Is the "Gunwalker" case as big as Watergate?: No one died in Watergate, "blatant lying" by the Justice Department?
The idea behind Fast and Furious, hatched in the ATF's Phoenix office, was to let so-called straw buyers purchase guns in the United States so they could be traced to big-time gunrunners in Mexico. But documents and testimony now show that U.S. officials lost track of thousands of guns, some of which later were found at the scenes of violent crimes, including the murder of a U.S. border agent.
On Friday, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre accused Holder of stonewalling Congress.
"This is the biggest cover-up since Watergate, and it's time to ask the Watergate question. Who authorized Fast and Furious, and how high up does it go?" LaPierre asked during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.
According to a source close to the investigation, despite numerous subpoenas and demands for potentially thousands of pages of records, the Justice Department has turned over just 12 documents. Unless the House Oversight Committee can cut lose more incriminating documents from the Justice Department or additional whistleblowers come forward, the investigation could stall, said a person familiar with the situation.
So far, the scandal has produced headlines but only one resignation, that of the U.S. attorney in Arizona.
The paper trail however has revealed blatant lying by the Justice Department, which originally told Sen. Charles Grassley the ATF did not "walk" guns. That position conflicts with agent testimony and pages of internal emails.
A document obtained Friday by Foxnews shows the following agencies all had some hand in Operation Fast and Furious: ATF, IRS, DEA, ICE, the U.S. Marshall's Service, Phoenix police and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The operation allowed members of the Sinaloa Cartel to buy in excess of 1,900 weapons for more than $1.25 million dollars over a one-year period beginning October 2009, according to a briefing paper dated last January. . . .
An ATF whistleblower agent told Fox News the agency made "absolutely no attempt to follow the weapons." . . .
Obama: "We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad"
That's what the president of the United States flat-out said Thursday during what was supposed to be a photo op to sell his jobs plan next to an allegedly deteriorating highway bridge.
A railroad between continents? A railroad from, say, New York City all the way across the Atlantic to France? Now, THAT would be a bridge!
It's yet another humorous gaffe by the Harvard graduate, overlooked by most media for whatever reason. Like Obama saying Abraham-Come-Lately Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party. Or Navy corpseman. Or the Austrian language. Fifty-seven states. The president of Canada. Etc. .
Feb 9, 2009 at a FL town hall at the 5:20 mark into the clip available here.
May 1, 2010 - University of Michigan commencement speech at 4:20 into the clip.
Feb 16, 2011 - This interview with WTMJ in Milwaukee at 7:30 into the clip is particularly interesting since Obama changes his mind on what to call it: "Abraham Lincoln helped to build the interstate, er, the intercontinental railroad . . ."
Thanks to Bill Vargas for his help collecting these links.
With a half billion dollars in government money, Solyndra started making a lot of wasteful spending
Former employees of Solyndra, the shuttered solar company that exhausted half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, said they saw questionable spending by management almost as soon as a federal agency approved a $535 million government-backed loan for the start-up.
A new factory built with public money boasted a gleaming conference room with glass walls that, with the flip of a switch, turned a smoky gray to conceal the room’s occupants. Hastily purchased state-of-the-art equipment ended up being sold for pennies on the dollar, still in its plastic wrap, employees said.
As the $344 million factory went up just down the road from the company’s leased plant in Fremont, Calif., workers watched as pallets of unsold solar panels stacked up in storage. Many wondered: Was the factory needed?
“After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right,” said former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn. “Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy.” . . .
Here is a nice summary of the basic point in the Wash Post piece:
The Fed money was explicitly tied to being *solely* used to build Fab 2. Solyndra could not use the loan proceeds for *anything* else.
So . . . they built Fab 2. Even though they were under capacity at Fab 1; according to the Washington Post, "As the $344 million factory went up just down the road from the company's leased plant in Fremont, Calif., workers watched as pallets of unsold solar panels stacked up in storage. Many wondered: Was the factory needed?"
EPA rules double the cost of Asthma Inhalers
For the health insurance question, it was pretty clear that it wasn't the "audience," it was one or two people who cheered and they were cheering for a completely different point.
So, as you can see, there wasn't any applause for letting the man die. There were some cat-calls from the audience saying "Yeah," but this, too, has been misinterpreted.
The scenario set forth by Blitzer was, "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it."
Should taxpayers be responsible for his decision not to insure himself?
If I buy auto insurance, but fail to get collision because I don't want to spend the extra money, should taxpayers pay for my repairs if I get into an accident? No.
If my house is paid off, and I choose not to buy fire insurance, should taxpayers pay to restore my house if it burns down? No.
If I choose not to buy life insurance and I die before my kids graduate college, should taxpayers financially support my children and my wife if she needs it? No.
I live in an earthquake area but choose to not pay what I think is an exorbitant premium with a very high deductible for earthquake insurance. Should taxpayers foot the bill if my house gets taken out by a massive quake? No.
So why should taxpayers cover the medical costs of a "healthy 30-year-old young man [that] has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? [He's] not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because [he's healthy and doesn't need it]?
