Tuesday, November 27, 2012

U.N. to decide what's best for American children with disabilities if treaty is passed

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) treaty will be coming up for a vote this week, thanks to Senator Harry Reid, who promised to do so despite objections from many concerned parents. 

If ratified, CRPD threatens U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, and would effectively put the U.S. under international law when it comes to parenting special needs children. One provision in the treaty would give the government, acting under U.N. instructions, the ability to determine for all children with disabilities what is best for them. Basically it would give the U.N. discretion over decisions about how parents educate their special needs kids and could potentially eliminate parental rights for the education of children with disabilities. These are precisely the things that the parents should decide...not the United Nations or our own government.

What's more, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities does nothing to improve the rights of the disabled in this country. Our country already meets or exceeds the U.N. standards, and contrary to reports, passage of this treaty will do nothing to give disabled Americans or any disabled person traveling in a foreign country greater protections or rights. What this treaty does do is make American laws subservient to the United Nations. We should not see this in the United States of America.

For any parent of a special needs child, or any other citizen concerned with this intrusion by the U.N. and our own federal government, consider calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to your senators, and then ask them to vote "no" on this terrible overreach. 

Update: The Senate voted  this treaty down yesterday (Dec. 4). President Obama had signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009, and sent it to the Senate in May. The Senate voted 61-38 yesterday, falling short of the 66 votes needed for ratification.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'd just like to extend a very warm wish for a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. There is so much to be grateful for -- my family, friends, faith and our wonderful country. Thanks also to all of you for reading my blog, and for all the great and thought-provoking comments you share. I appreciate it sincerely.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. God bless you today and always.

Monday, November 19, 2012

As Israel fights for her life, has Obama abandoned post as leader of the free world?

One of the surest ways for an American to get denounced by both liberals and many conservatives is to claim that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. I'm not guessing one way or the other. But what is perfectly clear is how Obama's actions absolutely sympathize with the radical Muslim movements currently trying to destroy Israel, our best and most important ally in the most dangerous region of the world. 

First came Obama's bow to a Muslim king. Then came his apology on foreign soil for American "aggression" against dictators and terrorists. Then came his proclamation that America is no more a Christian nation than a Muslim one. But these were only the first clues as to where Obama's loyalty seems to lie. 

Last year, as Egyptians cheered the ousting of their dictator president, Hosni Mubarak, Obama's haste to expedite the departure - rather than support Mubarak - showed he lacked concern as to who might replace Mubarak's regime. Given the dangerous region Egypt resides in, and considering that those poised to fill Mubarak's void (e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood) were anything but pro-America, it's a question that should've been soberly weighed. Instead, by ignoring it, President Obama revealed a scary neglect of history and an unsettling question about where his loyalty lies: is it with the U.S. and our allies, or with our enemies?

For all Mubarak's faults, he was a strategic U.S. ally, a known variable in a very questionable region. He honored Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and allowed unimpeded commercial passage through the Suez Canal -- a critical waterway which, if blocked, could send an already precarious global economy into disaster. Though Mubarak was no angel, at least the U.S. knew what it was dealing with, which afforded some stability in a volatile region.

In demanding Mubarak's swift departure, Obama not only publicly undermined a key U.S. ally (and by extension sent a terrible message to our other allies about America's commitment to them) but he also recklessly increased Egypt's vulnerability to rule by the Muslim Brotherhood - which Obama should've known would be potentially much worse than Mubarak ever was (just look at the fundamentalist theocracy that replaced the overthrown pro-U.S. Shah of Iran in 1979, thanks largely to President Jimmy Carter's disastrous meddling).

By turning his back on Mubarak, Obama claimed he was merely supporting Egypt's quest for democracy. But a 2010 Pew Research poll revealed how Egypt would likely implement democracy should it obtain it. The poll showed strong Egyptian Muslim support for Sharia law, including stoning adulterers (82 percent); cutting off thieves' hands (77 percent); gender segregation in the workplace (54 percent); and killing people who leave the Muslim religion (84 percent). Meanwhile, 59 percent said they wanted Islamic fundamentalists to shape Egypt's future.

