"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson
Government & Politics
Is Boehner a Braveheart?
"It's true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told the New York Economic Club this week. "But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process." Could it be that Boehner has drawn a line in the sand over increasing the debt limit and that Republicans will rally to the cause? Yeah, it'd be nice, but we're not betting on it.
The speaker certainly appeared to be serious. "To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt ... would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible," he warned. "It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction. It would erode confidence in our economy and reduce certainty for small businesses, and this would destroy even more American jobs."
He became more specific when he said, "Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase, and the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions." To cut that much, reforming Medicare, Medicaid and even Social Security would be unavoidable. The last debt ceiling increase was $1.9 trillion, and the administration is asking for another $2 trillion increase to the current $14.294 trillion limit. The administration, of course, wants no conditions attached.
Some Republicans are proposing smaller, incremental increases if the administration or the Senate blocks such dramatic cuts (recall the bitter histrionics over that paltry $38 billion in budget "cuts" last month -- cuts that ultimately ended up being closer to $352 million). Numerous votes on the debt ceiling would probably cause heartburn for many Tea Party congressmen and in reality, such a plan won't work with the weak-kneed general Republican caucus. On the other hand, keeping the issue in front of voters should hurt Democrats even more. If Barack Obama chooses to stake his 2012 campaign on continuing the spending binge, he's welcome to it.
Obama will continue to push for tax increases -- or as he euphemistically put it, "spending reductions in the tax code." However, Boehner is having none of it: "If we're serious about balancing the budget and getting our economy back to creating jobs," he said, "tax hikes should be off the table." Should? As we've said before, our nation has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Of course, all this comes on the heels of news this week that the Treasury Department auctioned $72 billion in new debt, which is enough to push the U.S. over the debt limit. According to the Treasury, accounting gimmicks will push back the deadline to Aug. 2, but something must be done. Soon.
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
"Let me just first of all say that workers ... for the federal, state and local governments are so important for our vital services, and it frustrates me sometimes when people talk about 'government jobs' as if somehow those are worth less than private sector jobs. I think there is nothing more important than working on behalf of the American people." --Barack Obama, who has never had a real job in his life
See the video and comment here.
Judicial Benchmarks: ObamaCare Suit
The lawsuit to overturn ObamaCare hit a major obstacle this week in the form of the Fourth Circuit Court. A three-judge panel heard arguments in the case on Tuesday. The panel, according to the Court, is chosen by "a computer program designed to achieve total random selection." What luck -- all three judges are Democrat appointees. Obama nominees James A. Wynn Jr. and Andre M. Davis joined Clinton nominee Diana Gribbon Motz to hear the case, which is actually two suits; one was brought by Liberty University and the other by the state of Virginia. The lawsuit brought by 26 other states will be heard by the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta on June 8.
So far, Democrat-appointed judges have declared ObamaCare perfectly constitutional -- by the standard of the living constitution, of course -- while Republican ones have struck down the law. It's painfully obvious to us that a law mandating that individuals purchase goods and services is unconstitutional. Yet to Democrats, the ends justify the means.
No matter what happens in these cases, the issue is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which earlier this year rejected the chance to take up the case before it went to the appeals courts. It's almost certain, too, that the final SCOTUS decision will be 5-4, one way or the other. In a nation that valued Rule of Law, the case -- if it had to be brought at all -- would be decided 9-0 in favor of individual liberty.
The 2012 GOP Field
Speaking of ObamaCare, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed and made a speech this week defending Massachusetts' health care law that he signed in 2006. RomneyCare was the template for ObamaCare, both hinging on the individual mandate to buy insurance. Romney, who is running for president again, claims, "If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare." Yet he is unapologetic when it comes to the failed experiment in his own state.
The Wall Street Journal slammed Romney this week for the results of Massachusetts health care law. On the subject, Romney displays a "troubling failure of political understanding and principle" and he "still doesn't seem to understand how government works." In fact, the Journal concludes, "If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket." Ouch.
Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy this week. The Associated Press offered this analysis: "Gingrich's past a plus, a minus." Keen sense of the obvious.
His last time out he was the architect of a the biggest Republican victory in decades -- the GOP took the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. Yet in four short years, he was pushed out amidst ethics complaints and a second bout of marital infidelity. Then there's that 2008 ad he did with Nancy Pelosi, declaring that "our country must take action to address climate change." No doubt his rivals in the GOP primary will thank him for that one.
One rival will be Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who announced officially this morning his intention to seek the White House for the third time. Paul, who first ran as a Libertarian in 1988 and again as a Republican in 2008, said, "Time has come around to the point where the people are agreeing with much of what I've been saying for 30 years. So, I think the time is right."
Ensign Out, Heller In
Former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) left the Senate under less-than-ideal circumstances. In June 2009, he publicly confessed to an affair with his political treasurer Cynthia Hampton, who was married to Doug Hampton, Ensign's administrative assistant. Ensign's wife and Mr. Hampton had discovered the affair in 2008. Until earlier this year, Ensign remained defiant, refusing to step down from the Senate. Even when he did finally consent to leaving, it was first to announce that he wouldn't seek re-election in 2012.
Finally bowing to reality and announcing his resignation, Ensign remained defiant: "While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule, or standard of conduct of the Senate, and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings," Ensign said. "For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great." In other words, he really didn't do anything wrong, he's just a poor, persecuted soul.
On the contrary, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report today saying that Ensign broke federal laws and violated Senate rules while covering up his affair. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, John.
On Monday, Republican Dean Heller was sworn in to replace Ensign. Heller, who was serving his third term in the House, was appointed by Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. According to the American Conservative Union's ratings, Heller has a lifetime conservative rating of 89 to Ensign's 94.
Warfront With Jihadistan: Bits of bin Laden
Most up-on-the-news types like our readers have been inundated with report after report on Osama bin Laden (OBL), so to help cull the wheat from the chaff we here offer a few of the most relevant OBL-related bullets gleaned from recent newsblather.
First is a renewed call to end the "investigation" (read: witch hunt) of CIA interrogators alleged to have used so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," such as water-boarding. These are the same interrogators without whom OBL likely never would have been brought to justice. Most Americans have connected those dots, even as the White House now bristles with claims that "no single bit of information was a deciding factor." Well, no, of course not, but without information gleaned from those interrogations -- especially of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- we know that none of the other information would have mattered. End the witch hunt. End it now.
Second is the absurd news that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, is investigating whether OBL's "rights" were violated. Her take: under international law, counterterrorism activity cannot be used to "commit extra-judicial killings," and this requirement is met -- in her mind, at least -- if America indeed adhered to its "stated ... intention ... to arrest bin Laden if they could." Setting aside the fact that the UN "Human Rights" Council is a laughable collection of human rights violators, we will deal with the issue head-on. The U.S. looks neither to the Human Rights Council particularly nor to the UN generally to get a "read" on what constitutes international law. In addition, Ms. Pillay is not just "wrong," but fraudulently so. She should know that under international law, OBL was a combatant and thus targetable -- period. Finally, if Ms. Pillay showed half the concern for the "rights" of the 3,000 Americans murdered on 9/11 as she does for their murderer, we might be more willing to listen.
Next, with the OBL affair apparently "wrapped up," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is again trotting out his over-tired clarion to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We wish him much un-success in his crusade, as without "Gitmo" the U.S. would be hard-pressed to treat unlawful combatants as, well, unlawful combatants. We're still at a loss to comprehend how such vermin deserve any protections under either the Geneva Convention or any other law-of-armed-conflict determined under international law -- let alone constitutional protections enjoyed by U.S. citizens -- but no doubt AG Holder has these answers. Meanwhile, until it's closed, the Pentagon is considering allowing detainees to receive visits from family members.
