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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

America’s Dilemma: Terrorism at home versus the high moral ground

A young pilot was flying a mission over enemy territory long ago and far away when defense forces badly damaged his plane, forcing him to eject. The ejection was violent, breaking both arms and one leg, and the young pilot landed in water, nearly drowning before enemy soldiers found him, dragged him ashore, crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt, stabbed him with a bayonet, and then hauled him away for interrogation. Badly injured, he was given no medical aid, but instead was put through brutal questioning sessions during which he was beaten.

He spent six weeks in a hospital where he received marginal medical treatment before being sent to another military camp. In a chest cast and being badly emaciated, he was expected not to last a week.

His condition improved slowly as time passed. But while he was ill with dysentery he was again subjected to interrogation and torture that included rope bindings and beatings every two hours, punishment so severe that he tried to kill himself to escape the brutal treatment. Eventually, he reached his breaking point, and cooperated with his captors.

A second story of actual treatment of an enemy involved the capture, interrogation and detainment in military custody that lasted several years. During this time the captive was subjected to sleep deprivation for a period of more than seven days, rectal hydration, forced standing for prolonged periods, and was water boarded five times. Eventually, the captive’s will also broke, and he cooperated with his captors.

While the treatment in the second example would certainly be unpleasant, it is less severe than the experience of the pilot in the first example, inasmuch as the captive’s life was never in danger. Some Americans, however, believe the two equally represent torture.

The pilot in the first example was now-Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and he was shot down over Viet Nam, captured and tortured by the Viet Cong.

The person in the second example was Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a foiled attempt likely aimed at the U.S. Capitol building or the White House, claiming the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent people.

Torture is the action of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, and has been practiced through the ages, and has included the most brutal treatment imaginable.

In interrogation sessions, some techniques are clearly torture, and some techniques are clearly not torture. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes, strong interrogation crosses the thin and fuzzy line into torture. Where that point is seems to be a matter of personal preference.

Having released a controversial partisan report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee charges that the CIA’s techniques constitute torture.

The CIA vigorously disputes the Democrat leadership’s report, saying the methods were thoroughly analyzed and approved by legal consultants prior to their implementation, and that Congressional leaders were briefed on them and accepted the program. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is said to have encouraged the program.

The United States does indeed profess and uphold high-minded ideals, and most Americans oppose torture. And through this $40 million report and comments by individual senators, we are told that torture is always and forever wrong.

But is there never a circumstance where torture is justified?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., thinks not. “In the wake of 9/11, we were desperate to bring those responsible for the brutal attacks to justice. But even that urgency did not justify torture,” states the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The United States must be held to a higher standard than our enemies, yet some of our actions did not clear that bar.”

We learn that al Qaeda has placed a suitcase nuke in a major city set to detonate in a few hours. We have captured a member of the group and Sen. Feinstein questions him. He refuses to tell where the bomb is. “Okay. Thank you. Have a nice day,” she says. “After all, we are a people of principle and high morals, and won’t stoop to forceful interrogation.”

Who and how many American lives have to be at risk before those like Sen. Feinstein, clinging to the high moral ground, resort to forceful interrogation methods to save lives? Her spouse? Her hometown? Her Capital office? Or would she sacrifice American lives just to maintain the idealistic moral high ground?

You do not have to support routine use of torture to believe that in extreme cases, torture is acceptable. Many Americans believe nothing is too awful to use on an enemy in order to save lives.

So the issue is not that the United States can never use techniques generally agreed to be torture against enemies, but instead to clarify under what circumstances the United States will use those techniques, and how those decisions will be made?

Routine or indiscriminate torture is wrong. Any method used against knowledgeable enemies to save lives must be encouraged. Foolishly clinging to the high moral ground will get Americans needlessly killed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

If we raise the minimum wage, we’ll get these fantastic results!!

The narrative of the left is that even people who have never had a job and/or don’t have any skills deserve and need a “living wage.” Merriam-Webster defines a living wage as “a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living,” which varies widely depending upon where one lives.

