Friday, October 7, 2011
“Facts are stubborn things.” –John Adams
Playing Fast and Furious With the Facts
“When did you first know about the program, officially called, I believe, ‘Fast and Furious’?” That question was asked of Attorney General Eric Holder in congressional testimony on May 3, 2011. Fast and Furious was an effort of the Arizona branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the straw purchase of American weapons that would then be transferred to Mexican drug cartels with the supposed purpose of tracking those weapons and taking down those cartels. The plan has been an unmitigated disaster, costing the lives of two American agents and possibly hundreds of Mexicans. Inquiring minds want to know why.
Holder answered that question in May, saying, “I’m not sure of the exact date but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” Later he told reporters, “The notion that this reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that at this point I don’t think is supported by the facts and I think once we examine it and once the facts are revealed we’ll see that’s not the case.”
The truth is that Holder was first briefed on the operation in July 2010. When CBS News askedabout this discrepancy, “The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee — he did know about Fast and Furious — just not the details.” Also, he doesn’t always read his memos. Why he lied to reporters was left unanswered.
A July 5, 2010, memo to Holder specifically notes the “1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.” Holder didn’t find that — or four other similar memos — worthy of his attention? Please. In fact, it appears that Holder perjured himself, and Justice is covering for him. Furthermore, last week’s Friday evening news dump revealed that there was extensive communication between the White House and the ATF on the matter. Maybe that’s why Barack Obama said Thursday that he has “complete confidence” in Holder.
The administration is circling the wagons, as well. CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson claims that she took significant heat from Justice for daring to inquire. She said the White House and Justice Department “will tell you that I’m the only reporter — they told me — that is not reasonable. They say the Washington Post, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable. I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.” Not only that, but Attkisson also said that when she asked questions, “The DoJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me.”
The “other case” that Justice mentioned to CBS in passing was evidently a Bush administration effort called Operation Wide Receiver. Like Fast and Furious, Wide Receiver was indeed an operation to track smuggled guns headed to Mexico. The difference is that Wide Receiver failedon a technical level, whereas Fast and Furious seems to have been intentionally criminal. Once Wide Receiver efforts to actually track and stop them failed, the operation was canceled. Altogether 450 guns ended up in Mexico. In Fast and Furious, however, agents deliberately continued running more than 2,000 guns into Mexico — that was the plan, not a failure of tracking. The administration’s intent in Arizona, as well as Tampa, Indiana, Dallas, Houston and elsewhere, seems to have been bolstering the false claim that 90 percent of guns recovered in Mexico are American and, therefore, we need tougher gun laws.
We commend Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Government Reform Committee, for his efforts to get to the bottom of this scandal despite constant administration roadblocks. It would help if the media turned up the heat, too. Nobody died as a result of Watergate, and look what they did with that one.
Warnings on Europe
Speaking of Fast and Furious, which would describe the European economy’s descent into chaos, IMF adviser Dr. Robert Shapiro had this assessment: “If they cannot address [the European financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps two to three weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt, which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We’re not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we’re talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France. That will spread to the United Kingdom … it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected. … All those banks are counterparties to every significant bank in the United States, and in Britain, and in Japan, and around the world. This would be a crisis that would be … more serious than the crisis in 2008.”
On the Campaign Trail: A Lot of Fuss Over a Rock
The Washington Post over the weekend published a shameless hit piece on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is among the frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination. The 3,000-word story focused on a rock at a West Texas hunting camp the Perry family once leased in the early 1980s. On the rock was painted the word “N-ggerhead,” which the newspaper apparently felt was a matter of some consequence.
The graffiti was in place before the Perrys came along, and, as Perry explained, “My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984. This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit.” End of story, right? Nope. The Post spent the next 2,500 words interviewing random people in Texas who saw the rock (though they couldn’t recall when), reviewing Perry’s record on race (which even Democrats in Texas don’t dispute is stellar), and exploring the etymology of the word in question. The story ominously concluded, “In the photos [recently viewed by the Post], it was to the left of the gate. It was laid down flat. The exposed face was brushed clean of dirt. White paint, dried drippings visible, covered a word across the surface. An N and two G’s were faintly visible.” Other media outlets used the story to spread the narrative that conservatives are racist.
