AP President Gary Pruitt points out that the Department of Justice process to obtain his reporters’ phone records was very unusual and has already had a chilling effect on newsgathering.
“Their rules require them to come to us first,” Pruitt said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But instead of trying to work with the AP, the Justice Department claimed an exception that informing the news organization would have posed a substantial threat to their investigation. The Justice Department sought phone records for 21 AP phone lines that were used by approximately 100 journalists over the course of two months, he said.
“We can’t understand why,” Pruitt said, since the records came from an outside business and couldn’t have been tampered with.
Pruitt said that the message being sent is that if officials talk to the press they are going to be sought out and monitored by the government.
“It will hurt journalism,” Pruitt said. “We are already seeing some impact.”
It’s not so much that the government is trying to plug leaks, which is a legitimate activity when national security is at stake. But the way it has been done in the past is exactly the opposite of the way the Obama administration approached the problem. Instead of investigating reporters, they should be investigating their own people to see where the leak occurred. If reporters must be investigated, cooperation is usually sought from the media outlets whose employees are being investigated. Pruitt is understandably mystified at the way the Justice Department went about trying to plug the leak.
“Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel,” said Mark Twain. For the Obama administration, who may rue the day they pulled this stunt, even in the digital age Mr. Twain’s advice is well considered.
They’re right. The New York Times says so:
Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical.
You read it here first — unless there are a lot of people who read the New York Times. Daily Kos mentioned an article at Bloomberg that also referenced the IRS auditing liberal groups:
The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.
Outrageous. Something should be done about this immediately. We must give equal victim status to liberals in this scandal. Justice demands no less.
Except no one cares very much what letter was sent to liberals or conservatives, nor does it really matter that out of more than 400 groups targeted by the IRS, about 5% appear to have been liberal.
Liberals are missing the point; it isn’t numbers, it’s the criteria used to single out applications for special scrutiny.
There were no key words like “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12 Project” that the IRS used to target certain liberal applications. “Liberal,” progressive,” and any other left-sounding words weren’t used to scrutinize applications.
Nor have we heard any complaints from liberal groups about the IRS asking for reading lists, donors’ names, the content of prayers, or clips from all mentions in the press of a particular group.
For a newspaper that boasts “All the news that’s fit to print,” the New York Times editorial board certainly doesn’t spend much time reading its own publication.
In a curious editorial, the Times called on President Obama “to deliver on his pledges to limit this country’s greenhouse gas emissions” because the daily average level of CO2 passed 400 parts per million last week. This is a level that has not been seen for three million years, writes the Times, and the magic number of 400 PPM portends catastrophe for earth:
America cannot solve a global problem by itself. But as Mr. Obama rightly observed in his inaugural address, the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet. In his State of the Union speech, he promised to take executive action if Congress failed to pass climate legislation.
Which is just what he will have to do. The prospects for broad-based Congressional action putting a price on carbon emissions are nil. The House is run by people who care little for environmental issues generally, and Senate Republicans who once favored a pricing strategy, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have long since slunk away. Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two weeks trying to derail Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a moderate named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures upward.
Hence the need for executive action. Yet we are now four months into Mr. Obama’s second term, and there is no visible sign of a coherent strategy. One plausible reason is that Mr. Obama has been preoccupied with other issues and that his key players on climate have not been in place. But that excuse disappears if Ms. McCarthy can survive a threatened Senate filibuster; even if she does not, Mr. Obama has sufficient talent in the E.P.A. and the Energy Department and among his science advisers to get started.
That Times then tries to be helpful in an executive power grab by listing several measures the president could adopt without getting involved in the messy, boring, and difficult task of taking his proposals to the people through their elected representatives. They blame the right, of course — despite the left firmly in control of the White House and the Senate.
Beyond the Times’ authoritarian proclivities, there is the astonishing realization that the New York Times editorial board doesn’t bother to read the news. If they had picked up the rival Wall Street Journal of April 18 (if they bothered, they might have gotten some tips on how to stop losing their shirt), they would have seen the headline “Rise in U.S. Gas Production Fuels Unexpected Plunge in Emissions”:
U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years, in large part because the country is making more electricity with natural gas instead of coal.
Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level since 1994, according to a recent estimate by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.
Obama is already doing his part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. His economic policies have led to a moribund economy and higher gas prices — two factors that are also responsible for lower emissions according to the Journal article.
The Times also missed the news that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — one of the government’s major climate change cheerleaders — discovered that global temperatures have been unchanged since 1995:
Global temperatures are essentially the same today as they were in 1995, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were merely 360 ppm. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose 10 percent between 1995 and 2012, yet global temperatures did not rise at all. Global warming activists are having a difficult time explaining the ongoing disconnect between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that global temperatures have disobeyed the models presented by global warming activists. From the mid-1940s through the mid-1970s, global temperatures endured a 30-year decline even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose nearly 10 percent. From 1900 through 1945, by contrast, global temperatures rose rapidly despite a lack of coal power plants, SUV’s, and substantial carbon dioxide emissions.
Bottom line: The correlation between temperature and CO2 levels in the atmosphere is not understood very well. So despite hitting the magic number of a daily average of 400 PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s stupid to make a big deal out of it when its significance is largely unknown.
What really annoys me about climate change stories is that they never, ever mention the incontrovertible fact that the earth’s climate changes naturally over the millenia, and that these changes have occurred with and without human beings on the planet. This may be a no brainer but you’d be surprised how many people who support draconian measures to limit CO2 emissions don’t know this simple truism. It’s the problem all media experiences when trying to take an enormously complex subject that even scientists don’t fully understand outside of their own discipline and reduce it to a palatable mush that can be digested by us lay people. Invariably and inevitably, confusion and misinformation reign.
The Times and other catastrophic climate change advocates want to reduce CO2 emissions when there is shaky evidence that doing so will keep the temperature from rising too much. And they wish to do it with little regard for economic growth or the overall health of our economy. The question they should be asking is how necessary are their “solutions” for dealing with a problem that may be solved by finding cheaper, cleaner alternatives to coal and oil without government help? Without any push from government, the energy industry is revolutionizing our economy by switching to natural gas — with the side benefit that CO2 emissions are way down.
Someone tell the Times about it before they write another editorial about lowering our already falling CO2 emissions.
I guess this is one way to defuse a scandal: pretend it’s just not that important.
Hillary Clinton wondered what difference it made whether we got to the truth of what happened in Benghazi. Now we have White House aide Dan Pfieffer saying it was “irrelevant” where the president was during the attack.
Weekly Standard has the transcript of a Fox News Sunday interview with Pfeiffer by Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: let’s turn to benghazi. he had a meeting with panetta in the afternoon, heard about this on an unrelated subject, wanted them to deploy forces as soon as possible. the next time he shows up, hillary clinton says she spoke to him at around 10:00 that night after the attack at the consulate, not the annex, but the attack at the consulate had ended. question, what did the president do the rest of that night to pursue benghazi?
PFEIFFER: the president was kept up to do throughout the entire night, from the moment it started till the end. this is a horrible tragedy, people that he sent abroad whose lives are in risk, people who work for him. i recognize that there’s a series of conspiracy theories the republicans are spinning about this since the night it happened, but there’s been an independent review of this, congress has held hearings, we provided 250,000 pages of — 250,000 pages of documents up there. there’s been 11 hearings, 20 staff briefings. everyone has found the same thing. this is a tragedy. the question is not what happened that night. the question is what are we going to do to move forward and ensure it doesn’t happen again? congress should act on what the president called for earlier this week, to pass legislation to actually allow us to implement the recommendations of the accountability review board. when we send diplomats off into far-flung places, there’s inherent risk. we need to mitigate that risk.
WALLACE: with all due respect, you didn’t answer my question. what did the president do that night?
PFEIFFER: kept up to date with the events as they were happening.
WALLACE: he didn’t talk to the secretary of state except for the one time when the first attack was over. he didn’t talk to the secretary of defense, he didn’t talk to chiefs. the chairman of the joint who was he talking to?
PFEIFFER: his national security staff, his national security council.
WALLACE: was he in the situation room?
PFEIFFER: he was kept up to date throughout the day.
WALLACE: do you know know whether he was in the situation room?
PFEIFFER: i don’t know what room he was in that night. that’s a largely irrelevant fact.
WALLACE: well –
PFEIFFER: the premise of your question, somehow there was something that could have been done differently, okay, that would have changed the outcome here. the accountability roof board has looked at this, people have looked at this. it’s a horrible tragedy, and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Wallace is about the only journalist who won’t accept the “doesn’t matter” mantra from the administration. One would think it matters a great deal if we have a president so disengaged that he didn’t talk to any of his main national security advisors when Americans were under attack and virtually disappeared, recusing himself from any decision making. That’s not an “irrelevant” point and Pfeiffer knows it. It’s just that he also knows the answer would make his boss look like an incompetent fool.
No doubt we will eventually be treated to similar responses to the IRS targeting scandal. It will become “irrelevant” when Obama found out about it and the question will be asked “what’s the difference if some tea party groups were targeted because they deserved to be anyway?”
The most transparently corrupt administration in history.
Despite the “Gang of Eight” in the House reaching a compromise agreement on an immigration reform bill this week, the legislation still faces a steep, uphill climb before it reaches President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The Senate seems reasonably certain to pass a version of immigration reform sometime this summer. The final tally may see upwards of 70 senators voting for the measure.
But it is equally certain that the senate bill will be DOA in the House, due largely to a “path to citizenship” in the legislation as well as inadequate border security measures.
Then there is the guest worker program. GOP House members see the senate version as far too generous to low-skilled workers and worry that despite promises to the contrary, millions of immigrants will become immediately eligible for Obamacare and other social welfare benefits.
The differences between the House and Senate approaches are vast and it is doubtful at this stage whether they can resolve the issues in conference.
If the House bill survives the entire chamber, the House and Senate will need to negotiate the considerable differences. The House bill, reflecting its Republican members, is already more conservative, and is likely to become even more so after making its way through that chamber.
For example, the Senate bill has a 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with a faster track for DREAM Act-eligible immigrants. In the House, negotiators have agreed on a 15-year pathway to citizenship that would require immigrants to go through a process where they admit they violated immigration laws, and be put under probationary status. The House bill would also include a shorter pathway for DREAM Act immigrants – those who were brought into the United States without documents as children.
House negotiators have also agreed to include a trigger that would shut down the legalization process if E-Verify is not installed within five years.
The Senate bill alone is a delicate bipartisan compromise, and pulling that legislation too much to the right or left could risk unraveling the entire agreement. A more conservative House bill will run into resistance from liberal Democratic senators — several of whom have already proposed changes to the Senate bill that makes the pathway to citizenship more generous or add provisions to cover gay partners.
On top of that, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team need to keep an eye on the far right, because conservatives like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) are already denouncing any kind of reform.
“If there’s anything that looks like amnesty that’s brought before this Congress it would be exactly the wedge that splits the Republican Party in this House,” he said in an interview. “There are a whole lot of conservatives that haven’t spoken out. They’re increasing in their intensity in this thing. I can just feel it.”
