Archive for September, 2009

Feds hold “silly summit” in Washington

When President Eisenhower met fact-to-face in 1959 with Soviet Premier Nikita  Khrushchev, it truly was a major event.  Every US president since then participated in similar “summits” with Soviet (and later, Russian) heads-of-state.  In recent years, the term “summit” has been used to describe a wide range of meetings — domestic and international — including many far less important than meetings between the leaders of the two most powerful nations on earth.  However, a conference scheduled to begin today and run though tomorrow, October 1st, in Washington, DC establishes once and for all that the term “summit” no longer carries any significance whatsoever.

This particular conference is sponsored by the US Department of Transportation.  It is a “Distracted Driving Summit.”  No less a personage than the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, is to convene the two-day “summit”; and over the course of these two days, heads and deputy heads of several federal, …

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Obama aides ‘educate’ children, young adults

One third of all American high school students leave school without being awarded a diploma. Over 3.3 million teen-agers are not even enrolled in high schools. Nearly two-thirds of Americans, aged 18 to 24, cannot find Iraq on a map; a third failed to locate Louisiana on a map after Hurricane Katrina.

According to a number of relevant criteria, our students lag far behind those of other developed countries. In testing sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average math score in 2006 for an American 15-year-old was in the bottom 25 percent. Fully 23 of 29 countries participating in a recent survey outperformed Americans teens in math scores, and 16 of 29 countries beat us in science.

The ability to compose a coherent essay appears to be a disappearing skill. Here, for example, is an excerpt from a randomly selected high school student’s paper, pulled off the Internet:

“The amount of grammer and usage error’s today is …

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Iraqi Shoe Thrower a Lucky Man

Last week, Muntadar al-Zeidi was freed from the Iraqi prison in which he had been held for nine months.  Al-Zeidi is the Iraqi journalist who last December threw both his shoes at then-President George W. Bush, who at the time was standing behind a podium answering questions from the Baghdad media.  Fortunately for President Bush, al-Zeidi’s journalistic skill apparently are superior to his throwing skills, since both shoes missed the former president, who, by the way, exhibited impressive speed and dexterity in deftly bobbing and weaving to avoid the leather-soled projectiles. 

Although al-Zeidi complained that he was tortured by Iraqi authorities during his incarceration, he was actually fortunate he was prosecuted and sentenced under Iraqi law instead of US jurisprudence.  Had he been subject to prosecution in our system, his sentence would have been far longer than the three-year sentence he received initially, and which was subsequently reduced.  Under US law, he …

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Death Bureaucracies

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, along with many other Republicans and conservatives, have seized on the idea of “death panels” as a target against which to aim their opposition to the health care legislation being pushed by President Barack Obama and members of his party in the Congress.  While the health care bills being currently considered in both the House and the Senate do not contain “death panels” per se, the notion that the government would directly or indirectly engage in “end of  life counseling” or the idea that insurance reimbursements might be even indirectly tied by federal law to such considerations — both of which are on the table — is rightfully distasteful to most Americans. 

This is not a hypothetical debate.  There in fact is a real-life model to which those interested in federal health care legislation can turn, if they honestly want to gain an understanding of how bureaucracies can distort medical care for terminally or possibly terminally ill …

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Get ready to ante up to Congress

Internet gambling, which was dealt a body blow by the GOP-controlled Congress in late 2006, may be making a quiet comeback, thanks to the lure of tax revenues in an economy that is still struggling to regain its footing.

At least three bills have been introduced that would, to varying degrees, lift the virtual ban on Internet gambling that went into effect three years ago when former President George W. Bush signed into law the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UNIGEA). None of the bills pending in the House and Senate have moved out of the committees to which they were assigned, and none has been scheduled for floor action. Still, prospects are brightening sufficiently to start a slight, but audible, buzz in the nation’s capitol.