The drive for a hike in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or sometimes as much as $15 an hour, lives on as a cause du jour for some Americans, defying the laws of business economics. Workers, labor unions, and politicians, support the wage hike through lobbying efforts, civil demonstrations, and labor strikes often paid for by labor unions.

These folks reject out of hand the fact that every job has an actual calculable value in the business it is a part of that takes into account the benefit to the business’s entire operation, the qualifications of the worker, and other real factors, unlike what drives the minimum wage hike: it is a nice idea, makes people feel good, helps unions raise members’ wages, and garners support for politicians.

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) notes that minimum wage hike proponents support an increase because it would save the government money in social support services, since those whose wages rise will be less likely to seek and need welfare benefits.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute shows that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce welfare spending by $7.6 billion, but that is only 3.8 percent of the total of $200 billion in welfare spending that taxpayers fund. Not that saving seven or eight billion is a bad idea.

However, in its efforts to give to people things they should earn through personal effort, the left focuses on the benefits of their ideas, and ignores the negative consequences.

This erroneous reasoning is responsible for a long and growing list of government programs the negatives of which far outweigh their benefits. The Community Reinvestment Act combined with repealing Glass-Steagall, and Operation Fast and Furious spring quickly to mind.

Addressing the negative impact of a wage hike, NCPA cites research by Ben Gitis of the American Action Forum asserting that raising the minimum wage will result in lost jobs. His analysis shows that 2.2 million new jobs would not be created, totaling a stunning $19.8 billion in lost earnings, if the minimum wage is increased.

The truth is that the number of minimum wage earners who really need a living wage is tiny. Only about 3.6 million workers, or 2.5 percent of all workers, earn the minimum wage, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, and teenagers living at home comprise 31 percent of that group. And 55 percent are 25 years old, or younger, mostly inexperienced and just learning skills. Therefore, of all workers over 25, only 1.1 percent would be affected by a wage hike that would cost 2.2 million future jobs.

Combine that small number with the fact that well over half of workers earning less than $9.50 an hour are the second or third earner in a family, two-thirds of whom earn more than $50,000 a year, and that critical number shrinks even more.

As a percentage of hourly workers those earning the minimum wage has shrunk dramatically since 1980, when they comprised 15 percent of that group. Today, that portion is just 4.7 percent. And more than half of them are part-timers working less than 30 hours a week.

If you earn the minimum wage it certainly is appealing to imagine getting an increase in your wage of about half. But a hike in the minimum wage has to have solid economics-based reasons behind it, or it shouldn’t happen. The economic reality is that the numbers just don’t add up to support a $10.10 an hour minimum wage.

This wildly popular idea evolves from not understanding business and basic economics. How, in a country with education spending on average of $11,000 per student per year, can there be so many who have no idea about things like supply and demand, and how high costs, high taxes, excessive regulations raise prices and decrease sales.

The United States has just lost the top spot in the world in productivity to China, the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president that America has not led the world.

A friend who ran a company doing business in several foreign countries was talking about his company’s expansion into China a few years ago. At the time China had 1.35 billion people, he said: 100 million communists, and 1.25 billion capitalists.

While Communist China embraces capitalist principles and becomes the most productive nation, the United States, once the bastion of free enterprise, increasingly embraces socialistic mechanisms and lost the lead in productivity for the first time in more than 130 years.

Most likely few of the proponents have ever had to make a payroll or keep a business viable in the face challenges like competition, high taxes and onerous regulations.

Foolish ideas like raising the minimum wage without sound reason helps explain our loss to China and our overall anemic economy. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

November surprise: Happy Thanksgiving from the Regulator-in-Chief

Fridays. That’s when the federal government finds it most advantageous to release ugly surprises. You’ve heard of the Friday document dump? The weekend is coming, most people are winding down from the work week, getting ready to relax for a couple of days, and they aren’t really paying attention to the news, and even the news folks are getting ready for the weekend, and are unprepared to respond to the release of a bunch of government documents.

