MorganRants

Things I am passionate about. Injustice, stupidity, intolerance, bigotry and small-mindedness. Oh and there might just be some humor to offset the whole thing.

Archive for July, 2008

Obama Remakes Plane in His Own Image

Posted by morganwrites on July 31, 2008

Just in time for his overseas media extravaganza, the Obamessiah’s 757 is back in service after undergoing a month-long, $500,000 overhaul. As you can see, Obama remade the gigantic jet in his own image.

Before:

After:

Remember, patriotism isn’t showing how much you love your country by proudly displaying Old Glory. It’s “accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it” into some other country.
As if the flag-removing makeover weren’t symbolic enough, the Obama campaign has been providing media sycophants who fly aboard the plane with little kits that include ear plugs and a blindfold, possibly to keep reality at bay while they wallow in vacuous hype.

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The Illegal Immigration Bodycount

Posted by morganwrites on July 28, 2008

One thing that is too often forgotten in the illegal immigration debate is that there have been enormous numbers of American citizens who have been raped, robbed, and murdered by illegal immigrants who shouldn’t be in this country in the first place.

How must that feel, to have someone you love murdered by a person who wouldn’t even be in this country if our immigration laws were taken seriously? Sadly, Danielle Bologna can tell you how it feels,

A San Francisco woman whose husband and two sons were gunned down last month — allegedly by an illegal immigrant who remained in the city despite previous crimes — is demanding the city do something about its sanctuary law.Danielle Bologna was widowed on June 22 when Edwin Ramos, 21, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, allegedly gunned down her husband, Anthony, and two sons, Matthew and Michael, in a road rage incident when her family was returning from a picnic.

Ramos has been charged with three counts of murder in the case, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It was a senseless crime, and had they done something this animal would not have taken my family,” Bologna told FOX News on Monday. “I feel that the government should have stepped in. I feel that they allow these immigrants to come in and how dare they strip our families like this.”

The Chronicle reported that Ramos was convicted of two gang-related felonies while a juvenile and remained in San Francisco because the Juvenile Probation Department did not alert federal authorities. San Francisco’s 1989 “City of Refuge” ordinance prohibits city agencies from contacting the feds on immigration matters.

If we took border security seriously in this country, her husband and sons would be alive today. If San Francisco wasn’t a sanctuary city, her husband and sons would be alive today.

All these people who treat our immigration laws like a joke, and that includes John McCain, George Bush, SF mayor Gavin Newsom, and Barack Obama, played a small role in making sure that Danielle Bologna will never spend another day laughing and talking with her husband and sons.

People should remember Danielle Bologna, her family, and all the other Americans who have been victimized when the politicians come up with the next excuse for why we can’t get serious in this country about enforcing our immigration laws.

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Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically

Posted by morganwrites on July 27, 2008

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington PostABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military’s ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

Changing attitudes on the issue parallel broader swings in public views about homosexuality. In their recent review of 20 years of polling data, the Pew Research Center reported “a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays.” In the 2007 Pew data, for example, 28 percent said local school boards should have the right to fire teachers known to be gay; that was down sharply from the 51 percent who said so in 1987.

In the new Post-ABC poll, military veterans are less apt than others to say gay people should be allowed in the military. While 71 percent of veterans said gay people who do not declare themselves as such should be allowed to serve, that number drops sharply, to 50 percent, for those who are open about their sexuality. Non-veterans, by contrast, are as likely to support those who “tell” as those who do not.

Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation. Three-quarters of both married and single people support the idea, both significantly higher than in 1993.

Across all three periodic Post-ABC surveys on the issue, women have been more apt than men to support gays in the military. Today, more than eight in 10 women support allowing openly gay soldiers, compared with nearly two-thirds of men. Fifteen years ago, half of women supported this stance; nearly two-thirds of men opposed it.

Furthermore, large majorities across age and education categories now support allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone July 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,119 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Error margins are larger for subgroups.

Jesus H. Christ – Hasn’t any one read Randy Shiltz’s book “Conduct Unbecoming?” Are we still in the middle ages?

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Obama: I’ll Be President For ‘The Next 8 to 10 Years’?

