Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OK Lawmakers unveil website for study on federal health care law

The co-chairs of a special joint legislative committee studying the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act announced Wednesday that a new website has been launched to help Oklahomans stay informed. Sen. Gary Stanislawski and Rep. Glen Mulready said the website would make it easier for anyone interested in the committee’s work to stay informed.
“Oklahomans are very concerned about the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and how it could affect their own healthcare,” said Stanislawski, R-Tulsa. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to find out when the meetings will be, the topics we’ll be covering, and give quick access to news coverage and video from our meetings.”
The website address is with content being updated regularly throughout the interim.
“As we work to see what our next steps should be, we want to be sure this process is as open and transparent as possible,” explained Mulready, R-Tulsa. “This website is basically a one-stop shop for Oklahomans who want to keep up-to-date on this important legislative study.”
In addition, anyone who would like to receive updates on upcoming meetings can send an email request to or

Obamacare HHS Rule Would Give Government Everybody’s Health Records

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS-01) 
Washington Examiner, Sep 23 - It’s been said a thousand times: Congress had to pass President Obama’s health care law in order to find out what’s in it. But, despite the repetitiveness, the level of shock from each new discovery never seems to recede.
This time, America is learning about the federal government’s plan to collect and aggregate confidential patient records for every one of us.
In a proposed rule from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal government is demanding insurance companies submit detailed health care information about their patients.
(See Proposed Rule:  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Standards Related to Reinsurance, Risk Corridors and Risk Adjustment, Volume 76, page 41930. Proposed rule docket ID is HHS-OS-2011-0022
The HHS has proposed the federal government pursue one of three paths to obtain this sensitive information: A “centralized approach” wherein insurers’ data go directly to Washington; an “intermediate state-level approach” in which insurers give the information to the 50 states; or a “distributed approach” in which health insurance companies crunch the numbers according to federal bureaucrat edict.
It’s par for the course with the federal government, but abstract terms are used to distract from the real objectives of this idea: no matter which “option” is chosen, government bureaucrats would have access to the health records of every American - including you.
There are major problems with any one of these three “options.” First is the obvious breach of patient confidentiality. The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.
Why should we trust that the federal government would somehow keep all patient records confidential? In one case, a government employee’s laptop containing information about 26.5 million veterans and their spouses was stolen from the employee’s home.
There's also the HHS contractor who lost a laptop containing medical information about nearly 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries. And, we cannot forget when the USDA's computer system was compromised and information and photos of 26,000 employees, contractors, and retirees potentially accessed.
The second concern is the government compulsion to seize details about private business practices. Certainly many health insurance companies defended and advocated for the president’s health care law, but they likely did not know this was part of the bargain.
They are being asked to provide proprietary information to governments for purposes that will undermine their competitiveness. Obama and Sebelius made such a big deal about Americans being able to keep the coverage they have under ObamaCare; with these provisions, such private insurance may cease to exist if insurers are required to divulge their business models.
Certainly businesses have lost confidential data like the federal government has, but the power of the market can punish the private sector. A victim can fire a health insurance company; he cannot fire a bureaucrat.
What happens to the federal government if it loses a laptop full of patient data or business information? What recourse do individual citizens have against an inept bureaucrat who leaves the computer unlocked? Imagine a Wikileaks-sized disclosure of every Americans’ health histories. The results could be devastating - embarrassing - even Orwellian.
With its extensive rule-making decrees, ObamaCare has been an exercise in creating authority out of thin air at the expense of individuals’ rights, freedoms, and liberties.
The ability of the federal government to spy on, review, and approve individuals’ private patient-doctor interactions are an excessive power-grab.
Like other discoveries that have occurred since the law’s passage, this one leaves us scratching our heads as to the necessity not just of this provision, but the entire law.
The HHS attempts to justify its proposal on the grounds that it has to be able to compare performance. No matter what the explanation is, however, this type of data collection is an egregious violation of patient-doctor confidentiality and business privacy. It is like J. Edgar Hoover in a lab coat.
And, no matter what assurances Obama, Sebelius and their unelected and unaccountable HHS bureaucrats make about protections and safeguards of data, too many people already know what can result when their confidential information gets into the wrong hands, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Corporate Tax Reform Needed