He's decided to "self-insure," and therefore has taken a calculated risk on his own that has nothing to do with the society. Maybe he wants to spend that $200 or $300 a month on a fancier car. Or a nicer apartment. Or a larger TV set.
But that's his choice NOT the taxpayers'.
This is what the applause and the cat-calls were about Monday: we make decisions how to spend our money, and we alone should be responsible for those decisions NOT the taxpayers. . . .
For the gay soldier, it was again just one or two people out of some six thousand people. As for the death penalty, I don't know how the news media knows what was going through people's minds. Could it have possibly been because the audience supported the death penalty because it saves lives?
"$600M in benefits being given to dead federal workers"
Role of EPA regulations in harming job creation
Time and again, she dismissed the notion that stubbornly high unemployment should prompt policymakers to roll back robust environmental protections.
“It is analogous to a doctor not giving a diagnosis to a patient because the patient might not be able to afford the treatment,” she said.
GOP members cast Jackson as an über-regulator, oblivious to the economic hardship her policies have created in their home districts. “We have focused on cracking down on the private sector, on the job generators,” lamented Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., cited the example of Buckman Laboratories International, a Memphis-based chemical manufacturer with 1,500 employees worldwide and estimated annual sales of $500 million.
According to Blackburn, the company was recently forced to change 4,000 labels on its containers, in order to comply with new EPA rules – but did not have to change the contents of the microbicides in the containers. And the firm received a new demand from the agency on Wednesday, Blackburn said, to change an additional five labels.
“Do you have any understanding of how the uncertainty that your agency is causing is affecting the businesses that are in my state?” Blackburn asked Jackson.
“I would not argue that regulations and standard-setting for safety don't have impacts on business,” Jackson replied. “But remember: The pesticide laws and regulations are for the safety of the users of those pesticides.”
“Ms. Jackson, we are all for clean air, clean water, and a safe environment,” Blackburn shot back. “There is no argument about that. What we are looking at is the cost-benefit analysis of this.” . . .
Soros linked to LightSquared Controversy
Billionaire financier and liberal activist George Soros has been financially linked to LightSquared, which is at the center of allegations that the White House pressured a Pentagon commander to change his prepared congressional testimony to benefit the Virginia-based telecom company that once received a $90,000 investment from President Obama.
LightSquared is seeking to establish a new wireless broadband network that many, including Air Force Gen. William Shelton, believe could interfere with critical GPS systems used by the U.S. military. But Shelton, head of Space Command, confided to lawmakers that he thought his testimony had been leaked to LightSquared, and that he had rejected requests from the White House to downplay his concerns.
The company is being funded by private equity titan Philip Falcone, the founder of Harbinger Capital Partners, a hedge fund that has counted Soros as a "significant" investor since 2009, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Soros also funds four groups that have lobbied on behalf of LightSquared in regulatory and policy fights. . . . .
A spokeswoman for Open Society Foundations did not respond to a request for comment. . . .
Also note how all this fits in with Obama's DOJ shutting down the AT&T - T-Mobile merger. Economist will tell you if competitors are upset about a merger, it is likely to be pro-competitive. If they are supportive, it is more likely that the reverse is true. In this case, Sprint is very upset about the merger. Yet, Obama's DOJ is stopping the merger. From Fox News:
Soros also funds four groups that have lobbied on behalf of LightSquared in regulatory and policy fights.
The Washington Examiner first reported this week that the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, which includes the Soros-funded groups Free Press, Media Access Project, the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission in April 2010 supporting Harbinger's attempt to become a national player in the wireless industry over the objections of AT&T and Verizon. . . . .
Note the claims over increased jobs by AT&T.
AT&T threw a wild card into the mix earlier this week. On the eve of the Justice Department suit, the company promised to return 5,000 call center jobs to the U.S., which had previously been outsourced abroad. The company also committed to maintaining the two companies’ existing call-center workforce of 25,000. . . .
Some more on Solyndra at Fox News:
Top executives from a bankrupt California solar energy company pleaded the Fifth Amendment more than a dozen times Friday in a congressional hearing that went nowhere but gave members the opportunity to pose dozens of questions about the loss of a half billion dollars in government loans.
Solyndra Inc. CEO Brian Harrison and the company's chief financial officer, Bill Stover, had notified the House Energy and Commerce Committee they were going to invoke their Fifth Amendment right to decline to testify to avoid self-incrimination.
That didn't mean lawmakers didn't have questions for the executives, leading to complaints from committee Democrats that House Republicans were badgering the witnesses.
The Supreme Court has ruled it's considered prosecutorial misconduct when the government calls witnesses with the flagrant intent of questioning them to invoke their Fifth Amendment, said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, who led the hearing, said that Democrats had agreed to the format ahead of time.
I agreed to the format. That doesn't mean I agreed to badgering the witnesses, said ranking committee member Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told Fox News that the members asked questions that they would have liked to have answers. But he said the executives used their Fifth Amendment rights becaise they feared their testimony would incriminate themselves. . . .