Posted by morganwrites on July 26, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the reputed “Constitutional scholar,” just today said on CBS’s Face the Nation that he went to Iraq to talk to important leader that he expects to be “dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.” So, does this “Constitutional scholar” not realize that there is this little thing called the 22nd Amendment that holds a president to only two, four year terms? Um, that would be a grand total of only 8 years, Barack, not 8 to 10. Of course, the big question is, will we see this idiot gaffe race through the MSM as it would if a Republican had said it?

At the very least ABC’s Jake Tapper, one of the best political reporters in the biz, sure noticed. Tapper has a blog entry on his “Political Punch [1]” blog all about it with an amusing side note about time travel added in just for fun.

Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Afghanistan, told the paparazzi-pursued correspondent Lara Logan that “the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.

Tapper zings the presumptuous nominee a good one.

The notion that Obama will be dealing with world leaders for eighjt-to-ten years, possibly up through July 2018, suggests that either (a) he believes that not only will he be elected and re-elected, but the 22nd amendment will be repealed and he will be elected for a third term, OR (b) he was speaking casually and just meant two terms.

Tapper goes on to zing Obama several more times before this entry is done.

But, why is it that Tapper is seemingly the only denizen of the MSM ever willing to bring out these stories? Why does the MSM so constantly give the Obamessiah a pass? I’ll bet you can say why.

But here is a real point to ponder. What if John McCain had said he’d be president for the next 10 years? Wouldn’t the press and every late night comedian gin up the “he’s old and senile” jokes until those jokes would go through the country like wildfire?

Lastly, we have yet one more example of this man’s arrogance. He is beginning to carry on foreign policy before he even gets elected!

“And it’s important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are.”

You see, Barack, that is a president’s job! Have you been elected yet?

What do you think?  Other than he’s an idiot.

Posted in Barack Obama | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

NPR: Economy Is Forcing Fat People to Starve

Posted by morganwrites on July 25, 2008

Public media: your tax dollar at work. Socialism can’t even produce socialist propaganda as competently as the free market.

Check out the picture accompanying a tear-jerking NPR piece (printed below for your convenience) that weeps for Americans who are cutting down on food because they can’t afford it due to the horrible economy:

Photo Courtesy of Food Stamps

Photo Courtesy of Food Stamps

Angelica Hernandez & Gloria Nunez


Public media: your tax dollar at work. Socialism can’t even produce socialist propaganda as competently as the free market.

All Things Considered

July 17, 2008 · A generation ago, the livelihood of Gloria Nunez’s family was built on cars.

Her father worked at General Motors for 45 years before retiring. Her mother taught driver’s education. Nunez and her six siblings grew up middle class.

Things have changed considerably for this Ohio family.

Nunez’s van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Nunez and most of her siblings and their spouses are unemployed and rely on government assistance and food stamps. Some have part-time jobs, but working is made more difficult with no car or public transportation.

Low-income families in Ohio say they are particularly hard-hit by the changes in the economy, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. Two-thirds of lower-income respondents, or 66 percent, say paying for gas is a serious problem because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly half of low-income Ohioans, or 47 percent, say that getting a well-paying job or a raise in pay is also major problem.

‘I Just Can’t Get A Job’

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

Hernandez received her high school diploma and has had several jobs in recent years. But now, because fewer restaurants and stores are hiring, she says she finds it hard to find a job. Even if she could, she says it’s particularly hard to imagine how she’ll keep it. She says she needs someone to give her a lift just to get to an interview. And with gas prices so high, she’s not sure she could afford to pay someone to drive her to work every day.

People tell Nunez her daughter could get more money in public assistance if she had a child.

“A lot of people have told me, ‘Why don’t your daughter have a kid?'”

They both reject that as a plan.

“I’m trying to get a job,” Hernandez says. “I just can’t get a job.”

Hernandez says she’s trying to get training to be a nurse’s assistant, but without her own set of wheels or enough money to pay others for gas, it hasn’t been easy.

‘What’s Going To Happen To Us?’

Most of their extended family lives in the same townhouse complex. The only employer within walking distance is a ThyssenKrupp factory that makes diesel engine parts. That facility, which employs 400 people, is shutting down and moving to Illinois next year.

The only one with a car is Irma Hernandez, Nunez’s mother. Hernandez says that with a teenage son still at home, the cost of feeding him and sending him to school is rising, and she can no longer pay for the car.

She’s now two car payments behind.

“I’m about to lose my car,” she says on her way to pick up one of her daughters to take her to Toledo. “So then what’s going to happen to us?”