No doubt Perry has stumbled of late on his own; once the Republican frontrunner, he’s now running second in most polls behind Mitt Romney, and Herman Cain is fast on his heels. However, he outperformed Romney in third-quarter fundraising with $17 million, despite not entering the race until midway through the quarter. We don’t think the Post story will hurt Perry with conservatives, but it’s no less shameful that the media will run into the ground this non-story about a Republican while completely ignoring the far more inflammatory story of Barack Obama’s pastor of 20 years, the racist and hate-spewing Jeremiah Wright.
In other campaign news, Ron Paul raised an impressive $8 million in the third quarter, and he remains in the middle of the pack in the polls. His strong following may carry him quite far. Other candidates’ fundraising totals will be released by Oct. 15. Finally, in case you’ve been hiding under a painted-over rock, Chris Christie and Sarah Palin are not running for president.
From the Left: Obama the Black Panther?
To be sure, this isn’t nearly as important as that rock in West Texas, but photographs have surfaced of Barack Obama sharing a podium and marching with prominent members of the New Black Panther Party during a March 2007 event in Selma, Alabama. Panther National Chief Malik Zulu Shabazz is one of the men identified in the photos. Shabazz was one of the defendants in the notorious Philadelphia voter intimidation case in 2008, which the Department of Justice inexplicably dropped shortly after Obama took office in 2009. Also present at the 2007 event was Panther Minister of War Najee Muhammed, an Obama supporter who called for the murder of Georgia police officers with AK-47s.
The photographs were initially going to appear in a new book by J. Christian Adams, the Justice Department official who blew the lid on the Obama administration’s handling of the Philadelphia case. The photographer later reversed himself and refused to allow the publisher permission to use the photos, but BigGovernment.com captured them before they were removed from the Web altogether. Obama’s rubbing elbows with this unsavory racist lot received zero media attention during the 2008 campaign or since, and the White House has refused to clarify why Shabazz turned up on the 2009 White House visitor logs. The media were grossly negligent in vetting candidate Obama and it has continued a double standard in reporting on Democrats versus Republicans.
News From the Swamp: Stalled ‘Jobs’ Bill
Barack Obama’s $447 billion “jobs” bill is still in legislative limbo in the House and Senate, several weeks after he began his incessant “pass-this-bill” campaign. He has largely given up on that rhetoric by calling for something to be done in October. The bill has been formally introduced in the House and Senate, but it still has no co-sponsors in either chamber.
Obama continues to press for a vote on the full package, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) stated this week that the bill would not get a vote in the House. He added that there are job creation measures that Republicans and the White House can agree on, such as free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and rolling back regulatory barriers that are hurting businesses. That didn’t stop the president, though, from calling out Cantor and Republicans for supposedly standing in the way of revitalizing the American economy. His re-election campaign also sent an email to supporters attacking Republicans for blocking the bill. Oddly, there was no mention about the lack of action from the president’s own party in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s motion to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
As for jobs, September saw an increase of 103,000, though nearly half that were telecommunications workers returning to the job after being on strike in August. Headline unemployment remains at 9.1 percent.
This Week’s ‘Braying Jenny’ Award
“Without the Recovery Act and accompanying federal interventions, whether from the Fed, or Cash for Clunkers, or other initiatives, the unemployment rate last year at the time of the election would have been 14.5 percent, not 9.5 percent.” –House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Obama’s Campaigning for Republicans
“I don’t think [Americans are] better off than they were four years ago.” –Barack Obama
“The real question for everyone is: Are you better off than you were $4 trillion ago?” –Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)
New Notable Legislation
Barack Obama signed into law a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through Nov. 18. The resolution temporarily quieted fears of a government shutdown, as Democrats and Republicans have been debating since Oct. 1 appropriations bills for FY2012.
House Republicans introduced one of those appropriations measures this week — a $153 billion bill for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. It prohibits any new spending on ObamaCare until all legal challenges are settled, and it also removes all funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that refuse to certify that they will not perform abortions. The bill would continue to fund Pell grants for higher education, but it would bar grants to students attending college less than half time. It cuts funding for NPR and AmeriCorps, and it also imposes a number of restrictions on various federal agencies. Furthermore, it prevents the National Labor Relations Board from using money to force employers to notify workers of their right to unionize, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from requiring employers to adopt injury and illness prevention programs, and federal officials from enforcing stricter standards for vocational schools and for-profit colleges. Naturally, several Democrats announced opposition to the bill because it cuts too deeply into some of their favorite programs; some Republicans oppose it for not cutting enough.
