Sunday, July 1, 2012

17 Reasons To Be EXTREMELY Concerned About The Second Half Of 2012

The Economic Collapse Blog ^ | 07/01/2012 | Michael Snyder

What is the second half of 2012 going to bring? Are things going to get even worse than they are right now? Unfortunately, that appears more likely with each passing day. I will admit that I am extremely concerned about the second half of 2012. Historically, a financial crisis is much more likely to begin in the fall than during any other season of the year. Just think about it. The stock market crash of 1929 happened in the fall. "Black Monday" happened on October 19th, 1987. The financial crisis of 2008 started in the fall. There just seems to be something about the fall that brings out the worst in the financial markets. But of course there is not a stock market crash every year. So are there specific reasons why we should be extremely concerned about what is coming this year? Yes, there are. The ingredients for a "perfect storm" are slowly coming together, and in the months ahead we could very well see the next wave of the economic collapse strike. Sadly, we have never even come close to recovering from the last recession, and this next crisis might end up being even more painful than the last one.
The following are 17 reasons to be extremely concerned about the second half of 2012....
#1 Historical Trends
A recent IMF research paper by Luc Laeven and Fabián Valencia showed that a banking crisis is far more likely to start in September than in any other month. The following chart is from their report....

So what will this September bring?
#2 JP Morgan
Do you remember back in May when JP Morgan announced that it would be taking a 2 billion dollar trading loss on some derivatives trades gone bad? Well, the New York Times is now reporting that the real figure could reach 9 billion dollars, but nobody really knows for sure. At some point is JP Morgan going to need a bailout? If so, what is that going to do to the U.S. financial system?
#3 Derivatives
Last week, Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of 15 major global banks. As a result, a number of them have been required to post billions of dollars in additional collateral against derivatives exposures....
Citigroup’s two-notch long-term rating downgrade from A3 to Baa2 could have led to US$500m in additional liquidity and funding demands due to derivative triggers and exchange margin requirements, according to the bank’s 10Q regulatory filing at the end of the first quarter.
Morgan Stanley – which Moody’s downgraded from A2 to Baa1 – said a two-notch downgrade from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s could spur an additional US$6.8bn of collateral requirements in its latest 10Q. The bank did not break down its potential collateral calls under a scenario where only Moody’s downgraded the bank below the Single A threshold.
Royal Bank of Scotland estimated it may have to post £9bn of collateral as a result of the one-notch Moody’s downgrade to Baa1 in a statement on June 21, but did not detail how much of this additional requirement was driven by margin for swaps exposures.
The worldwide derivatives market is starting to show some cracks, and at some point this is going to become a major disaster.
Remember, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives. When this bubble completely bursts it is going to be impossible to fix.
#4 LEAP/E2020 Warning
LEAP/E2020 has issued a red alert for the global financial system for this fall. They are warning that the "second half of 2012" will represent a "major inflection point" for the global economic system....
The shock of the autumn 2008 will seem like a small summer storm compared to what will affect planet in several months.
In fact LEAP/E2020 has never seen the chronological convergence of such a series of explosive and so fundamental factors (economy, finances, geopolitical…) since 2006, the start of its work on the global systemic crisis. Logically, in our modest attempt to regularly publish a “crisis weather forecast”, we must therefore give our readers a “Red Alert” because the upcoming events which are readying themselves to shake the world system next September/ October belong to this category.
#5 Increasing Pessimism
One recent survey of corporate executives found that only 20 percent of them expect the global economy to improve over the next 12 months and 48 percent of them expect the global economy to get worse over the next 12 months.
#6 Spain
The Spanish financial system is basically a total nightmare at this point. Moody's recently downgraded Spanish debt to one level above junk status, and earlier this week Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of 28 major Spanish banks.
According to CNBC, Spain's short-term borrowing costs are now about three times higher than they were just one month ago....
Spain's short-term borrowing costs nearly tripled at auction on Tuesday, underlining the country's precarious finances as it struggles against recession and juggles with a debt crisis among its newly downgraded banks.
The yield paid on a 3-month bill was 2.362 percent, up from just 0.846 percent a month ago. For six-month paper, it leapt to 3.237 percent from 1.737 percent in May.
Needless to say, this is very, very bad news.
#7 Italy
The situation in Italy continues to deteriorate and many analysts believe that it could be one of the next dominoes to fall. The following is from a recent Businessweek article....
The euro zone’s third-biggest economy is seen as the next domino at risk of toppling after the European Union’s June 9 deal to lend Spain $125 billion in bank bailout funds. Yields on Italy’s 10-year government bonds reached 6.2 percent on June 13, up from just 4.8 percent in March. By pushing up Italy’s borrowing costs out of fear of default, investors are making a default more likely.
A recent Fortune article detailed some of the economic fundamentals that have so many economists deeply concerned about the Italian economy right now....
The main glaring risk threats that could propel Italy down the path to become Europe's next domino is the size of country's outstanding debt (at €1.9 trillion or 120% of GDP); the mountain of debt it has to roll over in the next 12 months (nearly €400 billion); and the market's cracking credibility around Prime Minister Mario Monti's ability to reduce the country's fiscal footprint and spur growth.
Further, fear around Italy's creditworthiness, which has recently been expressed by near cycle highs in sovereign CDS spreads and government yields on the 10-year bond, follow some rather glaring negative fundamentals over recent quarters and years: declining GDP over the last three consecutive quarters; a rising unemployment rate (especially among its youth); deterioration in labor market competitiveness; and increased competition for export goods to its key trading partners.
#8 Greece
I have written extensively about the financial nightmare that is unfolding in Greece. Unemployment has soared past the 20 percent mark, youth unemployment is above 50 percent, the Greek economy has contracted by close to 25 percent over the past four years and now Greek politicians are saying that a third bailout package may be necessary.
#9 Cyprus
The tiny island nation of Cyprus has become the fifth member of the eurozone to formally request a bailout. This is yet another sign that the eurozone is rapidly falling apart.
#10 Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to promote an austerity path for Europe and she continues to maintain her very firm position against any kind of eurozone debt sharing....
Merkel, speaking to a conference in Berlin today as Spain announced it would formally seek aid for its banks, dismissed “euro bonds, euro bills and European deposit insurance with joint liability and much more” as “economically wrong and counterproductive,” saying that they ran against the German constitution.
“It’s not a bold prediction to say that in Brussels most eyes -- all eyes -- will be on Germany yet again,” Merkel said. “I say quite openly: when I think of the summit on Thursday I’m concerned that once again the discussion will be far too much about all kinds of ideas for joint liability and far too little about improved oversight and structural measures.”
In fact, Merkel says that there will be no eurobonds "as long as I live". This means that there will be no "quick fix" for the problems that are unfolding in Europe.
#11 Bank Runs
Every single day, hundreds of millions of dollars is being pulled out of banks in southern Europe. Much of that money is being transferred to banks in northern Europe.
In a previous article I included an extremely alarming quote from a CNBC article about the unfolding banking crisis in Europe....
Financial advisers and private bankers whose clients have accounts too large to be covered by a Europe-wide guarantee on deposits up to 100,000 euros ($125,000), are reporting a "bank run by wire transfer" that has picked up during May.
Much of this money has headed north to banks in London, Frankfurt and Geneva, financial advisers say.
"It's been an ongoing process but it certainly picked up pace a couple of weeks ago We believe there is a continuous 2-3 year bank run by wire transfer," said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital, a Geneva-based pan European wealth management firm.
How long can these bank runs continue before banking systems start to collapse?
#12 Preparations For The Collapse Of The Eurozone
As I have written about previously, the smart money has already written off southern Europe. All over the continent major financial institutions are preparing for the worst. For example, just check out what Visa Europe is doing....
Visa Europe is holding weekly meetings to discuss scenarios in the event the euro zone collapses, joining other companies that are preparing for a potential breakup of the currency bloc.
Chief Commercial Officer Steve Perry said Tuesday that management at the U.K.-based credit-card company meets weekly to explore various possible outcomes, including a total collapse of the euro zone.
#13 Global Lending Is Slowing Down
All over the globe the flow of credit is beginning to freeze up. In fact, the Bank for International Settlements says that worldwide lending is contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.
#14 Sophisticated Cyber Attacks On Banks
It is being reported that "very sophisticated" hackers have successfully raided dozens of banks in Europe. So far, it is being estimated that they have stolen 60 million euros....
Sixty million euro has been stolen from bank accounts in a massive cyber bank raid after fraudsters raided dozens of financial institutions around the world.
According to a joint report by software security firm McAfee and Guardian Analytics, more than 60 firms have suffered from what it has called an "insider level of understanding".
What happens someday if we wake up and all the money in the banks is gone?
#15 U.S. Municipal Bankruptcies
All over the United States there are cities and towns on the verge of financial disaster. This week Stockton, California became the largest U.S. city to ever declare bankruptcy, but the reality is that this is only just the beginning of the municipal debt crisis....
Stockton, California, said it will file for bankruptcy after talks with bondholders and labor unions failed, making the agricultural center the biggest U.S. city to seek court protection from creditors.
“The city is fiscally insolvent and must seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection,” Stockton said in a statement released yesterday after its council voted 6-1 to adopt a spending plan for operating under bankruptcy protection.
#16 The Obamacare Decision
The U.S. economy is already a complete and total mess, and now the Obamacare decision is going to throw a huge wet blanket on it. All over America, small business owners are saying that they are going to have to let some workers go because they cannot afford to keep them all under Obamacare. It would be hard to imagine a more job killing law than Obamacare, and now that the Supreme Court decision has finally been announced we are going to see many businesses making some really hard decisions.
#17 The U.S. Election
It is being reported that Barack Obama is putting together an army of "thousands of lawyers" to deal with any disputes that arise over voting procedures or results. It certainly looks like this upcoming election is going to be extremely close, and there is the potential that we could end up facing another Bush v. Gore scenario where the fate of the presidency is determined in court. This campaign season is likely to be exceptionally nasty, and I fear what may happen if there is not a decisive winner on election day. The possibility of significant civil unrest is certainly there.
We definitely live in "interesting" times.
Personally, I am deeply concerned about the September, October, November time frame.
The other day, Joe Biden delivered a speech in which he made the following statement....
"It's A Depression For Millions And Millions Of Americans"
And what Biden said was right for once. Millions of Americans are out of work right now and millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class in recent years. If you have lost everything, it does feel like you are living through a depression.
When people lose everything, they tend to get desperate. And desperate people do desperate things - especially when they are angry.
A whole host of recent opinion polls have shown that anger and frustration in the United States are rising to unprecedented levels. The ingredients are certainly there for an explosion. Someone just needs to come along and light the fuse. We truly do live in frightening times.
Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Obamanomics: Economics For Dummies (Forbes - full of facts, send to friends)

