April 16, 2014

After IRS stonewalls, Tea Party Patriots sues for documents on targeting

The group Tea Party Patriots filed suit on this Tax Day against the Internal Revenue Service for documents about the agency’s infamous targeting of conservative groups last year.

The group hopes the documents will shed more light on why conservative and tea party groups were singled out for extra scrutiny by the IRS while applying for non-profit status ahead of the 2012 election.

Tea Party Patriots also wants to learn more about the specific roles of former IRS official Lois Lerner and other Obama administration officials in developing these regulations that led to the special targeting, officials said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

Specifically, the suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, demands documents relating to the IRS’ infamous “Guidance for Tax Exempt Social Welfare Organizations on Candidate-Related Political Activities.”

The Tea Party Patriots first requested these documents through a Freedom of Information Act request in December. The group said it has not been granted any documents yet.

The suit also is filed against the Treasury Department.

Responding to a question from The Daily Caller, Cleta Mitchell, an attorney representing Tea Party Patriots, described what the group really wants to know from these documents.

“We want to know the role of Treasury,” Mitchell said. “We want to know the role of the White House. We want to know the role of Democratic members of Congress and organizations that were demanding that tea party and conservative groups be targeted.”

Source

April 15, 2014

How the Obama administration turned the latest IPCC report into meaningless gobbledegook

Even by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's own lamentable standards, its new report - by Working Group III of the Fifth Assessment Report - makes no sense whatsoever.

Perhaps it never did but what definitely made it worse was the politicised meddling of the Obama administration.

Before the report's formal release, US officials - who had seen an earlier draft - wrote to the United Nations demanding it be amended.
"The discussion of the economic costs of mitigation is too narrow and does not incorporate co-benefits of action."
Loosely translated this means: "If we admit how much we're spending to such little purpose, the taxpaying public is going to kill us."

So the report was duly amended to suggest that the benefits of wind turbines, solar panels, biofuels - not to mention the losses entailed by leaving fossil fuels in the ground - more than offset the massive costs and inconvenience involved.

This presumably is why the left-wing Guardian was able to give its coverage the headline "IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable".
Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards according to a UN report, which concludes that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable. 
“It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” said economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team.
Perhaps this was an accurate summation of the report if you read it a certain way. But equally, it was accurate to report, as Breitbart London did, that it was basically a wish list for the eco-fascist new world order.

Or - as some other newspapers did - you could decide that the report's main take home message that the IPCC had now come round to the virtues of nuclear energy and was guardedly approving of shale gas.

How could the report lend itself to such different conclusions? Because it was written by a vast international committee and then tinkered with further by politicians in order to be all things to all men.

Problem is when you try pleasing everyone you end up pleasing nobody.

But at least there's one thing on which almost everyone ought to be able agree. This truly is the lamest report in the IPCC's history. 

April 14, 2014

Nevada ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid’s reputation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said little as federal agents seized and then released cattle last week from the Bundy ranch, but there is little doubt that the highly charged episode was threatening to become a political headache for the Nevada Democrat.

The Bureau of Land Management is headed by former longtime Reid aide Neil Kornze, who was confirmed by the Senate as BLM director on Tuesday, just as federal authorities descended on the cattle ranch outside Mesquite, Nev.

Mr. Kornze issued a statement Saturday saying that the bureau would return the cattle and withdraw its agents from the ranch as a result of safety concerns after clashes between law enforcement and the Bundy family’s growing legion of supporters.

“Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” Mr. Kornze said.

“We ask that all parties in the area remain peaceful and law-abiding as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service work to end the operation in an orderly manner,” he said.

Speculation spiked in recent days over Mr. Reid’s connection to the BLM episode, in which federal contractors seized about 400 head of cattle from 68-year-old rancher Cliven Bundy over his refusal to pay an estimated $1 million in grazing fees over 20 years.

“It was likely pressure from upstairs, rather than weapons from the field, that changed his mind on the matter,” the liberal group Americans Against the Tea Party said in an online post. “Fact is, Harry Reid probably didn’t want his name attached to the biggest civilian massacre in U.S. history right before election season.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s largest newspaper, criticized the BLM’s handling of the situation in a Friday editorial, saying the “federal government is all about intimidation and overreach.”

The grazing dispute was escalating quickly. Law enforcement reportedly used a stun gun twice on Mr. Bundy’s son Ammon during confrontations, and hundreds of supporters were driving in from out of state to demonstrate against the cattle confiscation.

Cliven Bundy has argued that his family’s cattle have grazed on the land for more than 100 years, before the BLM was founded and before a federal decision was issued to restrict grazing to protect the desert tortoise. He also has said any fees would be due to local government, not federal agencies.

