A Nation In Distress

A Nation In Distress

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mexican Police Find 513 U.S.-Bound Migrants In Two Trailer Trucks

From The Blaze:
Via Terry

Mexico Police Find 513 US-Bound Migrants in Two (!) Trailer Trucks

•Posted on May 17, 2011 at 6:28pm by Scott Baker

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (AP) — Police in Mexico’s southern Chiapas state found 513 migrants on Tuesday inside two trailer trucks bound for the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants travel through Mexico each year in the hopes of reaching the United States, but this was the largest group rescued in recent years.

Chiapas state police discovered the migrants while using X-ray equipment on the trucks at a checkpoint in the outskirts of city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the National Immigration Institute said in a statement.

Police also arrested four people accused of smuggling the migrants, who are from Central and South America and Asia, Chiapas state prosecutors said in a statement.

The alleged smugglers tried to escape police but were chased down and captured, prosecutors said.

The immigration institute said 410 of the migrants were from Guatemala, 47 from El Salvador, 32 from Ecuador, 12 from India, six from Nepal, three from China and one each from Japan, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. There were 32 women and four children among them.

The migrants told authorities they had agreed to pay $7,000 to be taken to the United States, the institute said.

In January, Chiapas state authorities discovered 219 migrants squeezed into a trailer truck.

Most of those migrants were from Central America but six were from Sri Lanka and four from Nepal.

Source and comments at:


High-Risk California Parolees Unsupervised

From Yahoo News and the AP:

APNewsBreak: High-risk Calif parolees unsupervised

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press – Wed May 25, 5:15 pm ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California improperly paroled more than 450 dangerous criminals without supervision last year as part of a program designed to reduce prison crowding and cost, the California prison system's independent inspector general said Wednesday in a report.

A faulty computerized risk-assessment program predicted the offenders could be released under the state's non-revocable parole law that took effect in January 2010.

The inspector general found that about 1,500 offenders were improperly left unsupervised, including 450 who "carry a high risk for violence." The offenders otherwise would have been released under traditional parole, which requires them to report in regularly and follow specific rules.

The new law was designed for less serious offenders. Under non-revocable parole, offenders don't report to parole agents and can't be sent back to prison unless they commit new crimes.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it relies heavily on a computerized program because it must review the criminal histories of more than 160,000 inmates and more than 100,000 offenders on parole.

Auditors found the risk assessment was wrong for 23.5 percent of more than 10,000 offenders who were considered for non-revocable parole between January and July 2010. Some were scored too high and others too low, with the lower-scoring inmates eligible for unsupervised release.

Even after the computer program was altered, analysts determined it was wrong in 8 percent of cases.

"CDCR should not compromise public safety ... by understating offenders' risk of reoffending and releasing high-risk offenders to unsupervised parole," the report said.

The department disputed the inspector general's analysis and conclusion.

"Alleged `errors' ... have in large part been corrected," Lee Seale, the department's deputy chief of staff, wrote in a rebuttal letter. "We reject the notion that the California Static Risk Assessment is flawed and dispute the evidence the OIG cites in support of this claim."

The version of the assessment reviewed by the inspector general has now been obsolete for over a year, Seale wrote, and the department will keep working to improve the program developed by the University of California, Irvine, Center of Evidence-based Corrections.

Seale said the program has saved money and cut prison overcrowding by keeping many parole violators from returning to prison — important developments given current events.

The report came as the state struggles to safely release less dangerous convicts and parolees to help combat a $10 billion budget deficit. Compounding the pressure, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state must reduce its prison population by about 33,000 inmates over the next two years to reduce crowding and improve care for mentally and physically ill inmates.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law this year shifting responsibility for tens of thousands of lower-level criminals to the jurisdiction of counties, though the shift can't take place until legislators or voters approve funding for local governments.

Non-revocable parole would end under the new law, but the inspector general's report left state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who requested the report, wondering if California can accurately predict which criminals are less dangerous.

"The report, to me, confirms my worst fears," he said. "They have dangerous parolees running around who should not be."

Lieu has repeatedly called for the department to end unsupervised releases, most recently two weeks ago when an ex-convict on non-revocable parole was charged with murdering two people in Southern California. He reiterated his plea based on the inspector general's report.

The report is the latest in a series of reviews questioning California's parole practices. The inspector general previously found the state failed to properly supervise paroled rapist Phillip Garrido, who pleaded guilty last month to kidnapping a young Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive in a backyard compound for 18 years.

Another report said the department should have sent a paroled San Diego County child molester back to prison before he raped and killed two teenage girls.

The inspector general's report cited problems with the non-revocable parole program that were originally reported by The Associated Press last year.

The AP found that because of the way the law was written, the department was releasing some unsupervised parolees who had been convicted of violent or threatening crimes.

The AP also reported there were early problems with the risk-assessment program. The department was forced to return 656 parolees to active supervision after learning that nearly 10 percent of parolees released without supervision had committed more crimes than officials previously believed.

Officials said then that the problem was fixed, though the inspector general's report says the improved assessment program wasn't immediately used at all locations statewide.

Wednesday's report found the high error rate under the computerized program resulted from multiple problems:

• It did not include prior parole violations or some crimes offenders committed as juveniles.

• Some offenders whose risk should have been assessed by human beings were instead left to the computerized assessment. Only about 4 percent of the more than 270,000 risk assessments of inmates and parolees were done by hand.

• The system relies in part on criminal histories compiled by the California Department of Justice. But about half the histories don't reveal what happened to criminal charges, for instance whether suspects were convicted or acquitted, because the information isn't submitted by the court system.

The system relies on 22 factors that are supposed to predict whether offenders are likely to commit new crimes. They include things like age, gender, gang affiliations, previous convictions, disciplinary problems in prison, and previous parole violations. It then uses a mathematical algorithm to assign a risk score.

Only those with low and moderate risk can be placed on non-revocable parole.

However, even a low risk predicts that 48 percent of those parolees are likely to be arrested for a felony, and 18 percent convicted of a felony, within three years. A moderate risk projects that 69 percent of parolees will be arrested and 31 percent convicted of a felony within three years of their release.

The program has been tested and proved scientifically valid, the department said in response. However, researchers found the program is weak in predicting future convictions and weak to moderate in predicting future arrests.

Lieu said state lawmakers were unlikely to have passed the law in 2009 had they known those odds.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Medicare's Deteriorating Financial Condition

From The Heritage Foundation:

Medicare’s Deteriorating Financial Condition

The just released 2011 Medicare trustees report does not contain any big surprises. Much of what the trustees say in this report they have said before: Medicare poses enormous challenges for patients and taxpayers alike, and its financial condition continues a downward slide. Some key findings:

Medicare’s unfunded obligations increased by $2 trillion. A key indicator of the true cost of the program is the cost of the promised benefits that are not financed by dedicated revenues. Using their standard 75-year projection (2011–2085), the trustees estimate this year that Medicare benefits promised that are not paid for amount to $24.6 trillion, compared to their projection of $22.5 trillion last year. These and other projections in the report are based on current law, including the official assumption that the estimated $575 billion in savings from Medicare provider cuts under Obamacare will be sustained, as well as the 29 percent reduction in Medicare physician payments in 2012. The Medicare trustees concede the point: “Although the long-term viability of some of these provisions is debatable, the annual report to Congress on the financial status of Medicare must be based on current law” (emphasis added). Different assessment and different accounting techniques, of course, can yield different estimates of these long-term costs. Based on an alternative scenario of projected costs and spending that many analysts considered more realistic, the Medicare actuary in 2010 estimated the long-term Medicare debt at $34.8 trillion. The Medicare actuary has yet to offer his alternative assessment for 2011.

The financial condition of the Medicare Part A trust fund is worse. The Hospitalization Trust Fund—the part of the program that pays seniors’ hospital bills—is in worse shape than reported last year. The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is going to be exhausted in 2024 rather than 2029. While the fund has started running big annual deficits ($32 billion in 2010 and $34 billion in 2011), the five-year acceleration of the fund’s exhaustion has been aggravated by a combination of higher hospital spending and the consequent reduction in the payroll tax receipts resulting from the economic downturn. When the HI fund is exhausted, obviously it cannot pay benefits. Congress would have to replenish it with higher taxes. One more point: It should be noted that the most recent Congressional Budget Office assessment of the trust fund (March 2011) is more pessimistic and projects an exhaustion in 2020.

