April 10, 2009

Good Friday’s Gospel

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 1:49 pm

Note: This BizzyBlog tradition will be Friday’s last post.

John 18:1 — 19:42


1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with his disciples.
3 So Judas, procuring a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”
5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.
6 When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.”
9 This was to fulfil the word which he had spoken, “Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one.”
10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus.
11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”
12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.
13 First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Ca’iaphas, who was high priest that year.
14 It was Ca’iaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. As this disciple was known to the high priest, he entered the court of the high priest along with Jesus,
16 while Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the maid who kept the door, and brought Peter in.
17 The maid who kept the door said to Peter, “Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?” He said, “I am not.”
18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves; Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly.
21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.”
22 When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
24 Annas then sent him bound to Ca’iaphas the high priest.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “Are not you also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
26 One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
27 Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Ca’iaphas to the praetorium. It was early. They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.
29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
30 They answered him, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over.”
31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.”
32 This was to fulfil the word which Jesus had spoken to show by what death he was to die.
33 Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.”
37 Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, “I find no crime in him.
39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?”
40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barab’bas!” Now Barab’bas was a robber.
1 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him.
2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe;
3 they came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.
4 Pilate went out again, and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.”
5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him.”
7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard these words, he was the more afraid;
9 he entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer.
10 Pilate therefore said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”
11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”
12 Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gab’batha.
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”
16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.
18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.
21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, `The King of the Jews,’ but, `This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”
22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom;
24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag’dalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.”
29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.
30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him;
33 but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
35 He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe.
36 For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.”
37 And again another scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.”
38 After this Joseph of Arimathe’a, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body.
39 Nicode’mus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.
40 They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.
42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Obama’s 2173%, Promise-Breaking, Painfully Regressive Tax Increase

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:03 am

ObamaSmokingNote: This post originally appeared at Pajamas Media on Wednesday morning.

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The President and Congress wage war on poor smokers while relying on their taxes.

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It was not an April Fool’s Day stunt, and it wasn’t funny.

On April 1, tobacco taxes went up — way up. The most visible increases were the roughly 160% hikes in the federal excise tax on cigarettes to $1.01 per pack from 39 cents, and chewing tobacco to 50 cents per pound from 19.5 cents.

The least visible increase was the most revealing one, because it showed just how far the government will go in search of tax revenue while protecting the very people it demonizes for public consumption.

You see, as state and federal tobacco taxes have risen over the years, more and more smokers have taken to rolling their own cigarettes and cigars. This of course requires purchasing the raw material. Until March 31, the tax on a pound of tobacco was $1.09. According to this retail source, you can get up to 600 cigarettes, or up to 30 packs, out of a pound.

You can see the “problem”: $1.09 is a lot less money for Uncle Sam than the up to $11.70 (30 packs times $0.39) he was extracting from regular smokers before April 1. I have little doubt that many inside the halls of government, probably with the helpful assistance of cigarette makers moaning about “unfair” competition, were characterizing the roll-your-own smokers (RYOs) as “freeloaders.”

So Congress and the President fixed that “unfair” situation by raising the per-pound tax on tobacco purchases from $1.09 to $24.78.

You read that right. That’s a mind-numbing 2173% tax increase. Now the federal tax on the raw material is pretty close to the federal tax charged on cigarettes at retail, which, equivalently stated, is now up to $30.30 (30 packs times $1.01).

In government-think, this was done, I suspect, to force the RYOs to pay “their fair share.” It shouldn’t surprise anyone if many states follow suit and impose their own per-pound tobacco tax increases.

Though they will never publicly admit it, Congress imposed this radical tax increase on RYOs to protect Big Tobacco, the tax cash cow they love to hate, but can’t live without. It’s as clear an illustration as you’ll ever see of how government all too often operates at cross-purposes. On the one hand, it uses Big Tobacco as a whipping boy every time a study comes out showing some new harm or cost imposed by smoking and smokers. On the other hand, the government knows that if enough people ever stop smoking, or figure out how to get their nicotine fixes without going through Big Tobacco, tax receipts will dive.

The latest round of federal tobacco tax increases is supposed to fund the expansion of SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. There is no defensible reason, other than sheer vindictiveness, why a small minority of the population, the roughly one in five adults who smoke, should, as is supposedly the intent, pay for the entire multibillion-dollar cost that was added to the program earlier this year.

(I say “supposedly” because many analysts, including Heritage, have concluded that the population of smokers would have to increase dramatically for the tax increases to fully fund SCHIP expansion. That clearly won’t happen, and will set the stage for raiding “general revenues,” as if there really are any available, in the future.)

On top of all of that, the tobacco tax increases collectively represent about the most regressive tax imaginable.

Even if the prevalence of smoking in lower- and upper-income groups were the same, these taxes would represent a fixed cost slapped on everyone, including the poorest among us. But it’s worse than that, because smoking is more prevalent in lower-income groups. Last Wednesday, Gallup reported that the tobacco tax increases are “nearly three times as likely to affect low-income Americans as …. high-income Americans. That’s because 34% of the lowest-income Americans smoke, compared with only 13% of those earning $90,000 or more per year.” Since there is no reason to believe that RYOs are any more or less prevalent among various income groups than smokers in general, the 2173% tax increase on raw tobacco purchases will hit affected lower-income RYO households even harder.

Yes, smokers can quit. Without doubt, many will. But the government can’t afford for everyone to quit. More importantly, it knows that most won’t.

In addition to being yet another clear case of theft from one group to benefit another — adult smokers will pay for the health care of mostly other people’s children — the tobacco tax increases represent a broken Obama campaign promise.

