Obama Bypasses Congress to Shift Rules on Immigration: On January 3, 2013, BigGovernment.com reported the following: It took a year, but the Obama administration has now changed immigration rules to make it easier for illegal aliens with U.S. relatives to remain in the country while seeking a visa. Illegal immigrants who have family members — a spouse, […]
Obama Bypasses Congress to Shift Rules on Immigration:
On January 3, 2013, BigGovernment.com reported the following:
It took a year, but the Obama administration has now changed immigration rules to make it easier for illegal aliens with U.S. relatives to remain in the country while seeking a visa.
Illegal immigrants who have family members — a spouse, children, or parents — who are already U.S. citizens usually have to return to their home country in order to apply for a visa to stay in the U.S. Those who had already been in the U.S. for more than 6 months illegally would also have to apply for a waiver to ignore their unlawful presence before their visa application could be considered.
In practice, this meant that those wishing to remain in the U.S. were forced to leave the country for as long as a year while waiver paperwork was processed. It also meant that many illegal immigrants refused to take the risk of applying for legal status when they had passed the 6-month mark, since applying for status meant leaving the country for an extended period of time and being separated from family members who were citizens.
Last January, the Department of Homeland Security began the process of amending the rules affecting those who have family members who are U.S. citizens. A proposed rule change was published in the Federal Register on April 2, 2012, and after taking comments the final rule was published today with a few modifications.
The new rule allows illegal immigrants to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver while still in the U.S. (rather than having to leave the country to do so). As the rule explains, the change “is expected to result in a reduction of the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives, thus reducing the financial and emotional hardship for these families.”
The rule published today includes a summary of comments received by DHS on the proposed change during the comment period last year. It says most of the comments “came from supporters of the proposed rule who agreed that it would promote family unity.”
However, there were others who disagreed, including those who argued “that the Executive Branch did not have the legal authority to make the proposed changes without approval from Congress.”
The rule then addresses the question of DHS’s legal authority directly, stating, “The provisional unlawful presence waiver process is not a substantive change to the immigration laws but a procedural change in the way that a specific type of waiver application can be filed with USCIS.” In other words, DHS is claiming this is a narrowly-tailored procedural change, not a change in national policy subject to Congress’ oversight.
Obama Removes Restrictions on Saudi Travelers to U.S.:
On January 6, 2013, the World Tribune reported the following:
The United States, a decade after Al Qaida strikes in
New York and Washington, has opened its doors to Saudi nationals. Diplomats said the administration of President Barack Obama has removed most restrictions on the entry of Saudis to the United States. They said the
percentage of visa approvals for Saudis has reached unprecedented levels.
“The United States aims to raise the number of visas that it issues annually, particularly to Saudi nationals, who represent an important group,” Joseph Hood, U.S. consul-general in the Saudi city of Dhahran, said. Hood cited economic reasons for the easing of restrictions on Saudis. He said Saudi businessmen and students have been allowed to enter the United States in record numbers, with a 60 percent increase since 2010…. In 2012, the total number of visas reached 21,000, nearly 30 percent of which went to Saudi students or their relatives….
[D]iplomats said the rate and process of approvals would be enhanced in 2013. They said the United States has approved more than 95 percent of visa applications for Saudi Arabia….
Of the top five M-1-approved schools (i.e., vocational schools), three were flight schools.
Obama claims he holds some executive authority over gun laws:
On January 14, 2013, President Obama stated: “My understanding is the vice president’s going to provide a range of steps that we can take to reduce gun violence. Some of them will require legislation, some of them I can accomplish through executive action. And so I will be reviewing those today, and as I said, I will speak in more detail to what we’re going to go ahead and propose later in the week. But I’m confident that there are some steps that we can take that don’t require legislation and that are within my authority as president, and where you get a step that, has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence, then i want to go ahead and take it.”
Obama allows Communist China to acquire major interest in U.S. oil and gas reserves:
In January 2013, Jerome Corsi reported the following:
The Obama administration is quietly allowing China to acquire major ownership interests in oil and natural gas resources across the U.S. The decision to allow China to compete for U.S. oil and natural gas resources appears to stem from a need to keep Beijing economically interested in lending to the U.S. The Obama administration has run $1-trillion-plus annual federal budget deficits since taking office that likely will continue in the second term.
Allowing China to have equity interests in U.S. energy production is a reversal of the Bush administration’s policy. In 2005, the Bush administration blocked China on grounds of national security from an $18.4 billion deal to purchase California-based Unocal Corp.
… Beijing has been developing a proposal in which real estate on American soil owned by China would be set up as “development zones” to establish Chinese-owned businesses and bring in its citizens to the U.S. to work.
China’s first major move into the U.S. oil and natural gas market can be traced to October 2009, when the state-owned Chinese energy giant CNOOC bought a multi-million dollar stake in 600,000 acres of South Texas oil and gas fields…. eporting the story, Monica Hatcher of the Houston Chronicle suggested China was “testing the political waters for further energy expansion into U.S. energy reserves.” … The Chronicle reported China paid $2.2 billion for a one-third stake in Chesapeake Energy assets, with CNOCC laying a claim to a share of energy resources in South Texas that could produce up to half a million barrels of oil per day.
The Houston paper reported that as part of the deal, CNOCC agreed to pay approximately $1.1 billion for a share of Chesapeake’s assets in the Eagle Ford, a broad oil and gas formation that runs southwest of San Antonio to the Mexican border….
Along with CNOOC, which is 100-percent owned by the communist Chinese government, Sinopec Group also is purchasing energy interests in the U.S. Sinopec Group is the largest shareholder of Sinopac Corporation, a state-owned investment company incorporated in 1998 largely to acquire and operate oil and natural gas interests worldwide.
The Wall Street Journal recently compileda state-by-state list of the $17 billion in oil and natural gas equity interests CNOOC and Sinopec have acquired in the U.S. and Canada since 2010.
* Colorado: CNOOC gained a one-third stake in 800,000 acres in northeast Colorado and southwest Wyoming in a $1.27 billion pact with Chesapeake Energy Corporation.
* Louisiana: Sinopec has a one-third interest in 265,000 acres in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale after a broader $2.5 billion deal with Devon Energy.
* Michigan: Sinopec gained a one-third interest in 350,000 acres in a larger $2.5 billion deal with Devon Energy.
* Ohio: Sinopec acquired a one-third interest in Devon Energy’s 235,000 Utica Shale acres in a larger $2.5 billion deal.
* Oklahoma: Sinopec has a one-third interest in 215,000 acres in a broader $2.5 billion deal with Devon Energy.
* Texas: CNOOC acquired a one-third interest in Chesapeake Energy’s 600,000 acres in the Eagle Ford Shale in a $2.16-billion deal.
* Wyoming: CNOOC has a one-third stake in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming after a $1.27 billion pact with Chesapeake Energy. Sinopec gained a one-third interest in Devon Energy’s 320,000 acres as part of a larger $2.5 billion deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported China’s strategy – implemented since 2010 by Fu Chengyu, who has served as chairman of both CNOOC and Sniopec – is to “seek minority stakes, play a passive role, and, in a nod to U.S. regulators, keep Chinese personnel at arm’s length from advanced U.S. technology.”
After a difficult political struggle, China received permission last month from the Canadian government to make its largest overseas acquisition of oil and natural gas interests outside China, acquiring Canadian energy producer Nexen Inc. for $15.5 billion. In the process, China acquired Nexen oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico in U.S. waters.
Although the deal still requires approval from CIFUS, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, the acquisition of Nexen’s high-tech ultra-deepwater drilling resources in the Gulf of Mexico was a major reason China sought to acquire the company. CNOOC, a company that derives nearly all its domestic capacity from shallow waters, has announced a goal of producing 1 million barrels of oil per day from ultra-deepwater oil and natural gas facilities by 2020, more than doubling current capacity.
Obama’s Second Inaugural Address:
On January 21, 2013, the newly re-elected Obama delivered his second inaugural address, which laid out the president’s leftist worldview with crystal clarity. Most notably, Obama referenced:
Eight days after Obama’s speech, columnist Dennis Prager published the following insightful analysis of it:
To understand leftism, the most dynamic religion of the last hundred years, you have to understand how the left thinks. The 2013 inaugural address of President Barack Obama provides one such opportunity.
–“What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
What American does not resonate to a president reaffirming this magnificent statement from our Declaration of Independence?
But here’s the intellectual sleight of hand: “What makes us exceptional — what makes us American” is indeed the belief that rights come from God.
But this seminal idea is not mentioned again in the entire inaugural address. This was most unfortunate. An inaugural address that would concentrate on the decreasing significance of God in American life — one of the left’s proudest accomplishments — would address what may well be the single most important development in the last half-century of American life.
–“We learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.”
If there is one word that most excites progressives, it is “new.” (“Old” turns the left off: Judeo-Christian religions and the Constitution are two such examples.) The fact is that Americans did not make “themselves anew” after the Civil War. What they did was finally affirm what was old — the Founders’ belief that “all men are created equal.”
So why did the president say this? Because what he and the left want to do is to make America anew — by making it a left-wing country.
–“Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.”
The president used the word “together” four times in his speech. In no instance, did it make sense. What he meant each time is government. In the mind of the left, together and government are one.
Moreover, the point is meaningless. We determined that “a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce”? Isn’t that utterly self-evident? Isn’t it as meaningless as saying that “together, we determined that jets are faster than propeller planes?
–“Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.”
Again, “together” — meaning the government.
And, again, this is an intellectual sleight of hand in order to make his case for more government. The free market “only thrives” when individuals have the freedom to take risks. Too large a government and too many rules choke the free market. Look at Europe and every other society with too many rules governing the marketplace.
–“Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
This is pure leftism: Individual freedom will be preserved by an ever-expanding state.
The whole American experiment in individual freedom has been predicated on as small a government as possible.
–“No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need … or build the roads and networks and research labs …
Who, pray tell, has ever said that a single person can train all teachers, build the roads, etc.? The point he is making, once again, is that only the government can do all these things.
–“The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
This is either a non-sequitur or a falsehood. Huge government programs do not increase risk taking, and, yes, they often do make “a nation of takers.” Again, look at Europe. If such programs encouraged entrepreneurial risk-taking, European countries would have the most such risk-takers in the Western world. Instead, Europe has indeed become a continent of takers.
–“We will respond to the threat of climate change … Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”
“The overwhelming judgment of science.” Just as the left has changed global warming to “climate change,” the president has now changed scientists to “science.” To differ with the environmentalist left on the sources of whatever global warming there is, or whether to impede the economic growth of the Western democracies in the name of reducing carbon emissions is now to deny “science” itself, not merely to differ with some scientists.
Moreover, all three claims of the president are false.
As the Danish environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg, who believes that there is global warming and that that it is caused primarily by carbon emissions, wrote about the president’s claims:
On fires: “Analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15 percent” (italics in original).
On drought: “The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that ‘there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.’”
On storms: “Hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century.”
–“That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”
Finally God is mentioned — on behalf of solar panels and windmills! The god of the left is the god of environmentalism.
–“We the people still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
The president’s favorite American — the Straw Man. Who exactly believes in “perpetual war?” Perhaps the president confuses perpetual strength with perpetual war.
Had he not been a leftist, he could have said: “We the people still believe that enduring security and lasting peace require perpetual American strength.”
–“But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war.”
Whatever peace we have won has been won as a result of war and/or being militarily prepared for war. But acknowledging that would mean abandoning leftist doctrine.
–“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are na?ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
“Not because we are na?ve?” The entire sentence is an ode to the left’s naivet? regarding evil.
–“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”
The president didn’t say what would create more security in children than anything else — a father in their lives. Why didn’t he? Because the left doesn’t talk about the need for fathers. Such talk is deemed sexist, anti-women, anti-single mothers and anti-same-sex marriage.
But the left does talk utopian. In what universe are children “always safe from harm?” The answer is in the utopian imagination of the left, which then passes law after law and uproots centuries of values in order to create their utopia.
–“Being true to our founding documents … does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way.”
That’s more left-wing ideology: Liberty means what you want it mean. As does marriage, art, family, truth and good and evil.
–“We cannot … substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
No conservative could agree more with that. They are, after all, two of the most prominent features of left-wing political life.
–“Let us … carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”
The president began his address citing Creator-given rights, but never mentioned either the Creator or Creator-given rights in what followed. So, too, he ended his address with a call to freedom that had nothing to do with anything he said preceding it. The address was about climate change, same-sex marriage, equal pay for women, and mostly, expanding the power of the state – not freedom.
The speech was not inspiring. But it did have one important value: It illuminated how the left thinks.
Federal Appeals Court Says Obama’s Recess Appointments Violated the Constitution:
On January 25, 2013, the Associated Press reported the following:
President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate last year to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a far-reaching decision that could severely limit a chief executive’s powers to make recess appointments.
The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit marked a victory for Republicans and business groups critical of the labor board. If it stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions over the past year, including some that make it easier for unions to organize.
When Obama filled the vacancies on Jan. 4, 2012, Congress was on an extended holiday break. But GOP lawmakers gaveled in for a few minutes every three days just to prevent Obama from making recess appointments. The White House argued that the pro forma sessions — some lasting less than a minute — were a sham.
The court rejected that argument, but went even further, finding that under the Constitution, a recess occurs only during the breaks between formal year-long sessions of Congress, not just any informal break when lawmakers leave town. It also held that presidents can bypass the Senate only when administration vacancies occur during a recess….
Under the court’s decision, 285 recess appointments made by presidents between 1867 and 2004 would be invalid.
The Justice Department hinted that the administration would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, which was rendered by three conservative judges appointed by Republican presidents. “We disagree with the court’s ruling and believe that the president’s recess appointments are constitutionally sound,” the statement said.
The court acknowledged that the ruling conflicts with what some other federal appeals courts have held about when recess appointments are valid, which only added to the likelihood of an appeal to the high court….
The ruling also threw into question the legitimacy of Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray’s appointment, made on the same date, has been challenged in a separate case….
The case challenging the recess appointments was brought by Noel Canning, a Washington state bottling company that claimed an NLRB decision against it was not valid because the board members were not properly appointed. The D.C. Circuit panel agreed.
Obama made the recess appointments after Senate Republicans blocked his choices for an agency they contended was biased in favor of unions. Obama claims he acted properly because the Senate was away for the holidays on a 20-day recess. The Constitution allows for such appointments without Senate approval when Congress is in recess.
But during that time, GOP lawmakers argued, the Senate technically had stayed in session because it was gaveled in and out every few days for so-called pro forma sessions.
GOP lawmakers used the tactic — as Democrats had done in the past — specifically to prevent the president from using his recess power to install members to the labor board and the consumer board. They had also vigorously opposed the nomination of Cordray.
The three-judge panel flatly rejected arguments from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which claimed that the president has discretion to decide that the Senate is unavailable to perform its advice and consent function.
“Allowing the president to define the scope of his own appointment power would eviscerate the Constitution’s separation of powers,” Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the 46-page ruling. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
The court ruled that during one of those pro forma sessions on Jan. 3, 2012, the Senate officially convened its second session of the 112th Congress, as required by the Constitution.
Sentelle’s opinion was joined by Judge Thomas Griffith, appointed to the court by President George W. Bush, and Karen LeCraft Henderson, who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush.
“With this ruling, the D.C. Circuit has soundly rejected the Obama administration’s flimsy interpretation of the law, and (it) will go a long way toward restoring the constitutional separation of powers,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
GOP House Speaker John Boehner welcomed the ruling as “a victory for accountability in government.”
If the ruling stands, it would invalidate more than 600 board decisions issued over the past year. It also would leave the five-member labor board with just one validly appointed member, effectively shutting it down. The board is allowed to issue decisions only when it has at least three sitting members.
Obama used the recess appointment to install Deputy Labor Secretary Sharon Block, union lawyer Richard Griffin and NLRB counsel Terence Flynn to fill vacancies on the labor board, giving it a full contingent for the first time in more than a year. Block and Griffin are Democrats, while Flynn is a Republican. Flynn stepped down from the board last year.
All three vacancies on the labor board had been open for months before Obama acted to fill them.
Entitlements and Obamacare are expected to account for 53% of all Federal Spending over the next decade:
On February 5, 2013, CNS News reported:
According to projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), entitlements and ObamaCare spending will comprise 53 percent of all federal spending over the coming decade, totaling $24.9 trillion.
In its updated Budget and Economic Outlook report released on Tuesday, the CBO projects that Social Security will account for $11.149 trillion in spending from 2014 to 2023 while federal health care entitlements, including Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare, will spend $13.85 trillion. (That total includes TRICARE, CHIP, and “other” spending listed by the CBO under healthcare.)
ObamaCare’s insurance subsidies, exchange costs, and other spending are expected to cost the government $949 billion over the next 10 years. Medicare is expected cost $8.1 trillion while Medicaid is expected to cost $4.4 trillion.
Combined, these two entitlement categories (Social Security and all health care programs) will comprise 52.9 percent of the projected $47.2 trillion in total federal outlays from 2014 to 2023.
The CBO notes that much of the spending for entitlement programs is off-set by dedicated revenue sources, such as the payroll tax. However, most of what the government calls “mandatory spending” – the catchall term for federal entitlements and other programs that are not paid for annually by Congress – will not be off-set.
For instance, of the $13.85 trillion in health care entitlement spending, $12.2 trillion of it is not paid for via dedicated taxation, meaning that it will have to come out of general tax revenue or be added to the deficit.
In fact, over the next decade, the federal government will collect only $2.6 trillion in dedicated revenues for its mandatory spending programs, as opposed to $31.6 trillion in spending.
While Social Security and health care entitlements will make up most of the mandatory spending, the category includes other types of automatic spending not typically thought of as entitlements.
Food stamps, for example, are projected to cost $760 billion between 2014 and 2023. Federal military and civilian retirement programs are expected to pay out $1.8 trillion; disability insurance is projected to spend $626 billion; and unemployment insurance is expected to pay out $492 billion.
Obama Makes U.S. Immigration Laws Unenforceable:
In February 2013, Chris Crane, president the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council (ICE), told the House Judiciary Committee that President Obama and his administration appeared to be more concerned about satisfying “special interest groups” within the Democratic base than protecting the lives of ICE officers. Said Crane: “Internally, the agency, in my opinion is falling apart. Morale is at an all-time low, according to recent federal surveys. The agency refuses to train our officers on these new policies, resulting in mass confusion and frustration… nobody really knows what’s going on…. As our officers are investigated by ICE for enforcing U.S. immigration law, as they see other officers threatened with suspensions for lawful arrests, increasingly officers feel they have become the enemy of this administration.”
Crane said ICE agents have been “essentially prohibited” from enforcing U.S. immigration law. He said agents are unable to arrest illegal aliens who are in the country illegally or immigrants who have overstayed their visas. “It’s basically not illegal anymore, generally speaking, not unless the alien has been convicted of a criminal offense.”
He said ICE agents are being forced to accept any illegal alien’s claim as to whether he or she graduated or is attending high school or college, thus qualifying them for Obama’s “deferred action for childhood arrivals” (DACA) privileges. Agents are “powerless” in requiring illegal aliens to prove they actually qualify.
“Death or serious injury to ICE officers and agents appears more acceptable to ICE, DHS, and Administration leadership, than the public complaints that would be lodged by special interest groups representing illegal aliens,” Crane said, according to a report by the Washington Examiner.
Several ICE agents have filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over policies that prevent immigration officials from enforcing federal immigration law.
MSNBC, for its part, reported:
“ICE is now guided in large part by the influences of powerful special interest groups that advocate on behalf of illegal aliens,” [Crane] said. “These influences have in large part eroded the order, stability and effectiveness of the agency, creating confusion among all ICE employees.”
The result, suggested Crane, was widespread “low morale” among ICE agents … Crane highlighted limited authority to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants as one of the biggest contributors to low morale. In particular, he singled out the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants tens of thousands of young immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation.
Said Crane, “News has spread quickly through illegal alien populations within jails and communities that immigration agents have been instructed by the agency not to investigate illegal aliens who claim protections from immigration arrest under DACA.”
Iran’s supreme leader shuts down possibility of direct nuclear talks with U.S., says Obama “insulted” Iran:
On February 7, 2013, the Christian Science Monitor reported:
Iran’s supreme leader today rejected the possibility of direct talks with the United States, nixing a proposal by Washington to ease the stalemate over Iran’s nuclear program.
Six world powers – including the US – are due to resume nuclear talks with Iran on Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan, after an eight-month hiatus. Few expect a breakthrough, not least because Iran is preparing for elections in June.
But the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who has the final say on all strategic decisions in Iran, as official holder there of the title “God’s deputy on earth” – appear to have scuppered chances of an immediate direct dialogue with the US.
“You [Americans] are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats,”Ayatollah Khamenei told Air Force commanders in a speech today.
“Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America [but] negotiations will not solve the problems,” Khamenei said in the remarks, which were posted on his website. “If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to face them.”
US Vice President Joe Biden said on Feb. 2, that Washington was ready for one-on-one talks “when the Iranian leadership, supreme leader, is serious.” And in recent days, both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s foreign minister issued cautious, but explicit and positive, signals about possible direct contact with the US.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said there would be “positive consideration” of Biden’s words, and that there was “no red line for bilateral negotiations” if the US was sincere.
But yesterday the US tightened sanctions against Iran, forcing Iranian oil importers into barter arrangements to further restrict cash flow into the country. The sanctions are the latest in a host of measures by the US and European Union that have crippled Iran’s economy by choking its oil exports, central bank, and most financial transactions.
The moves taken yesterday were described by a senior Obama administration official as “a significant turning of the screw” that will “significantly increase the economic pressure on Iran.”
“Does imposing, in your own words, crippling sanctions show goodwill or hostility?” Khamenei asked today. “Iran will not accept to negotiate with he who threatens us with pressure. The offer of talks is meaningful when the other side shows goodwill.”
Khamenei has nevertheless authorized Iran’s talks with the six world powers, and said today, via Twitter, that “having relationships and negotiating with countries who had no deceit against us, is in our national interest.”
The stated purpose of the raft of US and EU sanctions, along with four sets imposed by the United Nations Security Council since 2006 to hinder Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, is to pressure Iran into agreeing to negotiated limits on its nuclear program so it can never build a bomb….
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iran nuclear standoff are taking place in the context of an ever-increasing economic war, with sanctions at their center.
There is also a covert war being waged against Tehran that has, in recent years, been marked by the assassination of several Iranian scientists and multiple acts of sabotage, including targeted computer viruses.
Iran has also been accused of being behind a 2011 bomb plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador in the Washington, and been linked to three other attacks in India, Georgia, and Thailand.
Iranian officials blame the US and Israel for this covert war. And Khamenei has often referred to it – along with sanctions – when accusing the US of trying to force regime change, rather than just a resolution to the nuclear issue.
Khamenei raised questions about US sincerity soon after President Obama was inaugurated in 2009. In an initial overture, Mr. Obama said, “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.” Soon thereafter, Obama addressed the Iranian people and called for a “new beginning.”
Khamenei reacted by saying that Obama had “insulted Iran.” About the proffered hand of friendship, he said: “What kind of hand? If it is an iron hand covered with a velvet glove, then it will not make any good sense…”
Yet Khamenei also offered one thread of hope to the US. He said: “You change, and we will also change our behavior, too.”
Since 2009, however, the violent aftermath of presidential elections in Iran that year made improvements untenable for both sides.
The covert war against Iran has also been stepped up, such that a regular theme in Khamenei’s speeches has been the “iron fist” that he claims the US offered to the Islamic Republic, along with “lies” and insincere efforts to find common ground.
It is not clear what affect the rejection of bilateral US-Iran discussions will have on the next round of nuclear talks.
Analysts suggest that Washington hoped to bypass the rigid framework of the so-called P5+1 group (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany), which handles the nuclear talks, in order to offer Iran an enhanced deal that would include permitting a level of uranium enrichment in Iran, and recognition of its “right” to enrich – both bottom-line demands by Iran.
Both Britain and France, especially, are seen to be unwilling to accept those steps in the P5+1 framework. Yet in three rounds of previous talks last spring and summer, all P5+1 players looked to Washington to shape the final, acceptable result.
The current P5+1 offer has been rejected by Iran. It requires Iran to first take several key steps to rein in its nuclear program, with no reciprocal guarantee that sanction relief will follow.
Obama Says That People From Mexico “Did Not Cross the Border, The Border Crossed Them”:
When outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who is of Mexican heritage, formally stepped down from his post in early February 2013, Obama suggested that the Hispanic Cabinet member was more authentically American than the Pilgrims of New England: “His ancestors were here before the Mayflower set sail.” The president then echoed a phrase common among Nativists who believe that lands belong to ethnicities rather than to countries: “[Salazar and] his family did not cross the border, the border crossed them. And that’s why, when I needed somebody to lead Interior, I didn’t have to look very far.”
North Korean Nuclear Test in response to U.S. “Hostility”:
On February 12, 2013 — after international monitors recorded seismic activity consistent with a powerful underground explosion — North Korea confirmed that it had conducted an underground nuclear test. The state-run KCNA news agency said the test was “carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously”. North Korea said the test was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States.” “The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible,” added the foreign ministry. “If the U.S. further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action.”
Obama’s EEOC Demands That Companies Hire Criminals
On February 15, 2013, Newsmax.com reported the following:
The Obama administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it should be a federal crime to refuse to hire ex-convicts — and threatens to sue businesses that don’t employ criminals.
In April the EEOC unveiled its “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records,” which declares that “criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin.”
The impetus for this “guidance” is that black men are nearly seven times more likely than white men to serve time in prison, and therefore refusals to hire convicts disproportionally impact blacks, according to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by James Bovard, a libertarian author and lecturer whose books include “Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen.”
Most businesses perform background checks on potential employees, but the EEOC frowns on these checks and “creates legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits,” Bovard observes.
An EEOC commissioner who opposed the new policy, Constance Baker, said in April that the new guidelines will scare businesses from conducting background checks.
Reason: If a check does disclose a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a firm to do an “individual assessment” that will have to prove that the company has a “business necessity” not to hire the ex-convict. If the firm does not do the intricate assessment, it could be found guilty of “race discrimination” if it hires a law-abiding applicant over one with convictions.
Bovard points out that the “biggest bombshell” in the new guidelines is that businesses complying with state or local laws requiring background checks can still be sued by the EEOC.
That came to light when the EEOC took action against G4S Secure Solutions, which provides guards for nuclear power plants and other sensitive sites, for refusing to hire a twice-convicted thief as a security guard — even though Pennsylvania state law forbids hiring people with felony convictions as security officers.
Bovard quotes Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association: “State and federal courts will allow potentially devastating tort lawsuits against businesses that hire felons who commit crimes at the workplace or in customers’ homes. Yet the EEOC is threatening to launch lawsuits if they do not hire those same felons.”
