2013 Favs: Michael Hastings’ Too Convenient Death

Michael Hastings was a journalist who had a penchant for writing the stories no one else would touch.

His reporting shook things up, exemplified by his stories on General Petraeus and General McChrystal. His latest piece, “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” promised to be another important contribution to Americans’ growing understanding of how our government is destroying our civil liberties through the combined use of bad laws and technology.

If Michael Hastings had died without mystery, in his bed from a diagnosed illness, his journalistic fame, along with widespread public interest in him, would probably have died along with him. But Michael Hastings died in a way that ensures his life, work and death will be a matter of public interest for a long time to come.

This administration, along with most members of Congress in both parties, are clearly implicated in the worst spying and civil liberties violation scandal in the history of this Republic. They have been monitoring the private conversations and emails of millions upon millions of innocent American citizens who not only have committed no crime, they are not under any sort of suspicion of committing a crime.

The legal basis for this activity is the badly misnamed “Patriot” Act. The excuse given for this is that without spying on virtually the entire American populace, the dimwits in Washington would be unable “to keep Americans safe.” According to our leaders, the only way to “keep Americans safe” is to put the entire country under surveillance.

The official reaction to leaks that let the American people know that their civil liberties are being trampled  by their government is to crank up the media machine in attacks against Edward Snowden, the man who made this public. The government is going at Mr Snowden with everything they have. This isn’t about “keeping Americans safe.” It’s about protecting their own selves.

Their rage at being exposed stems from one fact. These things needed to stay secret because it would get  them in trouble if it didn’t. All this blab about “security agreements” and “national security” boils down to one thing: They didn’t want the American people to know they were spying on them; not because we needed to be in the dark to “keep Americans safe” but because members of Congress and overreaching bureaucrats needed our ignorance to keep themselves safe.

The reason I’m going through this background is to explain why the untimely death of a journalist named Michael Hastings is suddenly such big news.

Michael Hastings had his finger in the spying-on-the-American-people pot, and he was evidently stirring it a bit. Given his reportorial skills, it seems possible that he might well have been jangling a few official nerves that were already raw. Just as it is imperative for the government to make an example of Edward Snowden because he let us know they were spying on us, they need, for the sake of keeping their jobs, for the story to stop stirring.


As I said, if Michael Hastings had died in his bed of a diagnosed disease, things would be different. However, he did not.

He died in a car crash into a tree that caused the car to blow up, tossing what looks in the video below like the car’s transmission about a block down the road. A few moments before the crash, he was spotted and recorded on a news video going through an intersection at high speed.

An eyewitness to the whole thing has come forward to describe what happened.

The scene is familiar to all of us. We’ve seen similar car crashes in movies and they weren’t accidents. They were assassinations. We know our government has tortured people. We also know our government lies to us and that they do it a lot.

Did Michael Hastings die in an accidental car crash caused by too much speed on a city street? Or, was he murdered?

I don’t know the answer to that question. None of the commenters who are speaking with such certainty on one side of this story or the other knows, either. They are just taking the position which will most benefit the political party they push.

What is certain is that a significant number of Americans think it’s possible that he was assassinated because of what he was writing. No matter the facts of Michael Hasting’s death, that extraordinary level of distrust in our government is a serious matter, all by itself.

The question, What do we need to “keep us safe” from all those faceless people we’ve been told “want to kill us” must be juxtaposed with the question, What do we need to keep us safe from the loss of all our freedoms.

We have lived over two hundred years in freedom. It has become almost impossible for Americans to imagine any other way to live. But the price of freedom is, and always has been, eternal vigilance. We need to remember that at least some of this eternal vigilance needs to be focused on the excesses of our own government.

I do not know what happened to Michael Hastings beyond the fact that he died in a horrible car crash. But I do know that our government is spying on all of us and that the entire Congress took part in giving shadowy agencies a blank check to do this.

What I do know is reason enough for concern.

Here are two videos I found about Michael Hastings’ death.