High corporate rates are a burden on investors, consumers and workers, and furthermore discourage U.S. corporations from creating American jobs. Following the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the U.S. for a time had a low corporate tax rate compared to other developed nations. But other nations quickly caught on to the fact that low corporate tax rates are necessary for economic growth, and have since been cutting their rates. The U.S. has simply failed to keep up.
Today, the U.S., when combining state and federal taxes, has the second highest statutory corporate tax rate among OECD nations. The highest rate is held by Japan, which has pledged to reduce their rate by 5%, thus leaving the U.S. soon to hold the dubious distinction of having the highest level of destructive corporate taxation. Although this is bad news, the statutory rate does not tell the entire picture. Effective marginal tax rates take into account rules for depreciation and additional features of the tax code that influence where corporations choose to invest.
A 2005 study by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that a reduction in the corporate income tax had the greatest impact on increasing long-term economic growth due to increased capital investment and labor productivity. We can no longer deny that capital is mobile. However, a workforce generally is not. Manufacturing in particular is capital intensive, so a higher corporate tax rate results in less investment in not only our facilities but also in our workforce.
President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board estimated in their report "The Report on Tax Reform Options: Simplification, Compliance, and Corporate Taxation”, the total compliance costs for U.S. companies at $40 billion annually, or more than 12 percent of the revenues collected.
"There's no question about it — we have so much fat in the tax code that we cannot only reduce it dramatically, but we can get rid of the fact that we are the highest corporate taxed country, at least the next highest in the world," Rangel, the former chairman of tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
"We can reduce it 35 percent to 28 percent with not much effort," he added. "but those corporations that enjoy preferential treatment will no longer get it." Instead, "everyone gets a fair tax rate across the board."
The Cato Institute’s Dan Mitchell noted that the U.S. corporate tax rate of nearly 40 percent (including state corporate burdens) already is far too high, particularly since America adds to the competitive disadvantage of U.S.-domiciled firms by being one of the few nations to impose an extra layer of tax on foreign-source income. Japan’s proposed rate reduction, however, means the high tax rate in America will be an even bigger hindrance to job creation.  It’s also worth noting that the average corporate tax rate in Europe has now dropped to less than 24 percent, so even welfare states have figured out that a high tax burden on business doesn’t make sense in a competitive global economy.
Gary Clyde Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics Washington, DC testified before the Ways & Means committee that "I am often asked, ‘If US corporate tax rates are so high, why are corporate tax payments so modest?’ In a good year – for example, 2007 – US corporate tax payments (federal and state combined) were 3.0 percent of US GDP, compared with the OECD average of 3.9 percent. The main reason is that the US corporate tax base is far smaller than the OECD average: 13 percent of GDP compared to 22 percent. The difference is partly explained by the dazzling array of US pass-through firms which skip the corporate tax system. Large firms which have a choice – everything else being equal – would often rather invest and produce elsewhere and ship their goods and services to the US market. Our corporate tax system does a good job at encouraging the best and brightest firms to invest abroad. It does an even better job at discouraging tomorrow’s global 1000 corporations from locating their headquarters in the United States."
A search of website will find an amazing number of testimonies regarding the destructive nature of the United States Federal and State Corporate tax rates.
An example of the arrogance -Representative Pete Stark, a California Democrat, referred to the report at the hearing and asked Boeing’s Zrust by how much tax rates should be dropped. Zrust didn’t specify a rate. He said Boeing’s tax bill is poised to rise in the next three years because the company won’t be able to claim as many deductions for airplanes that are on track for delivery.
Stark remained skeptical. “Oh yeah?” Stark said. “How much more do you think Boeing is going to pay us?”
U.S. Representative Richard Hanna (R,C,I-NY) introduced his first piece of legislation, H.R. 609 the American Competitiveness Act, to cut the corporate tax rate in an effort to promote American growth.
“This bill is simple, but it sends a powerful message to corporations around the world that the United States won’t stand by idly while our finest corporations export jobs,” Hanna said. “The American people need to know we’re focused on growing our economy and putting people back to work. Our high corporate tax rate forces away investment and the jobs that come with it. It makes it increasingly difficult for American corporations to stay here and still compete in the global marketplace.”
Rep. Tim Scott has introduced H.R. 937, the Rising Tides Act of 2011, which would significantly lower federal corporate tax rates. American corporations are currently burdened by a 35% federal tax rate – the second highest in the developed world. Making matters worse, American companies doing business abroad must pay U.S. taxes in addition to local taxes, a double tax burden that puts them at an unfair disadvantage. H.R. 937 reduces corporate tax rates to 23% and allows for permanent repatriation of overseas profits, with a goal of heading towards a territorial system of taxation.
Both of the above mentioned bills are in the House Committee on Ways & Means.
Executives from four large U.S. companies told lawmakers that they would give up lucrative tax breaks in exchange for significantly lowering the 35% corporate rate, spurring efforts to overhaul the tax code.
Executives from Boeing Co., Sears Holding Management Corp., Emerson Electric Co. and Perrigo Co., a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, said Thursday that they prefer the simplicity and certainty of a rate as low as 25% over the complexity of calculating frequently shifting tax breaks.
"We would be willing to take a rate reduction and in return give up the R&D credit, given the way its presently structured," James Zrust, vice president of tax for Boeing, told the House Ways and Means Committee.
These bills need to be out of committee, combined and voted on. The proposed cuts in corporate taxes and the previously mentioned proposals to curtail overarching regulations are two major steps in bringing new jobs back to the Unites States. Let your congressperson know how you want to be represented.

Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011

Washington, Sep 21 - Today, Congressman John Sullivan, issued the following statement after the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to pass H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011.  Sullivan introduced this bipartisan bill to prevent U.S cement plant shutdowns and to protect thousands of American jobs.  Estimates show that EPA’s current Cement MACT rules could shut down up to 20 percent of the nation’s cement plants in the next two years, sending thousands of jobs overseas and driving up construction costs. This legislation will ensure the vitality of America’s cement industry which is crucial to our nation’s infrastructure projects—a key component of the president’s jobs plan.
“Cement is the backbone for the construction of our nation’s buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels, and crucial water and wastewater treatment infrastructure – however EPA’s current rules threaten to shut down 20 percent of the nation’s cement manufacturing plants in the next two years, sending thousands of jobs permanently overseas and driving up cement and construction costs across the country.  This is a jobs bill that protects American workers, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act would save nearly 20,000 U.S. cement and construction jobs by laying out a path for common sense regulation without eviscerating one-fifth of the U.S. cement sector.  Now more than ever our focus must be on putting American back to work and growing our economy – I applaud my colleagues for passing this common sense legislation which ensures effective regulations that protect communities both environmentally and economically”

