August 29, 2014

Obama Administration Punishes Oklahoma for Repealing Common Core Standards

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has punished the state of Oklahoma for repealing the Common Core standards and reverting to its previous academic standards by rescinding the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), making it the second state ever to lose its waiver from the law.

As Caitlin Emma of Politico reports, Indiana, on the contrary, was granted a one-year extension of its waiver from NCLB because, though Gov. Mike Pence (R) declared he was the first governor to repeal the Common Core standards, his state’s replacement standards are remarkably similar to the Common Core and, as such, still met the requirements for the waiver.

The fact that Oklahoma’s waiver was denied while Indiana was granted an extension makes it clear that, despite the protests of Common Core supporters that the standards are “voluntary” and “state-led,” the federal government is, in fact, determining which states will receive reprieves from federal restrictions based on their choices of academic standards.

States that adopted “college- and career-ready standards” in math and English Language Arts that are “common to a significant number of states” or “certified by a state network of institutions of higher education” avoided NCLB requirements, which include providing school choice, tutoring, and reconfiguring failing schools. Most states simply adopted the Common Core to obtain the waivers, inviting even further federal intrusion into their education policies.

“It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

Fallin signed a repeal bill of the Common Core standards in early June that also allowed her state to return to its previous PASS standards. Fallin also serves as chairwoman of the National Governors Association (NGA), one of the developers and owners of the copyright of the Common Core standards.

The loss of the waiver means that 100 percent of Oklahoma students must be performing math and reading at grade level at most schools by this school year. The USED expects the state to use student test results from last school year to determine which schools are meeting the requirement. Those schools that fall short will have to take steps toward improvement, which could include a total reconfiguration of the staff or a private or state takeover of the school.

Oklahoma will also have to set aside about $29 million in federal Title I dollars to pay for tutoring, school choice, and professional development.

According to Politico, the USED wanted the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to determine whether the PASS standards were rigorous enough to allow the NCLB waiver, but the agency failed to do so prior to the state’s filing of its application for a waiver extension.

“Having college-and-career-ready standards matters because it provides critical thinking and problem solving skills – skills that students need to succeed in college and beyond,” said USED press secretary Dorie Nolt. “Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that its students are learning high standards this year, which the state committed to do under its ESEA flexibility request.”

“State leaders still have the opportunity to demonstrate that their standards are rigorous or design new standards to ensure their students are ready for college, career and life – just like Indiana and several other states have done,” Nolt added.

Though the USED continues to employ language that suggests the Common Core standards are “rigorous” and worthy of setting the bar for individual states, no independent research has been conducted to validate that claim. The 45 state boards of education that signed onto the Common Core standards did so without ever having seen the standards because they were yet to be published.

As Jason Richwine at National Review Online wrote Monday, a recent compendium of 60 research papers related to Common Core design and implementation – collected by the Center for Education Policy at George Washington University – found that only 2 of the 60 papers are in fact even devoted to measuring Common Core’s effects on student test scores. Both papers, Richwine states, “employ the dubious correlation-across-states methodology, and both give mixed results at best.”
Richwine concludes:

Much like the push for government preschool, the Common Core movement is suffused with much hope but little evidence. That’s clear from how the standards were developed in the first place. As an important article from last November’s American Journal of Education points out, most of the research evidence behind Common Core focuses on identifying problems – America’s poor international ranking, achievement gaps, high school graduates without basic skills, etc. But when it came to writing standards to address those problems, the Common Core developers had little to go on except the standards of high-performing nations and the “professional judgment” of various stakeholders.

The concept of waivers given to states by the federal government for fulfilling certain education requirements and the punishment of states by the federal government for not fulfilling those requirements continues to emphasize the fed’s movement toward domination of education in the United States.

This week Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, alleging that it illegally manipulated states with federal grant money and regulations that forced them to adopt the Common Core standards.

The news of Jindal’s lawsuit came following an announcement by PARCC, one of the federally funded multi-state Common Core test consortia, that, in fact, the controversial standards and their associated tests are intended to drive curriculum, an area that is legally off-limits by the federal government.

Breitbart News also reported Tuesday that Terry Holliday, Kentucky school commissioner and president of the board of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the other nonprofit that developed and owns the copyright to the Common Core standards, called out the USED on several occasions this month as well for violating state and federal laws regarding the standards and assessment processes of states.

Kentucky – the first state to sign onto the Common Core standards – was rejected by the USED in its request for a waiver from implementation of the Next-Generation Science Standards.

“I believe the current waiver process represents a major federal intrusion into the rights of each state to develop, implement, and manage the public education of the state,” Holliday wrote in a blog post.

