What’s Up: November 28, 2012?

To read the entire article click on the title or Story Continued. Enjoy as the world turns.

· Why Warren Buffett Is Right About Raising Taxes on the Rich – Ask any non-partisan economist how this country can begin to address its debt and deficit problem, and the answer is “raise taxes and cut spending.”

Not raise taxes OR cut spending.

Raise taxes AND cut spending.

With the federal government currently spending about 22% of GDP per year and taxes pulling in only 17% of GDP, there’s simply no way we can get the deficit under control just by cutting spending or raising taxes unless we crush the economy in the process.

On the spending side, the big long-term problems are the social and healthcare programs, so the attention should be focused there. Defense spending is also massive and can likely be trimmed without compromising the country’s security.

On the tax side, meanwhile, the obvious place to look for potential increases is the place where taxes are relatively low. And one of those places is the tax rates that mostly benefit the highest-earning Americans–top-bracket income taxes, capital gains taxes, and dividend taxes.

The only argument against modestly raising these taxes, aside from the fact that no one wants to see their own personal taxes raised, is that increasing taxes on investing and earning will discourage the country’s entrepreneurs and investors from building companies.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, billionaire Warren Buffett gives this argument the only response it deserves: Ridicule.

Buffett says, as he has before, that modestly higher taxes would not cause him to work any less hard. He points out that, even in the 1960s and 1970s, eras with truly high taxes, these taxes did not stop him and his clients from pursuing investment opportunities. Lastly, he notes that, given the vast sums of money that the richest Americans have banked in the past decade, they will have plenty of money to invest even if taxes rise modestly.

And then Buffett lays out a series of proposals that are eminently reasonable.

– First, he only calls for raising taxes on Americans earning more than $500,000 a year, not the $250,000 that President Obama is focused on. Families who earn $250,000 and live in major cities justifiably point out that this salary does not leave them feeling “rich.” So, raising the definition of rich would go a long way toward making these tax hikes more palatable.

– Next, he calls for a minimum 30% tax on Americans making $1 million to $10 million or more, regardless of how this income is generated. One of the most egregious elements of the tax code is that some of America’s highest earners pay much lower tax rates than average earners, because they generate their income from capital gains or dividends or have figured out how to shelter it by taking advantage of various loopholes. This tax would ensure that most income is treated the same way.

No, these new taxes won’t completely fix our debt and deficit problems. But they will help. And they will also encourage entrepreneurs, investors, and senior managers to keep their money in their investments and companies, rather than taking it out and spending it. This should have a positive impact on future economic growth, and with it, jobs.

Let’s be clear: No one wants to pay higher taxes.

But to address our debt and deficit problems, we have to raise taxes.

And Warren Buffett is right: Raising taxes on the highest earning Americans back to levels that will still be historically low is a smart place to start. Story Continued:

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· California Man Jailed Four Days for Recording CopsA California man was jailed for four days for attempting to record police officers on a public street.

Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer but the video shows he was standing well out the way of a traffic stop and was only arrested when he failed to produce identification to an approaching officer.

And there is no law in California that requires citizens to produce identification. And even if there was, it would require the officer to have a reasonable suspicion that he was committing a crime.

But prosecutors have already dropped the charge against Saulmon as well as a few other minor citations relating to his bicycle such as not have proper reflectors on the pedals.

And they most likely knew who he was considering he won a $25,000 settlement from the same police department after they unlawfully arrested him on eavesdropping/wiretapping charges in 2005.

This time, it appears the Hawthorne Police Department will be dishing out much more, thanks to officer Gabriel Lira’s abuse of authority.

“They knew exactly who I was,” Saulmon said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a CrimeSaturday, adding that he has recorded them on a regular basis since the 2005 arrest when he was jailed after attempting to file a complaint inside the police station.

“They always address me as ‘Mr. Saulmon’,” he said. Story Continue and to watch the video:

· Jamie Foxx: ‘Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama’ – Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx recently called Barack Obama “our lord and savior.”

