The Obama Economy is a Wreck……Who is going to Finance the Latino Invaders? Is Civil War Inevitable?
Tapper On Obama Scandals: Remember The Precedent Set “When It’s Not Your Guy In The White House”
JAKE TAPPER: In “The Politics Lead,” a FOX News reporter is caught in the middle of what’s being sarcastically called a conspiracy to commit journalism. Not only did the Justice Department label James Rosen a conspirator for soliciting information from a State Department contractor for a story, but FOX News is now reporting that the Department of Justice even seized the phone records of Rosen’s parents and of at least five other phone lines associated with FOX News.
Earlier this week, “The Washington Post” reported that the FBI sought and received a warrant to search Rosen’s e-mail back in 2010 to find the source of a leak. Keep in mind, there’s no allegation that James Rosen bribed, threatened, coerced anyone to get the information, which is what journalists do. We try to get information, especially information that the government doesn’t want us to share with you.
TAPPER: In an opinion piece, “The New York Times”, which is, of course, very supportive of President Obama, the editorial page accused the Obama administration of going overboard to find and muzzle insiders in the government, saying, quote, “Obama administration officials often talk about the balance between protecting secrets and protecting the constitutional rights of a free press. Accusing a reporter of being a conspirator, on top of other zealots and secretive investigations, shows a heavy tilt toward secrecy and insufficient concern about a free press,” unquote.
Now, I’m a journalist. Obviously I have a bias here. But even if you side with this president over those of us in the media who challenge him in his administration, it is important to remember the precedent these actions set going forward, perhaps when it’s not your guy in the White House.
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Cheaters in School And they aren’t students.
Geoffrey Norman article sent by Mark Waldeland:
The front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution one day in late March was almost completely taken up by news of indictments of 35 public employees. They were not legislators or crooked cops but principals and teachers in the Atlanta school system. They had been doing what one expects to hear students have been doing—namely, cheating on exams. But going by the tone of the grand jury report, one could have been forgiven for thinking they were sanitation department employees cutting deals and working kickbacks with the mob.
The Atlanta educators had, for years, been revising answers on their students’ statewide, federally mandated competency tests. This was done to improve the students’ scores, and unsurprisingly it worked. The Atlanta school system was celebrated. Its chief, Beverly Hall, was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2009 by the American Association of School Administrators, which declared her to be
“an outstanding superintendent whose leadership has turned Atlanta into a model of urban school reform. . . . She has demonstrated a commitment to setting high standards for students and school personnel, working collaboratively with the school board, and meeting the needs of the local community.”
Hall was also honored at the White House by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who later said, while the rumors of widespread fraud and corruption were already in the air, “Whatever the outcome of the state investigation, [Hall’s] accomplishments should not go unrecognized.”
Hall was also endorsed by the Gates Foundation, which found the Atlanta public school system “the leading edge” in “effective teaching.”
The grand jury thought otherwise. According to the indictment, Hall had indeed worked collaboratively: “In her capacity as the superintendent, [she] conspired and endeavored to violate the Georgia RICO Act through a pattern of racketeering activity . . . ”
If convicted, Hall could do 45 years, which seems harsh and probably is. But she is accused of profiting from a criminal enterprise to the tune of some half-million dollars, of ruining the careers of principals who refused to go along with the enterprise and rewarding those who did. And, of course, there are the thousands of children and their parents who were defrauded and no doubt feel truly cheated by what Hall was doing when she wasn’t soaking up the praises of the educrats and foundation chiefs.
Suspicions about the test scores being rung up by Atlanta students first emerged in 2008 and were reported by the Journal-Constitution. The test scores were, quite simply, too good to be true. The improvement was too dramatic. Inner-city schools were, almost overnight, outperforming those in the suburbs, but it was indelicate to point this out. There were, predictably, racial undercurrents.
Still, the Journal-Constitution persisted. The evidence was compelling enough that a Republican governor, Sonny Perdue—a white man from rural Georgia—pushed an investigation. The conspirators were defiant. As the AJC reported, one superintendent met “in 2010 with a dozen principals where schools were most suspect. She disparaged the state investigation and then told the principals to write and read aloud memos telling the state investigators to ‘go to hell.’ ”
Eventually, one teacher wore a wire, just like on the television shows, and gradually the evidence was accumulated and the indictments handed down. Now there will be trials.
