Thirty members of Congress are demanding the Department of Justice launch an “immediate investigation” into the agency’s own Operation Choke Point.
New Benghazi Indictments Reveal Terrorist Plot
We’re about to learn a lot more about the extent of the terrorist plot behind the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
On Tuesday, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., handed down 17 new charges against Abu Ahmed Khattalah, so far the only man arrested in the murders of the four Americans in the facility that night, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens. Khattalah, who was arrested in June and arraigned in July, could face the death penalty if convicted.
According to The Washington Times, the charges confirm what was clear to most of the U.S. government—from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA on the ground in Libya—that the attackers who destroyed the U.S. constulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, were well-orchestrated and well-armed and were led by a man with a clear mission in mind.
And still President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice insisted the attack was a demonstration turned violent, a reaction to an anti-Muslim video. “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton yelled intemperately at senators during a testy hearing in January, 2013, “whether it was a terrorist attack or four guys out for an evening walk?” An evening walk this certainly was not.
The arraignment, scheduled for next week, will highlight that difference. The suspect is accused of being the leader of a terrorist affiliate of Ansar al Shariah and the mastermind behind the attack on the consulate. Khattalah, according to court documents, thought the U.S. Benghazi diplomatic post to be a CIA intelligence-gathering facility, and he wanted to destroy it and get the Americans out of the city.
Khattalah has claimed that he was on the scene of the attack at 11.45 p.m. to help direct traffic. But witnesses have placed him at the scene as the mastermind. Considering this is the U.S. government’s case and that Khattalah is not just any terrorist, we are left to wonder why he was allowed to remain free, even giving interviews to U.S. news organizations for more than a year. Also, why did it take the FBI months to get into Benghazi to search the ruined consulate? It will be up to the Benghazi Select Committee to get the answers.
Capturing Khattalah was important, as will be his trial. But through its delayed response and its apologies to Muslims for an ultimately irrelevant video, the Obama administration left an impression of weakness among terrorist groups in the Middle East. In Iraq and Syria, today, we are watching the consequences of that perception unfold.
Obama administration has prosecuted media leakers more than all other presidential administrations combined
The American Civil Liberties Union is among the many advocates for putting a halt to the federal government’s ongoing prosecution of Pulitzer-winning reporter James Risen. In researching facts pertaining to the Risen case, the ACLU discovered an interesting fact: The Obama administration beats all of recorded history in its rate of jailing accused media leakers.
“Partially because of press freedom concerns, sentencing in media leak cases has historically been relatively light,” the ACLU’s Gabe Rothman wrote this week. “Not so under President Obama. When it comes to sending these folks to jail, the Obama administration blows every other presidency combined out of the water — by a lot.”
Here’s Rothman on the contrast between the Obama administration and everybody else:
By my count, the Obama administration has secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution. It’s important — and telling — to note that the bulk of that time is the 35 years in Fort Leavenworth handed down to Chelsea Manning.
Rothman lists eight separate cases under Obama that have either already produced jail sentences or for which the case disposition is still pending. By far, the longest sentence was handed down to Manning, who was given 420 months for his role in delivering intelligence documents about the Afghan and Iraqi wars to WikiLeaks.
For his part, Risen is still waiting for the federal government to decide whether it will continue its attempts to compel him to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is a former CIA employee suspected of informing Risen about the government’s alleged sabotage of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Risen published a 2006 book, “State of War,” which discussed the covert program but did not reveal the source of the information. He won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting that same year for stories about U.S. spying.
Risen also won the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for journalism earlier this month. In accepting the award, he told an audience he believes Obama “hates the press.”
by Simon Black
“John Galt is Prometheus who changed his mind. After centuries of being torn by vultures in payment for having brought to men the fire of the gods, he broke his chains—and he withdrew his fire—until the day when men withdraw their vultures.”
Sick of the overbearing regulation, taxation, and entitlement mentality in society—in the book Atlas Shrugged, John Galt went to one entrepreneur after another to convince them that they just didn’t need to put up with it anymore.
They didn’t need to keep propping up a system that was trying to destroy them. Where’s the point in continuing to feed a parasitic system?