The ‘Buffet Rule’
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett attempted this week to clarify his position on Barack Obama’s so-called “Buffett Rule” — the proposed raising of taxes on top earners based on the repeated claim that Buffett’s secretary pays more in taxes than he does. “It isn’t [my idea] to have the rich pay more taxes,” Buffett said. “It’s to have the ultra-rich who are paying very low tax rates to pay more taxes. There’s all kinds of ultra-rich who pay normal taxes … including me.” Buffett’s still okay with his name being attached to the plan, whatever it may be.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) wants Buffett to put his money where his mouth is. According to theDaily Caller, “Scalise’s ‘Warren Buffett Act of 2011′ will instruct the IRS to provide a checkbox on Americans’ income tax forms so that those who feel they are not paying enough in taxes can easily and conveniently do so — without forcing an entire change in the tax code.”
Meanwhile, as part of his latest comedy act, Joe Biden quipped, “Look, we talk about the ‘Buffet Rule’ — I call it the ‘Reagan Rule.’” Oh, wait. He wasn’t joking.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Anwar al-Awlaki: ‘Citizen’ Enemy?
This week’s PC oxymoron, “U.S. citizen enemy combatant,” has driven heated debates on the topic. Specifically, many on the Left, as well as GOP presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), have protested the U.S. drone strike death of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric linked to several terrorist plots and attacks against the U.S. (Fort Hood, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, the Times Square car bombing), on the basis of his U.S. citizenship.
Al-Awlaki, along with his understudy — another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan — were both killed on the Saudi-Yemen border by drone missiles specifically targeting al-Awlaki. The controversy surrounding the attack centers on the idea that the U.S. owes its citizens — wherever they happen to be — the constitutional protections afforded to all U.S. citizens, to include rights of due process as well as the ability to have “a day in court.” The problem, of course, is that such thinking is simply wrong.
For starters, American citizens have never been accorded such “rights” when they have taken up arms against their own country. The Supreme Court has reinforced this fact several times. Notably, in World War II it ruled that the U.S. citizenship of captured German spy/saboteurs was irrelevant when the citizen associates himself with the enemy power and operates as an enemy belligerent. In essence, the Court used a walks-like-a-duck-and-quacks-like-a-duck analysis to conclude that U.S. citizens who operate as enemy combatants in wartime are, in fact, enemy combatants, and that the classification preempts any citizenship status.
More recently, the Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) added support to this conclusion, stating, “A citizen, no less than an alien, can be part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners and engaged in an armed conflict against the United States.” In other words, independent of any “rights” Al-Awlaki and Khan may have claimed as U.S. citizens, when each joined a belligerent foreign military force — al-Qa’ida — and entered the battlefield as an enemy combatant against the U.S., they gave the U.S. the “right” to shoot back. And we did. End of (al-Awlaki’s) story.
In a story that hasn’t yet ended, Operation Enduring Freedom marks its 10-year anniversary today. Hundreds of thousands of troops have deployed to Afghanistan since October 2001, and some 1,700 have paid the ultimate price. At least 70,000 troops are scheduled to remain through 2014.
Immigration Front: Administration Appeals Alabama Law
The Obama administration on Friday asked a federal appeals court to block Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law after a federal judge allowed key portions to take effect. Last week, U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled that Alabama could allow police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally if they cannot produce proper documentation when stopped. She further upheld a provision requiring public schools to determine (by reviewing birth certificates or sworn affidavits) the legal residency status of students upon enrollment.
Not content with obstructing the rights of a state to ensure that its citizens’ scarce tax dollars are spent for their own welfare and not that of illegal foreigners, the Obama administration now wants to appeal by arguing immigration is solely a federal matter. As with so many things, the obvious conclusion here is that a state wouldn’t have to resort to such lengths to ensure prudent stewardship of its taxpayer dollars if the federal government hadn’t abdicated its responsibility to protect the country’s border. Also lost on the Obama administration is the distinction between federal immigration authority and a state’s right to protect its treasury by checking the immigration status of those who would burden it. We hope the courts uphold Alabama’s law.
Regulatory Commissars: The Durbin Tax on Debit Cards
Sometimes it all comes down to who has the best lobbyists, and normally it’s not the consumer. Americans were outraged when Bank of America announced last month that, effective Oct. 1, it would charge debit card users a $5 monthly fee for the privilege. Many other large and regional banks have done likewise. From the Senate floor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called on Americans to “vote with your feet [and] get the heck out of that bank.”