Clearly Obama doesn't understand - or care - that, aside from Israel, which does share common values with America, the Western version of democracy is nothing like the Middle East's take on it. Recall that the Palestinians sought and achieved democracy-like "free" elections in 2006. They promptly elected the terrorist group Hamas, which immediately imposed the same oppressive Sharia law the Egyptians expressed interest in adopting.

Fast forward to the present day. Egypt is now under rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, a virulently anti-American, anti-Israel, Islamist fundamentalist group which last year hinted at a renewed war with our ally Israel and a blocking of the Suez Canal. Despite this, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged Obama accepted the Muslim Brotherhood "without criticism."

Thanks to Obama's warm embrace of this group, the Muslim Brotherhood now also controls much of the Arab world. In response to the Brotherhood-led Arab Spring that was nothing but a call to arms for radical Islam, Obama praised it as an exciting demonstration for Muslim rights. It doesn't seem to faze Obama that the Muslim Brotherhood has sworn, in its own words, that "our work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within"...and ensuring that "God’s religion (Islam) is made victorious over all other religions.”

Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood is now helping the terrorist group Hamas and head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as it pummels innocent Israelis with rocket attacks and suicide bombings. It's important to note that, despite how the media are largely portraying it, Israel waited for a week under heavy assault by Hamas before retaliating in the Gaza region - Israel did not initiate anything (these attacks against Israel have been occurring for years, by the way). Hamas claims their beef is that Israel is occupying Gaza. But Israel left Gaza. The only real beef here is that Hamas wants Israel to be destroyed. Period. And Israel has the right to defend herself if attacked. Period.

But in a sickening display of shameless propaganda, Palestinians are parading a dead child (killed by Israeli retaliation) in front of television cameras to show the "evil" Israeli mentality. Israeli soldiers are trained and try their best to target only military and terrorist sites so as to avoid harming innocent people. But Hamas makes that tough considering they intentionally place their own military launch sites next to mosques, playgrounds, factories and other places that are heavily populated by women, children and other civilians. It's bad enough Hamas uses child suicide bombers to deliberately attack Israelis in civilian places without warning, but they have no problem putting innocent children and women in front of the military targets they know Israel will retaliate against. They then want the rest of the world to feel sorry for them because of it.

Though Obama is showing politically expedient support for Israel - in other words, saying only what he minimally needs to in order to play both sides - his actions, from failing to condemn the Muslim Brotherhood's rapid ascension to power in the entire region, to Hamas' role in terrorism in general, make his support suspicious at best. And let's not forget his multiple rejections of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's requests to meet. In fact, in a 2009 UN speech, Obama shockingly and without precedent portrayed US support for Israel as contingent upon Israel's giving in to Palestinian demands, despite Palestine's rejection of Israel's right to exist. Does this seem like a man who really cares about Israel's plight, or has Obama's dismissive attitude toward Israel and terrorism merely emboldened Israel's - and our - enemies?

As Israel fights for survival, Iran - another vocal foe of Israel - is likely within months of obtaining nuclear weapons, which should scare the wits out of everyone. Israel and western civilization are in desperate need of protection, but it seems Obama doesn't recognize this and in this failure to do so, he has essentially abandoned his post as leader of the free world in favor of those who want to destroy it. Apparently it is now up to Benjamin Netanyahu to step up to that role as Israel fights to remain free. As he does so, I hope we can all somehow let Netanyahu know that America stands with Israel, even if our own president won't.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Unless Congress passes budget deal, we're all set to head over the cliff

Unless Congress passes a budget deal by January 2013 (they haven't passed one in over three years), we will all be going over the "fiscal cliff" in one way or another. While some people think it's only the "wealthy" who'll be affected, think again. The package of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect on January 1 will hit the economy so hard that economists say we'll sink into another recession in the first half of 2013 - and nobody will escape it.