“The people have the power when they unite,” Ammon Bundy told reporters last week, the Review-Journal reported. “The war has just begun.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, criticized the BLM’s cordoning of “free-speech areas” near the ranch and warned the agency to “be mindful of its conduct.”

“The safety of all individuals involved in this matter has been my highest priority,” Mr. Sandoval said in a Saturday statement. “Given the circumstances, today’s outcome is the best we could have hoped for. I appreciate that the Department of the Interior and the BLM were willing to listen to the concerns of the people of Nevada.”

On Sunday, BLM spokesman Craig Leff told The Associated Press that “the door isn’t closed” to an administrative or judicial resolution with the Bundys.

Mr. Kornze, 35, worked as a senior policy adviser on land-use issues in Mr. Reid’s office from 2003 to 2011 before joining the BLM. He was confirmed by the Senate on a 71-28 vote after serving as the agency’s principal deputy director, even though Republicans had qualms about his lack of experience compared with past BLM directors.

During the confirmation hearing Dec. 17, Mr. Reid called his former aide “just perfect for the job,” even as Republicans noted that previous BLM directors Bob Abbey and Jim Caswell were career federal land managers each with more than 30 years’ experience.

“I remain concerned you lack the experience required for the position of BLM director,” Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, told Mr. Kornze at the hearing, according to the Review-Journal.

Mr. Reid made no public statement after Mr. Kornze announced the BLM’s decision.

Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, urged those who had gathered in support of the Bundy family to return home.

“The dispute is over, the BLM is leaving, but emotions and tensions are still near the boiling point, and we desperately need a peaceful conclusion to this conflict,” Mr. Heller said in a Saturday statement. “I urge all the people involved to please return to your homes and allow the BLM officers to collect their equipment and depart without interference.”

Source

April 11, 2014

Ted Cruz: Congress Should Impeach Eric Holder If He Takes No Action on IRS Targeting Scandal

On the day the House Oversight Committee held Lois Lerner in contempt, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Congress should impeach Attorney General Eric Holder if he does not indict those like Lerner for their roles in the IRS's targeting of conservative groups.

In a Thursday appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program, Cruz said Holder should be impeached for "defying Congress and the rule of law." He said Holder's actions were not in the spirit of the Department of Justice, which Cruz said has "a bipartisan tradition of resisting partisan pressure and upholding the rule of law." Cruz cited examples of Holder's predecessors (Janet Reno and Elliot Richardson, respectively) from Bill Clinton's and Richard Nixon's administrations. 

Cruz said he was "very pleased" that Lerner was held in contempt by the House Committee but noted that the Justice Department has not indicted one person eight months after the inspector general concluded that the IRS had wrongfully targeted conservative groups. He blistered the Obama administration for appointing a Democrat who was a bundler for Obama's campaign to head the IRS investigation, and he said that would be akin to John Mitchell investigating Richard Nixon. 

Cruz called Holder "the most partisan attorney general the country has ever had." 

Cruz also blasted Obama for a "pattern of lawlessness" that "is breathtaking" and "dangerous" for liberty. 
"We have never seen a president consistently ignores the law and brazenly defies the law," Cruz said, noting that Obama has ignored immigration, marriage, drug, and welfare laws. 

Cruz mentioned that Obama has unilaterally changed Obamacare nearly 30 times even though there is "no basis for him to change the law" in the Constitution.

April 10, 2014

Darrell Issa says emails suggest Elijah Cummings prompted IRS targeting of True the Vote

This story was published at 4:33 p.m. and has been updated with a response from Rep. Cummings.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has accused the panel's top Democrat of prompting the Internal Revenue Service in 2012 to target a conservative organization applying for non-profit status.

Issa said records obtained last week from the IRS show communications from the office of ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., about True the Vote, a Texas-based, non-profit conservative group that aims to prevent voter fraud.

The communications at one point involved Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official whom Issa's panel is poised to hold in contempt of Congress on Thursday for refusing to provide testimony about her involvement in targeting conservative groups.

“The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff,” a statement from the Oversight panel reads.

According to Issa, Cummings and his staff sought “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” from True the Vote.

Five days after the Cummings inquiry, the IRS sent True the Vote an email requesting “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “… the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed … following the training they receive by you.”

Issa said Cummings and his office asked for more information in January 2013 about True the Vote, this time getting Lerner involved.

At one point, an email revealed, Lerner asked her deputy, “Did we find anything?”

When the deputy said she had not received any new information, Lerner responded, “thanks – check tomorrow please.”

Issa said Cummings had previously denied asking the IRS about True the Vote.

