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Friday Digest

Fast and Furious Report Card

Sep. 21, 2012
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people.” –John Adams

The report card is in for the Obama Justice Department and its “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation, and the grade is an “F.” Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his 500-page report this week, and, citing a “pattern of serious failures,” it calls for 14 officials at the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be reviewed for possible disciplinary action. Will we finally see the accountability we’ve been waiting for?

As our readers well know, Operation Fast and Furious resulted in thousands of American guns “walking” across the border to Mexican drug cartels under the not-so-watchful eyes of the ATF. Those guns were used to murder hundreds of Mexican citizens, as well as U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata. The report is no less harsh on Operation Wide Receiver, a similar program begun under the Bush administration, though we’re not aware of a body count for Wide Receiver, which unlike Fast and Furious was run with the close cooperation of Mexican authorities. Nevertheless, Barack Obama didn’t miss the opportunity to once again blame “the previous administration.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has led the investigation into the administration’s ill conceived program, said the report “confirms” congressional findings that DOJ and ATF were guilty “of a near total disregard for public safety” – but that’s putting it mildly. The administration’s intent was to create a pretext for further gun control, and it’s beyond outrageous that their political gambit cost even a single life. In the civilian world that’s called felony murder.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question we asked about accountability is that there won’t be much. The report let Attorney General Eric Holder off with little more than a frowning glance, saying it found “no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation.” Apparently they missed his April 2, 2009 speech in Cuernavaca, Mexico, announcing the program. All his exoneration means is that Holder and his boss did an effective job of hiding key evidence behind “executive privilege” so as to do what they do best – avoid blame.

So 14 underlings will be sporting tread marks from the Obama Express, rather than our nation’s bad joke of an attorney general. As Issa notes, “Former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer who heads the Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and Holder’s own Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson are all singled out for criticism in the report.” Weinstein disputes the findings, but resigned anyway so as not to “distract” from DOJ’s work. Former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson, who had already moved to another role, retired after the report’s release.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who helped Issa spearhead the investigation, said, “We still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the inspector general.” Indeed, it strains credulity to think that Holder, and perhaps Obama himself, had no more advance knowledge than the report allows. Given the administration’s awful record on transparency, we will likely never know the full extent of White House involvement. All the more reason for voters to hold Obama accountable on Nov. 6.

Government and Politics

Don’t Worry About That Silly Debt

“[W]e don’t have to worry about [the debt] short term.” That’s what Barack Obama told David Letterman this week. The late-night comedian had asked the president about the debt, even wondering what the total dollar figure was when Obama took office. It was rather odd for an Obamaphile like Letterman to ask such an inconvenient question, but Obama deceptively deflected, “Uh, I don’t remember what that number was precisely, but…” Of course he remembers that the debt was $10.6 trillion on Jan. 20, 2009, and that he and his Democrat buddies in Congress increased it to more than $16 trillion – more than 50 percent – in less than four years.

It’s nice to know that the president isn’t stressing himself out about the national fiscal disaster that he and his party largely created. Instead, he blamed George W. Bush for deciding “to launch two wars on a credit card.” Furthermore, Obama complained, “We cut taxes twice without finding offsetting … ways to pay for it, [started] a prescription drug plan and then we had a massive recession.” The wars were costly, yes, but defense of our nation is worth the price. We’ll give him the prescription drug plan – it was a terrible and expensive expansion of the entitlement state – but who is he to complain about that? As for the tax cuts, revenue increased after they passed, so his yammering about their “cost” is a non-starter. And his debt bomb has left the economy, including family incomes, stagnant instead of growing.

The national debt and the annual budget deficit are critical challenges. The fiscally irresponsible policies of our elected “representatives” in Washington have us on the edge of a fiscal cliff that could soon spell disaster for our nation. It’s time for change.

Quote of the Week

“The Obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped, but because it was passed.” –Paul Ryan

The ObamaNation Plantation

Barack Hussein Obama’s Leftmedia sycophants declared the Romney-Ryan presidential ticket DOA this week. The talkingheads have convicted Mitt Romney for what they insist is a very offensive “political gaffe” uttered at a private campaign event back in May.

The colossal blunder in question? Romney identified the underbelly of Obama’s socialist political agenda – the fact that an ever-increasing number of “useful idiots” have been lured into subservience by generations of Socialist Democrat policies, are now dependent on a laundry list of government subsidies, and, consequently, they are very likely to vote for the candidate who will continue redistributing wealth to fund those subsidies.

