Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Reckless Endangerment"
Fannie Mae did not limit its outreach to politicians in need of photo ops or community organizers in need of money. The company also enlisted the aid of academics whose resarch papers on housing issues helped shape the policy debate that was so crucial to the preservation of Fannie's status quo. ...

Fannie Mae's financing of academic research on such a large scale meant that few housing experts were left to argue the other side of any debate involving the company. ...

One bank lobbyist was interested in hiring academics to write papers that might take a different point of view on housing issues. But most of the experts in the area had been co-opted by Fannie Mae. "I tried to find academics that would do research on these issues and Fannie had bought off all the academics in housing," the lobbyist said. "I had people say to me are you going to give me stipends for the next 20 years like Fannie will?"

The answer was no. The discussion was over....
Your Gunwalker Links

ATF official: I told the White House about Fast & Furious
...What’s less clear is why Newell informed him with the caveat “you didn’t get this from me”. Why wouldn’t the ATF report on Fast and Furious results to the White House when asked? Was Newell told to avoid linking the operation directly to the White House, or was the ATF worried about the implications of the operation even before it blew up in their faces? Given the hostility towards Congressional oversight already demonstrated at the ATF and Department of Justice during this investigation, this looks like even more evidence that the Obama administration let the ATF run wild, perhaps on purpose.

The more important question will be who O’Reilly told at the White House about the operation. Clearly, O’Reilly wanted the information to prepare for key meetings on a very sensitive subject. It’s hard to believe that O’Reilly would have kept that information to himself. Issa’s committee needs to get O’Reilly into the hearing and on the record, and it may be time to subpoena some White House records, too.

VIDEO: ATF agent who implemented 'Fast and Furious' says 4 federal agencies were 'full partners'
Four federal agencies were "full partners" in the Obama administration's bungled Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to wind up in the hands of Mexican drug lords, the man who implemented the program revealed today at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

William Newell, the former head of the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was pressed by Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Penn. to identify all the federal agencies involved in the operation.

In response, Newell identified the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service as "full partners" with the ATF. ...

Senior ATF, Justice Dept officials ignored Mexico-based agents’ complaints, bragged about Fast and Furious successes
...He called Dan Kumor, ATF’s chief of international affairs, only to get a similar answer. Gil told Congressional investigators that Kumor said it was “an on-going investigation.” (Issa, Grassley blast Holder in letter after secret meeting with ATF’s Ken Melson)

“They’re looking at straw purchasers, they have cooperative Federal Firearms Licensees and it sounds like a significant investigation,” Gil said Kumor told him, adding that “he didn’t have access to the trace information either.” But, Gil said Kumor told him every official “on the chain” up to Kumor from Phoenix was “aware of the investigation.”

Gil said he wasn’t satisfied with the lack of answers from Washington-based officials, and got into “screaming matches” with Kumor. “Hey, when are they going to shut this, to put it bluntly, damn investigation down, we’re getting hurt down here,” Gil told Congressional investigators he’d scream at Kumor.

Gil also told Congressional investigators that Obama administration officials worried he’d tell the Mexican ambassador or brief the Mexican government on the operation. He said that’s why he wasn’t given specifics or details about Operation Fast and Furious. “I can tell you what I was told and they were afraid I was going to either brief the ambassador on it or brief the Government of Mexico officials on it,” Gil said, adding that, “They were just worried about somebody leaking whatever was unique about this investigation.”...

Report: More than 1,000 weapons unaccounted for in Fast and Furious
...Suspected smugglers bought 1,418 firearms after coming to the attention of ATF agents running the probe, according to the congressional report, detailing the most complete accounting to date of weapons in the operation. Of those, 1,048 haven’t been recovered or traced, the report said.

The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office is conducting its own probe of the operation. Attorney General Eric Holder and other top officials have said they didn’t know of, nor approve of, the ATF tactics.

The congressional report was released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), who have led the criticism of the ATF, and its parent agency, the Justice Department, over the Fast and Furious operation. Mr. Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee....

...In a congressional report being released in conjunction with the hearing the findings note, “ATF and DOJ leadership kept their own personnel in Mexico and Mexican government officials totally in the dark about all aspects of Fast and Furious. Meanwhile, ATF officials in Mexico grew increasingly worried about the number of weapons recovered in Mexico that traced back to an ongoing investigation out of ATF’s Phoenix Field Division.”

The congressional report notes that ATF intelligence analysts notified the ATF’s attach√© in Mexico, Darren Gil, and Carlos Canino, Deputy Attach√©, about a large number of guns showing up in Mexico from the Phoenix field office investigation.

“Hundreds of weapons were suddenly appearing in Mexico – traced to Phoenix – without explanation. Gil and his agents struggled to get answers from their own agency. Although ATF officials in Phoenix and Washington, D.C. acknowledged that an investigation was underway, they refused to share the details of the strategy and operation with the agents in Mexico … ATF officials in Mexico finally realized the truth: ATF was allowing guns to walk. By withholding this critical information from its own personnel in Mexico, ATF jeopardized relations between the U.S. and Mexico.” The report noted....

Gunwalker scandal called "perfect storm of idiocy"
In advance of a hearing later today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report containing new testimony and allegations in the ATF gunwalker case. According to the report, Carlos Canino, Acting ATF Attache in Mexico, calls the strategy his agency employed: "The perfect storm of idiocy."

"We armed the [Sinaloa] cartel," Canino told investigators. "It is disgusting." Canino will be a key witness at the hearing.

Joint Committee report: Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence (pdf)

But it's not just the Sinaloa cartel. Documents obtained by Congressional investigators show weapons - sold under ATF's watch in Operation Fast and Furious out of the Phoenix office - have been used by at least three Mexican drug cartels: Sinaloa, El Teo and La Familia.

In other words, Congressional investigators say the very agency charged with preventing weapons from falling into the hands of violent cartels south of the border ... instead facilitated it....

Feds Silent on How Convicted Felons Bought Guns in 'Operation Fast and Furious'
In the latest chapter of the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, federal officials won't say how two suspects obtained more than 360 weapons despite criminal records that should have prevented them from buying even one gun.

Under current federal law, people with felony convictions are not permitted to buy weapons, and those with felony arrests are typically flagged while the FBI conducts a thorough background check.

However, according to court records reviewed by Fox News, two of the 20 defendants indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation have felony convictions and criminal backgrounds that experts say, at the very least, should have delayed them buying a single firearm. Instead, the duo bought dozens of guns on multiple occasions while federal officials watched on closed-circuit cameras. ...

How Mexican killers got US guns from 'Fast and Furious' operation
On May 29, Mexican federal police in four helicopters attacked a drug cartel in a mountain redoubt. They were rebuffed by heavy fire, including from a massive .50 caliber rifle.

A bullet hole left in one helicopter's plate glass window is one exhibit in an exhaustive House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report released Tuesday showing the breadth of a high-stakes, unprecedented, and, ultimately, ill-advised US scheme called "Operation Fast and Furious."

The .50 caliber bullet hole, the report says, likely came from a gun trafficked via Fast and Furious, an operation to allow nearly 2,000 arms to leave US gunshops via certain traffickers who the US government had identified and thought it could track. The idea was to trace these "straw buyers" to key cartel figures in an attempt to score major gun busts to prove the US was serious about stopping arms trafficking across the border.