Common Core champion and Fordham Institute president Michael Petrilli called the USED’s move on Oklahoma a “terrible decision.”

“While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does,” he said. “I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”

Petrilli, however, does not seem to mind private corporations “pushing states” into the Common Core standards.

As Breitbart News reported August 18, a new non-profit organization, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and with connections to the Fordham Institute, is being launched with the task of reviewing textbooks and other instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with the Common Core standards.

EdReports says it will review instructional materials that say they are aligned to the Common Core standards so that teachers, principals, school districts, and state officials who are in charge of purchasing curricula know what to buy.

The Oklahoma congressional delegation has responded to the Obama administration’s punitive action against the state in a press release.

"The Obama Administration doesn't like when Oklahomans buck big government regulations, and today the Administration responded by penalizing our children with failing to grant the one-year extension of the ESEA flexibility," said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R).

"Oklahomans want education reform that sets standards created and certified by Oklahoma's institutions, community leaders, and parents,” Inhofe added. “Instead of supporting these values, the Obama Administration has chosen to make it more expensive and difficult to achieve the state's education goals that, once met, will exceed the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Education.”

“As seen with ObamaCare taxes or the Endangered Species Act rulings, today's decision continues the trend of this Administration punishing Oklahoma for making decisions that represent the goals and interests of its constituents," the senator said.

“Our state stood firm against further federal intrusion into the education of our children by rejecting the Common Core curriculum and determining that local educational leaders could best develop the appropriate curriculum for Oklahoma students,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R). “Instead of applauding this constitutional decision and leadership, the Obama Administration decided today to reject the requested one year extension of flexibility previously granted to Oklahoma under ESEA.”

“This politically motivated decision is the perfect example of how the unconstitutional federalization of education has effectively taken away the power reserved for the states and the people by our founders,” Bridenstine continued. “It's time to abolish the federal Department of Education and return power to the states consistent with the 10th Amendment.”

Oklahoma state House leaders also commented on the Obama administration’s punitive action toward the state.

“I challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education to ‘demonstrate’ that Common Core is college and career ready in Oklahoma before they begin dictating how we run our state’s education system,” said Rep. Jason Nelson (R) in a statement emailed to Breitbart News. “They can’t do it. Each state’s college remediation requirements are different and they have absolutely no idea if Common Core meets their own requirements."

“In the Obama administration’s determination to compel Oklahoma to stay with Common Core, they plan to impose onerous federal regulations on our education system that were unnecessary this morning but are now, amazingly, necessary this afternoon,” Nelson added. “It’s obvious that states like Oklahoma must not flinch in taking back control of our standards if we truly want standards that can be ‘demonstrated’ to be college and career ready. Unfortunately, this letter is the latest example of the slow death of federalism which is being replaced with flawed logic.”

Washington was the first state to lose its NCLB waiver when the state legislature failed to remedy the fact that its teacher performance evaluations were not tied to statewide student assessment results.

August 28, 2014

White House Tries to Hide Amnesty Behind Gov’t Shutdown

White House spokesman Josh Earnest tried Thursday to portray the rising GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposed amnesty for millions of illegals as a partisan rerun of the 2013 government-shutdown budget fight.

“We would hope that the Republicans wouldn’t do the same thing again, over a common-sense, bipartisan effort [by Obama] to try to mitigate at least some of the worst problems that are caused by our broken immigration system,” Earnest said.

But GOP legislators, candidates and staffers are already working to highlight the public’s worry about the economic impact of Obama’s much-touted plan to provide work permits to millions of illegals during the next several weeks.

“Subverting the rule of law and the legislative process to declare millions of people [amnestied] would be an extremely unpopular action, and would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb in some of the [2014 Senate] races,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is intended to help elect more GOP Senators.

“It defies all political logic that the president seems to think [executive amnesty] would be something that the American people would accept,” Dayspring said.

“There is no data that suggests that.”

Earnest tried his PR ju-jitsu during the regular daily press briefing.

“It certainly was a shame when Republicans engaged in a strategy to shut down the government [in 2013] over the Affordable Care Act and there were bad consequences from that government shutdown,” Earnest told reporters, after he was asked to comment about GOP legislators’ prediction that Congress would use its power of the purse to block presidential amnesties.

GOP opposition won’t block the president’s action, he said, because “the president is determined to take the kinds of common sense actions that are required to address the worst problems of our broken immigration system.”

Democrats say they won a big political victory in late 2013 when Obama allowed much of the federal government to shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, rather than accept GOP’s budget reforms of the unpopular Obamacare program.

Some Republican candidates and officials are already moving to describe the amnesty as an economic decision that would hurt Americans’ wages and job prospects.