Forbes ^ | June 28, 2012 | Peter Ferrara,

...Obama's recovery has been pitiful, again the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, especially as compared to the all-time record Reagan recovery.

Indeed, if Obama's perverse policies are not reversed, his soaring tax rate increases next year on top of his skyrocketing regulatory burdens and runaway federal spending, deficits and debt, will just throw America back into recession, before there was even any real recovery from the last recession.

Then unemployment will soar back into double digits, the deficit will soar to new records over $2 trillion, and President Obama will have added more to the national debt than all prior U.S. Presidents combined, from George Washington to George Bush. The entire period will then look just like an historical reenactment of the 1930s. That should be no surprise that Obama in modeling his Administration after FDR is getting the same results as FDR. That is not fighting for the middle class, that is trashing the middle class.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Abortion Clinic Offers Sunday Discount

Semi-News/Semi-Satire ^ | 30 June 2012 | John Semmens

The Orlando Women’s Center in Florida is offering a $50 discount to patients for abortions performed on Sunday.

NARAL spokesperson Adora Slaughter praised the clinic’s “progressive marketing campaign. The frontal assault on the notion that somehow Sundays ought to be sacrosanct is a stroke of genius. I mean, consider the contrast. Instead of sitting in a church worshiping a nonexistent god a woman could be contributing to the health of the environment by reducing the Earth’s future population. If a $50 coupon is all it takes to shift our culture’s focus in this way I’m very encouraged about the progress we’re making.”

If the $50 discount isn’t enough to enable a woman to afford an abortion, the Fund Abortion Now website ( offers additional aid. “No one should be forced to forgo an abortion just because she can’t pay for it,” Slaughter declared. “Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act is on track to secure this right for everyone in America. In the meantime, we’re grateful that alternate sources of funding are so readily available.”

Scott says Florida won't implement health care law [Govs Walker, Perry and Jindal concur)

Tampa Bay Times ^ | July 1, 2012 | Tia Mitchell

....Under the health care law, by 2014, states must implement a health insurance exchange, or a Web-based marketplace where people can shop for insurance, or defer to a federal program. States need to submit plans to the federal government by Nov. 16 that demonstrate their readiness to launch health exchanges.
....."We care about having a health care safety net for the vulnerable Floridians," Scott said on Fox. "But this is an expansion that just doesn't make any sense."
....."Hopefully we won't have to worry about it because by November we're going to have a new president-elect who is going to repeal it," Scott press secretary Lane Wright said.
The White House was asked for comment Saturday but declined.
Scott said other Republican governors agreed their focus should be fighting the law and supporting Romney, including Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
"Here in Louisiana, look, we refused to set up the exchange. We're not going to start implementing Obamacare," Jindal told POLITICO. "We have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we are not implementing the exchanges, we don't think it makes any sense to implement Obamacare in Louisiana."
Scott said the governors arrived at the same conclusion that expanding Medicaid and creating exchanges are not good for taxpayers.
"We care about the citizens of our state," he said. "We know this will be bad for our health care. We want jobs in our state. This is going to put American businesses at an unbelievable disadvantage as compared to businesses around the world."...........
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

White House Chief of Staff Misleads Nation About Fast and Furious "Facts" ^ | July 1. 2012 | Katie Pavlich

On CNN's State of the Union this morning, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew was asked why President Obama asserted executive privilege for Attorney General Eric Holder over Fast and Furious documents when he railed against the use of executive privilege in 2007. Remember, President Obama campaigned on his administration being the "most transparent administration in history."