So Nunez and her daughter are mostly stuck at home.

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

No signs of exercise in this article. Hmmm.

Posted in obesity | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The ACLU says there are one million names on the list.

Posted by morganwrites on July 24, 2008

The fact that they are wrong doesn’t discredit many of the solutions they offer to fix the real flaws of the program.

(JS) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sounded the alarm that the government’s terrorist watch list has reached one million names:
The nation’s terrorist watch list has hit one million names, according to a tally maintained by the American Civil Liberties Union based upon the government’s own reported numbers for the size of the list.
“Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other ’suspicious characters,’ with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress needs to fix it, the Terrorist Screening Center needs to fix it, or the next president needs to fix it, but it has to be done soon.”
Painfully, I must agree with this organization. They are correct in pointing out that there are many flaws with this program that need to be fixed. However, I believe there are reasons to be skeptical about many of the claims and exaggerations from this purely partisan organization.
The ACLU makes many good points on this issue that we can not ignore. The sheer size of this list is something that should concern us. A list this large would be a bureaucratic nightmare to manage, and many mistaken identities are reported to happen with this program. I also agree with the ACLU that many innocent people are greatly inconvenienced by this well-intentioned but mistake-prone system. There is no doubt this program needs to be fixed.
On September 16, 2003, Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 ordered that the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) combine all existing government terrorist watch lists to screen individuals trying to enter the U.S. This combined list became known as the consolidated watch list, and is the single list used to protect our airlines and port-of-entries.
Many people were shocked when artist Yusuf Islam, formerly known as pop singer Cat Stevens, was deported after appearing on the watch list. Others pointed out several logical reasons why the U.S. had him on the list, such as his donating thousands of dollars to the terrorist organization Hamas. Other high profile characters and ordinary citizens have found their names on the list, and many have been delayed or even denied their flights.
I have given the ACLU credit on this issue; now I will give reasons to be skeptical. The claim that there are one million individuals on the terror watch list is a myth created through the exaggerated “estimations” of the ACLU. The truth is there are less than 400,000 individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list, and less than 50,000 on the no-fly and selectee lists.
Assumptions by the ACLU were probably based on a 2007 report claiming the estimate of 700,000 possible records on the watch list and growing by an average of 20,000 per month. Apparently, they didn’t take into account that the numbers do not necessarily represent actual individuals. A new “record” is created for every alias, date-of-birth, passport, spelling variations, and other identifying information for watch listed suspects. Furthermore, they did not take into account the name-by-name scrub that took place in 2007. Notably, 95 percent of those on the consolidated watch list are not American citizens and the majority are not even in the U.S. The shocking numbers the ACLU is broadcasting are simply inflated and dishonest figures.
The ACLU’s most valid point against this program is the misidentification of travelers’ names with those similar on the watch list. Their claims that individuals such as Senator Edward Kennedy are on the watch list are untrue, however there are common and shared names on it. TSA is implementing a program to reduce this problem by taking the matching responsibilities away from the airlines and putting them in-house, where additional data elements can help curtail inconveniences for these individuals.
Additionally, the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) provides a single point of contact for individuals having inquiries, seeking resolution regarding difficulties, or correcting erroneous information. I also admit some of the suggestions the ACLU offer are reasonable. Ensuring initial accuracy on the list through tight criteria and rigorous procedures should be taken seriously.
The watch list is not a perfected tool against terrorism. It is very valuable and it keeps real threats off the airplanes everyday. I’d rather be personally misidentified as someone on the list and suffer the delays and interrogations than to miss one real terrorist. This is a necessary tool needing a little tweaking.
The ACLU’s dishonesty and tendency to exaggerate only hurt their credibility, especially when they have legitimate concerns and reasonable suggestions towards solutions. Truthfully, the picture has been distorted; one million people are not barred from flying. Why can’t the ACLU just tell the truth? In this worrisome time, the American people need to be given the facts — not a line of bull.

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Michelle Obama: Fascism, Depression, And Utopia, Oh My!

Posted by morganwrites on July 23, 2008

This quote from the ObamaMessiah’s wife, whom the Obama campaign says we’re not allowed to discuss, is a real eye catcher. It starts with a little burst of fascism, lapses into sadness and despair, and ends with a messianic promise of paradise for the world if Obama is elected,

“I wish we had time to be divided. I wish we had time to be upset. To be angry. To be disappointed. I wish we did. Because if we had time for that, then things wouldn’t be so bad right now. Instead, we’re in a place where another four or eight years of the world as it is will devastate the life of some child.”