Sen. Jeff Sessions and Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton, are highlighting the economic impact.

That economic perspective was also pushed by Dayspring.

“Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all — including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class,” said Dayspring, whose comments were first published by Breitbart.

“Immigration is viewed by many as part of the overall economic equation,” he said.

If Obama pushes ahead with the amnesty, Democratic candidates “will be complicit in slashing wages and making it even more difficult for unemployed Americans trying to get a job to find one,” he said.

So far, the NRSC had stayed on the sidelines in the immigration debate, partly because the GOP’s business donors want more cheap immigrant workers. Dayspring’s comments marks a shift toward a more populist posture, only nine weeks before the November midterm election.

The NRSC has sent polling data showing the public’s view of immigration as an economic factor to GOP campaign staffs, said an official familiar with actions taken by the NRSC.

“But it is up to each and every campaign to asses how this plays in their state,” the source added.

Earnest pushed the government shutdown angle after a reporter asked him about comments from some GOP legislators who said they would use their budget authority to block Obama’s unilateral amnesty.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear,” Iowa Rep. Steve King told The Des Moines Register.

“I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution [for the 2015 budget] and how we might deal with that,” he said.

That perspective was echoed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who told Breitbart that the 2015 budget debate will allow Republicans to address the planned unilateral amnesty.

“I assume there will be some sort of a vote on this… I’m interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue,” Rubio said.


August 27, 2014

IRS ethics lawyer facing possible disbarment, accused of lying

Maybe the nuclear industry doesn't need a Yucca Mountain after all.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday that nuclear waste could safely be stored on site indefinitely. The new rule also lifted a two-year moratorium on new licensing.

The move was a response to a June 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decision that said the agency must revise the environmental and economic consequences of long-term waste storage because it "has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository."

That repository, under federal law, is supposed to be the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. The Obama administration pulled the plug on reviewing that site in 2010.

A federal court said the NRC must make a decision whether to license it, but the agency says it doesn't have enough funding to finish the review. The Democratic-held Senate, led by Yucca opponent Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, isn't likely to give the NRC enough money to do so.

But Tuesday's ruling could pave the way for new licensing, which has been on hold since August 2012.

"The completion of this rulemaking is an important step that will facilitate final decisions on industry licensing actions pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," said Ellen Ginsberg, vice president, secretary and general counsel for the Nuclear Energy Institute. Seven applications are under review.

Some environmental groups, however, were discouraged by the decision.

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to analyze the long-term environmental consequences of indefinite storage of highly toxic and radioactive nuclear waste, the risks of which are apparent to any observer of history over the past 50 years. The commission failed to follow the express directions of the court," said Geoffrey Fettus, lead counsel for the Natural Resources Defense Council in the federal court case.

August 26, 2014

Senate torture report didn’t interview responsible CIA officers

Eleven years after the CIA last waterboarded a terror suspect, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is moving to uncloak its secret report on America’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the early years of the war on terrorism, and the U.S. intelligence community is preparing to fight back.

Current and former intelligence officials told The Washington Times they are furious that the Senate panel, headed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, did not interview the senior managers of the interrogation program launched after the Sept. 11 attacks or the CIA directors who oversaw it.

“The truth is they had their foregone conclusions with what they wanted to say in this report, and they did not want the facts to get into the way,” said Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., one of the CIA’s most respected retired officers and who, as head of the Agency’s clandestine service, oversaw the enhanced interrogation program that used sleep deprivation, waterboarding, uncomfortable positioning and other tactics to extract information from high-value al Qaeda operatives.

“The process has been political. It has been ideological. And it is just wrong,” said Mr. Rodriguez, who retired in fall 2007 and later wrote a best-selling book entitled “Hard Measures” that argued that the tactics, which critics have denounced as torture, saved American lives.

U.S. intelligence officials and Senate aides confirm that the Senate Intelligence Committee did not interview former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Mike Hayden, nor did the committee staff interview the program’s direct day-to-day managers, like Mr. Rodriguez.

Some of those officials told The Times they were told by Senate aides they weren’t interviewed because they once had been under possible criminal investigation.

But that investigation by a special Justice Department prosecutor was closed out more than two years ago, with no charges filed against any supervisor of the program.

“It is astonishing nobody ever reached out to us to interview us,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Especially those people who were directors and program managers during that period of time.”

The Intelligence Committee confirmed Monday evening it did not interview the key managers of the program, instead relying on more than 6.3 million pages of contemporaneous documents, emails and cables as well as the CIA’s own prior interviews with more than 100 of its own employees.

