Guy Benson - Battleground Poll: Obama Disapproval Climbs to 57 Percent
Posted: 7/21/2014 5:45:00 PM EST

Politico's latest public opinion survey of competitive 2014 states and districts is reminiscent of NPR's similarly-designed poll released a month ago. President Obama's job approval rating is underwater by double digits (43/57), while the GOP owns a two-point edge on the generic Congressional ballot (which typically favors Democrats), and a seven-point lead on foreign policy. A 45 percent plurality of battleground voters support repealing Obamacare, with an additional 38 percent backing changes to the law. Fewer than one in five favor leaving Democrats' signature healthcare experiment intact. For all of their "fix, don't nix" rhetoric, Congressional Democrats' 2015 budget proposed zero changes to Obamacare, as liberal Senators and pundits alike continue to blindly extol its implementation:


The Washington Post, meanwhile, adds yet another data point to the very long list of worrisome 2014 turnout indicators for Democrats:

What's perhaps most notable, though, is the partisan difference. Republican primary turnout overtook Democratic turnout for the first time in 2010, and that difference is even bigger this primary season. This is hardly the first warning sign when it comes to Democrats' turnout problem...But if it portends anything close to what's coming in the 2014 election, that's really, really troubling for Democrats.

I'll leave you with one last tidbit from the poll:


Christine Rousselle - U.S. Territories Suddenly Exempt from Major Obamacare Requirements
Posted: 7/21/2014 2:25:00 PM EST

Good news for the residents of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, et. al: according to a memo quietly posted on the HHS website last Thursday, Obamacare's coverage provisions no longer apply in these areas.

After a careful review of this situation and the relevant statutory language, HHS has determined that the new provisions of the PHS Act enacted in title I are appropriately governed by the definition of "state" set forth in that title, and therefore that these new provisions do not apply to the territories. This means that the following Affordable Care Act requirements will not apply to individual or group health insurance issuers in the U.S. territories: 1 guaranteed availability (Act section 2702), community rating (PHS Act section 2701), single risk pool (Affordable Care Act section 1312(c)), rate review (PHS Act section 2794), medical loss ratio (PHS Act section 2718), and essential health benefits (PHS Act section 2707). Specifically, under this interpretation, the definition of "state" set forth in the PHS Act will apply only to PHS Act requirements in place prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, or subsequently enacted in legislation that does not include a separate definition of "state" (as the Affordable Care Act does).

Naturally, this is a complete 180 from the rhetoric espoused by the HHS last year. Under Obamacare, insurance companies operating in America's territories had to accept every insurance applicant, but residents of the territories were not subject to the individual mandate and did not have to actually purchase insurance while still healthy. Additionally, subsidies were not available to residents of territories; only for people living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a result of the law, insurance companies threatened to stop selling new plans altogether in American territories.

When territory officials asked for government leniency last year, they were told that there was nothing possible to remedy this problem:

"HHS, at the request of and with full support from territories, confirmed the Affordable Care Act's market reform provisions that are incorporated into the PHS Act, including the guaranteed availability provision, are applicable to the territories," Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Gary Cohen wrote in a July letter to territorial governors.

"However meritorious your request might be," Cohen continues, "HHS is not authorized to choose which provisions...might apply to the territories."

While it is certainly a good thing that the insurance market in these areas isn't going to be completely destroyed, it is somewhat troubling that the administration is continuing to pick and choose its definition of a state depending on the situation. Congress is supposed to write and change laws--not the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cortney O'Brien - Lena Dunham’s Book Tour May Be Coming to a Local Church Near You
Posted: 7/21/2014 2:00:00 PM EST

Lena Dunham isn’t exactly the first person you’d expect to see singing hymns in the pew behind you. Starring in the raunchy HBO show ‘Girls’ and bragging that voting for President Obama during the 2012 election for the “first time” was like losing her virginity are just a couple examples of Dunham’s racy behavior that would make any Christian blush. But, the controversial actress is embarking on a tour for her new book, “Not That Kind of Girl,” coming out in September, that will take place in some churches around the country.

On her tour, Dunham will be reading excerpts from her book, and answering questions from the audience and specials guests, according to the official website. A few stops on her tour include Book People at Central Presbyterian Church, Vroman's at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, and University Bookstore at University Temple United Methodist Church.