And with all the attention on Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) bipartisan work with Schumer (D-N.Y.), you would think that bill could sail through the conservative House.
“I have been exceedingly deferential to my Senate colleagues because I think they deserve a lot of credit,” Diaz-Balart added. “But there’s no doubt that a House bill will have to be a lot different than the Senate bill.”
I think the lack of border security guarantees in the senate bill could, alone, kill the entire process. There’s no bridging that gap between the two versions because it’s a matter of philosophy, not legislation. The House GOP might cave on a generous guest worker program, and may even entertain some kind of path to citizenship that won’t be called that.
But truly, some House conservatives have exactly the right idea; incremental reforms.
Congress should make it illegal to put the word “comprehensive” in any piece of legislation. Simply put, we are incapable of making good law when so many unintended consequences flow from the kind of “comprehensive” reform we see in Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and even tax reform.
Some House Republicans want to address the problem of immigration piecemeal — that is, bring to the floor specific legislation dealing with a specific issue. A separate bill for border security, guest workers, DREAM act, and even a path to citizenship. Democrats hate this approach because it’s so much harder to pass everything they want. But that’s the way it should be in a republic. Altering society by changing the way we deal with immigrants should be very difficult to achieve in order to insure that unforeseen consequences relating to the legislation can be minimized.
That is prudent governance. And that’s the way our congress should work.
John Boehner is wondering who connected with the IRS caper might be going to jail.
The disappointing answer is … probably no one.
The targeting of political groups by the IRS is apparently not a crime, according to political lawyers from both parties.
“I am not aware of any statute that prohibits IRS targeting of applicants,” said Republican lawyer Jan Baran, who served as general counsel to George H.W. Bush and the RNC. Other politically inclined lawyers agree.
Essentially, there are three types of laws that might conceivably have been broken, as Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged in his testimony before a House committee Wednesday:
1) Civil rights laws that protect people from being discriminated against by the government
2) The Hatch Act, which prevents civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity
3) Perjury laws, which prevent people from lying to Congress
For the third law to have been broken, Republicans would have to prove that IRS officials knew of improper targeting of conservatives and testified to the opposite effect. They have noted that then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman testified in March 2012 that there was no such targeting going on.
But for that to be perjury, Shulman would have had to know that he was lying. Miller admitted Friday that Shulman was wrong but suggested he wasn’t aware of the targeting.
“It was incorrect, but whether it was untruthful or not … ” Miller said, tailing off. He later added: “To my knowledge, I don’t believe he knew at the time.”
As for the first two laws, it likely would have to be proved that the staff members involved in targeting the conservative groups were deliberately doing so for political purposes.
“You would want some direct evidence of intent, that people knew what they were doing was wrong and they decided to do it anyway,” Nathan Hochman, a former assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s tax division, told Bloomberg News.
An abuse of power is not criminal? Perhaps the Founders meant for impeachment to serve as a remedy for that kind of wrongdoing. But they also could never have envisioned such an expansive bureaucracy with such terrible power over American citizens.
If what the IRS did isn’t a crime, it should be made one. The power of the state to intimidate and to destroy is great enough as it is without loopholes allowing bureaucrats who violate the public trust to escape justice.
More than a dozen Tea Party groups will file suit against the IRS this week, Fox News reports.
The groups will be represented by the American Center for Law and Justice. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow believes the number of plaintiffs will grow, although he doesn’t know if the groups will file individually or as part of a class action suit.
One of the plaintiffs will be Jay Devereaux who started his educational group Unite in Action following the Wall Street bailout. He’s been waiting two years for IRS approval of the group’s tax exempt status:
Litigation could take months or years and for some like Devereaux, time isn’t on their side.
While initially waiting for IRS approval, Devereaux dipped into his own bank account, maxed out credit cards and even borrowed money from friends so his group could put on a civic-engagement training session at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington. His goal was to eventually set up a steady stream of revenue for a tax-exempt nonprofit.
The next time Devereaux heard from the IRS, they had requested details and credentials on every single speaker and all the educational materials provided in the 78 classes held at the hotel. The IRS also wanted information on all 45 vendors, their credentials and a donor list.
Five rounds of IRS letters later, and United in Action’s tax-exempt status is still in limbo.
If they are denied, Devereaux’s group would owe the federal government “somewhere in the neighborhood of $70,000 in back taxes,” he said, referring to money he would owe the government on donations.
“It’s more than we have in our bank account,” he said.
He’s not alone.
Waco Tea Party President Toby Walker said her group applied for a 501(c)(4) status in July 2010. She’d call the IRS from time to time to check on the progress but was basically told, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ she said.
Then in February 2012, the IRS finally made contact.
Walker said she was asked questions that went well beyond the purview of the agency’s authority. They wanted to know everything about the Waco Tea Party group, their relationships with public officials, lists of volunteers and every single news story the group had ever been mentioned in.
Walker said the request was so lengthy and intrusive that had she complied with the demands, she “would have needed a U-haul truck of about 20 feet.”
“Rogue” employees? The remarkable thing about the stories that are emerging from various Tea Party groups is how consistent the IRS in the kinds of information they want — information that is clearly beyond the purview of their mandate and could even be considered trivial or harassing. Someone at the IRS took the time and effort to develop questions which they knew that organizations run out of a home would find burdensome and even impossible with which to comply.
The entire process seems to have been designed to delay, intimidate, and harass groups opposed to the re-election of the president. As has been pointed out before, the IRS excuse — that there was an avalanche of applications for tax exempt status and the IRS employees were only trying to be more efficient — is given the lie by Garance Franke-Ruta writing at The Atlantic:
But Todd Young, a Republican congressman from Indiana, pointed out at Friday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing with former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George that this was not the case, according to the very data the IRS provided to the Treasury IG’s office.
There were, he noted, actually fewer applications for tax-exempt status by groups seeking to be recognized as social-welfare organizations that year than the previous one, according to this IRS data. The real surge in applications did not come until 2012 — the year the IRS stopped the practice of treating the Tea Party class of groups differently from others.
In short, the evidence does not support the reasons given for the targeting by IRS officials. More fodder for the suits that will be filed by Tea Party groups wronged by IRS bullying.
This actually makes perfect sense. We can’t have tax exempt groups running around praying for a GOP victory. The IRS felt compelled to look into the souls of their targets in order to determine just how partisan their praying was and if they prayed equally for Democrats and Republicans.
Best if pro-life groups start maintaining a “prayer log” for reporting purposes.
While applying with the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status in 2009, an Iowa-based anti-abortion group was asked to provide information about its members’ prayer meetings, documents sent by an IRS official to the organization reveal.
On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”
“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”
The IRS is currently under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups that applied for nonprofit status in recent years. In response, two IRS officials have stepped down, including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.
At the Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday, Weasel Miller gave the following response when questioned about the IRS query:
“It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either,” Miller said. He had said earlier that he would not be able to discuss individual cases during the hearing.
“You don’t know whether or not that would be an appropriate question to ask?” Schock replied.
“Speaking outside of this case, which I don’t know anything about, it would surprise me that that question was asked,” Miller said.
Documented proof isn’t good enough for this clown. And judging by his cluelessness, there is very little doubt that Miller was “surprised” a great deal of the time about what the IRS was asking conservatives when auditing their applications.
As I pointed out in my “What Did the President Know…” article yesterday, the evidence “strongly suggested” that the question to the IRS chief of the tax-exempt organizations division, Lois Lerner, which led to the revelations about the agency targeting conservatives, was probably a plant.
One of the few nuggets of information gleaned from the “not quite fired” former IRS commissioner Stephen Miller in yesterday’s testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee confirmed that suspicion.
Lois Lerner, an IRS official with oversight of tax-exempt groups, disclosed the scrutiny at an American Bankers Association conference last Friday after a question from a lawyer who has served on IRS advisory boards.
Questioned by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Miller acknowledged that IRS officials were aware that the question would be coming.
“I believe that we talked about that, yes,” Miller said at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, the first congressional inquiry into the agency’s actions.
Both Lerner and Miller testified before Congress last week, but did not discuss the attention given to Tea Party groups. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said at Friday’s hearing that he asked Lerner last week about the IRS’s oversight of political groups seeking tax-exempt status.
For his part, Miller has consistently said throughout Friday’s hearing that he did not mislead Congress — under sharp questioning from Republicans who aren’t so sure of that.
“I always answered questions truthfully,” Miller said.
But never volunteered information that you knew full well was political dynamite.
With the inspector general’s audit of her section due out the following Tuesday, Lerner took the limited hang-out route by asking a lawyer, Celia Roady, who sat on a couple of IRS boards, to ask a question about the potential targeting of political groups.
“Lois, a few months ago there were some concerns about the IRS’s review of 501(c)(4) organizations, of applications from tea party organizations,” Celia Roady, a veteran tax lawyer, asked Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax-exempt organizations division, a few minutes after Lerner finished giving prepared remarks. “I was just wondering if you could provide an update.”
Lerner gave her response, referring to notes that were prepared in advance.
While Lerner’s remarks have since been referred to as a “slip” by lawmakers and media reports, several people in the audience on Friday said they saw Lerner refer to notes when answering the question, as if she’d prepared the response in advance. The whole thing was so strange, some even speculated that the question itself had been a plant.
You don’t just innocently plant a question when anyone with half a brain knows that the answer will set off a nuclear bomb in Washington. There was purpose and planning behind the gesture — a strategy that we are supposed to believe was created and developed at the IRS with no help from the White House.
The public relations strategy to release information that would develop into the most significant and dangerous scandal of the Obama presidency would not be left to the flaks at an agency not known for a good public image.
It’s very difficult to believe that the planted question, the roll out of the narrative, and the rest of the PR campaign to limit the damage from this revelation was not carried out by people in the White House. If so, they must have known of the targeting program far longer than anyone has so far admitted.
President Obama continues to insist that he first became aware of his IRS targeting conservative groups a week ago Friday when the news first broke.
This, despite the fact that his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, had been informed of the probe on April 22. And despite the fact, as the New York Times reports, that officials in his Treasury Department knew in March that tea party groups had been targeted.
The inspector general gave Republicans some fodder Friday when he divulged that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel he was auditing the I.R.S.’s screening of politically active groups seeking tax exemptions on June 4, 2012. He told Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly after,” he said. That meant Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
The disclosure last summer came as part of a routine briefing of the investigations that the inspector general would be conducting in the coming year, and he did not tell the officials of his conclusions that the targeting had been improper, he said.
Treasury officials stressed they did not know the results until March 2013, when the inspector presented a draft.
So the administration knew in March — a month before it was previously believed the administration had knowledge of the impropriety of the targeting program — that the president had a monumental political problem on his hands.
And yet no one bothered to tell him? His newly minted Treasury secretary claims he knew “in mid March” of the IG’s probe but says he didn’t get any of the details until a week ago Friday:
“I learned the substance of this report last Friday when it became a matter of public knowledge,” Lew said. “Before that, in mid March, I had had a conversation, just a getting-to-know-you conversation, with the inspector general right after I started, and he went through a number of items that were matters they were working on. And the topic of a project on the 501(c)3 [sic] issue was one of the things he briefed me was ongoing.
