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.
If it turns out that the administration decides to intervene in Syria because President Assad’s government has used and is using chemical weapons, they would have to answer one, overriding question.
Just who should we be shooting at?
In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce.
Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.
Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.
This is the landscape President Obama confronts as he considers how to respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” he had set. More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.
Among the most extreme groups is the notorious Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States, but other groups share aspects of its Islamist ideology in varying degrees.
“Some of the more extremist opposition is very scary from an American perspective, and that presents us with all sorts of problems,” said Ari Ratner, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former Middle East adviser in the Obama State Department. “We have no illusions about the prospect of engaging with the Assad regime — it must still go — but we are also very reticent to support the more hard-line rebels.”
You might recall hearing about several high profile defections of high ranking officers in the Syrian army over the last two years who invariably brought a number of soldiers with them. At the time, it was thought that these defectors would form the bulk of the Free Syrian Army, the main force fighting to remove Bashar Assad from power.
But it didn’t work out that way. Most of those units have either melted away or been absorbed by the dominant Islamist militias who are receiving arms from sympathizers in the Gulf states.
To give you an idea of just how screwed up our policies have made things, the Times article details what happened to an umnbrella military council we set up as a counterpart to the civilian opposition council:
As extremists rose in the rebel ranks, the United States sought to limit their influence, first by designating Nusra a terrorist organization, and later by pushing for the formation of the Supreme Military Council, which is linked to the exile opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition.
Although led by an army defector, Gen. Salim Idris, the council has taken in the leaders of many overtly Islamist battalions. One called the Syrian Liberation Front has been integrated nearly wholesale into the council; many of its members coordinate closely with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes the extremist Ahrar al-Sham, according to a recent report by Ms. O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War.
A spokesman for the council, Louay Mekdad, said that its members reflected Syrian society and that it had no ties to Nusra or other radical groups. “The character of the Syrian people is Islamic, but it is stupid to think that Syria will turn into Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s just an excuse for those who don’t want to help Syria.”
In effect, the US helped facilitate the concentration of Islamist power in the military.
Blunders aside, there is still a question of intervention. Despite fairly conclusive proof that sarin gas has been employed by the Syrian army, President Obama — quite rightly — is still reluctant to react militarily. Do we really want to provide air support for al-Qaeda backed fighters? Or establish a “no-fly” zone to assist those who, once in power, would become our enemy?
A cynical policy would see to it that the civil war went on and on, so that the Islamists would be denied victory and Assad would be too pre-occupied to cause trouble elsewhere, like Iraq. But with millions of civilians threatened with starvation and thousands dying every month, such a policy would be unworthy of the United States. We must find a way with our allies to end this conflict and then try and pick up the pieces as best we can after Assad has been deposed.
We might know for sure already if Eric Holder’s Justice Department hadn’t set the wheels of justice turning, forcing a hearing where the surviving bomber was read his Miranda rights.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Sunday that he believes the Boston bombers had sophisticated training.
“And the question is where is that trainer or trainers?” McCaul said on Fox News Sunday. “Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?”
McCaul cited the sophistication of the pressure cooker bombs and the fact that similar devices have been used in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said the FBI has cast a “wide net” in the hunt for a possible trainer.
“I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals,” McCaul said.
Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are believed to have detonated two homemade bombs packed with shrapnel at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and maiming dozens.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police, but his younger brother has been charged in the attacks. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has said he and his brother were radicalized on the internet and suggested they learned how to build the bombs from instructions in an al Qaeda magazine, according to reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agreed with McCaul, saying the bombings were “more advanced” than what would have been possible with Internet research.
McCaul also said he believes the mother of the two suspected bombers played a “role in the radicalization process” and called her a “person of interest,” but stopped short of claiming she was involved in the bombing.
McCaul isn’t the only media source to point to the relative sophistication of the bomb as proof that the bombers didn’t act alone. Indeed, it appears that the FBI — despite White House assurances that there was no foreign connection involved in the plot — is concentrating on finding additional suspects in the case.