The “Medicare Funding Warning” has been issued again. Under current law, the Medicare trustees are required to issue a Medicare Funding Warning. This means that general revenues will account for more than 45 percent of Medicare’s total outlays. The 45 percent threshold for such funding, in contrast to dedicated revenues, is officially “excessive” under current law. In this year’s report, the statutory threshold has been reached again this year, as it was last year, and the President is required to develop a proposal to transmit to Congress to deal with the problem.

This year’s trustees report only confirms the seriousness of the financial challenge posed by an unreformed Medicare program. Over the full 75-year budget window for the entitlements, about 90 percent of the growth of Medicare and Social Security is going to occur by 2035. The baby boom generation, to be supported by a relatively smaller workforce, will drive costs to new levels. That is indeed why The Heritage Foundation’s comprehensive reform proposal, Saving the American Dream, takes on an even greater urgency.

Teaching Obama A Lesson About Education

From The Heritage Foundation:

Teaching Obama a Lesson on Education

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Yet when it comes to education, that's one lesson the federal government hasn't learned. Maybe it's time to put some history teachers on the case. They would have to look no further than President Barack Obama in writing their lesson plan.

Yesterday the President delivered a commencement speech at a high school in Memphis, Tenn., in recognition for its achievement in his Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, a competition for schools to demonstrate their commitment to preparing students for college. While applauding the students, the President also took time to pat his Administration on the back for its education policy -- which amounts to another truckload of spending and further concentration of power over education in Washington:

Ever since I became President, my Administration has been working hard to make sure that we build on the progress that’s taking place at schools like this. We’ve got to encourage the kind of change that’s led not by Washington, D.C., but by teachers and principals and parents; by entire communities; by ordinary people standing up and demanding a better future for their children.

In reality, the President's strategy isn't about empowering teachers and communities. It's about increasing the federal government's authority over schools. The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke writes:

Despite his assertion that education change must be led “by teachers and principals and parents” – not by Washington, D.C. – the Obama Administration’s track record on education policy begs the contrary. His Administration has continued the education spending spree, taking it to new heights thanks to a $100 billion bonus provided to the Department of Education through the so-called “stimulus” in 2009.

Moreover, the President is eager to consolidate more power in Washington by requiring states to comply with national standards as a part of No Child Left Behind reauthorization, driven by the belief that education reform can happen top-down from Washington. President Obama has called for the law’s reauthorization before the start of the next school year.

There's another lesson that the Obama Administration could stand to learn. It's about waste in the federal government -- specifically, the Department of Education. According to a Government Accountability Office report, billions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted on redundant programs. In fact, the report found 82 redundant teacher quality programs. And rather than encouraging teachers, as the President claims he's doing, the Department of Education is regulating them. According to Representative Duncan Hunter (R–CA):

Currently, the paperwork burden imposed by the Department of Education is larger than that of the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice. From 2002 to 2009, the Department of Education’s paperwork burden increased by an estimated 65 percent—an astounding number that continues to grow.

Fortunately, there's a move afoot in Congress to yank the long hand of government out of our nation's schools. Hunter has introduced legislation that would eliminate 43 out of some 80 programs that fall under No Child Left Behind, and Representative John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is determined to reduce the federal government's role in education. That's good news given that No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization. Burke explains what's at stake:

As the fight of No Child Left Behind reauthorization heats up, federal policymakers have two options: they can continue to repeat the failed policies of the past by trying to dictate education reform from Washington, or they can take steps to reduce the federal footprint and tack a new course. If President Obama is serious about locally-driven education reform, he should follow the lead of conservatives in Congress, who are working to ensure that taxpayer dollars are wisely used and education is serving its most important constituencies-students, parents, and taxpayers-not bureaucrats in Washington.

It's always great news when students achieve success, but unfortunately, nationwide, this year's graduating class is not remarkably different in achievement than the classes that preceded them years ago. The only thing changing about our public schools is the amount of money the federal government is using to control them. It's time for results measured in achievement, not tax dollars. And yes, Mr. President, those results are proven to be driven best at the local level.

Philadelphia Police Harass, Threaten To Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun

From Vision To America:

Written on May 16, 2011 by V2A

Philly Police Harass, Threaten to Shoot Man Legally Carrying Gun

Filed under

Constitution, Ethics



A story in today’s Philadelphia Daily News shows why it’s so important that citizens be allowed to videotape cops – it can be citizens’ only way to fight back against police abuse of power.

This incident happened several weeks ago in Philadelphia to Mark Fiorino, a 25-year-old IT worker who carries a gun on his hip at all times for self defense. He got the gun after several friends were mugged.

But he didn’t count on attacks by police:

On a mild February afternoon, Fiorino, 25, decided to walk to an AutoZone on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philly with the .40-caliber Glock he legally owns holstered in plain view on his left hip. His stroll ended when someone called out from behind: “Yo, Junior, what are you doing?”

Fiorino wheeled and saw Sgt. Michael Dougherty aiming a handgun at him.

What happened next would be hard to believe, except that Fiorino audio-recorded all of it: a tense, profanity-laced, 40-minute encounter with cops who told him that what he was doing – openly carrying a gun on the city’s streets – was against the law.

Marine Murdered By SWAT At His Home In Tucson, Arizona

from Liberty Pulse:

Marine murdered by SWAT at home Tucson, Arizona


In a mid-morning drug raid May 5, a Pima County SWAT team executing a search warrant shot and killed a 26-year-old Afghan and Iraq war veteran after he confronted the intruders with a weapon in his hand. Jose Guerena become the 27th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. (Actually, he was the 25th, but the Pima County Sheriff's office has been so dilatory in releasing information that we logged two more drug war deaths before we were able add this one to the list.)

According to the initial police account, when SWAT officers broke down the door of Guerena's home, which he shared with his wife and young child, he confronted them and opened fire. "The adult male had a long rifle, opened fire on the SWAT team. The SWAT team returned fire and the male is pronounced deceased. The woman and the child are unharmed," said Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ogan.

Six days later, police admitted that while Guerena, a former Marine, was holding an AR-15 assault rifle, the safety was on and he had not fired it. They also admitted that SWAT officers fired 71 rounds at Guerena in seven seconds. It was also later reported that even though Guerena's wife called 911 as soon as he was shot and that EMTs arrived two minutes later, deputies never allowed them to treat Guerena, citing security concerns.

Ten Things Every Home Should Have For Short-Term Survival

From Human Events--Guns & Patriots:

10 Things Every Home Should Have For Short-term Survival

by Skip Coryell


A few weeks ago, the lights in my house flickered, came back on, then died. The temperature was 32 degrees outside, and it was getting dark fast. I live out in the boondocks and that happens a half dozen times a year. I’ve learned to prepare myself for these little adventures in time travel back to the year 1794, and it’s not so bad really. Why, I can remember as a kid we used to love when a thunderstorm would knock out the power or when a blizzard would come and snow us in for days at a time. But in 1965 people were better prepared both physically and mentally for a loss of power. We lived in a different era.

Christmas is almost here, so I thought we’d take a little break from doom-and-gloom, surviving-the-end -of the -world scenarios and just look at short-term survival. For purposes of this article, we’ll assume it’s a three-day power loss and that emergency services such as ambulance, fire and police are still functioning. I know to some of you hard-core preppers, this will be boring you with the basics, but please humor me and just pass this article on to your friends and loved ones who are either just beginning the road to self sufficiency or you have yet to be converted. It’s a good starting point, and can help bring them up to speed.

When the power goes out, what are the top ten things that every home should have? I’m sure you can ask a hundred different experts and none of the lists would be identical. So let me just give you “my” list, and all you good folks can consider it and modify where you see fit.

In compiling “my” list, I’ve taken into consideration the following question:

How long can I live without that item?

Having said that, my very first item has to be:

1. Guns!

Personal protection is always at the top of my list, whether it’s long or short-term, since even in good times, a bad guy can take me out in seconds.