To begin with, the country is currently sharply divided and clearly will continue to be divided, no matter who wins the election. So, when Teresa Heinz Obama says we don’t have “time to be divided,” there’s an implication there: people should not be allowed to disagree with her husband. After all, if there is going to be unity and Obama isn’t going to change his core liberal beliefs to achieve it, then everyone who isn’t liberal will have to be forced to change their beliefs. If Obama gets in, expect some variation of this argument to be used when the Left begins their un-American attempt to drive their political opponents off the airwaves via the Fairness Doctrine.

Next, Michelle goes into the standard liberal spiel about how “bad” things are. Whenever a Democrat is out of office, no matter what the situation is, they, along with their accomplices in the mainstream media, try to convince people that everything is falling apart. And, the only way Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again is if liberals are allowed to use big government to fix every boo-boo on the knee of the body politic.

Then, to cap it all off, Michelle finishes with this breath taking quote,

“Instead, we’re in a place where another four or eight years of the world as it is will devastate the life of some child.”

Yes, if we put Obama into office, the life of every child, everywhere on the planet, will be free of devastation and will therefore be nothing but cookies, rainbows, and fairies riding unicorns.

This sort of over-reaching rhetoric, combined with Obama’s towering arrogance, and the vacant-eyed zombies who follow him around because they like the idea of “hope” and “change” is creepily reminiscent of cult leaders like Jim Jones. Let’s just “hope” that the rest of us don’t get stuck drinking the poison Kool-Aid if this inexperienced, ultra-liberal dope gets into the White House.

Posted in Michele Obama | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Woman in W.Pa. baby mystery charged with homicide

Posted by morganwrites on July 23, 2008

Andrea Curry-Demus

Andrea Curry-Demus

PITTSBURGH — A woman suspected of cutting open a pregnant woman’s uterus and stealing the baby has been charged with homicide, unlawful restraint and kidnapping, police said Sunday.

Andrea Curry-Demus, 38, of Wilkinsburg, is charged in the death of Kia Johnson, 18, of McKeesport. Curry-Demus is accused of taking the baby boy to a Pittsburgh hospital and claiming it was her own.

Johnson’s body was found Friday in Curry-Demus’s apartment. The body was positively identified through dental records, Allegheny County Medical Examiner Karl Williams said Sunday.

In the criminal complaint, police said that video surveillance at the Allegheny County Jail from Tuesday afternoon shows Curry-Demus talking with Johnson for several minutes. The women were at the jail visiting different inmates, police said.

The clothing Johnson is seen wearing on the surveillance tape was consistent with the garments found on her body, police said.

Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said the jail was the last time Johnson was seen alive.

Curry-Demus was being held in county jail on Sunday and it was not immediately clear whether she had an attorney. A lawyer who had represented her previously did not immediately return a phone message left Sunday.

No one was home at the McKeesport home of Johnson’s father on Sunday.

In the criminal complaint, police said Johnson’s body was found bound at the wrists and ankles with duct tape, and there were layers of duct tape and plastic covering much of her head. Her body was wrapped in a comforter and garbage bags and placed under the headboard of the bed in the master bedroom.

Williams said Johnson appeared to have been dead for about two days. She “had a wound to the abdomen consistent with the removal of a baby,” Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.

“A very sharp instrument” was used to cut open Johnson’s belly, he said.

Authorities said Johnson was 36 weeks pregnant, and they were trying to determine whether she was alive when the baby was removed. They also are awaiting toxicology tests to find out whether she was drugged. Test results are not expected for several weeks.

Police said in the complaint that Curry-Demus denied meeting Johnson but that she told investigators that her fingerprints would be on the duct tape and plastic used to wrap the body.

Curry-Demus showed up at the hospital Thursday with a newborn that still had the umbilical cord attached, police said. Tests later proved that she was not the mother.

Police said Curry-Demus initially told investigators she bought the baby for $1,000 from the its mother. She later said two people brought a pregnant woman to her apartment Tuesday evening, removed the baby the next day and gave it to her. She said she then took the newborn to her sister’s apartment and told her she had just given birth, police said.

