The powerful House Ways and Means Committee will get everything from disgraced former IRS official Lois Lerner’s email account since a few weeks before Barack Obama became president.
And Republican committee members are hoping they’ll find a smoking gun tying the Obama administration to the years-long scheme to play political favorites with nonprofit groups’ tax-exemption applications.
After eight months of back-and-forth stonewalling, the IRS has agreed to turn over the complete contents of Lerner’s email account, along with other documents that two congressional committees have been demanding.
‘If there’s not a Holy Grail email in this round of documents,’ a senior staffer to a Ways and Means committee member told MailOnline, ‘then we’re not going to find it.’
‘Whether that’s because Lerner covered her tracks or because the IRS is shredding documents, we’re probably never going to know.’
The committee’s chairman, Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp, seems eager to put his staff to work sifting through thousands of messages in search of an explanation for the program that has been a major embarrassment to the White House.
‘This is a significant step forward and will help us complete our investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,’ Camp said Friday.
‘From the few Lerner documents we have received, we know that Washington, DC orchestrated the targeting of groups applying for tax-exempt status, surveillance of existing tax-exempt groups and formed the proposed 501(c)(4) rules designed to push conservative groups out of the public forum.’
Camp warned the IRS in a February 24 letter that he would start issuing subpoenas if the agency didn’t turn over the documents he wanted.
The IRS has proposed a rewrite of its regulations governing communications restrictions on ‘public benefit’ organizations that are exempt from paying federal income taxes.
That redesign of the rules began long before Lerner herself exposed the IRS’s pattern of holding up right-wing groups’ applications, often with dozens of intrusive questions over several years.
The effects of the agency’s desired rule change would be substantial: Organizations would be prohibited from emailing information, or publishing anything online, about candidates’ voting records during the last 60 days before an election.
Tea party groups, which began their rise to prominence five years ago, comprised most of the organizations that the IRS targeted beginning in 2010. Their political free-speech concerns have driven more than 146,000 public comments to the IRS, demanding that the regulatory revisions be scrapped.
Cleta Mitchell, a board member of the American Conservative Union Foundation, said Friday during that organization’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference that the new rules would affect the event where she was speaking.
‘It would mean that in even-numbered years, CPAC could have no speakers who are candidates for office,’ she said, dumbfounded.
Mitchell, an attorney, is representing some of the tea party groups in lawsuits related to the IRS targeting scheme.
The House Oversight Committee, chaired by California Rep. Darrell Issa, has cast a larger public shadow than Ways and Means has on the IRS targeting scandal.
Lerner has appeared before Issa-led hearings twice, both times invoking her Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to testify, despite President Obama’s insistence in a February interview that the IRS displayed ‘not a smidgen of corruption’ in the damaging episode.
Becca Glover Watkins, the Oversight Committee’s communications director, told MailOnline that Issa’s and Camp’s committee staffers are working hand-in-hand.
‘The Oversight Committee and the Ways and Means Committee have worked in partnership during the course of this investigation,’ Watkins said.
‘We expect the IRS will also be delivering a copy [of the complete Lerner files] to the Oversight Committee.’
A spokesperson for the Ways and Means Committee told MailOnline that it was the new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, who broke the inertia after months of requests.
‘We have been asking for the materials for months, and after many discussions the new IRS Commissioner has said the IRS will comply with the request,’ said the committee’s Sarah Swinehart.
Lerner ‘was clearly at the center of the IRS targeting and was running it out of the Washington, D.C. office,’ she added. ‘We expect her documents to provide a fuller picture of this.’
Koskinen took over the tax agency on December 23, ending a 13-month period during which two interim commissioners served as caretakers.
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Taxpayers have paid more than $2.4 million to develop “origami condoms,” including male and female versions, and the “first of its kind anal condom.”
Out to “reinvent the condom,” Los Angeles businessman Danny Resnic has completed the first rounds of testing for three variations based on Japanese folding paper, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development initially spent $212,162 for a feasibility study on Resnic’s “new condom” in 2006. The idea was a non-rolled, silicone-based condom that “increases pleasure” and is more effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases.
The issue is important to Resnic who said a broken condom in the 1990s changed his life.
“We all know that latex condoms don’t feel great. They break, they slip, and they interfere with intimacy,” Resnic said, sporting green neon shoes and sitting next to an outdoor fireplace for a promotional video on his website.
“From my perspective, the latex condom, designed in 1918, just got it wrong,” he said. “In 1993 I had a life-changing incident, a broken condom and an HIV diagnosis. This drastically changed my view about condoms.”
“Like many people, I don’t love condoms for the obvious reasons,” Resnic continued. “Do you know anyone who does? What if there was something new and radical that you loved using instead of latex condoms?”
Resnic says he has done just that, creating a design that gives the feeling of “sex without a condom: the real deal.”
Perfecting his condoms would not be possible without the U.S. taxpayers. “Generous research and development funding” provided by the NIH supported Resnic’s company’s research and development and four Phase I clinical trials. Since 2006, he has received $2,466,482 to test the three variations.
The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases then began funding Resnic’s clinical trials in 2009, providing two grants worth $1,130,670 to design and test the Origami RAI condom for “receptive anal intercourse.”
The “feasibility and acceptability study” tested the anal condom, which is “worn internally by a receptive male or female partner,” on 24 couples.
The condom is intended to “provide better sensation and less breakage” and to “increase the acceptability of condoms among those who practice anal intercourse and are at risk of HIV / STIs.”
“Unlike the off-label use of the rolled latex male condom, the [origami anal condom] OAC creates direct tactile contact for the penis inside the internally lubricated condom,” the company said. “The Top partner does not need to wear a condom, creating an experience closer to ‘sex without a condom.’”
“You can walk around and do most any activity with the condom pre-inserted,” Resnic said.
The anal condom is expected to hit the market in late 2015. It is undergoing further clinical trials.
Additionally, Resnic received $591,950 to test his “Origami female condom” on 40 heterosexual couples.
The female condom’s design provides “maximum protection against breakage, slippage, and viral permeability.” It features a “unique patented reservoir designed to minimize semen backflow,” the grant said. A video demonstration is provided on Resnic’s website.
Finally, the initial study for the “Origami male condom” cost $531,700, beginning in 2011. The male and female versions, which can “accommodate a range of penis sizes,” are also expected to reach the market in 2015.
“I am grateful for the support from the epidemiology research community and the NIH, without whom these innovations would not be possible,” Resnic said on his website.
“We re-invented the condom,” a promotional video on the Origami condom website said. The video will be used on social media to market the products, since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) restricts their advertising on television and radio.
Set to electronic dance music and neon colors, the 30-second promo begins with a song:
We’ve realized that people are still having sex
They’ve been told not to
Perhaps they are perplexed
When you see them holding hands
They’re making future plans to engage in the activity
Do you understand me?
People are still having sex
Lust keeps on lurking
Nothing makes them stop
“We did not anticipate the marketing challenge with FCC restrictions on media placement for the condom ads on TV and radio,” Resnic said. “The FCC will not allow a condom to be shown on TV, and radio messages have language restrictions. This makes it really difficult to market a product that cannot be seen or discussed.”
Resnic, who studied design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., said the “strategic” promo works around the FCC rules. “Origami condoms won’t go viral, but our promo should,” he said.
The Origami condom has been praised by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is also providing millions in research for new condom designs. The billionaire and Microsoft founder is a strong proponent for increasing contraceptive use in developing countries in response to “population growth.”
Resnic also sees his products as being used around the world.
“In the long term we believe we can make a sustainable and measurable difference to reduce incidence of HIV and unplanned pregnancies on a global scale,” he said.
Requests for comment from NIH were not returned.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the official federal deficit was $680 billion. Liberals have cheered this drop while subsequently ignoring how this deficit is both larger than all of Bush’s pre-recession deficits and is expected to grow dramatically over the next several decades.
However, the Treasury Department’s annual report on the finances of the U.S. federal government shows that not only is $680 billion an incomplete measure of the federal government’s finances, it’s off by nearly a factor of five.
The U.S. Treasury has just released its annual “Financial Report of the United States Government,” which provides an account of the federal government’s finances using accounting standards like those that the government requires of large corporations. Because the federal budget is not bound by these standards, it does not have to account for all of its fiscal obligations.
For example, the Treasury report reveals that the federal government owes $6.5 trillion in retirement and health benefits to federal employees and veterans. This legal responsibility amounts to $53,000 for every household in the United States, but none of these liabilities are reflected in the 2013 budget deficit or national debt.
During the federal government’s 2013 fiscal year, the official federal deficit was $680 billion, but this comprehensive accounting reveals that the federal government’s fiscal position deteriorated by $3.3 trillion or an average of $27,000 for every household in the U.S.
There are two basic ways the federal government calculates its obligations. The first does not account for the obligations of Social Security, Medicare, and other programs in the same way the federal government requires of private corporations.
