Did We Just Witness The Last Great Black Friday Celebration Of American Materialism?

Black Friday - Photo by PowhuskuAmericans are going to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season, and on Friday we got to see our fellow citizens fight each other like rabid animals over foreign-made flat screen televisions and Barbie dolls.  As disgusting as this behavior is to many of us, there may soon come a time when we will all fondly remember these days.  Most Americans are completely unaware of what is currently happening in the financial world, but right now there are deeply troubling signs that we could be on the verge of another major global financial collapse.  If the next great economic downturn does strike in 2015, that could mean that we may have just witnessed the last great Black Friday celebration of American materialism.  As you read this, stock prices are approximately double the value that they should be, margin debt is hovering near all-time record highs, and the “too big to fail” banks are being far more reckless than they were just prior to the last major stock market implosion.  So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed back in 2007 and 2008 are repeating right now, and as you will see below, this includes a horrifying crash in the price of oil.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the slow-motion financial train wreck that is unfolding right before our eyes.

Some IRS employees in tax delinquency to receive bonuses

IRS employees whose delinquent tax debt is a result of “reasonable cause” instead of “willful neglect” will be eligible to receive the same one percent performance bonus as other employees, according to an internal memo from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Koskinen informed IRS employees that they would be receiving this year’s bonus — down from last year’s 1.75 percent bonus — with the stipulation that delinquent employees would be eligible to receive their share, so long as they weren’t suspected of intentionally dodging their tax obligations to the federal government.

“Koskinen highlights a new policy for bonus eligibility ‘designed to protect the integrity’ of the [bonus] program,” Washington Examiner reported.

“It rules out bonuses for those who commit ‘willful failure to file any tax required under the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 on or before the required date (including extensions), unless the failure is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.’”

It’s not clear how the agency weighs each delinquent employee’s case to determine his or her motive for not paying taxes.

Ferguson leads to calls for police body cameras

In light of civil unrest sparked by the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) is calling for legislative changes to require all of the nation’s law enforcement officers to wear body cameras on duty.

“We oughta pass national legislation that will — will — will create, I think, a positive atmosphere after this thing is over,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“And that is that police officers, law enforcement officers, must wear cameras and that, as we did years ago with the COPS program, we would make federal grants available to small communities that couldn’t afford to have these cameras.”

Cleaver is one of many people, including Brown’s family, who believe a body cam could have made a difference in the case of the young man’s death.

A grand jury on Tuesday announced its decision not to charge Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson.

In a subsequent statement, Brown’s family expressed disappointment and called on supporters to: “Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

Researchers: The U.S. doesn’t have a STEM worker shortage

Academics who’ve examined the U.S. tech lobby’s claim that the nation needs a relaxed policy on imported tech-sector labor have pretty much decided that there isn’t anything approaching a domestic labor shortage — in “any way, shape or form.”

In fact, according to Rutgers-based public policy professor Hal Salzman, the only way the U.S. tech sector can describe its labor pool as “deficient” is by framing its argument in terms of cost — not of supply.

“There’s no evidence of any way, shape or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense,” Salzman told Bloomberg. “They may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV.”

And therein lies the motive: scooping cheap labor over available domestic labor in the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career paths. It’s a motive that academics and economists have been trying to highlight — if anyone’s listening.

In July, a group of policy professors (including Salzman) co-authored an opinion column for USA Today excoriating Bill Gates and other Silicon Valley corporate moguls for essentially fabricating the idea that the U.S. is experiencing a critical STEM labor shortage.

There’s a bigger problem that Ferguson protesters aren’t addressing

A common refrain heard from the Ferguson, Missouri, protesters and those calling for the head of Michael Brown’s shooter, Officer Darren Wilson, is that police shootings disproportionally result in black victims.

That seems to be true. But statistics on police-involved shootings are inadequate. The FBI relies on the nation’s 17,000 or so police departments to self-report. Only about 750 comply on an annual basis.

So the FBI reports that slightly more than 400 people are killed by police each year. The Department of Justice reports a much higher rate of about 700 per year. Of those, about 42 percent are white and 32 percent are black. With blacks comprising about 17 percent of the population, protesters seem to have a legitimate point.

