Court Hears DOMA Challenge

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court resumed its examination of same-sex marriage Wednesday, this time considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated the act, known as DOMA, violated states’ rights and four other judges indicated they considered it a gay-rights issue, a tweet by Scotusblog.com said.

“#scotus 80% likely to strike down #doma,” the tweet said “J [Justice] Kennedy suggests it violates states’ rights; 4 other Justices see as gay rights.”

Before getting to the merits of the case, the court spent about an hour discussing whether the matter was properly brought before it, The Washington Post reported. The Obama administration has said that it would not defend the law, and lower courts have ruled DOMA unconstitutional but the administration has said it would enforce the law until the Supreme Court rules.

During Wednesday’s oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia commented on the contradictory positions, saying it was a “new world” when the attorney general could decide a law is unconstitutional but still enforce it, Post said.

Kennedy, considered a potential swing vote in the case, called it a “questionable practice.”

Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the administration’s decision, saying he didn’t understand why Obama “doesn’t have the courage of his convictions” and refuse to apply the statute.

Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said Obama was trying to show respect for Congress by enforcing the law until the high court could rule on its constitutionality.

Arguments focused on one section of the 1996 act that states a range of federal benefits and considerations for married couples apply only to heterosexual unions.

Kennedy told the advocate defending the law it did promote “uniformity” in federal law, noting that there were 1,100 references to marriage in the federal code, and that the definition of a married person is “intertwined with daily life.” Kennedy questioned whether the federal government may impose its view of marriage, which has “always thought to be” the domain of the state.

Nine states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex couples to marry.

Paul D. Clement, representing Republican House leaders who are defending the law, said Congress wasn’t discriminating but keeping hands off experiments by the states on same-sex marriage.

The law does not punish states for allowing such unions, but allows the federal government to decide how it chooses to allocate its benefits, he said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said federal rules that apply to married couples are so enveloping that in states allowing same-sex marriages, married same-sex couples can’t get the federal benefits available to heterosexual couples, which creates “a skim milk marriage.”

In the underlying case, Edith Schlain Windsor, an 84-year-old New Yorker, married her same-sex partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, in 2007 in Canada. When Spyer died in 2009 of multiple sclerosis, she left her estate to Windsor.

As executor of Spyer’s estate, Windsor paid approximately $363,000 in federal estate taxes, but filed a refund claim under a federal statute that says “property that passes from a decedent to a surviving spouse may generally pass free of federal estate taxes.” The Internal Revenue Service denied the claim on the ground that Windsor is not a “spouse” within the meaning of DOMA Section 3 and thus not a “surviving spouse” within the meaning of the statute.

A federal appeals court ruled in her favor.

The justices heard arguments Tuesday on California’s Proposition 8, a referendum that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry. California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in 2008 with slightly more than 52 percent for, nearly 48 percent against but a federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed.

Iran Wants Action, Not Talk, From U.S.

TEHRAN, (UPI) — The U.S. government must back its rhetoric with action if it wants to open communication with Iran, a senior Iranian legislator said.

The U.S. government is party to multilateral talks with Iran as a permanent U.N. Security Council member. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week “there is an opportunity to work diplomatically to reduce tensions and address the mistrust between our two countries, to the mutual benefit of both of our people.”

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar said the United States could lift some sanctions on Iran to improve relations.

“The United States must end its enmity with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he was quoted by Iran’s Press TV as saying. “Otherwise, its offers of direct talks would be nothing more than a deception.”

Iran is suspected of pursuing the technology needed to manufacture a nuclear weapon, an allegation Tehran denies. The government described February negotiations in Kazakhstan as positive, though no breakthroughs were announced.

Negotiations between Iran, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany are scheduled for April in Kazakhstan.

Petraeus Apologizes For Affair

LOS ANGELES, (UPI) — Former CIA Director David Petraeus, during a dinner in Los Angeles, apologized for an affair that led to his resignation.

Petraeus, the U.S. Army general who led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has maintained a low profile since he resigned the directorship after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in November.

Petraeus told about 600 guests at Tuesday’s event honoring veterans and ROTC students at the University of Southern California he is “regarded in a different light now” than he was a year ago, the Los Angeles times reported.

“I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing,” he said. “So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.”

Petraeus, 60, considered the architect of the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency doctrine, also said he wants to move forward, the Times said.

