Two months ago, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms attempted to censor a book written by Operation Fast and Furious whistleblower John Dodson, arguing the book's publication would "hurt morale." They failed. The book ATF didn't want Americans to read is out this week with new information and an incredible insider view of the fatal operation.
The Unarmed Truth: My Fight to Blow The Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious, Dodson details how the operation happened and how he, a person who had spent his life hiding from attention, made the decision to approach Congress about the Department of Justice and its gunwalking into Mexico after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. Although he had been put in tough positions before, on 9/11 he pulled bodies out of the Pentagon and was called to help after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the decision to become a whistleblower changed his life forever. ATF supervisors tried to strip Dodson of his badge, had him transferred numerous times and did everything possible to make his life a living hell. Dodson's "friends" in the agency abandoned him and the pressure took a toll on his family. Regardless, Dodson believed the truth was most important. In the book, Dodson describes whistleblowing as a "full time job," and today, despite poor treatment from his agency, stands vindicated.
"Hopefully, for all the injustices we suffered, if we made it a little easier for others to speak out against the actions of their government then what we did was worth it. I believe there are still plenty of us out there who believe the unarmed truth is ultimately worth more than any job or accolade. I want my story to be known to anyone willing to take a stand, so they will know that they don't stand alone," Dodson writes.
Last night, Dodson went on Fox News to tell his story and stressed the importance of people in government taking a stand against illegal behavior and illegal orders from supervisors.
Thanks to Right Sightings for the video.
This post has been updated.
The editor of the British publication The Guardian, which obtained and published leaked intelligence from former American NSA worker Edward Snowden, testified before Parliament that the newspaper only published 1% of Snowden's material.
The NSA scandal sparked what many believe is a much-needed discussion on post-9/11 security policy, but others accuse Snowden and media outlets like The Guardian of aiding terrorists and committing treason.
The editor, Alan Rusbridger, was compelled to defend The Guardian's actions before Parliament in a government move that was considered much more hawkish than the response in America or in other European countries.
Yet for many the debate has moved past the specific actions of the media. Just as opinions of Snowden evolved into a vigorous debate about privacy, the controversy surrounding The Guardian has become a question of press freedom versus national security.
Perhaps the most high-tension moment of the Parliament hearing came when a lawmaker questioned Rusbridger's love for his country. The Washington Post reports:
Earlier in the hearing, Labor lawmaker Keith Vaz questioned Rusbridger about testimony last month in which John Sawers, head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, told lawmakers that the Guardian’s decision to publish had the country’s enemies “rubbing their hands with glee.” Vaz then bluntly asked Rusbridger, “Do you love this country?”
“I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question, but, yes, we are patriots, and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things,” Rusbridger responded.
Nobody expected the bombshell when the editor explained only 1% of Snowden's files had been published. He reiterated that the newspaper was responsible with its information, saying:
"We have published I think 26 documents so far out of the 58,000 we've seen."
Despite Rusbridger's powerful testimony, the British government has not expressed a change in position. It is still investigating The Guardian to see if any national security laws were broken.
The full audio of the editor's testimony can be found here.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of Obamacare's architects and staunchest supporters, is also the only top congressional leader to exempt some of his staff from having to buy insurance through the law's new exchanges.
Reid is the exception among the other top congressional leaders. GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have all directed their staffs to join the exchange, their aides said.
To recap, the law mandates that every American must purchase health insurance or pay a fine-- unless, of course, one is granted an exemption. But who are the types of people who are granted exemptions? Are they hard working, middle class Americans living outside-the-beltway? Nope. They are the politically connected who have the money, influence and lobbying teams to do their bidding. Now, of course, most Congressional leaders (all save one, it seems) recognize that forcing all Americans to comply with an unpopular federal statute while not subjecting their entire staffs to the same fate is wrong and unfair. Even top Congressional Republicans (who cannot and should not be held directly responsible for the Affordable Care Act) are throwing their employees into the exchanges. So yes, while “some” of Reid’s staffers will obviously lose their current plans so that they can get “better” ones, not all of them will:
In September, Reid told reporters, "Let's stop these really juvenile political games -- the one dealing with health care for senators and House members and our staff. We are going to be part of exchanges, that's what the law says and we'll be part of that."
