Over the weekend former CBS Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson appeared on Fox News' Media Buzz to talk in detail about why she left the news network.
Now there have always been tensions, there have always been calls from the White House under any administration I assume, when they don’t like a particular story. But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized, that’s designed to have sort of a chilling effect and to some degree has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it. Why put on these controversial stories that we’re going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?
After watching the first part of the interview (part two will air this weekend), it seems a few major points were made.
1. News networks, not just including CBS, are lacking an appetite for deep, long-term investigative reporting. In the age of new media, Twitter and the incredibly fast pace of news, it seems newsrooms aren't investing the time or resources in projects that can't be done immediately.
2. The Obama administration has created an atmosphere in Washington of fear and intimidation toward reporters, hence the reason why investigative work isn't being pursued as aggressively as it was under the Bush administration. First we have the revelations that the Department of Justice spied on reporters from the Associated Press, Fox News and other outlets and went so far as to monitor the phones lines belonging to the parents of Fox News Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen. Second, we know the White House and Department of Justice regularly work with a certain tax-exempt group (that shall not be named) to smear reporters who dare look into and report on Obama administration scandals. Third, the White House been sued multiple times for failing to properly respond to Freedom of Information Requests. Fourth, President Obama has used the Espionage Act to punish people inside government for talking to reporters more than any other president in U.S. history. When the sources dry up, so do the investigative stories.
3. Corporate interests in bed with big government have a heavy hand when it comes to pushing back on newsrooms and reporters for exposing corruption and relationships with public officials and agencies.
4. Calling scandals "political" is a way to shut down debate and a tactic used to frame an issue as unimportant and irrelevant.
As an outside observer, I'm not willing to let the majority of reporters and their bosses slide on the fact that under the Bush administration they were extremely interested in every aspect of what the administration was doing (as they should have been) while under the Obama administration are willing to ignore major scandals like IRS targeting, Benghazi, Fast and Furious and others. It isn't only because of Obama's chilling effect, but because Obama is a Democrat and Bush was a Republican. Not to mention, the President of CBS News is David Rhodes. His brother, Ben Rhodes, serves as a deputy national security advisor at the White House.
In February IRS officials announced employees will be receiving bonuses in order to boost morale after the scandal broke about the agency inappropriately targeting conservative tea party groups.
Citing the need to boost employee morale, the Internal Revenue Service’s new commissioner said Monday that he will pay out millions of dollars in bonuses to agency employees, reversing a decision his predecessor made to save money amid the sequester budget cuts and other belt-tightening last year.
The agency remains under fire for targeting tea party groups, but Commissioner John Koskinen said the bonuses are needed to retain and attract good employees in a time of cutbacks.
Despite declarations from the IRS and its Democratic defenders, IRS targeting has not ended and dozens of conservative groups are still waiting for their tax exempt status after years of answering prying and detailed questions from the agency.
Now, a group of conservative lawmakers in the House are demanding Congress vote to strip the IRS of bonus privileges. More from Breitbart News:
A group of conservative House members led by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) is writing to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee to press for cutting off IRS employee bonuses in the division of the agency that targeted Tea Party groups.
“IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced in February of this year his decision to pay out bonuses to IRS employees to improve ‘employee morale,’” Gosar and six other House conservatives wrote to Appropriations chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). “We find these payouts to be particularly offensive given that the morale of countless Americans was crushed by the IRS. We understand, though, that not every IRS employee was responsible for the misdeeds—it seems that the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division was primarily responsible for these unjust actions. That is why we are seeking only to prohibit this division’s bonuses in the upcoming appropriations process.”
The letter, which was sent on April 2 but is becoming public for the first time now after being provided exclusively to Breitbart News, is the second in a series of letters Gosar is writing to pressure the man in House Republican leadership--Rogers, as the Appropriations chairman--who can actually stop wasteful spending by refusing to appropriate it in spending bills.
If this legislation were to pass the House this year, it would present a major test for the Senate ahead of the 2014 midterm elections as red state Democrats do everything they can to hold onto their seats.
If Republicans lose in 2016 it will be the sixth time in seven straight presidential contests the party will have lost the popular vote, according to Democratic strategist James Carville. Thus, if they hope to remain a party of influence, he said on This Week With George Stephanopoulos, they better win in 2016:
“The party knows -- and I use this word advisedly -- that if it loses the 2016 presidential election, the Republican Party as we know it today will be extinct.”
