The plot thickens, again (via the WSJ):
Investigators have found female DNA on at least one of the bombs used in the Boston Marathon attacks, though they haven't determined whose DNA it is or whether that means a woman helped the two suspects carry out the attacks, according to U.S. officials briefed on the probe. The officials familiar with the case cautioned that there could be multiple explanations for why the DNA of someone other than the two bombing suspects—Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar—could have been found on remnants of the exploded devices. The genetic material could have come, for example, from a store clerk who handled materials used in the bombs or a stray hair that ended up in the bomb.
Innocent third party, or maleveolent co-conspirator? US authorities are on the case. If you're thinking, "what about Tamerlan's wife, who reportedly wasn't all that surprised to hear about her late husband's heinous acts?" you're not alone. The FBI had the very same thought:
On Monday, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were seen leaving the Rhode Island home of the parents of Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The elder brother died after a shootout with police four days after the April 15 bombings. Ms. Russell has been staying with her parents since the bombings, and FBI agents have been seen posted outside the home since her late husband was identified as one of the bombers. Her lawyer has said she is "doing everything she can to assist with the investigation." One official familiar with the case said agents went to the house Monday to collect a DNA sample from Ms. Russell, the culmination of days of negotiations. FBI officials also have been negotiating with Ms. Russell's attorney in recent days to get fuller access to question her, the officials familiar with the case said. The officials briefed on the investigation said the DNA request was needed to determine whether it matched the DNA found on the bomb remnants.
Dear old mom might be at the top of my list, too, if she weren't living thousands of miles away. Prior to shutting down post-Miranda warning, Dzhokhar told investigators that he and his brother acted alone. There are plenty of reasons to be dubious of that claim. First, experts say the technical complexity of the bombs they constructed betray a fair degree of expertise. Tamerlan may have gained all the requisite, sophisticated know-how during his infamous six-month visit to Dagestan, or they might have had some extra help. Second, there's all the chatter about additional "persons of interest" being sought in the case, the series of arrests and detainings in New Bedford, and the mystery of "Misha" the unidentified radical. None of these elements point two a simple two-man operation. Third, I'm deeply distrustful of the younger brother's storyline. He's supposedly telling everyone who will listen that the whole plot was cooked up by his older brother, which may be true, but also seems awfully convenient. Sure, Tamerlan was known to family members as the more aggressive radical, but Dzhokhar ran him over with his getaway car on the heels of the brothers' intense fire-fight with cops. And Dzhokhar was the one who had the calculating presence of mind to tweet misleading messages to deflect any suspicion from himself in the immediate wake of the attack. And he was the one who casually swung by a campus kegger within hours of murdering three people and wounding hundreds. This 19-year-old isn't just some wide-eyed kid who got caught up with the wrong crowd. He's an insanely cold, ruthless operator in his own right. The point is that if Dzhokhar says he and his brother received no outside assistance, nobody should simply take him at his word -- especially in light of the female DNA evidence. It seems as though American authorities are doing no such thing, which is good. Too bad their interrogation process was short-circuited by a quasi-judge:
Now the news comes that the person who actually read the Miranda warning to Tsarnaev wasn't even an FBI agent, but a U.S. magistrate judge (magistrate judges are sort of like junior federal judges -- they are appointed by the courts to assist them, but they are not real judges, and are subject to revision by real federal judges). This is an outright violation of the separation of powers. It is not for federal judges, or worse yet their assistants, to rove around looking for criminal cases in which to act as law enforcement agents. The decision whether to read Miranda lies up to the executive branch. The right of the courts to affect the warnings and conditions of interrogation stems only from their control over the criminal trial of the suspect. Miranda itself is only a declaration by the courts that they will exclude from evidence any confessions received without a warning.
The immediate drama is over, but this case is most certainly not.
Abortionist and accused serial killer Kermit Gosnell's attorney wrapped up his defense presentation in a Philadelphia courtroom earlier this afternoon. The Examiner's Tim Carney witnessed the closing argument:
“Every one of those babies died in utero.” That is the pillar on which abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s defense rests. Defense attorney John J. McMahon’s closing argument Monday boiled down to this: Gosnell’s supposed crimes were really just late-term abortions. The question in Gosnell’s case, McMahon said, is not “whether he was an abortion doctor,” or “is abortion bloody and ugly?” The question is whether Gosnell killed babies after they were born or while they were still in utero. One of Gosnell’s alleged victims was named Baby Boy A by the grand jury. He was so big that Gosnell allegedly joked “he could have walked me to the bus station.” “They have no case” regarding “Baby A because it was killed in utero,” McMahon said Monday. Gosnell, through the abdomen, injected a chemical called digoxin into the baby “to prevent a live birth. The was the goal of Dr. Gosnell with [the mother’s] consent: to kill the baby in utero.”