“There could be a wider conspiracy,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “What I found astounding is that right out of the box, U.S. officials anonymously are saying there’s no foreign connection to this case. When in fact, the FBI just began their investigation in this case.”
Given the extensive network of Chechen terrorist cells across Europe, it is not a stretch to imagine a cell here in the U.S. Tamerlan Tsarnaev could easily have been put in touch with the cell when he was in Dagestan for six months last yaer. Or he may have made contact during his radicalization. The point being, McCaul is not blowing smoke. And the FBI continues to look into the possibility of a wider conspiracy despite the White House wanting the whole idea of a terror cell of Chechens in America to just go away.
Thank you Vladmir Putin for telling us about these wiretaps — after the bombing.
Russian authorities secretly recorded a telephone conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother, officials said Saturday, days after the U.S. government finally received details about the call.
In another conversation, the mother of now-dead bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was recorded talking to someone in southern Russia who is under FBI investigation in an unrelated case, officials said.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, they might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Tsarnaev family.
As it was, Russian authorities told the FBI only that they had concerns that Tamerlan and his mother were religious extremists. With no additional information, the FBI conducted a limited inquiry and closed the case in June 2011.
Two years later, authorities say Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhohkar, detonated two homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260. Tamerlan was killed in a police shootout and Dzhohkar is under arrest.
In the past week, Russian authorities turned over to the United States information it had on Tamerlan and his mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva. The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens who emigrated from southern Russia to the Boston area over the past 11 years.
Even had the FBI received the information from the Russian wiretaps earlier, it’s not clear that the government could have prevented the attack.
Again the question: Why didn’t the Russians give this information to the FBI when they requested that the bureau investigate Tamerlan prior to his visit to Dagestan?
It was not immediately clear why Russian authorities didn’t share more information at the time. It is not unusual for countries, including the U.S., to be cagey with foreign authorities about what intelligence is being collected.
Nobody was available to discuss the matter early Sunday at FSB offices in Moscow.
Jim Treacy, the FBI’s legal attache in Moscow between 2007 and 2009, said the Russians long asked for U.S. assistance regarding Chechen activity in the United States that might be related to terrorism.
“On any given day, you can get some very good cooperation,” Treacy said. “The next you might find yourself totally shut out.”
There is no guarantee that the FBI would have monitored Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s activities any more closely if the wiretap information had been given to the FBI. But might it have put other information they acquired in another context? We’ll never know.
The suspect’s mother is emerging as a larger force in Tamerlan’s life than was previously suspected. If she harbors radical beliefs, questions about how the family managed to immigrate successfully to the U.S. need to be answered before any immigration-reform bill can be passed. Americans sympathized with the Chechens as the Russians brutally suppressed their revolt. But judging by the actions of the bombers, closer scrutiny appears warranted regardless of how we feel toward an oppressed people.
The FBI has not had a good month.
After some questionable actions with regard to the events surrounding the Boston bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and initially arresting the wrong man in the case involving letters tainted with ricin sent to President Obama, a judge, and a Senator Wicker, the FBI has taken another suspect into custody connected to the ricin matter.
James Everett Dutschke, a man involved in a bitter personal feud with Elvis impersonator and former suspect in the cast Paul Curtis, was arrested by federal marshals this morning at his Tupelo, Mississippi home. He is being charged with “knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon.”
FBI spokeswoman Deborah R. Madden declined to provide details about the investigation, including what evidence prompted this latest arrest. Linda King, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford, Miss, said Saturday afternoon that the agency was not releasing any additional details about the case.
Dutschke went into hiding on Thursday to escape the media attention, prompting the FBI and local law enforcement officials to launch a five-hour-long manhunt for him. He has insisted he had nothing to do with the letters.
Federal authorities officials searched his home Tuesday for more than 10 hours and spent Wednesday searching the site of his former studio. Several people at the scene were wearing respirators, and a portable laboratory was set up nearby. Dutschke’s studio closed in January when he was under a child-molestation investigation. A grand jury indicted him this month. The alleged victim is a 7-year-old girl who had visited his studio, Basham said.
Law enforcement officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity on the day Curtis was released, said they believed Curtis had been framed.