“I didn’t know any of the details of it until last Friday. When I learned about it — from the moment I learned about it, I was outraged,” he added.
Yes, yes, Jackie, I’m sure your were “outraged.” But perhaps you can explain how some of your underlings knew of the “results” of the IG probe at the same time you claim to be in the dark about the “details” of the investigation?
Instead of answering that, or any other question, Treasury flaks issued a statement that answers a question nobody is asking:
“Treasury strongly supports the independent oversight of its three inspectors general, and it does not interfere in ongoing I.G. audits,” the department said in a statement Friday evening.
Nobody wants to know if Treasury “interfered” in the IG audit. Nobody asked that question. But it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?
Politico is reporting that the White House counsel’s office was informed by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General Office in April of the IRS’s targeting of conservatives.
White House spokesman Jay Carney insists that the president was not informed of the IG’s review of the IRS and learned about the program on Friday through news reports.
The White House counsel’s office was informed in April of an inspector general’s review of the Internal Revenue Service, press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
Carney told reporters that the counsel’s office was told of the examination into the targeting of conservative groups during the week of April 22, but not given details about the review’s findings. President Obama, Carney said, was not told about the review and learned of it only after news reports emerged Friday, just what Obama said earlier Monday.
“We have never — we don’t have access to, nor should we, the IG’s report or any draft versions of it,” Carney said.
So the White House counsel’s office knew generally that the IRS was targeting conservative groups in April, but apparently didn’t know the “details.”
Suppose you’re some innocent little president, sitting in your Oval Office playing with your ship in the bottle, watching the news and all of a sudden you learn that the government that you are in charge of has been targeting your political enemies with harassment and bullying. What would be your first reaction — if you were an innocent little president?
WHY THE BLAZES DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME!
Suppose then you learn that your personal counsel kept the bad news from you. Even though he didn’t have “specific details,” he was aware of the program targeting the president’s enemies and, presuming he isn’t brain dead, knew the political ramifications of such targeting and the very real possibility that it could destroy the administration. If you were indeed just some innocent little president, minding your own business, what would be the first words out of your mouth when the White House counsel came to see you after the story broke?
I do not believe that Barack Obama first learned of the IRS’s targeting of conservatives “from news reports” on Friday. That doesn’t pass the smell test, especially since a close aide was told of the program three weeks ago. Are we to believe that the president’s own counsel didn’t immediately go to the Oval Office after learning of this and tell Obama “We’ve got a big problem, sir”? And the fact that the White House is now in full-blown circle-the wagons damage-control mode would suggest that their primary goal is to keep the president a thousand miles away from anything having to do with this scandal.
Good luck with that, guys. Just remember — it’s always the cover-up that gets ya.
This is truly horrific and what’s worse, no one knows how many gunmen there were, how many shots were fired, or where the shots came from.
The event was an annual unofficial Mother’s Day parade hosted by a group known as the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club. About 200 people were participating when the shots rang out.
Shots fired during an informal Mother’s Day afternoon parade in New Orleans injured 17 people, a police spokeswoman said Sunday.
One of the injured was a girl 9 or 10 years old, who was grazed by a bullet to her side, said Remi Braden, director of public affairs for the New Orleans Police Department.
She said there were no fatalities and “most of the wounds are not life-threatening.”
The shots were fired around 2 p.m. in the area of North Villere and Frenchmen Streets during what is locally referred to as “a second-line parade,” Braden said.
The Times-Picayune newspaper said there were about 200 people at the event when gunfire erupted. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas told reporters at the scene that at least 12 people were shot, Associated Press reported. Bradon said later that “we believe 17 people were wounded,” either while participating or observing the parade.
Second-line parades is a local term for loose processions in which people dance down the street, often following behind a brass band. They can be impromptu or planned and are sometimes described as moving block parties.
Shermaine Tyler, 32, who lives nearby, told the Times-Picayune that a man collapsed onto her after being shot.
“Me and mom were going to the second line. I told her I didn’t want to go because there are always shots at a second line,” Tyler said. “And the second I heard shots, I heard shots fired, we ran outside and one man fell in my lap who had been shot.”
Braden said detectives were interviewing witnesses and seeking surveillance video in the area.
“This is an extremely unusual occurrence, and we’re confident that we will make swift arrests,” Braden said.
Officers were interspersed with the marchers, which is routine for such events. Serpas said police saw three suspects running from the scene.
Not a day for this to happen, that’s for sure.
This is beyond Orwellian, entering a dystopian fantasy dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft and featuring some Cthulian nightmare.
Deep within the diseased bowels of the 800 page immigration reform bill is a profound threat to privacy in the US; an authorization for the Department of Homeland Security to create a bio-metric data base of every adult male in the US.
Does this info come to us via some hysterical, far right wing website? Actually, it’s the tech site Wired that is sounding the alarm:
The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf) is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.
Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.
This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.
“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.
“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.
David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.
“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”
If history teaches us anything about the power of government, it is if they can get away with it, they will take it. It’s that simple. No exaggeration or embellishment. The track record of government when promising to exercise power only so far and no farther is abysmal.
Even some Democrats should be appalled at this government overreach. Perhaps a bi-partisan effort can be mounted to rid the immigration bill of this noxious law.
One of the co-author’s of the State Department’s “independent” Benghazi report says it wasn’t necessary to question Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because her position was “more senior than where we found the decisions were made.”
Former state department official Thomas Pickering, who was co-chairman of the Accountability Review Board, was questioned about the Benghazi report on Face the Nation.
Appearing Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Pickering defended the report, which he co-authored with former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, against criticisms from three former and current State Department officials who testified last week before the House Oversight Committee. Greg Hicks – the No. 2 official in Libya at the time of the strike that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans – told the committee he believed the report “let people off the hook.”
“They’ve tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found the decisions were made,” Pickering said, citing specifically Clinton and Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. Mark Thompson, the deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, told the House committee last week that Clinton attempted to cut out the bureau from communications about the attack.
“Legislation setting up our board made it very clear that they didn’t want a situation in which a department or agency had accepted responsibility and then nobody looked at where the decisions were made, and how and what way those decisions affected performance on security,” Pickering said.
Clinton testified on Benghazi in January before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she took responsibility but conceded there was no “clear picture” of what happened Sept. 11 as the situation unraveled.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., appearing later on the show, said she was “surprised today to hear that they did not probe Secretary Clinton in detail, because obviously she was the decision maker at the State Department.” She recalled testimony last week from Hicks and Eric Nordstrom, former regional security officer in Libya, that “facility requirements for the consulate in Benghazi, the waiver of those requirements, by law, apparently, have to come from the secretary of state.”
But “this effort to go after Hillary Clinton,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued in the same segment, is just an early political maneuver in the 2016 presidential election.
I’m surprised Pickering didn’t try to blame Bush. Everyone else in the Obama administration does.
Instead, he and his board blamed lower level employees apparently entrusted with life and death decisions dealing with security for diplomats. No such thing as an issue being “above my pay grade” for the four lower level officials who got re-assigned (not fired) for “systemic failures and leadership deficiencies at senior levels in securing the compound.”
One problem: Couldn’t Hillary Clinton have shed some light on the stated policy of “reducing the security footprint” of America in Libya as a sign of confidence in the Libyan government?
Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, told congressional investigators looking into the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, that the State Department was eager for the American diplomatic presence in Libya to reduce its American security footprint and to rely more on locals, sources tell ABC News. A senior State Department official denies the charge.
Is Pickering trying to say that he didn’t need to talk to the person who promulgated a policy that led directly to reduced security and thus the deaths of 4 Americans? Nice try, Tommy.
In effect, the 4 diplomats who were disciplined were simply following Clinton’s orders. The truth is, Pickering apparently didn’t want to know if higher ups were responsible and how they were involved in the decision making process.
The state department inspector general is investigating the ARB, according to recent reports. One wonders what the IG will find out about the thoroughness of Pickering’s investigation.
I’ve been wondering how the IRS was going to determine whether taxpayers were complying with the individual mandate contained in Obamacare.
I needn’t have wondered. The IRS is a bureaucracy and what do bureaucracies adore almost as much as taxpayer-financed trips to Vegas for conferences?
When Obamacare’s individual mandate takes effect in 2014, all Americans who file income tax returns must complete an additional IRS tax form.
The new form will require disclosure of a taxpayer’s personal identifying health information in order to determine compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
As confirmed by IRS testimony to the tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means, “taxpayers will file their tax returns reporting their health insurance coverage, and/or making a payment”.
So why will the Obama IRS require your personal identifying health information?
Simply put, there is no way for the IRS to enforce Obamacare’s individual mandate without such an invasive reporting scheme. Every January, health insurance companies across America will send out tax documents to each insured individual. This tax document—a copy of which will be furnished to the IRS—must contain sufficient information for taxpayers to prove that they purchased qualifying health insurance under Obamacare.
This new tax information document must, at a minimum, contain: the name and health insurance identification number of the taxpayer; the name and tax identification number of the health insurance company; the number of months the taxpayer was covered by this insurance plan; and whether or not the plan was purchased in one of Obamacare’s “exchanges.”
This will involve millions of new tax documents landing in mailboxes across America every January, along with the usual raft of W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s. At tax time, the 140 million families who file a tax return will have to get acquainted with a brand new tax filing form. Six million of these families will end up paying Obamacare’s individual mandate non-compliance tax penalty.
Americans for Tax Reform have helpfully supplied a mock up of the form here.
How many millions of Americans will think the new form junk mail and toss it? How many millions won’t understand they have to file the form with their tax return and be assessed the penalty? How many millions will refuse to fill out some of the information — and probably be penalized?
I am trying to imagine colonial Americans (or Americans of just about any generation prior to WW II) being faced with a government that demands such compulsory behavior in such an intrusive manner. It’s not hard to think that the tar, feathers, and pitchforks would come out and government workers would be subjected to a storm of protests and even attacks.
Most of modern America, however, is not made of such stern stuff. Most will submit to our masters at the IRS — meekly and with hardly a whimper — grateful for this beneficence from Daddy Government and willing to fill the data banks in Washington with our most personal, private information.
It’s just a form, Obamacare supporters will say. And a boiling frog started his day just going for a swim.
NOTICE OF INTENT TO LEVY INFORMATION
Dear Tax Collectors:
Please fill out the questionnaire below completely and return to your local tea party headquarters. Note that the questions may be a little personal and intrusive, but turnabout is fair play. Besides, compared to the grilling that Congress is going to give you, consider yourself fortunate.
Also note that these questions are not in IRS-Speak. They are in plain English to better facilitate open, honest, and complete answers. Not that we expect them.
By the way…know any good criminal lawyers?
1. Who came up with the bright idea to target conservatives for inappropriate attention in the first place? Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, would only say that “low level” IRS employees were responsible. It was “just their shortcut,” offered Ms. Lerner.
