Can Gov. Rauner Put Illinois Pension Funds in the Black?

If any one state stands out in the race to the bottom of public employee pension insolvency, Illinois would be it. And GOP Governor Bruce Rauner is steeling himself to prevent a collapse.  Rauner, a former private equity fund manager, was elected last November over Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn.  He faces $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, or about $8,500 per resident.  The years of greed, corruption and bad luck having taken a toll, the governor and his top fiscal policy adviser, Donna Arduin, have proposed tough measures to reverse course.  So far, they haven’t won any friends among public-sector unions – or the Illinois Supreme Court, which on May 8 sided with the unions in invalidating reforms enacted in late 2013.

State-sponsored pension systems across the nation are facing a solvency crisis despite the recovery of the stock market since the 2008 crash.  Numerous studies have indicated as …

Will Criminal Charges Bring Justice for GM Victims?

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has concluded that there was criminal wrongdoing by General Motors as the company covered-up a deadly ignition switch defect for years. That defect has now been blamed for causing the deaths of at least 107 motorists. While many observers may have been able to come to the conclusion that GM was guilty long before the Justice Department’s recent epiphany, the bigger question now is, what’s next?

GM still faces litigation risks as ongoing lawsuits seek justice for the victims’ families that suffered as a result of GM’s criminal actions. Full justice may never be served for those who suffered their losses prior to GM’s Obama-orchestrated 2009 bankruptcy process as the bankruptcy judge in that case, Robert Gerber, has given GM a free pass on any losses that occurred prior to the government bailout in a recent ruling.

There is one major …

Corrupt Congressman Claims Congress Needs a Raise

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), former federal judge who was impeached in 1988 for perjury and accepting bribes, on Monday asserted that members of Congress are not paid enough. He told the House Rules Committee:

Members deserve to be paid, staff deserves to be paid and the cost of living here is causing serious problems for people who are not wealthy to serve in this institution.

Reaction was immediate. From an article by Lachlan Markay in the Washington Free Beacon:

Aside from access to subsidized travel, gym memberships, haircuts, and the like, congressmen have a retirement plan which averages about $40,000 a year for retired members,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog.

The argument that Congress in underpaid was made last year by another corrupt Congressman, Jim Moran, of Virginia. Despite a string of Complaints to the House Ethics Committee and …

Sharpton Daughter Sues NYC for $5 Million over Sprained Ankle

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” goes the adage. In Al Sharpton’s family, the words are doubly true. This past weekend, Dominique Sharpton, the eldest of Reverend Al’s two adult daughters, announced she has sued the City of New York for $5 million over a sprained ankle she sustained last October while tripping over uneven pavement in the middle of a Lower Manhattan street. She claims that she was “severely injured, bruised and wounded” and “still suffers and will continue to suffer for some time physical pain and bodily injuries.” Yet given the outsized award sought, and her seemingly healthy condition only a couple months later, this may be an attempt to game our liability system; i.e., a hoax. And there is another issue: Is dad looking for a cut?

The Reverend Al Sharpton is a master of the shakedown of white-run organizations under the guise of “civil …

WSJ Editorial Wrong About Menendez Indictment

It’s been almost a month since the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial titled “The Menendez Indictment.”  We responded in a letter to the editor that has not been published. It’s a safe bet it never will be, so we post it here.

The Journal got to the point in its opening paragraph:

Ill-defined federal laws now reach into virtually every sphere of human behavior, and thus prosecutors can destroy almost anyone they choose. The recent indictment of Senator Robert Menendez on 14 counts of corruption and “honest services” fraud is a troubling case in point that deserves more than a little skepticism.

Here’s our response:

To the Editor:

The Journal argues that prosecutors have “no evidence” of crimes by Senator Robert Menendez (“The Menendez Indictment,” op-ed, April 16) and points out that the large donations from his chief benefactor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, were “legal and disclosed.”

