Wednesday, January 2, 2013

RANDOM SHOTS - Details Of Fiscal Cliff Fix, Republican Lawmakers Don't Want Obama Raise, And More!


Details Of Fiscal Cliff Fix Now Available As Fiscal Crisis Bill Is Passed By Congress

Specifics details of a bill Congress passed Tuesday aimed at averting widespread tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to take effect today are now somewhat available.

Bottom line: The measure should raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years compared with tax policies that were due to expire at midnight Monday.

It will also delay for two months across-the-board cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies.

The House and Senate passed the bill on Tuesday and sent it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Some of the details include:
  • Income tax rates: Extends decade-old tax cuts on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for couples.
Earnings above those amounts would be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent, up from the current 35 percent. Extends Clinton-era caps on itemized deductions and the phase-out of the personal exemption for individuals making more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $300,000.
  • Estate tax: Estates would be taxed at a top rate of 40 percent, with the first $5 million in value exempted for individual estates and $10 million for family estates.
In 2012, such estates were subject to a top rate of 35 percent.
  • Capital gains, dividends: Taxes on capital gains and dividend income exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families would increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.
  • Alternative minimum tax: Permanently addresses the alternative minimum tax and indexes it for inflation to prevent nearly 30 million middle and upper-middle income taxpayers from being hit with higher tax bills averaging almost $3,000.
The tax was originally designed to ensure that the wealthy did not avoid owing taxes by using loopholes.
  • Other tax changes: Extends for five years Obama-sought expansions of the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and an up-to-$2,500 tax credit for college tuition.
Also extends for one year accelerated "bonus" depreciation of business investments in new property and equipment, a tax credit for research and development costs and a tax credit for renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity.
  • Unemployment benefits: Extends jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year.
  • Cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors: Blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year.
The cut is the product of an obsolete 1997 budget formula.
  • Social Security payroll tax cut: Allows a 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax first enacted two years ago to lapse, which restores the payroll tax to 6.2 percent.
  • Across-the-board cuts: Delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start striking the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week.
Cost of $24 billion is divided between spending cuts and new revenues from rule changes on converting traditional individual retirement accounts into Roth IRAs.


Republican Lawmakers Don't Want Obama Pay Raise For Congress

Sen. Mark Begich said on his Facebook page that if the American people don't get an automatic pay raise then neither should members of Congress.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Monday she was "stunned" when she heard lawmakers would be getting a bump in pay.

"We haven't been able to produce a budget in three years," she said. "The last thing this Congress needs right now is a pay increase."

Obama signed an executive order last week that will lift a ban on pay freezes for federal employees.

Rank-and-file members of Congress would all see a $900 bump next year -- up from $174,000.

Congressional leaders will receive a slightly higher raise, with the House speaker receiving a $1,100 salary increase to $224,600. The top two Senate leaders will see pay rise $1,000, to $194,400.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, will see his pay increase from $225,521 last year to $231,900 after his raise goes into effect March 27, 2013.

But the pat on the back came as a surprise to some, given the lack of progress all year toward a deal to head off the looming fiscal crisis -- which includes $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts. Even if that is resolved, Washington has still done relatively little to address the more than $16 trillion debt.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., introduced legislation Monday that would rescind the pay raises.

“I am calling on my colleagues in the House and Senate to rescind President Obama’s executive order that gives members of Congress a pay raise," she said in a statement. "This executive order was not requested by Congress and we should reject it. We have a spending problem in our country and we should be looking for areas to cut spending. At a time when families across the country are cutting back we should not increase government spending and add to the debt burden by giving members of Congress a pay raise. We need to begin with ourselves and I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort.”

Republican Sen. Rob Portman said now is not the time for bigger salaries in Washington - at least not until the country can deal aggressively with its debt and deficit problems.

"At a time when our country is facing record debt and trillion-dollar deficits, the last thing Washington should do is reward itself with a pay increase," the Ohio senator said. "I am calling on President Obama to withdraw his recent executive order raising federal salaries -- including for members of Congress. Until a long-term deficit reduction agreement is reached, we should not consider increasing the pay for Congress."

Obama also OK'd raises for circuit and district court judges.

And no, I don't know why he thinks this sort of bullshit is OK.

It's as if he just doesn't care if his actions are proper or not. And if he does care, well then I agree with those who wonder if he simply has his head up his ass and doesn't know better? 