White House Chief Of Staff Jacob Lew: “Candy, let’s go back to the facts. The facts are that this was a bad plan, this Fast and Furious. It’s something that started in the Bush Administration and the Attorney General did not know about it. It came out of the region and when the Attorney General learned about it, what he did was stop it. He said it was wrong and he said we’re not going to do it. There was a period of time when the Attorney General didn’t know about it because it was happening at a regional office, that a statement was made to Congress that had to be corrected. The Attorney General corrected it. Every document related to the decisions up to that point has been shared. This is not a question of finding facts, this is a question that Congress at the beginning of this investigation said they were going to use their investigatory powers in a political way, and this is political not a substantive question.”
Asked Why Executive Privilege Invoked, WH Chief of Staff Says Obama Admin "Most Transparent Ever "
Rather than answering the question directly, Lew said, "Let's go back to the facts," and immediatly got his "facts" wrong. Lew claimed Fast and Furious started during the Bush administration. That assertion is false. Operation Fast and Furious started in September 2009, President Obama took office in January 2009. Lew also went on to defend Attorney General Eric Holder by saying this was a "regional program." If that was the case, then why is executive privilege necessary or valid in this case? Either the documents requested show some kind of White House communication or President Obama improperly asserted the privilege to buy Holder more time. Lew also said "every document related to the decisions up to that point has been shared," which is also false. There are 240,000 Fast and Furious documents available. The Justice Department has turned over 7,000. Of those 7,000 the majority are sheets of black ink due to extreme redaction. In relation to specific communications, just before the Oversight Committee contempt vote two weeks ago to hold the Attorney General in contempt, Chairman Darrell Issa narrowed his focus from 70,000 documents to 1300, yet Holder still failed to deliver anything substantial. Not to mention, 21 Democrats voted for civil contempt against Holder last week, which destroys Lew's "political" argument.
And finally: Lew said the Obama administration has been the most transparent administration ever.

Ruling adds hundreds of billions to healthcare law costs (America's destruction)

The Hill ^ | 6/30/2012 | By Elise Viebeck

The Supreme Court's decision to let states opt out of the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion will increase costs by hundreds of billions, according to an analysis by a conservative think tank.
Thursday's ruling means that states can refuse to expand Medicaid coverage for millions of low-income people without facing the law's original penalty.
The American Action Forum (AAF) estimated that states will not only forgo the Medicaid expansion, they'll cut their Medicaid rolls back to the "federally designated minimum" and move everyone onto the law's insurance exchanges.
AAF chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin blogged Friday that this would force the "federal government (read: taxpayer)" to foot the bill.
"The federal government would save as much as $130 billion in Medicaid in 2014, but it would be on the hook for $230 billion in new insurance subsidies," Holtz-Eakin wrote. "The net bottom line: a $100 billion annual expansion in federal costs."
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Food Stamps, Handouts, and the Ever-Expanding Welfare State ^ | July 1, 2012 | Daniel J. Mitchell

In their never-ending efforts to buy votes with other people’s money (see the first cartoon in this post), politicians have been expanding the welfare state and creating more dependency.
This is bad for the overall economy because it means a larger burden of government spending and it’s bad for poor people because it undermines their self reliance and self respect.
It also has very worrisome long-run effects on the stability and viability of a culture, as shown by these two cartoons.
A stark example can be seen in the food stamp program, which has morphed from a handout for the genuinely poor to a widespread entitlement for everyone from college students to the Octo-mom, and for products ranging from luxury coffee to lobster.
Here are some of the unpleasant details about the fiscal costs from Veronique de Rugy’s column in the Washington Examiner.
When the food stamp program was first expanded nationally in the 1970s, just 1 in 50 Americans participated. Today, 1 in 7 Americans receive $134 each month… With the bipartisan Farm Bill going through Congress right now, these high levels of dependency may become permanent. Some 70 percent of the nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill recently passed by the Senate will be spent on food stamps — that’s $770 billion over ten years. …An estimated 45 million Americans received food stamps in 2011, at a cost of $78 billion. That’s a twofold increase from just five years ago when 26 million people received benefits at a cost of $33 billion. …food stamp enrollment increased and spending doubled, even as unemployment and the poverty level dropped modestly between 2007 and 2011. The more important part of the story comes from the eligibility changes implemented by the Bush and Obama administrations.
The last sentence is the key. Eligibility has been expanded dramatically. Food stamps are slowly but surely becoming mainstream and that should worry all of us.
But food stamps are just one form of income redistribution. Welfare spending also is a problem.
Here are some excerpts from a New Hampshire story, featuring a store clerk who got fired because she didn’t think welfare cards should be used to buy cigarettes.
Jackie R. Whiton of Antrim had been a six-year employee at the Big Apple convenience store in Peterborough until a single transaction sent her job up in smoke. The store clerk was fired after she refused to take a customer’s Electronic Balance Transfer card to pay for cigarettes. …Whiton said she did not think EBT cards could be used to purchase cigarettes and refused to sell to him. The two “had a little go-around” as the line got longer behind him, said Whiton. “I made the statement, ‘do you think myself, that lady and that gentlemen should pay for your cigarettes?’ and he responded ‘yes,’ ” Whiton said. …Charles E. Wilkins, the general manager of the C.N. Brown Co. that runs the stores, said the EBT cards in the cash phase could be used for any items, including alcohol, tobacco and gambling. Wilkins said the company gave Whiton the option of staying but she said she would not accept the cards anymore. “She didn’t think it was right and just wasn’t going to sell to people in that program anymore,” Wilkins said. Whiton said when she came to work the next day, her manager asked her how much notice she was giving. When she responded “a week,” she was told the home office had just called and fired her.
Ms. Whiton is now one of my personal heroes, joining Mr. Mothershead, another store clerk who had the right reaction when confronted by someone who tried to get something he didn’t earn (albeit using a different tactic).

Last but not least, above is something that arrived in my inbox yesterday.
A bit harsh, but we have gotten to a strange point where the Obama Administration is bribing states to add more food stamp recipients and even running ads to lure more people into food stamp dependency.
So, yes, Billy Fleming (assuming he’s real) has a right to be upset.

P.S. Here’s some more welfare humor.

Why John Roberts is Mitt Romney's Secret Weapon ^ | July 1, 2012 | Kevin McCullough

I would caution my fellow conservatives on the frustration they may be enticed to express at Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. It is unwarranted, and it is unwise.
The reason I state such is that it is my firm belief that the Roberts' decision on the Obamacare mandate will without question bring about ultimate doom to the government control of healthcare, and through the best means possible--not judicial activism--but through the democratic process.
In boxing terminology no one has pulled a "rope-a-dope" this effective since Muhammad Ali himself. In doing so, it is clear that John Roberts duped the liberal wing of the Supreme Court into agreeing with him on calling out President Obama as legislatively dishonest, while assisting the conservative wing of the court into dismantling punitive measures against the states, and greatly limiting the ability of the legislature to use the powers of the commerce clause of the constitution to quietly take over people's lives.
Yes, conservative friends there are many silver linings in Thursday's odd verdict but let me assert merely four here:
1. Obamacare has been outed--by the authoritative voice of the nation's highest court-as a fraud. Yes the administration pitched it as a "penalty," as something that would not carry with it the burdensome label and politically repulsive thought of a tax. But Chief Justice Roberts seduced the four Obama supporters on the bench into agreeing that President Obama had in fact lied to the nation all through his 2008 campaign. Promising tax-cuts for 95% of the nation (a promise wrapped in a lie all its own), he has instead raised taxes--primarily on middle class families to the tune of $1.7 trillion dollars for the next decade. (And THAT'S just the starting point!) A tax, and nothing but a tax, is the only way the mandate funding could be understood in order for President Obama's only domestic initiative to survive. So a tax it is...
2. The commerce clause has been severely restricted. Roberts sided with the conservative wing of the court in asserting rightly that the Congress can't wander into a grey area of regulation, by attempting to force behavior of the population through manipulation of the commerce clause. The court rightly examined and asserted that the legislature has no right to legislate what people choose not to do. Punishments can not be levied on inaction. And if they attempt to do so, they must come in the form of a tax that the nation has recourse to change and remove through the electoral process.
3. The true cost to America's middle class was unveiled. Hiking taxes by close to $5 billion, with an additional $5 billion in medicare cuts, didn't close the loophole, no matter how much President Obama attempted to argue that it would. In reality the middle class families of America--already under assault by a horrible economy with limited prospects of improvement--will be forced to fork over another $1.7 trillion in forward looking deficits. Yes the families who earn $60-$90,000 per year will be the ones who make too much to qualify for the low income freebies, and not be making enough to be able to afford plans that they can buy in to. It will be these families who will be punitively crunched with this penalizing tax called Obamacare, and the Roberts' decision has removed the veil to allow this to be seen.
4. Perhaps the most important thing of all, the Roberts' decision will likely hand Governor Mitt Romney a 40 state victory in the upcoming elections. The Tea Party has been reignited. Grassroots groups have reawakened. And the roar of 2010 will be a distant memory when the voters take Governor Romney's advice and change Obamacare by removing President Obama.
To be very candid, I was more worried about the political outcomes of the case, had the justices thrown out the law all together in essence neutralizing one of the most glaring differences between the two sets of solutions being offered in this election cycle.
Instead we've been given an HD-retina-screen level upgrade in seeing the differences starkly and in greater contrast.
Re-elect President Obama and it will be the full implementation of the biggest small-business-killer ever invented by the Congress--Obamacare. Choose another path and you will set a course for the complete repeal of Obamacare, and the beginning of a new day for small business owners across the nation.
The choice is simple.
And John Roberts was the secret weapon that made it all happen, by outthinking everybody, and staying true to the Constitution.
Overall, not a bad outcome!