The method the Treasury report uses is far more complete. It includes long-term obligations and liabilites unaccounted for in the deficit and debt measurements.
In this year’s report, Treasury says the government should initiate deficit reduction measures (cuts and/or tax increases) equivalent to 1.7 percent of GDP every year for 75 years. This means, just in 2014, Treasury is recommending a cut in deficits of approximately $274 billion just to prevent a fiscal crisis – and these cuts will grow in size every year for the time period Treasury examined. Waiting 10 or 20 years makes things even worse.
And even these cuts are grossly undersized. First, this would still leave America’s publicly held debt-to-GDP ratio the same as it was in 2013, which the Congressional Budget Office has said is problematic.
Additionally, Treasury assumes in its report that the Affordable Care Act will reduce long-term health care costs. And, finally, these cuts are recommended to reduce “primary” deficits, those that do not include the enormous interest payments the federal government is expected to incur.
In short, not only is the federal government in financial trouble, it’s in worse shape than we ever realized. After compiling all of the data in the Treasury Report, Just Facts found that the full obligations of the U.S. federal government total $71 trillion, or $580,000 per household.
Another day, another illegal Obamacare delay.
Via The Hill:
The Obama administration is set to announce another major delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act, easing election pressure on Democrats.
As early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements.
Prolonging the “keep your plan” fix will avoid another wave of health policy cancellations otherwise expected this fall.
The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day.
The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.
“I don’t see how they could have a bunch of these announcements going out in September,” one consultant in the health insurance industry said. “Not when they’re trying to defend the Senate and keep their losses at a minimum in the House. This is not something to have out there right before the election.”
The Romike family doesn’t have the values the Administration wants for legal immigration.
Via Fox News
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike came to the United States in 2008 seeking political asylum. They fled their German homeland in the face of religious persecution for homeschooling their children.
They wanted to live in a country where they could raise their children in accordance with their Christian beliefs.
The Romeikes were initially given asylum, but the Obama administration objected – claiming that German laws that outlaw homeschooling do not constitute persecution.
“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” the Justice Department wrote in a legal brief last year. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Romeike’s appeal – paving the way for the Christian family of eight to be deported.
“I think this is a part of the Obama administration’s overall campaign to crush religious freedom in this country,” said Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. His organization is representing family.
Christians in an east Tennessee community are vowing to engage in civil disobedience if the Obama administration initiates deportation proceedings against a Southern Baptist family from Germany who sought asylum in the United States so that they could home school their children.
“It may require civil disobedience with this bunch,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who represents the congressional district where the Romeike family lives.
“I am furious about this,” the congressman told me. “You’ve got law-abiding people who did everything right who simply want to home school their kids. We used to be that great shining city on a hill. There’s some rust on that city if we are doing free people this way.”
Roe was among many Tennesseans outraged over the Supreme Court decision not to hear the Romeike’s appeal to stay in the United States. The Christian couple sought asylum in 2008 after they fled Germany so they could home school their children.
The family was initially granted asylum, but the Obama administration objected – claiming that German laws that outlaw homeschooling do not constitute persecution.
“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” The Justice Department wrote in a 2013 legal brief. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”
Rep. Roe told me the Justice Department needs to “butt out.”
“I don’t know what the Germans are thinking, but we’re not Germany,” he said. “I don’t want to be Germany. I don’t want to be Europe. I want to be America. And right now we’re not acting very much like the America I know with the administration we have.”
Roe called Attorney General Eric Holder “one of the most dangerous people in the country” and called his department’s assault on the Romeike family “appalling and worrisome.”
“I don’t see this as a Democrat or Republican issue,” he said. “It’s an issue of religious freedom. By golly, if we don’t stand for what, what do we stand for?”
Michael Farris, the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, is representing the family. He said their future in the United States rests with the Obama administration.
“President Obama has the ability to say they can stay,” Farris said. “He can take that pen and piece of paper and make this right today.”
But since that hasn’t happened there are two possible outcomes for the Romeikes and their six children.
Farris said the administration could just ignore the family and let them live in peace. But the government could also file an order of deportation. If that happens, Farris promised a vigorous fight.
“If they come after this family and seek deportation orders, we will be there with our litigation team fighting every step of the way,” he said. “It sounds like their friends and neighbors will be there in a show of solidarity and stand in the gate and prohibit the government from acting.”
And Farris isn’t speaking figuratively. A number of the Romeike’s neighbors in Morristown, Tenn. told me they are prepared to engage in civil disobedience should government agents try to deport the family.
“The Romeikes have become a part of our family,” said Dean Haun, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Morristown, where the family attends. “I don’t think there’s any question that there will be some people who will be willing to stand with them to the very end – even if it means our imprisonment.”
The Southern Baptist pastor said should that day come, he would be counted among the local residents willing to go to jail to save the family from deportation.
“If that’s what it took, yes,” the pastor said. “This is an assault in the face of Christianity in America.”
“This is one of those situations where we are just outraged,” he said. “We are angered.”
He said the Romeikes are beloved in the east Tennessee town – where Uwe is the church pianist as well as an ordained deacon.
“They are not on welfare,” he said. ‘They are not trying to live off our system. They are very productive, godly, Christian people.”
Roger “Sing” Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, told me he was deep distressed by the Obama administration’s actions.
“I’m not sure what’s more chilling – that this administration views their presence in rural east Tennessee as a threat to our nation’s economic and political well being or that this administration lobbied to deport this family to a nation determined to coercively indoctrinate the children in government sanctioned ‘tolerance’ training,” Oldham said.
Oldham said the case is simply perplexing.
“This family is the antithesis of this administration’s political agenda – a heterosexual married Christian couple desiring to teach their biblical values to well-grounded children,” he said. “For whatever reason, our government does not want them in our nation.”
State Rep. Tillman Goins told me the community is “up in arms.”
“Everybody in Morristown knows the Romeike family,” he said. “You have a family who is doing it the legal way, taking every legal step they can to ask to come to this country and to participate as citizens in this country – only to be persecuted by the United States.”
Goins introduced a resolution calling on Tennessee’s congressional delegation to defend the family.
“I don’t know if all religious liberty is under attack in this country,” he said. “It seems like Christian values are under attack more than any other religion.”
Should the day come when the immigration agents show up to take the family away, Goins said he would meet them at the front door.
“Let’s hope that it doesn’t get to that point,” he said. “(But) should it come down to it – absolutely.”
And Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas would be standing alongside the state lawmaker.
“I can tell you this – I would stand with them,” he said. “There has to be a way to work this out before it ever comes to that.”
The mayor said there are no finer folks in his town than the Romeikes.
“They are good citizens without a doubt,” he said. ‘I don’t think you’ll find anyone with a better work ethic – kind, gentle people. I know that he has deep religious beliefs and he wants to stay and so does his family. I would hope our country would be able to accommodate them. They are an asset to our country.”
Farris predicted that if the Romeikes are deported, it would spark a movement among religious liberty supporters.
“If they come for this family, it’s going to ignite a movement that’s going to be the same as when they told courageous Rosa Parks to go to the back of the bus and she wouldn’t go,” Farris said.
“I think we may be approaching a similar moment in our country.”
Already, one in three American voters say they’ve been personally hurt by Obamacare.
One-in-three U.S. voters now says his or her health insurance coverage has changed as a result of Obamacare, and the same number say the new national health care law had a negative personal impact on them.
Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 56% regard it unfavorably, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This includes 16% who view the law Very Favorably and 41% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Favorable opinions of the law are down from 45% two weeks ago and are the lowest measured since late December. Unfavorables hit an all-time high of 58% in mid-November. Favorables fell to a record low of 36% in that same survey.
Thirty-three percent (33%) now say their insurance coverage has changed because of the new law, up a point from January and the highest finding since last July.
President Obama’s mendacious political promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” continues to cast a long and disturbing shadow of doubt and confusion over millions of Americans who have lost coverage as a result of Obamacare. As 2014 unfolds, the most vulnerable senior citizens – those who receive home health care services – are about to learn they are out of luck. Obamacare opens a trap door under them, leaving this elderly population in freefall – with many citizens losing access to home health care.
Add another compelling reason to reverse Obamacare. Whether by accident or intention, the “Affordable Care Act” empirically strips America’s oldest and poorest cohort, all part of the World War II generation, of this basic coverage. Here is how.
On Jan. 1, Medicare’s home health care services, formerly serving 3.5 million elderly beneficiaries across the country, were cut under Obamacare. The cut deleted exactly 14 percent, or an estimated $22 billion, from these lowest-income Americans over four years. News of the forthcoming cut only trickled out the Friday before Thanksgiving, yet another stunning attempt by the Obama White House to reduce Medicare benefits without attracting notice.