Instead, the report alleges that the operation – which one US official has called "a perfect storm of idiocy" – likely allowed hundreds of powerful guns to cross into Mexico, possibly changing the outcome of cartel battles with Mexican police, leading to the deaths of many Mexicans and one federal agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and damaging diplomatic relations between the US and Mexico....

USA Today: ATF chief: Response to gun-tracking inquiry a 'disaster'
The acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the Justice Department has been withholding key information from congressional officials and that the department sought to protect its political appointees from criticism over a failed anti-gun trafficking operation that allowed hundreds of weapons to be smuggled to Mexico.

Kenneth Melson told investigators earlier this month that among the materials in Justice's possession was "a smoking gun" document related to the inquiry into Operation Fast and Furious that is being headed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Judiciary Committee's ranking member, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"My view is that the whole matter of the department's response in this case was a disaster," Melson told congressional investigators in a July 4 interview....

Saturday, July 23, 2011


WaPo: ‘Reckless Endangerment’ by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner
...The book then gives examples where Fannie’s executives — Jim Johnson, CEO from 1991 to 1998, is singled out more than anyone else — used the excess profits to support government officials in a variety of ways with plenty left over for large bonuses: They got jobs for friends and relatives of elected officials, including Rep. Barney Frank, who is tagged as “a perpetual protector of Fannie,” and they set up partnership offices around the country which provided more jobs. They financed publications in which writers argued that Fannie’s role in promoting homeownership justified federal support. They commissioned work by famous economists, such as Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, which argued that Fannie was not a serious risk to the taxpayer, countering “critics who argued that both Fannie and Freddie posed significant risks to the taxpayer.” They made campaign contributions and charitable donations to co-opt groups like the community action organization ACORN, which “had been agitating for tighter regulations on Fannie Mae.” They persuaded executive branch officials — such as then Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers — to ask their staffs to rewrite reports critical of Fannie. In the meantime, Countrywide, the mortgage firm led by Angelo Mozilo, partnered with Fannie in originating many of the mortgages Fannie packaged (26 percent in 2004) and gave “sweetheart” loans to politicians with power to affect Fannie, such as Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. The authors write that “Countrywide and Fannie Mae were inextricably bound.”...

...The claim of a cozy connection between the New York Fed and Wall Street gets much more attention. The book singles out economists at “Timothy Geithner’s bank-friendly New York Fed” for a “see-no-bubble mentality” during the housing bubble. It claims that “the banks knew they held all the cards” when Geithner became president of the New York Fed in 2003. It says that financier Sandy Weill “cultivated Geithner” and approached him about running Citigroup, and reminds us that “even as Citigroup was building up its hidden off-balance sheet risks in 2006, its overseers at the New York Fed did nothing to rein the bank in.” ...

Lawyer: Cop scanner ‘crosses line’
Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state’s plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers’ whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour — storing that information indefinitely where local cops, staties, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose....
Rick Perry's Army of God
A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.

On this day, the Lord’s messengers arrived in the form of two Texas pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington and Bob Long of San Marcos, who called on Perry in the governor’s office inside the state Capitol. Schlueter and Long both oversee small congregations, but they are more than just pastors. They consider themselves modern-day apostles and prophets, blessed with the same gifts as Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles.

The pastors told Perry of God’s grand plan for Texas. A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was “The Prophet State,” anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role.

The day before the meeting, Schlueter had received a prophetic message from Chuck Pierce, an influential prophet from Denton, Texas. God had apparently commanded Schlueter—through Pierce—to “pray by lifting the hand of the one I show you that is in the place of civil rule.”

Gov. Perry, it seemed.

Schlueter had prayed before his congregation: “Lord Jesus I bring to you today Gov. Perry. ... I am just bringing you his hand and I pray Lord that he will grasp ahold of it. For if he does you will use him mightily.”

And grasp ahold the governor did. At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation....

ABC News cheerleading for Obama more than Daily Kos pollster
...“Obama looks to have turned the budget debate to his advantage,” writes ABC pollster Gary Langer. “His position on the deficit is more broadly popular, he’s taking less heat than the GOP for unwillingness to compromise and he’s got a sizable lead in the view that he cares more about protecting the middle class.”...

Power and the Press
...But Labour is just the same, all the parties are just the same. They have to get on with the newspapers. And why is that? I think it's interesting that they have to because Britain has largely succeeded in getting money out of politics, something many Americans would like to do here. The consequence of doing that is that the newspapers become incredibly important and you have to have them in your pocket if you're going to do well.

"Getting money out of politics"--that is, imposing governmental restrictions on political speech--is a cause that many American newspapers have championed. (The Journal is a notable exception.) The McCain-Feingold law's unconstitutional ban on corporate political speech included an exemption for "media corporations," so that while it was in effect, those corporations had an effective monopoly, as in Britain.

The complaint in Britain now is that the press has too much power, and it turns out that media organizations--being composed, like other organizations, of human beings--are susceptible to corruption. In response have come calls, including from Prime Minister David Cameron, for more government regulation of the press....
Shared Sacrifice: Eliminating ObamaCare Could Save $2 Trillion
...Let’s abandon ideological rigidity and listen to the American people. Let’s repeal ObamaCare. A new Rasmussen poll finds that independent voters want to repeal the health care reform legislation by a margin of 32 points, 63% to 31%. A recent Real Clear Politics average of polls finds that a mere 38.6% of voters favor retaining the plan.

Shelving the plan would trim more than $2 trillion from the deficit. It would also make Sen. Harkins less of a liar for boasting that the Democrats’ motivation for raising the debt limit is not to finance “future borrowing.” (It would not, however, make the senator less of a hothead.)

Gunwalker: Justice Dept. Inspector General Opens Investigation
Operation Fast and Furious — and other alleged “gunwalker” programs — only ended when whistleblowers came forward from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) after a firefight in Rio Rico, Arizona, left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.

NPR – yes, NPR – is now reporting that the Department of Justice inspector general is launching an investigation into whether or not the DOJ illegally retaliated against one of the agents that revealed the gunwalking plot:

The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into possible retaliation against a whistleblowing agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to two people briefed on the inquiry.

Watchdogs are examining whether anyone at the Justice Department improperly released internal correspondence to try to smear ATF agent John Dodson, who told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that he repeatedly warned supervisors about what he called a reckless law enforcement operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
...
U.S. loses $1.3 billion in exiting Chrysler
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. taxpayers likely lost $1.3 billion in the government bailout of Chrysler, the Treasury Department announced Thursday.

The government recently sold its remaining 6% stake in the company to Italian automaker Fiat. It wrapped up the 2009 bailout that was part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program six years early....

...Overall, $1.3 billion will not be recovered from the bankrupt Old Chrysler, but Massad still called it a "major accomplishment."

That's because the government originally expected it would lose much more on the auto bailout. Initial estimates from the Congressional Budget Office in 2009, predicted the government would lose $40 billion on the overall auto bailout....
Is “Man-made Global Warming” about to take another hit?

CERN 'gags' physicists in cosmic ray climate experiment
The chief of the world's leading physics lab at CERN in Geneva has prohibited scientists from drawing conclusions from a major experiment. The CLOUD ("Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets") experiment examines the role that energetic particles from deep space play in cloud formation. CLOUD uses CERN's proton synchrotron to examine nucleation.

CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Welt Online that the scientists should refrain from drawing conclusions from the latest experiment.

"I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them," reports veteran science editor Nigel Calder on his blog. Why?

Because, Heuer says, "That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters."...

