November 30, 2012

TSA refuses to testify at House hearing on how Americans dislike the TSA

Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole, to the irritation of lawmakers, refused to appear at a House hearing on how Americans tend not to like dealing with his agency when traveling.
“Sadly the TSA Administrator is stonewalling this committee and refuses to work with us, and that’s part of the problem with this agency,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., said in a statement after today’s hearing.  “He and other agency officials are protecting one the biggest government bureaucracies, which has grown now to more than 66,000 employees.”
The hearing considered several aspects of the TSA’s performance, including consumer advocacy surveys such as the one that “found that aviation passengers were more likely to take one or more additional trips each year if the security screening process were to be made more efficient and friendly,” according to the committee.
Pistole signaled his intentions Tuesday. “By U.S. House of Representatives rules which state that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has no jurisdiction over the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), no representative from TSA will be present at the Subcommittee on Aviation hearing scheduled for Nov. 29,” Pistole said in a statement Tuesday.

November 29, 2012

Former Rep. Mel Reynolds, convicted felon, wants Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat in Congress

Disgraced former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds said he will ask voters to focus on his congressional experience rather than his state and federal criminal record as he announced his bid today for the seat held by Jesse Jackson Jr., who has resigned.

At a downtown hotel news conference, Reynolds acknowledged having made “mistakes” in the past. For his campaign, he will try to assume the mantle of an incumbent while also seeking redemption from voters. Red and white campaign signs urged voters to “re-elect” Reynolds “so he can finish the work” while another stark red sign with white letters said simply: “Redemption.”

Reynolds held the 2nd Congressional District seat from 1993 until October 1995, when a Cook County jury convicted him of several sex-related charges, including having sex with an underage volunteer campaign worker. While serving time in state prison, Reynolds also was convicted on federal financial and campaign fraud charges. President Bill Clinton commuted Reynolds' sentence to time served in 2001.

Under law, Reynolds, formerly a South Side resident who is now renting in Dolton, no longer has to register as a sex offender.

Reynolds sought to downplay his previous convictions, contending “it was almost 18, 20 years ago” and that his past crimes “shouldn’t be a life sentence.”

“The fact of the matter is, nobody’s perfect,” Reynolds said, adding that voters should “look at the entire history of me,” including what people do “after they make mistakes.” Reynolds, however, stopped short of acknowledging guilt for any of his crimes.

Though Reynolds sought to focus on his experience in Congress, where he served on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, his entry into the contest was yet another sorry reminder of the congressional representation that voters on the South Side and south suburbs have had with their last three representatives.

Reynolds replaced Gus Savage, a controversial and outspoken congressman who was condemned by the House Ethics Committee amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving a Peace Corps volunteer while he was on an official congressional visit to Zaire.

After Reynolds resigned, Jackson won a special election in 1995 to succeed him. But after 17 years, Jackson stepped down last week amid federal ethics investigations and a diagnosis of bipolar depression.

Unlike his failed 2004 primary bid against Jackson, in which Reynolds lost by an 89 percent to 6 percent margin, Reynolds was not joined this time in his announcement by his wife, Marisol. The two have had a history of marital problems. As he spoke about raising his children almost like a single parent, Reynolds said he was not divorced but wanted to leave questions about his wife out of the campaign.

Reynolds said he is self-employed as a financial consultant who acts as a broker between African investors and U.S. companies. But if there was a symbol that he misses Congress, despite his short tenure there, it was the shining black GMC SUV parked outside his news conference with retired congressional license plates that read “MR.”


November 28, 2012

Speculation will soon be over on asking Holder about Fast and Furious at presser

New Haven will host Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss an “anti-gun violence initiative” this morning, Conn. Governor Dannell P. Malloy announced yesterday on his Twitter account.

“Holder in Connecticut to announce anti-gun initiative,” WABC TV New York more appropriately headlined their presentation of the Associated Press report on the pending publicity opportunity, which offered the reminder that “Federal and local officials unveiled a plan earlier this year to stem gun violence in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, the state's three largest cities.”

The Hartford Courant, which also reported on this morning’s press conference, could not seem to decide if it would be held today or Thursday, but then, when it comes to anything involving guns, accuracy, let alone balance, has never been that paper’s long suit.

As for why “gun violence remains high in the largest cities,” perhaps government policies which incubate and guarantee it, combined with endemic corruption, such as exemplified by the conviction of former Hartford mayor and Bloomberg coalition member Eddie Perez on bribery charges, may be a more fruitful avenue to explore than trying to impose more “gun laws” that only and ever affect those inclined to obey such edicts.

Criminality in government seems to be the only concern in response to Gov. Malloy’s “tweet.”
“Eric Holder is a poor choice,” the lone replier to date opined, calling the AG “the man behind Fast and Furious and the death of Brian Terry.”

Indeed, whether any of the assembled “Authorized Journalists” will take the initiative to raise that subject, and press Holder should he equivocate, or if they will instead just go for the easy story that promulgates anti-gun talking points,was a speculation raised earlier today on The War on Guns blog.
The press conference is occurring in real time as this column is being typed and posted. It’s results will be known soon enough.


November 27, 2012

US Government clarifies foreign anti-bribery laws

The US Government has published comprehensive guidance on how it will enforce laws prohibiting acts of bribery by companies operating overseas, including details of the type of payments that will generally be allowed.