This practice offers added value right before a holiday, when millions of people are not only readying for the weekend, but are preparing to travel to visit relatives or to host family and friends for the holiday, and therefore even fewer are paying attention to the news. So the Friday before Thanksgiving is when the Obama White House informed the nation, without fanfare, of 3,400 new regulations ready to go into effect next year.

Sam Batkins, the American Action Forum’s director of regulatory policy, told The Daily Signal, “The administration has been really aggressive on the regulatory front.” He added, “They drop [the Unified Agenda] on a Friday right before a holiday, and no one critical of their regulatory policies will have a chance to criticize it.”

The Unified Agenda is a document that serves as the administration’s roadmap for regulations it intends to finalize in coming months, and is usually released in the spring and fall.

The Regulatory Information Service Center of the U.S. General Services Administration, describes this document: “The Unified Agenda provides uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory activities under development throughout the Federal Government, covering approximately 60 departments, agencies, and commissions. Each edition of the Unified Agenda includes regulatory agendas from all Federal entities that currently have regulations under development or review.”

In 2012 the Obama administration issued 4,000 rules, so it’s good news that this year’s total is lower, although it is 100 rules larger than the 2013 Agenda.

Mr. Batkins notes that under the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush the Unified Agenda was “a normal, boring list of regulations,” but he warns that the Obama administration’s release of the Agenda near a holiday portends a group of regulations that have strong political implications. This year’s edition contains 23 “economically significant” rules, which are those with an economic impact of at least $100 million, two more than last year.

The Obama administration has introduced rules costing the economy $16 billion a year, on average, according to James Gattuso, senior research fellow in regulatory policy at the Heritage Foundation.

The American Action Forum states that the $16 billion annual average costs imposed on the country by the Obama administration is “tantamount to having a $160 billion tax increase over 10 years.” The Daily Signal quotes Mr. Batkins as saying that $18 billion to $20 billion in new regulatory costs equals an approximate increase in the payroll tax of 1 percent. “Payroll tax going up 1 percent — that would get everyone interested. But $20 billion in regulatory costs is the equivalent of that,” he said.

An increase in the payroll tax affects only employers and employees, but regulatory costs affect nearly everyone. Mr. Batkins analyzed 36 economically significant regulations issued by the Obama administration and shows price increases for the individual consumer in the following categories:

  •        Vehicles: $9,150
  •        Household consumer products: $1,639
  •        Mortgage: $362 annually
  •        Energy: $135 annually
  •        Health Care: $108 annually
  •        Food: $14 annually


That $11,000 effect is the result of just 36 rules of the thousands put into effect each year, and that estimate of costs comes from the government. Other estimates suggest costs are actually even higher.

New regulations push costs higher, and when things cost more people buy less of them. When sales drop, fewer workers are needed to produce, transport and sell those items, and people lose their jobs.

A Heritage study shows that the Obama administration issued 157 major regulations during its first five years, while for the same period under President George W. Bush, only 62 major regulations were released. Those 157 new rules cost Americans nearly $73 billion. No doubt these additional heavy regulatory costs are responsible for some of the dire employment problems the nation suffers more than five years after the recession ended.

Attempting to recover from a recession by issuing punishing regulations has to have a slowing effect on the recovery from the recession, and that is exactly what we have witnessed since the recession ended in 2009.

Consequently, unemployment is still far too high. The most common measure places unemployment at 5.8 percent, which is above the normal 4-5 percent full employment figure. But the more accurate number counting those who can’t find work and have quit looking is 11.5 percent.

The October labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent, the lowest since about 1980, and lower than the 65.7 percent level when the recession ended in June of 2009.

Perhaps it’s that people don’t understand the negative effects rampant regulation has on them, and that enables them to believe a higher minimum wage for the least skilled and least experienced workers is a more critical problem than the costs of regulation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Whatever happened to integrity and honor in public service?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), Obamacare: the gift that keeps on giving … headaches, cramps, nausea, and economic insecurity. The list goes on.

