Category Archive 'Congress'
22 Nov 2010

Why Congress Was Unpopular

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from Rico via Theo.

02 Nov 2010

Americans Bravely Vote Today

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In the face of horrific consequences.

The Onion reports that Americans Bravely Go To Polls Despite Threat Of Electing Congress:

Despite the very real threat of electing the 112th Congress, millions of courageous Americans lined up at their polling places today and put their right to vote above the awful possibility of sending a politician to represent them in Washington.

08 Jun 2010

Department of the Navy… AND Marine Corps

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USMC officer’s cap badge

The Hill reports that the US Marine Corps’ traditional popularity with Congress has gotten completely out hand and more than adequate support currently exists for the hideous innovation of modifying the name of the Department of the Navy to “the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps.”

That’s just about as bad as changing the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense.

If the politicians want to do something nice for the Marine Corps, why not do something useful like giving marines back their Model 1911s chambered in .45 ACP? If they want to do something nice and symbolic, how about giving the marines back their summer dress whites?

The Marine Corps is factually a branch of the Naval Service, and the Department of the Navy should stay the Department of the Navy.

The Pentagon is opposing a popular provision that would change the name of the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps.

The provision, which Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) has pushed for years, has a record 425 co-sponsors in the House and recently passed by unanimous consent as a standalone bill.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a former Marine, has introduced a similar provision in the Senate that has attracted 78 co-sponsors — more than enough to pass as a standalone bill or as part of the pending defense bills as an amendment.

In a letter released by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, called the effort to rename the Department of the Navy “unnecessary.”

“A re-designation could be viewed as more than symbolic, and could easily be misinterpreted as a step away from the heritage and tradition of a strong Navy and Marine Corps team,” Johnson wrote to Levin. …

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Navy pilot, has been one of the strongest opponents to the change of the department’s name.

29 Apr 2010

The Dodd Bill: HuffPo Gets It Right

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Frank Luntz debunks the democrats’ supposed financial “reform” at Huffington Post of all places. This editorial would fit just fine on any conservative blog site.

The New York Times’ headline said it all: “Off Wall St., Worries About Financial Bill”. The Democrats in Washington may think it’s a slam dunk, but the rest of America doesn’t agree.

Look, those who are on the side of significant financial reform are fighting on the side of the angels — and with broad public support. We are fed up with Wall Street abuses and arrogance that makes life for the rest of us on Main Street more difficult. Let’s hold people and businesses more accountable and responsible for what they do and how they do it.

But that doesn’t suddenly equate to support for the legislation now being considered by the Senate. In exactly the same way that the public wanted healthcare reform, just not Obama’s healthcare reform, they want something done to punish the perpetrators of the financial meltdown, but not at the expense of their own checking accounts — or American economic freedom.

The dirty secret of the Senate financial reform bill is that some of its biggest supporters work on Wall Street. Recipients of taxpayer bailout money have no concerns about the bill — in fact, the CEOs of Citi and Goldman Sachs have publicly endorsed it, and several of the other big banks have expressed support. It keeps the “too big to fail” guarantees in place for another generation of financial services companies.

But here’s where it gets really interesting. The Democrats supporting the current legislation have assured an anxious electorate that whatever funds are used to create whatever regulatory scheme created will come from the banks, not the taxpayers. Let me emphasize that so that even casual readers will catch it: the Democrats promise that you won’t pay for their legislation, banks will.

Really?

Since when have corporations ever paid taxes, fees or penalties? Employees end up paying in the form of lower salaries and benefits. Customers end up paying in the form of higher costs.

And in this case, every account holder will be forced to pay higher fees on their checking account and savings account. That’s you, my friendly reader. Can you say “checkbook tax”? I can, and I think lots of candidates will be saying it come November. Is that what you really want to do to your constituents, Senator Lincoln? Is that what you really want to explain on the campaign trail, Senator Bennett?

But it goes deeper than just taxation and regulation. Wall Street can pass it all onto consumers. Main Street cannot. And that’s because Wall Street firms have all those pesky well-connected, nicely dressed lobbyists to ensure that whatever is passed strengthens their hand at the expense of the little guy.

Regardless of what side you’re on, the financial reform bill is special interest heaven — a bill written by lobbyists, for lobbyists, and will probably be implemented by lobbyists. The Dodd bill has carve-outs right from the get-go. Real estate agents, title companies, the Farm Credit system, even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae are exempt from its onerous and costly provisions. And for everyone else, it’s been a special interest feeding frenzy.

