December 1st, 2010
By Dr. Thomas Sowell
Republicans have the stronger case, but they still need to make it.
The biggest battle in the lame-duck session of Congress may well be over whether or not to extend the Bush administration’s tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in January. The fact that this decision has been left until late in the eleventh hour, even though the expiration date has been known for years, tells us a lot about the utter irresponsibility of Congress.
Neither businesses nor individuals nor the Internal Revenue Service will know what to do until this issue is resolved. In a stalled economy, we do not need this prolonged uncertainty that can paralyze both consumer spending and investment spending.Republicans want the current tax rates to continue, and Democrats want only the current tax rates for people earning less than “the rich”– variously defined — to continue, with everyone making more than some specified income to have their tax rates rise next year.
What makes predicting the outcome of this battle very difficult is that Republicans won a big majority in the House of Representatives in the recent election, but the tax cuts are scheduled to expire before the new members of Congress are sworn in — and the Democrats have a big majority in both houses of Congress in the lame-duck session, where this issue will be decided.
Theoretically, the Democrats could win, hands down, since they have the votes. But Congressional Democrats are well aware of how they lost big in the recent election, and some Democrats don’t want to gamble their own jobs in the next election by going the class-warfare route.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can afford to have all the tax rates go up in January because they couldn’t get together and pass a bill to prevent that from happening. But the nature of that bill matters, not just for politicians but — far more important — for the economy.
Former secretary of labor Robert Reich, now a professor at Berkeley, has made the case for the liberal Democrats’ position in an article in the November 28 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle titled “Extend benefits for jobless, not tax cuts for the rich.”
Professor Reich points out that both Republicans and some conservative Democrats say that we cannot afford another extension of unemployment benefits because the deficit is already too large. Then he adds: “But wait. These are the same members of Congress who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Reich advocates “extending unemployment benefits for struggling families without a breadwinner” because “these families need the money. The rich don’t.”
This is the Democrats’ argument in a nutshell. It seems very persuasive on the surface, however shaky it is underneath. But cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues, as Reich assumes. How the tax-rate battle in Congress turns out may depend on how well the Republicans answer such arguments.
These are not new arguments on either side. They go back more than 80 years. Over that long span of time, there have been many sharp cuts in tax rates under presidents Calvin Coolidge, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. So we don’t need to argue in a vacuum. There is a track record.
What does that record say? It says, loud and clear, that cuts in tax rates do not mean cuts in tax revenues. In all four of these administrations, of both parties, so-called “tax cuts for the rich” led to increased tax revenues — with people earning high incomes paying not only a larger sum total of tax revenues, but even a higher proportion of all tax revenues.
Most important of all, these tax-rate reductions spurred economic activity, which we definitely need today.
These are the facts. But facts do not “speak for themselves.” In terms of facts, the Republicans have the stronger case. But that doesn’t matter, unless they make the case, which they show little sign of doing.
Democrats already understand the need for articulation. Robert Reich is only one of many articulate Democratic spokesmen. But where are the articulate Republicans? Do they even understand how crucial articulation is? The outcome of this lame-duck session of Congress may answer that question.
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November 30th, 2010
MEDIA ADVISORY : M10-167
NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2
The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website at http://www.nasa.gov.
- Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
- Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
- Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
- James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe
Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at email@example.com or call 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.
For NASA TV streaming video and downlink information, visit:
For more information about NASA astrobiology activities, visit:
- end -
November 30th, 2010
By Barry Secrest
The following Republican Senators will receive auspicious notoriety for voting against the banning of earmarks. Earmarks are a practice which eventually inflates various bills which increases Government spending while offering meaningful avenues of legislative bribery, such as in the passage of Obamacare:
Republicans Who Ignored The Tea Party
Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.)
Susan Collins (Maine)
James Inhofe (Okla.)
Dick Lugar (Ind.) (Faces Re-election in 2012)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Richard Shelby (Ala.)
Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio
Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah)
The overall Senate proposal to ban earmarks failed 39-56
The Following Democrats voted For the banning of earmarks:
Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.)
Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.)
Defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)
Michael Bennet (D)
Mark Udall (D)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
The Hill's Jordan Fabian contributed to this report
November 30th, 2010
Interpol wanted notice for Julian Assange
Assange's details were also added to Interpol's worldwide wanted list. Dated 30 November, the entry reads: "sex crimes" and says the warrant has been issued by the international public prosecution office in Gothenburg, Sweden. "If you have any information contact your national or local police." It reads: "Wanted: Assange, Julian Paul," and gives his birthplace as Townsville, Australia.