Stopping Burdensome Regulations- TRAIN ACT

Oklahoma’s Representative John Sullivan introduced the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act of 2011 on June 24 2011. On September 23 it passed the house by a vote of 249 – 169 and was sent to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the 26th.
The TRAIN Act is intended to require the federal government to evaluate how the cumulative impacts of various regulations proposed or implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) would impact the economy. The bill would establish an interagency committee to estimate the cumulative economic impact (jobs, energy prices, and reliability) of regulations developed in the name of “global warming.” Additionally, the bill would delay two proposed EPA rules regarding utility boilers and addressing interstate emissions for at least six months after the report is released.
Specifically, H.R. 2401 would require the President to establish a committee to be known as the Committee for the Cumulative Analysis of Regulations that Impact Energy and Manufacturing in the United States to “analyze and report on the cumulative and incremental impacts of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency.” The committee will consist of eleven cabinet level members, including the EPA Administrator, and will be chaired the Secretary of Commerce. The Committee would terminate within 60 days of producing a final report to Congress by August 1, 2012.
The report would require the Committee to conduct analyses for the years 2016, 2020, and 2030 that evaluates the cumulative impact of covered rules that are promulgated as final regulations on or before January 1, 2012, in combination with covered actions, and rules that have not been promulgated as final regulations on or before January 1, 2012. Additionally, the committee is required to evaluate the incremental impacts of each covered rule not promulgated as a final regulation on or before January 1, 2012 with specific consideration to:
the global economic competitiveness of the United States, particularly with respect to energy intensive and trade sensitive industries;
other cumulative costs and cumulative benefits, including evaluation through a general equilibrium model approach;
any resulting change in national, State, and regional electricity prices;
any resulting change in national, State, and regional fuel prices;
the impact on national, State, and regional employment during the 5-year period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, and also in the long term, including secondary impacts associated with increased energy prices and facility closures; and
the reliability and adequacy of bulk power supply in the United States.”
The bill also requires a discussion of uncertainties and assumptions associated with each estimate, a sensitivity analysis, and cumulative impact of the covered rules and covered actions on:
small businesses;
regional economies;
state, local, and tribal governments;
local and industry-specific labor markets;
agriculture; and
key uncertainties associated with each topic.”
Additionally, covered rules include any EPA rule or guideline promulgated under the Clean Air Act to address climate change, any rule or guideline promulgated by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a state, a local government, or a permitting agency under specific provisions of the Clean Air Act or any rule establishing or modifying a national ambient air quality standard under section 109 of the Clean Air Act.
This is one of a number of bills being considered to allow congress to stop regulatory sidestepping of failed laws by the executive branch. This is also one a bill that has the potential to help our economy by reducing the number of costly regulations that increase the cost of business in the United States.
After passage Rep. Sullivan released the following statement:
“This is a huge win for the American people and an essential step to protect American jobs – jobs that we are in danger of losing due to the Obama Administration’s environmental regulatory agenda.  The fact is EPA has no idea how these regulations are impacting  global competitiveness, energy and fuel prices, jobs or reliability of the electricity supply – eight of the EPA regulations addressed in this bill will cost a minimum of $1 billion each on the U.S. economy.  I firmly believe the American people deserve an honest accounting of how much the Obama Administration’s energy and environmental regulations are costing our economy and that is exactly what the TRAIN Act provides.
“One of the actions in my bill that we study is the regional haze issue which greatly impacts my state of Oklahoma as this is yet another example of EPA overreaching on the states with burdensome regulations without analyzing its impact on electric reliability or cost. This EPA action alone is expected to cost $2 billion to Oklahoma businesses and electric ratepayers – this is unacceptable.”
“The TRAIN Act is just common sense, good government for American workers and businesses.  It’s pretty astonishing that EPA isn’t doing this already.  In these tough economic times, if there is one thing that can help our struggling economy it is having access to stable and reliable sources of energy. My bill will help provide for that and protect jobs at the same time.”
Thank you John Sullivan!