This occurred at the previously recorded Soul Train Awards broadcast on BET Sunday (video follows with transcript and commentary):

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JAMIE FOXX: First of all, give an honor to God and our lord and savior Barack Obama. Barack Obama.

Please also notice that this clip was used as a promo for the presentation by BET.

I guess Obama really IS the messiah.

*****Update: If you get a “Sorry this video does not exist” message from Vimeo, try this: Story Continued and to watch the video:

· Schools’ Tracking Devices Causes Controversy

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A San Antonio school district’s website was hacked over the weekend to protest its policy requiring students to wear microchip-embedded cards tracking their every move on campus.

A teenager purportedly working with the hacker group Anonymous said in an online statement that he took the site down because the Northside school district “is stripping away the privacy of students in your school.”

The teen, who identified himself in an email as being 16 years old, said he hacked into the website Saturday, and it was not working Sunday. District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said he has not yet been able to confirm that it was hacked.

Starting this fall, all students at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School are required to carry identification cards embedded with a microchip. They are tracked by the dozens of electronic readers installed in the schools’ ceiling panels.

Northside has been testing a “radio frequency identification” tracking system for the two schools to increase attendance in order to secure more state funding, officials have said. The program, which kicked off at the beginning of this school year, eventually could be used at all of Northside’s 112 campuses, officials have said. The district is the fourth largest in Texas with more than 97,000 students.

The hacked website isn’t the first controversy over the program.

One John Jay student refused to wear the device, citing religious reasons, and then filed a lawsuit after Principal Robert Harris threatened to remove her from the school and stopped her from petitioning against the ID badge. Last week a judge said the principal’s actions violated the student’s speech and religious rights, and granted a restraining order barring Harris from removing her from the school, San Antonio television station KENS reported.

Anonymous is a collection of Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included financial institutions such as Visa and MasterCard, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies. Story Continued:

– Texas schools, like the Texas legal system feel they should do everything they can to get Texans to comply with their version of life paths. Yes, I do live in Texas. PdC

· Warren Buffett’s $250K difference of opinion with Obama

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Warren Buffett says he supports President Barack Obama’s efforts to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans, but he disagrees on where to draw the line.

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times on Monday, Buffett writes that the cutoff should be “maybe $500,000 or so.”

Obama has insisted that the cuts be extended only for families with less than $250,000 in annual income.

Republicans argue that tax rates should stay lower for everyone to promote economic growth.

It’s a key issue in the ongoing negotiations over the looming “fiscal cliff.”

In his op-ed, Buffett rejects the idea that wealthier Americans would go on “strike … stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp —capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased. The ultrarich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.”

Buffett also repeats his controversial call for a minimum tax of high incomes. He’s suggesting 30 percent on taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on incomes above $10 million. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny faction of ours,” he writes.

He thinks Congress should make that change right away, and not wait for some effort at a more comprehensive tax reform.

In the meantime, he writes, you might “run into someone with a terrific investment idea, who won’t go forward with it because of the tax he would owe when it succeeds.”

Buffett wants to help. “Send him my way. Let me unburden him.” Story Continued:

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· The Fiscal MythRobert KuttnerCo-founder and co-editor, ‘The American Prospect.’

As President Obama gets closer to making his deal with the Republicans on the budget, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the fiscal cliff is an artificially contrived trap. Were it not for the two Bush wars and the two Bush tax cuts and the House Republican games of brinksmanship with the routine extension of the debt ceiling, there would be no “fiscal cliff.”

Rather, there would be a normal, relatively short-term increase in the deficit resulting from a deep recession and the drop in government revenues that it produces. When the economy recovered, the deficit would return to sustainable levels. In the meantime, these deficits are necessary and useful to maintain public spending as a tonic to the economy.

In addition, there are two entirely extraneous questions that do not belong in this debate — whether Social Security requires any long-term adjustment to assure its solvency, and if so, what kind; and how to restrain the long-term growth in Medicare spending.