The next climate debate bombshell
...Last year, Denmark’s University of Aarhus did another experiment with a particle accelerator that fully confirmed the Svensmark hypothesis: cosmic rays help to make more clouds and thus could cool the earth.

The CERN experiment is supposed to be the big test of the Svensmark theory. It’s a tipoff, then, that CERN’s boss, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, has just told the German magazine Die Welt that he has forbidden his researchers to “interpret” the forthcoming test results. In other words, the CERN report will be a stark “just the facts” listing of the findings. Those findings must support Svensmark, or Heuer would never have issued such a stifling order on a major experiment.
Climate change sceptics should get less BBC coverage and be challenged 'more vigorously', says report on science output
Climate change sceptics will get less of a hearing on the BBC because they are at odds with the majority view among scientists, a report reveals.

The corporation’s governing body is set to change the way the BBC covers the issue by urging it to focus less on those who disagree with the majority ‘consensus’.

He is understood to find no evidence of bias in the corporation’s output, but suggests that on issues where there is a ‘scientific consensus’ – also including the MMR jab and genetically modified crops – there should be no need for the BBC to find opponents of the mainstream view....
State Dept. contract officer steers $52 million to secret husband, daughter
A special investigation by The Daily Caller has discovered that a State Department contract specialist participated in awarding more than $52 million in taxpayer-funded contracts to a company owned and operated by her husband and daughter.

Kathleen McGrade helped their company, Sterling Royale Group, win 43 federally funded contracts over the last few years.

McGrade acted as the Contracting Officer (CO) for awards to Sterling Royale Group. McGrade’s husband, Brian Collinsworth, serves as the company’s Vice President. McGrade’s daughter, J.L. (Jennifer) Herring, is its president and CEO.

When TheDC first reached Collinsworth for comment, he denied being married to McGrade. “She is the CO on our contracts, but we are not married in any way, shape or form. That’s kind of funny, but, okay,” Collinsworth said, adding that he and McGrade have no relationship “other than a professional one of a CO to a company.”

Collinsworth also denied that Herring is McGrade’s daughter, and his stepdaughter.

But wedding photographs and other personal pictures Collinsworth posted on MySpace.com suggest otherwise....

...Smithey added that McGrade and Collinsworth covered their tracks and kept their marriage concealed from the State Department and others. “It was a big secret,” Smithey said. “In fact, they even told me it was a secret and not to tell anyone that they know that they are married, because of the whole conflict of interest and all that.”

In addition to photos documenting their marriage and their allegedly improper professional relationship, TheDC has discovered that McGrade and Collinsworth appeared as co-owners on a 2010 real estate record for a house in Stafford, Va. McGrade also publicly lists a condominium residence in downtown Washington, D.C.

When TheDC visited that building, a security guard confirmed that Collinsworth lives with McGrade at that address....
Good healthcare for all? Not on the NHS
‘The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. That principle remains at its core. With the exception of charges for some prescriptions and optical and dental services, the NHS remains free at the point of use for anyone who is resident in the UK.’ So says the NHS Choices website itself. But if you smoke or you’re a bit chubby, that statement is no longer true.

In December last year, the Sunday Telegraph reported that NHS bosses in Kent had decided that smokers who required ‘non-urgent’ operations, like hip replacement or cataract removal, would either have to quit before they could join the waiting list or take part in a 12-week smoking cessation course. People with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 – classified as obese – would have to take part in a three-month diet programme in order to get on the waiting list.

This week, it seems the idea has spread. According to the doctors’ magazine, Pulse, the NHS in Hertfordshire is planning similar restrictions to the ones proposed in Kent, with smokers and overweight people kept off waiting lists while they mend their wicked ways....
Give Greece What It Deserves: Communism.
What the world needs, lest we forget, is a contemporary example of Communism in action. What better candidate than Greece? They’ve been pining for it for years, exhibiting a level of anti-capitalist vitriol unmatched in any developed country. They are temperamentally attuned to it, having driven all hard working Greeks abroad in search of opportunity. They pose no military threat to their neighbors, unless you quake at the sight of soldiers marching around in white skirts. And they have all the trappings of a modern Western nation, making them an uncompromised test bed for Marxist theories. Just toss them out of the European Union, cut off the flow of free Euros, and hand them back the printing plates for their old drachmas. Then stand back for a generation and watch. The land that invented democracy used it to perfect the art of living at the expense of others, an example all Western democracies appear intent on emulating. Being the first to run out of other people’s money makes Greece truly ripe to take the next logical step beyond socialism....
Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs
Federal employees' job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.

The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance, says John Palguta, former research chief at the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, which handles federal firing disputes.

The 1,800-employee Federal Communications Commission and the 1,200-employee Federal Trade Commission didn't lay off or fire a single employee last year. The SBA had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths in its 4,000-employee workforce.

When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Krugman: I didn't mean that stimulus
...Hmm. That’s not what I remember him saying back in 2009. In 2009, if I remember right, job-preserving aid to state and local governments was almost the most important thing in the world. Let’s see … searching … searching … Sorry I’m a little rusty … searching … whoops, hit the Times paywall … searching … ah, yes:...
Fresh doubt cast on Obama's health care story
...That is the time during which Obama says his mother battled insurance companies to cover her illness. But Scott, who had access to Dunham's correspondence from the time, reveals that Dunham unquestionably had health coverage. "Ann's compensation for her job in Jakarta had included health insurance, which covered most of the costs of her medical treatment," Scott writes. "Once she was back in Hawaii, the hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month."

Scott writes that Dunham, who wanted to be compensated for those costs as well as for her living expenses, "filed a separate claim under her employer's disability insurance policy." It was that claim, with the insurance company CIGNA, that was denied in August 1995 because, CIGNA investigators said, Dunham's condition was known before she was covered by the policy....
The Menace Within
What happened in the basement of the psych building 40 years ago shocked the world. How do the guards, prisoners and researchers in the Stanford Prison Experiment feel about it now?...
Prison doctor gets paid for doing little or nothing
Reporting from Sacramento -- The highest-paid state employee in California last year, a prison surgeon who took home $777,423, has a history of mental illness, was fired once for alleged incompetence and has not been allowed to treat an inmate for six years because medical supervisors don't trust his clinical skills.

Since July 2005, Dr. Jeffrey Rohlfing has mostly been locked out of his job — on paid leave or fired or fighting his termination — at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, state records show. When he has been allowed inside the facility, he has been relegated to reviewing paper medical histories, what prison doctors call "mailroom" duty.

Rohlfing's $235,740 base pay, typical in California's corrections system, accounted for about a third of his income last year. The rest of the money was back pay for more than two years when he did no work for the state while appealing his termination. A supervisor had determined that Rohlfing provided substandard care for two patients, according to state Personnel Board records....
Esquire’s psalm to Obama
...Before the fall brings us down, before the election season begins in earnest with all its nastiness and vulgarity, before the next batch of stupid scandals and gaffes, before Sarah Palin tries to convert her movie into reality and Joe Biden resumes his imitation of an embarrassing uncle and Newt and Callista Gingrich creep us all out, can we just enjoy Obama for a moment? Before the policy choices have to be weighed and the hard decisions have to be made, can we just take a month or two to contemplate him the way we might contemplate a painting by Vermeer or a guitar lick by the early-seventies Rolling Stones or a Peyton Manning pass or any other astounding, ecstatic human achievement? Because twenty years from now, we’re going to look back on this time as a glorious idyll in American politics, with a confident, intelligent, fascinating president riding the surge of his prodigious talents from triumph to triumph. Whatever happens this fall or next, the summer of 2011 is the summer of Obama....
Destroying itself from within
...This space does not have length enough to tell how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were so thoroughly hijacked. The accounts given in Reckless Endangerment of executives James Johnson and Franklin Raines, just to pick two examples, are astonishing. These two were/ are monsters of rapaciousness and arrogance. They so brazenly used the truly vast resources of their mortgage retailing to launch public relations campaigns, hire relatives of the politicians who oversaw them, fund lobbyists by the dozens, and orchestrate fake campaigns of "public support" every time two or three brave regulators began the Sisyphean task of calling them to account.

