Britain votes in cliff-hanger election

(Reuters) – Britons voted on Thursday in a knife-edge election, with opinion polls suggesting the opposition Conservatives will win the popular vote but fail to secure an outright parliamentary majority.


With the result too close to call, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ruling Labor Party retains a chance of staying in power, perhaps in coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats.

Whoever wins will have to deal with a record budget deficit running in excess of 11 percent of national output, and demands for political reform following a parliamentary expenses scandal last year which left Britons disgusted with lawmakers.

“This election has been more exciting, more than I expected,” said lawyer Lorraine Mullins, voting at a busy polling station in central London.

The center-right Conservatives, led by former public relations executive David Cameron, have seen a commanding poll lead dwindle since the turn of the year, with voters seemingly reluctant to embrace the change they say they offer after 13 years of Labor rule.

Markets want a clear-cut result and fear that a stalemate could lead to political paralysis, hampering efforts to tackle the nation’s spiraling debt and secure recovery from the worst recession since World War Two.

The equation has been made more complex by a surge in support for the Lib Dems, energized by strong performances in TV debates by leader Nick Clegg, who shares Cameron’s relative youth — they are both 43 — and easy manner.

After weeks of frenzied campaigning, the three main party leaders cast their votes early, smiling and waving to the gathered ranks of media.

The likeliest outcome is a “hung parliament” in which no party wins an outright majority in the 650-seat house. Britain has not had an inconclusive election since 1974 and does not have a tradition of coalition-building like its neighbors in continental Europe.

Sterling hit a near nine-month high on Wednesday against a euro weakened by the crisis in Greece. However, analysts say the markets could turn their fire on British assets should efforts to form a government prove protracted and messy.


Brown’s Labor party has shown some improvement in the latest polls and the quirks of the British parliamentary system mean it could finish third in terms of vote share and still remain the largest bloc in parliament.

That scenario could leave the Lib Dems holding the balance of power and certain to press their case for electoral reform to a more proportional system. Other minor parties could also find themselves playing a significant role.

Clegg has said he would find it hard to do a deal with Brown if Labor does finish third, but has not ruled out working with an alternative Labor leader, or with the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems share Labor’s concern that spending cuts should not be imposed until economic recovery is established and Labor are more open to electoral reform than the Conservatives.

The Conservatives have promised to cut the deficit harder and faster than Labor and to squeeze out 6 billion pounds ($9 billion) in efficiency savings in the current year.

Labor has warned voters that this could cost jobs and jeopardize the recovery but independent commentators say the figures are tiny compared with a forecast deficit this year of 163 billion pounds ($252 billion).

Independent think-tanks have accused all the parties of failing to be open with voters about the scale of cuts that will be needed to restore public finances.

Bookmaker William Hill made a hung parliament its 4/7 favorite for the election outcome, with a Conservative majority the second favorite at 6-4.

The six latest newspaper polls put the Conservatives between six and nine percentage points ahead of Labor, making them the largest party, but denying them outright control, with the Lib Dems slipping to third in some surveys.

Britain’s tabloid newspapers were emblazoned with bold headlines. The Sun hailed Cameron as “Our Only Hope” in a front page decked out in the style of Barack Obama’s posters for his victorious U.S. presidential campaign.

Only the Daily Mirror pledged support for Brown, 59. It asked voters if they could really picture Cameron as prime minister, describing his hobbies as “cutting public services; rewarding rich and privileged” and “fox hunting”.

Polls close at 2100 GMT and exit polls broadcast immediately afterwards will give the first indication of the outcome, with results coming in from up and down the country through the night and well into Friday.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir, Avril Ormsby, and Caroline Copley; Editing by Jodie Ginsberg/Mark Trevelyan)

New recycling bins with tracking chips coming to Alexandria

(Andrew Harnik/Examiner)

By: Markham Heid
Examiner Staff Writer

Alexandria residents soon will have to pay for larger home recycling bins featuring built-in monitoring devices.

The City Council added a mandatory $9 charge to its residents’ annual waste collection fee.

That cash — roughly $180,000 collected from 19,000 residents– will pay for new larger recycling carts equipped with computer microchips, which will allow the city to keep tabs on its bins and track resident participation in the city’s recycling program.