Pharmacist Jeremy Hoven sues Walgreens over wrongful termination after self-defense shooting
When Jeremy Hoven put his concealed carry permit to use for self-defense purposes during an armed robbery last May, he was fired by his employer, Walgreens. Though Hoven defended the use of his weapon by asserting he feared for his life, and while no one was injured during the encounter, Walgreens issued a pink slip, prompting Hoven to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
At a Walgreens in Benton Township, Michigan, two armed robbers wearing masks burst in at 4:30 am with weapons drawn. Pharmacist Jeremy Hoven was working behind his counter when he saw the attackers grab the Walgreens store manager as a hostage. The men also jumped behind Hoven’s counter, with their weapons drawn. While one of the masked men held a gun to the head of one of the Walgreens’ employees, the other attempted to shoot Hoven three times, but his gun would not fire.
Hoven attempted to call the police, but came to realize his best defense was to return fire, and drew his own weapon, for which he possesses a concealed carry permit. He fired at the attackers, scaring them off. Hoven not only saved his own life that day, but the lives of two of his co-workers. A mere 42 seconds passed, from start to finish.
Hoven explains, “I feared for my life, and in self defense, I fired my weapon as I continued to move from him.”
“The adrenaline was taking over. You could have probably taken my pulse from my breath, because my heart was beating that much,” he adds.
Walgreens lawyers have denied most of Hoven’s claims, and even asserted that there was not an armed robbery in progress at the time Hoven fired his weapon. They claim that the company, which operates 8,000 stores in the United States, had a “plausible and legitimate business reason to justify the firing.”
However, video footage of the incident corroborates all of Hoven’s statements, and will certainly play a prominent role in the lawsuit against Walgreens. . . .
You can see the video here.
Thanks to James Drake for the link to the New American article.
Why would companies want to make investments in an atmosphere like this?
In many ways, Boeing should be a boon to President Barack Obama. In a faltering economy, the aerospace titan opened a $750 million factory in South Carolina and hired thousands of workers to build the world’s most fuel-efficient commercial jet. . . .
Other past comments on the GM and Chrysler bailouts here, here, and here.
New York Times tries to help Obama administration on corruption issues over Solyndra
The Energy Department’s senior staff has acknowledged in interviews the intense pressure from top Obama administration officials to rush stimulus spending out the door.
“We had to knock down some barriers standing in the way to get these projects funded,” Matthew C. Rogers, the Energy Department official overseeing the loan guarantee program, said in March 2009, just days before Solyndra got its provisional loan commitment. Mr. Rogers said Energy Secretary Steven Chu had been personally reviewing loan applications and urging faster action on them. . . .
Bush administration officials had started the review of the Solyndra application in May 2008. They were anxious to approve the deal, because members of Congress were complaining that the loan guarantee program, signed into law in 2005, still had not given out its first award. But in the final weeks of the administration, Energy Department officials put the brakes on any loan commitment to Solyndra, partly out of concern that its costs made the price of manufacturing power capacity significantly higher than its competitors.
The Obama administration, though, was determined to move ahead. “DOE is trying to deliver on the first loan guarantee within 60 days from inauguration,” one March 2009 e-mail from an Office of Management and Budget official said. . . .
Obama uses bridge as backdrop for new jobs bill, but the bridge couldn't start to be built until 2015
A presidential visit is a big deal, but will it actually guarantee funding for the aged and overused Brent Spence Bridge? Not really, say transportation experts and highway officials. That's not how highway funding works. . . .
The bill itself contains no mention of the Brent Spence bridge, or any other specific projects. Even if the bill is passed, it's not clear funding included in the bill for stimulus or the creation of a national infrastructure bank would ever reach the bridge.
That's because if the point of the jobs bill is to create jobs now, then the Brent Spence Bridge may make a nice backdrop for a speech, but it's not the best example of a shovel-ready project.
According to highway officials in Ohio and Kentucky, the bridge is still in the preliminary engineering and environmental clearance phase. In a best case scenario, the earliest that workers would be hired would be in 2013, but more likely 2015. . . .
UPDATE: Andrew Malcolm has this note:
Obama's own Democratic Party controls the Senate and won't put their leader's jobs bill on the schedule because more wild spending like this doomed bill could also doom some Dem senators next year.
So here's how the ex-state senator from the Chicago machine reacts: At an operating cost of $181,000 per hour, he flies Air Force One nearly four hours roundtrip for 17 minutes of remarks touting infrastructure repairs by a bridge that doesn't need them.
The real reason he's at the Brent Spence Bridge is because it links the home states of both congressional Republican leaders, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. So Obama can cutely blame Republicans for holding up his jobs bill, even though it's Nevada Democrat Harry Reid. . . .
Roger Lott's latest piece in The Dartmouth student newspaper
This Tuesday, I attended a panel discussion called “What I Wish I Knew As A Freshman Girl.” The female upperclassmen speakers talked very frankly about their mistakes as freshmen and offered their warm support to the assembled first-year women. The event seemed highly valuable, and I was left wondering why no similar opportunity existed specifically for first-year men.
Female Dartmouth students have access to more support than their male peers. Female advocacy groups at Dartmouth include Women in Business, the Society of Women’s Engineers, Women in Leadership and the Women in Science Program, which provides faculty mentors and paid internships to freshmen women. Link Up pairs first-year women with senior mentors. It’s unfair that men do not have similar opportunities for mentoring or support. . . .