Guess what? We noticed. This cut does irreparable damage to recipients of Medicare’s home health care services, those who are aged, homebound and sicker than the average Medicare population. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of Medicare home health care users live at or below the federal poverty level, meaning they are the most economically compromised of America’s precious senior citizens.
This cut is an indictment of White House policies. Home health care agencies have always provided services to homebound Medicare beneficiaries. No hoopla, but when these Americans needed skilled care, they got it. In contrast to expensive hospital care, critical health care services got into millions of American homes via clinicians. Home health care was – and still is – vital. It is also now effectively gone for these Americans.
How did home health care save money for taxpayers? Using 2009 as a reference year, Medicare’s average Part A and Part B payment for a home health care visit was $145, compared to $373 per day in a skilled nursing facility or a whopping $1,805 per day in a hospital. In addition, according to one leading expert, skilled home health care services saved the Medicare program $2.8 billion during the most recent three-year period. Approximately $670 million of that savings is attributable to 20,000 fewer hospital readmissions.
Given these facts, one would conclude that the value of home health care in driving down Medicare costs should be obvious, if this – and not a single-payer system – were the real goal of Obamacare. How did we lose sight of common sense? Just keep patients in a familiar surrounding – their homes, not in an expensive hospital – keep sound disease management programs that deliver better and more cost-effective outcomes, and continue to coordinate care for patients. That was working. Now we have the reverse – markedly higher medical and insurance costs, with absolutely no institutional connection, support or continuing benefits for these especially needy Americans, the ones who depended – with their families – on critical home health care benefits. The president and his Democratic surrogates in the House and Senate have done it again: They have wiped out another critical, working system with this Obamacare monstrosity.
What else will this home health care cut achieve? It will hit the small businesses that provide home health care nationwide, and is already doing so. More than 90 percent of those providing home health care are small businesses. According to the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 40 percent of these companies will be operating “at a loss” – that is, they will likely fold or end up in bankruptcy – by 2017 as a result of the cut. What does that mean? It means nearly 5,000 more Medicare home health care providers may go out of business, and nearly 500,000 more jobs within this flogged industry may be wiped out to fund Obamacare. Those who care about such things should put that into their future unemployment calculations – and then thank Mr. Obama and his congressional friends, who all got a waiver and probably do not worry about home health care anyway.
Attacking our weakest senior citizens is no way to run a country. It is, in a word, reprehensible. This abomination devastates another existing and essential Medicare promise, while throwing one more gut-wrenching punch at this job sector. Does the truth no longer matter? Do these lives no longer matter? Do these businesses and jobs no longer matter? When will Mr. Obama and his allies in Congress let up and allow Americans to look after themselves again, as we used to quite well?
In a bombshell interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, President Obama issued his most direct public threats ever against Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
‘Bibi’, the President all but said, ‘If you don’t accept the peace plan that my Secretary of State hasn’t even released yet, you will ruin your country.’ The interview was released for publication almost the very moment as Netanyahu’s plane departed to meet with Obama in Washington.
In addition to droning on about the growing dangers posed by increasing Israeli settlement ‘expansion’, the “rights” of Palestinian refugees, the historic “moderation” of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the reasonableness of the Iranian regime, President Obama used the interview with Goldberg to issue ominous new threats and dire warnings against the Jewish state if it did not agree to accept his plan to shrink Israel back inside the 1949 armistice lines.
Obama tells Goldberg that it isn’t really the Palestinians who need to change. It is Israel. Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians is essentially the result of steps Israel takes to prevent such terrorism. The best way to change the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to – and celebration of blood curdling violence against Jews – is for Israel to change its housing policy.
Nothing new here. This has been the President Obama’s basic position since long before he ever ran for public office; and a position shared by most of the international community.
What is new about Obama’s latest interview are his threats. If Israel doesn’t do what Obama decides Israel should do, then Israel should no longer expect the U.S. to support it: “If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction – and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the past couple of years – if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguously sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the fallout is going to be limited.”
If Israel accepts that Obama knows best, that his proposed solutions to Israel’s problems are superior to its own, then Israel will faced increased isolation and threats. On supporting Israel, Obama says: “It is getting harder every day”. He explains that Israel faces ‘increasing international isolation’ because there is a “genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries that this issue continues to fester and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure.”
Back in January, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was forced to publicly apologise for comments he made to an Israeli newspaper stating his belief that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s all-consuming efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian “peace agreement” might be born out of a “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor”. His comments provoked an unusually ferocious firestorm of outrage from both the White House and State Department. It was outrageous, the State Department and White House told the world in strikingly harsh language, for anyone to question the wisdom of John Kerry’s unshakeable belief that “solving” the Israeli-Palestinian still remains the foremost challenge of U.S. foreign policy. Rarely, if ever, have administration officials used such sharp and pointed language towards the actions or statements of Iran or North Korea.
In the past four days, Russian forces have seized the Crimean Peninsula, another 150,000 troops are mobilizing on Ukraine’s eastern border. North Korea successfully test fired two medium range ballistic missiles. Hundreds of Christian civilians in Nigeria have slaughtered by Islamist terrorists that Obama and Kerry have pressured the Nigerian government to ‘accommodate’; UN nuclear inspectors reported that Iran is accelerating development of its nuclear program thus violating last November’s agreement with America. In our own hemisphere, Venezuela’s leftist regime escalated its brutal crackdown against opposition protestors, Russia announced plans to establish permanent basis in Venezuela and Cuba. In response, President Obama intensifies his rhetoric against Israel.
Maybe it is time that somebody important demand that Moshe Ya’alon retract his apology? If anything, Ya’alon’s “misplaced obsession and messianic fervor” comments might now subject him to charges of ‘understatement’.
The source of all this foolishness is much harder to accept than it is to identify. The Obama-Kerry (i.e. established Western) approach to peace in the Middle East is doomed to fail because it is built upon a false premise. It isn’t Israel’s current size, nor is it Israel’s current housing policy, nor is it even the current Israeli Prime Minister that is the source of the problem. The problem is Israel itself. It shouldn’t exist, argue its enemies. Until those who reject that existence either die off or genuinely accept the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish and sovereign state of their own, there is nothing Obama, Kerry, the UN or even Israel itself can do to “fix” the “problem.”
The Middle East “Peace Industry” is much too vested to allow itself to see any perspective other than the one it has spent 60 years constructing. Since it wants peace (and most of it does), then obviously everyone else must want peace too. Since President Obama and Secretary Kerry want peace, (and they almost surely do) then obviously the Palestinian people and the PA and Hamas who claim to represent them must want peace too. Since the Palestinians want peace, their continued resorts to violence must be the result of something Israel has forced upon them. War can not be a goal in itself for Israel’s enemies because it is not a goal for the Peace Industry.
Like Ptolemists struggling to defend geocentrism after Galileo, Obama can’t focus on Palestinian media incitement for the same reasons none of his predecessors did. Focusing on Palestinian incitement or terrorism would make those doing the inciting and the terrorising look bad. That might drive them away from the negotiating table. Without negotiating partners, there is no need for negotiating tables and the UN, the EU and the US have bought far too many negotiating tables to turn back now.
Obama can’t remind himself, let alone the world, that it was President Abbas who urged Arafat to reject Israel’s acceptance of nearly every Arafat demand in 1999 with a gruesome terror war against Israeli civilians because that would expose the falsity of his premise that the Palestinians truly want peace. He can’t point to opinion poll after opinion poll that shows an overwhelming majority of Palestinians reject the two state solution because that might undermine the carefully crafted image created by the West that Mahmoud Abbas represents a people who Obama says “yearn for peace with Israel.”
The President is hardly alone. Nearly the whole world has now developed an interest in ignoring Palestinian incitement. None more so than the world’s media. Focusing on Palestinian incitement would make the media look not just foolish but dishonest. It would threaten the entire foundation upon which Middle East peace making has been built over the past 60 years. Jettisoning the current approach to ‘Middle East peace making’ would upend an entire industry. It would spell the end for lavishly funded Washington peace institutes; it would mean no more glamorous global conferences, no more UN confabs and worst of all, perish the thought, no more Nobel Prizes for Middle East Peace Making.
The late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov all but predicted the consequences of the UN’s infamous 1975 “Zionism is Racism” Resolution when he said: “It will only contribute to anti-semitism by giving it the appearance of international legality”.
Even years after its repeal, the sentiment that resolution validated lives on. It created a moral and legal justification for those who seek to destroy the very state created as a consequence of genocide and an antidote to future race-murder.
After conducting a search and straw poll, a national tea party group has settled on a Republican primary challenger to House Speaker John A. Boehner, picking high school teacher J.D. WintereggJ.D. Winteregg to carry the tea party banner in the intraparty battle.