The evidence that led the FBI to arrest Curtis included several details that could be found on social media sites or were known to Dutschke.
No definitive word yet on whether the substance found in the letters was indeed ricin, or some other poison. If it is, it begs the question; how did someone like Dutschke acquire the expertise to extract the ricin from castor beans and place it in letters without poisoning himself? It’s a nagging detail that should give us pause in thinking that the FBI truly got its man — this time.
Well, if you include feeding starving orphans, you might make a charge like that stick.
North Korea said Saturday it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the government, further complicating already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington.
The indictment of Kenneth Bae comes in the middle of a lull after weeks of war threats and other provocative acts by North Korea against the U.S. and South Korea. It has expressed rage over U.N. sanctions over a February nuclear test and ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills, though analysts say Pyongyang’s motive is to get its Korean War foes to negotiate on its own terms.
“For North Korea, Bae is a bargaining chip in dealing with the U.S. The North will use him in a way that helps bring the U.S. to talks when the mood slowly turns toward dialogue,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
Bae, identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator of Korean descent who was arrested after arriving with a tour on Nov. 3 in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.
He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, including some involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
“The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report. “In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.”
The North Koreans may be upset with him because he might have been trying to convert people to Christianity:
But his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specializing in North Korea affairs said Bae is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there. It is not known whether he tried to evangelize while in North Korea.
Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as Western-influenced threats to the government. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors from the country have said.
Of course, Iran pulls the same kind of crap and we let them get away with it too. Hostage taking in the 21st Century is far more nuanced than the simple snatch and ransom gambits of previous eras. These countries don’t want money — not in the sense that they expect suitcases full of dollars to be delivered at a pre-arranged drop. Their primary goal is to have the US pay attention to them — sort of like a pimply-faced teenage boy who can’t get the attention of the gorgeous girl next door and ends up slashing her tires.
We have several candidates to act as high-profile hostage negotiators. Jesse Jackson is available and is always eager to take center stage and tell the world how it’s all America’s fault. Ditto Jimmy Carter, although he may be getting a little old to go gallivanting around the world spouting his blame America first nonsense.
My choice is Dennis Rodman, who apparently really hit it off with North Korea’s number one NBA fan, the Dear Leader himself. Perhaps Dennis could show up wearing a wedding dress and really impress Kim Jong-Un. They may release Mr. Bae out of sheer amazement.
No doubt Mr. Bae will be returned safe and sound after a suitable interval and enough food is showered on the starving North Korean regime. To prevent this from happening in the future, the government should warn all Americans that if you travel to North Korea, you are on your own. We will not negotiate or otherwise intervene in securing your release.
We’d never do it, of course. Nor will North Korea tire of playing the hostage game in order to force the US to pay attention to it.
A Dutch man who is thought to have mastermindeded a massive web attack on Spamhaus, an international organization dedicated to fighting companies who send out spam emails, is under arrest after a request from a Dutch prosecutor.
The man arrested is believed to be Sven Kamphuis, the owner and manager of Dutch hosting firm Cyberbunker that has been implicated in the attack.
“Spamhaus is delighted at the news that an individual has been arrested and is grateful to the Dutch police for the resources they have made available and the way they have worked with us,” said a Spamhaus spokesman.
He added: “Spamhaus remains concerned about the way network resources are being exploited as they were in this incident due to the failure of network providers to implement best practice in security.”
Spamhaus servers were hit with a huge amount of data via an attack technique known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. This attempts to overwhelm a web server by sending it many more requests for data than it can handle.
A typical DDoS attack employs about 50 gigabits of data every second (gbps). At its peak the attack on Spamhaus hit 300 gbps.
Cyberbunker is thought to have kicked off the attack in late March after Spamhaus blocked some servers hosted by the Dutch firm. Cyberbunker bills itself as a firm that will host anything but child pornography and terrorism material.
Non-profit Spamhaus maintains what are known as “block lists” which many organisations use to spot sources of spam and other junk mail to stop them clogging mail servers and inboxes with unwanted messages.