You

Azerbaijan Junket Broke House Rules

According to a report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that was leaked to the Washington Post, ten House members broke House Rules when they took an all-expenses paid trip in 2013 to a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, courtesy of an oil company known as SOCAR. Also enjoying free trips were 32 staff members.

Azerbaijan is a country in Central Asia ruled by strongman Ilham Aliyev. In 2012, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project named him its “Person of the Year” for doing “the most to promote organized criminal activity or advance corruption.”

OCE apparently acted in response to a July 2014 story in the Houston Chronicle by Lise Olsen and Will Tucker describing the trip. In addition to SOCAR, BP, ConocoPhillips and KBR also helped to pay the costs of the event, estimated at $1.5 million. Those costs included $100,000 for hotels, $75,000 for food and entertainment, and …

Will Rush to Judgment in Baltimore Lead to More Rioting?

sharpton rawlings-blakeIn Baltimore, the ashes have cooled; the curfew has ended; the National Guardsmen have left; and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have gone home.  But the apparent normalcy is misleading.  For the orgy of looting, vandalism and arson last week following the death of a black petty criminal, Freddie Gray, may return with a vengeance if the six arrested local police officers, three white and three black, are not convicted.  Gray died on April 19 of spinal injuries sustained a week earlier while in custody. Last Friday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced arrests for one count of second-degree murder and several counts of manslaughter, assault and misconduct.  Yet treating this case as a homicide, racially motivated or not, isn’t just premature.  It’s also a capitulation to mob rule.

It has become a familiar story over the past year.  A white police officer or group of officers encounters a black …

GAO Challenges Energy Dept. on Green Loan Success Claims

Peter DavidsonBack in November the Department of Energy boasted that its loan program for renewable energy technologies and “advanced” (mostly electric) vehicles had achieved a positive balance, which many in the media lapped up after so many failures such as Solyndra.

But now that the Government Accountability Office has revealed in a detailed study that the true cost of the loan program to taxpayers is $2.2 billion – plus administrative expenses – journalists are nowhere to be found. As for DOE, they still stick to their story.

The GAO explained that the staggering sum reflects the “credit subsidy cost” of the loans and loan guarantees in the portfolios of Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, which now have been combined. The credit subsidy cost is defined by GAO as “the net present value of the difference between projected cash flows to and from the government over the …

Baltimore Violence is Obama’s Failed Legacy on Race

As our first African-American president, Barack Obama had the opportunity to personify the final triumph of civil rights, and in the process, become a celebrated and historic figure. Instead, his ironic legacy on race is one of abject failure, as the rioting and looting in Baltimore underscore. The tragic reality is that Obama passed on the opportunity to the “post-racial” president he promised to be when he first ran in 2008.

Instead, he farmed out leadership on racial issues to Al Sharpton, for whom grievance is like oxygen. The prejudgment of George Zimmerman, and related fury, set the stage for Ferguson, which was followed by the murder of New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Now Baltimore looks like a scene from 1968, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake having no problem appearing with Sharpton on Thursday, an implicit endorsement of the violence, or at least, the Obama/Holder version …

GM Misses Earnings – Burns over $3 Billion in First Quarter

It appears that General Motors is trying to remedy one of the latest criticisms against them. That criticism is that the company has way too large a “cash hoard” and most recently came from former Obama Auto Task Force member turned shareholder activist, Harry Wilson. Well Harry, be at ease; GM has managed to reduce that so-called hoard by over $3 billion in just three months as first quarter earnings flopped on Wall Street.

An analysis of GM’s earnings data release shows that cash and cash equivalents plunged from $19 billion to $15.8 billion. Marketable securities’ value also fell from $9.2 billion to $8.4 billion. Unfortunately for GM optimists who might want to point to GM’s share buy-back as the reason for the cash burn, it turns out that GM only used $400 million in cash during the quarter to repurchase 10 million shares. Despite that buyback, the number …

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