The announcement, which the Tea Party Leadership Fund (TPLF) will make Wednesday, could help Mr. Winteregg gain attention in a field dominated by Mr. Boehner and his massive campaign bank account. Mr. Winteregg is one of several men running against Mr. Boehner in the GOP primary in the speaker’s western Ohio district.
Rusty Humphries with the TPLF, a political action committee, said Mr. Boehner has failed to follow through on conservative goals during his time as speaker.
“This is a guy that has allowed spending to increase. This is a guy that fought for benefits for congressmen while at the same time fighting to cut benefits for our veterans,” Mr. Humphries said.
Mr. Boehner has been under fire from tea party groups over last year’s budget deal, which boosted spending in 2014 and 2015, and for this month’s debt vote, when he allowed a 13-month debt increase to pass without conditions on the strength of Democratic votes.
Mr. Humphries said voters in the district itself are ready to dump Mr. Boehner, who is serving his 12th term in Congress – and second as speaker.
“The one thing I found a lot when I was in the district is how few people have seen him in the district in a long time,” Mr. Humphries said. “This is a guy who has not kept up with his people.”
But a campaign aide for Mr. Boehner said he’s still well-connected to Ohio’s 8th congressional district.
“John and his wife Debbie still live in Butler County and call it home. They made that choice – and stuck with it, even when he became speaker – because it was important to them to remain part of the community that has always been central to his service in the House,” the aide said.
As for the policy fights, the speaker had said he wouldn’t allow another government shutdown or default on federal obligations – either of which could have resulted from the failure to pass a budget or a debt increase. Mr. Boehner has argued that the 2014 election will be fought over President Obama’s agenda, including his health care law.
Mr. Humphries said the Tea Party Leadership Fund will post billboards and run radio commercials aiding Mr. Winteregg, and said the more money people donate to the leadership fund, the more will be targeted to ousting Mr. Boehner.
Unseating top party leaders is rare.
Mr. Humphries has been signed to write a column for The Washington Times, which has not yet debuted.
Two years ago Mr. Boehner easily saw off another tea party challenger, defeating pro-life activist David Lewis with 84 percent to Mr. Lewis’s 16 percent.
The No. 2 Republican in the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is also facing a primary challenge. Dave Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, is challenging the Virginia Republican, arguing his support for passing an immigration bill is kowtowing to big-business interests.
Mr. Winteregg’s positions on the issues:
The premise that seems to align people from all sides in America is a disdain for our representatives in Congress. This is our common ground. Instead of fighting each other–to the delight of those in power – we need to come together for one objective to replace those in power. Fortunately, the Constitution provides us with a way – through an amendment process–that allows us to enact real change in D.C. I’ve come up with a plan that, when implemented within our Constitutional framework, will change how Congress functions. It’s easy to understand, easy to articulate, and easy to support. These four elements will be my focus while in Congress.
Community- All representatives must live among their constituents. The number of days they spend in Washington, D.C. will be capped. With the technology that exists, and with the need to diminish the lobbyist influence, this mandate will ensure that the representatives do what they’re meant to do – represent the people.
Authenticity- Immediately prior to entering Congress, representatives must have held a non-political, non-lobbying position for a period of 4 years. This will break up the political ladder climbing and ensure that our representatives understand what working in the “real world” is like under the current rules and regulations.
Service- The opportunity to represent a district should be viewed as an honor and framed in a way that reflects that. As such, this amazing service opportunity will be capped at 12 years. No representative or Senator may spend more than 12 years representing a district or state in D.C.
Transparency- No former representative or Senator walks out of D.C. as a member of the middle-class. As members of Congress, they – and their spouses – will be required to publicly and prominently display where all of their earnings are derived. No ranges – specific amounts. This instills another measure of accountability on those in D.C.
Reforming Congress must happen first. Only then will representatives be able to effectively–and fairly – fight for the issues that are important to their respective constituents.
In addition to these ideas of reform, I am proud to say that I am a Christian conservative Republican who believes that relying on the Constitution will help to push our exceptional country back in the right direction.
Premise of governance
I believe that words have meaning, so by extension, the Constitution means today what it meant when it was written. The Preamble to this great document makes clear that the Constitution was written, among other reasons, to secure the blessings of liberty. An activist federal government undermines this key founding principle, so I will work to restore our process of governance to what the founders originally intended with the Constitution as my guide.
We need to secure our borders and enforce the laws that we have on the books. I am 100% opposed to amnesty.
I believe in the free market Capitalist system, and the only way for that to thrive is for the government to have a minimalist approach in intervening.
Without life, there is no liberty. I am pro-life, no exceptions.
I believe in our second amendment right to keep and bear arms. This right should be vigorously defended from attempts by the federal government to undermine it.
We need to reduce the government involvement with respect to our healthcare. Allowing the free market to run its course will help to make healthcare more affordable to all. I am in support of the movement to entirely defund Obamacare.
As a public school teacher, I understand the importance of this issue. As someone who feels the effects of federal mandates, and as someone who has witnessed the toll it has taken on my colleagues and students, I believe that education is best left to the local level. Parents and communities know what is best for their own children, and these decisions need to be left to them.
Representatives need to understand that the government is not the primary source of economic growth. The private sector is more efficient and productive than any government effort. Representatives should work with constituents to achieve private solutions to public problems, and they should avoid at all costs taxing the citizens. Federal spending should be done within the parameters of a balanced budget. Government fraud, waste, and abuse should be addressed before any taxes are raised on the American people.
When the FBI finally fires up its criminal investigation of the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, there is one person the special agent in charge better be sure to interview – former White House Counsel Robert Bauer. The FBI may discover the whole IRS mess leads through the land of campaign finance “reform” and an obsession with speech regulation, an obsession shared by Bauer.
Any criminal investigation identifies for further scrutiny those with motive, opportunity, and means, and Bauer deserves no quarter from FBI investigators on those three counts.
Without any doubt, crimes were committed by IRS employees, not the least of which was the fact that IRS employees disclosed confidential information from IRS forms to the political enemies of the groups seeking tax-exempt status.
For example, Cindy Thomas, the Cincinnati unit manager for exempt organizations at the IRS, illegally released the tax applications of nine separate conservative organizations to the left-wing group ProPublica. The IRS claims that Thomas’ illegal release of private tax information was an “accident,” but the excuse is absurd.
Thomas wasn’t the only IRS employee leaking the tax information of conservative groups to their enemies. Pro-marriage groups found their confidential information in the hands of gay marriage advocacy organizations.
The FBI can start by finding out whether Thomas and her fellow IRS travelers in fact released the private information. If the FBI says Thomas cannot be prosecuted because she claims it was an accident, then Congress needs to step in and impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for any IRS employee that releases private information, accidental or not.
The bigger question the FBI must get to the bottom of is who hatched the policy of targeting Tea Party groups that led to these crimes? For that they should turn back to Robert Bauer.
Robert Bauer had the motive to direct IRS policy against Tea Party groups. He is a longtime opponent of First Amendment freedoms and an advocate of government-speech regulation. He also can’t stand the work the Tea Party is conducting to monitor and eradicate voter fraud, work the Republican Party and national campaigns have utterly failed to perform.
During the 2008 election, while representing the Obama campaign, Bauer sent a threatening letter to the Justice Department demanding criminal investigations of people who had the audacity to speak about voter fraud. Bauer even singled out Sarah Palin in the letter. Anyone who “developed or disseminated” information about voter fraud, to Bauer, deserved the heavy boot of a criminal investigation. Read the letter; it reveals a nasty, thuggish, and lawless attitude toward political opposition.
To Bauer, those merely speaking about voter fraud were worthy of criminal investigation. Sound familiar?
Hindsight reveals why Bauer was so agitated. Two Obama campaign staffers, Amy Little and Yolanda Hippensteele, later pleaded guilty to voter fraud. We also know, courtesy of John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky, that a Minnesota election for U.S. Senate was decided by voter fraud in 2008. And who can forget Melowese Richardson, the Obama activist and poll official in Ohio who said on camera that she voted multiple times for President Obama in 2008? I could go on and on with multiple examples of voter fraud from 2008 where candidate Obama was the beneficiary.
No wonder Bauer was so anxious back in 2008 to shut everyone up.
Fast forward to 2012. Again, Mr. Bauer was up to his old tricks in his second stint as Obama campaign counsel, this time targeting Tea Party groups fighting for election integrity. Bauer and his campaign hench-lawyers called state election officials, seeking to unleash state criminal investigations of Tea Party groups working for election integrity. I have spoken with state election officials in at least three states which describe Obama campaign efforts to prompt state officials to target Tea Party groups.
I’m happy to share with the FBI special agents the names of those states if Mr. Bauer won’t.
Bauer even published this memo, specifically targeting True the Vote with outright lies so egregious he should be ashamed of himself.
After the Obama campaign voter fraud of 2008, in 2012 Bauer was anxious to remove election integrity groups from the polls as observers. If the IRS couldn’t slow the Tea Party watchdogs down, Bauer threatened them in other ways.
