Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lobbying spending hits record $849 million

Very predictable: as a government's role in determining the success and failure of companies and whole industries increases, so does the incentives for companies and industries to lobby
the government. With the Obama Administration's plan to increase its control over the economy via health care reform, politically connected corporations stand to gain a fortune, while others run the risk of being taxed and regulated into oblivion. And as the state increases its control of the economy, simultaneously large corporations will increase their control of the state.

Lobbying spending hits record $849 million

Oct 30, 2009

WASHINGTON — Companies, unions and other interests spent $849 million on federal lobbying in July, August and September, more than in any quarter since lobbyists began filing quarterly reports at the beginning of last year, according to a nonpartisan group that monitors political expenditures.

Lobbying spending has totaled $2.5 billion so far this year, slightly exceeding the total for all of 2005, said the Center for Responsive Politics.

The massive sums — covering the activities of 13,428 lobbyists — are being spent despite efforts by President Barack Obama to curb the clout of Washington's influence industry, and reflect the administration's and Congress' ambitious efforts on health care and other areas.
By far the biggest individual spender for lobbying has been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at $65 million. Closest to it are Exxon Mobil Corp., at $21 million, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the General Electric Co., both at $20 million.

Divided into sectors of the economy, companies and other groups involved in health care have led the way, spending $397 million for the first nine months of the year. That's about a 9 percent increase over the same period a year ago, evidence of this year's work on a health care overhaul, the chief legislative focus of Obama and Congress.

Besides the pharmaceutical association, which is the drug industry's trade group, the biggest lobbying spenders in this category include $16 million by Pfizer Inc., the New York-based pharmaceutical giant; $12 million by the American Medical Association; and $11 million by the American Hospital Association.

Other sectors that have seen the heaviest lobbying spending are general business, $363 million; finance, insurance and real estate, $335 million; and energy and natural resources, $301 million. Those interests also are engaged in efforts to shape top priorities of both the White House's and Congress: energy and climate legislation and measures aimed at regulating the financial industry.

The AFL-CIO has outspent all other labor organizations this year, with expenditures of nearly $3 million.

Obama has limited the number of lobbyists his administration has hired and clamped restrictions on lobbying that administration officials can do after leaving office. He's also put constraints on lobbyists trying to influence spending from this year's economic stimulus package.

Friday, October 30, 2009

White House Announces End to HIV Travel Ban

When I heard that President Obama lifted the travel and immigration ban for HIV-positive individuals, my initial response was positive. After all, stigmatizing individuals with HIV or any other illness is heartless and illogical.

But, after putting more thought into it, I realized that although lifting the travel ban does make sense, lifting the immigration ban does not. In the context of an already beleaguered health care system, it is unwise to knowingly invite individuals into the country that run a high risk of needing expensive drugs and medical treatments (that are heavily subsidized by tax payers). A nation that cares for its sick and poor is noble and humane, but a nation that imports poverty and sickness is foolish and irresponsible. This is especially true as we confront the daunting challenges of funding health care for the uninsured in a time of rapidly increasing medical costs..

By simultaneously lifting the immigration ban and offering free medical care regardless of citizenship, the Obama Administration will create a magnet for the immigration of individuals with HIV and other illnesses. The logic is simple: if you were a poor, HIV-positive Guatemalan or Ghanaian would you not do everything possible to legally or illegally immigrate to the United States to receive free or subsidized treatment, especially after hearing that a major barrier to your entry was eliminated? Given our struggle with rising health care costs, we should provide incentives to attract young, healthy, educated immigrants who will become net-contributors to the health care system, rather than accelerate our race to financial insolvency.

White House announces end to HIV travel ban

By Garance Franke-Ruta

President Obama called the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals a decision "rooted in fear rather than fact" and announced the end of the rule-making process lifting the ban.

The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules, which have been under development more more than a year. "We are finishing the job," the president said.

The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.

A ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.

A 1990-1991 effort to overturn the regulatory ban failed in the face of outcry and lobbying from conservative groups and bureaucratic turf disputes. The ban was upheld in 1993 when Congress added it to U.S. immigration laws.

The Senate finally voted to overturn the ban as part of approving legislation reauthorizing funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2008, and President Bush signed it into law on July 30 of that year. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) led the process in the Senate.

"This really proves that immigration laws that exclude families and stigmatize individuals are destined to fail," said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a group that has mobilized more than 20,000 comments in support of ending the ban.

"The climate has really changed," she said, attributing the end of the ban to a diminishment in "misinformation about HIV and AIDS."

The lifting of the ban removes one of the last vestiges of early U.S. AIDS policy. "We're thrilled that the ban has been lifted based on science, reason, and human rights. Our hope is that this decision reflects a commitment to adopting more evidence-based policies when confronting the AIDS epidemic and developing a comprehensive national AIDS strategy," said Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amFAR, an AIDS research foundation.

Until today's announcement, the U.S. was one of only 7 countries with laws that bar entry of people with HIV, the group noted.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sex Offender Alert! (part II)

Once we accept the fact that Muhammad married a 6 year old and consummated the relationship (had sex) when she was 9 or 10 years old, we must ask what this says about Islam and Moslems:

1. Islam does not have a monopoly on bad behavior; there are fanatical and violent Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc. The majority of Moslems are good people and in no way could any defects within Islam justify the mistreatment of Moslems.

2. That being said, it is a legitimate question why in this day and age a disproportionate amount of religious violence emanates from the Islamic world. Is this by chance or are their elements in the Koran that contribute to this?

3. Both the followers of Christianity and Islam have passed through violent periods, but there are distinct differences between the foundational prophet and text of both of these religions. To the best of my knowledge, no where in the New Testament does Jesus exhort his followers to lift up the sword against non-believers. In contrast, Muhammad personally led battles and slew his enemies. Whereas Jesus is presented as a chaste figure, Muhammad had sexual intercourse with a young girl and was married to 11 women.

4. Perhaps the aforementioned point explains why it has been relatively easier for Christianity to become less violent and fanatical over time.

5. There are certainly figures within Judaic texts who lead violent and lustful lives, like King David. But, to the best of my knowledge, Judaism recognizes their behaviors as negative and these figures as imperfect. In contrast, Islamic tradition does not look negatively upon Muhammad's violence and pedophilia and in fact considers him as a perfect model for human behavior.

6. Judaism and Christianity may have some negative beliefs like intolerance towards homosexuals, but the majority of Jews and Christians either down play, ignores these elements or perform mental gymnastics to foster tolerance within their religion. This explains why there are liberal churches and synagogues in Chicago that accept and even marry openly gay couples. But, to the best of my knowledge this is rarely if ever found in Islam.

Sex Offender Alert!

Pictured above: an infamous Danish cartoon.

Do some research on Muhammad's marriage to Aisha and you will learn that he married her at age 6 and consummated the marriage (had sex) when she was age 9 or 10. This is based on widely accepted hadiths, which are oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Hadith are regarded by traditional schools of jurisprudence as important tools for determining the Muslim way of life, the sunnah. Hadith were originally oral traditions of Muhammad's actions and customs. So, if Muhammad moved to your community, surely the police would issue a sex offender alert. I welcome anyone to provide us with evidence to the contrary and FYI labelling me "racist" or "islamaphobic" doesn't constitute evidence.

From the Sahi Hadith of Bukhari

The translation into English by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, of the Islamic University in Medina is the one quoted. The central figure to approve and sign the translation, is Dr. Amin Al-Masri, Ph.D. Cambridge University. He is the Advisor and Head of the Sharia Dept., at the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies in Mecca.

From Bukhari vol. 7, #65:

"Narrated Aisha that the prophet wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: ‘I have been informed that Aisha remained with the prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).'"