Mr Kamphuis took exception to Spamhaus’s action saying in messages sent to the press that it had no right to decide “what goes and does not go on the internet”.
In a statement, the Dutch public prosecutor said the Dutchman, who it only identifies as “SK”, was “suspected of unprecedented heavy attacks” on Spamhaus. The house where SK was stayed was searched at the time of his arrest and Spanish police confiscated computers, phones and hard drives.
The BBC describes the attack on Spamhaus as one of the “biggest ever” and may have involved criminal networks in Eastern Europe.
Spamhaus is not without its critics, including legitimate businesses who have been placed on their spam list. The problem comes in defining exactly what “spam is. Clearly, the email scams from Nigerians and other obvious attempts at fraud should be blocked. But what of legitimate businesses that purchase email lists for the purpose of sending advertising emails?
The USPS separates such clutter and makes it possible for the consumer to opt out of receiving most of it. But no such service exists on the internet. We can calibrate our spam filters so that it doesn’t clutter our inboxes, and most email services give you the option of using key words to block spam altogether. The latter is especially helpful in preventing advertisements for sex sites and sex products to ever reach your email box.
But using key words to block advertisements risks stopping legitimate, wanted mail from being received. Spamhaus, while occasionally being overzealous in applying its definition of spam, nevertheless performs a valuable service in helping to clean up the internet.
PC World is reporting that the suspect is wanted for other computer crimes as well. Reason enough to take a spammer off the net so that we don’t have to be bombarded every day by scams from Nigerian princes and ads for products that don’t exist.
It looks like the Nigerians will have to find another way to deliver its email scams.
Republican recruiters are finding it slow going in convincing top-tier candidates to run for open Senate seats in some states that the GOP needs to fashion a majority in 2014.
In other states, GOP leadership is having difficulty in heading off expensive primaries for Senate candidates who will probably face well-known, well-financed Democrats. The Democrats have done well so far in identifying and recruiting first-rate candidates with name recognition and fundraising abilities in Iowa, Michigan, and probably Montana, where popular former governor Brian Schweitzer is expected to run for the seat left vacant by retiring Senator Max Baucus.
In Iowa, the national party is in scramble mode, hoping to head off the candidacy of Rep. Steve King, a strong conservative and tea party favorite. King hasn’t declared yet, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP leadership from frantically searching for an alternative:
The party’s top national Senate campaign strategists are so concerned about squandering potential opportunities by failing to persuade popular Republicans to run in critical states that they were in Iowa last week to survey the landscape. The visit came after top Senate prospects U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, a prolific fundraiser, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a rising star, decided against running despite aggressive lobbying by the National Republican Senate Committee.
The committee’s senior spokesman, Kevin McLaughlin, and its political director, Ward Baker, met privately Wednesday with state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and state Sen. Joni Ernst, who have expressed interest.
They invited Mark Jacobs, the former CEO of Reliant Energy, to breakfast Thursday. They also tried again, and in vain, it turns out, to persuade Terry Branstad, Iowa’s longest-serving governor, to run for Senate instead of seeking another term as governor.
Despite all that, the Washington delegation shrugged off the recruitment troubles. “It’s more important to take the time to get it right than it is to rush and get it wrong,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin and others have lamented the national party’s decision not to intervene in the candidate selection last year, when Republicans lost races viewed as winnable in Indiana, Missouri and elsewhere.
The mission in Iowa for 2014 is to beat Democrat Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman trying to succeed retiring six-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Braley is the party’s consensus prospect. He’s won Harkin’s endorsement and already has raised more than $1 million for his campaign.
In Michigan, GOP brass is working hard to draw former FBI agent and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers into the race. Currently, only little-known libertarian Congressman Justin Amash has indicated any interest in running, and he is reportedly being pressured by both Ron Paul and Rand Paul to forgo a shot at the upper chamber in order to remain in the House as the primary libertarian spokesman in the Republican Party. Neither man will be favored against three-term Rep. Gary Peters, who has the strong backing of both the state and national Democratic Party.
Republican chances in both Iowa and Michigan — even with open seats — have always been less than stellar. Both states have have been unfriendly to conservatives in recent elections and President Obama won both states comfortably in 2012.