Does Obama really think that he can keep saying the opposite of what he actually does?
"Now, I am also ready to work with Democrats and Republicans to reform our entire tax code, to get rid of the decades of accumulated loopholes, special interest carve-outs, and other tax expenditures that stack the deck against small business owners and ordinary families who can’t afford Washington lobbyists or fancy accountants. Our tax code is more than 10,000 pages long. If you stack up all the volumes, they’re almost five feet tall. That means that how much you pay often depends less on what you make and more on how well you can game the system, and that's especially true of the corporate tax code.
We’ve got one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, but it’s riddled with exceptions and special interest loopholes. So some companies get out paying a lot of taxes, while the rest of them end up having to foot the bill. And this makes our entire economy less competitive and our country a less desirable place to do business."
--President Obama, September 19, 2011
I don't disagree with these goals. Yet, President Obama has done more than almost anyone else to make the tax code more complicated and a lobbyist play ground. Just take the Small Business Jobs Bill passed last year. Here is what I wrote about it then.
Both the loans and the tax cuts micro-manage how companies should be run. Take the "bonus depreciation," which provides a 50 percent first year depreciation. Among the lucky assets that are eligible: "Single purpose agricultural (livestock) or horticultural structures," "Storage facilities (except buildings and their structural components) used in connection with distributing petroleum or any primary product of petroleum." "sewage disposal services," and "off-the-self computer software."
What brilliant Obama administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders decided that if you build an agricultural building that does just one purpose, you get a deduction. If it does two or more things, you are out of luck. So a farmer who would have built one building will now build two buildings so that they can get the huge depreciation. What sense does that make? Or that you can quickly write-off certain types of computer software and not others. Why does "sewage disposal services" deserve such special treatment?
The loans are no different. The Obama administration and Democrats are picking what type of firms will get loans and what they can get loans for. "Brick and mortar" operations get a loan "to acquire major fixed assets for expansion or modernization." Why are those particular operations singled out in the CDC/504 loan program? Why can't those loans be used to for marketing? Similarly, if you export certain products, you can get a special loan.
See also this discussion by Krauthammer.
Charles Krauthammer: "First of all, it's about targeting tax cuts. This is how liberals operate. You raise the rates across the board and then the government will deign to return some of the money on a targeted tax cut, meaning if you do exactly as they say. Which means, for example, if they favor, say, high-tech investment and they'll give you a cut in capital gains, and you have a business in which you don't need that, but you need to spend on marketing, the government thinks it knows how to redirect your capital in a superior way. It's a classic liberal way to operate whereas Republicans want lower rates across the board and eliminate the targeting of tax cuts as you had in the '86 tax bill, the Reagan-Bradley bill."
See my Fox News piece on the Small Business Jobs bill available here.
Nor are these claims something new as even during the 2008 presidential campaign Obama's changes were to make the tax system more expensive (see this piece). The original Stimulus also made the tax system more complicated.
So what happened to Chicago's Murder and Violent Crime rates after the Supreme Court decision in June 2010 striking down Chicago's gun laws?
This data is available here. Since murder and other crime rates vary over the course of the year, it is important to compare the same months in 2010 and 2011. Data for other months is available here. I had some discussion on the data for the last half of last year here.
A discussion on what happened in DC after the Heller decision is available here (also here).
District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty had his own prediction: "More handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence."
Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley predicted disaster. He said that overturning the gun ban was "a very frightening decision" and predicted more deaths along with Wild West-style shootouts and that people "are going to take a gun and they are going to end their lives in a family dispute." . . .
Crime was a central concern among the dissenters in the Heller case.
If a resident has a handgun in the home that he can use for self- defense, then he has a handgun in the home that he can use to commit suicide or engage in acts of domestic violence. If it is indeed the case, as the District believes, that the number of guns contributes to the number of gun- related crimes, accidents, and deaths, then, although there may be less restrictive, less effective substitutes for an outright ban, there is no less restrictive equivalent of an outright ban. . . . In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas.
—Justice Stephen Breyer, dissenting in District of Columbia v. Heller, June 26, 2008
The possible harm from guns was central to his dissent, and the words “crime,” “criminal,” “criminologist,” “homicide,” “murder,” “rape,” “robbery,” "suicide," and “victim” were used a total of 122 times in forty-four pages.
I like this justification by then Mayor Daley about his request for five round the clock armed police bodyguards for after he retires:
"The safety of my family comes first,” said Daley, who leaves office on May 16. “I’ve been mayor for 22 years, and my wife has made a commitment [to the city]. … Former mayors received security appropriately. … It’s appropriate for every former mayor. Yes, it’s always appropriate.”
A couple follow up articles on who gets handguns in Chicago http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/chicago-gun-registration/Content?oid=4066384">here. From Mick Dumke's article in the Chicago Reader:
John Lott, an economist who argues that gun control laws like Chicago's actually lead to higher crime, says the cost of meeting the gun application's training and registration requirements essentially discriminates against low-income black communities. In Chicago, the training and permit fees cost about $250 on top of the price of the gun.