Finally, there's news from our "ally," Pakistan, whose essentially rogue intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), tipped the Pakistani news media to the identity of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condemned the U.S. for violating Pakistan's sovereignty. We'd like to ask PM Gilani what he thinks about the intrusion on our sovereignty committed by OBL on 9/11, and whether that justified his nation's harboring of the leader of that assault. Amazingly, Team Chosen responded appropriately. White House spokesman Jay Carney, while recognizing PM Gilani's concerns, stated bluntly (thankfully) but narcissistically, "We also do not apologize for the action that we took, that this president took."
This Week's 'Braying Jackass' Award
"It was a reminder of a simple idea, as old as America itself. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants." --Barack Obama in a speech about immigration reform
Memo to Barack: E pluribus unum does not refer to immigration.
This is the same president who also mocked Republicans' insistence on border security. "All the stuff they asked for, we've done," Obama said. "Even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time. You know, they said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they're going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol. Or they'll want a higher fence. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They'll never be satisfied."
Of course, only about 5 percent of the border fence is even finished, much less "higher." The only thing Obama has done to reduce illegal immigration is to create high unemployment.
Department of Military Correctness: Navy Backtracks on Weddings
"Under pressure from more than five dozen House lawmakers, the Navy late Tuesday abruptly reversed its decision that would have allowed chaplains to perform same-sex unions if the Pentagon decides to recognize openly gay military service later this year," reports the Associated Press. Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, chief of Navy chaplains, had previously decided to allow chaplains to perform same-sex marriages, but this earlier decision has been "suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination." The Navy's lawyers are working to review the legal implications of such ceremonies on military bases. The members of Congress who wrote to the Defense Department, meanwhile, also requested that the government enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, even though the Obama administration has dropped its legal defense of the law.
Coming soon to a cell phone near you ... Big Brother, and with plenty of personal Obama messages thrown in for free! After all, no one can get enough of Obama (just ask him). This week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city is implementing a new system that uses people's cell phones to inform them of missing-child alerts, city emergencies, terror warnings and "other messages." Called the Personal Localized Alert Network, or PLAN, the system would allow presidential messages, Amber Alerts, and local emergency messages to automatically appear on cell phones equipped with "special" chips and software. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also said the system could warn of terror threats and natural disasters. In general, this is probably not a bad idea, provided one can opt in. This particular proposal, however, would allow the citizenry to opt out of all but "presidential messages."
What constitutes a presidential message? According to FEMA, it's a message issued by the president that contains an "alert involving imminent threats to safety of life." That's a pretty broad definition. So if Obama finds himself down in the polls, he could attempt to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials by announcing, just prior to Election Day, that our nation has received information about a non-specific terrorist threat. "Prez sayz: Evrythings cool. Just be ready 2 run 4 ur lives. LOL Vote 4 me!" Hypothetically, of course.
Perhaps worst of all, the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, passed in 2006, mandates that participating cell carriers must provide new cell phone models that include the PLAN chip and that the phones' default setting is to accept all of the messages, requiring the user to turn them off manually. Once again, in the name of "doing something good," personal liberty is eroded. Instead, we might suggest a Do Not Govern List, modeled after the successful Do Not Call List, which would allow American Patriots to decline federal government meddling in every aspect of their lives.
Business & Economy
Income Redistribution: Fannie Mae Back to the Well
We told you it isn't over. Fannie Mae is asking for another bailout of $8.5 billion. The firm continues to lose money despite the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the economic recovery that the administration keeps telling us is on the way. Since the third quarter of 2008, Fannie Mae has received nearly $100 billion (including this request) from the taxpayers.
Conservatives were raising concerns about the standards and evolving business practices of Fannie Mae a decade ago. They asked why basic underwriting standards that had worked for 50 years were being discontinued. Yet they were shouted down by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and former Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who, as chairmen of their chambers' respective banking and finance committees, lamented that merely asking such a question was tantamount to causing a financial crisis.