Read the rest of Mark Alexander’s column.

The Big Admission

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is you can’t change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside.” –Barack Obama in an interview with Univision

We’ll let Mitt Romney have the rebuttal: “He said he can’t change Washington from the inside. He can only change it from outside. Well, we’re going to give him that chance in November. He’s going outside. … His slogan was ‘Yes we can.’ His slogan now is ‘No I can’t.’”

News From the Swamp: Buying the Farm (Bill)

Congress will be in session for only a few more weeks before members turn their complete attention to the election, but that’s still enough time for them to do some damage. Fortunately, it won’t (yet) be with the grossly oversized farm bill. CNN reports, “House Republican leaders announced Thursday they will not take action on a new farm bill until after the November elections – a sign of sharp internal GOP divisions on a critical political issue for many members of Congress.”

The five-year $957 billion bill now on hold calls for a 60 percent increase in spending over 2008 levels, and 80 percent of that increase is targeted toward extending Barack Obama’s food stamp program to put more Americans on the government dole. The Senate passed an even bigger $969 billion version in June. Far too many “Farm Belt” Republicans have boarded the gravy train, hoping to cozy up to their constituents before the election, which shows just how hard it is to even put the brakes on spending, much less cut it.

New and Notable Legislation

The House passed its version of the “Buffett Rule” this week, but with a twist. Barack Obama declared his “rule” to be that the wealthy shouldn’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. This is a false construct on numerous levels, and Republicans called him on it. The new bill provides for a simple check box to be added to IRS forms so that taxpayers can more easily opt to pay more taxes. “If Warren Buffett and others like him truly feel they’re not paying enough in taxes,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who wrote the bill, “they can use the Buffett Rule Act to put their money where their mouth is and voluntarily send in more to pay down the national debt, rather than changing the entire tax code to inflict more job-killing tax hikes on hard-working Americans.”

The House passed a new version of the Stolen Valor Act 410-3 last week in an effort to prevent people from falsely claiming receipt of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and other major military decorations earned in service to the country. The Supreme Court struck down the first version of the bill last term for violating the First Amendment. Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), the new bill’s sponsor, maintains that this version will pass constitutional muster “by clearly defining that the objective of the law is to target and punish those who misrepresent the alleged service with the intent of profiting personally or financially.” The Senate is working on its own version of the bill, but it has yet to reach the floor.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act” to keep Americans safe from thousands of lions and tigers that are privately owned in the U.S. The bill would prohibit private ownership and breeding of these animals and transfer them to secure facilities like zoos and wildlife preserves. According to Kerry, there have been some 300 incidents involving big cats in the last 20 years, resulting in the deaths of 21 people. Of course, Kerry’s legislation is rooted not in the Constitution, which mentions nothing about animal ownership, but in the pervading sentiment of “There oughta be a law…”

Hope ‘n’ Change: ObamaCare Comes at Staggering Cost

We’ve argued over the monetary cost of ObamaCare, but there’s another aspect to the toll the law will take on America’s productive citizens, and that, simply put, is time. We all know time is money, so how much would 79 million man-hours per year cost the economy? That’s the IRS’s own estimate based on how much time they presume it will take for compliance with all the paperwork currently required by ObamaCare regulations. About half of that time will be devoted to filling out a single IRS form, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums. By comparison, the Empire State Building only took seven million man-hours to build with the rudimentary technology of the early 1930s. Furthermore, current federal regulations, including those under ObamaCare, will cost Americans $1.8 trillion annually – more than 20 times the administration’s estimates.

We already knew that many employers will take the easier way out and pay a compliance penalty rather than pay for their employees’ insurance, but a revised CBO estimate released earlier this week predicts that by 2016, six million of the 30 million Americans still uninsured after ObamaCare takes effect will opt to pay a tax/penalty rather than spend more on insurance. Translation: Barack Obama has raised taxes on the middle class.

On the subject of health care, the president said this week, “The American people should know this: In a changing world, my commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering.” He also assured us that he will “protect the rights of all to speak their minds and to follow their conscience.” As we all know, however, he doesn’t practice what he preaches, most notably in the case of forcing employers – even religious organizations – to include contraception or abortion in their insurance plans regardless of conscience.