Maybe someone should tell him that it's just not right to raise taxes on some Americans while you give raises to others - especially during a time when the nation is having financial difficulties!


Connecticut Lawyer Withdraws $100 Million Lawsuit Over Sandy Hook Massacre

"It's about living in a world that's safe," New Haven attorney Irving Pinsky told The Associated Press on Saturday. "The answer is about protecting the kids."

Pinsky asked this week to sue the state, which has immunity against most lawsuits unless it gives a party permission to go forward with a claim.

Pinksy's client, whom he calls "Jill Doe" in the claim, sustained "emotional and psychological trauma and injury" on December 14th after maniac Adam Lanza got into Sandy Hook Elementary School and gunned down 20 children and six adults inside.

The child heard "conversations, gunfire and screaming" over Sandy Hook's intercom after someone in the office apparently switched on the system, according to the claim. Pinsky said Saturday he didn't know whether his client saw anyone die.

The state Board of Education, Department of Education and state education commissioner failed to protect the child "from foreseeable harm," including by failing to provide a safe school setting, the filing said.

It also said the parties failed to review and carefully scrutinize annual strategic school profile reports from the local school district and Sandy Hook Elementary as well as "other submissions with respect to student safety and emergency response planning and protocol."

It says the parties also failed to require the school and local Board of Education to formulate and implement an effective student safety emergency response plan.

Pinsky said Saturday he didn't want to reveal more about the 6-year-old or details about her experience during the shooting because of privacy concerns.

The attorney said he hasn't gotten a reply from the state yet. The Hartford Courant first reported the filing.

Well, that was a few days ago, now the lawyer has decided to drop the suit.

The Stamford Advocate reports that Irving Pinsky withdrew the lawsuit but says he might refile.

He says he received new evidence on security at Sandy Hook Elementary School and is reviewing it.

Pinsky last week asked to sue the state, saying his client suffered "emotional and psychological trauma and injury" during the shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six adults.

He says state officials failed to prevent his client from foreseeable harm.

The state attorney general differs with Pinsky and said on Monday that there appears to be no basis to support the suit or the state's liability.

I can't help but wonder if the Connecticut attorney general's statement helped change Pinsky's mind about sueing?

Besides, I would think that there is some other way to sue the state to ensure your client's safety without bankrupting the state. That is, if that really was his intentions?


Obama makes passing gun control measures a priority for 2013

On Sunday, President Obama again sworn up and down that he was going to make something a priority.

This time he pledged to make gun control a top priority in his second term and vowed to put his “full weight” behind such legislation.

I can't help but wonder if he only knows a few lines and that's it. "Top priority" and "full weight" seems to be his sellignpoints. He said it during the BP spill, to Hurricane Sandy survivors, to this and to that. Promise here, promise there, all just words.

Democrat lawmakers have called for immediate action in the aftermath of the December 14th shootings in which 20 first-graders were killed inside that Connecticut elementary school.

While Obama said the same old line about how he would not prejudge recommendations, he did say that he was skeptical about the only answer being to put armed guards in schools as the National Rifle Association has suggested.

The president instead vowed to rally Americans around an agenda to limit gun violence, adding he still supports increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines.

Of course, it is impossible to do what he is saying without cracking down on criminals. His hometown of Chicago is like a war zone - and it has nothing to do with assault weapons.

In fact, Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the nation  -- all while it has the toughest gun control laws in the country.

That fact is lost on Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who sponsored legislation that banned assault-style weapons from 1994 to 2004.

She immediately jumped on the shooting in Connecticut to push her agenda saying immediately after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that she would introduce similar legislation early this year. A ban she said which would include bans on the high-capacity magazines.

Feinstein declined to say on “Fox News Sunday” when she would introduce new legislation, but said it would essentially “strengthen” the 1994 bill.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said he supports armed guards over more gun control and would oppose Feinstein’s legislation

“You can't take every sharp object out of the reach of people like this,” the South Carolina senator told Fox. “I own an AR-15 and I have done nothing wrong by owning the gun. If you had armed security, with better rules of engagement, that, to me, is a better way to deal with the situation.”

Not missing an opportunity to cash in on the tragedy, the massacre immediately prompted calls for greater gun controls from anti-gun groups.

