authorities investigating last Saturday's murder of three people associated with the U.S. consulate in Juarez, just across the Rio Grande River border from the city of El Paso, Texas. The FBI is also interrogating gang members in El Paso who have ties to a drug trafficking cartel in Mexico.

The focus of the investigation on the U.S. side of the border is a gang called Barrio Azteca, which is affiliated with the Azteca gang that operates in Juarez at the service of the Juarez cartel. The Juarez cartel is at war with the Sinaloa cartel over lucrative drug smuggling routes in the area.

In a VOA phone interview, FBI/El Paso office spokesperson Andrea Simmons says teams of federal, local and Texas state police are detaining and interrogating dozens of Barrio Azteca members in the El Paso area, hoping to gain some information about the murders.

"We are simply doing an intelligence-gathering effort," said Andrea Simmons. "We are not certain whether any of these people will have information or are directly tied to anything that happened in Juarez, we are simply trying to get as much information as we can."

Simmons says authorities have arrested some members of Barrio Azteca who were being sought under indictments issued before the Saturday shootings in Juarez. She says there is an expectation that these suspects might know something useful since they are in close contact with their counterparts across the river.

"The gang is considered a transnational gang," she said. "It is almost like they are two brothers. They are the same entity, but they operate differently on the two sides of the border."

Close to 5,000 people have been killed in Juarez in the past two years and it is considered the most dangerous city in the world outside a war zone. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of military and federal police personnel in the city, but the killings have continued and 96 percent of cases go unsolved.

The situation may change, however, after the murder on Saturday afternoon of two U.S. citizens, one of whom worked at the consulate, and the murder in a separate shooting around the same time of a Mexican man whose wife worked at the consulate. Although investigators say they have found no evidence so far indicating that the victims were targeted because of their consulate associations, some independent analysts think it is a likely possibility.

In addition to the FBI, agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs agents are also working the case on both sides of the border. Andrea Simmons says the agents working in Mexico do so under the authority of the Mexican law enforcement officials conducting the investigation.

"They [Mexico] are a sovereign country and have very different laws from us, so we operate under the authority of the Mexican officials," said Simmons.

U.S. federal agencies are providing technical assistance as well as intelligence that might help solve the murders and, perhaps, help reduce the overall level of violence in the Mexican border city.

"It has been a tremendous effort on everybody's part to try to figure out what happened and hope that solving this case will have a major impact on what is happening in Juarez," she said.

Over 200 local police and federal agents have been conducting raids in El Paso and seeking out known members of Barrio Azteca for questioning. The gang has an estimated 3,000 members in the El Paso area, but investigators are concentrating on around 700 of them. Federal agents are also seeking information on the alleged leader of the gang in Juarez, Eduardo Ravelo, who was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list last year.

Israel Tightens Security as Quartet Demands Settlement Freeze

Israel has imposed a security clampdown in Jerusalem amid new demands from the international community to halt settlement expansion.

Some 2,500 Israeli police and soldiers deployed in and around Jerusalem's Old City amid fears of Palestinian unrest after Friday Muslim prayers. Restrictions were imposed on entry into the Mosque of al-Aqsa, the site Jews call the Temple Mount. Palestinian men under the age of 50 were barred from entering the compound, which is a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Because of the restrictions, some Palestinians held prayers on the streets as armed Israeli soldiers looked on. There were sporadic, low-level clashes in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.

Tension has been running high since last week, when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state. The announcement was made during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, angering U.S. officials.

The United States has demanded that Israel cancel the construction project so peace talks can resume. The demand was repeated in Moscow at a meeting of the Quartet of world powers mediating the Middle East conflict: the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem," said Ban Ki-moon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told parliament this week that no Israeli government has ever limited construction in East Jerusalem. Israeli analyst Mitchell Barak.

"There's been a general consensus: According to what Israelis think, East Jerusalem is not really up for discussion when it comes to settlements; and building apartments in all of these places is considered the right of Israel to settle people in its capital," said Mitchell Barak.

But Mr. Netanyahu phoned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and indicated that there might be room for flexibility. The prime minister will meet Clinton in Washington next week to try to resolve the dispute.

Nadya Suleman Needs To Cough Up Nearly $500K By Tuesday

“Octomom” and all her kids could be out of a place to stay if her house gets foreclosed on this Tuesday. Nadya Suleman, who generated mainstream attention after she gave birth to 8 children in January of 2009, reportedly owes mortgage payments surpassing $450,000 to her owner Amer Haddadin.

Haddadin’s house, located in La Habra, California, reportedly transferred the house title to Suleman’s father where monthly payments of over $4,000 were to be made. On March 10th, however, a balloon payment of $450,000 was due to Haddadin and reports are making the rounds that Suleman hasn’t made the payment. She didn’t even pay the last required payment of $4,139.

Haddadin is giving Suleman until Tuesday to pay the two amounts IN ADDITION to interest and attorney fees that he will need to hire to foreclose the house should she not pay the amount. Do you think Suleman and her 15 minutes of fame will cough up the cash?


Texas court denies estate of Nicole Smith money from her late husband

A federal court has ruled that the estate of Nicole Smith will receive not a dime of the fortune that she claimed her late husband promised to her.