Reckless Endangerment tells us which elected officials did their bidding. If there is ever a Mount Rushmore for hypocrites, the face of Democratic Congressman Barney Frank -Fannie Mae's friend in every sordid scrape (until nothing could be hidden anymore) -should be the first to go up. It was the complaisance and complicity of elected politicians like him that enabled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to achieve the power they did, to violate so utterly their own charters, to defy and slander their regulators (they set rumours afloat that one honest overseer was having "mental problems") as long as the mortgage giants tossed funds into their political kitties, gave them ribbon cutting ceremonies for "minority housing," and greased their re-election efforts....
VERNUCCIO: Labor’s new strategy: Intimidation for dummies
...SEIU’s manual details how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” The union advises using legal and regulatory pressure to “threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.”

It details the use of community groups to “damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.” SEIU recommends going after company officials personally. Not mincing words, SEIU states, “It may be a violation of blackmail and extortion laws to threaten management officials with release of ‘dirt’ about them if they don’t settle a contract. But there is no law against union members who are angry at their employer deciding to uncover and publicize factual information about individual managers.”..

...In some areas, the manual blatantly advises breaking the law, stating, “Union members sometimes must act in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohatma [sic] Gandhi and disobey laws which are used to enforce injustice against working people.”...

Obfuscation: Dems Push Gun Control To Hide ‘Gunwalker’ Scandal
...The exact same agencies that would be charged with enforcing the proposal are currently under investigation — and may eventually face felony charges — because they broke existing laws and participated in widespread gun trafficking. To borrow from a reader, the federal government is using federal agencies to break federal laws so that same federal government can impose more federal laws on the people that did not break the law.

It is Orwellian in its absurdity, and yet entirely real....


More ‘Gunwalker’ Emails Suggest Gun-Control Conspiracy
...Recent developments indicate that in addition to Fast and Furious in Arizona, another gunrunning operation was headquartered in ATF’s Tampa Field Operations area. It allowed roughly 1,000 firearms to be smuggled to the ultra-violent MS-13 gang in Honduras.

Evidence also suggests that similar multi-agency programs exist in both the Houston and Dallas Field Operations areas covering all of Texas and Oklahoma.

Taken together, this suggests that we are not dealing with an isolated incident, but an ambitious and insidious attempt by the highest levels of a rogue government to reshape our world by any means necessary....

...If that sounds familiar, it should; this week, President Obama pushed an executive order — an end-run around Congress – stating the feds will now require the reporting of multiple rifle sales within a five-day period. That the office of the presidency lacks the constitutional authority to enact such a rule seems irrelevant to this administration, which is certain to see this edict challenged in court if the ATF attempts to enforce it.

Even more damning: the existence of more emails that confirm these same ATF officials and others were colluding to use the Operation “Fast and Furious” guns that they helped smuggle into Mexico as a pretext for the new reporting regulation....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Atlanta’s educators and the cheating scandal blame game
The country has been shocked by news that the award-winning Atlantic Public School system achieved its students’ high test scores via nearly a decade of systematic cheating by teachers and administrators.

While the Atlanta testing scandal is shaping up to be one of the largest instances of institutionalized cheating the country has seen, the phenomenon is not unusual.

In recent years officials and whistle-blowers have revealed numerous instances of teachers altering answers, failing to adhere to test requirements, and/or silencing dissenters in Maryland, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

With the relatively high rate of cheating and cheating allegations throughout the country, many are pointing to the fact that tests now carry greater consequences than they did before. Some say that with the stakes so high, cheating is to be expected.

“Few who have paid attention in the education era of high-stakes testing will be surprised at this,” Valerie Strauss wrote in The Washington Post last week. “And the stakes are only getting higher for teachers and principals, who are increasingly being evaluated and paid according to how well their students do on standardized tests, despite research showing that test-driven reform hasn’t made an impact in the last decade on student achievement. ”...
Selective Shaming: If only government were as accountable as British tabloids.
...So, at the News of the World, every single employee is clearing out his desk. But, at the Atlantic Public Schools, at the DEATFBI, life goes on. A curious contrast. The striking feature of Big Government, from Athens to Sacramento, is its imperviousness to any kind of accountability — legal, fiscal, electoral, popular. A media mogul, a bank chairman, an oil executive, a corporate-jet depreciation-claimant are easily demonizable: As President Obama cautioned CEOs a couple of years back, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

More fool us. Our pitchforks are misdirected.
A fat tale
...Nic Lewis, the indefatigable mathematical sleuth who helped expose the mistakes in a paper about Antarctic temperature trends has been looking at how the IPCC estimates climate sensitivity -- that is, the warming expected for a doubling of CO2. He finds that the one study that estimated sensitivity entirely from experimental data -- Forster and Gregory 2006 -- was distoted by the IPCC when it came to present their results. The distortion was the imposition of a Bayesian "uniform prior" in a way that statisticians say is wholly inappropriate, because it effectively assumes a priori that strong warming is more probable than it is. Yet you don't even have to know that the use is inappropriate to know that it's inappropriate to take a published result and alter the graph from it, adding an obscure footnote to say you have done so. A published result is a published result.

The effect was to fatten the tail of the graph, making a warming of more than 2C look much more probable....

There has been no global warming since 1998
...No global warming since 1998? Simple. All you’ve got to do – as Kaufmann et al have done – is apply the Even Though We’re Wrong We’re Right Panacea Get-Out Formula. In this instance the ETWWWRPGOF (as it’s snappily known) involves Blaming The Chinese. Yep, it turns out all that pollution that Chinese are pumping into the air thanks to their unhealthy obsession with economic growth and giving better lives to their children is actually counteracting the effects of Man Made Global Warming....

...As indeed might you and I be. For years the Warmists have been telling us that they’re so sure of their computer models that they know, they just know, that CO2 has a forcing effect on global temperatures and that combined with positive feedbacks this is going to cause catastrophic warming. And now they’re saying, without a blush, “Well all right, some of those feedbacks might actually be negative and, er, completely cancel out the terrifying thing we were telling you to worry about. But don’t stop worrying, for God’s sake. Whatever is happening is still worrying, very worrying. And if you give us a bit more time we’ll come up with a paper explaining just why it’s worrying.”...
Fannie Mae Played a Bigger Role in the Financial Crisis than Previously Thought
...After James A. Johnson, a Democratic political operative and former aide to Walter Mondale, became chairman of Fannie Mae in 1991 . . . it became a political powerhouse, intimidating and suborning Congress and tying itself closely to the Clinton administration’s support for the low-income lending program called “affordable housing.” This program required subprime and other risky lending, but it solidified Fannie’s support among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, and enabled the agency to resist privatization or significant regulation until 2008. “Under Johnson,” write Ms. Morgenson and Mr. Rosner, “Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among banks whose loans the company bought. . . . Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008.”. . .Far from being a marginal player, Fannie Mae was the source of the decline in mortgage underwriting standards that eventually brought down the financial system. It led rather than followed Wall Street into risky lending. . .Edward Pinto (a former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae) . . . presented . . . evidence . . . showing that by 2008 half of all mortgages in the U.S. (27 million loans) were subprime or otherwise risky, and that 12 million of these loans were on the books of the GSEs....
Holder Launches Witch Hunt Against Biased Banks
In what could be a repeat of the easy-lending cycle that led to the housing crisis, the Justice Department has asked several banks to relax their mortgage underwriting standards and approve loans for minorities with poor credit as part of a new crackdown on alleged discrimination, according to court documents reviewed by IBD.

