The views expressed in any article published in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Joseph Foster or Bob Lupoli.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck:Give Driver’s Licenses To Illegal Immigrants

Joe: what is wrong with the country – see below. The police fail to protect the people. -Bob

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck:Give Driver’s Licenses To Illegal Immigrants

The impound policy as it currently stands and the resulting fees and fines are an unfair burden on illegal immigrants, Beck has said.

The proposed policy change has been under increasing fire in the wake of at least two fatal accidents involving unlicensed drivers.

In February, three women died after the sport utility vehicle they were in slammed into a tree in South LA. The driver, Tenina M. Calhoun of Moreno Valley, was cited just a month prior by the California Highway Patrol for driving without a license, but her vehicle was not impounded.
Another woman was killed last month in a hit-and-run crash in Boyle Heights. Police said the driver, who had a warrant out for his arrest, was unlicensed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Impound Policy Approved

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The city Police Commission today approved a new policy for impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers, allowing offenders who have valid identification, car registration and proof of insurance to avoid a mandatory 30-day impound. Under the policy, which was approved on a 4-1 vote, drivers who were at fault in an accident, who had their licenses suspended, revoked or had been caught previously driving without a license would not qualify for a shortened impound. At the urging of immigrant-rights activists, civil rights groups and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Chief Charlie Beck proposed a policy last fall and a revision in January to update the department's handling of unlicensed drivers' vehicles.

Lawyers and activists with the National Lawyers Guild, the Southern California Immigration Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the existing policy of a mandatory 30-day impound discriminated against illegal immigrants, who are unable to apply for a driver's license. But Beck's proposal was opposed by the union representing rank-and-file police officers, which filed a formal complaint last week with the department's employee relations administrator. In the complaint, the Los Angeles Police Protective League said the department failed to ``meet and confer with the League over the effects and impact on the wages, hours and working conditions'' of the officers who will have to enforce the new special order.

The change was also opposed by City Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee. ``I don't think this passes legal muster, quite frankly, from my analysis,'' Englander said after a briefing on the issue last Friday, adding that the intent of the state law passed in the 1980s governing police impound procedure was to prevent unlicensed drivers from being on the road.

``Studies show the unlicensed driver will be back behind the wheel," Englander said. ``I don't want blood on my hands, and I don't know how many more deaths and injuries have to occur.''

A memo by the state Legislative Council, which provides legal advice to state legislators, also questioned the legality of the proposal. The commission's vote isn't automatically subject to review by the City Council, but the council could vote to take up the issue.
LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore told the council's Public Safety Committee last week that the revised policy is necessary because officers in the field are often confused about when to impound a car and for how long. About 85 percent of impounds are issued under a mandatory 30-day hold, he said. The rest are detained under a shortened period or not at all when a licensed driver is available to pick up an affected vehicle.

Under the new policy, unlicensed drivers who meet the selected criteria would also have their vehicles impounded for a shorter amount of time, based on their ability to pay impound fees and recover the vehicle.

Beck acknowledged after the Police Commission's vote that the debate was ``far from over,'' but insisted that the policy would still crack down on unlicensed drivers who are repeat offenders or cause accidents.

``This is not a free ride,'' the chief said.
Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Villaraigosa expressed support last week for creating a different driver's license for illegal immigrants who have been in the country for several years and have a clean record.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who is running for City Council, announced plans last week to introduce a bill to create a driver's license category for illegal immigrants. Cedillo has introduced similar bills before that were vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Posted by:
Editor NC

Raising Capital Gains = Less Money for U.S. Gov't

Joe:  an interesting point to ponder posed by Michael Barone on raising capital gains. –Bob
By Michael Barone
....
ABC's Charlie Gibson asked candidate Obama if he would raise capital gains taxes even if, as in the past, that brought in less revenue to the federal government.


Yes, said Obama. "I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

Ponder that answer for a moment. A candidate for president -- president now -- said he wants to take more money from people who earned it even though doing so would produce less money for the government.

The philosophy that has to be behind that answer is also behind the Obama administration budgets that have proposed capping the charitable deduction for high earners. The clearly intended result would be a massive transfer of money from the voluntary sector of society into government.

Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s identified the voluntary sector as a unique feature of American democracy, one that gave it strength and character. He compared it positively with his own France, where centralized government stifled initiative and innovation.

The cap on charitable deductions has gone nowhere in Congress, where many Democratic members undoubtedly heard protests from their friends and supporters in the voluntary sector. We can see where that proposal leads from the Obama mandate that voluntary-sector organizations must buy health insurance that finances procedures their leaders consider deeply immoral. Centralized government will decide what's moral, and you'll be forced to pay for it.

Higher tax rates on high earners, even if they produce less revenue, are an attempt to centralize power in government and to limit the autonomy and countervailing power of individuals in the voluntary sector.

Which is why the liberal bloggers cheer them on. And why they eagerly join the Obama White House in demonizing the Koch brothers, who donate large sums to conservative causes. (Disclosure: I have spoken at two Koch conferences and was reimbursed for travel expenses.)