There are a few problems with these locations. Dunham’s book seems to be full of sexuality and, judging from the language she uses off screen, it’s likely to be laced with profanity as well. Not exactly appropriate material for a house of God, is it? Here’s just part of her description:

This book contains stories about wonderful nights with terrible boys and terrible days with wonderful friends, about ambition and the two existential crises I had before the age of twenty. About fashion and its many discontents. About publicly sharing your body, having to prove yourself in a meeting full of 50 year old men, and the health fears (tinnitus, lamp dust, infertility) that keep me up at night. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you with this book, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or having the kind of sexual encounter where you keep your sneakers on.

In addition to the book’s controversial content, Dunham will also be promoting Planned Parenthood during the events:

Plus, you’ll learn more about organizations close to Lena’s heart, including a special partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest abortion giant - a fact which is no secret to Townhall readers. To promote the organization in church is cruel and out of place, for several bible verses condemn abortion as a sin (“Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

Sadly (shockingly?), most of Dunham’s book tour events are sold out.

Churches should be filled with Bibles - not Lena Dunham’s sexually explicit books.

Guy Benson - Evidence: Russia Implicated in MH17 Attack, Europe Weighs Tougher Sanctions
Posted: 7/21/2014 1:05:00 PM EST

Officials at the US Embassy in Kiev took the extraordinary step of releasing to the public a great deal of intelligence on the downed airliner attack this weekend, which clearly points the finger at Moscow. The case against Russia was built in a strikingly candid and prosecutorial blog post on the embassy's official website. Damning:

We assess that Flight MH17 was likely downed by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. We base this judgment on several factors. Over the past month, we have detected an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine. Last weekend, Russia sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to the separatist[s]. We also have information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia, and this effort included training on air defense systems. Pro-Russian separatist fighters have demonstrated proficiency with surface-to-air missile systems and have downed more than a dozen aircraft over the past few months, including two large transport aircraft. At the time that flight MH17 dropped out of contact, we detected a surface-to-air missile (SAM) launch from a separatist-controlled area in southeastern Ukraine. We believe this missile was an SA-11. Intercepts of separatist communications posted on YouTube by the Ukrainian government indicate the separatists were in possession of a SA-11 system as early as Monday July 14th. In the intercepts, the separatists made repeated references to having and repositioning Buk (SA-11) systems...

Shortly after the crash, separatists – including the self-proclaimed “Defense Minister” of the Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Strelkov – claimed responsibility for shooting down a military transport plane on social media. In an intercepted conversation that has been widely posted on the internet, a known-separatist leader tells another person that a separatist faction downed the aircraft. After it became evident that the plane was a civilian airliner, separatists deleted social media posts boasting about shooting down a plane and possessing a Buk (SA-11) SAM system. Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by Intelligence Community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders, based on comparing the Ukraine-released internet audio to recordings of known separatists.

CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is struck by how unusual the move was:

The post also noted that the SA-11 missile system was seen being spirited back into Russia on Saturday -- and that it was missing a single missile from its arsenal, "suggesting it had conducted a launch." A Business Insider piece lays out much of the same information, including photographic evidence (which Russia denies), screenshots from since-deleted social media posts, and partial transcripts of several incriminating separatist phone conversations, intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence and authenticated by the United States. One such discussion demonstrates how keen the Kremlin was to get ahold of the jetliner's "black box:"

When a rebel, Oleksiy, says he doesn’t know who has them, the leader responds: “Do it really quick. Urgently. Moscow asks where the boxes are." The rebel at the site says monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are there. The leader tells him they are interested in the black boxes. “They must be under our control,” he says. In the second tape, the rebel leader again alludes to outside influences: "Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the 'black boxes.' I mean people from Moscow."

The Moscow-backed rebels restricted access to the crash site for days, scrubbing the scene of evidence, and treating human remains with appalling disrespect. While many European leaders were reluctant to participate in heavy sanctions against Russian interests following Moscow's invasion-by-thinly-veiled-proxy of sovereign Ukrainian territory earlier this year, the MH17 bloodbath appears to have stirred strong passions on the continent. The Washington Post reports that world opinion is shifting swiftly and decisively against Russia:

In the global court of public opinion, the verdict appears to be rendered. Vladimir Putin is guilty. The Russian president could once claim a semblance of a role as a global statesman. But with the downing of a commercial airliner by what U.S. and Ukrainian officials suggest was a Russian missile, supplied to pro-Moscow rebels, Putin was facing a personal barrage of worldwide condemnation that threatened to result in further sanctions on Russia if it did not rapidly change course in Ukraine. Australia has raised the prospect of banning Putin from a meeting of the Group of 20, the world’s most powerful nations, in November if he did not exert more pressure on the rebels who left corpses strewn on the ground for days, contaminated the crash site and hampered an international investigation. Britain, meanwhile, openly accused the Russian leader of sponsoring “terrorism.” ... Particularly in Europe — a continent long leery of going too far to pressure Moscow over its support of separatists in Ukraine — initial shock was quickly gathering into outrage and action. On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint phone call on Russia. A Downing Street spokesman said the three leaders agreed that the European Union “must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday.” ... It suggested a possible turning point in the way Europe — the region with the most economic leverage over Russia — has tactically managed Putin to date...The change was spurred by horrific scenes of dead bodies left uncollected at the crash site, and, later, by the unceremonious loading of corpses onto trains.