The first is from the LoudLabs News who spotted him speeding and followed him. The second is an interview with an eye witness to the crash. They’re the best, unbiased information I could find.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Nine Out of Ten Americans Back Bold New Strategy for Syria

The link for this article came from reader Ken. I think The Onion may very well have found a solution for Syria, as well as many other problems this country faces.

Enjoy.

Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria

 Sep 5, 2013

A majority of U.S. citizens believe congressional leaders in both the House and Senate must be sent to war-torn Syria immediately.

WASHINGTON—As President Obama continues to push for a plan of limited military intervention in Syria, a new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of U.S. citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria.

The New York Times/CBS News poll showed that though just 1 in 4 Americans believe that the United States has a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict, more than 90 percent of the public is convinced that putting all 535 representatives of the United States Congress on the ground in Syria—including Senate pro tempore Patrick Leahy, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and, in fact, all current members of the House and Senate—is the best course of action at this time. (Read more here.)

Congressional Budget Office: 30 Late-Term Abortions Each Day

Unbornbaby20weeks

Unborn, 20 Weeks

According to the Congressional Budget Office, doctors in the United States perform at least 30 late-term abortions each day.

The CBO analysisof HR 1797, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act said in part:

“Based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBO estimates that, each year, about 11,000 abortions take place 20 weeks or more after fertilization.”

Any honest person who has dealt with this issue can tell you that this number is bound to be on the low side. Many doctors do not report late-term abortions. One reason for this is that pro choice people fight any attempt to require reporting with wildly erroneous claims that reporting would put undue hardship on doctors and endanger “women’s health,” as well as “turn back the clock” and “send women to the back alleys again.” They usually manage to work rape and incest victims into this somewhere as well.

This is standard boiler plate stuff that they trot out during any and every discussion of pro life legislation. The incredible thing is that, no matter how many times they do it, or how completely inapplicable it may be to the legislation in question, their true believers always buy it.

So, reporting of late-term abortions is, like every other sort of needed regulation, sparse, inconsistent and compromised by expensive court cases and constant hysterics from the pro abortion lobby.

Despite this, the CDC was able to document that American doctors kill at least 11,000 babies every year whose mothers are in the 5th month or later in their pregnancies. I’ve written before about the simple fact that late-term abortion is never medically necessary. A late-term abortion inevitably puts the woman through a labor and delivery anyway. So, if there is a medical reason to stop the pregnancy to save the mother’s life, doctors should just deliver the baby and try to save both their patients.

Baby21weeks

Baby born at 21 weeks. 

Doctors who do late-term abortions have to very carefully kill the baby by shooting poison into its heart before before they do the procedure. If they don’t, there’s a good chance that the baby will survive the abortion and become a problem. I’m no doctor, but that sure sounds like they are aborting babies that are at least potentially viable by any definition of the word except the hatched-up political science fiction of pro abortion Supreme Court decisions.

All the arguments about the woman having a right to her own body fall apart when we consider late-term abortion. If the baby can survive the birth, then the child’s body becomes the issue, not its mother’s.

We commit at least 11,000 of these killings every year in this country. I am against the death penalty. I have the votes and the scars to prove it. But think for a minute about the outcry if we were doing 11,000 executions each year. There would — and there should — be widespread condemnation and claims of barbarism.

The Congressional Budget Office included this paragraph in their report:

“HR 1790 would result in increased spending for Medicaid. Since a portion of Medicaid is paid for by state governments, CBO estimates that state spending on the program would increase by about $170 million over the 2014-2023 period.”

I’m not going to go off on this because I realize that it’s the job of the CBO to provide this kind of cost analysis on all pieces of legislation. They are not saying, as some people will claim, that the CBO feels this money is more important than the lives of babies. They are simply supplying the information.

Baby 22 weeks

Baby born at 22 weeks. 

The people who make the decision about what is important concerning this legislation are the duly elected members of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, together with the President of the United States. They are free to either disregard this financial analysis or base their entire vote on it. That is their choice.