Prosecutions have already generated more than $20 million in loan set-asides and other subsidies from banks that have settled out of court rather than battle the federal government and risk being branded racist. An additional 60 banks are under investigation, a DOJ spokeswoman says....

...For example, the government has ordered Midwest BankCentre to set aside almost $1 million in "special financing" for residents living in predominantly black areas of St. Louis. The program includes originating conventional home loans at fixed prime rates for African-American borrowers "who would ordinarily not qualify for such rates for reasons including the lack of required credit quality, income or down payment."...

...In the new prosecutions, Justice acknowledges in every case it did not prove charges of intentional discrimination, while banks have denied any wrongdoing. Many, in fact, earned outstanding ratings from anti-redlining regulators enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act....

...As part of settlement deals, prosecutors have required banks to sign "nondisclosure agreements" barring them from talking about the methods used to allege discrimination. Bank lawyers contend the prosecutors are trying to hide the shaky legal grounds on which the cases are built. "It's horrible what they're doing at the civil rights division," said Reginald Brown, a partner at Wilmer Hale in Washington, who has represented banks in connection to recent race-bias investigations. "They don't have any proof, just theories."

He added, "They want you to sign something saying you agree, under the condition of any settlement with them, that you won't disclose what their theories were. That's because their theories are loopy and wouldn't stand the light of day."...

Obfuscation: Dems Push Gun Control To Hide ‘Gunwalker’ Scandal
...The exact same agencies that would be charged with enforcing the proposal are currently under investigation — and may eventually face felony charges — because they broke existing laws and participated in widespread gun trafficking. To borrow from a reader, the federal government is using federal agencies to break federal laws so that same federal government can impose more federal laws on the people that did not break the law.

It is Orwellian in its absurdity, and yet entirely real....


More ‘Gunwalker’ Emails Suggest Gun-Control Conspiracy
...Recent developments indicate that in addition to Fast and Furious in Arizona, another gunrunning operation was headquartered in ATF’s Tampa Field Operations area. It allowed roughly 1,000 firearms to be smuggled to the ultra-violent MS-13 gang in Honduras.

Evidence also suggests that similar multi-agency programs exist in both the Houston and Dallas Field Operations areas covering all of Texas and Oklahoma.

Taken together, this suggests that we are not dealing with an isolated incident, but an ambitious and insidious attempt by the highest levels of a rogue government to reshape our world by any means necessary....

...If that sounds familiar, it should; this week, President Obama pushed an executive order — an end-run around Congress – stating the feds will now require the reporting of multiple rifle sales within a five-day period. That the office of the presidency lacks the constitutional authority to enact such a rule seems irrelevant to this administration, which is certain to see this edict challenged in court if the ATF attempts to enforce it.

Even more damning: the existence of more emails that confirm these same ATF officials and others were colluding to use the Operation “Fast and Furious” guns that they helped smuggle into Mexico as a pretext for the new reporting regulation....

Democrats to Introduce Gun Control Legislation Tomorrow
Democrat Representatives Maloney, Cummings and McCarthy, all members of the Minority on the House Oversight Committee chaired by Republican Congressman Issa, plan to hold a press conference tomorrow to announce new gun control anti-gun trafficking legislation in light of Operation Fast and Furious. The "Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act," is designed to "keep high powered firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals, including Mexican drug cartels."...

Operation Fast and Furious: Designed to Promote Gun Control
"Internal ATF emails seem to suggest that ATF agents were counseled to highlight a link between criminals and certain semi-automatic weapons in order to bolster a case for a rule like the one the DOJ announced yesterday [Monday]."

Townhall has obtained the email which states "Can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same FfL and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks Mark R. Chait Assistant Director Field Operations."...

Obama Sold, Tracked, Same Guns To Cartels He Hoped To Ban Because They Were Tracked From Cartels
In the Spring of 2009, the Obama administration called for the banning of “assault rifles” and .50 BMG “sniper rifles” due to their use in crimes by Mexican drug cartels. Obama dubiously alleged that 90% of these weapons were tracked back to the United States, implying that Americans have an obligation to surrender some of our freedoms to keep these weapons from being smuggled illegally over the border and used in Mexican-on-Mexican violence in Mexico. In this vintage clip, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre discusses Obama’s proposals with Glen Beck.

Obama backed off these proposals a month later, noting that such a ban would not be politically feasible at this time.

In Fall of 2009, the Obama Administration conceived Operation Fast and Furious, in which the ATF sold thousands of advanced weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to track them once they were used in crimes. This policy perfectly dovetailed with Obama’s gun control arguments. First of all, by selling guns to the cartels that the ATF could definitely trace back to the US (because they were bought from the ATF), the percentage of guns used in Mexican crimes traceable to American guns would increase. ATF supervisors rejoiced at their success when they found that these guns were being used for violence in Mexico....

...And which guns did the ATF sell to the cartels? AK-47-type assault rifles and Barrett .50 BMG sniper rifles. Exactly the types of guns that Obama hoped to ban due to their use by the cartels....

The government's gunrunners
The scandal surrounding the bizarre federal gun sting gone awry -- Opera tion Fast & Furious -- continues to mushroom.

A Phoenix TV station says its investigation of a local drug bust three months ago involving four illegal aliens turned up 43 weapons that had been sold legally to "straw purchasers" in Arizona but wound up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels -- all under the watchful eyes of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

And that's not all.

A search of court and ATF documents turned up at least four other local cases in which major drug busts also involved numerous assault rifles on the agency's Suspect Gun Database. ...

The Stimulation Of Murder
Clearly somebody is lying here. At a House oversight hearing last month, three federal firearms investigators testified they wanted to "intervene and interdict" the guns at the border, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside and let the traffickers proceed.

Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson, in closed-door testimony in front of Rep. Darrell Issa's committee, said administration officials sought to control and limit his communications with Congress, including withholding documents that made Melson "sick to his stomach" after he reviewed them.

On Dec. 14, Terry was fatally shot in the Arizona desert while patrolling one of the region's most dangerous drug- and human-smuggling corridors. He was shot in the back with an AK-47 assault rifle. Two weapons that were allowed to cross the border as part of Project Gunrunner were found at the scene.

The evidence suggests that Agent Terry's death was financed by the president's stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder....

Sunday, July 10, 2011


A Separate Internet Could Curb Cyber Threats, Former CIA Chief Says
To combat cyberattacks, the U.S. may need more than new cyberdefenses. It might need a whole new piece of Internet infrastructure.

So says former CIA director Michael Hayden, who served under President G.W. Bush, and he's not the only one. Several lawmakers and the current Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander are toying with the notion of creating a ".secure" domain where Fourth Amendment rights to privacy are voluntarily foregone in order to keep that corner of the Internet free of cyber criminals.

