Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
In a surprise move late Friday, a key Democrat on the Federal Election Commission called for burdensome new rules on Internet-based campaigning, prompting the Republican chairman to warn that Democrats want to regulate online political sites and even news media like the Drudge Report.
Democratic FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel announced plans to begin the process to win regulations on Internet-based campaigns and videos, currently free from most of the FEC’s rules. “A reexamination of the commission’s approach to the internet and other emerging technologies is long over due,” she said.
The power play followed a deadlocked 3-3 vote on whether an Ohio anti-President Obama Internet campaign featuring two videos violated FEC rules when it did not report its finances or offer a disclosure on the ads. The ads were placed for free on YouTube and were not paid advertising.
Under a 2006 FEC rule, free political videos and advocacy sites have been free of regulation in a bid to boost voter participation in politics. Only Internet videos that are placed for a fee on websites, such as the Washington Examiner, are regulated just like normal TV ads.
Ravel’s statement suggests that she would regulate right-leaning groups like America Rising that posts anti-Democrat YouTube videos on its website.
FEC Chairman Lee E. Goodman, a Republican, said if regulation extends that far, then anybody who writes a political blog, runs a politically active news site or even chat room could be regulated. He added that funny internet campaigns like “Obama Girl,” and “Jib Jab” would also face regulations.
“I told you this was coming,” he told Secrets. Earlier this year he warned that Democrats on the panel were gunning for conservative Internet sites like the Drudge Report.
A top Department of Veterans Affairs official involved in the falsification of patient wait times was fired Friday, the first to be ousted under a new law meant to speed the removal of agency executives for misconduct or poor performance.
James Talton, former director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, was officially removed for neglect of duty, according to a press release from the agency.
Talton is no longer being paid. He has one week to appeal the termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which will then have 21 days to uphold or reverse the decision.
Talton is the first to be fired under a law signed in August giving the VA secretary greater discretion to fire or discipline members of the Senior Executive Service, the top tier of agency management. The law was passed in the wake of a national scandal over falsified waiting lists used to hide long delays in care.
The United States and Canada have suffered three attacks with apparent ties to terrorism in the span of a week, and a retired CIA case officer told TheBlaze he expects more will follow.
“I think the West is under attack,” said Brian Fairchild, who spent 20 years in the CIA’s clandestine service and has testified before Congress as a terrorism expert.
“I think that they’re responses to the ISIS and Al Qaeda requests for folks to go out and strike Americans any time, anywhere, any place that they can. That’s what this is turning out to be,” Fairchild said, speaking during an interview for an upcoming episode of TheBlaze TV’s For the Record.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a memo on Oct. 11, warning that Islamic State sympathizers could carry out attacks on police and government personnel.
“What they would love is for there to be 50, 100, 1,000 attacks like that. Whether their followers will rise up and do that for them, we don’t know,” he said.
Fairchild said there is a real cause for concern: Groups like Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have had only limited success pushing American extremists to pull off “lone wolf” attacks, but the rapid expansion of the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have created enough momentum to finally push some of those radical individuals into action.
“When Baghdadi and ISIS says, ‘Hey guys, go out and find soldiers, intelligence, and police officers and kill them, don’t ask for anybody’s approval, just go out and do it,’ that seems to have had more resonance among these guys than all of the requests from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ‘Inspire’ magazine before that,” Fairchild said. ”That’s what the game-changer is.”
President Obama’s trusted senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, was a key player in the effort to cover up that Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress about the Fast and Furious scandal, according to public records obtained by Judicial Watch.
The information is part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) “Vaughn index” detailing records about the gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious. JW had to sue the agency for the records after the Obama administration failed to provide them under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A federal court ordered the DOJ to provide the records over the agency’s objections. Yesterday JW reported on the broad information in the records, including that Obama asserted executive privilege for Holder’s wife as part of the administration’s efforts to cover up the scandal.