"Those who are most likely to be victims of crime benefit the most from owning guns, and unfortunately, that is one very well defined group in our country, poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas such as Chicago," Lott wrote in an e-mail. "But these white, middle class areas can much more easily afford the fees to register their guns and to go through the training requirements."
Roderick Sawyer, alderman of the Sixth Ward, is skeptical of that theory. "It's like buying a car," he says. "If you want one you'll find a way to do it." . . .
UPDATE: Here are the crime data for Chicago in 2011.
The "Lost" Generation of Young People, the long term costs of Obama's policies
The costs of Obama's economic policies will last well beyond his administration. From the AP:
In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others - nearly 1 in 5.
New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. It highlights the missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged slump with high unemployment.
"We have a monster jobs problem, and young people are the biggest losers," said Andrew Sum, an economist and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He noted that for recent college grads now getting by with waitressing, bartending and odd jobs, they will have to compete with new graduates for entry-level career positions when the job market eventually does improve.
"Their really high levels of underemployment and unemployment will haunt young people for at least another decade," Sum said.
Richard Freeman, an economist at Harvard University, added: "These people will be scarred, and they will be called the `lost generation' - in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster." . . .
The Fed's stupid attempt to shift bond yields
The real problem is that we live in a massive international capital market. As the government shifts its holdings, private parties in the US and government around the world will shift in the other direction. So the bottom line is that I don't think that the Fed can do much to change prices. If they can change prices, why would they want to announce that they are doing this in advance?
The latest move by the chairman was a decision to dramatically recast the Fed's $2.65 trillion securities portfolio in an effort to reduce long-term interest rates. The Fed plans to shift its holdings so it will have more long-term U.S. Treasury bonds and more mortgage debt than previously planned. It hopes the lower rates will boost investment and spending and provide a shot of adrenaline to the beleaguered housing sector.
The shift toward longer-term Treasury securities was largely expected but slightly bigger than many in the markets had anticipated, and the action on mortgage bonds was a surprise. . . . .
GM's OnStar tracks cars and sells location information even when you don't subscribe to the service
. . . Originally, the terms and conditions stated that OnStar could only collect information on your vehicle's location during a theft recovery or in the midst of sending emergency services your way. That has apparently changed. Now, OnStar says that it has the right to collect and sell personal, yet supposedly anonymous information on your vehicle, including speed, location, seat belt usage and other information.
Who would be interested in that data, you ask? Law enforcement agencies, for starters, as well as insurance companies. Perhaps the most startling news to come out of the latest OnStar terms and conditions is the fact that the company can continue to collect the information even after you disconnect the service. . . .
Obama Justice Department compromises investigation into Gunwalker case
The inspector general of the Department of Justice undermined and obstructed a congressional investigation by releasing secret tape recordings that corroborate allegations of misconduct in "Operation Fast and Furious," according to a letter written by Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley.
The two lawmakers leading the probe into the Obama administration scandal claim Justice Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar compromised their investigators' ability to get to the truth and potentially prosecute those responsible for selling thousands of weapons to the Mexican drug cartels.
Schnedar failed to even listen to the recordings before handing them over to the actual targets of the investigation, the letter alleges.
"Each of these disclosures undermines our ability to assess the candor of witnesses in our investigation and thus obstructs it," they wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. "Moreover, your decision to immediately disclose the recordings to those you are investigating creates at least the appearance, if not more, that your inquiry is not sufficiently objective and independent.
"It appears that you did not consider the significant harm that providing these recordings to the very individuals under investigation could cause to either our inquiry or your own. You did not consult with us about the recordings even though the congressional inquiry and reactions to it are discussed at length."
The OIG argues that under discovery rules it is required to turn the tapes over to the U.S. Attorney's Office. . . .
Clinton says no tax hikes and no new regulations
[Bill Clinton] explains: “In the speech that the president gave to Congress, he didn’t propose any new taxes. The speech was $250 billion in tax cuts, $250 billion in spending over a period of two to three years. It focused mostly on a rather innovative set of payroll tax cuts and incentives to hire people.
“I personally don’t believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending until we get this economy off the ground. If we cut government spending, which I normally would be very inclined to do when the deficit’s this big, with interest rates already near zero you can’t get the benefits out of it.
“So what I’d like to see them do is come up with a bipartisan approach, starting with the payroll tax cuts because they have the biggest return.
“Then what I’d like to see is an effort made at a bipartisan resolution of the banking home mortgage crisis.
“One of the things that President Reagan did with the Democratic Congress in the early 1980s that never gets any discussion is the way they set up this system to purge the debt overhang from the savings and loan collapse. It was unpopular but it had to be done. And as soon as we flushed it out there was a big increase in investment.
“So that’s what we need to do here with this home deal. I don’t think you can tax or cut taxes, I don’t think you can spend or not spend enough to get America back to a full employment economy until we flush that debt.
Read more on Newsmax.com: Ex-President Clinton to Newsmax: Raising Taxes Won't Work
Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama's Re-Election? Vote Here Now! . . ."