From its unseemly beginnings as a one-party creation in smoky back rooms that passed a Congress dominated in both houses by Democrats, without being read and debated by anyone, with only Democrats voting for it and with few Americans supporting it, the ACA is a vast array of failings. 

It’s not an absolute and total failure; nothing is perfect. 

But nearly all of its promises were broken, as many had predicted: you most likely can’t keep your doctor or your insurance plan if you like them; you probably aren’t going to save $2,500 a year in premium payments; and if you see more choice, more competition, and lower costs in healthcare, you will be among an infinitesimally small minority to do so.

Jonathon Gruber has now told the world in a series of recently discovered videos how, in designing the ACA, Congressional Democrats and their staffs employed deception and opaqueness to sneak the law past the American public.

He is an MIT economics professor, the architect of the Massachusetts healthcare plan known as Romneycare that was the model for Obamacare, and who also helped the Democrats create their version of a national healthcare system that most Americans didn’t want. 

In a video from October of 2013 Dr. Gruber admits that a “lack of transparency” was a blessing for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats in passing the ACA. “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” he said. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

In another video, he said, “So it's written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money — it would not have passed.” … “That was really, really critical for the thing to pass,” he said. “But I’d rather have this law than not.”

In effect he was saying: “I’d rather not have mugged that old lady and stolen her groceries, but I’d rather have had food to eat than not.”

Efforts by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) and President Obama to distance themselves from the good professor fell well short of the mark: videos, you know.

Of course, all of this under-handedness was for our own good, you know, and if we just weren’t so stupid they wouldn’t have had to deceive us to give us what they insist we need.

But, however, we aren’t all stupid. Some of us knew all along that this bill was a sham and the promises couldn’t be kept, and that at its base Obamacare really is nothing more than a system to control the people and a huge redistribution of wealth from the young and healthy to the old and unhealthy. 

And then there is Barack Obama, himself; President of the United States, leader of the free world, who not only made many promises for the ACA that didn’t come true (did he lie to the people, or just not know what he was talking about?), and over the years said twenty or more times that he can’t act alone on immigration. “That’s not how democracy works.” “That’s not how our Constitution is written.” “I can’t solve this problem by myself.” What he didn’t say, in so many words, is: “Unless I have to act alone because Congress won’t give me the bill that I want, and so I will just do whatever I please.”

And last week he did act alone to circumvent both Congress and the existing laws on immigration and illegal alien deportation to order ICE to ignore up to 5 million illegal aliens in the country, all the while falsely claiming he was doing nothing more than any other president in the last 50 years. Except that he was. The presidential acts alluded to were in response to Congressional action, not because of a lack thereof.

The process of writing and passing the ACA was one devoid of honesty and integrity. Mr. Obama’s issuing of an Executive Order countermanding existing laws on immigration because Congress won’t obey his “orders” is an exercise in petulance, arrogance and overstepping his Constitutional bounds.

Both of these situations reflect the idea that Congressional Democrats and the president think they know better than the people that elected them, and that they are paid to serve what is good for them and for the country, and they have yet again shown that they will do whatever is necessary to achieve their narrow goals, and legal and moral processes be damned. This the-ends-justify-the-means tactic reflects a level of arrogance and hubris that would make the Founders nauseous. 

Our Constitution lays out a framework for doing things in our government that worked very well until we started changing it. 

Allowing any president to unilaterally extend the power of the executive is dangerous and foolish. Every true American in Congress must oppose this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taking a look at how green energy is working in Europe and America

As the United States grapples with conflicting ideas about whether and to what extent man causes global climate change, the zealous movement to do away with using fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas to produce electricity and switch to “green” sources like wind and solar energy goes forward, full speed ahead.