Bovard concludes: “Americans can treat ex-offenders humanely without giving them legal advantages over similar individuals without criminal records.”
Two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circle Guam:
On February 15, 2013, the Washington Times reported the following:
Two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circled the western Pacific island of Guam this week in the latest sign of Moscow’s growing strategic assertiveness toward the United States.
The Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers were equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and were followed by U.S. jets as they circumnavigated Guam on Feb. 12 local time—hours before President Barack Obama’s state of the union address.
Air Force Capt. Kim Bender, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii, confirmed the incident to the Washington Free Beacon and said Air Force F-15 jets based on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, “scrambled and responded to the aircraft.”
“The Tu-95s were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction. No further actions occurred,” she said. Bender said no other details would be released “for operational security reasons.”
The bomber incident was considered highly unusual. Russian strategic bombers are not known to have conducted such operations in the past into the south Pacific from bomber bases in the Russian Far East, which is thousands of miles away and over water.
John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador and former State Department international security undersecretary, said the Russian bomber flights appear to be part of an increasingly threatening strategic posture in response to Obama administration anti-nuclear policies.
“Every day brings new evidence that Obama’s ideological obsession with dismantling our nuclear deterrent is dangerous,” Bolton said. “Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow.”
Defense officials said the bombers tracked over Guam were likely equipped with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead.
The F-15s that intercepted the bombers were based at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and were deployed to Guam for the ongoing annual Exercise Guahan Shield 2013.
Two U.S. B-2 strategic bombers were deployed to Guam in late January and last fall advanced F-22 fighter bombers were temporarily stationed on the island. Three nuclear-powered attack submarines and the Global Hawk long-range drone also are based in Guam. …
Guam is one of the key strategic U.S. military bases under the Obama administration’s new “pivot” to Asia policy. As a result, it is a target of China and North Korea. Both have missiles capable of hitting the island, located about 1,700 miles east of the Philippines in the Mariana island chain.
This week’s bomber flights are a sign the Russians are targeting the island as well, one defense official said.
Guam also plays a key role in the Pentagon’s semi-secret strategy called the Air-Sea Battle Concept designed to counter what the Pentagon calls China’s anti-access and area denial weapons—precision guided missiles, submarines, anti-satellite weapons, and other special warfighting capabilities designed to prevent the U.S. military from defending allies or keeping sea lanes open in the region.
Defense officials disclosed the incident to the Free Beacon and said the Russian bomber flights appeared to be a strategic message from Moscow timed to the president’s state of the union speech.
“They were sending a message to Washington during the state of the union speech,” one official said.
The bomber flights also coincided with growing tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands. A Chinese warship recently increased tensions between Beijing and Tokyo by using targeting radar against a Japanese warship.
The U.S. military has said it would defend Japan in any military confrontation with China over the Senkakus. The bomber flights appear to signal Russian support for China in the dispute. …
“It shows that the Russians, like the Chinese, are not just going to sit idly by and watch the United States ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ its forces toward Asia,” said former State Department security official Mark Groombridge.
“One could argue the Russians were poking a bit of fun at the Obama Administration, seeing how they flew these long-range bombers close to Guam on the same day as the state of the union address,” he said.
“But the broader implications are more profound,” said Groombridge, now with the private strategic intelligence firm LIGNET. “The Russians are clearly sending a signal that they consider the Pacific an area of vital national strategic interest and that they still have at least some power projection capabilities to counterbalance against any possible increase in U.S. military assets in the region.”
Airspace violations by Russian Su-27 jets triggered intercepts by Japanese fighters near Japan’s Hokkaido Island last week. The Feb. 7. incident prompted protests from Tokyo and took place near disputed territory claimed by both countries since the end of World War II.
The Russian air incursion around Guam was the third threatening strategic bomber incident since June. On July 4th, two Bear H’s operated at the closest point to the United States that a Russian bomber has flown since the Soviet Union routinely conducted such flights.
The July bomber flights near California followed an earlier incident in June when two Bear H’s ran up against the air defense zone near Alaska as part of large-scale strategic exercises that Moscow said involved simulated attacks on U.S. missile defense bases. The Pentagon operates missile defense bases in Alaska and California.
Those flights triggered the scrambling of U.S. and Canadian interceptor jets as well.
The bomber flights near Alaska violated a provision of the 2010 New START arms treaty that requires advance notification of exercises involving strategic nuclear bombers.
Military spokesmen sought to play down the June and July incidents as non-threatening, apparently reflecting the Obama administration’s conciliatory “reset” policy toward Russia that seeks better relations by tamping down criticism of Moscow, despite growing anti-U.S. sentiments and policies from the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey questioned his Russian counterpart, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, during a meeting at the Pentagon July 12th.
The latest Russian nuclear saber rattling through bomber flights comes as the Obama administration is planning a new round of strategic arms reduction talks with Russia. State Department arms official Rose Gottemoeller was recently in Moscow for arms discussions.
The president was expected to announce plans to cut U.S. nuclear forces by an additional one-third in a new round of arms reduction efforts with Moscow.
However, the president did not announce the plans and said only during his state of the union speech that he plans further arms cuts.
Obama Meets with Sharpton and Other Left-wing Black Leaders to Discuss Economy:
In February 2013, Obama met with a number of left-wing “African American leaders” to discuss the president’s “plan to strengthen the economy for the middle class and continue to build ladders of opportunity for those striving to get there,” according to the White House.
Participants in the meeting included:
• Melanie Campbell, President, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation
• Ralph Everett, President, Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies
• Wade Henderson, President, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
• Ben Jealous, President, NAACP
• Avis Jones-DeWeever, Executive Director, National Council of Negro Women
• Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition
• Al Sharpton, Founder and President of National Action Network
• Rev Derrick Harkins, 19th Street Baptist Church
• Judith Browne Dianis, Co-Director, Advancement Project
Also according to the White House:
“The President reiterated his commitment to supporting policies that will directly impact those hardest hit by the economic crisis by making sure that America is a magnet for jobs, increasing access to job training programs, partnering with high-poverty communities to help them rebuild, and encouraging companies to invest in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The president also reiterated his call to reform education by expanding universal pre-K for every child as a way to significantly decrease the achievement gap.”
In other words, Obama called for taxpayer-funded job-training programs; the use of taxpayer funds to rebuild poor minority neighborhoods; the redistribution of private business funds to people in poor neighborhoods; and the use of taxpayer dollars to fund universal pre-K, a program that would create many new jobs for members of the National Education Association, whose member dues, in turn, will ultimately get funneled to the Democratic Party.
Background information on the Sequestration Cuts:
The Washington Post explained in February 2013:
[Sequester is] a package of automatic spending cuts that’s part of the Budget Control Act (BCA), which was passed in August 2011. The cuts, which are projected to total $1.2 trillion, are scheduled to begin in 2013 and end in 2021, evenly divided over the nine-year period. The cuts are also evenly split between defense spending — with spending on wars exempt — and discretionary domestic spending, which exempts most spending on entitlements like Social Security and Medicaid, as the Bipartisan Policy Center explains….
Under the BCA, the cuts were triggered to take effect beginning Jan. 1 if the supercommittee didn’t to agree to a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction package by Nov. 23, 2011. The group failed to reach a deal, so the sequester was triggered….
Why did Congress and the White House agree to the sequester in the first place?
The government was approaching its debt limit, which needed to be raised through a congressional vote or else the country would default in early August 2011. While Democrats were in favor of a “clean” vote without strings attached, Republicans were demanding substantial cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.
President Obama and congressional leaders ultimately agreed to the BCA, which would allow the debt ceiling to be raised by $2.1 trillion in exchange for the establishment of the supercommittee tied to the fall-back sequester, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains. The deal also includes mandatory spending reductions on top of the sequester by putting caps on non-entitlement discretionary spending that will reduce funding by $1 trillion by 2021.
Who supported the debt-ceiling deal?
Party leaders, the White House and most members of Congress supported the debt-ceiling deal: The BCA passed on a 268-161 vote in the House, with about one-third of House Republicans and half of House Democrats opposing it. It passed in the Senate, 74-26, with six Democratic senators and 19 Republican senators opposing it.
Can the sequester be avoided?
Yes, but only if Congress passes another budget deal that would achieve at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Both Democrats and Republicans have offered proposals to do so, but there still isn’t much progress on a deal. The political obstacles are the same as during the supercommittee negotiations: Republicans don’t want to raise taxes to generate revenue, while Democrats are reluctant to make dramatic changes to entitlement programs to achieve savings.
After Obama had pressured Republicans to agree to a significant tax hike on high earners in January 2013, Republicans stated that future efforts to deal with America’s budget deficit would have to take the form of spending cuts. But as the deadline for agreeing on a budget approached in February 2013, Obama demanded a mixture of spending cuts and tax hikes. Republicans refused to consider new taxes as part of a deal.
Looking Back at Obama’s Initially Strong Support for Sequestration in October 2012:
In the third presidential debate in October 2012, President Obama stated: “First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”
The next morning, in an off-the-record interview with the editors of the Des Moines Register, Obama reversed course and took credit for sequestration cuts that he anticipated would eventually be “in place.”:
“So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent — at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit — but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.”
Bob Woodward explains that the Obama Administration Was Fully Responsible for Sequestration:
On February 22, 2013, Woodward wrote the following:
Misunderstanding, misstatements and all the classic contortions of partisan message management surround the sequester, the term for the $85 billion in ugly and largely irrational federal spending cuts set by law to begin Friday.
What is the non-budget wonk to make of this? Who is responsible? What really happened?
The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”
The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.
“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”
The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book “The Price of Politics” shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.
Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.
Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, “We didn’t actually think it would be that hard to convince them” — Reid and the Republicans — to adopt the sequester. “It really was the only thing we had. There was not a lot of other options left on the table.”
A majority of Republicans did vote for the Budget Control Act that summer, which included the sequester. Key Republican staffers said they didn’t even initially know what a sequester was — because the concept stemmed from the budget wars of the 1980s, when they were not in government.
At the Feb. 13 Senate Finance Committee hearing on Lew’s nomination to become Treasury secretary, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked Lew about the account in my book: “Woodward credits you with originating the plan for sequestration. Was he right or wrong?”
“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Lew responded, “and even in his account, it was a little more complicated than that. We were in a negotiation where the failure would have meant the default of the government of the United States.”
“Did you make the suggestion?” Burr asked.
“Well, what I did was said that with all other options closed, we needed to look for an option where we could agree on how to resolve our differences. And we went back to the 1984 plan that Senator [Phil] Gramm and Senator [Warren] Rudman worked on and said that that would be a basis for having a consequence that would be so unacceptable to everyone that we would be able to get action.”
Obama Says Sequestration Will Force Release of Illegal Immigrant Detainees, and Inability to Deploy Aircraft Carrier in Persian Gulf:
In February 2013, in anticipation of the looming sequestration budget cuts (which in 2013 would amount to $44 billion out of a $3.8 trillion budget), the Obama administration announced that it was releasing (in advance of the sequester), thousands of illegal-immigrant detainees because of cost constraints: “In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding. As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release.”
Republican Senator Jeff Sessions responded in a statement:
“The Administration’s decision to release thousands in ICE custody further reduces the chances of reaching a bipartisan immigration accord.
“There is no logical or rational reason why the 5.3 percent cut to ICE’s operating budget would have to result in forcing law officers to immediately release already-apprehended illegal aliens and fugitives in federal detention. The last thing you would do to meet a budget cut of this size would be to voluntarily undertake actions that undermine the rule of law and endanger the public safety. These savings could be much more safely and rationally achieved, considering that they will be distributed among such areas as facilities maintenance, equipment maintenance, communications, travel, etc. The Administration also had months to plan for this eventuality and could have developed numerous alternatives to this reckless action.
“It is clear the Administration is using the sequester as a convenient excuse to bow to political pressure from the amnesty groups, as it did with its unilateral decision to confer legal status on millions who are not lawfully present. With this new action, the administration has further demonstrated that it has no commitment to enforcing the law and cannot be trusted to deliver on any future promises of enforcement.”
Also in February, the Defense Department announced that it would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing sequestration-related budget concerns. Liberal journalist condemned the Obama administration’s action as “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time.” Said Woodward: “Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’ Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need?’ Or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ … because of some budget document?… Under the Constitution, the President is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the President going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement. ‘I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country.’”
Obama’s “Stealth Amnesty” Initiative involving the release of thousands of illegal aliens (on the pretense of abiding by sequestration cuts):
On March 13, 2013, Breitbart.com reported:
Judicial Watch [JW] recently earned a major victory against the Obama Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its efforts to uncover records detailing the Obama administration’s “stealth amnesty” initiative. And with DHS releasing thousands of illegal alien criminals onto the streets, it could not have come at a better time.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the Obama DHS had failed to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking records related to the agency’s policy of suspending some illegal alien deportations … [of] illegal immigrants who DHS claimed did not have serious criminal records. (Now we know this was a lie. Judicial Watch uncovered records showing that multiple deportation cases were dismissed against illegal immigrants who had committed serious felonies. But more on that in a moment.)
In the old days–and by the “old days” I mean 2010–this was called “stealth amnesty.” But there’s nothing “stealth” about the Obama administration’s amnesty campaign now. According to the Associated Press, since mid-February, the Obama administration has openly and proudly released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation from jail. Reports indicate that it plans to release 3,000 more this month….
Documents previously uncovered by JW show that DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of its immigration enforcement policy change, which gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases–including the dismissal of charges against illegal alien criminals convicted of violent crimes….
It proves the Obama administration is willing to go to any extent–including gaming the courts–to continue stonewalling the full story of its lawless release of illegal aliens. Now, with the prison floodgates being thrown open to illegal aliens under the phony pretense of abiding by sequester cuts, it is more important that details of this threat to the public safety be revealed.
White House admits that Sequestration was Obama’s idea:
On March 3, 2013, Gene Sperling, the director of the White House Economic Council, ackonwledged that sequestration was the Obama administration’s idea.
In other words, Obama had lied about sequestration during the third 2012 presidential debate, and he had lied about it many times in early 2013, when he attributed it unequivocally to Republicans.
Even with sequestration, federal spending would still rise by $15 billion:
* Even with the “cuts,” the federal government would spend $15 billion more in 2013 than it spent in 2012. This is because the cuts were not to actual spending, but to projected increases in spending.
Obama’s Weekly Address Emphasizes Class Warfare:
On February 23, 2013, Obama delivered the following remarks in his weekly address to the American people:
Our top priority as a country right now should be doing everything we can to grow our economy and create good, middle class jobs.
And yet, less than one week from now, Congress is poised to allow a series of arbitrary, automatic budget cuts that will do the exact opposite. They will slow our economy. They will eliminate good jobs. They will leave many families who are already stretched to the limit scrambling to figure out what to do.
But here’s the thing: these cuts don’t have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little compromise. They can pass a balanced plan for deficit reduction. They can cut spending in a smart way, and close wasteful tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected.
Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising – instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans – they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.
Here’s what that choice means. Once these cuts take effect, thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off, and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, causing delays across the country. Even President Bush’s director of the National Institutes of Health says these cuts will set back medical science for a generation.
Already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf – affecting our ability to respond to threats in an unstable part of the world. And just this week, the Pentagon announced that if these cuts go through, almost 800,000 defense employees – the equivalent of every person in Miami and Cleveland combined – will be forced to take unpaid leave.
That’s what this choice means. Are Republicans in Congress really willing to let these cuts fall on our kids’ schools and mental health care just to protect tax loopholes for corporate jet owners? Are they really willing to slash military health care and the border patrol just because they refuse to eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies? Are they seriously prepared to inflict more pain on the middle class because they refuse to ask anything more of those at the very top?
These are the questions Republicans in Congress need to ask themselves. And I’m hopeful they’ll change their minds. Because the American people have worked too hard for too long to see everything they’ve built undone by partisan recklessness in Washington.
I believe we should work together to build on the more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction we’ve already achieved. But I believe we should do it in a balanced way – with smart spending cuts, entitlement reform, and tax reform. That’s my plan. It’s got tough cuts, tough reforms, and asks more of the wealthiest Americans. It’s on the White House website for everyone to see. And it requires Democrats and Republicans to meet half way to resolve the problem. That’s what the American people expect. And that’s what you deserve.
We just need Republicans in Washington to come around. Because we need their help to finish the job of reducing our deficit in a smart way that doesn’t hurt our economy or our people….
Obama announces that all bad economic news that may be reported in subsequent months will be a result of Republicans failing to avoid sequstration cuts:
On March 1, 2013, Obama said:
As you know, I just met with the leaders of both parties to discuss a way forward in light of the severe budget cuts that start to take effect today. I told them these cuts will hurt our economy. They’ll cost us jobs. And to set it right, both sides need to be willing to compromise.
You know, the good news is the American people are strong and they’re resilient. They fought hard to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and we will get through this as well. Even with these cuts in place, folks all across this country will work hard to make sure that we keep the recovery going.
But Washington sure isn’t making it easy. At a time when our businesses have finally begun to get some traction, hiring new workers, bringing jobs back to America, we shouldn’t be making a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts to things that businesses depend on and workers depend on like education and research and infrastructure and defense.
It’s unnecessary, and at a time when too many Americans are still looking for work it’s inexcusable.
Now, what’s important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real. Beginning this week, many middle class families will have their lives disrupted in significant ways. Businesses that work with the military, like the Virginia shipbuilder that I visited on Tuesday may have to lay folks off. Communities near military bases will take a serious blow.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country — Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work at the Pentagon — all will suffer significant pay cuts and furloughs.
All of this will cause a ripple effect throughout our economy. Layoffs and pay cuts means that people have less money in their pockets, and that means that they have less money to spend at local businesses. That means lower profits, that means fewer hires.
The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage to our economy, a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day. So economists are estimating that as a consequence of the sequester that we could see growth cut by over one half of 1 percent. It will cost about 750,000 jobs at a time when we should be growing jobs more quickly.
So every time that we get a piece of economic news over the next month, next two months, next six months, as long as the sequester’s in place we’ll know that that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act.
And let’s be clear: None of this is necessary. It’s happening because a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful loophole to help reduce the deficit.
As recently as yesterday, they decided to protect special- interest tax breaks for the well-off and the well-connected, and they think that that’s apparently more important than protecting our military or middle-class families from the pain of these cuts.
I do believe that we can and must replace these cuts with a more balanced approach that asks something from everybody. Smart spending cuts, entitlement reform, tax reform that makes the tax code more fair for families and businesses without raising tax rates.”
Republicans Offer Obama full control over sequester cuts, but Obama turns down the opportunity because his goal is to dissociate himself from sequestration and let Republicans be blamed for any economic hardship that followed:
On March 1, 2013, CNS News reported the following:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, says he expects the House to pass a measure next week that will give the Obama administration more flexibility in making the spending reductions required under sequestration.
“So I think you’ll see more flexibility for the military, for national security, and more flexibility for domestic spending so that the president and the agencies can go after waste and inefficiency as the sequester takes place,” Ryan told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.
“We’re going to give the administration the flexibility they need to…go after the waste, the fraud, the abuse, low-priority spending. If they choose not to do that, then the president will have made the choice to do the things you just described (layoffs, airport delays, fewer meat inspections) for political benefit. We think that’s wrong. We’ll see if he does that.” …
Transfer authority, as it is called, would allow the administration to make spending reductions in less important accounts, rather than making indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts that affect vital services.
But in a speech on Tuesday, President Obama indicated he doesn’t want flexibility. He’s been traveling around the country, warning Americans about the sequester’s dire consequences — all of it an attempt to pressure Congress to raise more tax revenue.
Obama believes the more pain the sequester causes the American people, the more likely they are to demand that Congress give in to the president on taxes….
In that same speech, Obama insisted the nation can’t “just cut our way to prosperity” while “asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.”
Obama DOJ says Children do not “need” — or have a right to — mothers:
On March 3, 2013, CNS News reported:
The Obama Justice Department is arguing in the United States Supreme Court that children do not need mothers.
The Justice Department’s argument on the superfluity of motherhood is presented in a brief the Obama administration filed in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that amended California’s Constitution to say that marriage involves only one man and one woman.
The Justice Department presented its conclusions about parenthood in rebutting an argument made by proponents of Proposition 8 that the traditional two-parent family, led by both a mother and a father, was the ideal place, determined even by nature itself, to raise a child.
The Obama administration argues this is not true. It argues that children need neither a father nor a mother and that having two fathers or two mothers is just as good as having one of each.
“The [California] Voter Guide arguably offered a distinct but related child-rearing justification for Proposition 8: ‘the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father,’” said the administration’s brief submitted to the court by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.
“As an initial matter, no sound basis exists for concluding that same-sex couples who have committed to marriage are anything other than fully capable of responsible parenting and child-rearing,” the Department of Justice told the court. “To the contrary, many leading medical, psychological, and social-welfare organizations have issued policy statements opposing restrictions on gay and lesbian parenting based on their conclusion, supported by numerous scientific studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.”
“The weight of the scientific literature strongly supports the view that same-sex parents are just as capable as opposite-sex parents,” says the administration.
To support this argument, one of the documents the administration cites is a “policy statement” by the American Psychological Association. This statement claims that some studies indicate same-sex parents might be “superior” to mother-and-father families, but then concedes there is little actual data on the results of raising children in two-father households.
“Members of gay and lesbian couples with children have been found to divide the work involved in childcare evenly, and to be satisfied with their relationships with their partners,” says this APA policy statement the administration cited to the court. “The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers’ and gay fathers’ parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents. There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
“Studies of other aspects of personal development (including personality, self-concept, and conduct) similarly reveal few differences between children of lesbian mothers and children of heterosexual parents,” says the APA policy statement. “However, few data regarding these concerns are available for children of gay fathers.”
The Obama administration further argues that because California law already permits domestic partnerships in which same-sex couples are allowed all the “incidents” of marriage–including the right to adopt children and be foster parents–that Proposition 8 only denies same-sex couples the use of the word “marriage” and does not change the status of child-rearing in the state.
“Moreover, as the court of appeals determined, ‘Proposition 8 had absolutely no effect on the ability of same-sex couples to become parents or the manner in which children are raised in California,’” says the administration. “As explained, California law, both before and after Proposition 8, grants registered domestic partners the same parental rights and benefits accorded to married couples. And Proposition 8 does not alter California’s adoption, fostering, or presumed-parentage laws, which ‘continue to apply equally to same-sex couples.’
“In light of California’s conferral of full rights of parenting and child-rearing on same-sex couples, Proposition 8’s denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry bears no cognizable relation, let alone a substantial one, to any interest in responsible procreation and child-rearing (however defined),” says the administration. “Indeed, because a substantial number of California children are raised in households headed by same-sex couples.”
In effect, the administration is arguing that California had already conceded the administration’s point that children do not need a mother or a father when it enacted laws treating same-sex couples the same as married couples in its adoption, foster-parenting and other laws–which Proposition 8 did not seek to overturn. …
Obama says Palestinians “deserve a state of their own”:
During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama said: “I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership. We do not consider continued [Israeli] settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace.” He added that the Palestinians deserved an end to Israeli “occupation” and the “daily indignities that come with it.” And he declared that the “Palestinians deserve a state of their own.”
Obama, in Israel, quotes Saul Alinsky:
In a March 21, 2013 address he delivered in Jerusalem, President Obama cited the radical community organizer Saul Alinsky’s defining mantra as he urged Israeli college students to “create change” that would motivate their political leaders to demonstrate not only “the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be.” Columnist Aaron Klein writes:
One of Alinsky’s major themes was working with the world as it “is” to turn it into the world as “it should be.”
In his defining work, Rules for Radicals, which he dedicated to “the first rebel,” Lucifer, Alinsky used those words to lay out his main agenda. He asserted radical change must be brought about by working within a system instead of attacking it from the outside.
“It is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system,” wrote Alinsky.
Obama related his Alinsky quote to a suggestion that “peace” begins with the people and not just the leadership – a statement some may relate to community organizing.
He further suggested Israelis do an end-run around the country’s leadership and “create the change that you want to see.”
The president said: “That is where peace begins – not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people; not just in a carefully designed process, but in the daily connections that take place among those who live together in this land, and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.”
He continued: “Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: Political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.”
It’s not the first time Obama used the Alinsky phraseology of the world as it “is” versus how it “should be.”
In a May 2011 speech, Obama stated: “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
In an April 2009 talk to a London girl’s school, first lady Michelle Obama recalled that on her first date with Barack Obama, he took her to a “community meeting” and taught her about the world “as it is” and “as it should be.”
“As he talked to the residents in that community center, he talked about two concepts,” she stated. “He talked about ‘the world as it is’ and ‘the world as it should be.’ And I talked about this throughout the entire campaign.”
Obama pushes banks to make loans to people with weaker credit:
On April 2, 2003, the Washington Post reported the following:
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.
President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.
In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.
Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.
Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today’s low interest rates, among other steps.
Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.
“If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
Administration officials say they are looking only to allay unnecessary hesitation among banks and encourage safe lending to borrowers who have the financial wherewithal to pay.
“There’s always a tension that you have to take seriously between providing clarity and rules of the road and not giving any opportunity to restart the kind of irresponsible lending that we saw in the mid-2000s,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record.
The administration’s efforts come in the midst of a housing market that has been surging for the past year but that has been delivering most of the benefits to established homeowners with high credit scores or to investors who have been behind a significant number of new purchases.
“If you were going to tell people in low-income and moderate-income communities and communities of color there was a housing recovery, they would look at you as if you had two heads,” said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a nonprofit housing organization. “It is very difficult for people of low and moderate incomes to refinance or buy homes.”
Before the crisis, about 40 percent of home buyers were first-time purchasers. That’s down to 30 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.
From 2007 through 2012, new-home purchases fell 30 percent for people with credit scores above 780 (out of 800), according to Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke. But they declined 90 percent for people with scores between 680 and 620 — historically a respectable range for a credit score.
“If the only people who can get a loan have near-perfect credit and are putting down 25 percent, you’re leaving out of the market an entire population of creditworthy folks, which constrains demand and slows the recovery,” said Jim Parrott, who until January was the senior adviser on housing for the White House’s National Economic Council.
One reason, according to policymakers, is that as young people move out of their parents’ homes and start their own households, they will be forced to rent rather than buy, meaning less construction and housing activity. Given housing’s role in building up a family’s wealth, that could have long-lasting consequences.