“One learns after all that life doesn’t stop with such a mistake,” he said, “it can and must go on.”

Before his speech, Petraeus generally stayed out of the public eye.

“I know that I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and on a number of others,” Petraeus said Tuesday. “I can, however, try to move forward in a manner that is consistent with the values to which I subscribed before slipping my moorings and, as best as possible, to make amends to those I have hurt and let down.”

One friend told the Times Tuesday, “I don’t think it’s in his DNA to just retire.”

Petraeus has been mum about his plans, except to say he agreed to support several non-profit organizations that assist veterans.

Petraeus received two standing ovations during his speech in which he said the nation has a responsibility to look after families of fallen soldiers, care for the wounded, help veterans move into to civilian life and honor their service.

“We can and must do more,” he said. “Helping those who have given so much is simply the right thing to do.”

Obama Signs Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — President Obama signed a continuing appropriations bill Tuesday that will keep the U.S. government running for six months, the White House said.

The measure, passed by Congress last week, means there will be no government shutdown this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Spending will remain at current levels under the continuing resolution.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his daily briefing in Washington that the president still plans to submit a budget the week of April but declined to specify which day of the week.

Carney also sought to separate the continuing resolution from the issue of sequestration.

“There’s no question that we believe regular folks out there are being unnecessarily harmed by imposition of the sequester — which was designed by Democrats and Republicans purposefully never to become law, to be filled with nonsensical approaches to deficit reduction,” Carney said.

“And yet here it is. So we would love to see Republicans change their mind about imposition of the sequester. We would welcome a change of heart, maybe a change back to the position they held for much of 2012, which was sequester’s imposition would be cataclysmic and terrible for the economy and for our national defense — that is what they said at the time — instead of doing what they did on Jan. 1 … instead of doing it, which was to postpone or delay the implementation of sequester with a balanced buy-down, which they were willing to do two months ago and now are suddenly unwilling to do — or recently became suddenly unwilling to do. We would welcome a reversal of that position.”

Carney said Obama has offered proposals multiple times “to eliminate the sequester entirely, to do that in a balanced way, to do that in a way that asks those who are well-off and well-connected to participate in further deficit reduction.”

When a reporter suggested the president has lost that debate, Carney responded, “No, absolutely not,” and Obama believes a compromise is still achievable.

“It’s going to be hard, because as we’ve seen in the House, there is an embrace of — by some — of the idea that the well-off and well-connected should not only be held harmless, but they should get a huge tax cut,” Carney said.

“Republicans chose to impose the sequester. So if you’re asking me does the president regret that Republicans would not make a common-sense, balanced proposition to postpone or eliminate the sequester — you bet. Is he continuing to work with lawmakers of both parties on a bigger deal that would not just eliminate the sequester, but reduce our deficit beyond the $4 trillion target that we’ve all talked about? Yes, he is. And he hopes that Republicans will go along with that, because the American people overwhelmingly support it.”

First Woman Named To Head Secret Service

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he will appoint Julia Pierson to become the first woman to head up the U.S. Secret Service.

Pierson will succeed Mark Sullivan, who has been director since 2006. Sullivan announced his retirement last month.

“Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day,” Obama said in announcing his intention to appoint Pierson director.

“Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own.”

Pierson began her career in the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, in its Miami and Orlando, Fla., field offices. She also has served as deputy assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations, assistant director of Human Resources and Training and most recently as the director’s chief of staff.

“Julia has had an exemplary career and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency,” the president said.

Sullivan’s tenure was marred last year by allegations that about a dozen agents, along with military personnel, had been involved with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.

SCOTUS Hesitant On Nixing Prop 8, Cyprus Thugs Ready To Impose State Control, Gorbachev Says Putin Has ‘Destroyed’ Progress, Gun Rights Supporter Flips Jim Carrey Autograph To Buy Handgun: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 3-27-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court may have sent a signal during Tuesday’s oral arguments that it’s in no hurry to play the role of lawmaker when it comes to overturning California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy cautioned that same-sex marriage advocates are asking the high court to “go into uncharted waters.”

 

  • You knew this was coming: Cyprus is contracting with a giant British security company to deploy guards to control the mobs angry that they’ve been ripped off. State-sanctioned theft and brutality: The system works!

 

  • A candid Mikhail Gorbachev says the reforms he tried to institute after the former Soviet Union dissolved have been “distorted or completely violated, destroyed” under the hawkish Vladimir Putin, a man who thinks the breakup of the USSR was the biggest “geopolitical catastrophe” of the past hundred years.

