Leah Barkoukis - GOP Lawmakers Give Obama Warning on Raising Taxes Through Executive Action
Posted: 3/18/2015 9:16:00 PM EST

Earlier this month White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama was “very interested” in the possibility of raising taxes through executive fiat—a move GOP lawmakers warn would be a grave mistake.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that doing so would be “a mistake, both constitutionally and politically.”

Hatch, of Utah, and Ryan, of Wisconsin, sent the letter to [Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew after the White House signaled Obama is interested in eliminating some tax breaks through executive action, particularly those that benefit large corporations and the wealthy. […]

Republicans are hoping to reform at least part of the corporate tax code in the coming year and are relying on cooperation from the White House in order to strike a deal that can become law.

The GOP would like to lower corporate tax rates in a deal that could include ending some tax benefits. Obama has proposed using the revenue expected to flow from ending some tax cuts in order to pay for infrastructure rather than to lower corporate rates.

Ryan and Hatch, both Republicans, warned Obama that acting unilaterally could hurt the economy and thwart any chance of a lasting deal that could be achieved with Congress.

"It would be a significant setback if you decided to interpret or implement tax laws based on your political preference rather than the consensus that the tax reform process could produce," they wrote to Lew. "It would also be significantly damaging to the economy to further the idea that, rather than working with stable rules of the road, tax and other laws will hereafter evolve according to the uncertain path of unilateral executive decisions followed by controversy, challenges and mistrust."

Matt Vespa - Starbucks: Here's Your Grande Red Eye. Also, Let's Talk About Racism
Posted: 3/18/2015 6:45:00 PM EST

A coffee house is a place for calm. A temporary sanctuary for people to check their emails, complete office work, or read the morning paper–or at least that’s what I see when I enter a Starbucks. It’s now being turned into a drive-by hub for customers to get a lecture about race in America.  Coffee is now politicized. 

Via Politico:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is taking on another fraught political debate, with his company launching a new initiative this week to get employees to discuss with customers the state of race relations in the United States.

“We at Starbucks should be willing to discuss these issues in America,” Schultz said in a company statement released Monday announcing its “Race Together” campaign.

Approximately 2,000 employees of the coffee chain have shared their concerns about racial issues at open forums in cities across the country, including St. Louis, where racial tensions have flared in nearby Ferguson; New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland, California.

Some folks on Twitter noticed something that was rather embarrassing for the coffee giant; their promotional photos for Race Together only featured Caucasian people’s hands.

Regardless, it may be time to find a new place to get our caffeine fixes. Thankfully, there’s McDonalds (yes, their coffee is pretty good), Dunkin’ Donuts, Sheetz, WaWa, and Caribou Coffee.

Discussions about race are fine, though I think sometimes we have them way too much, and they often devolve rapidly into absurdity. Just troll around for a bit. It’s got to the point where saying, “that’s racist” has become a punch line for jokes. Given that this social experiment is upon us, it’s somewhat less maddening since a business owner decided, haphazardly, to begin this dialogue than some politician from Washington.

Often times, local matters become “presidential-level subjects of conversation” when they shouldn’t, as George Will aptly noted with the controversy surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2009.

This incident led to the “beer summit” at the White House between President Obama, Gates, Vice President Joe Biden, and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley. It made for a nice photo opportunity.

Back in 2015, it seems most are in favor of being left alone at Starbucks, given that their senior vice president of communications, Corey duBrowa, deleted his Twitter account due to the backlash.  Yet, he said this campaign will be explained in more detail at the annual shareholder's meeting this Wednesday.  At the same time, I'm just trying to figure out how one would start a racial dialogue in Starbucks? Will it be when you order your coffee? Will ordering those giant Rice Krispie treats set off a discussion about slave reparations? Will buying the various bags of coffee elicit an anecdote about minority representation in the media with the cashier? 

This sounds like it could go off the hinges easily, or at least get really, really awkward (via Mediaite):

Last night, a panel on All In with Chris Hayes became the ultimate example of how awkward the results of Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign could be.

Chris Hayes showed a video of panelist Jay Smooth‘s YouTube lecture, “How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist”, and fellow panelist Nancy Giles joked about the “brotha way he was trying to talk” in the video.