Durbin conveniently failed to mention, however, that it was his amendment to last year’s 2,325-page Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill that created the opening for BoA and other financial institutions to slap their consumers with these fees. Meanwhile, giant retailers like Walmart and Home Depot were given a break that Home Depot estimated could save them $35 million a year. Because of the new federal law capping the interchange fees banks charge retailers at 24 cents per transaction — instead of the going rate of around 44 cents — Bank of America predicted they would lose $2 billion annually in revenue. Instead, the cost of doing business will be borne by bank customers who no longer enjoy free checking.
The question now is whether retailers will pass their savings on to consumers or use the millions saved on their reduced fees to fatten their bottom lines. Realistically, it’s not likely that these savings will accrue to consumers, but even if they do, the benefit consumers receive won’t make up for the additional fees charged by banks. The biggest winners are the lobbyists who continue to rake in huge contributions in order to play two business behemoths against each other. It’s the average guy on the street who loses.
Income Redistribution: More Where Solyndra Came From
Racing against the end of the fiscal year and its “green energy” loan program, the Department of Energy announced last Friday nearly $5 billion in loan guarantees for three solar plants and a project to retrofit 750 buildings with rooftop solar panels. All told, the three solar plants funded would create just over 1,000 megawatts of power annually, or about the output of an average nuclear plant. But if the stimulus money was supposed to create jobs, the cost per job on these projects is prohibitively high. For example, the Antelope Valley Ranch solar project in California received $646 million in loan guarantees to create 350 temporary construction jobs, 20 permanent jobs for running the facility, and 230 megawatts of electricity. It all works out to $32 million per permanent job — assuming, of course, the facility remains in operation until the loans are paid off sometime in the unforeseeably distant future.
It’s not only a question of creating jobs. As we pointed out last week, the $737 million loan guarantee for the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project is indeed expected to create 45 jobs — but it will also fatten the coffers of a company run by one Ron Pelosi, brother-in-law of the former Speaker of the House. Nice work if you can get it. On the whole it’s — to borrow Obama’s phrase — a “good bet” that a number of connected Democrat cronies are growing rich off government largesse. At least the outcry has had some effect, though: Jonathan Silver, executive director of DoE’s Loan Programs Office, was thrown under the bus this week for the failure of the program.
Bad News, Good News on Oil Drilling
Nearly 18 months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the region’s oil industry has yet to come back. At fault is not the spill itself so much as Barack Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Although the May 2010 moratorium was lifted last October, the damage had already been done. According to an analysis by Quest Offshore Resources, Inc., of the 33 floating rigs that were operating in the Gulf prior to the spill — 29 of which were actively drilling — just 21 rigs are now operational, with only 18 actively drilling. This translates into some 11,500 jobs lost. Furthermore, of the 11 rigs driven out of the Gulf by the moratorium, just one has returned, while others have found new homes in places such as Egypt, Liberia, Brazil and Vietnam. Even though some predict that the rig count will return to pre-moratorium levels by mid-2012, drilling activity will continue to lag, thanks in no small part to the snail’s pace of permitting.
Meanwhile, the Alaskan oil front brings better news. On Monday, the Obama administration gave a green light for almost 500 oil-drilling leases that had been stalled by enviro-fascists. The leases were issued in 2008 by the Bush administration but were delayed by a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and Alaska native organizations. Moving forward marks a significant step toward tapping into domestic oil reserves. Given the administration’s inconsistent stances regarding Alaska and the Gulf, though, we hope it isn’t one step forward and two steps back.
News from the Communist Party USA: ‘Occupy Wall Street’
A horde of malcontent leftists, some with faces painted like zombies, have camped on the streets of New York for three weeks to protest capitalism on Wall Street. While voicing their anger at evil corporations, many of the protesters are using iPhones, computers, social networks, tents, sleeping bags and clothing made by those same evil corporations. The protests have taken the moniker “Occupy Wall Street” to provide a unifying theme to a disheveled and incoherent mob.
One idea, perpetuated by former Obama “green jobs” czar Van Jones, is to create a leftist version of the Tea Party. They’re misunderstanding some key ingredients, however. First, the Tea Party is newsworthy and interesting because people on the Right don’t make a habit out of protesting. When organizing and gathering ultimately ensued, it was big news. On the other hand, the Left has been regularly protesting everything under the sun for at least the last 50 years. Second, the protests are an effort to support the current administration — i.e., the status quo, which is something “progressives” are supposed to eschew.