The Obama Democrats don't want their funders like George Soros getting competition from the likes of Charles and David Koch.

Similarly, the prospect of Republicans spending as much money as Democrats (unlike 2004 and 2008, when Democrats spent more) led Obama to declare inoperative his denunciations of superPACs and to create his own, with Cabinet members authorized to raise money for it.

This election is a contest between a Democrat who wants to make this country more like Tocqueville's France and Republicans who want to keep it more like Tocqueville's America. The liberal bloggers are rooting for France.

Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at mbarone@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

Monday, February 27, 2012

WikiLeaks - Stratfor - GIF

Joe: today WikiLeaks published its GIF files, see the statement below. Governments are trying to stop him but I don’t see how they can legally do so. It’s a 1st Ammendment issue, apparently also the WikiLeaks organization makes it difficult to prosecute. Tantalizing information on dirty (but legal?) tricks by Stratfor. I don’t see any mention of WikiLeaks on Stratfor’s home page. –Bob

LONDON—Today, Monday 27 February, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :

"[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control... This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase" – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez. 

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the "Yes Men", for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : "We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either."

Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to "utilise the intelligence" it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS : "What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like". The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested "substantially" more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff : "Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral... It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor... we are already working on mock portfolios and trades". StratCap is due to launch in 2012. 

By Jon Swaine in New York  Nov 2010
The structure of WikiLeaks makes it practically impossible for governments and other organisations embarrassed by its disclosures to make legal challenges against it.

The U.S.'s WeakLegal Case Against WikiLeaks

By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER Thursday Dec. 09, 2010

Friday, February 24, 2012

Debt per Capita: U.S. Worse than Greece!

Joe: makes me wonder what countries have more debt per capita. -Bob




Thursday, February 23, 2012

Buchanan: Iran doesn’t frighten me...

Joe:  does it make sense to go to war against Iran? Pat  Buchanan points out the threat from Russia years ago was far greater. He also points out Israel has 300 atomic bombs and Iran zero. What if Iran matched the 300 or increased to 600? Now that Pakistan, of all places has the bomb I think the 50 year old technology is not that hard to obtain. The answer to the question in the headline is of course Iran, Israel is not a threat to the U.S. –Bob

Buchanan: Who is a bigger threat — Iran or Israel?

Published: 2:18 PM 02/22/2012 | Updated: 12:09 AM 02/23/2012
“The Israeli lobby would like to see a war. They support the Israeli government. Neoconservatives do. Many Republicans do. There are many Americans who genuinely believe that if Iran — they believe Iran is moving toward a weapon; and if it is, they would favor military action to prevent it. There are a number of people who want a war.”
Buchanan explained what it was like to live under the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack, and suggested that it was a far greater threat than anything the Iranians could produce. And Israel, he said, with an estimated 300 nuclear weapons, could be a bigger threat than Iran.
“During the Cold War, with due respect, the Soviet Union had thousands of weapons that could have destroyed us in an afternoon,” he cautioned. “And we could have done the same thing.”
“I was around during the Cuban missile crisis. I was genuinely terrified. But Iran doesn’t frighten me and I don’t think it should frighten the American people. They don’t have a bomb. They haven’t made a decision to build one. They didn’t have the means to deliver one, and the Israelis have 300 atomic bombs. I mean, who presents the existential threat to whom?”

Koofi: Taliban Won't Share Power!

Joe:  what happens when the US “allows” the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Koofi I think is careful with her words but I expect it will be right back to where it was before we got involved in a so called war that has lasted longer than WWII and Vietnam combined. Should we not pull out because the Taliban won’t share power with women? Probably not a compelling enough reason. Should we not pull out because the Taliban will come into power, a better reason since they will allow terrorist training and many other misdeeds. -Bob

Why the U.S. should not pull out of Afghanistan

A female parliamentarian says the Taliban would return to power and undo the gains in women's rights.

I do not believe the Taliban will share power or will participate in democracy. The Taliban have tried to assassinate me and other female MPs, liberal MPs, and any opponents of their ideology  Only a few weeks ago Taliban gunmen attacked my car. I was inside for 30 minutes not knowing if I would live or die. Three Afghan policemen were killed in the battle. Can I really be expected to believe a Taliban  representative would take a seat in parliament alongside me?

According to one United Nations estimate, nearly 90 percent of Afghan women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse – some analysts believe that number may be even higher –  making Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places to be a woman. Nonetheless, small but important gains have made in women’s rights in the past ten years.

Today around  2.7 million girls are now in school, compared to just a few thousand during the time of the Taliban. In the new Afghan parliament, 27 per cent of MPs are female – far higher than the world average. Thousands of women now go out to work in offices, a few drive cars (although this is not common) and glamorous women wearing lipstick with shiny bouffant hair visible underneath their headscarves are once again seen on TV as news anchors and journalists (all female voices and faces were banned during Taliban time).  These women are role models to many young women in Afghanistan.