Black caucus, liberals judged Holder by color of his skin not content of his character!

The Daily Caller ^ | 06/29/2012 | Matthew Boyle

Florida Republican Rep. Allen West said liberal Democrats in Congress — including many members of the Congressional Black Caucus — who walked out on the bipartisan votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal and civil contempt of Congress did so because Holder is black.

“Today the Congressional Black Caucus and other liberal Members of Congress judged the Attorney General by the color of his skin, and not by the content of his character,” West said of their walkout in a Facebook post. “I am disappointed my colleagues would rather engage in a political stunt to distract the American people from knowing the truth behind the Attorney General’s disregard of the law and disrespect of congressional oversight to provide requested documents.”

On Thursday 17 Democrats joined all but two House Republicans to vote to hold Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. And 21 Democrats joined all House Republicans to vote to hold Holder in civil contempt of Congress. (SEE ALSO: GOP congressman who voted ‘no’ on criminal contempt demands Holder’s resignation)

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Standing Up to Big Government: “an ordinary American citizen” demands answers about Obama’s birth! ^ | July 1, 2012 | George Spelvin, staff writer

Will Florida’s Robert L. Quinn be America’s answer to the anonymous Tank Man of China who stood up in front of a column of tanks ordered by the Communist regime to clear Tiananmen Square of peaceful citizen protestors?

His frail body holding back the menacing war machines became an iconic photo of the Twentieth Century signifying an ordinary citizen standing up to unrelenting governmental power which just had declared martial law to quell its own Chinese citizens!

Quinn, a septuagenarian, who identifies himself as an ordinary American citizen, sent a deeply moving, poignant letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller in defense of his country and in protest to what Barack Obama and his administration are doing. Mueller is asked to investigate Obama’s birth documents.
“This oath requires you to defend the Constitution, not a person sitting as President and Commander in Chief of our Military forces and especially one whose only evidence of Constitutional eligibility to hold this office is a birth certificate and selective service registration form that have been verified by Law Enforcement to be forgeries.”

“Quinn wrote first week of May, [no] reply. Quinn takes this as a sign Mueller is, “confirming he is a willing protector of the forgers and complicit in the act of treason.”
[Quinn] ….quotes the legal definition of treason as defined in Title 20, US Code 2381, titled Treason. “Whoever, owning allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the US or elsewhere is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the US,” Quinn cites.
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

The Price of Health Care

The New York Times ^ | June 30, 2012 | Russ Douthat

“IT is not our job,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote in Thursday’s health care ruling, “to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” He might just as easily have written, “to protect politicians from the consequences of their political choices.” And now, with the Supreme Court parenthesis out of the way, we can get back to finding out exactly what those consequences will be.
For President Obama, the consequences of health care may still be fatal to his re-election hopes. The choice to go all-in on reform was the most important call of the Obama presidency, and from a purely political perspective it has proved the most disastrous one. Thursday’s decision won’t change this reality: Victory at the Supreme Court was obviously preferable to defeat, but the chief justice’s grudging imprimatur is unlikely to make a deeply unpopular piece of legislation suddenly popular instead.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Conservative Anger Growing Over Obamacare Decision

The Examiner ^ | June 30, 2012 | Byron York

I ran into a prominent conservative member of Congress Friday night just before the huge storms moved through Washington. He was, he said, far angrier on the day after the Supreme Court Obamacare decision than he had been the moment he learned Chief Justice John Roberts had joined the Court’s liberal bloc to uphold the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare. He didn’t resort to histrionics or profanity, but he was spitting mad — and his anger was growing, not diminishing.

A short time later, I saw another conservative lawmaker who said much the same thing. And yet another conservative leader who was in the same frame of mind.

At the same time, a backlash was forming in response to analyses by some formidable conservative writers — George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and others — who argued the Obamacare decision was actually a victory for conservatives because it placed a limit on expansive interpretations of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. In the Wall Street Journal, Berkeley law professor and former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo called such silver-lining analyses “hollow hope” and wrote that Obamacare is precisely the disaster for conservatives it appears to be
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

GOP sees down-ballot gold in Supreme Court decision

Politico ^ | 1 Jul 2012 | CHARLES MAHTESIAN

When President Obama said Thursday that he didn’t pursue health care reform “because it was good politics,” he wasn’t kidding.

Over the course of its short life span, the Affordable Care Act has left a trail of political wreckage behind it — and while an exultant White House breathed a sigh of relief in the wake of Thursday’s Supreme Court validation, Obama’s signature policy achievement still faces a host of questions ahead.

First among them: Does the party really want to embrace a measure that proved so costly to Democratic candidates in 2010 and polls so poorly?

While the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the law provided the president with a major victory, the trickle-down political effect isn’t quite so obvious. Put another way, for down-ballot Democrats in red or purple states, the politics of health care still aren’t so good.
With Thursday’s defeat, Republicans were handed a powerful tool for motivating their base and a fresh ammo clip for use in House and Senate races across the map. It removed one arrow from the Democratic quiver — the prospect of an outraged and highly motivated base — and provided a new one to the GOP by defining the mandate as a tax.
Some version or another of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s floor remarks Thursday in response to the ruling is undoubtedly already being scripted, soon to appear in 30 and 60-second spots in competitive House and Senate races across the map.
“The Supreme Court has spoken,” McConnell said. “This law is a tax. The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.”
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Supreme Court Obama Care Decision Tough To Swallow

Forbes ^ | June 29, 2012 | Robert A. Green, CPA

It seems to be a stretch for Chief Justice John Roberts to re-label an unconstitutional health insurance mandate as a tax, after the legislative and executive branches of government insisted they were not passing a new tax on the American people. Had it been presented as a tax, it probably would not have been enacted. It seems like the judicial branch of government is doing the job of the legislature.

Wouldn't it have been better for the Supreme Court to punt the law back to Congress? Yes, that probably would have caused great disarray, but it seems more appropriate.