Where the Jobs Are

The latest talking points from the federal government are on job creation. The president has, in effect, proposed another stimulus to promote job growth.  According to the Hoover National Report about one-half of President Obama's proposed $447 billion American Jobs Act consists of payroll tax holidays designed to boost spending and increase hiring. But these temporary policies will do little to jump-start the economy, much as earlier temporary economic Band-Aids, such as the 2009 stimulus, did little to improve the economy.
A change in tax policies is necessary to promote growth, but those must be long term and substantial changes.
U.S. Corporate Tax Rate
A May 2010 study by University of Calgary economists Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz for the Cato Institute using World Bank data finds that the effective combined U.S. federal and state tax rate on new capital investment, taking into account all credits and deductions, is 35%. The OECD average is 19.5% and the world average is 18%.
Paul Volcker led the White House tax reform panel whose recent report concluded that "The growing gap between the U.S. corporate tax rate and the corporate tax rates of most other countries generates incentives for U.S. corporations to shift their income and operations to foreign locations with lower corporate tax rates to avoid U.S. rates."
Rep. Patrick Meehan said "We must close loopholes so corporations pay their fair share and increase revenues. As the president's fiscal commission recommended, we can spur growth by making America's business tax rate more competitive globally. With the highest rate in the world (39 percent), our tax code helps send U.S. jobs overseas. China's rate is 25 percent, and Canada's will be 25 percent next year. Key tax provisions seem to expire right before the next election, giving no sense of certainty for long-term planning. This all tilts the playing field firmly against U.S. workers and kills jobs."
Taxes alone are not the major contributor to the high cost of doing business in the United States. Burdensome regulations play a major role. Stimulus programs fail to stop these regulations and the many new ones being imposed on American business. There are bills in congress now to curtail the flood job-killing regulations.
“There is a mindset in our nation’s capital that the best way to grow our economy is through more government spending,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers.  “But where we really need more spending is from America’s jobs creators – specifically, changing their spending from complying with government regulations to hiring new employees.  Whether it’s the Administration’s new energy regulations, new health care regulations, or new financial regulations, every dollar that a job creator has to spend complying with these new regulations is a dollar he could be using to create jobs.”
“American energy and mineral production, whether onshore, offshore or renewable, already employs millions of Americans and could support millions of additional jobs by simply harnessing the resources we have here at home,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). “Yet during the first two years of the Obama Administration, American energy production has faced constant obstacles from unnecessary government regulations and red tape. The offshore energy industry has shed thousands of jobs and lost the potential to create millions, renewable energy jobs have seen little growth, and the mining industry is facing job-destroying proposed new rules. It’s simply unacceptable for this Administration to put the brakes on the job creating potential of some of America’s leading economic contributors.”
Under the Clean Air Act alone, we are facing over twenty regulations. One planned regulatory action, the new “Boiler MACT” rules, would affect thousands of American job creators – from factories to hospitals to municipalities – that use boilers. James A. Rubright, Chief Executive Officer of Rock-Tenn Company, cited a recent study that found that the rule would cost the U.S. forest products industry $7 billion and “would place at risk 36 mills and over 20,000 jobs in the pulp and paper sector alone, about 18% of its workforce.”  Rubright warned that “the current wave of regulations is unsustainable,” and that “living with such an uncertain regulatory environment not only costs current jobs, but also prevents new jobs from being created.” Rubright urged Congress to pass the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250), bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), “as soon as possible” to address the regulatory uncertainty that is putting jobs at risk. (Testimony, 9/8/11)
Dan Harrington, President and CEO of Lehigh Hanson, Inc., a supplier of heavy building materials to the construction industry, said just one of several new regulations affecting the cement industry “could force the closure of 18 out of the nearly 100 U.S. cement plants,” job losses that “will not be readily absorbed in the communities where most plants are located.”
Washington has become a red tape factory, with more than 4,000 rules in the pipeline -- hundreds of which would cost our economy more than $100 million each annually. The disappointing reality is that what may be a faceless regulation to most can have a profound impact on local economies and families like yours.
In his weekly address, Senator Peter Roskam said “Just one rule has Chicago White Metal Casting, a manufacturer in my district employing 240, fighting to survive in an already tough economy. Already facing a stream of regulations, they'll soon face new regulations from unelected bureaucrats implementing a back-door national energy tax -- after it failed in Congress. Chicago White Metal Casting already has one employee who spends half his time dealing with existing federal audits, certification requirements, and complex paperwork.
“By now, you've probably heard about the case of Boeing, one of the world's leading manufacturers. This Chicago-based company invested more than $1 billion in a new plant in South Carolina that would generate thousands of good-paying jobs … only to be sued by the government and told that the plant can't open. Who in the government sued them? No one that's elected, I'll tell you that. No, Boeing is being sued by the National Labor Relations Board, which is charged with looking out for labor unions.
“I'd also like to share with you the story of Gibson Guitars, a company that makes world-class guitars. Well a few weeks ago, Gibson was raided by 26 armed federal agents. No charges have been filed and regulators have not explained to the company what they may have done wrong or how to rectify the situation. Well I'd like to know how job creators can be expected to prosper with the threat of a federal raid hanging over them?”
The Obama administration has publicly listed a total of 219 new regulatory actions under consideration for the upcoming year, each of which would have an estimated cost to our economy of $100 million or more.
The increased costs associated with high corporate taxes and crushing regulations is sending jobs literally out the door.
Actual Hiring
The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, says American companies have created 1.4 million jobs overseas in 2010, compared with less than 1 million in the U.S. The additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, says Robert Scott, the institute's senior international economist.
More than half of the 15,000 people that Caterpillar Inc. has hired in 2010 were outside the U.S. UPS is also hiring at a faster clip overseas. For both companies, sales in international markets are growing at least twice as fast as domestically.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Corporate America certainly isn’t doing its part to help bring America out of its economic malaise. The paper surveyed employment data by some of the nation’s largest corporations — General Electric, Caterpillar, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Cisco, Intel, Stanley Works, Merck, United Technologies, and Oracle — and found that they cut their workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4 million people overseas. Note: to read the entire article you will be asked to subscribe.
Changes and Solutions
Coming up will be posts on bills that are in the house and/or senate that are designed to curtail many of the burdensome regulations mentioned and many not discussed here. The path to a better economy is not found in increasing debt or more fail-proven stimulus bills. The path is in smaller government with a balanced budget. The path is in liberty and capital gains from actual risks and allowing business to grow.
We The People are the key to solutions that will fix the economy and allow business to grow. Get involved and encourage your representatives to pass legislation that will bring the jobs back to this country- back to We The People.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NATO’s Humanitarian Effort in Libya