And of course women now have access to healthcare, in places where it is available. In the time of Taliban women were banned from visiting male doctors and female doctors were banned from practicing, effectively denying 50 per cent of the population any medical care whatsoever. In my view that was as good as attempted murder of a gender. Those who claimed to men of God had no respect for one of God’s greatest creations – women. By allowing the Taliban back as a legitimate force in government we would undo all of those gains and it would be a betrayal of Afghan women.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Those Americans - nearly half don't pay Income Taxes

Obama & Chu: gas prices up - you must be happy?

Joe: gas prices are becoming very painful... It seems Obama, Chu, Newt and Barbor all agree – Obama wants gas prices to go up. -Bob

Steven Chu's Europe gas quote haunts President Obama
President Barack Obama’s Energy secretary unwittingly created a durable GOP talking point in September 2008 when he talked to The Wall Street Journal about the benefits of having gasoline prices rise over 15 years to encourage energy efficiency.  “Somehow,” Chu said, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

Rory Cooper  March 21, 2011

Shockingly, Chu did not walk back his comments as he has attempted to do in the past. In fact, he embraced the strategy noting that his focus is to ease the pain felt by his energy policies by forcing automakers to make more fuel-efficient automobiles:

From NBC’s Catherine Chomiak
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) today alleged the Obama administration wants gas prices to go up in order to make alternative sources of fuel more competitive and to reduce pollution.

Then Senator Barack Obama, in 2008, on the prospect of $4 gas:
HARWOOD: So could these high prices help us?
Sen. OBAMA: I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing. But if we take some steps right now to help people make the adjustment, first of all by putting more money into their pockets, but also by encouraging the market to adapt to these new circumstances more quickly, particularly US automakers, then I think ultimately, we can come out of this stronger and have a more efficient energy policy than we do right now.

By TIM MAK | 2/21/12
Pressing the issue of rising pump prices, Newt Gingrich accused the Obama administration Tuesday of actually wanting higher gas costs, pointing to previous comments that now-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu made that suggested American prices should rise to European levels.

Mortgage Deal: A drop in the bucket, false hope!

Joe: see some key paragraphs from this article below regarding the mortgage settlement. I highlighted the key points on the deal.
1.       A drop in the bucket
2.       New York State – only 25,000 homeowners helped
3.       Precedent – the government forcing banks to lower principal
4.       False hope – true…
Regarding #3, in the Joe Nocera article (link below) he wrote; "For those who mainly care about seeing the banks punished, there will be other opportunities. The litigation relief the banks won is surprisingly narrow. States and the federal government will still be able to sue for lots of other abuses, including lying about the quality of mortgages that were bundled in toxic mortgage-backed securities."

Seems to me, this was the time to make the deal has passed. Since Timothy Geithner was, "convinced the program wouldn't be overhyped or overly punitive".  -Bob

HUD boss Shaun Donovan jumps into President Obama mortgage melee
By 
GLENN THRUSH | 2/21/12 11:35 PM EST
In early February, five major banks, led by Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, inked a settlement with 49 states that would force the banks to pay $5 billion in cash relief for faulty and sometimes fraudulent documentation of mortgages that cost underwater homeowners untold billions.

As part of the deal, orchestrated by Donovan and senior DOJ officials, borrowers who got a raw deal would get up to $35 billion in relief, about $2,000 per consumer who can document misdeeds on the part of the banks.

That’s a drop in the bottomless bucket of the nation’s housing crisis. But for the first time, the banks set aside their vehement opposition to writing down the principal of loans — and that could be a big deal if it becomes a precedent.


 “The settlement is not nearly enough … We’re looking at it helping only about 25,000 homeowners, all told, in New York state,” said Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, a nonprofit housing assistance organization that once had Donovan on its board.

“But it’s an important step because we are talking, for the first time, about banks being compelled to lower the principal on people’s mortgages. … If we can prove that it works, it might change the direction of the way we deal with this crisis as a country,” added Peale, who has never met the secretary.

The plan has garnered mixed reviews. Progressive groups have savaged the deal as too little too late, with some Occupy protesters urging state attorneys general not to sign it. The banking industry, for the most part, shrugged, and New York Times columnist Joe Nocera summed up the prevailing view in the business press with a blog entry entitled “Two Cheers for the Settlement.” (see: Fire Joe Nocera article)

Donovan, who declined to comment for this story, has called the approach “catalytic,” if not a cure-all, in recent interviews.

During the initial round of settlement talks, Geithner opposed the idea of compelling banks to write down principal on mortgages because he thought it would give homeowners “false hope.” He claimed that write-down supporters were overselling the number of homeowners such an approach could actually help, according to administration officials.

A former administration official privy to the internal deliberations said the two men always showed respect to each other during the discussions, but Geithner forcefully argued that letting underwater homeowners off the hook would create a moral hazard.

Donovan, 46, a redheaded Harvard-trained architect with a sunny, earnest manner, pressed his case and eventually convinced Geithner that the program wouldn’t be overhyped or overly punitive. DOJ negotiators led by Associated Attorney General Tom Perrelli made the same case to Geithner.

By late 2010, Geithner was publicly supporting the idea of write-downs, telling a congressional oversight panel “there is a pretty good economic case” to be made for the strategy, even though he remains wary of its ultimate impact.