Gosnell's attorney also told jurors that other measures -- such as snapping infants' necks and snipping their spinal cords -- were precautionary measures carried out on already-dead babies:
One baby was delivered into a toilet at Gosnell’s clinic. A clinic worker testified “I took the fetus out of the toilet. I snapped the neck. …” McMahon argued Monday that “not one line” of testimony in that case “indicates the baby was alive at any time.” Yes, Gosnell snipped many baby’s necks after delivery — but he had killed the baby in utero hours before with a shot of digoxin, the defense argued.
Of course, other lurid testimony from the trial contravenes the defense's core assertion. Nurses at the clinic have testified -- among other things -- that one baby screamed during a live-birth "abortion," and that another appeared to be "swimming" in the toilet into which it was delivered, as if he or she it was "trying to get out." These are horrifying, but important, details. Dead fetuses don't make moaning noises. They don't try to escape. They don't fight to breathe while being tossed into shoeboxes and discarded. Plus, the "they were already dead" excuse doesn't explain Gosnell's macabre trophies (he stored the severed feet of his victims in jars around the office), nor does it cover the demise Gosnell's adult victim. Defense attorney John McMahon clearly recognizes these gaps in his case, which is why he closed with a rant against the "racist" prosecution. Cries of racism are especially rich, considering that Gosnell enforced a policy of de facto racial segregation at his unsanitary death mill, where white women were treated far better than women of color.
But the very fact that prosecutors are forced to meet the burden of proving these infants were delivered alive simply draws attention to the baffling and unjust standards constructed by our abortion laws. If a fully-formed unborn infant is poisoned in utero, chopped to pieces, then vacuumed out of the womb, that's legally permissible. It's a textbook late-term abortion. But if that very same infant happens to be delivered alive before the lethal blow is struck, it's murder. Thus, a murder trial hinges almost exclusively on the determination of the scene of the crime. If the killings of the exact same victims took place in location X, they're santitized into a "medical procedure." But if they took place in location Y, they're felonies. According to a witness, Gosnell once offered the following assessment of one of his victims: “This baby is big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop!” But that very baby was not "big enough" to be sheltered from legalized pre-birth killing in many states. How is this ethically, medically, or morally defensible?
I'd imagine that most people find these investigative videos from Live Action are exceedingly difficult to watch, regardless of their stance on abortion. Which is probably the point. Yesterday, the group released its first clip in a series of hidden-camera exposes, in which a late-term abortionist in the Bronx cheerfully describes the gruesome nature of the procedure she administers for a living. She tells the pregnant woman that at 23 weeks, the unborn child is "fully grown." When the young woman asks what would happen if she went into labor and gave birth prior to the conclusion of the two-day abortion procedure, the so-called medical professional offers this counsel: "Flush it." Round two features a late-term abortionist in Washington, DC. Live Action's investigator tells the death doctor she is 25 weeks pregnant, more than six months into gestation. Watch as he explicitly affirms that his clinic would violate the law if the baby survived the abortion and was born alive. "We would not help it:"
“Technically – you know, legally we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive. But, you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point. Let’s say you went into labor, the membranes ruptured, and you delivered before we got to the termination part of the procedure here, you know? Then we would do things – we would – we would not help it. We wouldn’t intubate. It would be, you know, uh, a person, a terminal person in the hospital, let’s say, that had cancer, you know? You wouldn’t do any extra procedures to help that person survive. Like ‘do not resuscitate’ orders. We would do the same things here.”
As Ed Morrissey points out, "do not resuscitate" orders are a critically flawed analogy in this case because DNR patients reach that decision for themselves and sign off on the paperwork. No unborn child has ever signed up to be killed. Indeed, witnesses at the Gosnell murder trial have testified that some born-alive infants (or "viable fetuses," as the New York Times called them) at that clinic struggled mightily to survive. Incidentally, Planned Parenthood -- an organization that receives hundreds of millions in taxpayer funding and literal blessings from President Obama -- was aware of the unsanitary house of horror Gosnell presided over in Philadelphia. By their own admission, they did nothing. A few more thoughts on Live Action's latest video, and this issue in general:
(1) If you look closely at the 1:04 mark, you'll notice that the clinic's television is tuned to MSNBC. How very appropriate.
(2) Around 2:40, the abortionist downplays the possibility of the abortion failing to "take," resulting in a live birth. He concedes that it "could" happen, but assures the patient that such an outcome had never transpired at his facility. "Not here." Just over two minutes later, the doctor sneers that in a backwards place like Virginia, hospital attendants would likely do everything within their power to save such a child. He adds, "that's happened before, to tell you the truth." He calls Virginia doctors' actions to save born-alive infants "the stupidest thing they could have done," condemning their course of action as "everything thing they shouldn't have done, which was to help [patients] deliver." If you were an unborn child, would you rather live in Virginia or Washington, DC?
(3) In one sentence ("that's happened before, to tell you the truth"), this abortionist contradicts then-State Senator Barack Obama's assertion that these scenarios never arise, a falsehood upon which he based his three-time opposition to the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Obama's spin ignored sworn testimony from whistle-blower nurses in Chicagoland. Obama's ex post facto justifications of his extremism on this issue have long since been debunked. In short, he claimed he would have supported the Congressional version of the bill, which passed without a single dissenting vote -- but when that verbatim legislative language was introduced in Springfield, Obama blocked it again. For a guy who was notorious for voting "present" on tough issues, Obama repeatedly went to the mat for infanticide.