 

  • One enterprising gun rights supporter (and former Jim Carrey fan) decided he’d had enough of Carrey after watching the actor’s gun-grabbing “Cold Dead Hands” propaganda video. So he put his autographed photo of Carrey up for sale on eBay.  His goal? $640 to buy a Glock.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

 

California’s Drone Rush

State agencies in California are working feverishly to declare a large area in the southern portion of the State as a “drone zone” where unmanned aircraft can be tested.

The San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration to create the drone zone. The groups reportedly believe that being on the forefront of drone development will help the financially suffering State stimulate its economy.

The drone industry in San Diego County alone is worth roughly $1.3 billion and growing. Major drone producer Northrup Grumman has relocated branches of its drone program to other areas of Southern California; and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which produces Predator drones, is located in Poway.

Other States are following California’s lead in attempting to garner a chunk of the $10 billion dollar drone industry. About 40 applications have been or are being filed with the FAA by various groups throughout the Nation.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a constant voice of concern over privacy with regard to drones, issued a statement this week calling for clear rules before the unmanned aircraft take to the skies.

It reads, in part: “Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life … The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments in increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with constitutional values.

“We need a system of rules to ensure that Americans can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing our country a large step closer to a ‘surveillance society.”’

SCOTUS Rules Cops Can’t Just Show Up With A Dog And No Warrant

A majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court this week frustrated the State of Florida (as well as the Federal government and 26 other States) by ruling that police who bring a sniff dog onto a homeowner’s property and turn up evidence related to the dog’s signaling are conducting a “search” as defined by the 4th Amendment.

That means cops can’t suspect you of growing marijuana in a house, turn up casually at your front door with a dog — you know, just to ask a few questions — and thereafter develop probable cause to search the house, as the dog sniffs around at the front door and begins indicating there’s something illegal inside.

That’s exactly what happened to one homeowner in the Miami area in 2006, when police acting on an unverified tip visited the home of Joelis Jardines, with Drug Enforcement Administration agents waiting in the wings. They didn’t have a warrant, and the tip alone wasn’t sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The cops let the dog sniff at the front door. The dog signaled that narcotics were somewhere nearby. And the cops then applied for and received a search warrant.

The police had initiated no contact with Jardines during this episode. That contact came only when they returned to the house with the search warrant, found the marijuana being grown inside and arrested Jardines.

The Florida Supreme Court had already sided with Jardines after he appealed a lower court’s ruling that dog searches aren’t covered under the 4th Amendment. Realizing the broad implications the decision could have to limit search powers, the State then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And lost.

It’s worth culling the high points from Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion:

Since the officers’ investigation took place in a constitutionally protected area, we turn to the question of whether it was accomplished through an unlicensed physical intrusion…

…As it is undisputed that the detectives had all four of their feet firmly planted on the constitutionally protected extension of Jardines’ home, the only question is whether he had given his leave (even implicitly) for them to do so. He had not.

…We have accordingly recognized that “the knocker on the front door is treated as an invitation or license to attempt an entry, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds.” This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave.

Complying with the terms of that traditional invitation does not require fine-grained legal knowledge; it is generally managed without incident by the Nation’s Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters. Thus, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is “no more than any private citizen might do.”

But introducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else. There is no customary invitation to do that. An invitation to engage in canine forensic investigation assuredly does not inhere in the very act of hanging a knocker. To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to — well, call the police.

Well said.

Two disappointments, though, about Tuesday’s decision:

  • It was close. The majority decision came after a 5-4 vote.
  • Tuesday’s victory for 4th-Amendment freedom stands in contrast to a misstep the court made in January, when it held that police dogs’ training and certification is itself sufficient grounds for courts to admit evidence based on the accuracy of their signaling. That decision came in spite of evidence that “real-world data demonstrate that even trained or certified dogs have a high rate of false alerts” and can take their signaling cues from handlers or from other stimuli in their environments.

U.S. Taxpayer Money: Making Dictators Rich And Perpetuating Instability For More Than 70 Years

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been making waves in the GOP in recent months as he tries to push a more libertarian philosophy in the party. But old guard neocons like hawkish Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are hell-bent on ensuring that Paul and his legislative allies do not affect Congress’ beloved military-industrial complex — even if it means allowing American infrastructure to deteriorate as the Nation pumps billions of dollars overseas.