Though President Obama insists he only wants the Bush tax rates to expire for the top earners, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, middle income families would have to pay an average of about $2,000 more next year. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 3.4 million jobs would be lost, the unemployment rate would hit 9.1 percent from the current 7.9 percent and stocks could plunge. Overall, the CBO estimates the total cost of the cliff in 2013 could be about $671 billion.

What's more, the tax increases on Americans would be the most massive in 60 years when measured as a percentage of the economy. "There would be a huge shock effect to the U.S. economy," says Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo.Most of the damage would come from the tax increases, but the propsed spending cuts -on defense, Medicare, etc., would have negative consequences as well in the form of layoffs and the like.

Congress could strike a temporary deal to delay the cliff, but this uncertainty itself is could cause many companies to further delay hiring and spend less. Already, many U.S. companies say anxiety about the fiscal cliff has led them to put off plans to expand or hire.

As usual, Obama said he would veto any bill that would extend tax cuts on income above $250,000 despite the warning from Republican House Speaker John Boehner that higher tax rates on upper-income Americans - many of whom provide jobs - would slow job growth. After all, you can't help job seekers by punishing job creators.

More than 50 percent of the tax increases would come from the expiration of tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003 and from additional tax cuts in a 2009 economic stimulus law. The first set of tax cuts that are now set to expire reduced rates on income, investment gains, dividends and estates. They also boosted tax credits for families with children. Deductions for married couples also rose. The 2009 measure increased tax credits for low-income earners and college students as well. All are set to expire.

Another 20 percent of the tax increases would come from the expiration of a Social Security tax cut enacted in 2010. This change would cost someone making $50,000 about $1,000 a year, or nearly $20 a week, and a household with two high-paid workers up to $4,500, or nearly $87 a week.

"Every worker in America is going to see a reduction in their paycheck in the first pay period of 2013," Vitner noted.

According to an Associated Press report, "an additional 20 percent of the tax increase would come from the end of about 80 tax breaks, mostly for businesses. One is a tax credit for research and development. Another lets companies deduct from their income half the cost of large equipment or machinery."

Mark Bakko, a Minneapolis accountant, says many mid-size companies he advises are "holding off on equipment purchases or hiring until the fate of those tax breaks becomes clear." Bakko noted that the research and development credit typically lets a company that hired an engineer at a $100,000 salary cut its tax bill by $10,000. The credit has been routinely extended since the 1980s.

The AP notes that "the rest of the tax increase would come mainly from the alternative minimum tax, or AMT. It would hit 30 million Americans, up from 4 million now.The costly AMT was designed to prevent rich people from exploiting loopholes and deductions to avoid any income tax. But the AMT wasn't indexed for inflation, so it's increasingly threatened middle-income taxpayers. Congress has acted each year to prevent the AMT from hitting many more people."

Under the new tax plans, households in the lowest 20 percent of earners would pay an average of $412 more, the Tax Policy Center calculates. The top 20 percent would pay an average $14,000 more, the top 1 percent $121,000 more.

All this would lead many consumers to spend less, which could likely cause businesses to cut jobs. Others would delay hiring.

Another part of the package includes cutting defense spending by10 percent. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said those cuts would cause temporary job losses among civilian Pentagon employees and major defense contractors. Lockheed Martin has already announced over 100,000 layoffs, and many other contractors are doing the same. Spending on weapons programs would also be cut - how this affects national security has not been addressed.

Spending on domestic programs, like highway funding, aid to state and local governments and health research, education grants to states and localities; the FBI and other law enforcement; environmental protection and air traffic controllers would also be cut. Meanwhile, hospitals and doctors' offices facing $11 billion in Medicare payment cuts could be forced to cut jobs due to the lost reimbursement.

Finally, extended unemployment benefits for about two million people would end, which currently provide up to 73 weeks of aid.

Obama promised that if given four more years, he would finish what he started. If he and Congress don't get their act together, he's well on his way to finishing the demise of this country he started four years ago.

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