“What I find is a lot of business people can be supportive of new regulations and new standards, but particularly in a fragile time they don’t like to have too many things changing at once.
“A business can’t do five things at once and decide whether to get back into the investment business after it’s slow. It may be that there is a way, for example, to stagger out a way things are going to be done under the Dodd-Frank bill.
“The really important thing about Dodd-Frank, that we had to do to establish our financial bone fides again, was to have capital requirements on banks and investment banks so we have leverage limits.” . . .
Media Matters selectively quotes my piece on the "Buffett Rule," and leaves out what I say is the most important argument
Media Matters quotes my argument first among conservative commentators, but, of course, they do so selectively. They leave out what I argue is "more important."
But much more importantly, Buffett's claim ignores why the capital gains and dividend tax rates are set at the level they are: corporate income has already been taxed once when the company earned it. In the United States the combined federal and state corporate tax rate is 40 percent, the highest rate in the world.
So let's take a simple example. Suppose Warren Buffet invests his money in a company and that company earns $1. The company pays 40 cents in income taxes. If the remaining 60 cents is paid as a dividend, the 15 percent dividend tax rate leaves the stockholder with 51 cents, for a combined effective tax rate of 49 percent. The analysis is the same if the company keeps the money, raising the value of the company stock, and creating a capital gain. The rate would be higher if there is a state income tax. . . .
A breach of diplomatic protocols?
Even MSNBC asks: "I don't know much about diplomatic protocols, but I would guess that waving during the group photo is something to avoid."
See also the end of this post here for another awkward foreign policy gaffe.
Google's politically biased search term results?
The google spokesman is a little disingenuous, but parsed words carefully. My sense from interaction on the inside is that google has jiggered page rank to repair similar issues for officials or candidates on the left. Likely a little nexis searching (or even with google) could get news reports about other googlebombing efforts, and then measure informally how long were there effects. In other cases, a gamed page rank from this sort of thing last a day or few. In Santorum's case, it is persistent and I see he has his own link on Wikipedia's page for "smear campaign." Google can adjust page rank and they do it all the time.
Here is a discussion about Google not answering questions about their search engine.
Even after proclaiming, "I love Google," Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) criticized Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt for being dodgy on the company's placement of its own services in Google search results.
Franken's remarks followed an earlier exchange between Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Schmidt, as Lee sought to understand the company's handling of searches in which Google services don't rank first on the results page.
That led Lee to reveal a massive chart, which he said proved Google had "cooked" the system to allow its algorithm to always serve up Google sites earlier than competitors in search results.
But later, Franken said Schmidt never fully answered Lee's question, and then lit into Schmidt for not knowing more information.
"That seemed like a pretty fuzzy answer to me coming from the chairman. If you don’t know, who does?" Franken said. . . .
The new $600 toilet seat?
Where does a muffin cost more than $16?
At a government conference, it turns out.
They may run just over $2 at your average coffee shop, but the Justice Department paid seven to eight times as much at a gathering it held at the Capital Hilton in Washington. And on Tuesday, the muffins seemed well on their way to joining the Pentagon’s $600 toilet seat as symbols of wasteful spending.
Justice Department auditors also criticized a $76-per-person lunch at a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco, featuring slow-cooked Berkshire pork carnitas, hearts-of-romaine salad — and coffee at $8.24 a cup. . . .
So what information does the government have on us?
Remember all the attacks on Obama not putting out a budget earlier this year while he kept attacking Republican proposals?
Obama's Claims about making the Wealthy Pay their "fair share" get fact checked
“Any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s hard to argue against that. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it. It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million.”
--President Obama, September 19, 2011
Despite being corrected over and over again about his claim (see below), Obama doubles down about his claim (complete transcript is available here).
Would you rather that the oil companies get to keep their tax loopholes?
THE PRESIDENT: Or would you rather make sure that we’re hiring thousands of construction workers to rebuild America? (Applause.) Would you rather keep in place special tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?
THE PRESIDENT: Or would you say, let’s get teachers back in the classroom so our children can learn? (Applause.)
. . . [Republicans] said 'well, this is class warfare.' You know what? If asking a billionaire to pay their fair of taxes. To pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare, then you know what? I, I, I, I, I'm, I'm a warrior for the middle class. I'm happy to fight for the middle class.
--President Obama, September 22, 2011
From the Associated Press:
"Warren Buffett's secretary shouldn't pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. There is no justification for it," Obama said as he announced his deficit-reduction plan this week. "It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million."
On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.
The 10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70 percent of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. . . .
"Middle-class families shouldn't pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires," Obama said. "That's pretty straightforward. It's hard to argue against that."
There may be individual millionaires who pay taxes at rates lower than middle-income workers. In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But that's less than 1 percent of the nearly 237,000 returns with incomes above $1 million.
This year, households making more than $1 million will pay an average of 29.1 percent of their income in federal taxes, including income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.
Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay an average of 15 percent of their income in federal taxes.
Lower-income households will pay less. For example, households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will pay an average of 12.5 percent of their income in federal taxes. Households making between $20,000 and $30,000 will pay 5.7 percent.