Practically lost in the 1,000-plus pages of records is an index that shows Jarrett was brought in to manage the fact that Holder lied to Congress after the story about the disastrous gun-running operation broke in the media. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program that allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.
The files received by JW include three electronic mails between Holder and Jarrett and one from former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to Jarrett. The e-mails with Holder are all from October 4, 2011, a significant date because, on the evening of October 3rd, Sheryl Attkisson (then at CBS news) released documents showing that Holder had been sent a briefing paper on Operation Fast and Furious on June 5, 2010. The paper was from the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, Michael Walther.
This directly contradicted Holder’s May 3, 2011 testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during which he stated that he, “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” The October 4, 2011 date may also be significant because it came shortly after the August 30, 2011 resignation of U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and reassignment of acting ATF director Kenneth Melson to the position of “senior forensics advisor” at DOJ.
The description of one of the e-mails, written from Jarrett to Holder, reads, “re: personnel issues.” Another, also from Jarrett, reads, “outlining and discussing preferred course of action for future responses in light of recent development in congressional investigation.” Unfortunately, the index is vague and that’s all the information we have about them. Nevertheless, given the timing and subject of these e-mails, it seems clear that Jarrett quickly became a key player in the Fast and Furious cover-up in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that Holder had lied to Congress.
Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens? Some argue that incidents of voting by non-citizens are so rare as to be inconsequential, with efforts to block fraud a screen for an agenda to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising the franchise, while others define such incidents as a threat to democracy itself. Both sides depend more heavily on anecdotes than data.
In a forthcoming article in the journal Electoral Studies, we bring real data from big social science survey datasets to bear on the question of whether, to what extent, and for whom non-citizens vote in U.S. elections. Most non-citizens do not register, let alone vote. But enough do that their participation can change the outcome of close races.
Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.
How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.
Estimated Voter Turnout by Non-Citizens 2008 2010 Self reported and/or verified 38 (11.3%) 13 (3.5%) Self reported and verified 5 (1.5%) N.A. Adjusted estimate 21 (6.4%) 8 (2.2%)
Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.
The Obama administration is claiming executive privilege over more than 15,000 documents related to Operation Fast and Furious, including correspondence between Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, according to records received Wednesday night by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Last month, a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release to Judicial Watch the list of documents, known as a “Vaughn index,” that it is withholding from the public, calling its requests for further delays “unconvincing.”
The 1,307-page Vaughn index lists 15,662 documents related to Operation Fast and Furious that the Obama administration is asserting executive privilege over—the first time that full list and description of the records has been released.
According to Judicial Watch, the withheld documents include communications between top officials at the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), as well as with the United States Ambassador to Mexico.
The Obama administration is also asserting executive privilege over nearly 20 emails between Holder and his wife Sharon Malone.
“Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement. “There is no precedent for President Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records. Americans will be astonished that Obama asserted executive privilege over Eric Holder’s emails to his wife about Fast and Furious.”
Judicial Watch also says the Justice Department is asserting privilege over publicly available press clips, letters from Congress, and inter-agency communications that would normally be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The CIA is still fighting for creative control of its most anticipated 21st century work: the Torture Report. Long before it got involved in the ongoing redaction battle, it was spying on those putting the report together, namely Senators and Senate staffers. Hands were wrung, apologies were made and it was medically determined that Sen. Dianne Feinstein doesn’t have an ironic bone in her body.
The Torture Report’s final cut now seemingly lies in the hands of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — a rather strange place for it to be considering the administration has no shortage of officials willing to offer their input on national security issues. But McDonough’s ill-fitting position as go-between to the Senate and the CIA isn’t the most interesting part of the story, although it appears he’s trying to keep the “hanging” of CIA director John Brennan from being a foregone conclusion. Neither he nor the White House have suggested a replacement scapegoat, so Brennan may end up paying the price despite having the administration’s full support. You can’t just drop something as damaging as the Torture Report on the American public and simply walk away from it. A symbolic sacrifice still needs to be made, even if the underlying problems continue to be ignored.