It is, of course, a depressing story. Not least because of the brutal insensitivity and unconcern about “the kids.” That is to say, the victims. Hall and her co-conspirators sold them down the river while soaking up the money and the glory.
But that is, sadly, ordinary human frailty, and that has been with us a long time. The conspirators were tempted and they gave in to it. But they had their enablers at the foundations and in the Department of Education. Why were the latter not suspicious when the Journal-Constitution began reporting the story in 2008? These, after all, are supposed to be the people who really understand education. They are the experts.
And yet they were apparently more clueless than some parents of Atlanta schoolchildren who went to officials and demanded to know why, if their children were testing so well, they were reading so poorly.
“Don’t worry about it,” was Beverly Hall’s answer. And the big dogs at the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education backed her up. A mother of one of the defrauded children was quoted in the AJCas saying, “Beverly Hall needed to take the fall for this. She made a deal with the devil, and the devil called her out.”
The Department of Education has a budget of over $77 billion a year, and it also needs to be called out. This, of course, will not happen. What is happening is an effort by education theorists and teachers’ union bosses to transfer the blame from Hall and her co-conspirators onto . . . the tests.
The scandal, according to this line, proves that there is too much emphasis placed on standardized tests. One voice making this argument is that of William Ayers, writing in the Washington Post, where he is coyly described as:
a radical activist during the 1960s and ’70s, [who] had the national spotlight thrown on him during the 2008 presidential campaign when right-wing commentators tried, incorrectly, to say he had a close relationship with then candidate Barack Obama. In any case, Ayers is a well-known Chicago educator who worked with mayor Richard Daley on school reform and who taught and did research for years at the university. He has written numerous articles and books on elementary education.
In his short piece for the Post, Ayers (who in fact took part in the Weather Underground’s bombing campaign and was later a fugitive from justice) writes that Hall’s work “embodied the shared educational policies of the Bush and Obama administrations.” He then goes on to blame the No Child Left Behind initiative of the Bush administration (no mention of the big part Ted Kennedy played in that one) and Obama’s Race to the Top program for putting heavy emphasis on testing and “reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score.”
The stress on testing is an incentive to cheating, Ayers writes, and maybe so. But life is full of temptations that people are reasonably expected to resist. The Atlanta conspirators did have choices. Some of their colleagues chose not to cheat and not to tell investigators to “go to hell.” Some even chose to cooperate with the investigation.
Many, if not most, of the students who went to the corrupt schools—and their parents who sent them there—had no choice.
If testing has been tried and found wanting, one thinks, then how about trying something different?
Like school choice. If the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation and the rest of the education apparatus can’t sniff out a fraud and a con of this magnitude, let the parents and the students give it a try. They can’t do any worse.
New iPhone and iPad App!
May 21, 2013
We are excited to announce the release of our new iPhone and iPad app! Download it for free in the App Store. Click here for more info.
You’ll be in the loop about updates and new course releases. You can keep track of the PragerU courses you’ve already viewed and easily send them to friends and family. Mark your favorites and revisit them on command — a convenient feature, since PragerU now has over 40 courses. And check out this cool option: You can take your own personal notes on a particular video and store them on your iPhone or iPad.
Not an Apple user? No problem! Our new Android app is coming soon.
Please let us know what you think of the new app. We’re always improving the design, and your input is not only welcome, but necessary for improvements we make in future updates.
Dean of Students
ObamaCare Mandates Dramatically Expand the Internal Revenue Service’s Power
May 22, 2013
from the National Center for Policy Analysis:
Much of the talk in the news this week regards the appalling scandal involving IRS targeting of conservative non-profit groups. So it’s worth noting that ObamaCare dramatically expands the authority and the scope of the Internal Revenue Service. Two provisions in particular will require thousands of new IRS agents, and billions in funding, to enforce: the law’s individual mandate, forcing most Americans to buy government-approved health insurance; and its employer mandate, forcing most employers to take money out of workers’ paychecks to purchase costly health insurance on their behalf. Here’s why these two provisions are so intrusive, and why the only solution to the problems they create is to repeal them, says Avik Roy, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.
Many People Are Exempt from the Individual Mandate.
•It turns out that many people are exempt from the mandate, and so the IRS has to know a lot about you in order to decide whether you are in compliance with it.