Now, with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, it's obvious that the concerns about the long-term stability of Fannie Mae and her sibling Freddie Mac were well founded but ultimately ignored as inconvenient by the Beltway establishment. The relaxation of lending standards was essentially affirmative action for home ownership with the money given to "borrowers with impaired or limited credit histories." A junior-grade credit analyst could tell Congress that lending money to those with no demonstrated ability to repay is negligent, bordering on criminal. Yet given that Congress sees no need to demonstrate an ability to repay its debts, is anybody really surprised? No, and Washington's answer is to throw more money at the problem.
Regulatory Commissars: Cuba as an Oil Exporter?
Because of its fortunate geographic position in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico, Cuba is in the process of becoming an oil exporter. Chinese-built oil rigs owned by an Italian company and operated by a Spanish concern will set up shop just outside the port city of Mariel. Brazilian funding ($2 billion of which was given to them by Obama) is reconstructing the port into a modern oil-shipping facility. The ocean floor surrounding Cuba could contain five billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to lock away the same resources under its waters with an ill-considered Obama moratorium of offshore drilling that, while officially lifted, continues de facto thanks to foot-dragging at the EPA. They're only approving offshore drilling permits at a minuscule fraction of the rate prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident in April 2010.
Seeing the international investment in Cuba could be an argument for ending the longtime embargo against the Castro regime, but it also underscores the importance of the oil industry on a global scale. Current policy needlessly keeps Americans out of the game and prevents us from taking advantage of the economic benefits.
Around the Nation: Grabbing for Florida's Rejected Funds
Florida's newly elected Republican Governor Rick Scott made headlines earlier this year when he refused $2 billion in federal funding for a proposed high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa, citing the long-term effects such "free" money would have on the state budget from operating subsidies.
Needless to say, federal largesse refused by one state doesn't mean that money won't be spent. Instead of going toward reducing a $1.4 trillion deficit, much of the money will be spent in squeezing another 25 miles per hour from existing trains running in the travel corridor between Boston and Washington. That upgrade from 135 miles per hour to a new speed of 160 miles per hour -- only in certain areas -- will cost taxpayers a cool $795 million; all to save a half-hour on a trip between those two cities for the few big shots who use the train.
Much of the rest of the cash will be spent in establishing a 110 mile per hour line between Detroit and Chicago and a 220-mph route from San Francisco and Los Angeles. All told, Amtrak will receive 21 of the 22 grants given out from the money Florida refused. Seeing no clamor for high-speed rail in America, the Obama administration is giving these boondoggles to us anyway. But at least Joe Biden will have a quicker commute to and from the office.
Culture & Policy
Second Amendment: Project Gunrunner Update
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently held hearings on Project Gunrunner, the Obama administration's plan to allow American guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels so that the Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) could track them. This represents the Left's notion of an "intel op," but the disastrous results speak for themselves. According to the ATF, 1,318 guns worth nearly $1 million were sold to criminals with the ATF's knowledge -- often over the objections of gun sellers -- but the project had "yielded little or no results." Unfortunately, one consequence was that two federal agents, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, were killed by drug runners using guns from Project Gunrunner.
Issa's hearings included an appearance by Attorney General Eric Holder, who excelled at not knowing anything about the project, except that the administration didn't bear any blame for anything. He claimed he only found out about it in recent weeks. Among his answers were, "I'm not in a position at this time to answer that question," "I don't know," and, "I frankly don't know."
Beyond that, he protested too much: "The notion that somehow or another that this Justice Department is responsible for those deaths -- that assertion is offensive."
Rep. Issa would have none of it. "What if it's accurate, Mr. Attorney General?" he fired back. He went on, "We're not looking at straw buyers, Mr. Attorney General, we're looking at you. We're looking at your key people who knew or should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with good practices and whether or not, instead, the Justice Department is basically guilty of allowing weapons to kill Americans and Mexicans."
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is too busy smuggling guns to prosecute criminals. Federal weapons prosecutions have fallen precipitously since Obama took office in January 2009. Maybe instead of banning guns, they should take care of that.
