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Monthly Archives: June 2012

From the WSJ:  “The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal doping charges against former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, a move that could cost him some or all of his seven Tour de France titles.

The charges, which had been expected, were received today by Mr. Armstrong’s attorney following a unanimous recommendation from an independent review board earlier this week.

In a letter sent June 12, USADA said it planned to pursue allegations that Mr. Armstrong, his former team director, three physicians connected to the team and a staff member had operated an organized conspiracy to cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs and methods that violated the rules of the sport.

Mr. Armstrong has 10 days to respond to USADA’s official charging letter, which was sent Thursday evening, to decide whether to contest the charges. If he does, the case will be argued in front of an independent arbitration panel of three people. To prove its case, USADA would have to convince two arbitrators that the allegations are true…

USADA, a nonprofit organization that operates under the auspices of the World Anti-Doping Association, said more than 10 former teammates of Mr. Armstrong’s will testify that he doped during his cycling career. It also said it had obtained blood-testing results from 2009 and 2010 that allegedly show Mr. Armstrong doped during those years.

The agency, which is responsible for enforcing doping rules for Olympic sports, doesn’t have the authority to bring criminal charges. As a result of the case being initiated, Mr. Armstrong, a former rider with the U.S. Postal Service team, has been banned from competition in Ironman triathlons. He took up that sport after retiring from cycling in 2011.”

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“Over the long term, Obama’s plans are designed to ensnare the country in a new socialism, a stealth socialism that masquerades as a traditional sense of fair play, a soft but pernicious socialism similar to that currently strangling the economies of Europe,” – Stanley Kurtz

“I don’t use the word `socialist,’ or I haven’t so far,” Romney told CNN in an interview last year. “But I do agree that the president’s approach is government-heavy, government-intensive, and it’s not working.” – Mitt Romney

The below article authored by James Taranto of the WSJ:

Here’s a pair of questions that some people are, surprisingly, asking: “Is Obama Really a Socialist? Some Say So, but Where’s the Evidence?” That’s a Christian Science Monitor headline, and while the second question is entirely rhetorical, suggesting the paper (or is it just a website now?) comes down on the negative side, the story is actually inconclusive:

The assertion is getting louder: President Obama is a socialist, a wealth-redistributing wolf in Democrat’s clothing gnawing at America’s entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s easy to buy “Obama is a socialist” bumper stickers on the Internet. Political commentator Dick Morris said, in a column circulated on GOPUSA.com, that conservatives are “enraged at Barack Obama’s socialism and radicalism.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich titled his new book “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine.”

So, is Mr. Obama trying to form The Socialist Republic of America? Or are the accusations mainly a political weapon, meant to stick Obama with a label that is poison to many voters and thus make him a one-term president?

As is often the case in politics, the answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Well, “Answer Is in Eye of Beholder” is about the dullest headline one could write without mentioning Canada, so we can see why the Monitor went for something with an ever so tiny bit more sex appeal. Still, what’s interesting here is that the Monitor is treating the question even as a legitimate one.

The left has portrayed the assertion “Obama is a socialist” as the product of hallucinogenic tea. Polls attempting to show that Republicans are crazy–both the one Markos Moulitsas commissioned and the one John Avlon inspired, helped design and touted but did not commission–have included it along with such genuinely insane claims as “Obama was not born in the U.S.” and “Obama may be the Antichrist.” Yet you won’t see a mainstream publication weigh the pros and cons of those claims and conclude that “the answer is in the eye of the beholder.”

What’s more–and this was our first thought on seeing the Monitor story–we’re pretty sure we never saw a similar story during George W. Bush’s time in office seriously pondering the question of whether he was a fascist, though left-wingers called him that all the time.

We suppose this is in part because the left has so cheapened the term “fascism” as to leave it with little meaning other than as a term of abuse. Socialism also has better PR than fascism does, and hence is more respectable: Some European countries have socialist parties that are part of mainstream politics, and although Obama does not call himself a socialist, one member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wears the label with pride.

These days “fascism” is less often associated with Mussolini’s party, which was its namesake, than with the Nazis, even though Nazi is an abbreviation for National Socialist. And somehow the socialist label seldom gets applied to the other defunct totalitarian state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

If the media take somewhat more seriously the claim that Obama is a socialist than the claim that Bush was a fascist, it certainly isn’t because they’re biased in favor of Bush. Rather, it has to do with the merits of the assertions.

Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime . . . that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

M-W defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Calling Bush a fascist is flatly false; his philosophy and administration met none of the criteria in the definition. Calling Obama a socialist, by contrast, is merely a gross overstatement.

Lagging Indicator

When a Democrat is in the White House, media coverage of the economy tends to be a lagging indicator of bad news and a leading indicator of good news–which is another way of saying that, as we noted yesterday, reporters’ usual approach can be summed up as “always look on the bright side of life.”

Things must be really getting bad, because the lagging indicator seems to be catching up. In yesterday’s column we analyzed a dispatch by Christopher Rugaber of the Associated Press that previewed today’s jobs report and tried to explain away the expected bad news. Later yesterday, though, Rugaber filed another dispatchthat was far dourer, including its title, “Evidence Mounts That Recovery Is Hitting the Skids.”

Rugaber weighs in again today with a story on the actual jobless numbers, and his mood hadn’t improved overnight. The title gave the bad news first: “Payrolls Drop by 125K, Jobless Rate Falls.” The story, too, begins with the bad news, and swiftly explains why the good news isn’t so good:

A weak June jobs report offered the latest evidence that the economic recovery is slowing.

Employers cut 125,000 jobs last month, the most since October, the Labor Department said Friday. The loss was driven by the end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Businesses added a net total of 83,000 workers, the sixth straight month of private-sector job gains but not enough to speed up the recovery.

Unemployment dropped to 9.5 percent–the lowest level since July 2009–from 9.7 percent. But the reason for the decline was more than 650,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force. People who are no longer looking for work aren’t counted as unemployed.

Neither dispatch uses the phrase “jobless recovery,” which was a staple of economic coverage during the Bush years–even though, before the last few months of 2008, unemployment seldom topped 6%.

This situation wreaks.  Obama is doing his utmost to cover-up this Fast and Furious debacle.

Further –  “Mr. Obama’s assertion of executive privilege contrasted with his criticism as a senator of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege. Then-Sen. Obama said the Bush White House was ‘hiding’ behind the privilege to avoid ‘coming clean’ during a dispute over White House documents over the firings of U.S. attorneys. Mr. Bush’s then-attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, resigned under pressure over the firings.”

Read full article from WSJ below:

A standoff between Republicans and the Obama administration over a botched gun-trafficking operation escalated Wednesday, with a House committee voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

The White House asserted executive privilege over gun-trafficking-probe documents sought by congressional Republicans, throwing into uncertainty a possible vote to sanction Attorney General Eric Holder.

The party-line vote came hours after President Barack Obama, for the first time, asserted executive privilege, aiming to block Republicans from gaining access to Justice Department documents about the operation.

House Republican leaders said they would bring the contempt measure to the House floor next week. If the full House votes to support it, then a contempt citation could be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, an appointee of Mr. Obama’s who is in Mr. Holder’s chain of command.

If it ends up in the courts, the dispute would raise constitutional questions about the power of the executive branch vs. Congress. Previous such battles have ended before reaching that stage with some kind of truce between the sides.

The battle centers on a 2009-10 operation, dubbed Fast and Furious, that was run by Arizona-based agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, aimed at building a case against suspected smugglers of firearms to Mexico. The agents, using a tactic called gun-walking, allowed suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms, without intercepting the weapons.

Some of the guns have since turned up at crime scenes on both sides of the border, including at a December 2010 shootout that killed a U.S. border agent.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) have led an inquiry into Fast and Furious for more than a year, holding hearings with ATF agents who said their objections to the tactics were ignored. Mr. Issa heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which voted on the contempt measure Wednesday.

The documents at issue largely detail internal deliberations last year as Justice officials tried to respond to congressional questions about the operation. Republicans say the documents may show whether high-level officials were aware of Fast and Furious early on and whether there is a coverup. The White House says such documents involving internal deliberations traditionally haven’t been subject to a congressional subpoena.

The controversy has ebbed and flowed until reaching a flash point this week. The two sides appeared as if they might reach an agreement Tuesday night. Messrs. Holder and Issa met for 20 minutes, but the talks became a game of chicken, with each side saying it insisted the other act first to resolve the standoff.

On June 19, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote to President Barack Obama, calling on the president to assert executive privilege over documents in the Fast and Furious probe.

On June 20, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to tell him that the president had asserted executive privilege.

Mr. Issa Wednesday rejected the executive-privilege claim, saying it “only applies to materials that directly pertain to communications with the president and his senior advisers.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Mr. Obama’s reasoning was similar to that of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Mr. Schultz said the other presidents “protected the same category of documents we’re protecting today,” meaning after-the-fact internal materials.