“I’m a rap guy!” Smooth said.

“Yeah, I know, but it’s another interesting, funny thing about race. Like, there would be some people that feel that you co-opted something like that, and other people might feel like that’s his background and that’s really cool, too,” Giles replied, poking fun at his impersonation of a black guy.

“It’s also interesting because I’m actually black, but you assumed otherwise,” Smooth replied. “And this is the sort of awkwardness that we can look forward to at Starbucks across America.”

To her credit, Giles immediately pointed out that her assumption was the kind of thing that race discussions led to, and Hayes broke into hysterical laughter in the background.

Vivian Hughbanks  - Conservatives Remember M. Stanton Evans
Posted: 3/18/2015 5:05:00 PM EST

An accomplished journalist, author and educator, the late M. Stanton Evans was a trailblazer and influential leader in the conservative movement. VIPs of the conservative movement gathered at the Heritage Foundation last week to pay tribute to Evans’ work.

“His whole life was dedicated to freedom and speaking truth in its defense,” said Ralph Kinney Bennett, former Washington editor of The Reader’s Digest, in his eulogy of Evans at Heritage. “He understood perfectly how daunting it is to have God’s gift of freedom -- to be placed at risk in the universe, subject to its laws, physical and moral, and to the consequences of contravention or obedience.”

At the age of 26, Evans wrote the Sharon Statement: a statement of purpose adopted by the Young Americans for Freedom organization at William F. Buckley’s estate in 1960. The document united conservatives and libertarians in the cause of liberty by outlining the central tenets of conservatism: freedom of the individual, limited government, free enterprise and a strong national defense.

Most in the crowded auditorium were Evans’ old friends, colleagues and family. But even for those who had never met him, tributes offered painted a warm picture of “Stan the man.”

“He doted on the Atlanta elixir, the dark ambrosia, Coca-Cola,” Bennett said. “He would often come to breakfast meetings or conferences, sit down amid all the eggs and bacon and coffee and Danishes, and place a pack of cigarettes and a can of Coke on the table in front of him. ‘My mother always told me,’” he would announce, “‘that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’”

“Life in D.C. was a source of recurring heartburn for Stan,” Bennett continued. “Car impoundments, parking tickets, futile arguments with sundry bureaucrats and stolid code-enforcement officers, all prompted Stan to regard the District of Columbia as ‘The Soviet Union, but without the amenities.’”

Evans served as chairman of the American Conservative Union, and founded the ACU Education and Research Institute. He was a nationally syndicated columnist, a commentator on National Public Radio, Voice of America and Radio America, and authored ten books. He founded the National Journalism Center to train young journalists in methods of accurate, balanced, factual reporting.

He passed away on March 3 in Leesburg, Virginia.

Matt Vespa - Oh My: Democratic Aide Knew Of Abortion Provision In Anti-Human Trafficking Bill
Posted: 3/18/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Guy wrote at length about this debacle in the Senate over an anti-human trafficking bill. It’s a no-brainer piece of legislation. Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) press release about the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), lays out the details. It’s insanely bipartisan, but Democrats ran for the bunkers when they read the provision banning taxpayer-funded abortion (the Hyde Amendment), which they say was snuck into the bill. Uh, no [emphasis mine]:

Read the whole Politico story, which lays out the facts -- which, in turn, lay the blame for this embarrassing debacle directly at Democrats' feet. Recapping: Prosaic legislative language restricting taxpayer funding of abortion was included in Republicans' anti-sex-trafficking law. GOP authors alerted their colleagues on the other side of the aisle that this provision was coming a few months ago. The resulting bill received zero dissenting votes in a Senate Judiciary Committee vote. But once pro-abortion activists started raising hackles, Democrats decided to filibuster a law that would help victims of sex trafficking. This, from the party that carries on about the so-called "war on women." In a feeble attempt to defend their decision, Democrats initially and falsely claimed that Republicans "snuck" the language into the bill, then were forced to retreat to "we didn't read the bill."