“I think the ability of newly formed households, which are more likely to have lower incomes or weaker credit scores, to access the mortgage market will make a big difference in the shape of the recovery,” Duke said last month. “Economic improvement will cause household formation to increase, but if credit is hard to get, these will be rental rather than owner-occupied households.” …
The FHA historically has been dedicated to making homeownership affordable for people of moderate means. Under FHA terms, a borrower can get a home loan with a credit score as low as 500 or a down payment as small as 3.5 percent. If borrowers with FHA loans default on their payments, taxpayers are on the line — a guarantee that should provide confidence to banks to lend.
But banks are largely rejecting the lower end of the scale, and the average credit score on FHA loans has stood at about 700. After years of intensifying investigations into wrongdoing in mortgage lending, banks are concerned that they will be held responsible if borrowers cannot pay. Under some circumstances, the FHA can retract its insurance or take other legal action to penalize banks when loans default.
“The financial risk of just one mistake has just become so high that lenders are playing it very, very safe, and many qualified borrowers are paying the price,” said David Stevens, Obama’s former FHA commissioner and now the chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The FHA, in coordination with the White House, is working to develop new policies to make clear to banks that they will not lose their guarantees or face other legal action if loans that conform to the program’s standards later default. Officials hope the FHA’s actions will then spur Fannie and Freddie to do the same.
The effort requires sign-on by the Justice Department and the inspector general of Department of Housing and Urban Development, agencies that investigate wrongdoing in mortgage lending.
“We need to align as much as possible with IG and the DOJ moving forward,” FHA Commissioner Carol Galante said. The HUD inspector general and Justice Department declined to comment.
The effort to provide more certainty to banks is just one of several policies the administration is undertaking. The FHA is also urging lenders to take what officials call “compensating factors” into account and use more subjective judgment when deciding whether to make a loan — such as looking at a borrower’s overall savings.
“My view is that there are lots of creditworthy borrowers that are below 720 or 700 — all the way down the credit-score spectrum,” Galante said. “It’s important you look at the totality of that borrower’s ability to pay.”
Unemployment Rate of Government Workers (who number more than 20 million) is just half the National Rate:
On April 5, 2013, CNS News reported the following:
There is a bright spot in the March jobless numbers, if government is your line of work. The unemployment rate for civilian government workers dropped to 3.6 percent in March from 3.8 percent in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February, there were 828,000 unemployed federal, state and local governments in the United States. In March, that declined to 786,000…. The current unemployment for government workers at 3.6 percent is the lowest rate since April 2011.
Since July, times have been very good for government in the United States, with governments managing to add 618,000 workers to their payrolls. In March, there were 20,633,000 total government workers in the U.S. In July the government employed 20,015,000 people….
The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts someone as a government worker if they are not in the military and they are currently employed by any level of government—local, state or federal—or they are unemployed, they are looking for work, and their last job was for any level of government.
Obama budget caps Americans’ tax-sheltered retirement savings:
In April 2013, President Obama unveiled his budget for fiscal 2014, which for the first time called for a cap on the amount of money Americans could save in these tax-sheltered 401K retirement plans. The administration explained that some people were accumulating “substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving.” Thus the president proposed to “limit an individual’s total balance across tax-preferred accounts to an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of not more than $205,000 per year in retirement, or about $3 million for someone retiring in 2013.”
Obama administration makes concessions to China, in effort to appease North Korea:
On April 13, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to China and sought to elicit China’s help in dealing with an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which had recently been vowing not only to launch a test missile, but also to wage nuclear war against South Korea and the United States. The New York Times reported:
“Mr. Kerry’s trip to China, his first since taking office, is part of an intensive three-day push to try to calm tensions on the Korean Peninsula that have threatened to spiral out of control and rattled world leaders.
“In a news conference, Mr. Kerry suggested that the United States could remove some newly enhanced missile defenses in the region, though he did not specify which ones. Any eventual cutback would address Chinese concerns about the buildup of American weapons systems in the region.
“After back-to-back meetings between Mr. Kerry and China’s top leaders, the two countries announced that they endorsed the principle of ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, though China did not state publicly what steps it might take to achieve that goal after years of reluctance to crack down on Pyongyang.”
Obama administration is found to have been lying, for years, about its record in deporting illegals:
On April 19, 2013, National Review reported the following:
It is one of the Obama administration’s favorite talking points on immigration: It has been deporting illegal immigrants in record numbers. That bolsters its credentials on enforcement and supports the argument that, now that we’ve gotten tough on the border, it is time to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
But figures recently unearthed by a federal lawsuit in Texas cast serious doubt on the administration’s deportation claims. The number of deportations appears to have declined significantly during the president’s term in office.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, has analyzed a set of largely unpublished official statistics on immigration-enforcement activity over the past five years. Earlier this month, Vaughan testified in court on behalf of a group of U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) agents who are suing the administration over its use of “prosecutorial discretion” in dictating how immigration law is enforced — or not enforced. The agents are seeking an injunction against a series of policy directives from ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that were designed to regulate the extent to which ICE officers could initiate deportation proceedings for illegal immigrants in their custody.
In her testimony on April 8, Vaughan noted that, contrary to the administration’s claims, the number of illegal-immigrant removals has dropped 40 percent since June 2011, when ICE director John Morton issued the first of several directives outlining significant changes to the agency’s enforcement policies. “There has been a significant decline in enforcement activity as measured by the number of removals,” Vaughan says.
Deportations specifically of illegal immigrants convicted of a crime — individuals the administration says it has prioritized for removal — are similarly down, almost 40 percent since June 2011, Vaughan found. And that decline has occurred despite a significant increase in the number of illegal immigrants referred to ICE after being arrested for crimes. “There are certainly enough illegal aliens out there, especially enough criminal illegal aliens, that their numbers should be going up, not down,” Vaughan says. “So they appear to be giving a lot of free passes to people who are a public-safety problem, beyond the fact that they are here illegally.”
Removals generated by ICE’s Enforcement and Removals division, which is responsible for interior immigration enforcement, have decreased nearly 50 percent since June 2011. Vaughan says the administration has been inflating its deportation statistics by including a greater number of U.S. Border Patrol cases — illegal immigrants picked up at the border and subsequently referred to ICE — as part of its annual statistics. Border Patrol cases accounted for 56 percent of removals reported in fiscal year 2013, up from 33 percent in 2008. Typically, an individual apprehended at the southern border is simply returned to Mexico without being processed as a deportation by ICE.
Vaughan says this undermines the administration’s claim that pursuing criminal cases is its top priority. This was the primary argument that DHS secretary Janet Napolitano put forward in June 2012, when she issued a directive instructing ICE officers to refrain from initiating deportation proceedings for illegal immigrants who might qualify for “DREAM status” — immigrants who were brought here illegally, are currently enrolled in school or the military, and have not been convicted of a serious crime. “They have been justifying policies by saying it enables them to focus more on criminals,” Vaughan says. “What’s happening is actually the opposite. The majority of resources are going toward supporting Border Patrol activity.”
Internal e-mails uncovered earlier this year show that ICE officials, concerned about the falling numbers of criminal deportations, have directed agents to come up with methods to reverse that trend. “The only performance measure that will count this fiscal year is the criminal-alien removal target,” former assistant director of ICE field operations David Venturella wrote in an e-mail in April 2012 to agents in Atlanta. However, Vaughan said she could find no discernable uptick in criminal deportations that might have resulted from this new emphasis.
Chris Crane, who heads the union representing more than 7,000 ICE agents and officers, tells NRO that he has long been baffled by the administration’s claims of record deportation numbers. “We just don’t see it in our offices,” he says. “Every year we supposedly break the record for deportation, and we can’t figure out what’s going on. We don’t believe these numbers.” Administration officials claim to have deported 409,849 immigrants in fiscal year 2012, up from 392,000 in 2010. Crane argues that stats are being cooked to create a false impression of President Obama’s record on immigration enforcement.
“DHS and ICE are knowingly manipulating arrest and deportation data with the specific intent of misleading the American public with regard to the enforcement of illegal immigration in our country,” he told reporters Thursday at a Capitol Hill press conference. “At an alarming rate, ICE arrest and deportation numbers have plummeted since 2008, clear evidence that interior enforcement has in large part been shut down over the last four years.”
Administration lawyers did not extensively challenge Vaughan’s court testimony, other than to introduce a bar graph, based on ICE statistics, showing that convicted criminals accounted for 55 percent of all deportations in fiscal year 2012. That figure is misleadingly high, Vaughan stresses, because it includes a large number of Border Patrol removals referred to ICE. In some cases that transfer process may have led to double counting, further inflating the total number of removals, she says.
After Boston Marathon terror bombing, Obama cautions Americans not to stereotype all Muslims:
Soon after police had captureed one of the two Muslim perpetrators of an April 15, 2015 bombing on a crowded Boston street during the Boston Marathon (the other perpetrator had already been killed), Obama warned against a rush to judgment “about the motivations of these individuals” or “entire groups of people.” He continued: “One of the things that makes America the greatest nation on Earth . . . is that we welcome people from all around the world — people of every faith, every ethnicity, from every corner of the globe. So as we continue to learn more about why and how this tragedy happened, let’s make sure that we sustain that spirit.”
Obama hires numerous Clinton-era officials who caused the housing-market bust of 2008:
On April 21, 2013, Paul Sperry wrote the following in the New York Post:
In the 1990s, convinced that the US mortgage market was racist, the Clinton administration launched a massive campaign of social engineering.
Through government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, officials encouraged extending mortgages to people with little or no credit. They targeted private banks with discrimination lawsuits if they didn’t lend to enough minorities or people with low incomes. Housing prices skyrocketed as people with no down payment or shaky salaries suddenly were able to buy homes.
Then the bubble burst.
Millions were unable to pay their subprime loans, and they took the banks down with them. The housing market — and the economy — is still recovering from the folly.
Now the Obama administration wants to do it all over again.
Blithely ignoring the lessons of the housing bubble, Obama has rehired many of the Clinton hands who inflated it in the first place, pursuing the same misguided policies that try to force people into homes they can’t afford in the name of “fairness.”
“The administration is launching subprime 2.0,” warns former chief Fannie Mae credit officer Edward Pinto.
There are “affordable housing” mandates aimed at getting Fannie and Freddie to take on even higher-risk borrowers. Through the Federal Housing Administration, houses are being offered to some low-income subprime buyers with minimal down payment and heavy subsidies.
The administration also is making it easier to sue a bank for not giving a loan, using a legal strategy called “disparate impact.” Officials don’t have to prove that the bank is being racist in its actions. If minorities are getting fewer loans than whites, even if there are good financial reasons for doing so, then the impact is unfair — and illegal.
“It’s particularly galling that the people who are using the crisis to extend regulation are the same ones who sponsored the government policies that created the crisis,” said Peter Wallison, former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a government group created to look into the causes of the 2008 crash.
One banking official, ex-BB&T CEO John Allison, predicts that because of these policies, “There will be another incredibly destructive crisis in our financial system in the next 10 to 15 years.”
Here are some of the usual suspects Obama has brought back and how they’re re-inflating the bubble that ravaged our economy:
SARA PRATT: She headed enforcement at Housing and Urban Development from 1993 to 1999, during which she helped develop an interagency “Policy Statement on Fair Lending” that set “flexible” standards for qualifying low-income minorities with spotty credit.
“Applying different lending standards to applicants who are members of a protected (minority) class is permissible,” it said. “Providing different treatment to applicants to address past discrimination would be permissible.”
The policy planted the seeds of the subprime mortgage crisis. Now Pratt has resumed her role as deputy assistant HUD secretary for enforcement, and has readopted her old policy. In fact, it¹s now in force throughout the federal bank regulatory complex.
Pratt also recently formalized the use of “disparate impact” doctrine to police discrimination in housing and lending, fearing the administration would lose the powerful weapon in the Supreme Court because there wasn’t an official regulation to protect it from constitutional challenge.
HUD, Justice and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are all using this lower standard of proof as a major enforcement tool to pry open lending windows for low-income minority borrowers with weak credit at not just private mortgage originators but also Fannie and Freddie.
While Pratt concedes lenders no longer overtly discriminate against minorities, she thinks they do it in other unspecified ways. She’s so obsessed with the issue that in a book she once advised alleged victims of discrimination to sue for damages from related distress resulting from “reduction in gratification for biological activities such as eating or sexual experience.”
JOHN TRASVINA: He worked under Attorney General Janet Reno at Justice before running the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Now Trasvina is trying to end what he calls “the scourge” of lending discrimination, as HUD’s assistant secretary of fair housing.
In that role, he’s squeezed banks for millions in mortgages for alleged victims of racism, while boasting of ordering underwriting “policy changes that opened lending opportunities to thousands” more minority borrowers. He’s also referred several bank bias cases to Justice for prosecution.
SHAUN DONOVAN: As a high-level HUD aide under Clinton, Donovan contributed to the fateful decision in 2000 of requiring Fannie and Freddie to make fully half their loans to people who posed a high risk of not paying them back. He served as special assistant to HUD official William Apgar. In 2000, his boss stated: “We believe there are lot of loans to black Americans that could be safely purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if these companies were more flexible (in their lending standards).”
It was also their bright idea to have Fannie and Freddie earn credits toward that 50% affordable-housing goal by buying or issuing subprime securities on Wall Street. (Another architect of that policy was Allen Fishbein, a longtime leftwing activist who’s now a Federal Reserve regulator.) Apgar recently left the Obama administration as HUD’s senior adviser for mortgage finance to head an “affordable housing” studies program at Harvard.
Donovan now serves as secretary of housing, where media reports say he’s pushing hardest to preserve Fannie and Freddie and its “affordable housing mission.” He believes the mortgage giants facilitate “an important democratization of credit” benefiting “underserved groups.”
ELLEN SEIDMAN: Another architect of the disastrous housing policies that caused the crisis, Seidman actually encouraged subprime lending in “underserved” communities as a top Clinton bank regulator enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act. “Growth in the subprime credit market indicates that credit needs in many low- and moderate-income areas are being met,” she said in 1999.
She also cheered the relaxation of credit standards and the development of the subprime securities market.
“Without CRA as an impetus,” Seidman said, “this market would likely not have developed.”
More recently, she argued it’s “absolutely critical” Fannie and Freddie continue their support for “low-income and minority communities,” despite the mortgage giants’ central role in the crisis. Seidman serves as a director on CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board, where she’s helping rewrite the rules for home lending. CFPB recently released new mortgage rules that, despite claims of tightening standards, require no minimum credit scores or down payments and even count payments from “government assistance programs” as qualifying income.
ERIC HOLDER: As Reno’s deputy, Holder accused banks of racism for failing to market mortgages to poor minorities with weak credit. Fear of prosecution set off a stampede of risky inner-city lending that led, in part, to today’s record subprime foreclosures.
Now as Obama’s attorney general, Holder has sued the nation’s largest home lenders — including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and SunTrust Banks — to “reinvest” in minority communities devastated by those foreclosures. They’ve been told by the government they cannot reject loans to applicants on “public assistance,” and must set aside millions in “special financing programs” for African-American and Latino homebuyers.
In some cases, Justice has actually ordered banks to open new branches in depressed areas of Detroit and other cities. It also encouraged a Detroit bank to “apply more flexible underwriting standards” for minorities, while ordering a St. Louis bank to originate low-rate home loans for black borrowers who, according to a court document, “would ordinarily not qualify for such rates for reasons including the lack of required credit quality, income or down payment.”
THOMAS PEREZ: Perez served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. Now he heads the department’s civil-rights unit, where he’s investigated no fewer than 60 banks on what the banking industry complains are trumped-up charges of lending discrimination. Perez has likened bank defendants to cross-burning Klansmen and said he’s using them to “repair” and “rebuild” entire “minority communities” hurt by foreclosures.
“We will require lenders to invest in the community they’ve harmed,” Perez promised the leftist National Community Reinvestment Coalition in 2011. Added Perez: “We encourage a more holistic approach to lending that looks beyond merely credit score when determining a borrower’s ability to pay.”
Scores of risky mortgages are already being inked, restarting another cycle of risky financing. Obama is so impressed with Perez’s results, he’s promoting him to his Cabinet. Perez is up for Labor Secretary.
ERIC HALPERIN: Halperin prosecuted banks for lending discrimination as a Clinton civil-rights attorney before joining the leftist Center for Responsible Lending in the run-up to the crisis. He helped the center lobby Fannie and private lenders to relax standards for low-income urban borrowers. Now he’s back at the Justice Department prosecuting banks as Obama’s special counsel for fair lending, working under Perez.
Using his nonprofit center’s discredited statistical models for determining racial bias in lending, Halperin has accused dozens of banks of cheating minority borrowers — without controlling for credit scores and other risk factors that explain lending decisions.
GARY GENSLER: One of Obama’s top financial regulators, Gensler once bragged that thanks to subprime mortgages, banks made home loans to minorities at “twice the rate” they made to other borrowers. “A subprime loan is a good option when the alternative is no access to credit,” he said in 2000 as Clinton’s undersecretary of Treasury.
The original cast of the financial disaster are back starring in a bad sequel. So here we go again. Thanks to a failure of accountability, the same social engineers who caused the crisis have wormed their way back into power. And they’re doubling down on their monstrous mistakes, inviting another housing calamity.
Department of Agriculture advises illegal aliens that they can collect food stamps by concealing their immigration status:
On April 26, 2013, the Daily Mail reported the following:
A Spanish-language leaflet that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided to the Mexican Embassy in Washington advises border-crossing Mexicans that they can collect taxpayer-funded food stamp benefits for their children without admitting that they’re illegal immigrants.
Underlined and in boldface type, the document tells immigrants who are unlawfully in the United States that, ‘You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.’
The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, is funded in order to prevent hunger by helping poor families maintain a basic level of nutrition for both adults and children….
The Agriculture Department says SNAP benefits are only to be distributed to U.S. citizens and other legal residents. On its website, it acknowledges an education ‘partnership’ with the Mexican government, but insists that its aim is to help educate only ‘eligible Mexican nationals living in the United States’ about nutrition benefits for which they might qualify.
That education partnership is carried out through a program called ‘Ventanillas de Salud,’ meaning ‘Windows to Health,’ implemented through 50 Mexican consulates in the U.S.
Judicial Watch obtained the Spanish language leaflet through a Freedom of Information Act request. An attached email dates the document to March 2009, just months after President Barack Obama took office….
The leaflet, released late Thursday by the conservative group Judicial Watch, will raise questions about the Obama administration’s commitment to limiting the expenditure of taxpayer funds to eligible Mexican nationals – meaning those with legal permission to reside in the United States….
Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture and is responsible for the SNAP program’s operation. Last year Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions complained in writing to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack that, ‘It defies rational thinking for the United States – now dangerously $16 trillion in debt – to partner with foreign governments to help us place more foreign nationals on American welfare.’
Report That Obama’s “Green Jobs” Initiative Has Been a Massive, Expensive Failure:
On May 8, 2013, Breitbart.com reported the following:
In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised to create 5 million “green jobs” if elected president. However, an analysis by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) finds that since 2009, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) $26 billion loan program created just 2,298 permanent jobs, at a cost of $11.45 million per job created. “The losers are the American workers who would otherwise be gainfully employed but for the tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars on the administration’s obsession with ‘green energy,’” said IER Policy Associate Alex Fitzsimmons. “As the economy continues to suffer and dollars for federal programs get harder to come by, it is getting increasingly difficult to defend a program that costs so much and produces so little.”
In his New York Times bestselling book Throw Them All Out, Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer revealed that 80% of Department of Energy loans went to companies owned by or connected to President Barack Obama’s top campaign fundraisers.
IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups:
In May 2013, it was learned that from April 2010 to April 2012, the IRS had placed on hold the processing of applications for tax-exempt status received from organizations with such presumably conservative indicators as “Tea Party,” “patriots,” or “9/12” in their names, approving only four while green-lighting applications from several dozen organizations whose names included the likely left-leaning terms “progressive,” “progress,” “liberal,” or “equality.” It demanded from some conservative organizations unwieldy amounts of documentation and private information, such as what books their members were reading or what they had posted on social networking sites. The Coalition for Life of Iowa was actually asked to detail the content of their prayers at meetings. The Cincinnati office of the IRS leaked confidential donor information from some conservative applications to an investigative reporting organization. Even some conservative individuals are now alleging that they were personally targeted by the IRS for political reasons. Mark Steyn correctly labeled this abuse “a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States.”
On May 10, 2013, the Associated Press reported the following:
The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
On May 13, 2013, Jonathan Karl of ABC News reported:
The targeting of conservatives by the IRS started earlier and was more extensive than the IRS acknowledged last week, according to a draft IRS inspector general report obtained by ABC News.
… [T]he IRS began targeting “Tea Party or similar organizations” in March 2010. That was when the Cincinnati-based IRS unit responsible for overseeing the applications for tax exempt status starting using the phrases “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12″ to search for applications warranting greater scrutiny.
During this first phase, 10 Tea Party cases were identified. By April of 2010, 18 Tea Party organizations were targeted, including three that had already been approved for tax-exempt status. By June 2011, the unit had flagged over 100 Tea Party-related applications and the criteria used to scrutinize organizations had grown considerably, flagging not just “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in group names, but also groups that were working on issues like “government debt,” “taxes” and even organizations making statements that “criticize how the country is being run.”
The report, done by the Inspector General for the IRS, also shows that senior IRS officials in Washington [were] aware of what was going on as early as August 4, 2011 when, according to the report, the IRS chief counsel held a meeting with the IRS’s Rulings and Agreements unit “so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
Also on May 13, the Daily Caller reported the following:
Just months after being slimed by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, Mitt Romney supporter and businessman Frank VanderSloot was informed that he was going to be audited not only by the Internal Revenue Service, but by the Labor Department as well….
In April 2012, VanderSloot, who served as the national co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential finance committee, was one of eight Romney backers to be defamed as ”wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records” in a post on the Obama campaign’s website. The post, entitled “Behind the curtain: a brief history of Romney’s donors,” singled out VanderSloot for being a ”litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”
Two months later, the IRS informed VanderSloot he and his wife were going to be audited, [Wall Street Journal reporter Kimberly] Strassel reported. Two weeks after that, VanderSloot was notified by the Labor Department that it was going to “audit workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers,” reported Strassel.
“The H-2A program allows tens of thousands of temporary workers in the U.S.; Mr. VanderSloot employs precisely three,” Strassel wrote. “All are from Mexico and have worked on the VanderSloot ranch—which employs about 20 people—for five years. Two are brothers. Mr. VanderSloot has never been audited for this, though two years ago his workers’ ranch homes were inspected….
“This letter requests an array of documents to ascertain whether Mr. VanderSloot’s ‘foreign workers are provided the full scope of protections’ under the visa program: information on the hours they’ve worked each day and their rate of pay, an explanation of their deductions, copies of contracts,” she continued.
In her column, Strassel raised the specter that the IRS targeted VanderSloot for his political activism.
On May 13, the Daily Mail reported that in many of its audits of conservative groups, the IRS “demanded to know the names of all its financial donors and volunteers, as part of a 55-question inquisition into its application for tax-exempt status.” For example, the questionnaire wanted to know “the names of the donors, contributors, and grantors’ for every year ‘from inception to the present.” It also demanded a listing of “the amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.” “How did you use these donations, contributions, and grants?” the IRS asked. “Provide the details.” It also stated, “Please identify your volunteers.”
Added the Daily Mail: “The IRS ultimately identified approximately 300 such organizations, many of which were independently organized in 2009 and 2010 under the larger ‘tea party’ banner. Those groups had a decisive impact in the 2010 midterm congressional elections, and became a thorn in the side of the Democratic party, costing it race after race, especially in the House of Representatives, which shifted to Republican control. In the nearly three years since the IRS began looking more closely at conservative nonprofit groups than others, 125 of the 300 target organizations have been approved for tax-exempt status. Another 25 withdrew their applications. The remainder are still waiting.”
According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, during 2011 and 2012, IRS officials also “targeted nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution.” The documents showed that on June 29, 2011, IRS staffers had held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.”
Eventually, in June 2013, the Treasury Department’s inspector general revealed that just 6 progressive groups were targeted, compared to 292 conservative groups. The inspector general also said that 100 percent of Tea Party groups seeking special tax status were put under IRS review, while only 30 percent of the progressive groups were put under such review.
Justice Department Secretly Monitors Associated Press Phone Calls:
On May 13, 2013, it was learned that the Justice Department had secretly obtained the records of telephone calls that, in April and May of 2012, had been routed through more than 20 separate phone lines assigned to the Associated Press (AP); those lines had been used by over 100 AP reporters and editors.
DOJ claimed that its actions were part of an investigation into AP’s May 7, 2012 publication of a story (based on leaked, classified materials) disclosing the CIA’s infiltration of an al Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb aboard an airplane. Notably, the five reporters and an editor who had been assigned to that particular AP story were among those who had their phone records seized by DOJ.
According to strict DOJ rules, phone records from news organizations can be obtained only with a subpoena that is issued after “all reasonable attempts” have been made to get the same information from other sources (which DOJ elected not to do). Moreover, DOJ rules stipulate that the subpoena must be approved personally by the Attorney General. But at a May 14, 2013 press conference, Eric Holder said that he had recused himself from the DOJ investigation of AP, and that Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole had signed off on the subpoena. Thus, when reporters began asking Holder specific questions about the seizure of AP’s phone records, the Attorney General pleaded ignorance. “I frankly don’t have knowledge of those facts,” he contended. When Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin asked Holder why he had recused himself, the Attorney General replied: “I was interviewed as one of the people who had access to the info”—in other words, he was a potential suspect in the leak.
In a subsequent letter sent to Holder, AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt stated: “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
AP reporters were equally upset. Said one AP reporter: “We all know that confidential sourcing is the lifeblood of what we do, and people can’t come to us if they think they’re going to be compromised. It’s hard enough getting sources, now we’re afraid this is going to have a chilling effect.”
On May 16, 2013, the Washington Post broke a major story explaining the real motives behind the Justice Department’s actions. Specifically, said the Post, AP was prepared to publish its scoop about the CIA’s infiltration of the al Qaeda plot on May 2, 2012. But the CIA—particularly its deputy director, Michael J. Morell—told the news service that publishing the story at that point would compromise a “sensitive intelligence operation” with serious national-security implications. Morell said that the agency would need several more days to protect whatever it had in the works, and that AP could publish its story as soon as that had been accomplished.
Then, on May 7, 2012, CIA officials told AP that national-security concerns were “no longer an issue,” but nonetheless requested that the news agency delay publication for one more day. This was because the Obama administration was planning to announce the CIA’s successful counterterrorism operation the following morning—May 8, 2012, when the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, was slated to appear on Good Morning America. Given the fact that national security was no longer an issue, however, AP disregarded the CIA’s request and published the story on May 7. That is what prompted Eric Holder’s Justice Department to illegally procure AP’s telephone records.
On May 13, 2013, the Associated Press reported the following:
The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.
