Archives for June 2012
Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:
Why do we even have ATF around anymore?
Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.
Let’s read their mission statement:
A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.
A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?
“protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?
“criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD
“the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one
“the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily
“acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation
With just days to go until the Supreme Court finally issues a decision on ObamaCare, perhaps the most important case to come before them in years, a new poll from the Associated Press shows that only a third of Americans back the health care law:
Just a third of Americans back President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul on which the Supreme Court is about to pass judgment, a new poll finds. But there is overwhelming support among both supporters and opponents for Congress and the president to begin work on a new bill if the high court strikes down the two-year-old law.
The overall level of support for the law is relatively unchanged in recent months, with 47 percent opposing it. But an Associated Press-GfK poll shows that only 21 percent of independents approve of the law, a new low in AP-GfK polling.
Large majorities of both opponents and backers of the law share the view that Congress and the president should start anew. The lowest level of support for new health care legislation comes from people who identify themselves as strong supporters of the tea party. Even in that group, though, nearly 60 percent favor work on a new bill.
Also, a separate poll shows that a majority of former Supreme Court law clerks believe that the individual mandate — the centerpiece of ObamaCare — will be struck down when the decision is finally issued.
About an hour ago, the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee voted along party lines to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress:
A House panel voted Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into Operation “Fast and Furious,” hours after President Obama asserted executive privilege over related documents.
On a party-line decision, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23 to 17 to hold Holder in contempt for failing to share documents related to the operation run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with the backing of the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. The move makes Holder the first member of Obama’s Cabinet held in contempt by a congressional committee.
The panel’s actions will be reported to the full House, where Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and GOP leaders have scheduled a floor vote for next week unless Holder hands over the documents before then. If passed by the House, the matter would then move to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen Jr., who is an employee of the Justice Department.
The details of what comes next aren’t exactly clear. Based on what I’ve heard, the Department of Justice, which Holder runs, would likely have to prosecute him. Needless to say, that is incredibly unlikely. And again, impeachment is completely out of the question. And whether or not Obama can even use “executive privilege” in this instance will probably wind up in the courts.
Preparing for defeat at the Supreme Court over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Obama Administration is looking at how they can implement parts of the law if only the individual mandate is struck down:
[T]he Obama administration will move ahead to implement major elements of the law if the individual coverage requirement is struck down, two senior Democrats told The Associated Press. One is a leading Democrat familiar with the administration’s thinking, the other a high-level Capitol Hill staffer. The two Democrats spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid appearing to be out of step with the administration’s public stance.
Because the law’s main coverage expansion does not begin until 2014, there would be time to try to fix serious problems that losing the individual coverage requirement may cause for the health insurance industry.
Surviving parts of the law would “absolutely” move ahead, said the congressional official. A Congress mired in partisan trench warfare would be unable to repeal or amend what’s left of the law, allowing the administration to advance. Much of the money for covering the uninsured was already provided in the law itself.
“Legislatively we can’t do a thing, and we are going to move full speed ahead (with implementation),” the official said.
Remember that time when President Barack Obama said the “private-sector is doing fine”? Apparently, the private-sector hasn’t received that memo. According to new numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers posted the fewest number of job openings in five months:
The Labor Department said Tuesday that job openings fell to a seasonally adjusted 3.4 million in April, down from 3.7 million in March. The March figure was the highest in nearly four years.
The decline could mean employers are growing more cautious about adding workers in the face of financial turmoil in Europe and slower growth in the United States. Job openings can take one to three months to fill.
There were 12.5 million unemployed people in April. That means there was an average of 3.7 people competing for each open job. In a healthy job market, the ratio is usually around 2 to 1.
Openings have risen by almost a third since the recession ended in June 2009. But they are still below pre-recession levels of about 5 million per month.
April’s decline in openings has coincided with a sharp slowdown in hiring. Employers added an average of only 73,000 jobs in April and May. That’s down from an average of 226,000 in the first three months of this year.
While Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) may have endorsed Mitt Romney, his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) yesterday told CNN’s Wolf Biltzer that he is “not ready” to endorse the GOP nominee; noting instead that his supporters are looking to significantly influence the party’s platform in August at the Republican National Convention:
Rep. Paul conceded last month that he didn’t have nearly enough delegates to win the nomination, expecting some 500 supporters to show up in Tampa. That, however, hasn’t stopped many of his delegates from filing a lawsuit against the RNC that would allow binding delegates to vote for the candidate of their choice from the convention floor in August. The RNC calls it a “frivolous” lawsuit.