Far ahead of the U.S. in this campaign are some nations in Europe that some policymakers tout as having adopted smart energy policy. They think the U.S. should follow the lead of countries like Germany and Spain and more heavily subsidize renewable energies like wind, solar, biomass, etc. and tax fossil fuel users more heavily.

Now that Europe’s green energy policies have been in place for several years, a look to see how they have worked might help us decide whether this is a good plan for the U.S. to follow.

From Canadafreepress,com comes information about Germany’s energy policies. The news here is not so good; green energy policies are driving up energy prices and forcing hundreds of thousands of people into energy poverty. Specifically, a study of Germany’s experiences found:
  • Residential German electricity prices are nearly three times higher than electricity prices in the U.S. 
  • As many as 800,000 Germans have had their power cut off because of an inability to pay for rising energy costs. 
  • Germany’s feed-in tariff scheme provides lavish subsidies to renewable energy producers. 
  • On-shore wind has required feed-in tariffs that are in excess of 300 percent higher than market prices. 
  • Germany’s Renewable Energy Levy, which subsidizes renewable energy production, cost German households $9.6 billion in 2013. 
  • The cost to expand transmission networks to integrate renewables stands at $33.6 billion, which grid operators say accounts “for only a fraction of the cost of the energy transition.”

Information from the Institute for Energy Research produced some data on the effects of Spain’s push for green energy that began in 1994. The program involved tariffs, quotas and subsidies, and has earned kudos from international leaders, including President Barack Obama.

The Spaniards have seen increases in electricity rates from 2005 to 2011 of 92 percent for domestic users and 78 percent for industrial users, while during that same period the U.S. saw rate increases of 24 percent for domestic users and19 percent for industrial users from fossil fuel produced electricity.

Here is a comparison of Spanish and American rates per kilowatt-hour:
  • Spain – Domestic $29.46 and Industrial $14.84 
  • U.S. - Domestic $11.69 and Industrial $6.81.

While prices were increasing in Spain the level of carbon dioxide actually rose, rather than declining, increasing 34.5 percent from 1994 to 2011. As a result of this the Spanish government confessed in 2012 that it can’t afford to continue subsidizing green energy.

Meanwhile, the French energy and environment minister, Segolene Royal, who was appointed to the position last spring, plans to create 100,000 jobs by 2017 with her green energy growth initiative. She wants to reduce France’s 75 percent reliance on nuclear energy for electricity production to 50 percent by 2025 by investing in wind, solar, biomass and marine energy sources. She also plans to help 500,000 low-income families add insulation to their homes.

Writing on HotAir.com Erika Johnsen points out that to accomplish these high-minded goals France will have to throw “gobs and gobs of money” into the mix through subsidies, tax credits and/or consumer quotas, which inevitably end up being paid by consumers through higher prices, higher taxes, or increasing France’s national debt, which is already a serious problem. The French economy is weak, much weaker than Germany’s, and we have already seen what happened in that grand green experiment.

In apparent ignorance of these horrid experiences from our European brothers and sisters, the ideologically blinded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is driving the U.S. toward green energy use. The EPA does this not through the natural evolution of increased efficiency and value of green energies that gradually supplant older and dirtier fuels, but by punishing the existing producers of the major fuel sources of coal and natural gas that account for 66 percent of our electricity production.

This approach is responsible for killing jobs and harming local economies, and producing higher prices for consumers as the EPA goes merrily along, oblivious to the destruction in its wake, and to the misery the thoughtless drive for green energy has produced for Spain and Germany.

The administration’s “feel-good” emotional support for three risky green companies cost three-quarters of a billion taxpayer dollars. Solar energy companies Solyndra and Abound Solar wasted $529 million and $70 million respectively, and last December hybrid carmaker Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy adding another $139 million to the tab.

And now climatologist John L. Casey warns of a shift in global climate, a cold spell to last 30 years, and it has absolutely nothing to do with carbon dioxide emissions. It’s due to the sun. “All you have to do is trust natural cycles, and follow the facts; and that leads you to the inevitable conclusion that the sun controls the climate, and that a new cold era has begun," he said.