Every home should have at least one of each of the following:

Shotgun – most commonly a simple 12-gauge pump (20-gauge if weaker-statured people will be using it.)

Pistol – If you live in a state where it’s legal to own/carry a pistol for self defense, then you should be doing it.

Battle Rifle – We’re talking those mean, state-of-the art, misnamed “assault” rifles. Mine’s in .223 caliber, and I make no excuses for it. It’s accurate out to long distances, accepts a 30-round magazine, and puts out a high rate of suppressive fire.

And make sure you have plenty of ammo. (We’re talking thousands of rounds. No one ever came out of a firefight saying “Darn, I wish I’d had fewer bullets!)

2. Water – Most experts agree you’ll need at least a gallon a day per person. I’m the king of overkill, so I drove a handpump well in my yard. It’s 70 feet deep, and gives me an unlimited supply of fresh water even when the power goes out. If you live in the city, keep bottled water, and water purifying tablets, (Chlorine bleach will work as well.)

3. Heat – For you southern folk this isn’t a big deal, but here in Michigan we’ve got 6 inches of snow on the ground and it’s 24 degrees outside. I put in a wood stove and I also cook with it when the power goes out. You can also use propane, kerosene heaters, space heaters or pellet stoves (if you have a generator). The important thing is everything is used properly and is safely ventilated.

4. Food – I eat like a king when the power goes out, because I practice at it all the time. City dwellers may not have that luxury, so keep a combination of canned and dried ready-to-eat meals in a safe place. Store three times what you think you’ll need for the three-day period. (That’s 27 meals per person.) Here’s a hint: Don’t depend on frozen food to stay frozen without power. Store shelves will be bare.

5. Medical supplies – A basic, well-stocked first aid kit is a must. But more important than that are all the prescription meds your family depends on. For example, are you diabetic? Store up all the meds you’ll need to keep your family alive and comfortable.

6. Power and Lights – A good, reliable gas generator will make your life more comfortable and take you from the year 1794 back into the 21st century. But you’ll need a three-day supply of fuel. Buy the largest generator you can afford and is practical for you. Flashlights with extra rechargeable batteries are better than open flames as a light source. You’ll need one per person.

7. Communications – Make sure you have a cell phone, CB Radio, or Family Service Radio with which you can call out on should you have a medical emergency. You’ll also need communication coming in, so have a reliable hand-crank radio or a regular radio receiver with extra batteries so you can get some intel on your local news channel.

8. Transportation – If the three-day power outage turns into something longer or even indefinite, things in the city will get nasty, and you’ll have to leave. Be prepared for this with a full gas tank plus fuel in reserve. A larger vehicle with extra storage space and four-wheel drive is best.

9. Entertainment – This may sound silly to you, but have you ever been trapped inside a house with four screaming kids with nothing to do? You’ll need books and board games for your own sanity. If you have the generator and lots of fuel, make the whole adventure an apocalyptic movie marathon! I’m talking about good family movies like Tremors, Zombieland, and Red Dawn, you know, the basics.

10. God – No home should be without God, especially in a time of emergency. I know that God isn’t considered a “thing”, but he is the ruler of all “things”, so I’m using Him to round out my list of 10 things every home should have for short-term survival.

And one final word, it goes without saying that all the above-mentioned things are useless if you don’t know how to operate them. Set up a power-outage-practice weekend and make it as fun as you can for the whole family. You’ll find chinks in your preparedness armor you never knew were there.

Editor's Note:

Skip is the Founder of Whitefeather Press. He just published Lessons from Armed America by Mark Walters, of Armed American Radio and Kathy Jackson of the United States Concealed Carry Association. Take a moment and check the book out! Thanks ~ Mike P.


Skip Coryell is the founder of the Second Amendment March, a former United States Marine, author and President of White Feather Press.

Aviation Security: Texas House Prohibits Intrusive Airport Pat-Downs

From Homeland Security NewsWire:

Aviation securityTexas House prohibits intrusive airport pat downs

Published 17 May 2011

The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that would make invasive pat downs at airports a crime; pat down procedures that would be covered under the measure are inspections that touch the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person; the law would not be enforceable since state legislatures have no authority over federal agencies such as the TSA

Texas House has made this illegal // Source: preservingthetorch.com

The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that would make invasive pat downs at airports a crime. The passage of the bill comes after a former beauty queen claimed she felt molested during a pat down in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

USA Today reports that if the bill becomes law — it needs a final vote from the House and then moves to the Senate — Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents could be charged with a misdemeanor crime, a $4,000 fine, and up to a year in jail. Pat down procedures that would be covered under the measure are inspections that touch the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person, according to msnbc.com. Msnbc.com quotes the measure’s author, David Simpson, a Republican, to say that “Indecent groping searches when innocent travelers are seeking access to airports and public buildings would be outlawed under this bill.”

Texas is not the only state that would like to see an end to intrusive security screening procedures at the nation’s airports. The USA Today article pointed out that New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Hawaii have also introduced legislation to restrict pat downs or full-body scans. The paper noted that Alaska passed a resolution calling on TSA to ease up on the screening process.

Even if one of these states does pass legislation, however, it would not be enforceable. According to USA Today, “State legislatures have no authority over federal agencies such as the TSA. State laws restricting airport security could not be enforced.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wielding Waivers As Weapons

From Town Hall:

Mona Charen

Wielding Waivers as Weapons

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Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plea that Congress would have to pass the 906-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in order to "find out what's in it" has become an instant classic in the annals of dysfunctional government. But in the months since the bill's passage, as the Department of Health and Human Services has parceled out waivers, something else has become clear: We may never know what's in it.

It's not because the legislation is so long or so complicated -- though it is staggeringly prolix and stupefying in complexity. If it were only that, time would reveal the intricacies and experts would parse the meaning.

No, the reason we may never really know what's in it is because it lodges such tremendous discretion and power in the Department of Health and Human Services that we can never really be sure how government decision-makers will interpret it. In at least 700 separate instances, the legislation says that the Secretary of Health and Human Services "shall have discretion" to make rules implementing the law's often vague requirements.

On May 13, the Obama administration announced the approval of 204 new waivers from compliance with the PPAA (Obamacare). That brings to 1,372 the number of waivers HHS has granted in the 14 months since the law's passage. The waivers are temporary, designed to prevent wholesale bankruptcies of insurance and other companies before most of the law's provisions take full effect in 2014.

"We are committed to making the waiver process transparent to the public," an HHS spokesman offered reassuringly.

But while the identities of those who have received waivers have been disclosed, the administration has so far declined to reveal the names of those whose waiver requests were denied. Nor has HHS explained its criteria.

There are rumblings of suspicion that HHS has shown favoritism -- labor unions have received some 26 percent of waivers while comprising only 12 percent of workers. As Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee remarked, "What does it say about the feasibility of the health care law when the administration needs to exempt over 1,000 health plans from its own law?"

A few wags have suggested that the HHS grant the rest of the country a waiver and be done with it. But the implications of what Professor Richard Epstein has called "government by waiver" aren't funny. As Congress has ceded more and more power to regulatory agencies, the opportunities for abuse of power multiply. Writing in National Affairs, Epstein notes that among the companies and entities that successfully sought waivers from Obamacare's provisions were PepsiCo, Foot Locker, the Pew Charitable Trusts, many local chapters of the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and numerous public-employee unions.

But, asks Epstein, "(W)hat about employers who do not have the resources to navigate the waiver process? What about those lacking the political connections to make their concerns heard in Washington? And what happens when the one-year waivers run out? Will they be renewed? Under what conditions? And what rights will insurers have to waive then in order to avoid going out of business?"

The world of Obamacare is no place for the little guy.

The danger of waiver power is that it will be used differentially, giving one private entity a competitive advantage over another. The company denied a waiver can bring suit -- but litigation is expensive and slow.

Additionally, companies may fear government retaliation: "It is no accident that it is often public-interest groups or patient groups that take on the FDA, for instance. It is simply too risky for a pharmaceutical company with multiple applications before the agency to challenge one action if it is vulnerable to a government-induced slowdown on another," writes Epstein.