The states still aren’t taking ObamaCare without a fight, either. Oklahoma filed a new lawsuit against the law on behalf of the state’s employers who will be fined for lack of health insurance offerings. Missouri just passed a law that contradicts the federal mandate and allows individuals, employers or insurers to cite religious or moral exemptions from the law, making another court case on this question more certain. That legal wrangling may itself take a few million man-hours; a shame when Liberty and Rule of Law should have ruled the day.

In related news, because Americans apparently aren’t smart enough to appreciate the brilliance of ObamaCare, the Kalifornia Ministry of Propaganda has decreed that the law should be favorably portrayed in television shows filmed in California. Plans are being hatched to pitch some “reality” television about the difficulties of an all-American family lacking medical coverage and dependent upon the central government to force everyone else to pay for it. The Ministry will also seek to work ObamaCare memes into the scripts of prime-time television shows such as “Modern Family” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Somehow we doubt these scripts will include a death panel run by Dr. Kevorkian.

From the Left: Gillibrand Files Questionable Tax Return

New York Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long has tried to bring attention to the tax shenanigans of her opponent, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), but the biggest paper in the state, The New York Times, doesn’t seem interested in reporting the story. Gillibrand’s 2010 tax return revealed that she purchased 80 shares of Sears Holding Corp. for $22,780, and then sold them later that year for $23,980. The actual share price at the time of her purchase was $97.67, and by the time of sale, it had fallen to $77.80. Obviously, the numbers don’t even come close to adding up.

Gillibrand’s office admitted that the tax return mischaracterized the trade, but said there was no reason for updating the filing because the reported income was correct, even if it’s not clear where it originated. The Times has ignored the story despite repeated follow-up by the Long campaign with reporters and editors. Perhaps if Gillibrand were a Republican, they would be more interested.

Speaking of tax-challenged New Yorkers, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) wants Mitt Romney to “come clean about the tax returns he’s hiding from voters.” Rangel is upset that Romney noted that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, but the congressman hardly has a leg to stand on – as Hot Air’s Mary Katharine Ham recounts, he was “censured by the House of Representatives for a multitude of tax and ethics violations made while he was in charge of writing the nation’s tax policy as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.” Sorry, Charlie, but that’s called “chutzpah.”

Economy

Income Redistribution: GM Wants Out of Bailout

Tired of the stigma of being called “Government Motors,” restrictions on its business activities, and trouble recruiting the best and brightest to its management, over the summer GM quietly asked the federal government to sell off its remaining 27 percent ownership stake in the company, with GM buying back about 200 million of the 500 million shares owned by Uncle Sam. The rest would be sold at a second public offering.

But the Obama administration, fearful of what a $15 billion loss on its investment (at current GM stock prices of about $24 a share) would do to its already tarnished reputation, not to mention Obama’s re-election prospects, said no. GM would have to more than double its price to $53 a share in order for the government to break even, though the Treasury Department hinted it would take a price in the $35 per share range – after the election, of course. Remember in 2010 when Obama said, “American taxpayers are now positioned to recover more than my administration invested in GM”? So much for that.

Obama simply can’t let economics get in the way of his boast about rejecting the idea that “we should let Detroit go bankrupt. … I said we’re not going to go that way.” Despite Obama’s bravado, GM still went bankrupt and taxpayers are going to eat a significant loss.

Meanwhile, hypocrisy runs rife with the Obama administration filing a trade complaint against China with the World Trade Organization. The White House complains that China subsidized its auto and auto-parts industries with $1 billion over three years. This would be laughable if not so bitterly ironic – taxpayers have bailed out GM to the tune of about $50 billion, not counting potential stock losses. Pot, meet kettle.

You Did Build That

Chris McMurray, a baker in Radford, Virginia, took a stand on principle for his business, and it’s earning him accolades, opportunity, and, best of all, more business. When Joe Biden’s entourage stopped in recently to ask if they could use the venue, Crumb & Get It, for a campaign rally, McMurray politely declined. Why? Because of religious difference with the White House as well as taking umbrage at Barack Obama’s remarks to business owners that “you didn’t build that.” Ever since his refusal, business has been booming. In fact, later the same day, several Secret Service agents came back to make personal orders. McMurray also had the opportunity to introduce GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at a local rally. Chris and family, God bless you for standing for what is good and right, and for placing principle above profits.