At a February subcommittee hearing, when Issa asked whether his office may have put True the Vote “on the radar screen” of the IRS, Cummings said the accusation was “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”

Issa and other GOP panel members have sent a letter to Cummings, asking him to respond to the newly uncovered emails.

In his response, Cummings said the GOP has falsely accused him of wrongly contacting the IRS about True the Vote. Cummings said in the letter that he has publicly stated his interest in finding more about True the Vote, which supports voter ID laws that Cummings opposes.

Cummings said in his letter that his inquiries were appropriate and did not violate any rules. His requests, Cummings added, were for publicly available information.

Cummings said the letter from Issa and others Republicans is "a desperate attempt to shift the focus on tomorrow's contempt vote away from the serious Constitutional deficiencies in these proceedings."

April 9, 2014

Holder claims 'vast amount' of discretion in enforcing federal laws

Attorney General Eric Holder maintained Tuesday that he has a “vast amount” of discretion in how the Justice Department prosecutes federal law.

Holder’s remarks, during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, came in response to GOP accusations that he is flouting the law with his department’s positions on marijuana legalization, criminal sentencing and a contentious provision of the president’s signature healthcare law.

Leading the questioning was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who asked Holder whether he believed there were any limits to the administration’s prosecutorial discretion.

“There is a vast amount of discretion that a president has — and, more specifically, that an attorney general has,” Holder responded. “But that discretion has to be used in an appropriate way so that your acting consistent with the aims of the statute but at the same time making sure that you are acting in a way that is consistent with our values, consistent with the Constitution and protecting the American people.”

Holder said the Justice Department must defend federal laws on the books unless it concludes that “there is no basis to defend the statute.”

He cited, for example, the administration’s decision no longer to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibited same-sex couples from receiving certain federal benefits. That position, Holder noted, was upheld by the Supreme Court, which later struck down main provisions of the statute.

Republicans on the panel argued, however, that the Obama administration has gone to unprecedented lengths in its liberal use of discretion on several fronts.

“All of this demonstrates a pattern on the part of the Obama administration to ignore or rewrite the very legislation that places limits on the executive branch authority, for purely political purposes,” Goodlatte said.

Historically, the boundaries of prosecutorial discretion are murky, making it difficult for the administration’s critics to say Holder or President Obama has crossed them, UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said.

But, more than its predecessors, the Obama administration has used prosecutorial discretion on some of the day’s most divisive issues, inviting criticism from his opponents on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Winkler said.

He cited the DOMA stance and the administration’s decision to halt deportations of many illegal immigrants, among other cases.

“This administration has gotten into hot water because it has used prosecutorial discretion in high profile, controversial areas,” Winker said.

On Tuesday, Republicans also grilled Holder on the Obama administration’s decision not to interfere with marijuana legalization efforts in Colorado and elsewhere, as long as states establish adequate regulations.

Goodlatte criticized the decision, saying it is tantamount to ignoring the law.

“The Justice Department’s decision not to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in states whose laws violate federal law is not a valid exercise of prosecutorial discretion, but a formal department-wide policy of selective non-enforcement of an Act of Congress,” Goodlatte said.

Holder countered that the DOJ was merely focusing on the most dangerous aspects of marijuana crime, such as trafficking or sales to minors.

“We don’t prosecute every violation of federal law,” he said. “We don’t have the capacity to do that and so what we try to do is make determinations about how we use our limited resources.”

Under Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, the DOJ has altered the charging policies with regard to mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent, low-level drug crimes.

Democrats on the panel lauded the move.

“In a country where nearly half of all federal inmates are serving time for drug offenses, the harshest [punishment] should be reserved for violent offenders,” said Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the committee’s top Democrat.

But Goodlatte said judicial decisions meant to avoid triggering “mandatory minimum” sentences would put Holder at odds with the law.

“The attorney general’s directive, along with contradicting an act of Congress, puts his own front-line prosecutors in the unenviable position of either defying their boss or violating their oath of candor to the court,” he said.

Holder also faced questions from Republicans on the legality of the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

In a terse back and forth with Holder, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) argued that because an implementation date had been written specifically into the legislation, the executive branch had no authority to delay it.

“When Congress puts effective dates in laws, do we need to further state that the effective date cannot be waived or modified by the executive branch, or is the president required to follow the law, and also follow the dates set by Congress?” Chabot asked.

Holder responded that “the president has the duty, obviously, to follow the law,” but that “it would depend on the statute” and statutory interpretation of the law.

Holder also sought to deflect criticism over remarks he made during a speech to state attorneys general, which Chabot interpreted as suggesting they need not defend state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“What I said was decisions not to defend statutes should not be based on politics or policy…” Holder said.