Curry-Demus’ sister told investigators she didn’t see anyone else in Curry-Demus’ apartment when she visited twice Wednesday morning, police said. On the first occasion, Curry-Demus repeatedly went into the bedroom alone, closed the door and stayed there for several minutes. On the second occasion, Curry-Demus showed her sister the baby and claimed to have just given birth, police said.

Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman said Sunday the child was “under observation.” Williams earlier said the baby was “apparently doing well.” The hospital has declined to release any information about the child.

In 1990, Curry-Demus, then known as Andrea Curry, was accused of stabbing a woman in an alleged plot to steal the woman’s infant. A day after that stabbing, Curry-Demus snatched a 3-week-old baby girl from a hospital after the child’s 16-year-old mother had gone home for the night. The baby was found unharmed with Curry-Demus at her home the next day.

Curry-Demus pleaded guilty in 1991 to various charges from both incidents and got three to 10 years in prison, according to court records. She was paroled in August 1998.

Sometimes I wonder why I even read the news.

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Tax Rates For New Yorkers Would Top 50% Under Obama

Posted by morganwrites on July 22, 2008

‘Significant Difference’ Is Seen For High-Income Areas Like the City

New York tax filers reporting more than $375,000 a year in earned income may end up paying nearly 60% of their wages in taxes to the government under a Barack Obama presidency, economists who have analyzed his plan said.

The Democratic presidential candidate is proposing not only raising the federal income tax, but also adding a Social Security tax for those Americans earning more than $250,000 a year. For New Yorkers, that could mean that if the current Social Security rate is applied, the marginal tax rate, or rate on every extra dollar earned, could rise to 58%.

“This is a very eye-popping number,” a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Alan Viard, said.

Under current law, there is a 12.4% Social Security tax on salaries up to $102,000 a year. While the Social Security tax is split equally between employers and employees, economists widely hold that employees shoulder the entire tax burden because employers simply pass along the cost of the tax in the form of lower wages.

Mr. Obama has spoken of creating a so-called doughnut hole, where those earning more than $250,000 would have to pay an additional Social Security tax; anyone earning between $102,000 and $250,000 would be exempt.

Mr. Obama has yet to clarify what that additional Social Security tax will be, although his campaign said it is not likely to be as high as 12.4%. Rather, it said the tax is not likely to run higher than 4%, translating into a marginal tax on wages of as much as 52% for New Yorkers, who are subject to income tax at the federal, state, and city levels. The current marginal rate is 42%, which would continue under the McCain proposal. Full calculations of these figures are available in the slideshow accompanying this article.

“Obama originally seemed to be saying he would apply the full 12.4%, although lately he seems to be backtracking,” Mr. Viard said. “One thing is for sure, you are going to see an increase of several percentage points on the marginal federal income tax from the Obama plan.”

Some observers said that raising taxes at a time when the economy is teetering on a recession could exacerbate the economic woes.

“If the economy remains soft through next year — and it seems unlikely that it will be robust — it would be a very bad time to raise taxes of any sort, but particularly to raise them in this way,” a professor who teaches federal tax law at Yale Law School, Michael Graetz, said.

The Obama campaign said it is too early to know the exact marginal tax rate because no plan has been finalized. “There is not a specific plan, it is something that Obama would want to work together with Congress to figure out,” the economic policy director for the Obama campaign, Jason Furman, said. In respect of the payroll tax rate on income above the doughnut hole, he said, “some of the plans we are looking at, and we are looking at a range of plans, think Congress might like to have rates that are in the neighborhood of 2% to 4%.” He added that the plan could also be phased in over a period of years.

There is also a difference between the marginal tax rate and the average tax rate, which is the rate that Americans pay as a portion of their overall income. The average tax rate under the Obama plan would be lower than the 52% figure because of deductions for charity, lower rates that apply to capital gains and dividend income, and other factors. “The average tax rate for the top 1% is, on average, about 20% under current law. Our plan would maybe be only two percentage points higher,” Mr. Furman said.

While the average rate will be lower, the marginal tax on wages is considered a critical measure because it “affects the incentive to work and report income to the Internal Revenue Service, as well as invest in legal and illegal tax shelters,” the director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Urban Institute, Len Burman, said. Mr. Burman recently authored a widely read study of the two candidates’ tax proposals.