So one by one, these innovators and producers simply closed up shop, deciding to just “shrug” and abandon what they were providing thanklessly to the looters.
Today many companies are doing the same. They may not be abandoning their businesses altogether, but they are moving them out of the hands of the parasites by moving their tax bases abroad.
In Ayn Rand’s book, the Economic Planning Bureau dealt with this by legislating that no businesses could leave: “[a]ll the manufacturing establishments of the country, of any size and nature, were forbidden to move from their present locations, except when granted a special permission to do so.”
In real life today, we have a string of policies being proposed to similarly discourage companies from leaving, or failing that, to try to claw as much money as possible from them first.
First, take the H.R. 5278: No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act, which bars federal contracts for American companies that have gone overseas for tax purposes.
Then take the H.R. 5549: Pay What You Owe Before You Go Act, which seeks the seizure of unrepatriated corporate revenue.
Even the language used by these bill’s supporters is eerily similar to the novel, as politicians call for corporations to pay their “fair share” and bemoan that Americans have to “pick up the tax burden inverted companies shrug off.”
At the time, Rand might have thought that she was writing about an extreme, fictional society. But it seems that the Land of the Free is eager to exceed even her worst expectations.
When she wrote about the “Economic Emergency Law”, which forbade any discrimination “for any reason whatever against any person in any matter involving his livelihood”, she was likely thinking about criteria such as race, gender, and age.
She might have even considered they would try to prevent employers from making judgments based on a person’s ability, though I’m sure she would not have even imagined what politicians have actually come up with in the US.
Try the S. 1972/ H.R. 3972: Fair Employment Opportunity Act that proposed to prohibit discrimination according to a person’s history of unemployment.
Or even worse, the S. 1837: Equal Employment for All Act that would have prohibited employers from even looking at prospective employee’s credit ratings.
The literary similarities don’t just stop with corporations either. Compare the fictional Project Soybean, designed to “recondition” people’s dietary habits to the actual H.R. 4904: Vegetables Are Really Important Eating Tools for You (VARIETY).
Tell me, which one sounds more ludicrous to you?
With each new piece of legislation being proposed in the Land of the Free, Atlas Shrugged seems to be ever more prophetic.
While even the most terrifying elements of the book are coming true, so are the reactions.
People and companies are leaving, refusing the put up with the looting of their efforts any longer.
Despite politicians’ desperate attempts to stop it, Atlas is already shrugging.
Gov. Snyder, GOP fail to defend K-12 spending
It is difficult to decide which is the more infuriating – those who persist in advancing a lie or those who stubbornly ignore the possible means of combating it.
The State of Michigan is spending more state tax dollars on K-12 education than the $6,844 per pupil it was spending the final budget year of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration. At the beginning of this year it was spending $7,545 per pupil. Beginning Oct. 1, that amount was increased again by $50 to $175 per pupil, with the lowest funded school districts receiving the largest boosts.
As students of propaganda learned long ago, however, if you tell a big lie long enough and loud enough people will tend to believe it. Polls show that, in spite of what simple math reveals, a majority of Michigan voters believe K-12 spending has been cut under Gov. Rick Snyder.
The Snyder campaign is now running television ads that attempt to refute the big lie about his record on K-12 spending. You can bet it wouldn’t be doing this unless there was evidence that, at least to some degree, the lie is hurting his re-election chances.
At this stage, in the midst of an election race, the impact of these ads will likely be minimal. It’s just too late to really win the argument, which will now come down to an adolescent exchange with one side saying: “that’s not so” and the other side saying: “oh yes it is so.”
As maddening as it may be to see a big lie perpetrated successfully, Gov. Snyder and the Republicans deserve much of the blame. Their longstanding ineptitude in dealing with the lie has been frustrating — and all the more so because it was rooted a dismissive ambivalence.
At a base level there’s a temptation to say “it serves you right.”
Over the past couple of years, in addition to telling the truth about the increased K-1 2 spending, Gov. Snyder and the Republicans should have also repeatedly cited statistics to put the entire debate in a different context. When it comes to K-12 spending, Michigan has been anything but stingy.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan ranks 8th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-pupil spending when adjusted for per-capita income. Without the per-capita income adjustment, it ranks somewhere between 22nd and 26th depending on mid-decade measuring variations.