“The committee could not conduct interviews because of an ongoing DOJ criminal investigation into CIA activities. Furthermore, interviews were not necessary because of the comprehensive documents available for review, including interview reports of senior CIA officers who carried out the program,” committee spokesman Tom Mentzer said in a statement to The Times.

“In preparing its response to the study, the CIA reached out to its own officials for their perspectives of the program, which were included in the CIA’s response and in meetings with committee staff. These views were considered by the committee in updating the report,” he said.

Mr. Hayden, who ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, wrote in his regular column Tuesday in The Times that he is disappointed that journalists, op-ed writers and human rights groups got leaks from the report and appeared to have “more access than all but a very few former CIA senior officers whose actions are cataloged there but who have been denied access.”

Mr. Hayden said he, Mr. Tenet, and Mr. Goss, though never interviewed, were offered belated access to the report in late July, but only if they signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Senate committee.

“None of us had any influence on the Agency response other than an understandable plea to make it as robust and honest as possible,” he wrote in his column Tuesday.

On the flip side, Ms. Feinstein is upset that the Obama administration blacked out about 15 percent of the passages in the report for security reasons, redactions that she declared earlier this month undercut the report’s findings.

August 25, 2014

Delta's good fight on Export-Import Bank marred by support for crony capitalism

It's rare to find big business lobbying for free enterprise against corporate welfare. So it's pretty depressing to find it lobbying for corporate welfare in other instances.

Delta Air Lines has made life difficult for the Export-Import Bank and its clients. Partly as a result, the political situation in Congress this year is the first real threat to renewal of Ex-Im's charter.

Why does Delta care? Delta flies internationally and so it competes against foreign airlines. Ex-Im’s primary business is subsidizing foreign airlines with U.S.-taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. In Fiscal Year 2013, more than 80 percent of Ex-Im's guarantee dollars subsidized Boeing sales.

Some of Boeing's customers compete directly with U.S. carriers like Delta. For instance, Air India received $3.3 million in Ex-Im loan guarantees between 2006 and 2009.

Delta argues that these subsidies “allowed Air India to flood the US-India market with extra capacity and crowd out competitors like Delta,” as Delta and industry allies wrote in a complaint in a 2012 court case against Ex-Im. “Delta stopped flying from New York to Mumbai in October of 2008 due to the Bank's loan guarantees to Air India,” they said.

Delta’s pain highlights the folly of export subsidies, which hurt U.S. consumers and U.S. companies that compete with the foreign buyers getting Ex-Im financing.

For instance, Ex-Im has subsidized Chinese steel mills and semiconductor fabrication plants, as well as a Mexican refrigerator factory. This helps the American companies who sell factory equipment to these overseas customers, but it hurts the U.S. manufacturers that compete with the foreign manufacturers.

Ex-Im’s victims often go unseen: the small businessman who got beat out for a bank loan by a subsidized exporter; the Iowa farmer who pays more for his farm equipment because Ex-Im drives up demand; the domestic manufacturer who sees the prices of his inputs (land, steel, tools, transportation) increase because his larger competitors get export subsidies.

This is why corporate welfare usually wins in Washington. The costs are diffuse and the victims are hidden, while the benefits are concentrated among a few highly visible (and vocal) beneficiaries.

Delta changed the landscape of the Ex-Im debate. For the first time, one of the victims is speaking out — highlighting how Ex-Im’s benefits to Boeing end up punishing U.S. carriers.

Let Boeing and its foreign customers line up financing in the free market, Delta’s executives and lobbyists argue.

Hurrah! Big business is favoring free enterprise over crony capitalism!

Except for the cases where free enterprise harms Delta, of course.

Delta has lobbied against allowing the export of crude oil. Delta operates an oil refinery in Philadelphia (a sensible move for a company very sensitive to the price of jet fuel). Current U.S. policy generally prohibits the export of crude oil, but allows the export of refined fuel.

This is a great deal for oil refiners in the U.S., who pay the artificially depressed U.S. price for crude, but can sell their refined fuel at the world price. Delta — a refiner now—is vocal in lobbying to keep the current policy.

Delta Senior Vice President Graeme Burnett testified to a Senate committee in January that Congress needs to preserve the export ban “to help this country achieve energy independence.”

In another fight, Delta sides with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) in its effort to restrict Norwegian Air's routes to and from the U.S. Delta invokes fairness in this debate, too, arguing that Norwegian Air's expansion would violate the international “Open Skies Agreement,” codified by a series of treaties.

But ultimately, Delta is lobbying for government intervention that restricts consumer choice.

These Big Government policies help Delta and their shareholders in the short run, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay for Delta to support them — or even good for Delta in the long run.