That's true. Reid and his personal staff will buy insurance through the exchange.
But it's also true that the law lets lawmakers decide if their committee and leadership staffers hold on to their federal employee insurance plans, an option Reid has exercised.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson emphasized, "We are just following the law."
I’m not sure that’s how most Americans will see it. In short, Reid’s playing with fire here even if he’s merely “following the law.” Obamacare is already bringing enough negative attention to Democrats. So why on earth would he want to pick a fight with Republicans over this issue?
Now, there’s a chance he’ll reverse his decision in the coming weeks. But don’t count on it. Team Obama is going to have their hands full persuading him to change his mind.
During Politico’s “Women Rule” event this morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined her daughter Alexandra on stage to discuss her former duties as a full-time mom and eventual road to Congress.
Alexandra shared how her mom used to lead carpools, cook and clean all day and even win prizes for her cake baking. Being defined as domestic clearly made the powerful Minority Leader a bit squeamish.
“I was a 50s teenager, I wasn’t a 50s housewife.”
Despite Pelosi trying to distance herself from her former role, she did in fact do motherly things. Then, she "got a life."
The Minority Leader explained how when she was 46-years-old, she approached her daughter about running for Congress, to which the latter responded, “Mother, get a life.”
Perhaps realizing she and her daughter just basically wrote off stay-at-home moms as worthless, Pelosi backtracked by stating, “I mean I had a life, but I had another life by running for Congress.”
Alexandra nonetheless continued bragging about how her mom gave up some of her domestic duties as she pursued politics.
“She stopped cooking before all the other moms did […] There were pieces of evidences she was moving on with her life. Now she has a life that’s all-consuming.”
The Minority Leader insisted mothers today should get assistance like she did when she was struggling to raise five kids, “borrow money from a bank, get help.”
Yes, child care is hard, but what about Michelle Duggar? She and husband Jim Bob have 19 Kids and Counting and zero nannies. Clearly, Mrs. Duggar deems it worth the effort to be full-time mom to her precious little ones.
Based on her earlier comments, one of Pelosi's final statements may also rub full-time moms the wrong way.
“Here’s what I would say: do not ever underestimate the quality of the time you spend with your family as part of your career. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world.”
Yes, as part of your career. Just don’t make it your whole career, or else you “won’t have a life.”
Katie covered the president's umpteenth Obamacare pep rally yesterday afternoon. Obama delivered somewhat halting remarks to room filled with White House staffers and political supporters. The speech was so un-newsworthy and redundant that the only cable network to cover it live was -- surprise! -- MSNBC. My immediate reaction:
I love that speech every time he gives it.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 3, 2013
Obama and his supporters are repeating several false claims that must be debunked every time they're advanced, no matter how bored he may seem in keeping the spin alive:
(1) Obamacare critics have no alternatives of their own. For a president who claims to be open to all ideas, and who's only interested in "what works" (both laughable assertions), Obama sure seems unaware of viable conservative alternatives to his fatally flawed law. Back when the so-called "Affordable" Care Act was being debated, Republicans introduced a number of competing bills, including this framework. Healthcare wonks James Capretta and Tom Miller have offered a detailed free-market plan to cover people with pre-existing conditions involving portable plans and state-based high risk pools. Ben Domenech has outlined the main principles conservatives support, linking to several pieces of proposed legislation. Obama has no interest in these facts. He's interested in pretending that his opponents are cranky nihilists with no ideas of their own, and he's especially interested in uncorking his biggest applause line of the speech: "We're not repealing [Obamacare] as long as I am president." Allahpundit asks a good question: Is that really the message Democrats want in the headlines?