In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown, but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
In a letter of protest sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. He demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” Pruitt said.
The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
In testimony in February, CIA Director John Brennan noted that the FBI had questioned him about whether he was AP’s source, which he denied. He called the release of the information to the media about the terror plot an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”
Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.
In the letter notifying the AP, which was received Friday, the Justice Department offered no explanation for the seizure, according to Pruitt’s letter and attorneys for the AP. The records were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year although the government letter did not explain that. None of the information provided by the government to the AP suggested the actual phone conversations were monitored.
Among those whose phone numbers were obtained were five reporters and an editor who were involved in the May 7, 2012, story….
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the investigative House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on CNN, “They had an obligation to look for every other way to get it before they intruded on the freedom of the press.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said the use of subpoenas for a broad swath of records has a chilling effect both on journalists and whistleblowers who want to reveal government wrongdoing. “The attorney general must explain the Justice Department’s actions to the public so that we can make sure this kind of press intimidation does not happen again,” said Laura Murphy, the director of ACLU’s Washington legislative office.
Rules published by the Justice Department require that subpoenas of records of news organizations must be personally approved by the attorney general, but it was not known if that happened in this case. The letter notifying AP that its phone records had been obtained through subpoenas was sent Friday by Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney in Washington….
The Justice Department lays out strict rules for efforts to get phone records from news organizations. A subpoena can be considered only after “all reasonable attempts” have been made to get the same information from other sources, the rules say. It was unclear what other steps, in total, the Justice Department might have taken to get information in the case.
A subpoena to the media must be “as narrowly drawn as possible” and “should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period,” according to the rules.
The reason for these constraints, the department says, is to avoid actions that “might impair the news gathering function” because the government recognizes that “freedom of the press can be no broader than the freedom of reporters to investigate and report the news.”
News organizations normally are notified in advance that the government wants phone records and then they enter into negotiations over the desired information. In this case, however, the government, in its letter to the AP, cited an exemption to those rules that holds that prior notification can be waived if such notice, in the exemption’s wording, might “pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”
Obama Administration Was Angry at the AP not because the Story Posed a Security Threat, but because the Administration Wanted to Be the First to Break the Story:
On May 16, 2013, the Washington Post broke a major story explaining the real motives behind the Justice Department’s actions. Specifically, said the Post, AP reporters had learned in the spring of 2012 that the CIA had infiltrated the al-Qaeda branch behind the aforementioned terror plot, which centered on an attempt to detonate an “underwear bomb” aboard an American airliner, similar to the bomb that that failed to detonate on a December 25, 2009 flight to Detroit.
AP was prepared to publish its scoop on May 2, 2012, but the CIA — particularly its deputy director, Michael J. Morell — told the news service that publishing anything about the operation to thwart the plot would compromise a “sensitive intelligence operation” with serious national-security implications. According to Morell, the agency would need several more days to protect whatever it had in the works, and that AP could publish its story after that had been accomplished.
Then, on Monday, May 7, 2012, CIA officials reported that the national security concerns were “no longer an issue” but nonetheless requested that AP delay publication for one more day. This was because the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation the following day — Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Indeed, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser at the time, John Brennan, was slated to appear on Good Morning America Tuesday to trumpet the successful operation. Given the fact that national security was no longer an issue, however, AP went ahead and published the story on Monday, May 7. This is what prompted the Obama/Eric Holder Justice Department to procure AP’s telephone records.
Obama Administration Knew about the IRS Scandal in 2012:
On May 17, 2013, the New York Times reported:
The Treasury Department’s inspector general told senior Treasury officials in June 2012 he was auditing the Internal Revenue Service’s screening of politically active organizations seeking tax exemptions, disclosing for the first time on Friday that Obama administration officials were aware of the matter during the presidential campaign year.
At the first Congressional hearing into the I.R.S. scandal, J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he informed the Treasury’s general counsel of his audit on June 4, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.”
DOJ secretly targets Fox News reporters:
On May 20, 2013, it was revealed that DOJ’s efforts to intimidate the media went beyond targeting reporters and editors at the Associated Press. The Washington Post reported that DOJ had not only seized the phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen, but had used his security badge to access records tracking his movements at the State Department, traced the timing of his calls with a Department security advisor suspected of giving him classified information, and obtained a search warrant to access his personal emails.
That same day (May 20), it was reported that two more Fox News staffers — reporter William La Jeunesse and producer Mike Levine — had also been targeted by DOJ.
Rosen’s case in particular centered around his involvement with State Department advisor Steven Kim, an arms expert with security clearance. Kim is a naturalized citizen from South Korea who was indicted in 2009 for telling Rosen that the intelligence community believed that North Korea’s response to additional UN sanctions would be another test of its nuclear capabilities. Rosen published a story to that effect on June 11, 2009, noting that the CIA had received the information from sources inside North Korea.
That story was posted the same day that a top-secret report was made available to Kim and 95 other members of the intelligence community. Using the surveillance techniques described above, the FBI built a case contending that the information Rosen received had come directly from those documents, and that Kim was in violation of the Espionage Act. Yet Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to top-secret information, steal or sell documents or secrets, or collaborate with the enemy. He gave exclusive information to a reporter, a reality that occurs every day. Furthermore, according to the New York Times, four months prior to disseminating the aforementioned information to Rosen, Kim was asked by a State Department press officer to speak to Rosen about North Korea, “and the two began to talk and exchange e-mails,” the paper reported.
In building the case against Kim, DOJ — invoking a wartime law known as the Espionage Act — secretly (without notifying Rosen) issued a subpoena, personally signed by Eric Holder, to gain access to two days’ worth of Rosen’s personal emails and to all of his email exchanges with Kim. Notably, two judges initially denied DOJ’s request for approval of the subpoena; finally a third judge, Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, overturned the rulings of the first two judges and approved the subpoena.
In an affidavit, FBI agent Reginald Reyes revealed DOJ’s rationale for investigating Rosen: “From the beginning of their relationship, the Reporter [Rosen] asked, solicited and encouraged Mr. Kim to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information about the Foreign Country. The Reporter did so by employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim’s vanity and ego.” More importantly, Reyes further declared that there was evidence that Rosen had broken the law “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.”
The fact that Holder personally signed off on the subpoena involving Rosen is highly significant, because on May 15, 2013, the Attorney General had testified, under oath, to the House Judiciary Committee: “With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.” But that is precisely what the government was trying to do in the Rosen case; i.e., the FBI alleged that there was “probable cause to believe” that Rosen was a “co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor … committing the criminal offense…”
The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald explained the implications of the DOJ targeting Rosen:
“Under U.S. law, it is not illegal to publish classified information. That fact, along with the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedoms, is what has prevented the U.S. government from ever prosecuting journalists for reporting on what the U.S. government does in secret. This newfound theory of the Obama DOJ — that a journalist can be guilty of crimes for ‘soliciting’ the disclosure of classified information — is a means for circumventing those safeguards and criminalizing the act of investigative journalism itself.”
Fox News’ Brit Hume echoed that assessment. “The Obama-Holder Justice Department is now prepared to treat the ordinary newsgathering actives of reporters to seek information from government officials as a possible crime,” he warned.
On May 21, 2013 — the day after the revelations about DOJ’s targeting of Rosen, La Jeunesse, and Levine were made public — it was learned that according to documents from October 2011, the Justice Department had seized phone records associated with several Fox News lines as part of a leak investigation. The documents showed exchanges matching the specific locations of Fox News’ operations at the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and elsewhere.
Obama appointees illegally use secret government email accounts:
On June 4, 2013, the Associated Press reported the following:
Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the Cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press.
The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.
The AP asked for the addresses following last year’s disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged — but often happens anyway — due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.
The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.
“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group. “Who’s going to know to search the other accounts? You would hope that agencies doing this would keep a list of aliases in a desk drawer, but you know that isn’t happening.”
Agencies where the AP so far has identified secret addresses, including the Labor Department and HHS, said maintaining non-public email accounts allows senior officials to keep separate their internal messages with agency employees from emails they exchange with the public. They also said public and non-public accounts are always searched in response to official requests and the records are provided as necessary.
The AP couldn’t independently verify the practice. It searched hundreds of pages of government emails previously released under the open records law and found only one instance of a published email with a secret address: an email from Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio to 34 coworkers in 2010 was turned over to an advocacy group, Americans for Limited Government. It included as one recipient the non-public address for Seth D. Harris, currently the acting labor secretary, who maintains at least three separate email accounts.
Google can’t find any reference on the Internet to the secret address for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Congressional oversight committees told the AP they were unfamiliar with the non-public government addresses identified so far by the AP.
Ten agencies have not yet turned over lists of email addresses, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Pentagon; and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture. All have said they are working on a response to the AP.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined to comment.
A Treasury Department spokeswoman, Marissa Hopkins Secreto, referred inquiries to the agency’s FOIA office, which said its technology department was still searching for the email addresses. Other departments, including Homeland Security, did not respond to questions from the AP about the delays of nearly three months. The Pentagon said it may have an answer by later this summer.
The Health and Human Services Department initially turned over to the AP the email addresses for roughly 240 appointees — except none of the email accounts for Sebelius, even one for her already published on its website. After the AP objected, it turned over three of Sebelius’ email addresses, including a secret one. It asked the AP not to publish the address, which it said she used to conduct day-to-day business at the department. Most of the 240 political appointees at HHS appeared to be using only public government accounts.
The AP decided to publish the secret address for Sebelius — KGS2(at)hhs.gov — over the government’s objections because the secretary is a high-ranking civil servant who oversees not only major agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but also the implementation of Obama’s signature health care law. …
At least two other senior HHS officials — including Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Gary Cohen, a deputy administrator in charge of implementing health insurance reform — also have secret government email addresses, according to the records obtained by the AP.
The Interior Department gave the AP a list of about 100 government email addresses for political appointees who work there but none for the interior secretary at the time, Ken Salazar, who has since resigned. Spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said Salazar maintained only one email address while serving as secretary but she would not disclose it. She said the AP should ask for it under the Freedom of Information Act, which would take months longer.
The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay just over $1.03 million when the AP asked for email addresses of political appointees there. It said it needed pull 2,236 computer backup tapes from its archives and pay 50 people to pore over old records. Those costs included three weeks to identify tapes and ship them to a vendor, and pay each person $2,500 for nearly a month’s work. But under the department’s own FOIA rules — which it cited in its letter to the AP — it is prohibited from charging news organizations any costs except for photocopies after the first 100 pages. The department said it would take 14 weeks to find the emails if the AP had paid the money.
Fillichio later acknowledged that the $1.03 million bill was a mistake and provided the AP with email addresses for the agency’s Senate-confirmed appointees, including three addresses for Harris, the acting secretary. His secret address was harris.sd(at)dol.gov. His other accounts were one for use with labor employees and the public, and another to send mass emails to the entire Labor Department, outside groups and the public. The Labor Department said it did not object to the AP publishing any of Harris’ email addresses.
In addition to the email addresses, the AP also sought records government-wide about decisions to create separate email accounts. But the FOIA director at HHS, Robert Eckert, said the agency couldn’t provide such emails without undergoing “an extensive and elongated department-wide search.” He also said there were “no mechanisms in place to determine if such requests for the creation of secondary email accounts were submitted by the approximately 242 political appointees within HHS.”
Late last year, the EPA’s critics — including Republicans in Congress — accused former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson of using an email account under the name “Richard Windsor” to sidestep disclosure rules. The EPA said emails Jackson sent using her Windsor alias were turned over under open records requests. The agency’s inspector general is investigating the use of such accounts, after being asked to do so by Congress.
An EPA spokeswoman described Jackson’s alternate email address as “an everyday, working email account of the administrator to communicate with staff and other government officials.” It was later determined that Jackson also used the email address to correspond sometimes with environmentalists outside government and at least in some cases did not correct a misperception among outsiders they were corresponding with a government employee named Richard Windsor. …
The EPA’s secret email accounts were revealed last fall by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank that was tipped off about Jackson’s alias by an insider and later noticed it in documents it obtained the FOIA. The EPA said its policy was to disclose in such documents that “Richard Windsor” was actually the EPA administrator.
Courts have consistently set a high bar for the government to withhold public officials’ records under the federal privacy rules. A federal judge, Marilyn Hall Patel of California, said in August 2010 that “persons who have placed themselves in the public light” — such as through politics or voluntarily participation in the public arena — have a “significantly diminished privacy interest than others.” Her ruling was part of a case in which a journalist sought FBI records, but was denied.
“We’re talking about an email address, and an email address given to an individual by the government to conduct official business is not private,” said Aaron Mackey, a FOIA attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He said that’s different than, for example, confidential information, such as a Social Security number.
Under the law, citizens and foreigners may use the FOIA to compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.
Obama pledged during his first week in office to make government more transparent and open. The nation’s signature open-records law, he said in a memo to his Cabinet, would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”
Obama administration secretly traces records of Verizon calls:
On June 6, 2013, the New York Times reported:
The Obama administration is secretly carrying out a domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting business communications records involving Americans under a hotly debated section of the Patriot Act, according to a highly classified court order disclosed on Wednesday night.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The order does not apply to the content of the communications.
Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers for corporations. It is not clear whether similar orders have gone to other parts of Verizon, like its residential or cellphone services, or to other telecommunications carriers. The order prohibits its recipient from discussing its existence, and representatives of both Verizon and AT&T declined to comment Wednesday evening.
The four-page order was disclosed Wednesday evening by the newspaper The Guardian. Obama administration officials at the F.B.I. and the White House also declined to comment on it Wednesday evening, but did not deny the report, and a person familiar with the order confirmed its authenticity. “We will respond as soon as we can,” said Marci Green Miller, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
The order was sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that regulates domestic surveillance for national security purposes, that allows the government to secretly obtain “tangible things” like a business’s customer records. The provision was expanded by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which Congress enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The order was marked “TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN,” referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration’s aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks.
The collection of call logs is set to expire in July unless the court extends it.
The collection of communications logs — or calling “metadata” — is believed to be a major component of the Bush administration’s program of surveillance that took place without court orders. The newly disclosed order raised the question of whether the government continued that type of information collection by bringing it under the Patriot Act.
The disclosure late Wednesday seemed likely to inspire further controversy over the scope of government surveillance. Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group, said that “absent some explanation I haven’t thought of, this looks like the largest assault on privacy since the N.S.A. wiretapped Americans in clear violation of the law” under the Bush administration. “On what possible basis has the government refused to tell us that it believes that the law authorizes this kind of request?” she said.
For several years, two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have been cryptically warning that the government was interpreting its surveillance powers under that section of the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming to the public if it knew about it.
“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
They added: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”
A spokesman for Senator Wyden did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the Verizon order.
The senators were angry because the Obama administration described Section 215 orders as being similar to a grand jury subpoena for obtaining business records, like a suspect’s hotel or credit card records, in the course of an ordinary criminal investigation. The senators said the secret interpretation of the law was nothing like that.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act made it easier to get an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain business records so long as they were merely deemed “relevant” to a national-security investigation.
The Justice Department has denied being misleading about the Patriot Act. Department officials have acknowledged since 2009 that a secret, sensitive intelligence program is based on the law and have insisted that their statements about the matter have been accurate.
The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2011 for a report describing the government’s interpretation of its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act. But the Obama administration withheld the report, and a judge dismissed the case.
Also on June 6, 2013, the Associated Press reported the story this way:
The National Security Agency has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, the newspaper reported Wednesday. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.
The newspaper said the document, a copy of which it had obtained, shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens were being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrongdoing.
The Associated Press could not authenticate the order because documents from the court are classified.
Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said Wednesday the company had no comment. The White House declined comment and referred questions to the NSA. The NSA had no immediate comment.
Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) listed 121 million customers in its first-quarter earnings report this April – 98.9 million wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phone lines and about 10 million commercial lines. The court order didn’t specify which type of phone customers’ records were being tracked.
Under the terms of the order, the phone numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as are location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, The Guardian said.
The broad, unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is unusual. FISA court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. NSA warrantless wiretapping during the George W. Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks was very controversial.
The FISA court order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compelled Verizon to provide the NSA with electronic copies of “all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” The Guardian said.
The law on which the order explicitly relies is the “business records” provision of the USA Patriot Act.
Forbes magazine offered this synopsis of the phone surveillance:
The National Security Agency has long justified its spying powers by arguing that its charter allows surveillance on those outside of the United States, while avoiding intrusions into the private communications of American citizens. But the latest revelation of the extent of the NSA’s surveillance shows that it has focused specifically on Americans, to the degree that its data collection has in at least one major spying incident explicitly excluded those outside the United States.
In a top secret order obtained by the Guardian newspaper and published Wednesday evening, the FBI on the NSA’s behalf demanded that Verizon turn over all metadata for phone records originating in the United States for the three months beginning in late April and ending on the 19th of July. That metadata includes all so-called “non-content” data for millions of American customers’ phone calls, such as the subscriber data, recipients, locations, times and durations of every call made during that period.
Aside from the sheer scope of that surveillance order, reminiscent of the warrantless wiretapping scandal under the Bush administration, the other shocking aspect of the order its target: The order specifically states that only data regarding calls originating in America are to be handed over, not those between foreigners.
“It is hereby ordered that [Verizon Business Network Services’] Custodian of Records shall produce to the National Security Agency…all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” the Guardian’s copy of the order reads. “This Order does not require Verizon to include telephony metadata for communications wholly originating and terminating in foreign countries.”
Though the classified, top secret order comes from the FBI, it clearly states that the data is to be given to the NSA. That means the leaked document may serve as one of the first concrete pieces of evidence that the NSA’s spying goes beyond foreigners to include Americans, despite its charter specifically disallowing surveillance of those within the United States.
“In many ways it’s even more troubling than [Bush era] warrantless wiretapping, in part because the program is purely domestic,” says Alex Abdo, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.”But this is also an indiscriminate dragnet. Say what you will about warrantless wiretapping, at least it was targeted at agents of Al Qaeda. This includes every customer of Verizon Business Services.”
The leaked document, in fact, is labelled as an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a body whose powers were created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and then broadened after the September 11th, 2001 attacks, with the purpose of intercepting communications between foreign agents and those between enemies abroad and their agents within the U.S. Similarly, the NSA’s charter states that it focuses on interception and analysis of foreign communications, not those within the United States.
But the Verizon order seems to show that the NSA, using FISA, has specifically gathered communications data that both begins and ends with Americans. That domestic surveillance may be allowed under FISA’s low standard for the “relevance” of the data demanded from Internet companies and telephone carriers in the investigations of foreigners, says Julian Sanchez, a research fellow with the CATO Institute focused on privacy and civil liberties. ”The overall purpose of this program is to identify foreign terrorists,” says Julian Sanchez. “But in fact it extends well beyond whether the individual you’re investigating is foreign. If you think an American citizens’s email has information about what a foreign power or individual is doing, that’s ‘relevant.’ The purpose of the investigation is not a constraint on the target or the people from whom the information is sought.”
“If they data mine huge blocks of call records, they’re getting lots of innocent Americans’ data,” adds Sanchez, “But the argument, I imagine, is ‘we’re doing data mining to look for suspicious patterns to help us identify foreign terrorists.’”
My colleague Kashmir Hill has contacted the NSA and Verizon for comment, and I’ll update this post if we hear back from either of the two. Update: Verizon has declined to comment.
In fact, the Verizon order may be just a glimpse of a much larger surveillance program. It’s unclear whether other carriers, not to mention Internet giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook, have been caught up in similar domestic surveillance, or how long that surveillance has been taking place. But as the Guardian notes, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have issued cryptic warnings for the last two years that the Obama administration has engaged in widespread surveillance of Americans.
Other phone carriers including AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all responded to a congressional inquiry on government surveillance last year, stating that they had turned over hundreds of thousands of users’ records to law enforcement agencies, though that inquiry didn’t focus on intelligence agency requests.
In a congressional hearing in March of last year, the NSA’s Director Keith Alexander responded to questions from Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, who brought up allegations of the NSA’s domestic spying made in a Wired magazine article earlier that month, denying fourteen times that the NSA intercepted Americans’ communications.
“What judicial consent is required for NSA to intercept communications and information involving American citizens?” Johnson asked at the time.
“Within the United States, that would be the FBI lead,” responded Alexander. “If it were a foreign actor in the United States, the FBI would still have to lead. It could work that with NSA or other intelligence agencies as authorized. But to conduct that kind of collection in the United States it would have to go through a court order, and the court would have to authorize it. We’re not authorized to do it, nor do we do it.”
In light of this latest leak and the surveillance it’s exposed, the NSA may have some more explaining to do.
U.S. & British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program:
On June 6, 2013, the Washington Post reported:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
London’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.
PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.
Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.
In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.
In a statement issue late Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”
Clapper added that there were numerous inaccuracies in reports about PRISM by The Post and the Guardian newspaper, but he did not specify any. …
Obama “strongly objects” to Religious Liberty Amendment:
On June 13, 2013, Fox News reported:
The Obama Administration “strongly objects” to a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday that would have protected the religious rights of soldiers – including evangelical Christian service members who are facing growing hostility towards their religion.
The amendment was authored by Rep. John Fleming, R-La. It would have “required the Armed Forces to accommodate ‘actions and speech’ reflecting the conscience, moral, principles or religious beliefs of the member.”
The Obama Administration said the amendment would have a “significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.”
“With its statement, the White House is now endorsing military reprimands of members who keep a Bible on their desk or express a religious belief,” Fleming told Fox News. “This administration is aggressively hostile towards religious beliefs that it deems to be politically incorrect.”
Fleming introduced the amendment after a series of high-profile incidents involving attacks on religious liberty within the military — including an Air Force officer who was told to remove a Bible from his desk because it might give the impression he was endorsing a religion.
He said there are other reports of Christian service members and chaplains being punished for their faith.
The Air Force censored a video created by a chaplain because it included the word “God.” The Air Force feared the word might offend Muslims and atheists:
* A service member received a “severe and possibly career-ending reprimand” for expressing his faith’s religious position about homosexuality in a personal religious blog.
* A senior military official at Fort Campbell sent out a lengthy email officially instructing officers to recognize “the religious right in America” as a “domestic hate group” akin to the KKK and Neo-Nazis because of its opposition to homosexual behavior.
* A chaplain was relieved of his command over a military chapel because, consistent with [the Defense of Marriage Act’s] definition of marriage, he could not allow same-sex weddings to take place in the chapel.
Last month Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee told a National Day of Prayer audience that religious liberty was being threatened by Pentagon lawyers and service members are being told to hide their faith in Christ. “Leaders like myself are feeling the constraints of rules and regulations and guidance issued by lawyers that put us in a tighter and tighter box regarding our constitutional right to express our religious faith,” he said.
Fleming said the purpose of his amendment is to clarify ambiguities in the Pentagon’s policies. “The bottom line is the military is bending over backwards to remove – even in the case of chaplains – expressions of faith and conscience,” Fleming said.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the Obama Administration’s edict a “chilling suppression of religious freedom.” “The Obama administration has joined forces with those who are attacking the religious freedoms of those who serve in our Armed Services,” Perkins said. “The Administration’s opposition to Rep. Fleming’s religious freedom amendment reveals that this administration has gone beyond accommodating the anti-Christian activists who want to remove any vestige of Christianity from the military, to aiding them by blocking this bipartisan measure.”
Using ObamaCare to Create a Permanent Democratic Majority:
On June 19, 2013, Betsy McCaughey wrote:
If you have to keep it a secret, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
But the California legislature and the new Covered California health insurance exchange are conspiring to keep secret how they will dole out more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars to contractors. The lion’s share of the money is going for what the exchange budget terms “outreach.”
In truth, the money is going to build Democratic Party enrollment.
The Obama administration granted a whopping $910 million to California to set up its insurance exchange. That money is not for bandages, surgery, nurses and doctors to care for the sick. Nor is it for insurance plans, though $910 million could buy generous coverage for at least 113,000 people!
Shockingly, the $910 million is slated for bureaucracy, including rich compensation packages for exchange employees ($360,000 a year for the executive director) and contracts for computer equipment, public relations and “outreach.”
Outreach is the largest expenditure and where the real monkey business occurs.
Amazingly, California legislators passed a law that the exchange could keep secret for a year who received the contracts and indefinitely how much they were paid. California’s open-records laws would otherwise prohibit such secrecy.
Last week, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and four other Republican senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee called for an investigation of California’s concealing information on contracts awarded using federal taxpayer money.
What is known so far suggests that California politicians are exploiting health reform to enroll millions of the uninsured in the Democratic Party and fill the coffers of left-wing interest groups with taxpayer money.
Here are the facts to back up that cynical picture:
California lawmakers passed a law (Senate Bill 35) requiring that voter registration be part of the health insurance exchange.
Last month, Covered California announced $37 million in grants to 48 organizations to build public awareness about the opening of the health exchange on Oct. 1.
Of the 48 organizations that got grants, only a handful are health-care related. The California NAACP received $600,000 to do door-to-door canvassing and presentations at community organizations.
Service Employees International Union, which says its mission is “economic justice,” received two grants totaling $2 million to make phone calls, robo-calls and go door to door.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO got $1 million for door-to-door, one-on-one education and social networking. It describes its role as “engaging in both organizing and political campaigns, electing pro-union and pro-worker candidates.”
Community Health Councils, a California organization with a long history of political activism against fracking, for-profit hospitals, state budget cuts and oil exploration, got $1 million to conduct presentations at community and neighborhood meetings and one-to-one sessions.
These organizations, closely allied with the Democratic Party, are being funded by your tax dollars to conduct “outreach,” meaning the kind of phone banking and door-to-door canvassing that activists do to turn out the vote. They will turn out the uninsured to enroll on the exchanges and in the Democratic Party.
The $37 million awarded last month is only the first installment of California’s $190.4 million to be spent on contracts for “outreach” through December 2014.
In addition to outreach, California’s actual enrollment process is also outsourced to employees of community organizations, unions and health clinics. These enrollment “assisters” will be paid $58 for each enrollee they sign up. An additional $49 million is budgeted to pay them the first year, but in future years, assisters will be paid out of the premiums collected by the exchange.
The template is repeated in every state. The Obama health law creates a permanent stream of funding for unions and community activists by outsourcing insurance enrollment to them.
Assisters will also guide the uninsured to sign up for whatever non-health social services they may be eligible for, including welfare, food stamps and housing assistance, according to the manual prepared by the Community Health Councils for California’s implementation.
Anyone who remembers the days of James Curley, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall gets the picture. If you were poor or a newcomer to this country, you went to the local ward boss and got whatever you needed in exchange for your vote.
The difference is that back then, politics was local. Now the Obama health law is institutionalizing this corrupt style of politics across the country. Whether you live in California or New York, local community activists and unions will be recruiting people to enroll in ObamaCare and sign up to be part of the permanent, beholden Democratic voting majority.