Please take no shortcuts like that one in responding.
2. When exactly did IRS management discover that their “low level” employees were making a mockery of democracy? The Associated Press writes that the IRS inspector general’s report mentions a June 29th meeting in 2011 in which Ms. Lerner discovered “groups were being targeted.” The IG report says the practice had begun in 2010. Why did it take so long to find out what “low level” employees were doing?
3. The IG report states that on August 4, 2011, there was a meeting of the Rulings and Agreements office “with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.” Please list attendees at that meeting and supply any written or recorded record of that meeting (please use a worksheet if you need additional space). What “latest information” was given?
4. Ms. Lerner states that when she found out about the targeting of conservative groups, she ordered a halt to the practice “immediately.” But why was there a meeting five weeks later “so that everyone could have the latest information on the issue”? If the practice had been halted on June 29th, why was a meeting discussing the latest info even necessary?
5. A related question: Seven months after Ms. Lerner says she discovered the targeting of tea party and other conservative groups, on January 25, 2012, the IG report states that the criteria for flagging organizations to audit tax-exempt status was finally changed to “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement.”
Why did it take seven months to change the criteria? Between June 29, 2011, and January 25, 2012, was the old criteria targeting conservative groups still being used? If not, please give an exact date that the targeting was terminated.
I don’t care if you’re right, left, or a squish, this is a travesty.
Last year, 10 elderly peace activists cut through a chain link fence surrounding the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. They didn’t attempt to steal or destroy any nuclear materials. They did what any well meaning, peaceful anti-war activist would do; they hung signs, sang songs, and hammered off small pieces of the ultra-thick concrete wall surrounding the facility.
In the predawn hours of July 28, 2012, Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli walked under the cover of darkness through the woods and up a hillside, approaching a chain-link fence surrounding the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Armed with flashlights and a bolt cutter, they cut their way through the fence, fully expecting to be arrested on the spot.
Instead, they walked nearly a mile, cutting through four fences in all, breaching what was supposed to be the most tightly secured uranium processing and storage facility in the country.
“When we got to the very high security fence where there’s a lethal force authorized … I thought, maybe we should turn around,” Boertje-Obed told CNN’s David Mattingly.
But they didn’t. Hours later, the three activists were finally confronted by a guard after hoisting banners, spray-painting messages and splattering human blood on a building that houses highly enriched uranium.
They have said they wanted call attention to the dangers of nuclear weapons, but their actions triggered a very different concern:
If three older peaceniks can easily trespass onto what was once considered the “Fort Knox” for highly enriched uranium, just how safe are the nation’s nuclear weapons material from terrorists?
They fully expected to be arrested and prosecuted for their crime. That’s the point of civil disobedience and these aging lefties didn’t try to avoid responsibility for breaking the law. Three of the activists — including an 83-year old nun — were convicted of two felonies relating to their activities. They could each receive 30 years in prison.
The judge set a September sentencing date — and then refused to release them pending sentencing because he believed it would be too “lenient.”
Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, who were convicted Wednesday of two felony charges related to the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, are currently jailed in Knox County.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore and defense attorneys Chris Irwin, William Quigley and Francis Lloyd, as well as Bobby Hutson, the “eblow counsel” for Boertje-Obed (who is representing himself).
As with the case at this week’s trial, today’s courtroom was crowded with supporters of the three peace activists, known collectively as the Transform Now Plowshares.
Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed were in the courtroom, wearing tan prison jumpsuits with “Federal Prisoner” on the back. Their hands and legs were chained to restrict their movements, but they smiled and gestured to their friends, supporters and family members in the gallery.
Thapar also has yet to rule on a motion filed earlier by defense attorneys, seeking to have the most serious charge (now conviction) dismissed. The “Rule 29″ motion was filed after the federal prosecutors completed their case, and the defense argued that the government failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the Y-12 protesters had “intent” to interfere with, obstruct or disrupt the national defense when they broke into the Oak Ridge plant. During the trial, Y-12 officials testified that the plant was shut down for 15 days following last summer’s break-in.
Y-12′s federal manager, Steve Erhart, also testified that an incoming truck shipment of nuclear weapons parts or related materials had to be put on hold because of security concerns created by the protesters’ break-in.
Of course, the alarm bells set off in Washington as a result of 10 scruffy leftists penetrating the security at Y-12 set in motion a series of hearings on Capitol Hill as well as independent security reviews at all US nuclear sites. Presumably, such a shocking lapse in security can’t happen again.
But what to do with an 83-year old nun and her equally befuddled friends? You might expect the punishment to fit the crime and 30 years in the slammer for showing up the US army seems a bit out of whack. What kind of threat are these people to national security? Their whole lives are about peaceful activism. You can disagree with what they are advocating but still admire their dedication to principles and their perception of what their faith tells them.
The protestors got as far as they did because of lax security at the facility, not because they were stealthily trying to wreak havoc or endanger the public. If they had been arrested while cutting through the first fence — as they should have been if the facility had an adequate security plan –they would have been charged with trespassing and given a stiff fine and a stern talking to by the judge. Instead, they had the dumb luck of making it all the way to a storage facility for weapons grade nuclear material. Laurel and Hardy would have had a hard time coming up with a more unlikely set of circumstances.
Leniency is exactly what these people should expect. And the judge who is keeping them in jail needs to get a grip on reality.
The plot thickens.
The Associated Press is reporting that senior officials of the IRS knew back in June of 2011 that the agency was targeting groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” and “9/12 Project” in their names. At that point, Lois Lerner, who oversees the IRS department dealing with tax-exempt status, told the employees to change the criteria for flagging tax-exempt groups “immediately.”
But the criteria weren’t changed until January of 2012:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week. The AP obtained part of the draft report, which has been shared with congressional aides.
Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.
While this was happening, several committees in Congress were writing IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman to express concern because tea party groups were complaining of IRS harassment.
In Shulman’s responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.
The portion of the draft report reviewed by the AP does not say whether Shulman or anyone else in the Obama administration outside the IRS was informed of the targeting. But it is standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff before responding to congressional inquiries.
Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican. His 6-year term ended in November. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor. The agency is now run by an acting commissioner, Steven Miller.
It appears that the IRS didn’t cease and desist until it became clear that Congress was getting suspicious. Are they seriously making the argument that they found out about the practice in June of 2011 and then it took seven months to change the criteria after Ms. Lerner ordered the practice halted “immediately”? What were they doing over those seven months while conservatives were being harassed and bullied? And who promulgated the original criteria in the first place?
The process of altering the now discredited White House narrative on the Benghazi attacks is in full swing with both the New York Times and Washington Post doing their utmost best to assist the administration in climbing out of the hole in which they have managed to dig themselves.
Yesterday, the New York Times took up the cause with an editorial that echoed many Democratic criticisms of the GOP’s “obsession” with Benghazi:
The hearing did not prove anything like an administration cover-up or other hysterical allegations of crimes equal to Watergate that some Republicans, such as Representative Steve King and Senator Lindsey Graham, have alleged. Republicans have held numerous hearings and briefings on Benghazi and are threatening to hold even more. It is a level of interest they did not show during George W. Bush’s administration when there were 64 attacks on American diplomatic targets or in the years they spent cutting back diplomatic security budgets.
The real scandal is that serious follow-up on security in Libya is going unaddressed. Congress needs to make sure that State Department budgets for personnel and security improvements are sufficient and that security reforms are put in place as soon as possible.
The Senate should move quickly to confirm the ambassador, Deborah Jones, whose hearing was Tuesday.
Congress and the Obama administration also need to pay more attention to what’s happening in Libya in general. After helping opposition forces oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the United States seems to have lost interest. That is a huge mistake as militias threaten the country’s democratic transition and stability. That surely is not an outcome that Ambassador Stevens would have wanted.
Republicans cut the security budget? Then why did the study previously touted in the editorial blame:
‘[S]ystemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels’ in the State Department’s bureaus of diplomatic security and near eastern affairs [which] resulted in a “security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.” Mrs. Clinton took responsibility for the security failures when she testified at a Congressional hearing in January.
And yet, it’s the GOP’s fault that there was inadequate security at the embassy — after the diplomats begged for additional protection three times.
Trying to expose lies has now become “hysterical allegations.” You would think that if the New York Times was so all-fired eager to help the administration in creating another narrative about Benghazi they’d try and be a little less hysterical themselves.
Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post is proving very able and helpful in changing the talking points used by administration defenders regarding the Benghazi talking points:
There have been many questions raised about the development of the administration’s talking points in the aftermath of the attack on Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador. There have been allegations that the administration deliberately covered up the fact that this was a terrorist attack. We have noted before, in our extensive timeline of Benghazi statements, how long it took the president to concede that point in the midst of his reelection campaign.
But with the release of 12 versions of the talking points Friday by ABC News, perhaps there is an alternative explanation: This basically was a bureaucratic knife fight, pitting the State Department against the CIA.
In other words, the final version of the talking points may have been so wan because officials simply deleted everything that upset the two sides. So they were left with nothing.
Sure. There was a collective case of amnesia and everyone in the state department, the White House, and the CIA all forgot there was a presidential election going on — all at the same time. Funny how that happens, no?
Since Kessler doesn’t mention that the driving force behind the alterations was Hillary Clinton’s state department and the White House input included trying to delete references to “terrorism,” it’s just coincidence that Clinton is running for president in 2016 and didn’t want anything to reflect badly on her leadership, and the president was involved in a close election campaign and didn’t want one of his major “achievements” — the elimination of al-Qaeda as a threat — to be discredited.
I’ve got another alternative explanation. Kessler is a shameless shill for the administration.
No doubt we will see additional changes in the administration’s Benghazi narrative over the next few days as supporters seek to apply lipstick to a pig and put the porker in a prom dress in order to obscure the truth. The secret briefing that included 14 media outlets on Friday (Bryan Preston covered that story here) also furthered the White House effort to change their story. The press is, for the most part dutifully carrying out their assignment with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But even Obama loyalists in the press are beginning to ask questions and any new narrative will now have to be measured against what we are gradually finding out to be the truth.
As is typical, the Heritage scholar, Jason Richwine, was not forced out solely because of controversy surrounding the report on the costs of immigration reform. Rather, it was his 2009 Harvard dissertation arguing that immigrants had a lower IQ than whites that gave liberals the ammunition to force him to resign.
Richwine’s controversial suggestion was that the US should base its immigration policy on an “IQ selection system.” Racialists on the left pounced on this impractical idea and Richwine is paying the price for his political naivete.
The co-author of a controversial immigration report issued this week by the Heritage Foundation has left the conservative think tank after his academic work on the subject came under intense scrutiny and criticism.
The resignation of Jason Richwine, who was a senior policy analyst at Heritage, caps a challenging week for the prominent conservative research outlet, which has sought to make its mark on the immigration debate under the fresh leadership of former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. Mr. DeMint, a Republican, formally took the helm of the think tank in April.
Mr. Richwine co-authored a report, released earlier this week, that tried to gauge the cost to taxpayers of legalizing 11 million immigrants in the U.S. unlawfully. He and the lead author, Heritage senior research fellow Robert Rector, pegged the cost at $6.3 trillion over 50 years.