Bukhari vol. 7, #88:

"Narrated Urwa: ‘The prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).'"

Bukhari vol. 5, #234 says:

"Narrated Aisha: The prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six. We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Harith Kharzraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, "Best wishes and Allah's blessing and a good luck." Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah's messenger came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age."

From the Sahi Hadith of Muslim

Muslim volume 2 # 3309

Aisha reported: Allah's Messenger married me when I was six years old, and I was admitted to his house at the age of nine….

The Hadith of the sunan of Abu Dawud

From Abu Dawud, Vol. 2, #2116:

"Aisha said, "The Apostle of Allah married me when I was seven years old." (The narrator Sulaiman said: "Or six years."). "He had intercourse with me when I was 9 years old."

The Tarikh of Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari

Tabari (838-923AD), wrote the most authentic Islamic history. It covers 39 volumes. Tabari was one of the greatest Islamic scholars and the greatest Islamic Historian.

From Tabari, volume 7, page7:

" marriage (to Muhammad) was consummated when I was nine....."

From Tabari, volume 9, page 131

"Then the men and women got up and left. The Messenger of Allah consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old. Neither a camel nor a sheep was slaughtered on behalf of me"......(The Prophet) married her three years before the Emigration, when she was seven years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine years old, after he had emigrated to Medina in Shawwal. She was eighteen years old when he died.

From the Encyclopaedia of Islam (pub E.J.Brill)

Under "Aisha"

"Some time after the death of Khadija, Khawla suggested to Muhammad that he should marry either Aisha, the 6 year old daughter of his chief follower, or Sawda Zama, a widow of about 30, who had gone as a Muslim to Abyssinia and whose husband had died there. Muhammad is said to have asked her to arrange for him to marry both. It had already been agreed that Aisha should marry Djubayr Mutim, whose father, though still pagan, was friendly to the Muslims. By common consent, however, this agreement was set aside, and Muhammad was betrothed to Aisha.... The marriage was not consummated until some months after the Hidjra, (in April 623, 624). Aisha went to live in an apartment in Muhammad's house, later the mosque of Median. She cannot have been more than ten years old at the time and took her toys to her new home."

Brief Reflection on Health Care

The health care debate brings up tough questions about the role of the state in a democracy.

On one hand I am tempted to embrace a strong state that will "slap some sense" into the many groups that are making it almost impossible to enact meaningful reform that will control costs and maintain quality. At times I even fantasize about a strong state that will eliminate all lobbyists and makes insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, lawyers, doctors, patients and fast food manufacturers "rise above their narrow interests" and "do the right thing."

On the other hand, for good and for bad democracy involves allowing disparate parties and interests to offer their input into the development of laws and policies, which makes the pursuit of difficult solutions much, much more difficult.

On answer that is suggested is to separate "special interest lobbyists" from "public interest lobbyists." Unfortunately that is far more challenging than it sounds. A "special interest" may offer valuable input and advice that ultimately offers a net-benefit to the public even if they are only pursuing their own interests. And a "public interest" lobby may offer net-costs to the public, even while they are purportedly pursuing the public's interest. One example is the clash between "public interest" lobbyists and pharmaceutical lobbyists over the quest of the former to eliminate patents on medicines, as part of a drive to lower costs. This will certainly offer short to medium term benefits, but in the long term it will lower incentives of pharmaceutical companies to invest billions of dollars in the development of new drugs and cures, something that is certainly not in the public's interest. So, ultimately the ideal is to strike a balance and compromise between both positions, which hopefully can be accomplished by the democratic interplay of disparate interests.

In other words - I don't have the answer!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mormons Charged With Terror Plot!

Sorry, I couldn't find any Mormon, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu terror plots. But, the religion of peace has been quite busy lately with terror plots in Boston, New York Colorado, Texas and our very own Chicago. These upstanding citizens allegedly planned to visit Denmark to kill a blasphemous cartoonist and undertake other terrorist attacks. Of course the majority of Moslem immigrants are good, law abiding citizens, but perhaps it wouldn't hurt to better screen immigrants coming from countries with high rates of terrorism. And (close your eyes champeons of diversity) perhaps we should even seek immigrants from nations and cultures that are better able to assimilate to American cultural norms like: it's not nice to blow up buildings and to behead cartoonists even if you don't like what they write.

Two Chicago Men Charged in Connection With Alleged Roles in Foreign Terror Plot That Focused on Targets in Denmark

CHICAGO, Oct. 27 /PR Newswire-USNewswire/ -- Two Chicago men have been arrested on federal charges for their alleged roles in conspiracies to provide material support and/or to commit terrorist acts against overseas targets, including facilities and employees of a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of theProphet Mohammed in 2005, federal law enforcement officials announced today. There was no imminent danger in the Chicago area, officials said, adding thatthe charges are unrelated to recent terror plot arrests in Boston, New York,Colorado, Texas and central Illinois.

The defendants charged in separate criminal complaints unsealed today in U.S.District Court in Chicago are David Coleman Headley, 49, and Tahawwur HussainRana, 48, also known as Tahawar Rana, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S.Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, SpecialAgent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI. The complaints remainedunder seal temporarily after the defendants' arrests, with court approval, soas not to compromise further investigative activity.

Headley, a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 andresides primarily in Chicago, was arrested on Oct. 3, 2009, by the ChicagoFBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) at O'Hare International Airport beforeboarding a flight to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan. He wascharged with one count of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murderand maiming outside the United States and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to that overseas terrorism conspiracy.

Rana, a native of Pakistan and citizen of Canada who also primarily resides inChicago, was arrested on Oct. 18, 2009, at his home by federal agents. Ranais the owner of several businesses, including First World ImmigrationServices, which has offices on Devon Avenue in Chicago, as well as in New Yorkand Toronto. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide materialsupport to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that involved Headley and at leastthree other specific individuals in Pakistan.

Both men have been held in federal custody since each was arrested. Ifconvicted, Headley faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment forconspiracy to murder or maim persons abroad, while Headley and Rana each facea maximum of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism.

On Oct. 18, 2009, JTTF agents executed search warrants in connection with theinvestigation at four locations: Headley's and Rana's residences on the northside of Chicago, Rana's immigration business in Chicago, and a farm he owns inKinsman, Ill., approximately 80 miles southwest of Chicago, which is used toprovide halal meat for Muslim customers, as well as a grocery store in Chicago.

According to both complaints, since at least late 2008 until Oct. 3, 2009, aspart of the conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad, Headley allegedlyidentified and conducted surveillance of potential targets of a terroristattack in Denmark on two separate trips to Denmark in January and July 2009,and reported and attempted to report on his efforts to other conspirators inPakistan. As part of the conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism,Rana allegedly helped arrange Headley's travels overseas and conceal theirtrue nature and purpose to surveil potential terror targets overseas, anddiscussed potential targets for attack with Headley.

Headley allegedly reported and attempted to report on his overseassurveillance to other conspirators, according to the affidavits, including:

--Ilyas Kashmiri, identified as the operational chief of the Azad Kashmir section of Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI), a Pakistani-based terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda. Kashmiri, who is presently believed to be in Waziristan in the Federally Administered Triba Area(FATA)
region in northwestern Pakistan, issued a statement this month that he was alive and working with al Qaeda;

--"Individual A" (who is identified as Individual A in the Headley affidavit and as Individual B in the Rana affidavit), who isassociated with Kashmiri, as well as with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), another Pakistani-based terrorist organization;

--an individual identified as "Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A" (LeT Member A), who has substantial influence and responsibility within theorganization and whose identity is known to the government.