For example, many expect hearings will be held this fall on at least one bill — Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank’s “Internet Gambling Regulation and Taxation Act.” If so, it is likely that testimony in support of the …

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Ashcroft May Be Sued for Rights Violation

In a stunning federal court decision with far-reaching ramifications, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco last week ruled that former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be sued personally for violating the civil liberties of a Muslim American in the immediate aftermath of the 911 attacks.  The man suing the former attorney general is Abdullah al-Kidd, a former star football player at the University of Idaho.  Al-Kidd was arrested in 2003 at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC, strip-searched and shackled, transported to various detention facilities, and detained for more than two weeks.  Even after his release, his ability to travel was curtailed and he lost his job. 

The government never charged al-Kidd with any crime.  Moreover, even though he was initially arrested and detained as a so-called “material witness,” he never testified in any court proceeding.   Al-Kidd has alleged his detention and mis-treatment was the result …

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Say Hello to “Fannie Travel”

Last Wednesday, September 9th,  the US Senate moved off the front burner issues such as record deficits, rising American casualties in Afghanistan, and the Obama Administration’s plan to take control of America’s health care.  These matters were cast aside temporarily in favor of taking up and passing the “Travel Promotion Act of 2009.”  This legislation, which is also pending in the House of Representatives, sets up yet another bureaucracy, this time as an officially-sanctioned “independent non-profit corporation” — the “Corporation for Travel Promotion.”  This new bureaucracy would be directed to “counter and correct misperceptions regarding US entry policy [whatever that means] and promote US travel.”  Reflecting the prevailing Washington view that “two bureaucracies are always better than one,” the bill also would set up a new office within the Department of Commerce to similarly “promote” travel to the US.

Apparently the Senate had concluded that the …

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Going abroad? Leave the laptop

Planning a trip abroad? If so, you might want to reconsider taking your laptop or BlackBerry with you. If you do, and if you then want to bring it back to the U.S., keep in mind Uncle Sam’s agents are authorized to inspect and detain it, and copy any information stored in it. Incidentally, the government need have not one iota of suspicion you are doing anything wrong in order to exercise such sweeping power.

The tremendous reach of this federal policy, reaffirmed as recently as last month by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, traces to our county’s founding. A premise of national sovereignty once we severed our ties to the British Crown is the power of the nation to protect its borders. Federal courts have long allowed the government the broadest of powers to inspect people and goods entering the country. Until recently, however, this so-called border power was generally understood to mean conducting physical inspections of a traveler’s belongings — looking …

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Garage Sales Could Land You In Jail

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was created in 1972 when Republican President Richard Nixon signed legislation creating the bureaucracy that has become in many respects the poster child for the Nanny State.  Last year, another Republican President, George W. Bush, signed legislation (the “Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act”) that significantly increased the power of the CPSC.  This federal regulatory and enforcement agency is now empowered to monitor even garage sales – just to make sure that some unknowing parent or enterprising school kid trying to make some extra money for a field trip, doesn’t try to sell a toy or household item that might have been previously subject to a federal recall. 

Selling an item that has been subject to a recall by the federal authorities at some point in the [perhaps distant] past, carries with it criminal penalties.  As the “CPSC Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Resellers” warns readers, “[i]gnorance …

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Cheney’s Disdain For The Law Is Appalling

When Attorney General Eric Holder last month announced he was naming a special prosecutor to determine if CIA personnel had violated federal laws against torturing prisoners during the prior administration of George W. Bush, former Vice President Cheney went ballistic.  Even though Holder made clear the reach of the special prosecutor’s jurisdiction would extend only to those who had exceeded even the broad legal “justification” for torture provided by lawyers in the Bush Justice Department, Cheney found Holder’s move outrageous.

Obviously, Cheney believes that so long as violations of federal law were committed by persons in a previous administration, the perpetrators should be forever thereafter immune from being held accountable for their offenses.  To even suggest otherwise apparently strikes the former vice president as a purely “political move,” for which “there’s no other rationale,” according to Cheney.

Evidently, Cheney has never read of, or has long forgotten …

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