The highly-anticipated report was criticized by pro-immigration forces, and stirred controversy in conservative Republican circles, where there is a sharp divide on whether to proceed with an immigration overhaul.
Mr. Richwine soon drew fire from liberals and Hispanic lawmakers in Congress for work he had done studying relative IQs of different immigrant groups. In his Harvard University dissertation, he argued that persistent differences between immigrants’ IQs and those of white Americans should be a factor in determining who should be allowed to permanently come to the U.S.
“Jason Richwine let us know he’s decided to resign from his position. He’s no longer employed by Heritage,” Mike Gonzalez, vice president for communications at Heritage, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “It is our long-standing policy not to discuss internal personnel matters.”
Mr. Richwine couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Richwine graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in 2009. A summary of his dissertation states, “The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.”
Excuse me, but what am I missing here? Mr. Richwine’s dissertation certainly reached a controversial conclusion. But try as I might, I haven’t been able to find a single statement from someone who’s read it. Was it peer reviewed? What were the specific criticisms leveled against its methodology, its sources, or anything else related to the paper?
The fact is, there needn’t be any specific scholarly criticism at all for liberals to call Mr. Richwine names:
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rubén Hinojosa (D., Texas) said: “Though the CHC welcomes Jason Richwine’s resignation, it is still very disheartening that the Heritage Foundation did not renounce his research and the ridiculous report on immigration that he co-authored.” He added: “As we have said many times before, words have consequences and we cannot afford the consequences of this man’s bigotry and ignorance to ripple through to productive, bipartisan talks toward immigration reform.”
Bigotry? Ignorance? How stupid is it to make wild, unsubstantiated accusations when you haven’t even read — much less understood – the supposed evidence that “proves” this man a bigot? Did Hinojosa read the paper? Or is he simply giving a knee-jerk reaction to conclusions reached that, as far as anyone can determine, are born out by the statistics contained in the dissertation? An IQ selection process might be political nonviable, but why does it prove him a bigot? Is it because racists cheer that kind of stuff? Are we to base criticism of a scholarly paper on the impression it makes on knuckle-dragging troglodytes?
The same might be said for Mr. Richwine’s immigration study from this week. Where are the legitimate criticisms of his methodology? Or a critique of his conclusions based on competing or contradictory scholarship?
The Heritage study may, indeed, be full of it and Mr. Richwine may be an academic fraud. But given that one of the most vital issues connected with immigration reform is how much it is going to cost the American taxpayer, perhaps a little more attention should be paid to what is actually in the study rather than trying to discredit it by pointing to another paper written by the author that no one has read but reaches politically incorrect conclusions.
What appeared to be a horrible, tragic accident at the time may turn out to have been an act of sabotage — or terrorism.
Texas authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the blast that rocked West, Texas last month and killed 14 residents. A paramedic who responded to the blast has now been arrested and charged with possessing bomb making materials, according to court documents.
The authorities refuse to connect the arrest of the paramedic, Bryce Reed, to the explosion, but explain that they “want to ensure that no stone goes unturned” in finding the cause of the blast.
Local sheriff’s deputies were called on Tuesday to a residence where they found components for a pipe bomb, according to a criminal complaint affidavit.
The officers determined that Reed had given the materials to the resident of that home last month.
Among the materials found were a galvanized metal pipe, a fuse, coils of metal ribbon and several bags of chemical powders, the affidavit states.
Reed, who was arrested early Friday, is charged with possession of a destructive device.
“At this time authorities will not speculate whether the possession of the unregistered destructive device has any connection to the West fertilizer plant explosion,” the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas said in a release.
If convicted, Reed would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Reed spoke last month at a memorial for the victims at Baylor University.
The arrest details came as authorities said they conducting a thorough criminal investigation into the April 17 fire and explosion that killed 14 in the small town of West.
“This disaster has severely impacted the community of West, and we want to ensure that no stone goes unturned and that all the facts related to this incident are uncovered,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said.
On Monday, the state fire marshal’s office said it ruled out four potential causes: weather, natural causes, anhydrous ammonium, and ammonium nitrate in a rail car.
No doubt authorities will look at Mr. Reed very closely to determine if he had motive and opportunity to set the fire. Depending on the chemical makeup of the bomb in Mr. Reed’s possession, it may well have been designed to start a fire rather than blow anything up. Of course, even if that’s the case, there is no evidence that Reed was involved in setting the blast.
One look at it and you can guess what kind of jokes have ticked off the humorless commies.
Agence France Presse is reporting that censors on Weib are cracking down on the People’s Daily toilet humor. The IB Times adds:
A search on Sina Weibo for “People’s Daily” and “building” results in a message that says the keywords have been blocked “in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed”.
Of course, some clever Weibo users have snuck around the censors by way of the double entendre. “It seems the People’s Daily is going to rise up, there’s hope for the Chinese dream,” reads one message that got through filters, according to the AFP. Another: “Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing.”
And then you have papers like The Times of India, with (unintentionally funny?) introductions to their architecture stories: “The new 150-meter tall headquarters of the People’s Daily, the main organ of the Communist Party….” And then you have this: As the blog HugChina reported last month, a rather unfortunate nickname for the paper emerged right after the first photos of the construction site surfaced, before the censors stepped in:
People’s Daily (人民日报) has long been called Raping People Daily (日人民报) by Chinese netizens for chronically misleading the people with false reports. It was understood that the propagandists in Beijing do not like this nickname, but that they chose the bizarre design of the new headquarters reveals that it may not necessarily be so.
The troll man who designed the People’s Daily HQ is architecture professor Zhou Qi, the IB Times reports. And you know what’s sort of funny? Not only did he beat out at least four architecture firms to construct this penis-shaped behemoth, but he’s actually commented on China’s penchant for mocking its suggestive architectural landmarks before.
Leave your own impressions of this monument to the Communist ideal of romantic love. Just keep it clean, please — that is, please be creative in your use of double entendres and leave the barnyard epithets off the page.
Obviously, the Obama administration is retreating from its red line on Syria just as fast as can be managed while not looking panicky. It’s not that the unnamed Obama official in this New York Times article is necessarily wrong. It’s cynical in the extreme to dismiss the horror of chemical weapons being used, but the notion behind it — we shouldn’t intervene in Syria — is arguably the correct policy.
The problem with this statement and the actions of the administration since it became clear that President Assad had employed chemical weapons is the shockingly cavalier manner in which the president is willing to destroy the credibility of the United States by drawing a line that, when crossed, elicits no consequences whatsoever.
In a frenetic series of meetings, the White House devised a 48-hour plan to deter President Bashar al-Assad of Syria by using intermediaries like Russia and Iran to send a message that one official summarized as, “Are you crazy?” But when Mr. Obama emerged to issue the public version of the warning, he went further than many aides realized he would.
Moving or using large quantities of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and “change my calculus,” the president declared in response to a question at a news conference, to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the “red line” came from. With such an evocative phrase, the president had defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.
Is this pathetic or what? The president, in as casual manner as can possibly be imagined, committed the credibility of the United States by giving an ill-considered, poorly thought out warning that took his own advisors by surprise.
“The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,” said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But “what the president said in August was unscripted,” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the “nuance got completely dropped.”
Assad, being considerably smarter than your average White House aide (or president), realized exactly that. Hence, he puts Obama in a bind; put up or shut up, Mr. President. Now the White House is retreating so swiftly that Assad might feel perfectly safe in blanketing Homs with a cloud of nerve gas. “What’s that got to do with you?” Assad might ask.
What are the consequences of having “Amateur Hour” refugees running our foreign policy?
As a result, the president seems to be moving closer to providing lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels, even though he rejected such a policy just months ago. American officials have even discussed with European allies the prospect of airstrikes to take out Syrian air defenses, airplanes and missile delivery systems, if government use of chemical weapons is confirmed.
So instead of having the U.S. look weak and vacillating, let’s give arms to the jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda! A scathingly brilliant idea, that. It will save them money when they turn those guns on whoever we’re backing when Assad is gone and the smoke clears.
It must be hard for Iran to reconcile the Great Satan making threats against Syria on the one hand, and seeing Mickey Mouse trying to get out from under the consequences of those threats on the other. Do you think Khamenei and his crew are breathing a little easier tonight? Israel can hurt them but only America could bomb them back to the stone age. The Iranian leadership knows that won’t happen now.
The problem with destroying your own credibility is that it’s extremely difficult to get it back. Why should North Korea or Iran take anything we say about “consequences” seriously? The answer is, they won’t — which makes the world a little more dangerous today than it was.
The number-two diplomat in Libya at the time of the terrorist attack on our diplomatic mission reportedly told a congressional committee that they knew that it was a terrorist attack “from the get-go.”
The statement of Thomas Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, directly contradicts the explanation offered by the administration in the immediate aftermath of the attack — that it was a “spontaneous” demonstration in response to a YouTube video on Islam.
Hicks, disillusioned and bitter, let the administration have it, reserving his harshest criticism for Ambassador Susan Rice, whose five interviews on Sunday talk shows not only spread altered talking points on the attack, but hugely damaged our relations with the new Libyan government.
When he appears this week before the committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Hicks is expected to offer testimony at odds with what some American officials were saying in public – and on “Face the Nation” – just five days after the attack. Benghazi whistleblowers have rallied attention to discrepancies among the administration’s reaction to the attack, which The Weekly Standard suggests was frayed by ever-evolving talking points that sought to remove references to al Qaeda.
On Sept. 16, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice hit the media circuit, appearing on all five Sunday talk shows to dispel the notion that the strike was a premeditated terrorist act and to perpetuate the case that it began “spontaneously” out of protests in Egypt. Rice’s spot on “Face the Nation” that day was preceded by the new President of Libya Mohammed al-Magariaf, who said his government had “no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.”
“For there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens’s front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable,” he said. “I never reported a demonstration; I reported an attack on the consulate. Chris – Chris’s last report, if you want to say his final report – is, ‘Greg, we are under attack.’
“…I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as on that day,” Hicks continued in his interview with investigators. “The net impact of what has transpired is, [Rice,] the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world, has basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar of doesn’t know what he’s talking about. ….My jaw hit the floor as I watched this.”
Though the White House has said it was in contact with officials in Libya the night of the attack, Hicks said in the days following, he was never consulted about the talking points. One day after Rice’s Sunday show blitz, Hicks said he called Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary for near eastern affairs at the State Department, and asked, “Why did Amb. Rice say that?” The tone of her answer – “I don’t know,” he said – indicated that “I perhaps asked a question that I should not have asked.”
Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard has pieced together the story of how and why the Benghazi talking points were altered. And, according to Hayes, it wasn’t only the talking points that were changed. He writes that “it is clear that senior administration officials engaged in a wholesale rewriting of intelligence assessments about Benghazi in order to mislead the public.”