Number Killed or Wounded
On September 8, Naji Barakat, the Health Minister of the National Transitional Council, stated that about 30,000 people were killed during the war. At least 50,000 war wounded, about 20,000 with serious injuries, were currently estimated, but this estimate was expected to rise. However, there was no independent verification of the opposition claim.
Barakat said that at least 1,700 former rebel fighters died in the battle for Tripoli, along with about 100 civilians.
Human Rights Violations
Amnesty International found recent unlawful killings "perpetrated by organized groups who operate freely, openly and with impunity". Victims' families were generally unwilling to protest for fear of reprisals and to avoid the stigma of being labeled Gaddafi loyalists or "anti-revolutionary". In addition, opposition groups have detained hundreds of people in areas they control since the end of February, Amnesty says. These include people accused of "subverting the revolution," who say they were never shown an arrest warrant or any other document.
"In most cases, the manner of detention is better described as abduction rather than arrest," the report argues. "They were seized by groups of heavily-armed men, some of them masked, who did not identify themselves. They were then taken away in unmarked vehicles, usually pick-up trucks with anti-aircraft machine-guns mounted at the back."
It continues: "None of the detainees, whether Libyan or foreign civilians, or Libyan soldiers, have had access to a lawyer, been formally charged, or been given the opportunity to challenge their detention before a judicial authority."
The report states: "Victims are subjected to beatings and other abuses seemingly to extract confessions and to punish them for their alleged 'crimes'. In some cases, detainees are forced to sign or thumb-print statements under torture or duress without being allowed to read them. In fact, several detainees told Amnesty International that they were interrogated while blindfolded."
The al-Qaeda Connection
There’s more evidence that many of the men engaged in fighting against the Gaddafi regime have ties to an organization that killed 3,000 Americans 10 years ago:
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25 men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.
His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad’s president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, “including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”.
Chad, of course, lies to Libya’s south, and there are fears that a collapse of the central government in Tripoli could allow groups sympathetic to al Qaeda to set up camp in the vast deserts of Southern Libya:
The fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi might see the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic terrorist groups filling up the void, US analysts have said.
The Obama administration finally acknowledged Wednesday, Aug. 31 that al Qaeda elements had been fighting in Libyan rebel ranks in last week's capture of Tripoli. This came about in a cautious remark from the office of President Barack Obama's terrorism adviser John Brennan: "Some members of the LIFG [Al Qaeda's Libyan Islamic Fighting Group offshoot] in the past had connections with al Qaeda in Sudan, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Others dropped their relationship with al Qaeda entirely. It seems from their statements and support for establishing a democracy in Libya that this faction of LIFG does not support al Qaeda. We'll definitely be watching to see whether this is for real or just for show."
CNN reported hundreds of Islamist militants were among the prisoners freed from a notorious Tripoli prison this week, according to a former Libyan jihadist.
The freed militants had been imprisoned in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison by Moammar Gadhafi’s regime during the height of the insurgency in Iraq, according to Noman Benotman, once a senior figure in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Benotman said he believes as many as 600 militants may have been among the prison population at Abu Salim.
It’s not known how many prisoners were held in the vast facility. Human Rights Watch said Gadhafi’s prisons “have been filled to the limit in the last few months with thousands of people who were arrested for taking part in the anti-Gadhafi protests, or because of their suspected support for Libya’s democratic opposition.”
In a blog on al Jazeera a person stating he is Abdullah Al-Snousi stated, “What we are facing now in this war is NATO led by al-Qaeda. The European and western officials are lying to their people when they say they are fighting terrorism. In fact they are fighting with terrorism against the Libyan nation and they are following al Qaeda’s orders.
What we find really strange that the same people who brought to us these terrorists elements are the same people now supporting these very terrorist elements. Now the international coalition is not against terrorism but between the west and terrorism. And my colleagues, the heads of intelligence services all around the world know what I am talking about. Libyan head of security services Abdullah Al-Snousi.”
A Matter of Money
CNN reported that the rebels have started selling oil to the US. The rebel government in control of the eastern part of Libya has made its first sale of oil from territory it controls, the State Department confirmed Wednesday.
Tesoro, a U.S. oil refiner, entered into a deal May 25 with the Transitional National Council based in Benghazi, Libya for 1.2 million barrels of Libyan crude oil, the State Department said in a written statement. The shipment was scheduled to arrive aboard the MT Equator, a Liberian-flagged tanker, at the Single Point Mooring in Hawaii on Wednesday. The dollar value of the deal is not known.
The rebels have also established a central bank. In a statement released last week, the rebels reported on the results of a meeting held on March 19. Among other things, the supposed rag-tag revolutionaries announced the “designation of the Central Bank of Benghazi as a monetary authority competent in monetary policies in Libya and appointment of a Governor to the Central Bank of Libya, with a temporary headquarters in Benghazi.”
The Gadhafi regime’s central bank — unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is owned by private shareholders — was among the few central banks in the world that was entirely state-owned. At the moment, it is unclear exactly who owns the rebel’s central bank or how it will be governed.
The so-called Interim Transitional National Council, the rebels’ self-appointed new government for Libya purporting to be the “sole legitimate representative of Libyan People,” also trumpeted the creation of a new “Libyan Oil Company” based in the rebel stronghold city of Benghazi. The North African nation, of course, has the continent’s largest proven oil reserves.
However, the creation of a new central bank, even more so than the new national oil regime, left analysts scratching their heads. “I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising,” noted Robert Wenzel in an analysis for the Economic Policy Journal. “This suggests we have a bit more than a rag tag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences.”
Wenzel also noted that the uprising looked like a “major oil and money play, with the true disaffected rebels being used as puppets and cover” while the transfer of control over money and oil supplies takes place. And other analysts agreed.
Even mainstream news outlets were puzzled. “Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power?” wondered CNBC senior editor John Carney. “It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.”
But some observers are convinced that the central bank issue was actually the primary motivation for the international war against Libya‘s dictatorship. In an article that has spread far and wide across the web, entitled “Globalists Target 100% State Owned Central Bank of Libya,” author Eric Encina maintains that the world’s “globalist financiers and market manipulators” could not stand the Libyan monetary authority’s independence, explaining:
“Currently, the Libyan government creates its own money, the Libyan Dinar, through the facilities of its own central bank. One major problem for globalist banking cartels is that in order to do business with Libya, they must go through the Libyan Central Bank and its national currency, a place where they have absolutely zero dominion or power-broking ability. Hence, taking down the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) may not appear in the speeches of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy but this is certainly at the top of the globalist agenda for absorbing Libya into its hive of compliant nations.”
And when Gadhafi is gone and the dust has settled, according to Encina, “you will see the Allied reformers move in to reform Libya’s monetary system, pumping it full of worthless dollars, priming it for a series of chaotic inflationary cycles.” The future of Libya’s vast gold stockpiles could also be in jeopardy, he noted.
Numerous other analysts and experts have also pointed to the central banking issue as one of the top factors leading up to the Western backing of Libyan rebels. Monetary historian Andrew Gause, for example, recently shared his concerns about the matter publicly.
Ground Troops
Remember no ground troops would be used? An unnamed NATO official admitted that Britain and France have deployed ground troops inside the Libyan territory, but said it would be "unfair to call them NATO forces."
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said there is "direct evidence" that British and French Special Forces were carrying out ground operations in Libya in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1973.
Additionally a plan for Libya by The United Nations has leaked out to the media. The plan proposes 200 military observers to begin with a multi-national force and 190 UN police. Also in the report the UN plans to have Libya’s elections within a nine month time frame. Matthew Lee, a journalist for, broke the story.
The 10-page document, apparently written by a special UN team led by Ian Martin, the former British head of Amnesty International, was obtained and published by Inner City Press, the UN watchdog website.
"It's a very detailed plan really spelling out [roles for] military observers, UN, police; it says things like NATO has an ongoing role and there's some things the UN can do without a mandate from the Security Council," Matthew Russell Lee said.

