August 5, 2010

Marcy Kaptur: July’s CAGW Porker of the Month (See Updates: The PMA Matter)

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:52 pm

I missed this a couple of weeks ago, but it deserves exposure.

Ohio’s Queen of Pork has earned CAGW’s coveted award for being so, well, porkulent (Direct YouTube):

CAGW is Citizens Against Government Waste, and I was referring to Kaptur’s proclivity for and hypocrisy in regards to earmarks. What did y’all think I was referring to?

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UPDATE, 8 P.M.: From David Freddoso at the Washington Examiner — “PMA lobbying group founder indicted — which members of Congress will suffer?”

Kaptur was cleared by the House Ethics Committee regarding her involvement with PMA in February. It will be interesting to see if any evidence comes out indicating that the Ethics Committee’s conclusion was a whitewash.

UPDATE 2, 11:30 P.M.: In an e-mail, Maggie Thurber has pointed to this report about how “The House Ethics Committee released a report in February clearing all seven members of any wrongdoing. But the Office of Congressional Ethics did not agree and referred its investigation to the Justice Department.”

Well, there’s good news and bad news for you. The good news is that people with principles realize there’s something rotten. The bad news is that the Obama DOJ is probably using the Office of Congressional Ethics referral documents as wallpaper.

Has there ever been a more obvious enabler of the pervasive culture of corruption than Attorney General Eric Holder?

The Sherrods’ New Communities 1960s and 1970s Plantation

Filed under: Activism,Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:12 pm

This post appeared at the Washington Examiner’s OpinionZone blog and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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Readers who saw my original Examiner post about Shirley Sherrod know that she and husband Charles received $150,000 each for “pain and suffering” as part of “a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.” Based on history presented by Ron Wilkins Monday at Counterpunch, it’s appropriate to ask: “Whose pain and suffering?”

It now seems that Mr. and Mrs. Sherrod inflicted quite a bit of pain and suffering on their own — and on some of the very people Mr. Sherrod described as “our own” in a speech earlier this year — at New Communities, Inc. NCI is described at the Rural Development Leadership Network’s web site as “the land trust that Shirley and Charles Sherrod established, with other black farm families in the 1960s.”

Wilkins, who says he is “a former organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” and is currently a professor at California State University in the Africana Studies Department, writes: “I know this story well, for I was one of those workers at NCI.”

Here is some of what Wilkins describes (internal link added by me):

Imagine farm workers doing back breaking labor in the sweltering sun, sprayed with pesticides and paid less than minimum wage. Imagine the United Farm Workers called in to defend these laborers against such exploitation by management. Now imagine that the farm workers are black children and adults and that the managers are Shirley Sherrod, her husband Rev. Charles Sherrod, and a host of others. But it’s no illusion; this is fact.

… What most of Mrs. Sherrod’s supporters are not aware of is the elitist and anti-black-labor role that she and fellow managers of New Communities Inc. (NCI) played. These individuals under-paid, mistreated and fired black laborers–many of them less than 16 years of age–in the same fields of southwest Georgia where their ancestors suffered under chattel slavery.

… (Shirley Sherrod) claimed that she “devoted her entire life to economic justice”. The mistreatment of black workers at NCI under the Sherrods is a matter of record that contradicts this claim.

… Shirley Sherrod was New Communities Inc. store manager during the 1970s. As such, Mrs. Sherrod was a key member of the NCI administrative team, which exploited and abused the workforce in the field. The 6,000 acre New Communities Inc. in Lee County promoted itself during the latter part of the 1960s and throughout the 70s as a land trust committed to improving the lives of the rural black poor. Underneath this facade, the young and old worked long hours with few breaks, the pay averaged sixty-seven cents an hour, fieldwork behind equipment spraying pesticides was commonplace and workers expressing dissatisfaction were fired without recourse.

… Worker protest at New Communities eventually garnered some assistance from the United Farm Workers Union in nearby Florida in the person of one of its most formidable organizers, black State Director, the late Mack Lyons.

At Riehl World View, Dan Riehl has posted a graphic of a 1974 El Malcriado article about a strike by children farm workers at NCI. That article reveals that “Wages vary from 67¢ – $1.63 per hour, and management pays each worker whatever they please, according to personal preference.”

The last two paragraphs of that article read as follows:

Though several of the cooperative’s funding organization’s are pressuring Charles Sherrod, the farm’s manager, to reach a settlement with the strikers, he remains unwilling to negotiate.

With so few scabs left in New Community’s (sic) fields, the UFW first strike in the southeast area (outside of Florida) may bring the first of many UFW contracts to these fields that were once harvested by slave labor.