Security

Warfront With Jihadistan: Fallout From the Embassy Attacks

Conflicting accounts have emerged concerning last week’s attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans (two of whom were Navy SEALs) and, disturbingly, it looks like members of the Obama regime are the most confused. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, argued that the attack in Benghazi was not a terrorist plan but was the result of spontaneous protests sparked by an anti-Islamic video made in the U.S. “This was not a preplanned, premeditated attack,” she said Sunday. “What happened initially was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video.” White House flack Jay Carney said, “There was no intelligence that in any way could have been acted on to prevent these attacks.” Wednesday he added, “What we don’t have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.”

On Thursday, Barack Obama likewise blamed the video, which he said resulted in protests that were “used an an excuse by the extremists to see if they could directly harm U.S. interests.”

But other sources in the administration contradicted this claim of spontaneous protests leading to an unplanned attack. National Counter-Terrorism Center Director Matt Olsen said on Wednesday – the same day Carney made his claim – “I would say yes, [these Americans] were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.” Beyond that, they think the ringleaders “had connections to al-Qa'ida.” In fact, a prime suspect is Sufyan Ben Qumu, who was transferred from Gitmo to a Libyan prison in 2007. So it’s Bush’s fault!

Jamal Mabrouk, a member of a local Benghazi security brigade, says he met with American diplomats in the city three days before the attack and warned them about the deteriorating situation. If true, then the word on Libyan streets was that something was up. Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf said that the attack had been planned for months by terrorists who slipped into Libya just for this attack. If Magariaf is correct, then Ambassador Stevens was deliberately assassinated by jihadis on the anniversary of 9/11.

As for the 13-minute video-that-did-it, the arguments from the Obama regime should be chilling to liberty lovers everywhere. Obama, Rice and Carney blamed the video for the violence, in effect absolving Muslims of any responsibility and telling friends and foes alike that if you overrun sovereign U.S. embassies and assassinate U.S. diplomats, then the first reaction of the Obama regime will be to condemn others for provoking the violence. The administration went so far as to spend $70,000 to air ads in Pakistan condemning the video.

Even more worrisome, just after midnight Saturday authorities raided the California home of the alleged film producer and took him in for a “voluntary interview” over alleged probation violations. Such flimsy pretexts for midnight raids were also made in the Soviet Union and all other totalitarian socialist regimes.

As further anti-American protests spread across the Muslim world, the obligatory calls to “ban insults to Islam worldwide” were put forth by several clerics. Of course, quite often “insulting” Islam means speaking the truth about Islam (well, that and lousy cartoons in French magazines). Free speech is under attack both inside and outside the U.S., and we must stand firm.

This Week’s ‘Braying Jackass’ Award

“The message we have to send to the Muslim world is we expect you to work with us to keep our people safe. We expect their full cooperation because that’s the only way the world works.” –Barack Obama

Obama Snubs Netanyahu While Iran Cranks Away at a Bomb

With campaign season in full swing, Barack Obama declared last week that he was “too busy” to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting. The White House noted that the two leaders would not be in New York at the same time and denied that Netanyahu had formally requested a meeting. Yet the president somehow found time to interview with hard-hitting journalist David Letterman, attend a fundraiser with economic policy advisers Beyoncé and Jay-Z and make an appearance on “The View” with investigative reporter Whoopi Goldberg and crew. Moreover, Obama is planning time during the UN gathering to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who he’s not sure is our ally. It’s clear why most observers agree that the White House intentionally snubbed the Israeli leader.

What might the two men have to discuss? Only the most important foreign policy issue of our time: Iran and its nuclear program. On Sunday, Netanyahu claimed that Iran’s uranium enrichment program was within six months of having 90 percent of the needed material for a bomb, and repeated his view that a clear “red line” is needed beyond which Iran would face “consequences” – meaning the kinetic kind.

In the last few months and on numerous occasions, Netanyahu has expressed frustration with the apparent lack of focus in U.S. policy toward Iran, as well as with statements by various U.S. figures that Israel should not take matters into its own hands. But Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood and is unlikely to accept restraint from anyone in the face of an emerging nuclear threat, making it all the more imperative that U.S. and Israeli leaders be in sync. In those circumstances we would hope the president would rate a meeting with “Bibi” higher than a meeting with Beyoncé, but Obama has rarely let anything get in the way of a good fundraiser.