I will say that $170 million is not very much money over a 9-year span in Medicaid funding. At 11,000 babies killed every year of that time period, we would have 99,000 dead children. That’s almost twice the number of soldiers we lost in Viet Nam. What the report is actually telling us is that the cost is minuscule, while the number of lives lost is huge.

One thing we need to decide as a people is do we want to continue this practice of killing viable babies? I would think that even people who favor legal abortion should be ready to re-consider late-term abortions by now.

It amazes me how angry and indignant people become when they see a photo of a baby murdered in an abortion. You’d think the photos, and not the killing itself, was the problem. I think the reason for all this outrage at the sight of photos is simple: They tell a truth that people don’t want to know.

It would be better by far if we stopped those photos by stopping the killing that they record. Think how simple that would be: No more late-term abortions = No more disturbing photos of murdered late-term babies.

 

Abortion on Demand After the 5th Month: Should It Be Legal?

26weeks

Rumors have it that the United States House of Representatives will vote on a bill that will extend the District of Columbia ban on abortions after 20 weeks to the rest of the country.

The bill passed out of House committee this week, and, according to some sources, is being marked up for a vote that may take place next week. I doubt that this bill will pass in the Senate, and it certainly will be vetoed by the President if it does. There is no chance the bill’s authors can convince both houses to override a Presidential veto.

Veto override

On top of that, Roe v Wade specifically set the limit for abortion on demand (with some regulations) at 26 weeks of pregnancy. Unless the Court changes that ruling, the bill is unconstitutional.

So, what is happening here?

I do not see any reason for late-term abortions. I’ve written about that here. However, I always wonder about the real reason for a vote like this, since it is definitely not to make a law and everyone involved knows it.

Do the bill’s authors view the vote as a statement designed to build consensus over time? Are they throwing down the political gauntlet and forcing people to declare where they stand on this issue by how they cast their votes? Do they want to use it as a way of defining an issue for upcoming political campaigns? Or is this some combination of all these things?

I would guess that almost any member of the United States Congress could take a roll sheet of either the Senate or the House and pinpoint with amazing accuracy how each member will vote on this. I imagine they could have pinpointed it at any time during this session. I’ll go a step further and say that they could probably predict what everyone who speaks on the issue will say.

So they’re not trying to convince one another. This is about something else.

Roe v wade ny times

If they had a chance of passing this into law, it would be a powerful thing, indeed. It would force the Supreme Court to either rule against it or let it stand. That could be great, or, if they uphold it, it could make the situation worse; potentially much worse. Everything you do in when you’re in public office can go great or turn sour. In issues with generational punch and Court oversight like this one, strategy is everything.

The reason I’m raising these questions is that I want you to peel back the layers of propaganda and think about what is really happening with your government. I want you to look at the legislative process with understanding. If Christians are to affect change in the world, we need to do more than watch the game and cheer for our side. We need to be able to see through the game.

Thinking1

So, give a thought or two about this bill to limit abortions and tell me what you think they’re doing. Do you think it has any chance to succeed legislatively? Do you think that one of the many similar laws that have passed in the various states will wend its way through the appeals process and on up to the Supreme Court? Do you think there’s any chance the Supreme Court will uphold that law if it does?

These are big questions, and I can tell you, I don’t know the answers to all of them.

What do you think?

Congress Considers More Gun Control and Less Gun Control

Congress

Gun control has become a metaphor for the way our Congress doesn’t work these days. 

Proponents of the defeated gun background checks bill are looking at ways to amend it in hopes of getting the votes of push it through. Meanwhile, at least one senator, as well as the House of Representatives are pushing measures to either relax existing gun control laws or broaden situations where guns are allowed. 

Friday 411 1

My question is, why try to jump the Grand Canyon flat-footed if you’re a turtle?

What I mean by that is that politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. But it appears that it’s become the art of public demagoguery in order to rally your voter base. The desire to actually accomplish anything for this country appears to be dead.