The idea goes something like this: China and other regimes around the world inherently have an upper hand when it comes to cyber defense because their lack of civil liberty protections lets the government freely monitor online activity. Things like "deep packet inspection" (which gained notoriety during Iranian election protests back in 2009) that let governments monitor citizens traffic also let them monitor for unusual activity....
Obama Sold, Tracked, Same Guns To Cartels He Hoped To Ban Because They Were Tracked From Cartels
In the Spring of 2009, the Obama administration called for the banning of “assault rifles” and .50 BMG “sniper rifles” due to their use in crimes by Mexican drug cartels. Obama dubiously alleged that 90% of these weapons were tracked back to the United States, implying that Americans have an obligation to surrender some of our freedoms to keep these weapons from being smuggled illegally over the border and used in Mexican-on-Mexican violence in Mexico. In this vintage clip, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre discusses Obama’s proposals with Glen Beck.

Obama backed off these proposals a month later, noting that such a ban would not be politically feasible at this time.

In Fall of 2009, the Obama Administration conceived Operation Fast and Furious, in which the ATF sold thousands of advanced weapons to Mexican drug cartels in order to track them once they were used in crimes. This policy perfectly dovetailed with Obama’s gun control arguments. First of all, by selling guns to the cartels that the ATF could definitely trace back to the US (because they were bought from the ATF), the percentage of guns used in Mexican crimes traceable to American guns would increase. ATF supervisors rejoiced at their success when they found that these guns were being used for violence in Mexico....

...And which guns did the ATF sell to the cartels? AK-47-type assault rifles and Barrett .50 BMG sniper rifles. Exactly the types of guns that Obama hoped to ban due to their use by the cartels....

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Libs Outraged Over Paul Ryan’s $350 Bottle of Wine… But Were Silent When Nancy Pelosi Pounded Down $101,000 of Booze On “Pelosi One” …Update: And Obama Served $399 Bottles of Wine to Chi-Coms
A fat tale
...Nic Lewis, the indefatigable mathematical sleuth who helped expose the mistakes in a paper about Antarctic temperature trends has been looking at how the IPCC estimates climate sensitivity -- that is, the warming expected for a doubling of CO2. He finds that the one study that estimated sensitivity entirely from experimental data -- Forster and Gregory 2006 -- was distoted by the IPCC when it came to present their results. The distortion was the imposition of a Bayesian "uniform prior" in a way that statisticians say is wholly inappropriate, because it effectively assumes a priori that strong warming is more probable than it is. Yet you don't even have to know that the use is inappropriate to know that it's inappropriate to take a published result and alter the graph from it, adding an obscure footnote to say you have done so. A published result is a published result.

The effect was to fatten the tail of the graph, making a warming of more than 2C look much more probable....

There has been no global warming since 1998
...No global warming since 1998? Simple. All you’ve got to do – as Kaufmann et al have done – is apply the Even Though We’re Wrong We’re Right Panacea Get-Out Formula. In this instance the ETWWWRPGOF (as it’s snappily known) involves Blaming The Chinese. Yep, it turns out all that pollution that Chinese are pumping into the air thanks to their unhealthy obsession with economic growth and giving better lives to their children is actually counteracting the effects of Man Made Global Warming....

...As indeed might you and I be. For years the Warmists have been telling us that they’re so sure of their computer models that they know, they just know, that CO2 has a forcing effect on global temperatures and that combined with positive feedbacks this is going to cause catastrophic warming. And now they’re saying, without a blush, “Well all right, some of those feedbacks might actually be negative and, er, completely cancel out the terrifying thing we were telling you to worry about. But don’t stop worrying, for God’s sake. Whatever is happening is still worrying, very worrying. And if you give us a bit more time we’ll come up with a paper explaining just why it’s worrying.”...
Do we really have a revenue problem?
...In fifty years, we have tripled overall federal revenue, and prior to the current recession/stagnation we had quadrupled it. The current trough from the 2007 peak resulted from the fall in economic activity, not from tax cuts or any other intervention. It’s similar to what happened in the prior trough, when the 2000-1 recession and the 9/11 attacks cut economic activity through 2003.

For that matter, look what happened to federal revenue after the much-maligned Bush tax cuts took full effect in 2003. Economic activity expanded rapidly — and so did federal revenues. In fact, the economy during that period boomed, and receipts from both personal and corporate taxes peaked as a result. The Bush tax rates, as they are properly called today, did not create a revenue vacuum; they helped produce an expansion that enhanced rather than lost revenue....

...While revenues have tripled during this period, federal spending has more than quintupled. The economic expansion of the 1990s (including the dot-com bubble) temporarily raised revenue above the spending trendline, but the slope on spending increased in the early 2000s, and practically launched spaceward in 2007 when Democrats took control of Congress. Had spending increased at a rate of inflation from 2001 forward, we would probably not been in deficit at all....
New Tone… Top Democrat Indicted For St. Louis BOMBING
... A former Democratic political operative has been indicted by federal authorities for allegedly planting a bomb in a CLayton parking garage in 2008. The bomb went off, seriously injuring a Clayton attorney. Police believe he was not the bomber’s intended target.

Milton Ohlsen iii nicknamed “Skip” is well known to law enforcement. He’s also well known in Democratic political circles. The feds now say he’s the one who planted a bomb in a garage at 190 Carondolet plaza in Clayton on October 15, 2008.

Federal prosecutors say ohlsen made the bomb and put it in the parking garage where it went off and injured clayton attorney John Gillis.

Federal agents say Gillis was the wrong target. They say Ohlsen was actually trying to kill attorney Richard Eisen who drove a similar car. Eisen represented Ohlsen’s wife in a messy divorce case.

Starting in 2004 Ohlsen was used as a consultant by the Missouri Democratic party. He even had lunch at the governor’s mansion with then-governor Bob Holden....
EPA Funds Green Groups That Sue The Agency To Expand
When the Environmental Protection Agency said in late June that it would force Western coal-fired power plants to install haze-reducing pollution-control equipment at a cost of $1.5 billion a year, it said it had to in order to settle a lawsuit by environmental groups.

One organization involved in the suit, the Environmental Defense Fund, has a long history of taking the EPA to court. In fact, a cursory review finds almost half a dozen cases in the past 10 years.

The odd thing is that the EPA, in turn, has handed EDF $2.76 million in grants over that same period, according to an IBD review of the agency's grant database....
The government's gunrunners
The scandal surrounding the bizarre federal gun sting gone awry -- Opera tion Fast & Furious -- continues to mushroom.

A Phoenix TV station says its investigation of a local drug bust three months ago involving four illegal aliens turned up 43 weapons that had been sold legally to "straw purchasers" in Arizona but wound up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels -- all under the watchful eyes of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

And that's not all.

A search of court and ATF documents turned up at least four other local cases in which major drug busts also involved numerous assault rifles on the agency's Suspect Gun Database. ...

The Stimulation Of Murder
Clearly somebody is lying here. At a House oversight hearing last month, three federal firearms investigators testified they wanted to "intervene and interdict" the guns at the border, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside and let the traffickers proceed.

Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson, in closed-door testimony in front of Rep. Darrell Issa's committee, said administration officials sought to control and limit his communications with Congress, including withholding documents that made Melson "sick to his stomach" after he reviewed them.