(4) The Bronx expose begins with a soundbyte of Obama concurring with President Clinton that abortions should be "safe legal and rare." Obama's 2008 and 2012 DNC platform dropped that formulation altogether. "Rare" was apparently deemed too judgmental within pro-abortion circles.
(5) Obama opposes virtually all limitations on abortion, including grisly late-term procedures. His friends and benefactors at Planned Parenthood can't say if they believe if life necessarily begins at birth:
Translation: If a woman wants that pregnancy "terminated," she's entitled to a dead baby. Definitional determinations about the status of a child's post-birth life are still up to the woman "and the physician." Repulsive. I'll leave you with a few words from a survivor of an attempted late-term abortion, Gianna Jessen:
UPDATE - Wow, the late-term abortionist in today's video, Dr. Caesare Santangelo, lashes out at Live Action and the young woman who exposed his practices, labeling them "terrorists:"
Santangelo, 56, said he’s been a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist in the District since 1987. He said he keeps a low profile, partly because he worries that the controversial nature of abortions could make him a target for violence, but also because he prefers to stay out of the politics. He said he sometimes refuses late-term abortions if he feels women have been coerced or are in extramarital affairs, are seeking to terminate because of the sex of the child, or seem unsure whether they want the procedure...He said he has not watched the video because “I don’t like to feed into these people. I really consider them terrorists.”
In damage-control mode, Santagelo now says of course he understands that once a baby is born, she's entitled to rights. Except that's not what he said in a conversation with a prospective client that he thought was private. Here is a man who makes money killing and dismembering viable human babies calling other people terrorists. Also, he claims he sometimes declines to perform late-term abortions for women who are trying to cover up extramarital affairs or for reasons of sex-selection. Even if that's true, why? What makes those babies less killable than the others? Live Action founder Lila Rose responds to Santangelo's smear: “For Dr. Santagelo to call a 24 week pregnant woman a terrorist, after having just admitted he would leave struggling babies to die after surviving abortion, is a desperate attempt to distract from his own horrific actions. The numbness Dr. Santangelo displays to his victims is both heart-breaking and shocking. It is time to investigate the inhuman and brutal practices that happen behind the closed doors of these facilities across the country.”
Within months of Democrats ramming through Obamacare without a single Republican vote, the American people responded, pummeling the president's party at the polls. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House, six United States Senators, six governorships, and nearly 700 seats in state legislatures nationwide. Conservatives had their temporary political revenge, we were told, but Democrats would get the last laugh because Obamacare was sure to become more popular once Republicans' scurrilous smears against the law were shown to be false. How's that working out?
Democratic senators, at a caucus meeting with White House officials, expressed concerns on Thursday about how the Obama administration was carrying out the health care law they adopted three years ago. Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were getting nervous that they could pay a political price if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly. President Obama’s new chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, fielded questions on the issue for more than an hour at a lunch with Democratic senators. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is up for re-election next year, said, “We are hearing from a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire that do not know how to comply with the law.” In addition, Mrs. Shaheen said, “restaurants that employ people for about 30 hours a week are trying to figure out whether it would be in their interest to reduce the hours” of those workers, so the restaurants could avoid the law’s requirement to offer health coverage to full-time employees. The White House officials “acknowledged that these are real concerns, and that we’ve got to do more to address them,” Mrs. Shaheen said. Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on health care, said he was extremely upset with Mr. Obama’s decision to take money from public health prevention programs and use it to publicize the new law, which creates insurance marketplaces in every state.
Obamacare is impossibly complicated to comply with, is impeding hiring, and is causing businesses to lay off workers and cut back on other employees' hours? Why, who could have possibly seen that coming? Oh, that's right -- every single critic of Obamacare could. And did. Back to the grumbling Democrats:
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said he told White House officials on Thursday that he was concerned about big rate increases being sought by the largest health insurer in his state. The company, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, has sought increases averaging 25 percent for individual insurance policies that will be sold in the state insurance exchange, and it is seeking increases of about 15 percent for small businesses. The company said the higher premiums reflected costs of complying with the new law.
Obamacare is hiking up people's premiums? Why, who could have possibly... Katie noted last week that other Hill Democrats are nervously conceding that the, ahem, "Affordable Care Act" doesn't actually contain costs either. Shocking, I know. The Left is spooked because the law they force-fed the American people is shaping up to be a "train wreck" and a "third world experience," to quote the law's chief author and administrator, respectively. And now the more problematic elements of the president's top legislative "accomplishment" are slated to roll out next year; the supposedly popular bits were front-loaded for political reasons. (And how is that going thus far? Let's ask a bunch of people with pre-existing conditions for their verdict). Obamacare remains unpopular, and Democrats are grappling with growing fears that a 2010-style backlash may befall them in 2014, when the law they advertised as a legislative panacea is exposed as an unaffordable, unwieldy, logistical headache -- all in real time.