"The public should be reassured that there was no imminent danger in theChicago area. However, law enforcement has the duty to be vigilant to guardagainst not just those who would carry out attacks here on our soil but thosewho plot on our soil to help carry out violent attacks overseas. I wish toexpress my deep appreciation to the FBI agents and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their extremely hard work on this matter," said Mr.Fitzgerald.

"The criminal complaints unsealed today have exposed a serious plot againstoverseas targets by two Chicago-based men working with Pakistani-basedterrorist organizations. Information developed during this investigation wasshared with our foreign partners as we worked together to mitigate thesethreats. This case is a reminder that the threat posed by internationalterrorist organizations is global in nature and requires constant vigilance athome and abroad," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

"This investigation demonstrates the well-established relationships that wehave with our law enforcement partners, both foreign and domestic. We workclosely with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in the UnitedStates, as well as with our overseas partners, to identify and disrupt threatshere and abroad," said Mr. Grant.

According to the affidavits in both cases, Headley at times has claimed to bea consultant with or representative of Rana's business, First WorldImmigration Services, but appears to perform little if any actual work for thebusiness. In addition, Headley's apartment in Chicago is leased to anindividual who is deceased. Despite his apparent lack of financial resourcesand substantial employment, Headley has traveled extensively since the secondhalf of 2008, including multiple trips to Pakistan and various countries inEurope. Postings to an internet group for graduates of a military school inthe Pakistani town of Hasan Abdal (a group that refers to itself as"abdalians"), reflect that both Rana and Headley have participated in thegroup and referred to their attendance at that school.

The Denmark ProjectBeginning in late 2008, Headley corresponded extensively with Individual A andLeT Member A regarding what they referred to in coded communications as the"Mickey Mouse Project," "mmp," and "the northern project," according to theaffidavit. The Mickey Mouse Project allegedly involved planning for one ormore attacks at facilities and employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper that in 2005 published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, to which many Muslims took great offense. In October 2008, Headleyallegedly posted a message to the "abdalians" internet discussion groupstating that "I feel disposed towards violence for the offending parties,"referring to the Danish cartoonists and others who he identified "as making fun of Islam."

Using coded language, Rana, Headley, Individual A and LeT Member A allegedlyhave referred to this plot, as well as discussions of other targets, as"investments," "projects," "business," and "action," and have described theirhopes for success both in terms of receiving religious awards, as well asgetting "rich," "richer," and making "profit." Between August 2008 and Dec.7, 2008, Headley sent multiple email messages from internet addresses locatedin Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan, the charges allege. On Dec. 7, 2008, justbefore traveling from Pakistan to the United States that same day, Headleyallegedly used one of multiple email accounts to store a detailed list ofitems for himself, which he titled "Mickey Mouse." Included on the list(contained in the affidavits) were the following items:

-- Route Design (train, bus, air)
-- Cross (Cover Authenticator)
-- Trade? Immigration?
-- Ad? (Lost Luggage) (Business) (Entry?)
-- Kings Square (French Embassy)
-- Counter surveillance (magic eye)
-- Security (armed)?

In January 2009, Headley traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Rana allegedlyarranged portions of his travel. During the trip, Headley allegedly visitedtwo different offices of the Jyllands-Posten -- in Copenhagen and Arhus,Denmark. The Copenhagen office is located in Kings Square near the FrenchEmbassy. Headley falsely told Jyllands-Posten employees that he was visitingon behalf of First World Immigration Services, which he said was consideringopening offices in Denmark and might be interested in advertising the businessin the newspaper. While in Denmark, Headley instructed Rana to be alert foran email from a Jyllands-Posten sales representative, and to ask First World'sToronto and New York offices to "remember me," in case a newspaperrepresentative called. According to the complaints, Rana corresponded fromChicago with a representative of the Jyllands-Posten by email in which hepretended to be Headley.

After visiting Denmark, Headley traveled to Pakistan to meet with IndividualA. During this visit, Headley traveled with Individual A to Pakistan's FATAregion and met with Kashmiri. Before returning to Chicago in June 2009,Headley sent his will to Rana and Rana responded by sending a coded messageestablishing a new email account, the complaint alleges.

In July and August 2009, Headley exchanged a series of emails with LeT MemberA, including an exchange in which Headley asked if the Denmark project was onhold, and whether a visit to India that LeT Member A had asked him toundertake was for the purpose of surveilling targets for a new terroristattack. These emails reflect that LeT Member A was placing a higher priorityon using Headley to assist in planning a new attack in India than oncompleting the planned attack in Denmark. After this time, Headley andIndividual A allegedly continued focusing on the plan with Kashmiri to attackthe newspaper, rather than working with LeT, the complaint alleges.

In late July 2009, Headley traveled again to Copenhagen and to other locationsin Europe, and Rana again arranged portions of his travel. When Headleyreturned to the United States, he falsely told border inspectors that he wastraveling on business as a representative of First World Immigration, althoughhis luggage contained no papers or other documents relating to First World.

After returning to Chicago in August 2009, Headley allegedly used codedlanguage to repeatedly inquire if Individual A had been in touch with Kashmiriregarding planning for the attack, and expressing concern that Individual A'scommunications with Kashmiri had been cut off. In early September 2009,Headley and Rana took a lengthy car ride during which they discussed theactivities of the other individuals, including past terrorist acts, andHeadley discussed with Rana five actions involving targets that expresslyincluded "Denmark." In conversations with Rana and Individual A in August andSeptember 2009, Headley indicated that if the "doctor" (alleged to be areference to Kashmiri) and his people were unable to assist, then Headleywould perform the planned operation himself.

In September 2009, after initial press reports indicated that Kashmiri hadbeen killed in a drone attack in Pakistan, Headley and Individual A allegedlyhad a series of coded conversations in which they discussed the reports ofKashmiri's death and what it meant for the projects they were planning. Individual A sought to reassure and encourage Headley, telling him, amongother things, that "[t]his is business sir; these types of things happen." OnSept. 20, 2009, Headley allegedly told a family member words to the effectthat he had spoken to Rana and they agreed that "business must go on."

In a Sept. 21, 2009, telephone conversation, Individual A indicated to Headleythat Kashmiri was alive and "doing well." In a subsequent conversation onSept. 30, 2009, Individual A again assured Headley that Kashmiri, whom hereferred to as "Pir Sahib," was "absolutely all right" and had not gotten"married," which was code for being killed. Headley asked Individual A if itwas possible to now have a meeting with Kashmiri and Individual A respondedthat Kashmiri "just today, was asking about you" (Headley).

According to the affidavit, Headley stated in conversations last month that heintended to travel to Pakistan in early October to meet with Individual A andKashmiri, and he was arrested on Oct. 3 as he prepared to board a flight fromChicago to Philadelphia, intending to travel on to Pakistan. During a searchof Headley's luggage, a memory stick was recovered that containedapproximately 10 short videos of Copenhagen, including video focused on theJyllands-Posten building in King's Square taken both during the day and night,as well as a nearby Danish military barracks and the exterior and interior ofCopenhagen's central train station, consistent with the checklist he storedwhich mentioned "route design." In addition, Headley had an airlinereservation, allegedly made by Rana, to fly from Atlanta to Copenhagen on Oct.29, 2009.

The investigation is continuing and is being conducted by the Chicago FBIJoint Terrorism Task Force, with particular assistance from the Chicago PoliceDepartment, the Illinois State Police and the Department of Homeland Security.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Collinsand Vicki Peters from the Northern District of Illinois, with assistance fromthe Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National SecurityDivision.

The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains mere allegationsthat are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and areentitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of provingguilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Free Lunch!