More than 130 companies have publicly hired lobbyists seeking their own loophole. Mars Candy wants to continue to use derivatives to hedge against price hikes in sugar and chocolate, so they’ve hired a lobbyist. Harley Davidson wants to protect dealer financing of their bikes, so they’ve hired a lobbyist. And eBay wants to not harm its subsidiary, PayPal, so they’ve hired … well … a team of lobbyists.

But most average Americans — the ones who bailed Wall Street out in the first place — cannot afford lobbyists, and won’t be exempted from the legislation.

There’s a reason why American trust in government is at an all-time low. Voters believe legislation like this is passed not for the public interest, but for special interests. And that is certainly the case with the Dodd bill.

22 Mar 2010

After the Health Care Bill

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Megan McArdle explains why the democrats’ success in getting their way represents a procedural precedent likely to change the legislative process permanently.

Regardless of what you think about health care, tomorrow we wake up in a different political world.

Parties have passed legislation before that wasn’t broadly publicly supported. But the only substantial instances I can think of in America are budget bills and TARP–bills that the congressmen were basically forced to by emergencies in the markets.

One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi’s skill as a legislator. But it’s also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority? Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist.

Oh, wait–suddenly it doesn’t seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it? Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free “Screw You” vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.

But I hope they don’t. What I hope is that the Democrats take a beating at the ballot boxand rethink their contempt for those mouth-breathing illiterates in the electorate. I hope Obama gets his wish to be a one-term president who passed health care. Not because I think I will like his opponent–I very much doubt that I will support much of anything Obama’s opponent says. But because politicians shouldn’t feel that the best route to electoral success is to lie to the voters, and then ignore them.

Read the whole thing.

04 Mar 2010

What Are They Thinking?

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The leftist democrat base waves flowers

Political strategists on both sides are wondering aloud why it is that democrat members of Congress seem willing to climb aboard the health care flying bomb and head into a one-way legislative mission trying to sink Americans’ free choice in health care. Are they crazy? Do they believe the Emperor Obama’s promises that they will live forever in the Socialist equivalent of the Yakukuni Shrine? Quite a lot of them surely won’t be coming back to Washington next year. So why are they doing it?

Gary Andres explains the thinking of the democrat kamikaze.

One Democratic lobbyist advanced the “public education thesis.” “Sure, this might seem controversial now. But once it’s done, Members of Congress will have a chance to explain what they did, why, and how it’s going to make a difference.”

According to this theory, support will rise and opposition will ease, but only after the bill is enacted. The strategy, however, hinges on lawmakers’ ability to do an effective post-passage marketing job. It also assumes the opposition will not mount any kind of successful counter mobilization to protest its passage.

A variation on the public education thesis is the “Americans support success” conjecture. It goes something like this: Voters like accomplishments. Seeing the president in the Rose Garden, signing health care reform legislation into law will improve Mr. Obama’s approval numbers, which helps his party politically in the midterm election. Getting a bill done – almost irrespective of its contents – will help boost the White House’s and Democrats’ political fortunes, according to this view.

Next there is the “good as it gets” hypothesis. After two successful election cycles (2006 and 2008) Democrats amassed large majorities in the House and the Senate. But now they have reached their maximum majority size, based on this theory. With the prospects of their party strength only shrinking next year, now is the time to act on health care.

George Crawford, a former chief of staff to Speaker Pelosi and now a senior government affairs advisor at King and Spalding wrote an opinion piece recently in The Hill underscoring this point. Crawford argues that after “successful campaigns over the past several cycles, Democrats had come closer to their potential high-water mark.” He goes on to posit the party’s majority would get smaller irrespective of the House’s actions in the 111th Congress. So they might as well do it while Democrats have the votes.

Finally, there is the “energize the base” argument. This one has perhaps the most appeal because it includes some empirical support. Public polling on health care always masks huge variation in opinion between Republicans and Democrats.

For example, in a recent Rasmussen poll, President Obama’s health care plan lagged overall by a 41 percent (oppose) — 56 percent (favor) margin among likely voters. Yet looking at the crosstabs tells a very different story. Nearly 7 out of 10 (71 percent) self-identified Democrats favor the legislation, while only 12 percent of Republicans approve. This nearly 60 point spread between the parties on this issue has emerged in poll after poll in the last several years on this issue.

