Sunday, November 29, 2009

Student expelled for having unloaded shotguns in truck parked off campus

The Willows Unified School District board of trustees has expelled a 16-year-old for having unloaded shotguns in his pickup parked just off the Willows High School campus. The board voted 4-0 Thursday to expel junior Gary Tudesko after the weapons were discovered via scent-sniffing dogs on Oct. 26. Board Vice President Alex Parisio abstained from the discussion and vote because he is related to Tudesko's family. Expulsion hearings are normally held in closed sessions, but affected students and their parents can request a public hearing. Susan Parisio defended her son during the 105-minute public hearing at Willows Civic Center. She acknowledged that Tudesko was lazy for not storing the shotguns at home after a morning of bird hunting, but she questioned the district's ability to enforce its policies off Willows High School property. "My son was not even parked on school property," Parisio said...read more

Yes, N.M.’s budget woes are bad. But pain is relative.

With impending service cuts, taxes sure to increase and a cash-short state road fund, life in New Mexico might seem, well, not so enchanting. But it turns out pain is relative. You’re lucky you don’t live in Arizona, Nevada or California. Each state recently made the top 10 list of states in peril, according to a report from the Pew Center on the States. Colorado just missed by a whisker. Yes, New Mexico might face a $1 billion shortfall next year, meaning pain will spread far and wide in the form of service cuts to program and tax increases. But New Mexico looks downright healthy compared to the walking dead among its neighbors. California was given a score of 30, and those states whose scores came nearest to that point based on several factors were judged as the worst off. Arizona scored 28, and Nevada 26, earning them a place in the Top Ten states in peril. Colorado, by comparison, scored a 21, narrowly missing the worst-off list thanks to New Jersey (23), Wisconsin (22) and Illinois (22). Like many other national rankings, New Mexico brought up the rear, scoring a 12, although this time a low ranking was a positive. New Mexico earned a spot among the states least like California, joining Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wyoming...read more

Feds target misuse of stimulus cash

Federal prosecutors are investigating a dozen cases of possible fraud involving the $787 billion stimulus package, a USA TODAY review of government records shows. There are an additional 88 active investigations of potential misuse of that money, according to reports filed by internal watchdogs at 29 federal agencies managing stimulus funds and the congressional Government Accountability Office. Separately, GAO criminal investigators are reviewing nine cases, acting GAO head Gene Dodaro has said. The agency reports, which are required under the stimulus law to be filed monthly by the inspectors general, do not provide details on the investigations. However, Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney said the allegations involve contract and grant fraud and include filing false statements and attempts by ineligible firms to get funding. "This is a pretty tempting pot of money for people to go after," Devaney said of stimulus funds...read more

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Obama to Go to Copenhagen With Emissions Target

President Obama is pledging a provisional target for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the first time in more than a decade that an American administration has offered even a tentative promise to reduce production of climate-altering gases, the White House announced Wednesday. At the international climate meetings in Copenhagen next month, Mr. Obama will tell the delegates that the United States intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, officials said. The figures reflect targets specified by legislation that passed the House in June but is stalled in the Senate. Congress has never enacted legislation that includes firm emissions limits or ratified an international global warming agreement with binding targets. Mr. Obama will travel to the United Nations talks to deliver the promise in hopes of spurring significant progress there. He will appear Dec. 9, near the beginning of the 12-day session, on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, officials said. By making the pledge in an international forum, Mr. Obama is laying a bet that Congress will complete action on a climate bill next year and will be prepared to ratify an international agreement based on the commitment...read more

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Criminalizing Health-Care Freedom