“If you know who’s participating in the programs, you can focus your education and outreach to those who are not participating,” said Stacy Herring, Alexandria’s recycling coordinator.

Rich Baier, Alexandria’s environmental services program director, said the city will use direct mailing campaigns and public presentations to target neighborhoods — not individuals — that lag when it comes to recycling.

“We’re just trying to get the biggest bang where we need it for the buck,” Baier said. “We don’t want to get into exactly what people are recycling.”

The new carts will come in sizes ranging form 25 to 65 gallons, and will sport wheels and lids. While the $9 charge is mandatory, residents may keep their old 18-gallon bins if they so choose.

Councilman Frank Fannon, the lone City Council member to oppose the new recycling bins, said he was against increased government spending, not recycling.

A a glance

» Cost to Alexandria residents: Roughly $180,000, or about $9 per bin

» Bin size: Ranges from 25 to 65 gallons, replacing the old 18-gallon bins

» Time frame for implementation: August or September

» Alexandria’s current recycling rate: About 29 percent

» Alexandria’s target: 35 percent

» Expected recycling rate increase using new bins: At least 2 percent

Source: Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services

“I thought this was just another fee that we didn’t have to pass on to the residents,” he said.

Herring said the city conducted a survey among Old Town residents last May that found 60 percent wanted larger bins. She also said other jurisdictions had implemented bigger recycling bins and had seen recycling rates shoot up as a result.

“The larger the container, the more people recycle,” Herring said, citing a study conducted by Eureka Recycling, a Minnesota nonprofit organization that promotes recycling.

Alexandria recently reported a 29 percent recycling rate to the state. Virginia requires most localities to recycle 25 percent of its waste, while the Environmental Protection Agency advocates a 35 percent target.

Baier said larger bins increase recycling rates because residents tend to throw their excess recyclables into regular trash cans once their recycling bins fill up.

He also said litter was a problem with the current bins, which don’t have lids to prevent light materials from blowing out into area neighborhoods.

Venishka Hurdle, who coordinates recycling education programs in Arlington, said the county implemented larger, tracking-chip loaded recycling bins last year and saw the curbside recycling rate jump roughly 24 percent. The county’s overall recycling rate is about 40 percent, she said.

“They’ve been a huge success,” Hurdle said of the new bins. “Residents love them, and they recycle more materials as well.”

Hurdle said Arlington County is collecting data from the bins’ microchips, but had not yet used that data to improve recycling outreach and education programs.

Alexandria residents can expect to see their waste collection fees jump up in July, and likely will receive their new bins this summer.

The FCC Goes for the Nuclear Option

By Phil Kerpen-

If FCC Chairman Genachowski announces his intention to reclassify the Internet as a telephone system, he will be reversing 30 years of precedent

As I have repeatedly warned and noted on, when Congress blocks the Obama administration, the White House always finds a way to get around the normal policy-making process and pursue its agenda by other means. Today’s reclassification assault on the Internet is the latest—and perhaps the most egregious—example.

In its effort to imposing crippling net neutrality regulations on the Internet—an idea with very little support from the American public or Congress—the Obama administration first turned to the FCC simply to pretend Congress has given it authority to regulate.

That effort suffered a major setback when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals emphatically smacked down the FCC’s regulatory proposals in Comcast v. FCC. President Obama and his close friend and FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, however, refuse to back down. Instead they’re escalating to the regulatory equivalent of a nuclear attack on the free-market Internet: Chairman Genachowski will announce today his intention to reclassify broadband Internet as an old-fashioned telephone system as a pretext for pervasive regulatory control.

Broadband Internet service has never been regulated like old-fashioned telephone lines — classified as “Title II” under the Telecommunications Act. The FCC settled the matter definitively in 1998, when Clinton-appointed FCC Chairman William Kennard demolished the same reclassification arguments being made today in that year’s Report to Congress:

Our findings in this regard are reinforced by the negative policy consequences of a conclusion that Internet access services should be classed as “telecommunications” … Classifying Internet access services as telecommunications services could have significant consequences for the global development of the Internet. We recognize the unique qualities of the Internet, and do not presume that legacy regulatory frameworks are appropriately applied to it.