Fellow roundtable panelist Laura Ingraham quickly chimed in that Democratic strategists peddled the same talking point back in 2008, only to be proven wrong. How quickly we forget that Republican candidates cleaned up during the 2010 midterm elections, picking up scores of House seats (regaining majority control of that chamber) and a handful of Senate seats, too. Remember, this was only two years after Hope & Change swept the nation; public opinion, in other words, is fickle and impossible to predict.
But that doesn’t stop pundits from making sweeping predictions about the future of the Republican Party if they don’t win the next presidential election. Yes, if Republicans lose to Hillary (or whoever) in 2016, they may have to rethink their outreach efforts or perhaps their positions on certain issues -- but that’s a far cry from saying the party "will be extinct." Odds are that Republicans will control at least one chamber of Congress heading into 2016, if not both -- and may continue to do so after the elections are held. Does this sound like a party, then, that will be completely bereft of influence and power if they don't control the executive branch?
Republicans understand what’s at stake in 2016. Winning the presidency is of the utmost importance. But even if they don’t, the party will not find itself on the ash heap of history -- not yet anyway -- despite what some Democratic strategists and operatives might think.
Shortly after Vladimir Putin's successful annexation of Crimea (via military invasion and sham referendum), the New Republic's Julie Ioffe predicted that Moscow wouldn't stop there:
So far, [Putin] has kept it just to busing in hooligans into eastern Ukraine to act as grassroots pro-Russian protesters. But make no mistake, Putin is about to take eastern Ukraine, too. To wit: On Saturday, the two-week anniversary of the authorization, the Russian foreign ministry was already laying the foundations for such a seizure, saying that it was being flooded with requests from citizens across eastern Ukraine, asking the Russians for protection against the western Ukrainian fascists.
The US has accused Russia of fomenting violent demonstrations in eastern Ukraine, with Ukrainian officials asserting "concrete evidence" of surreptitious "Russian special service" involvement. While the extent of the Kremlin's direct intervention remains murky, it's obvious that Putin's fingerprints are all over the current unrest. The interim government in Kiev issued a deadline for pro-Russian agitators (which may be a euphemism) to pull out of various government buildings that have been seized. Despite the serious-sounding ultimatum, the deadline has come and gone with no immediate consequence. In fact, another Ukrainian police station has been taken. Video:
"The pro-Russian groups [are] well armed, well organized, in uniform," this same correspondent notes in another video dispatch. In other words, these are not your garden variety street protesters. The snippet 1:45 into that news package depicts what appear to be uniformed troops wielding and firing military-style weapons as they storm the station. The situation on the ground is perilous, with Ukraine's government flailing to protect their territorial sovereignty:
Pro-Russian protesters took over a police building in an eastern Ukrainian city on Monday, even as a government deadline for demonstrators to leave occupied facilities in other cities passed with no immediate consequences. Video from a demonstration in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka showed protesters confronting police and walking through the building, which had small fires burning and broken windows. A severely beaten man in a police uniform was taken to an ambulance as onlookers shouted at him. The seizure is a new complication for the government in Kiev. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov had given pro-Russian protesters in other eastern Ukrainian cities until 2 a.m. ET to disarm or face a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" by Ukraine's armed forces. But the deadline passed with no sign that it was heeded in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Slaviansk. There was no movement at the regional government building in Donetsk, which has been occupied for more than a week. In Slaviansk, pro-Russian protesters milled around with makeshift shields outside the occupied police station. Similar deadlines in the past came and went with no consequences. Horlivka, with a population of about 300,000, became at least the 10th city or town in eastern Ukraine where activists have taken over security or government buildings in recent days.
So at least ten cities in eastern Ukraine have seen "activists" storm government buildings, yet Kiev's threat of a retaliatory "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" to oust Russia's puppets has gone unfulfilled. Why? Back to the CNN piece:
When asked why the Ukrainian government had made no apparent move to evict protesters after the deadline passed, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky told reporters that the government still believes in a political solution. Although it wants to avoid bloodshed, the government still will protect the country's territorial integrity, he said Monday in Kiev.