In addition to tacking on a Social Security tax and raising the top income tax rate to 39.6% from 35%, the Obama campaign is also proposing limiting the value of itemized deductions. Known as “Pease,” the provision was named for Rep. Don Pease of Ohio and was instituted in the 1990s to help reduce the deficit. President Bush phased out much of the Pease, and Mr. Obama would restore it, tacking on a few additional percentage points to the marginal tax rate.

As for the alternative minimum tax, the two candidates do not differ widely, although Mr. McCain had originally called for its repeal. In addition, the AMT affects New Yorkers earning between $100,000 and $300,000, but does not impact those in the highest income bracket.

Mr. Obama is proposing to raise taxes on capital gains and dividends by two-thirds, moving the rate up 10 percentage points to 25%. When New York State and City taxes are added in, the tax rate would be 33%. In comparison, the tax rate for capital gains and dividends is currently 22%; this would continue under Mr. McCain’s plan, though some analysts say that if he won the presidency a Democratic Congress might maneuver him into an increase in these taxes, or pass an increase over his veto.

As for the estate and gift tax, Obama is proposing excluding anyone with less than $3.5 million, and charging a tax of between 15% and 45% for anything over the limit. McCain is proposing a $5 million exclusion and a flat 15% tax rate for anything over this limit.

The candidates’ tax plans reflect their philosophical differences, economists and political analysts said.

In the estate and gift tax, for example, Obama is treating it like an income tax, where children who come into a lot of money would pay the same rates as if they had been earning the money over time, a managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte, Clint Stretch, said. For McCain, the tax is more like capital gains, where the children are considered to have invested in the parents and therefore should pay something akin to a capital gains tax.

“While Senator McCain is saying that the Bush tax cuts are, in essence, correct, Obama is proposing to go even further than Bush in cutting taxes for the lower and middle classes and restore Clinton’s higher taxes for those with higher incomes,” Mr. Stretch said.

“Their tax plans highlight the dichotomy between the two candidates and their different approaches,” a partner at Grant Thornton and the director of its tax legislative affairs group, Melbert Schwarz, said. “Obviously in a high income area like New York City, you are going to have a lot of people who are in the highest income tax bracket, where Obama’s proposals could make a significant difference.”

‘New Yorkers – vote for Obama! He’s your man!’

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Perfect Villains, Flawed Tribunal

Posted by morganwrites on July 21, 2008

Last week, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s Darfur region. The move sparked criticism that the indictment will reduce chances for peace in Darfur. We have seen this all before: In 1993, at the apex of the Bosnian war, the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was established with roughly the same objective — to bring justice to the victims of a war that the great powers were unable or unwilling to stop.

Let’s check the results.

What ever happened to Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general who ordered the slaughter of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995? Or to his political master, Radovan Karadzic, who pounded Sarajevo for more than three years and drove hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs from their homes during the Bosnian war? Both men were indicted by the tribunal in 1995, and both are still at large 13 years later. What’s worse, their prospects of remaining free grow with each passing day, since the tribunal has to complete all its cases by the end of this year and review the appeals by 2010. The arrest warrants will remain in place, but as of next year, there will be no one to try either of those men.

The list of the tribunal’s underachievements doesn’t end there. In the midst of his long-running trial, Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian dictator widely regarded as the chief culprit in the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia, died of heart failure after taking medicine known to counteract other drugs he had been taking for coronary problems. Milosevic’s death deprived his surviving victims of closure and allowed his supporters to continue to claim that he was innocent.

The trial of Jovica Stanisic, the head of Milosevic’s notorious secret police, hasn’t even begun, even though Stanisic was apprehended five years ago and might be released because of health problems. Ramush Haradinaj, the Albanian militia leader in Kosovo indicted for the murders of at least 40 civilians, was acquitted in April due to lack of evidence after key prosecution witnesses were killed or refused to testify.

Meanwhile, Vojislav Seselj, Milosevic’s political ally and, along with Stanisic, the chief organizer of the paramilitary units that wreaked havoc in Croatia and Bosnia, is currently on trial but is likely to be released for lack of evidence. He almost became Serbia’s premier when his ultranationalist party came dangerously close to winning the Serbian parliamentary elections in May, garnering nearly 30 percent of the vote.