Nor have the courts been particularly solicitous of those who challenge the regulatory state. Epstein observes with regret that "Most judges evince great faith in the administrative state, so that the abuse of discretion that lies at the heart of the waiver problem is, to them, a matter best sorted out by administrative expertise -- a perpetually overestimated pool of wisdom."

Because there are so few avenues of recourse when we live under a government by waiver, we are forced, as Epstein warns, to trust in the good judgment of bureaucrats and elected officials: "The fate of our rights and liberties is left to the wisdom and discretion of individuals; we are therefore governed by men, not by laws."

In Marbury v. Madison, Justice Marshall wrote: "The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right." It will also cease to deserve that "high appellation" if we submit to the unreviewable discretion of agencies.

Tags: Health Care , waivers

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .

Sunday, May 22, 2011

FAIR Legislative Update

From FAIR:

FAIR Legislative Update May 16, 2011

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President Obama Declares the Border is Secure

In a speech given in El Paso, Texas, President Obama told Americans the border is secure. The President quickly followed these remarks by declaring that it is now time for Congress to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform.

The President first made his case that the border is secure: “[I]n recent years, among one of the greatest impediments to reform were questions about border security…. And these concerns helped unravel a bipartisan coalition that we had forged back when I was in the United States Senate…. But over the last two years, thanks to the outstanding work of [Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano] and [Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin] and everybody who's down here working at the border, we've answered those concerns…. We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we've done.”

Having stated that the border is sufficiently secure, the President made the case that it was time for Congress to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform. He told his audience that granting amnesty to illegal aliens is a moral and economic imperative. America, he said, is defined as a “nation of immigrants – a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts.” Ignoring the long-established rule of law on which citizenship is gained, the President said that “in embracing America, you can become American.”

The President acknowledged that illegal aliens have broken the rules. “They’ve cut in front of the line,” he said. “And what is also true is that the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.” The President also acknowledged that the employment of illegal aliens also hurts American workers and upstanding employers: “[It] puts companies who follow the rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime or just a safe place to work—it puts those businesses at a disadvantage.”

Nevertheless, the President then outlined a four-step approach to tackling comprehensive immigration reform. First, he said, the government has to take responsibility for securing the borders. He reiterated that the Administration believes this first task has already been successfully accomplished. Second, the President said that businesses must be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers. Third, the President said illegal aliens must “get right with the law,” meaning illegal aliens must pay their taxes, pay a fine and learn English. Finally, President Obama promoted expanding legal immigration so that it is “easier for the best and brightest to not only stay here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here.” Apparently forgetting the existence of the H-2A agricultural guest worker program and an item called the green card, the President said Congress must “provide our farms a legal way to hire workers that they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status. And our laws should respect families following the rules [by] reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart.” President Obama concluded his speech by rallying the audience around a renewed fight for the DREAM Act, amnesty legislation which was unable to pass in a Democrat-controlled Congress last session.

The President then headed back to D.C. to speak before the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday, where he reiterated his El Paso speech. (See The New York Times, May 10, 2011; Real Clear Politics, May 12, 2011) At the breakfast, the President appealed to the emotional aspects of immigration reform. He once again described “comprehensive” immigration reform a “moral imperative when simply enforcing the law may mean inflicting pain on families who are just trying to do the right thing by their children.” Obama invoked the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy and cautioned listeners to “not have amnesia about how we populated this country.”

Although the Administration has touted the security of the border in recent engagements, most do not agree with the President’s renewed assertion that the border is secure. In a statement made after the President’s speech, Arizona Republican Senators John Kyl (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) remarked “we hear from our constituents on a daily basis, and, while some progress has been made in some areas, they do not believe the border is secure.” (Washington Post, May 13, 2011) A recent Rasmussen Report reveals that Americans living outside of Arizona agree, with 64 percent of U.S. Citizens polled saying the border is not secure. (Rasmussen Reports, May 13, 2011)

The Presidents’ speeches last week are an indication of how important immigration reform measures and the Latino vote will be in the 2012 election. As part of his campaign, the President will be attempting to cater to the Hispanic voters who overwhelmingly favored him in 2008, as well as political independents who want stronger border security. (Washington Post, May 13, 2011)

Drug Cartel Violence Overwhelming the “Secure” Southwestern Border

On the heels of President Obama’s speech last week in which the President touted the border as more secure than ever, members of the House Homeland Security Committee met to discuss the spreading violence brought to the United States by Mexican drug cartels. Led by Oversight, Investigations, and Management Subcommittee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), the subcommittee heard from Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials on the cartels’ growing threat to national security.

Chairman McCaul began the hearing by directly challenging the President’s claim that the border is secure. “While I am pleased that we have added more resources,” McCaul said, “the border is not secure and it has never been more violent or dangerous. Anyone who lives down there will tell you that.” (Statement of Rep. McCaul, May 11, 2011)

McCaul suggested that the statistics DHS and other agencies are using to deem the border as “more secure” are based on definitions that omit many border atrocities. For example, he noted that the federal definition of “spillover violence,” referring to the increase in drug trafficking-related violence spreading from Mexico to the U.S., is based on the [FBI’s] Uniform Crime Report, which does not include key data such as kidnappings, extortions, home invasions and smuggling that are directly related to cartel violence. (Id.; See also Congressional Research Service, Southwest Border Violence: Issues in Identifying and Measuring Spillover Violence, Jan. 25, 2011) In Texas, however, explained Congressman McCaul , the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) definition of spillover violence includes aggravated assault, extortion, kidnapping, torture, rape and murder. By this definition, Texas DPS Director Colonel Steven McCraw testified that there is “no question spillover violence is growing in Texas.”

Despite the disagreement about definitions, Congressman McCaul argued that there is no disagreement about the threat the U.S. faces from the drug cartels. He forcefully stated, “make no mistake: the drug cartels are here inside the United States.” The Congressman referred to the previous testimony of Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona, in which he said Mexican drug gangs literally do control parts of Arizona, arming themselves with radios, optics, and night-vision goggles. (Statement of Rep. McCaul, May 11, 2011) Zapata County, Texas Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, Jr. also remarked that compared to the weapons used by the cartels, federal, state and local officers along the southwest border are not adequately armed. (Statement of Sheriff Gonzalez, Jr., May 11, 2011)

According to the witnesses’ testimony, the impact of drug cartels is not limited to the southwest border region. Amy Pope, Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, testified that Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are present in at least 230 U.S. cities. This number has skyrocketed from the Mexican DTOs’ presence in roughly 50 cities in 2006. (Statement of Amy Pope, May 11, 2011) The violence in northern Mexico is in fact so severe, Ms. Pope reported that U.S. personnel are prohibited from driving from the U.S.-Mexico border to the interior of Mexico. The U.S. Department of State has also recently upgraded a travel warning to U.S. citizens, deterring unnecessary visits to northern Mexico. (Travel Warning, April 22, 2011; See FAIR Legislative Update, May 2, 2011) Despite these growing security and travel concerns, the Obama Administration has recently announced plans to move forward with the cross-border trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allow Mexican long-haul trucks full access to U.S. highways. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 10, 2011)

To combat the cartel violence, Ms. Pope promoted a two-pronged approach for the DOJ to assist in bringing down the drug cartels. The first prong involves the DOJ increasing long-term investigations of drug cartels and increasing the prosecution of cartel leaders. Ms. Pope pointed out that the key to this prong is stopping the DTOs by disrupting their flow of money. In the past three years alone, she reported, the DOJ has led investigations which seized more than $300,000,000 in U.S. currency from DTOs. Ms. Pope said that the second prong of the strategy is for the U.S. to aid the Mexican justice system in investigating and prosecuting cases. Through both funding and inter-agency partnerships, the DOJ hopes to forge relationships which will assist Mexican officials in bringing down the cartels which are terrorizing both countries. (Statement of Amy Pope, May 11, 2011)

Despite continuing rhetoric from Administration officials that the border is safer than ever, Arizona’s Attorney General Thomas Horne testified that the “criminal enterprises based in Mexico are bringing a degree of brutality to crime in the United States that we have never experienced before.” (Statement of Attorney General Horne, May 11, 2011) Just last Monday, thirteen people were killed at Falcon Lake which straddles the Texas border with Mexico. (CNN, May 10, 2011) Twelve of those individuals are suspected members of a large drug cartel which reportedly uses the lake to transfer drugs to the U.S. by way of speedboat. (Id.) This is the same location where David Hartley, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, was gunned down last September by drug cartel agents after jet-skiing with his wife on the lake. (CNN, April 9, 2011) The Mexican investigator looking into his Hartley’s death was beheaded a few days later. (Id.)