In fact, if we get can get back to full employment, there is no Social Security crisis, because Social Security is financed by taxes on payrolls. In the Clinton era, when we had full employment, the crisis kept receding. If we want a little extra insurance, we can lift the cap on income subject to payroll taxes.

Medicare spending is a long-term problem that requires major structural reforms. Reducing benefits or raising the eligibility age in the heat of an artificially contrived fiscal crisis is the wrong way to proceed. Obama’s Affordable Care Act will keep Medicare at roughly its present level of spending relative to GDP — too high, but not an imminent catastrophe.

The strategy of the right-wing has been to blur these several distinct issues into a single grand fiscal crisis, the better to reduce government spending and especially to cut Social Security and Medicare. The right-wing, in this case, is a two-headed beast. The Republican right-wing is mainly interested in defending tax cuts for the rich and reducing social spending generally, while the deficit hawks of the center-right want to achieve budget balance and weaken Social Security and Medicare. And since Social Security and Medicare are phenomenally popular, so much the better for the Republicans if they can trick the Democrats into sharing responsibility for the deed.

A further piece of mischief is the premise that we somehow need a 10-year budget deal that reduces the projected deficit by something like $4 to $5 trillion. We don’t. What we need is an economic recovery. If we get a recovery with something close to full employment, the deficit naturally comes down as revenues to and current levels of public spending are entirely sustainable — especially if we go back to the pre-Bush tax levels on the wealthy.

So if we limit the debate to the real subject at hand — namely how to avoid a massive fiscal contraction next year when all the Bush tax cuts expire, President Obama holds a very strong hand. He has made it clear that he will not tolerate extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent at a cost of cutting back valued government outlays for everyone else. But he does want to extend the lower tax rates for the bottom 98 percent.

This puts the Republicans in the position of allowing everyone’s taxes to increase in order to preserve the cuts for the top two percent. Not a happy position politically. And Obama has said he is willing to play hardball — let the economy go “over the cliff” of a general increase in rates in order to force the Republicans to back down.

The Republicans have been tying themselves in knots in order to find other sources of additional revenue to plug the budget gap so that they can keep their pledge to Grover Norquist never to increase tax rates. (Funny how the Norquist pledge is a one-way ratchet. Republicans can vote to cut tax rates on the premise that the economy needs the temporary stimulus, but then if they vote to restore the old rates they are in violation of the pledge. You can see where this leads.)

But there is just not enough money for this budget deal unless a rate hike on the rich is part of the package. Restoring the pre-Bush tax rates on the top 2 percent would raise about $1.2 trillion over a decade. Raising capital gains rates to those of ordinary income and closing other loopholes that benefited mainly the wealthy would raise at most less than another trillion.

Even with those tax hikes, Obama and the Republicans would be more than $2 trillion short of the stated goal of cutting the deficit by at least $4 trillion over a decade.

And there is where the deeper mischief of the $4 trillion goal and its relation to Social Security and Medicare comes in. Neither party wants significant budget cuts in the next year or two, when the recovery is too fragile to stand even a smaller fiscal contraction. So the Republicans, Obama and the Democratic budget hawks like Erskine Bowles and retiring Budget Committee chairman Senator Kent Conrad all want to “back-load” the spending cuts — have them bite late in this decade.

It just happens that Social Security and Medicare cuts fill that bill perfectly. Cut social insurance several years from now, and you delay the political outcry until Obama has left office. You also delay the fiscal impact, and you leave room for a bit of other government spending.

But cutting Social Security and Medicare for the sake of an arbitrary and needless budgetary reduction of $4 trillion and as a “solution” to an entirely contrived fiscal crisis is bad policy. It is bad economic policy and worse social policy. And for Democrats, it is dumb politics. If Republicans want to be the ones to attack America’s two most valued social programs, Obama should let them go right ahead — until they march off their own fiscal cliff.

