Over 66 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico that officials asked the U.S. government to trace were sourced to the United States, according to data released Thursday by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Conservatives have asserted that ATF's botched Fast and Furious operation -- in which U.S. gun dealers were told to sell large numbers of weapons to individuals they believed were "straw purchasers" for Mexican drug cartels -- was launched by the Obama administration in an effort to justify gun control measures. But the trace data showed that the number of weapons traced to the U.S. peaked before he even took office.
ATF traced 17,352 weapons back to the U.S. in 2007 and 32,111 in 2008. That number decreased to 21,555 in 2009 and 8,338 in 2010, then rose up to 20,335 in 2011. They traced 4,424 weapons back to U.S. retailers in 2007 and 8,039 in 2008. 5,517 weapons were traced back to U.S. retailers in 2009, 3,112 in 2010 and 6,733 in 2011.
Fast and Furious, which started in late 2009, is likely responsible for at least a portion of the 2011 bump. It's not clear how many weapons that ATF officials let "walk" during the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver were included in the trace data
Sen. Chuck Grassley downplayed the significance of ATF's statics.
"Thorough gun statistics are hard to come by and tricky to interpret," he said in a statement Thursday night. "The key to this data is that most of these guns can't be traced to U.S. gun dealers. And, some of those would actually trace back to the United States because of the federal government's own gunwalking scandal.
"We also have to remember that the only guns Mexico is going to submit for tracing are guns they know are from the United States, which clearly paints an incomplete picture of the firearms found in the Mexico," Grassley said.
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Led by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Republicans in the House are preparing a contempt resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder, alleging that the nation's top law enforcement official has obstructed a congressional investigation into a federal operation that allowed guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels.
A congressional source with knowledge of the contempt resolution confirmed to TPM that a draft does exist and said Republican leadership had been very supportive of the measure, which was first reported by CBS News. CBS said House Speaker John Boehner had given Issa the go-ahead to pursue the resolution, but a GOP leadership aide disputed that report and told TPM that "no decision" had been made.
That said, a Holder contempt resolution doesn't seem far off in the dispute over documents related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation dubbed "Fast and Furious". A House Oversight Committee spokesperson said in a statement to TPM that the committee "continues to make necessary preparations to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt if the Justice Department refuses to change course and stop blocking access to critical documents" in their investigation, which began in early 2011.
"While the committee continues to move toward consideration of contempt, it is important to note that the next step in the process of contempt must be made by the Oversight Committee," the spokesperson said. "Reports, based on anonymous sources, that decisions for consideration of contempt on the House floor have already been made are inaccurate."
DOJ noted in a letter to Issa last week that they have turned over or made available over 7,300 documents in response to the congressional subpoena. The April 19 letter also dismissed the comparison between the number of documents turned over to Congress with the number turned over to the Justice Department's Inspector General, which is also reviewing the operation.
"This comparison is inapposite," Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote. "As a component of the Justice Department, the Office of the Inspector General is entitled to review material that is not appropriate for further disclosure, such as transcripts of grand jury proceedings and other law enforcement sensitive materials."
One Justice Department official noted that Holder had testified about Fast and Furious during seven separate congressional hearings and that they provided over a dozen officials for hearings, briefings and interviews.
A remarkable shot of the Shuttle prototype Enterprise over New York City this morning. [...]
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There are a lot of things companies do to fool consumers, some more meaningful than others. They pack items in large boxes to make them look bigger, they offer questionable claims about their products' effectiveness, they weave absurd tales about how your life will be changed if you buy their thing. Navigating your way through that thicket of baloney is part of being a smart consumer, and to a degree we accept it as part of the price of having free commercial speech. Short of outright fraud or practices that do substantial harm to consumers, we understand that people who are selling things can say almost anything they want, and we accept that being a consumer means that manufacturers and retailers are going to try to fool you. In the immortal words of Morty Seinfeld, "Cheap fabric and dim lighting. That's how you move merchandise."