The “reformers” in the White House and the House of Representatives have made all too plain their vision of the federal government’s power to coerce individual Americans to make the “right” health-care choices. The highly partisan bill the House just passed includes severe penalties for individuals who do not purchase insurance approved by the federal government. By neatly tucking these penalties into the IRS code, the so-called reformers have brought them under the tax-enforcement power of the federal government. The Congressional Budget Office stated on October 29 that the House bill would generate $167 billion in revenue from “penalty payments.” Individual Americans are expected to pay $33 billion of these penalties, with employers paying the rest. Former member of Congress and Heritage Foundation fellow Ernest Istook has concluded that for this revenue goal to be met, 8 to 14 million individual Americans will have to be fined over the next ten years, quite an incentive for federal bureaucrats. The fact that the penalties for noncompliance are enforceable by criminal prosecution is a chilling abuse of the prosecutorial power, which Columbia law professor Herbert Wechsler pointed out 50 years ago is the greatest power that any government uses against its citizens. Using it to enforce one particular notion of appropriate insurance coverage is nothing less than a tyrannical assertion of raw government power over the private lives and economic rights of individual Americans...read more

Global WarmingGate: What Does It Mean?

Late on the night of of November 19, news broke on PJM and elsewhere that a large amount of data had been stolen from one of the major climate research institutions by an unknown hacker and made available on the Internet. The institution is the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, home institution for Dr Phil Jones and one of the world’s centers of research into anthropogenic global warming (AGW), or “climate change.” If we do accept them as authentic, though, they truly are incendiary. They appear to reveal not one, not two, but three real scandals, of increasing importance. * The emails suggest the authors co-operated covertly to ensure that only papers favorable to CO2-forced AGW were published, and that editors and journals publishing contrary papers were punished. They also attempted to “discipline” scientists and journalists who published skeptical information. * The emails suggest that the authors manipulated and “massaged” the data to strengthen the case in favor of unprecedented CO2-forced AGW, and to suppress their own data if it called AGW into question. The emails suggest that the authors co-operated (perhaps the word is “conspired”) to prevent data from being made available to other researchers through either data archiving requests or through the Freedom of Information Acts of both the U.S. and the UK...read more

Competitive Enterprise Institute Sues NASA in Wake of Climategate Scandal

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for those bodies’ refusal — for nearly three years — to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The information sought is directly relevant to the exploding “Climategate” scandal revealing document destruction, coordinated efforts in the U.S. and UK to avoid complying with both countries’ freedom of information laws, and apparent and widespread intent to defraud at the highest levels of international climate science bodies. Numerous informed commenters had alleged such behavior for years, all of which appears to be affirmed by leaked emails, computer code, and other data from the Climatic Research Unit of the UK’s East Anglia University. All of that material, and that sought for years by CEI, goes to the heart of the scientific claims and campaign underpinning the Kyoto Protocol, its planned successor treaty, “cap-and-trade” legislation, and the EPA’s threatened regulatory campaign to impose similar measures through the back door...read more

Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate

This may seem obscure, but the science involved is being used to justify the diversion of literally trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels. The CRU is the Pentagon of global warming science, and these documents are its Pentagon Papers. Here are three things everyone should know about the Climategate Papers. Links are provided so that the full context of every quote can be seen by anyone interested. First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results. The most prominently featured scientists are paleoclimatologists, who reconstruct historical temperatures and who were responsible for a series of reconstructions that seemed to show a sharp rise in temperatures well above historical variation in recent decades. In 1999, Phil Jones, the head of CRU, wrote to activist scientist Michael “Mike” Mann that he has just “completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps … to hide the decline”(0942777075). This refers to a decline in temperatures in recent years revealed by the data he had been reconstructing that conflicted with the observed temperature record. The inconvenient data was therefore hidden under a completely different set of data. Some “trick.” Mann later (2003) announced that “it would be nice to try to ‘contain’ the putative ‘MWP,’ even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back” (1054736277). The MWP is the Medieval Warm Period, when temperatures may have been higher than today. Mann’s desire to “contain” this phenomenon even in the absence of any data suggesting that this is possible is a clear indication of a desire to manipulate the science. There are other examples of putting political/presentational considerations before the science throughout the collection...read more