I doubt that courts are going to do much to stop political parties from implementing their own nominating rules, so it seems rather pointless. The Ron Paul Revolution was able to gain much more traction this time around than four years ago. Many of his supporters were able to gain a lot of goodwill with Republicans. Unfortunately, a loud minority seem ready to squander it.
With two significant court victories in the last four years in the Supreme Court, the Second Amendment has received renewed interest as fundmental civil liberty. Though the Obama Administration and some Democrats in Congress still want to curtail this basic right to appeal to core constituencies, new FBI statistics show that, even though gun ownership is on the rise, crime is down:
Gun-control advocates are noticeably silent when crime rates decline. Their multimillion-dollar lobbying efforts are designed to manufacture mass anxiety that every gun owner is a potential killer. The statistics show otherwise.
Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that violent crime decreased 4 percent in 2011. The number of murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults all went down, continuing a pattern.
“This is not a one-year anomaly, but a steady decline in the FBI’s violent-crime rates,” said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. “It would be disingenuous for anyone to not credit increased self-defense laws to account for this decline.”
Mr. Arulanandam pointed out that only a handful of states had concealed-carry programs 25 years ago, when the violent-crime rate peaked. Today, 41 states either allow carrying without a permit or have “shall issue” laws that make it easy for just about any noncriminal to get a permit. Illinois and Washington, D.C., are the only places that refuse to recognize the right to bear arms. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence did not respond to requests for comment.
Yesterday, Rep. Ron Paul gave a speech on the House floor in regards to situation in Syria. Syria has descended into bloody civil war with rebel groups trying to oust Syrian dictator Bashir Assad. There have been reports of massacres and atrocities being committed by forces to loyal to the Assad government. In response, there have been increasing calls for intervention by United States and NATO forces, in the mold of the recent Libyan adventure, to remove the Assad government from power.
Rep. Paul spoke out against the proposed intervention and will file legislation to stop President Obama from launching a war against the Assad regime without Congressional authorization. This is legislation I would strongly support because only Congress has the constitutional duty to declare and authorize war. Plus, I believe intervention in Syria would be a huge mistake because it would likely ignite a larger Middle Eastern war involving Israel and Iran. However, the Paul speech unfortunately I believe did harm to supporters of non-interventionism and confirmed many negative stereotypes about them.
The speech included a few troubling passages, such as:
We are already too much involved in supporting the forces within Syria anxious to overthrow the current government. Without outside interference, the strife—now characterized as a civil war—would likely be non-existent.
Facing a contempt vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the White House to invoke “executive privilege” on withheld documents in the on-going investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. President Obama, seeking to protect Holder, granted the request this morning, just before the committee started off today’s hearing:
President Obama asserted executive privilege over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” operation Wednesday as a House panel moved to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt after he failed to hand over documents related to a congressional inquiry into the scandal.
In a letter sent to Obama late Tuesday, Holder urged Obama to exert executive privilege, because sharing internal documents with lawmakers could “have significant, damaging consequences.”
Sharing the documents “would inhibit candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Holder wrote to Obama.
As part of a congressional inquiry and a subpoena issued last year, Justice officials have given Issa’s committee 7,600 pages of Fast and Furious documents, but he has said that those documents represent a sliver of the 80,000-plus documents that officials have turned over to the DOJ inspector general, which is also investigating the gun operation.
It looked as though Attorney General Eric Holder was going to be able to avoid a looming contempt vote in the House provided he cooperated with the inquiry into the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. However, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said yesterday that he plans to move forward with the vote, as early as today, in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
A House committee is poised to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over more Justice Department documents on a flawed gun-smuggling probe that resulted in hundreds of guns illicitly purchased in Arizona gunshops winding up in Mexico.
The likelihood of a contempt vote rose after Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., failed to reach agreement Tuesday in a 20-minute meeting at the Capitol.
Issa wanted the documents immediately. Holder told reporters he would not turn over documents on the gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious unless Issa agreed to another meeting congressional briefing on the Justice Department material. Holder wants an assurance from Issa that the transfer of the records would satisfy a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs.
“If we receive no documents, we’ll go forward” with a contempt vote, Issa told reporters.
“We have offered to make materials available … to brief on those documents, to answer any questions that might come up with regard to the documents that we produced,” the attorney general said.