(2) Obamacare is bringing down healthcare costs. The president has made this claim himself, but New York Times columnist Paul Krugman takes the delusional cake: "Health reform is starting to look like a bigger success than even its most ardent advocates expected." Liberals are gleefully citing this Timesreport about Obamacare's projected price tag dropping by billions (compared to previous estimates) over the next ten years. They ignore several excerpts from the story they're cheering. For instance:
Economists broadly agree that the sluggish economy remains the main reason that health spending has grown so slowly for the last half-decade. From 2007 to 2010, per-capita health care spending rose just 1.8 percent annually. Since then, the annual increase has slowed even further, to 1.3 percent. A decade ago, spending was growing at roughly 5 percent a year...To be sure, the Affordable Care Act will lead to a drastic bump in health spending by the government starting next year, with an estimated nine million Americans signing up for Medicaid and perhaps as many as seven million buying a subsidized health plan through the government exchanges.
Liberals are trying to credit Obamacare for a phenomenon that's actually being driven by the lackluster Obama economy. Perfect. Conn has been doing Yeoman's work on this subject, but it bears repeating: The government's own accountants say that the slowdown in the rise of health spending (not a decrease, mind you) has nothing at all to do with Obamacare. Indeed, Obamacare is a countervailing force. CMS figures estimate that the new law will raise national healthcare spending by more than six percent next year, and by more than $600 billion over the next decade, compared to a scenario in which the "Affordable" Care Act did not exist.
(3) People are mostly just losing "substandard" coverage. This line is actually insulting to the millions who were truly satisfied with their previous healthcare arrangements, but who are now being instructed not to believe their own experiences and preferences. Democratic strategist Kirsten Powers is among this group. So is this stage four cancer patient. And this couple from Michigan. As I've pointed out before, the ultimate irony of this argument coming from Obama is that his law vastly expands a broken entitlement program that is the veritable definition of "junk coverage." If anything, he's upset that Medicaid wasn't extended further. How will this bogus "substandard coverage" excuse fly next fall when millions -- possibly tens of millions -- of additional Americans experience painful coverage dumping in the coming year? My guess is we'll see Obama give approximately this exact speech. Again:
Two weeks ago we learned that a majority of the Obamacare website still hasn't been built, including the payment system. Now, because the payment system isn't built or working properly for people trying to enroll in Obamacare through the federal exchange, insurance companies will be billing the government for subsidies based on "guesses" of how much the government owes them. Welcome to bailout by guestimation:
The administration is planning a “workaround” for payments, said Daniel Durham, vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet finished building the part of the website that would transfer billions of dollars in subsidies for plan premiums and cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.
Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to "true up" payments, he said.
This "work around" comes as insurance panic kicks in. We've learned this week that nearly a third of people who have "enrolled" in Obamacare won't actually have coverage on January 1 because insurance companies haven't been paid due to a broken website and system.
The government is already really good at wasting taxpayer money, but this situation brings things to a whole new level. The Obama administration, for political reasons, launched the federal exchange on October 1 knowing the site was well incapable of doing pretty much anything and now, taxpayers are footing the bill for the consequences.
In other words, if the website is fixed, everything will be hunky-dory. Really? That’s a pretty tough sell, even for Bill Clinton:
Former President Bill Clinton, who prodded President Obama last month to keep his promises on Obamacare, said Tuesday that the political damage for Democrats from the flawed law will be “minimal.”
“I believe that if the computer problems are all fixed, and it’s up and running by — and healthy in the next several weeks, I think that the damage will be minimal,” Mr. Clinton told interviewer Jorge Ramos of Fusion. “It’s getting better. I think it’ll be fixed by — in the next few weeks. If it’s worked through, I think within four or five months people will be talking about something entirely differently.”
It’s exceedingly hard to imagine Democrats getting off scot-free from the Obamacare fiasco in 2014, as Bill Clinton implies. But for the sake of argument let’s posit that the website is indeed fixed “on time” as the former president no doubt wishes. Are we then just supposed to forget that millions of Americans lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, and lost their minds this year in the process of trying to navigate Healthcare.gov? Plus, people experiencing real hardship aren’t going to so easily forget which politicians mislead and lied to them, especially if they voted for them in the past.