Chief of Police of McAllen, Texas, Victor Rodriguez, compared the violence in Mexico and the threat it poses to Texas communities as requiring a “September 11th type of response from our country.” (Statement of Chief Rodriguez, May 11, 2011) Chairman McCaul agreed with the severity of the situation, stating that “if this Administration continues to downplay the threat…the cartels will eventually attempt to take over our cities.”

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Improving Visa Security

Last week, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on Judiciary Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) Secure Visa Act (H.R. 1741). The Secure Visa Act aims to close loopholes in the current visa regulations to keep terrorists from entering and remaining in the country in two key ways: First, the bill clarifies the Secretary of Homeland Security’s explicit authority under the 2002 Homeland Security Act to issue and revoke visas; and second, it increases the number of Visa Security Units (VSUs) in “high-risk” consular posts. The bill also eliminates judicial review of visa revocations.

The VSU program was created by the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which gave the Homeland Security Secretary the authority to assign DHS employees to diplomatic and consular posts. At these posts, DHS agents are authorized to provide advice and training to State Department consular officers regarding security threats relating to visa applications, to review visa applications, and to investigate consular matters under DHS jurisdiction. (See CRS Report: Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security, May 6, 2011, p. 8; See also Homeland Security Act § 428)

Chairman Smith, who introduced the bill in early May, discussed why his bill is important. “[W]e must prevent terrorists from entering this country before they act. This legislation allows us to do just that,” he remarked. “Visa security is critical to national security. Terrorists will continue to enter the U.S. illegally if we do not improve and secure our visa process. The September 11 hijackers, the Christmas Day bomber, and the Texas university student terrorist serve as proof that the war on terror continues and that radical jihadists are as committed as ever to killing Americans. America must be equally committed to stopping them,” he said.

The majority of the witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee agreed with Chairman Smith. Calling the legislation “common-sense,” Janice Kephart, former counsel to the 9/11 Commission stated, “It is time to extend DHS authority to visa revocation, and expand the VSU operations around the globe. An extension of VSU authority to the entire visa portfolio simply fills a gap left by the Homeland Security Act of 2002….” Gary Cote, Deputy Assistant Director for International Affairs at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) commented on the importance of increasing the number of VSUs, “The best approach [to visa security] is a layered approach. We believe having a trained person on the ground is best.” Finally, the comments of Subcommittee ranking member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) suggested H.R.1741 may have bipartisan support. “I think we might have more agreement than I thought when the hearing began,” said Lofgren.

Federal Judge Suspends Utah’s Immigration Enforcement Bill

On May 10th, Federal District Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the implementation of Utah’s new immigration enforcement law, HB 497. In March 2011, Utah passed a package of four immigration-related bills, dubbed the “Utah Solution.” See FAIR’s March 14, 2011 Legislative Update. HB 497 contains enforcement provisions similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 which require law enforcement officers to verify a person’s immigration status after that person has been lawfully stopped and that person is not carrying one of a handful of documents, including a valid state driver’s license from a state that does not give licenses to illegal aliens. HB 116 is a Utah-specific guest work amnesty program which authorizes illegal aliens already living in Utah to work, notwithstanding the prohibitions of federal law. HB 469 creates a Utah-based guest worker program which purports to allow U.S. citizens living in Utah to sponsor guest workers to live and work in Utah, even though the federal government has not authorized than individual to enter, live or work in the United States. HB 466 creates a Migrant Worker Program which authorizes Utah to directly contract with the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico to facilitate the entry of Mexican foreign migrant workers’ lawful entrance into the United States to take jobs in Utah.

Two weeks ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) sued the State of Utah in an attempt to strike down HB 497, the enforcement bill, while leaving the other bills unchallenged. (See Utah Coalition of La Raza v. Herbert) The plaintiffs claim that HB 497 is “preempted” by federal law because: (1) it impermissibly regulates immigration, (2) parts of HB 497 are inconsistent with federal law, and (3) Mexico has made a “formal complaint” about HB 497. (Plaintiff’s Complaint, filed May 3, 2011) The plaintiffs also claim that HB 497 will lead to unlawful detentions and racial profiling by Utah officers, and that HB 497 violates the federally guaranteed “right to travel” of individuals that have driver’s licenses from states that do not verify whether the license holder is lawfully present in the United States. (Id.)

The court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order came just as HB 497 was to go into effect on May 10, 2011. Utah has not yet filed a brief responding to the plaintiffs’ arguments, but is expected to do so before the June 8th deadline. The defendants will likely argue that Congress has continuously passed legislation that encourages state and local governments and officers to assist federal immigration officers in enforcing immigration laws, and HB 497 does just what Congress intended. The plaintiffs will then be able to reply to any arguments made by the defendants by June 22, 2011.

The current restraining order is merely temporary. Although the timetable is uncertain, Judge Waddoups will next issue a more thorough opinion, analyzing the merits of the plaintiffs’ case and will then decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction. If Judge Waddoups does not issue a preliminary injunction, it is likely that he will find the HB 497 a valid state statute.

Pro-Amnesty Lawmakers Reintroduce Failed DREAM Act

Pro-amnesty lawmakers reintroduced the DREAM Act in both the House and Senate last Wednesday. (ABC News Tucson, May 11, 2011) Like their predecessors, S. 952 and H.R. 1842 grant amnesty to the roughly two million illegal aliens who entered the country and meet certain educational or military requirements, authorize in-state tuition to illegal aliens, and provide illegal aliens access to federal financial aid for colleges and universities.

The Senate version of the DREAM Act grants amnesty by initially conferring a six-year conditional legal permanent residency (green card status) upon an illegal alien if he/she meets the following requirements (§§ 3-4):

Has been in the U.S. more than five years prior to the date of enactment (§3(b)(1)(A));

Was 15 years old or younger when they entered the U.S. (§3(b)(1)(B));

Has been a person of good moral character since the date of entry into the U.S. (§3(b)(1)(C));

Has not been convicted of a felony, imprisoned for an aggregate of 90-days, and is not otherwise inadmissible under certain provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (§3(b)(1)(D));

Has been admitted to an institution of higher education OR obtained a high school diploma or general education development certificate (GED) (§3(b)(1)(E)); and

Is 35 years old or younger on the date of enactment (§3(b)(1)(F)).

To have the conditional status removed and become a legal permanent resident, the alien must also complete at least two years at an institute of higher education in the U.S. or serve in the military for at least two years. (§5) In addition, the Senate bill provides that Homeland Security may not remove aliens who have a pending application under the bill and appear to meet its requirements, and shall stay the removal proceedings for aliens who meet the above listed requirements (except for admission to an institution of higher learning or attainment of a high school diploma or GED), are at least five years-old, and are enrolled in a primary or secondary school. (§3(e))

Although sponsors of the bill such as Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) claim the DREAM Act is “not an open-door or free-ride,” the eligibility criteria set forth in the legislation are not as difficult to meet as its proponents claim. (Las Vegas Review-Journal, May, 11 2011) Since the illegal alien beneficiaries under the bill are in the U.S. illegally or “undocumented,” there is no way to prove how long they have actually been in the country or how old they were upon entry. Furthermore, an illegal alien never has to actually complete a higher educational degree, but rather only two years at an “institute of higher education,” which includes community college and vocational schools. (See FAIR Website on DREAM Act, May 13, 2011; see also Ten Things You Need to Know About the DREAM Act) These requirements may be waived or extended by the Secretary of Homeland Security. (§§ 3(b)(2), 5(a))

Senate Democrats have already suggested they will use E-Verify, the federal online employment eligibility verification program, as a bargaining chip in getting the DREAM Act passed. Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) commented, “Maybe that would be an opportunity to do something on this.” (CQ Today, May 11, 2011) House Judiciary Chairman Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), however, continues to stand firm in opposition to the amnesty legislation: “It is pointless to talk about any new immigration proposal that grants amnesty since the border is not secure and our immigration laws are not fully enforced,” he said. (Id.)