In other words, passing health care reform is a bit of a Holy Grail for Democrats. It is one of the most important debates and potential accomplishments for the party’s most ardent partisans – and has been for many years. Failure to enact this legislation would render a crippling blow to those most apt to volunteer, talk to their friends about politics, give money and vote in the upcoming midterm election. These base voters may not always guarantee the party’s victory, but without them defeat is assured.

Some combination of these four theories is the driving force behind the Democrats’ end game on health care. Of course, each of these conjectures includes a host of counter arguments that could prove disastrous for congressional Democrats in November. But for now, the president and his party’s legislative leaders agree – the only thing worse than passing health care reform is doing nothing at all.

It is very odd, distinctly in the “man bites dog” category of events falling into the opposite of normal reality, to see the democrats, the party of competent political tactics and mechanics, the party contemptuous of theory, the party dedicated above everything else to winning at any price and governing, deliberately marching into political destruction, openly defying a substantial majority of public opinion, in full knowledge of the consequences.

We can only conclude, I think, that ideology really has triumphed over there. They are willing to sacrifice their Congressional majority, and many of their political careers, for Socialism.

Obviously, they believe that, once they pass their health care bill, it will become another third-rail entitlement. Americans will become dependent and addicted, and no one will ever be able to alter the new order of reality and repeal it. Curiously, they seem to have overlooked their own Rube Goldberg design (intended to bring costs under a trillion dollars) of starting revenue collection immediately, but delaying most of the system’s arrival until 2013 and after. Republicans have plenty of time to recapture Congress and then repeal all this, and Republicans are promising to do exactly that.

In the end, the democrat’s kamikaze health care push is very likely to prove just as futile as the Japanese precedent in the final stages of WWII.

21 Jan 2010

The Impending Democrat Civil War

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J. Robert Smith, at American Thinker, is feeling very optimistic. He quips that the health care reform bill is as dead as the Articles of Confederation and predicts that internal democrat party conflicts will move to the forefront of Washington’s agenda as moderate democrats begin making defensive moves attempting to survive politically and the democrat party’s leftist base proceeds to twist arms and punish defectors.

In the coming weeks and months, the best political spectator sport around might not be Democrats versus Republicans or conservatives versus liberals, but Democrats of all stripes turning on one another.

Other than demagoguery, what Democrats are most accomplished at is fratricide (think back to the ’60s and ’70s). In the wake of Scott Brown’s hosing of Martha Coakley, the Democrats are about to have a good old-fashioned civil war. Pity for them; bully for America.

The Democrats are dividing roughly along these lines: left ideologues against pols, the latter being those congressional Democrats who like their jobs and don’t intend to wrap themselves in the European Union flag and jump off a craggy cliff into the Potomac.

It’s Pelosi and Frank and their ilk versus Heath Shuler and his ilk. But given Tuesday night’s win for Scott Brown in deep blue Massachusetts, it may be more than self-styled Democratic moderates who choose to defect. A few liberals may join in, too.

President Obama is showing every sign of being a cliff-jumper. Word out of the White House is that he plans to go on a populist offensive. In other words, he aims to demagogue anyone and anything in an attempt to divert voters’ attention from his utterly woeful, ideologically blind performance to date. And did I mention that under the cover of a hate, resentment, and envy campaign, Mr. Obama and his chief congressional lieutenants, the envenomed Nancy Pelosi and the passive-aggressive Harry Reid, will still scheme to foist statism on America?

While the President’s bravado may warm the hearts of Huffington Post and Daily Kos denizens, and while he may win plaudits from the Davids (Broder, Gergen, and Brooks) and the New York Times (among other liberal mouthpieces) for his supposed shrewdness, plenty of work-a-day congressional Democrats aren’t going to enlist in a lemmings’ march into the sea.

Self-preservation is a powerful instinct. The Coakley upending is the fork in the road for Democrats who are more enamored of themselves than stinky left-wing orthodoxy. The marker at the road’s fork points right, toward the middle ground. It’s where these Democrats know they must go if they are to stand a prayer of retaining their seats in November.

With every passing day, expect a few, and then lots of sobered Democrats to take the road right, regardless of the sharp disapproval of Pelosi and Reid or the threats of the White House Capone crew.