On November 1, 2013, Arnold Ahlert explored this aspect of Obamacare as well:
While many Americans remain focused on the ominous implications of ObamaCare with regard to health insurance or the faulty website, a far more serious issue remains under the radar. On Wednesday, two national election watchdog groups alleged that ObamaCare is really a massive voter registration vehicle masquerading as a healthcare bill. Gregg Phillips, the founder of the election integrity group Voters Trust takes it one step further. “I think [it] is the biggest voter registration fraud scheme in the history of the world,” he told Breitbart News.
Phillips, along with Catherine Engelbrecht of True The Vote, cited a report published by Demos, an organization founded by left-wing activist billionaire George Soros. “Building a Healthy Democracy: Registering 68 Million People to Vote Through Health Benefit Exchanges,” couches this effort in noble terms, contending that “the freedom to vote must be fiercely protected for all citizens, regardless of class or privilege.” Yet the report focuses on the problems encountered by lower-income Americans who register and vote in far lower percentages than those earning more than $100,000 per year. Report author Lisa J. Danetz notes that of the approximately 68 million individuals she envisions being registered by the law, most of them will be low-income individuals “who will eventually enroll in subsidized health care under the law.”
Democrats enjoy a huge political advantage with regard to low-income, largely uninsured Americans. A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken last summer reveals that uninsured Americans favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 62 to 27 percent. Among insured Americans, Obama’s edge was only eight points. Part of the political divide is explained by the fact that Hispanics and black Americans comprise half the nation’s uninsured citizens. Thus, any surge in voter registration facilitated by ObamaCare will undoubtedly favor Democrats.
The ability to use the healthcare bill to register voters comes courtesy of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), aka the “Motor Voter” law, passed in 1993. The NVRA requires programs offering public assistance benefits to offer individuals voter registration opportunities. The healthcare exchanges qualify in that regard, according to the administration.
What raises suspicions about the voter registration effort is the location of the question within the online form for ObamaCare registration. It appears on page 59 of the 61-page application, following numerous questions about an individual’s identity and healthcare qualifications. Critics contend the set-up may lead some people to conclude that registering to vote is required to receive healthcare insurance. Their argument is buttressed by introduction contained in the form. “This document (the “questionnaire”) represents each possible item that may need to be asked for successful eligibility determinations,” it states.
Last March, House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany Jr. (R-LA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius contending her agency had overstepped its bounds. ”The draft documents wander into areas outside the department’s purview and links applications for health insurance subsidies to voter registration,” he wrote. “The position of the question could lead some to think voter registration is somehow tied to subsidy eligibility,” he added.
Boustany’s chief concerns revolved around what the HHS planned to do with the information it receives from each applicant, and whether ObamaCare “navigators,” many of whom are drawn from left-wing groups such as ACORN, Planned Parenthood, the National Urban League, United Labor Unions, Organizing For America (OFA) and the Virginia Poverty Law Center will steer their clients to the Democrat party.
Engelbrecht and Phillips share those concerns, believing the data collected by HHS will be used by those activist groups to conduct what amounts to a taxpayer subsidized, get-out-the-vote effort for the Democrat Party. Phillips further contends a similar effort was conducted during the early years of the Clinton administration. Engelbrecht agrees, noting that the Motor Voter law “was among the first bills signed by Bill Clinton.” Both believe ObamaCare is little more than a healthcare bill masquerading as a giant voter registration scheme.
“That’s why the exchanges seem now to be so ill-conceived; they weren’t meant to be the focus,” said Engelbrecht. ”The administration put their time and energy and effort into developing pipes into 50 states so that they could funnel through Medicaid enrollees and voter registrations. That’s what this is about. That’s the game. As part of that strategy, we’ll have millions of new voters by virtue of the new Medicaid patients that are flooding in.”
Medicaid patients are apparently the key. Phillips agrees they are coming into the healthcare system in huge numbers. “You’ve got every state all over the country seeing these cases,” he notes, further explaining that income verification is not required for submissions. Income verification for ObamaCare applicants was ostensibly the only concession won by the Republicans during the government shut down. But the Washington Post reveals the ultimate version of that concession was watered down to the point of meaninglessness when Obama signed off on the deal that re-opened the federal government.
Thus the possibility of fraud is very real, as many Americans will likely under-report their income in in exchange for greater insurance subsidies.
Unfortunately, that may be the lesser of two evils. The healthcare bill specifies that when low-income enrollees enter an exchange and qualify for insurance subsidies, they are automatically registered to vote, especially if they qualify for the Medicaid part of the program. Like Rep. Boustany, Engelbrecht believes the automatic opt-in, which marks a change from the method employed by the Motor Voter law, is a ploy and that very few applicants would resist ”upsetting the apple cart” by opting out. “Most people will just do what they think the government wants them to do,” she contends. “What they want is free healthcare.”
And since the NVRA requires any agency registering people to vote to provide help to those people if they want it, the aforementioned leftist-dominated ObamaCare navigators can visit people’s homes to help them sign up for insurance and register to vote.
Automatic voter registration is a critical component of this effort. Unless applicants specify they would like to opt-out of voter registration, states will likely be inundated with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of computer-generated applications. As a result of this deluge, the approval standards for those applications will likely become far less stringent than they should be. Once a state approves an application, it automatically mails out a voter registration card. Whoever receives it can simply sign it, mail it back to authorities, and be registered to vote–absent any face-to-face interaction with any state official.
Yet the NVRA requires “Face to Face” Initial Applications. So how is the Obama administration getting around that requirement? According to Phillips, the administration is contending that a visit to the healthcare.gov website is tantamount to a physical appearance at a government office! Phillips notes the absurdity of such a contention. “The very idea that I get to open up my website and call that my office, does that mean al Qaeda on their 5,000 websites, that those are their offices? Of course not. It’s ridiculous,” he explains.
In other words, it would appear the rule of law is being kicked to the curb. As of now, the administration is getting away with it.
Their triumph might be short-lived. Conservative legal scholars argue that the exchanges operate as private insurance marketplaces. Thus, they don’t fall under the NVRA’s definition of social service providers, and shouldn’t be linked to voter registration. Furthermore, the exchanges differ from state to state, with some operating as nonprofits, while other emanate from a state’s health or human services agency. And in most states the federal government runs the exchanges. ”It’s going to depend on how much it looks like traditional public assistance,” said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University. “It’s quite likely that it will play out in court, and quite frankly it should.”
Until it does, the administration is moving forward, and voter rights activists will continue to insist this is not a partisan-based effort. ”Those new voters could be up for grabs by all parties,” said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “I think it’s very unreasonable to assume someone voting for the first time is necessarily going to be voting one way or the other.”
Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh argues otherwise. “Remember when we first learned who was getting money to set up exchanges in California?” Limbaugh asked his listeners. “The SEIU covered California; it was a bunch of left-wing activists. And the NAACP. And from that universe of people, the navigators are hired. What do you think is really going on? Voter registration. In addition to you going to get your healthcare, there is obviously massive Democrat voter registration going on at these exchanges.”
Who’s right? Americans should ask themselves if the Obama administration would be gung-ho about registering low-income voters using navigators for whom there are no federal background checks, if they thought there was even the remotest chance that “new voters could be up for grabs by all parties.”
In speech about climate change, Obama characterizes those who disagree with him as people who believe in a “flat earth”:
On June 25, 2013, President Obama went to Georgetwn University to deliver a major policy speech on climate change. NBC News reported the following:
President Barack Obama laid out a far-reaching set of proposals meant to address the driving causes of climate change … The president outlined a series of climate proposals he intended to advance through executive action, sidestepping [Congress].
“The question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements, has put all that to rest,” Obama said. […] “So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
He later added, addressing those who deny climate change science: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-earth society.”
To that end, Obama issued a presidential directive to the Environmental Protection Agency to begin drafting new rules governing carbon emissions from power plants. “I’m directing the [EPA] to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants,” he said.
And, as his State Department comes under pressure from Republicans, business groups and organized labor alike to approve the proposed trans-national Keystone XL oil pipeline, Obama said that project must be determined to not negatively affect the environment before it can move forward. “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” he said, explaining that “the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward.” …
Obama called climate change “a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now.”
Obama disapproves of Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act:
On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled (in a 5-4 vote) that the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that mainly Southern states must undergo special federal scrutiny before being permitted to change their voting laws — e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements — was based on an outdated formula that was no longer relevant to changing racial circumstances.
Obama reacted to the decision by saying:
“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today. For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans. Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.
“As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists. And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination. I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls. My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”
Obama Mandates Diversity in Housing Nationwide:
On July 23, 2013, Fox News reported:
The federal government is getting serious about pushing racial and ethnic diversity into America’s neighborhoods–and is using big data and big money to achieve its aims.
A new interactive database will help regulators, local housing officials and individuals take action on a newly proposed regulation that would require agencies to “affirmatively further” the inclusion of minority residents in white neighborhoods.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the database and regulation at last week’s NAACP convention, saying the Obama administration was battling “a quieter form of discrimination” that was “just as harmful” as long-outlawed segregationist practices, like racially restrictive property covenants.
The problem now, Donovan said, is that prospective minority buyers are not being encouraged to move into predominantly white neighborhoods with top-notch schools, government services and amenities like grocery stories, etc.
The goal here then is to continue to prosecute at a high rate incidences deemed proactively segregationist – Donovan touted 25,000 individuals in the past 3 years being paid damages under cases reported to the agency or independently investigated by HUD – but to add in a mandate for diversifying neighborhoods.
The old way was to punish exclusion. The new way is to punish lack of inclusion.
The punishment is also different. Rather than fines and prosecutions for those who sought to keep minorities out, the new penalty would be a withholding of federal funds from local and state government agencies dependent on HUD grants if they fail to push greater diversity. The way those agencies interact with developers, realtors, homeowners associations and others would need to reflect the federal push for diversity.
The report card comes in the form of the new maps, which use Census data to score communities on their racial and ethnic concentrations, as well as income and community services. Check out the Atlanta suburbs. South of Dekalb Avenue, the dots are mostly green – black residents – and north of Dekalb Avenue, the dots are mostly blue – white residents.
HUD wants a more even distribution of blue and green dots in the city and if you are planning a new subdivision or a realtor looking to sign potential buyers up for FHA loans, the dot distribution is something the Obama administration wants you to be mindful of. And your local zoning board, county commission or state real estate licensing bureau ought to be mindful too, since their funding could depend on it.
Obama unilaterally amends Healthcare Law and stipulates that taxpayers must subsize the healthcare cost of Members of Congress and their aides
On August 1, 2013, Politico reported:
The Office of Personnel Management [OPM], under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue a ruling that says the government can continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of members of Congress and their aides, according to several Hill sources.
Just Wednesday, POLITICO reported that President Barack Obama told Democratic senators that he was personally involved in finding a solution.
The problem was rooted in the original text of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) inserted a provision which said members of Congress and their aides must be covered by plans “created” by the law or “offered through an exchange.” Until now, OPM had not said if the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program could contribute premium payments toward plans on the exchange. If payments stopped, lawmakers and aides would have faced thousands of dollars in additional premium payments each year. Under the old system, the government contributed nearly 75 percent of premium payments.
Obama’s involvement in solving this impasse was unusual, to say the least. But it came after serious griping from both sides of the aisle about the potential of a “brain drain.” The fear, as told by sources in both parties, was that aides would head for more lucrative jobs, spooked by the potential for spiking health premiums.
Obama Administration leaks specific information about an intercepted conference call involving 22 al Qaeda leaders
In early August 2013, the Obama adminisration issued a high-urgency terror alert and swiftly closed U.S. embassies in 22 countries throughout the Middle East. The alert was based on an intercepted conference call involving more than 20 al Qaeda operatives around the world. The Daily Beast reported:
The crucial intercept that prompted the U.S. government to close embassies in 22 countries was a conference call between al Qaeda’s senior leaders and representatives of several of the group’s affiliates throughout the region.
The intercept provided the U.S. intelligence community with a rare glimpse into how al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, manages a global organization that includes affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and southwest and southeast Asia.
Several news outlets reported Monday on an intercepted communication last week between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of al Qaeda’s affiliate based in Yemen. But The Daily Beast has learned that the discussion between the two al Qaeda leaders happened in a conference call that included the leaders or representatives of the top leadership of al Qaeda and its affiliates calling in from different locations, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. All told, said one U.S. intelligence official, more than 20 al Qaeda operatives were on the call.
To be sure, the CIA had been tracking the threat posed by Wuhayshi for months. An earlier communication between Zawahiri and Wuhayshi delivered through a courier was picked up last month, according to three U.S. intelligence officials. But the conference call provided a new sense of urgency for the U.S. government, the sources said.
Al Qaeda members included representatives or leaders from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and more obscure al Qaeda affiliates such as the Uzbekistan branch. Also on the call were representatives of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The presence of aspiring al Qaeda affiliates operating in the Sinai was one reason the State Department closed the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, according to one U.S. intelligence official. “These guys already proved they could hit Eilat. It’s not out of the range of possibilities that they could hit us in Tel Aviv,” the official said.
Al Qaeda leaders had assumed the conference calls, which give Zawahiri the ability to manage his organization from a remote location, were secure. But leaks about the original intercepts have likely exposed the operation that allowed the U.S. intelligence community to listen in on the al Qaeda board meetings.
Obama cancels summit with Putin
On August 7, 2013, President Obama abruptly cancelled an upcoming summit he was scheduled to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The cancellation was in protest over Putin’s decision to grant — over strong U.S. objections — asylum to Edward Snowden, a computer specialist for the CIA and NSA who had recently fled the U.S. and then illegally leaked large amounts of classified information about massive American surveillance programs. The Washington Post reported:
Obama had planned to visit Moscow for a symbolic one-on-one meeting at the Kremlin with Putin ahead of next month’s Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. In unusually blunt terms, the White House announced Wednesday that Obama will skip the Moscow stop because there is too little hope of a productive meeting.
“Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia summit in early September,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
With that announcement, Obama effectively wrote off more than a year of effort to build cooperation with Putin, a shrewd but famously irascible politician with a deep suspicion of U.S. motives.
Gone, too, are most of the administration’s first-term hopes of a remade U.S.-Russian partnership — the so-called reset — that emphasized common approaches to global problems despite acknowledged policy differences.
On Tuesday [August 6], Obama told Jay Leno of “The Tonight Show” that he is frustrated by Russia’s protection of Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who is wanted on espionage charges after leaking to the media highly classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden last week was granted temporary asylum in Russia for up to a year.
“There are times when they slip back into Cold War thinking and Cold War mentality,” Obama said. “What I continually say to them and to President Putin: That’s the past.”
Obama administration using housing department in effort to diversify neighborhoods
On August 8, 2013, Fox News reported:
In a move some claim is tantamount to social engineering, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is imposing a new rule that would allow the feds to track diversity in America’s neighborhoods and then push policies to change those it deems discriminatory.
The policy is called, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.” It will require HUD to gather data on segregation and discrimination in every single neighborhood and try to remedy it.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled the federal rule at the NAACP convention in July.
“Unfortunately, in too many of our hardest hit communities, no matter how hard a child or her parents work, the life chances of that child, even her lifespan, is determined by the zip code she grows up in. This is simply wrong,” he said.
Data from this discrimination database would be used with zoning laws, housing finance policy, infrastructure planning and transportation to alleviate alleged discrimination and segregation.
Specifics of the proposed rule are lacking. Now published in the Federal Register and undergoing a 60-day comment period, the rule, “does not prescribe or enforce specific” policies.
But one critic says it smacks of utopian idealism. “This is just the latest of a series of attempts by HUD to social engineer the American people,” said Ed Pinto, of the American Enterprise Institute. “It started with public housing and urban renewal, which failed spectacularly back in the 50’s and 60’s. They tried it again in the 90’s when they wanted to transform house finance, do away with down payments, and the result was millions of foreclosures and financial collapse.”
How Obama Has Usurped the Power of Congress by Ruling in a Manner that is Unconstitutional
On August 15, 2013, political analyst Charles Krauthammer wrote the following:
As a reaction to the crack epidemic of the 1980s, many federal drug laws carry strict mandatory sentences. This has stirred unease in Congress and sparked a bipartisan effort to revise and relax some of the more draconian laws.
Traditionally — meaning before Barack Obama — that’s how laws were changed: We have a problem, we hold hearings, we find some new arrangement, which is ratified by Congress and signed by the president.
That was then. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder, a liberal in a hurry, ordered all U.S. attorneys to simply stop charging nonviolent, non-gang-related drug defendants with crimes that, while fitting the offense, carry mandatory sentences. Find some lesser, non-triggering charge. How might you do that? Withhold evidence — e.g., about the amount of dope involved.
In other words, evade the law, by deceiving the court if necessary. “If the companies that I represent in federal criminal cases” did that, said former deputy attorney general George Terwilliger, “they could be charged with a felony.”
But such niceties must not stand in the way of an administration’s agenda.
Indeed, the very next day, it was revealed that the administration had unilaterally waived Obamacare’s cap on a patient’s annual out-of-pocket expenses — a one-year exemption for selected health insurers that is nowhere permitted in the law. It was simply decreed by an obscure Labor Department regulation.
Which followed a presidentially directed 70-plus percent subsidy for the insurance premiums paid by congressmen and their personal staffs — under a law that denies subsidies for anyone that well-off.
Which came just a month after the administration’s equally lawless suspension of one of the cornerstones of Obamacare: the employer mandate.
Which followed hundreds of Obamacare waivers granted by Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to selected businesses, unions, and other well-lobbied, very special interests.
Nor is this kind of rule-by-decree restricted to health care. In 2012, the immigration service was ordered to cease proceedings against young illegal immigrants brought here as children. Congress had refused to pass such a law (the DREAM Act) just 18 months earlier. Obama himself had repeatedly said that the Constitution forbade him from enacting it without Congress. But with the fast approach of an election that could hinge on the Hispanic vote, Obama did exactly that. Unilaterally.
The point is not what you think about the merits of the DREAM Act. Or of mandatory drug sentences. Or of subsidizing health-care premiums for $175,000-a-year members of Congress. Or even whether you think governors should be allowed to weaken the work requirements for welfare recipients — an authority the administration granted last year in clear violation of section 407 of the landmark Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform of 1996.
The point is whether a president, charged with faithfully executing the laws that Congress enacts, may create, ignore, suspend, and/or amend the law at will. …
Such gross executive usurpation disdains the Constitution. It mocks the separation of powers. And, most consequentially, it introduces a fatal instability into law itself. If the law is not what is plainly written, but is whatever the president and his agents decide, what’s left of the law?
What’s the point of the whole legislative process — of crafting various provisions through give-and-take negotiation — if you cannot rely on the fixity of the final product, on the assurance that the provisions bargained for by both sides will be carried out?
Consider immigration reform. The essence of any deal would be legalization in return for strict border enforcement. If some such legislative compromise is struck, what confidence can anyone have in it — if the president can unilaterally alter what he signs?
Yet this president is not only untroubled by what he’s doing, but open and rather proud. As he tells cheering crowds on his never-ending campaign-style tours: I am going to do X — and I’m not going to wait for Congress.
That’s caudillo talk. That’s banana-republic stuff. In this country, the president is required to win the consent of Congress first.
At stake is not some constitutional curlicue. At stake is whether the laws are the law. And whether presidents get to write their own.
More Class-Warfare Rhetoric:
On July 24, 2013, President Obama delivered the following remarks on the economy at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois:
Obama’s Incoherent Policy on Syria:
During the last week of August 2013, President Obama publicly maintained that the US had obtained unimpeachable evidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had recently used chemical weapons in the civil war it had been waging against rebels for nearly 3 years, and that those weapons had killed more than 1,400 people. Obama also indicated that he was leaning toward attacking Syria – with a limited strike of short duration against certain selected targets, and without putting any soldiers on the ground – and that he would not seek a congressional vote to authorize such a move. The adminstration also indicated that the strike would not be large enough to alter the course of the war (in terms of which side was winning) in any way.
On August 30, Obama dispatched Secretary of State John Kerry to make a passionate speech in support of swift U.S. action to Syria’s “moral obscenity.” In that speech, Kerry called Assad “a thug and a murderer” and held him responsible for the 1,429 people who allegedly had died from the chemical attack. Kerry added: “My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.” Just hours after Kerry’s speech, however, Obama spoke with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and decided to reverse course. The following day, he announced that he would seek congressional approval before taking any military action.
NBC News reported that after Obama’s conversation with McDonough:
[T]he president called his advisers in the early evening to inform them of his new decision. The plan was immediately met with robust resistance from a whiplashed Obama team who had listened to Kerry lay out the administration’s strongest case yet for action against Assad….
Obama’s National Security Council had believed since last weekend that requiring a vote was not even on the table and that “consultation” in the form of congressional briefings and behind-the-scenes conversation was all that would be needed before a strike. One senior official noted that no key leaders in Congress had specifically requested a vote on military intervention….
But a growing number of Congressional members were beginning to question the administration’s strategy by the end of the week. And an NBC News poll released Friday morning showed that nearly 80 percent of Americans agreed that the president should seek approval in advance of taking military action.
Officials said Obama also was influenced by Thursday’s lively debate in the House of Commons, where Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote in Parliament to authorize participation in an allied strike against Syria. Cameron had been a staunch advocate of military action but was chastened in the wake of the vote. “It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Cameron said. “I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton said the following vis a vis Obama’s sudden about-face:
“I was stunned. It was perhaps the worst decision that he could have made. But it’s one that follows 10 days of bad decisions, and indeed a year of bad decisions going back to the original ‘red line’ statement…. But even as somebody who doesn’t support the use of force, what the president did today was display weakness of the kind we haven’t seen in an American leader in decades, if not since the 19th century. I just think the effect on America’s position in the Middle East and around the world is going to be very, very negative…. I was worried about the use of force by Obama here because he kept saying it was going to be a limited, narrow response. Prime Minister Cameron of Britain talked about a proportionate response. That’s not how you establish deterrence. You establish deterrence by an overwhelming display of potential force.”
Middle East expert and Newsmax contributor Lisa Daftari told Fox News:
“This [Obama’s decision] is a memo to Syria, to the Iranian regime, to Hezbollah, that while I’m out golfing and enjoying my Labor Day barbecue you guys have until Sept. 9 to hide all the assets, the targets we might be hitting. You have time to plan and plot a really hefty retaliation towards us, and toward Israel, and toward our interests in the region. And we’ll think about it and let you know what Congress decides at that point.”
Obama’s top military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, further complicated matters for the administration by: (a) openly expressing doubts about what a limited military engagement against select Syrian targets could achieve, and (b) noting that even a very limited strike from afar could involve “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines” with a cost that “would be in the billions.”
Columnist and Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s handling of the matter “sort of amateur hour”:
“When there were the first attacks six months ago, or if you like when we had the current attack, he should have immediately called in the Congress the way that the Prime Minister of Britain called in the Parliament, had a debate and then got a resolution, and then went out and told the world we’re going to do X or we’re not going to do X. But idea that you make the case, you leak the details, you tell the world this has to be done, and then you say, ‘Well, I’ll take my time, I’ll go to Congress and we’ll see.’ This should be done in three days. It’s not like people aren’t aware of the arguments.”
Egyptian Newspaper Says Obama is member of the international Muslim Brotherhood:
On September 3, 2013, TheBlaze.com reported:
Al Jazeera’s blog posted a story Monday featuring tweets from the Director of Research at the Brookings Center in Doha, Qatar, who reported that an Egyptian newspaper’s front page story claimed President Barack Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
One could hardly come up with a more explosive allegation about a U.S. president than secret membership in an Islamist group. And if that weren’t enough, the newspaper also claims that President Obama’s half-brother Malik is allegedly an Al Qaeda activist.
Jonathan Spyer, senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center and an Arabic speaker, tells TheBlaze that the newspaper — Al-Wafd — specifically accuses Obama of being a member of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The article goes on to say that Obama originally embraced the thought of the Brotherhood while living in Indonesia, per Spyer, and further alleges that the son of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater had threatened to expose a document revealing the secret membership.
Obama depicts Republicans as irresponsible budget-cutters:
On September 15, 2016, Obama told interviewer George Stephanopoulos:
“There’s no serious economist out there that would suggest that, if you took the Republican agenda of slashing education further, slashing Medicare further, slashing research and development further, slashing investments in infrastructure further, that that would reverse some of these trends of inequality.”
Obama Praises ISNA:
In September 2013, President Obama praised the Islamic Society of North America — an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood — for having long “upheld the proud legacy of American Muslims’ contributions to our national fabric,” and for its commitment to “the vision that this country has always championed: that everyone deserves a chance to make their mark on our American story, no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you pray.” Moreover, Obama said that:
Obama’s Attack on the Families of Fallen Soldiers:
On October 11, 2013, journalist Arnold Ahlert published the following:
The Obama administration’s despicable attempts to make the government shutdown as painful as possible for Americans has finally hit bottom. Until a charitable foundation stepped in to fill the gap, the Department of Defense (DoD) was more than willing to deny death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers. The Pentagon claimed that a law passed just prior to the government shutdown allowing the military to be paid did not cover the benefits. In truth, an Obama administration, whose hallmark is selective law enforcement, has relied on the flimsiest of technicalities to inflict unnecessary pain on families already shattered by the deaths of their sons and daughters.
Just before the government shutdown began, Congress passed the “Pay Our Military” act, allowing servicemen to continue receiving paychecks on time during the shutdown. It was passed unanimously in the House, approved without dissent in the Senate, and signed by the president. The bill ostensibly provided “such sums as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to members of the Armed Forces” on active duty, as well as “essential” civilian personnel and contractors.
So what happened? A 2011 Pentagon report sent to Congress titled “Pays and Allowances Summary” lists a $100,000 “Death gratuity” originally put there in 1908. On the other hand, the 2014 Pentagon Personnel Budget lists the death gratuity under the heading “other military personnel costs,” not “pay and allowances.” Defense Department attorneys and budget officials contend that the “Pay Our Military Act” only authorized pay and allowances, not other military personnel costs. “Given the wording of the ‘Pay Our Military Act,’ DOD is only allowed to spend money on ‘pay and allowances,’ and the death gratuity does not fall under that section of the budget,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “If that’s not what Congress intended, they should not have used the phrase ‘pay and allowances’ in the bill.”
On the basis of that technicality, death benefits were denied to the families of dead soldiers.
Yet there are a number of other factors in play here. Several members of Congress from both parties were shocked by the DoD’s interpretation of the law. So much so, a bipartisan group of seven Senators, including Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Boozman (R-AK), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Jerry Moran (R-KA) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling for the death benefits to be restored. ”Any delay in providing families with this essential benefit is absolutely unacceptable,” it said.