Right wrong

I do not see how constantly erecting straw man legislation and then voting on it does anything for the people. I know that there are times when a lawmaker will introduce legislation they don’t have much hope of passing to make a statement about deeply-held principles. I’ve done this myself. But when this becomes the only thing that Congress is doing, it starts looking like cheap demagoguery designed to deepen the culture wars and lock your sliver of the vote in place for the next election.

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We call these kinds of things “hero deals,” and done in moderation, they are not only harmless, but can serve a purpose. However, the purpose of a governing body is to govern, not do endless “hero deals” for the cameras. 

Surely there is something besides pumping more money into unneeded defense contracts and going on lobbyist-provided junkets that the members of Congress can agree on. Frankly, I’d like to lock all of them up in a dormitory and make them eat beans and sleep on cots until they agree to start governing for the common good and what is best for the people of the United States of America.

Given the deference they are accustomed to, I think one night of this torture should break almost all of them.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators backing gun control are discussing ways to revise the defeated Senate background check bill to help win the votes they need to resuscitate the measure.

Among the changes they might consider are limiting the fees buyers would pay at gun shows, adding provisions dealing with the mentally ill and altering language extending the background checkrequirement to all online sales, senators said Tuesday.

Supporters fell five votes short when the Senate defeated legislation last month that would have extended required federal background checks to more buyers.

That vote, four months after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at a school in Newtown, Conn., was a defeat for President Barack Obama and gun control advocates. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to revisit the issue, perhaps by early summer.

While Senate Democrats hunted more votes to expand background checks, the Republican-run House took a step in the opposite direction Wednesday, voting to make the system less restrictive for some veterans.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted by voice to require a judge or magistrate to declare a veteran is dangerous before the name is entered in the background check system’s database of people barred from getting firearms. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs sends the system the names of veterans it has declared unable to manage their financial affairs — 127,000 names since 1998.

Supporters of the measure said veterans who can’t handle their money aren’t necessarily dangerous. The department opposes the measure, saying veterans in the database already have the ability to appeal.

Gun rights advocates were also taking the offensive in the Senate.

The chamber planned to vote Wednesday on a measure by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., allowing firearms on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers if it didn’t conflict with state law. (Read the rest here.) 

 

Debt Limit Fight: House of Representatives Stops Saber Rattling, Starts Negotiating

It sounds like the House GOP is finally listening to somebody besides each other.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that they might actually be responding to the disgust coming at them from we the people.

In a reverse of their previous saber-rattling, they have come up with a proposal that would both raise the debt limit and (hopefully) address the deficit. Kudos to them.

Now, it’s up to President Obama. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

A New York Times article describing this situation reads in part:

In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit
By JONATHAN WEISMAN

WASHINGTON — Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.
Related

The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.

The change in tack represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with immediate spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to shrink the trillion-dollar deficit.

To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional. (Read more here.)

New Congressional Motto: Country Last

The Senate passed the Biden/McConnell compromise bill last night. Now, it has to go to the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill delays some of the decisions that have been holding things up for two months. In other words, our elected leaders plan to put themselves and this country through this again in two months. All because they couldn’t manage to do their jobs now.

Evidently, if  Vice President Biden didn’t have the personal relationships with various senators that he does, we wouldn’t even have this compromise. The message in this, so far as I’m concerned, is that maybe civility does have a place in better government. This hate-filled what’s-in-it-for-me brinksmanship certainly isn’t doing us much good.

An ABC News article that explains the real issues behind this fight surprisingly well says in part:

Going over the “fiscal cliff” may seem irresponsible and self-destructive for the nation as a whole, but it’s a politically logical, self-preserving step for many individual lawmakers.

They come from districts where ideological voters abhor tax hikes, or spending cuts, that anybipartisan compromise must include. Many of these voters detest compromise itself, telling elected officials to stick to partisan ideals or be gone.

That’s why the fiscal cliff is just one in a continuing string of wrenching, demoralizing impasses on tax-and-spending showdowns, which threaten the nation’s economic recovery.