If the FBI special agents interview Mr. Bauer, it won’t be hard to conclude he had the motive to launch the Tea Party shakedown.
President Obama’s campaign counsel certainly had the motive to target the Tea Party, but did Bauer have the means as campaign counsel? Remember, Bauer served as White House counsel from November 2009 to June 2011, right during the time this IRS shakedown was hatched.
Anybody who has worked in the White House will tell you that the White House counsel enjoys a position of power like few others. They can make things happen with a phone call. One former West Wing staffer told me that “any department’s staff who received directions from Bauer would think they were getting directions from the president. The White House counsel has the power to make policy with a phone call.”
Something important happened two months after Bauer became White House counsel – the Supreme Court decided Citizens United vs. FEC, a decision that caused the left to go batty. They feared the decision might cost them the White House. President Obama boorishly (and inaccurately) addressed the decision in the 2010 State of the Union.
The FBI special agents should ask Bauer some simple questions: With whom did you speak at the IRS about conservative and Tea Party groups post-Citizens United? Did you direct anyone on your staff to do the same? Did you hear about anyone speaking with the IRS about Tea Party groups? Who hatched the IRS harassment, which started on your watch? Did you meet with Doug Shulman any of the 157 times he visited the White House, and did you discuss exempt status of conservative groups?
The FBI agents might ask Bauer why a parade of Citizens United-obsessed speech-regulation zealots visited the West Wing just before the Tea Party shakedown went into effect.
Tova Wang, of the leftist Soros-funded group Demos, visited the White House and met with Bauer’s staff on June 2, 2010. In fact she hovered around the White House on multiple occasions during the critical time period the IRS policy was being crafted.
Perhaps she was there for the Easter Egg roll. Perhaps not. Either way, the FBI can ask.
Notorious speech-regulation advocate Richard Hasen also visited the White House and met with White House Counsel Robert Bauer on June 24, 2010. (See this absurd screed at Slate saying the post-Citizens United world is “worse than Watergate.” Freedom just rubs some people the wrong way.)
Perhaps Hasen was at the White House with Bauer to watch the longest match in Wimbledon history which occurred that day.
Perhaps not, especially since he previously met with Nicholas Colvin in the White House Counsel’s office on June 21 and 23. Again, the FBI can find out if they ask.
Bauer or his staff met with a number of other ivory tower academics and activists interested in controlling free political speech through the spring of 2010. These also include the noisy reformer Meredith McGehee.
We don’t yet know who engineered the illegal, criminal, and disgusting IRS shakedown of Tea Party and conservative groups. But one thing is certain: Robert Bauer had the motive, the opportunity, and the means to do it. The good folks at the FBI are now busy preparing names of people to interview. They better not leave Mr. Bauer off the list, or his stream of visitors.
The parties better not coordinate stories ahead of time. These days, I hear the Justice Department has adopted an aggressive approach to email and phone records, at least for Fox News.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories about Common Core, the controversial new educational agenda aimed at imposing federal government standards on every aspect of public and private education in America, which some are even calling “ObamaCore.” The first part spelled out the high stakes for parents, students and education. The second part followed the money trail behind Common Core.
The battle over the deceptively titled Common Core State Standards Initiative, or CCSSI, is raging, and the rhetoric is fierce. Supporters of the national standards have called their opponents “right-wing nuts” and “black helicopter” types.
“All of us get lumped together as ‘the fringe,’ ‘the far right,’ tea partiers,’ etc.,” said Jane Robbins, co-author of the report “Controlling Education from the Top: Why the Common Core is Bad for America.”
“When they don’t have the facts on their side they resort to ad-hominem,” she said.
Opponents of Common Core claim it is the product of progressive elitists who want to put all children under control of federal government bureaucrats. That view was reinforced when a panelist at the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress discounted the opposition as only a “tiny minority,” claiming such views should be ignored because “the children belong to all of us.”
The term “Common Core” has become “toxic,” according to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He continues to support the standards in spite of a unanimous resolution by the Republican National Committee in April 2013 to oppose them. Huckabee told state education leaders at a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers: “Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat.”
So far, Arizona, Iowa, Florida and Pennsylvania have followed his advice, eliminating the name “Common Core” from their state standards.
‘White suburban moms’
Education Secretary Arne Duncan claims opposition to Common Core is coming from “white, suburban moms” who are suddenly discovering their children are not “as brilliant as they thought they were.” When Duncan’s comments went viral, “white, suburban moms” quickly found many defenders in the blogosphere and opinion columns.
In January, Duncan spoke to a gathering of curriculum professionals. As he lectured them on the distinction between standards and curricula, he asserted that “not a word, not a single semi-colon of curriculum [sic] will be created, encouraged, or prescribed by the federal government.”
But Duncan’s pep talk to curriculum specialists about their role in implementing the standards only increased the perception that it is indeed a federal, not a state, initiative. George Will noted in his Washington Post article “Doubts Over Common Core” that when the federal government initiates top-down “reforms” in education, any mistakes that result are “continental mistakes.”
Will stated the obvious: “National standards must breed ineluctable pressure to standardize educational content. Targets, metrics, guidelines and curriculum models all induce conformity in instructional materials.”
Indeed, textbook companies now advertise “Common Core Editions,” and educational testing companies provide “Common Core-aligned” standardized tests.
The link between the national SAT test and Common Core was forged when the College Board, which puts out the placement test for college-bound students, hired David Coleman as president. The Gates and Mott foundations gave Coleman’s nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners, money to write the standards, which were commissioned by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.
The new College Board assessments will start rolling out this year with the redesigned PSAT. The new SAT is scheduled for 2015. The once-venerable Iowa Test of Basic Skills is now Common Core-aligned, and even the GED is getting its first makeover since 2002 so it will line up with the standards.
Teachers withdraw support
Fearing this link between the national standards and high-stakes testing, the board of New York’s teachers union voted unanimously Jan. 25 to withdraw its support for the national standards “as they are being implemented.” The union board also declared no confidence in Education Commissioner John King Jr., a Common Core backer, and asked the Board of Regents to remove him. Union leaders urged the state education department to make “major course corrections to its failed implementation plan” and enact a three-year moratorium on the testing.
The Board of Regents responded to the concerns by giving public schools five more years to implement Common Core. Public school teachers will not be held accountable for student test scores for two years.
There is some movement in Congress to oppose the CCSSI. On Jan. 30, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., introduced Senate Bill 1974. It is now in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on which Roberts sits.
The bill, titled the “Learning Opportunities Created at the Local Level Act,” would prohibit the federal government from coercing states to adopt education standards like Common Core. The act would forbid the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula and assessments through the use of incentives, mandates, grants, waivers or any other form of manipulation.
Roberts opposed the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program, and he and nine other senators have gone on record against spending any federal funds to develop education curriculum or standards, including the Common Core. Given the present make-up of the Senate, Roberts’ efforts may not gain much headway in Congress.
The real battle against Common Core is being waged in the states. As of Feb. 8, edu-blogger Mercedes Schneider had identified legislative action on the Common Core in 30 states.
“Legislators in most of these 30 states are advancing bills to halt the testing consequences of a CCSS that they admittedly do not understand – and for which they must now count the cost,” Schneider wrote.
Initially, the only states that didn’t compete for Race to the Top funds were Alaska, North Dakota, Texas and Vermont. For Texas legislators, that wasn’t enough. They wanted to ensure the State Board of Education would not follow Alaska’s example and adopt Common Core anyway. In June, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed H.B. 462, effectively banning the Common Core State Standards from Texas schools. The bill had passed by a 140-2 vote in the Texas House.
Some states are now delaying implementation of the standards, such as New York. Illinois has bills in both legislative chambers to delay implementation. Colorado’s legislation would delay them until public hearings have been held. Rhode Island wants to study and evaluate the standards.
After its Board of Education voted in 2010 to adopt the CCSSI, Indiana became the first to align its teacher preparation standards to Common Core. However, even members of the state legislature’s education committees didn’t know much about what the adoption entailed until they started hearing from alarmed parents when the standards began to impact school curricula.
As opposition to the standards spread, former Indiana Superintendent of Instruction Tony Bennett visited tea-party meetings around the state to defend them. His Democrat opponent in the 2012 election, Glenda Ritz, told parents she wanted to “pause” adoption of the Common Core.
When election results came in, Bennett was out, in spite of the $90,000 reportedly given by the Gates Foundation to fund pro-Common Core advertising on Indiana TV and radio. Last May, newly elected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill delaying adoption of the Common Core. In January, the Indiana Senate Education and Career Development Committee voted to send a measure to the Senate floor to repeal the Common Core Standards. If the state legislature passes the bill, it would charge the State Board of Education with developing by July 1 new “college- and-career-ready standards,” a favorite phrase with the pro-Common Core faction.