“You guys would never do that,” Chabot interrupted, with more than a hint of sarcasm.

Tensions also flared when Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) renewed a request for documents related to the Fast and Furious arms-trafficking operation.

“I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our Attorney General but it is important that we have proper oversight,” the Texas Republican said, referring to the House’s 2012 vote to hold Holder in contempt for withholding information about the botched operation.

Angered, the usually reserved Holder wagged a finger at Gohmert.

“You don’t want to go there, buddy, all right?,” he said.

“I don’t want to go there?” responded Gohmert. “About the contempt?”

“No. You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me,” Holder replied. “I think it was inappropriate, I think it was unjust, but never think that that was just a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”

Source

April 8, 2014

Handling of former IRS employee Lois Lerner makes lawyers cringe

As the House prepares for several key votes on former Internal Revenue Service employee Lois G. Lerner and potential legal action, analysts say she and her attorney have mishandled their case by picking and choosing when they want to talk, and to whom they are willing to talk.

Ms. Lerner faces a vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday that could begin the process of accusing her of contempt of Congress. The Ways and Means Committee announced that it will hold a vote Wednesday on whether to officially accuse Ms. Lerner of breaking the law by targeting tea party groups.

The congressional moves escalate House Republicans’ effort to highlight Ms. Lerner’s role in the IRS targeting, which has turned into a major legal battle on Capitol Hill.

Lawyers say Ms. Lerner and her legal team may have stumbled on several occasions, including by initially professing her innocence but refusing to talk to Congress last year, then agreeing to provide information to the Justice Department without any promise of immunity, and then refusing yet again to talk to House investigators about the same subject.

Hans A. Von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said courts in Washington have decided that someone can’t pick and choose whom they waive their Fifth Amendment rights to, and whom they choose to speak to.

“When Lerner gave a lengthy interview to the government, she waived the Fifth. There’s no doubt about it,” Mr. Von Spakovsky said. “The law is crystal clear here in the District of Columbia. That means when she showed up March 5, she was obligated to provide the same information.”

Ms. Lerner’s legal problems could increase this week with the two committee votes. The oversight committee will consider a resolution asking to hold Ms. Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify, while the Ways and Means Committee will debate whether to refer her to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution “for violations of one or more criminal statutes based on evidence the committee has uncovered in the court of the investigation of IRS abuses.”

Ms. Lerner, who retired from the IRS in September, ran the agency’s division overseeing nonprofits at a time when, according to an internal audit, her division was improperly scrutinizing and delaying conservative groups’ applications.

Republicans say the information they have gathered shows Ms. Lerner wanted to target tea party groups in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed interest groups to spend more freely on issue ads during political campaigns.

Now, Democrats and Republicans are enmeshed in a legal struggle with Ms. Lerner and her attorney, William Taylor III, over her involvement in the IRS scandal and over how they have handled the aftermath.

In a letter last week, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, said he believed Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, was trying to work out a secret deal with Ms. Lerner that would involve immunity from prosecution.

“In discussions with my staff, Mr. Taylor states that his client does not fear prosecution and would not make any incriminating statements if she testified, with or without immunity,” Mr. Issa wrote to Mr. Cummings. “Ms. Lerner does not require immunity to testify truthfully about facts that would not incriminate her.”

He demanded that Mr. Cummings reveal any secret conversations he had with Ms. Lerner’s legal team.

Mr. Cummings said it was “false and ridiculous” to say he was insisting on granting Ms. Lerner immunity and that it was Mr. Issa who raised the prospect of immunity at the first hearing last May.

“The more important question is why Chairman Issa inexplicably rejected an offer from Ms. Lerner’s attorney to have her testify with a simple one-week extension — an offer that every single Democratic committee member would have accepted instantly had Chairman Issa bothered to consult with them,” Mr. Cummings said. “It appears that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating partisan conflict than in obtaining the facts.”

Mr. Issa, in his letter, said Mr. Taylor has given markedly mixed signals about what he would agree to on behalf of his client.

Indeed, a House counsel’s memo from last month details the various offers Mr. Taylor made, including suggesting Ms. Lerner would testify if given a week’s delay in March, then taking that offer, “if that is what it was,” off the table. Asked specifically whether he had a request, Mr. Taylor said, “She will appear Wednesday.”

Several lawyers questioned Mr. Taylor’s handling of the situation from the start of the case, including Ms. Lerner’s initial speech asserting her innocence.

“Her lawyer was sitting behind her, and every other lawyer in town was cringing, watching the TV screen,” said one lawyer who asked not to be named, saying the legal community is small and tightly knit. But the lawyer said Mr. Taylor broke several basic rules for handling such situations, including letting his client speak and allowing his back-and-forth negotiations with Mr. Issa’s committee to be put in writing.