Last week, during the Senate budget “vote-a-rama,” Paul and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) offered amendments that would have reduced the amount of U.S. foreign aid and freed up funding for other projects. Paul’s effort would have allocated $16 billion for repair and replacement of structurally deficient bridges and other domestic infrastructure projects through cuts to Energy Department loan guarantees and foreign aid spending.

Every Democrat present voted against the Paul amendment, as did 19 Republican Senators including McCain, Graham and Kelly Ayote (R-N.H.). A similar scenario played out with regard to an amendment proposed by Cruz that would have reduced foreign assistance to Egypt in order to provide a missile defense system on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

For their efforts, which the Senators must have known were damned from the get-go in a Congress that believes spending more is saving, “wacko birds” like Paul and Cruz were blasted with a familiar neocon criticism: Spending less on foreign aid is isolationist foreign policy that will embolden international terrorists.

McCain suggested that Republican disagreement over the appropriate amount of foreign aid is a decades-old argument exacerbated by tough economic times.

“That fight has been going on since prior to World War II,” McCain said. “It’s always been there, and it always will be. It’s exasperated and exaggerated by bad economic times.”

He added, “We’ve always had this struggle within the Republican Party going back to post-World War I when the Republicans — isolationists kept us from joining the League of Nations. The isolationists prior to World War II, which meant we were not ready — the anti-military after Vietnam … where we had a hollow army.”

McCain is right to suggest that for more than 70 years the United States has been engaged in providing big-money aid to foreign countries to the dismay of America’s fiscal conservatives. What the Senator failed to note, however, is that those on his spend-happy side of the debate have almost always won and that U.S. foreign aid has almost always been historically judged by its intentions rather than results.

Prior to WWII, American benevolence was mostly provided to foreign countries via private donors in the United States. That changed with the introduction of the Marshall Plan (officially known at the European Recovery Program), which poured more than $13 billion into Europe to help the war-torn continent rebuild. Most analysts agree that Europe would have recovered without U.S. aid, but the aid helped strengthen top-down government structures that were more willing to bend to the will of U.S. wishes.

The apparent success of the European welfare plan led then-President Harry Truman’s 1949 proposal of the Point Four Program to provide a smaller version of the Marshall Plan for poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.

Thus, the floodgate was opened.

In the years since, the United States has provided aid to countries all over the world in the form of food assistance, economic development and even general budget support. Over the same period of time, Congress has noted and attempted to reform terrible failures in the foreign aid system that have rendered funds provided to countries ineffectual or, worse, harmful.

Despite being ineffective and a waste of American taxpayer dollars in most cases, there are some reasons why foreign aid remains sacrosanct to Democrats and some Republicans. Democrats, who pride themselves of being a sort of party of compassion, relish the idea of helping hungry children the world over and providing for the needs of the world’s poorest people. And Republicans like McCain, for their part, often see a strategic national security benefit to buying friends in certain parts of the world.

Unfortunately, Congress and financial accountability are almost completely mutually exclusive. And when it comes to foreign aid dollars that are pushed through a system of bureaucratic chutes and ladders in the U.S. and abroad, accountability is impossible.

Setting utopian goals for how foreign aid money is to be spent makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but the reality remains that the appropriated dollars are often reduced to pennies when they finally come to be used for the purpose for which they were intended.

If you think foreign aid is a boon to the world’s poor, consider the path a dollar must take before it reaches its final resting place in the country to which it was given as outlined by economist Peter Bauer.

First, it must be allocated by the donor country’s government. That government has its national political, military, and economic objectives, such as supporting friendly states, selling its food and weapons, promoting its own consultants, intervening in international conflicts, and so on. Traditionally, much of bilateral foreign aid has been tied to purchases from donor countries, although apparently this phenomenon has seen some decline (Easterly 2009).

Money provided by the United States for the purpose of foreign aid passes through many hands before it reaches its final resting place, and this often takes place in notoriously corrupt countries. In fact, a recent report produced by Transparency International illustrated that some countries receiving handsome sums of U.S. foreign aid also have the highest instances of perceived corruption. They include (listed from most to least corrupt): Afghanistan, $8 billion in foreign aid; Iraq, $1.7 billion in foreign aid; Yemen, $64 million in foreign aid; Pakistan, $2.1 billion in foreign aid; Lebanon, $232 million in foreign aid; Egypt, $1.6 billion in foreign aid; and others. For foreign aid to work as intended in these places, one must assume that government officials of foreign nations are dedicated to the welfare of their people — a tough sell for Americans who aren’t even sure their politicians are.