The per-capita income ranking means that only six states and the District of Columbia make a greater spending effort toward K-12 education than Michigan. The overall (or raw number) ranking of 22nd to 26th puts Michigan in the middle of the pack among the states — an impressive standing considering it only recently emerged from a single-state recession.
Imagine if that information concerning Michigan’s comparative ranking in K-12 spending had appeared on every press release pertaining to education spending issued on behalf of Gov. Snyder and the Republicans for the past two years. Out of shear repetition the result would have been that virtually every journalist who regularly covers the issue would have known the rankings by heart months ago. In addition, perhaps somewhat more than half of the time, the rankings would have made it into their news stories.
Whether political propaganda is true or false, repetition is the key to its success. This is how the big lie about Michigan education spending has been promoted. Repeatedly putting Michigan’s K-12 spending story in its larger perspective could have provided Republicans with the antidote to that poison.
Those who prefer to believe K-12 spending has been cut probably wouldn’t be swayed by anything. But chances are that by providing the bigger context, again and again, the potential impact of the big lie could have been significantly limited. Or at the very least making the effort sure wouldn’t have done any harm.
Some might say that if those claiming Gov. Snyder cut K-12 funding were willing to perpetuate that lie in the first place, then what would prevent them from disputing the Census Bureau rankings as well? This is true, but that would have involved pushing and repeating a second big lie, something that would have complicated their task and wandered into an area (state K-12 spending rankings) which they prefer to avoid.
Use of the “larger context” would not only have been a sound technique for battling the big lie about K-12 spending, it is the logical, natural and orthodox response to all attacks that are based on partial and manipulated figures.
Let’s say someone wants to promote the idea that the Detroit Tigers are a lousy baseball team. They could cite whatever comparatively weak statistics they could find involving fielding, relief pitching and the absence of a World Series title over the past 30 years.
If your job was to defend the Tigers, wouldn’t it be sensible and obvious to change the perspective by pointing out that they have won their division four straight years and appeared in two of the last eight World Series?
This is exactly what Gov. Snyder and the Republicans failed to do regarding the K-12 spending issue. They made it easier instead of harder for their opponents to sell the big lie. That’s never a good strategy.
(Editor’s note: Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential and a veteran Lansing-based journalist. His columns do not necessarily represent the views of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy or Michigan Capitol Confidential.)
Craig Bergman had just hit the road to produce his first political documentary about Agenda 21—the United Nations’ controversial sustainable development plan—when news of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservatives broke in May 2013.
“When I saw this scandal, I said somebody has to seize this and seize it right now. So I said, ‘Look guys, Agenda 21 will wait. We can go back and revisit that … we have to do this,’” Bergman said in an interview with The Daily Signal.
Bergman, who has been a long-time advocate for the fair tax, grew up in a “Kennedy Democrat family” and joined the military at age 17.
“I became a Republican in the Army,” he said.
After leaving the military, the self-declared Midwestern “renaissance man” began a career in banking. But he developed an interest in politics, which eventually led him to depart the financial services industry to run political campaigns. By 2000, he had become the national operations director for Republican Alan Keyes’ presidential campaign.
“I was the talking head expert that somebody brings on, and several people always said, ‘You should be on radio,’” said Bergman, who later took the advice and became a nationally syndicated talk radio host after accurately predicting Mitt Romney’s loss in crucial swing states during the 2012 election cycle.
Bergman’s decision to break into the film industry came next.
With eight independent filmmakers and award-winning film producer Judd Saul on board as director, Bergman was able to pivot the small crew’s focus away from Agenda 21 and toward the production of a documentary capturing the accounts of Americans affected by the IRS’ targeting.
According to Bergman, the film’s budget of $310,000 meant the crew had three to four weeks to shoot the film. From late September through October, the crew traveled across the country gathering interviews and scheduling media appearances.
“Our crew was made up of very talented people who didn’t necessarily have our political world view, but they weren’t hostile to it,” said Bergman. “The whole film crew lived on the bus … and the camaraderie, stories and jokes—it was like being in college again.”
With 40 hours worth of footage transcribed to fit a 3-inch binder, Bergman spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with a highlighter in hand, picking out soundbites and creating the film’s order.