Note well that McConnell offered Democrats an up-or-down vote to amend the bill by stripping out the abortion language. Democrats promptly objected to having the opportunity to vote on that specific item, which is ostensibly their entire basis for obstructing the underlying legislation's passage.

Just so we're crystal clear, Senate Democrats' apparent commitment to (deeply unpopular) taxpayer-funded abortion is causing them to actively block an anti-human-trafficking bill. They knew the pro-life language was in there for months, but now they're pretending to have suddenly discovered it, to their shock and horror -- but they don't want to actually vote on whether to strike the supposedly offending language. Incredible. The Democratic Party, with lots of cover from a news media heavily populated with pro-choice coastal elites, routinely paints Republicans as "out of the mainstream" on abortion. In reality, it's Democrats whose top officials and extremist allies are wildly out of step with the public. President Obama, for instance, favors taxpayer-funded late-term abortion on demand. Planned Parenthood can't distinguish between infanticide and abortion, which probably explains why they've been such fans of Obama. House Democrats killed a law to outlaw barbaric, often misogynistic, sex-selective abortions. California Democrats approved a measure allowing non-doctors to perform abortions. Virginia Democrats distorted the truth beyond recognition to attack a common-sense proposed abortion limitation. Many conscientious Americans are pro-choice, but these are the beliefs and actions of pro-abortion zealots.

Regardless, Democrats continue to channel Sgt. Schultz on this matter.

Now, the Associated Press has more evidence that Democrats did know about the provision. An aide to Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D- MN) had seen the language before the bill was voted on in committee:

Democrats have said for more than a week that their side of the aisle was not aware of the provision until a few days ago, nearly two months after the legislation was made public and long after a bipartisan vote in the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 24.

Several Democrats have accused Republicans of sneaking it into the measure without their discovering it.

But Julia Krahe, a spokeswoman for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, said that an aide to the Minnesota Democrat "had seen the language" relating to abortion before the committee voted.

The aide "did not inform the senator. The senator takes responsibility for the work of her office and missing the provision and she is focused on moving forward to find a way to fix the bill and protect victims of trafficking," Krahe added. Her disclosure came in an email Tuesday evening in response to an inquiry first made a week ago.

Klobuchar is a leading Democratic advocate for the trafficking bill.

Over at the left-leaning Huffington Post, they obtained an email exchange between Democratic and Republican Judicial Committee staffers where changes were listed, with the exception of the non-controversial abortion language:

The Huffington Post obtained a January email exchange between Democratic and Republican Judiciary Committee staffers regarding the bill's reintroduction and its changes from the last Congress. The Republican staffer lists seven changes, but the abortion language was not included.

"They added the new language quietly, hoping nobody would notice, then we'd all march down there," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said last week. "I put my name on this bill, by the way, because my staff trusted the Republican staff when they said there wasn't any change in abortion language. How awful it was for my staff that they said to me, 'Senator, we feel terrible, we took their word.' And I got my name off this bill."

Except when you read the Politico piece Guy cited in his post, you see that the anti-abortion language is featured on page four and five of the bill, meaning that Democrats had the opportunity to catch the rider. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who’s quoted in the HuffPo piece, said the provision expands Hyde to include traffickers’ fees.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said earlier this week, “You can blame it on staff, blame it on whoever you want to blame…but we didn’t know it was in the bill, and … the bill will not come off this floor as long as that language is in the bill.”

It still doesn’t absolve Democrats for being incapable of reading the first five pages of a bill they at first supported, nor not taking Sen. McConnell's offer to strip the language from the bill, which would certainly make them look like the party of abortion (which they are). Still, Senate Democrats opted to die on this hill; relegating the protection of children from sex traffickers to a periphery issue since they’re so caught up with government bills that directly or indirectly permit the funding of abortion. That's still extreme. It’s a fetishistic trait that’s incredibly disturbing with the left.

Oh, and the bill was filibustered by Democrats again today.