Perhaps the EPA will forsake the “green fantasy” in favor of reality.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The election of 2014 is over. What did we learn? Where do we go?

Last week’s mid-term election results surprised almost everyone in some way. Republicans won control of the US Senate, increased their majority in the House of Representatives by 13 seats, and won a number of other victories, as summarized here by The Washington Post:

  • Net gain of 8 legislative chambers, increasing from 59 to 67 out of a total of 98 (Nebraska is technically unicameral, but it is dominated by Republicans as well).
  • This sets a record for the modern era, breaking the one in 2012.
  • Republicans now have total control of 24 states, controlling legislative chambers as well as the governor’s office.
  • Republicans have supermajority status in 8 states.
  • Control is split in 17 states (3 of whose governors flipped from Democrat to Republican).
  • Republicans now have four lieutenant governorships due to defeating Democrat incumbents.
  • Democrats have total control in 6 states.

Given the broad and deep defeat of Democrats across the nation it is apparent that the country disapproves of what liberal Democrats have been doing. Those who voted elected Republicans in big numbers, and those that didn’t vote made a strong statement of non-support for the radical policies of liberal Democrats.

A day after the election, President Barack Obama was defiant, showing no inkling that he understood that his policies and the direction he and his fellow liberals had set were to blame for what happened the previous day.

“What we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington,” he said. “They’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation, and I think all of us have a responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.”

That sounds promising, but no more had he sounded the trumpet of cooperation than he committed to going around Congress with a plan to stop deportations and allow as many as 5 million illegal aliens to stay in the United States, at least temporarily. Given that he did nothing on immigration for the first six years of his tenure, except weaken border security, why is this so important now?

His position not only is a slap in the face of Congressional leaders, but also of the American people. Seventy-four percent of voters said in an exit poll by The Polling Company that President Obama should work with Congress rather than go around Congress on immigration.

The Polling Company results showed that "majorities of men (75 percent), women (74 percent), whites (79 percent), blacks (59 percent), and Hispanics (54 percent)," oppose an executive amnesty, and that opinion was shared by Republicans (92 percent) and Independents (80 percent), and even by a majority of Democrats (51 percent).

He is also on the wrong side of the Obamacare issue. The Real Clear Politics Average of polls conducted in October shows that nearly 52 percent of those polled are opposed to Obamacare, while only 38 percent favor it.

Nevertheless, "On healthcare, there are certainly some lines I'm going to draw," Mr. Obama said on Wednesday. "Repeal of the law I won't sign," and he will resist efforts to improve the bill, such as by getting rid of the individual mandate.

This election was certainly not a mandate for Congress and the president to work together to pass the same kinds of legislation that liberal Democrats favored before the election. The people want change.

The mission statement for the new Republican majority should be “First, do no harm.” That means no amnesty, and fix or repeal Obamacare, among other things.

The federal government is too big, too expensive, too intrusive; it is out of control and a danger to the freedom of the American people: Government must be reigned in. That is what the election meant.

Participants in a nationwide CBS News poll in late October were asked what was the most important issue that would affect their vote in the upcoming election. The stagnant economy topped the list at 38 percent.

To get the economy moving we have to cut tax rates across the board, both corporate and personal, which will put millions of dollars in the hands of people and businesses to spend as they see fit.

And then:

  • Cut government spending. There’s more than enough waste in administrative agencies to “pay for” tax cuts.
  • Repeal the tax on medical devices imposed by the Affordable Care Act that punishes companies developing needed technology.
  • Approve the XL Pipeline, and both create jobs and help end dependence on foreign oil.
  • Reign in the EPA, remove the shackles on domestic energy production. Defund it, if necessary.
  • Secure the borders and stop the influx of illegals, drug cartels and other criminals from Mexico, and potential terrorists. Deport or jail the criminals among the illegals.
  • Start restoring our military to its former strength, and try to reacquire those seasoned officers driven to retirement by the Obama administration.
  • Restore selection of US Senators to state legislatures, as it was originally designed.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

One investigative reporter’s intriguing trials and tribulations

Sharyl Attkisson is an award winning television journalist who until recently worked for CBS News. She received two Emmy nominations in 2010 and another in 2011 for investigating members of Congress and the government’s wasting of tax dollars. Her reporting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Operation Fast and Furious” debacle won CBS News the Investigative Reporting Award from Accuracy in Media in 2012, and also won CBS Evening News the Radio and Television News Directors Association's National Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Video Investigative Reporting.