With the UK explicitly calling for stepped up sanctions -- much to the chagrin of Russian oligarchs -- the separatists/terrorists have finally relented, granting international observers "nearly unfettered" access to the crash site. But those monitors are still struggling to gain access to the black box, and pro-Russia militias have detained reporters seeking to gather facts about the status of the dead. So what's next? Though President Obama's statement this morning did virtually nothing in the way of answering the critical "or else what?" question, Canada has announced a fresh round of sanctions against Russia, and the EU appears to be mobilizing:

I'll leave you with video of Obama's toughest talk yet in laying the MH17 attack at Moscow's feet. But he doesn't even hint at consequences -- leading a number of media analysts to publicly wonder what the point of the statement was:


Katie Pavlich - Former Clinton Advisor Lanny Davis: Time For a Special Prosecutor to Look Into IRS Scandal
Posted: 7/21/2014 1:00:00 PM EST

For months Republicans on Capitol Hill have been calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Those calls got louder in June when IRS officials claimed they "lost" thousands of emails belonging to Lois Lerner, the woman in charge of tax exempt organizations at the agency during the time tea party groups were singled out for extra scrutiny.

Now former Clinton advisor Lanny Davis is also calling for a special prosecutor, albeit for a different reason.

First, It's refreshing to finally see a Democrat call for a special prosecutor considering Democrats on the Hill have been offering a full-throated defense of the IRS for month, even after hardly credible claims of lost emails and recycled hard drives. That being said, Davis' claim there is no evidence to show the IRS targeting was politically based is just not true. In fact, the vast majority of evidence we have so far shows the opposite. Lerner herself admitted in email that she couldn't think of liberal groups that were being looked at for extra scrutiny, only conservative groups came to mind. Further, considering officials from the Department of Justice were working with the IRS on ways to criminally charge conservative groups, I have no doubt a special prosecutor would hurt Attorney General Eric Holder, not help him as Davis argues.

Second, it's unfortunate Davis only wants a special prosecutor for the sake of optics rather than getting to the truth, but we'll take what we can get I suppose.

Daniel Doherty - Obama: It's Time for Russia to "Get Serious"
Posted: 7/21/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

There are lots of moving parts to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. Over the weekend, the US government released considerable evidence that the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 was almost certainly perpetrated by pro-Russian separatists. Since the beginning, of course, the evidence has always pointed back to Moscow, but now, it seems, we have circumstantial proof. This is significant. At the same time, western leaders are taking increasingly pointed measures to ensure a fair and impartial investigation still comes to fruition. An Australian-proposed UN resolution that would put its own organization in charge of those efforts, thus removing Moscow-backed separatists from tampering with -- and blocking off -- sections of the crime scene, is up for a vote later today.

Meanwhile, from a humanitarian perspective, the victims of this heinous crime have been treated with anything but dignity and respect. This is why the Netherlands is demanding the bodies be returned to them immediately, some of whom have reportedly been neglected, pillaged, and left to rot in the sun. The remains of at least 200 victims still languish on “refrigerated boxcars” outside the crash scene.

It is through this backdrop, then, that the president of the United States addressed the nation today from the southern lawn of the White House.

“It’s now been four days since Malaysian flight MH17 was shot down,” he said. “Over the last several days our hearts have been absolutely broken as we’ve learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost.”

“Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost,” he added. “We have to make sure the truth is out and accountability exists. “

He also explained that personnel were already deployed to Ukraine to commence a full-scale investigation.

“International investigators are on the ground -- I’ve sent teams, other countries have sent teams,” he said. “What they need is full and immediate access to the crash site.”

“Recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred task of recovering those who are lost,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the Russian-backed separatists continue to block the investigation,” he continued. “All of which begs the question, what are they trying to hide?” he said.

He noted that Russia has “extraordinary” influence over the separatists, and urged President Putin to use that influence to help broker an “unimpeded” investigation.