The new guidance (130-page / 2.8MB PDF) has been published jointly by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the two US government departments responsible for enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
"Investors must have faith that the economic performance of public companies reflects lawful considerations of markets, price and product rather than a mirage resulting from bribery and corruption," said Robert Khuzami, the SEC's enforcement director. "This guide will protect investors by assisting businesses in preventing such unlawful behaviour, thus avoiding FCPA violations in the first place, which is in the interest of law enforcement and business alike."
Enacted in 1977, the FCPA generally prohibits the payment of bribes to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business. The Act covers the activities of publicly-traded companies and their officers, directors, employees, shareholders and third-party 'agents' that take place anywhere in the world. It requires companies to maintain accurate business records and maintain adequate internal controls.
The SEC said that the guidance would provide helpful information to "all sizes" of business on who and what was covered by the FCPA, the definition of a "foreign official" and what types of gifts, travel and entertainment expenses would be considered "proper". The guidance also looks at the different types of civil and criminal enforcement powers available to the Government, and contains case studies and examples of cases the SEC and DOJ have decided not to pursue.
The guidance makes it clear that "small gifts" or "tokens of esteem or gratitude" will usually be appropriate in a business context, particularly when the gift is given "openly and transparently", properly recorded by the recipient and permitted under local law.
"Items of nominal value, such as cab fare, reasonable meals and entertainment expenses, or company promotional items, are unlikely to improperly influence an official and, as a result, are not, without more, items that have resulted in enforcement action by DOJ or SEC," the guidance states. "The larger or more extravagant the gift, however, the more likely it was given with an improper purpose. DOJ and SEC enforcement cases thus have involved single instances of large, extravagant gift-giving (such as sports cars, fur coats and other luxury items) as well as widespread gifts of smaller items as part of a pattern of bribes."
The guidance also goes into more detail on the type of payment which will be allowed under the exception for "facilitating or expediting payments made in furtherance of routine governmental action" contained in the FCPA. This exception is a "narrow" one which will only apply to "non-discretionary acts" such as processing visas, providing police protection or supplying utilities or mail services, according to the guidance. It will not include decisions to award new business or continue business with a particular party, or "acts that are within an official's discretion or that would constitute misuse of an official's office".
"Whether a payment falls within the exception is not dependent on the size of the payment, though size can be telling, as a large payment is more suggestive of corrupt intend to influence a non-routine governmental action," the guidance says, "But, like the FCPA's anti-bribery provisions more generally, the facilitating payments exception focuses on the purpose of the payment rather than its value."
The UK's Bribery Act, which came into force in 2010, does not contain an exception for this type of payment. The US guidance makes it clear that companies operating in the UK may still be caught by these laws, even if the payments are legal under US laws.
The guidance clarifies that the prohibition on bribing "foreign officials" includes those acting in an official capacity for governments or departments, government agencies or "instrumentalities". This can include employees of state-owned or state-controlled companies. Employees of companies in which the national government holds a minority stake will generally not be included, although any inappropriate payments will generally be caught by other laws.
Although the FCPA prohibits payments to officials rather than governments, the guidance states that companies "contemplating contributions or donations" to foreign governments should "take steps" to ensure that the money will not be used for the personal benefit of individual foreign officials or other corrupt purposes.
Anti-corruption law expert Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that companies with US operations or with shares that are publicly-traded in the US would find the new guidance useful, particularly following criticism that the law was "vague".
"That said, there is significant enforcement precedent in the US in relation to the FCPA and you could question whether the guidance was really necessary at all," he said. "However, on balance, corporations will no doubt find the new guidance helpful in the context of their global regulatory compliance. If your business has operations in the US, you should read it."

November 26, 2012

White House silent as Egypt’s president grabs power, moves toward Shariah Islamic law

White House officials remained silent during the extended Thanksgiving weekend, as Egypt’s pro-democracy groups called on President Barack Obama to condemn Thursday’s power grab by their country’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

Morsi decreed Nov. 22 that his pronouncements and edicts were beyond the reach of judicial review. The announcement was met by resistance from the nation’s top judges, who said they would fight Morsi’s unusual self-elevation to near-dictator status.

“I am waiting to see, I hope soon, a very strong statement of condemnation by the U.S., by Europe and by everybody who really cares about human dignity,” declared Mohamed ElBaradei, who is one of Egypt’s more visible non-Islamist politicians.

So far, the White House has not weighed in, although Morsi’s power grab is a repudiation of th “Arab Spring” democracy movement that Obama has supported for two years.

It is also a rejection of Obama’s efforts to use Egypt to mute the religious conflict between the Arab world and Israel, and a jarring followup to the Nov. 21 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, which Morsi and Obama negotiated.

Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, is expected to face media questions Nov. 26 about the administration’s response.

So far, the White House’s only comment has been a nondescript paragraph, released Nov. 23 by the Department of State.

“The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns… We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue,” said the statement, which did not mention Morsi.

There has been no White House response to ElBaradei’s Nov. 24 comments.

Obama backed the 2011 removal of Egypt’s strongman, Hosni Mubarak, and then pressured Egypt’s army to stay on the sidelines while Islamist parties competed for — and won — roughly 75 percent of the seats in the nation’s parliament.

But Morsi’s takeover now threatens to shift Egypt’s populist, Islam-friendly and democratic “Arab Spring” movement towards a hard-line Islamist theocracy, similar to Iran’s, which is hostile to democracy.

Islamist theocracies create an apartheid-like system where Western-style rights are supplanted by Islamic sharia law, and where Muslim men rule over Muslim women, Christians and Jews.

“Morsi appears to be fulfilling the [Islamists’] and his own long shared desire to re-create a Sharia supremacist Egyptian state,” Islam expert Andrew Bostom told The Daily Caller. Bostom is author of a new book, “Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism.”

Morsi asserted his dictatorial powers Nov. 22, amid applause from his fellow Islamists in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and those in the even more radical Salafists’ Nour party.

In addition to making Morsi immune to judges’ oversight, the surprise declaration said that Egypt’s courts also have no authority over a constitution-writing panel that is now dominated by Islamists.

The Islamists on the 100-member panel are pushing to impose Shariah Islamic law on the country’s roughly 72 million inhabitants, prompting a walkout this month by roughly 25 free-market and left-wing panel members.

Morsi also announced a plan to retry recently released officials from the Mubarak regime, and described his political opponents in the same language — “thugs” — as protesters used to describe Mubarak’s supporters.