You may have seen a Tatler post of mine up this morning going into excruciating detail about how two Iowa Democrats were convicted of fraud in getting President Obama on the ballot in 2008 primary.
I got so excited and carried away in explaining the counterfactual possibility that Obama would never have been elected president, that I failed to notice that the Democrats were not from the state of Iowa, but rather Indiana.
I’ve been writing for PJ Media for 6 years and have had my own blog going on 9. I’ve made many errors of fact and omission during that time, having written more than 3700 blog posts and articles, but I can’t recall being so careless as to get a fundamental fact of a story so massively wrong — and then failing to notice the error until it was pointed out in the comments.
So as I wipe the egg off my face and pick myself up off the floor, I would like to apologize for this inexcusable mistake. I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but being human, you and I both know that it is a fool’s promise to underestimate our ability to make asses of ourselves.
A GOP bill that would actually improve Obamacare was set for a vote today but was abruptly pulled by House leadership when conservative opposition derailed it.
Dubbed the “Helping Sick Americans Now” Act by its author, Majority Whip Eric Cantor, the bill would have rescued a particularly incompetently drawn part of Obamacare; insuring Americans with pre-existing conditions. The bill calls for transferring funds from a preventative disease account into high risk pools that would allow sick people to better able afford insurance.
Mr. Cantor should probably have stayed in bed. Democrats oppose the bill because — well, the Republicans proposed it. President Obama has promised a veto. And several conservative groups — including the Club for Growth who promised to “score” a vote on the bill for its report card — came out adamantly opposed to anything that smacks of improving Obamacare. In fact, many conservatives called for another symbolic vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
As this story in The Hill demonstrates, there was a lot of confusion prior to the Republican leadership pulling the bill:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he asked leadership a lot of questions that weren’t answered at the committee meeting. King is undecided.
Pitts left the committee meeting fully prepared to head to the floor later in the afternoon to manage debate on his measure.
Asked if leaders had the votes for passage, Pitts acknowledged that he didn’t know, but that he was “willing to roll the dice.”
“As far as I know, we’re voting this afternoon,” Pitts told The Hill.
Moments later, the RSC chairman told The Hill that he didn’t know if, in fact, the bill would come up for a vote.
“I don’t know … I’m waiting for the votes to be called,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an interview with The Hill.
Though Scalise supported the measure in the Energy and Commerce Committee, he wouldn’t commit to doing so on the House floor unless a pending amendment is adopted.
Pitts offered the amendment at the Rules Committee late Tuesday night to allay the concerns of GOP lawmakers that the money would go to the federal pool instead of the state-run high-risk pools.
Still, Pitts conceded “there are some people who still are hesitant because they don’t want to fix ObamaCare.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) – a declared “undecided” – left the RSC meeting with a more pessimistic outlook on the measure.
Based on the number of concerns that he heard voiced by his fellow RSC members, Brooks suggested it seems unlikely that GOP leaders would be able to pass the bill without the support of some Democrats.
“It’s pretty simple. We’re shifting money from one part of Obamacare we don’t support to another part of Obamacare we don’t support,” said Michigan’s Justin Amash. That pretty much sums up the truth of the matter.
What possessed Cantor to embark on this fruitless quest to improve Obamacare is a mystery. If he wanted to include help for Americans with pre-existing conditions, he might have included something in any “replacement” bill that the GOP is still insisting it wants after Obamacare is repealed. But to offer it as a stand alone bill that Democrats can unite against and conservatives can snipe at is bad strategy — and worse lawmaking.
Brent Bozell named the bill “Cantorcare.” It looks like the Majority Whip will have that name to live down for a long time.
An West Virginia eighth-grade student was suspended from school and later arrested after wearing an NRA T-shirt with the picture of a gun to school and then refusing to take it off.
Jared Marcum woke up Thursday morning and decided to wear an NRA T-Shirt with the picture of a hunting rifle. When confronted by school authorities who told him to take it off, Jared refused. He was later arrested on two counts including obstruction and disturbing the education process.