“More broadly, as I’ve said through this crisis and the crisis in Ukraine directly -- and I’ve said this to President Putin and publicly --I want to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine,” he explained. “Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy they’ve been taken and get serious.”

“The world deserves to know exactly what happened,” he said.

Cortney O'Brien - ‘Women’s Equality Party’ Could Be a Ballot Line  in NY
Posted: 7/21/2014 11:15:00 AM EST

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act was rejected by Republicans for its pro-abortion language. Now, in light of this blockage and the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, Cuomo and other Democratic leaders in New York are seeking to add a ‘Women’s Equality Party’ to the ballot line in November.

Cuomo’s running mate for Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, the first woman to be nominated for that position, revealed the new ballot line last week during a press conference in New York City, declaring they were going to “mobilize women and supporters all across the state.” The timing is no coincidence, given that left-wing Democrats are anything but happy with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to grant Hobby Lobby religious freedom from having to provide their employees abortion-inducing drugs. Liberals decried the 5-4 outcome as a “war on women.”

Hochul has to receive at least 15,000 petition signatures for the ‘Women’s Equality Party’ to become a reality - a goal which has Democrats already hard at work. If the ballot line is approved, Cuomo would have four spots on the ballot, along with Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines.

The proposed party has received endorsements from figures like Christie Brinkley and Lena Dunham.

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s Republican challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is accusing the governor of waging the real war on women by trying to push through his pro-abortion Women’s Equality Act. From his strongly worded press release Thursday:

“[Gov. Cuomo] let pro-women legislation die in order to appease radical members of the abortion lobby who contribute resources to his campaigns.”

In that same message, Astorino also pointed out Cuomo’s hypocrisy on women’s rights when he refused to investigate a political sexual abuse scandal in the state:

“[Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver covered up sexual abuse of young interns and staffers for years, using hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to pay off victims, and Andrew Cuomo protected him from criminal investigation after Silver got caught doing it,” Mr. Astorino said.

Astorino makes important points. Governor Cuomo’s seemingly selfish agenda of putting politics over women needs to be exposed. And, for all his talk about “equality,” he certainly forgets about that freedom when it comes to unborn children.

The last thing this governor with skewed priorities needs is another line on the ballot.

Guy Benson - WH: We Haven't Changed the President's Schedule Amid Crises Because it Might Scare People
Posted: 7/21/2014 10:21:00 AM EST

On Thursday, we chronicled President Obama's series of decisions to carry on with his public schedule -- a burger joint photo op, a partisan speech on infrastructure spending, and a pair of Manhattan fundraisers -- in the midst of two major international crises. First, Russian-backed and -armed separatists in Ukraine shot down a commercial airliner, killing nearly 300 innocent civilians, including one American. The attack marked a dramatic and lethal escalation of the war in Eastern Ukraine, in which Russia is a malignant and destructive actor. New evidence appears to indicate that Moscow has been highly interested in obtaining the flight's so-called 'black box' recording device, as Moscow-backed separatists restrict access to the crash site. The rebels say they'll turn that evidence over to the UN…at some point. Meanwhile, Israel launched a ground incursion into Gaza, a move that reportedly caught the White House by surprise. The conflict escalated over the weekend, as 13 IDF soldiers were killed by Hamas, and the Israeli military reports that heavily-armed terrorists entered its nation's territory wearing IDF uniforms -- allegedly with the intent of taking hostages. Pro-Hamas protesters are rioting and setting things on fire in Paris (we've already covered their proclivity toward anti-Semitic violence), and Turkey's "moderate" leader stated that Israel has "surpassed Hitler in barbarism" because of its anti-terrorist operations. And yet, the American president has chosen to forge ahead with run-of-the-mill, partisan activities, and is gearing up for a series of star-studded Hollywood fundraisers. The New York Times published a story over the weekend entitled, "Sticking to His Travel Plans, at Risk of Looking Bad -- Obama Maintains Schedule Despite World Crises." The problematic optics are readily apparent:

As smoke billowed from the downed Malaysian jetliner in the fields of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, President Obama pressed ahead with his schedule: a cheeseburger with fries at the Charcoal Pit in Delaware, a speech about infrastructure and two splashy fund-raisers in New York City. The potential for jarring split-screen imagery was clear. Reports of charred bodies and a ground-to-air missile attack from Eastern Europe dominated television screens while photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Mr. Obama holding a toddler at the restaurant. The presidential motorcade was later filmed pulling up to Trump Place Apartments, the Riverside Avenue venue for his first fund-raiser. And yet, White House aides said no consideration was given to abandoning the president’s long-planned schedule, even during the hourlong flight from Delaware to New York, when word suddenly arrived that Israel had begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, providing the day’s second international challenge.