But there are some kinds of deception that are beyond the pale. It's one thing to sell you something that might not be up to your expectations; perhaps your expectations were just too high. It's something else to fool you into buying one thing, when you actually wanted to buy something else. I give you the modern American gas pump:
You see, here in the West we read from left to right. As a consequence, when we array things, we usually array them from smallest to largest, from left to right. Gas pumps offer three kinds of gas at three different prices. So the owners of gas stations, knowing that we always assume the lowest-priced option will be on the left, move the lowest-priced option to the middle, with the second-lowest-priced on the left. They know that most people go into the station and want the cheapest gas (particularly when gas is expensive). And they know that a certain number of people won't look too closely, and will pick the more expensive option when they actually wanted the cheaper option, thereby paying a few more dollars than they had intended. Suckers!
Gas stations are generally owned by independent businesspeople, not the oil companies themselves. But this practice, which has become universal as far as I can tell, makes me feel about the same way toward those small business owners as I feel toward ExxonMobil or BP. There is simply no reason to array the pumps that way, except in the hope that they'll trick people into buying something they didn't want. It's a scam, nothing more, nothing less.
Could my complaint have anything to do with the fact that the other day in a moment of inattention I myself got fooled by this very scam? Heavens, no.
Our Barenaked Ladies guitar fun for Norman Solomon and David Gill has been working out so well that we decided to launch another one. This time we have a sleek, black Squier Telecaster autographed-- in 2002-- by all the members of Filter. And we're going to send it out as a thank you present to one supporter of our efforts on behalf of Ken Aden. The page is here.
We've introduced you to Ken before. He's a tough as nails progressive running in the reddest district in Arkansas. Rather than shrink away from a fight as others in his state have done, this Army Combat Veteran is taking it to the streets and standing up for equal rights for all. A main part of his campaign focus is on community service work, renewable energy technology, veterans rights, and the protection of Social Security and Medicare. In a recent quote he said that "if you even think of cutting Medicare and Social Security you ARE a criminal! The time for corporate prostitution has come to an end!"
As we mentioned on the Act Blue page, we were chatting with Ken this week and he told us about a woman he met while out campaigning over the weekend. She considered herself an independent, and was a supporter of Ken's opponent-- Wal-Mart's personal Congressman, Steve Womack-- back in 2010.
"I wish I would have met you back then, because I never would have voted for him," is just what she told Ken on Saturday.
We liked that, because it is the opening lyric of, "Hey Man, Nice Shot," by the legendary rock band Filter, and Filter is part of the special surprise we have planned to help Ken, which we wanted to share with our supporters.
You may have heard that Ken's campaign in Arkansas' Third District is highlighting food insecurity and hunger in the impoverished district by holding the Run 2 End Hunger II, whereby Special Forces veteran Ken Aden will run across the entire district-- a run of 253 miles in 7 days. This race is slated to begin on the 28th of April and will continue through the 5th of May. He's collecting pledges for canned food for every mile, and the food which is collected will be donated to three struggling non profit organizations within the state.
What Ken's doing is so important that we wanted to encourage all of our friends to help. But, since we know we can't ask you to send canned food through the mail even though we are 100 percent in support of our brothers and sisters at the APWU, we thought we'd ask you to pledge to donate $25.30 to Ken's race-- that's one dime for every mile that he'll be running across the district. Of course if you can't donate that amount any help would be greatly appreciated. And if you want to contribute more... please don't hesitate.
And, for every person who makes a contribution through this page for Ken's campaign, you will be entered in a random drawing to win a guitar signed by every member of Filter as a "thank you" from Blue America. Everyone has the same shot, whether you contribute one dollar or 1,000 dollars-- or even if you just send us a note to PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
So don't delay-- please make your contribution to Ken's campaign today, and by doing so, you'll have a direct hand in ending the plight of impoverished families today. GO KEN GO!!!