Non-Islamist political parties, such as ElBaradei’s, are weak and divided, with the judiciary serving as the main obstacle to Egyptian Islamists’ advances. For example, judges dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament in June. Islamists see them as a threat to their leverage on the constitution-writing panel.

The non-Islamist parties include both free-market and left-wing politicians. Since Morsi’s announcement, their disparate supporters have united, protested and rioted, and are trying to organize major demonstrations.

So far, the police force has followed Morsi’s orders and contained the anti-Morsi street protests. And the Egyptian army — whose senior generals were recently replaced by Morsi appointees — has not publicly objected to Morsi’s self-promotion.

Morsi’s power grab came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effusively praised him for helping force an end to Israel’s counterattack against rocket assaults launched from the Gaza enclave by Hamas, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“This is a critical moment for the region,” Clinton said. Nov. 21. “Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.”

Clinton’s statement reflected the administration’s long-standing decision to support democracy in Egypt, even if it comes with Islamists gaining political dominance. The strategy, outlined by Obama in a 2009 speech in Cairo, is to use democratic politics to help stabilize the region, and to weaken jihadi movements by arguing that Arabs can achieve their goals via the ballot box, rather than with attacks on American targets.

Clinton met with Morsi in July,warning Egypt’s military against intervention. “The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails,” she said.

U.S. officials say they have backed the results of the Egyptian elections — not Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood.

But Obama has repeatedly praised Morsi, and his deputies once announced plans for Morsi to visit White House.

That plan was torpedoed when Libyan jihadis destroyed the U.S Consulate and CIA annex in the Libyan city of Benghazi and killed four Americans on Sept. 11.

However, it is not clear if Morsi and his Islamist allies can, or wish to, distance themselves from jihadi groups like Hamas.

Most Islamists and jihadis share a similar ideology and wish to create Islamic theocracies through elections, by force, or both.

For example, in a May 2012 campaign speech Morsi promised an Islamic theocracy and a constitution built on Shariah Islamic law.

“The Shariah, then the Shariah, and finally, the Shariah,” he declared. “This nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic Shariah. I take an oath before Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution] … this people will not accept a text that does not reflect the true meaning of the Islamic Shariah as a text to be implemented and as a platform.”


November 23, 2012

Is Petraeus Scandal an Obama Scandal?

The news media are continuing to try to protect the Obama administration from a rapidly growing scandal. A November 13th article in The Washington Post by Scott Wilson argued that Obama “has been untouched by the unfolding investigation involving former CIA director David Petraeus,” a view that belongs on the opinion page under the heading, “wishful thinking,” not on the news pages.
The stunning news from November 9th that CIA Director David Petraeus had resigned over an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer and a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has become the source of numerous theories and psychological questioning of what makes powerful people tick. But it is actually proving to be a second shot at what should have been treated as a major Obama administration scandal prior to the November 6th election, the situation surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 this year, as I argued in a column last week.

Why, in light of two previous attacks this year on our consulate in Benghazi, did we keep it open, and not provide the added security that Ambassador Chris Stevens pleaded for? Why, knowing that he was on an al-Qaeda hit list, was our consulate not better protected, especially in light of a secret August 16th cable he sent to Hillary Clinton’s office at the State Department pointing out that there were “approximately ten Islamist militias and AQ training camps within Benghazi?” Why did the administration for weeks try to argue that this was the result of a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand, which was, as Susan Rice called it, a copy-cat demonstration of the one earlier in the day in Egypt, supposedly over a little seen anti-Muslim video trailer made in the U.S.?

The bar for what is considered a scandal was cited in an Atlantic Wire article last year, as being when the word “scandal” is on the front page of The Washington Post. In the case of Obama, according to this definition, even Operation Fast & Furious and Solyndra didn’t qualify as scandals.

The Post’s Scott Wilson wrote that the Petraeus “scandal hinges on a personal relationship beyond the White House and has not implicated the president or his closest advisers.” That is where Wilson, the Post and most of the media have missed the big picture.

The Post reported on the front page on November 13th that Petraeus had planned to continue in his job as CIA director if his affair with Broadwell did not go public, and he was apparently led to believe it would not go public.

Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the Post, in his role as a Fox News analyst, saw that information as being very revealing: “It meant that he understood that the FBI obviously knew what was going on…and that he understood that his job, his reputation, his legacy, his whole celebrated life was in the hands of the administration, and he expected they would protect him by keeping it quiet.”

Krauthammer continued: “And that brings us to the ultimate issue, and that is his testimony on September 13. That’s the thing that connects the two scandals, and that’s the only thing that makes the sex scandal relevant. Otherwise it would be an exercise in sensationalism and voyeurism and nothing else. The reason it’s important is here’s a man who knows the administration holds his fate in its hands, and he gives testimony completely at variance with what the Secretary of Defense had said the day before, at variance with what he’d heard from his station chief in Tripoli, and with everything that we had heard. Was he influenced by the fact that he knew his fate was held by people within the administration at that time?”

Now that the Petraeus adultery scandal has emerged, it is bringing all these issues to the forefront, with an emboldened Republican Party that doesn’t believe the President when he says he knew nothing about the Petraeus affair until the day after the election. It’s not just Republicans, as many in the media are just as incredulous. Ron Kessler, for example, a former reporter for The Washington Post, now with Newsmax, wrote the day following Petraeus’s resignation, “FBI agents on the case expected that Petraeus would be asked to resign immediately rather than risk the possibility that he could be blackmailed to give intelligence secrets to foreign intelligence agencies or criminals. In addition, his pursuit of the woman could have distracted him as the CIA was giving Congress reports on the attack on the Benghazi consulate on Sept. 11.”