The White House's justification for its astounding public attitude nonchalance is the supposed desire to not worry the pretty little heads of the American people:

“It is rarely a good idea to return to the White House just for show, when the situation can be handled responsibly from the road,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. “Abrupt changes to his schedule can have the unintended consequence of unduly alarming the American people or creating a false sense of crisis.

A false sense of crisis? Sure, the US isn't under imminent threat of an alien invasion, but the current crises are no less "false" than the recent spate of administration scandals are "phony." This entire explanation is insulting. I understand that this president's political team tends to hold the public's collective intelligence in rather low regard -- they've counted on it, in fact -- but this is beyond parody. With major and combustible geopolitical events playing out across the globe, the American people are mature enough to understand if Obama had taken his burger to go, while backing out of an unimportant speech and a couple of DNC fundraisers. Such actions wouldn't have touched off widespread panic across the country, Ms. Palmieri's excuses notwithstanding. Citizens would have intuitively internalized that the president's deviation from lesser responsibilities were necessary to handle the difficult job he was hired to do. (Also, shouldn't a Russia-aided terrorist attack and thousands of rockets being fired at our closest ally in the Middle East be alarming to the American people?) This president doesn't appear interested in the hard work of governing or leading in chaotic times. At least that's the impression he's left over and over again. That list, incidentally, is not even close to comprehensive, and was published prior to the events of the last week. Republicans' complaints may be predictable, but don't think our allies and adversaries alike aren't paying attention. President Obama's overwhelming priority seems to be raising money for his political party -- a task with which he's extremely familiar, and quite prolific:

On Thursday morning, President Obama is off to a party fundraiser in New York. Next week, he’s flying to the west coast for another fundraiser with the Hollywood glitterati. When Obama was in Denver last week, he attended no less than four cash-gathering events in the space of 24 hours. In his first term, Obama attended more fundraising events than any other president in recent history. According to author Brendan J. Doherty, from 2008 to 2012 Obama went to 321 events, compared to just 80 for Ronald Reagan. And, as the chart below shows, he’s done 72 events in his second term – 34 this year alone. So far, he’s ahead of the pace of George W. Bush, who had been to 30 events at this point in 2006. In his two presidential terms combined, Bush hosted 318 fundraisers. Obama has already smashed that number with 393 events to date.

Presidents are the de facto leaders of their parties, and fundraising is part of the job. Conservatives shouldn't try to argue that Barack Obama ought not hold these events on behalf of Democrats at all, or reflexively complain when he blows off some steam on the links (which he did again just yesterday, of course). But any American Commander-in-Chief should carefully weigh how his or her public actions and activities appear within a wider context. The Obama White House's pattern of tone deaf scheduling decisions in the middle of crises has been nothing short of astonishing. By the way, those who are most aggressively defending Obama's 'no big deal' posture over the last few days are largely the same group who will never forgive President Bush for taking a few minutes to finish reading The Pet Goat to a group of elementary school students after being informed of the 9/11 attack. I'll leave you with this clip of Fox News' Chris Wallace confronting John Kerry with a 'hot mic' video in which the Secretary of State appears to deride Israel's "pinpoint operation:"

Kerry's response wasn't too bad, considering the potential for embarrassment -- and at least he seems to possess some appropriate sense of urgency. Parting note: It's been reported that Hamas rockets were being stored in a UN-backed school (which apparently handed the weapons right back to Hamas), and that top terrorists have been using a hospital as their base of operations.

UPDATE - Several panelists on MSNBC's Morning Joe burst into laughter this morning over the White House's explanation (via Noah Rothman):

Matt Vespa - Oh Look! It's The ATF Targeting Minorities In Drug Stings
Posted: 7/21/2014 9:30:00 AM EST

So, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is back in the news for possibly targeting minorities in drug sting operations. The controversial law enforcement agency has been trying to nab criminals by offering them $100,000 to raid drug stash houses that don’t exist. The problem is the number of people arrested by ATF seem to be overwhelmingly black and Latino (via USA TODAY):

At least 91% of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, USA TODAY found after reviewing court files and prison records from across the United States. Nearly all were either black or Hispanic. That rate is far higher than among people arrested for big-city violent crimes, or for other federal robbery, drug and gun offenses.

