This and That for Friday
~~~ We’ve heard from one of our good friends, Elizabeth from God’s Country, Conway, New Hampshire.
In the current antics going on, I am finding some scary parallels between what is happening now and the actions taken after Lenin and the Socialist party took control in Russia:
1) Religion was just short of outlawed in Russia.
The Eastern Orthodox Religion is an extremely devout community. I should know, two of my neighbours were Greek and I grew up celebrating two Easters and probably went to more Eastern Orthodox weddings than Western ones.
What is happening here and now? A whisper of God (even in the generic) promotes a lightning storm of censorship (the controversy over “in God we trust”, “under God”, etc.) that is designed to bury and mention or even practice of a faith.
We have the Chick-Fil-A controversy over store hours and practices based upon the owner’s beliefs. We even have the government dictating about what MUST be included in health insurance coverage in Catholic Hospitals that goes against dogma (Catholic churches are NOT municipal hospitals, they fall into private hospitals).
What about the exercise of a teacher who told his class to write the name of Jesus on a piece of paper, put it on the floor and step on it? One student had the strength of character to refuse and until it hit the national press was penalised for the refusal.
2) Journalism and the press became increasingly stepped on and censored to the point of there being virtually one point of media/journalism.
I grew up with the advertisements on television for 'Radio Free Europe' to get other news behind the Iron Curtain. Now we have the AP raided and a Fox Journalist's phone records (even his parents phone records) accessed by a warrant whose scope was narrowly determined but exceeded.
3) The ownership of personal weapons has been increasingly attacked.
4) People’s personal information based solely on political beliefs is being accessed by the IRS.
In the case of application for a 501C4 for True Vote America, not only has the application not been given an approval or denial (application was in 2010), but the family’s personal business is being audited by OSHA and ATF (their factory has the ability to manufacture parts for firearms but has never manufactured any).
They have never been audited by any of the entities in the entire history of the business. Now the IRS is being given the authority to monitor the most personal of individual information: that of their health care. In Soviet Russia, how many people’s information has been accessed and eavesdropped on?
5) Education: The free exchange of ideas is being increasingly infringed on. If you are a conservative student or teacher on a campus, you must almost be in an underground.
If a conservative or independent student questions a liberal teacher, life is made a misery (see end example of #1).
If you phrase something in a manner other what is politically correct approved, the ideas are not considered, only the politically incorrect phrase. What about using small children in an almost indoctrination chant on political issues, especially without parental permission?
6) Children are not property of the state; their upbringing is the responsibility of the FAMILY, not state rules.
We have “journalists and commentators who outright say that children are the property of the state”. We have legislation that says children who are teenagers can get morning after pills or abortions without parental notification or consent.
"It Takes a Village" does not necessarily mean the state has the authority to decide the course of child rearing. In a sense, I grew up in a village as the neighborhood I grew up in was very close and all the neighbors looked out to make sure the children were safe playing.
If a child did something very wrong, it was brought to the attention of the parents, and it was the parents' responsibility to correct the child.
We are facing a scary time in the country. We all must get all the information we can so we can be informed and stay on top of what our government is saying and doing to protect our liberties.
If this had happened under ANY Republican administration, it would be howled at from every corner of the media. This media needs to start taking a fresh look at today's goings on.
In true cannibalistic fashion, the administration it supports thinks nothing of raiding sources under the flimsiest of excuses. How long will it be before the administration wishes to vet news before publication? It already attacks those whom it is expected to fall into their camp that do not believe or follow the policy line.
About a month ago Sean Hannity had a special where the entire panel had three things in common: they are black, they are conservative, and because of their conservatism which they are proud of they are under continual attack from the media.
In this weekend, I hope people take a moment out of barbecues and parties and say a prayer of thanks to those who help preserve our freedoms and those that paid the ultimate price for that service.
Have a good weekend!
~~~ Good news coming out of the Bay State. National Republicans have dispatched staff to Massachusetts to assist with the Senate special election that has become tantalizingly close.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed at least four staffers to help nominee Gabriel Gomez in the final weeks of the June 25 contest. The moves come amid fresh polling that showed Gomez running just behind Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey in this solidly Democratic state.
Money remains a major hurdle for Gomez to overcome against the well-funded Markey. So the NRSC sent two fundraisers to help Gomez open some financial doors. Sarah Morgan, a regional political director, arrived Wednesday to organize volunteer efforts over the next few weeks. And Kevin McLaughlin, a senior adviser, is in Boston to assist with communications and general strategy.
The NRSC donated $45,400 -- the maximum allowable contribution from a national party to a Senate candidate -- to the Gomez campaign on April 30, the day he won the GOP primary. But a spokesman would not comment on whether any more funding would be headed Gomez’s way.