So was it all a huge mistake? Fifteen years ago, when the U.N. Security Council established the tribunal, it was met with great enthusiasm both by the war’s victims, who expected justice and closure, and by human rights activists, who saw it as a great leap forward for international law. Western political leaders, who lined up in support of the court, might have had a slightly different agenda: The war in Yugoslavia was still raging, and the public, horrified by footage of mass graves and suffering civilians, wanted something done. Setting up the tribunal seemed like a good way to deflect the pressure to intervene militarily. There were also hopes that the court’s very existence would deter future crimes and speed up reconciliation in the Balkans by individualizing the guilt for wartime atrocities.

In retrospect, these hopes were naive. Some of the worst crimes in the former Yugoslavia, such as the massacres at Srebrenica and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, occurred well after the tribunal became fully operational — so much for deterrence. As for reconciliation, the tribunal has accomplished even less. In fact, it has done exactly the opposite, because all the nations of the former Yugoslavia see it as a political instrument aimed at demonizing their heroes and sanitizing their enemies’ records.

Resentment of the tribunal is strongest in Serbia, which had to deliver the bulk of the suspects, but other former Yugoslav republics have been far from enthusiastic. Even now, the Croatian coast is dotted with billboards glorifying former Croatian army lieutenant general Ante Gotovina, currently on trial for launching an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Serbs in 1995. As Croatian human rights activist Zarko Puhovski recently noted: “The truth doesn’t necessarily heal and calm — more often it causes hurt, anxiety and anger.”

As for the vaunted international community, the indictments were always the easy part. Actually bringing these thugs to justice would involve real, dangerous work. Mladic and Karadzic, for example, are still at large because no one has ever seriously gone after them. The tribunal doesn’t have its own intelligence and police officers to locate and apprehend the suspects; it has to ask individual countries to lend them these resources.

The tribunal itself is hardly blameless. From the beginning, it has been hampered by all the usual flaws that bedevil any U.N. body: too much red tape, inefficiency and split loyalties. But the real responsibility lies with the great powers — the United States, Britain and France. In her book, former prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann describes in detail how these three nations have blocked the tribunal’s investigations whenever its probes have collided with their perceived national interests, often to prevent certain unsavory liaisons with Balkan warlords from coming to light.

Most often, expediency has trumped justice — something nations trying to bring peace to Darfur will have to deal with now that Bashir has been indicted. In the former Yugoslavia, some of the worst war crimes suspects have retained high positions in the military, police or political structures long after the war. Karadzic and Mladic lived openly in Bosnia for several years after they were indicted in 1995, when Bosnia was essentially occupied by NATO forces. Mladic was even in charge of implementing the military part of the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, working closely with NATO officers. Milosevic, meanwhile, was indicted in 1999 but continued to serve as Serbian president until late 2000. Haradinaj was prime minister of Kosovo when he was indicted in 2005.

One of the biggest problems for the prosecution has been protecting witnesses. I have some first-hand experience in this matter. In 2002, I was the first Serbian journalist to testify against Milosevic. I received threats as a result, and nationalists at home launched a defamation campaign against me. A year ago, a hand grenade blew up outside my bedroom window. It turned out that the prosecutors had placed me on the witness list against former State Security chief Stanisic without telling me. “We forgot,” a member of the prosecutor’s team told me. I told her that they should forget about my appearing in court.

While many of the tribunal’s failures have stemmed from its own inadequacies, it was the 2005 Security Council decision to impose a “conclusion strategy” and severely limit the court’s shelf life that dealt the final blow. From that moment on, the best and the brightest among its staff started looking for new jobs, while those who replaced them have often been underqualified. Many of the judges in the ongoing trials have never spent a single day in a criminal court in their home countries — they come from universities and international law institutes.

Despite everything, the tribunal has done some good work. More than 700 bad guys have been put behind bars. Meanwhile, former Yugoslav countries have set up their own war crimes courts, although these are still too feeble and subject to political pressures to try big cases, such as those of Karadzic or Mladic.

There are two ways to proceed from here. One is to declare the tribunal a failure and refrain from setting up similar courts in the future. The other is to learn from past mistakes.

One key lesson: Countries emerging from conflict need swift justice, not decades of tedious trials aimed at establishing comprehensive historical truth. That task should be left to historians. Instead of casting a wide net and spending years examining every single fish, future tribunals should focus on the worst cases with the strongest evidence — and process them quickly, before politics steps in. And if this raises some eyebrows among legal experts, so be it. Human justice is imperfect, but no justice is much worse.

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