The Weekly Standard sought comment from officials at the White House, the State Department, and the CIA, but received none by press time. Within hours of the initial attack on the U.S. facility, the State Department Operations Center sent out two alerts. The first, at 4:05 p.m. (all times are Eastern Daylight Time), indicated that the compound was under attack; the second, at 6:08 p.m., indicated that Ansar al Sharia, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group operating in Libya, had claimed credit for the attack. According to the House report, these alerts were circulated widely inside the government, including at the highest levels. The fighting in Benghazi continued for another several hours, so top Obama administration officials were told even as the fighting was taking place that U.S. diplomats and intelligence operatives were likely being attacked by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. A cable sent the following day, September 12, by the CIA station chief in Libya, reported that eyewitnesses confirmed the participation of Islamic militants and made clear that U.S. facilities in Benghazi had come under terrorist attack. It was this fact, along with several others, that top Obama officials would work so hard to obscure.
The talking points were first distributed to officials in the interagency vetting process at 6:52 p.m. on Friday. Less than an hour later, at 7:39 p.m., an individual identified in the House report only as a “senior State Department official” responded to raise “serious concerns” about the draft. That official, whom The Weekly Standard has confirmed was State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, worried that members of Congress would use the talking points to criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.”
In an attempt to address those concerns, CIA officials cut all references to Ansar al Sharia and made minor tweaks. But in a follow-up email at 9:24 p.m., Nuland wrote that the problem remained and that her superiors—she did not say which ones—were unhappy. The changes, she wrote, did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,” and State Department leadership was contacting National Security Council officials directly. Moments later, according to the House report, “White House officials responded by stating that the State Department’s concerns would have to be taken into account.” One official—Ben Rhodes, The Weekly Standard is told, a top adviser to President Obama on national security and foreign policy—further advised the group that the issues would be resolved in a meeting of top administration officials the following morning at the White House.
Who is Ben Rhodes?
Former Senator Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, claimed on ABC’s This Week, that the immigration reform plan released by the “Gang of Eight” seenators, would cost Americans “trillions of dollars.”
DeMint was previewing what is expected to be a major report by Heritage on immigration.
The study you’ll see from Heritage this week presents a staggering cost of another amnesty in our country,” DeMint said this morning on “This Week,” based on the “detrimental effects long-term” of government benefits that would eventually go to the millions offered a path to citizenship under the reform legislation currently being considered. “There’s no reason we can’t begin to fix our immigration system so that we won’t make this problem worse. But the bill that’s being presented is unfair to those who came here legally. It will cost Americans trillions of dollars. It’ll make our unlawful immigration system worse.”
A 2007 study by Robert Rector, assuming all undocumented immigrants were granted “amnesty,” said the cost to the United States of immigration reform would be at least $2.6 trillion. When asked if the new Heritage estimate would be more than $2.5 trillion, DeMint responded “much more than that.”
The 2007 study is not without its critics, such as Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, who wrote in April that the study’s “flawed methodology produced a grossly exaggerated cost to federal taxpayers of legalizing unauthorized immigrants while undercounting or discounting their positive tax and economic contributions.”
DeMint dismissed the criticisms, including estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that say immigration reform will increase economic growth.
“Well, CBO said Obamacare wouldn’t cost us anything. They’re basically puppets of the Congress and the assumptions they put in the bill. Heritage is only organization that has done an analysis on the cost,” DeMint said.
“If you consider all the factors related to the amnesty – and, believe me, this is comprehensive – that it will have a negative long-term impact on our gross domestic product,” DeMint added. “So we just want Congress, for once, to count the cost of a bill. They’re notorious for underestimating the cost and not understanding the consequences.”
DeMint is correct is saying that Congress routinely underestimates the cost of major legislation, as well as ignoring unintended consequences. Recent crimes against the taxpayer in this regard include the prescription drug bill that was passed during the Bush administration and Obamacare — the cost of which and the consequences that attend it are still being discovered.
In the case of immigration reform, the dilemma is that it is well nigh impossible to gauge how much in taxes and productivity will be added to our economy by suddenly legalized aliens. We don’t know how many currently in the US illegally will take advantage of any amnesty. Nor do we know how many of those individuals have been paying taxes all along. Nor is it possible to estimate how many illegals will go on the public dole if they get a green card.
There are just too many variables to take into account to make a guess as to how much immigration reform will cost us. Applause to Heritage for making the attempt, but I think we should look at any study they release as guidance, not gospel.
The target was apparently a warehouse at the airport that was housing advanced missiles from Iran that were on their way to Hezbollah. It may have been a follow-up raid to finish the job begun by the Israeli air force on Friday, or it may have been an entirely new target.
As was the case with the attack on Friday, Israeli jets overflew Lebanese air space but did not cross into Syria.
There is another unconfirmed report that several buildings housing Syrian military leadership belonging to the army’s crack 4th armored division that is commanded by President Assad’s younger brother Maher was also hit.
On Sunday, the Syrian government said that the Israelis had launched a missile attack against the military complex at Jamraya just outside Damascus overnight.
Large blasts sent towering plumes of flame and smoke into the night sky above Qasioun Mountain, which towers over downtown Damascus, according to residents and videos posted by opposition activists. The videos showed multiple explosions over a period of several minutes, suggesting that more than one target may have been hit.
The mountain is home to an array of Syrian military facilities, including military research centers, and is the source of much of the government shelling of rebel positions in the suburbs. Residents and activists said the explosions struck the mountain headquarters of the army’s Fourth Division, the elite and feared unit run by the president’s brother Maher, as well as al-Hamah, where the command of the Republican Guard, one of the government’s elite forces, is located.
Ikhbariya television, a state-owned channel, asserted that Israeli had carried out the strikes. “The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been tottering after facing strikes by our noble army,” the station said.The government has long said that the uprising against it was fueled by foreign-backed “terrorists” and served Israeli and American interests.
Israeli officials had no comment on the explosions. Nor did American officials, who signaled that the United States did not carry out the attack.
“They are definitely going after military facilities on or around Qasioun,” said Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “There are a lot of research and military facilities there that are tied into the command and control structure of the regime.”
“It is unprecedented and something all of Damascus can see,” he added, stressing that it would likely have an important political impact in Syria.
A YouTube video posted by opposition forces shows how massive the explosions were:
With Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s statement this past week that the terrorist group would not allow Assad to be overthrown, Israel’s attacks against Iranian weaponry becomes more of an urgent matter. Intervention by the west is just another chemical attack away — an intervention that will no doubt prove decisive in overthrowing the regime. Hezbollah is already more powerful, with more and better missiles, than they had at the start of the 2006 war.
Preventing the terrorists from adding more long range missiles and other advanced weaponry to their arsenal is something Israel sees as vital to their security and will seek to prevent at all costs.
The FBI has clammed up about what the Russians actually told them about Tamerlan Tsarnaev that got the Boston bomber on Moscow’s radar. This is significant because the Boston Herald reports that the Russians found out about Tamerlan from a Canadian jihadist captured in Dagestan.
A slain Canadian jihadi gave Russian counter-terrorism agents the tip that put alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev on their radar two years ago, Bay State U.S. Rep. William R. Keating confirmed yesterday — raising questions about whether Tsarnaev’s direct link to the known militant was ever passed on to the FBI or local authorities.
Keating told the Herald yesterday his staff in Russia has learned William Plotnikov, while under interrogation in the militant hotbed of Dagestan, named Tsarnaev as a fellow extremist.
“That’s when the Russian government started looking at Tamerlan and he showed up on a jihadist website,” Keating (D-Bourne) said. “That’s when they contacted the U.S.”
The interrogation prompted Russian authorities to ask the FBI to investigate Tsarnaev in 2011. It is unclear whether the Russians told the FBI that Tsarnaev was associated with Plotnikov or another suspected extremist, Mansur Mukhamed Nidal.
An FBI spokesman yesterday did not respond to the Herald’s request to view the Russian authorities’ plea for help.
Both Nidal and Plotnikov were killed in police raids last summer, and Tsarnaev fled back to the United States shortly thereafter.
The detail of the information from the Russians to the FBI — and whether the feds passed it on sufficiently to local authorities — is sure to come up next week on Capitol Hill, where the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on the bombings.
“I have no idea what the Russians did or did not share, but the fact they brought up his name should have been a flashing red light,” U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a member of the committee, told the Herald last night. “You combine that with international travel, and somebody’s going to have to answer some questions.
“The information is only good if it gets to those who can actually act on it,” he said. “I want to know specifically if they shared that information with the authorities in Boston.”
The link between Tsarnaev and Plotnikov implies that Tsarnaev may not have been totally self-radicalized, said Craig Albert, a Georgia Regents University professor who testified about radical Islamists in the Caucasus region at a Congressional committee hearing last week.
Does this demonstrate that the so-called “terrorist watch list” is useless? We discovered this week that it contains almost 900,000 names — a valueless list unless it is carefully categorized, assigning a threat level to each entry. Tamerlan Tsarnaev may not have rated very high threat-wise, but as an American, the bureau might have passed on his name to the Boston police and Massachusetts state authorities to let them decide if they wanted to keep tabs on him.
This also pulls another chock from underneath the administration narrative that assures us Tsarnaev was a “self-radicalized,” one-off American terrorist. How extensive were his ties to the jihadist networks? Does this make the prospect of international accomplices more or less likely?
The FBI may be trying to protect Russian sources and methods in not disclosing details of their conversations. Then again, they may be engaged in a CYA operation and don’t want to admit they blew it. It’s safe to say that this investigation is still in its infancy and there is a lot more to find out about how both brothers arrived at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with two pressure cooker bombs and murder in their hearts.
Political oratory is a dying art form that few are good at and even fewer master. But since her arrival on the national stage in 2008, Sarah Palin has proven to be a practitioner of a very special brand of oratory that has its roots in the plain speaking prairie populists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Fighting established interests, damning the elites who they felt were responsible for the terrible rural poverty of the time, prairie populism swept through the heartland, roiling politics and giving a sense of empowerment to people as they battled the east coast bankers and monopolies.
Palin, who gave a rousing, enthusiastically received speech at the NRA convention in Houston yesterday, has what all good orators have; the ability to capture the moment. There are several elements that make a good orator but one of them is being blessed with the gift of being able to connect in a visceral way with their audience. Palin captures the moment by capturing her audience, speaking to them on a plane that other politicians can’t reach. She holds them in the palm of her hand so that they feel one with her — a bond she obviously shares.
Liberals complain she feeds the resentments and petty biases of her audience. But they miss the point. Palin articulates what ails America largely because all other politicians tip-toe around what the American people are truly concerned about. And she does it in a way that everyone can understand and feel at a gut level.
Republicans have been complaining about President Obama and the Democrats using the Newtown tragedy in a shameless, exploitative way to serve their gun control agenda. But Palin took a different tack:
Sarah Palin said Friday that the elite media would never let a Republican president get away with what Barack Obama has done in his push for new gun laws.
The former Alaska governor recalled that the national press “tore apart” George W. Bush for using “fleeting images” from Sept. 11, 2001, during his 2004 reelection campaign.