Kessler has written several books on the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service, and is known to have excellent sources inside the FBI. He added that “FBI agents on the case were aware that such a decision had been made to hold off on forcing him out until after the election and were outraged.”
It is just not believable that Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the affair and the investigation in late summer, and the FBI knew about it at least since May, yet the President was kept in the dark that his CIA director was under investigation. If that is what happened, then heads should roll for incompetence, and leaving the head of the CIA in a vulnerable position while the President of the United States was unaware.

Holder finally offered an explanation publicly on November 15th. He said the Justice Department does “not share outside the Justice Department, outside the FBI, the facts of ongoing investigations.” He said he “made the determination as we were going through that there was not a threat to national security.” As the Post reported, “Because of that conclusion there was no reason to advise officials outside the department before the investigation was complete.”

Apparently he felt it was finally complete enough to go to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. on late afternoon of Election Day. Clapper then told the President the following day. But then how is it that it was only this week, on November 12th, that the FBI went to Ms. Broadwell’s home to search her computer for classified materials? It is those sorts of questions that make it implausible that an investigation to figure out if this posed a national security threat would not have been brought to the attention of the President.

Today, Petraeus went before a House committee and a Senate committee to clarify how the message of what the administration knew and when they knew it became so tangled. The issue was attempting to square what he was said to have told Congress back on September 13th with what is now known to be the case. Back then, it was reported that Petraeus said the attack on the consulate resulted from a demonstration, akin to a “flashmob,” sparked by the anti-Islam video, and not a planned terrorist act.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that Petraeus claimed that he had said early on that the attack on the consulate was a result of terrorism. But King seemed puzzled, saying that he remembered Petraeus playing down the role of an al-Qaeda affiliate during his September 13th testimony.

According to Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) of the House Intelligence Committee, who attended Petraeus’s September 13 appearance and today’s, the initial talking points that the CIA released went through an editing process before being given to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who addressed the media on the Sunday following the attack. Heck said they didn’t know for sure who edited the talking points, but President Obama said at his press conference on Wednesday that Rice “made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her. If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

In other words, President Obama was taking the credit for whatever “presentation” Rice made during her talk show appearances. Rep. Heck told Fox News, “The initial talking points, which were put together in an unclassified format at the request of the House Intelligence Committee initially did state that al-Qaeda affiliated groups were involved, however, we understand that by the time it went through its editing process after it left Langley (CIA), that reference was taken out.” He added that Petraeus made clear and emphasized this morning that “the initial intelligence reporting which stated that the incident grew out of a spontaneous demonstration or protest was proven to be false. There was no protest outside the gates prior to the attack starting. And that became apparent after the interviews of individuals that were at the compound as well as after being able to view the surveillance videotape of the embassy outpost.”

Was Petraeus changing his story and no longer parroting the White House’s line? That remained unclear, but it certainly appears that he changed his tune. Another oddity was the timing of an announcement by the CIA on Thursday, the day before Petraeus would be talking to the committees for the first time since his resignation, that the CIA inspector general would be conducting an investigation into his conduct. Another warning to toe the party line?

On that same day, Andrea Mitchell raised the question of Petraeus’s responsibility in an interview with Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. “What is David Petraeus’s responsibility for this?” asked Mitchell. “There is some suggestion that General Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was already concerned that the CIA was putting out its defense without checking with other agencies for the way Benghazi was handled. And also that the White House is not happy with the CIA for giving talking points to Susan Rice that got her into this political difficulty on the Sunday morning talk shows. Do you think the agency should bear some responsibility or is this scapegoating after the fact?” Even Sen. Conrad was amused by Mitchell’s spin.

It remains to be seen how this plays out. Republicans are calling for a Watergate-type select committee, meaning that instead of Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security each holding separate hearings, there would be one committee with members from each of those committees represented. Also, the lead would come from the House, rather than the Senate, which would leave the Republicans in charge to determine the witnesses and schedule, rather than having Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once again running interference for the Obama White House.
This is not what President Obama had in mind for his second term in office.


November 21, 2012

Scapegoating James Clapper Won't End Benghazi Scandal

Cover-Up: Intel chief James Clapper taking blame for dishonest talking points won't cauterize the Benghazi scandal. The country was still lied to about terrorists killing four Americans for the sake of Obama's re-election. As Benghazigate became a major pre-election embarrassment for the president, a number of commentators quipped to Obama defenders who minimized its significance that, unlike in Libya on Sept. 11, "nobody died in Watergate." Watergate is an apt comparison in some ways. The whole underlying purpose of the 1972 attempted bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters was to get President Nixon re-elected. The whole underlying purpose of lying about the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith, and ex-Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, was to get President Obama re-elected. In Watergate, the objective was to collect information that could persuade people not to vote for the Democratic nominee for president. In Benghazigate, the objective was to suppress the truth that al-Qaida had organized a Sept. 11 attack with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades on a vulnerable diplomatic post in Libya so that the president's convention speech claim that "al-Qaida is on the path to defeat" would not be exposed as false. In Watergate, the fiction was that, as Nixon put it, "no one in the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident." In Benghazigate, the fiction was, as America's United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice claimed on Fox News two months ago (and in four similar TV appearances), that "the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack, that what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . .. as a consequence of the video" insulting Mohammad. CBS News last week reported that it was the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, headed by Clapper, that "cut specific references to 'al-Qaida' and 'terrorism' from the unclassified talking points given" to Rice "with the agreement of the CIA and FBI." CBS assures us that "the White House or State Department did not make those changes." But the DNI was established in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to centralize authority over intelligence, to "manage the national intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute to it." Clapper is the president's man . For all practical purposes, he is White House staff, as much as the national security adviser. He attends Oval Office meetings and discerns the wishes of the president and senior staff. As the DNI told CBS News, "The intelligence community assessed from the very beginning that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack." And as CBS noted, "That information was shared at a classified level — which Rice, as a member of President Obama's Cabinet, would have been privy to." The upshot: Clapper being the fall guy shortly after Obama's re-election ends Benghazigate about as much as G. Gordon Liddy going down shortly after Nixon's re-election ended Watergate. Source

November 20, 2012

Should Eric Holder Have Told Obama About the Petraeus Scandal Sooner?