The DREAM Act failed last legislative session when the Senate voted down the House version of the bill, H.R.5281. (See Roll Call Vote 278; See also FAIR’s Legislative Update Dec. 20, 2010) Stay tuned to FAIR for continuing updates on the DREAM Act….

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End Of Bernanke's "End Game"

From Campaign For Liberty:

The End of Bernanke's "End Game"

By William Anderson

View all 61 articles by William Anderson

Published 05/16/11

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In a recent screed masquerading as the thoughts of a Nobel prize winner in economics, Paul Krugman excoriates those who speak of

fear: fear of a debt crisis, of runaway inflation, of a disastrous plunge in the dollar. Scare stories are very much on politicians' minds.

As Krugman explains, such worries are irrational and certainly untrue:

None of these scare stories reflect anything that is actually happening, or is likely to happen. And while the threats are imaginary, fear of these imaginary threats has real consequences: an absence of any action to deal with the real crisis, the suffering now being experienced by millions of jobless Americans and their families.

In other words, there is no real inflation, and to even broach the subject is proof that one hates the poor and jobless.

The rise of prices for fuel, food, and other commodities is nothing more than a reflection of their "volatility." And the decline of the US dollar against other fiat currencies of the world is a good thing, because it will improve US manufacturing sales.

But while Krugman takes the move-along-folks-nothing-to-see-here approach to the real crises at hand, calling them "phantom menaces," others are looking at the horrific damage that Ben Bernanke and his allies in both the Bush and Obama administrations have created ��" and rightly seeing even more crises ahead. To make things even more ironic, we are seeing a situation akin to what occurred in the early 1930s; Bernanke and others claim they want to avoid the "mistakes" make by the Federal Reserve System at that time, and so they are following the same path the Fed took 80 years ago. We are at the end of the "end game" that Bernanke and his allies have been imposing upon the rest of us.

Forget for the moment the argument that Krugman and others have made, that the economy is in that "special case": the "liquidity trap," which requires an infusion of massive government spending in order to snap the economy back into prosperity. Instead, let us look at the actions the Fed took right after the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, a failure that "convinced" Congress to bail out Wall Street.

Until that time, the Fed's portfolio consisted mostly of short-term Treasuries, something one would expect given the nature of the central bank's open-market activities, in which it would buy and sell government bonds in order to increase or shrink the economy's monetary base. However, the Wall Street crisis provided the fig leaf allowing the Fed to play the role of the rich uncle who bails out family members when they become financially overextended.

Thus, Bernanke's minions entered the financial marketplace with a bottomless checkbook, purchasing assets that had lost value (like mortgage securities, AIG stock, and the like) in the marketplace. However, in order to make it look as though the markets were fine, the Fed purchased these securities at prices close to their precollapse worth; Bernanke and company were playing the let's-pretend-this-worthless-paper-is-valuable game.

If you want a sense of just how reckless the Fed turned out to be in its rich-uncle role, the diagram below will help put things into perspective:

Figure 1

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

This was supposed to be Bernanke saving the economy, at least in the short term, but actually Bernanke's actions did no such thing. At this point, the gulf between the Austrians (who are unanimous in their criticism of Bernanke's actions) and the Keynesians (whose only regret is that Bernanke did not purchase even more worthless assets) is exposed. Let me explain.

In the Keynesian analysis, assets are held to be homogeneous, and the economy is believed to be a bland mixture of those assets that are fully employed when the amount of consumer and investment spending is high enough to continue to give the economy "traction."

When consumer and investment spending flag, however, Keynesians hold that the government must step in by borrowing and printing money in order to revive the spending circle. If the government spends enough, then the economy can move on its own to the point where consumers and investors keep it going ��" at least until the next crisis. Keynesians call this movement the "circular flow," although it is more like circular logic, in which the premise is the conclusion and the conclusion is the premise.

What must never happen is a large-scale liquidation of assets, because that would trigger deflation, which would be accompanied by an endless downward spiral and an economy stuck in a "liquidity trap" with falling prices and high unemployment. Thus, in the Keynesian view, the Fed was justified in purchasing these worthless assets, because it prevented their liquidation and preserved at least their "paper" values.

Austrians, however, take a much different view. What Keynesians call idle resources, which need only an injection of spending to be reemployed, Austrians call malinvested resources. The different is crucial, because Keynesians believe that the Fed's actions prevent an economic downward spiral, while Austrians hold that what the Fed has done furthers the economic downturn.

The difference in opinion centers on causality. Keynesians believe that the downturn is created simply by a reduction in spending, while Austrians hold that the recession is caused by the fact that the series of malinvestments created during the previous boom cannot be sustained. The drop in spending is the result of the downturn, not its cause. The difference in beliefs is crucial: in the Austrian paradigm, trying to sustain the boom conditions by injecting new government spending will always end in disaster.

The reason is simple: it takes real resources to prop up malinvestment, resources that should be going to those investments that fit within a sustainable structure of production. This point is absolutely crucial. Keynesians believe that because there are "idle" factors of production, directing them toward anything is better than letting them go unemployed; the opportunity cost of using them tends toward zero.

The Keynesian paradigm holds that if these idle factors are not directed by new government spending, they will be unemployed for an indefinite time period, as the system is locked into a "liquidity trap" and cannot move away from this perverse "equilibrium" without government help. Thus, massive new injections of government spending are absolutely necessary to keep the economy from imploding into deflation and depression.

To a Keynesian like Krugman, the only question one needs to ask is how much spending is needed. That the economy has not really moved in the direction of full employment is prima facie evidence to Krugman that spending has been too low, and he dismisses criticisms of his theory as the rantings of lunatics.

But here is the problem: despite Krugman's complaint that government spending is not high enough and despite his defense of Bernanke's actions against criticisms from people like Ron Paul (whom Krugman never misses a chance to smear with false allegations), the truth is that the Fed and the Obama administration are at the end of the tracks, and their train cannot go any farther. Even though the Fed and the government have thrown billions of dollars at the housing market to try to keep housing prices from falling, prices are falling.

Furthermore, even though Krugman admits the "recovery" is running out of steam, he blames people like Ron Paul because they don't believe the Fed should be in the money-printing business. What Krugman and Bernanke refuse to even acknowledge is that the scheme of diverting resources to prop up the failures of the last boom's malinvestments is a colossal failure, and until government policymakers stop trying to reflate the failed boom, there will be no recovery.

Ben Bernanke has opened the Fed's checkbook in an unprecedented fashion, and while he claims to be "saving" the financial system, in reality he is destroying it. He has kept the failed firms afloat, thus preventing the necessary transfers of resources from lower-valued uses to higher-valued uses. (Like Krugman and his boss, President Obama, Bernanke seems to believe that government can create wealth by transferring resources from higher-valued to lower-valued uses, the reason being that government can order any set of values into existence by sheer coercion.)

Although Bernanke and others arrogantly dismiss the rise in commodities like gold, silver, oil, and agricultural products as having nothing to do with the Fed's overt policies of inflation, it is clear that the markets are ignoring these "experts," paying no attention to the men behind the curtain. People are making their own decisions with their own money, and more and more they are voting Bernanke and his declining dollars off the island.[1]

So, trillions of dollars later, with the dollar hopelessly debased, we find we are no better off than when we started, and the necessary asset liquidation has barely begun (thanks to Bernanke). While Krugman and others claim that Bernanke has saved the economy from sliding into depression, I think he has merely guaranteed that things are going to get a lot worse.


[1] Savvy international investors like Jim Rogers are out of dollar-denominated assets altogether, and my sense is that while George Soros continues to lavish billions of dollars upon organizations that support Obama and Bernanke's Keynesian nonsense, Soros himself is not following their political investment advice, at least when it comes to his own money.