At the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, Palin slammed Obama for flying the grieving parents of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Air Force One and then “making them backdrops” at rallies.
“That same media is now the reliable poodle-skirted cheerleader for the president that writes the book on exploiting tragedy,” she said, wearing a T-shirt that said “women hunt.”
Palin insisted that all Americans felt “despair, sadness and absolute anger” when they saw what happened in Connecticut. She said everyone should care more about those getting gunned down every single day on the streets of places like Chicago and New York City, but that shouldn’t guide public policy.
“Now, emotion is a good and a necessary thing. But we have politicians exploiting emotion for their own agenda,” she said. “We have well-meaning Americans who are desperate to respond.
Note that she clearly separates the shameless politicians who exploit the victims from “well meaning Americans” who respond emotionally. Rather than complaining about “low information voters,” she invites those Americans to share her contempt for Obama and the Democrats.
“We’re fighting the good fight,” Palin said near the end of a 12-minute speech. “The Washington establishment sneers at you, and you don’t give up. The lamestream media just plain doesn’t get you, and you don’t give up. You don’t retreat.”
Palin took a shot at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, always a bogeyman at these gatherings. At her last big public event – the Conservative Political Action Conference in March – she sipped a Big Gulp from the podium to mock his ban on the sale of the large sodas. She told the NRA crowd that Bloomberg may next try to ban public displays of tobacco products.
Then she pulled out a container of snuff.
“I tell ya, don’t make me do it,” she joked. “It’s funny because [my husband] Todd’s been looking for this all morning.”
Of the people and for the people. That’s straight out of the prairie populist handbook, down to using the rich, nanny Mayor Bloomberg as a foil. And, of course, the can of snuff is the perfect prop to demonstrate her bona fides as a Woman of the People, standing up to the statists and monied interests.
I don’t like Sarah Palin’s politics much at all. But you can admire her oratorical abilities and respect the hold she has on ordinary people. In more than 40 years of following politics, I’ve seen only a handful who can match her. Hubert Humphrey, John Connally, Ronald Reagan, Mario Cuomo, and a younger Barack Obama exuded that same presence on stage, commanding attention, connecting emotionally, and lifting their audience out of themselves while sharing their vision for America.
What Governor Palin will do with this great gift will interest a lot of people before 2016 is done.
Fox News has revealed the names of the Benghazi whistleblowers from the State Department who will testify at a special hearing of the Oversight Committee on Wednesday:
Appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be three career State Department officials: Gregory N. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks; Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for Operations in the agency’s Counterterrorism Bureau; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya, the top security officer in the country in the months leading up to the attacks.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Hicks was at the time of the highest-ranking American diplomat in the country.
Nordstrom appeared before the Committee last fall, where he angrily denounced the State Department for not giving the mission adequate security after the warnings that had been sent by numerous diplomats, including Ambassador Stevens.
The testimony of Hicks might be very telling:
Hicks is a veteran Foreign Service officer whose overseas postings have also included Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and committee member, said Hicks was in Tripoli at 9:40 p.m. local time when he received one of Stevens’ earliest phone calls amid the crisis.
“We’re under attack! We’re under attack!” the ambassador reportedly shouted into his cell phone at Hicks.
Chaffetz, who subsequently debriefed Hicks, also said the deputy “immediately called into Washington to trigger all the mechanisms” for an inter-agency response.
“The real-life trauma that [Hicks] went through,” Chaffetz recalled to Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, “I mean, I really felt it in his voice. It was hard to listen to. He’s gone through a lot, but he did a great job.”
Who else might testify? It is possible that a CIA employee will testify about the talking points that were altered to remove any mention of al-Qaeda or Islamic extremists. But it is not expected that the Pentagon will allow active duty personnel to testify about how the administration responded to calls for help from people under attack in Benghazi.
Earlier this week, a special operator told Fox News that the Pentagon could have responded to the Benghazi attack with a 40-man rapid deployment force known as “C-110″ within 4-6 hours of being activated. They would have arrived too late to save the ambassador but may have arrived at the annex in time to support the CIA people who were fighting for their lives. We’ll never know.
Chairman Issa and several members of the committee have raised expectations about what the whistleblowers are going to say. There is always a chance that expectations won’t be met, which will give fodder to the president’s protectors in the press to downplay whatever information is given at the hearing. But since the witnesses were threatened with the end of their careers if they testified, you can be sure they will have something interesting to add to what we know about the attack.
If Vice President Joe Biden has been tagged as the administration’s point man on gun control, why wouldn’t he want to debate freshman Senator Ted Cruz about guns?
For starters, Biden knows he would be outclassed. Then again, a pie-eyed prostitute would outclass Biden in a debate.
But beyond his stupidity, there is a royal lack of specificity in any argument Biden has made about gun control. He has tried to manipulate people emotionally by dragging the dead bodies of Newtown school children along with him wherever he goes. He throws their blood in the face of his audiences, shaming them into supporting the administration’s agenda, rather than trying to appeal to their logic and reason.
He never uses many stats — legitimate stats, anyway. This is why he would be helpless against Cruz in any debate over gun control.
But Cruz is framing the debate as a “conversation” on what causes violent crime.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noting that Vice President Joe Biden reportedly plans to revive a legislative push for gun control, challenged him to a debate about policy responses to gun violence.
“I would like to invite the vice president to engage in an hour-long conversation and debate, ‘How do we stop crime’,” Cruz said at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum today. “If Vice President Biden really believes that the facts are on his side … then I would think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources, the causes of violent crime, who is carrying it out, and how we can do everything humanly possible to stop it.”
Cruz indicated that he doesn’t regard Biden as a formidable opponent, noting that Biden’s home defense advice — firing a shotgun twice into the air — “is very useful, if it so happens that you’re being attacked by a flock of geese.”
Cruz is noted for those kinds of lines and could be expected to zing the vice president on a regular basis during any debate.
The White House will no doubt accuse the Texas senator of grandstanding and dismiss the challenge with a sniff and a huff. But a debate would do the country an extraordinary service. It would reveal to all just what an empty-headed mountebank Joe Biden is and why any thoughts he has of running for president in 2016 should be placed on the shelf next to his shotgun where it can gather dust along with his other moldy ideas.
Israel has made it clear that they will do everything within their power to prevent sophisticated weaponry from Syria falling into the hands of their arch enemy, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
On Friday, Israel apparently made good on that promise. US intelligence tracked a series of overflights from Israel into Lebanon on Friday where we believe the Israeli air force bombed a truck convoy made up of sophisticated, long range missiles capable of carrying chemical weapons that was on its way to Hezbollah.
Israel has carried out an air strike targeting a shipment of missiles in Syria bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon, an Israeli official said on Saturday.
Israel had long made clear it is prepared to resort to force to prevent advanced Syrian weapons, including President Bashar al-Assad’s reputed chemical arsenal, reaching his Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah allies or Islamist insurgents taking part in a more than two-year-old uprising against his government.
Hezbollah, allied with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran, waged an inconclusive war with the Jewish state in 2006 and remains a potent threat in Israeli eyes. Israelis also worry that if Assad is toppled, Islamist rebels could turn his guns on them after four decades of relative calm in the Golan Heights border area.
The target of Friday’s raid was not a Syrian chemical weapons facility, a regional security source earlier said.
A U.S. official, who also declined to be identified, had told Reuters on Friday the target was apparently a building.
The Israeli official who acknowledged the raid and described its target spoke on condition of anonymity. Israel’s government has not formally taken responsibility for the action or confirmed it happened.
The attack took place after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved it in a secret meeting on Thursday night, the regional security source said.
CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying Israel most likely conducted the strike “in the Thursday-Friday time frame” and its jets did not enter Syrian air space.
The Israeli air force has so-called “standoff” bombs that coast dozens of kilometers (miles) across ground to their targets once fired. That could, in theory, allow Israel to attack Syria from its own turf or from adjacent Lebanon.
Lebanese authorities reported unusual intensive Israeli air force activity over their territory on Thursday and Friday.
Consider Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s statement earlier in the week where he promised that President Assad’s allies would never let him fall:
“Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall in the hands of America, Israel or Takfiri groups. They will not let this happen,” Nasrallah, Assad’s closest ally in Lebanon, said in a televised speech.
“How will this happen? Details will come later. I say this based on information…rather than wishful thinking,” Nasrallah added.
There have been constant warnings over the last year that Assad was going to transfer his chemical weapons stockpiles to Hezbollah. It is not likely that the missiles that were targeted carried chemical weapon warheads, but there is no word on precisely what other targets were engaged by the Israeli air force.
This is the second Israeli strike inside of Syria since the civil war began. In January, Israel hit another convoy carrying unknown weapons into Lebanon. Given the context of Nasrallah’s statement, and the continuing stalemate on the battlefield between Assad’s forces and the jihadist rebels, it probably won’t be the last strike at Syria’s weapons.
The April jobs numbers came out today and the “official” rate of unemployment dropped to 7.5%. Revisions upward in the numbers of jobs created in February and March, as well as the 165,000 jobs created in April contributed to the decline.
But there is still little cause for optimism. The more accurate U-6 report, which adds workers too discouraged to look for work and part time workers who want full time work but can’t find it, climbed from 13.8% ti 13.9%. The labor participation rate — the lowest in its recorded history — remained unchanged.
James Pethokoukis goes inside the numbers:
While the American economy added 293,000 jobs last month, according to the separate household survey, the number of persons employed part time for economic reasons — “involuntary part-time workers” as the Labor Department calls them – increased by almost as much, by 278,000 to 7.9 million. These folks were working part time because a) their hours had been cut back or b) they were unable to find a full-time job. At the same time, the U-6 unemployment rate — a broader measure of joblessness that includes discouraged workers and part-timers who want a full-time gig – rose from 13.8% to 13.9%.
What’s more, there wasa 0.2 hour decline in the length of the average workweek. This led to 0.4 percentage point drop in the index of average weekly hours, “equaling the largest declines since the recovery began,” notes economist Dean Baker of Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Let’s see, more part timers and fewer hours worked. Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin says what we’re all thinking: “This is not good news as it reflects the reliance on part-time work. … the decline in hours and rise of part-time work is troubling in light of anecdotal reports of the impact of the Affordable Care Act.”
Anecdotal reports like this one from the Los Angeles Times: “Consider the city of Long Beach. It is limiting most of its 1,600 part-time employees to fewer than 27 hours a week, on average. City officials say that without cutting payroll hours, new health benefits would cost up to $2 million more next year, and that extra expense would trigger layoffs and cutbacks in city services.”
Now, there is the possibility that government furloughs are affecting the length of the workweek. (Though at the same time, steady if unspectacular private-sector job growth shows the Fed may be continuing to effectively offset any negative sequestration impact.)
Obamacare is such a behemoth that its macro effect on the economy is enormous. It can be easily argued that the sharp rise in part time workers is due almost entirely to Obamacare. And there is still the uncertainty drag on the economy as businesses are still hesitating to hire full time workers.