In this recording a radio reporter interviewed several individuals waiting in line for a government handout. During the brief interviews the reporter asked "where does this money come from?" With each response (such as "the city") the interviewer would further question them, hoping that they would arrive at the ultimate source of all government funds - tax payers. Unfortunately each individualseemed to believe that the money to fund their subsidies came out of thin air. Hence we encounter the underlying forces behind the pathological growth of the state - few recipients of entitlements and subsidies understand or care that they are funded by the labor of others. Too many people implicitly believe in the concept of a "free lunch."

Whose Property Taxes Went Up Most in Chicago?

Why are people surprised that property taxes are going up most in marginal city neighborhoods, like West Garfield Park (46.4%), New City (23%) and North Lawndale (19.7%)? Proponents of massive government spending generally claim that they will fund their desired programs by "taxing the rich." But, the size and scope of government inevitably reaches a point were its costs cannot solely be bore by the rich. And soon the definition of "rich" and "middle class" are greatly expanded to even include home owners in poor neighborhoods. We can be certain that the same will occur with the Obama Administration's expanded health care entitlements; few will enjoy improved health care, but most will face the burden of higher taxes.

Whose property taxes went up most in Chicago?

'IT'S OUTRAGEOUS' Property tax bills coming out this week jump as '7%' cap is gradually lifted BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter October 27, 2009

Four out of five Chicago homeowners will see their property taxes go up when they get their bills later this week, Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan said Monday.

In the West Garfield Park neighborhood, the median tax bill will jump 46.4 percent, the highest spike in the city, according to the numbers compiled by Houlihan's office.

"I think it's outrageous. It doesn't seem fair," said Latonya Nelson, 39, who rehabbed a 100-year-old graystone opposite the park with her husband. "Especially with the economy being the way it is."

The main reason for the higher tax bills is the phaseout of the "7 percent" cap on property tax increases, Houlihan said.

Houlihan's controversial effort -- backed by Mayor Daley -- used a complicated math formula to shield homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods from sudden steep property tax hikes. The formula shielded the first $40,000 of home value from tax hikes and aimed to prevent homeowners' bills from going up more than 7 percent a year.

Lobbies representing businesses and owners of commercial and apartment properties complained the program shifted some tax burden to them. House Speaker Mike Madigan remained a skeptic of the bill and two years ago he pushed through a staggered phaseout. So last year, the first $33,000 of city home values was protected. This year, that number drops to $20,000. That's why the bills will be higher, Houlihan said.

"This is a direct result of Speaker Madigan's phaseout of the 7 percent homeowner exemption," Houlihan said. "This is the one thing that worked. For the first three years, when it was really going, it protected homeowners. I met with the mayor and urged him to go to Springfield and try to reverse that. The budget indicates how serious the problem is: The mayor has $35 million to deal with that."

Mayor Daley's budget released last week included a pot of money to give $200 each in property tax relief to homeowners hard-hit by the phaseout. Daley is expected to talk about property taxes today, but it is unclear whether he will back an effort to revive the 7 percent program still unpopular with Madigan and business owners.

At the time he argued for a phaseout of the program two years ago, Madigan pointed to one study that argued the program's benefits were exaggerated.

Critics said the plan mainly benefitted yuppies. But Houlihan points to the accompanying chart as proof the West, Southwest and Northwest sides were the main beneficiaries and will now be hit the hardest by the phaseout.

The staggered phaseout of the program hits the city hardest and earliest, Houlihan said.

The amount of property value protected from tax hikes in north suburban properties drops from $33,000 to $26,000 this year, so tax bills will go up there too, but not by as steep a rate as in the city, said Houlihan spokesman Eric Herman.

In the south suburbs, where median home values are going down, the first $33,000 of home values are still protected from taxation, so homeowners there in general will not be hit as hard, he said.

Treasurer Maria Pappas expects to mail Cook County tax bills Wednesday, so they could be landing in homeowners' mailboxes as early as Thursday.

"They're trying to build the neighborhood back up, but if property taxes are going to go up 46 percent, a lot of the older folks aren't going to be able to pay that," said West Garfield Park's Matt O'Brien, 52, who works as a Dominick's grocery store cashier.

"The problem is, we're going to get taxed out of our properties," said his neighbor Kate Lane. "'Cause this is the best part of town. We've got the Eisenhower ... the Congress 'L,' the Douglas 'L,' we're getting taxed out for the rich folks and we poor folks are going to have to find somewhere to go.",CST-NWS-tax27.article

Pelosi's Interpretation of the Constitution

At a recent press conference, a very revealing exchange occurred between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D - Calif) and When Pelosi was asked where in the constitution is she and the federal government granted the power to mandate that Americans purchase health insurance she responded "Are You Serious?" After that Pelosi's press secretary Nadeam Elshami added "you can put this on the record. That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."

No, Ms. Elshami, regardless of the answer we arrive at, the questions of a law's constitutionality is of dire importance to the people of the United States.

Clearly Pelosi, Obama and most "progressives" do not take the constitution's clear limits on the power of the federal government seriously. For Pelosi the constitution is not treated as a guiding document that serves to protect individual liberty, but as an impediment that they seek to erode through legal sophistry.

Later on, followed up with an e-mail to Pelosis Nadeam Elshami, in which they reiterated the question:

“Where specifically does the Constitution authorize Congress to force Americans to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance?” asked the speaker's office.

“If it is the Speaker’s belief that there is a provision in the Constitution that does give Congress this power, does she believe the Constitution in any way limits the goods and services Congress can force an individual to purchase?" asked. "If so, what is that limit?”

Elshami responded by sending a press release from the Speaker’s office that states that Congress has “broad power to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce. Congress has used this authority to regulate many aspects of American life, from labor relations to education to health care to agricultural production.”

What Elshami is referring to is the grossly abused Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8) of the constitution which grants Congress the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states...” The said authority was granted to allow Congress to regulate foreign trade and trade between the fledgling states of the Union. The underlying purpose of this clause was to bar individual states within the Union from constructing barriers to commerce between their fellow states. Tragically this clause has been grossly misconstrued by some to serve as an authorization of the federal government to vastly increase its powers to regulate and mandate the social and economic activities of individual citizens and states. Anyone who believes that the Commerce Clause grants the federal government nearly unlimited coercive powers should refer to the 10th Amendment which clearly states:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

In other words, individual states and communities may have the power to regulate social and economic affairs, but the federal government does not. State and local assemblies may have the right to pursue a public option, but the congress does not.

To politicians and pundits like Pelosi and Obama who so blatantly disregard and distort the
10th Amendment in particular and the constitution in general, I refer to a quote from Thomas Jefferson that specifically regards to the said amendment.

"To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition."

In other words, once you cross clearly defined limits set by the constitution, you open the way to an expansion of government power that knows no ends. This has allowed the federal government to pursue unsustainable spending that has led to multi-trillion dollar debt. State and local governments can be just as inept and corrupt, but in contrast to the federal government they face natural limits: they cannot endless print and borrow money. And those who tire of entrenched, corrupt and abusive local governments, can flee to better governed localities. But, the heavy hand of the federal government reaches to every corner of our great nation, usurping the wealth and liberty of its citizens.

On Clothing

I recently came across, a website that documents some of the more outlandishly dressed people spotted at Walmarts across the country. This isn't so much a documentary about Walmart, but about the many people we encounter who seem to have abandoned even the most minimum standards of taste, decency and decor.

In light of the current economic and social ills that we face, I am not so much troubled by the actual clothing, but I am very curious about what it may say about the culture and values of these individuals in particular and the nation at large.