Climategate: When Scientists Become Politicians

Over thousands of years, at each step, the response of the scientists was to continually adjust and refine their theories to conform to the data, not the other way around. This is how science is done and how we developed the knowledge that has given us such tremendous and accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs in the past century. It is occasionally reasonable to throw out a bad data point if it is in defiance of an otherwise satisfactory model fit, as long as everyone knows that you’ve done so and the rationale, but a deliberate and unrevealed fudging of results in an attempt to make the real world fit one’s preconceptions is beyond the scientific pale. Journal articles have been thrown out for it; PhD candidates have lost their degrees for it. But such behavior, along with attempts to cover it up and dishonestly discredit critics, is exactly what was revealed in a leak of emails last Friday from a research facility in eastern England. And it was not the behavior of previously unknown researchers on some arcane topic of little interest to anyone outside their own field. It was the behavior of leading luminaries in perhaps the greatest scientific issue and controversy of our age: Whether or not the planet is warming to a potentially dangerous degree as a result of humanity’s influence...read more

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is the Senate health plan anti-gun?

"There is a broader issue here," said Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute of Colorado, a libertarian think tank. "The more you socialize costs, the more you empower the argument that the government has the authority to control private behavior." Kopel pointed to the Japanese health care system, where employee waistlines are measured and those who are overweight are put into special weight loss programs, as an example of where the U.S. health care system could be headed. And gun control could become part of it, Kopel said. "If [the Department of Health and Human Services] can write regulations for lower premiums for healthy habits in general," Kopel said. "Then I don't see anything in the bill that stops HHS from saying people get higher premiums for unhealthy habits such as owning a gun or a handgun." Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt said the government has already blocked gun ownership through its access to the mental health records of military veterans. If a vet is diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, his or her name is sent to a special database used to prohibit gun purchases. So far, 150,000 veterans have been denied firearms using the list, Pratt said. The Senate bill could widen government oversight of who can own a gun, he warned. "With these mandates, it is really going to be impossible to keep our medical information out of this database," Pratt said...read more

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Second Amendment Protects All Americans, Supreme Court Told

Gun rights advocates have sketched out arguments they hope will convince the U.S. Supreme Court that no state can be a Second Amendment-free zone. In a 73-page legal brief filed on Monday, the groups representing four Chicago residents asked the Supreme Court to overturn the city's extremely restrictive firearms laws, some of the most severe in the nation. "It is unfathomable that the states are constitutionally limited in their regulation of medical decisions or intimate relations, because these matters touch upon personal autonomy, but are unrestrained in their ability to trample upon the enumerated right to arms designed to enable self-preservation," says the brief, written by attorneys Alan Gura of Alexandria, Va. and David Sigale of Lisle, Ill. on behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation. Translation: Even though abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, courts have nevertheless declared it to be a fundamental right. Shouldn't the Second Amendment, which originally was requested by more states than the First Amendment was, receive at least equal treatment? Much of the brief -- the vast majority, in fact -- reads more like a history textbook than appellate writing. Gura and his co-counsel use that space to recount, in exhaustive detail, how the post-Civil War measure called the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to protect anyone's fundamental rights from being infringed by state governments. Their argument, which I wrote about last month, traces the Fourteenth Amendment's "privileges or immunities" concept through American history and offers contemporaneous evidence that it protects gun rights against infringements by states and municipalities...read more

You can view the petitioners brief here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More cash for fewer clunkers

According to the consumer pricing index report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the price of used cars rose 3.4% in October thanks to the government’s cash-for-clunkers that spirited away a large portion of the used-car inventory. So, for those of us who chose not to buy a new “greener” car last month, and who want to purchase a dirty old used car, we have a smaller pool from which to select. Fewer goods results in increased demand and increased prices. Thanks a lot Big Government. You helped rich folks knock off a few grand on their brand new cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars and left those working on a much smaller budget potentially priced out of the used-car market, with no car to get to work or shuttle around kids, and left without a bailout to stand on. OpenMarket

Full List of Tax Hikes In Senate Democrat Health Bill

Go here to see the list prepared by Americans For Tax Reform.

Also see their How Does the Reid-Obama Health Bill Raise Taxes on Your Current Health Plan?