Again, here's where you can get in on the fun and get a chance to walk away with this unique, collectible Filter guitar-- and help a fighting progressive get into office and start shaking things up. The guys in Filter gave me the guitar when I decided to retire from Reprise. They were one of my favorite bands on the label and their smash hit, "Hey Man Nice Shot," was a song I loved even before it was ever released. Some people were appalled because they thought the song was about Kurt Cobain's "suicide." But it never was. They wrote the song about the suicide of Pennsylvania's Republican state Treasurer, Budd Dwyer. Dwyer was an innocent man unjustly accused of taking a bribe and he shot himself during a press conference with a .357 Magnum. The corruption in this case is that the prosecutors bribed the witness to testify under oath that Dwyer was guilty in return for a lighter sentence for himself. He later recanted that testimony. Just sayin'...
So do you want to try for a Telecaster or a Stratocaster? Barenaked Ladies or Filter? Norman Solomon and David Gill or Ken Aden? Up to you.
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Moments before the House Republicans disregarded President Obama’s veto threat and passed a bill preserving lower interest rates on student loans by gutting the Affordable Care Act?s Prevention and Public Health Fund, the Democratic women of the 112th Congress blasted Republicans for undermining women’s health, arguing that the Fund would disproportionately benefit women. “It particularly benefits the reproductive health care, child bearing health care, preventive health care that benefits women,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said and predicted that the action would further shrink the GOP’s support among female voters.
“We would prevent screenings for breast and cervical cancer,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) explained. “This fund helps to prevent coronary heart disease — and that is the leading killer of women in America. It mitigates osteoporosis, arthritis, mental illness — which disproportionately effect women in the United States.” Watch it:
The GOP measure — which passed in a vote of 215-195, with the support of 13 Democrats — finances the $5.9 billion cost of maintaining the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford loans for one year by repealing the Fund in its entirety and rescinding all unobligated balances, including money being spent this year. Health advocates believe that the Fund is essential for re-orienting the American health care system towards prevention of chronic conditions, which are ?responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and account for 75 percent of the nation?s health spending.? Under the law, the Fund will ?invest $12.5 billion over the next ten years (FY2013-FY2022) in effective programs proven to prevent disease and injury.?
“I call your attention to the fact that they don’t only take out what they need, they want to eliminate the Fund,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters. “I view it as a statement of their values.” Democrats tied the action to the GOP’s proposals to restructure the Medicare program — which would force future seniors, particularly women to pay more for coverage — and their opposition to renewing an inclusive Violence Against Women Act.
Significantly, the Fund is also being used to increase “the size of the health care workforce” “to create new residency positions for primary care doctors and ramp up training capacity for physicians” and fund programs “to reduce obesity and tobacco use by targeting environmental factors — things like providing safe walking paths for exercise or access to smoking cessation programs.”
Vice President Joe Biden’s speech critiquing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s foreign policy positions has received a range of responses. Dan Senor, a Romney adviser who served as the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, commented that Biden offered a “fantasy narrative” of President Obama’s accomplishments. Another Romney foreign policy adviser, Pierre Prosper, charged that, under the Obama administration, ?The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia? ? of which the latter dissolved nearly 20 years ago after the fall of the U.S.S.R.
But the strangest criticism came from former U.N. ambassador John Bolton who claimed that a laugh-line in Biden’s speech showed that New York University (NYU) students, where the speech was delivered, don’t believe the president is strong on foreign policy. Bolton explained to Fox News’ Greta Van Sustern:
BOLTON: But I thought the best part of it was at one point, trying to appropriate yet another Republican president, Biden said, ‘you have to speak softly and carry a big stick.’ And then he said, ‘I promise you, President Obama has a big stick.’ And the audience broke out laughing, which is some measure of their belief about how assertive Obama is on behalf of our interests internationally.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, it’s — apparently, that’s also going to — that’s made a couple — a lot of — a lot of jokes, too, on the Internet. It is — apparently, that is something that’s not going to go away, at least for a while, for Vice President Biden, that remark.