Mr. Bush claimed executive privilege six times, and Mr. Clinton is believed to have claimed it 14 times. Under the doctrine of executive privilege, presidents have sought to withhold from Congress documents relating to internal deliberations of the executive branch.

Mr. Holder said that “from the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth.”

If the matter were referred to the U.S. attorney, it isn’t clear Congress could compel him to prosecute the attorney general. In the Bush administration, the House voted to hold White House officials including White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt in a similar documents dispute, and the Bush-appointed attorney general ordered the U.S. attorney to disregard it. The matter was eventually settled with the production of documents.

Key dates in the controversy over the Fast and Furious gun probe carried out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

  • November 2009-December 2010: ATF agents in Arizona use a tactic called gun-walking to allow suspected smugglers to buy about 2,000 firearms without intercepting the weapons. Many of them end up in Mexico and are used in crimes.
  • December 2010: Brian Terry, a U.S. border agent, is killed in a firefight with suspected smugglers near the Arizona-Mexico border. A firearm traced to Fast and Furious operation is found at the scene.
  • January 2011: Sen. Charles Grassley asks Justice Department about gun-walking tactics that could have led to Terry’s murder.
  • February 2011: Justice Department in a letter to Sen. Grassley incorrectly says ATF doesn’t allow gun-walking.
  • June-July 2011: ATF whistleblowers provide testimony describing objections to gun-walking tactics disregarded by supervisors.
  • October 2011: Rep. Darrell Issa issues subpoena for documents, later subject of standoff with Justice Department.
  • December 2011: Justice Department withdraws earlier letter to Sen. Grassley, saying it relied on incorrect information from ATF.
  • June 2012: Rep. Issa’s committee votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his refusal to supply some documents.

Sources: Justice Department, Congressional Record, WSJ research

Other attorneys general have been caught in similar disputes. The House oversight committee voted to hold Janet Reno, attorney general under Mr. Clinton, in contempt. The full House didn’t take up the matter, and the dispute was resolved when documents were produced. Democrats drafted a report recommending contempt against Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the latter days of the Bush administration but didn’t go further after he turned over documents.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Republican lawmakers said Mr. Obama’s assertion of executive privilege contrasted with his criticism as a senator of the Bush administration’s use of the privilege. Then-Sen. Obama said the Bush White House was “hiding” behind the privilege to avoid “coming clean” during a dispute over White House documents over the firings of U.S. attorneys. Mr. Bush’s then-attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, resigned under pressure over the firings.

With Democrats firmly backing Mr. Holder, it is unlikely the contempt fight will affect the remainder of his tenure through the end of the current administration in January.

On the premiere of The D.C. Bureau, senior campaign adviser David Axelrod predicts that President Barack Obama will be outspent by his opponents in attempt to win re-election. (Photo: AP)

Mr. Holder has increasingly been on the sidelines of some of the biggest national-security fights. He led the administration’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, and he pushed to try the plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in civilian court in New York. He ended up badly bruised in both efforts, after the White House surrendered to Republican objections.

Both sides sought to gain partisan advantage from the fight. The Republican National Committee is using a “Fire Eric Holder” website to seek campaign donations. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer accused Republicans of embarking on a “purely political” effort rather than focusing on legislation to create jobs. – Evan Perez

And here’s your orange jumpsuit Rajat.

From the WSJ:

Rajat Gupta‘s four-decade journey from India to the upper echelons of American business and a board seat at Goldman Sachs Group Inc ended after less than 10 hours of deliberation by a federal jury, which convicted him of insider trading.

The verdict caps the fall of the most prominent figure caught in the government’s drive to stop the leaking of corporate secrets to Wall Street. The U.S. said Mr. Gupta, 63 years old, once one of America’s most-respected corporate directors, was motivated not by quick profits but rather a lifestyle where inside tips are the currency of friendships and elite business relationships.

A former director at Goldman and Procter & Gamble Co., Mr. Gupta was convicted on three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy for passing along confidential boardroom information about Goldman to a hedge fund that earned millions of dollars trading on his tips. He was acquitted of two counts of securities fraud, including the only one relating to P&G.

Mr. Gupta, who is also a former head of McKinsey & Co., faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the fraud charges and up to five years for the conspiracy charge. But his sentence is likely to be significantly lower under federal guidelines. Sentencing is set for Oct. 18…

The 12-member jury, sitting in a New York federal court just blocks from Wall Street, handed up a quick verdict after a four-week trial. Janeat Brown, a 32-year-old fourth-grade teacher who was juror No. 5, said that in the first few hours of deliberations, 11 of 12 jurors believed Mr. Gupta was guilty.