If Chairman Genachowski announces, as expected, his intention to reclassify the Internet as a telephone system, he will be reversing 30 years of precedent starting with the Carter administration FCC’s “Computer II” decision and definitively settled with respect to broadband Internet access by the Clinton FCC in 1998. Turning sharply left from Carter and Clinton indicates a pretty extreme shift beyond the mainstream of American politics.

Such a shift is unjustified, because free-market Internet policy has been a tremendous success. The Internet — in the absence of regulation — has flourished into a remarkable engine of economic growth, innovation, competition, and free expression. Such triumph argues in favor of continuing existing successful policies, but with today’s announcement the FCC shows it is more interested in satisfying a left-wing political constituency than continuing sound policy.

Consider the words of one of the leading advocates of Internet regulation, Robert McChesney, founder of the left-wing group Free Press. McChesney said to “What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility.”

He went on to explain: “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

Not surprisingly, Free Press put out a statement yesterday just minutes after the story leaked that the FCC would pursue reclassification. Remarkably, they openly stated that even the nuclear option of total regulatory control under a utility-type model is not enough for them, saying: “This is extremely welcome news. We reserve judgment, however, on whether the FCC has gone far enough.”

The communications industry is, like health care, roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Unlike health care, however, the FCC seems to believe it can take over the communications system with just three votes at the Commission. If they insist on trying, Congress needs to step in and stop them.

Phil Kerpen is vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity and director of its project. He can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, and through

Blame Obama. Why Not?

From: The Wall Street Journal

Your Uncle Sam has spent 100 years turning himself into Jabba the Hut.

The left and the media knee-capped the Bush presidency for not making Hurricane Katrina go away fast enough. So now, like a village feud in ancient Sicily, the right and its media are knee-capping the Obama presidency for not making the Gulf’s spilled oil go away fast enough. Boo hoo.

Are we supposed to say that the criticism of Mr. Obama is unfair? Sorry. The permanent smackdown that is now U.S. politics has devolved into a zero-sum proposition whenever anything bad happens in American life—an oil spill, a terrorist bomb in Times Square, a financial meltdown, a mining disaster.

It works like this: If you occupy a position of leadership or responsibility in public or private life, your thought process in the face of disaster now runs rationally in this order: 1) Am I going to get blamed for this? 2) Is there anything we can do to help? 3) Will we get tagged if something goes wrong with that effort?

Daniel Henninger says that a government that gets too big is not going to be able to do big things when we really need it.

The answer of course to (1) and (3) is that you will get blamed for days on end, no matter what the facts are. If under some ancient compulsion of honor you admit some culpability, the plaintiffs lawyers will pillage your assets, and a political-media bonfire will burn down what’s left of your reputation. Why go there? In the pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey world we occupy now, the political and legal price of taking ownership is too high.

The answer to (2)—can we help?—is a more interesting case, especially if we limit it to the idea that when a big disaster strikes the government should come forward.

It is obvious that the Obama White House initially wanted to put distance between itself and that oil spill. And why not? What were they supposed to do? But in a world of political-media blood sport, the politicians understand that their survival means they have to throw someone to the wolves. Thus, ahead of having any clue what caused the failure of the BP oil rig, Mr. Obama’s interior secretary and his press secretary said the government’s contribution would be to “keep a boot on the neck” of BP.

There’s a valid reason why their main contribution will be to keep Uncle Sam’s boot on BP’s neck: The people who live inside the government know that what government can do is in fact rather limited.

In a Politico story this week on the politics of the oil spill, a senior member of the Obama administration said of the mess: “If it doesn’t show the impotence of government, it shows the limits of the government.”

The limits of the government? There is such a thing?

There is now. And we better start admitting it.

For the longest time, whenever a disaster such as Katrina or this oil spill hit, people have expected the government to step up and move heaven and earth to help. With a big mess, you need big authority to clear a path. The assumption beneath this expectation is that government, if it really wants to, can do just about anything.

One can understand why elected officials would want people to buy into the myth of government’s Valhalla-like omnipotence, but why, against so much evidence, would the public believe it? With the events of 9/11 and then with Hurricane Katrina, we had two case studies of public bureaucracies grown so large and labyrinthine that at crunch time they failed.