Congressional members peeling away from their party’s failing president is nothing new in Washington annals. LBJ and Richard Nixon could have given you earfuls.

But left-wing activists and fundraisers and money-givers aren’t going to take defections lightly. While keeping guns trained on Mr. Obama to ensure his fealty, expect left-wingers to turn other guns on congressional Democrats cheeky enough to scuttle ideology in favor of survival.

Nowadays, the left isn’t so much a movement as it is a death pact. If you’ve taken its money or accepted its campaign ground troops or benefited from its uncoordinated expenditures — and most Democrats have — then you’re on the hook. It’s like the mafia: Once you’re made, you can’t be unmade. Woe to the good fella or gal who wishes to part company. …

If the Democrats’ civil war plays out as expected, the result will be legislative torpor, magnificent wheels-squealing, and grinding-to-a-halt gridlock for 2010. Much to the relief of taxpayers and Main Street Americans, the 111th Congress will do no more damage…because it can’t.

25 Dec 2009

It’s Not Over Yet

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Senator Jim DeMint

The liberal media and left blogosphere are typically congratulating themselves on “winning ugly, but winning,” as Ezra Klein puts it.

The American voting public is experiencing profound revulsion at the sordid spectacle of ultra-partisan legislation they’ve witnessed recently, featuring open purchases of votes, behind-the-scenes horse-trades, and a host of favors for certain regions and constituencies. We’re reforming health care in very special ways for Libby, Montana, the entire state of Nebraska, longshoremen, and trial lawyers. The Congressional democrat leadership has greased the path to socialism with the purest of sleaze.

There will surely be a reckoning in 2010 and 2012 for all this, but in the meantime (sorry, Ezra!) it is not clear that they have actually won.

Dan Perrin, at Red State, points out that, because of the procedural objection by Senator DeMint, more of the same kind of votes recently won by razor-thin margins will need to occur in both houses.

When Senator DeMint engineered, and Republican Leader McConnell actually objected to the appointment of the conferees, he was really handing the ball off to the left wingers — progressives if you will — and now they have their shot to either hold their own clan members who are against the Senate compromises and force them to vote No, or have their policy demands be ignored and take the crumbs from Senator Nelson’s and Senator Lieberman’s table.

Now, because of the Senator DeMint’s objection, unless the House votes for the Senate bill unchanged — which is highly unlikely… — then the Senate ObamaCare bill must be amended on the House floor to gain the votes they need to pass it on the House floor. And because of Senator DeMint’s objection to the appointment of the conferees, there will be no conference, or conference report.

If the House amends the Senate bill, they then have to send the amended bill back to the Senate — where all the 60 vote margin cloture votes still apply — cloture on the motion to proceed, and cloture to end the filibuster and cloture on any amendment.

Do I believe that this objection to the appointment of the conferees will kill ObamaCare? Yes, if the progressives or those 64 House Democrats who voted for the Stupak amendment do not roll over and play dead.

Hat tip to Rand Simberg via Glenn Reynolds.

06 Dec 2009

Four Votes Short

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Well, getting ObamaCare to the Senate floor cost US taxpayers $300,000,000 for Senator Mary Landrieu’s vote. Apparently they are four votes short right now, so start breaking open those piggy banks, Americans. Democrats are going to begin writing very large checks on your bank accounts to buy those missing votes.

Do you suppose the Congressional Budget Office will ever start factoring in the massive mordida involved in the passage of spending legislation as part of the overall cost estimate?

Bloomberg
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President Barack Obama plans to head to the U.S. Capitol to press Senate Democrats to agree on health legislation as lawmakers struggle to resolve disputes over issues including a proposed government-run insurance plan.

Democrats met throughout yesterday to seek an alternative to Senate Majority Harry Reid’s plan to create the new national program to cover the uninsured. Opposition within his party leaves Reid at risk of falling four votes short of the 60 he needs to pass the legislation, the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health-care system in more than four decades.

Obama’s scheduled visit comes as the bill’s backers need a jolt to come together, said Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry.

“We have to talk about how to put the final pieces together,” Kerry said. “It’s good to hear from the president now, because it’s getting to that stage where you have to come to a decision with your heart as well as your head.”