Other items of interest:

CBO: By 2019, Taxpayers Will Pay $194 Billion Per Year for Obamacare, But 24 Million People Will Remain Uninsured

Most Support Medical Malpractice Reform, Poll Says

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obamacare Puts One-Fifth of U.S. On Welfare

Medicaid is a means-tested welfare program created in 1965 to provide health care for low income families. Despite the fact that it is one of the most poorly performing of all the federal welfare programs it has become the cornerstone of how health insurance is expanded under Obamacare. The Health care “reform” bills advancing in the House and Senate would expand Medicaid by making this government-run health plan available to all adults with incomes at or below 150% of the poverty line. The change would dramatically multiply eligible recipients, with 46 states seeing increases of at least 20%, including 16 posting jumps of 50% or more. Almost 21% of the entire U.S. population would be eligible for Medicaid and seven states and the District of Columbia would have eligibility rates of at least 25%. Heritage

Monday, November 16, 2009

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Report On Obamacare

From ATR:

Last Friday, the the non-partisan and independent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, issued a report analyzing the effect of Obamacare if passed.

The Heritage Foundation has presented a handy list of its conclusions. These include:

* Obamacare will bend the cost curve up, causeing an additional $289 billion in expenditure
* Millions will lose their existing private coverage
* 18 million Americans will either face jail time or be forced to pay a new tax they will receive no benefit from.
* 8.5 million seniours who currently get such services as coor­dinated care for chronic conditions, routine eye and hearing examinations, and preventive-care services would lose their existing private coverage.
* More than half the people who gain health insurance will receive it through the welfare program Medicaid.
* Hospitals currently serving Medicare patients might be forced to stop doing so, thus making it much more difficult for seniors to get health care.
* Supply constraints will mean that the 21 million people who are gaining health insurance through Medicaid are going to have a very tough time finding a doctor who will treat them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Federal judge orders college to allow "empty holster" protest

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Friday allowing two Tarrant County College students to stage their "empty holster" protest at the community college campuses. U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means said in his ruling that Clayton Smith and John Schwertz Jr., who attend TCC Northeast Campus in Hurst, can wear empty gun holsters and hand out fliers in "public-forum areas including, but not limited to, public streets, sidewalks, and common or park areas." TCC wanted to restrict the protest to a small designated area. But the students cannot wear their holsters in classrooms or hallways. They are protesting for the right of licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns on college campuses...read more

U.S. reverses stance on treaty to regulate arms trade

The United States reversed policy on Wednesday and said it would back launching talks on a treaty to regulate arms sales as long as the talks operated by consensus, a stance critics said gave every nation a veto. The decision, announced in a statement released by the U.S. State Department, overturns the position of former President George W. Bush's administration, which had opposed such a treaty on the grounds that national controls were better. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would support the talks as long as the negotiating forum, the so-called Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, "operates under the rules of consensus decision-making." The proposed treaty is opposed by conservative U.S. think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, which said last month that it would not restrict the access of "dictators and terrorists" to arms but would be used to reduce the ability of democracies such as Israel to defend their people. The U.S. lobbying group the National Rifle Association has also opposed the treaty...read more

Time to Put An End to Army Bases as Gun-Free Zones

It is hard to believe that we don't trust soldiers with guns on an army base when we trust these very same men in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shouldn't an army base be the last place where a terrorist should be able to shoot at people uninterrupted for 10 minutes? After all, an army base is filled with soldiers who carry guns, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Beginning in March 1993, under the Clinton administration, the army forbids military personnel from carrying their own personal firearms and mandates that "a credible and specific threat against [Department of the Army] personnel [exist] in that region" before military personnel "may be authorized to carry firearms for personal protection." Indeed, most military bases have relatively few military police as they are in heavy demand to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unarmed soldiers could do little more than cower as Major Nidal Malik Hasan stood on a desk and shot down into the cubicles in which his victims were trapped...read more