Are Senators and Legislators Immune from Prosecution?

The bribery scandal of Rep. Randy Terrill and former Democratic state Sen. Debbe Leftwich and thrust the argument of Speech and Debate clause into the headlines. Attorneys for a former state senator accused of felony bribery maintain their client is immune from prosecution because her activities as a legislator are protected under the state constitution.
That clause is part of Article V, Section 22, which reads as follows:
Senators and representatives shall, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the session of the legislature, and in going to and returning from the same, and for any speech or debate in either House, shall not be questioned in any other place.
Lawyers with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office allege that Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, offered Leftwich an $80,000 job with the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office if she would not seek another term in the Senate. Bribery charges were filed against Leftwich and Terrill in December.
26 O.S. 16-108, one of the statutes under which Leftwich was charged, reads as follows:
Any person who shall solicit or accept from another anything of value for withdrawing from any political contest as a candidate or nominee for any office at any election shall be deemed guilty of a felony.
In June of this year, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denied a petition from Leftwich to have the case against her dismissed, affirming an April trial court ruling.
Leftwich’s attorney based the dismissal motion in part on the argument that the court lacks jurisdiction under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Oklahoma Constitution. However, in its order, the appeals court said the clause includes an express exception for felonies.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court in a 5 - 4 ruling on September 19 said it will not take up a case involving a former state senator accused of bribery so that the parties could "seek the appropriate relief in the Court of Criminal Appeals."
Article 1 Section 6 Clause 1 of the United States is similar in wording. "The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place."
The U.S. Supreme Court has gradually defined and redefined the Speech or Debate Clause in several cases over the years. The first case concerning the Speech and Debate Clause was Kilbourn v. Thompson 103 U.S. (13 Otto) 168 26 L. Ed. 377 (1880). The Court has interpreted the Speech or Debate Clause to mean that members of Congress and their aides are immune from prosecution for their "legislative acts." This does not mean that members of Congress and their aides may not be prosecuted. Rather evidence of legislative acts may not be used in a prosecution against a member of Congress or a congressional aide. This view has been upheld by a number of rulings since the 1880 case.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Good News-Oklahoma Economy Hot in August

