Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Final Five: February 15, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
February 15, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Valentine's Gift Blamed for Calif. Power Outage
15,099 customers lost power for 71 minutes on Valentines Day after a helium balloon that was part of someone's gift hit a power substation. According to a Southern California Edison spokesperson, balloon-related power outages happen fairly frequently, with the majority of them occurring on Valentines Day and around the time of graduation.


Topic One: Obama's Budget
Don't have time to read the entire Obama budget submission? Money Morning has a breakdown of the five things to know about the budget. Grover Norquist calls the budget "trickle-down taxation." "What the Democrats are practicing here is once again trickle-down taxation. They promise to tax only rich people and then it trickles down to everyone." Obama's budget also represents a grand departure from the proposals of his own Simpson-Bowles commission.

Jerry Philipson writes that |Obama's budget shows what is important to him. "President Obama delivered his 2013 budget to Congress Monday for approval. He missed the statutory deadline for delivering it by one week. That isn't the only thing he missed. He also missed an opportunity to begin to right America's financial ship, to tackle America's crippling long term financial problems (most of which are of his own making) and restore financial sanity to the life of the country and the lives of ordinary Americans. Instead, he gave America and Americans more of the same, more of what he has given them since he took office...more debt, more borrowing, more spending, more federal government intervention in the economy at the expense of capitalism and the free market system which has served them so well over the years, more stimulus programs which are bound to fail just like their predecessors, more smoke and mirrors and creative accounting which has no basis in reality, more unemployment, more misery, more taxes, more of everything except jobs, money in people's pockets, financial and personal independence and hope for the future." Related stories: The "tax-the-rich" budget || The politics behind a budgetless America || A phone app for the budget? || It's my money, America" || Receipts and outlays in pictorial form


There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Here's a good tip. If your girlfriend or your wife gives you that speech about how she doesn't care about Valentine's Day and how it's a holiday invented by corporations, don't fall for it."
-Jimmy Kimmel


Topic Two: Iran
Iran announced today that it had completed mastery of the nuclear process. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on hand as the state-run TV broadcast images of the installation of the domestically-produced fuel rods. Iran also announced its intention to begin producing yellowcake, a material used for enriching uranium. UN sanctions currently ban the sale of yellowcake to Iran. Meanwhile, a US carrier travelling through the Straight of Hormuz was shadowed by Iranian missile boats and aircraft. This comes after Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait.

Related stories: Iran cuts oil to 6 EU nations || Israel: "We have every intention of defending ourselves" || What Obama's reelection means for Iran


Debt Watch:
Yesterday, the government increased the debt by $4,185,828,525.85, raising the national debt to:
$15,359,384,163,919.51


Topic Three: ObamaCare
The debate continues over the contraception mandate. The administration says that it will not make any further changes, but the Catholic bishops say they will refuse to comply. Forbes takes a line from Obama, calling the mandate "the audacity of power." "In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield."

On the individual mandate, the Tax Foundation wrote a great article on how the mandate is outside Congress's power to tax. "This Court should be reluctant to reject the widely-accepted definition of "tax" as an exaction imposed for the primary purpose of raising revenue for general spending, because to do so would jeopardize settled precedent and taxpayer protections at the federal level and in nearly every state. There has been no development in law that necessitates such a far-reaching change. A meaningful distinction between "tax" and "penalty" is vital to give operation to numerous federal and state provisions relating to tax policy. If this Court held that a tax is any government collection of revenue, then government revenue collection efforts across the country would be imperiled, as many revenue sources are not subjected to the heightened restrictions that "taxes" are. ... This Court should therefore be cautious not to encourage treating penalties as taxes, as that would render many state powers, and potentially the Taxing Power's limitations, meaningless."

Related stories: 65% back contraception mandate || Contraception mandate is about conscience || Obama's anti-constitutional pattern


Tweet of the Day:
Craig Carroll (@craigcarroll): I've said it b4; Electing Obama as president was the same as if putting a child w/ a lemonade stand in charge of Starbucks. #tcot #p2


Topic Four: The Payroll Tax Cut
It appears that there may be an agreement on the payroll tax cut after all. The conference committee charged with negotiating the difference between the House and Senate bills appears to have reached a compromise. The bill will extend the payroll tax cut, apply the doc-fix provision to Medicare, and extend the emergency level of unemployment benefits through the end of the year. However, this is different from the bill that was proposed recently by Republicans, which would have extended only the payroll tax cut without any other provisions. This new agreement will force those in Congress to choose between cutting taxes or additional entitlement spending.


Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country."
-Noah Webster


Topic Five: Control in Education
Who knows best: the parents or the school? According to one official from Michigan's Department of Education, the answer is the school. Debbie Squires, director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle Schools Principals Association, reportedly told the Michigan House Education Committee, "[Educators] are the people who know best about how to serve children, that’s not necessarily true of an individual resident. I‘m not saying they don’t want the best for their children, but they may not know what actually is best from an education standpoint." The discussion came up during a hearing on school choice.

Related stories: Education gap in rich vs. poor terms || Minority students shouldn't be trapped in bad schools (but white students can be?)


Tomorrow in History
February 16, 1959 - Following the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, Fidel Castro is selected as Cuba's premier.


Grab Bag - Interesting and Important Stories to Conclude Your Evening

Despite attacks on Israelis abroad, US says there is no threat to Jews here

Did NBC influence the assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats?

Stories of forced unionism

Obama's change comes true

Feds shut down Amish farm for selling fresh milk

Don't trust government numbers


The Closing Argument
Bills may die, but ideas never die. Just because a bill has been defeated in Congress does not mean it cannot be resurrected or inserted as a portion of another bill. I would not be surprised if portions of the recently-shelved transportation bill are handled in this manner. Be sure to watch out for these types of political games played by our politicians to mask their true opinions.


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Washington Update: February 15, 2012

Senate
Yesterday's Action:
During morning business, the Senate passed three measures by unanimous consent: S. Res. 373, recognizing February 14, 2012, as the centennial of the State of Arizona, S. Res. 374, supporting the mission and goals of 2012 National Crime Victims' Rights Week, and S. Res. 375, celebrating the bicentennial of the City of Columbus, Ohio. The Senate then resumed consideration of the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan. An agreement was reached to resume consideration of this nomination at 12:00 PM today.

Today's Schedule:
The Senate will meet at 9:30 AM for morning business, followed by consideration of the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan. Following a vote on the nomination, the Senate is expected to consider S. 1813, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

Senate Committee Meetings:
There are four Senate committee meetings today.
  • The Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will meet to consider two nominations to positions within the Department of Agriculture.
  • The Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, will hold a hearing examining pay for performance policies at financial institutions.
  • The Committee on Finance will continue its hearings on the President's budget proposal.
  • The Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program and to consider several judicial nominations.


House
Yesterday's Action:
The House debated but postponed consideration of three bills under suspension: H.R. 2079, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10 Main Street in East Rockaway, New York, as the "John J. Cook Post Office"; H.R. 3247, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1100 Town and Country Commons in Chesterfield, Missouri, as the "Lance Corporal Matthew P. Pathenos Post Office Building"; and H.R. 3248, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 112 South 5th Street in Saint Charles, Missouri, as the "Lance Corporal Drew W. Weaver Post Office Building".

Today's Schedule:
The House is expected to consider H.R. 3408, the "Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act".

House Committee Meetings:
There are sixteen House committee meetings today.
  • The Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, will consider the President's budget request for the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The Committee on Armed Services will hold a hearing on the President's budget request for the Department of Defense.
  • The Committee on the Budget will examine the President's budget request.
  • The Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, will hold a hearing titled "Where the Jobs Are".
  • The Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, will hold a hearing titled "Reauthorization of MDUFA: What It Means for Jobs, Innovation and Patients".
  • The Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will hold a hearing on the budget for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • The Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, will hold a hearing on the revolution in Egypt.
  • The Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing to examine the President's budget request for the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing examining the overreach of the President's "recess" appointments.
  • The Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, will hold a hearing titled "Safeguarding the Integrity of the Immigration Benefits Adjudication Process".
  • The Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the President's budget request for the Department of the Interior.
  • The Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, will hold a hearing on H.R. 3973, to facilitate the development of energy on Indian lands by reducing Federal regulations that impede tribal development of Indian lands.
  • The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on why reshuffling government agencies will not solve the problems of big government.
  • Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, will hold a hearing titled "Broadband: A Catalyst for Small Business Growth".
  • The Committee on Veterans' Affairs will hold a hearing on the President's budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • The Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing to examine the President's budget request.


Joint Committee Meetings
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe will hold a hearing to examine the violence against Roma in Europe.


New Public Laws Reported
H.R. 3801, to amend the Tariff Act of 1930 to clarify the definition of aircraft and the offenses penalized under the aviation smuggling provisions under that Act. Signed on February 10, 2012.