Getting it Right

“[T]he Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace.” –Mitt Romney in the other video released by Mother Jones

Department of Military Readiness: Suspending Cooperation With Afghans

The U.S. military announced this week that joint operations with American and Afghan troops are suspended until further notice. The decision follows a rise in cold-blooded murderous “green-on-blue” attacks by Afghan troops against NATO forces. Typically, the term “friendly fire” is used to describe an incident in which allies mistake each other for the enemy; in this case however, American and British soldiers are deliberately murdered by the very people they are working to train. It is not known whether those infiltrating the Afghan army are loyal to the Taliban or loyal to Kabul (and just dislike Americans), but they have fired on NATO troops 36 times this year, killing 51.

The U.S. military has been training Afghan army and police so that they will be able to protect the country after the planned American withdrawal in 2014. The goal is to prevent Afghanistan’s backslide into the brutally repressive terrorist haven it was before 9/11. A more despicable show of ingratitude is hard to imagine.

Some leftists argue that these attacks, just like the ones on the embassies, were caused by the release of “Innocence of Muslims,” but the attacks precede the video by months. The Left just always prefers to blame America for Muslim violence.

Culture

Village Academic Curriculum: Chicago Teacher Strike Ends

After seven days of walking the picket line, Chicago’s teachers headed back to the classroom this week. But ask which side won the standoff between the teachers’ union and the city, and students aren’t among the potential answers. At issue, as we reported last week, were union demands for a 30 percent pay hike over two years and its recoil at the prospect of tying teacher evaluations to student performance. In the tentative deal reached on Tuesday, the union settled for a generous (under the circumstances) 3 percent raise in year one, followed by 2 percent raises in years two and three and another 3 percent in year four if the contract is extended. The raise is described as “mere” by bureaucrats and reporters, but if you’re the Illinois taxpayers footing the additional $295 million to cover the raises in a district already $665 million in deficit, “mere” is meaningless. The deal further outlines that student performance will account for 30 percent of teacher evaluations by year three (and 35 percent by year four if the contract extends), but tenure will still trump evaluations to some degree in the event of layoffs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the agreement an “honest compromise” (politico-speak for “We lost.”) Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis expressed disappointment at failing to secure a 30 percent raise and to avoid greater accountability by saying, “There is no such thing as a contract that would make all of us happy.” She “graciously” added, “But the other issue is, do we stay on strike forever until every little thing that we want is capable of being gotten?” If you read between the lines, perhaps you can find “putting kids first” somewhere in here, but we couldn’t.

As the Heritage Foundation accurately concluded, “One of the saddest aspects of the strike debacle is that nothing good will come of it for children. … Yet children had to put the school year on hold, while overburdened taxpayers are further pinched.”

Faith and Family: Did Chick-fil-A Chicken Out?

Based upon erroneous assertions by homosexual activists in Chicago, The Washington Times (which should have known better) published a report under the heading, “Chick-fil-A no longer will fund traditional-marriage groups.”

However, Chick-fil-A has not altered their support for marriage enrichment organizations, and by “marriage,” we and they refer to the biblical definition, not Obama’s. In a news release refuting the claims that they were discontinuing support for marriage enrichment organizations, Chick-fil-A said, “[O]ur corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities.”

Our sources within the company confirm that Chick-fil-A’s commitment to the biblical definition of marriage is even stronger in light of the homosexual protests against the company. We should also note that we forwarded the executive board of Chick-fil-A formal notice of the more than 37,000 signers of our letter of support.

And Last…

Two weeks ago, we noted in passing that an elderly Spanish woman had set about the work of restoring a 102-year-old fresco of Jesus. Authorities have threatened to sue her for the unauthorized and amazingly horrendous “restoration.” Her handiwork sparked not only an Internet meme (see the inset picture for our take) but a bustling tourist attraction, as people flock to view the altered image of Ecce Homo – Behold the Man – at Sanctuario de Misericordia. The church soon began charging a small admission fee to view the painting, and now the woman is demanding royalties. “She just wants the church to conform to the law,” said her lawyer. “If this means economic compensation she wants it to be for charitable purposes.”

That pretty much sounds like the case Barack Obama is making for re-election. Except he came in to find an economy in bad shape, “fixed” it (by which we mean nearly destroyed it), and now he thinks he is royalty.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

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