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

EPA Warns 2 Staff Lawyers Over Video Criticizing Obama Climate Policy

The Environmental Protection Agency has directed two of its lawyers to makes changes to a YouTube video they posted that is critical of the Obama administration’s climate change policy. The agency, citing federal policies, told the two lawyers, Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, who are married and based in San Francisco, that they could mention their E.P.A. affiliation only once; must remove language specifying Mr. Zabel’s expertise and their years of employment with the agency; and must remove an image of the agency’s office in San Francisco. They have been told that if they do not edit the video to comply with the policy, they could face disciplinary action. The video, titled “The Huge Mistake,” was produced and posted in September. But the agency did not issue its warning until The Washington Post published a widely cited opinion article by the couple on Oct. 31 that raised concerns, echoing those in the video, about cap-and-trade legislation that the Obama administration supports. Ms. Williams and Mr. Zabel say cap and trade, in which the government sets a limit on gases that contribute to global warming and then lets companies trade permits to meet it, can be easily gamed by industry and fail to reduce the emissions linked to global warming...read more

A Red-Ink Train Wreck: The Real Fiscal Cost of Government-Run Healthcare

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pelosi: Buy A $15,000 Policy Or Go To Jail

Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) released a letter from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirming that the failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance contained in the Pelosi health care bill (H.R. 3962, as amended) could land people in jail. The JCT letter makes clear that Americans who do not maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” and who choose not to pay the bill’s new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income), are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties, including criminal fines of up to $250,000 and imprisonment of up to five years. When confronted with this same issue during its consideration of a similar individual mandate tax, the Senate Finance Committee worked on a bipartisan basis to include language in its bill that shielded Americans from civil and criminal penalties. The Pelosi bill, however, contains no similar language protecting American citizens from civil and criminal tax penalties that could include a $250,000 fine and five years in jail. According to the Congressional Budget Office the lowest cost family non-group plan under the Speaker’s bill would cost $15,000 in 2016...read more

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Teague to vote against House health care bill

Congressman Harry Teague, D-N.M., issued a release late Friday afternoon saying that while he believes “we need to reform our health care system,” he will not vote for the House version of a health care reform bill. The statement says Teague is voting against the health care bill because it fails to do “enough to rein in insurance companies” and that he is “concerned that American taxpayers will end up footing a nearly $900 billion tab for a bill that doesn’t do enough to ‘bend the cost curve’ in a way that permanently reduces both costs and the national debt.” “I had hoped to have an opportunity to vote for a health insurance reform bill that would guarantee every American access to affordable, quality health care, and rein in the skyrocketing health care costs that are keeping people and businesses out of the system and driving up our national debt,” Teague wrote. “Unfortunately, the current bill before Congress falls short of that and I am left with no choice but to vote against it.” Teague is facing a tough election in 2010 against his predecessor, former Congressman Steve Pearce, R-N.M. Pearce left the 2nd Congressional District seat in an unsuccessful run for Senate last year...read more

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tea Party Conservatism and the GOP

...Let’s start with some clarity: “Tea Party conservatism” stands for several things, but it is not the caricature one often finds in the mainstream media, to say nothing of the left wing blogs. It is a movement with deep historical roots, drawing its name and inspiration from the Boston Tea Party of 1773. As with that event, taxes brought it to the fore — on Tax Day, April 15. But taxes are simply the most obvious manifestation of modern government run amok, insinuating itself into every corner of life. Trillions of dollars of debt for our children, out-of-control government budgets, massive interventions in private affairs — the list of wrongs is endless, and under Obama has exploded. He stands for nothing if not for making us all dependent on the government he has promised us. That’s not America. That’s a foreign vision, which over the centuries countless millions have fled, searching for freedom...The basic question, however, is what does the movement stand for? What are its principles? And on that, the contrast with the Obama vision is stark: However much confusion there might be on specific issues, which is to be expected, the broad principles are clear. The Tea Party movement stands for limited constitutional government. At its rallies, on hand-written sign after sign, that was the message repeatedly seen. These are ordinary Americans – Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats — who want simply to be left alone to plan and live their own lives. They don’t want “community organizers” to help empower them to get more from government...The question, therefore, is not whether Tea Party conservatism is a help or a hazard for Republicans seeking a return to power? To the contrary, it is whether the Republican Party is a help or a hindrance to the Tea Party movement?...read more