President Obama is a constitutional attorney and scholar. I'm guessing he probably knew his mandate was safer cast as a tax. I wonder if he knowingly sold it to Congress and the American people with some deception in this context. Many Americans (including myself) don't accept new tax hikes easily, especially when Congress and the president sell them with marketing deception, making back room deals, and not listening to the American people.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

McConnell: I'll repeal Obamacare as Senate majority leader

By SEUNG MIN KIM | 6/29/12 3:12 PM EDT

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared Friday that repealing the health care law would top his priority list if he controls the chamber come 2013.

“If [Mitt] Romney is in the White House and I am the majority leader of the Senate, I assure you repeal of Obamacare is the first item on the agenda,” McConnell on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Friday.

By using a budget process called reconciliation, a theoretical Senate GOP majority could successfully vote to repeal the law with just 51 votes, rather than a filibuster-proof 60. Republicans need to pick up four seats to win control of the Senate, or three if Romney wins the White House.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

'ObamaCare' a harbinger of things to come, if Obama is re-elected...won't recognize country!

FoxNews ^ | June 28, 2012 | Sarah Palin and Greta Van Susteren

Palin quickly taking to Twitter. She tweets, "Obama lied to the American people again. He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies, freedom dies."

PALIN: Well, if Governor Romney is elected president -- and let's hope that the GOP does take over the White House and can secure the Senate and holds onto the House -- then obviously, first on the list of priorities must be repealing and replacing "ObamaCare" with something that makes more sense.
Now, if Obama is reelected, well, we will be a fundamentally transformed country, as Obama promised us when he was a candidate, that he was hell-bent on doing to us. We're heading down that road now. This "ObamaCare" mandate, this decision that was made today -- heck, Obama even proposing it and ramming it through and down our throats through Pelosi and Reid's embracing of it -- that's a harbinger of things to come.

So if Obama is reelected, well, America, you will no longer recognize the country that today you truly love and can enjoy all of its freedom and prosperity and security if Obama is reelected because this "ObamaCare" is a harbinger of things yet to come.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

The King has no clothes!

Free Cell Phone Providers for the Poor, Lame and Lazy!

The following companies offer free cell phones and a monthly allotment of minutes, compliments of the government’s Lifeline program. Here are the big three:
Assurance Wireless – Assurance Wireless is a brand of Sprint Nextel. It is one of the newer companies participating in the Lifeline program, but it’s growing very rapidly because it is a subsidiary of Virgin Wireless. It serves 23 states and the Disctrict of Columbia.
Safelink Wireless – Safelink Wireless is a brand of Tracfone. This is the largest, oldest and best known of the companies that offer free government cell phones. They have more than 2,000,000 customers in 31 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. And they’re coming soon to the remaining 19 states.
ReachOut Wireless – ReachOut Wireless ­is a regional company that isn’t as large as some of the others, but still an outstanding option. They currently offer the LifeLine service in 13 southern and Midwestern states.
Assist Wireless – This Lifeline cell phone provider offers cell phone plans in Arkansas, Maryland, and Oklahoma. They have a number of different plans.
Budget Mobile – This regional Lifeline cell phone provider offers cell phone plans in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada and Rhode Island.
Cintex Wireless – This regional Lifeline provider offers cell phone plans in Arkansas, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island or West Virginia.
Care Wireless – This brand of prepaid phone company PlatinumTel Wireless offers phones in Illinois.
Conexion Wireless – This primarily prepaid wireless phone company offers phones for Arkansas and Maryland.
i-Wireless – This division of Cincinnati Bell serves Ohio only. Residents of Ohio should look into this service before settling on one of the big providers.
Life Wireless – Life Wireless is a regional free cell phone provider in the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri and West Virginia.
StandUp Wireless – StandUp Wireless is a regional free cell phone provider in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland and Missouri.
Terracom Wireless – A regional provider that serves the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa and Nevada. Sister company to Yourtel Wireless.
Yourtel Wireless – A regional provider that serves the states of Kansas, Illinois. Missouri, Oklahoma, Washington and Rhode Island.. Sister company to Terracom Wireless.
True Wireless – A five state provider that serves Arkansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas.
Tag Mobile – A regional player in the states of Arkansas and Louisiana.
Wireless for Hope – A regional player in Arkansas and Lousiana.
Alaska Communications – They only do one state: Alaska. But they do it well: unlimited talk and text!

Bye-Bye Medicaid Asset Test!

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) goes a long way toward simplifying Medicaid eligibility. Go try and figure it out from the legislative language and you’re not likely to believe me. Fortunately, Joy Johnson Wilson, Health Policy Director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, has done the dirty work. In a handy document Wilson summarizes Medicaid and CHIP provisions in the new law and compares them to current law.
    In particular, on page 8 Wilson notes that the ACA “[r]equires states to use a net income standard (no asset or resource test, no income disregards) to determine [Medicaid] eligibility.” Yep, you read that right, bye-bye asset test. Hello simple income test. The new federal income eligibility threshold will be 133% of the federal poverty level (effective 1/1/14).
    Essentially, the Medicaid expansion under the ACA will broaden Medicaid eligibility for low-income, non-elderly adults without regard to assets. A major exception for that age group are those with incomes above the threshold but with high out-of-pocket medical costs. Such individuals will be required to spend their assets down to the existing asset limit, which varies by state and is typically a few thousand dollars.
    There are a few other caveats. Existing rules, including the asset tests, will continue to apply for individuals obtaining Medicaid eligibility through another program (e.g. foster care children, or SSI/SSDI recipients) and the elderly.
    Medicaid qualification just got a whole lot easier (or, rather, it will in 2014).