Moreover, the idea that the DoD would favor the 2014 Pentagon Personnel Budget interpretation of death benefit eligibility over the 2011 Pays and Allowances Summary apparently rests on another technical reality, namely that the federal government’s fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2013 and runs to Sept. 30, 2014. That the government shutdown has effectively suspended the beginning of FY2014, at least with respect to some of its obligations, would seem to provide the DoD with some wiggle room–wiggle room made even more palatable when one factors in the reaction of Congress, which thought it had left the death benefits intact. Instead, the DoD chose to embrace an uncompromisingly rigid interpretation of the law.
Perhaps the DoD had some “help.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) believes the Department of Justice and Eric Holder were involved as well. “The Pentagon isn’t totally autonomous. They have to deal with the Justice Department. I think the Justice Department attorneys were interpreting it differently. I think [they are] probably the ones that muddied this up,” McKeon told CNN.
There is little doubt that this administration is more than willing to “muddy” up the law to advance its agenda. One need only to remember that the president completely ignored the War Powers Act of 1973 to prosecute the war in Libya, unilaterally defied the healthcare law as written to delay the employer mandate for a year, and has done everything he can to circumvent immigration law.
Furthermore, a host of administration officials have been involved in stonewalling investigations of the the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, Benghazi, the IRS’s targeting of conservative Americans, and the DOJ’s wiretapping of journalists. Thus, the idea that this president and his administration have suddenly discovered a newfound respect for the precise letter of the law — as a means of inflicting further pain on the families of fallen heroes, no less — is utterly contemptible.
That contempt is revealed by the sequence of events in this sordid drama. After public outrage reached a crescendo, the House of Representatives agreed to restore the death benefit in a 425-0 vote on Wednesday. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that the president was “disturbed” when he found out about the suspension of benefits. ”The commander in chief, when he found out that this was not addressed, he directed that a solution be found, and we expect one today,” Carney said.
That solution involved a non-government entity. Later in the day, Hagel announced he had reached an agreement with the Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House, an organization that provides flights and accommodations to families who want to see their relatives in VA hospitals or other military medical facilities, offered to restore the benefits.
While accepting the generous donation (one that Fisher House initially made with no expectation of being reimbursed) Hagel couldn’t resist injecting politics into the event, attempting to insulate himself from criticism in the process. “I am offended, outraged, and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” he said. “In the days before the shutdown, we warned Congress and the American people that DoD would not have the legal authority to make these payments during a lapse in appropriations. In the days after the shutdown, Departmental lawyers and budget officials pursued every tool and option at our disposal in an effort to provide these benefits. Even under the Pay Our Military Act, we found that we lacked the necessary authority to make payments to the families directly.”
On Thursday, despite Majority Leader Harry Reid’s contention that the issue was now moot, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) pushed for passage of a similar resolution in the Senate. Cornyn wanted to make sure that the DoD and Fisher House would get bogged down figuring out their work-around. The Senate approved the measure by a voice vote.
Thus, all that remained for the issue to be put to rest was President Obama’s signature. Initially, Carney refused to say whether or not the present would sign the legislation. Later on, he revealed that Obama has no intention of signing the bill. ”We don’t need legislation,” Carney contended. ”The president directed that this be resolved and it has been. What is preposterous is this notion that we should, piecemeal, fix all the consequences caused by shutdown.”
What is even more preposterous is a president more than willing to use dead soldiers and their families as political pawns. Remarkably, no one in the media has apparently bothered to ask an essential question: what is the extent of Obama’s powers as Commander-in-Chief? Why couldn’t the same president who rewrote the healthcare bill via executive order use that same power to order the DoD to pay death benefits? Why didn’t he even make the attempt to do so?
The answer is obvious: the progressive agenda must be served, no matter what the cost. Toward that end, WWII veterans in their 70s and 80s must be prevented from accessing an open-air memorial erected in their honor, even as illegal immigration activists are welcomed at the same National Mall. American patriots fighting for their survival in Benghazi can be abandoned, and their deaths are blamed on a video, so that the fiction of the Arab Spring can be maintained. The American public can be frightened enough to believe the only fiscal choices the nation has are giving the administration a unlimited amount of borrowed money to spend, or enduring default and ruination. Our healthcare system must be transformed into a government fiefdom run by bureaucrats and monitored by the IRS. The Republican Party must not be the voice of spirited opposition, but the epitome of everything the American people should hold in contempt.
And because that agenda is so “noble,” it can be imposed by any means necessary.
Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale let the ideological cat out of the bag when Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) criticized him yesterday at a House Armed Services hearing regarding the denial of benefits. When Coffman insisted that the Hale’s objective was to “inflict as much harm as you possibly could in your own department,” while the DoD “took it upon itself to disregard the will of American people and violate the law,” Hale became indignant. “I resent your remarks,” Hale told Coffman. “I acted on the advice of attorneys and our best reading of a loosely worded law, and we did our best. It was not a political judgment.”
The best reading of a loosely worded law would have provided grieving mothers and fathers a measure of comfort when they were tasked with burying their sons and daughters. If this administration ever had anything resembling a moral compass, it no longer exists. Whether he knows it or not, Barack Obama owes the entire nation an apology for an atrocious debacle. One that could have been very easily avoided. That it wasn’t speaks volumes.
Finally, after enduring withering criticism from Sen. Cornyn, who noted that his failure to sign the bill represented a “dereliction of duty by our commander in chief,” Obama signed the bill …
WWII Memorial Closed During Partial Government Shutdown, While the National Mall Is Opened to Illegal-Imigrant-Rights Rally:
On October 7, 2013, the Daily Caller reported:
The National Park Service is allowing an Oct. 8 pro-immigration rally on the national mall, even as it posts pickets and barriers to bar Americans from visiting their open-air memorials.
“They’re going to be allowed to go [ahead] because it is a First Amendment activity,” Shannon Maurer, a spokeswoman for the “March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect,” told The Daily Caller.
“They allowed us to have it because it is part of the First Amendment of the constitution,” said Susana Flores, a spokeswoman for CASA in Action, which is organizing the rally. ”We’re going to have a stage and microphones,” plus a stand for TV cameras, she said.
The mall is currently marked as closed, and law enforcement officials have have been deployed to picket open-air monuments to keep Americans off their own land.
Critics quickly pounced on what they see as special treatment for the administration’s allies.
“What this means is that the administration is sending a clear message that it’s OK to barricade elderly veterans out of their memorials, but illegal immigrants have to be accommodated no matter what,” Mark Krikorian, director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller.
“It’s hard to justify closing off open areas [such as the World War II memorial], but to allow a major setup with equipment, electronics and security in a closed area is a little outrageous,” said Krikorian.
Obama Threatens Numerous Times that the U.S. Will Default on Its Debt Obligations if Republicans Do Not Agree to Fund All of the Federal Government, Including Obamacare:
On October 16, 2013 — the sixteenth day of the partial government “shutdown” — CNS News published this hugely important article:
The impasse in Washington may have started as an attempt to defund or delay Obamacare, “but it has now taken on the dimensions of a Constitutional crisis,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said in a speech on the House floor Monday.
McClintock argued that President Obama, by threatening that the United States will default on its sovereign debt, is assuming the “power of the purse” that the Constitution explicitly assigned to the Congress.
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin, who played McClintock’s speech on his radio program Tuesday night, said if Congress gives the president what he wants — under threat of forcing the country into default — Obama will have “neutered Congress.”
“He will, in essence, have succeeded in instituting a coup of sorts,” Levin said.
In his speech on Monday, McClintock noted that unlike every president before him, President Obama has said that unless Congress unconditionally raises the debt limit, the United States will default on its sovereign debt.
“But a failure to raise the debt limit would not by itself cause the nation to default,” McClintock said, because the Treasury Secretary may choose which bills to pay first. He said the Treasury’s duty to pay its debtors is underscored by the 14th Amendment, Section 4, which reads in part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.”
Because revenues far exceed U.S. debt payments, there would be no problem for the U.S. Treasury to make its debt payments before paying other bills — unless the president deliberately imperils the nation’s sovereign credit. Doing so would be “catastrophic and unprecedented,” but McClintock said he thinks Obama might do it.
The congressman pointed to the Democrats’ refusal to negotiate with Republicans and the Democrats’ refusal to minimize the suffering caused by the government shutdown.
“Given the ruthless and vindictive way the shutdown has been handled, I now believe that this President would willfully act to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States unless the Congress acquiesces to all of his demands, at least as long as he sees political advantage in doing so. His every statement and action is consistent with this conclusion.”
McClintock noted that House Republican leaders offered to extend the debt limit to Nov. 22 “with no strings attached,” but Obama refused. Senate Republicans offered a six-month extension, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — the president’s point-man — refused.
“So where do we go from here?” McClintock asked.
“If the Republicans acquiesce, the immediate crisis will quickly vanish, credit markets will calm and public life will return to other matters. But a fundamental element of our Constitution will have been destroyed. The power of the purse will have shifted from the representatives of the people to the executive.
“The executive bureaucracies will be freed to churn out ever more outlandish regulations with no effective Congressional review or check through the purse. A perilous era will have begun, in which the President sets spending levels and vetoes any bill falling short of his demands. Whenever a deadline approaches, one house can simply refuse to negotiate with the other until Congress is faced with the Hobson’s choice of a shut-down or a default.
“The nation’s spending will again dangerously accelerate, the deficit will again rapidly widen, and the economic prosperity of the nation will continue to slowly bleed away.”
Earlier this year, the House passed McClintock’s bill guaranteeing that the sovereign debt of the United States Government will be paid in full and on time, under any circumstances — even total political gridlock. It also allows the Treasury Secretary to exceed the debt limit, if necessary, in order to do so.
Former ACORN Official Is Still Advising Obama:
On October 16, 2013, the Daily Caller reported:
Judicial Watch has uncovered documents showing that Bruce Dorpalen, a key former Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) operative, is still advising President Barack Obama’s administration years after the organization was shuttered by scandal.
Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on May 16, 2013. The conservative watchdog organization’s president Tom Fitton noted in a statement exclusively provided to Breitbart News head of their public release, that the documents show that ACORN’s former top officials still have influence over Obama’s policies.
“These smoking-gun documents show the continued collusion among Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Renewal, the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Administration and ACORN spinoffs – and strongly indicate that Barack Obama is still determined to turn the federal government’s housing policy over to the far left,” Fitton said. “How is it, after the scandals of ACORN and its contribution to the housing crash, that this organization’s former leadership is still able to guide federal housing policy? It goes to show that Barack Obama truly is the president from ACORN.”
Dorpalen was once the director of ACORN Housing, and is the current executive director of ACORN-spinoff National Housing Resource Center (NHRC). The documents show that Dorpalen has been meeting with and advising top Obama administration officials on housing issues.
On October 16,2013, Katie Pavlich wrote:
Since the implementation of Obamacare and the new development of healthcare “navigators,” both Democrats and Republicans have been sounding the alarm about potential fraud and identity theft that could come as a result. Obamacare “navigators” have been hired throughout the country to help people get enrolled in exchanges and landing a job as a navigator is easy considering passing a background check isn’t necessary or required (as a reminder, navigators have access to detailed personal information and health information).
The exchange, known as Covered California, recently adopted rules for a network of more than 21,000 enrollment counselors who will provide consumers with in-person assistance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. In some cases, they will have access to personal and financial information, from ID cards to medical histories.
But the state insurance commissioner and anti-fraud groups say the exchange is falling short in ensuring that the people hired as counselors are adequately screened and monitored.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also said the exchange does not have a plan for investigating any complaints that might arise once the counselors start work. That means consumers who might fall prey to bogus health care products, identity theft and other abuses will have a hard time seeking justice if unscrupulous counselors get ahold of their Social Security number, bank accounts, health records or other private information, he said.
“We can have a real disaster on our hands,” Jones, a Democrat, said in an interview.
Growing concerns about identity theft and fraud have led the Illinois Department of Insurance to issue a public warning, just as the new health insurance exchanges enter their implementation phase.
Concern focuses on those charged with assisting Illinoisans with enrollment to the new health insurance exchanges, the so-called “navigators.”
So who exactly are these people? Some are former ACORN workers.
A group formed from the ruins of ACORN is hard at work signing people up for ObamaCare, and may be collecting taxpayer cash for their work despite Congress’ efforts to cut the organization and its affiliates off from government funding, a watchdog group charged.
The United Labor Unions Council Local 100, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, announced last month it would take part in a multi-state “navigator” drive to help people enroll in President Obama’s health care plan. The labor council was established by ACORN founder Wade Rathke after his larger group was broken up amid scandal in 2009 and banned from receiving taxpayer funds.
The government has given out $67 million in Navigator grants to help with the controversial rollout of ObamaCare. It was not clear if Local 100 got a grant of its own, but it has set up a help center with Southern United Neighborhoods, a charity founded in March 2010 with many former ACORN members, to enroll people in ObamaCare. Southern United Neighborhoods received a Navigator grant of $486,123.
Let me remind you of exactly why the criminal enterprise known as ACORN was stripped of federal funding in 2009: the organization was promoting tax evasion, underage human trafficking, underage prostitution, voter fraud and more. ACORN’s criminal activity was exposed by the late Andrew Breitbart, Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe through a series of undercover videos. To put things into perspective, think about the last time Congress defunded anything…..they hardly ever do, but ACORN was so bad and full of corruption that defunding was pushed through in bipartisan fashion.
Republicans succeeded in drawing overwhelming support from Democrats Thursday to eliminate federal funding to a now-scandalized ACORN, the community organizing group that has come under heavy fire in the wake of damaging undercover videos that purport to show counselors giving advice on tax fraud to a “pimp” and “prostitute.”
The House voted 345-75 to strike ACORN funding from a student aid bill with two voting present.
Later, the Senate voted 85-11 to eliminate ACORN funding from an Interior Department spending bill.
Surprised former ACORN workers are helping with Obamacare? You shouldn’t be. President Barack Obama has a long history with the “community organizing” fraudster group and was heavily tied to them during his time in Chicago.
Obama Justice Department Settles Lawsuit Against JP Morgan Chase:
In 2011, Obama’s Justice Department sued 18 banks, including JP Morgan Chase & Co., for allegedly making false statements and omitting material facts when they had sold billions of dollars worth of bonds to the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 2005 and 2007 — transactions that ultimately contributed to the financial crisis and housing-market collapse of 2007-08. In October 2013, JP Morgan and DOJ reached a tentative agreement requiring the bank to pay a $13 billion fine — the largest payout that any financial firm has ever made to the U.S. government.
The broad strokes of the deal were finalized in a phone call between Attorney General Eric Holder, Associate U.S. Attorney General Tony West, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and JP Morgan general counsel Stephen Cutler. According to the Washington Post, $4 billion of the settlement amount was earmarked for homeowners, and another $4 billion would be paid to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The deal also resolved a lawsuit fled by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with regard to the bond sales, as well as a California civil probe.
It is vital to remember that the genesis of the housing crisis was a federal government determined to turn home ownership into a de facto affirmative-action program in which banks were threatened with reprisals if they did not approve a certain percentage of risky loans to undercapitalized and nonwhite borrowers. (For details, see “Community Reinvestment Act & the Housing Market Crisis of 2008.”)
Dick Bove, an influential bank analyst at Rafferty Capital, assessed the meaning of the October 2013 deal with Holder’s DOJ: “This is a basic and fundamental attack on capitalism. It is possible that the government is taking away the property of the JP Morgan shareholders without the shareholders having committed any crime or having any say in the expropriation of these funds.”
Other financial analysts likewise characterized the deal as blatantly unfair, noting that 80% of the mortgages under criminal investigation were acquired from Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. Both of those failing banks were acquired by JP Morgan in 2008 at the request of the federal government, which needed the bank’s help to keep the crisis from getting even bigger than it was. JP Morgan’s own culpability involved mostly mismanagement, not investor fraud.
The October 2013 deal also had a clearly political dimension. Some background is in order at this point:
But all of that changed when Dimon, despite his Democratic leanings, began to criticize the Obama administration’s economic policies during the 2012 election campaign. In May 2012, while characterizing America as a nation in possession of a “royal straight flush” represented by the world’s strongest military, best businesses, most entrepreneurial workforce, and deepest capital markets, Dimon also cited three failings of the Obama administration: the debt ceiling crisis, the failure to adopt the Simpson-Bowles recommendations for fixing the financial crisis, and the administration’s “constant attack on business.” When asked why corporate America was not hiring more in a time of record profits, Dimon upped the ante, insisting that the 4 million jobs added by business had nothing to do with government policy. ”It should have been 8 million,” he said.
The New York Post’s Charles Gasparino noted the consequences of such candor. “By speaking out, Dimon became de facto public enemy No. 1,” he explained. Gasparino also revealed the strategy behind Eric Holder’s refusal to end the criminal probe, and claimed that the Attorney General’s demand for some “concession of guilt … is basically a multibillion-dollar gift to the administration’s buddies in the trial bar, who are waiting anxiously to see exactly how much the bank will be forced to ’fess up to before their lawsuits start to fly.”
The Wall Street Journal was even more critical of the administration’s heavy-handed tactics, characterizing the effort to keep track of the government’s probes of JP Morgan as tantamount to having a full time job. In conjunction with a tally taken by the New York Times, the Journal revealed that there were investigations being conducted by “at least seven federal agencies” along with “seven investigations in the Justice Department alone, plus inquiries at other agencies.”
Journalist Arnold Ahlert wrote in October 2013: “The real story is that no one is safe from political retribution in the age of Obama, not even the president’s former ‘favorite banker,’ who is now learning what happens to those who dare to criticize this administration.”
Several Middle Eastern Nations Move Away from U.S. and Closer to Russia:
On October 23, 2013, journalist Aaron Klein reported:
It’s not only Saudi Arabia. Now major U.S. allies Turkey and Qatar are discussing developing closer relations with Russia at the expense of America, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
In a shocking development, the security officials further said Qatar and Turkey are leading secret talks to study the possibility of renewing relations with foes Syria and Iran in response to President Obama opening dialogue with Tehran over the nuclear file.
Qatar and Turkey, along with Saudi Arabia, were deeply involved in supporting the insurgency targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Those countries are said to be some of the biggest opponents to Iran’s alleged nuclear aspirations.
According to the security officials speaking to KleinOnline, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are disappointed with Obama’s reproach toward Iran and what they view as a U.S. failure to act militarily in Syria. “They view America has losing major credibility,” said one official The foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, the officials say, have been quietly discussing a change in attitude toward Syria and Iran along with closer strategic relations with Russia that could include weapons and oil deals.
Yesterday, the Jerusalem Post reported Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, said his country will make a “major shift” away from its relationship with the United States in protest over Obama’s dialogue with Iran and inaction in Syria.
Earlier this month, WND was first to report that Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries, responding to Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Iran, are exploring closer relationships with China and Russia at the expense of the U.S. According to a senior Jordanian diplomat speaking to WND at the time, the Kingdom of Jordan also participated in a meeting with high-level Saudi officials to discuss the ramifications of Obama’s phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rohani.
The Arab countries expressed deep concern about talk of the U.S. easing ties with foe Iran. In the meeting, the leaders discussed having the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations offer Russia and China larger roles in diplomacy and trade, including better oil deals.
Now the Jerusalem Post quoted a source close to Saudi policy saying that Sultan told European diplomats about the coming shift in Riyadh’s longstanding U.S. ties, including possible changes to oil deals and arms sales. “The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,” the source was quoted as saying. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent. “Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,” the source continued. “This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.
The source said relations with the U.S. “have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising.” The source said the changes extend to arms purchases and oil sales. “All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.
Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria:
On October 22, 2013, the Daily Mail reported:
Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.
Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
‘The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,’ the source close to Saudi policy said. ‘Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.’
It was not immediately clear whether the reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.
The growing breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi prince criticized Obama’s Middle East policies, accusing him of ‘dithering’ on Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.
‘The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.
The Saudi criticism came days after the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab oil embargo imposed to punish the West for supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war.
That was one of the low points in U.S.-Saudi ties, which were also badly shaken by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its displeasure over Obama’s foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.
Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council’s failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘There is nothing whimsical about the decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the ineffectual experience of that body,’ he said in a speech to the Washington-based National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.
In London, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he discussed Riyadh’s concerns when he met Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday.
Kerry said he told the Saudi minister no deal with Iran was better than a bad deal. ‘I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been,’ Kerry told reporters.
Prince Bandar is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.
A son of the late defense minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favor with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.
But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year, he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels.
‘Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,’ the source close to Saudi policy said.
This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising,” the source said.
The source declined to provide more details of Bandar’s talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.
But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and the United States would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.
‘All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,’ the Saudi source said.
He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.
The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.
Saudi anger boiled over after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons arsenal….
Bias Against Evangelical Christians and Conservatives:
On October 23, 2013, Breitbart News reported:
For months, the Obama-Hagel Pentagon has promised that reports of military trainers teaching troops that traditional Christian groups are extremists akin to terrorists were isolated incidents by rogue instructors. Now an official Army document contains evidence to the contrary.
Fox News’s Todd Starnes reported Wednesday on a Ft. Hood briefing where reportedly soldiers were told that evangelical Christians and Tea Party supporters are a threat to the United States and are “tearing the nation apart.” Soldiers were reportedly told that they could be charged with committing a military crime if they supported or donated to such organizations.
Ft. Hood denies these allegations, but a separate source claiming to have been present during the briefing asserts the original account is true.
Ironically, in the place where an Islamic radical—Maj. Nidal Hassan—committed an act of terrorism that murdered fourteen Americans, including the unborn child of one of the female victims—a presentation on terrorism singled out Bible-believing Christians and supporters of the Constitution as serious threats to this nation. Islamic terrorism was barely mentioned.
This is just the latest outrage in a long train of disgraces. Just days ago, soldiers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi were instructed that the Christian conservative American Family Association is a domestic hate group. A month earlier, a security presentation portrayed the Founding Fathers as extremists. Before that, Breitbart News reported on a Christian chaplain who was officially censored by military commanders for talking about the importance of religious faith. And several months before that, Lt. Col. Jack Rich at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, instructed soldiers that traditional Christian beliefs are incompatible with “Army values.”
All this started in April, when Breitbart News broke the story of top Pentagon brass meeting with an anti-Christian activist calling for court-martialing observant Christians who share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others in the military. This activist calls them “fundamentalist monsters” who are “enemies of the Constitution” and should be punished for “sedition and treason.”
All along, the nation was told these were a series of isolated incidents, not authorized by military leadership. Now military documents suggest otherwise. Judicial Watch used a FOIA request (Freedom of Information Act) to obtain a document from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), which is part of the Department of Defense (DOD). In this 133-page training document, entitled “Extremism,” on pages 32-33, under “Lesson Emphasis,” it claims to: “provide[s] information that describes sources of extremism information, definitions, recruitment of DoD personnel, common themes in extremist ideologies, common characteristics of extremist organizations, DoD policies, and command functions regarding extremist activities.”
On the same page, it cites the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an approved source for information—and its affiliate Teaching Tolerance. It was SPLC that labeled the American Family Association a “domestic hate group,” along with the Family Research Council…, the Traditional Values Coalition, and various Tea Party organizations and conservative border-security/immigration groups. In short, SPLC labels as hate groups organizations that promote a traditional Christian view of marriage and other social issues, believe in border enforcement, or promote constitutional limited government.
Ironically, SPLC is the only group in this news report linked to terrorism, as convicted domestic terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins told the FBI in a videotaped and signed confession that he chose his targets for an attempted mass-shooting at FRC from SPLC’s hate group list, including a map of how to get to FRC’s office. He then had the names and locations of other traditional groups he was going to target after murdering whoever he could in FRC’s building.
This DEOMI document goes on several pages later to say that service members cannot participate in such organizations, raise funds for them, encourage others to support them, or attend public rallies organized by them. It then adds, “Furthering the objectives of extremist organizations is viewed as detrimental to the good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment of the unit and is, therefore, subject to appropriate disciplinary action.” It tasks service members with “assist[ing] unit commanders in being vigilant about the existence of such activities. …
Millions of Americans with individual insurance plans get cancellation notices:
On October 29, 2013, the Daily Caller reported:
On Tuesday, the White House finally came up with a strategy to explain why millions of Americans are losing their health insurance plans — blame the insurance companies.
White House spokesman Jay Carney rewrote President Barack Obama’s much-repeated “you can keep it” promise Tuesday afternoon, and began blaming health insurance companies for canceling millions of individuals’ insurance plans.
“If you had a plan… and you liked it, and you’ve kept it, you can keep if forever as long as your insurer offers it,” Carney told reporters during the daily press briefing.
In the last few weeks, insurance companies have already canceled more than 2 million individual plans, as a direct result of Obamacare. The canceled plans were bought by individuals directly, rather than via employers or associations, and do not include coverage demanded by Obama and his deputies.
The two millions cancellations — so far — contradict Obama’s repeated public promises that Americans could keep their insurance plans after Obamacare is enacted.
“We will keep this promise to the American people… if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period,” Obama said June 23, 2009.
“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance,” he said in 2012.
The government-induced cancellations are frightening million of Americans who are facing increased prices, and the practical difficulty of getting replacement insurance via the crippled Obamacare website….
Throughout the conference, Carney also downplayed the number of Americans who are losing their insurance.
Numerous experts say the number of people who will lose their insurance in the next year is roughly 7 million. Others estimate 12 million people will lose their insurance plans, despite Obama’s promise.
People who buy individual plans comprise only 5 percent of the market, Carney said numerous times. In contrast, 15 percent of people have no insurance and 80 percent get insurance from companies or health care from the the government, he said.
A reporter asked him twice to say how many Americans were part of the 5 percent, but Carney refused to put a number on the record. “What’s the size of the American population now?” he asked. “I would consult Wikipedia for the size of the population,” he quipped.
Falsity of Obama’s Claim That No One Would Lose Their Health Insurance Plan If They Wished to Keep It:
On October 30, 2013, the following Washington Post analysis concluded that Obama willfully lied about this:
* “That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
– President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009 (as the health-care law was being written.)
* “And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”
– Obama, remarks in Portland, April 1, 2010, after the health-care law was signed into law.
* “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”
– tweet by Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, Oct. 28, 2013, after NBC News airs a report that the Obama administration knew “millions” could not keep their health insurance.
Many readers have asked us to step back into time and review these statements by the president now that it appears that as many as 2 million people may need to get a new insurance plan as the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, goes into effect in 2014. As we were considering those requests, one of the president’s most senior advisers then tweeted a statement on the same issue that cried out for fact checking.
The president’s pledge that “if you like your insurance, you will keep it” is one of the most memorable of his presidency. It was also an extraordinarily bold — and possibly foolish — pledge, unless he thought he simply could dictate exactly how the insurance industry must work.