Reid called the rare weekend session to meet his deadline of getting a bill by year-end. Republicans, unified in opposition, forced the Democrats yesterday to reiterate their support for cutting more than $40 billion in home health-care services funding under Medicare. It was the latest Republican effort to highlight the bill’s potential impact on the elderly.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Republicans see the debate stretching into 2010 and that they gain the more the public learns. Republicans say Obama’s visit reflects a weakening Democratic position.

“The vote tally must be going in the wrong direction,” said Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

30 Oct 2009

More Bad News For Democrats

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A junior staff member (since fired) working from home placed a secret House of Representatives Ethics report on a publicly accessible internet site, and someone then shared the document with the Washington Post.

Since the great bulk of the scandalous information involved democrats, the Post was understandably appalled, and was certainly not going to be found commending the leaker, but, alas! the story was now out there, and the Post was obliged to report it.

The leaked document was a 22-page “Committee on Standards Weekly Summary Report” which contained short summaries of ethics panel investigations of the conduct of 19 congressmen and a number of staff members. It also mentioned 14 congressmen whose conduct was under review by the new Office of Congressional Ethics, a quasi-independent body empowered to initiate investigations and make recommendations to the ethics committee. The conduct of some members of congress was “under review” by both ethics bodies.

12 of 19 names were graciously released by the Post, including those of Charles Rangel (D – 15 NY), Maxine Waters (D – 35 CA), Jane Harman (D – 36 CA), Laura Richardson (D – 37 CA), John Murtha (D – 12 PA), Peter Visclosky (D- 1 IN), James Moran (D- 8 VA), Norm Dicks (D – 6 WA), Marcy Kaptur (D – 9 OH), Devin Nunes (R – 21 CA), C.W. Bill Young (R – 10 FL), and Todd Tiahrt (R – 4 KS). Rep. Sam Graves (R – 6 MO) was apparently exonerated, while the ethics committee suspended its investigation of Alan B. Mollohan (D – 1 WV) at the request of the Justice Department which is conducting its own investigation of the Congressman.

Statement by Chairman & Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct – pdf

Washington Post story

Don Surber posted some news agency’s account.

30 Oct 2009

Callous Children

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Peggy Noonan is feeling a bit depressed today contemplating 1990 unreadable pages costing $2.24 million dollars a word.

While Americans feel increasingly disheartened, their leaders evince a mindless . . . one almost calls it optimism, but it is not that.

It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don’t see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they’ve never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don’t have the habit of worry. They talk about their “concerns”—they’re big on that word. But they’re not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa’s lap.

They don’t feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—”strongest nation in the world,” “indispensable nation,” “unipolar power,” “highest standard of living”—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America’s luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they’re not optimists—they’re unimaginative. They don’t have faith, they’ve just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don’t mind it when people become disheartened. They don’t even notice.

13 Jul 2009

Congress and the CIA’s Secret Plan

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Now we know, at least vaguely, what was behind the accusations against the CIA made in that June 26th letter from seven democrat House members.

After some months on the job, Leon Panetta learned of an inactive, never really implemented but potentially controversial, CIA program, initiated in the direct aftermath of 9/11, which proposed assassinating some important al Qaeda leaders. It would appear that such shenanigans were too Jack Bauer for the Bush Administration, so despite ink being spilled, findings being drafted, and probably warrior spooks training with silenced pistols off somewhere in the Virginia woods, nothing real ever came of any of this.

But good little Leon felt obliged to tattle anyway, and seven democrats thought the opportunity to play Gotcha! with the Agency was too good to miss. Ergo, the famous letter of June 26th. The Sunday Times dutifully clocked in yesterday with a deeply-troubled, chin-stroking article about the perfidy of Dick Cheney in concealing such dastardly doings.

The Wall Street Journal today actually supplies a lot more of the substance.

A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.

The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn’t clear, and the CIA won’t comment on its substance.

According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.

In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. …

One former senior intelligence official said the program was an attempt “to achieve a capacity to carry out something that was directed in the finding,” meaning it was looking for ways to capture or kill al Qaeda chieftains.

The official noted that Congress had long been briefed on the finding, and that the CIA effort wasn’t so much a program as “many ideas suggested over the course of years.” It hadn’t come close to fruition, he added. …

(A) small CIA unit examined the potential for targeted assassinations of al Qaeda operatives, according to the three former officials. The Ford administration had banned assassinations in the response to investigations into intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Some officials who advocated the approach were seeking to build teams of CIA and military Special Forces commandos to emulate what the Israelis did after the Munich Olympics terrorist attacks, said another former intelligence official.