Obamacare and the End of Precedent

Illinois Review ^ | June 30, 2012 A.D. | John F. Di Leo

On June 28, 2012, Americans learned many things. We learned that the same thing can be a tax, not a penalty, in one part of a law, but is a penalty, not a tax, elsewhere in the same law. We learned that a Yes vote is not political but a No vote is, on this case, but a No vote is not political, and a Yes vote is, on another case. And we learned that a constitutionally limited government is a dusty old historic artifact, not just in the minds of socialists, but even in the minds of justices whom we had mistakenly believed, when they told the Senate that they would always respect and obey their oaths of office.
Politicians have been claiming that education is a just function of government ever since the Founding era, when Thomas Jefferson called for universal taxpayer-funded schools (even though his genius, and that of his fellow Virginians, was usually successfully developed through homeschooling and private tutoring). But if government feels obligated to teach lessons like these, we would all much rather they didn’t bother.
The Constitution, negotiated 225 years ago this summer in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, provided for a limited government. The Framers’ great pride was that they had produced a strictly limited government, small enough to avoid undue intrusion into the private sector, while just strong enough (unlike the Articles of Confederation that it would replace) to ensure a stable currency, the rule of law, and the ability to pay their soldiers so the country would be safe from invasion.
The Constitution was and is a combination of two things – a list of permitted activities for government and a manual for how the employees of that government were to be organized. The American left long ago disregarded the former, concentrating their praise (for an American politician knows he must only have praise for the Constitution if he wants to win elections) on the latter aspect. “What a wonderfully balanced system it is!” they say. “How brilliantly organized!” “We’re proud to be part of it!”
…as if our Founders risked their lives for the right to have an upper house in which you had to be at least thirty, but a lower house in which you could serve at twenty-five. As if the Framers suffered through a hot summer in Philadelphia far from home, just to ensure that the president was at least thirty-five, as if a twenty-year-old would ever be elected nationally anyway. Ridiculous.
In fact, the important thing was and is the limitation. The whole point of the Constitutional Convention was finding a way to meet our needs for governance, while the government remained highly limited. The point was to expand the powers just a little, in an organized fashion, pushing the walls outward just a bit, but without knocking them down in any direction.
The new government was given certain enumerated powers, and was given the power to tax to pay for these powers. Just in case that wasn’t clear enough from the text – it certainly should have been, but just in case – the states ratified the Tenth Amendment, to make it crystal clear even to the unusually thick. If the Constitution doesn’t say the federal government can do something, then it can’t.
The Commerce Clause has long been stretched to the breaking point, as powerful agencies from the FCC to the EPA have been established to regulate interstate commerce. If you sell or buy a product across state lines, the federal government has claimed the right – sometimes fairly, usually not – to wrap its claws around a pen and write some rules to govern you.
But even this clause, expansive as it has been judged to be in the 20th century, could not be said with a straight face to regulate the choice not to sell or not to buy such a product. Lacking the standard go-to tool of one’s predecessors in the black robes, what’s a statist to do?
The Constitution provided a legitimate option, the amendment process. If the American people wanted the federal government to take over the healthcare sector, then Congress and/or the states (there are even alternate paths – the Framers were nothing if not broadminded) could introduce an amendment and campaign for its ratification. If the public really wanted nationalized healthcare, they would clamor for it and the states would knock each other down to be the first to ratify such an amendment.
But in the real world, however, where no statist would ever dream of taking a losing cause like this to the people, the Pelosereidian Congress passed, and a lawless president signed, an act to just hand over to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court then just had to look for some justification to let it go without an amendment. Congress and the President no longer feel bound by their oaths of office; they pass anything they feel like it, and have long since trusted the judiciary to sort it out.
Four justices have long been known for their dismissal of their oaths… five were thought to take their oaths reasonably seriously. But then the Obamacare case came face to face with Chief Justice John Roberts.
A majority of the justices – the four known unconstitutionists and the Chief Justice – imagined that the power to tax is unlimited, so anything with a financial aspect can be called a tax and deemed Constitutional. Much like many a similarly destructive villain in the movies, the idea is brilliant but insane.
The power to tax is clearly limited; the government can raise taxes to fund only the legitimate functions of government. Without limits on government functions, there’s no point in any constitution, and without the power to tax to fund those functions, there would have been no reason to replace the original Articles of Confederation (which provided for government functions without a means to fund them).
Gouverneur Morris’ brilliant preamble explains what the Constitutional government was intended to accomplish, and how – that it was their design for a limited government that would provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare. So, when the taxing power is stated in Article I, Section 8 as being provided for these functions – the common defense and general welfare, the term “general welfare” is used only as indicated in the preamble: The general welfare, as the Framers meant, envelopes the clauses of the Constitutionally listed functions: this constitutionally limited government, and only this, is what they defined as constituting the promotion of the general welfare from the capitol, and thus being legal for tax revenues to fund… not any other idea, old or new, that some future majority might think of adding.
Clearly, therefore, the Constitution only allows the government to tax as needed to pay for the government obligations enumerated in those seven articles. To add new ones, an amendment would be required.
If the power to tax is not limited to authorized functions, then there is no Constitutional limit; the government could just write any law it wanted and assess a penalty for non-compliance to “render it constitutional.” That’s not freedom; it’s tyranny.
The United States of America was born with a long and proud heritage of British jurisprudence… but on the day the new government was reborn under the freshly ratified Constitution in 1789, there was only the Constitution itself, no shelves of federal statutes to refer to when there was a question.
So, just as language needs dictionaries and doctors need medical books, the lawyers and jurists had to have a system to rely on, in the meantime, before our new government built up those new bookshelves of federal laws.
We therefore had an understanding that we could reach back to prior existing work in the body of English common law… not forever, but on any issue, until the United States put something down in writing ourselves.
So early jurists, faced with a question unclear in the Constitution or other new laws, might refer to the Federalist Papers, which were written by three Convention delegates between the Convention and the ratification, and thus would help to understand what the Framers meant. They might reach back to “The Law of Nations” by de Vattel, or might reach back to Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England.”
As our nation aged, and Congresses passed more and more laws and clarifications over the years, such reliance on pre-1789 sources seemed like it should be less necessary, and our judges and justices began to rely on post-1789 laws and rulings; being more recent, they felt more appropriate, more in context.
Relying on post-1789 laws makes sense, because these are laws passed by the Constitutional lawmakers. But relying on precedent – when commonly defined as the rulings of prior judges and justices, not actual laws – has proven more and more problematic over the years.
Reliance upon a law is firm, and is required until that law is overturned or replaced. But reliance upon a prior judicial ruling may just serve to amplify a prior error; that’s what has happened more and more, as our years have grown in number and our judiciary has diminished in talent.
Once upon a time, there were relatively few truly bad decisions, and could easily be avoided. Dred Scott v. Sandford was a black mark on the judiciary for decades, and it largely stood alone as a nightmare of error. It didn’t cast the generally accepted concept of relying on precedent in a bad light.
But in the twentieth century, bad decisions, weak decisions, foolish decisions started to multiply like so many black-robed rabbits, poisoning the well of precedent for future jurists to draw from. Griswold v. Connecticut, with its emanations and penumbras… Roe v. Wade, with its arbitrary trimester framework… Arizona v. United States, with its attack on employers who hire lawbreakers, while giving the lawbreakers themselves a counterproductive and unwarranted pass…
…and now NFIB v. Sebelius, with its idea that anything is Constitutional if it has a financial aspect.
In the current Court’s twisted mind, turning the theme of JFK’s inaugural address on its head, government can legally charge any price, inflict any burden, mandate any hardship, and neither the Constitution nor the judiciary will stand in their way. In the cowardly new world of NFIB v. Sebelius, the checks and balances of the American system have given way to an unchecked legislature and an unbalanced imperial presidency.
But there is a solution, and that solution was foreseen by the group of jurists known as originalists. For decades, Clarence Thomas and his adherents have had the good sense to disregard the precedent of recent decisions, and instead to focus on the writings of the Framers themselves.
Instinctive reliance upon judicial precedent was suffering enough before the current Court punched a hole in the wall of the Constitutional fortress; such knee-jerk respect for other opinions is now wholly discredited.
When future Courts rule, they will have to reach back again, as they once rightly did, and think of what the Framers meant… not by trusting the judgment of ever-more removed justices a century or two after their time, but by reading the writings of the Framers themselves, and of their contemporaries and antecedents.
If there has been an ongoing debate in recent years, between the original text and the interpretations of recent courts, NFIB v. Sebelius has – perhaps unintentionally, but still without question – tipped the scales irrevocably away from the system that produced this outrage.
NFIB v. Sebelius is now in print as precedent. Like adding an ounce of strychnine to a glass of fine wine, or mixing a cup of arsenic into a pot of sauce, this blueprint for tyranny has demonstrated for all to see how far the Court’s judgment has plunged from once-lofty heights, poisoning the well of precedent for good.
Only one course remains for the American judiciary: to recognize that heavy reliance on precedent has been rendered toxic by a century of excesses, and that the time has come to return to the Framers themselves when interpreting the Constitution.
Obamacare is a massive assumption of unconstitutional national power, a destructive basket of new and increased taxes and takeovers designed to bring the private sector to its knees and turn the United States into another France, another Greece, another Cuba. It must be repealed, because even as the Court was forced to admit, it is bad policy on a colossal scale.
But it has served one useful purpose: it has brought a case to the Court that, in its ruling, has laid bare the moral failings of the modern judiciary for all to see. If this case contributes to a long-needed exposure of the intrinsic error in an overly deferential respect for precedent, and a return to reliance upon the wisdom of the Framers, then at least it shall not have been utterly in vain.
If this nation defeats Obamacare and its tyrannical champion this year, then it will emerge stronger for the many painful but important lessons it has learned.
And if not, well, then this nation will be an exception to many other great nations in the history books. The reasons for the falls of many past great civilizations have been the curious study of brigades of historians for centuries - the Romans, the Greeks, the Franks, the Byzantines – all soared, then fell victim to various internal and external trials.
But if these United States fail to overturn Obamacare and the myriad other sins of the Obama administration – and if they fail to give the petty dictator his walking papers in November – then the reasons for America’s collapse will be plain for even the amateur student of history to see, a cautionary tale for future millennia, the saddest lesson of them all.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. While his degree says that he studied his political science and history at Northwestern University, his most important teachers have been since then, the ones available to everyone, at bookstores and libraries, on computer screens and eReaders: Richard Brookhiser, Willard Sterne Randall, Paul Johnson and William F. Buckley, Jr… and the original sources as well: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison. The wisdom of the Framers is plain to see; one needs only to read their words, and to study the histories written by those who respect them.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included. Follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook!