Friends said earlier that Assange was in a buoyant mood, however, despite the palpable fury emanating from Washington over the decision by WikiLeaks to start publishing more than a quarter of a million mainly classified US cables. He was said to be at a secret location somewhere outside London, along with fellow hackers and WikiLeaks enthusiasts.
In contrast to previous WikiLeaks releases, Assange has, on this occasion, kept a relatively low profile. His attempt to give an interview to Sky News via Skype was thwarted today by a faulty internet connection.
But he was able to give an interview to Time magazine in which he called for Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, to resign. "She should resign, if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering US diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the US has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that," he said.
Assange's reluctance to emerge in public is understandable. It comes amid a rapid narrowing of his options. Several countries are currently either taking – or actively considering – aggressive legal moves against him. This lengthening list includes Sweden, Australia and now the US – but so far as can be made out, not Britain.
The US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced yesterday that the justice department and Pentagon are conducting "an active, ongoing criminal investigation" into the latest Assange-facilitated leak under Washington's Espionage Act.
It was not immediately clear whether Holder was referring to Bradley Manning, the dissident US private suspected of being the original source of the leak, or Assange. The inquiry by US federal authorities is made tricky by Assange's citizenship – he is Australian – and the antediluvian nature of the law's pre-internet-era 1917 statutes.
According to the Washington Post, no charges against anyone from WikiLeaks are imminent. But asked how the US could prosecute Assange, a non-US citizen, Holder struck an ominous note. "Let me be clear. This is not sabre-rattling," he said, vowing to swiftly "close the gaps" in current US legislation.
But Assange's most pressing headache is Sweden. Swedish prosecutors have issued an international and European arrest warrant (EAW) for him in connection with rape allegations, and the warrant has been upheld by a Swedish appeal court.
Assange strongly denies any wrongdoing but admits having unprotected but consensual encounters with two women during a visit to Sweden in August.
Mark Stephens, his London-based lawyer, has described the allegations as "false and without basis", adding that they amount to persecution as part of a cynical smear campaign.
Nonetheless, the Swedes appear determined to force Assange back to Sweden for questioning. Stockholm's director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said last month: "So far, we have not been able to meet with him to accomplish the interrogation."
Assange contests this too. But if he declines to return to Sweden voluntarily, and the UK decides to enforce Sweden's arrest warrant, things may get tricky. Some friends believe Assange's best strategy is not to go to ground but to get on a plane to Sweden and face down his accusers.
Stephens, moreover, says that the Swedish attempts to extradite Assange have no legal force. So far he has not been charged, Stephens says – an essential precondition for a valid European arrest warrant.
Under the EAW scheme, which allows for fast-tracked extradition between EU member states, a warrant must indicate a formal charge in order to be validated, and must be served on the person accused.
"Julian Assange has never been charged by Swedish prosecutors. He is formally wanted as a witness," Stephens told the Guardian today.
"All we have is an English translation of what's being reported in the media. The Swedish authorities have not met their obligations under domestic and European law to communicate the nature of the allegations against him in a language that he understands, and the evidence against him."
Assange's legal team are challenging the warrant in Sweden's supreme court. They are optimistic: a previous appeal was partially successful in limiting the grounds on which the warrant was issued.
Today a spokesman for Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is responsible for validating extradition requests, would not confirm or deny receipt of a European arrest warrant for Assange's extradition.
Assange has previously suggested he might find sanctuary in Switzerland. More promising perhaps is Ecuador, whose leftist government unexpectedly offered him asylum on Monday.
"We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions," Ecuador's foreign minister, Kintto Lucas, said.
At the very least, Ecuador could offer Assange a new passport. He might need one. Yesterday Australia's attorney general, Robert McClelland, said Australian police were also investigating whether any Australian laws had been broken by the latest WikiLeaks release.
In reality, Assange's predicament may not be as hopeless as it seems. The US would be hard pressed to make charges against him stick, experts suggest.
"There have been so few cases under the Espionage Act, you can put them on one hand," said David Banisar, senior legal counsel for the campaigning group Article 19 and an expert on free speech in the US. "There is the practical problem that most of the information published by WikiLeaks wasn't secret. Then there is the debate about whether the documents were properly classified – there are detailed rules in the US about what can and cannot be classified."
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