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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Government Agents Lie, Deceive and Scam. Is This What We Should Expect From Our Employees?

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BATFE Implicated in More Rogue Operations

Posted on December 13, 2013
Over the last several years, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has been plagued by mismanagement, scandal and rogue operations, the most infamous of which has been the ill-fated and deadly "Fast and Furious" debacle.  Despite these ongoing problems and the criticism and calls for reform they have generated, BATFE has continued its practice of questionable tactics and judgment. 

In fact, over the course of the last week, numerous media outlets have reported on yet another dubious BATFE operation--this one lowering the bar to a new, disturbing level. 

As Fox News reports, BATFE agents in cities across the country used rogue tactics to go after guns on the street by allegedly luring mentally ill individuals to participate in sting operations, then later arresting many of these same individuals.  There are also reports that BATFE agents allowed minors to smoke pot and drink alcohol in connection with these operations.

The allegations against BATFE came about as a result of an in-depth investigation earlier this year by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which exposed an ill-conceived BATFE sting in Milwaukee that included agents hiring a brain-damaged man to promote an undercover storefront and then arresting him for his work. 

According to the latest Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on the issue, BATFE officials told Congress the failed Milwaukee operation was an isolated case of inadequate supervision. 

But apparently it was not.  Instead, it appears that it was part of a pattern of questionable activities in several states.

The Journal Sentinel article reports that among the findings of the investigation were the following revelations:

■ BATFE agents befriended mentally disabled people to stimulate business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, BATFE agents referred to a man with a low IQ as "slow-headed" before deciding to secretly use him as a key figure in their sting.  Agents in Albuquerque gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a "tutorial" on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.

■ Agents in several cities opened undercover gun- and drug-buying operations in safe zones near churches and schools, allowed juveniles to come in and play video games and teens to smoke marijuana, and provided alcohol to underage youths. In Portland, Ore., attorneys for three teens who were charged said a female agent dressed provocatively, flirted with the boys and encouraged them to bring drugs and weapons to the store to sell.

■ As they did in Milwaukee, agents in other cities offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit. In other stings, agents ran fake pawnshops and readily bought stolen items, such as electronics and bikes--no questions asked--spurring burglaries and theft.  In Atlanta, agents bought guns that had been stolen just hours earlier, several that were taken from police cars.
■ Agents damaged buildings they rented for their operations, tearing out walls and rewiring electricity--then stuck landlords with the repair bills.  A property owner in Portland, Ore., said agents removed a parking lot spotlight, damaging her new $30,000 roof and causing leaks, before they shut down the operation and disappeared without a way for her to contact them.

■ Agents pressed suspects for specific firearms that could fetch tougher penalties in court.  They allowed felons to walk out of the stores armed with guns. In Wichita, agents suggested a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back--and provided instructions on how to do it.  The sawed-off gun allowed them to charge the man with a more serious crime.

■ In Pensacola, BATFE hired a felon to run its pawnshop.  The move widened the pool of potential targets, boosting arrest numbers.  BATFE's pawnshop partner was later convicted of pointing a loaded gun at someone outside a bar.  Instead of a stiff sentence typically handed down to repeat offenders in federal court, he got six months in jail--and a pat on the back from the prosecutor.

Rest assured, we'll keep readers apprised of any new developments in the investigation and reporting of these shocking allegations.

Republican HealthCare Ideas--More Workable Than ObamaCrapCare

Wis. Gov. Walker Pushing Plan to Sidestep Obamacare

Friday, 13 Dec 2013 11:20 PM
By Cathy Burke
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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has a plan to sidestep Obamacare – and his novel idea is gaining traction, according to reports.

Walker reportedly wants to let the uninsured use tax credits to buy plans offered on the federal online exchanges directly from the insurance companies.

"Basically, our number one concern right now should be getting folks health insurance. Given the website problems, that suggests the value of a pilot of the type proposed here," Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee.

Gruber was involved in both the Massachusetts universal coverage plan, and the Affordable Care Act.

The plan will need the approval of Health and Human Services.

“If they don't approve this, this is ultimately exposing that this isn't really about access and this isn't about affordability,” Walker told Fox News Thursday. “It's about government playing a heavier hand in these kinds of decisions.”

Wisconsin's insurance commissioner, Ted Nickel, is asking HHS to include the state in a pilot program to let consumers go right to insurance carriers for coverage available through online exchanges; the newspaper reported the direct enrollment option is already included in Obamacare as it was originally written.