According to Bergman, it took nine cuts and several consultations with the film’s executive producer, John Sullivan, who produced Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016: Obama’s America,” to get the film to the point where it wasn’t “getting any criticism.”
Bergman’s film, “Unfair: Exposing the IRS,” focuses on Washington’s sprawling regulatory machine and portrays the IRS as “the gestapo.”
The 90-minute documentary intertwines commentary by prominent politicians and pundits such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Glenn Beck, with real stories from American veterans, families and grassroots leaders who endured personal attacks and penalties because of their political affiliation.
“It is an A+ movie that we spent six months making, and I’m sure that we can do better. I’m a perfectionist, and I can guarantee that our next movie will raise the bar,” said Bergman.
Over the next two years, Bergman said he plans to produce six more documentary films on “hard-hitting issues” such as the military police state, tax reform and the environment before branching out into more standard theatrical productions.
“We have a formula that works and we’re not afraid,” said Bergman.
“Unfair: Exposing the IRS” has its debut Oct. 14 in theaters nationwide for a one-night-only event. Tickets can be purchased at unfairmovie.com.
Want an Economic Boost? Let’s Kill the Death Tax
Death and taxes are two of life’s certainties, but the tax on death itself should certainly be eliminated. A recent analysis by The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis found that doing away with the federal death tax would provide a much-needed, long-lasting boost to the nation’s economy. Indeed, it would increase economic growth by $46 billion over the next 10 years and add an average of 18,000 jobs per year throughout that period.
The federal death tax (officially known as the “estate tax”) confiscates 40 percent of the income and assets, above a specified exemption, that individuals leave behind after their death. The exemption currently stands at $5.34 million. Because of this high exemption level, the death tax hits only a small fraction of Americans directly — a fact that makes the levy popular among those who believe it is good tax policy to “soak the rich.” Yet for years pollsters have found widespread popular support for eliminating death taxes.
Perhaps Americans despise the death tax because taxing someone for dying just seems wrong. Or perhaps they recognize that income and assets seized by the death tax have already been taxed once — if not twice — by the feds. Or maybe antipathy toward the tax abounds because the American Dream instills the hope that we, too, may someday accumulate significant wealth to pass on to our children.
Americans’ disapproval of the death tax is primarily rooted in fairness, but the economics confirm that the death tax is also inefficient. For starters, some can avoid the death tax through careful — albeit expensive and time consuming — financial planning. But this kind of planning promotes second-rate decision making; in attempting to avoid the death tax, individuals spend more and invest less, while companies voluntarily restrict their growth. These substandard choices mean other companies lose out on investments that are not made, and other workers and consumers lose out on jobs, products and services that are never created.
Despite careful planning, some individuals and businesses cannot avoid the death tax. For example, many small, family-owned businesses are asset-rich but cash-poor. When the owner of such a business dies and the government comes to collect 40 percent of the assets left behind, many of those family-run operations are forced to sell off part or all of their business. This is great news for large corporations who can swoop in and buy up those enterprises at fire-sale prices, or who reap the benefits of reduced competition, but it is bad news for the employees of those businesses who lose their jobs and for the communities who lose their products, services and community involvement. Despite the devastating impacts on those it affects, the death tax brings in only a minuscule amount of federal tax revenue, making it one of the most inefficient forms of taxation. The death tax is a tax on capital, which often has been double-taxed (as regular income and dividend income) before death. Higher taxes on capital reduce the amount of investment in the economy. Lower investment means workers are less productive. Lower productivity means lower wages. And lower wages, in turn, generate less tax revenue.
Although estimates of the death tax’s effects on economic growth and tax revenues vary, the inefficiency of the death tax is well documented. An extra $46 billion in economic growth over the next 10 years may not sound like all that much in a $17 trillion economy. But considering that the death tax generates just about one-half of 1 percent of all federal tax revenues, its elimination would actually provide a lot of bang for the buck. What’s more, incorporating additional distortions of the death tax — such as its compliance costs and cause of inferior decision-making — would lead to even bigger economic gains. Some estimates have even found that eliminating the death tax would generate so much economic growth that tax revenues would rise.
Federal policymakers should heed the will of the people and kill the death tax once and for all.