Guy Benson - Defense Intelligence Analyst: 'No Doubt' Hillary's Emails Hacked by Foreign Governments
Posted: 3/18/2015 4:16:00 PM EST

Let's examine a few significant updates on the Hillary email scandal, starting with perhaps the most important -- but least covered -- aspect of the imbroglio: Unconscionable national security risks. In order to shield her communications from oversight and public information requests, Hillary Clinton chose to set up a private email server in her home, rather than use a secure official account. Regardless of the ethical propriety and legality of that decision (stay tuned on those points), intelligence experts believe her actions led to extraordinary breaches at the hands of foreign governments and outside entities.  Please read every word of this excerpt from Bloomberg's Eli Lake and Josh Rogin:

Hillary Clinton didn't take a basic precaution with her personal e-mail system to prevent hackers from impersonating or "spoofing" her identity in messages to close associates, according to former U.S. officials familiar with her e-mail system and other cyber-security experts. This vulnerability put anyone who was in communication with her account while she was secretary of state at risk of being hacked. Clinton said at the United Nations last week that there were no security breaches of her personal e-mail server, which she used to send and receive more than 60,000 professional and personal e-mails. But former cyber-security officials and experts told us that there were gaps in the system...According to publicly available information, whoever administrated the system didn't enable what’s called a Sender Policy Framework, or SPF, a simple setting that would prevent hackers sending e-mails that appear to be from

SPF is a basic and highly recommended security precaution for people who set up their own servers...Experts told us that oversight was just one flaw of a security system that would have been relatively easy for foreign intelligence services and others to exploit. "I have no doubt in my mind that this thing was penetrated by multiple foreign powers, to assume otherwise is to put blinders on,” said Bob Gourley, the chief technology officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2005 to 2008 and the founder of Cognitio, a cybersecurity consultancy...Spoofing a senior official’s e-mail identity is also an easy way to conduct "spear phishing" attacks, where an attacker sends a personally crafted e-mail that appears to come from a trusted source. Once the target opens it, his own system can be compromised. Clinton said she e-mailed with dozens of State Department and White House officials using her server, including President Barack Obama.

Not only did Hillary's overwhelming impulse for secrecy and contempt for accountability put her own emails at risk -- bad enough, given her role as the country's top diplomat -- it also endangered the integrity of her contacts' communications.  This is unforgivable.  Myopia, paranoia, arrogance and reckless incompetence, all rolled into one set of astounding revelations.  By the way, just a few days ago, the State Department shut down large parts of its email system due to malware placed by Russian hackers who somehow burrowed into the network.  Do we know for a fact that Hillary's insanely insecure email scheme compromised State's broader system?  No.  Is it a distinct possibility, given everything we know?  Absolutely.  How many State Department, White House, and foreign officials' sensitive emails were put at risk, or penetrated?  That may forever remain an open question, especially if Hillary maintains her obstinate refusal to turn over the server.  Setting aside her disregard for national security and undermining of American foreign policy, is what Hillary did illegal?  Law professor Ronald Rotunda reviews the facts of the case and concludes there's a good chance she violated the law:

The law says that no one has to use email, but it is a crime (18 U.S.C. section 1519) to destroy even one message to prevent it from being subpoenaed. Prosecutors charging someone with obstruction don’t even have to establish that any investigation was pending or under way when the deletion took place. As T. Markus Funk explained in a journal article for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the prosecutor “need only prove that the defendant shredded the documents, at least in part, to make life more difficult for future investigators, if and when they eventually appear.” Legal commentators call this “anticipatory obstruction of justice,” and the law punishes it with up to 20 years imprisonment. The burden of proof is light. The Justice Department manual advises that section 1519 makes prosecution much easier because it covers “any matters” or “’in relation to or contemplation of’ any matters.” It adds, “No corrupt persuasion is required.”

Again, without access to the secret server, definitive proof will be hard to come by. This may explain why Hillary is guarding it so zealously. Would the media allow a Republican to permanently withhold a private email server on which he or she conducted official business, in violation of numerous regulations and rules? Would they take "it's all fine, trust me" as an answer, even after stories shifted as new facts came to light? Will Hillary get away with this? Finally, if you haven't already, read this tough take-down of Team Hillary's "laughable" excuses and explanations by Dan Metcalfe. He spent decades as the "federal government’s chief information-disclosure guru," and here's his verdict:

Having spent a quarter-century at the forefront of the government’s administration of the FOIA, including its transition to electronic records and its involvement in so many Clinton administration “scandals du jour,” I know full well that both what Secretary Clinton arranged to do and what she now has said about that are, to put it most charitably, not what either the law or anything close to candor requires. At a minimum, it was a blatant circumvention of the FOIA by someone who unquestionably knows better and an attempted verbal “cover” of the situation (if not “cover-up”) that is truly reminiscent of years past.