Erin Tuttle, founder of the grassroots Hoosiers Against Common Core, told the Indy Star that the State Board of Education should not make a few tweaks and slap the label “Indiana Standards” on any new guidelines. She said parents will notice if their children are assigned homework that looks like Common Core.
“Parents will be outraged. They will feel tricked,” he said.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been an active advocate of Common Core, not only in Florida but across the country. His nonprofit, Foundation for Educational Excellence, which received $500,000 from the Gates Foundation in 2010, has lobbied for the Core and sent letters to state legislators in embattled states.
Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project, said Jeb Bush “is the ‘big gorilla’ behind the Common Core movement.”
“Bill Gates is the financier, but Jeb Bush is the one who is twisting the arms of all of these Republican governors and legislators around the country not to do the right thing and regain local control,” Robbins said.
In 2013, after he was voted out as Indiana school chief, Bush’s protégé, Tony Bennett, was appointed Florida’s Education Commissioner. His tenure didn’t last long. He resigned after eight months when it was discovered he had been involved in a plan to improve the school evaluation grade of an Indiana charter school run by Christel DeHaan, a major donor to the Republican Party and to Bennett.
Now the question is whether Bush’s influence in Florida is strong enough to stop efforts there to repeal Common Core. A bill to prohibit the State Board of Education from continuing to implement the Common Core Standards has been introduced in the Florida House, which convenes March 4. The bill (H.B. 25) would stop implementation until certain requirements are met for the adoption or revision of state curricular standards. It also would prohibit Florida from implementing Common Core-aligned assessments.
Common Core supporters are hoping H.B.25 won’t go anywhere. It’s being held in the House and Senate education committees until a companion bill is offered in the Senate. Karen Effrem, co-founder of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, said a Senate companion bill has been written and will be submitted.
Effrem said that since Florida is “the land of Jeb Bush,” if these bills pass “it would be a huge shot in the arm to the anti-Common Core movement not only in Florida, but in the rest of the country.”
“And that is why ‘the powers that be’ are fighting us so hard.”
The Heritage Foundation, Heartland Foundation, Pioneer Institute and the American Principles Project, which produced the scathing report on Common Core, “Controlling Education from the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America,” are all providing intellectual bullets and moral support to those on the battle lines. Co-authors of the APP report, Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, have been traveling around the country to speak to groups that are fighting the standards.
Robbins said proponents of Common Core did not anticipate how much opposition they would face.
“They thought people would be sheep and roll over and accept what the experts told them to do; but it hasn’t turned out that way,” she said.
Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee now have bills in their state legislatures to halt or abolish the standards.
Republican allegations that former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell misled Congress over the White House’s role in crafting the flawed Benghazi “talking points” took a dramatic turn Thursday, with the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee telling Fox News it’s likely Morell will be recalled to testify.
Investigators also are reviewing the testimony of former CIA Director David Petraeus, Morell’s old boss, to assess whether he should be recalled as well.
“We are having some transcript reviews. We’ve been continually doing that through the committee,” Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Fox News. “We’re looking at Director Petraeus’ transcripts and reviews – looking at what information we have now available. Sometimes that second interview can be equally important and it is likely we will have Director Morell up to testify before the committee.”
The debate continues to focus on why the talking points did not reflect the best available intelligence, and what influence the administration brought to bear on the flawed public narrative of the attack in the days immediately following Sept. 11, 2012 – that narrative initially claimed the attacks sprung out of protests over an anti-Islam film.
Among the allegations, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a January 2014 Benghazi report that Morell insisted the talking points were sent to the White House for informational purposes, and not for their input – but e-mails, later released by the administration, showed otherwise.
In response to Rogers’ comments, Morell said in an email to Fox News, “I sent him a letter this afternoon saying that I would very much welcome an invitation to testify in open session before the Committee on Benghazi.”
Since retiring from the CIA, Morell has taken on high-profile assignments for the administration, including the NSA review panel and the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He is now a paid TV commentator for CBS News, has a book deal, and works for Beacon Global Strategies, whose founder Philippe Reines has been described by the New York Times magazine as Hillary Clinton’s “principal gatekeeper.”
Asked if he was leaving the door open for recalling Petraeus, Rogers said: “Absolutely, We’re not going to take any lead off the table. And if there’s some clarifying questions that we can get done that leads to a conclusion, an appropriate conclusion and the finding of fault in this particular event we’ll – everybody is subject to coming back to the committee.”
Immediately after the attack, then-Director Petraeus rankled some lawmakers when they say he characterized Benghazi as consistent with a flash mob, and downplayed the skill needed to fire mortars with deadly accuracy on the CIA annex. CIA personnel on the ground in Benghazi recently testified that five mortars rained down on the annex in under a minute, and three were direct hits, killing former Navy SEALs Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, who were defending the compound. A source close to Petraeus insisted at the time that he knew it was terrorism from day one.
No determination has been made but Rogers said if witnesses are recalled, his preference is for public testimony. “I would prefer to have an open session. I think that would be, I think enlightening to everybody who has concerns about what happened on that September 11th day that took the lives of our Americans.”
Also Thursday, three U.S. senators who met with Morell and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in late 2012 took to the Senate floor, calling for Rice to testify as well. Rice, who stirred controversy in 2012 for blaming the attack on protests, recently told NBC News the talking points were based on the best-available intelligence. Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., want her back on the Hill.
“We now have facts that she was absolutely wrong. Of course, the question also remains what in the world was Susan Rice doing speaking that morning?” McCain said.
Ayotte added, “We need to have her testimony before the Congress to get to the bottom of why these representations were made. Mr. Morell needs to be brought before the Congress and ultimately we need a select committee.”
Graham said there was ample intelligence in the days after the attack that there was no protest, citing eyewitness accounts from U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi. “Why didn’t the CIA pick up the phone and call the FBI agents interviewing the Benghazi survivors in Germany on the 15th, 16th and 17th of September, days after the attack?”
In a November 2012 meeting, Graham said Morell accused the FBI of refusing to share those accounts. “He said – Mike Morell – the FBI basically would not share that information because it is an ongoing criminal investigation. My mouth dropped. When the meeting was over, I ran back to my office. I called the FBI… They also denied that their agents ever withheld information from the CIA.”
In an earlier email to Fox News on Feb. 13, Morell said: “I stand behind what I have said to you and testified to Congress about the talking point issue. Neither the Agency, the analysts, nor I cooked the books in any way.”
When asked specific questions on Feb. 20 about Republican allegations he provided misleading testimony, Morell did not answer the questions, instead referring Fox News to the CIA public affairs office.
Spokesman Dean Boyd provided this statement to Fox News on Feb. 20: “As we have said multiple times, the talking points on Benghazi were written, upon a request from Congress, so that members of Congress could say something preliminary and in an unclassified forum about the attacks. As former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell has stated publicly time and again, the talking points were never meant to be definitive and, in fact, the points themselves noted that the initial assessment may change. He has addressed his role in the talking points numerous times. We don’t have anything further to add to the large body of detail on the talking points that is already in the public domain.”
Fox News also asked Petraeus if he would appear voluntarily if recalled by the House Intelligence Committee, and there was no immediate response.
A Florida TV station reports that a man has spent 50-60 hours trying to cancel his Obamacare plan, and he still can’t get off it:
“We are hearing about a new problem that involves the Affordable Care Act,” said the anchor. “People who signed up for coverage are finding it impossible to cancel their plans. Channel 9′s Lori Brown spoke with an Orlando man who has been trying unsuccessfully to cancel for more than six weeks now.”
“Andrew Robinson was looking forward to getting health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He has a small publishing business and works part time, so he hasn’t had coverage. In early January he signed up for a plan that cost nearly $300 a month. About a half hour later he and his wife realized they could barely afford that. They quickly found a less expensive plan through Humana for $116 a month,” says the reporter.
“I immediately called back the Florida Blue and asked them to cancel the policy I just set up,” says Robinson.
“But he quickly learned canceling Obamacare is no easy task… More than six weeks later after spending 50 to 60 hours on the phone his policy is still not canceled and he is still waiting for the payment Florida Blue withdrew from his account to be refunded.”
From a cheering New York Times:
Holder Sees Way to Curb Bans on Gay Marriage
By MATT APUZZO | February 24, 2014
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday injected the Obama administration into the emotional and politicized debate over the future of state same-sex marriage bans, declaring in an interview that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws that they believe are discriminatory.
So it’s okay for government officials to ignore their oaths of office and refuse to enforce a law they don’t personally agree with. But it’s a crime for a religious official to refuse a church wedding to some couple because of a personal belief.
Mr. Holder was careful not to encourage his state counterparts to disavow their own laws, but said that officials who have carefully studied bans on gay marriage could refuse to defend them.