The school district refuses to comment and the family has retained a lawyer.
Jared’s father Allen Lardieri says he’s angry he had to rush from work to pick his son up from jail over something he says was blown way out of proportion.
“I don’t’ see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a t-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it,” Lardieri said.
The Logan County School District’s dress code policy prohibits clothing that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages and more but nowhere in the document does it say anything about gun images.
“He did not violate any school policy,” Lardieri reiterates. “He did not become aggressive.”
Now, Lardieri says he’s ready to fight until the situation is made right.
“I will go to the ends of the earth, I will call people, I will write letters, I will do everything in the legal realm to make sure this does not happen again,” Lardieri said.
Logan City Police did confirm that Jared had been arrested and charged today.
For an eighth grader, the young man appears to have a remarkable clarity of mind:
“People are saying that I did the right thing, that they’re proud,” Jared said.
The 14-year-old student at Logan Middle School in Logan, West Virginia says the NRA shirt that sparked the controversy now symbolizes a fight that is just getting started.
“What they’re doing is trying to take away my rights, my freedom of speech and my second amendment,” Jared said.
“You can take the firearms out of the equation, what this about is fundamental rights,” Jared’s father Allen Lardieri said.
The school authorities wildly exceeded any possible mandate they might have to regulate speech and on a whim — or because of political bias — tried to enforce a non-existent dress code. Now they’re stuck with their behinds hanging out and don’t know what to do. So their only comment is “no comment.” They haven’t even told Jared or his family when he can come back to school.
If a student came to school wearing a T-Shirt with the NRA logo placed in a red circle with a line through it, the kid would probably be feted at a special school assembly.
As it is, poor Jared is on the “wrong” side of the issue and must suffer for standing up for his foul beliefs.
Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC weekend host who doesn’t believe your children belong to you, also doesn’t believe that the religious faith of the Tsarnaev brothers matters to the investigation of the Boston bombings.
Harris-Perry must have been visiting her home planet the last few days, so perhaps we can excuse her for being a little behind the breaking news curve. Still, wherever she calls home, don’t they get the New York Times or Washington Post?
Making the point that the Tsarnaev brothers’ Muslim faith at the moment bears little relevance to the investigation into the brothers’ decision to attack the Boston Marathon last week, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry observed that Tsarnaev’s faith is about as relevant to the investigation right now as are Ben Affleck movies about violent events in Boston. Her panel guests agreed and added that Americans have to “otherize” violent actors in order to absolve themselves from responsibility for or connection to their violence.
“We don’t really know,” said Harris-Perry, throwing her hands up about the discussion into the Tsarnaev’s motives. “The younger brother, he’s getting all kinds of tweets from his friends. I think part of the answer is that it’s still an open question.”
“They don’t have the privilege of being anonymous – ‘they,’ speaking of people of color or other minorities – we don’t know yet, but we fill in the blanks,” said Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. “We fill in the blanks with what makes us feel the most comfortable that this was an exceptional, extraordinary case that happened because they are this.”
“I keep wondering: is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, ‘oh, this is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?’” Harris-Perry asked. “And, of course, the answer is ‘no.’”
“Given that they’re Chechen, given that they are literally Caucasian, our very sense of connection to them is this framed up notion of, like, Islam making them into something that is non-[unintelligible],” Harris-Perry continued.
“The point is that it’s important to say, ‘that is not us,” Dyson agreed. “We want to demonize the other. We have to distance it from the dominant culture.”
If I didn’t know that this surreal discussion was taking place on a major news network and was recorded, I never would have believed it.
Classic epistemic closure. The cocooning of academics and liberals regarding Islam and Islamist extremism specifically is what makes conversations like this possible. The “other,” by definition, is never wrong, never at fault, and always a victim. It doesn’t matter if violent Muslim extremists want to cut off our heads. Harris-Perry and her ilk — even if they acknowledge the truth in that — no doubt believe they have good reason to murder us.
I suppose it’s punishment for demonizing them so that we can distance them from our dominant culture.