The whole piece is damning, but here's how it ends: "I say that even as someone who, if she decides to run for president and is the Democratic nominee, will nevertheless vote for her next year." Sure, she's a duplicitous secretive scofflaw, but she's got my vote. As of this moment, it seems Mr. Metcalfe isn't alone. Yikes:

Matt Vespa - AP CEO: It's Harder To Use Public Records To Hold Government Accountable
Posted: 3/18/2015 3:45:00 PM EST

Sunshine Week took a dark and ominous turn when the Obama administration decided to exempt the Executive Office of the President from FOIA requests. Additionally, the CEO of the Associated Press, Gary Pruitt, said that it’s becoming harder–and more expensive–for citizens to use public documents to hold government officials accountable. And this isn’t just a Washington D.C. problem; state courthouses are becoming more like fortresses in guarding public records. When documents are turned over, it’s done in the slowest, most lethargic way possible. At the same time, the fear of retribution by a government entity, like the Obama White House, also seems to be a factor in AP’s FOIA request about who foots the bill for Michelle Obama’s dresses [emphasis mine]:

Associated Press journalists filed hundreds of requests for government files last year, simply trying to use the rights granted under state open records laws and the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years: the systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time.

We’re talking about this issue now because of Sunshine Week, created a decade ago to showcase the laws that give Americans the right to know what their government is up to. These days, Sunshine Week is a time to put a spotlight on government efforts to strangle those rights.

The problem stretches from town halls through statehouses to the White House, where the Obama administration took office promising to act promptly when people asked for information and never to withhold files just because they might be embarrassing.

A few months ago, the Treasury Department sent us 237 pages in its latest response to our requests regarding Iran trade sanctions. Nearly all 237 pages were completely blacked out, on the basis that they contained businesses’ trade secrets.

When was our request? Nine years ago.

It takes the State Department about 18 months to answer -- or refuse to answer -- anything other than a simple request. This week we filed a lawsuit against the department for failing to turn over files covering Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, including one request we made five full years ago.

As the president said, the United States should not withhold or censor government files merely because they might be embarrassing.

But it happens anyway.

In government emails that AP obtained in reporting about who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses, the National Archives and Records Administration blacked out one sentence repeatedly, citing a part of the law intended to shield personal information such as Social Security numbers or home addresses.

The blacked-out sentence? The government slipped and let it through on one page of the redacted documents: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH (White House).”

This whole revelation just adds fuel to the fire of the Clinton email fiasco, where the press has been suspecting that State Department officials are protecting Hillary. 

Moreover, this piece by Dan Metcalfe in Politico, who took Hillary to the woodshed over the email controversy, explains why access to such documents is essential to government accountability. Metcalfe ran the Office of Information and Privacy from 1981-2007, and helped enact FOIA standards for the entire Executive branch [emphasis mine]:

...[T]he official availability of official email communications is not just a matter of concern for purposes of the Federal Records Act only. It also makes an enormous (and highly foreseeable) difference to the proper implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (known as the “FOIA” to its friends, a group that evidently does not include Secretary Clinton). That is because the starting point for handling a FOIA request is the search that an agency must conduct for all records responsive to that request’s particular specifications. So any FOIA request that requires an agency first to locate responsive email messages sent to or from that agency’s head, for instance, is necessarily dependent on those records being locatable in the first place. And an agency simply cannot do that properly for any emails (let alone all such emails) that have been created, and are maintained, entirely beyond the agency’s reach. Or, as it sometimes is said somewhat cynically in the FOIA community, “You can’t disclose what you can’t find.”

In this case, which is truly unprecedented, no matter what Secretary Clinton would have one believe, she managed successfully to insulate her official emails, categorically, from the FOIA, both during her tenure at State and long after her departure from it—perhaps forever. “Nice work if you can get it,” one might say, especially if your experience during your husband’s presidency gives you good reason (nay, even highly compelling motivation) to relegate unto yourself such control if at all possible.