Mr. Taylor’s office declined to comment, but he has said he no longer trusted the House investigative process to be fair to Ms. Lerner.

A Democratic staffer said Mr. Issa has raised the prospects of a proffer, or agreement about the scope of information to be given, and that Mr. Taylor appeared ready to agree to one.

The staffer said that was what Mr. Cummings was trying to get to at the March 5 hearing, when Mr. Issa ended proceedings and cut off Mr. Cummings‘ microphone after Ms. Lerner again refused to testify.

Mr. Cummings has armed himself with legal evaluations from more than two dozen lawyers saying Ms. Lerner shouldn’t face contempt charges. Mr. Issa has the House counsel’s opinion saying she remains in jeopardy.

Stanley M. Brand, one of those who backed Mr. Cummings‘ reading, said if Republicans see the matter to the end, it will end up in court, where a final resolution likely would be years away.

“You have dueling lawyer opinions that don’t really mean anything of themselves. I include myself in that. What has to happen is it has to get to a court, and the only way it’s going to get to a court is if the full House of Representatives takes action to authorize litigation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the oversight committee released a staff report disputing Democrats’ claims that the IRS targeted liberal groups, too.

The 141-page report says that while some liberal groups were caught up in the inappropriate scrutiny and delays, the vast majority of applications blocked were from tea party and other conservative organizations. Indeed, the first three “test” cases were all conservative groups.

Source

April 7, 2014

Obama looks to close wage gap while paying female staffers less than men

President Barack Obama is planning to sign two new executive actions aimed at narrowing the wage gap between men and women Tuesday, even as the Obama White House pays its female staffers less than men.

The first executive action will be an order banning federal contractors from retaliation against employees who disclose or ask about their wages, according to reports. His other executive action will require federal contractors to submit data to the government about their employees compensation by sex and race.

On Tuesday — the day advocates have labelled “Equal Pay Day” to symbolize the amount of time women have to work to make as much as men did the year before — Obama will sign the executive orders at the White House, according to an AP report.

“From making the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law to these actions, the President has proven himself to be a true champion for women in the workplace,” Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU senior legislative counsel and co-chair of the National Paycheck Fairness Coalition, said in a statement. “Congress still needs to do its part and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, but we’re one step closer to achieving pay equity thanks to this White House.”

Despite advocates’ cheers about paycheck equity, the Obama White House has paid women less than men for years.

According to a Daily Caller analysis of “2013 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff,”  the most recent available data on White House pay, the White House paid women an estimated 11.8 percent less than men in 2013.

The year prior White House paid women 13 percent less than men — and in 2011, according to the Free Beacon, women were paid 18 percent less.

To be sure, all the analysed years were better than what the federal government says is the current wage gap: 23 percent.

Source

April 4, 2014

Obama 'Champion of Change' Amnesty Advocate Indicted for Immigration Fraud

An amnesty advocate that President Barack Obama’s White House publicly promoted as part of its “Champion of Change” series has been indicted in federal court on charges of fraud.

Bonnie M. Youn, who Obama’s White House touts on its website as “a recognized Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community leader in Georgia,” was indicted on three criminal charge counts in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division on April 1, according to publicly filed court documents.

The first indictment count alleges Youn committed perjury with regard to an alien illegally in the United States. The second indictment count alleges that Youn violated a federal immigration law that prohibits bringing illegal aliens into the United States and harboring them, alleging she did so “for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.” The third indictment count alleges Youn illegally tampered with witness testimony, specifically alleging she influenced the illegal alien—whose identity is kept anonymous in the indictment—to provide false information about employment in the United States to federal agents.

The indictment, signed by U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates and two Assistant U.S. Attorneys, indicates that Youn’s alleged illegal activity began “on or about February 9, 2009,” just as President Obama took office at the beginning of his first term and before she was honored by the White House. The third indictment count says that the alleged witness tampering began on or about August 15, 2011.

An arrest warrant was filed for Youn Tuesday.

Youn is listed on the White House “Champions of Change: Immigration Reform” website. That site, which along with a page specifically about her remains on WhiteHouse.gov after she was indicted on these criminal charges related to the White House’s honoring of her, states she was awarded the title for being like Cesar Chavez. “The White House honors eleven people who embody the spirit of Cesar Chavez’s legacy and commit themselves to working in their communities to advocate and organize around immigration-related issues,” the White House says on the website that features Youn.

Youn's bio on her WhiteHouse.gov page says she “has worked tirelessly to provide a voice for immigrants and AAPI communities.”