“Announcing our strategy to win in Massachusetts is a recipe for defeat, so we’ll leave punditry to the pundits,” NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring said. “Massachusetts is always an uphill climb, but Gomez is a refreshing candidate who is winning over independents looking for something new in Washington. Navy SEALS can climb mountains and Gomez has a legitimate chance to win the race.”
Polls conducted by firms from both parties in the past two weeks showed Markey ahead by margins ranging from 3 to 7 points. That has yet to entice outside groups from either party to begin any substantial advertising campaigns. However, the Springfield Republican reported Thursday that NextGen Committee, a super PAC, is planning to support Markey through a number of platforms. Given the close margins, more help could be on the way for the four-week sprint following Memorial Day.
(Read Roll Call Contributing Writer Stuart Rothenberg’s most recent take on Massachusetts Senate race polling: In Massachusetts Senate PPP Poll, Read the Numbers — Not the Memo).
Two weeks ago, Gomez was mired in negative press surrounding revelations that he benefited significantly from a controversial tax deduction. Since then, Republicans believe Gomez, a former Navy SEAL, has found traction in targeting Markey on national security.
He received some help Monday from Senator John McCain who joined Gomez on the stump and at a fundraiser. A Gomez spokesman said no other nationally known Republicans are scheduled to join him on the trail.
Along with touting his record in Congress, Markey has slammed Gomez on gun control and for his work on behalf of a special-interest group that criticized President Barack Obama -- who won the state in 2012 with 61 percent of the vote -- for politicizing the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Gomez launched a new TV ad on Wednesday hitting the 19-term incumbent congressman for running negative ads, while also pitching himself as “something new.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was behind Markey during his primary with fellow Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. The committee regularly helps campaigns staff up, and it encouraged Markey in January to hire Sarah Benzing, a rising star among the party’s political operatives, as campaign manager.
Reached for comment about what kind of assistance the committee will provide Markey, DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said, “Massachusetts voters have rallied around Ed Markey’s candidacy and so have the DSCC, the DNC and first lady Michelle Obama.”
Although neither is tipping their hand, both national parties could have already spent significant resources on the race. While independent expenditures are filed immediately to the Federal Election Commission, the party committees can quietly funnel money to a race by transferring it to their aligned state parties. That wouldn’t need to be disclosed until June 20, five days before the election.
Gomez is the one who would need the most help. He loaned his campaign $600,000 just to make it through the GOP primary. Meanwhile, Markey went into the final weeks of the April 30 Democratic primary with more than $4.6 million in the bank.
Can David Overcome Goliath? We’ll know in a few weeks.
~~~ The Internal Revenue Service, charged with implementing the biggest change in tax laws in 20 years due to Obamacare, has created eight offices and special "teams" to handle the chore, way more than initially revealed.
Besides the top office headed by the woman in the middle of the IRS-Tea Party scandal, there are seven others and a special enforcement team that make up an organization chart that mirrors the organization of the IRS itself, according to a Treasury Inspector General's report.
The June report focused on concerns that the IRS, which is filling the Obamacare offices with 2,137 agents and officials to make sure citizens and companies comply with the new health law or pay a fine, isn’t clear on its new role and how many new workers it will actually need. For example, the IRS will be in charge of analyzing hospital “community benefit activities,” which it has never done before.
But in that report was the organizational chart revealing the series of Obamacare offices. They are led by a steering committee that coordinates Obamacare implementation across the IRS. It is led by the agency’s deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, the office linked to the IRS scandal. Ousted acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller recently had that job.
Other branches include three program management offices, four services and enforcement offices, and services and enforcement exchange working teams.
From the IG report:
Appropriate Plans Have Been Developed to Implement Most Tax-Related Provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
To begin the major task of implementing the tax-related provisions of the ACA, the IRS created the following Executive Steering Committees, Offices, and Teams.
-- The ACA Executive Steering Committee (ESC) is responsible for overall program coordination and implementation of the ACA across the IRS. This committee is co-chaired by the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement and the Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support. It also includes the IRS Chief of Staff and other IRS executives, including the business operating division commissioners, et al.
-- Three program management offices (PMO):
1) Services and Enforcement;
2) Modernization and Information Technology Services (MITS);5 and
3) Health Care Council. These PMOs are accountable to the ESC for ACA implementation and work with the IRS business operating divisions to ensure efforts are successfully coordinated.
-- Four functional ESCs, each led by an executive chair, have responsibility for specific provisions in the ACA that directly affect the four business operating divisions (Wage and Investment, Small Business/Self-Employed, Large Business and International, and Tax Exempt/Government Entities).
-- The Services and Enforcement Exchange Working Teams are responsible for planning the implementation of the exchange provisions scheduled for 2014.