They're paralyzed. On one hand, they recognize that paramilitary, Moscow-backed thugs occupying government buildings within their borders is unacceptable. On the other, actually launching the promised "full-scale" military push back would likely result in more bloodshed, and would hand Putin exactly the pretext for invasion for which he's been angling. So although restraint and talk of "political solutions" may be the wisest move for embattled leaders in Kiev, failing to follow through on previous (and fully justified) threats looks like weakness -- which Putin preys on. (Issuing empty threats rarely ends well when dealing with brutish strongmen). The West, led by the United States, is deliberating over how to to slap Moscow with new sanctions over its obvious and dangerous subterfuge. The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin reports:
The Obama administration is moving quickly to levy new sanctions against Russia, hoping to stop what the U.S. government now sees as a Crimea-style incursion by unmarked Russian troops in several cities in Eastern Ukraine. But so far, America and its European allies can’t agree on how to hit the Vladimir Putin regime for its latest move onto Ukrainian territory, senior Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast....Behind the scenes, there’s shock and alarm inside the Obama administration about the recent actions by Russian forces. A senior administration official told The Daily Beast Sunday that the thinking inside the administration had been to wait until this Thursday before moving forward with any new sanctions. That’s the day U.S., EU, Russian, and Ukrainian governments are scheduled to meet in Geneva. But given the new violence, the Obama administration has now moved to ready sanctions as early as Tuesday, the official said, cautioning that no final decision has been made. State Department, White House, and Treasury Department officials have been reaching out to their European counterparts over the weekend to persuade them to join a new sanctions regime.
Read Rogin's full report for a convincing rundown of the evidence implicating Putin's regime in these so-called "protests." Though the developments themselves are clearly disturbing and destabilizing, how is it that they're being met with "shock and alarm" within the Obama administration? We already knew that US officials were caught off-guard by Russia's illegal Crimea gambit, but seriously -- how is anyone still surprised by Putin's continued aggression? Doesn't anyone at the White House read Julie Ioffe?
UPDATE - With this conflict spiraling, be sure to read this Washington Post report about Hillary "Reset" Clinton's relevant connections to Boeing. Very cozy indeed.
The United States has encouraged Vladimir Putin to continue violating international law by failing to enact anything ‘meaningful or important’ in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday.
His comments on ‘Face the Nation’ come after pro-Russia riots spread into Eastern Ukraine over the weekend, leaving five people wounded and at least one State Security Service officer dead. There is no doubt that Putin is behind the attacks, McCain claimed:
We ought to at least, for God's sake, give [the Ukrainians] some light weapons with which to defend themselves. So far, this administration's not only not done that, but they won't even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government. I can tell you from my conversations with people in the government, they feel abandoned by us. And rightfully so. This is shameful.
Pro-Russian forces remained armed and in control of Ukrainian government buildings Monday, blatantly ignoring the evacuation deadline set by the Ukraine government. McCain called on President Obama to take action:
Where is the president of the United States? Shouldn't the president of the United States be speaking forcefully and strongly? And didn't the president say if they carried out further actions, there would be further sanctions?
When it comes to the Ukraine, the United States has been all talk and no action, McCain claimed, and it is time for America to lead.
Since the resignation of former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week, one big question has surfaced: Will Obamacare be any better or fixed faster now that she's no longer in the picture?
According to a new Rasmussen Report, only a tiny minority of Americans believe Obamacare will get fixed faster now that Sebelius is no longer in charge of the program.
There’s very little expectation that problems with the law will be fixed more quickly by her successor.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe Sebelius is at least somewhat responsible for the problems with the rollout of the national health care law, but 27% disagree, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This includes 21% who say the former Kansas governor is Very Responsible for the problems with the law and just nine percent (9%) who say she is Not At All Responsible.
But only 12% believe the problems with the health care law will be more quickly fixed now that Sebelius is being replaced. Fifty percent (50%) say the change in leadership will not lead to quicker fixes of the new law. A sizable 38% are not sure.
Just 23% of voters consider the health care law a success so far. Eighty-three percent (83%) think Congress should change the law or repeal it.
The new face of Obamacare, former White House Budget Director Sylvia Burwell, has a big challenge ahead of her (if she's confirmed by the Senate) as momentum is behind Republicans when it comes to reform and repeal of the legislation. During her upcoming confirmation hearing, Burwell will be required to answer very specific questions about how the administration plans to "fix" the law after unilaterally changing it without Congress.
Okay, fine. Point granted. Some small "element" of the GOP base absolutely is motivated by racism. Racist people exist. But fascinating data from the early 2000's revealed that the Democratic Party is home to approximately the same number of people who hold racist attitudes. One pertinent data point:
When DCCC Chair Steve Israel spouts off about racist attitudes within the Republican Party, he should be condemning and renouncing "elements" within his own political coalition, too. But that's not what he meant. Because everybody knows that Republicans are the more racist party -- and therefore influential elected Democrats don't hesitate to make generalizations like this:
Crowley: Do you think your Republican colleagues are racist? Israel: Not all of them, no. Of course not. But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.