“She led teams that organized the 2013 Georgia AAPI Legislative Day, gathering the largest number of AAPIs in history at the State Capitol to meet and lobby elected officials,” the White House wrote. “In 2012, she worked closely with the White House Initiative on AAPIs to organize its Southeast Regional Action Summit at Emory University in Atlanta. The Summit brought together over 500 participants to meet federal agency officials, culminating in a town hall meeting discussing concerns about immigration, healthcare and mental health issues, small business, and housing needs. Her current passions are advocating for more AAPI judges and political appointees, challenging state legislation that disenfranchises immigrants, and creating a legacy of a sustainable AAPI Commission for Georgia.”

The White House also notes that Youn is a “principal” of her own law firm Youn Law Group.

According to a press release from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), Youn received the White House honor from President Obama in late March 2013. “Today, the White House honored 10 individuals with the Cesar Chavez Champions of Change Award,” the press release, dated March 26, 2013, reads. “Among the 10 honorees is Bonnie M. Youn, who is a member of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).”

April 3, 2014

THEY KNEW: Ex-CIA official gives stunning account on Benghazi

The CIA’s former deputy director disclosed Wednesday that Obama administration officials were alerted the day before they went on national television that a key tenet of their original Benghazi storyline might be inaccurate. But he did not explain why the administration continued to cling to its narrative even after U.S. intelligence debunked reports that the deadly attack was born out of a protest over an anti-Islam video.

In often testy exchanges with Republicans who accused him of a cover-up, Michael Morell flatly denied that he “inappropriately altered and influenced” the infamous Benghazi talking points to downplay the role of terrorism in the attacks.

But he acknowledged overruling the wishes of his boss at the time, CIA Director David H. Petraeus, by excising from the talking points information that the CIA had warned about possible al Qaeda terrorist attacks in Libya before the Benghazi tragedy unfolded on Sept. 11, 2012, killing ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“I saw the language as self-serving and defensive on the agency’s part,” Mr. Morell replied to skeptical lawmakers. “Here was a tragic event, and we were saying, ‘We told you so.’ This was wrong, in my view, and would have been seen as an attempt to make the CIA look good and shift any possible blame for failing to see the risk of an attack from the agency to the State Department.”

He also said references to al Qaeda were removed from the talking points because of concern at the CIA that leaving them in the public narrative could have jeopardized classified sources.

“The only way we knew that anybody who was involved in that attack that night was associated with al Qaeda was from classified sources,” he said. “To leave it in, the [CIA] director would have had to declassify that information.”

The 33-year veteran of the CIA, who served Democratic and Republican presidents, provided the first concrete timeline of when the CIA began to understand that the original reports were wrong.

He testified that the agency first learned Sept. 14 that there appeared to be no protest on the ground from a report from its officers in Libya, and that a day later the CIA’s station chief sent an email reinforcing that the attack was not preceded by a protest.

Mr. Morell said he shared that information with White House officials, including Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, during a meeting on Sept. 15, 2012, but added that he did not edit the protest information from draft talking points because CIA analysts had not definitively ruled out the protest.

“The analysts had an evidentiary basis to make the judgment that there was a protest ongoing at the time of the attack,” he testified. “Altogether, there were roughly a dozen or so reports indicating that this was the case.”

The next day, Sept. 16, U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice went on Sunday talk shows with the account that the attack was believed to have been started by protests over an American made anti-Islam video.

Mr. Morell testified that he did not know the talking points he had worked on would be used by Ms. Rice for the purpose of a public account on TV.

Nonetheless, by Sept. 18, 2012, two days after Ms. Rice’s appearance, the CIA received a report from the Libyan government that security footage outside the Benghazi complex showed no protest before the attack. U.S. officials reviewed the footage over the next few days and by Sept. 22, the intelligence community revised its analysis and formally declared the attack was related to terrorism and was not proceeded by a protest over the anti-Islam video, Mr. Morell said.

Despite that formal finding of the intelligence community, Obama administration officials continued for weeks afterward to use various versions of the protest or video as part of the Benghazi storyline. A full three days after the U.S. intelligence community officials debunked the protest over the video, President Obama appeared to link the attack to the video in a speech he gave Sept. 26, 2012, at the United Nations.

During the speech, he did not describe the attack as the work of terrorists. “And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy,” Mr. Obama declared.

Read the entire article

April 2, 2014

Growing number of states outlaw NSA-style police and government spying

An increasing number of states are pushing legislation to protect the private telephone and Internet data of citizens from police and government electronic surveillance.