I am not certain what the answer is, but I am contemplating that it may reveal a growing indifference of many individual to members of their community. It may reveal an increasing disconnect from the social and community spheres. It possibly reveals a sense of self esteem that is increasingly divorced from reality (thank you new age school teachers). In the past most obese men and women dressed conservatively to downplay the less than ideal aspects of their physique. But, now many obese individuals wear highly revealing clothing that proudly displays their undulating waves of belly fat and thongs to highlight their gargantuan posteriors. And lastly, it may reveal a growing class of people who have lost their sense of self reflection and the impulse of self improvement that was (relative to other cultures) very strong in the United States. Millions either are so lethargic and torpid that they do not see or care about the connection between behaviors and their growing obesity. This same phenomena drives the explosive growth of pathological social and economic phenomena like single-motherhood and the reckless financial behavior of the Bushbama Administration.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Faith Based Administration?

I came across this interesting take on the Obama Administration from Dr. Breggin M.D. that explores the way in which religious or spiritual impulses are manifested in many leftists. Hats off to Tin Winchester who introduced me to this interesting concept.

To listen to an audio presentation of this essay, click here:

Obama’s Faith-Based Administration

Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

September 25, 2009

It came to me as a revelation, in this case delivered through my wife Ginger—Obama has a faith-based administration. In fact, he ran a faith-based campaign. How else to explain the way in which people felt so inspired by this relatively young man with so few accomplishments to his name. They had faith in him. How else to explain America’s willingness to dismiss the influence of Reverend Wright, the hate-mongering anti-American preacher who guided Obama through much of his adult life—right up to and into the election campaign? How else to explain people voting for “change” without specificity or even content? Faith in Obama.

Once in office, the fullness of his faith-based presidency immediately came to the fore. He declared a financial emergency and Congress and the people believed him, and swallowed his ill-planned, fiscally disastrous stimulus package. When he left no time to read legislative bills, Congress voted on blind faith.

In his recent health care address to Congress, he exhorted us to believe that he can cover tens of millions of additional people while improving overall health care—without spending a dime more.

Ultimately he asked us, like Abraham, to sacrifice our children and our children’s children on the altar of fiscal irresponsibility; and we prepared to slit their throats. But unlike Abraham, no angel appeared to stop this barbarous act of generational fiscal genocide.

He further tests our faith by creating a system of czars answerable only to him and to no one else, and especially not us. And his minions tell us the good news—that the economy is improving and jobs have been saved, even as the economy continues to tank and unemployment reaches record highs. It’s a lot to take on faith.

While we grow disillusioned, in public speech upon public speech he tries to inspire us with renewed faith in him. But being mere moral, he easily becomes over-exposed.

Ascending high above ordinary politics and above America’s checkered past, as he sees it, he tells the world of friends and foes alike to place trust in his good intentions. By means of mere words, self-critical and conciliatory words, he will make America a more moral nation and bring peace on Earth. He especially wants China to trust in a new economic order that transcends reality, a kind of turning water into wine, in which unsound fiscal policies bring forth a sound currency. Most dangerous of all, he wants us to believe that we no longer need an antimissile defense system in Eastern Europe. Why? Because he believes that Russia will have faith in his good intentions—something that will never happen.

Meanwhile, the same people who want us to have faith in Obama often ridicule those who have faith in God. We are asked to have faith in a man but not in a Deity.

Faith goes a long way to explain Obama’s success. People need faith. Even young people caught up in their own adolescent smugness need faith. Even the most materialistic progressive needs faith. Bereft of a belief in God, they search elsewhere for spiritual sustenance—and find it in Obama.

Spiritual yearning is built into our nature. We want to trust something outside ourselves. That’s why atheistic progressives display such unbridled faith in their leaders and in the ability of an intelligentsia to plan and to bring forth a better world. That’s why people who ridicule the idea of heaven so often bring ruination by trying to implement heaven on Earth. That’s why the mere mention of “science” or “research” sends progressives into spasms of genuflections. That’s why they worship the Earth and even its animals, at the expense of people. They call the Earth by the name Gaia, the concept that our planet has the qualities of a living organism, something akin to a god.

People need faith. While ridiculing the idea of faith in the unseen God, they place their lives in the hands of the invisible man whose true identify forever remains elusive and even mysterious. Rejecting religion as a cult, they adopt the cult of personality. They put their faith in Obama.

It’s time to hold Obama accountable like any other man and to subject him to the same checks and balances as any other president. It’s time to realize that America has no rulers—only representatives beholden to us. And it’s time to put our faith back into the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the values of our Founders. Ultimately, we need to renew our faith in our “one nation under God” that has brought forth so much good onto this continent and into the world.

That brings us to what I call The Primary Principles—the refrain of my brings weekly report:

Protect freedom

Take responsibility at all times

Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities

Become a source of love

A Much Needed Psychoanalysis

For nearly a century leftists have psychoanalyzed the bourgeoisie, capitalists and their values, yet rarely looked in the mirror. Dr. Breggin M.D. a psychiatrist provides an interesting take on the psychology behind progressives and statist values.

To listen to an audio presentation of this essay:

Responsibility: The Dagger in the Heart of Progressives
Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
September 1, 2009

Today I want to talk about the dread word “responsibility.” Children and progressives often hate the word responsibility. Adults who are failing in their lives often detest the word as well.

When we were children, taking responsibility may have sounded about as inviting as grabbing a porcupine by the tail or jumping up and down barefoot on a bed of tacks. Every time an adult was mad or disappointed, we heard, “Be responsible.” Or worse, “That’s irresponsible.” Some of us never get over it. I’ve seen forty-year-old men wince at the sound of the word—responsibility. Like a punch in the nose or a slap in the face: Be responsible! Smack!

It harms people psychologically to view responsibility as a punishment imposed on us from the outside. Responsibility becomes something someone else wants you to do against your will and probably against your best interests. Too many adults resent the idea of taking responsibility, and that resentment becomes ruinous to their lives.

Because the word is so emotionally charge, I’ve tried to find less painful synonyms. Maybe “autonomy”—but that’s a word for philosophers, not ordinary folks. Maybe “self-sufficiency”—but that’s something more specific about providing for your own needs. Maybe “independence”—but that’s more a result of taking responsibility. There really isn’t another word to substitute for the dread word responsibility.

Responsibility means that you own what you do and you do what you know is right. You never blame what you do on someone or something else, because you recognize that you’re the one who makes the choices about your own actions. It means that you and you alone make your decisions and take your own actions—and that you always do your best to do what you know is right.

Responsibility means feeling eager and glad to accept the consequences of your choices and actions. In fact, for a successful life, taking responsibility has to appeal to you. You have to want it and to seize it.

I believe that rationality and love are the twin guideless for responsible living. Responsibility means acting on the basis of rational ethics in everything you do, all the time, in every way. No exceptions, none at all.

And then there’s love. To me, the ultimate expression of the good life requires taking responsibility for becoming a source love—someone who takes joy in being aware of other people, creativity, nature, our national values, and God.

I began by saying that progressives and children often hate the word responsibility. Progressives, Statists and extreme left-wingers dislike the word because it suggests that people are not entitled to good lives—that instead they have to work for them. It puts the onus or the burden on the individual to build a life that is successful, and psychologically and spiritually satisfying.
Responsibility is the dagger in the heart of Progressives. That’s because Progressivism thrives on people feeling abused and victimized. Progressives and Statists promote the idea that individuals cannot and should not have to take care of themselves. Being Progressive too often means feeling sorry for and looking down on other people rather than empowering them by defending their freedom, enlarging their choices and opportunities, and encouraging their sense of responsibility. From bailing out giant corporations to enforcing government health care, Progressivism undermines responsibility.
Our Founders of our nation knew that freedom provided opportunity and after that it was up to individual Americans to make the most of it. The Founders continually emphasized the direct relationship between taking responsibility and enjoying happiness. In 1783, at the close of the War of Independence, George Washington made clear that from now on Americans would be responsible for their own happiness. He declared, “At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a nation, and if their citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

Embrace responsibility because it is the only way to make a happy life. Embrace responsibility because it’s the only way to give to others and to the world as much as you can. Embrace responsibility because you will become more truly loving toward yourself, other people, nature, God and whatever or whomever else matters to you.
This brings me again to the refrain of my weekly report, The Primary Principles:

Protect freedom

Take responsibility at all times

Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities

Become a source of love

An Appeal to My Fellow Idealists on the Left

Dr. Peter Breggin M.D.

Whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Breggin, he does present interesting ideas and opens up much needed debates.

To listen to an audio recording of this essay:

An Appeal to My Fellow Idealists on the Left
By Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
Monday, June 22, 2009

Bailouts and government takeovers! Limiting executive pay! Strengthening government oversight of business! Universal health care! Raising taxes on the rich! Fighting pollution!

Progressives can rejoice. But flush with victory as you are, please reflect with me on some of the consequences. Starting as a young reformer decades ago, I have fought against racism, the abuse of women and children, and especially oppressive practices within my profession of psychiatry. I took on, and continue to take on, nasty adversaries: federal agencies like the FDA and NIMH, the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry. Over a lifetime, I have opposed forces that many feared, and some hoped, would crush me.

As a younger man, I felt free to pursue these ideals while taking for granted that the America I knew would endure. It was as if I lived on a giant ocean liner, preoccupied with improving equality and justice among the crew and passengers, without wondering what kept the ship afloat. But in case you haven’t noticed, our ship is beginning to flounder under the weight of too much debt while it heads into a sea of fiscal and regulatory icebergs. Progressives could end up playing their band with idealistic fervor as the deck disappears beneath all of our feet.

In my youth, I was sure that the world would be a much better place if only we could elect leaders who were, to put it bluntly, more like me. Although I’m still an idealist and a reformer, I no longer have faith that a team of well meaning likeminded people can take over the country and transform it for the better.
I have since learned that Founders of this nation greatly feared leaders with good intentions. They knew the danger of bending the rules to fit our personal ideals. They knew the threat to freedom from charismatic leaders. They repeatedly declared that the success of our government would ultimately depend on a high level of personal responsibility and devotion to liberty among its citizens.
Progressive and liberals, if you want to give yourselves a fright, consider this. At some point—and this is guaranteed—leaders who oppose you will take over this giant government apparatus that you are manufacturing for your own ends. In the hands of your enemies, the government apparatus that you built will turn on you to crush your freedom and your ideals.

Do not imagine that the Founders were less well-intentioned or idealistic than you are. The Founders were extraordinarily principled people—idealists who risked everything they had for the sake of freedom. Not a single signer of the Declaration of Independence made money off the War of Independence, and many lost their homes, their fortunes, and even their lives. Probably no other group of individuals in history was so idealistically motivated as well as so successful in promoting human freedom.

Their goal was to give individuals the freedom to take responsibility for themselves. But they were not indifferent to the needs of people. Ben Franklin, for example, lead the creation of many institutions that continue to serve our citizens, from the U. S. Postal Service to the first ever local fire department, from a great university to community hospitals and libraries. Ben never patented his inventions. Instead he freely gave humanity inventions like the lightning rod and Franklin stove. Other Founders initiated reforms in the penal code and prison system, and even in mental hospital care. But their over-riding goal was the creation of a free space in which people could pursue their own lives, for better or for worse.

Returning to myself as a younger reformer who had faith in leaders with good intentions like my own—I had no idea that the Founders had looked carefully into this aspect of human nature and found it menacing. They created checks and balances to prevent well-intentioned idealists from using the government to impose our ideals on other people. They built a limited government, constrained by checks and balances—a government that would forever protect each person’s right to pursue life, liberty, property, and happiness.

The checks and balances that restrain government are being battered like the levies of New Orleans. The executive branch tries to flood the economy with money while it controls the activity of business. Innumerable Czars are answerable only to their maker—who is Barak Obama. Empathic judges make policy instead of applying the law. The levies are about to fail, and this time they will wipe out America.

Progressives, my fellow idealists, please reconsider this frantic bulldozing of the checks and balances. You are undermining the freedoms that have enabled us to voice our differing opinions.
That brings us to what I call The Primary Principles—the refrain of my weekly report:

Protect freedom

Take responsibility at all times

Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities

Become a source of love

Malicious Envy

An interesting essay by the psychiatrist Dr. Peter R. Breggin M.D. on the role of malicious envy in modern political movements.

To list to an audio presentation of this essay:

Malicious Envy

by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

February 10, 2009

This is Dr. Peter R. Breggin. I am a psychiatrist and I want to help you to “Live Like an American!”

Today’s subject: Malicious envy: How it ruins lives and creates a Failure Society.

With the federal government so eager to redistribute whatever wealth is left in the nation, it’s a good time to look at one of the underlying motives or driving emotions.

Few passions are more demonic than envy. This corrosive emotion can ruin lives and ruin great nations. At a time when we are in danger of a new economic leveling in America—a more fervent redistribution of wealth—it’s worth examining an underlying motivation in the form of envy.

Jealousy is milder and more benign than envy. Jealousy makes us want something for ourselves that’s similar to what our neighbors have. We want a house or a career like theirs. Jealousy can motivate positive activities, like working harder to earn more money. Envy has a nastier quality than jealousy. Envy says, “I resent what my neighbor has. I’d like to burn down his house and wish evil on his career.” Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, then you can’t have it either.” In the worst case scenario, the envious person murders the object of his envy, even when it ruins his own life as well.

In recognition of the harm that it causes, the Tenth Commandment instructs us not to “covet” anything that belongs to our neighbor. Anything! We are not supposed to envy anyone or anything.

Malicious envy profoundly affects politics. Just as it drives us to harm others even when it harms ourselves, malicious envy also motivates people to level society—to take down the “haves” even if it harms the “have-nots” in the process. It motivated Communism, unleashing one of the worst epidemics of death and violence in human history. It drives socialism and the extreme leftwing in this country as well. Malicious envy says, “I’d rather take everyone down a notch than to allow the rich and powerful to get away with it.”

Why would anyone continue to praise Cuba—a nation reduced to a totalitarian institution where the citizens have less freedom than state mental hospital inmates? At least the wealthy capitalists have been erased. Why does Marxism continue to inspire intellectual Americans? Because so many of them resent those who become wealthy and powerful in our competitive economic system.

Malicious envy drives hatred of the free market. The free market has produced more material progress, more individual wealth, more improved physical health, and more religious and political freedom in a scant few centuries than the previous hundred thousand years of human history altogether. So why do so many Americans resent the free market? Because some people get very obviously wealthy and powerful—and that can cause others to feel less adequate, and hence envious.

Envy seems to have grown in modern times under the free market system. Disparities in wealth used to be much greater in previous ages when the world was divided between the aristocracy and everyone else. Disparities in wealth were and continue to be much greater under modern communist regimes. A well-fed elite ran the USSR while millions of Soviet citizens starved to death, something we see on a lesser scale in North Korea today. So why is envy being fanned by capitalism?

Although the free market benefits the greatest number of people, it tends to stir up malicious envy in some. Before there was a free market, you knew you were not to blame for your unfair “station” in life. In a free market democracy, people are led to wonder why they are not as rich and famous as some other folks. Some people become maliciously envious rather than face their own need to work harder and to aim higher for themselves.