The most enduring myth in American life is that many people still think Uncle Sam is the lean, mean dude in the “I Want You!” World War II posters. In fact, after about 100 years of chowing down responsibilities, Uncle has inflated into something as big, powerful and sloppy as Jabba the Hut, a fat guy who can barely move.

Yesterday, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said Washington should send more antiterror money to his endangered city. What money? They just taxed everything in sight to pay for ObamaCare.

The national security apparatus is improving. Catching Faisal Shahzad 53 hours after he fled his car bomb in Times Square is encouraging. But we may be at a point where someone in public life needs to step up and push this subject beyond “cut the deficit.”

We will never reduce anything if we don’t first answer some important questions: What exactly is it that we expect government to do for us—and not do for us? Harder still, what is government able to do for us? Security tops the list. Below that, everything’s fair game for a downgrade or dumping.

Imploding Greece and fretful Europe are not the United States. But they are portents. We have too-fat California and New York. We are getting there. People pay for government with taxes and want their money’s worth. But a government that gets too big is not going to be able to do big things when we really need it.

By Daniel Henninger

Obama Stands with Muslims as He Promised

By Kyle-Anne Shiver

Now that Barack Obama is well into his presidency, it’s clear that he is keeping at least one promise he made. He is standing with the Muslims.

In his chapter on “Race” in The Audacity of Hope, then-Senator Obama devoted a section to his post-9/11 concerns over the treatment of Muslim Americans. He makes special mention of meetings he had with Arab- and Pakistani-Americans, drawing attention to the “urgent quality” these meetings had taken after the 9/11 attacks on the WTC.

[T]he stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their [Arab- and Pakistani-Americans’] sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific assurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction. [Emphasis mine.]
– Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, p. 261

One Pakistani-American just learned that his citizenship meant a great deal of unmolested access to a whole host of possible terror victims. And since President Obama has taken a number of measures to ensure that no Muslim American feels “profiled” in any connection to terror plots, I think we can freely assume that until his arrest on board an Emirates airplane two days ago, Faisal Shahzad felt just as welcome and loved here as he did in the country of his birth and at his favorite mosque. As a naturalized American citizen, Faisal Shahzad moved freely, completely under the radar of any law enforcement entity or terror-watch agency.

Shahzad’s bank knew far more about him than our so-called national security people. Our national security employees are those folks making big bucks to find people like Shahzad before they have a chance to blow any of us real American citizens to kingdom come. However, as was the case with the Ft. Hood terrorist, our national security and military personnel have become quite skittish in appearing to make any connection between the Muslim religion/political ideology and worldwide terrorism. Therefore, they don’t look at the obvious until it is too late. Instead, resources are being squandered in the president’s witch hunt against Tea Party grandmas and kiddies and middle-class homemakers and dads, all waving their American flags.

Shahzad’s real estate agent even knew something of this Pakistani’s politics. Shahzad virulently hated President Bush and vociferously denounced the Iraq War, just as Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress did.

From Shahzad’s outspoken hatred of Bush and the Iraq War, we can deduce that Shahzad was most likely in full agreement with John Kerry’s assertion that our troops were “terrorizing” Iraqi women and children in their homes in the “dead of night.” Shahzad was most likely nodding his head the day that late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) publicly convicted — without a shred of evidence — the Haditha Marines of “cold-blooded murder.” Those Marines, of course, have since been exonerated, but as their acquittals didn’t receive nearly the media attention as the charges against them, I doubt Shahzad even knew the Marines were innocent of killing his fellow Muslim civilians in murderous with no cause.

We can also infer that Shahzad may have even cheered the day he saw the video of Rep. Harkin (D-IA) standing in the floor of the once-great American Congress and screamed at his fellow representatives: “You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.” I doubt Faisal Shahzad was amused by this rant; he was most likely incensed.

Once Obama was elected, and as Obama had professed his intention to “stand with the Muslims,” Shahzad may have expected an immediate end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When Obama did not perform as expected, then perhaps Shahzad felt an urgent need to strike out at America, “the great Satan.”

Shahzad’s work visas, prior to his request for citizenship being granted, were in the skilled-labor areas. He was a financial analyst, having earned two degrees at U.S. universities. He seems to have gone completely unnoticed by professors, who do not even remember him. Or perhaps, following this president’s lead, these professors are simply refusing to remember any references their student may have made regarding his political/religious extremism.