When Delta praises free enterprise in the Ex-Im fight, and then discards it when it comes to foreign airlines and oil exports, all opponents of Ex-Im suffer.

“These guys are not free-marketeers,” one Republican operative who favors Ex-Im growled at me about Delta. “These guys are just trying to grab onto what they want.”

In this context, all of Delta’s principled arguments are indistinguishable from special pleading.

Even in opposing corporate welfare, Delta opts for self-interest rather than principle. On Ex-Im, the company has never called for abolition, or limiting Ex-Im to small exporters. Instead, Delta simply wants Ex-Im to stop subsidizing wide-bodied jets—the kind that can fly across the ocean and compete with Delta.

“Delta focuses on specific policy issues that impact our customers, our employees and the communities we serve,” is how the airline explains it.

This seems on K Street like a reasonable, narrow request that occupies some sort of middle ground — we’re not questioning Congress’s wisdom in subsidizing big exporters, we just want you to fix this one problem the program causes us.

From another angle, though, it shows that there’s no principle to the argument. Why is Delta the only victim of Ex-Im that deserves a reprieve?

Lobbying on principle may seem like a foreign concept to K Street and big business. But for the victims of corporate welfare, it sure couldn’t work worse than the current approach.

August 22, 2014

DHS saw no option but to free 169 illegals convicted of murder

The Obama administration says it had no choice but to release almost all of the 169 immigrants with homicide convictions that were let back onto the streets last year, claiming court decisions gave officials no choice in the matter — but it’s promising a new system to better screen who gets let out.

Of the 169 immigrants with homicide-related convictions released in fiscal year 2013, all but 15 were required to be let go because of specific court orders or because the immigrants had been held for too long under the rules established by a sweeping 2001 Supreme Court case, the Homeland Security Department said in an Aug. 15 letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Thomas S. Winkowski said they’re changing the rules to make sure a senior supervisor screens the release of those kinds of immigrants in the future.

“Ensuring that our enforcement policies and procedures are best suited to protect[ing] national security and public safety is paramount,” Mr. Winkowski told Mr. Grassley. “To make certain that we are doing everything we can in this regard, I am instituting new procedures requiring that an appropriate senior-level supervisor must approve before ICE releases potentially dangerous individuals.”

The 116 murderers were a fraction of the 36,007 criminals ICE released in 2013. The criminals had convictions ranging from homicide and manslaughter to drunken driving and sex crimes.

ICE says many of those it released were subject to some form of monitoring while out on the streets, such as an ankle bracelet. Others were required to call in to verify their whereabouts.

Mr. Grassley, though, said the administration needs to do more to warn localities that potentially dangerous criminals have been sent to live near them.

“The public needs to know when a person in the country illegally, and who has been convicted of a homicide, is released into their communities,” said the Iowa lawmaker and ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to data from ICE, the murderers are “associated” with 134 communities in the U.S. It was unclear whether that meant that’s where they were released or whether that’s where they currently reside.

California led the list with murderers associated with 48 different ZIP codes, including one in tony Beverly Hills and another in Murietta, a community that saw rallies objecting to plans to use the area to house some of the illegal immigrant children surging across the border in recent months.

New York City alone had 11 locations associated with the released murderers, spanning four of the five boroughs.

Even states not traditionally thought of as destinations for immigrants, such as Kentucky, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, each had one location associated with a released murderer, while Alaska, Iowa and Louisiana each had two localities.

The Obama administration says its hands are tied by the 2001 court decision, the Zadvydas case, which ruled that most immigration detention is not supposed to be punitive — meaning immigrants cannot be held indefinitely.

That means that when governments refuse to take back their citizens, the U.S. government is stuck in a bind and usually has to release them onto its streets. Mr. Winkowski said that decision and other court orders were responsible for 154 of the 169 releases.

Of the 169, Mr. Winkowski said one was granted voluntary departure and has left the country. He didn’t say what has happened to the others, and ICE officials declined to comment beyond what was in the letter.

Mr. Grassley has introduced legislation to clarify the law and let authorities continue to detain dangerous criminal immigrants.

And immigration experts said the Obama administration already has some tools it could use to force other countries to take their citizens back, including suspending diplomatic relations or curbing visas to come to the U.S. for government officials or citizens of recalcitrant countries.

“This administration hasn’t pursued that possibility, and State Department people don’t want to raise the issue because State Department feels immigration is small potatoes; they’ve got bigger fish to fry,” said Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University and former high-ranking official at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Mr. Ting also said the Zadvydas ruling allowed exceptions for dangerous immigrants and said the government should vigorously use those exceptions to keep hardened criminals off the streets.