You may remember “Operation Fast and Furious,” although it received much less coverage than it deserved. That was the name attached to the ill advised, poorly conceived, and error-ridden misadventure devised by ATF, an effort to shut down the flow of U.S. guns to Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to allow guns to be put in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers for the purpose of tracking them to cartel members and arresting them.

Not only did ATF botch tracking the weapons, but people who were armed with two of those “Gun Walking” weapons and were illegal aliens that the ATF had not arrested, killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on the U.S. side of the Mexican border. While it is certainly possible to dream up a more preposterous plan than this one, “Fast and Furious” richly deserves the Dubious Achievement Award.

While working for CBS News in 2013, according to huffingtonpost.com, Ms. Attkisson told a Philadelphia radio station that "[t]here has been an issue in my house and there has been an issue with my computers that's gone on for quite a long time that we're looking into.” The issues, she said, had been occurring for about two years. An investigation by CBS News confirmed that, indeed, an external third party had accessed her computer numerous times.

Further problems were outlined by Erik Wemple on washingtonpost.com: “By November 2012, writes Attkisson, disruptions on her home phone line were so frequent as to render it unusable: ‘I call home from my mobile phone and it rings on my end, but not at the house. Or it rings at home once but when my husband or daughter answers, they just hear a dial tone. At the same time, on my end, it keeps ringing and then connects somewhere, just not at my house. Sometimes, when my call connects to that mystery-place-that’s-not-my-house, I hear an electronic sounding buzz,’ reads one passage in [her new book]. She also alleges that her television set ‘spontaneously jitters, mutes, and freeze-frames.’ The home alarm, too, ‘sounds at a different time every night’ and when she checks with the alarm system, it indicates that there’s ‘trouble with the phone line.’”

Who had the motive and the means to do such things?

Could it have been a competitor network? Perhaps. But would a competitor have strong enough motivation to take on such a project? How about a foreign entity, like China? China has the wherewithal, but would it be interested in the subjects Ms. Attkinsson was investigating? Probably not.

How about the CIA, FBI, NSA, DOJ or other government department? Well, given that she was looking into misbehavior of members of Congress and the “Fast and Furious” mess, yes, both motive and wherewithal exist in administrative agencies. However, the Justice Department denied any involvement, so we can just follow the lead of the mainstream news media and put that suspicion to rest, can’t we?

Ms. Attkinsson did yeoman’s work investigating and reporting on the “Fast and Furious” government screw-up, but CBS’ interest ran out before the story was over, as did the government’s interest in explaining to the American people how such a thing happened.

You would probably use more than all your fingers and toes counting the prominent media outlets that share a grand lack of curiosity for epic blunders, bungles, fiascoes and miscalculations by our government over the last few years, like the Benghazi security failure, the Solyndra financing boondoggle, the IRS targeting non-profit applicants, the NSA mass spying project, the failure to secure the southern border, and the Justice Department spying on reporters’ private communications.

Finally, however, after more than five years a few media outlets have started to notice and point out the administration’s many shortcomings, and to ask questions about these things.

Ms. Attkinsson left CBS News this year due to what she said is the network's liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporting. She has written a book, Stonewalled: One Reporter's Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington, published by Harpers, and focusing on difficulties she has experienced in reporting on the Obama administration.