Indiana, Maine and Montana have already successfully passed legislating limiting police access to GPS cellphone location data without a court-ordered search warrant according to a Tuesday Washington Examiner report, and similar bills are moving through the legislatures of 15 additional states tracked by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

States like California have begun using anti-terrorism devices that track all cellphone metadata within a given area — including location, call logs and text messages — to conduct “routine” police work. Such devices inadvertently capture the data of non-suspects as well.

Massachusetts and New Jersey have comparable new laws against such surveillance on the books, and Washington state is proposing quite possibly the most aggressive yet by trying to outlaw providing even basic utility services to National Security Agency outposts.

All of the bills are likely responses to the revelations brought on by the leaks of classified NSA bulk surveillance programs that began last year by former contractor Edward Snowden.

“Since the mobile revolution started, much more information is available and accessible, and people are starting to grow concerned, particularly about the government’s access and use of such information,” ALEC task force on communications and technology John Stephenson said in the Times.

“The flood of interest in this really took off after the Snowden revelations,” Stephenson said. “Suddenly people started asking questions about who has access to their data, who can get at it, what can the government do with it?”

Numerous congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. have proposed various bills limiting such federal and state surveillance activity since last year, none of which made any significant progress until last week, when the House Intelligence Committee announced a new bill within days of a similar White House proposal.

States have been tackling the issue directly since last year, with significantly more success than that which has yet to occur at the executive and legislative federal level. Though specific language and details vary, the majority of state-originated bills at the very least require police to obtain a search warrant for electronic data records.

According to Alan Butler of the privacy and government transparency non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center, the state bills are purposefully designed to apply the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures to new technology like cellphones and computers.

“Law enforcement obtains probable-cause warrants routinely in criminal investigations,” Butler said in the Times. “You are not prohibiting them from using this tool. You are just restricting the use of the tool to circumstances [in which] they’ve already identified probable cause.”

“This is a significant change in the process that law enforcement uses to conduct investigations, to do surveillance,” Butler said.

Source

April 1, 2014

War Party Oligarch

IIs the Republican Party’s Middle East policy up for bid?

For four days ending Sunday, a quartet of presidential hopefuls trooped to Las Vegas to attend the annual gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Impresario: Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas-Macau casino mogul whose fortune is estimated at $39 billion — 8th richest man on the planet — and who dumped $92 million into the election of 2012.

Adelson kept Newt Gingrich alive with a $15 million infusion of ad money, gutting Romney, and then sank $30 million into Mitt’s campaign.

This time Sheldon wants to buy himself a winner.

Ari Fleischer, press secretary to Bush 43, and a member of Adelson’s RJC fiefdom, put it plain and simple: “The ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary. … anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.”

One such man is Jeb Bush, son and brother to presidents, who was the prize bull at Sheldon’s cattle show. Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times speculates on Jeb’s motive in showing up:

“Would you slink into Las Vegas to schmooze gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson who regards GOP presidential nominees as if they were trophy heads mounted in his den, if you had no interest in the White House? Bush is not going to Vegas to catch Meat Loaf’s act at Planet Hollywood.”

The 2016 presidential hopefuls “are falling at his feet,” said a veteran Republican strategist of the 80-year-old oligarch. Each of those who came — Bush, Chris Christie, and Govs. Scott Walker and John Kasich — apparently auditioned, one by one, before the godfather.

In 2016, says Adelson’s top political adviser Andy Abboud, Sheldon’s “bar for support is going to be much higher. … There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.”

Guess that means no more Newts.

Victor Chaltiel, a major donor and Adelson friend who sits on the board of Las Vegas Sands, tells us Sheldon “doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee.” Adds Shawn Steel, a big California GOP money man, Sheldon is a “very rational guy.”

Perhaps. But last fall at Yeshiva University, this “very rational guy” gave this response to a question from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on whether he supports U.S. negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program:

“No. What do you mean support negotiations? What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …

You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’

“So, there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.

“And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.

“‘You want to be peaceful. Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’”

Adelson’s response was recorded by Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss website who was at Yeshiva and filmed the interview. Weiss says the audience cheered Adelson’s proposed nuclear strike on Iran and no one on the stage, not Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, peeped a word of dissent.

And this is a “very rational guy,” who doesn’t want “a crazy extremist to be the nominee”?

This is someone Republican presidential candidates must appease, if they don’t want tens of millions in attack ads run against them?

This is someone the Republican presidential hopefuls must hearken to now?

Again, so it would seem.

During his talk before the few dozen members of the RJC, Gov. Chris Christie recounted his recent trip to Israel: “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories” and came “to understand the military risk that Israel faces every day.”