BOLTON: Yet another one.
It’s unclear if the NYU audience was laughing at, or with, Biden. The Vice President maintained a dead-pan expression during the brief outbreak of laughter.
Indeed, Van Susteren is correct that the “big stick” comment has generated a great deal of attention, although not all of it negative, on the internet. CBS, ABC, NBC and The Huffington Post all published articles with headlines incorporating the statement “Obama ‘has a big stick,’” in the minutes and hours after the speech was delivered.
The fact that Bolton interpreted the laughter as a critical response to the administration’s foreign policy doctrine is bizarre considering the former U.N. ambassador’s penchant for bellicose rhetoric when describing his domination-focused foreign policy positions. Last summer, Bolton opined that the U.S. “should be squeezing and disciplining Moscow, not caressing it.”
This post contains spoilers through the April 26 episode of Parks & Recreation.
One of my friends pinged me last night to say that he thought this episode of Parks & Recreation was my platonic ideal for a half-hour of the show. He’s basically right. Everything from the shot of Jerry watching the debate with the nuns like he’s one of the Three Stooges visiting home to Leslie’s closing statement was precisely my cup of tea. But mostly, I enjoy episodes of the show where all the characters are working on different elements of the same, sprawling project the way they were in “Harvest Festival” or “Lil’ Sebastian,” and tonight’s was one of those.
Episodes like this work because you can shift how much time you allocate between the A, B, and C story without worrying that one throughline will get short shrift. They’re all part of the same enterprise?in this case, making sure Leslie’s debate performance is solid, her spin room is working hard, and a room full of big donors is entertained. Those three setups give the characters room to work on separate issues, like the love triangle between Ann, Tom, and Chris, which has never seemed more plausible or well-executed than it was tonight, or April’s caring about things. But they’re all really part of the same goal, which is something the show does well both because the characters have great chemistry in a lot of different combinations, and because those kinds of big-project stories are both uniquely suited to and illustrate what’s interesting about a bureaucratic organization.
The debate was an interesting moment because it illustrated a problem that Leslie’s campaign?and the show about her?have shared all season: the candidate hasn’t been able to find her stride, even though she’s clearly the most qualified person in the mix. She should be able to nail the debate: “You could debate Newport in your sleep,” Ben tells her. “I have,” she chirps enthusiastically. “I know,” Ben reminds her. “I sleep in the same bed. It’s been hell.” And her opening swipe at Bobby Newport, that he wants to buy the town, is true, and something that will be proven even truer before the end of the evening. But it goes over like a lead balloon. What matters isn’t what’s accurate, or even significant. It’s that Leslie looks mean and negative, when we’ve had four years of television episodes proving that she’s anything but. Conversely, the substance of Bobby Newport’s insistence that “I want your vote because I want Pawnee, and my Dad, to see what I’m made of” is gross when you think about it closely, but it sounds endearing (Ditto on “I guess my thoughts on abortion are, let’s all just have a good time.”), so he gets credit he manifestly doesn’t deserve. Leslie’s closing statement is a party-at-the-lake-house worthy moment precisely because she finds a way to unify the substance of what she’s saying with the style and break through to the audience. It’s the first time she’s really been able to do that since “Born and Raised.”
I think it’s important to note that there’s a difference between this kind of clarity and the belief a lot of pop culture has about politics, which is that rhetorical brilliance breaks all impasses, cows all cynical manipulators of the system, binds up our wounds and leads us into the promised land. Instead, this whole season has been about the fact that while working in bureaucracy can be relatively smooth sailing if you know how everything works and have good systems set up, persuading the public and winning elections is a vastly harder thing to do, even for someone who is essentially smart and personable. People have agendas and senses of themselves that they have precisely no interest in surrendering. This is something that most pop culture fails to grasp. It just assumes that we share values and world, and when we get out of kilter, the only thing that’s required to get us back on track is the rhetorical equivalent of a whack with a wrench. That’s not accurate, and for a storytelling and character-growth perspective, it’s not particularly interesting.