Shahzad bought a house and lived an apparently quiet, unobtrusive lifestyle…that is, until he spent eight months out of the country, in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled hinterland.

Now, Faisal Shahzad is commonly referred to as the would-be Times Square Bomber. Yes, as his name and heritage indicate, he is a Muslim.

And yes, President Obama is standing with him. Though the president is taking great public pains to appear tough on terror and the real terrorists — as opposed to the imaginary ones (i.e., conservatives and Tea Partiers) — Barack Obama has actually gone to great lengths to make sure others like Shahzad remain utterly undisturbed. Others who at this very minute remain undetected among us, ready to strike on orders from radicalized Imams or terror-army chiefs, walk among us, now knowing that they have a true friend and protector in the White House. Barack Obama has successfully purged from the national discourse on terrorism — excuse me, “man-made disasters” — any mention of the religion/political ideology which is the undeniable common denominator.

Carefully protecting feelings can be a priority of a mommy tending her babies. Protecting a group’s feelings at the expense of a nation’s real safety is a huge no-no for a Commander in Chief. And if Barack Obama would prefer to be the nurturing mommy to all Muslims, he ought to resign from the presidency. Trying to be both a mommy to Muslim sensibilities and to perform adequately as our president is a losing formula for every real peace-loving American citizen.

It’s a terrible thing when Americans have to face the day not only needing to know where their own children are, but also asking the haunting question: Do you know where your Muslim neighbor is, and what he’s up to?

We have to ask that question now because our president and his people will not.

So in the end, Barack Obama has brought about the exact scenario he has worked so hard to avoid. If Americans were assured that our president and our national security employees are doing the necessary watching and profiling, then we would also know we don’t have to do it. We could be nice, hospitable, and open to our American Muslim neighbors and coworkers.

But when we know that the people paid to fight terrorism refuse to see the obvious, then we are necessarily put on high alert. We take on their jobs. We watch. We stare. We shy from the company of those we know might become our worst nightmare.

Here Come The Suns….

by Andrew Mellon

As readers are likely aware, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns wore ‘Los Suns’ jerseys for Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. First off, let me just say that if they were to be grammatically accurate, the jerseys should have read ‘Los Soles.’

More importantly, the premise that the the Arizona immigration law is unjust, and that thus the Suns should wear these jerseys to stand in solidarity with Hispanics against it is a flawed one.

As Byron York has been adeptly arguing in recent days, the Arizona law is a carefully crafted one. According to Mr. York it is only

the criticism of the law that is over the top, not the law itself.

The law requires police to check with federal authorities on a person’s immigration status, if officers have stopped that person for some legitimate reason and come to suspect that he or she might be in the U.S. illegally. The heart of the law is this provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency…where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person…”

Critics have focused on the term “reasonable suspicion” to suggest that the law would give police the power to pick anyone out of a crowd for any reason and force them to prove they are in the U.S. legally. Some foresee mass civil rights violations targeting Hispanics.

What fewer people have noticed is the phrase “lawful contact,” which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. “That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he’s violated some other law,” says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. “The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop.”

As far as “reasonable suspicion” is concerned, there is a great deal of case law dealing with the idea, but in immigration matters, it means a combination of circumstances that, taken together, cause the officer to suspect lawbreaking. It’s not race — Arizona’s new law specifically says race and ethnicity cannot be the sole factors in determining a reasonable suspicion.

Mr. Kobach quickly dispels these and other misconceptions about the law in a recent New York Times Editorial. His arguments are as follows:

On the notion that it is unfair to demand that aliens carry their documents with them:

…since 1940, it has been a federal crime for aliens to fail to keep such registration documents with them. The Arizona law simply adds a state penalty to what was already a federal crime.

On the charge of racial profiling:

Actually, Section 2 provides that a law enforcement official “may not solely consider race, color or national origin” in making any stops or determining immigration status. In addition, all normal Fourth Amendment protections against profiling will continue to apply. In fact, the Arizona law actually reduces the likelihood of race-based harassment by compelling police officers to contact the federal government as soon as is practicable when they suspect a person is an illegal alien, as opposed to letting them make arrests on their own assessment.