Carol highlighted the Attorney General's quote earlier, but I want to tackle it from a slightly different angle. I've been largely persuaded by Allahpundit's analysis that the White House is not interested in sabotaging immigration reform. But some critics have contended that President Obama would prefer an acrimonious battle, culminating in a bitter partisan stalemate. Obama could point to his "good faith" efforts and take credit for trying, then proceed to drive an even bigger wedge between Republicans and Hispanic voters. Oh, and he'd burnish his "obstructionist" argument heading into 2014, a cycle in which he desperately hopes to regain the House in order to fend off lame duck status. (Pro tip: Pining for another Pelosi Speakership may not be the best idea). For reasons that AP has enumerated, I don't fall into this camp -- but I'm beginning to wonder. Holder's comments are the political equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a bull, and they just so happen to come smack dab in the middle of Marco Rubio et al's efforts to forge a bipartisan consensus. Even for those of us who are open to some kind of reform package, this comment is beyond maddening, particularly considering that it emanates from the nation's top law enforcement official:
"Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity."
Pete Wehner, a reform supporter, cannot abide Holder's "reckless assertion:"
Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it. What Holder said also reveals a fairly common mindset of those on the left, which is to characterize whatever position they embrace not simply as correct but as a basic civil right. In other words, as something fundamental and teleological, as a right that is ours based on our nature as human beings. The idea that a person who violates American sovereignty by illegally crossing our borders should be given a pathway to citizenship as a matter of civil and human rights is therefore indefensible, an invention. The attorney general is employing a very serious concept in a reckless way. And it empties the term of meaning, just as promiscuously accusing those who oppose the policies of President Obama of racism empties that charge of meaning. It really ought to stop, since human rights violations and racism really do exist.
No one who comes to this country illegally has a "right" to stay here. If -- if -- we end up crafting a political path to legalization and perhaps citizenship, its beneficiaries would be recipients of a profoundly generous gift, not beleaguered victims who've finally gained the civil or human rights to which they've been entitled all along. Holder's insidious remark risks poisoning the well for many would-be supporters of reform. Question: Is that by design, or is he so steeped in, and surrounded by, leftism that he literally cannot comprehend the ramifications of his words? Either explanation is plausible in my book. I'll leave you with the latest reporting from the indispensable Byron York. The 'Gang of Eight' bill is riddled with loopholes:
The green card process would take additional years, meaning the road to full citizenship could take as long as 15, or even 18, years. Unless it doesn’t. A little-noticed exception in the Gang of Eight bill provides a fast track for many — possibly very many — currently illegal immigrants. Under a special provision for immigrants who have labored at least part-time in agriculture, that fast track could mean permanent residency in the U.S., and then citizenship, in half the time Rubio said. And not just for the immigrants themselves — their spouses and children, too. A second provision in the legislation creates another fast track for illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16 — the so-called Dreamers. The concept suggests youth, but the bill has no age limit for such immigrants — or their spouses and children — and despite claims that they must go to college or serve in the military to be eligible, there is an exception to that requirement as well.
So "DREAM kids" would include people who were (or claim to have been) brought here as young children decades ago. Also, remember that one year window to apply for provisional legal status about which I reported last week? Turns out that's a flexible standard, too:
If an illegal immigrant is apprehended by authorities after the passage of the bill, and appears to qualify for blue card status, the law requires the Department of Homeland Security to give him a “reasonable opportunity” to apply for blue card status. He cannot be deported while his application is under review. Even if he is in removal proceedings, the bill says, the Secretary of Homeland Security is required to allow him to apply for blue card status, and immigration authorities are required to “terminate [removal] proceedings without prejudice.” The bill’s supporters point out that the Gang of Eight would limit the period of time in which illegal immigrants can apply for a blue card. That’s true; the bill specifies that applications have to be filed in the year after the last of the rules enforcing the new immigration law have gone into effect. But the bill also gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to extend that period by another year and a half if she or he determines that “additional time is required” for the applications. The extension can also be granted for any other “good cause.”
Let's see if I understand this correctly: If an illegal immigrant hasn't voluntarily emerged "from the shadows" to seek legal status on his own, US officials would still be required to inform him of his right to apply for a blue card if and when he happens to be apprehended in an unrelated incident? It seems to me that if someone (a) hasn't proactively come forward already, for whatever reason -- wrongdoing? ignorance? -- and (b) has been apprehended for another reason, perhaps this individual shouldn't be a prime candidate for legal residence at all. Furthermore, that 365-day limited window could stretch to two-and-a-half years, on the say-so of the DHS Secretary. How much do you want to bet that Janet Napolitano would decide that "additional time is required"? After all, the implementation of Kafkaesque Big Government programs are known for going seamlessly, right? Sen. Rubio downplayed my concerns about vesting Napolitano with more discretionary power during our recent interview. She'll be gone sooner or later, was the gist of his argument. It's a fair point to some extent, but three years is a long time; Napolitano's fingerprints and influence would be all over the crucial early stages of implementing the law. For that reason alone, I'm comforted by the House Judiciary Committee's slow, deliberative approach to immigration reform. The only reason to rush this process is to pass a bill before we know what's in it.