Candidate Obama said that 95% of Americans would have their taxes cut during his administration. The only way that could be the case is if every family with a household income under $250,000 a year with one or more smokers is able to get tax freebies from the Obama grab bag exceeding the additional tobacco taxes they will pay. Every pack-a-day smoker who will be paying $226 more in cigarette taxes per year (365 x $0.62) would have to get an offsetting benefit from somewhere else. One problem is that many of Obama’s tax breaks phase out at incomes far below $250,000. But beyond that, a large plurality of taxpayers currently pays no federal tax. The only way to claim that these people are getting a “tax cut” offsetting the tobacco tax increases is to twist the definition of “tax cut” to include “government grants to non-taxpayers.” Further, even if you accept that nutty definitional extension, the New York Times reported on March 25 that “(neither) the House and Senate (budget) plans …. would extend a middle-class tax cut championed by Mr. Obama beyond 2010 unless a source of revenue to pay for it is identified.”

So at best, it appears that Obama’s middle-class “cuts” will give households a one-year break. But the painfully regressive tobacco tax increases will go on, and on, and on.

How Obama and his party retain their “friends of the little guy” status remains a mystery.

Krauthammer Tells Us What Really Happened During Obama’s European Adventure

Krauthammer0409.jpgNoon Update: This post has been revised from how it appeared earlier this morning to conform with NewsBusters’ excerpting and style standards.

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As was usually the case during Bill Clinton’s presidency, the ascendancy of Dear Leader Barack Obama means that we will often have to consult the output of center-right commentators, and of course the Media Research Center and its affiliates, to cut through the establishment media’s puffery to pick up even the most basic pieces of news.

Charles Krauthammer’s column today on the results of Obama’s just-completed European Adventure is one such raw news source.

I have bolded items in the excerpt below that represent news that was either not reported or vastly under-reported by what’s left of the establishement media (there are even more examples at his full column):

In his major foreign policy address in Prague committing the United States to a world without nuclear weapons, President Obama took note of North Korea’s missile launch just hours earlier and then grandiloquently proclaimed:

“Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response.”

A more fatuous presidential call to arms is hard to conceive. What “strong international response” did Obama muster to North Korea’s brazen defiance of a Chapter 7 –”binding,” as it were — U.N. resolution prohibiting such a launch?

The obligatory emergency Security Council session produced nothing. No sanctions. No resolution. Not even a statement. China and Russia professed to find no violation whatsoever. They would not even permit a U.N. statement that dared express “concern,” let alone condemnation.

Having thus bravely rallied the international community and summoned the U.N. — a fiction and a farce, respectively — what was Obama’s further response? The very next day, his defense secretary announced drastic cuts in missile defense, including halting further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed precisely to shoot down North Korean ICBMs. Such is the “realism” Obama promised to restore to U.S. foreign policy.

….. He wanted more NATO combat troops in Afghanistan to match the surge of 17,000 Americans. He was rudely rebuffed.

He wanted more stimulus spending from Europe. He got nothing.

From Russia, he got no help on Iran. From China, he got the blocking of any action on North Korea.

And what did he get for Guantanamo? France, pop. 64 million, will take one prisoner. One!

The bolded items have generally been reported in at best vague terms, if at all, while the media horde has almost unanimously declared Obama’s European Adventure an unqualified success. The reality is quite the opposite — The specifics Krauthammer notes make it clear that President ‘Prompter is courting danger (Obama may not think so, but history says he is) and failing to defend our interests, up to and including survival as a nation.

Although Rush is right when he points out that his popularity has generally climbed regardless of who is in office, there’s little doubt that center-right talk radio is also helping to fill in the information void the establishment media is creating, seemingly deliberately, around Dear Leader. There are also of course the center-right blogs that are around now to pick up the slack.

We shouldn’t have to work so hard just to get the basics, but like it or not, it’s the reality.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Board recognizes life-saving efforts

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:36 am

From Channahon, Illinois:

Thursday, April 9, 2009 6:50 PM CDT

The village board this week honored several Channahon police officers in the wake of two incidents during the past year.

Officers Michael Lazzari and Brad Bucciarelli were recognized for their actions that ended in the rescue of a retired police officer who had driven into a frigid river during an accident.

The officers got the call on Jan. 23. A driver had just gone off the road and into the river by Harborside Marina in Channahon.

A civilian happened to be riding along with the officers that day. Michael Boyle was interested in becoming a police officer and said he wanted to experience the job first-hand.

Another Channahon officer, Detective. Kevin McRaven, had been listening to the radio calls on his day off and decided he would drive to the scene also to see if he could lend a hand.

The fire department was on the way and would be the agency that rescued the man from the river, but the officers prepared the area for the fire department’s arrival so they could quickly get to and in the water and do the rescue.

After the driver was rescued, even Boyle had a hand in the job by helping carry him to the ambulance.

The driver survived, and, according to Channahon Chief of Police Joe Pena, the Channahon officers played a major part in his survival.

“With the frigid water,” Pena told the board, “the timeliness of the rescue was everything. And as usual, our guys stepped up. The gentlemen survived the ordeal due to their efforts.”

The second incident involved a stalker, a knife, and a two-hour suicide stand-off.

Sergeant Jim Pozen, Detectives Adam Bogart and Kevin McRaven, and officer Mike Yokum went to a Channahon residence after a call of a domestic dispute involving a man allegedly stalking his ex-girlfriend.

When they arrived, they found an unexpected scene. The man, Pozen said, was sitting on the curb with a knife to his own throat.

When the officers went up to him, he threatened suicide. There were people around, including children, and the officers secured the area and created a contained perimeter around him, then spent more than two hours talking to him and trying to convince him to put the knife down.

He finally did.

Pena said the officers showed the highest caliber of professionalism. The chief and village attorney Dave Silverman nominated the officers for a certificate of merit from the Illinois State Bar Association, and they received the award Monday. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.