When Attorney General Eric Holder kept word from President Obama about investigating then-Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus, he took what he deemed a high road in following protocols governing when it’s appropriate to inform the White House of criminal probes.

He might also have been displaying lousy judgment, according to several former high-ranking Justice Department officials.
“Bad judgment on a matter of large consequence,” says one former high-ranking department official.
Several former Justice officials, all Democrats, agreed. All declined to have their names used. And they neither disparaged Holder’s honesty nor impugned his motives. But while they conceded that a strict constructionist take on department rules or perceived policy could justify not telling Obama far earlier, to a person these sources feel the Petraeus case underscores the evolution of needlessly rigid practice that ill serves any White House.
There is a long and tawdry history of politicization of the relationship between the White House and both the Justice Department and FBI. The most vivid offenders included longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who illegally collected personal information on individuals for political reasons, and President Richard Nixon, whose attempts to misuse the CIA and FBI were central to the Watergate scandal.
In recent times, there were the 2006 firings of nine U.S. attorneys nationwide by the Justice Department during the second term of President George W. Bush. Politics played an important part, given a White House desire to either stall investigations of Republicans or start investigations into Democrats.
The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the dismissals were “arbitrary” and “raised doubts about the integrity of department prosecution decisions.” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ultimately resigned amid a firestorm of congressional questioning and outrage.
Michael Mukasey, a former New York federal judge, who then authored an internal memo about department contacts with the White House during criminal investigations, replaced Gonzales.
While the memo is frequently cited as forbidding such communications, “the point is not that the White House can never be apprised of a pending criminal investigation; the point is that the White House should not reach out and influence a pending criminal investigation,” Mukasey recently said.
A look at the actual 2007 memo, which is not in any way binding on department officials, bolsters his analysis. The memo maintains that “it is critically important to have frequent and expeditious communications relating to national security matters, including counter-terrorism and counter-espionage issues.”
The memo is open to varied interpretations and can easily be read to argue that the Justice Department, as well as the FBI, should tell the White House or other relevant political officials about a discovery such as those at the heart of the Petraeus case.
It’s now clear that by at least late July, Justice and FBI officials were looking into Petraeus and his affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Justice and FBI officials informed director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Election Day, Nov. 6; President Obama was informed Nov. 8.
Holder felt he had been on firm ground in keeping the information from Obama. His thinking was that one doesn’t inform the president of ongoing criminal cases unless they had clear national security implications or impacted the executive branch in obvious ways.
Aides say that the presidential campaign played a role, too. It wasn’t that Holder sought to shield the president from embarrassment; rather, he wanted to avoid any possible appearance or implication that the White House might interfere with the investigation, they say.

A longtime adviser to Democratic presidents, including Obama, supported Holder. Asked if he thought he erred in the Petraeus matter by not telling Obama earlier, he said simply, “No.”
Still, even former Justice officials who sympathize with Holder, and see his actions as well intentioned and not aimed at protecting his boss from scandal, argue he went astray.
As long as he kept word of the investigation from Obama, they say, he was sitting on information with unavoidable implications for national security since they involved the CIA chief. If he felt he was following the correct protocol, he was simply being too rigid, they contend.
“The question was not whether Petraeus had breached security,” said one, “but whether actions raised questions about his judgment and discipline and created vulnerabilities to blackmail.”
“Clapper obviously thought the situation required his [Petraeus’s] resignation,” said this official, alluding to the director of national intelligence's recommendation to Petraeus that he step down.
“If [there were] not national security implications, then why tell Clapper when they did?” said a former Justice official.
This source notes how, for about three months, the Justice Department knew of conduct by Petraeus that the DNI himself would later conclude merited his resignation. The judgment on whether there was a threat to national security was not Holder’s to make, say his partly sympathetic critics. It was the president’s.
But for those three months, the president was denied the chance to make his own decision—and, perhaps, to leave Petraeus in office. It would certainly have been wrong for Obama to meddle with the investigation for political reasons. But it arguably would not have been wrong for him to know about and discuss the matter, especially since it had bearing on the future of his intelligence chief.
When asked about the sequence of events at his White House press conference last week, Obama said he was reserving judgment on whether the course taken was the correct one.
As for recent precedents for informing the White House of criminal investigations, they exist. Several former Justice Department officials cited the details of examples in which they had communicated possible criminal actions to various parts of the government, including the White House.
Though they asked that those details not be disclosed, they said they generally involved prospective actions, including antitrust indictments involving foreign governments and companies.
The notifications to others within the U.S. government were generally prompted by the possibility that action by the Justice Department could potentially impact U.S. foreign or trade relations and, in some instances, conceivably expose intelligence sources.


November 19, 2012

West Seeks Emergency Hearing

Allen West (R-FL) is seeking an emergency hearing after his challenger, Democrat Patrick Murphy, declared victory in Florida's 18th congressional district race on Sunday. Murphy declared victory after the St. Lucie County canvassing board missed a noon deadline to file its election results.

According to the Palm Beach Post, under Florida law, if the final certified results do not arrive by noon on Sunday, the "unofficial results submitted last Sunday stand." Those unofficial results have Murphy winning by 0.58%. A spread of less than 0.5%, as the Post notes, would trigger an automatic recount. Tallies showed West would have needed roughly 250 votes to trigger a recount across the district.

Unless West receives an emergency injunction, Murphy will be declared the winner. 

Allen West's campaign told Fox News that "what was a bad situation has gotten worse" and "whether this was done intentionally" or was more negligence on behalf of the supervisor of elections, "it just adds to the suspicion."

West won a decision to get early votes in the 8 days leading up to the election in St. Lucie County recounted. West's campaign said some elections officials in St. Lucie County admitted to double counting some ballots and ignoring other ballots on election night.