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s economy matched the temperatures in August, as revenue collection grew at a double-digit pace in spite of concerns of a worldwide slowdown, State Treasurer Ken Miller said today as he released the state’s monthly revenue report.
August collections were 15.2 percent higher than in August of last year, nearly matching the year-over-year growth of 15.5 percent recorded in June. Monthly collections moderated slightly in July at 6.8 percent growth from the prior year.
Miller said collections over the past 12 months total $10.37 billion, the highest level since July 2009 when 12-month collections totaled $10.402 billion.
“During the prolonged recession, 12-month collections in Oklahoma dropped by more than $1.9 billion between December 2008 and February 2010,” he said. “As of August, we have recovered $1 billion, or more than 50 percent of that lost economic activity.”
State economic signs remain positive
Miller said other recent data signal a positive economic outlook for Oklahoma, albeit somewhat subdued.
The August Oklahoma Business Conditions Index shows expected growth in the coming months. However, the index at 56.8 is down from July’s rate of 61.9, showing consumer confidence has waned. A number above 50 indicates economic growth, while a lower number anticipates contraction.
“Understandably, people are concerned about what they’re hearing on the news about the credit downgrade, sovereign debt problems, geopolitical events and volatility in the stock market,” Miller said. “However, many Oklahomans recognize that the economy here has performed much better than elsewhere.”
July statewide unemployment rose to 5.5 percent, or by one-tenth of one percent from June, while county-by-county unemployment rates dropped in all but five of Oklahoma’s 77 counties.
Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas are showing the biggest gains in revenue collections, measured both over the past 12 months and for August, but some slowdown is expected in the coming months.
Gross production taxes, also known as severance or extraction taxes, are paid two to three months after the production occurs. Three months ago, crude oil was selling for 10 to 15 percent more than today’s prices, which means gross production collections in August are reflective of those higher prices.
“While natural gas prices have remained steady over the past several months, the drop in crude oil prices is expected to be reflected in state collections,” Miller said. “Unless crude oil production volume was increased when the price dropped, less gross production revenue will be paid to the state during the next quarter.”
August collections boom
The revenue report for August shows gross collections at $842.86 million, up $111.26 million or 15.2 percent from August of last year.
Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $238.63 million, an increase of $44.63 million or 23 percent from the previous August.
Personal income tax collections for the month are $233.57 million, up $44.37 million or 23.5 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $5.06 million, an increase of $0.26 million or 5.4 percent.
Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $323.53 million in August. That is $18.11 million or 5.9 percent above August of last year.
Gross production taxes on oil and gas generated $101.33 million in August, an increase of $29.71 million or 41.5 percent from last August. Compared to July reports, gross production collections are down by $1.48 million or 1.4 percent.
Motor vehicle taxes produced $60.27 million, up by $6.21 million or 11.5 percent from the prior year.
Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $119.1 million during the month. That is $12.6 million or 11.8 percent higher than last August.
Twelve-month collections demonstrate growth
In the past 12 months, gross revenue totals $10.37 billion. That is $820.7 million or 8.6 percent higher than the 12-month period ending in August 2010.
Gross income taxes generated $3.541 billion for the 12 months, reflecting an increase of $273.45 million or 8.4 percent from the trailing 12 months.
Personal income tax collections total $3.094 billion, up by $187.59 million or 6.5 percent from the prior 12 months. Corporate collections are $446.86 million for the period, an increase of $85.86 million or 23.8 percent over the previous 12 months.
Sales taxes for the period generated $3.751 billion, an increase of $290.84 million or 8.4 percent from the prior 12-month period.
Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $1.035 billion during the 12 months, up by $136.32 million or 15.2 percent from the previous period.
Motor vehicle collections total $641.78 million for the period. This is an increase of $46.85 million or 7.9 percent from the trailing 12 months.
Other sources generated $1.401 billion, up $73.25 million or 5.5 percent from the previous period.
Despite the positive state picture, Miller commented on some “wrinkles” in the new data.
In response to questions from reporters, the treasurer said of the monthly decline in state corporate income tax receipts, “I don’t make much out of that.” He noted the revenue source is “extremely volatile” from month to month, and that he believes the best read on corporate income tax receipts is over a broad sweep of time.
On the other hand, he said the robust sales tax numbers are “certainly healthy” and a sign of economic strength. “Consumers in Oklahoma are confident and spending at a good rate,” Miller said.
As for events in the nation’s capital, Miller said he was relieved to see a federal debt crisis averted, particularly the potential nightmare of a default on U.S. obligations.  The deal that passed Congress with the president’s support “stemmed the immediate problem of possible default. The ratings agencies won’t, consequently, actually downgrade U.S. bonds.” Miller stressed, more than once, his view that while the new agreement restores some order and a degree of predictability for national markets, the treasurer believes “it does not take care of long-term problems.”
Miller reflected, “Oklahoma continues to outperform the rest of the nation, and that’s been the case for the last 16 months. Our growth is led by oil and gas, and manufacturing.” He expects the basically positive news for Oklahoma to continue, “Just as long as they don’t screw it up in Washington, D.C.”
In a video interview with CapitolBeatOK after the session with the Capitol press corps, Miller developed that last theme, commenting that Oklahoma would continue to progress, “if left to our own devices.”
He elaborated, saying, “We’re not immune from macro-economic conditions. We’re not immune to geo-political events. We’re not immune to bad decisions out of our nation’s capital.”
The treasurer continued, “Eventually, all of the negativity and instability that Washington is providing us will have an effect on Oklahoma. Hopefully, Washington will get their act together. I think they made a step in the right direction. It’s a baby step but it is a step in the right direction.”
Miller concluded, “They’ve got to address our long-term debt problems. They’ve not done that yet, but they did stem the immediate crisis of a default.”

More Good News- Unemployment down in Oklahoma

The fundamentals underlying Oklahoma’s economy have gained strength. Our leading sectors continue to expand and corporate profits are good, keeping our unemployment rate one of the lowest in the country. Productivity growth in Oklahoma was twice the U.S. rate for the first half of the year, and our banks and real estate prices remain healthy.
Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment statewide fell for another month and is 5.3%, almost 4% below the national average (see image below).

Residential building permits have nearly doubled in the past year.

The number of active oil rigs have nearly doubled in the since last year as well, fuelling much of the state’s income increase as mentioned in a previous post.

Unfortunately the new has some rough spots as well. Agriculture losses from the historic drought gripping Oklahoma are estimated at more than $2 billion and climbing. That figure was announced by Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese during Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Drought Recovery Summit Aug. 30.

Oklahoma lawsuit filed challenging state Senate redistricting plan

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court challenging the state Senate's redistricting plan, which is being used to draw up voting precincts for state elections during the next 10 years beginning with 2012.
The lawsuit by state Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, also is seeking a court order to stop state election officials from developing new precincts.
Granting such an order would jeopardize next year's elections, the state's top election official warned Tuesday.
“Any delays in drawing and implementing new precincts will likely result in voter chaos, confusion or disenfranchisement,” state Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said. “The Election Board must know all district lines to use for new precincts by the end of this week, or this process cannot be completed on time.”
The Election Board is required every 10 years to redraw voting precincts in all 77 counties after new legislative, congressional and county commissioner districts are set, he said. Precinct lines cannot cross district lines.
“All district lines including Senate district lines must be known to draw new precincts for the 2012 elections,” Ziriax said. “The months long process of drawing and implementing new precincts must be completed before the candidate filing period for the presidential preferential primary begins Dec. 5, which is the beginning of the 2012 election cycle in Oklahoma.
“The Election Board cannot print ballots, program voting scanners or conduct elections without precincts.”
Wilson had previously filed with the state Supreme Court who rejected his suit, but told the senator he could file in district court.
In a 9-0 ruling on Thursday, the state’s high court ruled the new Senate districts comply with population requirements outlined in the state constitution.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Assault on Christianity in the US