The most heartbreaking story I’ve read lately is about a six-year-old girl battling cancer whose family recently found out that their daughter will no longer be covered under their “old” plan because of Obamacare. What would the law’s cheerleaders in Congress, I wonder, have to say about that? Anything? Anything at all? Like it or not, Obamacare is an albatross around Democrats’ collective necks, and it’s going to hurt them politically down the road no matter what.
A stark and searing reminder that Healthcare.gov's ongoing struggles and security vulnerabilities are only a small component of Obamacare's comprehensive failure. After the website's myriad technical difficulties are at long last sorted out, mass cancellations, rising premiums and doc shock will remain as the devastating residual legacy of President Obama's top legislative "accomplishment." Every one of those consequences represents a broken White House promise. Meet young Ellie Porter and her family, who've experienced the new law's affects firsthand. Heartbreaking:
Having a child diagnosed with cancer is an unimaginable ordeal for any family, and adding any challenges on top of it can seem overwhelming. Paul and Jami Porter of Kaysville learned last week their insurance plan was terminated under the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 1/2 months into their daughter's fight with undifferentiated sarcoma began. Six-year-old Ellie Porter, who has had one kidney removed, just wrapped up her radiation treatments and is expected to be done with chemotherapy around the first of the year. "You're getting used to what's going on; and then all of a sudden having something like this thrown in is definitely challenging and frustrating at the same time," Paul Porter said. He and his wife are now in the middle of shopping for a new plan that complies with the Affordable Care Act. He said the old plan didn't meet some of the requirements, according to a letter from the insurer. The options the family is weighing have premiums that are more than double the premiums under their previous plan, Paul Porter said. Additionally, the Porters said they had limited time to sign up for a new plan and didn't have all the information they felt they needed to make an informed decision. Like many others across the nation, they were also struggling to simply enroll through the federal website, healthcare.gov.
Ellie isn't an "anecdote." She's a little girl who's very sick:
This poor family hit the Obamacare trifecta: (1) They've been dropped off of their existing insurance plan -- which they were counting on to help pay for their cancer-stricken daughter's treatments -- because Beltway Democrats decreed that their coverage was "substandard." (2) Their efforts to obtain new coverage in time for 2014 were hampered terribly by Obamacare's broken website. (3) Their options for new coverage entail premiums twice as high as what they were previously paying. The Porters' story is particularly wrenching, given the pediatric cancer angle, but similar stories are playing out across the country. Liz Binns is an Ohioan with a pre-existing condition:
"I cannot afford it...I thought this was going to be a miracle for us, and it's not."
Then there are the Swansons from Michigan:
Kalamazoo residents Mary Swanson and her husband are among the reported 225,000 Michiganders who received cancellation letters from their insurers because their plans did not meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act. Mary Swanson of Kalamazoo talks about signing up for Obamacare. The Prudential Preferred Realtor, whose husband owns a construction business, said they currently pay $925 a month for a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with a $4,000 deductible. They combined the catastrophic coverage with health-savings accounts, she said, which worked well for the couple..."Our coverage from before was far from substandard. It was excellent," she said during a phone interview...Swanson said she tried repeatedly to research new plans via HealthCare.gov during October, but never could get past the identity-verification stage. Since she and her husband won't qualify for a subsidy, she's been researching plans through individual insurers. She has been quoted between $1,300 and $1,500 a month for coverage, she said, and the couple's deductible will jump to $6,000 each instead of $4,000 combined..."I would love to have my former plan back."
