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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has often warned that America is being transformed under President Obama from a free-market system into a totalitarian socialist one -- and now she's employing an interesting piece of tautology, depicting the pre-Obama era as some kind of perfect free market.

Bachmann told the Christian Examiner site: "I think it is jaw dropping when you think that under his watch, the federal government has taken ownership or control of the private economy. People know that something has really changed. The federal government now owns or controls 30 percent of the private economy. Just over a year ago, you couldn't say that. Just over a year ago, 100 percent of the private economy was private. Today, 30 percent is owned or controlled by government."

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How did Maurice Clemmons, once sentenced to 100 years in prison in Arkansas, end up a free man and the prime suspect in the grisly killing of four Seattle area police officers Sunday?

Clemmons' story begins with a teenage crime spree, winds through his years as a young man spent behind bars and the commutation of his life sentence by Mike Huckabee, continues with more years in and out of prison and the degeneration of his mental state, and finally leaves off today with a massive search for a man police describe as armed and dangerous.

The story carries potentially big political ramifications for possible presidential contender Huckabee, who is now trying to deflect criticism of the commutation to the state parole board. That's in part because Huckabee's effort to downplay his role in the Clemmons commutation echoes his response in the case of another Arkansas parolee who went on to commit a gruesome crime.

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For months, Republicans have sought to slow down the pace of health care reform legislation by demanding unprecedented gestures toward transparency from Democrats. They've insisted that all aspects of the legislation be posted on the internet for days at a time before action can be taken.

Well, now that the bill is on the floor, and a flood of amendments is the surest form of obstruction, Republicans are perfectly willing to dispense with the whole transparency thing. This time around, it was the Democrats seeking to impose transparency requirements on the amendment process. Republicans no longer seem interested.

"In light of some of the trust problems and transparency problems we have, while this appears to lead to greater transparency, we can also see ways that this can limit the ability for the minority to offer amendments," said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), and, therefore, I object."

Enzi was objecting to an idea proposed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) to require all amendments be posted online before they're considered on the floor. Looks like that won't be happening.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) claimed on MSNBC this afternoon that the Bush administration purposely let Osama bin Laden get away in 2001 so they could use al-Qaeda as an excuse to invade Iraq.

"Look what happened with regard to our invasion into Afghanistan, how we apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away. How we intentionally did not follow the Taliban and al-Qaeda as they were escaping," Hinchey said. "That was done by the previous administration because they knew very well that if they would capture al-Qaeda, there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq."

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So what should we make of the recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, showing that Democratic voters are much less motivated than Republicans are to vote in 2010? Prof. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia gave us some perspective -- and said that even if the Democrats pass major programs like health care, it won't necessarily be enough to turn things back around.

"Well, look first let's stress it's a year ahead of the election, so a lot can change," Sabato cautioned. "The second point I'd make is, this is not terribly unusual. This is the norm for off year elections."

"Now why does this happen?" Sabato also explained "The opposition has a great advantage in off-year elections. Their numbers tend to be frustrated and angry about A-B-C, D-E-F. There are a lot of reasons why they're angry. The supporters of a president inevitably become somewhat disillusioned by the process of governing."

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For the most part, members of the media have focused on the spectacle of pranksters crashing a state dinner at the White House. But this week, we may finally get some clarity on the substantive issue underneath the gag: namely: how, exactly, Michaele and Tareq Salahi manage to slip by the Secret Service?

In a difficult to parse, but harshly worded statement, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) laid into the bureaucrats who may have been at fault, and suggested dire ramifications if it turns out they were asleep on the job.

"The intent of this Administration may be openness and transparency, but a security breakdown that allowed anyone who looked the part to walk off the street into a State Dinner is a slap in the face to the Secret Service employees who put their lives on the line to protect our form of government and its leaders," Thompson said.

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Back in early June, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a bit of fanfare, requested that the House "Statement of Disbursements" -- a quarterly report of all receipts and expenditures for House members and committees -- be posted online.

Nearly six months later, the SOD for the third quarter has been posted.

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Democrats and Republicans will begin considering amendments to far-reaching health care legislation on the Senate floor momentarily. This process will go on for weeks, and involve hundreds of proposed changes. But to touch things off, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely introduce Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who will offer a women's preventive health care amendment, according to a Senate Democratic aide--the first amendment of the process.

By contrast, the first Republican amendment will come from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who will propose that the bill be recommitted to the Finance Committee, which would be instructed to strip it of its Medicare cuts. At a 60 vote threshold, the amendment won't pass, but if it did, it would likely be the end of health care reform this Congress.

In other words, we're dealing with two very different species of amendments.

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