Having conspicuously avoided the limelight since leaving office in 2009, President George W. Bush stepped back into the public eye yesterday to dedicate his presidential library in Dallas. Stick with this clip to the end, where Bush gets choked up talking about his love of country:
I joined him despite my frustration because the need was too great for finger-pointing and blame-making. He flew to New Orleans and addressed the nation: “Tonight I also offer this pledge to the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.” George W. Bush was good as his word. He visited the Gulf states 17 times; went 13 times to New Orleans. Laura Bush made 24 trips. Bush saw that $126 billion in aid was sent to the Gulf’s residents, as some members of his own party in Congress balked. Bush put a special emphasis on rebuilding schools and universities. He didn’t forget African-Americans: Bush provided $400 million to the historically black colleges, now integrated, that remain a pride, and magnet for African-American students. Laura Bush, a librarian, saw to it that thousands of books ruined by the floods were replaced. To this day, there are many local libraries with tributes devoted to her efforts. It was a team effort. I’m glad to report the commission I served on went out-of-business in 2010. I’m also grateful and proud to report that President Bush was one of the leaders, and a very important member, of that team. Our recovery can be credited to the civility and tireless efforts of President Bush and other Americans, who united and worked together to help rebuild the Gulf and the place of my birth, New Orleans.
As Dan noted earlier in the week, Bush's approval rating has quietly ticked northward for years; he's now pulled even with President Obama in the high-forties. I'll leave you with a post from former Bush adviser Keith Hennessey entitled, "George W. Bush is smarter than you."
The White House has endorsed a plan to eliminate FAA spending cuts that have cause air travel delays across the country. The agency has been forced to furlough air traffic controllers as part of the automatic budget cuts that kicked in this spring. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to end the cuts by claiming savings from the draw down of war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans reject his proposal calling it an accounting gimmick.
Of course it's an accounting gimmick. The point is that Democrats are desperate to extricate themselves from this mess, which they orchestrated in a bone-headed attempt to rile public anger against any spending cuts. Good luck with this, guys. Instead of hurting Republicans -- which was the entire point -- this entirely manufactured crisis has infuriated travelers, who inconveniently (a) seem to recall that the sequester was proposed and signed by Obama, and (b) aren't buying the idea that a tiny reduction in the rate of spending increase is enough to justify disruptive furloughs. They're right on both counts, and even some mainstream media outlets have taken the administration to the woodshed. Here's the Chicago Tribune, Obama's hometown paper that endorsed him twice, upbraiding the president. Zero words minced:
Hours before the federal spending sequester began on March 1, when President Barack Obama predicted that "People are going to be hurt," he did not add, Trust me, I'll make sure of it. But he might as well have, as this week's furloughs of air traffic controllers make obvious. The furloughs reflect panic: Having exaggerated their early predictions that the sequester's small reduction in spending growth would seriously affect Americans, many Democrats are hell-bent to pre-empt those Americans from drawing two logical conclusions: If one level of cuts is this painless, then maybe we should make ... more cuts to expenditures. And while we're at it, maybe we should ignore the politicians who told us that if Washington lowered the spending growth curve ... the Earth will fly into the sun....
So, what could the administration do to make a reduction of barely 1 percent of actual federal outlays — less than $45 billion of this year's roughly $3.8 trillion — turn citizens against Republicans who oppose more tax increases? Easy, or so the president's men and women figured: Cue the air controller furloughs! Let's stall some flights on the tarmac! Sure enough, travel delays have followed. We're less certain, though, that this hostage-taking will cut the way the White House expects: The scheme relies on citizens being — how to put this delicately? — stupid enough to think that the Federal Aviation Administration can't find a more flier-friendly way to save $600 million.
The Trib's editors also cite polling showing that the public is less and less worried about the sequester cuts by the day, which likely sparked panic inside the White House: We can't allow spending cuts to go unnoticed. People might start getting the wrong idea. It's time to deliberately inflict totally avoidable pain on the populace -- it's for their own good, really. Other papers are also scolding Democrats for their cynicism, including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal:
In case there's any doubt about the President's ability to prioritize, at least two GOP Senators, Jerry Moran and Roy Blunt, have written bills to clarify Mr. Obama's authority to make sensible spending decisions. He's not interested, and Senate Democrats have blocked such reforms. Making smart choices about federal sending would spoil the fun of creating flight delays and then blaming Republicans. So this week the FAA has managed to turn the first stages of a 5% budget cut into hours of delays at the nation's airports. The furloughs are landing on air-traffic controllers as much as they are on less vital FAA jobs. Officials at the Department of Transportation, the FAA's parent bureaucracy, say it would be bad for morale to impose heavier furloughs on the employees who don't direct airplanes.