At the time, some observers noted the problems with Obama’s promise.
After Obama made his speech before the AMA, the Associated Press ran a smart analysis — “Promises, Promises: Obama’s Health Plan Guarantee” — that demonstrated how it would be all but impossible for the president to keep that pledge. The article noted that the Congressional Budget Office assumed that 10 million Americans would need to seek new insurance under the Senate version of the bill.
Meanwhile, in the Republican weekly address on Aug. 24, 2009, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a doctor, made this point: “On the stump, the president regularly tells Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’ But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so. For starters, within five years, every health-care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage — one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.”
One might excuse the president for making an aspirational pledge as the health-care bill was being drafted, but it turns out he kept saying it after the bill was signed into law. By that point, there should have been no question about the potential impact of the law on insurance plans, especially in the individual market.
As we have noted, a key part of the law is forcing insurers to offer an “essential health benefits” package, providing coverage in 10 categories. The list includes: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
For some plans, this would be a big change. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services noted: “62 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for maternity services; 34 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for substance abuse services; 18 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for mental health services; 9 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for prescription drugs.”
The law did allow “grandfathered” plans — for people who had obtained their insurance before the law was signed on March 23, 2010 — to escape this requirement and some other aspects of the law. But the regulations written by HHS while implementing the law set some tough guidelines, so that if an insurance company makes changes to a plan’s benefits or how much members pay through premiums, co-pays or deductibles, then a person’s plan likely loses that status.
If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560), you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. (With last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent, that means the co-pay could not increase by more than $5.20.) Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010.
While one might applaud an effort to rid the country of inadequate insurance, the net effect is that over time, the plans would no longer meet the many tests for staying grandfathered.
Already, the percentage of people who get coverage from their job via a grandfathered plan has dropped from 56 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2013.
In the individual insurance market, few plans were expected to meet the “grandfathered” requirements, which is why many people are now receiving notices that their old plan is terminated and they need to sign up for different coverage.
Again, this should be no surprise. As HHS noted in a footnote of a report earlier this year: “We note that, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we expect grandfathered coverage to diminish, particularly in the individual market.”
Indeed, at least six states — Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Wyoming and Kansas — require insurance companies to cancel existing policies, rather than amend them, if the grandfathered coverage lapses.
Now, it’s important to note that many people — perhaps a large majority — are receiving notices that they have lost their insurance plan because they were never grandfathered in the first place. In other words, they got a plan after the bill was signed into law back in 2010. If that’s the case, they have no option but to accept the more comprehensive insurance mandated by the law.
Still, it’s worth remembering that insurance companies pressed throughout the health-care debate to allow people to keep the policy they had effective at the end of 2013. The consequences of the unusual March 23, 2010, cut-off date are now being felt. HHS, when it drafted the interim rules, estimated that between 40 and 67 percent of policies in the individual market are in effect for less than one year. “These estimates assume that the policies that terminate are replaced by new individual policies, and that these new policies are not, by definition, grandfathered,” the rules noted. (See page 34553.)
Moreover, it’s certainly incorrect to claim, as some Republicans have, that people are losing insurance coverage. Instead, in virtually all cases, it’s being replaced with probably better (and possibly more expensive) insurance.
In recent days, administration officials have argued that the plans that are going away are “substandard” and lacked essential protections — and that many people may qualify for tax credits to mitigate the higher premiums that may result from the new requirements.
“Now folks are transitioning to the new standards of the Affordable Care Act which guarantee you can’t be denied, you won’t be kicked off of a policy because you developed a problem, you may be eligible for tax credits, depending on your income,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “So these are important protections that are now available through the Affordable Care Act.”
Or, as White House spokesman Jay Carney put it: “It’s correct that substandard plans that don’t provide minimum services that have a lot of fine print that leaves consumers in the lurch, often because of annual caps or lifetime caps or carve-outs for some preexisting conditions, those are no longer allowed — because the Affordable Care Act is built on the premise that health care is not a privilege, it’s a right, and there should be minimum standards for the plans available to Americans across the country.”
But such assertions do not really explain the president’s promise — or Jarrett’s tweet. There may be a certain percentage of people who were happy with their “substandard” plan, presumably because it cost relatively little. And while Jarrett claimed that “nothing” in the law is forcing people out of their plans “unless insurance companies change plans,” she is describing rules written by the president’s aides that were designed to make it difficult for plans to remain grandfathered for very long.
As the HHS footnote mentioned above stated: “We note that, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we expect grandfathered coverage to diminish, particularly in the individual market.”
The Pinocchio Test
The administration is defending this pledge with a rather slim reed — that there is nothing in the law that makes insurance companies force people out of plans they were enrolled in before the law passed. That explanation conveniently ignores the regulations written by the administration to implement the law. Moreover, it also ignores the fact that the purpose of the law was to bolster coverage and mandate a robust set of benefits, whether someone wanted to pay for it or not.
The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.
The president’s promise apparently came with a very large caveat: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate.”
Obama Warns Insurance Companies Not to Criticize the Obamacare Legslation:
On October 30, 2013, Newsbusters.com posted the following transcript from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, which featured investigative reporter Drew Griffin exposing allegations that the White House was pressuring insurance companies to not publicly criticize ObamaCare.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Now more breaking news, evidence that the Obama administration is leaning on insurance companies to keep a lid on problems with the healthcare law rollout. Now Drew Griffin on CNN’s investigations did the reporting. So Drew, What’s going on here, what have you learned?
DREW GRIFFIN: Anderson, what’s going on is behind the scenes attempt by the White House to at least keep insurers from publicly criticizing what is happening on this Affordable Care Act rollout. Basically, if you speak out, if you are quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet. Several sources tell me and my colleague Chris Frates that insurance executives are being told to keep quiet.
Bob Laszewski who heads the Health Policy Strategy Associates, a consulting firm for big insurers, and an outspoken critic of ObamaCare, says he is getting calls from these executives who want him to speak out, Anderson, for them about the problems because they feel defenseless against the White House PR team. Laszewski told me today, “The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet.” Sources telling us they fear White House retribution.
COOPER: So, I mean, what specifically are, do they say they’re being told to keep quiet about?
GRIFFIN: About the fact that clarifications were made to the Affordable Care Act after the law was passed, and those clarifications are forcing the insurance industry to drop insurance plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements. There is a lot of coverage now required in these plans that was not part of many people’s private healthcare plans. Those are the people, Anderson, who are being dropped. And despite all the rhetoric, I should say, from the president, you simply cannot keep your current healthcare plan if it does not meet these requirements. Laszewski says the insurance industry is embarrassed about cancelling the plans, but in an interview last week, he told me the administration was warned about this very scenario and ignored the advice.
VIDEO CLIP OF ROBERT LASZEWSKI, PRESIDENT OF HEALTH POLICY AND STRATEGY ASSOCIATES: When the regulations were being put together, people in the insurance industry said you’re being overly regulatory, you’re requiring too many things, you’re making this too complicated, you’re not letting people keep their plans who have them now, and the Obama administration decided to do it the way the Obama administration was going to do it. One of the things I think that’s clear here is the Obama administration has no trust in anything the health insurance industry tells them about how to run a health plan. And I think the administrative mess you’re seeing right now is indicative of what happens when somebody tries to run somebody else’s business who thinks they’re smarter than you are.
COOPER: So Drew, why would the insurance industry not be willing to challenge the White House publicly?
GRIFFIN: Well, executives are willing to listen to the White House because right now, it is the federal government that’s the biggest customer for these insurance companies. Government backed plans accounted for about 48 percent of healthcare policies last year, Anderson, a number that’s expected to grow this year and years to come. So basically, the insurance companies are in a position to just be quiet for fear of offending basically their biggest source of income.
COOPER: So have you heard from the White House about this? I mean, what’s their side of the story?
GRIFFIN: Yeah, pushing back. Jay Carney just sent this note on allegations of White House pressure being placed on insurance executives. He writes, “That accusation is preposterous and inaccurate. Plus it ignores the fact every day insurance companies are out talking about the law, in large part because they are trying to reach millions of new customers who will now have new affordable insurance options available from providers through the new market places.” That from White House spokesman Jay Carney. Just a few moments ago he also reiterated that he thinks Bob Laszewski has been against ObamaCare from the start and is a longtime opponent, I should say, of any kind of reform in healthcare.
COOPER: I mean, you acknowledge he is a, he has been critical of ObamaCare for a long time. So viewers should keep that in mind as well as the White House saying they totally don’t buy this?
GRIFFIN: Absolutely right, but again, our sources, sources of mine, Chris Frates’ sources are telling. This is not coming just from Bob Laszewski.
Proof That Obama Knew in 2010 that 93 Million Americans Were Likely to Lose Their Healthcare Plans by the End of 2013:
On October 31, 2013, Avik Roy wrote in Forbes magazine:
Obama administration knew that Obamacare would disrupt private plans
If you read the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, you knew that it was dishonest for President Obama to claim that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” as he did—and continues to do—on countless occasions. And we now know that the administration knew this all along. It turns out that in an obscure report buried in a June 2010 edition of the Federal Register, administration officials predicted massive disruption of the private insurance market.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney attempted to minimize the disruption issue, arguing that it only affected people who buy insurance on their own. “That’s the universe we’re talking about, 5 percent of the population,” said Carney. “In some of the coverage of this issue in the last several days, you would think that you were talking about 75 percent or 80 percent or 60 percent of the American population.” (5 percent of the population happens to be 15 million people, no small number, but let’s leave that aside.)
By “coverage of this issue,” Carney was referring to two articles. The first, by Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Times, described a number of Californians who are seeing their existing plans terminated and replaced with much more expensive ones. “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,” said one.
The second article, by Lisa Myers and Hanna Rappleye of NBC News, unearthed the aforementioned commentary in the Federal Register, and cited “four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act” as saying that “50 to 75 percent” of people who buy coverage on their own are likely to receive cancellation notices due to Obamacare.
Mid-range estimate: 51% of employer-sponsored plans will get canceled
But Carney’s dismissal of the media’s concerns was wrong, on several fronts. Contrary to the reporting of NBC, the administration’s commentary in the Federal Register did not only refer to the individual market, but also the market for employer-sponsored health insurance.
Section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act contains what’s called a “grandfather” provision that, in theory, allows people to keep their existing plans if they like them. But subsequent regulations from the Obama administration interpreted that provision so narrowly as to prevent most plans from gaining this protection.
“The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34,552 of the Register. All in all, more than half of employer-sponsored plans will lose their “grandfather status” and become illegal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 156 million Americans—more than half the population—was covered by employer-sponsored insurance in 2013.
Another 25 million people, according to the CBO, have “nongroup and other” forms of insurance; that is to say, they participate in the market for individually-purchased insurance. In this market, the administration projected that “40 to 67 percent” of individually-purchased plans would lose their Obamacare-sanctioned “grandfather status” and become illegal, solely due to the fact that there is a high turnover of participants and insurance arrangements in this market. (Plans purchased after March 23, 2010 do not benefit from the “grandfather” clause.) The real turnover rate would be higher, because plans can lose their grandfather status for a number of other reasons.
How many people are exposed to these problems? 60 percent of Americans have private-sector health insurance—precisely the number that Jay Carney dismissed. As to the number of people facing cancellations, 51 percent of the employer-based market plus 53.5 percent of the non-group market (the middle of the administration’s range) amounts to 93 million Americans.
Will these canceled plans be replaced with better coverage?
President Obama’s famous promise that “you could keep your plan” was not some naïve error or accident. He, and his allies, knew that previous Democratic attempts at health reform had failed because Americans were happy with the coverage they had, and opposed efforts to change the existing system.
Now, supporters of the law are offering a different argument. “We didn’t really mean it when we said you could keep your plan,” they say, “but it doesn’t matter, because the coverage you’re going to get under Obamacare will be better than the coverage you had before.”
But that’s not true. Obamacare forces insurers to offer services that most Americans don’t need, don’t want, and won’t use, for a higher price. Bob Laszewski, in a revealing blog post, wrote about the cancellation of his own health coverage. “Right now,” he wrote, “I have ‘Cadillac’ health insurance. I can access every provider in the national Blue Cross network—about every doc and hospital in America—without a referral and without higher deductibles and co-pays.”
But his plan is being canceled. His new, Obamacare-compatible plan has a $500 higher deductible, and a narrower physician and hospital network that restricts out-of-town providers. And yet it costs 66 percent more than his current plan. “Mr. President,” he writes, “I really like my health plan and I would like to keep it. Can you help me out here?” …
Mary Landrieu (D., La.), locked in a competitive reelection race against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R., La.), now claims that she was unaware that Obamacare would disrupt existing insurance arrangements. “It was our understanding when we voted for that bill that people when they have insurance could keep with what they had. So I’m going to be working on that fix,” she said on Wednesday.
But that’s not accurate. It was well known, as far back as 2009, that millions of Americans would lose their existing coverage under the Obamacare bill. Landrieu still voted for it. In September of 2010, Sen. Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced legislation that would protect small businesses from losing their health plans’ grandfathered status under Obamacare. Landrieu voted against the bill, on a party-line vote.
But Landrieu’s flip-flop illustrates the potency of this issue. If Americans were truly being forced off of their existing insurance plans—that they like—and into better and more affordable ones, the outcry would be minimal. But that isn’t what’s happening. People are being forced into inferior and costlier plans. And they’re making their displeasure felt in Washington.
Obama Issues Executive Order on Climate Change:
On November 1, 2013, President Obama issued an executive order directing a government-wide effort to boost preparation in states and local communities for the impact of global warming. As the Washington Times reported:
The action orders federal agencies to work with states to build “resilience” against major storms and other weather extremes. For example, the president’s order directs that infrastructure projects like bridges and flood control take into consideration climate conditions of the future, which might require building structures larger or stronger — and likely at a higher price tag.
“The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies and public health across the nation,” the presidential order said. “The federal government must build on recent progress and pursue new strategies to improve the nation’s preparedness and resilience.”
There’s no estimate of how much the additional planning will cost…. The White House is also setting up a task force of state and local leaders to offer advice to the federal government, with several Democratic governors having agreed to serve and at least one Republican governor, from the U.S. territory of Guam.
Mr. Obama has a goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, and the Environmental Protection Agency is working on rules that would impose tougher regulations on coal-burning power plants. But much of the president’s climate-change agenda has stalled in Congress, and the administration says the new order recognizes that global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, making further damage from global warming inevitable.
At a speech at Georgetown University in June, Mr. Obama outlined executive actions he would take to require government and private industry to prepare for the effects of climate change.
“The question is not whether we need to act,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.”
Obama Denies Having Promised That People Could Keep Their Healthcare Plans:
On November 4, 2013, Obama spoke to Organizing For America. The Daily Caller summarizes what he said:
President Barack Obama told his enthusiastic supporters Monday night that he never promised what video recordings show him promising at least 29 times.
The videos show Obama promising 300 million Americans that “if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period.”
But that’s not what he really said, Obama announced Monday in a speech to about 200 Organizing for Action supporters, gathered at the St. Regis hotel in D.C.
“What we said was you could keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law was passed,” he told Obamacare’s political beneficiaries and contractors.
That claim is not supported by his videotaped statements, which don’t include any mention of his new “if it hasn’t changed” exception.
But the newly-revealed exception is justified by a higher-priority promise in Obamacare, Obama declared.
“If we had allowed these old plans [to continue]… then we would have broken an even more important promise — making sure that Americans gain access to health care that doesn’t leave them one illness away from financial ruin,” he announced.
“So the bottom line is, is that we are making the insurance market better for everybody,” he declared, prompting loud applause by supporters eager to ignore his three years of fraudulent statements.
Obama’s higher promise is now causing the cancelation of insurance policies chosen by at least 3.5 million Americans.
The cancellations are spreading from the individual market to the small-group market. For example, Kentucky’s Department of Insurance has reported that 150,000 people in small-group plans — typically created for employees of small companies — are losing their insurance.
Obama urged his supporters to counter the political effect of the many cancellations by highlighting good-news stories, and by reassuring people who have lost their insurance that they can buy new Obamacare-compliant policies.
“I realize that can be scary for people if they just get some [cancellation] notice like that… we’ve got to make sure that we’re getting them the right information,” he said.
But he also tried to downplay the Obamacare-caused cancellations, which are creating a wave of bad publicity that is hammering his poll ratings and his political clout.
“People are acting like this is some new phenomenon… every year there was churn in this individual market” before the law was passed, he complained.
But Americans’ complaints are subordinate to his political goals, he suggested.
“We decided we need to build something better, no matter how hard it is,” he declared.
Under that better progressive-managed system, some people’s health-care costs are going to jump, but it will be good for them, Obama said.
“Some Americans with higher incomes will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and better protections that could eventually help them a lot, even if right now they’d rather be paying less,” he announced.
Obama’s deceptive statements were deliberate and were intended to bolster Obama’s ability to get Obamacare passed in 2010 and him reelected in 2012, according to aides cited in a Wall Street Journal article Saturday.
“Simplification and ease of explanation were a premium, and that was true throughout the process,” Jon Favreau, who was Obama’s senior speech writer, told the journal’s writers.
Despite Obama’s new claims to his supporters, his “if it hasn’t changed” exception is not recorded in even one of his many videotaped “you can keep it” promises to Americans.
“We will keep this promise to the American people… if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period,” Obama said June 23, 2009.
“If you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future,” Obama told voters on April Fool’s Day, 2010, after the law was signed.
He repeated the unqualified promise in the run-up to the 2012 election. “If you’ve got health insurance…. you keep your own insurance, you keep your own doctor,” he declared in one of the three presidential debates.
In a National Journal piece titled “Lying About Lies,” Ron Fournier debunked Obama’s attempt to rewrite history”
It might not seem possible that President Obama could do more harm to his credibility and the public’s faith in government than misleading Americans about health insurance reform. But he can. The president is now misleading the public about his deception.In a speech Monday night to his political team, Obama said: “Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
No, no, no, no, no–that’s not what the Obama administration said. What it said was:
“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” – President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009, during the debate over health insurance reform.
“And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.” – Obama, remarks in Portland, Ore., April 1, 2010, after the bill was signed into law.
These quotes are courtesy of Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, who gave Obama four Pinocchios for the you-can-keep-it whopper, repeated countless times by Obama. “The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal—and made both before and after the bill became law,” Kessler wrote. “The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.”
What Obama told supporters Monday is what he should have told the public all along. “So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you’re grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they’ve got to change it to a higher standard. They’ve got to make it better, they’ve got to improve the quality of the plan they are selling,” Obama said at an Organizing for Action event. “That’s part of the promise that we made too. That’s why we went out of our way to make sure that the law allowed for grandfathering.”
“If we had allowed these old plans to be downgraded, or sold to new enrollees once the law had already passed, then we would have broken an even more important promise–making sure Americans gain access to health care that doesn’t leave them one illness away from financial ruin,” Obama said Monday. “The bottom line is that we are making the insurance market better for everybody and that’s the right thing to do.”
Watch the video of Obama reinventing history with the “what-we-said-was” construction. Notice how he is looking at notes. Remarkably, this was not an off-the-cuff remark; it was written, reviewed, and approved by senior White House officials, then recited by the president. An orchestrated deceit.
Why didn’t Obama add their caveats during his reelection campaign? His aides debated it. Some argued that the president had to shoot straight with the public. Others feared that he public wouldn’t understand the nuance and GOP rival Mitt Romney would use it to his advantage.
The cynics won. The truth was buried. And the man who promised to run the most transparent administration in history participated in a lie.
Obama’s Secret Negotiations with Iran: Israel Is Outraged:
In early November 2013, it was reported that the Obama administration had begun softening sanctions on Iran (vis a vis its nuclear program) soon after the election of that country’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, five months earlier. Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, an organization that had worked closely with Congress and the Obama administration on devising sanctions against Iran, said: “For five months, since Rouhani’s election, the United States has offered Iran two major forms of sanctions relief. First there’s been a significant slowdown in the pace of designations while the Iranians are proliferating the number of front companies and cutouts to bust sanctions.” Moreover, the Obama administration had also been opposing new Iran-sanctions legislation supported by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
Obama’s anti-sanctions stance set the stage, in turn, for America to propose a short-term nuclear agreement with Iran at a November meeting in Geneva. This “first step agreement,” which was designed to allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium at low levels, sought to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for approximately six months in order to create an opportunity for a more comprehensive and lasting deal to be negotiated. The November agreement included four key provisions, as outlined by the London Telegraph:
1) Iran would stop enriching uranium to the 20 per cent level that is close to weapons-grade – and turn its existing stockpile of this material into harmless oxide.
2) Iran would continue enrichment to the 3.5 per cent purity needed for nuclear power stations – but agree to limit the number of centrifuges being used for this purpose. There would, however, be no requirement to remove or disable any other centrifuges.
3) Iran would agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak, which could provide another route to a nuclear weapons capability, during the six-month period. Iran may, however, continue working on the facility.
4) Iran would agree not to use its more advanced IR-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium between three and five times faster than the older model.
“In return,” said the Telegraph, “America would ease economic sanctions, possibly by releasing some Iranian foreign exchange reserves currently held in frozen accounts. In addition, some restrictions affecting Iran’s petrochemical, motor and precious metals industries could be relaxed.” Also involved in the negotiations were Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.
On November 8, 2013, the Israeli government was stunned to learn of the seemingly imminent deal. According to The DailyBeast.com, the news of the agreement led to the canceling of a joint media appearance between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, “and prompted, instead, a bitter exchange between them before Kerry headed off to the Swiss city” to take part in the talks.
One Israeli official was quoted saying that “the Americans capitulated to Iranian maneuvering…. Kerry wants a deal at all costs and the Iranians are leading the Americans by the nose.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, outraged at the prospect of the U.S.-Iranian deal, said: “I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, as well they should be, because they got everything, and paid nothing, they wanted. They wanted relief from sanctions after years of a gruelling sanctions regime.” Added Netanyhau: “The deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years. Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and it pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure. I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal–a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.” “Israel utterly rejects it [the deal],” Netanyahu emphasized, “and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly…. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people.”
Over the weekend I spoke with President Obama, with President Putin, with President Hollande, with Chancellor Merkel and with British Prime Minister Cameron. I told them that according to all the information reaching Israel, the impending deal is bad and dangerous.
It is not only dangerous to us; it is dangerous for them, too. It is dangerous for the peace of the world because in one fell swoop it lowers the pressure of the sanctions which took years to build, and conversely, Iran essentially preserves its nuclear uranium enrichment capabilities as well as the ability to advance on the plutonium enrichment path….
I asked all the leaders what the rush is. And I suggested that they wait…. It is good that this was ultimately the choice that was made but I am not fooling myself—there is a strong desire to strike a deal….
A number of days later, the U.S.—along with Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany—resumed their negotiations with Iran. And on November 24, the Obama administration announced the signing of an interim agreement wherein Iran agreed that for six months it would:
In exchange, the U.S. and its bargaining partners assured Iran that for the same six-month period:
But the agreement gave Russia, a staunch ally of Iran, the right to oversee whatever future actions the Western powers might wish to take regarding Iran. Moreover, the deal kept sensitive sites such as the Iranian military base at Parchin, where researchers were busy weaponizing enriched uranium, off-limits to inpectors. And the same immunity from inspections would apply also to any new nuclear sites that Iran might open up subsequent to the signing of the accord.
By John Kerry’s telling: “The deal is the beginning and first step. It leads us into the negotiation—so that we guarantee that while we are negotiating for the dismantling, while we are negotiating for the tougher positions, they will not grow their program and their capacity to threaten Israel. Israel will actually gain a larger breathing space in terms of the breakout capacity of Iran. It’s just clear.”
President Obama was equally optimistic, saying the agreement would ensure that “Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon”—an assertion that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described as “a funny joke.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was deeply disturbed by news of the agreement with Iran. The day after the deal had been finalized, he said: “What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
Netanyahu lamented that for the first time, the world’s leading powers had agreed to permit uranium enrichment in Iran while suspending effective sanctions — in exchange for merely “cosmetic Iranian concessions that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks.” Declaring, further, that “Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu emphasized that his country “has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” and thus “is not bound by this agreement.” “It becomes [increasingly] clear,” he added, “how bad and dangerous the agreement is to the world, the region and Israel.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who likewise condemned the accord, said: “We are in a new reality that is different from yesterday, and it requires us to reevaluate the situation with good judgment, responsibly and with determination. We will do what we must and will not hesitate for a minute—and there is no need to add another word.”
Yet another Israeli official stated that his government was particulary upset by the fact that the U.S. had not even informed Israel that the negotiations were taking place.
Similarly vexed, Nawaf Obaid, a senior advisor to the Saudi royal family, accused the United States and its partners of deception. “We were lied to, things were hidden from us,” he said. “The problem is not with the deal struck in Geneva but how it was done.”
In early December 2013, the Reuters news agency reported that Iran was moving ahead with testing a new generation of more sophisticated centrifuges designed to enrich uranium much more efficiently and quickly than its predecessors. Said Reuters:
“Although the development does not appear to contravene the interim agreement struck between world powers and Iran last month, it may concern the West nonetheless, as the material can also provide the fissile core of a nuclear bomb if enriched to a high degree…. Under the November 24 interim accord with the six world powers, Iran promised not to start operating them or install any more for a period of six months. But the agreement seems to allow it to continue with research and development activity at a nearby Natanz pilot plant.”
In mid-December, journalist Amir Taheri wrote:
“Less than a month after it was hailed as ‘a great diplomatic coup,’ the so-called Geneva accord to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions seems to have come unstuck. The official narrative in Tehran is that Iran signed nothing. ‘There is no treaty and no pact,’ says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, ‘only a statement of intent.’ Originally, Iran’s official media had presented the accord as a treaty (qarardad) but it now refers to a “letter of agreement” (tavafoq nameh).
“The initial narrative claimed that the P5+1 group of nations that negotiated the deal with Iran had recognized the Islamic Republic’s right to enrich uranium and agreed to start lifting sanctions over a six-month period. In exchange, Iran would slow its uranium enrichment and postpone for six months the installation of equipment for producing plutonium, an alternate route to making a bomb. A later narrative claimed that the accord wasn’t automatic and that the two sides had appointed experts to decide the details (“modalities”) and fix a timetable.
“[On December 16], an editorial in the daily Kayhan, published by the office of ‘Supreme Guide’ Ali Khameini, claimed that the ‘six month’ period of the accord was meaningless and that a final agreement might ‘even take 20 years to negotiate.’ …
“[T]he new Iranian narrative is that talks about implementing an accord that is not legally binding have collapsed and that, in the words of the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Akbar Salehi, there is no change in the rhythm and tempo of Iran’s nuclear project. ‘Our centrifuges are working full capacity,’ Salehi said [on December 12].