Leftmedia Closely Tied to Soros
The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute has released part of its investigation into Leftmedia connections to leftist billionaire financier George Soros. Apparently, Soros "has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets -- including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC. Prominent journalists like ABC's Christiane Amanpour and former Washington Post editor and now Vice President Len Downie serve on boards of operations that take Soros cash. This despite the Society of Professional Journalist's ethical code stating: 'avoid all conflicts real or perceived.'"
Other big names in powerful positions are Soros-backed as well. Jill Abramson, a managing editor of The New York Times, Martin D. Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe, David Boardman, the executive editor of the Seattle Times, Kerry Smith, the senior vice president for editorial quality of ABC News, and Cynthia A. Tucker, the editor of the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. None of this is surprising, and neither is the fact that transparency isn't even a consideration for these journalists. They're too busy worrying about whether a corporation can donate to a Republican.
Climate Change This Week: Bringing Down the Internet
If Al "It's Not Easy Being Green" Gore were serious about saving the world from supposed anthropogenic global warming before, imagine his distress at discovering this week that now it's not just the world at risk, but also his magnum opus, the Internet. According to a report by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the former VP's brainchild may cease to exist as we know it unless billions of dollars are poured into fighting climate change.
The report claims that rising temperatures, storms, drier summers and wetter winters can affect wireless communications, signals, masts and sub-ground cables. UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman warns, "If climate change threatens the quality of your signal, or you can't get it because of extreme fluctuations in temperature, then you will be disadvantaged ... and just imagine in the height of an emergency if the communications system is down or adversely affected." Imagine, indeed! As blogger Doug Powers quipped, "Melting glaciers? Eh. More hurricanes? Shrug. Collapsing bridges? Pfft. It'll screw up your Internet access? Everybody panic!"
Of course, panic is exactly what global warming alarmists want. After all, what better way to convince the public that the only way to stop impending communicatory collapse is to send alarmists our money? But as Powers warns, send by "snail mail only, no Internet transactions, please -- if you've been paying attention, you know why."
From the 'Non Compos Mentis' File
It's a sad day for Orcutt, California -- and for America -- when our rights are trampled in anticipation of yet another ruling by judicial activists. The Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association, a private organization, plans to erect a monument to the American flag and the five branches of the military. The California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), however, is trying to enjoin the Association from building the monument, calling it an "impermissible act of public expression." CalTrans claims that per its viewpoint-neutral policy, if they allow the American flag to be flown there, it will have to allow flags from other countries -- or even hate groups. This pathetic policy, CalTrans claims, is in response to a decision by the ultra-leftist Ninth Circuit Court. The court found that CalTrans had discriminated against anti-war demonstrators, post 9/11, by not allowing them to litter California highways with their propaganda.
This is not the first time, though, that CalTrans has taken this policy too far. Last year, right before the Fourth of July, it painted over a 35-foot mural of the American flag. It apologized only after coming under heavy fire and defiant citizens had repainted the wall red, white and blue.
Yet despite the disturbing nature of this case, all is not lost. The Veteran's Affairs and Transportation and Housing committees of the California State Senate have passed a bill in favor of the Association. Let's hope CalTrans starts ignoring the Leftist rantings of the Ninth Circuit and starts listening to the people it serves.
Barack Obama certainly has made a show of "spiking the football" in the days since better men than he took out Osama bin Laden. Indeed, the Navy SEALs are the real heroes, but now Obama has one more trophy to add to the shelf -- an action figure depicting him as a SEAL. MSNBC called it "fitting" that the newest action figure from Hero Builders "is a fierce-looking President Barack Obama as a SEAL." After Emil Vicale of Hero Builders heard Obama's May 1 speech, he couldn't wait to make "Rambama" -- a muscular Obama dressed in fatigues and a Punisher t-shirt, and armed with a rifle. We're not sold. First, Obama never served in our military, much less its Special Forces, and second, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, "They used Obama's head but Michelle's arms." On the bright side, though, this new toy will give the MSNBC guests and anchors something to play with in the green room.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
The Patriot Post Editorial Team