A misunderstanding of economics and productivity also contributes to malicious envy. When people believe that there’s a “pie” of limited size, they feel justified in resenting those who get bigger slices. It’s true that envious socialism destroys whatever pie there is; but the free market and individual initiative goes on making one pie after another, and even pies we never thought possible.

Of course, birth into one or another family, community, social class or race still plays an unfair role in society—albeit much smaller than in former times and in other places in the world. But most hardworking people will do as well or better in a free market than anywhere else. Rather than attacking the free market, reformers need to work toward the further fulfillment of the American dream. America stands for a level playing field rather than a leveled playing field.

Malicious envy is not inevitable and it can be overcome. People who work hard and compete rarely feel envious. In sports, hardworking athletes use each other’s success as motivation. The Tonya Harding’s are rare—people so envious they would rather destroy their competitor than compete against her.

When we feel jealousy or envy in ourselves, we should take these negative emotions as signals that we’re failing to fully pursue what we want out of life. We may have been misdirected or discouraged. We need to renew our determination, while feeling grateful to live in a time and place where people have the freedom to seek happiness for themselves and their loved ones. People who are actively pursuing what they want don’t wallow in envy; they are too busy working at what they want to accomplish.

Most Americans do not aim at becoming rich, powerful and famous. They seek happiness through living responsibly, enjoying their work, supporting and loving their families, participating in their community, enjoying recreational activities, and sharing with their friends. Most Americans also gain spiritual satisfaction from religion and spirituality—not as the opiate of the masses—but as a rich source for living a more responsible and love-filled life, and for relating to their family and community.

That brings us to our closing with my weekly refrain, The Primary Principles:

Protect freedom
Take responsibility at all times
Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities
Become a source of love

What Shall We Call the New Society?

Dr. Peter Breggin M.D.

Dr. Peter Breggin M.D. is a psychiatrist who offers interesting insights into the interconnected nexus of political, economic, philosophical, psychological and spiritual life in the United States.

To here an audio recording of this essay, click here:

What Shall We Call the New Society?

Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

January 26, 2009

This is Dr. Peter Breggin. I am a psychiatrist and I want to help you to “Live Like an American!”

Today’s Subject: What shall we call the new society?

What name shall we give to the new society that’s being fashioned before our eyes by the so-called stimulus packages and bills? There has been a growing concern in recent decades about creating an Entitlement Society. I think we are becoming something much more deadly. We need a new name for it.

The Founding Fathers wanted to build a society where people have the opportunity to take charge of their lives and to pursue their own goals. Government would protect the freedom of individuals but offer no guarantee of their economic safety, security, or success. We began as a Responsibility Society.

Gradually the Responsibility Society has been eaten away by the Entitlement Society. People no longer have to compete—and to take the consequences. Now they have the right to be provided for—to be given certain benefits without being required to earn them through responsibility and hard work.

Various forms of welfare are probably the most obvious entitlements. Healthcare and even housing are now becoming entitlements.

Other government programs were originally presented as forms of insurance, such as unemployment insurance and social security—but they have also been transformed into entitlements. Future generations will pick up the bill in what has been called fiscal generation abuse.

Altruism, charity, fairness and perhaps even economic stability call for some means of helping people who are having difficulty providing the necessities of life. But as helpful and even necessary as some of these entitlements have become, there’s also an unintended effect—a problem—with them. Whenever people receive money for an activity, any kind of activity, the money rewards that activity.

Rewards reinforce or encourage behaviors. An otherwise dumb animal will learn an elaborate pattern of tapping on a button in response to receiving food pellets. Human beings have more volition or choice but in general they tend to behave in ways that lead to their being rewarded.

In contrast to reward, punishment tends to discourage or to stop the behaviors that led up to it.

This is psychology 101—and common sense. Reward responsibility and people will grow more responsible and succeed more often; reward irresponsibility and people will grow more irresponsible and become more likely to fail.

Like many of us, President Obama recently expressed outrage that executives in bailed out companies were taking huge bonuses for themselves? But why not? We are rewarding the companies that they have driven into the ground, so why wouldn’t we want to reward them as well? Why wouldn’t they be expected to be rewarded, no matter what?

Forty percent of American’s do not earn enough to pay taxes, and they will be benefiting from so-called tax breaks that spread the wealth to them. We are about to give a massive reward to people for not paying taxes. It won’t be long before 50% of Americans aren’t paying their taxes. After that, the sky’s the limit.

The current situation is much worse than simply rewarding failure. It’s a double whammy. We are also punishing successful people and institutions by withholding financial rewards from them and by taking money away from them in the form of higher taxes. Reward failure; punish success—it’s a prescription for societal disaster.

The homebuyer who pays his mortgage is now financially handicapped in comparison to the one who does not. The company that stays afloat on its own is now handicapped compared to the one that is sinking.

It’s as if the owner of a sports team started paying the largest salaries and bonuses to his worst and most irresponsible players, while cutting the benefits for the best and most hardworking players. One season would suffice to destroy his team and drive away its fans.

How long can a society prosper when it rewards failure and punishes success? In a mood of anger and frustration, President Obama told us that this is not the time for companies to be seeking big profits. But profits are the engine of the free market and hence the engine of progress. People making profits are the only people who can bring us out of the mess we’re in. Instead, President Obama’s programs are rewarding those who cannot make a profit and discouraging those who can.

Helping the unfortunate—those who have fallen onto hard times through no fault of their own—has become a good idea gone wild. It now threatens the integrity of our nation. It is an American tragedy. We must not let it happen.

America has moved from a Responsibility Society to an Entitlement Society, and now is well on its way to becoming a Failure Society. That’s the name for our new era—the Failure Society.

We must not let this continue to happen. Before it’s too late, we must stand up for our nation’s founding values of freedom and responsibility. The time is now. We must stop the government from rewarding failure and punishing success.

That brings us to what I call The Primary Principles—the refrain of my weekly report:

Protect freedom

Take responsibility at all times

Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities

Become a source of love

This is Dr. Peter Breggin urging you to “Live Like an American!” You can listen to all of these reports and obtain transcripts at

Battered Women's Shelter

Apparently in Saudi Arabia and other islamic states, the purpose of battered women's shelters is to batter women. But, who am I to judge - all cultures are equal, aren't they?

Saudi Rape Victim Gets 200 Lashes
Court Says 19-Year-Old Woman Improperly Used Media To Influence Case

(CBS/AP) A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes - more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The decision by the Qatif General Court came in a case that had sparked rare debate about the kingdom's justice system when it surfaced more than a year ago.

In its decision Wednesday, the court also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the 19-year-old woman, the Arab News reported on its English-language Web site.

According to Arab News, the court said the woman's punishment was increased because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

The New York Times reported that her lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, is a well-known human rights activist who angered the court by publicly criticizing the verdict. He said the verdict was too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim.

The victim had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicting her of violating Saudi's rigid laws on segregation of the sexes.

Under Saudi Arabia's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives.

The court also banned her lawyer from defending her, confiscated his license to practice law and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing later this month.

The initial sentences for the men convicted of the gang rape ranged from 10 months to five years in prison. Their new sentences range from two to nine years, the paper said.

The attack took place in 2006. The woman has said that it occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. While in the car with the student, two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area. She said she was raped there by seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend.

Reports of the story triggered debate about Saudi Arabia's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present. The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges.

The judges, appointed by the king, have a wide discretion in handing down sentences, often said to depend on their whim. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence, to death.

The woman was identified in the media only as the Girl from Qatif. The case was referred back to the General Court by an appeals court last summer, after her lawyer went public with his criticism of the verdict.

It Breaks My Heart

Breaks my heart to see innocent kids killed by gang violence. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much we do. None of the city, county, state and federal programs that have been proposed can civilize the animals that did this. The best we can hope for is to catch them and lock them away before they hurt the innocent.