I'll leave you with two charts that put the lie to this entire charade. The first comes via Phil Kerpen:
That's right, the FAA's post-sequester budget is actually higher than the funding it would have received under Obama's own budget. This smacks of Obama's vaccination "cuts" ploy. And finally, check out the graph Larry Kudlow used on his program the other night (around the 1:05 mark). The FAA's operational budget has soared over the last four years, even as flight traffic has declined:
UPDATE - Too perfect: A pre-sequester FAA report demonstrated that air traffic controllers were operating at 22 percent over capacity. Even FAA employees are aware that the pain is political and intentional: "I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place," another FAA employee wrote. "Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure."
UPDATE II (Katie) - The House has passed legislation halting furloughs of FAA controllers.
A bill that would end the Federal Aviation Administration’s furlough on air traffic controllers is now on its way to President Obama to sign.
On Friday, the House passed the measure 361-41.
On Thursday night, the Senate passed the legislation after most lawmakers had left the Capitol for a weeklong vacation.
The Tsarnaev's were captured and killed before they had the chance to inflict more death and destruction on innocents, but wreaking havoc at the Boston Marathon didn't quite quench the Chechen brothers' thirst for American blood:
The surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect has told investigators that he and his brother discussed detonating the rest of their explosives in Times Square, senior law enforcement officials told NBC News on Thursday. The surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, initially told investigators that they planned to go to New York to party after the Boston attack, one source said. The New York police commissioner also gave this account Wednesday. Under subsequent questioning, the officials said, Tsarnaev said that the brothers had discussed a follow-up attack on Times Square.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was questioned for 16 hours by authorities before being read his Miranda rights, the AP reports today. Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old college student, confessed his role in the crime during the questioning in his hospital room, but that confession may not be admissible in court. Once he was advised of his right to seek counsel and remain silent by a representative from the U.S. attorney's office, the suspect stopped talking. Police are allowed to question suspects without first Mirandizing them, but then their statements are not admissible in court. If police ask questions that seek to uncover future threats to the public, something called the "public safety exception" provides a loophole to this rule. So in Tsarnaev's case, if they had asked him if he knew of any planned attacks, or whether there were any bombs planted around Boston, his answers would theoretically be OK to use in a case against him. Authorities questioned both the Christmas Day "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—for 50 minutes—and the attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad without first reading them their Miranda rights using the public safety exception.
Sixteen hours is better than 50 minutes, but Abdulmutallab was a foreign national. He should have been a clear-cut enemy combatant, entitled to few constitutional rights. That he was Mirandized at all, let alone so quickly, remains an outrage. Mr. Tsarnaev's case is more sensitive because the perpetrator (technically still a "suspect") is a US citizen. Why the DOJ chose to Mirandize him mid-interrogation, though, is a mystery -- and the FBI is said to be furious:
The FBI filed a federal criminal complaint against the 19-year-old on Sunday, and federal District Court Judge Marianne Bowler arrived at the hospital where he is being treated to preside over his initial hearing Monday, when she read him his Miranda rights. [FBI officials told The Associated Press Wednesday that Tsarnaev acknowledged to investigators his role in the attacks before he was advised of his constitutional rights. He reportedly said he was only recently recruited by his brother to be part of the attack.] But Fox News' sources say there was confusion about Bowler's timing, with some voicing concerns that investigators were not given enough time to question Dzhokhar under the "public safety exception" invoked by the Justice Department. Two officials with knowledge of the FBI briefing on Capitol Hill said the FBI was against stopping the investigators' questioning and was stunned that the judge, Justice Department prosecutors and public defenders showed up, feeling valuable intelligence may have been sacrificed as a result. The FBI had been questioning Tsarnaev for 16 hours before the judge called a start to the court proceeding, officials familiar with the Capitol Hill briefing told Fox News. Moreover, the FBI informed lawmakers that the suspect had been providing valuable intelligence, but stopped talking once the magistrate judge read him his rights.
Terrific. I'll leave you with a round-up of additional developments from the investigation:
(1) The Tsarnaev's mother is still in major denial, even though her surviving son has confessed to his role in the bombings. Hold the tears; she may have known about her deceased son's radicalism for years.
(2) How many red flags did US authorities need? The Tsarnaev's Boston mosque has ties to radicals, Russian officials warned their American counterparts "repeatedly" about Tamerlan -- who was placed on a CIA watch list, DHS knew Tamelan was visiting Chechnya last year, and the Tsarnaev's online trail was rife with jihadist propaganda.
(3) The Tsarnaev brothers were motivated by opposition to American foreign policy and allegedly picked up the craft bomb-making via Al-Qaeda's "magazine," Inspire.
(4) On the night of their huge shootout with police, the terrorists car-jacked a vehicle at gunpoint. It had a "Coexist" bumper sticker on it. Really.
(5) Was Mrs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev involved in the plot? Investigators would like to know. It now appears that the bombs themselves were more sophisticated than initially thought, perhaps suggesting fairly extensive training.