The ATF operations raise particular concerns because they seek to enlist suspected criminals in new crimes rather than merely solving old ones, giving agents and their underworld informants unusually wide latitude to select who will be targeted. In some cases, informants said they identified targets for the stings after simply meeting them on the street.

"There's something very wrong going on here," said University of Chicago law professor Alison Siegler, part of a team of lawyers challenging the ATF's tactics in an Illinois federal court. "The government is creating these crimes and then choosing who it's going to target."

Justice Department lawyers fought to block the disclosures. In one case in Chicago, the department refused to comply with another judge's order that it produce information about the stings. The records it has so far produced in other cases remain sealed.

Because of that secrecy, the data compiled by USA TODAY offer the broadest evidence yet that ATF's operations have overwhelmingly had minority suspects in their cross hairs. The newspaper identified a sample of 635 defendants arrested in stash-house stings during the past decade, and found 579, or 91%, were minorities.

The ATF declined to explain how it selects the stings' targets, other than to say its agents rely on criminal records, police intelligence files and confidential informants to identify people already responsible for violent robberies. Still, court records raise questions about how and where those informants go about finding suspects.

In one case in San Diego, a government informant, identified in court records only by the pseudonym "Tony," testified that he sometimes approached people on the street to see if they wanted to commit a drug robbery. Which streets, defense attorney John Kirby asked.

"Different neighborhoods. I have targeted all kinds of areas," the informant replied.

"Do you do it in La Jolla?" Kirby asked, referring to the well-to-do seaside section of San Diego.

"I'm not familiar with La Jolla," he replied.

"Scripps Ranch?" Kirby asked, referring to another.


Kirby, a former federal prosecutor, said it was clear to him ATF informants were "trolling what was almost exclusively an African-American neighborhood, and there aren't a lot of those in San Diego.

Brad Heath, who wrote the article for USA Today, also noted that this drug sting operation executed by ATF is already under legal scrutiny, with two federal judges in California saying they were unconstitutional. Heath noted that judges who signed off on some of the stings felt unnerved by them. Last year, the chief federal judge in Chicago, U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, ordered the Department of Justice to release documents relating to these stings since there was "strong showing of potential bias."

This isn’t the first squib load ATF has encountered in their efforts to enforce federal laws. As my colleague Katie Pavlich reported in April, the ATF allegedly targeted the mentally challenged in their storefront operations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Pavlich also documented another ATF foul-up in Beer City, where agents and the local police forgot to remove sensitive documents after a storefront operation was shut down; those sensitive documents had the names, vehicles, and contact information of undercover ATF agents on them.

Then, there was the case that showed the ATF was losing track of the firearms issued to their agents, with some leaving their weapons in bathroom stalls, movie theaters, and hospitals. In one case, an agent left a government-issued firearm on top of a vehicle and drove away.

So, nice work, ATF; thanks for keeping our neighborhoods safe.

Katie Pavlich - Cartels Fire on Border Patrol in Texas
Posted: 7/21/2014 7:30:00 AM EST

Over the weekend Border Patrol agents were fired upon by cartels operating on the border in Texas. According to Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, who represents Texas' First Congressional District, and Border Patrol agents, shots may have come from a high powered .50 caliber rifle. More from Fox News:

U.S. Border Patrol agents on the American side of the Rio Grande were forced to take cover Friday night when high-caliber weaponry was fired at them from the Mexican side of the river, sources told

The weapons were fired at the U.S. side of the riverbank in the area of the Rincon Peninsula across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico, at about 8:30 p.m., sources said. Bullets ricocheted into an area where Border Patrol agents were positioned, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told

Border Patrol sources confirmed Gohmert's account, and said the shots may have been fired by .50-caliber weapons.

"We don't have any armor that can stop a .50-caliber round, so our Border Patrol agents had to take cover when the rounds were richocheting around them," said Gohmert, who has been in the area for the last week to get a first-hand look at the border situation.

Sources said they believe the gunfire came from members of Mexican drug cartels, which include former military members trained in shooting that type of weaponry.

As the influx of illegal immigrants continues to overwhelm Border Patrol facilities and agent resources, cartels are operating with impunity. In Arizona as agents change diapers and change bed sheets, drug runners continue to operate and transport narcotics into the United States.

"We have all of these juveniles so they're pulling agents out of the field to come in and babysit them basically," a source said last month. "They're cancelling some of our specialty details for our crews who go out and work the mountains, calling them back in and telling them they have to work the processing center because there are so many people in there."

As this crisis has gotten worse, illegal immigration has become a top priority for American voters.