Fast and Furious Scandal
THE LIST IS LONG AND THE ROAD LEADS TO ONLY ONE DESTINATION
THE LIST IS LONG AND THE ROAD LEADS TO ONLY ONE DESTINATION
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted a lengthy message to her Facebook wall Thursday criticizing the Obama administration for its handling the Benghazi, IRS, and Associated Press phone records scandals:
Mr. President, when it rains it pours, but most Americans hold their own umbrellas. Today in the Rose Garden you dismissed the idea of a Special Counsel to investigate the IRS scandal. With that, your galling political hubris shined bright in the midst of today’s dark clouds.
Mr. President, how can we trust your Justice Department to conduct an independent investigation when there is a systemic violation of the Hatch Act throughout your administration?
Surely you are aware that the Hatch Act prevents certain federal employees from engaging in political activity. Specifically, it’s illegal for these federal employees to engage in action in support of or in opposition to a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group.
Yet that is exactly what’s happened within the IRS, the Justice Department, and in the Benghazi cover-up. This scandalous hat trick is on your watch. It is not believable that you knew nothing about Obama administration actions in dealing with these scandals. And in regards to Benghazi, when you should have taken appropriate action to save American lives – for instance by calling in the Marines – you were AWOL. Just weeks before the election your team scrubbed the Benghazi talking points in 12 different versions, lied to the American people about some YouTube video being to blame for the deaths of brave Americans who put our country first, and you prove Michael Barone right when he writes, “What actually happened in Benghazi was out of sync with the Obama campaign line.” That’s why you all did what you did. Pure raw politics were at play during a horrific time of loss.
For more evidence of Hatch Act violations right under your nose, simply consider DOJ’s “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into the free press. Do you think they picked up some political talk when tapping the phones in the House press gallery?
Your team is out of control. Those who cannot remember the past and learn from it are doomed to repeat it, and that is exactly what is happening. Look back exactly 40 years ago this week and apply that disheartening chapter of American history to the team you’ve chosen and lead today.
Some of us warned America; we cautioned voters in 2008 that a community organizer with no executive experience and no sense of accountability would be a very poor choice for the nation’s top management position.
Mr. President, you said today that you have “complete confidence” in the Attorney General. America doesn’t. Eric Holder needs to appoint an unbiased Special Counsel to investigate the illegal political action of this administration. And then Eric Holder needs to resign.
Most Americans see ominous dark clouds looming beyond the White House Rose Garden, Mr. President. They’ll roll away only when light is shined on the Obama administration’s antics, and America will only recover when you cease avoiding responsibility in this mission of yours to fundamentally transform America. For that to happen, the press had better learn from their experiences of being duped and provide a deserving public fairer, more intelligent coverage.
Speaking of coverage, glad you finally called in the Marines… shame it was just to hold your umbrella.
- Sarah Palin
Here are the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
UNITED NATIONS – Supporters of a U.N. treaty designed to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade were optimistic that a final draft circulated a day before Thursday’s deadline will reach consensus.
Negotiators reconvened last week in a final attempt to reach a deal on the Arms Trade Treaty, which would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers.
U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said Wednesday the United States was virtually certain to go along with the latest text.
Hopes of reaching agreement on what would be a landmark treaty were dashed last July when the U.S. said it needed more time to consider the proposed accord — a move quickly backed by Russia and China. In December, the U.N. General Assembly decided to hold a final conference and set Thursday as the deadline for reaching agreement.
“We need a treaty,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told The Associated Press. “We hope for consensus.”
Questions remain on whether Iran, Egypt, India and several other countries that had serious concerns about the text would go along with the draft, which requires agreement of all 193 U.N. member states for adoption.
There has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.
“It’s important for each and every country in the world that we have a regulation of the international arms trade,” Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig told the AP. “There are still some divergencies of views, but I trust we can overcome them.”
The draft treaty does not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms, parts and components and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
The final draft makes this human rights provision even stronger, adding that the export of conventional arms should be prohibited if they could be used in the commission of attacks on civilians or civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.
The National Rifle Association has portrayed the draft treaty as a threat to gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and has lobbied to defeat the proposal at the U.N.
The NRA last week praised the Senate’s passage of an amendment to the Democratic budget proposal that would prevent the U.S. from entering into the treaty.
The measure, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., passed on a 53-46 vote.
“Thanks to the efforts of Senator Inhofe, we are one step closer to ensuring the U.N. will not trample on the freedoms our founding fathers guaranteed to us,” Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement released following the vote.
Ammunition has been a key issue, with some countries pressing for the same controls on ammunition sales as arms, but the U.S. and others opposed such tough restrictions. The draft calls for each country that ratifies the treaty to establish regulations for the export of ammunition “fired, launched or delivered” by the weapons covered by the convention.
The Control Arms coalition, which represents about 100 organizations worldwide campaigning for a strong treaty, and diplomats from countries that support them, said this wouldn’t cover hand grenades and mines.
India and other countries had insisted that the treaty have an opt-out for government arms transfers under defense cooperation agreements. The new text appears to keep that loophole, stating that implementation of the treaty “shall not prejudice obligations” under defense cooperation agreements by countries that ratify the treaty.