And if the president is too determined to get a deal to appreciate what a strong hand he has, then it is up Democrats in Congress and the progressive community outside Washington to make sure that Obama doesn’t follow Republicans off their cliff. Story Continued:

– It seems like the liberals are still intent on blaming everything on George W. Bush. They do not want to accept any of the blame when they are half of the problem. Yet they think only a liberal solution will overcome the problems. Yet James Carville claims the reason he wanted to be a Democratic pundit is he could tell Democrats what they should believe and they would. PdC.

· Belgian discovers his wife used to be a man after 19 years – A Belgian is seeking to have his marriage annulled after discovering that his Indonesian wife of 19 years had been born a man.

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The man, only named as Jan, married Monica, his family’s former au pair in a previous marriage, in 1993 despite legal difficulties raised by the Belgian immigration authorities.

But it was only in recent weeks that he discovered that his wife had originally been a man and had undergone a sex change.

“I feel I’ve been assaulted,” he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.

“I brought her to Belgium. That was not easy. The Belgian courts had serious doubts about the authenticity of her birth and her identity papers, but eventually they accepted it anyway. I thought she was an attractive woman, all woman. She had no male traits.”

Jan, 64, said that he and his wife had decided not to have children because he had two by his previous marriage and she fooled him by pretending to menstruate, using sanitary towels, “to conceal the truth”.

“Even during sex, I never noticed anything,” he said.

For many years the couple lived a normal family life and Monica, 48, was like a “big sister” to his children until their marriage started to come under strain when she got a new full-time job.

“Monica began to change very much,” he said.

“My oldest son saw her sometimes at a nightclub. She began to wear very flashy clothes, those ultra-short skirts or tiny tops, so her abdomen was completely exposed.”

Finally rumors began to surface and after Jan found “amorous messages” from other men on her computer, he confronted her in a violent row that led to the police being called.

“A friend told me that he had heard that Monica was actually a sex-changed man. I could not believe it. My son heard similar rumors,” he said.

“I pushed her against the wall and said: Now I know the truth. Are you a man? She then announced that she was born as a boy and that she had been operated on. She was now a woman, and so she did not need to tell me about her past as a man. My world collapsed. That evening came to blows. The police came.”

Jan, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment following the discovery, has started legal proceedings to have the marriage annulled but the Belgian courts have so far refused to allow him to turn her out of the familiy home.

“That person has deliberately deceived him for years, even scammed. Presumably she has also forged documents used here to get a residence permit. The children, who for years have lived with her, are devastated,” said his Liliane Verjauw, his lawyer. Story Continued:

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· Push to step up domestic use of drones Gary Martin and Viveca Novak

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Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America’s crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy?

Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America’s skies to tens of thousands of the drones – pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft.

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives’ “drone caucus” – officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus – has helped push that agenda. And over the past four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions, an investigation by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

Flood of applications

The Federal Aviation Administration has been flooded with applications from police departments, universities, private corporations and even the celebrity gossip site TMZ, all seeking to use drones that range from devices the size of a hummingbird to full-size aircraft like those used by the U.S. military to target al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Domestic use of drones began with limited aerial patrols of the nation’s borders by Customs and Border Patrol authorities. But the industry and its allies pushed for more, leading to passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law Feb. 14. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, into national airspace by September 2015.

“These timelines are very aggressive,” said Heidi Williams, a vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, one of the stakeholders taking part in a working group put together by the FAA to help develop a regulatory plan. “These issues are very complex, and we have a long way to go.”

Many potential uses for unmanned aircraft, which are cheaper to operate than piloted planes or helicopters, have been identified. Among them: monitoring pipelines and power lines, finding lost hikers, surveying crops, and assessing environmental threats and damage from natural disasters. The FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years, sharing space with commercial, military and general aviation.

Major safety issue

An FAA official, who spoke on background, said “one of the main safety issues” with drones is lack of ability to “sense and avoid other aircraft.”

A September report by the Government Accountability Office identified the same concern: “Obstacles include the inability … to sense and avoid other airborne objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft.”