~~~ The Associated Press says three days of congressional hearings about the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative political groups have lawmakers looking for ways to widen an investigation that has so far been largely contained within the tax collection agency.
More than 11 hours of testimony and an inspector general’s report have revealed plenty of wrongdoing within the IRS. But so far, investigators have not produced evidence that anyone outside the IRS authorized the targeting, or even knew about it before a few weeks ago.
They will keep trying.
Three congressional committees are investigating the matter, and the leaders of those committees say they are just getting started. The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation, and the new acting head of the IRS says he is conducting an internal review.
“The long and short of the situation is this: The public doesn’t know the full story yet,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday.
Thursday morning, new acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel met with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. During the meeting, Hatch told Werfel he expects the IRS to fully cooperate with committee’s investigation, a Hatch spokeswoman said.
President Barack Obama appointed Werfel last week; he started Wednesday. In an email to agency employees, Werfel sounded the same theme.
“The first step in this effort must be to get to the bottom of the recent allegations regarding the criteria to determine eligibility for tax-exempt status,” Werfel wrote.
“The missteps uncovered in the recent inspector general report are inexcusable and cannot be tolerated by any of us,” he said. “That is why we must work together with the inspector general, the Justice Department and Congress to ensure that responsible parties are held accountable for the inappropriate activities that occurred and that we correct the breakdowns in process and oversight that allowed them to occur.”
The White House has not been unscathed. Obama’s top spokesman said Wednesday the White House was facing “legitimate criticisms” for its shifting accounts about who knew, and when they knew, about the IRS targeting of conservative political groups.
Press secretary Jay Carney first said that only Obama’s top lawyer knew the IRS was being investigated in the weeks before the inspector general’s report was released. Later, he said the chief of staff and other top officials also knew.
“There have been some legitimate criticisms about how we’re handling this,” Carney said. “And I say 'legitimate' because I mean it.”
The inspector general’s report, which was released last week, said IRS agents in a Cincinnati office targeted tea party and other conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. They started targeting these groups in March or April of 2010. By August 2010, “tea party” became part of a “be on the lookout,” or “BOLO,” list of terms to flag for additional screening.
Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, learned in June 2011 that agents were singling out groups with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their applications for tax-exempt status, the report said. She ordered agents to scrap the criteria immediately, but later they evolved to include groups that promoted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
It finally stopped in May 2012, when top agency officials say they found out and ordered agents to adopt appropriate criteria for determining whether tax-exempt groups were overly political.
Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told two congressional committees this week that he first learned in the spring of 2012 that conservative groups had been improperly singled out for additional scrutiny. However, after learning that the practice had stopped and that the inspector general was investigating, Shulman said he didn’t tell anyone in the Treasury Department or the White House about it. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.
Shulman, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, left office in November, when his five-year term expired.
Lerner was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Her appearance was brief. She read an opening statement in which she denied any wrongdoing. Then she refused to answer questions, invoking her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
“I have not done anything wrong,” Lerner said. “I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said he might recall her. He and other Republicans say they believe she forfeited her Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify by giving an opening statement in which she proclaimed her innocence, but several law professors were skeptical lawmakers could make that stick.
Issa later said he would consult with others -- including her lawyer and House attorneys -- before determining whether to summon her again, hopefully deciding by the time Congress returns early next month from an upcoming recess.
“She’s a fact witness with a tremendous amount that she could tell us,” Issa said.
Lerner, a career civil servant, is still in her position at the IRS. She was the IRS official who first publicly disclosed the matter at a legal conference on May 10.
J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration, has blamed ineffective management for allowing agents to improperly target conservative groups for so long.
On Wednesday, he hinted there may be more revelations to come. He told the oversight committee that his office has since uncovered other questionable criteria used by agents to screen applications for tax-exempt status. But he refused to elaborate.
“As we continue our review of this matter, we have recently identified some other BOLOs that raised concerns about political factors, George said. I can’t get into more detail at this time as to the information that is there because it’s still incomplete.”
~~~ President Obama on Thursday announced major changes to the nation’s counter-terrorism policy, limiting drone strikes and renewing his effort to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison facility by returning detainees to their home countries in Afghanistan and Yemen.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., the president said the death of Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants mean that there have been no large-scale attacks on the U.S. homeland, prompting the need for a new overarching counter-terrorism policy.
In his speech, he once again modified his description of the state of al Qaeda, stressing that the “core of al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on on a path to defeat.” On the campaign trail last year he repeatedly boasted that all of “al Qaeda was on the run.”
“America is at a crossroads,” he said. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
Mr. Obama also broadly ruled out the possibility of al Qaeda having any role in the Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three and injured 264 others.