All information is taken from the Congressional Register.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Final Five: February 14, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
February 14, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
North Carolina Artist Accused of Stealing His Own Paintings
A North Carolina man broke into a closed restaurant and took the paintings on the wall. He claims that he wanted to make sure the paintings were not stolen by anyone else because he was the one who painted them.


Topic One: The Obama Budget
Some interesting stories are being produced as people have time to comb through the Obama budget proposal. Obama was unable to find money to fund a DC school voucher program, but he was able to find the money to pay for Chevy Volt subsidies. (Talk about money going up in flames!) It also includes funding for Arab spring governments. Furthermore, the budget includes some strange definitions, such as counting as "savings" money that will not be spent on the war in Iraq. Since our leaders obviously have no plans to implement real savings, they have to use tricks like this to make it look like they are saving money.

Obama's budget breaks his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Of course, when Obama has no regard for the law or the Constitution, why should he care about his promises? The CATO Institute says that Obama's budget is an increase in spending now, and cuts in spending later. However, Paul Ryan sums up the real source of the budget ideas: the campaign.

Related Stories: An agency-by-agency guide to the budget || Ridiculous USA Today piece on how tough it is to spend $4 trillion || Lowry: Budget is a blueprint for decline || Even Obama's hometown paper is critical || How to swap the budget for growth


There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"According to geologists, about 100 million years from now, Asia and the Americas will smash together to form one giant supercontinent. The good news: Maybe all those jobs that went over there will finally come back."
-Jay Leno


Topic Two: Pipeline Politics
A great piece by Joe Nocera on why the pipeline should be built, from the perspective of a global warming believer. "Here’s the question on the table today: Can a person support the Keystone XL oil pipeline and still believe that global warming poses a serious threat? To my mind, the answer is yes. The crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, which the pipeline would transport to American refineries on the Gulf Coast, simply will not bring about global warming apocalypse. The seemingly inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions is the result of deeply ingrained human habits, which will not change if the pipeline is ultimately blocked. The benefits of the oil we stand to get from Canada, via Keystone, far outweigh the environmental risks."

Related stories: Perry: Texans baffled || Time for the Senate to show some courage


Debt Watch:
Yesterday, the government spent $20,172,705,641.07 over what it took in, raising the national debt to:
$15,355,838,921,022.16


Topic Three: Education Reform
Maryland Senate candidate Dan Bongino has a piece on the need for education reform: "Local implementation of means-tested voucher based programs would revolutionize our education system with the real winners being American children. Successful schools and excellent teachers would be rewarded with increased demand for their services. Funding would follow as it would be attached to the child and not to the zip code. Schools which fail to attract students due to their inability to produce results would then be subjected to charter takeover. This process will ensure that competition creates a vibrant educational environment for all of our children and failure is no longer sugar coated. From a federal perspective, we can set an example by fully supporting these initiatives in Washington DC."

While I am not a strong believer in vouchers (though I believe they do help improve the quality of education), I do believe very strongly in the idea of school choice. My belief is that parents should have the ability to enroll their student in any public school in the state, provided that the school has space to accept the student and the parents are willing to arrange for transportation. The money provided by the state to support school districts would then automatically go to the new school, and a formula could be developed that would change the funding that comes from local sources (property taxes, etc.) This will create competition among the school districts for additional students (which means additional revenue). The schools that perform best will see an increase in students, and the schools that perform worst will eventually have to be closed due to a lack of students.

Related stories: This should be obvious, but it is not || Liberal textbook propaganda || Can technology reform education?


Tweets of the Day:
The White House launched its #40dollars campaign again today, asking Americans to describe how the 40 dollars they could potentially lose should the payroll tax cut not be extended would affect them. Some of the funniest responses are listed in Topic Four below.