On the issue that states should not get involved with immigration:

…the Supreme Court since 1976 has recognized that states may enact laws to discourage illegal immigration without being pre-empted by federal law. As long as Congress hasn’t expressly forbidden the state law in question, the statute doesn’t conflict with federal law and Congress has not displaced all state laws from the field, it is permitted.

So when Suns owner Robert Sarver says (and I take him at is word and assume he is not just trying to curry favor with his Hispanic fan base, perhaps naively) that “However intended, the result of passing the law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question…and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them,” one has to wonder if he understands the law.

First, what equal rights and protections under the law exactly are being violated? Second, are we to grant equal rights and protections under the law that serves lawful citizens to those who by virtue of being in the United States illegally are anathema to the law? Third, has Robert Sarver considered the seen and unseen effects of removing illegal immigrants from Arizona? Guess what, the great thing about markets is that they are flexible – people will fill the jobs left open by illegal immigrants at the right price and legally, and Arizona’s prisons will be less full, law enforcement less burdened, properties and persons less threatened and people able to spend less time and money worrying about security, and more on the business of Arizona.

And when Steve Nash says, “I think the law is very misguided. I think it’s, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it’s very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us,” does he consider the detriment to Arizonan society of the violence and economic destruction created by some of its illegal immigrants? Does he consider all of the immigrants waiting their turn to lawfully enter our country who are left in the dark and cut in line given our current federal policy and practice?

When Suns executive and former player Steve Kerr says, “…what we’re focusing on is we want to celebrate the diversity that exists in our state and the diversity that exists in the NBA, make sure that people understand that we know what’s going on and we don’t agree with the law itself,” one wonders how deluded he must be. How does wearing a ‘Los Suns’ jersey in protest of a just law that protects American citizens show that you understand what’s going on, and on what basis do you disagree with such a law? Perhaps if Mr. Kerr were to speak with Arizonans living on the border he might feel differently.

Regarding the multiculturalism and diversity that Kerr and Nash speak to, if they believe a basketball game the right arena for promoting these ideals, is it proper to do so in support of those breaking our laws? Why must there always be a race or ethnicity delineation? Are sports about diversity for the sake of diversity, or winning with a roster which may incidentally consist of people of different backgrounds? Aren’t we a post-racial society? Why not just celebrate athletic excellence, the amazing acts of the most important minority of the individual and Americanism at sporting events.

Frankly, the bottom line is that people in the “mainstream” are resorting to straw man, ad hominem attacks against those who support this law, vilifying them largely on the basis of the color of their skin, not the content of their character. After all, what white middle-aged Tea Partier isn’t a racist. The folks attacking this law are not looking at its substance because it does not fit their narrative, and because it would require rational thought as opposed to emotional reaction. And so while normally it would not be necessary to pay heed to the remarks and actions of NBA players and executives on political issues, because they made such a public misguided statement in the face of deeply concerned Americans, I believe they deserve a reasoned response.

To be sure, there are illegal immigrants who contribute positively to society, and US citizens who do not, and Americans should want the best and brightest from abroad to come to our country. But the interests of American citizens must come first, and our citizens should not have to cower; they should boldly assert that this is so.

We can have a debate on immigration – about what kind of people we want coming into our country, about the welfare state itself that leads to the economic burden on and of our native and immigrant population and about our drug laws which make trafficking lucrative and create crime, but it is a travesty that so many are attacking this immigration law without realizing its equity and efficacy in helping protect the life, liberty and property of Arizonans and more broadly, Americans.

New U.S. Push to Regulate Internet Access


WASHINGTON—In a move that will stoke a battle over the future of the Internet, the federal government plans to propose regulating broadband lines under decades-old rules designed for traditional phone networks.

The decision, by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, is likely to trigger a vigorous lobbying battle, arraying big phone and cable companies and their allies on Capitol Hill against Silicon Valley giants and consumer advocates.

Breaking a deadlock within his agency, Mr. Genachowski is expected Thursday to outline his plan for regulating broadband lines. He wants to adopt “net neutrality” rules that require Internet providers like Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. to treat all traffic equally, and not to slow or block access to websites.

The decision has been eagerly awaited since a federal appeals court ruling last month cast doubt on the FCC’s authority over broadband lines, throwing into question Mr. Genachowski’s proposal to set new rules for how Internet traffic is managed. The court ruled the FCC had overstepped when it cited Comcast in 2008 for slowing some customers’ Internet traffic.