The mystery surrounding the Tsarnaev brothers’ ties to Russia is deepening, even as President Obama called Prime Minister Putin to offer thanks for their “close cooperation” in catching the suspects.
We know that Tamerlan Tsarnaev went to Dagestan, Russia — a region bordering Chechnya and a hot bed of extremism — for six months in 2012. We also know that prior to that trip, the Russians requested the FBI look into Tamerlan’s background to see if there were any ties to terrorists. The FBI investigated but found nothing.
What happened when Tamerlan returned from his Russian trip? The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said on Meet the Press that there were limits to Russia’s “cooperation” in vetting the elder Tsarnaev:
“It’s important to understand why the FBI interviewed him in the first place: They were concerned about his possible radicalization,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding the FBI did a “ very thorough job” trying to run that into the ground. “And then [the FBI] asks [for] some more help from that intelligence service to try to get further clarification.”
“Unfortunately, that intelligence service stopped cooperating,” Rogers said. “What happens is that case gets closed down.”
The New York Times reports that the Russians “had something on him and were concerned about him, and him traveling to their region.”
What did the Russians “have on him”? How much info did they share? Evidently not enough to keep the FBI interested in him:
But the F.B.I. never followed up on Tamerlan once he returned, a senior law enforcement official acknowledged on Saturday, adding that its investigation did not turn up anything and it did not have the legal authority to keep tabs on him. Investigators are now scrambling to review that trip, and learn about any extremists who might have influenced, trained or directed Tamerlan while he was there.
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul is also wondering why the Russians never got back to the FBI about Tamerlan after he returned from Dagestan in July of last year:
After Tsarnaev came back, he created a YouTube channel with links to a number of videos–two of which were tagged under a category labeled “Terrorists” and were deleted. It’s not clear when or by whom.
“If he was on the radar and they let him go–he’s on the Russians’ radar–why wasn’t a flag put on him, some sort of customs flag? I’ve done this before. You put a customs flag up on the individual coming in and out. And I’d like to know what intelligence of Russia has on him as well. I would suspect that they may have monitored him when he was in Russia,” McCaul told CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
Analysis of his social media accounts and interviews with his family members suggest Tsarnaev became increasingly radical in the last three or four years. But so far, there is no evidence of active association with international jihadist groups.
Might the Russians have evidence of Tamerlan’s associations with terror groups? And why the interest in the young man by Russian intelligence before his visit? Why were they concerned about radical associations of Tamerlan ostensibly before he was radicalized? Had the young man been in touch with people in Dagestan who were already on Russia’s terror radar?
Two people were wounded at the “420 Day” marijuana “smoke-in” at Denver’s civic plaza when shots rang out, scattering the sky-high participants and causing mass confusion.
The unintentional hilarity of this UPI story is one for the books:
Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said a man and woman in their 20s were both shot in the leg, The Denver Post reported. They were expected to survive, said the newspaper, which initially reported three people had been shot.
Police said they were looking for two suspects and were asking witnesses from the big crowd that scattered when the shots were fired about 5 p.m. to come forward.
OK — so it’s still illegal to smoke pot in public in Colorado and the cops want people to come forward who were engaged in illegal activity? And what kind of descriptions of the suspects are they going to get from people who had been smoking grass all afternoon?
Johnny Lee, who was at the civic center when the shooting erupted, said he didn’t hear any disturbance beforehand.
“Everybody started to run,” Lee said. “They were running over people.”
Damontay Wimberly told the Post he heard about seven shots.
“Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow, about seven times,” he said.
Laura Forduno said the event was peaceful right up until the gunfire.
This is your brain on pot. Thanks for the illustration Ms. Forduno.
You feel sorry for the couple that was shot, and anyone injured in the melee that followed. But the vision of thousands of stoners trying to leave someplace all at the same time while higher than a kite is a scene reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Hilarity is tempered with concern, but if anyone knows where there’s a video of the event, I’d love to see it.
In addition to making marijuana legal, Colorado recently passed some stiff gun control laws. It is obvious that guns and grass don’t mix very well. In fact, anyone stupid enough to take a gun to such an event should have their license revoked and their head examined, not necessarily in that order.