“Making this treaty was like making a sausage: Everyone has added an ingredient,” said Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“Unfortunately, that has produced a document that leans much too far towards satisfying the concerns of the Arab Group and Mexico. The former view it as a rebellion prevention plan, while the latter wants a text that edges towards its view that the domestic firearms market in the U.S. should be subject to treaty regulation,” he said.
But Daryl Kimball, executive director of the independent Washington-based Arms Control Association, said, “The emerging treaty represents an important first step in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide.”
He said the text could have been stronger and more comprehensive, but it can still make an important difference.
“The new treaty says to every United Nations member that you cannot simply ‘export and forget,’” Kimball said.
In considering whether to authorize the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists or organized crime. The final draft would allow countries to determine whether the weapons transfer would contribute to or undermine peace and security.
Anna Macdonald, Oxfam’s head of arms control, said the scope of the weapons covered in the latest draft is still too narrow.
“We need a treaty that covers all conventional weapons, not just some of them,” she said. “We need a treaty that will make a difference to the lives of the people living in Congo, Mali, Syria and elsewhere who suffer each day from the impacts of armed violence.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON – An exhausted Senate approved its first budget in four years early Saturday, calling for almost $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade while sheltering safety net programs targeted by House Republicans.
While their victory was by a razor-thin 50-49, the vote let Democrats tout their priorities. Yet it doesn’t resolve the deep differences the two parties have over deficits and the size of government.
The nonbinding but politically symbolic measure caters to party stalwarts on the liberal edge of the spectrum just as the House GOP measure is crafted to appeal to more recent tea party arrivals.
Late Friday afternoon, the Senate then began a marathon session of votes on dozens of amendments to the 2014 budget proposal. Many of the proposals were offered in hopes of inflicting political damage on Democratic senators up for re-election in GOP-leaning states like Alaska and Louisiana.
The two main budget proposals produced by Senate Democrats and House Republicans are miles apart. The Senate plan does not attempt to balance the budget at all, though it does claim to reduce the deficit by imposing nearly $1 trillion in tax increases on top of more than $600 billion in higher taxes on top earners enacted in January. It also includes $875 billion in spending cuts, generated by modest cuts to federal health care programs, domestic agencies and the Pentagon and reduced government borrowing costs.
The House plan — by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., his party’s vice presidential candidate last year — claims $4 trillion more in savings over the period than Senate Democrats by imposing major cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programs for the needy. It would also transform the Medicare health care program for seniors into a voucher-like system for future recipients.
“We have presented very different visions for how our country should work and who it should work for,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “But I am hopeful that we can bridge this divide.”
Congressional budgets are planning documents that leave actual changes in revenues and spending for later legislation, and this was the first the Democratic-run Senate has approved in four years. That is testament to the political and mathematical contortions needed to write fiscal plans in an era of record-breaking deficits that until this year exceeded an eye-popping $1 trillion annually, and to the parties’ profoundly conflicting views.
“I believe we’re in denial about the financial condition of our country,” Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, top Republican on the Budget panel, said of Democratic efforts to boost spending on some programs. “Trust me, we’ve got to have some spending reductions.”
Though the shortfalls have shown signs of easing slightly and temporarily, there is no easy path to the two parties finding compromise — which the first months of 2013 have amply illustrated.
Already this year, Congress has raised taxes on the rich after narrowly averting tax boosts on virtually everyone else, tolerated $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, temporarily sidestepped a federal default and prevented a potential government shutdown.
By sometime this summer, the government’s borrowing limit will have to be extended again — or a default will be at risk — and it is unclear what Republicans may demand for providing needed votes. It is also uncertain how the two parties will resolve the differences between their two budgets, something many believe simply won’t happen.
Both sides have expressed a desire to reduce federal deficits. But President Barack Obama is demanding a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to do so, while GOP leaders say they won’t consider higher revenues but want serious reductions in Medicare and other benefit programs that have rocketed deficits skyward.
Obama plans to release his own 2014 budget next month, an unveiling that will be studied for whether it signals a willingness to engage Republicans in negotiations or play political hardball.
In a long day that began Friday morning, senators plodded through scores of amendments — all of them non-binding but some delivering potent political messages.
They voted in favor of giving states more powers to collect sales taxes on online purchases their citizens make from out-of-state Internet companies, and to endorse the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that is to pump oil from Canada to Texas refineries.
They also approved amendments voicing support for eliminating the $2,500 annual cap on flexible spending account contributions imposed by Obama’s health care overhaul, and for charging regular postal rates for mailings by political parties, which currently qualify for the lower prices paid by non-profits.
In a rebuke to one of the Senate’s most conservative members, they overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to cut even deeper than the House GOP budget and eliminate deficits in just five years.
The Democratic budget envisions $975 billion in unspecified new taxes over the coming 10 years. There would be an equal amount of spending reductions coming chiefly from health programs, defense and reduced interest payments as deficits get smaller than previously anticipated.
This year’s projected deficit of nearly $900 billion would fall to around $700 billion next year and bottom out near $400 billion in 2016 before trending upward again.
Shoehorned into the package is $100 billion for public works projects and other programs aimed at creating jobs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.