Not all of them. Care to name some names, and offer some proof, Steve? In fairness to him, though, what was he supposed to say? Nancy Pelosi fired off this racial shot earlier in the week, imputing racist motives to many House Republicans' reluctance to embrace certain immigration reform proposals. Israel's job as DCCC Chair is to restore Pelosi to the House Speakership this fall (essentially an impossible task), so rebuking her was out of the question. The above answer, apparently, was the best he could muster. Pelosi's comments and Israel's uncomfortable wavering are part of a broader Democratic push to energize components of their core supporters by any means necessary. A recent poll showed that crucial pieces of the Obama re-election coalition may sit out 2014, stirring panic on the Left. Single women aren't enthusiastic to vote? Let's revisit a phony "discrimination" issue and hope people won't notice our shameless hypocrisy on the matter. (People have noticed, including liberal columnist Ruth Marcus, who decried Democrats' "revolting demagoguery"). African-Americans may not show up in droves? Dispatch Joe Biden to sound cynical alarms about "voter suppression" -- and remain hopeful that no one will point out that non-whites overwhelmingly support common-sense voter ID laws. And on Latinos and immigration, dust off the Pelosi smear machine, and leave Steve Israel with no choice but to defend her. Journalist Mark Halperin tweeted out this summary of Dems' midterm strategy late last week:
Party of Ideas pic.twitter.com/6Tn80Svgbs— Andrew Stiles (@AndrewStilesUSA) April 11, 2014
It's only mid-April, so things are going to get even uglier -- especially if the polls continue to look ominous. Parting Thought: Do they really believe talking about the Koch Brothers even more will help matters?
On Sunday, former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressed remorse for the downright awful Obamacare launch, saying that the October 1 start date was "flat out wrong" and that the launch itself was "terribly flawed."
Clearly, the estimate that it was ready to go Oct. 1 was just flat out wrong," Sebelius said.
HealthCare.gov was envisioned as the principal place for people to buy insurance under Obama's health care law. But its first few weeks were an embarrassment for the administration and its allies.
"Well, I think there's no question — and I've said this many times — that the launch of the website was terribly flawed and terribly difficult," Sebelius said.
Despite these admissions, Sebelius later claimed she has "no regrets" about the whole launch, but wished she had a "magic wand" to time travel to September.
To recap: HealthCare.gov crashed almost immediately, one of the first highlighted "successes" turned out to be lying, the state exchanges have been plagued by everything from identity breaches to accusations of fraud, and millions of people have lost their existing coverage.
I'm not sure how Sebelius can, in light of all of those facts, claim she has "no regrets" about everything.
Don't let the naysayers get you down. In the April issue of Townhall Magazine, John Ransom discusses four reasons why America is going to dominate the next century.
In February, Bloomberg TV pointed to a depressing statistic that they contend is an indicator that all is well with the American economy: Divorce rates.
Yes divorces have been on the rise since 2009, says Peter Cook of Bloomberg, and that’s a good sign.
“The logic here,” says Cook, “is that all of a sudden you have two households, maybe someone going back to the workforce, more spending there.”
So let’s just agree that we’re really far down the progressive path when divorce is cited as a leading economic indicator.
“The number of Americans getting divorced rose for the third year in a row,” reported Bloomberg, “to about 2.4 million in 2012, after plunging in the 18-month recession that ended June 2009, accord- ing to U.S. Census Bureau data.”
“Whatever the social and emotional impact, the broad economic effects of the increase are clear,” Bloomberg continued, “It is contributing to the formation of new households, boosting demand for housing, appliances and furnishings and spurring the economy. Divorces are also prompting more women to enter the labor force.”
While I agree that America’s economy still has a fighting shot at owning the 21st century, there are better, healthier stats that say things are looking up.
After all, it’s not in the American DNA to give up. So says, Joel Kurtzman, senior fellow at the Milken Institute. He spoke to me about the strengths rather than weakness of the U.S. economy vis- a-vis the other great powers, as his new book “Unleashing the Second American Century” went on sale in February.
Kurtzman points to four economic indicators that make the United States a pretty good bet. I think he’s right and for the right reasons.
“America is a tremendous transformational force in the world,” says Kurtzman.
“And it’s not just because of politics; it’s not just because of social issues. It’s be- cause of our economy and our economy is set to grow, I think, like mad.”