Topic Four: #40dollars
Some of the best tweets from the White House's #40dollars campaign (starting with my own contribution):
@DOFBlog_Jim: If each American paid #40dollars per month for 380 months (31 1/2 yrs.), we would pay off the debt that Obama has added in 3 years.
@mtgrove: With #40Dollars You can buy a Obama2012 t shirt on the front it says "yes we can" on the back it says "Not Really but give me 4 more anyway"
@ChelseaGrunwald: With #40dollars I could buy my very own #Obama2012 polo, or in other words, a really expensive rag to wash my car with.
@trilliumland: If I got 50 cents for every round of golf Obama played while USA declines I'd be at #40dollars #theoccupier
@Rainmaker191: #40dollars -Spending TRILLIONS n tryng to save us $40 is insulting. Obama and Congress r embarrassments. You can use my $40 to #monitorthis
@jamiesaker: TSA airport groping fees to be tripled by White House? Goodbye #40dollars
@BentonAdamC: #40dollars would be a little more fire starter to keep me warm, because by the time you're done our currency will be worthless.
@mtgrove: With #40dollars I can pay higher health insurance premiums so someone else can get free birth control #Awesome Thanks
@mommasaurus009: I'm putting that #40dollars in my 401K cuz SS will b broke by time I can collect! I would rather keep my $$ than let the Fed squander it!
@smarietta: Imagine if the government didn't borrow #40dollars of every Ben Franklin it spends...
@professimous: people who get welfare checks don't care about #40dollars less a paycheck
@mtgrove: So the average worker will get about #40dollars while the average welfare recipient gets about $300 for doing nothing #awesome


Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes of war."
-John Jay


Topic Five: Voter ID
Jonathan Tobin has a great Commentary Magazine column on Voter ID laws: "Like most who make this allegation, Keyssar dismisses out of hand the possibility that candidates and parties cheat at elections. One would hope that this were so, but as historian he knows very well the record of American electoral corruption is just as long and sordid as that of prejudice. Mobilizing the nation’s graveyards on behalf of urban political machines is just as much a part of the fabric of our electoral history as disenfranchisement.

Stealing elections is a venerable American tradition and stretches from the colonial era to our own time. Indeed, just a few years ago it was liberals who pitched a fit when it became known the leading manufacturers of touch screen voting systems — Diebold, ESS, Sequoia, and a fourth, SAIC, Science Applications International — that had replaced traditional paper or lever machines in some localities had donated money to the GOP. At that time in the aftermath of the “hanging chad” election in Florida (which many Democrats still claim was “stolen” from them), Democrats did not think the integrity of the vote was a minor concern and acted to bar the use of some of the machines simply on the suspicion they might somehow be manipulated to benefit Republicans."


Tomorrow in History
February 15, 1972 - For the first time in history, sound recording are granted protection under the US copyright code.


Grab Bag - Interesting and Important Stories to Conclude Your Evening

Obama gutting the Bill of Rights

Government exempted itself from financial reform rule

DOJ and Congress too lazy to compile wiretapping reports

China's electric cars pollute more than gas vehicles

Planned Parenthood accused of fraud

Egyptian TV says Israeli jeans can cause infertility

Are liberals really smarter?

Union illegally orders employee fired

Al Sharpton, Dating Advisor


The Closing Argument
The so-called "compromise" in the contraception debate is supposed to force insurance companies to cover contraception without the religious organizations paying for it. But if they are not paying for it, who is?


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Washington Update: February 14, 2012

Senate
Yesterday's Action:
During morning business, the Senate passed H.R. 1162, to provide the Quileute Indian Tribe Tsunami and Flood Protection, by unanimous consent. The Senate then considered the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan. By a vote of 89-5, the Senate moved to close debate on the nomination and consider the nomination.

Today's Schedule:
The Senate will meet at 10:00 AM for morning business, followed by consideration of the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan. Following consideration of the Jordan nomination, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 1813, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.

Senate Committee Meetings:
There are six Senate committee meetings today.
  • The Committee on Armed Services will hold a hearing examining the Defense Authorization request for Fiscal Year 2013.
  • The Committee on the Budget will hold a hearing to examine the President's budget request.
  • The Committee on Finance will also hold a hearing to examine the President's budget request.
  • The Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a business meeting on several bills: S. 1023, to authorize the President to provide assistance to the Government of Haiti to end within 5 years the deforestation in Haiti and restore within 30 years the extent of tropical forest cover in existence in Haiti in 1990, S. 414, to protect girls in developing countries through the prevention of child marriage, an original resolution recognizing the importance of the United States-Egypt relationship, and urging the Government of Egypt to protect civil liberties and cease persecution of democracy activities, S. Res. 344, supporting the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people and calling attention to the deterioration of constitutional order in Nicaragua, an original resolution calling for democratic change in Syria, S. Res. 342, honoring the life and legacy of Laura Pollan. It will also consider several nominees.
  • The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing to examine pain relief methods in American health care.
  • The Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a closed hearing on intelligence matters.