In a nod to such concerns, the FCC said in a statement that Mr. Genachowski wouldn’t apply the full brunt of existing phone regulations to Internet lines and that he would set “meaningful boundaries to guard against regulatory overreach.”

Some senior Democratic lawmakers provided Mr. Genachowski with political cover for his decision Wednesday, suggesting they wouldn’t be opposed to the FCC taking the re-regulation route towards net neutrality protections.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, whose authority over broadband lines has been questioned by a federal court, plans to use regulation on traditional phone networks to establish rules for Internet providers.

“The Commission should consider all viable options,” wrote Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, W.V.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D, Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a letter.

At stake is how far the FCC can go to dictate the way Internet providers manage traffic on their multibillion-dollar networks. For the past decade or so, the FCC has maintained a mostly hands-off approach to Internet regulation.

Internet giants like Google Inc., Inc. and eBay Inc., which want to offer more Web video and other high-bandwidth services, have called for stronger action by the FCC to assure free access to websites.

Cable and telecommunications executives have warned that using land-line phone rules to govern their management of Internet traffic would lead them to cut billions of capital expenditure for their networks, slash jobs and go to court to fight the rules.

Consumer groups hailed the decision Wednesday, an abrupt change from recent days, when they’d bombarded the FCC chairman with emails and phone calls imploring him to fight phone and cable companies lobbyists.

“On the surface it looks like a win for Internet companies,” said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus. “A lot will depend on the details of how this gets implemented.”

Mr. Genachowski’s proposal will have to go through a modified inquiry and rule-making process that will likely take months of public comment. But Ms. Arbogast said the rule is likely to be passed since it has the support of the two other Democratic commissioners.

President Barack Obama vowed during his campaign to support regulation to promote so-called net neutrality, and received significant campaign contributions from Silicon Valley. Mr. Genachowski, a Harvard Law School buddy of the president, proposed new net neutrality rules as his first major action as FCC chairman.

Telecom executives say privately that limits on their ability to change pricing would make it harder to convince shareholders that the returns from spending billions of dollars on improving a network are worth the cost.

Carriers fear further regulation could handcuff their ability to cope with the growing demand put on their networks by the explosion in Internet and wireless data traffic. In particular, they worry that the FCC will require them to share their networks with rivals at government-regulated rates.

Mike McCurry, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton and co-chair of the Arts + Labs Coalition, an industry group representing technology companies, telecom companies and content providers, said the FCC needs to assert some authority to back up the general net neutrality principles it outlined in 2005.

“The question is how heavy a hand will the regulatory touch be,” he said. “We don’t know yet, so the devil is in the details. The network operators have to be able to treat some traffic on the Internet different than other traffic—most people agree that web video is different than an email to grandma. You have to discriminate in some fashion.”

UBS analyst John Hodulik said the cable companies and carriers were likely to fight this in court “for years” and could accelerate their plans to wind down investment in their broadband networks.

“You could have regulators involved in every facet of providing Internet over time. How wholesale and prices are set, how networks are interconnected and requirements that they lease out portions of their network,” he said.
—Niraj Sheth, Spencer E. Ante, Sara Silver and Nat Worden contributed to this article.

Creepy Pennsylvania Tax Agency Ad Goes Big Brother

An image from the 30-second advertisement Pennsylvania's Department of Revenue is using to urge residents to pay back taxes.

By Joseph Abrams

A threatening TV commercial appearing in Pennsylvania has residents of the state spooked by its “Orwellian” overtones, and critics are calling it a government attempt to scare delinquent citizens into paying back taxes.

In the 30-second ad, ominous mechanical sounds whir in the background as a satellite camera zooms in through the clouds and locks onto an average Pennsylvania home. The narrator begins her cold and calculating message:

Your name is Tom … You live just off of 5th Street … Nice car, Tom — nice house. What’s not so nice is you owe Pennsylvania $4,212 in back taxes. Listen Tom, we can make this easy. Pay online by June 18th and we’ll skip your penalty and take half off your interest because Tom, we do know who you are.

The satellite snares its target — Tom’s house — and the screen flashes another menacing line as the ad peters out:


Critics say the ad is a threatening campaign against Pennsylvanians — and one that will be a clear waste of taxpayer money if it doesn’t work.