Canvassing Board Member Ted Lowery said the board on Sunday "still had write-in ballots and other questionable ballots from eight days of early voting to review before the noon deadline." In addition, machines may have malfunctioned during Sunday's recount.

Tim Edson, West's campaign manager, told the Post that "Murphy’s people are full of garbage" and "this is something the secretary of state and governor will have to sort out."

According to Edson, the recount revealed many "concerns," such as 900 voters casting ballots in precinct 93, where there are 7 registered voters, and "the results are raising more questions."

Anthony Kusich, Murphy's campaign manager, released a pre-written statement after the noon deadline declaring victory for the second time.

“Today at noon, it became clear Patrick Murphy will be officially certified as the next congressman from the 18th Congressional District,” Kusich said. “The voters have spoken and Patrick Murphy is once again the clear winner. It is beyond time to put this campaign behind us and put the interests of the people of the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches first.”

The Post reports West supporters have been crowding into the ballot-counting area and shouting, "Count our vote!"


November 16, 2012

Reward: Obama NLRB looks to give workers’ private contact info to unions

President Obama’s labor regulators are preparing to give his “army” of unions the private contact information of workers employed by non-union companies, as part of an array of rules to facilitate and finance union expansion.
“The National Labor Relations Board is expected to start work on a rule that would force businesses to turn over workers’ phone numbers, emails and shift times to union organizers,” the Associated Pressreported this week.
It’s an effort to enhance the unions’ voter contact operations, in effect, as current law only requires companies to give union organizers the home addresses of the workers whom they hope will vote to unionize.
“What this is trying to do — arguably, it violates the workers’ privacy — but facilitate the union getting in touch,” The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk told The Washington Examiner. “It is just going to be a headache for workers. You tell the union organizer ‘no’ once and they just keep coming back can come back and they keep harassing you and now they’ve got your phone number that they can be calling you on — now they can be spamming your email.”
In conjunction with the regulation aiding union organizers, the Obama team appears poised to curtail company management’s ability to get outside advice in how to argue against union drives. “A new rule expected from the Labor Department would force companies to reveal relationships with so-called union-busting consulting companies even if the companies have no contact with workers,” the AP noted.
This rule change would require the law firms that advise management on counter-acting union drives to reveal proprietary information such as how much they make on the contract, how much they pay their own employees, and what they talk about with their clients on the job.
“The primary impetus that people are seeing behind this is to basically get law firms to stop offering [the] services,” Sherk said.
And what tasks will union workers perform under Obama’s second term? Federal contracts funded by taxpayers, to judge from a third rule that could be coming down the pike –  “a plan that would give an advantage in bidding on government contracts to companies that offer workers a higher living wage and generous benefits,” the AP says.
“There’s a lot of concern that what this will do is preferentially award federal contracts to unionized businesses,” Sherk explained. “It would also have the effect of freezing out a lot of private sector workers who do not belong to unions and saying ‘you can’t compete for these jobs.”
Sherk added that such process for awarding contracts will come at the expense of taxpayers. “If you’re going to ward [federa;] contracts not on the basis of what’s the best value for the taxpayer but on the basis of what firms are politically correct — specifically, what firms are unionized — then by definition you’re going to be raising costs,” he said. “You could see billions of dollars added to the cost of federal procurement.”
The unions believe that President Obama owes them for their campaign work this cycle. “Throughout the tumult, President Obama and Vice President Biden have been steadfast allies of working men and women and the values we cherish, focused on repairing the economy, rebuilding the ladder to the middle class and investing in our shared future,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statementafter the election. “That’s why workers and their unions made an historic effort on their behalf, bringing home the vote for the President from Nevada to Ohio, from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.”

November 15, 2012

Homeland Security Inspector General’s report on Fast and Furious still unfiled

A review of press releases issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the latest being filed Sunday and dealing with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s visit to Staten Island for a Hurricane Sandy follow-up, reveals the department is crediting itself with all kinds of activities and accomplishments except for its commitment to produce an Inspector General report on Fast and Furious gunwalking independent of the Department of Justice report released in September. A review of the DHS OIG press releases on its website, with the latest filing also being yesterday, also does not mention such a report.

The second IG investigation was revealed in May by Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, who reported at the time “The DHS IG has told Congressional staffers it expects to have a final report ready to deliver to Congress in early October.” It was also referenced in the DOJ OIG report, which acknowledged “The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS-OIG), the parent agency for ICE, is conducting a review of ICE’s involvement in and knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious.”

Such a review is critical, because while the completed DOJ report details an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who cooperated with their investigation had “direct involvement with Operation Fast and Furious” up until a “January, 2010 meeting … ICE’s Phoenix office assigned another agent to serve as point of contact for ATF, and eventually detailed this agent to ATF’s Group VII to work on the investigation full-time.”

A footnote in the report following that revelation then explains “The ICE agent who was assigned to ATF’s Group VII declined our request for a voluntary interview.”
Why? And why is no one asking that?

In December, 2011, Gun Rights Examiner reported on a memo written the previous February by an ATF agent, revealing among other things that “Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) participated—specifically, the Co-Case Agent named in the memo was Lane [sic] France.

“This provides direct documentary evidence of group participation outside of Justice, in this case Homeland Security, and should provide an entirely new avenue to explore in terms of authorizations, reports and memos/communications,” that column observed.

The name Layne France, spelled correctly this time, surfaced again in a column from April of this year that noted “Another significant piece of information contained in the report, yet so far largely unexplored by major media: The participation in the contact interview with Celis-Acosta by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Layne France, a person first called to the attention of Gun Rights Examiner readers following revelation of a February 3, 2011 letter from ATF Agent Gary Styer that supported allegations by whistleblowing Agent John Dodson and refuted since-withdrawn denials of ‘gunwalking’ by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.”