House
Yesterday's Action:
The House met in a brief pro forma session yesterday. No significant business was conducted.

Today's Schedule:
The House will meet today at 12:00 PM and will consider three bills under suspension of the rules: H.R. 2079, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10 Main Street in East Rockaway, New York, as the "John J. Cook Post Office"; H.R. 3247, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1100 Town and Country Commons in Chesterfield, Missouri, as the "Lance Corporal Matthew P. Pathenos Post Office Building"; and H.R. 3248, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 112 South 5th Street in Saint Charles, Missouri, as the "Lance Corporal Drew W. Weaver Post Office Building".

House Committee Meetings:
There are no House committee meetings today.


Joint Committee Meetings
There are no joint committee meetings today.

All information is taken from the Congressional Register.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Final Five: February 13, 2012

The Final Five: Bedtime Stories for Conservatives
February 13, 2012

Tonight's Crazy Story:
Pizza Hut Offering $10,010 Proposal Packages
Now you can propose on Valentines Day over Pizza Hut. For $10,000, plus the cost of a $10 dinner box, you can get a complete proposal package, including a ruby engagement ring, limo service, flowers, fireworks show, photographer, and videographer.


Topic One: Contraception Coverage
I watched an interview today with WaPo columnist Michael Gerson, who raised an interesting point that has gone unnoticed in the contraception debate. This mandate not only forces church-sponsored organizations and individuals to violate their religious beliefs, but it also provides a government definition of what is a church and what is a secular organization. Organizations affiliated with a church (such as schools, hospitals, etc.) are no longer considered a part of that church unless they only serve and employ people of the same religious faith. If one person is either employed or served by the organization, that organization then loses its religious consideration. This is a complete attack on the ability of religious organizations to reach out to the community.

In other ObamaCare news, someone else is finally saying what I have been saying all along: the contraception mandate is not only an assault on the religious liberty of a church, but it is also an assault on individual religious liberty. "Why is the federal government telling us what items our health plans have to cover and which of those items should or shouldn’t involve copays? It’s a ludicrous and almost comical overreach of centralized power. The next thing you know, the federal government will be telling us what kinds of light bulbs we have to buy. (You laugh, but it could happen.) In truth, the problem isn’t really (or at least centrally) that the Obamacare decree would prohibit religious organizations from offering health plans that don’t provide free access to the birth control pill, the morning-after pill, and ella. The problem is that the decree would prohibit all civil associations and private businesses from offering — and therefore all Americans from freely choosing — plans that don’t provide “free” access to such “preventive medicine.” Otherwise stated, it would preclude Americans from choosing plans that are different from those that Sebelius and Obama would choose on their behalf."

However, do not worry. On Friday, the Obama administration offered a compromise plan. Now, the church is no longer forced to pay for contraception, but insurers must give it away for free. Yes, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew just confirmed what you read: private insurance companies can be forced by the administration to give a product away for free. The Catholic bishops have rejected this change as well.

Related stories: Will the mandate reinvigorate the tea party? || A satirical look at some additional Obama mandates || Why call it health "insurance"? || ObamaCare to increase insurance costs


There's Always Time for a Laugh:
"Apple is facing a $38 million fine in China because the word 'iPad' is trademarked by a Chinese company. Apple was nervous about owing money to China — but then Obama was like, 'Ah, you get used to it.'"
-Jimmy Fallon


Topic Two: The Election
This weekend, Romney won the Maine caucuses, and also the CPAC straw poll. Santorum claims that Romney rigged the CPAC vote, which seems plausible. However, it seems hard to believe that it really mattered anyway. Is there really someone waiting for the results of the CPAC straw poll before deciding who to support? Meanwhile, Sarah Palin said at CPAC that a brokered convention would not hurt the GOP in the general election. I tend to agree with Palin's claim. While a brokered convention would hold some disadvantages, I believe that the potential advantages would outweigh them.

American Thinker has a great article up on problems in the voting process. "Electoral malfeasance, whether due to incompetent poll workers, fraud, veiled partisanship, thuggery, or anything else that undermines the legitimacy of elections, ultimately undermines the legitimacy of our government and the faith citizens have in their ability to achieve true collective representation. If dedicated grassroots groups like True the Vote and Election Integrity Maryland can achieve success in spurring the re-evaluation and revamping of the electoral process, we can regain confidence that our elections are free and fair."

Related stories: Can a businessman run a country? || Ginsburg reminds us what is at stake in November || It's not (only) the economy...