Freedom from state-established religion and the prohibition on laws restricting the free exercise of religion are among the most cherished of American values. However, the Unites States is becoming more anti-Christian than ever before.  This is not just coming from the media, which clearly attempts to portray Christians in a negative way (just watch a few television shows), or from other folks. The anti-Christian sentiment is clearly accelerating from the government.  We have seen the MIAC report that places Conservative Christians with terrorist threats.  Below are more examples of the trampling upon our rights to faith and free speech-

HOUSTON (AP) _ Three Houston veterans groups have joined a pastor’s lawsuit accusing the Department of Veterans Affairs of religious discrimination, saying they’ve been banned at soldiers’ funerals from using religious words such as “God” and are having their prayers censored.
In May, the Rev. Scott Rainey sued to keep the VA from censoring his Memorial Day invocation at Houston National Cemetery. At that time, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order forbidding VA officials from censoring Rainey’s prayer.
The veterans groups say VA officials told them that prayer and religious speech could no longer be part of their burial rituals at the Houston cemetery unless families submit a specific prayer or message in writing to the cemetery’s director, Arleen Ocasio.

When Mark Mackey, a member of the local Calvary Chapel, showed up to the DMV office in Hemet, CA on February 2, he had a goal: read the Bible and introduce those waiting in line to the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” And for about 15 minutes he was successful. That is until a California Highway Patrolman took the Bible from his hands, arrested him, and told him he was guilty of preaching to a “captive audience.”

WASHINGTON -- Capitol Hill police arrested 11 people -- many of them members of the clergy -- protesting the Republican House budget-cutting plan, a police spokeswoman said.
The group, organized by Common Cause's president, the Rev. Bob Edgar, occupied the center of the historic Rotunda for more than a half hour Thursday, praying and singing until police closed the massive chamber and arrested the group, one by one.

Hampton High School's class president just wanted to acknowledge God in a graduation prayer. But the school’s principal, Dale Campbell, wouldn’t have it.
Not only would Campbell not have it—he threatened to have praying students put behind bars. Now, Liberty Counsel is coming alongside the class president to fight for her First Amendment rights at the Elizabethton, Tenn. school.
According to Liberty, Campbell said any students who pray or even attempt to pray would be stopped, escorted from the building by police and arrested. The principal has since backed away from his statement, but continues to send mixed messages in the community and among students.

EAST COUNTY — a student who claims he was suspended for talking about Christianity to classmates and banned from bringing his Bible to campus has filed a federal lawsuit against an East County school district.
A suspension document from the school states: “Student was told to stop preaching at school. Student continued after being warned several times.” It goes on to say: “Student will not bring Bible to school.”

A federal court has ruled against a Christian activist over demonstrations at homosexual pride events in Philadelphia.
Michael Marcavage of the organization Repent America is a street preacher who had argued that in several events, his group's constitutional right to free speech was violated by Philadelphia authorities. In one instance, police forced his group to an area to keep them from preaching directly to homosexuals during a "gay rights" parade.

PHILADELPHIA - Repent America (RA) is denouncing the Winchester, Virginia Police Department for again assigning an undercover police officer to secretly record the free speech activities of peaceful Christian evangelists last weekend at the city's annual Apple Blossom Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the city.

Law enforcement scrutiny, detainment by police, and a court date to answer trumped-up charges: these are the consequences of preaching Christianity to Muslims not only throughout much of the Islamic world, but sometimes even in America as well.
The most infamous example occurred last June, when four missionaries from Acts 17 Apologetics were arrested and charged with breach of peace while they calmly discussed their faith with Muslims at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan.

Judge ordered a home school mom in New Hampshire to stop home schooling her daughter because the little girl “reflected too strongly” her mother’s Christian faith.

Florida High School removes teacher for criticizing gay ‘marriage’ on Facebook

Freedom from Religion Foundation lawsuit to ban Texas Gov. Rick Perry from holding "The Response," his prayer rally in Houston arguing in the lawsuit that Perry's involvement in the day of prayer and fasting would violate the First Amendment's establishment clause.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in what might become the most significant religious liberty case in decades, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. EEOC, which will, disconcertingly, consider whether a religious school has the right to fire a teacher who contradicts official church teachings.
Should the court rule against Hosanna-Tabor, it could indicate that American courts will intrude more and more upon the internal affairs of religious organizations, dictating that the right to free exercise must bow before judges' and bureaucrats' current conceptions of legal equity. Placing religious groups under special legal disadvantages, and forbidding them from operating according to their own beliefs, is certainly not what the Founders had in mind when they banned an "establishment of religion" in the First Amendment.
In Early August the Department of Justice filed an opposition brief that dramatically raises the stakes in Hosanna-Tabor. Rather than simply arguing that the ministerial exception should not extend to the teacher under the facts of this case, DOJ’s brief disputes the general existence of the ministerial exception.
DOJ’s position—which is even more hostile to the ministerial exemption than the amicus brief filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU—thus threatens to expose churches and other religious institutions to a broad array of employment-discrimination claims that the ministerial-exception has long shielded them from. This ruling would effectively give the government control of the people employed by Christian, and any other religion, organization by stating who can or cannot be fired.
DENVER — A Denver judge blocked Colorado’s first school-voucher program late last week, calling the program to give parents checks for tuition at religious schools a “substantial disservice to the public interest.”
This post could simply go on and on with the number of assaults on religious freedom found in a short time of research. The 1st Amendment reads ”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As we are seeing, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are under assault as well as Christianity.
As Christians we have no doubt been persecuted, made fun of and insulted by citizens, government, media and entertainment sources alike.  As Jesus told us “Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness sake! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward in Heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12