Pethokoukis writes, “the combo of data and anecdotes should at least raise red flags about how health care reform could be permanently altering the structure of the American labor market.” A scary thought, that. A nation of part time workers with many Americans holding down two part time jobs just to make ends meet is a nation that will be on its knees begging for government goodies to bridge the gap between what it costs to live and what their take home pay amounts to.
Forget the confusion that will be the norm when the state insurance exchanges open. Forget the complexity of the subsidies. Forget the steep increases in premiums and the massive expansion of Medicaid.
Forget everything about Obamacare except the essential notion that the structure of the American labor market could be permanently altered because of the criminal negligence by Democrats in Congress who created this monstrosity. Many of the consequences of the ACA we are seeing today were predicted. The naysayers were ignored — even vilified and laughed at. It should give them cold comfort that they appear as prophets now.
Pethokoukis writes that this is the first “Obamacare jobs report.” We’ll have to keep an eye on stats like the increase in part time workers and fewer hours worked in succeeding months to validate that assumption. But we’re less than 5 months away from the launch of the state insurance exchanges and the closer we get to that date, the bleaker the outlook for jobs becomes.
Of course, if the group of high-powered liberal billionaires and Democratic party fundraisers are successful in buying the Times, that’s just peachy with them.
They are all totally oblivious to the riotous irony of opposing the purchase of a media outlet because they fear ideological contamination, while embracing a rival group’s effort to buy the paper who will ideologically contaminate the coverage anyway — except it happens to be an ideology with which they agree.
That’s how to save “honest” news coverage in LA.
As Tribune Co. emerges from a four-year bankruptcy, the predominantly Democratic city is quivering at the rumor that libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch may be interested in buying the LA Times. The brothers are believed to be the only group prepared to buy all eight Tribune papers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant, as a package — how Tribune would like to sell them.
The ownership that most Angelenos seem to favor is a coalition of LA billionaires who have expressed interest, led by former Democratic mayoral candidate Austin Beutner and including prominent Democratic donor Eli Broad.
Many say local ownership is preferable because there’s more accountability and involvement. Local owners know and care about the city. Because they live here, they’re concerned and accessible. They won’t tarnish the paper, because they have local reputations to uphold. It would restore the family feel that the paper had for more than 60 years under the founding leadership of the Chandler family.
“Quivering” because we may possibly, perhaps be exposed to an alternative viewpoint? Perish the thought. We’d rather have our news skewed to the left and keep it that way. We don’t need no stinkin’ variety in the ideas to which we’re exposed. Just give it to us straight — biased, closed minded, and safely liberal.
Besides, we don’t want any conservative billionaires coming into our fair city and causing trouble. We want our own ideologically rabid billionaires to own our media.
And isn’t it noble how we prefer “local ownership?” Actually, we don’t care who owns the damn paper as long as they’re liberal.
Now, if we can only figure out a way to block the Fox News channel…
Besides, we’ve already had a right winger owning the paper:
However, local ownership can have a dark side. Until the 1960s, the Chandlers used the Times to promote real estate development and Republican ideals. Similarly, when local real estate investor Doug Manchester bought the San Diego Union Tribune in 2011, he turned it into a platform for local business interests. To the dread of most Angelenos, Manchester has expressed interest in buying the LA Times, though he’s not considered a frontrunner.
Promoting “Republican ideals” is the “dark side?” And given the lousy economy in LA, it might be to the city’s advantage to have its major newspaper do a little shilling for local business interests. Who knows? Maybe someone in the city might get a legitimate job because of it.
This is truly pathetic. Besides, I will bet my house that if the Koch brothers are successful in purchasing the Times. far fewer than half the staff will quit. One look at the job market for journalists, columnists, and newspaper people in general and they will scurry back to their cubicles damn grateful that the Koch brothers see fit to keep them around. It is an empty, idle threat that the Koch brothers should hold them to if they make the purchase. There are so many fine journalists and columnists currently unemployed they’d get 50 resumes for every vacant position.
So perhaps the Times’ staff should stop posturing and get back to work. While they’re at it, they better pray that whoever takes over the Los Angeles Times knows not only what the public needs, but what it wants as well.
Rep. Trey Gowdy was on Fox News on Saturday and let slip a tease for what he terms “explosive” hearings on the September 11, 2012 attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, appearing on Fox News on Saturday afternoon, promised that “explosive” congressional hearings over the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, are “coming quickly.”
“There are more Benghazi hearings coming; I think they’re going to be explosive,” Mr. Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Fox’s Uma Pemmaraju.
Mr. Gowdy wasn’t able to give out too many details, but he hinted that the public for the first time might hear from witnesses to the terror attack that left four Americans dead.
“I am bound by certain measures of confidentiality, but I would tell you that you are getting very warm,” Mr. Gowdy said when asked by Ms. Pemmaraju whether witnesses could be coming forward. “[The hearings] are coming sooner rather than later.”
He said several questions need to be answered, such as why there was a failure of security, “what happened during the siege itself and why aid was not sent,” and whether the testimony by Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was “grossly negligent or whether it was intentionally misleading.”
Mr. Gowdy added that in a trial, “direct evidence, direct testimony by eyewitnesses is always the most compelling.”
The administration has had the eyewitnesses on ice and has refused to allow them to testify before Congress. Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News in March:
“The bottom line is they feel they can’t come forth…They’ve been told to be quiet.” Graham said: “We cannot let this administration or any other administration get away with hiding from American people and Congress…people who were there in real time to tell the story.”
Fox News also reported that a congressional source told them investigators believe that including Ambassador Stevens and the three other casualties, 37 people were in Benghazi on behalf of the State Department and CIA on September 11, meaning that 33 were evacuated. One of them, a State Department security agent, suffered a severe head injury during the assault. It is believed that Secretary of State John Kerry visited him at the Walter Reed Medical Center last January.
On April 17, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told Secretary Kerry at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing: “We have made request after request about, for example, just to get the list of the people who were evacuated from Benghazi, and we haven’t even gotten that, much less some important questions.” Rohrabacher emphasized: “We need to talk to the people who are on the scene. Can you give us a commitment now that this administration, you will be coming up with the request, the honest request of this committee as to who was evacuated and how to talk to them so we can get a straight answer and an understanding of what happened in Benghazi?”
Kerry responded that he didn’t think anybody lied to anybody, and “let’s find out exactly, together, what happened because we need… we got a lot more important things to move on to and get done.”
You know what the Democrats and the press are going to say: This is old news and besides, the investigation is a partisan witch hunt.
Does it still matter that we get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi?
But for some, it does matter, and perhaps less because mistakes were made, and more because after being shrouded in blatant public deceptions, the same mindsets underlying those misjudgments and misrepresentations continue. As with Benghazi, the Obama administration was unwilling to attribute the bombings which killed and maimed innocent Boston Marathon attendees to radical Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile, Benghazi eyewitnesses are sequestered to avoid congressional inquiries into causes and responses, while killers which the president pledged to bring to justice roam free.
It took the FBI a month to make it to Benghazi and by that time, there was little physical evidence left to examine. The killers of our ambassador wandered freely in Benghazi without fear that the weak (and perhaps sympathetic) government would do anything.
From start to finish — from the investigation by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to every utterance by the White House on the matter — there have been blatant attempts to deceive. I will be very disappointed if the only reason they sought to fool people was because of the election. Surely something more vital, something related to policy or some grand strategic vision, was at stake that caused the Obama administration to stonewall congress and lie to the American people.
In the end, that’s the only answer worth getting; why? If that question can be answered, the rest will fall into place.
When are trillion dollar deficits not an “immediate crisis ? When the deficit as a percentage of GDP goes back to “normal” levels.
That’s the reasoning of a growing number of Democrats on Capitol Hill who want all this budget cutting nonsense to stop so they can go back to good old fashioned deficit spending in order to “stimulate” the economy.
Fueled by some outside commentators like the New York Times’ Paul Krugman who believe there is no immediate debt crisis, a growing number of Democrats are resisting more budget cuts, believing that slashing government spending slows the economy.
A column by Ben White and Tarini Parti in Politico looks at the growing number of Democrats who believe “austerity” has run its course and the time is now to increase spending as a stimulus to get the economy growing faster.
It should be noted that many of the Democrats mentioned in this article are not far left liberals. And the authors point out that even some conservative think tanks have issued papers recently urging caution in cutting more from the budget.
These Democrats and their intellectual allies once occupied the political fringes, pushed aside by more moderate members who supported both immediate spending cuts and long-term entitlement reforms along with higher taxes.
But aided by a pile of recent data suggesting the deficit is already shrinking significantly and current spending cuts are slowing the economy, more Democrats such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen are coming around to the point of view that fiscal austerity, in all its forms, is more the problem than the solution.
This group got a huge boost this month with the very public demolition of a sacred text of the austerity movement, the 2010 paper by a pair of Harvard professors arguing that once debt exceeds 90 percent of a country’s gross domestic product, it crushes economic growth.
Turns out that’s not what the research really showed. The original findings were skewed by a spreadsheet error, among other mistakes, and it’s helping shift the manner in which even middle-of-the-road Democrats talk about debt and deficits.
“Trying to just land on the debt too quickly would really harm the economy; I’m convinced of that,” Kaine, hardly a wild-eyed liberal, said in an interview. “Jobs and growth should be No. 1. Economic growth is the best anti-deficit strategy.”
And the intellectual shift away from austerity is not just coming from the left.
The conservative American Enterprise Institute issued a paper last week saying Congress has already achieved enough deficit reduction for now. Other organizations not typically associated with free-spending liberalism, including the International Monetary Fund and Goldman Sachs, have cautioned that the austerity movement — which favors rapid reduction of national debt — may be worsening Europe’s economic problems and slowing down the U.S. recovery, as well.
“American fiscal austerity has been moderate and probably, at the current pace of deficit reduction of about $300 billion per year over the next half decade, has proceeded far enough for now,” AEI scholar John Makin wrote last week.
Does cutting the budget cause a slowdown in growth? As we all know, Washington isn’t “cutting” anything, but rather reducing the rate of growth in government programs. In the sense that the “normal” growth in spending for a government program is cut back slightly, it may affect certain procurement programs like weapons purchases. This would indeed be a loss of economic activity and thus put a damper on the economy.
Regardless of any justification for cutting spending by scholarly papers, the need to cut the budget and cut it now is a necessity. What Krugman and other “stimulus” advocates never mention is the politics of budget cutting, which is not concerned with the numbers of deficit reduction as much as it is with the art of the possible in negotiating a fix for our short and long term deficit problems.
Does anyone seriously believe if we get back to robust growth in the economy — 4% or more — that the political will to deal with our long term debt problems, our entitlement problems, and further deficit reduction will exist? It isn’t so much that the deficit and debt are “immediate” crisis in the sense that unless we balance the budget by next year, the economy will collapse. But once the economy improves, and revenue begins to recover, the need for deficit reduction disappears and Congress will go back to business as usual.
That’s the political reality. Without a spur to their behinds, Congress won’t deal with our debt and deficit problems. And that spur — uncontrolled deficits and a continual increase in our national debt — will disappear once the good times are rolling again.