"Given that it's not working and [consumers] were promised subsidies, there's got to be a better way," Nickel’s spokesman, J.P. Wieske, told the newspaper.

Gruber supports a short-term plan to let buyers get insurance on the exchanges directly from the carriers, but warns against allowing consumers use their tax credit in search of a plan outside the exchange market.

"If the young and healthy can use the tax credit to stay out of the reformed insurance market, then it will worsen the price increase in that market,” he told the newspaper.

Fox News noted the Walker plan – and other GOP alternatives – fly in the face of Obama’s Dec. 3 assertion Republicans want only to “go back to the way things used to be.”
GOP plans are generally consumer driven, Ed Haislmaier of The Heritage Group told Fox News. “The patient makes choices,” he said.

Still, Gruber told Fox News other plans can’t go as far as the Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve yet to hear a Republican alternative which covers nearly as many uninsured or even half as many uninsured or offers evidence-based solutions to the health care cost crisis,” he told Fox News.

Related Stories: © 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Another Shooting In Colorado School. Another Young Man. Angry With A Teacher, Luckily He Was The Only Fatality.

Revenge probed as motive in Colo. school shooting

Saturday, December 14th 2013, 9:21 am

Investigators were looking Saturday at whether revenge motivated a teenage gunman to enter his suburban Denver high school armed with a shotgun looking for a specific teacher.
Quick-thinking students at Arapahoe High School on Friday alerted the targeted educator, who quickly left the building. The 18-year-old shooter — identified by authorities as Karl Pierson — critically wounded a 15-year-old student, but the strategic response by police on the eve of the Newtown massacre anniversary appears to have averted more bloodshed.
About a half hour after wounding the girl, Pierson was found dead in the school, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"I believe the shooter took his life because he knew he had been found," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said.
Two other students were treated for minor injuries and released.
Robinson said Pierson, a senior who participated in debate activities, had had an altercation with the teacher, but the sheriff did not provide details or elaborate on a motive.
Authorities evacuated hundreds of students in an orderly procession — a demonstration of aggressive security measures developed by police and schools following the 1999 shooting at Columbine, some 8 miles west of Arapahoe High. All of the students there started school after Columbine and grew up in a security-conscious era.
After that tragedy, police across the country developed "active shooter" training in which responding officers rush toward gunfire — and step over bodies and bleeding victims if necessary — to stop the gunman.
"The first deputy sheriffs and police officers that were on scene immediately entered the school to engage the shooter if they could locate that individual and keep the other students safe," Robinson said.
"This kid, the officers went right to him literally within minutes," said Gov. John Hickenlooper. "That is a world of change from the way response used to happen."
Before Columbine, officials followed a contain-and-wait strategy in which arriving officers set up a perimeter to contain the situation, then wait for SWAT team members trained in military tactics to bring down the gunman.
Robinson said Pierson made no attempt to hide his weapon while entering the school from a parking lot and asking for the teacher by name.
When the teacher learned that he was being targeted, he left "in an effort to try to encourage the shooter to also leave the school," Robinson said. "That was a very wise tactical decision."
Students heard shots and cowered in classrooms while awaiting word on what had happened.
Senior Megan Jeffords, 18, was singing Christmas carols in the hall with her choir class when the shots rang out. A teacher rushed the 18 singers into a closet, where they huddled for more than half an hour.
Hours later, after Jeffords was reunited with her father, she was still visibly shaken and unable to talk much about what happened.
Jessica Girard was in math class when she said she heard three shots.
"Then there was a bunch of yelling, and then I think one of the people who had been shot was yelling in the hallway, `Make it stop,'" she said.
Two suspected Molotov cocktails were also found inside the school, the sheriff said. One detonated, though no one was injured.
The shooting came a day before the anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., attack in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Since Columbine, Colorado has endured other mass shootings, including the killing of 12 people in a movie theater in nearby Aurora in 2012. But it was not until after the Newtown massacre that state lawmakers moved to enact stricter gun control laws.
Two Democratic lawmakers were recalled from office earlier this year for backing the laws, and a third recently resigned to avoid a recall election.

Can Budget Deal Pass The Senate? Are There Enough Republicans Who Will Vote For Passage?

Democrats Looking for Just Five GOP Senators to Back Budget Bill

Friday, 13 Dec 2013 10:01 PM
By Todd Beamon
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Lost in the din of the debate among Republicans over the controversial budget bill is the fact that only five GOP senators need to jump ranks to move the bipartisan measure forward.