Sharyl Attkinsson epitomizes what the Fourth Estate is supposed to be: the people’s guardian against government misbehavior. A responsible and determined news media provides the public the information it needs to properly evaluate what its government and elected officials are doing, and as such is an indispensable tool for a free society. This function has been largely missing since January of 2009. Maybe if a Republican is elected president in 2016, the function will be revived.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

This year’s election can help change the direction of our country

Next week’s election provides an opportunity to take a big step toward correcting the numerous wrongs afflicting America.

The federal government is too big, too expensive, too oppressive, and too intrusive. Some of those who work for us in Washington and elsewhere misbehave: they lie, cheat and steal, put politics ahead of service and pay no penalty for it. Sometimes, they are rewarded for their treachery.

They believe it is their job to decide what we should eat, what kind of toilet to buy, what kind of light bulbs to use, what we can and cannot say, what health insurance we must buy, which industries should be shut down, how our electricity should be produced, how we may utilize our own private property, the minimum amount employers must pay the least experienced and least knowledgeable workers, who we can do business with. They want to know who we talk to and what we think, and think they can tell religious organizations they must violate their principles or face penalties, and they waste our money on frivolous projects that often fund their friends.

What ever happened to being able to like or dislike anything at any time for any reason, or for no reason? What happened to “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?” People invest their money, mortgage their home to fund a business, only to find they are not actually in charge of it; they must follow sometimes-foolish government rules, or suffer the consequences.

The excesses, corruption and wrongdoings of the federal government are much worse than those of state governments, which in turn are much worse than those of county and municipal governments. Why? Because the smaller and closer government is to the people it serves, the more responsive to and respectful of those people it is.

It has not helped that our federal government is staffed by career bureaucrats who often take on a sense of power and privilege beyond their limited authority, and it is run by career politicians, many, perhaps most, of whom at some point shift their focus from good and faithful service to being re-elected.

Flipping channels the other night I came upon a replay of the Communist Party USA convention in Chicago last June on C-SPAN3.

Party Chairman Sam Webb was speaking: “Here are my two cents. What is needed is nothing less than the restructuring of the economy and the consistently and deeply anti-corporate and eventually socialist direction.”

Among the things Mr. Webb favors are “a guaranteed livable income for all and the reduction of the workweek with no cut in pay” … “and major expansion of every aspect of the public sector to education, housing, retirement security, health care, elder care, and so forth.” He supports raising the minimum wage, and the idea that everyone who isn’t doing well – the underpaid, underemployed, unemployed, the discriminated against, struggling families, students, the underwater homeowner, the bankrupt city” – are victims of capitalism.

He favors moving “government priorities away from military spending.” And he wants the wealth amassed by the evil 1 percent to be transferred into “public hands, our hands.”

He sounded just like big government American liberals, who prefer to call themselves “progressives,” presumably to describe their drive toward socialism/communism.

Mr. Webb might have listed the countries that have thrived after implementing these ideas, but he didn’t, because there aren’t any. Though heaven knows many have tried: Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, et al. They exist as repressive nations forcing their ideology on their citizens and killing or imprisoning those who disagree, and usually have to adopt some capitalist market characteristics to survive.

Under our Constitution, which designed the government that led the United States to levels of greatness and a degree of individual freedom never before imagined, the federal government was never supposed to be what it has become: an obese and controlling machine that is blind to or unconcerned with its harmful effects on the people it is designed to serve.

Much authority was deliberately left to the states and to the people, as so stated in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

From 1955 until 1980 Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, also from 1987 to 1995, and again from 2007 to 2011. Since 1955 Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for only 10 years, during the period 1995 to 2007, while Democrats were in control for 50 years. During this period of Democrat dominance, government has grown into a gargantuan monstrosity that threatens our freedom, and indeed our very survival today.

Capitalism and limited government got us where we were when the United States was on top. Liberal Democrats took us from there to the low point where we are now. The devolution will continue unless we put a stop to it. The Republican Party is the only viable mechanism to slow or stop the headlong slide toward socialism/communism we have witnessed over the last few decades.

Vote Republican in this election.