Mom: Slain teen did everything to avoid gang violence

Lucia Toscano-Escamilla did everything she could to keep her son Gamaliel Toscano away from the grip of gangs and violence.

Since he was 10, the curly-haired boy nicknamed "Gama" attended after-school programs to keep him safe in his gang-plagued South Side neighborhood. For two years, she kept her son out of nearby Tilden High School to avoid gang problems, but his grades prevented a transfer to a safer school, so he returned there this fall.

On Thursday afternoon, her greatest fear came true when Gama was shot as he walked home from school with several friends about 2:40 p.m. on the street near 47th Street and South Racine Avenue, about a half-mile from the school.

The 17-year-old 10th-grader, is the fourth Chicago Public Schools student killed so far this year.

At his Back of the Yards home blocks from where he was killed, Toscano-Escamilla and her youngest child Misael were surrounded by dozens of family members and Gamaliel's friends. Through a Spanish translator, she recounted running to the scene, but being kept back as police secured the crime scene.

Comforted by her priest, Lucia Toscano-Escamilla, cradling a picture of her son soccer team, begged for peace in her community.

While police were releasing few details, friends told of a quarrel between Toscano and several boys the day before. On Thursday, they say Gamaliel was shot by an offender who fled in a waiting car.

Friends insisted the boy didn't run with gangs and often spent time away from his neighborhood. "He was funny...he had our backs, he was a good friend," Christian Garcia, 15, said.

The district recently launched a plan to curb youth violence, part of which will offer resources and counseling to 200 students at risk of being shot within the next two years.

Staff at the Chicago Commons New City Center said Toscano was a mature young man who took younger children in the program under his wing.

"It is the worst situation because he was one of the sweet kids," said Felmar Dean, a staff member at the New City Center. "If he walked into a room, he said hi to everyone."

Staffer Cassandra Cortez said that while he could be silly, the victim had "a mature way of carrying himself."

Friends said the teen would warn younger kids in the program to avoid the neighborhood gangs, which plague the area.

"From what I knew, he wasn't in gangs. But this a highly gang-infested neighborhood," said Nataly Barrera, who knew him from the New City Center. "And here you either choose to be a part of it or you get threatened for not being a part of it."

"This is a neighborhood where you're either involved with it or directly affected by it regardless of whether or not you're a gang participant. It's infested by gangs," Cortez said.

--William Lee and Azam Ahmed

New to the Chicago Freedom Forum: The US Debt Clock

The US Debt Clock offers a detailed, real time break down of US Debt. Scary stuff, but definitely worth checking out.
As of now, the
per capita debt in the US is $38,872.

If these protestors think Visa is tough, they ought to see how tough the Chinese will be when we start defaulting on our interest payments.

From Craigslist

I came across this post in Craigslist. The anonymous author is dead on.

If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a TelePrompTer installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan's holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVD's, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent "Austrian language," would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

If George W. Bush had misspelled the word advice would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potato as proof of what a dunce he is?

If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he's a hypocrite?

If George W. Bush's administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans , would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive?

Can't think of anything?

Don't worry.

He's done all this in 5 months -- so you'll have three years and seven months to come up with an answer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Fox?

I am not a huge fan of Fox News. Like most of its liberal counterparts, it is a biased, just towards the conservative side. More importantly, in a time in which many media outlets have shown unprecedented adulation towards Obama, I am less inclined to look negatively at Fox's continuous scrutinizing of the Obama Administration.

More importantly, I do not think that the Obama Administration's attack on Fox News bodes well for its health. And I am quite certain that if Obama had more political capital it would go after talk radio via the Fairness Doctrine.

White House Urges Other Networks to Disregard Fox News

Senior Obama administration officials took to the airwaves Sunday to accuse Fox News of pushing a particular point of view and not being a real news network.

The White House is calling on other news organizations to isolate and alienate Fox News as it sends out top advisers to rail against the cable channel as a Republican Party mouthpiece.

Top political strategists question the decision by the Obama administration to escalate its offensive against Fox News. And as of Monday, the four other major television networks had not given any indication that they intend to sever their ties with Fox News.

But several top White House officials have taken aim at Fox News since communications director Anita Dunn branded Fox "opinion journalism masquerading as news" in an interview last Sunday.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN on Sunday that President Obama does not want "the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox."

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod went further by calling on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that Fox is "not a news organization."

"Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way," Axelrod counseled ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "We're not going to treat them that way."

Asked Monday about another Axelrod claim that Fox News is just trying to make money, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that while all media companies fall under that description, "I would say sometimes programming can be tilted toward accentuating those profits."

But by urging other news outlets to side with the administration, Obama officials dramatically upped the ante in the war of words that began earlier this month with Dunn's comments.

So far, none of the four other major networks has given any indication that they wish to disinvite Fox News from the White House pool -- the rotation through which the networks share the costs and duties of White House coverage and the most significant interaction among the news channels.

The White House stopped providing guests to "Fox News Sunday" after host Chris Wallace fact-checked controversial assertions made by Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in August.

Dunn said fact-checking an administration official was "something I've never seen a Sunday show do."

"She criticized 'Fox News Sunday' last week for fact-checking -- fact-checking -- an administration official," Wallace said Sunday. "They didn't say that our fact-checking was wrong. They just said that we had dared to fact-check."

"Let's fact-check Anita Dunn, because last Sunday she said that Fox ignores Republican scandals, and she specifically mentioned the scandal involving Nevada senator John Ensign," Wallace added. "A number of Fox News shows have run stories about Senator Ensign. Anita Dunn's facts were just plain wrong."

Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente said: "Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, health care and two wars. The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues."

Observers on both sides of the political aisle questioned the White House's decision to continue waging war on a news organization, saying the move carried significant political risks.

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said on CNN: "I don't always agree with the White House. And on this one here I would disagree."

David Gergen, who has worked for Democratic and Republican presidents, said: "I totally agree with Donna Brazile." Gergen added that White House officials have "gotten themselves into a fight they don't necessarily want to be in. I don't think it's in their best interest."

"The faster they can get this behind them, the more they can treat Fox like one other organization, the easier they can get back to governing, and then put some people out on Fox," Gergen said on CNN. "I mean, for goodness sakes, you know, you engage in the debate.

"What Americans want is a robust competition of ideas, and they ought to be willing to go out there and mix it up with some strong conservatives on Fox, just as there are strong conservatives on CNN like Bill Bennett."

Bennett expressed outrage that Dunn told an audience of high school students this year that Mao Zedong, the founder of communist China, was one of "my favorite political philosophers."

"Having the spokesman do this, attack Fox, who says that Mao Zedong is one of the most influential figures in her life, was not...a small thing; it's a big thing," Bennett said on CNN. "When she stands up, in a speech to high school kids, says she's deeply influenced by Mao Zedong, that -- I mean, that is crazy."

Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who was the top political strategist to former President George W. Bush, said: "This is an administration that's getting very arrogant and slippery in its dealings with people. And if you dare to oppose them, they're going to come hard at you and they're going to cut your legs off."

"This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list. And it's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States to so do," Rove added. "That is over- the-top language. We heard that before from Richard Nixon."

Media columnist David Carr of The New York Times warned that the White House war on Fox "may present a genuine problem for Mr. Obama, who took great pains during the campaign to depict himself as being above the fray of over-heated partisan squabbling."

"While there is undoubtedly a visceral thrill in finally setting out after your antagonists, the history of administrations that have successfully taken on the media and won is shorter than this sentence," Carr wrote over the weekend. "So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year."

He added: "The administration, by deploying official resources against a troublesome media organization, seems to have brought a knife to a gunfight."