“Scabs”? Oh my.

If Charles and Shirley Sherrod are the civil-rights crusaders they now claim to be and not still the brutal managers they appear to have been, they would be tracking down those who used to work at NCI and distributing their $13 million USDA settlement to them. After all, it was arguably won on the backs of exploited labor.

Larry Elder, whose latest column appeared last week before Wilkins’s revelations appeared, had no idea how right he was when he wrote: “Shirley Sherrod, Quit While You’re Ahead.”

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UPDATE, August 5: Context — the minimum wage in 1971 was $1.60 an hour. In 1972, it was $1.80. I know because that’s what I was paid at my summer jobs.

Social Security Cash Deficits Made Official

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:34 pm

SocSecBrokeCard0309From the first paragraph of the introductory “Highlights” in the Trustees’ report (large PDF; HT Philip Klein at AmSpec) released today:

… During the year, an estimated 156 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes. Total expenditures in 2009 were $686 billion. Total income was $807 billion ($689 billion in tax revenue and $118 billion in interest earnings), and assets held in special issue U.S. Treasury securities grew to $2.5 trillion.

The bolded figures are the ones that matter. They show that taxes collected exceeded costs by only $3 billion. The “interest earnings” cited are in essence merely added to the balance the rest of the government owes the Social Security Trust fund.

The trustees say that this year and next, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. It will supposedly run a surplus for a few years, and will then have a negative cash flow as far as the eye can see as long as it remains structured as it is.

Of course, those who hang around here knew those deficits were brewing 10 months ago (“Social Security: The Train Wreck Is at the Station”). Most months since then have shown cash deficits.

As long as those in charge of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy stay in charge, and don’t change their course, any projections in the Trustees’ report, which is dependent on economic growth assumptions that likely won’t materialize, are overly optimistic. Even if they do, assumptions made during the past 18-1/2 months that haven’t materialized because of this administration’s choice of alleged “stimulus” over meaningful tax cuts have permanently penalized the future, and nothing will ever change that.

Will Rob Portman Listen Now?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:31 am

Team Portman hasn’t done very much to address the issues raised here.

Maybe they’ll pay attention to this from Rasmussen:

Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is a little tighter for now but remains generally where it’s been for months.

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Republican Rob Portman picking up 44% support, while his Democratic opponent, Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher, earns the vote from 40%. Five percent (5%) prefer a different candidate, and 11% are undecided.

Last month, Portman held his biggest lead in the race to date, 45% to 39%. But his support has remained in the narrow range of 42% to 45% since regular tracking of the race began in February. Fisher’s support in that same period has ranged from 38% to 43%. The two men were tied in surveys conducted in May and early June following victories in their respective party primaries.

With this latest survey, Ohio shifts from Leans Republican to Toss-Up in the Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power summary.

Portman, a former congressman and George W. Bush administration official, has support from 85% of Republicans, while Fisher is backed by 69% of Democrats. Portman leads by 20 points among voters not affiliated with either major political party.

As the anti-Obama, anti-Ruling Class wave relentlessly builds, Rob Portman is regressing. I would suggest that this is occurring because Portman has done nothing to disabuse the electorate of the self-inflicted notions that he’s a me-first political climber (“some things are worth it for my career and some things aren’t”) and a Washington insider whose sympathies remain with the Ruling Class.

Based on Rasmussen’s breakdown, if Lugubrious and Awful Lee Fisher can shore up his Democratic base (and if they turn out), he can win. Moving from 69% Dem support to 85% would give Fisher about 5 more points overall, and would erase Portman’s current presumed lead.

That’s why this race really is a toss-up.

I’m not the only sensible, Constitution-based conservative voter asserting that Rob Portman has not earned my vote. Time is getting short, pal.

Michelle ‘Marie Antoinette’ Obama

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

Okay, it’s been 18-1/2 months, and with I believe only one exception (and that was primarily a media critique), I’ve gritted my teeth long enough about the First Family’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous routine.

To a point, what they do on their personal time is their business, and even if they overspend on the taxpayers’ dime, the amount of money involved isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. I’ll even allow that giving your kids an opportunity to see a lot of the world is a permissible presidential perk.

But the elitist act of the Obamas has long since become insufferable, and the hypocritical example they’re setting — demanding “sacrifice” while ostentatiously livin’ large — has crossed into the outrageous.

Michelle Obama has just taken the royalty act to new heights. Andrea Tantaros at the New York Daily News delivers a concise critique:

Material girl Michelle Obama is a modern-day Marie Antoinette on a glitzy Spanish vacation

Sacrifice is something that many Americans are becoming all too familiar with during this economic downturn. It was a key theme in President Obama’s inaugural address to the nation, and he’s referenced it numerous times when lecturing the country on how to get back on its feet.