“Having claimed that he had halted Iran’s nuclear project, Secretary of State John Kerry might want to reconsider.”
Democrats Use the “Nuclear Option” to Change Senate Filibuster Rules; Obama Approves
On November 21, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a Senate vote on the so-called “nuclear option,” the term for a monumentally dramatic change to the rules governing the confirmation of judicial and executive nominees. Traditionally, 60 Senate votes had been required to clear a procedural hurdle in the approval process for such nominees — meaning that the minority party, if it could muster 41 votes or more, had the ability to filibuster and block nominees of whom it disapproved. Under the new rule, only a simple majority would be needed to confirm all nominees other than Supreme Court Justices (for whom the 60-vote standard remained in effect). This would significantly diminish the power of the minority party, and would give the President virtually unchecked authority to appoint whomever he wished to the federal bench.
Fifty-two senators—all Democrats and Independents—voted in favor of the rules change. Three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
During the preceding several weeks, Reid had grown resentful of Republican filibusters of three Obama nominees to the District of Columbia Circuit Court. Condemning such “gridlock,” he went to the Senate floor in the aftermath of the vote and said: “The need for change is so very, very obvious. It’s clearly visible. It’s manifest we have to do something to change things…. It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”
Reid’s, and the Democrats’, primary objective was to empower President Obama to pack the federal courts with radical leftists serving lifetime appointments.
Nine years earlier, when Republicans controlled the Senate during a period when Democrats repeatedly filibustered George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, Reid had said the following: “The filibuster is not a scheme, and it certainly isn’t new. The filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It’s part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate.” When Republicans, at that time, were threatening to invoke the nuclear option over stalled nominees, Reid argued passionately against the procedure: “They are talking about doing something illegal,” he said in April of that year. “They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right.” A month later he remained just as adamant: “To change the rules in the Senate can’t be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes.”
Other Democrats who had opposed the nuclear option at that time included the following:
Sen. Obama: “The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster; if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”
Sen. Reid: “The filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It’s part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate. It was well known in colonial legislatures before we became a country and it’s an integral part of our country’s two hundred fourteen year history.”
Sen. Biden: “This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by [the] majority party.”
Sen. Durbin: “And those who would attack and destroy the institution of the filibuster are attacking the very force within the Senate which creates compromise and bipartisanship.”
Sen. Schumer: “The people have made clear they believe the filibuster is an important check and balance to be preserved, not vaporized.”
Sen. Harkin: ” If more than a majority were required for a decision, the fundamental principle a free government would be reversed. There would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.”
Rep. Murray: “Mr. President, in reality, this is not about judges; this is not about a Senate procedural change; this is plain and simply a power grab and an effort to dismantle the checks and balances our founding fathers created. Without that system, the United States Senate would simply become a rubber stamp for the President.”
Sen. Feinstein: “Today, rather than utilizing and preserving the natural tension and conflict our Constitution created, some in the Republican party want to eviscerate and destroy that foundation. Blinded by political passions, some are willing to unravel our government’s fundamental principle of checks and balances to break the rules and discard Senate precedent.”
Sen. Kerry: “Don’t subvert the system. Don’t play a cute parliamentary game that’s been untouched over two hundred years. This is a stunning moment. The problem is that words spoken in this chamber don’t even fully convey the importance of this moment. This is in fact, one of those times that the founding fathers and countless other statesmen of history have warned us against.”
Sen. Nelson: “And it clearly can’t function unless Senators can get along and trust each other and where Senators can have respect for one another and where the minority is not run over all the time by the majority. That’s one of the great checks and balances of this constitutional system that we have, is that the rights of the minority are protected because of extended debate, which at the end of the day, it encourages compromise and consensus building. As the good book says, come, let us reason together.”
President Obama’s reaction to the Senate move was as follows:
“Over the past five years we’ve seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that’s prevented too much of the American people’s business from getting done,” Obama said during a brief statement at the White House…. [N]either party has been blameless for these tactics, [but] a deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything — no matter what the merits, just to refight the results of an election — is not normal. And for the sake of future generations we can’t let it become normal.”
But at a Texas fundraiser just two weeks earlier, Obama, bragging about “remaking the courts,” told the audience: “In addition to the Supreme Court, we’ve been able to nominate and confirm judges of extraordinary quality all across the country on federal benches. We’re actually, when it comes to the district court, matching the pace of previous presidents. When it comes to the appellate court, we’re just a little bit behind, and we’re just going to keep on focused on it.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said that the Senate move was intended to shift the ideological balance of the DC Circuit — which “has been holding the administration accountable” and would be “the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing ObamaCare” — by “packing” it with leftist “judges that they believe will be a rubber stamp.”
China Claims Control of Disputed Area in East China Sea
On November 23, 2013, the International Business Times reported:
Effective this weekend, China’s government declared the nation’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which includes a significant part of disputed areas in the East China Sea. …
In an official statement regarding the ADIZ, established on Nov. 23, at 10 a.m., China’s Ministry of National Defense announced that flight plans and other identifying information for all aircraft operating in that zone would be required in order to operate legally. “If an aircraft doesn’t supply its flight plan, China’s armed forces will adopt emergency defensive measures in response,” state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. “The announcement states that China’s Ministry of National Defense has full administrative rights over the zone.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released an official statement on the ADIZ, expressing deep concern. “We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” he said, adding that the unilateral decision by China “increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations” in the region. Hagel also affirmed that the U.S. remains aligned with its allies in the region, specifically Japan. The territorial dispute involves mainly the cluster of islands referred to by Japan as Senkaku and by China as the Diaoyu. Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that “one-sided action” will potentially “trigger unpredictable events” and “cannot be allowed.”
After the U.S. and Japan released comments condemning the new air defense zone, China’s Foreign Minister, Qing Gang, bit back. “Japan has no right to make irresponsible remarks or wage deliberate offences over China’s establishment of the East China Sea ADIZ,” Qin said, saying that such ”groundless accusations” from Japan are what could lead to “frictions or undermine regional stability.”
Though China and the U.S. are inevitably economically intertwined, China is insisting that the U.S. stay out of Sino-Japanese politics. “The U.S. should keep its word of not taking sides on the issue concerning the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands and stop making improper comments,” Qin said.
Obama Pre-Arranges Heckler at Immigration Speech
During a November 25, 2013 immigration speech in San Francisco, Ju Hong, an illegal alien from South Korea, received White House approval to attend the president’s teleprompted speech where, on cue, Ju heckled the president with a message designed to give the impression that Obama was a moderate on immigration reform — i.e., that he was not doing enough to prevent deportations. Rather than allowing security personnel to arrest the heckler, Obama ordered them to let the man stay. The DailyKenn.com blog reported:
“The fact that the heckler was an approved guest verifies that the White House knew he was an illegal alien and could have/should have arrested him prior to the speech. By admitting Ju Hong and not ejecting him, Obama was sending a dog-whistle message to illegal aliens that he has no intention of ridding the country of their future votes for future Democratic candidates.”
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies wrote the following day:
Yesterday’s heckler at Obama’s pro-amnesty speech in San Francisco was Ju Hong, an approved guest of the White House and an illegal alien from South Korea who recently graduated from UC Berkeley. People who still say illegal aliens “live in the shadows” obviously don’t know this guy: He’s on Twitter and LinkedIn, was a member of student government, has lobbied for taxpayer subsidies for illegal-alien students, and has been the subject of so much fawning news coverage he has his own topic page at the Cal student paper.
The salient fact here for immigration policy is that he came with his family on a tourist visa, and never left. Visa overstayers are believed to represent between a third and a half of the 12 million illegal aliens in the United States — and with improvements in border enforcement it’s possible the majority of new illegal aliens are overstayers. That translates to 4 to 6 million liars, people who swore they’d leave when their visit was over but didn’t, something at least as contemptible as sneaking into someone else’s country. Hong came as a child, so he wasn’t doing the lying, but he’s no more entitled to stay than the child of someone who lied on a mortgage application and later lost his home.
Obama Says He Is “Proud” of Immigration Activists
On November 29, 2013, President Obama and his wife went to the National Mall in Washington to visit 10 activists who were in the 18th day of a hunger strike protesting House inaction on immigration-reform legislation. “We are very proud of you,” Obama told the activists on behalf of his administration. “I remain optimistic that we’re going to get this done. It’s more of a question of when not if. But I’d rather get it done sooner rather than later because each day, obviously, it’s not done makes it more difficult because we still have a system that’s not working for too many people.” Reiterating his view that there was still time in 2013 for the House to pass such legislation, Obama added: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
EPA Hands Wyoming town over to Indian Tribe
On January 8, 2014, the Daily Caller reported:
Have you heard the story of the residents of Riverton, Wyo.? One day they were Wyomingans, the next they were members of the Wind River tribes — after the Environmental Protection Agency declared the town part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, undoing a 1905 law passed by Congress and angering state officials.
The surprise decision was made by officials of the EPA, the Department of Interior, and Department of Justice early last month, and has invoked the ire of Gov. Matt Mead, who has vowed not to honor the agency’s decision and is preparing to fight in court.
“My deep concern is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state’s boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law,” Mead said in a statement. “This should be a concern to all citizens because, if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop?”
The EPA declared that Riverton was part of the Wind River Indian Reservation after granting a “Treatment as a State” application from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes. The tribes submit such applications to get funding for air quality monitoring under the Clean Air Act. However, this seemingly innocuous application ended up undoing the tribal boundaries set by a 1905 congressional act.
The EPA granted the tribes’ claim that the Wind River reservation extended over one million acres of land beyond what the 1905 Congressional Act established. By doing this, the agency effectively overruled an act of Congress, state officials charge.
The worry by state officials is that turning Riverton, a town of over 10,000 people, over to the tribes will come with a slew of tax and law enforcement complications. Since Riverton is now part of the Wind River reservation, it is technically no longer eligible for state services and no longer falls under local law enforcement. Mead, however, has ordered that state agencies conduct “business as usual” in regards to Riverton, meaning state services, law enforcement and regulations will continue.
“This is an alarming action when you have a federal agency step in and start to undo congressional acts that has really been our history for 108 years … with the stroke of a pen without talking to the biggest groups impacted,” state Sen. Leland Christensen told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “and that would be the city of Riverton and the state of Wyoming.”
According to the Mead’s office, the EPA’s decision came as a surprise to him, and he only found about it from the media — not the EPA itself. This comes after Mead wrote to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy last August detailing his concerns about the implications of granting the tribes’ request to effectively override the 1905 act.
The tribes remain adamant that Riverton and the one million acres of land is theirs, arguing that state officials once supported such a conclusion. Tribal officials have criticized tthe governor’s office for changing its tune on Riverton and the reservation’s boundaries.
“Now that the [Interior Department] and EPA have issued their determinations, state officials have changed their tune, claiming to be outraged by the decision and suggesting that the federal government has no say in such matters,” the Northern Arapaho Business Council wrote in a letter to Mead, adding that the state’s shift in rhetoric could hurt tribe-state relations.
The dispute has received little national attention as of yet, but the Wyoming congressional delegation has written the EPA on the issue.
“The EPA’s decision has in effect overturned a law that has been governing land and relationships for more than 100 years,” wrote Wyoming Sens Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, along with Rep. Cynthia Lummis. “We are also very concerned about the political ramifications this decision could have for the tribes and the state of Wyoming.”
The boundary dispute between Wyoming and the tribes has been going on for some time now. It arose from a 2009 tax case that the state urged the courts not to drop because of the “implications of ruling on a boundary without the federal government and Eastern Shoshone being involved in the case,” reports the Casper Star-Tribune.
“We don’t have a fully binding decision,” Deputy Attorney General Marty Hardsocg in 2009. “We do in the state, but the state is then put in a position of having to rely on the federal government’s view for its direction.”
“At the end of the day, state lawyers acknowledge that this determination is a federal question and must be determined to a final point in the federal courts,” Mark Howell, the lobbyist for the Northern Arapaho tribe, told the Star-Tribune. “That’s what this EPA decision will allow all parties to do.”
DHS Hires a Host of Leftist Immigration Attorneys
In early December 2013, J. Christian Adams of PJ Media reported:
Despite the sequester, the Department of Homeland Security has just completed a hiring blitz of attorneys to oversee and manage immigration litigation. Almost all of these new civil service attorney hires hail from an activist pro-amnesty and pro-asylum background. Sources within the Department of Homeland Security report that the process for hiring these new career civil service lawyers [who will keep their jobs even if a Republican wins the White House in 2016] was unconventional and was conducted by an Obama political appointee within DHS.
The new attorneys have activist backgrounds with a variety of pro-amnesty groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Advancement Project, and open borders groups funded by the Tides Foundation.
PJ Media previously reported on attorney hires within the Justice Department Civil Rights Division in the Every Single One series. That series demonstrated that every single attorney hire had a leftist or Democrat activist pedigree. The Department of Justice Inspector General criticized those DOJ hiring procedures as producing ideological outcomes. PJ Media only obtained the resumes of DOJ hires after this publication was forced to sue Eric Holder in federal court under the Freedom of Information Act.Now, sources inside DHS have provided PJ Media with the employment history and pro-amnesty backgrounds of the newly hired lawyers who will be enforcing federal immigration laws.
The ideological histories of these new DHS lawyers undermine confidence that the federal government will vigorously enforce federal laws, notwithstanding any congressional “mandates” to do so.
These lawyers were hired through unconventional means by former DHS chief counsel for Citizen and Immigration Services Stephen Legomsky. Sources at DHS report that when Legomsky was hired by Secretary Janet Napalitano’s Department, he was not even an active member of any bar association. After resigning in October 2013, Legomsky is now a professor of law at Washington University. His scholarship is most notable for its hostility toward barriers to entry for foreigners coming to the United States.
Here are the backgrounds of the new lawyers hired at the DHS in the recent hiring blitz:
Kristy Blumeyer-Martinez is a new attorney in the DHS Office of the Chief Counsel. Prior to joining OCC, Kristy served as law clerk to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in San Antonio, Texas, and RAICES in San Antonio, Texas. In law school, she also clerked with the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic and Sacramento Child Advocates/Children’s Law Center. She also worked at American Gateways, Refugee Services of Texas, and Caritas of Austin.
Esther Cantor was hired into the refugee and asylum law division as an associate counsel at DHS headquarters in Washington, D.C.. She participated in the Immigration Clinic and volunteered with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, an open borders organization.
Nicole Flores is a new DHS lawyer in Chicago. She graduated from Harvard Law School, where she worked at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and served as the co-president of the Harvard Immigration Project, an organization dedicated to ensuring foreigners get to stay in the United States. She was also a legal intern at the leftist open borders organization LatinoJustice-PRLDEF. According to DHS sources, there she worked on project to badger businesses who implemented English-only rules in the work place. Before law school, she was a volunteer activist at a “workers’ rights” organization in Madison, Wisconsin.
Erin Fricker is a new DHS lawyer formerly employed by Lutheran Social Services of New England, where she was a staff attorney representing detained foreigners attempting to stay in the United States. While in law school, Erin participated in the Boston College Immigration and Asylum Project as an immigration clinic student.
New DHS lawyer Elizabeth Grossman established her Obama-era ideological bona fides by serving on the executive board for the University of Michigan Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a leftist law school student group.
Elizabeth Gunter’s resume includes a stint in the Obama-era DOJ Attorney General’s Honor Program after graduating from Washington University, the same law school where Legomsky, the person doing the hiring at DHS, was a professor while Gunter was a student.
Cindy Heidelberg comes from the same Holder-era Attorney General’s Honor Program, after a long activist background with open borders groups. Cynthia graduated from Georgetown Law in 2011, earning a J.D. with a certificate in “Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies.” During law school, she interned at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, the ACLU National Prison Project, and the AARP Litigation Foundation.
Celia Hicks is a new lawyer with the Litigation and National Security Coordination Division in Washington, DC. She served as Protection Fellow for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and previously worked for the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council, an organization notoriously hostile to Border Patrol agents.
New DHS lawyer Leila Higgins previously worked as a student attorney in the Immigrant Justice Clinic at her law school. This organization, according to its website, represents “immigrants on cutting-edge asylum claims based on gender and sexual orientation.”
Lawyer Stephanie Hummel previously worked at the ABA Center for Human Rights in Washington, as well as the pro-amnesty Immigration Law Project, and Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2008, she spent time in Cairo studying Arabic. In law school, Hummel won a CALI Award for “Representation of Non-US Citizens in Immigration Court Proceedings.”
Before joining DHS, attorney Jennifer Lee was an advocate for illegal aliens obtaining in-state tuition at public universities, though she naturally called them “undocumented immigrants.” Lee also worked at the Legal Aid Justice Center, a organization which advised illegals “what to do in the event of a raid.”
Katelyn Love is now a DHS lawyer in Washington, D.C. She once worked at Lutheran Family Services, where she represented foreigners in their attempts to stay in the United States. Katelyn spent her junior year of college in Morocco studying “formal and colloquial” Arabic.
New DHS lawyer Maura Ooi previously worked in militantly activist roles with militantly activist open borders organizations such as the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. Also, prior to joining DHS, Ooi penned a report for the leftist National Immigration Law Center bashing DHS. Titled “DHS Proposes Fantasy Remedies to Cure Fundamental Flaws in the Secure Communities Program” (emphasis mine), Ooi complained about efforts to fingerprint captured illegal aliens. Without collecting biometric data such as fingerprints, deported illegal aliens may repeatedly return to the United States and their prior illegal entries would remain unknown.
Reena Parikh also worked at the American University Immigrant Justice Clinic, where she represented foreigners in removal proceedings. She also worked as a legal intern at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a group knee-deep in trying to ease immigration laws.
If you were starting to think that Stephen Legomsky only hired young women to be DHS lawyers, meet new DHS lawyer Steven Plastrik. What Plastrik lacks in femininity, he makes up for with a deep commitment to making sure foreigners get to stay in the United States. He prepared asylum applications at Freedom House and on behalf of other organizations.
New DHS lawyer Liza Shah just completed a stint with the George Soros-funded Advancement Project working to ensure felons get the right to vote in Virginia (with the tragic and politically suicidal aid of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell). As a law student, Shah naturally helped in litigation to keep foreigners in the United States.
Before becoming a DHS lawyer, Connie Yao worked at the Tides Foundation-funded East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, where she assisted individuals with asylum applications. At Cornell Law, she participated in the Advocacy for LGBT Communities Clinic.
Amisha Sharma is on the board of directors of her local Planned Parenthood when she isn’t busy as a newly hired DHS lawyer. She also worked at the ACLU. She received a dual degree in religious studies and women’s and gender studies from Louisiana State University. At Fordham Law, she was on the board of “Law Students for Reproductive Justice,” worked at the “Center for Reproductive Rights” and volunteered for the “Planned Parenthood of New York City’s Activist Council.”
Catlin Shay has a history of aiding foreigners seeking to remain in the United States as well as activism against laws prohibiting felons from voting. She wrote “Free But No Liberty: How Florida Contravenes the Voting Rights Act by Preventing Persons Previously Convicted of Felonies from Voting,” and advocated a position wholly rejected by federal courts.
Cara Shewchuk once worked at the pro-amnesty National Immigration Law Center and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, providing free legal help to illegal aliens.
Melanie Siders worked for the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network prior to her time as a DHS lawyer.
Lindsay Smith is a graduate of Smith College and Michigan Law, where she was “a Jenny Runkles scholar” for her commitment to public interest law and “diversity.” She also worked at the open borders, pro-amnesty group Americans for Immigrant Justice.
Prior to joining DHS, Shahna Esber was an “Immigration Law Fellow” at the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, where she helped foreigners stay in the United States. She also worked with the Immigration Center for Women and Children, an organization “proud to assist immigrant youth applying for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
DHS lawyer Bria DeSalvo graduated from Georgetown University Law Center “with a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. ” In law school, DeSalvo volunteered for the CAIR coalition.
DHS lawyer Jessika Croizat served as a union organizer for AFSCME before deciding to attend law school.
Before his job as an attorney at DHS, Michael Celone was a Hill staffer for Democrats. He worked with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) helping prepare research to attack the Bush Justice Department regarding the firing of political appointees who were serving as United States attorneys. He also worked for Democrat Rep. Jim Langevin from Rhode Island. He also authored an article revealingly titled “Undocumented and Unprotected: Solutions for Protecting the Health of America’s Undocumented Mexican Migrant Workers.”
If you are an attorney with a background in enforcing immigration law as opposed to representing foreigners attempting to stay in the United States, don’t expect to be hired by DHS during the Obama administration. And based on this recent batch of hires, if you are a male with a background in immigration enforcement, forget about it.
Revelation of the Schemes the Obama Administration Employed in Order to Win the 2012 Election
On December 15, 2013, the Washington Post reported:
The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.
Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.
The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers, and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.
The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection.
The number and scope of delays under Obama went well beyond those of his predecessors, who helped shape rules but did not have the same formalized controls, said current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Those findings are bolstered by a new report from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent agency that advises the federal government on regulatory issues. The report is based on anonymous interviews with more than a dozen senior agency officials who worked with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which oversees the implementation of federal rules.
The report said internal reviews of proposed regulatory changes “took longer in 2011 and 2012 because of concerns about the agencies issuing costly or controversial rules prior to the November 2012 election.”
Emily Cain, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement that the administration’s “approach to regulatory review is consistent with long-standing precedent across previous administrations and fully adheres” to federal rules.
Administration officials noted that they issued a number of controversial rules during Obama’s first term, including limits on mercury emissions for power plants and Medicaid eligibility criteria under the Affordable Care Act.
“OMB works as expeditiously as possible to review rules, but when it comes to complex rules with significant potential impact, we take the time needed to get them right,” Cain said.
But Ronald White, who directs regulatory policy at the advocacy group Center for Effective Government, said the “overt manipulation of the regulatory review process by a small White House office” raises questions about how the government writes regulations. He said the amount of time it took the White House to review proposed rules was “particularly egregious over the past two years.”
Previous White House operations have weighed in on major rules before they were officially submitted for review. But Jeffrey Holmstead, who headed the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in the George W. Bush administration, said the effort was not as extensive as the Obama administration’s approach.
“There was no formalized process by which you had to get permission to send them over,” Holmstead said, referring to rules being submitted to the White House.
The recent decision to bring on Democratic strategist John Podesta as a senior White House adviser is likely to accelerate the number of new rules and executive orders, given Podesta’s long-standing support for using executive action to achieve the president’s goals despite congressional opposition….
The officials interviewed for the ACUS report, whose names were withheld from publication by the study authors, said that starting in 2012 they had to meet with an OIRA desk officer before submitting each significant rule for formal review. They called the sessions “Mother-may-I” meetings, according to the study.
The accounts were echoed by four Obama administration political appointees and three career officials interviewed by The Post.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, a former official said that only two managers had the authority to request a major rule in 2012: then-administrator Lisa P. Jackson and deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe. Perciasepe and OIRA’s director at the time, Cass Sunstein, would have “weekly and sometimes semi-weekly discussions” to discuss rules that affected the economy, one said, because they had political consequences, the person said.
“As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” the former official said.
Sunstein, who has returned to his post as a Harvard Law School professor, declined to comment.
Several significant EPA proposals were withheld as a result of those meetings, officials said, including a proposal requiring cleaner gasoline and lower-pollution vehicles that had won the support of automakers but angered the oil industry.
That regulation, which would reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleetwide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017, was ready in December 2011, said three officials familiar with the proposal. But agency officials were told to wait a year to submit it for review because critics could use it to suggest that the administration was raising gas prices, they said. The EPA issued the proposed rule in March.
Other EPA regulations that were delayed beyond the 2012 election included rules on coal ash disposal, water pollution rules for streams and wetlands, air emissions from industrial boilers and cement kilns, and carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.
Ross Eisenberg, who serves as vice president of energy and resources policy at the National Association for Manufacturers and has criticized several EPA regulations, noted that in the past year the administration moved ahead with proposals such as the rules on greenhouse gas emissions and boilers.
“The agenda certainly did slow down, but it doesn’t change,” he said.
The administration also was slow to handle rules pertaining to its health-care law. Several key regulations did not come out until after the 2012 election, including one defining what constitutes “essential health benefits” under a health plan and which Americans could qualify for federal subsidies if they opted to enroll in a state or a federal marketplace plan.
The latter focused on what constitutes “affordable.” Treasury proposed a regulation in August 2011 saying an employer plan was affordable as long as the premium for an individual was no more than 9.5 percent of the taxpayer’s household income. Several groups — including labor unions — argued that the proposal did not take into account that the premium for a family plan might be much higher than that standard.
Unions represent a vital part of the Democratic coalition, in part because they help mobilize voters during elections.
The Treasury Department held the proposal back while finalizing all the other tax-credit rules on May 23, 2012. Treasury officials later told those working on the regulation that it could not be published before the election, according to a government official familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of its sensitive nature. The department made the rule on Feb. 1.
OMB has reduced the length of time that rules are pending this year. The agency has cut the number of rules that were under review for more than 200 days by more than half….
Obama Pardons Eight Crack-Cocaine Offenders Convicted under “Unfair System”
On December 19, 2013, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 8 people convicted of crack cocaine offenses, including a cousin of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, one of the president’s most loyal supporters. The Washington Times reported:
“I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness.”
Among those whose sentences were commuted is Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr., a first cousin of Mr. Patrick. He was sentenced to life after being convicted in Illinois federal court in 1994 on charges related to cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and its products.
Wintersmith was 19 at the time of his arrest. He reportedly was running drugs for a gang called the Gangster Disciples….
Three years ago, Mr. Obama signed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which narrowed the disparity of penalties for crimes involving crack and powder cocaine. Those granted clemency Thursday were convicted long before the new law took effect.
“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Mr. Obama said. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”
The president called on Congress to approve further sentencing reform measures to ensure “that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.”
Obama DOJ Pursues Federal Hate-Crime Charge Against White Perpetrator of the “Knockout Game”
In the fall of 2013, media outlets like Breitbart News, Truth Revolt, and Fox News reported extensively on the growing prevalence of the so-called “knockout game,” whereby groups of black teenagers were targeting defenseless and unsuspecting white, Jewish, and Asian pedestrians and blindsiding them with roundhouse punches designed to render the victims unconscious. Accomplices to the perpetrators commonly captured these attacks on video and posted them, as a form of celebration, to the website YouTube. Hundreds of these knockout-game incidents had occurred in cities nationwide since 2010. Many had resulted in serious injuries, and in several cases the victims had died.
The Obama administration, however, never took action against any of the perpetrators until late December 2013, when the Department of Justice filed a federal hate-crimes charge against a 27-year-old Texas white man who targeted a 79-year-old black man with a “knockout-game” attack (which he also videotaped and subsequently boasted about to strangers).