(6) Quote of the month, regarding the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev: "[H]e was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion." Derp.
The Obama administration drew a "red line" in the sand months ago with the Assad regime in Damascus: If they were to use WMD's during their nation's civil war, the United States would intervene militarily. The president himself said the deployment of such weapons would represent a "game-changer." The British, French, and Israelis have all concluded that chemical weapons have been deployed, and now top US officials are co-signing that assessment. The Secretary of State:
WASHINGTON (AP) —Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian regime launched 2 chemical attacks.— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) April 25, 2013
And the Secretary of Defense:
U.S. intelligence has concluded "with some degree of varying confidence," that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday. Hagel, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, "our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin." "It violates every convention of warfare," Hagel said.
So, now what? Assad has crossed the White House's red line. Will that reality prompt US military action in Syria? What constitutes "action"? Sec. Kerry has been nudging NATO to form a contingency plan, so boots on the ground could be a real possibility. This strikes me as a lose-lose scenario. If the United States doesn't respond with measures beyond additional strong words and a symbolic slap on the wrist, Obama will send a very dangerous signal to other rogue regimes -- in Tehran and Pyongyang, or instance. Once any President of the United States has established a clear line that cannot be crossed, he must follow-through on his threats if they're not heeded. American credibility is at stake; it's already been bruised in Syria. How long has it been since our Secretary of State pronounced that Assad "must go"? Answer: More than one full year. But if we do intervene, who's to say that we'd be helping the right side? Assad is an evil despot who's been slaughtering his own people for months in a merciless attempt to retain power. The death toll is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. On the other hand, the rebels -- whom we've formally recognized are aided -- are at least partially comprised of hardcore, pro-Al Qaeda Islamists. We've already helped swapp one stable Middle Eastern despot for an (elected) aggressively Islamist regime in Cairo. Similar worries abound in Tripoli. Are we going to assist a truly terrible group of rebels topple a truly terrible dictator in Damascus? To what end? Very unpleasant choices all around, it seems.
UPDATE - Time compiles six instances of the White House touting its "red line" on Syrian chemical weapons.
In an exclusive interview with Townhall, Sen. Marco Rubio repeatedly emphasizes that the "Gang of Eight" framework on comprehensive immigration reform is not a "take it or leave it" proposition. He strongly encourages fellow conservatives to help improve and strengthen the bill as the legislative process advances. Below is the audio and transcript of the full exchange, which will air on my radio program this weekend. Rubio addresses various provisions within the legislation, as well as some conservatives' objections -- general and specific -- to the framework:
BENSON: Putting my cards on the table, I am in favor of immigration reform. I think that the current status quo is unworkable. It's broken. It's dysfunctional. And at almost every level, it's unfair. It's unfair to citizens, it's unfair to people who worked really hard to get here legally, and at times, it's also unfair to people who came here illegally. It needs to be changed, and I entirely agree with Senator Rubio's contention that the status quo, staying as we are, amounts to a de facto amnesty for millions of people. It's a mess. He makes that point; it's valid. Let me also say this: I'm a huge fan of Marco Rubio. Ever since I saw him give his farewell speech on the floor of the House in Florida, when he was going to run for Senate against very long odds -- and ended up beating Charlie Crist, of course, and became the US Senator -- I was smitten politically when I saw that speech. He's a natural, he's hugely talented, he's likeable, he's conservative. I admire him, I respect him, I trust him. All that being said, in spite of my open-mindedness, if not appetite, for reform -- and my positive feelings toward Senator Rubio -- I have some real, serious, substantive issues with what I've seen so far coming out of the 'Gang of Eight.' As I've looked at the bill. As I've read analysis of it. As I've peered under the hood...and so without further ado, we're delighted to be joined by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Welcome, Senator.
RUBIO: Thank you for having me
BENSON: Let's dive right into the questions. As a conservative, Senator, I guess a big picture question I have is, we as conservatives really have a lot of skepticism about the federal government. There's a Pew poll that came out this week; confidence in the federal government is at an all-time low across all demographics, especially among Republicans. And there's good reason for this. Be it Obamacare, or the "stimulus," the government has shown an inability, an incompetence, at doing big things. So why should we trust the federal government to get this right, finally, after decades of missing the mark?
RUBIO: Well first of all, thanks, that's a great question, and that's exactly why I've gotten involved in it. The only way that I know to make the executive branch execute a law is to pass a law that forces them to do it. So for example, one of the things we've known for a long time is that the magnet that draws illegal immigrants to the United States is employment. And this law mandates a universal E-Verify system. It is not an option, it is a mandate. They must do it. We know that 40 percent of the people that are illegally in this country entered legally and overstayed their visas. This law mandates the creation of an entry and exit system so that we can track everyone, not just when they come in, but when they leave. It also mandates spending over five-and-a-half billion dollars on border security, including a billion-and-a-half on new fencing. Double fencing. Not chicken wire, I mean real stuff. So these are mandated things that will have to happen. And in addition to that, it fundamentally changes the legal immigration system, away from this kind of family-based system that's based totally on whether you know someone who lives here or not, to a system that's based on whether you have the talents and the skills to contribute to our economy. The alternative to doing that, I think -- unfortunately, given the political make-up of the country -- is to leave things the way they are and to leave them in place. And the way they're in place right now is an administration that is never going to do E-Verify, that is never going to secure the border, and is never going to do any of these things that we're talking about doing...