In fact, it’s likely that the administration is at least in part behind the protests. With organized labor, MoveOn.org, the Communist Party USA and others involved, it’s hard to believe that the White House isn’t pulling some strings. Indeed, Barack Obama said, “I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel.” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner commented that he “definitely sympathize[s]” with the movement and also finds financial industry criticism of Obama “inexplicable.” This orchestration reveals another difference with the Tea Party: Whereas Occupy Wall Street is a manufactured gathering of the professional protest establishment, the Tea Party is truly grassroots and organic. In closing, we have just one piece of advice for the protesters: Go home and take a shower.
This Week’s ‘Alpha Jackass’ Award
“[C]lass warfare is dangerous. The only problem is that the wrong class is winning.” –Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT)
Second Amendment: Guns Up, Crime Down
Since the Supreme Court struck down Chicago’s draconian handgun ban last year, the city’s violent crime rate has plummeted. This is contrary to the warnings of then-mayor Richard Daley, who said Chicago would “go back to the Old West — you have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets.” Yet according to John Lott, who has written extensively on the subject on guns and crime, “In the first six months of this year, there were 14 percent fewer murders in Chicago compared to the first six months of last year — when owning handguns was illegal. It is the largest drop in Chicago’s murder rate since the handgun ban went into effect in 1982.” That success comes in spite of the fact that just 2,144 people had registered guns in Chicago as of May. The city made the process prohibitively cumbersome and expensive, as usual, meaning it is the poor — who are the most likely victims of crime — that cannot defend themselves.
Chicago isn’t alone, either. Consider Washington, DC, after the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling affirmed an individual right to own guns. Lott writes, “If you compare the first six months of this year to the first six months of 2008, the same time immediately preceding the Supreme Court’s late June ‘Heller’ decision, murders have now fallen by 34 percent.” Don’t expect the Left to concede the point, however. Gun grabbers have yet to meet a fact they couldn’t twist or ignore for the purpose of taking away our Second Amendment rights.
Village Academic Curriculum: Stealing Education
It is rare, especially these days, to hear about someone committing a felony for a good cause. Yet across the country, parents are being prosecuted for just that. Concerned about the quality of the schools in their own districts, they are lying about their addresses so that their kids can get a better education elsewhere. This week, one single mother from Ohio, who has dreams of becoming a teacher, was charged with two counts of grand theft — one for each child — for falsifying their address in order to get them in a better school. A conviction would have ruined her chances for a career in education. Perhaps it was this aspiration, along with the fact that she has always been a law-abiding citizen, that led sympathetic Ohio Gov. John Kasich to reduce the charges to misdemeanors.
Schools are taking new — and some say, extreme — measures to stop this “crime wave.” These measures include hiring companies such as VerifyResidence.com, which hires snitches to follow students to and from school, and then rat-out the offenders. As Micheal Flaherty of the Wall Street Journal quipped, “Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.” Certainly, regardless of where one stands on this issue, the actions of the “guilty” parents should be seen as yet another wake-up call about our failing public education system and our children’s future.
The New Meaning of Family
The decline of the family is undeniable. A same-sex couple in California and their 11-year-old son provide the latest example of the harm done by the “five gender” crowd. The two women, joined in a commitment ceremony in 1990 by their rabbi, adopted the boy when he was just two. Now he is undergoing hormone-blocking treatment in Berkeley to prevent him from going through puberty as a boy because, they claim, his gender-disorientation pathology would otherwise cause him to commit suicide. He will continue the treatment until he can decide if he wants to be a man or a woman.
The boy’s adoptive mothers insist this has nothing to do with their own lifestyle choices. “It was odd to us,” one said. “Even though she [sic] has lesbians as parents, this is all new to us in every possible way. We know what it’s like to feel different — we’ve got that one. But to feel like you’re not in the right body was just something we could not put our heads around.” Indeed, we can’t put our heads around it, either. Real help would be available to him if his parents were truly clear about his well-being. Instead, they have chosen a lifestyle that will almost surely result in severe problems down the road. It’s truly tragic that cultural degradation runs so deep.
If you need another sign that the economy is awful, look no further than a back alley in the Big Apple. Drug use is down, and resulting emergency room admissions for cocaine-related issues have dropped since the economy started to tank in 2008. According to Dr. Stephen Ross, director of NYU’s Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, the economy is definitely a factor. “I treat patients in private practice,” he says. “Many cocaine addicts tell me … they don’t have enough money to buy it anymore.” At $60 to $80 per gram, we understand the need to cut back. While we haven’t yet heard of a new government “cash for crack” program, we suspect it’s only a matter of time. And when it happens, we have just the headline: Obama Deals Blow to Economy.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team