Of course they won't answer my small question, If we legalized a ban of all guns in America, would the President feel safe enough to get rid of his Secret Service security team?

The answer is no because he knows damn well that it's not guns - but people who commit crimes. And yes, while he has all sorts of security, he and other Democrats blasted the NRA as horrible because they rightfully argued that schools should have armed guards for protection - no different than banks or hotels or even our lawmakers in Washington!

And really, I really want to know why schools can't have armed guards? Some schools already have them and their crimes and violence are down to almost nothing compared to schools that don't have guards.

Besides, aren't our children as important as the President and lawmakers who we spend Millions of dollars on to protect?

As for another ban, some gun enthusiasts have rushed to buy semiautomatic rifles because they rightfully fear that sales may soon be restricted.

The president also said Sunday that he intends to press the gun issues with the public.

Instead of focusing on the pain of the parents and families, right after the massacre President Obama again focused in on himself, saying, "This is something that - you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."

To show how out of touch the White House truly is, a member of the president's cabinet said Sunday that rural America may be ready to join a national conversation about gun control.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the debate has to start with respect for the Second Amendment right to bear arms and a recognition that hunting is a way of life for millions of Americans.

And no, I don't know if he's too stupid to know that it's not about hunting - but about our rights to defend ourselves.

Vilsack is completely disregarding the soaring gun sales, and refuses to believe what is right in front of his eyes. He refuses to acknowledge that it is the criminal and not the mode in which they perpetrate their crime. It is not guns, it's criminals!

Instead of recognizing the jump in gun sales, he believes that the Newtown shooting has changed the way people see the issue the government trying to take away our guns.

Unbelievably, Vilsack said on CNN, "I really believe that this is a different circumstance and a different situation and I think the president believes it as well, that this is going to be sustained convention."

Obama also listed deficit reduction and immigration as top 2013 priorities.

As much as I would love to think the opposite, I really believe that Obama will say that his "priority" is whatever takes place at the moment.

He seems to have a desire to seize the opportunity to grab a microphone and make something or other the priority of his administration in the same way a kid promises to clean his room.

For years ago Obama said the he would make it a priority of his administration to go through the Federal Budget line by line and weed out the waste and fraud. He has not even dealt with a budget since entering office.

He said he would make it a priority to unite America, he said he would make jobs his priority, he said he would make support and tax relief for the middle class and business owners priorities.

Allow me to echo some advice to the president, if you really want to make the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School a "top priority" and not just go after guns, then do it right and address the real problem.

As a doctor once said, go after the illness instead of just a single cough here and there. Go after what inspires and encourages these maniacs to do such things. Go after finding out way they think its OK to do such horrible acts of inhumanity.

Go after the movie industry, television violence, and extremely violent video games. Go after the Department of Education and find out why we're not teaching morality anymore. Find out why schools are not teaching our kids that certain behaviors are not right - and in fact wrong!

If Obama wants to make something real his "top priority" regarding what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School that day, then he should make it his "top priority" and put the "full weight" of the federal government behind an effort to find out how we as a society can deter that which inspires and encourages these senseless horrible acts of violence.

A gun cannot jump off a table and go to a school or anywhere else if someone does not want to pick it up and use it. Whether its used to defend, as it is countless times a day that never makes the newspapers, or if it used by those inspired by violent Hollywood movies like the jerkweed in Aurora Colorado or encouraged by violent video games like the jerkweed in Newtown Connecticut, the federal government should make it a priority to address what inspires nutcases to go out and do these sorts of acts.

It is so easy to blame the availability of guns. It is so easy to go after the same old political target.

If Obama really wants to help stop this sort of crap from happening in the future, then he should make it his "priority" to censor the movie industry and monitor what is being released in video games to our young people out there.

But honestly, he won't! He promises more than a used car salesman.

He makes all sorts of promises regarding the economy, jobs, immigration, race relations, over taxation, energy self-sufficiency, helping small businesses recover, priority this and priority that, yet the only real priority Barack Obama has shown Americans is a desire to raise millions of dollars for himself on the campaign trail and go on vacations as often as possible.

As far as I can see, his priority is what's good for Barack Obama financially and politically - and to hell with everyone else.


Hollywood Might Be Learning Right and Wrong?

A new release called Gangster Squad is a gangster film inspired by the true story of an "unauthorized" police special task force that was formed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1949.