On Dec. 14, Terry was fatally shot in the Arizona desert while patrolling one of the region's most dangerous drug- and human-smuggling corridors. He was shot in the back with an AK-47 assault rifle. Two weapons that were allowed to cross the border as part of Project Gunrunner were found at the scene.

The evidence suggests that Agent Terry's death was financed by the president's stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder....

Too bad to check: Project Gunrunner was funded by … the stimulus
...And to think, you guys say the stimulus didn’t produce anything. It produced guns for Mexican drug cartels, didn’t it? Says Ben Domenech, in a stroke of perfect black humor: “Shovel ready.”...

'Fast & Furious' gets hotter for Holder
Don't look now, but the real action in Washington this week isn't the parti san wrangling over the debt ceiling but something -- literally -- even more incendiary: Operation Fast and Furious, which seems about to explode right in the face of Attorney General Eric Holder -- and maybe other administration officials, too.

Also known as Project Gunrunner, the Arizona-based operation was supposed to be a sting, under which the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is part of the Justice Department, allowed "straw purchasers" to transfer weapons from gun shops in Arizona to Mexican drug cartels to trace and halt crossborder arms-trafficking.

That's the official version, anyway -- but it's crumbling, fast.

The ATF's acting director, Kenneth Melson, has been singing like a canary to congressional investigators as he pushes back against administration pressure for him to resign and take the fall for something that, at the very least, had to include the US Attorney's Office, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly the Homeland Security Department. ...

ATF implicates FBI in Mexico gun-trafficking probe
The embattled head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has told congressional investigators that some Mexican drug cartel figures targeted by his agency in a gun-trafficking investigation were paid informants for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF's acting director, has been under pressure to resign after the agency allowed guns to be purchased in the United States in hopes they would be traced to cartel leaders. Under the gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of the guns, and many were found at the scenes of crimes in Mexico, as well as two that were recovered near Nogales, Ariz., where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.

In two days of meetings with congressional investigators over the weekend, Melson said the FBI and DEA kept the ATF "in the dark" about their relationships with the cartel informants. If ATF agents had known of the relationships, the agency might have ended the investigation much earlier, he said....

Justice Department Obstructing 'Fast and Furious' Gun Probe, ATF Director Says
The Justice Department is obstructing the congressional investigation of a U.S. law enforcement operation intended to crack down on major weapons traffickers on the Southwest border, according to the embattled leader of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Ken Melson, the acting director of the ATF, lobbed the accusation when he sneaked in for an interview with congressional investigators on July 4, two days ahead of his scheduled interview with the inspector general about the operation known as "Fast and Furious," Fox News has learned....

Email Confirms ‘Gunwalker’ Known Throughout Justice Department
An email cited in Senator Charles Grassley’s testimony in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Operation Fast and Furious indicates that knowledge of the program was spread across the highest levels of the Justice Department. This lends even greater suspicion to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim that he knew nothing about the program until well after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.

The October 27, 2009 email from ATF Phoenix Field Division Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William Newell regarded a Southwest Border Strategy Group meeting that focused on Fast and Furious. It contained a laundry list of high ranking Justice Department officials that attended the meeting...

Gunwalker: The ATF’s Kenneth Melson Blows the Whistle on the Justice Department
...Contrary to the Justice Department’s denials, according to Melson, ATF agents specifically witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without taking any further action. Melson claimed that it was not until the public disclosure of the operation that he personally reviewed the “hundreds of documents” related to the case. He said he became “sick to his stomach” when he learned the full story. Even more shocking is that some of the “gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants” by agencies such as the FBI and the DEA....

U.S. Officials Behind 'Fast and Furious' Gun Sales Should Be Tried in Mexico, Lawmaker Says
While the investigation continues into the U.S. operation that helped send thousands of guns south of the border, Mexican lawmakers say they'll press for extradition and prosecution in Mexico of American officials who authorized and ran the operation.

"I obviously feel violated. I feel my country's sovereignty was violated," Mexico Sen. Rene Arce Islas told Fox News. "They should be tried in the United States and the Mexican government should also demand that they also be tried in Mexico since the incidents took place here. There should be trials in both places." ...
Pastor accused of sexually assaulting family member
A Saginaw pastor is facing several charges after authorities say he sexually assaulted a female family member over a period of several years....

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Burning down the house
...Put on asbestos mittens and pick up “Reckless Endangerment,” the scalding new book by Gretchen Morgenson, a New York Times columnist, and Joshua Rosner, a housing finance expert. They will introduce you to James A. Johnson, an emblem of the administrative state that liberals admire.

The book’s subtitle could be: “Cry ‘Compassion’ and Let Slip the Dogs of Cupidity.” Or: “How James Johnson and Others (Mostly Democrats) Made the Great Recession.” The book is another cautionary tale about government’s terrifying self-confidence. It is, the authors say, “a story of what happens when Washington decides, in its infinite wisdom, that every living, breathing citizen should own a home.”...

...Morgenson and Rosner report that in 1998, when Fannie Mae’s lending hit $1 trillion, its top officials began manipulating the company’s results to generate bonuses for themselves. That year Johnson’s $1.9 million bonus brought his compensation to $21 million. In nine years, Johnson received $100 million.

Fannie Mae’s political machine dispensed campaign contributions, gave jobs to friends and relatives of legislators, hired armies of lobbyists (even paying lobbyists not to lobby against it), paid academics who wrote papers validating the homeownership mania, and spread “charitable” contributions to housing advocates across the congressional map.

By 2003, the government was involved in financing almost half — $3.4 trillion — of the home-loan market. Not coincidentally, by the summer of 2005, almost 40 percent of new subprime loans were for amounts larger than the value of the properties...

Saturday, July 02, 2011


The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues
...More than that, the former vice president’s troubles don’t just reflect his personal ideas and limits. Gore’s errors are exemplary: by studying where he goes wrong we can see how a substantial section of our ruling elite has lost its way. Al Gore is steeped in the Blue Social Model that I’ve been posting about; his social imagination has been so molded by modern American progressivism and the liberalism of the late 20th century that he literally cannot conceive of solutions in any terms the conventional center-left wisdom doesn’t make room for.

The trouble and even the tragedy of Al Gore is that he comes at the tail end of this tradition; he is a living example of what you get when a worldview outlives its time. He presses the old buttons and turns the old cranks, but the machine isn’t running any more. The priests dance around the altar, the priestess chews the sacred herbs, but the god no longer speaks. Like President Obama watching a universal healthcare program that he thought would secure his place in history turn into an electoral albatross and a policy meltdown, Al Gore thought that in the climate issue he had picked a winning horse. Judging from his Rolling Stone essay he has no idea why the climate movement failed, and no clue at all about how he could re-think the issue.

“Climate of Denial,” Vice President Gore’s “Rolling Stone” essay is not, I am sorry to say, very useful as a guide to resuscitating the environmental movement. It is largely reduced to the classic loser sandlot complaints: the other side didn’t play fair, they had bigger kids and the refs were biased. Al Gore seems to want the climate movement to behave like the French Bourbons: to forget nothing in the way of grievances — and to learn nothing about how to do better next time....

An unholy marriage of snobbery and snideyness
...Whatever one thinks about the pros and cons of gay marriage, a tolerant society cannot deny the right of homosexual couples to formalise their relationships. But the campaign for gay marriage is not just about rights; it is also about the contestation of values and attitudes.