A breach of the fiscal cliff’s midnight deadline became inevitable late Monday when House leaders said they couldn’t keep waiting for the Senate to send a bill their way. The House may reconvene in a day or two to vote on a White House-blessed deal to curtail the new package of tax hikes and spending cuts, which technically start with the new year. But it’s painfully apparent that partisan warfare sent the government past a line that could alarm financial markets and further undermine faith in America’s leaders, at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the political realities that made a bigger solution impossible will not change any time soon. That raises red flags for upcoming fiscal clashes, especially the need to raise the government’s borrowing limit in a few months to avoid defaulting on federal debt …

… The vast majority of congressional Republicans have vowed never to approve higher tax rates. It’s no idle promise. Many of them preferred to let the fiscal cliff deadline pass, causing tax rates to rise on nearly all American workers, at least for a time. Then, presumably this week, they can vote to cut taxes for around 98 percent of Americans, rather than vote in December to raise rates on the richest 2 percent and avoid the cliff. (Read more here.)

What that last paragraph means is that the House Republicans have deliberately left the country go past the fiscal cliff. The reason is that, since the effect of doing this is an automatic raise in taxes on ordinary Americans, they will be voting for a tax cut when they pass the Senate compromise bill.

It’s all a shell game designed to let them say that they voted to cut taxes on their campaign pieces. That’s why they’re putting this country through this.

A CNN article describing the compromise bill and the legislative process it faces says in part:

(CNN) – If a Senate deal to avert the fiscal cliff becomes law, all but a sliver of the U.S. population will avoid higher tax rates, some key issues will be put off for two months, and all sides in the battle will emerge with a mixed record: winning key points, while ceding ground on others.

The deal, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate in an overwhelming 89-8 vote in the middle of the night, would maintain tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. Technically, it would reinstate cuts that expired at midnight.

It would raise tax rates for those over those levels — marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

The bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. GOP members planned to meet at 1 p.m., two aides told CNN.

“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” one GOP leadership aide said. (Read more here.)

What Is the ‘Fiscal Cliff’?

What is this “fiscal cliff” that commenters and pollsters talk about? What difference does it make to you and me?

The following excerpt from a Yahoo Finance article does a good job of answering these questions.

As usual, our elected officials are taking polls to learn what we the people think about their brinksmanship politics. They use the results of these polls to determine how far they can go in endangering the rest of us and keep their jobs. I don’t read much about them putting our country first, just how they can frame their irresponsibility so that the other guy takes the political fall for it.

BOTH parties are at fault here. NEITHER party appears to give a care about this country.

Pollsters are polling us. Politicians who don’t care about governing are using those polls to determine their next move in the one thing they do care about, which is making the opposite political party look bad.

I doubt that many people who are being polled know what the “fiscal cliff” is, or why it matters to them. I don’t want Public Catholic readers to be that uninformed.

The Yahoo Finance article says in part:

The fiscal cliff refers to the potentially disastrous situation the U-S faces at the end of this year. At midnight on December 31st, a number of laws are set to expire. If the President and the Republicans don’t reach an agreement before then, Americans could face broad government spending cuts and tax increases on January 1st. The combined amount would total over 500 billion dollars. Those 500 billion dollars equal about three to four percent of the nation’s entire gross domestic product. This is what’s referred to as the fiscal cliff.
If there isn’t a resolution, here are the specifics of what will happen.
Taxes would go up for almost every taxpayer and many businesses. The Bush-era tax cuts, which tax relief for middle and upper-class tax payers, would be a thing of the past. So would President Obama’s payroll tax cut which added about a thousand dollars a year to the average worker’s income.
Government spending would be slashed. That means less money for most military, domestic and federal programs. $26 billion in emergency unemployment-compensation would be gone. Medicare payments to doctors would be reduced by $11 billion. Federal programs would take the biggest hit. They stand to lose a total of $65 billion.
If the fiscal cliff isn’t avoided, some investors will be hit hard. Those who receive qualified dividends could see the tax rate on those dividends go from 15% to almost 40% in 2013.
Many business owners believe going over the fiscal cliff will cripple the economy, triggering a deep recession. (Read more here.)


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