Reprinted from Mises.org

Also by William Anderson:

'Clean Energy' and the Depressed Economy 03/03/11

Bureaucrats Keep Us Safe? 01/20/11

Sue the Government 01/13/11

Do We Need the 'Next Level' of State Security? 01/06/11

False Foreclosures and the Free Market 12/22/10

View all 61 articles by William Anderson

Leashing The Surveillance State: How To Reform Patriot Act Surveillance Authorities

From The CATO Institute:

Leashing the Surveillance State: How to Reform Patriot Act Surveillance Authorities

by Julian Sanchez

Julian Sanchez is a Cato Institute research fellow.


Congress recently approved a temporary extension of three controversial surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act and successor legislation, which had previously been set to expire at the end of February. In the coming weeks, lawmakers have an opportunity to review the sweeping expansion of domestic counter-terror powers since 9/11 and, with the benefit of a decade's perspective, strengthen crucial civil-liberties safeguards without unduly burdening legitimate intelligence gathering. Two of the provisions slated for sunset — roving wiretap authority and the socalled "Section 215" orders for the production of records — should be narrowed to mitigate the risk of overcollection of sensitive information about innocent Americans. A third — authority to employ the broad investigative powers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act against "lone wolf" suspects who lack ties to any foreign terror group — does not appear to be necessary at all.

More urgent than any of these, however, is the need to review and substantially modify the statutes authorizing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly demand records, without any prior court approval, using National Security Letters. Though not slated to sunset with the other three Patriot provisions, NSLs were the focus of multiple proposed legislative reforms during the 2009 reauthorization debates, and are also addressed in at least one bill already introduced this year. Federal courts have already held parts of the current NSL statutes unconstitutional, and the government's own internal audits have uncovered widespread, systematic misuse of expanded NSL powers. Congress should resist recent Justice Department pressure to further broaden the scope of NSL authority — and, indeed, should significantly curtail it. In light of this history of misuse, as well as the uncertain constitutional status of NSLs, a sunset should be imposed along with more robust reporting and oversight requirements.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

HHS Approves 200 More New Healthcare Reform Waivers

From The Hill and The Patriot Update:

HHS approves 200 more new healthcare reform waivers

By Julian Pecquet - 05/13/11 04:52 PM ET

The Obama administration approved 204 new waivers to Democrats' healthcare reform law over the past month, bringing the total to 1,372.

The waivers are temporary and only apply to one provision of the law, which requires health plans to offer at least $750,000 worth of annual medical benefits before leaving patients to fend for themselves. Still, Republicans have assailed the waivers as a sign of both favoritism and of major problems with the law.

"The fact that over 1,000 waivers have been granted is a tacit admission that the healthcare law is fundamentally flawed," Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in March. Upton is one of three House committee chairmen who has used new oversight powers to investigate the annual limit waivers.

Administration officials say the law allows the Health and Human Services Department to grant the waivers to avoid disrupting the insurance market before the law overhauls the insurance system in 2014. They say the waivers are granted through a transparent process.

Obama's Hypocritical Rhetoric On Immigration Reform

From Town Hall:

Michael Barone

Obama's Hypocritical Rhetoric on Immigration Reform

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Barack Obama's immigration speech in El Paso May 10 was an exercise in electioneering and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy because while Obama complained about "politicians" blocking comprehensive immigration bills, he was one of them himself.

In 2007, when such a bill was backed by a lame duck Republican president and had bipartisan backing from Senate heavyweights Edward Kennedy and Jon Kyl, Sen. Obama voted for union-backed amendments that Kennedy and Kyl opposed as bill-killers.

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama acquiesced in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to pass cap-and-trade and bypass immigration and in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision not to bring an immigration bill to the floor.

Both times the votes were probably there to pass a bill. Obama did not lift a finger to help.

But that did not stop the president who is constantly calling for civility to heap scorn on those who seek stronger enforcement. "They'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat," he said to laughter from the largely Latino audience. "Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied."

Was that on the teleprompter, or was it ad-libbed? In either case, Obama was showing his contempt for those who bitterly cling to the idea that the law should be enforced.

That's no way to assemble the bipartisan coalition necessary to pass an immigration bill.

It's obvious that nothing like the legalization (opponents say "amnesty") provisions considered in 2007 can pass in this Congress. They can never pass the Republican House, where Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is a longstanding opponent and Speaker John Boehner will not schedule a bill not approved in committee.

Nor will this Congress pass the most attractive proposal Obama mentioned, the Dream Act, providing a path to legalization for those brought in illegally as children who enroll in college or serve in the military. That failed last December in a more Democratic Senate and won't pass now.

Some new approach is needed, and Obama did little to point the way. One idea, advanced by a bipartisan Brookings Institution panel, is a bill that would strengthen enforcement and would shift the U.S. away from low-skill and toward high-skill immigration.

Canada and Australia have done this to their great benefit. And with a sluggish economy it makes little sense, as current law does, to give preference to low-skill siblings of minimum wage workers rather than to engineering and science Ph.D.s. We need more job creators, not more job seekers.

The problem here is that the lobbying forces backing comprehensive legislation don't favor such an approach. Latino groups and lobbies representing employers of low-skill workers are interested in legalizing the low-skill Latinos who make up the majority of the 11 million illegal immigrants.

High-tech firms seek more H-1B visas for high-skill graduates, but these tie immigrants to particular employers. They don't have an interest in provisions allowing these people to work for anyone they don't like or to start their own businesses, as they can in Canada and Australia.

In the absence of significant lobbying support, the only way to provide support for Brookings-style legislation is a bold presidential initiative advertising it as a clean break from past proposals.

Obama didn't come close to doing that in El Paso. He included a few words about letting in more high-skill folks, but didn't suggest any reduction in low-skill immigration.

And he said only a few words about workplace enforcement on which his administration has developed a valuable new tool.

That's a refinement of the E-Verify electronic system now available in which employers can verify the Social Security numbers of new employees.

The Department of Homeland Security has been ironing out glitches in E-Verify and, as former National Security Agency general counsel Stewart Baker reports, DHS now allows job-seekers in some states to use E-Verify before applying for a job not only to check their status but also to protect against identity theft.

The administration has been attacking state laws requiring employers to use E-Verify. If Obama were serious about enforcement, he would be calling for mandatory E-Verify. That would be a more effective tool against illegal immigration than even the strongest border enforcement.

But as Obama's record makes clear, he's not really interested in passing a law. He knows his support has been slipping among Latino voters, and he wants to goose it back up. El Paso was all about election 2012, not serious immigration reform.

Tags: Politics , Illegal Immigration , Barack Obama

Michael Barone

Michael Barone is Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner and a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

In Public Statement, TSA Lies About The Constitution

From The Tenth Amendment Center:

In public statement, TSA lies about the Constitution

by Michael Boldin

Round two of the battle for travel freedom is well underway.

The first round, which garnered national attention in the fall of 2010, focused primarily on the TSA implementing new procedures…pat downs, body scanners….and the public outcry against it….boycotts, protests, calling congress to demand change.

But, as the public response failed to stop the scanners and searches, round two has moved to state legislatures around the country. Most prominently, Texas, where the state house just passed a bill banning TSA searches without probable cause. Click here to read the Tenth Amendment Center’s report on the bill.

This time, the TSA is on the defensive, and published an official statement about the Texas bill on their blog:

What’s our take on the Texas House of Representatives voting to ban the current TSA pat-down? Well, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article. VI. Clause 2) prevents states from regulating the federal government.

The problem here? The statement is false. Ignorance from the TSA is unlikely, so I’ll call a spade a spade. They’re lying.

The supremacy clause says nothing of the sort. Here’s the full text:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

So, in simple terms, what does the supremacy clause mean? Just what it says. The constitution is supreme. And any federal laws made in line with the constitution is supreme. Nothing more, nothing less.

Notice there’s not one single word in the actual text that says anything about states regulating the federal government as the TSA claims. They’re just making things up as they go.


In the constitution, The federal government is authorized to establish post offices. So if a state tried to establish their own, which would put it into conflict with the federal post office, the supremacy clause would rule that the state was in the wrong.