Debt Watch:
Yesterday, the government spent $20,172,705,641.07 over what it took in, raising the national debt to:
$15,355,838,921,022.16


Topic Three: The Obama Budget
Obama released his budget today (only a week late, but since when has the law mattered to this President?) His budget will only add a mere $1.3 trillion to the federal deficit, along with additional taxes that are likely to stifle the economy and reduce revenue. Whatever happened to that pledge to cut the deficit in half? Not once has he even cut one of his own deficits in half; much less the (much lower) final Bush deficit.

Mitch McConnell promises to bring the Obama budget to a vote. Perhaps this year's Obama budget will be more successful than last year's Obama budget, which was defeated 97-0 in the Senate. Even the much-criticized Ryan budget coming over from the house garnered more support than Obama's budget. Of course, Jack Lew would be warning of an impending filibuster.

Related stories: Obama gambles on costly initiatives in budget || You mean, costly initiatives, like green energy || Or yacht repairs || Social Security's budget quagmire || Has Congress ever balanced the budget?


Tweets of the Day:
Rory Cooper (@rorycooper): Same White House that deliberately said it takes 60 votes to pass budget yesterday launches #TruthTeam today. Unbelievable.


Topic Four: Iran
Iran is saying that it plans to make a "major announcement" about its nuclear program within the next few days. It is unlikely that Iran will announce it has obtained a nuclear weapon; they would certainly test their weapon first. Instead, it is expected that Iran will announce it is now able to enrich its own fuel rods. Presently, Iran uses nuclear fuel but is then forced to send the spent fuel rods back to Russia. If they are able to master the process of creating the fuel rods, the spent fuel can then be used to create a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, the US is preparing for the possibility of military action in the region. A Navy Admiral says that naval forces are prepared for a confrontation. Iran has repeatedly threatened to use military force to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, but the US has still passed ships through the strait without incident. However, the Pentagon is now calling for upgrading bunker-busting bombs.

Related stories: "Please, please don't stand in our way" || Obama's dangerous game || Saudi Arabia to go nuclear if Iran does


Food for Thought - A Quote from our Founders
"I join cordially in admiring and revering the Constitution of the United States, the result of the collected wisdom of our country. That wisdom has committed to us the important task of proving by example that a government, if organized in all its parts on the Representative principle unadulterated by the infusion of spurious elements, if founded, not in the fears & follies of man, but on his reason, on his sense of right, on the predominance of the social over his dissocial passions, may be so free as to restrain him in no moral right, and so firm as to protect him from every moral wrong."
-Thomas Jefferson


Topic Five: The Payroll Tax Cut
It's amazing how Congress has turned the payroll tax cut--which both sides say they want extended--into a source of absolute disagreement. There was some light this weekend, when it looked like a compromise might be reached, but that quickly fizzled into more of the same arguing. Now, the Republicans are working on a straight extension of the payroll tax cut with no strings attached.

This type of bill is exactly what they should have proposed in the first place. Conservatives have always believed that tax cuts pay for themselves in an increased tax base, but House Republicans wanted to tie additional spending cuts and other issues such as the Keystone Pipeline to the bill. Conversely, Democrats also wanted to pay for the tax cut, but they wanted to pay for it with the "Buffett Tax" that Obama has been pushing. Hopefully, a straight tax cut bill with no strings attached will get the job done.

Related story: Will Congress mess up your paycheck?


Tomorrow in History
February 14, 1849 - James K. Polk becomes the first serving President to have his photograph taken.


Grab Bag - Interesting and Important Stories to Conclude Your Evening

Postal Service losing $1 billion per month

Sarah Palin: Job Creator

Iraq opens new oil export terminal

A gun-control supporter's take on NYC's gun arrests

States and cities are cutting back

Greece on fire over austerity measures

The Green World Order

Student loans could be the next debt bomb

Navy names ship after Gabrielle Giffords


The Closing Argument
One of the stories from the Grab Bag section discusses how the US Postal Service is losing one billion dollars each month. So what? The Obama budget has the government losing more than three times that amount each day.


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Washington Update February 13, 2012

The House and Senate were not in session last Friday. Both chambers will meet today. The House will convene at 1:00 PM in a pro forma session. The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM to conduct morning business, and by 4:30 PM it will consider the nomination of Adalberto Jose Jordan to be United States Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit. A vote on cloture is expected to occur at 5:30 PM.