However, another telling statistic gets overlooked — or squelched — and neither Al Sharpton nor Jesse Jackson nor Barack Obama nor Eric Holder nor any of the other “black leaders” seem to care about it. Blacks are killing each other at a disproportionate pace. Most murder offenders are black. They mostly murder other blacks.

Blacks also commit more violent crimes by far. According to the Department of Justice, in 2010 (the last year data is available) 62,593 blacks were victims of white-on-black crime. But 320,082 whites were victims of black-on-white crime.

Ferguson’s forgotten victims

While millions of Americans spent this week reuniting with family and friends, gorging themselves into tryptophan-induced comas, and watching football, others spent this week in fear for their lives and property. Most of us had no trouble finding the kids, the food and the remote. But others had trouble finding their stores, their stock and their stuff.

For some, this holiday will be forever marred by the memory of watching their livelihoods burned to the ground by an aggrieved mob. What was the crime they committed to deserve such a fate? They live in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s it. Jay Johnson, the owner of the Queen’s Royal Touch beauty salon and barber shop, didn’t shoot anyone. He was never subjected to a grand jury inquiry after an incident involving a monstrous attacker and him. No hordes of frenzied miscreants descended on his town seeking his blood for some imagined crime. He built a small business in Ferguson, for Fergusonians, staffed by Fergusonians. And then, because a grand jury on which he didn’t serve voted not to indict a police officer for a crime Johnson didn’t commit against a man who didn’t deserve his sympathy, rioters destroyed his shop.

Ted Cruz’s bizarre desire for Joe Lieberman to head Defense

FILE/Prior to his retirement from Congress, Lieberman routinely argued in favor of the hawkish foreign policy positions that would have placed the U.S. in the middle of international conflicts.

In a move that could turn off some of his lingering libertarian-leaning fans, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) floated former independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a foreign policy hawk, as an ideal candidate to replace ousted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

“We need a Secretary of Defense who is squarely focused on defending the national security interests of the United States, first and foremost, and especially preventing a bad deal over Iran’s nuclear weapons program that could do irreparable harm to us and our allies. One strong option would be former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a member of the President’s own party with deep experience and unshakable commitment to the security of the United States. I urge the President to give him full and fair consideration for this critical position,” Cruz said Monday in a prepared statement.

Prior to his retirement from Congress, Lieberman routinely argued in favor of the hawkish foreign policy positions that would have placed the U.S. in the middle of international conflicts. His strongest foreign policy allies were often Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom are notably hawkish on overseas issues.

Obamacare premium costs to soar higher in 2015

Is anyone surprised, at this point, by yet another story about health insurance premium costs increasing under Obamacare?

According to projections from Healthcare.gov, Obamacare premiums will increase next year by an average of 18 percent for those who purchase the least-expensive (and least robust) tier of coverage through the federal healthcare exchange. That estimate was calculated using the largest market in each of the 34 states that use Healthcare.gov — instead of a state-run exchange — as a customer portal for Obamacare.

Investor’s Business Daily offers this helpful graph to illustrate the changes in each of those markets:

HCGOV_2015

Investor’s Business Daily

Only nine of the Healthcare.gov states can expect to see average premium prices fall or remain level next year, with the largest savings — 38.6 percent — in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, market. Contrast that with the five states that will see premiums increase by more than 38.6 percent, as well as with the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, market — which is expected to see average premium costs double.

In some markets, catastrophic coverage plans are beginning to cannibalize the bronze tier, Obamacare’s next-highest level of coverage, according to IBD.

Romney 2016? Some say it’s so

Republican voters continue to favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in a field of likely 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

The results of a new Quinnipiac University poll show 19 percent of 1,623 likely Republican voters picking Romney when asked who they’d vote for if the GOP primary were held now.

Romney is followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was favored by 11 percent of those polled.

Rounding out the top five were author and neurosurgeon Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — both with 8 percent support — and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who 6 percent support among the respondents.