No, the most interesting part of the latest Torture Report details almost falls off the end of the page over at The Huffington Post. It’s more hints of CIA spying, ones that go a bit further than previously covered.
According to sources familiar with the CIA inspector general report that details the alleged abuses by agency officials, CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation. These sources requested anonymity because the details of the agency’s inspector general report remain classified.
“If people knew the details of what they actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It’s straight out of a movie,” said one Senate source familiar with the document.
Impersonating staff to gain access to Senate Torture Report work material would be straight-up espionage.
Read the Tough Letter a U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Sent to Houston Mayor Regarding Sermon Subpoena: ‘A Chilling Effect’
The battle over subpoenas issued by the city of Houston for pastors’ speeches and other communications has taken yet another turn, with a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights penning a letter to Mayor Annise Parker, lambasting the information request.
Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, who opened his letter by noting that he was writing on his own accord and not on behalf of the entire commission, warned that the city’s pastoral requests “threaten to have a chilling effect on religious and political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.”
“Although non-parties to a lawsuit can be required to provide information that is reasonably likely to be relevant and admissible, these subpoenas are plainly overbroad,” Kirsanow wrote.
He continued, “A subpoena that requires a pastor to turn over an e-mail to his neighbor about the details of the Equal Rights Ordinance, or a draft book chapter on the Bible and homosexuality that discusses the Equal Rights Ordinance, is clearly overbroad. “
“Given that the recipients of these subpoenas are pastors, it is almost inevitable that their views on homosexuality and gender identity are informed by their faith, if not almost entirely rooted in their faith,” he continued. “Indeed, the views of many people on homosexuality and gender identity are rooted in their ultimate commitments.”
He also charged that the “discovery request impermissibly probes the religious beliefs of private citizens simply because they supported a political effort.”
Kirsanow concluded that the request is an “abuse of government power” and that it appears to punish pastors for sharing political views that are predicated upon their faith.
Read the letter in its entirety here.
Infected by politics: The public-health profession is more committed to social justice than to sound science
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Communities Program, for example, focuses on “unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.” CDC’s Healthy People 2020 project recognizes that “health inequities are tied to economics, exclusion, and discrimination that prevent groups from accessing resources to live healthy lives,” according to Harvard public-health professor Nancy Krieger. Krieger is herself a magnet for federal funding, which she uses to spread the message about America’s unjust treatment of women, minorities, and the poor. To study the genetic components of health is tantamount to “scientific racism,” in Krieger’s view, since doing so overlooks the “impact of discrimination” on health. And of course the idea of any genetic racial differences is anathema to Krieger and her left-wing colleagues.
Local public-health programs are just as committed to “social justice.” The National Association of County and City Health Officials promoted a seven-part PBS documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick?, to trigger community dialogues about health equity. NACCHO’s Health Equity and Social Justice initiatives seek to “advance the capacity of local health departments to tackle the root causes of health inequities.”
During the height of the AIDS epidemic, the public-health profession abjured any focus on abstinence as a means of stopping the spread of the disease. This silence was contrary to decades of public-health response to venereal disease, which stressed individual responsibility, as well as contact tracing, to prevent further infections.
The selection of Democratic political operative Ron Klain as Ebola czar is the latest example of President Obama “surround[ing] himself with loyalists” rather than qualified officials to deal with the nation’s crises, says Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.).
“One would think, faced with the prospect of an epidemic, the president would task an expert in epidemiology not an expert in political spin,” Sessions said in a statement on Friday. “The American people can have zero confidence in Ron Klain’s competence to carry out this critical role.”
Klain’s Democratic ties run deep: He previously served as chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, Gore’s general counsel on his recount committee in the 2000 election, and chief counsel during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s contentious confirmation hearings for conservative Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas.
Sessions said the “danger” of Ebola spreading is “profound,” and called for a ban on travel from Ebola-stricken countries, as well as increased security on the Mexico–U.S. border if the disease breaks out in Latin American.