Christie’s effort at bonding boomeranged. An angry Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America confronted Christie to demand that he explain just what he meant by “occupied territories.”

For half a century, the United States has considered the West Bank occupied land where Israeli settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Whatever Christie’s response, it did not satisfy the ZOA or Klein who declared: “Either [Christie] doesn’t understand the issue, or he’s hostile to Israel.”

Whereupon Christie, in a private audience with Adelson, apologized.

A source close to Adelson told Politico that Christie made clear “that he misspoke when he referred to the ‘occupied territories.’ And he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”

The governor is a tough guy, but this sounds like groveling.

Is this what Republican presidential candidates must do now?

Kowtow to this fattest of fat cats who wants to buy himself an American war on Iran?

Is that what has become of the party of Reagan?

Source

March 31, 2014

Culture of Corruption II: Scandals taint Democratic Party in tough election year

A flood of corruption scandals involving state and local Democratic Party lawmakers is threatening to muddy the party’s image as it enters what was already a tough election cycle.

In a week Democrats won’t soon forget, the Democrat-dominated California Senate took the unprecedented step Friday of voting 28-1 to suspend with pay three state senators in their own party accused or convicted of criminal conduct.

State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday on federal gun trafficking and corruption charges. Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty Feb. 24 to charges of influence-peddling, and Sen. Roderick Wright was convicted Jan. 28 of perjury and voter fraud.

None of the state senators has resigned from office, although Mr. Yee has pulled out of the race for California secretary of state.

“One is an anomaly, two a coincidence, but three? That’s not what this Senate is about,” California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said to lawmakers before the suspension vote.

Meanwhile, Patrick Cannon, the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, N.C., resigned Wednesday after he was charged with accepting more than $48,000 in bribes during an FBI sting operation. In Rhode Island, the Democrat-led state legislature voted to replace former House Speaker Gordon Fox, who stepped down after the FBI raided his home and office.

The FBI also conducted a Wednesday raid on the offices of New York Assemblyman William Scarborough, another Democrat. Mr. Scarborough told reporters later that the raid centered on whether he had abused his state expense account.

In Illinois, federal agents Wednesday seized computers at the home and office of Democratic state Rep. Keith Farnham, who resigned March 19, citing health concerns. The Associated Press reported that the agents were searching for evidence of child pornography.

The sheer number of federal arrests and raids stunned liberal commentators such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who noted last week that California Democrats lost their supermajority in the state Senate because of the inactive status of the three lawmakers.

“[T]here are now three Democratic state senators with federal criminal indictments against them just this session resulting already in eight felony convictions,” Ms. Maddow said. “And yes, the Republican Party is essentially defunct in most of California and probably beyond reviving, but if anything can bring them back, it’s probably days like this.”

On the other side are conservatives asking whether the Obama administration’s Justice Department is deliberately cleaning house on behalf of the Democratic Party now to prevent the scandals from cropping up in the weeks before the Nov. 4 elections.

“It is entirely possible that the head honchos of the Democrat Party are basically behind an effort to take out all of their bad apples before the election; make them old news by the time the election comes around,” conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said on his Friday show.

“The timing here is obviously curious, and it really is hard to believe the FBI would be working against the wishes of the regime, isn’t it?” Mr. Limbaugh said.

Michelle Malkin, author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies,” reminded her readers in a Friday column that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, accused Republicans of creating a “culture of corruption” during the 2006 election cycle.

Those scandals, which resulted in the resignations of four congressional Republicans, triggered a backlash that helped Democrats capture both the House and Senate.

“[Mrs. Pelosi] cast herself and her minions as America’s political clean-up crew. But once again, the culture of corruption boomerang has swung back around to smack Democrats in their smug mugs,” said Ms. Malkin. “The cynical Swamp Drainers just hope you forget it all by election time. Don’t.”

Democrats counter that Republicans have had their own share of recent scandals, including the federal indictment of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who are accused of accepting illegal gifts.

Although Mr. McDonnell is the higher-profile figure, he has been overwhelmed by the sheer number of Democratic local and state officials facing corruption accusations. Examples include the corruption conviction in January of former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the bribery conviction in February of former Trenton, N.J., Mayor Tony Mack.

Republican strategist Dick Wadhams said the corruption scandals could hurt Democrats in state and local elections, especially in the vicinity of the accused wrongdoers.

“I think it hurts Democrats in the jurisdictions where these elected officials come from,” said Mr. Wadhams. “The preponderance of the incidents is certainly not news for the Democrats across the country, but I would say it would have more of a local effect.”

He added that the scandals may be a byproduct of California’s Democratic Party dominance.
“When you consolidate power in one party, this is what happens,” Mr. Wadhams said.

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