“Clearly the government is trying to intimidate and threaten people, which I don’t think is something government should do,” said Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“These Pennsylvania ads are irritating, a waste of money and government bullying,” he said.

Pennsylvania is also running print ads warning of the “imminent death of Mr. Nice Guy” once its 54-day amnesty period ends in mid-June. “But after June 18, well, things could get complicated,” reads one ad.

Don’t speak English? Don’t think you’re safe from the taxman: The state is running Spanish-language ads with the same threats in mind.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Revenue defended the ad campaign, saying the spots tested well with focus groups who were incensed at tax delinquents.

“The ads are intentionally edgy,” said Pennsylvania Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie Weyant.

“Obviously with advertising we’re trying to cut through the clutter and motivate tax delinquents … to pay up in a very short time. Our budget in Pennsylvania depends on it.”

Weyant told that Pennsylvania is suffering a $1.1 billion budget deficit, and she said tax delinquency further deprives the state of millions each year, even as the majority of Pennsylvanians are unfairly forced to cover the burden for tax dodgers.

“Ninety-seven percent of Pennsylvanians pay their taxes,” she said. “This advertising campaign is targeted toward the 3 percent who avoided the department’s efforts to collect back taxes from them.”

Under the terms of the amnesty, Pennsylvanians who owe back taxes have from March 26 until June 18 to pay what they owe, avoiding fines that are generally levied and paying only half the interest they owe. If they miss the cutoff date, an additional 5 percent fine is levied against them going forward. Most of the money covered by the amnesty comes from unpaid corporation, income, sales and inheritance taxes, according to the state.

Whatever the criticisms of the ads’ tone, Weyant said they’ve already been a success, drawing in 14,000 applications from delinquents and $16 million in back taxes — a first step toward the $190 million the state hopes to raise.

Tax amnesties have become popular tools among states facing budget crises, but none have taken so harsh or threatening a tone in their public pushes to collect tax dollars.

Brushfire, a New Jersey-based ad agency that created spots for the Garden State’s wildly successful 2009 amnesty campaign, said they steered clear of open threats — and it worked.

“The idea was to abandon the traditional approach of threats and scare tactics and instead demonstrate that Tax Amnesty was here to help taxpayers catch up on their debt so they could move on,” said John Leonardi, chairman of Brushfire, Inc. “Rather than put forth a punitive message, we wanted to answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ question in a positive way. We wanted to show how Tax Amnesty would help, not punish the taxpayer.”

New Jersey’s tax amnesty netted nearly $750 million for the state — when lawmakers had originally expected to pull in only $200 million. Other states have recently conducted similar amnesties, including Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

Oregon’s ad campaign showed clear sympathy for delinquents who have painted themselves into a corner by not paying taxes. Louisiana is touting their campaign as an upbeat “Window of Opportunity” in its amnesty ads, though just 300 people have viewed the spot online. Even fewer have seen the Oregon ads.

The controversial Pennsylvania ad has already been viewed more than 180,000 times.

“Good bad or indifferent, people are talking about the advertisement,” Weyant told

The technology featured in the ad is widely available online and hardly novel, said Weyant, an idea with which some critics concurred.

“It’s not as if there is any information that the government doesn’t already have that they’re going to get by looking at Google Earth,” said Mitchell, of the CATO Institute.

“The government theoretically already has your address from last year’s tax return.”

But Pennsylvania isn’t finished with its tax delinquents, and it is hoping to turn the heat a little higher. The Department of Revenue already publishes a list of the state’s top 200 delinquents, a practice it says it picked up from other states in 2006 to great effect. The list currently includes only incorporated businesses
, but will soon be expanded to include individuals as well in an effort to shame them into paying.

“It works,” said Weyant, who told that over $100 million had been paid in back taxes since the lists were first published online.

But the Pennsylvania amnesty hasn’t gone off without a hitch: its earliest days were marred by hour-long waits and busy signals at the department’s amnesty call center, a malfunctioning e-mail system and alerts sent to people who owed no money at all, the Associated Press reported.

But Weyant remained optimistic.

“We had to triple the number of people that we had on our phones to keep up with the volume of calls,” she said. “So far we’ve had a very good response.”

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