•To enforce the individual mandate, the IRS needs to know whether or not you have purchased insurance this year.
•It will also need to know the specific insurance policy you have, in order to ensure that it meets ObamaCare’s “minimum essential coverage” requirement.
The Employer Mandate Incentivizes “Unaffordable” Coverage.
•To enforce the employer mandate, the IRS needs the same information from employers in terms of the specific policies employers purchase for their workers, and also the hours worked by every part-time employee.
•In addition, your employer will need to know what your household income is, in order to ensure that the coverage it offers you is “affordable” to you by the law’s definition.
The only viable solution to this problem is to repeal the employer mandate altogether, and to replace the individual mandate with something else, like a limited open enrollment period, that does not require expanding the power and the authority of the IRS.
Repealing the employer mandate will give employers additional incentive to dump workers onto ObamaCare’s exchanges. But, says Roy, this is on balance a good thing, because it will mean that individuals can shop for insurance themselves, something that economists of all stripes support.
Source: Avik Roy, “Two ObamaCare Mandates that Dramatically Expand the Internal Revenue Service’s Power,” Forbes, May 17, 2013.
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THE AUTOCRAT ACCOUNTANTS
by Mark Steyn at National Review Online:
Speaking at Ohio State University earlier this month, Barack Obama urged students to pay no attention to those paranoid types who “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity.” Oddly enough, in recent days the most compelling testimony for this view of government has come from the president himself, who insists with a straight face that he had no idea that the Internal Revenue Service had spent two years targeting his political enemies until he “learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this.” Like you, all he knows is what he reads in the papers. Which is odd, because his Justice Department is bugging those same papers, so you’d think he’d at least get a bit of a heads-up. But no doubt the fact that he’s wiretapping the Associated Press was also entirely unknown to him until he read about it in the Associated Press. There is a “president of the United States” and a “government of the United States,” but, despite a certain superficial similarity in their names, they are entirely unrelated, like Beyoncé Knowles and Admiral Sir Charles Knowles. One golfs, reads the prompter, parties with Jay-Z, and guests on the Pimp with a Limp show, and the other audits you, bugs your telephone line, and leaks your confidential tax records. But they’re two completely separate sinister entities. So it’s preposterous to describe Obama as Nixonian: Beyoncé wouldn’t have given Nixon the time of day.
If you believe this, there’s a shovel-ready infrastructure project in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. In April last year, the Obama campaign identified by name eight Romney donors as “a group of wealthy individuals with less than reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans, and still others are donating to help ensure Romney puts beneficial policies in place for them.” That week, Kimberley Strassel began her Wall Street Journal column thus:
Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a check.
Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name. . . . The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.
Miss Strassel wrote that on April 26, 2012. Five weeks later, one of the named individuals, Frank VanderSloot, was informed by the IRS that he and his wife were being audited. In July, he was told by the Department of Labor of an additional audit over the guest workers on his cattle ranch in Idaho. In September, he was notified that one of his other businesses was to be audited. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never previously been audited, attracted three in the four months after being publicly named by el Presidente. More to the point he attracted that triple audit even though Miss Strassel explicitly predicted in America’s biggest-selling newspaper that this was exactly what the Obama enforcers were going to do. The “separate, sinister entity” of the government of the United States went ahead anyway. What do they care? If some lippy broad in the papers won’t quit her yapping about it, they can always audit her, too — as they did to Miss Strassel’s sometime colleague Anne Hendershott, a sociology professor who got rather too interested in Obamacare and wrote about it in the Journal and various small Catholic publications. The IRS summoned Professor Hendershott to account for herself, and forbade her husband from accompanying her, even though they filed jointly. She ceased her political writing.
A year after he was named to the Obama Dishonor Roll, the feds have found nothing on Mr. VanderSloot, but they have caused him to rack up 80 grand in legal bills. This is what IRS defenders (of whom there are more than there ought to be) mean when they assure us that the system worked: Yes, some rich guy had to blow through the best part of six figures fending off the bureaucrats, but it’s not like his body was found in a trunk at the airport or anything, if you know what I mean, Kimmy baby.