… [T]here is the compounding fact that Secretary Clinton did not merely use a personal email account; she used one that atypically operated solely through her own personal email server, which she evidently had installed in her home. This meant that, unlike the multitudes who use a Gmail account, for instance, she was able to keep her communications entirely “in house,” even more deeply within her personal control. No “cloud” for posterity, or chance of Google receiving a congressional subpoena—not for her. No potentially pesky “metadata” surrounding her communications or detailed server logs to complicate things. And absolutely no practical constraint on her ability to dispose of any official email of “hers,” for any reason, at any time, entirely on her own. Bluntly put, when this unique records regime was established, somebody was asleep at the switch, at either the State Department or the National Archives and Records Administration (which oversees compliance with the Federal Records Act)—or both.

But having spent a quarter-century at the forefront of the government’s administration of the FOIA, including its transition to electronic records and its involvement in so many Clinton administration “scandals du jour,” I know full well that both what Secretary Clinton arranged to do and what she now has said about that are, to put it most charitably, not what either the law or anything close to candor requires. At a minimum, it was a blatant circumvention of the FOIA by someone who unquestionably knows better and an attempted verbal “cover” of the situation (if not “cover-up”) that is truly reminiscent of years past.

Now, Mr. Metcalfe isn’t a conservative smelling blood in the water; he said he would still vote for Hillary if she were to become the Democratic nominee in 2016. Nevertheless, “asleep at the switch,” that seems to be a characteristic of the Obama administration regarding how it conducts its foreign affairs. For Clinton, it adds to the negative narrative about her and former President Bill Clinton. They’re secretive, and worst of all; they play by their own rules. The public has every right to verify if these hypotheses about public figures are true - especially ones who are running for president.

At the same time, Hillary has a history of being inauthentic, even going back to her 2000 New York Senate campaign. Republican strategist Mike Murphy used the phrase” duplicitous” to describe her then-Senate campaign, noting that she was trying to market herself as a centrist Democrat when she obviously falls into the lefty, progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Yet, getting back to 2016 rumblings, it appears the former Secretary of State’s server was vulnerable to “spoofing,” where hackers–or foreign governments–impersonate her in emails to her various contacts. Guy will have more on this later today, but will this server be handed over to a third party for an investigation? No. Clinton said it would remain private at her UN Presser last week. Also, since it was established in a private residence, it affords her additional legal protections from criminal, civil, or administrative subpoenas.

Well, Happy Sunshine Week, everyone.

Katie Pavlich - Obama Administration Hits Another Grim Record on Lack of Government Transparency
Posted: 3/18/2015 3:30:00 PM EST

Everybody knows by now that when President Obama promised before taking office in January 2009 that he would lead "the most transparent administration in United States history," he didn't mean it. In fact, you could argue he was planning to do the exact opposite. During Obama's six year long tenure, the administration has become the least transparent in American history and things just got worse. 

According to new analysis from the Associated Press, which is currently suing the State Department for access to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails, the Obama administration has set another record in censorship and a lack of response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Emphasis is mine. 

The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law - but only when it was challenged.

Its backlog of unanswered requests at year's end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

Unless you have highly paid attorneys working for you, don't expect your FOIA requests for newsworthy information to be answered. Even when an attorney is available, the process of suing takes so long, the information eventually obtained is often ignored and considered old news.

Last year the United States fell to 46th in the world for press freedom according to a ranking compiled annually by Reporters Without Borders. 

Reporters from outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets have described the Obama administration as "control freak" and the "most closed they've ever covered." It should also be noted the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act more than any other administration to prosecute reporter sources. In 2013, the Obama administration was caught spying on reporters and their parents.  

Opacity breeds corruption, which explains a lot about the legacy the scandal plagued Obama administration will leave behind.

Christine Rousselle - Gosnell Movie Lands a Director, Will Now Be Theatrical Release
Posted: 3/18/2015 2:00:00 PM EST

Gosnell, a movie about convicted murderer and former abortionist Kermit Gosnell that was crowd-funded on IndieGoGo in the largest movie campaign ever, will be directed by Justified actor Nick Searcy and will now be a theatrical release. Previously, producers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda intended on making Gosnell a TV movie.