From a sociological perspective, the rise of the campaign for gay marriage provides a fascinating insight into the dynamics of the cultural conflicts that prevail in Western society. Indeed, over the past decade the issue of gay marriage has been transformed into a cultural weapon, which explicitly challenges prevailing norms through condemning those who oppose it. This is not so much a call for legal change as a cause, a crusade – and one which endows its supporters with moral superiority while demoting its opponents with the status of moral inferiority....

...In the Anglo-American world, gay marriage has become one of those causes through which the cosmopolitan cultural elites define themselves and construct a moral contrast between their kind and ordinary folk. What’s really important for them is the sense of superiority experienced through the conviction that ‘we’ are not like ‘them’. In this way, a clear moral distinction can be drawn between the forward-looking attitudes of an enlightened, courageous minority and the backward-looking prejudices of a homophobic majority....

Fannie Mae Silence on Taylor Bean Opened Way to $3 Billion Fraud
The first sign of what would ultimately become a $3 billion fraud surfaced Jan. 11, 2000, when Fannie Mae executive Samuel Smith discovered Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp. sold him a loan owned by someone else.

Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored enterprise which issues almost half of all mortgage-backed securities, determined over the next two years that more than 200 loans acquired from Taylor Bean were bogus, non-performing or lacked critical components such as mortgage insurance.

That might have been the end of Taylor Bean and its chairman and principal owner, Lee Farkas. He was sentenced today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to 30 years in prison for orchestrating what prosecutors call one of the “largest bank fraud schemes in this country’s history.”

Instead, it was just the beginning.

Fannie Mae officials never reported the fraud to law enforcement or anyone outside the company. Internal memos, court papers, and public testimony show it sought only to rid itself of liabilities and cut ties with a mortgage firm selling loans “that had no value,” as Smith, the former vice president of Fannie Mae’s single family operations, said in a 2008 deposition. ...

Scientists Tout Climate Skepticism at Heartland Conference Kickoff
...Michaels was joined on the platform by other skeptical scientists, including blogger Anthony Watts, who said he believed man-made climate change was occurring until he saw data that indicated temperatures were rising in California's cities but staying largely the same in its rural areas. He said this convinced him that other factors than human emissions were causing the warming.

Tim Ball, a retired climatologist and former professor at the University of Winnipeg, said that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others had not calculated how much the climate is changing naturally, so he said it was impossible to decide how much observed warming might be linked to human emissions.

"You have to know what is happening naturally, and we simply don't," he said. ...

Union curbs rescue a Wisconsin school district
"This is a disaster," said Mark Miller, the Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader, in February after Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed a budget bill that would curtail the collective bargaining powers of some public employees. Miller predicted catastrophe if the bill were to become law -- a charge repeated thousands of times by his fellow Democrats, union officials, and protesters in the streets.

Now the bill is law, and we have some very early evidence of how it is working. And for one beleaguered Wisconsin school district, it's a godsend, not a disaster.

The Kaukauna School District, in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin near Appleton, has about 4,200 students and about 400 employees. It has struggled in recent times and this year faced a deficit of $400,000. But after the law went into effect, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it's all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous....

The Failure of Al Gore: Part Deux
...Gore’s failures are not just about leadership. The strategic vision he crafted for the global green movement has comprehensively failed. That is no accident; the entire green policy vision was so poorly conceived, so carelessly constructed, so unbalanced and so rife with contradictions that it could only thrive among activists and enthusiasts. Once the political power of the climate movement, aided by an indulgent and largely unquestioning press, had pushed the climate agenda into the realm of serious politics, failure was inevitable. The only question was whether the comprehensive green meltdown would occur before or after the movement achieved its core political goal of a comprehensive and binding global agreement on greenhouse gasses.

That question has now been answered; the movement failed before it got its treaty, and while the media and the establishment have still generally failed to analyze these developments and draw the consequences, the global climate movement has become the kind of embarrassment intellectuals like to ignore. Like the Club of Rome, Y2K, the Iraq Study Group and President Obama’s management of the Middle East peace process it is something polite people try not to think about. This is why Al Gore is less visible than he used to be, and his views are less eagerly sought: the polite world and its ready handmaid the press know Gore has failed but does not want to think or write about why....

...The global green treaty movement to outlaw climate change is the most egregious folly to seize the world’s imagination since the Kellog-Briand Pact outlawed war in the late 1920s. The idea that the nations of the earth could agree on an enforceable treaty mandating deep cuts in their output of all greenhouse gasses is absurd. A global treaty to meet Mr. Gore’s policy goals isn’t a treaty: the changes such a treaty requires are so broad and so sweeping that a GGCT is less a treaty than a constitution for global government. Worse, it is a constitution for a global welfare state with trillions of dollars ultimately sent by the taxpayers of rich countries to governments (however feckless, inept, corrupt or tyrannical) in poor ones.

For this treaty to work, China, India, Nigeria and Brazil and scores of other developing countries must in effect accept limits on their economic growth. The United States must commit through treaty to policies that cannot get simple majorities in Congress — like sending billions of dollars in climate aid to countries like Iran, North Korea, Syria and Pakistan, even as we adopt intrusive and expensive energy controls here at home.

The green plan is a plan for a global constitution because the treaty will regulate economic production in every country on earth. This is a deeply intrusive concept; China, Nigeria, Myanmar, Iran and Vietnam will have to monitor and report on every factory, every farm, every truck and car, every generator and power plant in their territory. Many states do not now have and possibly never will have the ability to do this in a transparent and effective way. Many others will cheat, either for economic advantage or for reasons of national security. Many states do not want their own citizens to have this knowledge, much less the officials of hostile foreign powers....

Fanniegate: Gamechanger For The GOP?
...The Tea Party WMD stockpile is currently stored in book form: Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. By Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best business journalists who is currently at The New York Times, and noted financial analyst Joshua Rosner, Reckless Endangerment gives the best available account of how the growing chaos in the mortgage and personal finance markets and the rampant bundling of dubious loans into exotically toxic securities plunged the world, and millions of American families, into the gravest financial crisis since World War Two. It is gripping reading as well, and its explanations are clear enough that readers without any background in finance will have no trouble following the plot. The villains? An unholy alliance between Wall Street, the Democratic establishment, community organizing groups like ACORN and La Raza, and politicians like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Cisneros. (Frank got a cushy job for a lover, Pelosi got a job and layoff protection for a son, Cisneros apparently got a license to mint money bilking Mexican-Americans of their life savings in cheesy housing developments.)...
The Reincarceration of Conrad Black
...As to white-collar crime, what about the one type of white-collar crime that goes entirely unpunished? For an accounting fraud of $567 million, Enron’s executives went to jail, and its head guy died there. For an accounting fraud ten times that size, the two Democrat hacks who headed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, walked away with a combined taxpayer-funded payout of $116.4 million. Fannie and Freddie are two of the largest businesses in America, but they’re exempt from SEC disclosure rules and Sarbanes-Oxley “corporate governance” burdens, and so in 2008, unlike Enron, WorldCom or any of the other reviled private-sector bogeymen, they came close to taking down the entire global economy. Yes, yes, I know two wrongs don’t make a right (unless you’re Jamie Gorelick), but what then is the point of the SEC?..

Subprime meltdown culprits
...ACORN, for example, has used the CRA as leverage to compel banks to create pools of loans for low- and moderate-income families. Its efforts have generated about $6 billion in loans to these borrowers, while also generating funds for ACORN’s nonprofit housing corporation....