Mr. VanderSloot is big enough, just about, to see off the most powerful government on the planet. Most of those who’ve caught the eye of the IRS share nothing in common with him other than his political preferences. They’re nobodies — ordinary American citizens guilty of no crime except that of disagreeing with the ruling party. Yet they were asked, under “penalty of perjury,” to disclose the names of books they were reading and provide the names and addresses of relatives who might be planning to run for public office — a kind of pre-enemies list. Is that banana-republic enough for you yet? Not apparently for Juan Williams, fired from NPR for thought crime a couple of years ago, but who was nevertheless energetically defending the IRS exertions on Fox News on Thursday evening.
Left-wing groups had their 501(c)(4) applications approved in weeks, right-wing groups were delayed for months and years and ordered to cough up everything from donor lists to Facebook posts, and those right-wing groups that were approved had their IRS files leaked to left-wing groups like ProPublica. The agency’s commissioner, a slippery weasel called Steven Miller, conceded before Congress that this was “horrible customer service” — which it was in the sense that your call is important to him and may be monitored by George Soros for quality control.
AdvertisementA civil “civil service” requires small government. Once government is ensnared in every aspect of life a bureaucracy grows increasingly capricious. The U.S. tax code ought to be an abomination to any free society, but the American people have become reconciled to it because of a complex web of so-called exemptions that massively empower the vast shadow state of the permanent bureaucracy. Under a simple tax system, your income is a legitimate tax issue. Under the IRS, everything is a legitimate tax issue: The books you read, the friends you recommend them to. There are no correct answers, only approved answers. Drew Ryun applied for permanent non-profit status for a group called “Media Trackers” in July 2011. Fifteen months later, he’d heard nothing. So he applied again under the eco-friendly name of “Greenhouse Solutions,” and was approved in three weeks.
The president and the IRS commissioner are unable to name any individual who took the decision to target only conservative groups. It just kinda sorta happened, and, once it had, it growed like Topsy. But the lady who headed that office, Sarah Hall Ingram, is now in charge of the IRS office for Obamacare. Many countries around the world have introduced government health systems since 1945, but, as I wrote here last year, “only in America does ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘reform’ begin with the hiring of 16,500 new IRS agents tasked with determining whether your insurance policy merits a fine.” So now not only are your books and Facebook posts legitimate tax issues but so is your hernia, and your prostate, and your erectile dysfunction. Next time round, the IRS will be able to leak your incontinence pads to George Soros.
Big Government is erecting a panopticon state — one that sees everything, and regulates everything. It’s great “customer service,” except that you can never get out of the store.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn
On IRS issue, senior White House aides were focused on shielding Obama
by Phili; Rucker and Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post:
As soon as White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler heard about an upcoming inspector general’s report on the Internal Revenue Service, she knew she had a problem.
The notice Ruemmler saw on April 24 gave her a thumbnail sketch of a disturbing finding: that the IRS had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups. She shared the news with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other senior White House aides, who all recognized the danger of the findings.
But they agreed that it would be best not to share it with President Obama until the independent audit was completed and made public, in part to protect him from even the appearance of trying to influence an investigation.
This account of how the White House tried to deal with the IRS inquiry — based on documents, public statements and interviews with multiple senior officials, including one directly involved in the discussions — shows how carefully Obama’s top aides were trying to shield him from any second-term scandal that might swamp his agenda or, worse, jeopardize his presidency.
The episode also offers a glimpse into the workings of Obama’s insular West Wing, which has struggled to cope in recent weeks with the IRS scandal, the continued fallout from last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department’s tracking of journalists as part of leak investigations.
But Ruemmler and McDonough’s careful plan for the IRS was upended on May 10, when Lois Lerner, a senior official at the agency, broke the news by admitting that the IRS had given extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Senior White House officials were stunned to see the IRS trying to get ahead of its own story — and in doing so, creating a monstrous communications disaster for an administration that appeared not to know what its agencies were up to.
Ruemmler views her mission strictly as advising Obama on the law and protecting executive branch prerogatives, colleagues and friends said. “She’s a lawyer’s lawyer,” said Neal Katyal, acting solicitor general in Obama’s first term and a close friend. “She can go with you toe to toe on footnotes and Supreme Court opinions or she can get into the intricacies of protecting the president against a Capitol Hill investigation.”
Yet Ruemmler’s lawyerly focus sometimes conflicts with political imperatives. The absence of such dominant first-term personalities as former adviser David Axelrod and former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who could bridge those differences, has left the White House scrambling to contain its public damage.