Gosnell raised nearly 2.3 million dollars on IndieGoGo from more than 27,000 donors. The film will be a crime drama, not a documentary.

From an update on the IndieGoGo page:

From the moment we told Nick Searcy about this project, he offered enthusiastic support and, as you know, recorded a video to help with the original fundraising campaign.

Nick has just finished filming the sixth and final season of his hit cable show Justified and says that he is both excited and humbled by the opportunity to direct the GOSNELL movie. We are delighted he has agreed to join the project because of his great talent and, just as importantly, because he cares so deeply about the story.

Nick has said that he feels a great responsibility to you, our investors, to answer and explore three important aspects of the story: what really happened In that anonymous brick building in West Philadelphia, why was it allowed to happen, and most importantly, why did no one want to talk about it after it happened?

The film will be written by Andrew Klavan. There is no targeted release date yet.

Daniel Doherty - Trump on 2016: 'I'm Forming An Exploratory Committee'
Posted: 3/18/2015 1:00:00 PM EST

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

Today, Donald J. Trump, the globally renowned business mogul, announced he is forming an exploratory committee to determine whether he will run for the office of the President of the United States of America.

Donald Trump stated, “I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble. We have lost the respect of the entire world. Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians --- who are all talk and no action! I have built a great company, created thousands of jobs and built a tremendous net worth with some of the finest and most prestigious assets in the world --- and very little debt! All Americans deserve the same opportunity. Our real unemployment rate is staggering while our manufacturing base is eroding on a daily basis. We must rebuild our infrastructure, control our borders, support local control of education, greatly strengthen our military, care for our veterans and put Americans back to work! We must stop other countries from totally taking advantage of our representatives who are being out-negotiated at every turn. I am the only one who can make America truly great again!”

“Mr. Trump has the vision and leadership skills to bring our country back to greatness,” Trump’s Senior Political Adviser Corey Lewandowski also added, according to the press release. “He has run an extremely successful corporation for many years. During that time, he has created thousands of jobs. Mr. Trump has a proven ability to present real solutions and get things done. He looks forward to meeting with Americans across the country and sharing those solutions to the serious problems we are facing.”

Sound familiar? This is essentially the argument Mitt Romney made in 2012 that worked so well. As a seasoned business executive, he argued that his massive fortune coupled with his exceptional business record (among other things) qualified him to be president of the United States. The problem is, Trump has never served in government as Romney had -- nor does he have experience running as many state or national campaigns. He’s a political novice. So I have to ask: Is forming an exploratory committee a serious step forward to running for president or a publicity stunt to gain media attention and more time in front of the cameras?

For what it’s worth, Trump’s name doesn’t even register in early polling and despite his many great accomplishments he will look out of place running for the nomination (especially as an outspoken birther) against serious leaders with lots of experience. But then again, this is a free country and if he wants to run, I see no reason why he couldn't.

I just don’t expect him to do all that well before calling it quits. We'll see.

Daniel Doherty - Developing: Terrorist Attack in Tunis Leaves at Least 17 Tourists Dead
Posted: 3/18/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Gunmen stormed a popular museum in Tunisia’s capital on Wednesday, killing 19 people, including 17 tourists, before two of the attackers were slain by security forces, the interior ministry said.

About 200 tourists were visiting the Bardo National Museum, located near parliament in central Tunis, when the armed men charged into the building, Tunisian state radio quoted a ministry spokesman as saying. Besides the 17 tourists, one museum staff member was killed.

Many of the victims were from Europe. Meanwhile, Tunisia’s prime minister also said that several of the suspected gunmen are still on the loose:

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 21 people were killed: 17 tourists, two gunmen, a Tunisian security officer and a Tunisian cleaning woman. He said the dead tourists came from Italy, Poland, Germany and Spain.

He said two or three of the attackers remained at large.

And who is responsible for such a brazen and cowardly act? At this time we don’t know, but perhaps it’s not a mystery:

Sit tight for updates.


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