White House Payroll Up 14% Under Obama!

Newsmax ^ | Saturday, 30 Jun 2012 08:55 PM | Todd Beamon

White House salaries have jumped by nearly $5 million in the three years since Barack Obama became president, official figures show.

The 468 people who work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue earn $37.8 million, the White House's annual report to Congress shows. That compares to $33.1 million in George W. Bush's last year in the Oval Office, an increase of 14.1 percent.
The report was released at 4.39 p.m. Friday, a notorious time for dumping bad news just before a weekend. By statute it hhad a July 1 deadline.
The White House payroll is up nearly 2 percent on last year from $37.1 million and the number of employers is also up by a similar percentage, up from 454.
The Obama White House has 139 employees who make more than $100,000 a year. The top scale, $172,200, goes to his senior advisors, including Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Press Secretary Jay Carney, Senior Advisor David Plouffe, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, National Security Advisor, Thomas Donilon and Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.
The highest-paid employee on First Lady Michelle Obama’s 12-member staff, Chief of Staff Christina Tchen is also paid $172,200. …
By statute, President Obama’s salary is $400,000, and Vice President Joe Biden is paid $221,100.
White House officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment about the fatter 2012 payroll. …
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

What’s next for Attorney General Eric Holder?

Human Events ^ | 6/29/2012 | John Hayward

Congress held Attorney General Eric Holder in both civil and criminal contempt yesterday, in historic bipartisan votes, for his refusal to provide subpoenaed documents in the Fast and Furious investigation. This has never happened before. So what happens next?

The first consequence will be that the last media outlets trying to protect the Obama Administration by refusing to report on the worst scandal in Justice Department history will be obliged to mention it, in considerably more detail than they would like. They'll try to bury the details as much as possible, and they will still absurdly describe Fast and Furious as a "botched sting operation," but they'll have to explain why Congress wants those documents, and how long they've been waiting.
(For the benefit of those still working to catch up with the well-informed conservative blogosphere on this story, Fast and Furious was not a "sting operation." In a sting operation, law enforcement makes a serious effort to arrest the purchasers of the illegal merchandise they have dangled as bait. Absolutely zero effort was made to do this in Operation Fast and Furious. The only reason some of the weapons have been recovered is that they're turning up at crime scenes...not all of them in Mexico.)
Thus, there will be some political fallout from the contempt vote – even though it was, somewhat oddly, held in the shadow of the Supreme Court's ObamaCare decision. Public awareness of this story will grow, and that's deadly, as everyone trying to ignore it understands. Far less serious issues have become fatal to Washington careers due to saturation media coverage.
But what will become of Eric Holder? Well, his citation for criminal contempt will be turned over to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen. The U.S. Attorney has considerable discretion over how he wants to proceed. Technically he has a duty to convene a grand jury, but legal scholars are debating whether this would be "mandatory." Prosecutors are members of the executive branch, and we all know this particular executive branch doesn't have much respect for the powers and privileges of the other two.
As for Machen, he has a long working relationship with Eric Holder, going back over a decade. Here's the beginning of a Washington Post profile from April 2010, after Machen was appointed to the District of Columbia position by President Barack Obama:
Then-U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder sat on the sofa of his fifth-floor office 13 years ago and listened to the young lawyer tell him what needed to change: Prosecutors spent too much time in their offices and the courthouse, and not enough time in the community.
Ronald C. Machen told his future boss in a job interview that they needed to have a regular presence throughout the District by attending community forums, meetings in church basements, youth summits and the like. Waiting until a crime is committed, Holder recalled Machen telling him, was too late to develop relationships.
The Post also noted that "Machen has long admired Obama — since his days at Harvard Law School, where Obama already was a 'legend,' Machen said." In 2003, Machen was one of the first people to donate to Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign, long before he emerged on the national political stage." He was also involved in vetting potential vice-presidential candidates for Obama.
Machen is young, just 42 years old, and black. That shouldn't matter a bit, but the Democrats have been laboring furiously to inject racial overtones into the Holder contempt drama. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) openly stated last week, "They're going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states. This is no accident. It is no coincidence. I'm telling you, this is connected. It is no accident. It is a decision and it is as clear as can be. It's not only to monopolize his time, it's to undermine his name. To undermine his name as he goes forward to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
It requires no presumptions about Machen's character to consider the nature and intensity of the pressure that will be directed against him to keep his boss out of the hot seat. He was also recently named one of the lead prosecutors on the matter of classified information leaking from the Obama Administration into the media, so any time he devotes to prosecuting Holder for contempt will surely be portrayed as a distraction from a much more important task.
And if he does decide to move forward against Eric Holder, Machen can always be over-ridden by his boss, the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder. Anyone who thinks Holder would be afraid to perpetrate such a political outrage hasn't been watching the same Attorney General, and Administration, that I have. Don't make the mistake of believing the media would excoriate him for such a transparently corrupt exercise of power. We're not talking about a Republican Administration here.
What's left, if Machen decides to ignore the contempt citations? Congress could go with a special prosecutor, but those appear to have fallen out of favor these days. Democrats may become very enthusiastic about them over the next four years, but for right now, they're strongly opposed to the notion. Senate Republicans have been pushing for a special prosecutor in the classified-leaks affair, and might not want to dilute that imperative by also insisting on a special prosecutor for Fast and Furious.
The most likely option for conscientious members of Congress – including the 17 House Democrats who voted to hold Eric Holder in criminal contempt, and the even larger contingent of 21 who voted to hold him in civil contempt – would be a civil suit, challenging the Administration's exertion of executive privilege to keep those sizzling-hot Justice Department documents away from congressional investigators.
However, civil courts have historically "resolved" such actions by telling Congress and the Administration to return to the negotiating table and work things out between themselves. An Associated Press analysis notes this has happened several times in the past, most pertinently when the Environmental Protection Agency under Ronald Reagan refused to hand over documents to Congress. The court in that case merely called for "compromise and cooperation" between Congress and the Reagan Administration.
Such a ruling would help Eric Holder run out the clock, which appears to have been Obama Administration strategy in the Fast and Furious cover-up all along. Contempt citations expire when a Congressional session concludes, and both Holder and Obama might well be gone in January anyway. Even if Obama wins re-election, Holder has not yet committed to serving as Attorney General in a second term. The game he's been playing only has to drag on for a few more innings, one way or the other.
Robert Heyder, the cousin of slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry – who died under a hail of bullets from Fast and Furious guns – observed mournfully on Thursday that "given the Obama Administration’s steadfast refusal to level with the American people, Congress was left with no choice but to vote Mr. Holder in contempt." It's hard to see how anything about the contempt citations will make the Obama Administration any less steadfast, unless they are the prelude to something even more dramatic.
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GDP Plunges to 1.9% ^ | June 30 2012 | Wynton Hall

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report chock full of weak growth figures and worrisome economic signals.