ICE had initially said it was required to release 75 percent of murderers, then reduced that number to 72 percent. But the latest letter boosts that calculation to 91 percent.

Mr. Grassley had asked for more details on the murderers, including the judge and court that had ordered the release. Mr. Winkowski said his agency didn’t keep those statistics and said that would have to come from the Justice Department.

Mr. Grassley had also asked what conditions were placed on each convict who was released, but Mr. Winkowski didn’t address that in his letter.


August 21, 2014

Homeland Security Warns Ahead Of ‘National Day Of Rage’

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a bulletin drawing attention to the hactivist group Anonymous’ plans for nationwide protests against the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

The group has called for a “National Day of Rage” on Thursday to span 38 major U.S. cities.
The Threat Management Division of the Federal Protective Service issued the bulletin.

“Currently there is no indication that protests are expected to become violent. However, recent protests in Ferguson have resulted in violence, property damage and subsequent arrests,” the bulletin reads.
Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Wilson reportedly claims Brown assaulted and charged after him. Some witnesses claim that Brown was surrendering when Wilson fired. 

“Current civil unrest associated with the incident in Ferguson, MO, presents the potential for civil disobedience directed toward identifiable law enforcement personnel, marked law enforcement equipment and government facilities associated with law enforcement during the identified protest times and dates,” it continues.

One complaint made by protesters, the media and Anonymous is that police in Ferguson have not only failed to provide transparency to the events surrounding the shooting but that they have also dealt harshly with the demonstrations by using tear gas, rubber bullets, military vehicles and curfews to keep the crowds at bay.
In its bulletin, the Federal Protective Service went to great lengths to remind agencies to respect peaceful demonstrators’ rights.

“FPS personnel are reminded the Department of Homeland Security does not consider non-violent civil disobedience tactics to constitute criminal activities. Absent a specific actionable threat, you should refer to the list of suspicious activity indicators in identifying and mitigating threats,” the bulletin reads.

“We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us, once again,” the hacker collective threatened in a video it posted Tuesday.

Besides generating outrage, mostly on Twitter, the group has also tried to play sleuth in its attempt to determine the name of the officer who shot Brown. Darren Wilson was named as the shooter last Friday. But prior to that, Anonymous published the names of at least two other people not involved in the case. 

“It is unacceptable for an officer to be named and then let go. St. Louis County identified Darren Wilson as Mike Brown’s murderer, yet he has not been charged or prosecuted. In addition, reports say that if he is charged it won’t happen for another few months. This is not justice,” they continued.

“The truth is we cannot sit still and watch as protesters and journalists are arrested and shot at simply for raising their voices in unison and demanding that justice be served.”

“Aug. 21 is our day to rise up. Our presence will continue unless our demands are met,” the group threatened in their video.


August 20, 2014

Lawsuit: White House Accused Of Hiding Politically Embarrassing Information

Cause of Action, a conservative legal group, is suing the White House over allegations of interference with executive agencies complying with FOIA requests, The Washington Post reports.

The central complaint is that federal agencies have taken over 14 months to complete Cause of Acton’s FOIAs, and still has not provided the information, owing to the fact that the requests are currently under White House review. Some of the agencies include the Department of Justice, Office of Management and Budget, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Defense.

The process of review, established in April of 2009 by a White House memo, stipulates that FOIA requests to federal agencies dealing with ‘White House equities’ need to be processed by the Obama administration first before being approved for release.

Drawn up by Gregory Craig, former counsel to President Barack Obama, the memo states, “This is a reminder that executive agencies should consult with the White House Counsel’s Office on all document requests that may involve documents with White House equities.”

The memo does not bode well for the administration’s self-proclamation as the most transparent administration in the nation’s history. In confirmation of administration priorities, the White House on Sunday again stated that Obama is “committed to a transparent and open government and has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that members of the public have access to information.”

As revealed previously by the Washington Times in June, however, the undefined “White House equities” phrase has been used to keep a close grip on information that is politically embarrassing.

In total, Cause of Action listed 12 agencies in the suit, stating the agencies have failed to respond within the mandated time of 20 days, or even 30 days in unusual circumstances. The goal of Cause of Action’s claim is to move the court to rule that agencies must make a final decision about the documents within 30 days.