On the other hand, the first amendment says, in part, that congress shall not make laws restricting free speech. So, if a state law was established to give extra protection to the free speech rights of people in the state, and the federal government tried to restrict that freedom with an agency action, regulation, or law, the Feds would be in the wrong.

Why? Because the federal law restricting free speech would not be “in pursuance of” the constitution. And, as stated above, it’s the constitution, not all federal laws, which are supreme. The only federal laws which are supreme are constitutional ones.


Federal searches, as the 4th amendment makes clear, have certain requirements. Probable cause is one of them. Here’s the text of the 4th:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

There is no wiggle room here. No warrants shall issue. None. The 4th amendment doesn’t offer any exceptions. Period.


So, when the federal government doesn’t follow such straightforward rules, what should be done? In the Virginia Resolution of 1798, James Madison explained the role of the states in such a situation. He wrote:

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them. [emphasis added]

So, when the federal government violates your rights by refusing to abide by the limits put on it in the constitution, it’s your state’s duty to stand up and do it instead.

The verdict? Texas is in the right, and more states should join in now. The TSA…not even close.


What’s the next lie that the TSA will tell us? Not sure, but from this one, it might be something just as absurd, like…”the 1st amendment says that states can’t interfere with TSA restrictions on complaints during wartime.”

The kicker here is that under the founders’ vision for the constitution – where the federal government is authorized to exercise only those powers delegated to it….and nothing more – the TSA wouldn’t even exist. For an unconstitutional agency to lie about Constitutional matters is beyond absurd, and it must be stopped. Other states are considering bills like in Texas – and sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center tell us to expect at least 10 or more to do so in 2012.

For a more detailed explanation of the supremacy clause, along with some historical perspective from the founding era, read Professor Brion McClanahan’s article, Who’s Supreme? The Supremacy Clause Smackdown.

Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center. He was raised in Milwaukee, WI, and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on twitter - @michaelboldin - and visit his personal blog - www.michaelboldin.com

The TSA Has Gone Too Far

Via Terry

The TSA has gone too far.

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The TSA has gone too far. They have evolved into the Gestapo. Every time I travel I can't help but think how much this looks like a World War II movie and the scene is Nazi Germany.

"Papers out, everyone, mach schnell! Get your belongings and enter the vehicle immediately or you will be shot!"

The TSA people are rude and I have NEVER EVER seen one of them give any consideration or an act of human decency, when a traveler had a special need. It’s almost like they enjoy picking on people who have difficulties.

There are two castes of TSA people, I have decided. One is the morbidly obese worker that sits in a chair with a magazine and perhaps more, such as the one I saw with a boom box… just groovin' away on some tunes! This echelon of the TSA sits by the glass doors to make sure you don't go back or enter the wrong way. If you do the TSA-er will utter something that is often unintelligible, but by their tone you perceive that you have made a mistake. Grammar and elocution are not job requirements for the TSA. Those of us over 55 rarely understand the commands on the first try. With the background noise of the equipment and the P.A. system, it’s hard to figure out what to do. I once told a worker “I don’t understand” seven times, then said “I hear you, but I cannot understand what you want me to do.” In some locations, they talk in “shorthand” and I feel like I need an interpreter.

If a suicide bomber came running through the ropes and plastic chain barriers, the TSA guard would have to put down the ham sandwich and waddle out of the chair to go after him!

In the New Orleans Airport, I watched as a TSA guard waved a worker by with no examination. The worker was pushing a large wheeled trash cart, big enough to hold two 21 year-old insurgents with extra room for Semtex, C4, Dynamite, Det Cord, etc. “Hiya doin girl?” was the only inquiry. There was no movement from the chair. It was a fold-up chair such as you take to your kid’s soccer game. I suspect that the reason was that sitting down is actually not permitted. She brings her own seat.

The second caste is the collection of people who have dreamed all their lives about being in a powerful position so that they could mess with people who had to do whatever they said. The guys want to make sure that they aren't going to take any crap from you and if you don't do exactly what they say, they will restrain you with the handcuffs that they have practiced applying to "perps," which is how they view the non compliant traveler. If things get really sporty, the TS-A-hole-ster will get to use his baton or maybe even the TASER. He practices these at home in front of the mirror, maybe even with a blow-up doll.

Sometimes, these people make me afraid. I don't feel like they have had the same training as a regular police officer or sheriff’s deputy. I am concerned that they don't get psychologically screened like other law enforcement agencies do. At least that's how they act. I had one guy fuss at me because he didn't like the way I chose a bin to put my items in. I had been scooted down the line a bit by other eager travelers, and so I was in the middle of the input conveyer. I grabbed a bin in front of me, not the last bin in the stream. He was loud, had an angry tone and expression, and asked me one of those pregnant questions like "Sir, are you attempting to disrupt the screening? If so, you may be subject to detention for an evaluation.” The leather creeched as he pressed his hands on his duty rig with weapons and other gear.

Once I saw a female traveler whose carry on was demanded to be opened for inspection. She had wrapped her good jewelry in her lingerie. This 6'4" GED educated man took out her panties, unfolded them and held them up in front of him. This well dressed, well groomed female executive was humiliated. When I saw her eyes well up I went over and asked the guard if this was really necessary, and if so, couldn't he do it in private? He told me that I was interfering with an investigation and was in jeopardy of being detained for questioning.

Another time I saw a woman with whom I am acquainted pulled from the boarding queue for questioning. She is from southwest Asia and accordingly her skin color is typical of that region. That is the only reason she was pulled. However, she was wearing business clothing befitting a C-level corporate executive and was immaculately groomed, and conservatively dressed. What the two goons did not know was that the company she started and leads does disaster planning, emergency management and predictive modeling for the U.S. government. This company has offices in several U.S. cities including Washington, D.C... As she stood there wondering if she was going to miss her flight, the Transportation Slowdown Anencephalics were wanding her in a "spread-em wide or else" pose. A few days later I wrote the TSA about this but never got a response.

Finally, my last observation: I saw the TSA thugs pull an elderly Asian couple out of the line for "random screening." The man appeared to have a cognitive disorder. Both of them were frail and had difficulty moving at the pace the TSA guys insisted. I think anyone on our plane would have said, "These folks don't have a bomb and we will take a chance on them." I don't know where they were going or coming from, but it was certainly not Al-Qaeda.

This is out of control! The terrorists have won. We have lost the ability to have the tender moments before departure with our loved ones.

We need a better plan. The way it is now, we must be groped and assaulted, viewed as though nude, forced through a chute without our shoes, belts and valuables. Nail clippers and other ordinary objects are confiscated.

This is unlawful and unreasonable searching, and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. I know, I know, this issue has been argued and tried, and the court found that the searches are in the public interest because they are minimally invasive. They also found that it was not discriminatory because the personal searches were being applied to everyone. But at the time of that decision, the searches were less invasive. Now we have "I can see you naked" machines and nasty looking people in polyester uniforms that are groping breasts and genitalia.

I think that this is wrong. I am not going to permit it. If that means that I cannot fly, so be it. I hope others will join my boycott. Once the airlines start losing travelers, they will help do something about it. The way this whole “security measure” is executed is a national disgrace. We can do better than this.

Here’s an idea: Let’s make all the members of Congress and any governmental employee from the President on down, civilian, military, law enforcement, dog catcher, ANYBODY have to submit to this anytime they have to board a plane. I mean ANYTIME. Right now, these people aren’t going through this. Once they do, they are going to get mad about it just like us! They will do something about it.

OK elected officials: If you want to show us that you are “OF THE PEOPLE,” go through the TSA routine every time you fly.

I think we may be waiting for hell to freeze over. I’m just sick and tired of being treated like cattle, or being treated like a criminal. How about you?

Let’s encourage EVERYONE to use the words “I OPT OUT” at the TSA checkpoints. One little tip: Add extra time for your departure.

-Another p^$$*d off American.

May 12, 2011
Baton Rouge

Source: http://www.susiecastillo.net/news/2011/5/2/susies-tsa-petition-to-congress.html?currentPage=2#comments

Reply to Terrence Popravak, Jr.