Here’s how other names tossed around for 2016 stacked up:

  • Ted Cruz: 5 percent
  • Mike Huckabee: 5 percent
  • Scott Walker: 5 percent
  • Marco Rubio: 2 percent
  • Rick Perry: 2 percent

Sixteen percent of respondents said they weren’t sure who they would support.

The early support for a renewed Romney campaign is most likely attributable to name recognition for the former governor’s previous two failed presidential bids.

Whether Romney will throw in for a third attempt at the presidency remains to be seen, but there is plenty of political chatter suggesting that the GOP establishment is encouraging him.

Lawsuit zeroes in on documents that could link White House to IRS scandal

A plaintiff in one of the ongoing lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service has learned of the existence of thousands of documents that reportedly tie the Obama administration directly to the political discrimination scandal involving the tax agency’s targeting of conservative nonprofit groups.

The plaintiff, conservative nonprofit Cause of Action, was informed recently by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that approximately 2,500 such documents exist, and that it could gain access to some of them in early December — once the IG’s office has finished poring through them to determine their relevancy, according to Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard:

In an email from the Justice Department’s tax office, an official revealed the high number of documents, suggesting that the White House was hip deep in probes of taxpayers, likely including conservatives and Tea Party groups associated with the IRS scandal.

In requesting a delay in the delivery date of the documents, Justice told Cause of Action, “The agency [Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration] has located 2,500 potentially responsive documents and anticipates being able to finish processing 2,000 of these pages by the December 1 date. It needs the additional two weeks to deal with the last 500 pages to determine if they are responsive and make any necessary withholdings.”

Give thanks for the Bill of Rights

I think it’s appropriate that we pause for a few moments this Thanksgiving Day to reflect on something uniquely American: the Bill of Rights. It is generally accepted that the Constitution would not have been adopted by the first 13 states if it had not been accompanied by these first 10 amendments.

Having just won a war to establish their liberty from tyrannical government, those early citizens were not about to allow the newly created government to curtail their rights. So they did their very best to enumerate exactly what this new entity could and could not do.

The 1st Amendment set the tone for all that followed:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What a powerful group of freedoms are listed here: the freedom to worship as you please without the state imposing its dictates on you, the freedom of speech for you and your neighbors and even the media, the right to demonstrate and to petition government to change. It’s sobering to realize that most people who ever lived did not enjoy such freedoms.

Lessons from the Ferguson verdict — from a middle-class white guy

Hi I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The Ferguson, Missouri, rioters put on one heck of a show for all the world to see on Monday night, didn’t they? That was not your traditional American Thanksgiving display. But what do I know? I’m just a middle-class white guy. I was raised to respect property, respect police, never say “F– the police,” never desecrate the American flag, never burn down stores in my own neighborhood, love my country, believe in the American dream, study hard, get straight A’s, work hard and good things will happen. And funny enough, my life has worked out pretty well.

Maybe there’s a lesson there for the Ferguson protesters.

I’ve watched the proceedings in Ferguson from August until the verdict was read on Monday night. I watched on Monday night as the Ferguson crowd rioted, set police cars on fire, set buildings on fire, fired shots at police, threw bottles and stones at police, and attacked small businesses.

And to me, the lessons of Ferguson are crystal clear.

First American Thanksgiving proclamation

The Continental Congress issued the first American Thanksgiving proclamation on Nov. 1, 1777.

Here is the text of that proclamation:

Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success:

Happy Thanksgiving! Now watch this ridiculous frozen chicken funeral

A self-described group of animal liberation activists recently made a scene at a Berkley, California, supermarket where they held a funeral for a frozen chicken.

The commotion began when a young member of the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere plucked a frozen chicken from the store’s poultry section saying, “In memory of a life lost.”

The man then shouted, “It’s not food; it’s violence.”

“We are here today to mourn the lives of those who lie dead behind us,” he said after the chicken was placed in a coffin. “Each one of these animals whose legs, ribs and other mutilated body parts are sold here, had stories of their own.

“They had rich emotional lives filled with desire, curiosity, pain and sorrow,” he continued. “All cut short, because they were born of a different species than us.”

The man goes on to accuse “institutions” like the grocery store of “silencing the terrored screams that accompanied their deaths.”

The ridiculousness continued for several more minutes as store employees politely asked the shrieking activists to knock it off.

