What is the biggest political lie of 2011? There are so many to choose from. I admit I was skeptical when PolitiFact said it was ready to declare the “Lie of the Year 2011.” After all, its record for bashing conservatives was pretty much unblemished. Two years ago, the scribes who put together PolitiFact selected Sarah Palin’s comment about “death panels” as the biggest lie of 2009. In 2010, they once again sprang to the defense of Obamacare, pooh-poohing claims that it represented a “government takeover of health care” as the year’s biggest falsehood. So imagine my surprise when the PolitiFact declared that the “Lie of the Year 2011” was the Democrats’ claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare.” The brouhaha began in April, when Republicans in the House of Representatives passed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to reform the hugely expensive government healthcare program. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee jumped on the issue. In a widely circulated Web commercial released just four days after the vote, it warned that senior citizens would have to pay $12,500 more each year for healthcare “because Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Attorneys representing the U.S. government submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on Friday, setting out their arguments in favor of the constitutionality of ObamaCare. In the pleading and at a briefing on the case, the lawyers for the Obama administration defended the healthcare law’s requirement that all legal U.S. residents purchase a qualifying health insurance plan by 2014 or face severe penalties. This key component of ObamaCare is the much maligned individual mandate. Those challenging the legality of the statute insist that in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Congress exceeded the scope of its constitutional authority. Furthermore, if the federal government can force Americans to buy healthcare, they posit, are there any limits on what it could demand of citizens? Recently, the Supreme Court granted certiorari (a petition submitted requesting that the court hear an appeal from a lower appeals court) in three of the several cases currently filed against the U.S. government and the agencies charged with enforcing ObamaCare. The announcement by the court indicates that the justices have set aside five and one-half hours to hear oral arguments from the parties.
After 131 years, it appears that Eastman Kodak will be declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy before the end of the month, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is currently seeking to sell off some of its 10,000 patents in order to stave off the inevitable, but the company is burning through its remaining cash reserves and credit lines rapidly. The last time Kodak was profitable was 2007 when its stock traded at $30 a share. On Friday, its last trade was at $0.37 a share. It’s in the process of being de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange, and Moody’s has downgraded the company’s credit to junk status. In the mid-1990s the company had a virtual monopoly on photographic film that was enormously profitable and may be have been part of the cause of its failure to adapt to changes in the marketplace and in consumers’ tastes. Ironically, its success in developing the first digital camera in 1975 was heralded by its developer, Steve Sasson, as an invention that could “substantially impact the way pictures will be taken in the future.” There was no way he could have known then just how close to the mark he was, or the negative impact such an invention would have on his own company. He called it “film-less photography” which took a “year of piecing together a bunch of new technology that ran off 16 nickel-cadmium batteries, an unstable imaging array, and some parts stolen from a digital voltmeter.” It took 23 seconds to record an image to a cassette tape which was then placed in a reader that displayed it on a black-and-white TV set.
About 40 percent of all pregnancies in New York City end in abortion, according to the most recent statistics from the city’s health department. That makes the abortion rate of America’s largest city more than double the national average. According to NYC health department numbers, the lives of more than 83,000 babies were ended via the murderous procedure in 2010, although, surprisingly, that number was down by one percent from the city’s 2009 abortion statistics. But even more horrific was the news that 63 percent of teen mothers terminated their pregnancies with the help of an abortionist. The latest tragic numbers, compiled by the pro-life Chiaroscuro Foundation, found the Bronx particularly devastated, with an astounding 48 percent of babies aborted in that borough in 2010. More shocking still were the 38,574 African-American pre-born babies who were slaughtered in the city during that time — 60 percent of the pregnancies in New York City’s African-American population. “In parts of the city more than half of all pregnancies end in abortion,” said Greg Pfundstein, executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. “This is very, very disturbing.”
A veteran in uniform who spoke out in favor of GOP presidential contender Ron Paul and his foreign-policy views after the Iowa Republican caucus could face discipline for potentially having violated military regulations, according to Defense Department officials. But the soldier has already gained a tremendous following online among Paul’s enthusiastic supporters. After caucusing for the top-tier candidate Rep. Paul (R-Texas), Cpl. Jesse Thorsen spoke to CNN about why he supported the 12-term Congressman’s bid for the Republican nomination. The veteran of the Afghanistan war also called for peace and warned against starting more wars overseas before being abruptly cut off, apparently because of technical problems. “I’m really excited about a lot of his ideas — especially when it comes to bringing the soldiers home,” the 28-year-old corporal told the CNN interviewer about Dr. Paul before the video feed dropped. “I’ve been serving for 10 years now and all 10 years of those have been during wartime. I’d like to see a little peacetime army and I think he has the right idea.”