“As a member of the Fast and Furious task force, France received copies of all ATF investigative reports, and sources say France knew the operation in detail,” William La Jeunesse of Fox News reported in February. “Congressional investigators want to know who at ICE and the Department of Homeland Security saw France’s reports, and how much he reported up the chain of command about the operation.”

Indeed. And since France is evidently the ICE agent who declined to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation, it’s fair to wonder if the DHS investigation fared any better.

It’s also fair to ask why a report anticipated over a month ago has still not been released, and if a hearing with Acting DHS OIG Charles K. Edwards similar to the one conducted with DOJ OIG Michael E. Horowitz will be forthcoming. After all, we’re talking about information that was first reported nine months back. How hard can it be to just tell the American people what happened, and why it’s taken so long, that is, assuming the powers that be want them to know?

Whether dragging things on until after the election and after current Secretary Napolitano has jockeyed herself into a new gig are playing a part in the delay also seem fair questions to wonder about, not that it appears the answers are forthcoming.


November 14, 2012

Scandal Entangles a Second General

The adultery scandal that led to the downfall of David Petraeus as CIA director widened Tuesday as President Barack Obama put on hold his nomination of Marine Gen. John Allen as commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, one of the world's top military posts.

The Pentagon said a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into Mr. Petraeus's communications had revealed that Gen. Allen, now the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, exchanged numerous emails with Jill Kelley, the Florida woman who triggered the investigation. Ms. Kelley had complained to the FBI about receiving harassing emails that the agency later traced to a woman involved with Mr. Petraeus.

On Tuesday, people familiar with the case said that at one point in the summer, after the investigation began pointing to larger potential national security issues, Ms. Kelley tried to get the FBI to drop the matter. The people said she made the request because she was worried about the personal information being provided to investigators.

Ms. Kelley, a 37-year-old volunteer who organized social events for military personnel, developed misgivings after friends in her Tampa social circle urged her to drop the matter, saying the probe would only cause bigger problems, the people familiar with the case said.

Ms. Kelley's apparent regret points to one of the more unusual aspects of the case: what began as a seemingly minor case of cyberstalking mushroomed into fears that the Central Intelligence Agency director's personal email account had been hacked, which spawned concerns the CIA director might have passed sensitive information to his mistress. Each of those fears ultimately proved unfounded, U.S. officials familiar with the probe said. But the investigation eventually exposed Mr. Petraeus's relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, leading to his resignation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the probe.

Into the early fall, investigators focused principally on Ms. Broadwell. They found classified documents on her computer, though they decided there was no proof she had received them from Mr. Petraeus. They also determined that the two had at times shared access to an email account to communicate.

In the course of determining that the email messages Ms. Kelley complained about had been sent by Ms. Broadwell, investigators also discovered reams of emails between Ms. Kelley and Gen. Allen, both of whom are married.

Military officials said the FBI had turned over emails between the two, dating back to 2010. Pentagon investigators haven't found any sensitive or classified material in the messages, though they are still reviewing the material. Another government official said no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or security lapses by Gen. Allen had been found.

Gen. Allen has denied that he had an affair with Ms. Kelley, or that he shared any classified information with her, according to an official familiar with his thinking. He also told officials that he never had been in a room alone with Ms. Kelley and that there had been no affair or sex, the official said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama remains supportive of Gen. Allen. A defense official urged against prejudging, saying Gen. Allen's nomination as NATO commander may yet go forward. "We probably ought to give him the benefit of the doubt," said a senior defense official.

Ms. Kelley and Ms. Broadwell haven't commented on the scandal. Defense officials said that Gen. Allen was weighing whether to make a statement.

The official familiar with Gen. Allen's thinking described Ms. Kelley as a wealthy socialite who was friendly with many top military commanders in Tampa, home of the U.S. Central Command, which Gen. Petraeus once ran. Though her emails, sent to Gen. Allen and other senior officials, may appear flirtatious in nature, this doesn't mean she engaged in any adulterous relationships, the official familiar with Gen. Allen's thinking said.

This person added that Gen. Allen may innocently have used endearing terms, such as "sweetheart," in his communications with Ms. Kelley.

Defense and military officials who have seen the emails have different opinions of them, said one senior military official. Some see no indication of impropriety while others view them as possibly indicative of an inappropriate relationship. "It is going to come down to your perspective," said one official.

Gen. Allen has told associates he became entangled in the Petraeus adultery scandal a few months ago, when he received an email later traced to Ms. Broadwell, the official familiar with his thinking said.

Ms. Broadwell, whose extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus had ended by then, believed that Ms. Kelley may have been a romantic rival, according to this official. Besides the emails sent directly to Ms. Kelley, she also sent a flurry of emails from a pseudonymous account to senior military officials, denigrating Ms. Kelley, the official said.

In the email received by Gen. Allen, Ms. Broadwell—writing under the pseudonym KelleyPatrol—described Ms. Kelley as a "seductress" and warned the general about being entangled in a relationship with her, the official said. A lawyer for Ms. Broadwell didn't return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Gen. Allen was concerned by that email and forwarded it to Ms. Kelley, the official with knowledge of Gen. Allen's thinking said.

FBI agents conducted a consensual search at Ms. Broadwell's home in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, though it was unclear why. Multiple government officials have said that while the FBI doesn't believe Mr. Petraeus committed any crimes, they are still examining Ms. Broadwell's conduct.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the Pentagon received the information concerning Gen. Allen from the FBI on Sunday.

Some officials believe that if Gen. Allen's account is proved true—that there was no physical relationship and that flirtation was mostly on the part of Ms. Kelley—his nomination to become NATO commander won't be derailed. Gen. Allen will remain commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan while the facts are ascertained, Mr. Panetta said.

"His leadership has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress that ISAF, working alongside our Afghan partners, has made in bringing greater security to the Afghan people and in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists," Mr. Panetta said in a statement. "He is entitled to due process in this matter."