August 19, 2014


A clip from yesterday shows CNN’s Don Lemon being pushed back by police as demonstrators are ordered to leave the area of sidewalk they had been peacefully occupying all day.
“Move out of the way, let’s go,” shouts one officer as demonstrators chant, “We’ve got rights!”
An officer then tells Lemon that police are trying to corral the protesters into a nearby parking lot, while Shabazz simultaneously gives the same order on the bullhorn.
Shabazz then leads the group of demonstrators over to the car park, a de facto ‘free speech zone’ wherein the protesters can be easily controlled by police.
Lemon states that Shabazz has also been telling people “to not demonstrate and not protest after sundown,” confirming that Shabazz is working with authorities to enforce the unconstitutional curfew that has stripped protesters of their First Amendment rights.
Lemon notes that people on bullhorns were repeatedly encouraging protesters to “do what the police say” and directing them where to go, suggesting that Shabazz and his fellow New Black Panthers are functioning as little more than mouthpieces for the authorities in moving protesters around to where police want them to be like a herd of cattle.
As we reported yesterday, Shabazz was also pictured coordinating with Captain Ronald Johnson during last week’s protests.
The fact that a leader of the New Black Panthers (renamed Black Lawyers for Justice) is working directly with authorities to control protesters is bizarre given that Shabazz has been characterized as a “racist black nationalist with a long, well-documented history of violently anti-Semitic remarks and accusations about the inherent evil of white people,” and is “particularly skilled at orchestrating provocative protests.”
The FBI also sent out an alert last week warning that New Black Panthers had arrived in the area and were “advocating violence against police.”
Given the history of New Black Panther members working with federal authorities as informants, as well as the Justice Department’s protection of the group in the past, the role of Malik Shabazz in corralling protesters at the behest of police suggests that he is colluding with authorities to suppress the constitutional rights of demonstrators in Ferguson.

August 18, 2014

Judge Demands Answers After IRS Contradicts Sworn Testimony on Lerner’s Scratched Hard Drive

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to come up with new answers after IRS employees contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lois Lerner’s hard drive.

Sullivan ruled that “the IRS is hereby ORDERED to file a sworn Declaration, by an official with the authority to speak under oath for the Agency, by no later than August 22, 2014″ on four issues: the IRS’ attempted recovery of Lerner’s lost emails after her computer allegedly crashed, bar codes that could have been on the hard drive, IRS policies on hard drive destruction, and information about an outside vendor who worked on IRS hard drives.

Recent documents from nonprofit group Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the IRS, which Sullivan is presiding over, showed that IRS technology officials contradicted sworn testimony about damage to Lerner’s hard drive.

Aaron Signor, an IRS technician that looked at Lerner’s hard drive in June 2011, said in IRS court filings that he saw no damage to the drive before sending it off to another IRS technician, leading some in the media to suggest that the lost emails scandal is basically over. But Signor’s statement, issued in response to the Judicial Watch lawsuit, does not jibe with sworn congressional testimony.

The Daily Caller reported that Lerner’s hard drive was “scratched” and then “shredded,” according to a court filing the IRS made to the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

The IRS technology official who served as the source of the “scratched” and “shredded” revelation is believed to have looked at the hard drive after Signor.

Sullivan’s order seems to have been motivated by the obvious contradiction. Judicial Watch said that Sullivan made the order because the IRS’ new court filing featuring Signor’s statement was a “joke.”

“In an extraordinary step, U. S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan has launched an independent inquiry into the issue of the missing emails associated with former IRS official Lois Lerner,” Judicial Watch said in a statement. “Previously, Judge Sullivan ordered the IRS to produce sworn declarations about the IRS email issue by August 11. Today’s order confirms Judicial Watch’s read of this week’s IRS’ filings that treated as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order.”


August 15, 2014

Rand Paul: Police Militarization Makes Americans, Esp. Blacks, Feel 'Gov't Is Targeting Them'

After another night of violent confrontations between police and demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued Thursday that big government has gone too far in militarizing local police forces.

Ahead of a potential 2016 presidential run, it was another chance for Paul's liberty-centered philosophy to appeal to libertarians and black voters.

After police shot and killed an unarmed black teenager over the weekend, Ferguson residents rioted, looted, and protested this week. The police response has escalated each day, with police on Wednesday firing pepper spray and tear gas and arresting two D.C. journalists.

"Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security," he wrote in a Thursday op-ed for Time. "The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response. The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action."

Paul noted that he has championed the cause of more liberty for years and said that "not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem" because "Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement."

"When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands," he wrote. "The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it."

Paul said that "it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them," and "given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them."

"Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention," he argued. "Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth."

Paul, who has spoken at historically black colleges and universities and has supported sentencing reforms with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), said much of the militarization has been "done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism." He cited the Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick, who wrote that “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment." That has, according to Bernick, enabled "federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, [to] come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery.”

Paul said that had he "been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot."

"Let us continue to pray for Michael Brown’s family, the people of Ferguson, police, and citizens alike," he concluded.