The best part of the whole video is the heckling taking place in the background.

Obama And The Media Are Stirring The Pot In Ferguson, But Real Leaders Are Trying To Bring Us Together

Ferguson Protesters Burning American Flag - YouTube ScreenshotBarack Obama says that the notion that our laws are not being enforced uniformly is “rooted in reality” and that the rioting in Ferguson will “make for good TV”.  Time Magazine says that the Ferguson riots “are part of the American experience” and “are a necessary part of the evolution of society”.  Statements such as these stir the pot in Ferguson and provide fuel for the violent protests that have erupted nationwide.  And now that protesters are rioting and looting in major cities all over America, all sorts of angry and dissatisfied individuals are coming out of the woodwork.  For example, CBS Seattle is reporting that “communists” and “Palestinian groups” have joined the protests in Portland.  This kind of civil unrest draws them in like a moth to a flame.  But instead of stirring the pot in Ferguson like Obama and the media are doing, real leaders are trying to bring us together.  Setting fires and destroying businesses is not going to solve anything.  But if we love one another and resolve to work together, anything is possible.

HHS may start reassigning your Obamacare plan every year without your consent

Lost amid the recent hubbub over the Obamacare numbers-fudging scandal is this interesting bit of news you can use: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering a rules change that would allow it to drop and reassign your Obamacare plan during each year’s enrollment period, unless you expressly renew the same coverage (assuming it’s available) for another year.

In other words, if you have an Obamacare plan and you want to keep it, you’d have to tell the government that — or the government could “demote” your policy to the lowest-cost plan in that same coverage tier when it’s time to re-enroll.

“We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan,” HHS explained in its fact sheet for Obamacare benefit “parameters.”

That basically amounts to yet another version of government pulling the rug out from under those who’ve bought in to its promises of better, more stable coverage under Obamacare.

“If You Like Your Obamacare Health Plan, You Can Keep It, If HHS Doesn’t Pick a New One For You,” Reason intoned in a headline late last week:

Click-baiting or insanity? Florida paper calls for outright gun ban

“One of the frequent refrains of gun freaks about President Obama is ‘He’s coming for our guns.’ Obama never said such a thing. But I will:

We’re coming for your guns. And someday, we’ll take them.”

So reads the conclusion of a Nov. 23 column written for the Tallahassee Democrat, a Gannett newspaper, by columnist Gerald Ensley. The promise follows nearly 1,000 words of anti-gun keyboard excrement complete with promises that taking guns from responsible owners will stop shooting deaths, the insistence that (non-assault) rifles and shotguns would be ineffective in mass shootings, and the insinuation that it’s government’s responsibility to “prevent humans from having easy access to tools they can use to harm other people.”

“I’m not talking about gun control,” Ensley writes. “I’m not talking about waiting periods and background checks.

“I’m talking about flat-out banning the possession of handguns and assault rifles by individual citizens. I’m talking about repealing or amending the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Even as he’s arguing for the complete ban of handguns and so-called assault rifles via abrogation of the 2nd Amendment, the author says that the nation should “let the hunters keep their rifles and shotguns.” That’s because the writer classes those as less-lethal killing machines.

American oil will restore American greatness

In the past two weeks, the imperial president, Barack Obama, has delivered two edicts that stretch the mind of a person like me who was taught right and wrong half a century ago. On the one hand, Obama declared he would likely veto the Keystone XL pipeline even after the House passed it and before the Senate fell just one vote short. Five days later, Obama declared he would act without Congress and provide amnesty for up to 5 million Mexican illegal aliens.

I’ve been following the efforts made by the planners of the Keystone XL pipeline on both sides of the border for six years as they were strung along by Obama. The architects of the plan to send oil through the United States from Canada to refineries in the Gulf were deliberate and transparent. They crossed every “t” and they dotted every “i”. In the end, it did them no good.

On the other hand, Mexicans who, by hook or by crook, illegally snuck into the United States by the millions have been rewarded for their surreptitious actions. Obama has declared that America will take them in. As for the millions of Mexican suckers who waited in line for their legal turn to come to America, tough luck.