November 13, 2012

Petitions seeking White House approval to ‘secede’ now come from 47 states

Conservatives have voted more than 375,000 times since Election Day to pick up their marbles and go home. That’s how many virtual signatures appeared Monday night, as clocks in Washington, D.C. chimed midnight, on petitions asking President Barack Obama’s administration to allow 47 of the 50 U.S. states to secede from the country.

A petition from an Arlington, Texas man, launched Nov. 9 via the Obama White House website’s “We the People” tool, had more than 58,000 signatures. That’s more than twice the 25,000 it had Monday morning, a number required to trigger an automatic White House review, according to the administration’s own published rules. (RELATED: Texas petition reaches 25,000 signatures, triggering White House review)

A similar petition from a Louisiana native crossed the 25,000 threshold as Monday drew to a close on the East Coast.

Launched Nov. 7, the day after Obama won re-election, the Pelican State’s spark set off an Internet-driven cascade of disaffected tea partiers and other conservatives looking — as one petition organizer told The Daily Caller via a “direct message” on Twitter — “just to do something, anything, to show we’re not going away quietly.”

It’s not clear whether, or to what extent, individuals are signing more than one petition. The White House’s online rules do not prohibit Americans from signing a petition that would not affect states where they live.

The complete list of states with open petitions includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Nine states’ “We the People” entries include multiple competing petitions, The Daily Caller determined. California, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wisconsin are each represented by at least two petitions. TheDC was able to locate three for Pennsylvania.

The only three states that lack secession petitions are Maine, Vermont and Washington. (RELATED: White House website deluged with secession petitions)

According to the White House, petitions have 30 days to gather 25,000 signatures before the administration will automatically review them. One at least one occasion, however, President Obama responded to a petition that collected only 12,240 signatures: a request for the White House’s beer recipe.


November 12, 2012

Petraeus Scandal Started with FBI Probe Into Emails

A U.S. media report says the scandal that led Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus to resign because of an extramarital affair began with an FBI investigation into harassing emails.

The Washington Post newspaper reports a woman complained to the FBI that author Paula Broadwell --  Petraeus's biographer -- was sending her harassing emails.  The woman was also close to Petraeus.

In the course of the investigation, FBI agents discovered that Petraeus and Broadwell were having an affair.  The FBI questioned Petraeus, fearing possible blackmail or a security breach.  With his affair no longer a secret, Petraeus felt he had to resign.

The general did not disclose any names.  There has been no comment from Broadwell.

CBSNewsOnline interview with Paula Broadwell

Additionally, the FBI has not named the second woman, the nature of her relationship with Petraeus, or the content of the allegedly harassing Broadwell emails.

Petraeus, a retired four-star general, wrote in his resignation letter that he showed "extremely poor judgment" and that such behavior is unacceptable in a leader.

President Barack Obama, who accepted Petraeus' resignation, said that through a lifetime of service in the military and as American intelligence chief, the general has made the country safer and stronger.

Before taking over as CIA chief last year, General Petraeus was commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq from February 2007 to September 2008.  He is widely credited with turning around the Iraq conflict and pulling the country back from the brink of a full-fledged sectarian war.  He took over command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in July 2010 and oversaw the surge against the Taliban.

November 9, 2012

Re-Elected Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. negotiates for plea deal

Attorneys for the Justice Department and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. are in talks about a possible plea deal regarding allegations of campaign finance violations. Negotiations are under way, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

Allegedly, Jackson may have used campaign funds for personal purchases, including furnishings for his home in Washington D.C.

Legal problems are nothing new to Jackson who also came into legal controversy when his name first surfaced in the investigation of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, with questions of selling of Barack Obama’s senate seat.

According to Wikipedia,

Prior to the selection of Roland Burris, Jackson had been mentioned as a possible appointee by Governor Rod Blagojevich for an interim United States Senator to replace Barack Obama until the November 2010 election. Numerous press publications noted his alleged involvement in the Rod Blagojevich corruption investigation.

It was announced October 12, 2012, that federal prosecutors and FBI agents in Washington, D.C. have launched a new criminal investigation of Jackson, Jr. involving alleged financial improprieties, including possible misuse of funds monitored by Congress.

The Chicago congressmen won his re-election even though he had not actively campaigned.
Phone calls were Jackson’s only presence on the campaign trail. An automated call reached the homes of thousands after spokespeople at Jackson’s office informed the public that he was staying in the Mayo Clinic for the second time. The call asked for votes, prayers and patience “during this difficult time.”

According to WGN News Channel 9, Jackson’s office said “He is currently receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic, his second prolonged stay since being diagnosed with the disorder.”

Jackson’s office also stated that he will be refraining from any official responsibilities until he is given a clean bill of health. He has been absent since June 8th and has missed 225 votes.


November 8, 2012

Boehner Folds, Tax Hikes on Table

The day after Obama's spend, spend, spend, and tax, tax, tax, policies garnered him a second term in the White House, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered the president a way to save the economy which included raising taxes "under the right conditions."

With all due respect to Speaker Boehner, when in the hell are the right conditions to raise taxes?

Our economy is not simply on its last leg but its last knee. We are down, and headed toward down and out if the president continues along the path he's been on for four years. How in the world can taking even more money out of the America peoples' paychecks help this situation?

Any additional increase in taxes will make the already high gas prices, the looming end of the Bush tax cuts, and the $2600 more a year middle class families are paying for healthcare under Obama unbearable.
Tax hikes could truly spell the end of middle class upward mobility.

For those of you who've come of political age under Obama, the phrase "middle class upward mobility" speaks to the fluid nature of capitalism, and the way a family that is middle class today might save and invest wisely or open a business, and rise from the middle class to the upper class tomorrow.

Such mobility has been largely absent under Obama, and it could be lost for a number of future generations if the Republicans in the House try to play nice and give Obama everything for which he asks.

If Congress wants to do something for the people, cut spending and cut taxes. As the government's take and obligations shrink, the people's purses will grow and money will flow through our economy again.