In addition, the GAO report said, “Concerns about national security, privacy and interference with Global Positioning System signals have not been resolved.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a conference on drones earlier this year in Las Vegas that the agency is making progress working through the issues. FAA is working with “collision avoidance experts” from the Defense Department, NASA and private firms to determine what standards and requirements should be set.

Who gets the money

House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan “drone caucus” received the lion’s share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Hearst and CRP found.

Eleven “drone caucus” lawmakers from California, where many aviation firms are located, received more than $2.4 million from manufacturers during the 2012 and 2010 election cycles, according to CRP tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports. Story Continued:

· Black Friday Gun Sales Hit New Record High – Overwhelming demand crashes FBI background check center

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Black Friday gun sales hit an all time record high last week with demand for new firearms so overwhelming that it caused outages at the FBI background check center on two separate occasions.

Fueled by fears that the Obama administration will go after gun rights during a lame duck term, the FBI reported 154,873 background check requests on Friday – a 20 per cent increase on last year’s record total of 129,166 checks.

The number of guns sold could actually be double or more that figure because only one background check is recorded per sale even if buyers purchase multiple firearms.

“With the recent election, some people are making buying decisions just in case something (new law) happens,” Don Gallardo, manager of Shooter’s World in Phoenix, told USA Today.

Gun stores noted that first time gun owners and women represented a significant number of those purchasing firearms on Black Friday.

Gun sales were so brisk that the FBI’s Instant Background Check center was overwhelmed with the volume of requests and crashed on two separate occasions. Some even saw the outages as an insidious way of providing “anti-gunners a clue about how to suspend the Second Amendment.”

President Obama indicated during the presidential debates that he would pursue an assault weapons ban, which second amendment activists see as merely the first step towards wider gun control regulation.

Obama also indicated that he would attempt to eviscerate the right to keep and bear arms during a White House meeting with gun control advocate Sarah Brady last year. During the meeting, Obama told Brady he was working “under the radar” on new gun control policy. Brady added that Obama assured her gun control was “very much on his agenda.”

But it’s not just Obama’s conduct on the domestic front that has second amendment activists concerned. The Obama administration’s willingness to sign up to a United Nations global arms treaty which threatens to outlaw guns in the U.S. is also driving firearms sales.

Final discussions on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) are set to take place in March next year. The New American notes that, “Section III, Paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Programme of Action mandate that if a member state cannot get rid of privately owned small arms legislatively, then the control of “customs, police, intelligence, and arms control” will be placed under the power of a board of UN bureaucrats operating out of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs,” opening the door to UN peacekeeping forces to disarm American citizens. Story Continued:

· Painting Depicts Obama as Crucified Christ

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A painting that features President Obama posed as Jesus Christ crucified on is on display at a community college art gallery in Boston.

The painting by Michael D’Antuono is part of a larger exhibit called “Artists on the Stump – the Road to the White House 2012.” It’s on display at the Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery until Dec. 15th.

The painting is called “Truth” – and shows the president with his arms outstretched. A crown of thorns rests on his head.

It was originally supposed to debut nearly four years ago at New York City’s Union Square. But that event was cancelled due to public outrage.

“I always regretted cancelling my exhibit in New York because I feel my First Amendment rights should override someone’s hurt feelings,” D’Antuono told Fox News. “We should celebrate the fact that we live in a country where we are given the freedom to express ourselves.”

A spokesperson for the art gallery told Fox News there hasn’t been any criticism of the painting.

D’Antuono said the public exhibition “has afforded me the ability to right a wrong.”

He dismissed critics who called the display blasphemous.

“The crucifixion of the president was meant metaphorically,” he told Fox News. “My intent was not to compare him to Jesus.”

D’Antuono blamed the controversy on conservative media “trying to promote the idea that liberals believe the president to literally be our savior.”

In the aftermath of his aborted first attempt – the artist said he received more than 4,000 emails containing messages that were “anything but Christian-like.”

“But I accepted that it is their right to express themselves and hope that they now see it in their hearts to afford me the same right,” he said. Story Continued:

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