“Today, the core of al Qaeda is on a path to defeat,” he said. “Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”
~~~ House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday flatly ruled out chances of the House passing the Senate’s immigration bill, saying his chamber will debate its own bill instead.
Boehner and his top GOP lieutenants issued a joint statement that seemed designed to tamp down some of the momentum behind the Senate bill, which emerged from a Senate committee on a bipartisan 13-5 vote earlier this week, and to stake out a House GOP position.
“While we applaud the progress made by our Senate colleagues, there are numerous ways in which the House will approach the issue differently,” the GOP leaders said in their statement. “The House remains committed to fixing our broken immigration system, but we will not simply take up and accept the bill that is emerging in the Senate if it passes. Rather, through regular order, the House will work its will and produce its own legislation.”
Boehner is playing a proxy game of political checkers with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a bipartisan gang of lawmakers tries to write a broad immigration deal that would include legal status for illegal immigrants and a rewrite of the legal immigration system.
Even as those lawmakers are working, however, the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees are writing individual bills on border security, agricultural guest-workers and an electronic verification system for businesses to check workers’ legal status -- all pieces of the broader immigration debate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared its bill on Tuesday with the support of 10 Democrats and three Republicans, and that legislation heads to the full Senate for what promises to be a bruising and extensive debate next month.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters on Thursday that getting the immigration bill done is his top priority right now -- so much so that he won’t pick any other fights with the GOP so as to avoid upsetting bipartisan momentum. That includes not pushing a contentious vote on President Obama’s Labor Department secretary nominee, Thomas Perez.
“I am not going to do anything to interfere with the immigration bill,” Reid said.
Already there is some speculation that if a bill emerges from the Senate, Democrats would call on the House to pass it as well.
The House GOP statement seemed designed to shut down that avenue.
“Enacting policy as consequential and complex as immigration reform demands that both chambers of Congress engage in a robust debate and amendment process,” the leaders said.
Pelosi said Thursday that one issue holding up the bipartisan House negotiations on immigration is over how insistent Congress should be that the administration creates a nationwide electronic verification system to check workers’ legal status.
“If E-Verify is not effectively accomplished in five years, then all of these people revert to the status they have now. I think that’s pretty drastic,” the California Democrat said.
But Mrs. Pelosi shot down reports that she was insisting on broader health coverage for illegal immigrants, saying that she accepts the decision in the 2010 health law that makes them ineligible.
“I’m saying that there is no obstacle to our support of a bill if it says no taxpayer funding. That would be a subsidy in the Affordable Care Act, and it would also be Medicaid,” she said.
~~~ President Obama on Thursday said he is imposing new limitations on the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists and took fresh steps to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, declaring America at a “crossroads” in its fight against terrorism.
In the most expansive detailing of his counterterrorism policies, the president outlined the legal rationale for remote-controlled, targeted killings, which increased dramatically under his watch. The president said he wants the military, rather than the CIA, to play a larger role in operating the drones.
“We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” Obama said during an hour-long speech at the National Defense University in D.C.
Addressing one of the glaring unfulfilled promises of his presidency, Obama lifted his self-imposed moratorium on transferring Gitmo detainees to Yemen, appointed a new State Department envoy to oversee transfers to third-party countries and vowed to bring terrorists to justice in American courts. Nearly 90 Guantanamo prisoners have been cleared for transfer but are still being held indefinitely in Cuba.
With revelations that his Justice Department had secretly monitored reporters in Washington, Obama vowed to do more to ensure journalists could work without fear of prosecution. He instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to report back to him by July 12 on administration guidelines for investigating reporters.
“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said.
The president is framing his actions as a break from the national security policies of former President George W. Bush, who said the United States was engaged in an ongoing “war on terror.”
“We must define our effort not as a boundless global war on terror, but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts,” Obama said.
Republicans were immediately skeptical of Obama’s new blueprint on national security.
“Is it still your administration’s goal to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda?” House Speaker John Boehner asked in a series of questions to the president. “If you are scaling back the use of unmanned drones, which actions will you be taking as a substitute to ensure Al Qaeda’s defeat? Is it your view that if the U.S. is less aggressive in eliminating terrorists abroad, the threat of terrorist attacks will diminish on its own?”
Obama’s own political base has hammered him for deploying counterterrorism policies he derided as a candidate. Obama looked to quell such concerns Thursday.
“For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen -- with a drone, or a shotgun -- without due process,” he insisted. “Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.”
Obama’s speech came a day after his administration publicly acknowledged it had used drones to kill four U.S. citizens living abroad. The president said that disclosure is the beginning of a new era of transparency about how government leaders protect the homeland.
Gray is the word for today (and possibly some tomorrows).