The Swansons' premiums will rise by at least $400 per month, and their deductibles will triple. They're not sure if they can afford those prices. Meanwhile, as the president unilaterally imposes changes, "fixes" and delays beyond the letter of his own law, credit rating agencies are beginning to fret about the financial stability of the health insurance industry (via ABC News):
Steve Zaharuk, senior vice president of the U.S. Insurance team for Moody’s, told ABC News that over the next year, the uncertainty posed by last minute changes from the Obama administration could expose insurance companies to higher administrative costs and uncertainty about the effects of the changes on the composition of healthy and sick people they insure. “There are a lot of risks and uncertainty for the Affordable Care Act at the moment,” Zaharuk said. “Insurance companies can deal with risk if they know the playing field. But when you keep changing the rules and adding more uncertainty into situation then it becomes even more risky and more difficult to deal with.” Zaharuk also warned that two changes could be significant for insurance companies if the Obama administration decides to go forward with them, as some in Congress have advocated: delaying the individual mandate or extending the open enrollment period beyond March 31, 2014. “At that point, insurance companies might want to reassess their position in the exchanges and possibly even lobby to have the premium rates changed,” Zaharuk said. “We’d consider those very significant rule changes.”
If the administration's desperate political games and last-minute revisions continue, insurers will begin to pull out of exchanges, or will seek even higher premiums to stay afloat. In other words, there's a lot more pain ahead for a lot of ordinary people.
This Thursday’s episode of Chris Matthew’s “Hardball” should be renamed to “Softball” before airing. Chris Matthews will be doing, what I am sure will be a hard hitting interview with President Obama this Thursday in front of an audience at American University in Washington, DC.
Matthews, who is known for claiming President Obama gave him a “thrill” up his leg, will be interviewing the President in front of a live audience, where President Obama will then take questions from the audience and some questions that were submitted online. I can’t help but wonder if this interview is the result of Obama’s recent off-the-record meeting with several MSNBC hosts at the White House.
According to the MSNBC website,
Obama’s interview with Matthews comes following the rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov, an interim nuclear deal with Iran, renewed calls for immigration reform, and with new budget negotiations on the horizon.” But what will Matthews ask Obama about? “Matthews will discuss a number of topics with Obama, including voter suppression, healthcare, political gridlock in D.C., growing dissatisfaction with the government and more.”
I am sure we will not see many hard hitting questions from either Chris Matthews or the American University audience. It sounds like President Obama needed to make people believe in his health care law again, and this was his best option. There is definitely no chance he will be put in a tough situation with Chris Matthews asking the questions.
It’s been two and a half months since the Obama administration backed off its threat to strike Syria, and in that time, the nation’s attention has moved onto other domestic and international matters, like Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and reining in Iran’s nuclear program. Although both are exceedingly important, we must not turn a blind eye to what’s going on in Syria, where peace remains elusive despite the Russian-brokered deal to rid the country of its chemical weapons. The latest news to come out of war-torn Syria is the abduction of 12 nuns from a predominately Christian village by Islamist rebels.
Reuters has the details:
Islamist fighters who captured a Christian village north of Damascus have moved some nuns to a nearby town but it was not clear if they had been kidnapped or evacuated for their safety, the Vatican's ambassador to Syria said on Tuesday.
The militants took the ancient quarter of Maaloula on Monday after heavy fighting with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, activists said. Syrian state media said they were holding the nuns captive in the Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Thecla.
Vatican envoy Mario Zenari said the 12 nuns had been taken from Maaloula to Yabroud, about 20 km (13 miles) to the north.
Zenari said the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate had told him armed men had entered the monastery on Monday afternoon.
"They forced the sisters to evacuate and to follow them towards Yabroud. At this moment we cannot say if this is a kidnapping or an evacuation," he told Reuters by telephone from Damascus. "I heard now there is a very fierce conflict going on in Maaloula."
The fighting, which pits al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters and other rebels against Assad's forces, is part of a wider struggle for control of the Damascus-Homs highway in central Syria.
The Maaloula convent’s mother superior, Pelagia Sayyaf, was able to call the head of a nearby convent to say they were all “fine and safe.” Nevertheless, Syria’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch John Yazigi called on the rebels to release the nuns.
“We appeal to the seed of conscience that God planted in all humans, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters safely,” Yazigi said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“We call upon the international community and world governments to ... release the nuns of Mar Takla Convent and the orphans who are being held since yesterday,” he added.
On Monday, Christians held a service in Damascus protesting the capture of the nuns and the kidnapping of two bishops near Aleppo in April, according to Syrian state television.