August 14, 2014

20 watchdog groups call for Brennan's resignation

A coalition of 20 transparency and ethics watchdog groups are fed up with CIA Director John Brennan's leadership and are calling on President Obama to ask him to step down.

The group, which includes the Project on Government Oversight, the Sunlight Foundation and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, among many others, on Tuesday accused the CIA of abusing its power and obstructing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into agency’s use of torture in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a letter to President Obama, the groups, which includes a number of left-leaning organizations, argued that the CIA has repeatedly tried to conceal and obstruct oversight of its detention and interrogation practices.

“Director Brennan did not begin this pattern, but he has continued and reinforced it,” the groups said. “The ongoing misconduct of the CIA, both prior to Mr. Brennan and under his leadership, sends a message to CIA employees, and creates an impression to the public that it is an agency without limits.”

Obama last week said he remains confident in Brennan’s leadership despite a CIA inspector general report found that some agency employees acted in a manner “inconsistent” with the understanding the Senate and the agency set up regarding computers Senate aides used to access classified documents during its investigation into the CIA’s history of detention and interrogation activities

Brennan apologized to Senate Intelligence Committee leaders before Congress left for its August recess and set up an “accountability board” to weigh potential disciplinary action for those involved in the Senate snooping.

The apology and admission of some level of guilt stands in stark contrast to Brennan’s angry denials early this year after Feinstein openly and angrily accused the CIA of spying on the Senate.

At the time Brennan said: “Nothing could be further from the truth” and called the allegation “beyond the scope of reason.”

August 13, 2014

White House Eases Ban On Lobbyists On Federal Boards, Committees

The White House is easing rules to allow lobbyists to serve on federal agency committees and boards so long as they represent nongovernmental entities like business groups or unions.

The changes would also pave the way for registered lobbyists who represent environmental groups to receive these appointments.

A preliminary report by the Office of Management and Budgets (OBM) was released Tuesday detailing the rule changes. Rules barring lobbyists from these boards and committees were adopted by the Obama administration in 2010.

In the report by the OBM, it specifically states that they are “now issuing revised guidance regarding the prohibition against appointing or re-appointing federally registered lobbyists to clarify that the ban applies to persons serving on advisory committees, boards, and commissions in their individual capacity.”

Which means the ban will “not apply if they are specifically appointed to represent the interests of a nongovernmental entity, a recognizable group of persons or nongovernmental entities (an industry sector, labor unions, environmental groups, etc.), or state or local governments.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, the director of Economics21 and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, thinks these boards and committees may be understaffed.

“My suspicion is they can’t find enough people to serve in these positions,” Furchtgott-Roth told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The rules as originally devised likely kept many people who were either qualified or ideologically sympathetic to the Obama administration from serving.

Observers think it is noteworthy that registered lobbyists will be allowed to serve if they represent labor union interests. While all presidents have their own agendas, Furchtgott-Roth argued, the Obama administration most likely “wants the results slanting towards labor.”


August 12, 2014

Fifty Years Of Government Intervention Fails To Boost Home Ownership

Despite decades of federal intervention in the housing market, home ownership rates are virtually the same today as they were in 1968, according to an brief released by the Heritage Foundation on Monday.

According to the report, “the rate of U.S. homeownership has remained nearly constant over the past 50 years as government intervention has steadily increased, but the level of residential mortgage debt has increased nearly six fold.” Such policies created market distortions, “leading to artificially higher home prices and lower interest rates.”

The pace of government intervention was especially frenetic in the 1990s, the report says, such that, “from 1990 to 2003, Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] went from holding 5 percent of the nation’s mortgages ($136 billion) to more than 20 percent ($1.6 trillion),” all with implicit government backing. 

Prior to 1968, “government-backed mortgages never accounted for more than 6 percent of the market in any given year.” However, “the homeownership rate was 64 percent in 1968, virtually identical to what it is now.”

Yet, while government intervention seems to have had little impact on home ownership, it did encourage risky lending practices, leading to the creation of systemic risk in the housing and financial markets, with familiar consequences.

Under normal market conditions, investors take calculated risks based on expectations of future returns. “Shifting these financial risks onto taxpayers,” the report claims. “Is what causes systemic risk.” Because the government was willing to assume such risks, “investors enjoyed the safety of U.S. Treasury securities with rates of return that were greater than those available on Treasuries.”

Moreover, the report also claims that investors in Fannie and Freddie—those who purchased their debt and mortgage-backed securities—reaped the vast majority of benefits from policies intended to increase home ownership, with homeowners paying, “at most, 0.50 percent less in interest rates than if there had been no subsidy.”