In the IRS case, many prominent Washington lawyers say Ruemmler made the sensible legal call. She protected her client — Obama — by distancing him from a politically sensitive problem and ensuring that he could not be accused of meddling in an inquiry.
In addition, one senior administration official said, Ruemmler at the time did not know key facts: How extensive was the IRS’s targeting? How many and which employees were involved? Did they target only conservative groups and was the effort politically motivated? And were those groups’ applications for tax-exempt status denied or delayed?
To keep from intervening in the audit, Ruemmler could not seek answers, the official said.
“The single most important thing the White House counsel can do at that point is make sure no one in the White House does anything to interfere with or anything that may obstruct the conclusions from being finished and rolled out,” said Jack Quinn, who served as White House counsel under Bill Clinton.
It fell to others, including White House press secretary Jay Carney and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, to explain the White House’s decisions to the public, and that’s where problems arose. Inconsistencies in their stories undermined their credibility and invited scrutiny.
“It’s become a Washington spectacle,” lamented David Plouffe, a longtime Obama political adviser who left the White House in January.
Privately, other Obama allies said Carney’s repeated corrections of the official account left an impression with the public that White House aides were incompetent or hiding something.
Late last week, McDonough summoned Plouffe and a cadre of former Obama and Clinton advisers — including Stephanie Cutter, Robert Gibbs, Anita Dunn, Paul Begala and Mike McCurry — to the White House for two separate public relations strategy sessions. White House aides said they urged getting out information about the IRS situation as quickly as possible, and provided advice on refocusing attention on Obama’s jobs agenda.
The president expressed “outrage” at the IRS findings last week and acted swiftly to install new leadership at the agency. This week, however, news reports have centered on the fine points of the White House’s evolving accounts, including why Obama did not learn of the situation until the media reported it on May 10.
Plouffe — who derided the press corps as “figure skating judges” for focusing on minutiae — said the counsel’s office is routinely notified about inspector general reports. Protocol is to wait for the final reports before briefing Obama, he said.
“The truth is, there wasn’t like a playbook of 12 plays here,” Plouffe said. “The notion that somehow the counsel’s office or the White House should have leapt into action here before the IG report came out is beyond curious. That would have been the real scandal.”
As counsel, Ruemmler is a regular presence in the Situation Room and the Oval Office, making legal judgments and helping coach other senior officials on how to discuss them publicly. Internally, she is a fierce opponent of public disclosures that could expose communications within the executive branch, especially those between the president and his advisers.
“I think she’s one of the most cool-headed people in the entire White House and does a lot to ensure that nobody gets themselves in trouble,” said Cutter, who served as deputy campaign manager for Obama’s reelection bid. She added that, on the IRS inquiry, “she did the president a huge service by keeping it away from him until the IG report was final. That’s her modus operandi. . . . It makes everything that much cleaner.”
Associates say the way the IRS situation was handled fits with Ruemmler’s approach to making decisions: wary to act before knowing all the facts, but then decisive once they are clear.
“She’s very deliberate,” said Akin Gump lawyer John M. Dowd, a friend. “There’s no reason to go busting into it. . . . Even though it’s a hot subject and there’s going to be some political implications, to me you wait until you’ve got a work product in your hands.”
Unlike most senior White House aides, Ruemmler has no campaign experience. Although she has worked in Washington for years, as a prosecutor and as a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins, former colleagues said she showed little interest in politics.
Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis said Ruemmler lacks political and media savvy. He said she had “an obligation to give the president a heads-up and generally describe what might be coming down the track [on the IRS] so you can do crisis management planning.”
Plouffe rejected that criticism, saying, “I know blowhards like Lanny Davis have posited this question, but they’re dead wrong.” Obama, he said, has “plenty of people who give him political advice. He needs a top-flight lawyer who’s going to run a good process, and that’s what she’s done.”
Beth Wilkinson, a Washington lawyer and former Justice Department official, said Ruemmler’s focus on the law is considered a virtue inside the White House.
“She stays in her lane, which people appreciate,” said Wilkinson, a close friend of Ruemmler’s. “She really sees her role as the counsel to the president and to protect the presidency and provide legal advice. She doesn’t try to do other people’s jobs.”