In addition to that wonderful centerpiece, this is a nice summing-up moment for a number of other characters on the show. April admits publicly, or at least to Tom, that there are things she’s invested in, even if she can’t make her arms work right to clean the house in preparation for the fundraiser, confessing “I care about Andy, and Champion, and I want Leslie to win.” In return, she got through to Tom what he’s been incapable of acknowledging before: that he has to act normal around Ann if he wants to be with her, and save pronouncements like “She’s smooth, like a blended whisky,” for Leslie’s spin room. Ron gets to put his manly and musical skills to work hacking into the cable network to save the fundraiser after opening it with the bluntest statement of purpose in political history: “Hello. You are here because you gave us money. Now, we will give you ribs. Also, you will watch the debate. If you like the debate, you’ll give us more money. That is all. Ron Swanson.”
And I just love the idea both that Andy’s tremendous, perpetually-refilled enthusiasm would lead him to step into the void of the cable outage with movie retellings, and that Pawnee’s richest non-Sweetums-beholden residents would be rapt by it. This is a good town, full of good people. They deserve a good City Councilwoman. Knope 2012.
Montana Democratic Congressional candidate Dave Strohmaier is calling on progressives to prove they support the values they claim represent them. In his latest video ? what seems to be his first produced ad ? he boasts his support for marriage equality while officiating a same-sex wedding, adding, “It sure does annoy Republicans.” Watch it:
Casino billionaire and right-wing activist Sheldon Adelson has already given at least $10 million to Republican-Allied Super PACs so far this cycle… and he plans to make at least one more Super PAC donation. But, he told Las Vegas Sun political reporter Jon Ralston, after that he plans to keep his massive political spending secret.
?I?m going to give one more small donation ? you might not think it?s that small ? to a SuperPAC and then if I give it will be to a c4,? a reference to 501c4 nonprofits, which are tax-exempt and also exempt from disclosures. I opined that surely meant Crossroads, which would allow him to indirectly help Mitt Romney and Sen. Dean Heller [R-NV], who is running against Rep. Shelley Berkley [D-NV]. Berkley used to work for Adelson, but they had a falling out in the mid-1990s and he surely would love to see her lose.
?Do you know how many c4s there are?? Adelson retorted, as if to try to indicate he had more choices than Crossroads. Indeed. But I can?t think of too many that will influence who controls the White House and the U.S. Senate. And did he telegraph where his money is going with the Rove comments? I think so.
Adelson also declined to tell Ralston which Super PAC he intended to support with that final “small donation.”
The casino mogul seemingly conceded that he didn’t want his future political “speech” to be transparent because voters might take that information into consideration when evaluating his message.
Adelson said he believed the media?s inevitable use of the phrase ?casino mogul? whenever his donations became public ?is not helpful to the person .?
So, thanks to the Supreme Court’s stream of rulings against political spending limits and the unwillingness of the Republicans in Congress and on the Federal Election Commission to even mandate disclosure of independent political ad funders, billionaires like Adelson can simply hide their massive donations through (c)(4)s when they get tired of the media and public scrutiny. And rather than letting the voters decide how much credibility to give an ad bankrolled entirely by an anti-union gambling magnate — he can just choose to keep them in the dark.
While Ralston seems convinced Adelson’s support will go to Karl Rove’s secretive Crossroads GPS, the most famous right-wing (c)(4), the truth is he and we have no idea. Adelson could give the money to former Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) American Action Network. Or to the Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity. Or, some totally unknown 501(c)(4)s that could be collecting hundreds of millions of dollars without any footprint, waiting to pounce with a barrage of shady attack ads. Or, given his billions, all of those.