U.S. sanctions on Iran are “acts of war.” The Iranian government, which views the sanctions, along with assassinations of its nuclear scientists and belligerent rhetoric from Washington, as precursors to “regime change,” is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons “as a deterrent to foreign intervention.” War could occur at any moment, and the only way to avert it with any certainty is for “Western powers [to] imagine how the situation looks from Tehran.” This may sound like a Ron Paul stump speech. But in fact, it is the essence of a recent Bloomberg article by Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert with contacts in the government of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni. Nasr’s piece, says Robert Wright of the Atlantic, vindicates the Texas Republican’s “sheer conjecture” about Iran’s interpretation of Western actions as “acts of war.” Paul’s “conjecture,” of course, was based on a simple understanding of human nature. If Oceania routinely threatens Eastasia and begins punishing it, the Eastasian people and their government are not going to sit idly by and allow their country to be destroyed. They will fight back. Then Oceania will escalate the conflict further, Eastasia will respond in kind, and so on, until a full-scale war is under way.
Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a new budget plan Thursday that calls on California voters to approve $6.9 billion in new taxes that would apply to sales purchases and income on the state’s high earners (those making over $250,000 a year). The budget was inadvertently published on the state’s Department of Finance website, leaving the Governor’s office scrambling to arrange a news conference Thursday to detail the plan. In hawking his 2012 budget proposal, Brown warned voters that without the temporary new taxes, which would be scheduled to expire in 2016, the state would have to drastically reduce its education budget — which, the Governor noted, would likely shorten the school year by three weeks. If voters accept his proposal, Brown suggested, the state could undergo serious debt reduction while reversing recession-era cuts to K-12 schools, which have already shortened the school year and inflated student-teacher ratios. "With the tax program, we will eliminate the budget deficit finally, after years of kicking the can down the road," Brown contended. If the tax increases are not implemented, state officials cautioned, the reductions to public education would automatically go into effect, including $4.8 billion in cuts for public schools and community colleges and another $400 million in cuts for higher education. In addition, California courts would suffer a $125-million reduction and spending would be reduced for firefighting in public forests.
U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation this week imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s relatively unique state-owned central bank, prompting a steep drop in the value of the Iranian rial. He also added a controversial “signing statement” indicating that he would violate the law if it interfered with his agenda and purported authority. Passed as part of the hugely unpopular (for several other, unrelated provisions) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the sanctions will eventually freeze any institution that does business with Iran’s monetary authority out of the American economy. And about half of all Iranian oil sales are currently processed through the Islamic Republic’s central bank — one of the few remaining in the world that is entirely government owned after Libya's was recently replaced. But in a signing statement released on the White House website, Obama said that while he approved of the bill overall, he signed it despite serious reservations about some sections — especially those related to terror-war and detainment regulations. But the anti-Iran segment was also criticized in the statement.
A failed southeast Georgia ethanol factory was sold Tuesday for pennies on the dollar after squandering tens of millions in federal and state tax dollars. Range Fuels, a bankrupt U.S. cellulosic ethanol company, sold its only factory, located in Soperton, Georgia, to LanzaTech, a biofuel company based in New Zealand. Backed by California billionaire Vinod Khosla, who also bankrolled Range Fuels and lobbied for its federal loans, LanzaTech paid a meager $5.1 million for the deal — a tiny fraction of the financial support it received — and plans to convert the ethanol plant into a factory that will generate chemicals from biomass, in another effort to "transform" the alternative energy industry. "We have been doing a lot of work on steel mill gases and other gases to ethanol mostly, but in the laboratory we have shown that we can make chemicals," LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday in a phone interview. "We don’t have any assets where we can control the feedstock that are large and are able to help us scale up." While the company plans to use the factory to produce biochemicals, it has partnerships in Asia that deal mainly with converting steel mill gases into ethanol, Holmgren added.
Another Middle Eastern despot may be facing a violent end for atrocities his accusers say he perpetrated against his own people. Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, who enjoyed 30 years of mostly undisturbed rule under a nearly perpetual “Emergency Law,” is being tried along with his security chief and six top police officers for their complicity in the killings of hundreds of protesters during last year’s uprisings that ended Mubarak’s rule. During court proceedings January 4, reported the Associated Press, “chief prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman said the defendants clearly authorized the use of live ammunition and a shoot-to-kill policy against peaceful protesters. He also complained that the prosecution had to launch its own probe after security authorities ignored the prosecution’s requests for help in the inquiry. Prosecutors interviewed hundreds of witnesses, physicians, and police officers to build [their] case.” Specifically, Suleiman charged that on January 27, two days after large-scale protests erupted in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt, Mubarak and his security heads made the decision to use armed force against the protesters in an attempt to put a stop to the opposition. According to another prosecutor, Mustafa Khater, “special police forces armed with automatic rifles targeted the heads, chests and eyes of protesters,” reported the AP.