But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing summer sojourns – or forgoing them altogether – the Obamas don’t seem to be heeding their own advice. While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her “closest friends.” According to CNN, the group is expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms, more than a third of the lodgings at the 160-room resort. Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times.

… Estimated room rate per night? Up to a staggering $2,500.

… The Obama modus operandi is becoming clear. … their idea of austerity is really just the lap of luxury, at least for ordinary folks.

Incredibly, the Obamas have long portrayed themselves as precisely such commoners.

… Instead, Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight – than an average mother of two.

… I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime – the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders.

… In January, President Obama insisted that “everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good. Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.”

If sacrifice is the precursor to change, what will the family that ran on change offer up? Elitist doublespeak won’t cut it.

Read the whole thing.

I’m trying to recall any even remotely equivalent or extravagant vacation instance involving Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson, or even Jackie Kennedy. I can’t. Can anyone else? Several of those first families also were raising a child or children while their father was the nation’s commander in chief.

I also worry that what we are really witnessing is how people who can get away with it act when they know a collapse is coming (another example relating to Nancy Pelosi is here). That is, have fun and spend wildly while you can, because a few years from now all of this will be a distant memory. I hope I’m wrong.

Positivity: RIP, Reginald Levy; Hailed as a Hero in 1972 Hijacking

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 9:25 am

From Dover, England:

The cause was a heart attack, his daughter Linda Lipschitz said.

Sabena Flight 571 from Brussels to Tel Aviv was 20 minutes out of Vienna on May 8, 1972, when four Arabs waving pistols rushed the cockpit. “As you can see,” Captain Levy calmly told the 90 passengers, “we have friends aboard.”

The “friends” were members of Black September, a terrorist organization that grew out of the Palestinian defeat in the 1970 Jordanian civil war and was responsible for the killing of 11 members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics four months after the hijacking.

The hijackers — two men and two women — ordered Captain Levy to land at Lydda Airport (later Ben-Gurion International Airport), where they threatened to blow up the plane unless 317 Palestinian guerrillas were released from Israeli prisons.

Within an hour of the radio message from Captain Levy reporting the hijacking, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Dayan, was at the airport to deal with the crisis. After dark, Israeli saboteurs crept under the parked plane, deflated the tires and disconnected hydraulic equipment.

At the hijackers’ request, International Red Cross teams were summoned to carry messages between the plane and Mr. Dayan. After presenting their demands, the hijackers were alarmed to discover that they could not take off again. Captain Levy started a conversation to calm them down, and kept on chatting through the night. “I talked about everything under the sun,” he said later, “from navigation to sex.”

The next morning, to demonstrate their intentions, the hijackers sent Captain Levy to the terminal with a sample of the explosives they had on board. He told the Israelis much more, describing the hijackers, their positions and the black bags in which they were carrying explosives. He also told them, significantly, that there were no seats blocking the emergency doors.

Mr. Dayan promised to repair the plane and bring the Palestinian prisoners to the airport. Bogus prisoners were shown to the hijackers from a distance, and another plane was taken out to a runway, supposedly to fly them to Cairo.

Twenty-one hours after Captain Levy’s plane had been hijacked, two trucks carrying 18 men in the white overalls of mechanics drove up to the jetliner. They milled about the plane, supposedly checking the tires and other equipment. Suddenly they tore open the emergency exits above the wings and opened fire inside the cabin.

The fusillade from the men in overalls — in reality members of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal — ended within 90 seconds. The commandos were led by Ehud Barak, now Israel’s defense minister, and among them was Benjamin Netanyahu, now the prime minister.

The two male hijackers, who had returned fire, were killed. Another hijacker, a Jordanian woman, was not injured. The fourth, also a woman, was seriously wounded, as were several passengers. Tearful passengers and crew members slid off the wings and were bused to a terminal into the arms of ecstatic relatives.

Several days later, Prime Minister Golda Meir held a dinner for those involved in the rescue. She kissed Captain Levy and cried, “We love you.”

To criticism that the operation had endangered innocent people, she said, “When blackmail like this succeeds, it only leads to more blackmail.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Dems Deserve No Distance

/ObamaAndAnyDem0810They supported Barack Obama in 2008, and voted for his agenda. They’re stuck with him — and that agenda — in 2010.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Tuesday.

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On July 22, Joe Biden said the following at a North Carolina fundraiser: “Now that the heavy lifting is over, we can go out and make our case.” In other words, it’s time to campaign.