So the Attorney General of the United States, the highest law enforcement officer in the country, says it is okay to ignore legally enacted laws. And, in fact, he is encouraging people to do so. Which he does on quite a few issues, by the way. (Cf. amnesty.)
Six state attorneys general – all Democrats – have refused to defend bans on same-sex marriage, prompting criticism from Republicans who say they have a duty to stand behind their state laws, even if they do not agree with them.
What nonsense. Only Republicans have to enforce laws they disagree with.
It is highly unusual for the United States attorney general to advise his state counterparts on how and when to refuse to defend state laws. But Mr. Holder said when laws touch on core constitutional issues like equal protection, an attorney general should apply the highest level of scrutiny before reaching a decision on whether to defend it. He said the decision should never be political or based on policy objections…
And, of course, they would never be political.
The nation’s first black attorney general, Mr. Holder has said he views today’s gay-rights campaigns as a continuation of the civil rights movement that won rights for black Americans in the 1950s and ’60s. He has called gay rights one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our time.”…
And if you call something a ‘civil right,’ then no one can oppose it. Just like amnesty has suddenly become a civil right.
His comments signal the latest manifestation of the Obama administration’s evolving position on gay rights. Mr. Obama came into office opposed to same-sex marriage. But in 2011, he decided against defending the Defense of Marriage Act and ended the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gays and lesbians from the military. The next year, the president said he personally supported gay marriage…
All of which he did to boost the fundraising for his re-election campaign. But it wasn’t political. No way.
Officials in two Treasury Department bureaus fraudulently enriched themselves at taxpayer expense, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
The assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Public Debt who supervised 108 employees in the bureau’s West Virginia office “was committing egregious time and attendance fraud,” depriving taxpayers of nearly $100,000 in salary for hours she did not work, according to one of several Treasury Department inspector general documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, most of which had previously gone unreported.
The official, despite being paid an average yearly salary of nearly $170,000, “arrives at work approximately two hours late and/or takes two-hour lunch breaks and departs work at approximately 4:00 P.M. and does not take leave,” and “consistently conducts personal business involving the Humane Society during work hours,” IG investigators found after verifying a tip from an employee who said the top official “abuses her power by being absent whenever desired.”
Her supervisor, the deputy commissioner, knew about the absences but did nothing, the investigators said.
“In approximately 2007,” investigators wrote, the assistant commissioner became vice president of a Humane Society chapter, and another BPD employee became president, according to the report.
The website of the Humane Society of Parkersburg, W.Va., lists Debbie Hines as vice president and Carrie J. Roe as president.
Federal pay records show that Hines was paid $168,453 in 2012 as assistant commissioner for public debt accounting, and Roe received approximately $144,000 as director of business technology for the BPD.
It is not clear whether either woman still works for the federal government. A current “executive management” listing on the BPD website does not include Hines.
Hines was “absent without leave” approximately 1,200 hours over four years, according to timesheet records based on scans of her employee identification badge’s entry and exit from her workplace. An official work year in the federal civil service is 2,087 hours.
Hines “owes BPD a total of 1,218.77 hours from 2009 to 2012, or approximately $97,832.96 in salary. [Her] supervisor, [the] deputy commissioner, BPD, was aware of [her] varied hours, and an anonymous complaint sent to BPD management regarding [her] time and attendance, but stated that she was not overly concerned about [her] hours because [she] is a stellar employee,” investigators wrote.
Her supervisor worked in an office 300 miles away in Washington, D.C., and said Hines was a “good leader” who handles “politically sensitive and time sensitive work,” but that she occasionally had trouble reaching her.
When interviewed for the Hines investigation, Roe, who holds the federal employee classification of GS-15, admitted to missing 346 hours, which, at a salary of $69 per hour, not including benefits, amounted to $23,874.
She also admitted that she had violated federal statutes concerning the “basic obligation of public service” for civil servants.
It was unclear whether either Hines or Roe reimbursed the BPD. A Treasury spokesperson declined to provide that information to the Examiner.
Hines’ employment status is unknown, but she is not listed among the department’s current top management on its website. A voicemail at BPD was identified as belonging to Roe, but did not state her job title. She could not be reached for comment.
Another inspector general investigation found that at the Office of Thrift Supervision, a GS-15 employee – one of the highest ranks a federal career civil servant can obtain – agreed to be transferred from an office near Los Angeles to an office near San Francisco and took $10,000 in relocation expense reimbursement, but then never moved.
She also submitted massive travel bills for routine travel to her new office, including hotel stays, to the OTS, which approved them.
She “submitted travel vouchers costing the OTS… $87,047 in travel that would not have incurred if she had relocated,” investigators wrote.
As with the Hines case, supervisors were aware of the wrongdoing, but did nothing to correct it.
“OTS employees in the region revealed they all were aware that [she] still resided in southern CA, but believed it was authorized by OTS headquarters. The OTS headquarters personnel stated that they were unaware that [she] had never relocated,” the report said.
The travel went on for four years. When questioned about her location, she retired. Treasury did not respond to an Examiner question about whether she paid back the nearly $100,000 at issue. The employee’s name was redacted from the document and could not be identified.
Also at OTS, a human resources specialist with a concentration in retirement planning repeatedly solicited prostitutes on Craigslist using his work computer, including for the purpose of sending payments, according to another IG document.
The high-ranking employee, whose name was also redacted from the document and could not be identified, had worked for the government for 36 years, and retired after the conduct was exposed.
Federal authorities declined to bring criminal charges or civil suits against any of the civil servants named in the unpublished IG reports.
The OTS was a bank regulator that was merged into other Treasury entities under the Dodd-Frank reforms of 2011.
The BPD’s mission is “to borrow the money needed to operate the federal government, account for the resulting debt, and provide reimbursable support services to federal agencies.”
“Treasury has a strong ethics policy that we expect all employees to follow, and the overwhelming majority of them do. As with any large organization, occasionally issues of misconduct arise. When that happens, we act promptly and decisively to address them,” a spokesman said in an email.
Several Environmental Protection Agency employees obstructed an investigation into the mismanagement that allowed a senior EPA official to bilk taxpayers for nearly $900,000, the EPA Inspector General said in a letter to Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) released Wednesday.
EPA employees threatened Inspector General investigators, refused to cooperate, and handed out non-disclosure agreements to other employees to keep them from being interviewed, EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. wrote in response to a request for information by Vitter on the case.
“Over the past 12 months, there have been several EPA officials who have taken action to prevent [the Office of Investigations] OI from conducting investigations or have attempted to obstruct investigations through intimidation,” Elkins wrote.
John Beale pleaded guilty in September 2013 to time card and travel fraud spanning two decades and amounting to nearly $900,000 in taxpayer dollars. Beale also spent a total of two and a half years absent from work, claiming he was away on CIA business. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison in December 2013.
After closing its criminal investigation, the Inspector General began an audit of the lack of internal controls that allowed Beale to defraud the agency. That audit has implicated a growing number of EPA officials.
“We are starting to see proof of what we had already suspected: John Beale’s time and attendance fraud was the tip of the iceberg at the EPA,” Vitter said in a statement to the Free Beacon. “The whole agency seems to be in complete disarray, which is exactly why we need to have a full [Environment and Public Works] Committee hearing on the fraud surrounding this case and other prevalent problems.”
In the public version of Elkin’s letter released Wednesday, the names of the EPA employees in question were redacted. However, the Free Beacon has obtained an unredacted version of the letter.
The letter identified one of the alleged obstructionist employees as Steve Williams in the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS).
“During the course of an OI administrative investigation, Mr. Williams approached an OI special agent in a threatening manner, preventing the special agent from conducting her official duties in an ongoing investigation involving Mr. Williams and other members of OHS,” Elkins wrote. “Additionally, Mr. Williams issued non-disclosure agreements to EPA employees that prevented these employees from cooperating with [the Office of the Inspector General] OIG investigations.”
“The Federal Protective Service conducted a criminal investigation and referred its finding of facts to support an assault charge to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAO),” Elkins continued. “The USAO declined prosecution and referred the matter back to the EPA OIG for administrative action as necessary.”
Williams’ office originally attempted to investigate Beale’s fraud, a move the Inspector General said set their own investigation back by months.
Elkins also identified Nancy Dunham in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel and John Martin at OHS as two other employees who impeded the Inspector General’s investigation.
OIG agents interviewed Dunham during its criminal investigation of Beale, but she refused to be interviewed for an audit of the management issues that failed to prevent Beale’s fraud.
“A potential gap in information exists due to Ms. Dunham’s noncompliance,” Elkins wrote.
Dunham told investigators that she learned about Beale’s pay issues in late 2012. However, Elkins wrote that his office “later developed information through other interviews which indicates that Ms. Dunham hay have been aware of Mr. Beale’s pay issues several months or even a year prior to what she told OI during her interview.”