BENSON: Okay, well, speaking of that administration, Janet Napolitano is DHS Secretary. A lot of the law here, a lot of the triggers and enforcement is ceded to the Department of Homeland Security. At least up front. Napolitano, just last month, said that the border's already secure. So, I mean, why should we entrust this DHS and this secretary in particular to do a job that she thinks is already done?
RUBIO: Well first of all, we don't, because she'll only be Secretary under the best case scenario for another three years. This law doesn't even get to the first trigger point until year five. Let me say, E-Verify isn't a discretionary thing. It must be done. Entry/Exit in this bill is not discretionary, it must be done. The only thing that they get a chance to do is this border stuff. They have to come up with a plan to secure the border, and a plan for the fencing. And in five years -- that means two years after she's long gone -- if they are not apprehending 90 percent of the people crossing the border, then an additional $2 billion will be spent on border security. This is long after they've gone away. And so, listen, there are always going to be consequences for having the wrong people in government, but the good news is, the wrong people that are there now will not be there forever. And this bill doesn't even begin to award green cards -- and not even award green cards, but allow people to apply for green cards -- until year eleven. Until the beginning of year eleven, long after they're gone.
BENSON: Right. So, the beginning of that process, to provisional legal status requires sort of a two-pronged trigger, as you call it, involving DHS creating these two plans. For border security and the fence. I just struggle to look at that as a legitimate, meaningful trigger because putting stuff on paper -- unless it's the Democrats and a budget -- is something that people can do in Washington pretty easily. How is that a meaningful trigger?
RUBIO: Well, I would just say to you that if there's a way to improve it, we should do it. And my challenge to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and the conservatives involved in this debate is to offer a better way. Let's build on what we've offered. I've never said that our bill was a take-it-or-leave-it offer, I've said it's a starting point. If there is a better way, I'm open to it. I encourage it. And I've talked about that and continue to say it. I can tell you that the only way we're ever going to force this to happen is to pass a law that forces it to happen. And so if there's a better way to make that happen, I want to do it. And I encourage, I'm constantly encouraging and talking to my colleagues about ways to do it. I'm actively engaged and meeting with each of my Senate colleagues in the Republican Party here on a way to improve our ideas, and if we can do that, I think we should do that.
BENSON: Senator, the commission. If DHS fails, if the triggers or the standards aren't met, there's a commission that gets put in place. That's like the biggest punch-line in the book, in terms of Washington putting together a commission -- and nothing really ever comes of it. What enforcement mechanism is there? Why is this commission suddenly going to work?
RUBIO: Well first of all, the commission exists at the front end as an advisory group, and it will comment on the stuff that DHS is already doing. Where the commission comes into vigor is if after five years, after they've done these two plans that you outlined at the beginning -- the border plan, the fence plan -- if after the five years, we are not apprehending 90 percent of the people crossing the border, then the commission is given $2 billion to put in place an additional plan to try to reach that goal. The commission is made up of appointees here in Congress, but it also has the four border state governors. And these are not wilting willows. These are, you know, significant public figures who are directly impacted from the border. The governors of Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico, and they're going to have their imprint on this as well. So what the commission does is it creates an additional plan on the border and spends an additional $2 billion to get the border secure. But again, as I repeat to people, if someone has a better way to do this, I want them to offer it. I'm open to that. I'll be supportive of that. As I've always said about the bill, it's a starting point. It's not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I think we all share the goal of securing the border, and I hope that through this process we can come up with a better way to do it.
BENSON: Alright Senator, last question. I know you've got to run. These are just sort of technical questions. Part of it is, there's a cut-off. People who've gotten into the country illegally after December 31, 2011 are not eligible for this provisional status. And then they also have to pay some back taxes -- the people who are eligible. How does the government determine when someone got here, and what taxes they owe, if they've been doing it in the shadows and illegally?
RUBIO: Okay, first of all, the burden to prove they've been here is on them. So if they can't prove it, they can't stay, and it's not our fault. Second, obviously there are multiple factors that you use -- bank statements, utilities, school records, medical records -- these folks that are here illegally do leave a paper trail, even though we don't do anything about it. So again, the burden is on them to prove. And I would just say, the less documentation they have, the less likely they're telling the truth about it, and I think that's important. And let me just tell you why it's important to have a cut-off date in the past. That's because otherwise, everyone will claim -- I mean, people will rush the border and try to beat the deadlines, so I think that's an important provision in the bill, and again if there's a way to improve it, we should look at that. But it's important that we do have a date in the past that's a cut-off.
BENSON: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you so much for your time.
RUBIO: Thank you.
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