The gross domestic product (GDP) dropped from last quarter's 3.0 percent to an anemic 1.9 percent. Over half of first-quarter growth came from automobile sales. When automobiles are removed from the calculation, the GDP grew at just 0.7 percent.

Second-quarter growth estimates of 2.0 percent growth, therefore, may be overly optimistic.
From Reuters:

The government lowered its previous forecasts for consumer spending and export growth, suggesting the economy had a bit less momentum as it entered the second quarter than previously thought.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

The Gender Gap and the American Presidential Election!

The Berkeley Daily Planet ^ | June 30, 2012 | Ruth Rosen

Who will capture American women’s hearts and help President Obama or Governor Romney win the Presidency next November?

This is the question that the two major parties and their political analysts try to answer every four years. Should we appeal to them as soccer moms? Working mothers who need broader benefits? Waitresses who are single parents? What do we say about abortion? Economic equality with men?
A century ago, this was the dream of American suffragists who hoped that newly-enfranchised women would be decisive in affecting electoral politics. But it wasn’t until 1980, when Ronald Reagan ran for President, that their dream began to be realised in the United States. By 1980, more women worked outside the home, lived alone, and voted independently of their fathers and husbands. Even though women’s votes didn’t defeat Reagan, they created what has been called the first gender gap which is the difference between the proportion of women and men who vote for the winning candidate. Since 1980, American women—especially African American women---have decisively helped Bill Clinton and Barack Obama win the presidency.
This year, the grueling Republican primaries provided American women with ample opportunity to hear the Tea Party’s fringe proposals to repeal the right to abortion, end contraception and the “”morning after pill,” ban funding for Planned Parenthood, cut government spending for services for women and children, and block legislation that would provide women with equal pay---even as they cut the taxes of the wealthy.
The media started calling their assaults on women “the war against women.” And it did make women angry. When polled in early April, women revealed their simmering rage. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that “President Obama has emerged with an impressive lead in swing states around the country — thanks to women voters abandoning the GOP in droves, showing President Obama leading among women voters in the top dozen battleground states by a whopping 18 points — greater than the 12-point gender gap he won with in 2008. The president leads him (Romney) 2-1 in this group.”
As Parma Levy noted in Talking Points Memo, the poll also revealed that 41 percent of women, compared to 24 percent of men, described themselves as Democrats.
Since Democrats held no primaries to challenge Obama, they quietly cheered at women’s support in these vital states. They continued to support women’s rights and let Mitt Romney hang himself with his own pandering to the Tea Party. Women’s groups, too, felt confident that such a fierce campaign against the rights of women would most likely help re-elect President Obama.
Mitt Romney didn’t help himself by appearing to have no convictions. As Governor of Massachusetts, he had supported a woman’s right to abortion and had created the only universal health care program in the country to which everyone had to contribute. During the primaries, however, he needed the votes of the extreme right-wing. Suddenly, he stood up against women’s reproductive rights and swore to help repeal “Obamacare,” which was based on his own innovative health care program for Massachusetts. The media began to call him a “flip flopper.”
For all these reasons, many Democrats and women activists assumed that there would be a strong backlash against the Republican’s agenda to repeal or block women’s rights, giving Obama a tremendous advantage. And that’s exactly what happened during April and May as magazines and newspapers competed to cover the “war on women.”
By May 20, a New York Times editorial summed up what they called “The Campaign Against Women.” They noted that seven states had banned abortion twenty weeks after fertilization, which violates the 1973 Roe v. Wade constitutional decision and that several governors had eliminated public funds to Planned Parenthood, which mostly provides health care to low-income women, even though abortion is only a small part of their medical services. When the Senate re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which protects women from domestic violence, Romney and his fellow Republicans refused to include gay, American Indian, student and immigrant women. The Times editorial ended with these tough words: "The Republican assault on women’s rights and health is undeniable, severe and continuing.”
Nevertheless, Mitt Romney is seeking some way to convince women that President Obama is the source of their problems. He blames women’s poverty and economic insecurity on excessive government spending. Yet he supports Republican efforts to block stimulation of the economy, which would help them. Instead, he backs lower taxes for the wealthy and deeper cuts for social services for the women, children and the disabled.
In such a precarious economy, his argument may or may not work. Nevertheless, Romney is gaining, not losing women voters. By late May a new poll showed that Obama was losing some female support. One reason may be that extreme right-wing women, who detested Romney, have now decided they will vote for anyone except Obama.
Obama has disappointed his base by not using the bully pulpit to publicize his many accomplishments. What he should now do is showcase his considerable achievements. He has, for example, supported women as workers, and citizens, not only as reproductive vehicles. But will the woman who receives a fairer salary realize how hard Obama worked for that legislation?
He also ended the gag rule that eliminated money for women’s health care and family planning; supported Planned Parenthood, passed the “Lilly Ledbetter” legislation that gives working women greater rights against discrimination, fought for the Paycheck Fairness Act (blocked by Senate Republicans), passed the first universal health care program in American history, affirmed the right of same-sex marriage, and sought to soften the blow of college tuition.
After a very short hiatus, “women’s issues” have once again resurfaced. During a heated national debate that questioned whether the “morning after” pill constituted abortion, Romney refused to take a position and remained completely silent. He then supported Republican Senators who successfully blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act that would have provided women workers with greater equality with men. At present, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. (Forty years ago, it was 59 cents.)
An American presidential election is a grueling and bizarre process. But while you’re watching, remember that both candidates will be trying to win women’s support---because it will be decisive. Still, times have changed. The Tea Party successfully moved Republicans to the far right during the last two years. A moderate Republican is now considered an endangered species. As a result, Romney now faces the difficulty of appealing to the general public, as well as to the right-wing extremists he pandered to during the Republican primaries.
Still, the election is five months away. For some women, the “War against Women” may not obviously include high unemployment and layoffs. They may even conclude that Romney could fix the economy. One terrorist attack could change the entire electoral landscape, despite Obama’s relentless efforts to portray himself as an aggressive military defender of national security. Finally, the European economy may also decide the American election. Eduarto Porter, a New York Times business columnist recently wrote what is usually only whispered, that “Obama’s fate rests in part on Europe.”

In 2008, hope fueled the millions of people--- especially women and the young--- who campaigned so passionately for Barack Obama. This time, fear, anger and despair will determine the outcome of the election. A Gender Gap will emerge only if women remember who waged the war against women, who fought against their economic inequality and their reproductive rights, and who refused to stimulate the economy to lower unemployment and create a future for American youth.

States may opt out of Medicaid expansion!

The Boston Globe ^ | June 30, 2012 | Brian MacQuarrie

The Supreme Court’s ruling that states cannot be penalized if they refuse to expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul has left an opening for legislators who have assailed the health care act as a crippling budget-buster.

Legislators in many states, from tiny New Hampshire to Texas, say they are inclined to resist the expansion of Medicaid that is intended to provide coverage for 17 million uninsured people.

Before the high court’s decision on Thursday, states that did not comply had been threatened with the loss of all federal Medicaid funds, which have covered an average of 57 percent of the cost of the program.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...