The latest IRS figures are a few years older — and limited to federal income taxes — but show much the same thing. In 2009, taxpayers who made $1 million or more paid on average 24.4 percent of their income in federal income taxes, according to the IRS. . . .
From the Washington Post Fact Checker:
. . . The Congressional Budget Office also has released reports looking at taxation across income classes.
In 2006, the most recent data available, the top 1 percent of taxpayers (about 1 million households), with a minimum income of $332,000, paid nearly 40 percent of all federal income taxes collected. The average income tax rate was 19 percent for this group, compared to an average rate of 14 percent for the top one-fifth of households (minimum income of $71,000).
However, these numbers do not include payroll taxes. Social Security tax is no longer collected once a person makes more than $106,800, so the share of such taxes declines quickly for wealthier groups.
Thus, the top one percent pay an effective rate of 1.6 percent on social insurance taxes, compared to an effective rate of about 9 percent for most other income groups. (The data are further distorted by the fact that some wealthy individuals, such as lawyers, are paid through corporate structures, so their taxes are listed as corporate income taxes.)
When you add up all of the various taxes, and look at the effective tax rates, it is clear the tax system is already pretty progressive. Everyone pays some tax, . . . . Here’s the effective tax rate for all of the groups, according to the CBO:
Lowest quintile(23.4 million taxpayers), zero to $18,900: 4.3 percent
Second lowest quintile(22.4 million), $18,900-$32,100: 10.2 percent
Middle quintile(22.9 million), $32,100-$47,400: 14.2 percent
Fourth quintile(23 million), $47,400-$71,200: 17.6 percent
Highest quintile(23.6 million), above $71,200: 25.8 percent
Top 10 percent (12 million), minimum income of $98,100: 27.5 percent
Top 5 percent (5.9 million), minimum income of $134,400: 29 percent
Top 1 percent (1.1 million), minimum income of $332,300: 31.2 percent
. . .
Maybe it’s not a good thing to make policy by anecdote.
It may well be the case that Buffett pays a lower average rate than his secretary. (Buffett, in his article, never says that; that’s the president’s characterization.) Buffett wrote that although he paid an average of 17.4 percent on his income, other people in his office had tax burdens that “ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”
Those numbers actually seem rather high when you look at the tax data. As shown, on average, people at lower income brackets have much lower effective rates. (At least one tax expert, in fact, thinks Buffett confused marginal rates with average rates.) Buffett’s effective rate, in fact, is actually virtually identical to the rate paid by the top 400 taxpayers.
Perhaps people in Buffett’s office make enough money that they are hit with the alternative minimum tax, which really bites taxpayers making between $150,000 and $400,000. But that’s certainly not a category that includes, as Obama put it, “a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000.”
More broadly, there are certainly some people making millions of dollars in the securities markets who are only paying 15 percent on their capital gains taxes, compared to the lowest tax bracket of 10 percent (which is applied on the first $8,000 of income). Add in payroll taxes, and there could be some instances where the effective tax rate of a middle-income person is less than the stock trader — but it does not appear that would be a common situation.
. . . we were struck by the fact that at a White House briefing, administration officials resolutely refused to explain how the Buffett Rule would be put into effect. “Now, there are lots of different ways to achieve that principle,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. “How you do it depends on what you do to the broader tax system as a whole. … We’re going to fight to make sure that's part of what Congress considers and ultimately delivers.” . . .
Buffett really wants to clearly increase capital gains and dividend taxes. From Warren Buffett's original op-ed in the New York Times:
Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent. . . .
I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. . . . I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation. . . .
But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. . . .
Newest Fox News piece: Has your job been saved?
During Obama's first two years in office, he passed five stimulus/jobs bills. If you add up the promises, he boldly promised something well over 5.5 million jobs "created or saved." But reality turned out very differently: there are now 2 million fewer people working than when the first Stimulus passed. On top of that, the number of jobs should have increased as the country’s population has grown by almost 5 million. Population growth by itself should have generated more than 3 million new jobs.
President Obama claims that instead of our economy being short of over 5 million jobs, things would have been even worse without his policies. We would have lost 10.5 million jobs without all his spending. No matter how bad the job numbers get, Obama points to some hypothetical economic meltdown that was avoided by his policies. Thus, no evidence whatsoever, no matter how bad, can be used against him.
With all the different “Stimulus” and “jobs” programs, it is hard to remember all the promises and to keep track of where all the money has gone. . . .
Even David Brooks is disillusioned with Obama's latest "Stimulus" package
When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them.
. . . . When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.
It recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn’t try to win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.
. . . He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)
This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. . . .
CBS: "Secret recordings raise new questions in ATF 'Gunwalker' operation"
CBS News has obtained secretly recorded conversations that raise questions as to whether some evidence is being withheld in the murder of a Border Patrol agent.
(Scroll down to listen to the audio)
The tapes were recorded approximately mid-March 2011 by the primary gun dealer cooperating with ATF in its "Fast and Furious" operation: Andre Howard, owner of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, Arizona. He's talking with the lead case ATF case agent Hope MacAllister.
The tapes have been turned over to Congressional investigators and the Inspector General.