The author says that no country has ever done what we have done in the last six years: “To go from energy importing, to in the next few years, to a major energy exporting nation. We are now the largest producer of energy in the world.”
We produce more energy than Russia; we produce more energy than Saudi Arabia.
“That’s monumental,” he concludes. But there is more than just that at work. “In the U.S. an individual can own the
mineral rights underneath the ground,” he says. “You can’t do that in other countries.” And that interest in property gives creative impetus to discovering new ways of taking advantage of resources.
Kurtzman points out on his blog at the Harvard Business Review that the United States produces 20 percent of the manufacturing in the world, more than even China.
And what America makes, comes with very high margins.
“[W]e make jet turbines, helicopters, sophisticated airliners and business jets, electric generators, radar, chemicals and plastics, satellites, and all kinds of weapons,” says Kurtzman.
China on the other hand makes widgets: “China leads the world in low-margin electronics assembly, textiles, and some types of machinery.”
Kurtzman also points out that while much of the debate about debt has centered around public debt, private debt is in good shape. Thanks to easy money policies, and balance sheet discipline, corporate cash has never been higher. That means that if you have a good idea, companies have the cash to put it to work.
“Although estimates vary,” says Kurtzman, “American companies have between $4 and $5 trillion in liquid assets, a sum greater than the size of the German economy.
And household debt in the U.S., he points out, has been coming down as well.
But paramount among the reasons why the senior fellow at the Milken In- stitute and Wharton business school is enthused about the next American century, is the creative force of the country.
He points to research hubs in Massachusetts, Texas, and California, as among the reasons why American creative power is better harnessed than other countries.
“Other countries would love to have a cluster of research institutions like those located in Cambridge,” he says. “And the fact is, Cambridge is just one of several such clusters in the United States.”
China he says is coming of age at the tail end of the industrial revolution where the impetus has moved from brute numbers, into subtle workforce skills that America has.
“China’s coming of age, so to speak, is coming exactly at the wrong time,” Kurtzman says of his thesis on American 21st century dominance. “They’re coming of age as a manufacturing power and that’s what they want to be and they want to bring 200 million people per decade into the rural areas to the cities to work in manufacturing.”
At the same time the world is transforming itself using American technology into a service oriented economy, where value is created by what companies can do for people, not what they make.
I’ve been of the opinion for some time that most of our problems are political, not economic. As Cato economist Dan Mitchell has pointed out, demographics can often be destiny, as in the failed social security scheme. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s nothing wrong with America that 10 million jobs can’t fix.
We just have to wait a second for the politicians to catch up to the 21st century. •
Tax day is tomorrow which means it's a good time to remind everyone just how much time and energy they're spending to get their returns to the IRS.
According to Republican Dave Camp, Americans spend billions of dollars and billions of hours complying with the complicated tax system.
“It takes the average American taxpayer 13 hours to comply with the tax code, gathering receipts, reading the rules and filling out the forms the IRS requires. .?.?. The tax code forces Americans to spend over $168 billion to comply and 6 billion hours.”
But not only are Americans paying way too much to file their taxes, the amount of taxes they're paying is also completely out of control. According to the Tax Foundation, Americans spend more on taxes each year than they do on clothing, food and housing combined.
We count in the denominator every dollar that is officially part of national income according to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. We count in the numerator every payment to the government that is officially considered a tax. Taxes at all levels of government are included, whether levied by Uncle Sam or state and local governments. In calculating Tax Freedom Day for each state, we look at taxes borne by residents of that state, whether paid to the federal government, their own state or local government, or governments of other states. Where possible, we allocate tax burdens to the taxpayer’s state of residence. Leap days are excluded to allow comparison across years, and any fraction of a day is rounded up to the next calendar day.
Although Republicans have proposed an overhaul to the tax system, movement on the issue has been slow on Capitol Hill. From the White House, President Obama has proposed more than 400 tax increases since taking office in 2009 according to Americans for Tax Reform.
The 442 total proposed tax increases does not include the 20 tax increases Obama signed into law as part of Obamacare.
“History tells us what Obama was able to do. This list reminds us of what Obama wanted to do,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The number of proposed tax increases per year is as follows:
-79 tax increases for FY 2010
-52 tax increases for FY 2011
-47 tax increases for FY 2012
-34 tax increases for FY 2013
-137 tax increases for FY 2014
-93 tax increases for FY 2015
Taxed enough already.