She claimed that her hubby J. Howard Marshall, who died back in 1995 at the age of 90 had promised her 300 million dollars of his fortune.

Many are of the belief that Smith only married him for his money, and labeled her as a gold digger.

At the time of their wedding, she was 26 and he was 89.

Marshall’s son had argued that Smith should receive nothing, and a Texas state court has agreed.

Smith died of a drug overdose in 2007, so if she had’ve prevailed in this case, the fortune would’ve went to her daughter.

Fed loses appeal; must disclose bailout details

By Ronald D. Orol WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -

The Federal Reserve will be required to identify the names of banks that could have collapsed if not for the central bank's emergency lending, a federal appeals court said Friday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled on Friday that the Fed needs to disclose documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests by Bloomberg L.P. and other news organizations. "We are reviewing the decision and considering our options for reconsideration or appeal," said Fed spokeswoman Barbara Hagenbaugh.

Taliban arrests hurt talks, Eide says

The former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan says recent arrests of key Taliban leaders by Palestinians has choked off a communications channel with U.N. officials.

Kai Eide said he began secret discussions with senior Taliban officials about a year ago, and now many lines of communication with the Taliban exist, some involving senior representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the BBC reported Friday.

Eide's comments lend credence to a growing sentiment that some members of the Taliban leadership were open to negotiating an end to the war, the BBC said.

In February and March, Pakistan arrested at least four high-ranking Taliban officials.

"The effect of (the arrests), in total, certainly, was negative on our possibilities to continue the political process that we saw as so necessary at that particular juncture," Eide said in an interview at his home near Oslo, Norway.

A senior adviser to Karzai also told the BBC the arrests affected the negotiation process, noting his government's contacts with the Taliban picked up in recent months.

Eide said he hoped an upcoming "peace jirga," or assembly of tribal elders, called by Karzai would help forge the type of agreement needed to reach consensus on ending the war.

"This has to be an Afghan process," Eide said.

The Cure For Progressive Politics

by Mike Copeland
The Obama administration has developed a health care financing reform package that is designed to front load costs to the nation, to consumers and to providers of health care services while back loading the benefits to patients. By this I mean the costs, both financial costs and costs in terms of loss of access to health care coverage, will be felt more or less immediately while the full benefits to these groups will not occur for at least four years.

Front loading costs and back loading benefits is something that is only done, in normal legislative processes, when you raise taxes, which this package will do. It will raise taxes directly on those making more than $250,000 per year. Beyond that, it will raise health care costs on almost everybody, eliminate coverage, in the short term, for tens of millions and will do so almost immediately.

It does this without imposing any real competition in the market place, making an efficient market, always improbable in health care finance, almost impossible. Not only does it not offer a public option for health insurance, it doesn’t do anything of significance to increase competition from other potential private sector providers.

It does give further economic advantages to the narrow cabal of health insurance providers. By doing so, it virtually assures these companies of an even larger percentage take from health care costs without their having to do anything of value to earn it.

I have read that there may be a last minute insertion of a public option plan into the bill. I have read that this may take the form of allowing individuals to enroll in Medicare without regard to the person’s age. If this is so, it would make a real difference in my opinion of the bill. However, I have also read that this is not so and that the votes to get this done, even if it were to be attempted, are not there. I have also read that the President opposes any public option, even if the votes are there, because he has promised the health insurance companies he will not allow it to happen in return for their allowing something to pass.

If the new law stays as it is currently proposed, I believe I am watching the suicide of the Democratic Party. The idea that the President and the Democratic controlled Congress would sell out the American people to the band of vultures and parasites that comprise the health insurance industry is unthinkable. It is unthinkable because the President, and the Congress, ran on the promise that they would fix the health care finance mess. For them to be so callously deceitful, by trying to foist this cynical mess on to us, speaks more eloquently than anything else they could say about the disrespect they feel for us, and the contempt they hold for us.

All that is very bad. However, what is far worse is the foolishness of it. People don’t particularly mind being led by scoundrels as long as the scoundrels are reasonably intelligent about things. The President and his Congress do not appear to be very artful or intelligent in the manner of their approach.

This bill is very bad in its opening years. The argument for it, that it somehow will be worth the suffering if we just all hang on until the end of the fourth year of its implementation, is specious. It is so bad in the opening years there will be no full implementation.

All the opposition to government involvement to health care financing has to do now is come up with something only slightly better than the horrid mess Obama has given us (assuming it passes). Using a combination of tax incentives and legal adjustments, it will not be hard to develop a “private sector” alternative that will be so much more attractive, especially in the initial years, than the proposed legislation. Democrats that survive the fall election will happily support a “market” alternative.

I am very sad to see this happen. I believe passing this law and claiming it means real health care finance reform will break the centuries old bond between the American people and the Democratic Party. The party is the oldest continuously operated political party in the world. Maybe it has lived so long it cannot remember that it is better to lose while standing for something than it is to pass something just so you can claim a victory.

It is said that failure to pass something that can be called health care reform, even if it is crap, will mean the end of the Obama Presidency. If what we have seen so far of Obama’s leadership is what we can look forward to, the end of it cannot come soon enough.