As CBS News first reported last February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to "walk" onto the streets without interdiction into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels in its operation "Fast and Furious."
The conversations refer to a third weapon recovered at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Agent: I was ordered to let guns into Mexico
Court records have previously only mentioned two weapons: Romanian WASR "AK-47 type" assault rifles. Both were allegedly sold to suspects who were under ATF's watch as part of Fast and Furious.
Also, a ballistics report turned over to Congressional investigators only mentions the two WASR rifles. The ballistics report says it's inconclusive as to whether either of the WASR rifles fired the bullet that killed Terry. . . .
New Fox News piece: Obama Gets the Numbers Wrong In His Tax Plan!
My newest piece at Fox News starts this way:
The justification for President Obama's new proposed tax on the wealthy is wrong on the numbers. Despite the president's claims, millionaires don't pay lower tax rates than middle class workers. His proposed surcharge on capital gains and dividend taxes will raise already high tax rates on high income individuals and force even more investment outside the United States. The so-called "Buffett rule" is based on Warren Buffett's claim:"The 400 of us [here] pay a lower part of our income in taxes than our receptionists do, or our cleaning ladies, for that matter. If you’re in the luckiest 1 per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”
It is true that the 15 percent capital gains and dividend tax rates are lower than the marginal income tax rate paid by a lot of workers. Of course, this ignores that because of deductions the average tax rate for the middle class is much lower than the marginal rate. . . .
UPDATE: Obama is still claiming that the wealthy pay lower tax rates than the middle class.
"If asking a billionaire to pay the same rate as a plumber or a teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I wear that charge as a badge of honor. I wear it as a badge of honor, because the only class warfare I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle class folks in this country for a decade now."
To Obama "Right Now" Apparently means don't start for two months
Everybody remembers the urgency of President Obama's attitude toward the awful jobs situation.
Back in early August, Obama said the jobs situation was so urgent that he was going to give another speech about it -- in a month or so, in September after his vacation on Martha's Vineyard.
And then in September the president announced he would give his major jobs speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 7. But he neglected to check with congressional leaders first. And they suggested the 8th. So, since it was their House, the 8th it was.
"Tonight," the president said in the first 34 of his 4,021 words to a national television audience that night, "we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that has made things worse."
The speech got panned as another political campaign one with Obama announcing, in effect, that....
...since the first stimulus spending plan of $787 billion hadn't really worked, maybe another $447 billion stimulus spending plan would. . . .
The president was in such a hurry to get this new spending going, everyone remembers, that during that address he said the phrase "right now" seven times. He didn't actually mean right now that night because the NFL season was opening a few minutes after his remarks. . . .
So, given the president's professed urgency, the next day, Sept. 9, everyone asked where was his jobs legislation? . . .
Here's the revealing exchange with a persistent host Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union:"
CROWLEY: When is the bill going to get on the floor?
DURBIN: The bill is on the calendar. Majority leader Reid moved it to the calendar. It is ready and poised. There are a couple other items we may get into this week not on the bill and some related issues that may create jobs. But we're going to move forward on the president's bill. There will be a healthy debate. I hope the Republicans will come to...
CROWLEY: After the recess, so next month? Or when will it actually begin to act on?
DURBIN: I think that's more realistic it would be next month.
So, as of right now, "right now" uttered on Sept. 8 really means sometime at least one month later. . . .
Obama compares himself to Carter
No White House would want such an image of the boss to take hold as a reelection campaign began. But some of the book’s most intriguing quotes come from Obama himself.
Suskind quoted Obama as saying in the interview, on Feb. 14: “The area in my presidency where I think my management and understanding of the presidency evolved most, and where I think we made the most mistakes, was less on the policy front and more on the communications front.
“I think one of the criticisms that is absolutely legitimate about my first two years was that I was very comfortable with a technocratic approach to government … a series of problems to be solved. …
“Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks. … I think that if you get too consumed with that you lose sight of the larger issue. … The reorganization that’s taken place here is one that is much more geared to those [leadership] functions.”
Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning biographer of presidents, told POLITICO that for Obama to compare himself to Carter could be a “a history-sized mistake.”
“For 30 years, fairly or no,” Meacham emailed, “‘Carter’ has been political and cultural shorthand for an ineffectual and uninspiring president who is captive to, rather than captain of, events. To compare oneself to President Carter is kind of like Nixon evoking Harding.” . . .
Democrat Mischief in NH and some other states
So why don't the normal FBI UCR reports on campus crime report the gender of the victim?
Given all the emphasis on crimes against women on college campuses, one would think that rapes of women are at epidemic levels. But rapes make up just 14 percent of violent crime against women, and just 6.3 percent of all violent crime. The male rape rate is not zero, but about a quarter the rape rate of women. For some reason I suspect that these rapes involve homosexuals, and I suspect that that they are much more underreported that rapes of women. But, in any case, where is the discussion about rapes of males?
Still, the real bottom line is that violent crime occurs on college campuses. To put it in perspective, Americans are very concerned about our murder rate at 4.75 per 100,000 people. Murders are rare at colleges, but the violent crime rate on college campuses is 60.7. The serious violent crime rate is 22.3.