With Republican opposition to the bill mounting, Democrats seem firmly in favor of the compromise bill forged by Democrat Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said all 53 Democrats and two independents will vote Tuesday to end debate on the two-year spending bill, which passed the House Thursday on a 332-94 vote — paving the way for a final vote.

“I think it would be suicide if the Republicans didn't pass it,” the Nevada Democrat told Bloomberg Television Friday.

But tea party groups are pressuring GOP senators to reject the bill or potentially face primary challenges and angry constituents. And, 62 Republicans and 32 Democrats broke ranks with their respective leaders and opposed the measure. The deal was backed by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

But to end the debate on the Senate bill — or "cloture" — Democrats would need five GOP votes, though the final vote would require only 51 votes for passage.

Where would those five votes come from? Here are some of the senators seen as likely "yes" votes, according to news reports.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona

McCain has said he'd likely vote to end cloture on the bill.

“I’m not OK with it, but I think it’s better than shutting down the government,” McCain said Friday, according to Politico.

He has since, however, voiced concerns about the bill's proposed pension cuts to working-age military retirees.

Pensions for such retirees would be cut by 1 percentage point, through it would have a practical effect of cutting the payments by 20 percent over the next two decades, according to veterans groups.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee

Corker said he'd end debate on the bill, adding, "My sense is that the procedural issues could be overcome and there could be just" a yes or no vote.

However, the two-term legislator said he would vote against the bill because it raises spending.

“I appreciate the dilemma Paul Ryan was in, but I’m disappointed,” Corker told The New York Times.

“For three years in a row, Congress has spent less on discretionary programs than the year before.

"Unfortunately, the deal announced this week busts these budget caps without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs, so it violates the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order.”

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine
Collins, who is in her third term, said she would vote to move the bill forward but that she has not definitively decided on whether she would support it.

“I will vote for cloture," she told Politico. "I’m still weighing [final passage] but I’m inclined toward it … The advantages of having a budget outweigh the reservations that I have."

In addition, Collins told The Hill that "I am concerned about the impact on the military retirees."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Murkowski, who was first appointed to the Senate in 2002, is viewed by Democrats as a potential supporter of ending debate on the budget bill.

The deal, she told Politico, “is weighing heavily on my mind as I leave the chamber on a Friday afternoon.”

When asked whether she would vote to move the legislation forward, she responded, "I might."

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona

McCain's colleague in the upper chamber has also said he'd vote to move the budget legislation forward, though he said he would block final passage.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina

The senator, who has served in the upper chamber since 2005, is likely to support ending debate, but not to back the budget deal, an aide told Newsmax.

Other GOP senators who have been mentioned as possible supporters of ending cloture — though they may not support the final vote — are Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

The spending deal is opposed by the Senate's top three Republicans — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota — as well as Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Budget Committee.

They all contend the budget would increase the spending limits required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Those sequestration cuts took effect in March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Incumbents Taking Heat Over Budget Deal

Palin: 'Read My Lipstick:' Budget Deal Bad

Image: Palin: 'Read My Lipstick:' Budget Deal Bad
Friday, 13 Dec 2013 12:30 PM
By Lisa Barron
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Sarah Palin is lashing out at the controversial Ryan-Murray budget deal that passed by a large margin in the House but faces a tough battle on the Senate floor next week.

"No one can argue with the fact that Paul Ryan's compromise budget bill raises taxes and increases spending. Show me one Republican who got elected on that platform," the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee wrote in an editorial posted online at Thursday.

"Spare America the Orwellian word games. If the government is taking money out of your pocket to fund its growing Big Brother operations, it's a tax. Whether money is taken from you via your phone bill, your airline ticket, or your income, it's a tax. If politicians can't be honest about this, it's time to go home," she said.

The budget compromise funds a slight increase in spending through a fee on air travel, a change to cost-of-living increases for future military retirees, and a requirement for federal workers to pay more into their pensions.

In her commentary, titled, "Read My Lipstick: No New Taxes," Palin argued, "We can sit back and accept the increased spending 'Compromised Plan' with increases in taxes and spending, or we can charge ahead to at least preserve the very modest Sequester cuts American workers fought for."

She continued, "The Political establishment will no doubt tell us that a budget battle will distract us from the fight against Obamacare. But that excuse is just the latest variation in the Establishment's old canard that they're keeping their powder dry for the next big battle, which never seems to materialize because they're always too busy waving the white flag and following the path of least resistance until election day."

"Do these members of Congress really think they can justify every tax dollar they spend and still demand more from hard working Americans?" Palin added.

In a warning to incumbents facing reelection in 2014, Palin concluded, "We'll be watching."

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