It was formed to deal with the influx of organized crime moving into Los Angeles.

They were supposedly called the "Gangster Squad." And yes, they had an unusually wide latitude in their authority when dealing with mobsters.

In fact they were known to have skirted around the law - and in fact many times conducting themselves in manners completely outside of the law.

In 1996, the film Mulholland Falls stared Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Melanie Griffith, Andrew McCarthy, Treat Williams, John Malkovich, and Bruce Dern.

Nick Nolte played the head of an elite group of four Los Angeles Police Department detectives. It was based on the real life "Hat Squad" or "Gangster Squad " who are known for stopping at nothing to maintain control of their jurisdiction.

Their work had the approval of the L.A. police chief, and was a classic who done it crime story. All in all it was a very good movie.

As for Gangster Squad, well it was originally scheduled for release in 2012, but the film underwent reshoots of a few scenes.

Why the reshoots? Well, some say the reshot scenes were way too close to resembling the Aurora Colorado Movie Theater Shooting that occurred last July. Because it looked a lot like what had already been done in one of those Batman movies, and copied by that crazy SOB in Aurora Colorado, the folks putting out the film removed the theater massacre scene and replaced it with something else.

The film is now expected to be released around January 11th.

So yes, the good news is that this removal of an obviously offensive scene and ability to reshoot another shows that even Hollywood is not above changing its ways! Now if only the video producers would follow suit.


Company targeting police, bounty hunters with safer ammo


xecutives with a Boise-based company are poised to begin marketing a new type of ammunition specifically for law enforcement teams and designed to avoid causing serious or fatal injuries to their targets and bystanders.

The technology was created at Integrity Ballistics LLC, a company that has spent more than 10 developing and testing a round that resembles a shotgun shell.

The round fires a synthetic ball that flattens upon impact and is intended to stun or subdue the target and the plan is to make it available only to law enforcement.

The idea for the product emerged in the months after the September 11th terrorist attacks when Integrity founder Joe Kolnik started brainstorming about ways to help federal air marshals assigned to protect planes.

The goal was to develop a type of ammunition that would not cause fatal injuries to innocent bystanders or pierce the skin of a plane, yet be powerful enough to stop a potential hijacker.

What emerged is the company's Burns Round, named after Kolnik's cousin, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Kyle Burns, who died in action in Iraq in 2004, the Idaho Business Review reported in story published last week.

The product the company hopes to begin marketing in early 2013 looks like an orange shotgun shell and is made up of three proprietary components: a pliable dark gray ball, orange plastic that encases the ball and a base filled with propellant.

Fired out of a 12-gauge shotgun, the ball -- made of soft polymer composite -- flattens like a pancake on impact and stuns and bruises a human target.

The ammo is being marketed as a tool for law enforcement officers that can be used to defuse standoffs, crowd control or other scenarios in which law enforcement may need to gain the upper hand.

"It will be a lot safer for the officer and for the person being shot," said Jim Greer, the CEO who joined the company in 2008. "What our products are going to do is stop and defuse threats."

Greer said the company obtained a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives earlier this year, clearing the path to manufacture the round.

The company describes the ammo as "less-lethal" and "less-than-lethal" on its website. According to the Small Arms Survey, an independent university research project located in Geneva, Switzerland, these two terms are all used to describe law enforcement ammunition such as rubber bullets and bean bags.

During the testing phase, Integrity's partners fired the Burns Round repeatedly at indoor gun ranges and targets on land administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management. They also sent the ammo to Wayne State University in Detroit for more rigorous trials.

Integrity's website displays two results from the university's Ballistics Impact Research Lab that show the Burns Round causes less penetration and soft tissue damage than sock rounds.

About 450 companies in 52 countries make less-lethal or less-than-lethal weapons, according to the Small Arms Survey. Many of the firms provide both ammunition and "launchers." Integrity Ballistics concentrates on ammo alone.

The company will begin marketing its product to law enforcement agencies, bounty hunters and the prison industry in January.

My only question, why not regular Americans as well so that we can better defend our homes and families and obtain the same results as what law enforcement will?

A just "less-lethal" and "less-than-lethal" round just might be a good thing when having to confront a burglar or intruder?

If the first round or two sends the bad guys running and really is a product that is going to stop and defuse threats, then why not make it available to American citizens to use before having to use deadly force?

Story by Tom Correa

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