Tea partiers hone skills in N.Y. House race

Their candidate lost in the end, but for many in the rapidly expanding "tea party" movement, this fall's special House race in upstate New York was a "training ground" that taught its cadre of loosely organized grass-roots activists how to challenge both major parties and has only whetted the movement's appetite for the 2010 midterm elections. Tea party foot soldiers fueled Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman's meteoric rise that drove liberal Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava out of the race, giving the anti-tax, anti-spending activists their first real victory. But the ballot-box clout of the movement remains a question mark after Mr. Hoffman fell in a tight race to Democrat Bill Owens Tuesday, handing Democrats their biggest victory on a night of reverses and giving the party control of the New York House seat for the first time in more than a century. But despite the close loss, tea party activists insist they have proved this year that they will be a new force to be reckoned with on the American political scene...read more

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Socialized Medicine: 10 Months With A Broken Arm

Torron Eeles, 50, fractured the humerus bone in his upper left arm after falling down the stairs at home in December 2008 and has been incapacitated ever since. His arm, twisted out of shape, hangs limply by his side, meaning he cannot work for a living and now faces the prospect of losing his home. "This whole situation is absolutely disgusting. I have never heard of anyone else having a broken arm for 10 months," the father-of-three said. Mr Eeles fractured his arm on December 3 and rushed straight to casualty where doctors put his arm in plaster. But within a few weeks a specialist said the bones were too far apart and there was too much movement in the arm – meaning surgeons would have to insert a metal plate. He claims his first two operations at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Herts., were cancelled due to a lack of beds and operating time respectively. His third operation in February was postponed after he was found to have high blood pressure, while the fourth, scheduled for May, was abandoned because of concerns about his smoking. He removed the plaster after around three months and was given a wrist sling, which he branded ''totally useless''...read more

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Denish Used Federal Funds for Personal Driver, Polling and Christmas Cards

Lt. Governor Diane Denish used $225,000 in federal funds to pay for a driver to shuttle her to meetings and press events, a contractor to take Christmas pictures and write Christmas cards, a lawyer to make hotel reservations, opinion polling and public relations services. The money was given to her for “various projects” by Governor Bill Richardson. The money came from unallocated federal fiscal stimulus funds transferred to the New Mexico treasury under the 2003 Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. New Mexico Watchdog requested that the Lt. Governor’s office produce under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act all documents containing information on how this money was spent. The documents were made available for review at the Roundhouse in one of the Governor’s conference rooms...read more

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Inside The Capitol - Where Should They Cut?

Where are we most likely to see further cuts in state government? They are going to have to be made. Tax increases will not fly unless the public sees them balanced with a leaner government. By most measures, government has grown close to 50 percent during the Richardson years. It was a grand experiment in spending money to make money. For the most part, it hasn't worked -- yet, at least. The slow moving spaceport could be a candidate for cuts. Most of the money hasn't been spent yet. The aerospace industry hasn't grown at the rate many had predicted. It is much less costly than the railroad and could be an economic boon. But if we build it, are they really going to come? The money designated for highways likely will remain intact. So many of us use those highways that that cutting road improvements would be very unpopular. Capital outlay projects are the most popular state expenditures of all. Local communities depend on them. They bring jobs. And legislators think it gets them reelected. But the process for allocating that money is terribly flawed. When the effectiveness of the New Mexico Legislature and state government in general is rated nationally, we usually show up as a dismal low average despite some features that make us proud. The major problem is our method of allocating that money. Instead of having it prioritized by a state agency on an objective basis, lawmakers compete for it. Everyone gets a piece of the action but often too small a piece to do any good. And too often it isn't even wanted by the local governments for which it is designated. The result is a huge pile of unused money, currently estimated to be around $1.3 billion...read more