By contrast, jurors deliberated 12 days last year before convicting hedge-fund titan Raj Rajaratnam, who now is serving an 11-year prison term. Some jurors shed tears after the verdict was read, as Mr. Gupta’s daughters, who had sat in the front row throughout the trial, sobbed and hugged one another.

“We wanted him to walk, go home to his family, live a very prosperous life,” said juror Ronnie Sesso, a 53-year-old youth advocate in New York. “I struggled with everything…. But looking at the evidence made it clear…” – Chad Bray, Michael Rothfeld and Reed Albergotti.

You can choose to believe the explanation that Mr. Taylor gives for his Facebook departure but the timing is extremely odd.  He joined the company just two years ago and then decides to leave a month after the IPO?  Strange things are afoot at the Circle K, if you ask me.

From All Things D:

“Facebook’s high-profile CTO Bret Taylor is leaving the Silicon Valley social networking giant later this summer, with future plans to work on an as-yet-to-be-determined start-up.

The move is likely to be of concern to some over the newly public company’s ability to hold onto entrepreneurial talent, especially in the wake of continued intense media and investor scrutiny over its rocky IPO last month.

That’s especially true since Taylor has been in charge of both platform and mobile efforts at Facebook, a critical arena for it.

A pair of Facebook execs under Taylor — Mike Vernal and Cory Ondrejka — will be taking over platform and mobile, respectively.

Vernal joined Facebook in 2008 from Microsoft, leading the original Facebook Connect project and also working on platform efforts and the development of Open Graph. Ondrejka arrived at the company in 2010 through the acquisition of Walletin; he previously worked at Linden Labs on Second Life virtual worlds.

Facebook’s stock rose 6% on Friday. When news of Mr. Taylor’s plans broke after the market closed, shares fell 8 cents to $29.93 in after-hours trading.

Named CTO two years ago, Mr. Taylor has been a strong public figure at Facebook events, including its recent developers conference. And he was front and center atApple Inc.’s AAPL +0.45% Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this week at the announcement of Facebook integration into its newest iOS.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Taylor said he understands that his departure will be perceived as a disruption, although he noted that Facebook had a deep bench of talented technical staff.

When asked about the worries he had for the company, Mr. Taylor said the challenge of becoming public was top of mind internally.

‘We are dealing with the cultural change of increasing attention, from going from a private company with a lot of scrutiny to a public company with a lot more scrutiny,’ he said.” – Kara Swisher

“By the end of next month, our long national nightmare of ObamaCare will hopefully be at an end. If the Supreme Court does not overturn the law in its entirety, however, it is imperative that Congress, along with the man we hope will be our new president Mitt Romney, repeal all 2,700 pages of the law.
One example of the perverse policies in the law is the new 2.3 percent excise tax that will be levied on medical equipment and devices starting in January of 2013, less than 200 days from now, and that will cost the medical technology industry more than $28 billion.

We strongly oppose this tax that was created to fund the president’s health law, have introduced legislation to repeal it and hope Democrats will join us to take down this job-crushing tax hike.
The medical device industry is central both to America’s economic growth and to the delivery of new, much-needed medical technology to patients. Between 1980 and 2000, new diagnostic and treatment tools, such as improved scanners, catheters and tools for minimally-invasive surgery, helped increase life expectancy by more than three years. Medical devices helped to slash the death rate from heart disease by a stunning 50 percent and cut the death rate from stroke by 30 percent.

But in a mad rush to find additional revenue to support the law’s trillions of dollars in new spending, the president and his Capitol Hill allies enacted this medical device tax despite the predictable impact on economic growth, job creation and health care innovation. What the proponents of the law fail to understand is the basic concept that if you tax something more you get less of it. If we want to be a nation leading the charge of new health care advancements to treat and cure diseases, then we must repeal this tax… ” – Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Erik Paulsen

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Yikes, this is a bit unsettling.  I am curious as to our real risk exposure.

“The U.S. economic recovery faces significant risks, including from the European sovereign debt crisis and uncertain U.S. fiscal policy, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing on Thursday.Still, the Fed chairman stopped short of signaling Fed action to combat these risks, other than to say that the Fed remained ‘prepared to take action’ to protect the U.S. economy and financial system if stresses on the financial system escalate.” – WSJ.COM