“It was straight out of the movies,” one of the former intelligence officials said. “It was like: Let’s kill them all.”

The former official said he had been told that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney didn’t support such an operation. The effort appeared to die out after about six months, he said. …

(I)n September 2001, as CIA operatives were preparing for an offensive in Afghanistan, officials drafted cables that would have authorized assassinations of specified targets on the spot.

One draft cable, later scrapped, authorized officers on the ground to “kill on sight” certain al Qaeda targets, according to one person who saw it. The context of the memo suggested it was designed for the most senior leaders in al Qaeda, this person said.

Eventually Mr. Bush issued the finding that authorized the capturing of several top al Qaeda leaders, and allowed officers to kill the targets if capturing proved too dangerous or risky.

Lawmakers first learned specifics of the CIA initiative the day after Mr. Panetta did, when he briefed them on it for 45 minutes.

What is really going on here is an attempt to gratify the democrat party’s bolshevik base with a little more witch hunting for Bush-Cheney war crimes, combined with the same party’s Congressional efforts to grab micromanagement control of US Intelligence operations.

Sensible people, and even Christopher Hitchens, have argued for some time that the battle with Congress over the CIA was lost long ago. It is past time to abolish the current agency, sell that campus at Langley for a football stadium, and establish a brand new unfettered agency operating covertly and free of Congressional oversight out of anonymous offices.

09 Jul 2009

Leftwing Dems Accuse CIA of Lying to Congress

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Anna Eshoo (Calif.), John Tierney (Mass.), Rush Holt (N.J.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), and Adam Smith (Wash.) reopened Congressional democrats’ attacks on the CIA, releasing yesterday a letter dated June 26th directly contradicting CIA Director Leon Panetta and asserting that “significant actions” were concealed from Congress and charging the CIA with misleading Congress.

The ball is now in Leon Panetta’s court, and I think his response will be interesting.

The Politico:

A letter released late Wednesday by six (actually 7 – JDZ) Democratic House members claims that Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta testified that “top CIA officials have concealed significant actions… and misled” members of Congress since 2001 — a claim the CIA is contesting.

The letter did not specify what actions were concealed, or how members of Congress were misled.

In it, the Democrats demanded that Panetta correct a statement he issued on May 15 – just after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her during the Bush years about the agency’s use of waterboarding techniques – stating that it is not the CIA’s “policy or practice to mislead Congress.”

22 Jun 2009

Cigarette Control and Speech Control

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Steve Chapman, writing in Reason, notes that Congress just proved all over again that our elected representatives never believe in letting the Bill of Rights get in the way of saving Americans from themselves.

(T)he tobacco regulation bill recently passed by Congress indicates that the spirit of liberty is even scarcer than usual in the halls of government.

What motivates advocates of stricter tobacco regulation is the unassailable assurance that they are not only completely right but that their opponents are a) wrong and b) evil. This invigorating certitude makes it possible to justify almost anything that punishes cigarette companies, even if it does no actual good—or does actual harm.

One of the main purposes of the new law is to reduce the number of smokers in the name of improving “public health.” This is a skillful use of language to confuse rather than enlighten.

An individual decision to take up cigarettes is a private event, not a public one, and its health effects are almost entirely confined to the individual making the choice. …
Cigarette makers are forbidden to use color in ads in any publication whose readership is less than 85 percent adult. They are barred from using music in audio ads. They are not allowed to use pictures in video ads. They may not put product names on race cars, lighters, caps, or T-shirts. From all this, you almost forget the fleeting passage in the Constitution that says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”

When it gets in a mood to regulate, Congress doesn’t like to trouble itself with nuisances like the First Amendment. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for Massachusetts to ban outdoor ads within 1,000 feet of any schools and playgrounds. So what does this law do? It bans outdoor ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

The Court said the Massachusetts law was intolerable because it choked off communication about a legal activity. “In some geographical areas,” complained Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “these regulations would constitute nearly a complete ban on the communication of truthful information about smokeless tobacco and cigars to adult consumers.”

But to anti-smoking zealots, that effect is not a bug but a feature. The only problem they have with imposing “nearly a complete ban” is the “nearly” part.

Read the whole thing.

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