Health insurance mandate alarms some

Among some libertarians and conservatives, the most troubling aspect of the pending healthcare reform bills is the prospect of a federal requirement that Americans buy insurance. "What next? Can Congress order you to buy spinach?" asked Roger Pilon, director of constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. He and other defenders of limited federal power foresee a constitutional challenge to the mandate to buy insurance based on the claim that Congress' power to regulate commerce does not extend to forcing citizens to buy a commercial product. "I think the individual mandate will be challenged. And it will be a close call," Pilon said. In recent weeks, the debate over how to bring about affordable health coverage for all has overshadowed the novelty of a federal requirement to purchase insurance. When the Clinton administration considered such a plan in 1994, the Congressional Budget Office said it "would be an unprecedented form of federal action. . . . The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States." The newly unveiled House bill would set a tax penalty of as much as 2.5% of adjusted income for people who do not have health insurance as of 2013. The Senate Finance Committee scaled down its penalty, but settled on a maximum of $750 per adult, or $1,500 for a household...read more

Monday, November 2, 2009

GOP nominee endorses Democrat after stepping aside under pressure from right

The Republican in a New York House race that has become a symbol of the divisions within the GOP endorsed her former Democratic rival Sunday, a sharp snub to the third-party conservative who forced her out of the race. Dede Scozzafava, who'd been chosen by local Republican leaders to try to hold the seat for the GOP, instead threw her support behind Democrat Bill Owens -- only a day after she unexpectedly backed out of the tough, three-way special election. Ultimately, her decision not to back Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the contest to fill former Rep. John McHugh's open seat is likely to enrage party leaders, who rallied around Hoffman almost immediately after Scozzafava announced her campaign suspension...read more

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pilot Pelosi

Conservative Doug Hoffman forces GOP choice out of Tuesday's House race in N.Y.

Under pressure from conservative forces within her own party, Dede Scozzafava, the regular Republican nominee in the interim House race for New York's 23d District, suddenly withdrew from the race today. Though endorsed by the Republican National Committee and big GOP establishment names like ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Scozzafava had fallen to third place in polls of the upstate longtime Republican district next to the Canadian border. Her retreat came in the face of a vigorous campaign by Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who was backed by Sarah Palin, Dick Armey and Fred Thompson, among others. Initially, Hoffman's insurgent challenge of the moderate Scozzafava's selection by state party county chairmen looked to split Republicans and guarantee an Owens victory. But in a local reflection of the nationwide intra-party Republican struggle between conservatives and what they call RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), Hoffman's support and money have surged lately. A recent Siena poll showed him at 35%, Owens at 36% and Scozzafava trailing at 20%, with a 4-point margin of error. A ready, Conservative third-party choice may make the New York state district unique in terms of local GOP bases rebelling against Republicans perceived as too liberal. Conservatives say that came because the party had become a pale imitation of spend-a-lot Democrats and was not true to its smaller government, less spending roots...read more

GOP latecomers hop on Hoffman bandwagon

As conservative activists scored a political scalp, mainstream Republicans wasted no time in grasping at the coat tails of Conservative Doug Hoffman. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’d previously warned that backing Hoffman in the NY-23 House race amounted to a “purge” of the GOP, told POLITICO Saturday morning that he was now endorsing the conservative, "and believe[s] everyone who wants to create jobs with lower taxes and to control spending and deficits should vote for Hoffman Tuesday." The National Republican Congressional Committee, which had slammed the Conservative contender in a seemingly endless series of press releases, declared that they too now “look forward to welcoming Doug Hoffman into the House Republican Conference as we work together for the good of our nation.”...read more

Teague expresses concerns about House health bill

Not surprisingly, U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., expressed concerns about a health-care reform bill that was unveiled Thursday and will be debated next week, while the state’s other two representatives praised the legislation. “I intend to take time to review the most recent version of the House bill and see if the issues I and many of my constituents have raised throughout this process have been addressed. “My primary concerns have been that the legislation does little to bring down out of control health care costs, which is what burdens families and small business, and also leads to our skyrocketing budget deficits. If the bill doesn’t control costs, American taxpayers will shell out $900 billion, much of which will go to health insurance companies in the form of profits and we will have done nothing but pass a temporary fix that resulted in doubling the national debt and didn’t eliminate the health care crisis...read more