According to Elkins, Martin left his interview early and later issued non-disclosure agreements to EPA employees.
The EPA and the EPA OIG originally credited EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy with bringing Beale’s fraud to the attention of investigators after first becoming suspicious of him in April 2012.
However, emails and reports released by the EPA in response to requests by Vitter revealed that McCarthy was aware of issues related to Beale’s pay as early as 2011.
One February 2011 email obtained by Vitter’s office said: “Gina is reluctant to finalize [the cancellation of Beale’s bonuses] unless OARM Craig gives her the okay that the White House is aware and there will not be any political fallout.”
Elkins said the Inspector General did not investigate White House involvement in the case.
The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.
Barack Obama told Bill O’Reilly there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS targeting scandal.
Then explain this…
The attorney for Lois Lerner will not testify next week in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform without immunity or a court order.
FOX News reported:
The attorney for Lois Lerner, a central figure in the IRS scandal, said Wednesday his client will not comply with a request to return to Capitol Hill next week to testify.
Attorney William Taylor said Lerner, who resigned last year as the agency’s tax-exempt organizations chief, will return only if compelled by a federal court or if given immunity for her testimony.
Taylor stated his position in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He was responding to a letter Tuesday from Issa saying, in part, that Lerner’s testimony remains “critical to the committee’s investigation.”
The committee continues to investigate the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations trying to get tax-exempt status.
Issa and Lerner’s attorneys continue to argue about whether she is protected under the Fifth Amendment from having to testify.
Last year, Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment right during her first-and-only appearance before the committee, but only after she professed her innocence during an opening statement.
“We understand that the committee voted she had waived her rights,” Taylor wrote Issa. “We continue to respectfully disagree.”
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy Discusses Bill To Stop IRS Targeting Of Political Groups On Greta Van Susteren’s ‘On the Record’ Program
Complete House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Hearing On IRS Targeting Of Conservative Groups – 02/26/14
A comprehensive tax-reform plan House Republicans will unveil this morning takes dead aim at what Republicans perceive to be the IRS’s persistent abuse of its authority. According to Republican aides familiar with the plan, it will curb the power of the nation’s tax-collecting agency, something Republicans have attempted to do since the agency admitted to improperly singling out conservative non-profit groups last May.
The legislation, authored by Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.), introduces reforms that directly address the circumstances that led to last year’s scandal. The specter of Lois Lerner looms large in the minds of many Republicans, and the plan mandates the termination of any IRS employee found to have taken official action for political purposes. The 1988 bill that restructured and reformed the IRS spells out ten actions for which the IRS commissioner must terminate an agency employee after an “administrative or judicial determination” that the employee has committed the prohibited action – among them, providing a false statement under oath on a matter involving a taxpayer and violating the rights of a taxpayer. Today’s bill would add the commission of politically motivated acts to the list.
The plan would also require the IRS to modify its interpretation of a critical provision of the Internal Revenue Code that has been used to protect the privacy of those accused of leaking confidential taxpayer records and to deny information to the victims of IRS abuse.
Under the proposed reforms, the provision, Internal Revenue Code section 6103, would require the government to disclose to victims both the status of an investigation as well as its result, including the identity of the perpetrator.
As currently interpreted, section 6103 prohibits congressional committees or inspectors general from identifying a government employee who has leaked confidential taxpayer information. It even prohibits inspectors general from confirming or denying whether they have conducted an investigation. Disclosing tax returns to the public is a felony, but the results of investigations conducted by congressional committees or inspectors general are considered the confidential tax information of the perpetrator and so, in an ironic twist, perpetrators are currently protected by the very law they violated.
As Republicans, including Camp, have investigated the IRS targeting scandal, they have run head first into the restrictive nature of the 6103 provisions. “The law, intended to protect taxpayers, is being used as a shield for those who perpetrate this wrongdoing,” Camp told National Review Online in October.
The National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization that had its donor list leaked by the IRS, has filed suit against the agency after it was unable to get answers from the government. Camp’s Ways and Means Committee, which investigated the leak, was prohibited from releasing the findings of its investigation, which concluded in October. In court, according to NOM’s attorneys, the IRS has admitted to disclosing the document but maintains that the disclosure was “inadvertent.” The case is in discovery phase and a trial is expected in April or May.
Camp and his Republican colleagues are also tackling the IRS’s proposed regulations for social-welfare groups, which have rankled groups on both the left and the right. The plan proposes to delay the rules, which would curb the political activity of 501(c)(4) groups, for one year. Camp has proposed a bill in the House that does just that, and Senate Republicans have done the same, but the bills have yet to come up for a vote.
501(c)(4) groups must promote social welfare and, by law, can’t “primarily” engage in political activity. The rules proposed by the agency in November, which have garnered over 70,000 (mostly critical) public comments, would classify such activities as voter-registration drives and the production of voter guides as political activity that does not count toward an organization’s primary purpose, essentially limiting the amount of political activity groups can engage in. Camp has charged that the rules were “reverse engineered” by the IRS in an attempt to codify the targeting of tea-party groups that it was previously performing behind the scenes.
The proposed rules have ignited a firestorm on the right, and, on the left, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Employees International Union have spoken out against them. even as Democratic senators urge the agency to codify them in advance of the midterm elections.
The forthcoming legislation would also introduce an additional layer of oversight onto the IRS, directing the Government Accountability Office to review each of the agency’s operating divisions in order to determine that they are properly screening cases. The GAO would conduct follow-up reviews every four years.
On May 22, 2013, Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS division that singled out hundreds of conservative organizations blamed her subordinates for the targeting scandal, pleaded the Fifth Amendment, and then left the room.
Today House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called Lois Lerner back to Congress to testify.
The Hill reported:
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is hauling Lois Lerner back to Congress.
Issa told Lerner’s attorney in a Tuesday letter that he expected the retired IRS official to appear before his committee on March 5.
Lerner, the official at the center of the IRS targeting controversy, invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination at a May 2013 hearing, just days after she apologized for the agency’s treatment of Tea Party groups.
But the Oversight Committee later ruled that Lerner waived her rights by making an opening statement, setting the stage for her recall next week.
In his letter to William Taylor, Lerner’s attorney, Issa said that her testimony “remains critical to this committee’s investigation.”
“Because the committee explicitly rejected her Fifth Amendment privilege claim, I expect her to provide answers when the hearing reconvenes on March 5,” Issa wrote.
Taylor told The Hill he would probably respond to Issa on Wednesday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat at House Oversight, said that “only one thing has changed in the nine months since Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right in response to Republican accusations of criminal activity – it’s an election year.”
A new study reveals that nearly 33,000 jobs have been impacted due to the Affordable Care Act’s medical device excise tax.
The report comes from the Advanced Medical Technology Association following an online survey of member companies last year.
“According to the report, the tax has led to employment reductions of approximately 14,000 industry workers and foregone hiring of 19,000 workers,” the study stated. “The total job impact of the tax on industry employment was approximately 33,000.”
Stephen J. Ubl, CEO of AdvaMed, said this tax needs to be repealed.
“During a time when there is bipartisan support for growing high-technology manufacturing jobs, these results should serve as a wake-up call. As a result of the medical device tax, we have seen an unprecedented impact on jobs and key investments in R&D (research and development),” Ubl said. “The findings of the report underscore the need to repeal this tax.”
Unified in their opposition to Obamacare, Republicans have been relentless in focusing on its problems, from complaints of canceled policies to higher insurance premiums and President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to delay for two years the requirement that small businesses cover employees.
The GOP effort has intensified this election year as Republicans look to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the law, turning voter dismay into November victories. The ill effect of Obamacare is the GOP’s constant refrain.
Nearly 3.3 million Americans have enrolled through the federal and state marketplaces as the federal online site worked out the problems of its disastrous rollout, a recent sign of promise for the 4-year-old law.
A silver lining for Democrats in the recent enrollment numbers is the actual sign-ups exceeding projected totals in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Michigan and Colorado, according to the January figures. Three of those states have Senate Democrats who voted for the law and now face re-election – Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Mark Udall in Colorado.
In the next eight months before the election, Republicans who call the shots in the House will cast a harsh spotlight on the law through hearings and narrowly focused legislation designed to divide Democrats. The GOP has done it this year with bills requiring the Obama administration to report weekly on how many Americans have signed up for health care coverage and a measure bolting new security requirements on the law.
One bill drew the support of 33 Democrats; the other attracted 67 Democrats who bucked the administration.
Last year, House Republicans voted more than 40 times to repeal, replace or gut the law, and strong GOP opposition to Obamacare precipitated the 16-day partial government shutdown last fall that was a political blow to Republicans.
Since recovered, Republicans say privately they are unlikely to push for full repeal in light of the law’s popular elements, such as insurance for individuals even with an existing condition and allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26. Also, Republicans have been unable to unify around an alternative to health care plan.