No one knows whether the couple was targeted or some toked-up rally-goer accidentally fired off several rounds. Regardless, it’s a sure bet that at next year’s 420 Day rally, cops are going to be out in full force and may even set up metal detectors to prevent this from happening again.
They were taken into custody on Friday night but released a short time later. Now two men believed to have have been roommates with the younger Tsarnaev have been arrested again — this time for possible immigration violations.
Evidently, you can drive a vehicle with license plates showing your support for terrorism, but God help you if you messed up your immigration paperwork:
From the Daily Mail:
The two men who own a BMW with the license plate ‘Terrorista #1’ and who are said to be friends with the younger Boston bombing suspect were taken into custody again on Saturday.
This time the two foreign nationals were arrested over alleged immigration violations in the Massachusetts town, New Bedford, where police say the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have once lived.
The students, named by neighbours by their first names Azmat and Diaz, drive a black BMW 330XI with the personalised plate and a sticker on the back which reads: ‘F*** you, you f****** f****’.
They are thought to be from Kazakhstan and had not been seen since the bombings until Friday night when their ground floor apartment in New Bedford, MA, was raided by a dozen FBI agents at gunpoint.
One of their girlfriends was also arrested on Friday. All three are in their late teens or early 20s.
The three were subsequently released on Friday night before Saturday’s arrest of the two men.
Their apartment was raided because police say the younger Boston Marathon bombing suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, may have lived at their address.
MailOnline has discovered another link – Dzhokhar Tweeted pictures of the car on his Twitter account J_tsar.
In one picture the BMW is next to another dark coloured sports car with the caption: ‘Place your bets’ as if they are about to race.
Inside the car was a receipt from a Ralph Lauren store, a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, a receipt from a shipping company, a prescription, lots of crushed water bottles and a number of parking tickets.
The neighbour told MailOnline that Azmat and Diaz were ‘nice boys’ who were light skinned, thin and short.
She said that they were students at the University of Massachusetts and had been living in the apartment for around a year.
She said: ‘They used to have parties until three or four in the morning. There would be drinking and dancing and the police would come. I didn’t mind but they stayed up til late every now and then’.
Evidently Dzhokhar was something of a party animal. Authorities now believe he hid out in a dorm at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, working out at the gym and actually going to a party Wednesday night just hours before he was involved in a huge firefight with police.
The “Gang of Eight” presser that rolled out the immigration reform bill was Washington theater at its finest.
Until a little reality intruded on the proceedings.
ICE union head Chris Crane was present and tried to ask a question of the Senators. But the Gang ignored him and he was eventually escorted to the wings in order to allow the play to continue.
Recall in the film Dr. Strangelove President Merkin becoming angry when an argument broke out between the Russian ambassador and one of his advisors.
“There’s no fighting here,” shouted Merkin. “This is the War Room!”
Might Senator Schumer have said to Crane, “There are no questions here. This is a press conference!”
Chris Crane, head of the immigration officers union, was pulled out of a Senate press conference today when he tried to question Sen. Chuck Schumer during the televised roll-out of the 844-page immigration rewrite.
While reporters asked questions, Schumer ignored three requests from Crane, who sought to question him about aspects of the far-reaching law, which promises to tighten enforcement of immigration laws at borders, airports and seaports.
“Will you take a question from law enforcement?” Crane asked, repeating the question twice before being removed.
Schumer ignored the question, and repeated his advocacy for the bill. Crane’s union represents agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service.
Schumer and the other Senators have struggled to control the debate about the bill, which was released this week after months of closed-door drafting. Supporters are now trying to win Senate approval of the far-reaching bill by June.
Critics say the bill has many loopholes and flaws that will allow political appointees to minimize enforcement of immigration law.
Crane, who heads the president of the National ICE Council, has been a vocal critic of the bill.
One would think that the man who heads the union responsible for enforcing our immigration laws might want to ask a question or two of the Senators so that maybe he and his members could better perform their jobs.
One would think.
But in the bizarro world of Capitol Hill where you can’t ask questions at press conferences, situation normal – all screwed up.