He didn’t get off to a good start when he also told that same group: “There are 3 million [more] Americans working today than there were before we took office.”

What? Uncle Sam’s Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that no matter which of four possible ways you look at the numbers, he’s laughably wrong by at least five years.

Numbers are stubborn things, aren’t they, Joe? Of course, you shouldn’t expect much from a guy who says “J-O-B-S” is a three-letter word.

In declaring the campaign war on, Biden immediately demonstrated that its first casualty is and will continue to be the truth.

Before I learned of Biden’s howler, I was going to establish three ground rules for this year’s election campaign. Now I’m down to two:

  1. If you supported Barack Obama in 2008 and are seeking election or reelection, it’s too late to distance yourself from him if you haven’t already. You own him, and his administration’s agenda.
  2. If you voted for the Obama’s administration’s key initiatives — stimulus, cap and trade, ObamaCare, or financial “reform,” you can’t credibly claim to have beliefs that run contrary to their specific provisions.

Rule Number 3 was going to be: “Tell the truth.” That’s clearly out the window on the Democratic side.

Let’s look at three concrete applications of the ground rules.

Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is running for reelection. He claims to be a staunch supporter of the right to keep and bear arms. He can correctly claim to have a strong record in this area when he was a congressman, and to have taken several actions as governor that are consistent with that alleged belief. But under Rule Number 1, that’s irrelevant, because Ted Strickland supported Barack Obama for president in 2008, and has not backed away.

While Obama remains president and Democrats retain control of the Senate, we are one deadly Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, or Kennedy heart attack away from losing the Second Amendment. Any conceivable doubt that this is the case disappeared when Obama-nominated Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, contradicting her confirmation hearing testimony, voted with the minority in the recent 5-4 McDonald decision. Thus, no one, including Ted Strickland, can claim to be pro-Second Amendment and continue to support Barack Obama. Sadly, organizations like the NRA and Ohio’s Buckeye Firearms Association, who have both endorsed Strickland over Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, don’t understand that.

Staying in Ohio, First District Congressman Steve Driehaus claims to be prolife, and was one of the phony-baloney “Stupak Six” holdouts during the final days before ObamaCare became law in March. Shortly after Obama signed the legislation, Driehaus infamously told a friendly audience that his holdout had been a convenient show: “I was fully confident we would get to ‘yes.’ … I knew I would get there.”

Stupak, Driehaus, and the others ended their charade when Obama issued an Executive Order that supposedly prohibited the use of federal funds for abortions. The most obvious flaw in accepting this fig leaf was that Obama, who based on his record and statements is the most pro-abort president in our history, can unilaterally reverse his order at any time. But beyond that, it has already been shown to be irrelevant in Pennsylvania:

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. This is the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned about when Congress considered the bill.

… It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

… “The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million in federal tax funds, which we’ve discovered will pay for insurance plans that cover any legal abortion,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

If Steve Driehaus has a problem with any of this, I haven’t heard about it. If he continues to claim to be prolife, he violates both Ground Rules 1 and 2 — Rule 1 because he continues to support the President, and Rule 2 because he voted for legislation that has already been shown to be anti-life in effect. Driehaus has also been remarkably quiet about Donald Berwick, the recess-appointed Director of Medicare and Medicaid Services, who believes that “About 8% of GDP is plenty for ‘best known’ care” (health care is currently about 17% of GDP), and Zeke the Bleak Emanuel, whose “complete lives system … explicitly defends discrimination against older patients” and would be used to deny them needed care.

Finally, there’s the instructive example of Virginia Senator James Webb. Though he’s not up for reelection, Mr. Webb, with an eye on 2012, is clearly attempting to separate himself from the Obama administration’s race-based obsessions. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Webb passionately argued that “white privilege” is a myth, and that our nation must ensure that “artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.”

If the Senator really believes this, he has a funny way of showing it. ObamaCare has plenty of artificial racial distinctions, while the financial services “reform” legislation “creates … Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion in at least 20 federal financial services agencies.” Mr. Webb voted for each bill (here and here).

Mr. Webb can talk the talk about opposing and eliminating race-based distinctions all he wants, but he hasn’t walked the walk when it has mattered most. Ground Rule 2 says that anyone who supported these measures and is currently up for reelection can’t credibly claim to be against racial preferences.

Similar arguments can and should be made about those who voted for cap and trade but who suddenly discover the need to drill for oil; those who speak of controlling spending while allowing party leadership to deliberately avoid passing a budget; and those who voted for the stimulus plan who will now try to make us believe that they support meaningful tax cuts.

Those who have supported Barack Obama and have voted for his legislation deserve no distance — and that is the truth.