In addition to the propensity of corrupt governments to skim off the top of foreign aid money, another problem with U.S. foreign aid policy exists: Lawmakers are either too lazy or too heavily lobbied to re-evaluate the purpose of foreign aid when its effectiveness of use comes into question.

One good example of this is the foreign aid money still being pumped into Israel and Egypt as a result of an agreement reached during the Camp David peace accords in 1978. In return for not blowing one another off the face of the Earth, the United States offered billions of annual dollars to both countries for development.

Today, Egypt remains impoverished, corrupt and largely in the control of Muslim extremists. And Israel has used the aid money to finance the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, to implement wage and price controls, to provide subsidies for inefficient government companies and to put into place a make-work full-employment program custom-made to reduce productivity throughout the 1980s, nearly killing its economy. In essence, Israel has used the money in many of the same ways bureaucrats in the U.S. waste taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, many Americans continue to believe that the United States has some celestially ordained obligation to continue providing upward of $3 billion in annual aid to Israel. That, combined with the unrelenting Jewish lobbying efforts aimed at members of Congress, protects the Israeli honeypot, even as the U.S. faces economic demise of its own.

If the real goal of American foreign aid policy is, in fact, to protect allies such as Israel in harsh regions of the world, providing less monetary foreign aid makes perfect sense. This holds true because the billions of dollars provided by the United States to protect Israel are being negated as foreign aid money pumped into other, far less friendly nations in the Mideast are being used to fund an arms race.

In fact, as has been noted by Paul, the U.S. gives more aid to Israel’s neighbors than to Israel in the form of monetary aid and reduced-price armaments. So if the U.S. provides Egypt with 20 F-16 fighter planes, Israel turns around and — likely using foreign aid funds — purchases 25.

In fairness, despite the fact that foreign aid is being stolen by corrupt government officials the world over and creating arms races in destabilized regions, the money has done some historical good by way of eliminating disease in some parts of the world. Supporters point to those small victories and advocate for continued foreign aid spending at current levels (more than $56 billion annually), arguing that the money only accounts for about 1 percent of the U.S. budget. But should it not be duly noted that the $85 billion sequester that the Nation’s lawmakers — both socially liberal Democrats and military-industrial-loving Republicans — just finished wetting themselves over represents a similarly miniscule portion of the budget?

If isolationism means re-evaluating foreign aid expenditures for effectiveness, any Senator calling himself a fiscal conservative should relish in being branded as such by the likes of the McCain and his neocon and Democratic acolytes.

Though President Ronald Reagan was no reformer of foreign aid, he did give the idea lip service in 1981, saying, “Unless a nation puts its own financial and economic house in order, no amount of aid will produce progress.”

With $16 trillion in debt and budget crisis on top of crises, it’s past time to heed those words.

Guantanamo Bay: Which Side Is Obama On?

Once more, Barack Obama has shown himself to be a pathetic President. The latest disgrace of the vaulted liberal leader is his failure to stand by his conviction to shut down Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).

It has been four years since Obama promised to close down the military prison. Now, he wants to provide $196 million in renovations and new construction as requested by his new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Obama has decided keeping enemies of the United States comfortable is more important than meting out justice.

General John F. Kelly, the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, testified before Congress last week that repairs and upgrades are needed at Gitmo, including two new barracks and a new mess hall.

It is ironic that up to 100 “detainees” are on a hunger strike.

Rolling Stone reported: “Eight of the hunger strikers are being force-fed through a tube, a process the United Nations has previously classified as torture. Two hunger strikers have been hospitalized for dehydration.”

I am a libertarian through and through. I say if they want to starve themselves to death, let them — especially if these individuals want to inflict terror against Americans.

What does our President want? He wants to spend money America cannot afford to keep “detainees,” doublespeak for prisoners of war, more comfortable.

Regarding Gitmo, the Obama Administration is dead wrong. It is a classic case of Obama’s wanting his cake and eating it, too.

Obama should either:

  • Choose a speedy trial, a basic right to defendants which would also give closure to the victims of those atrocities.
  • Or deal decisively with Gitmo prisoners if they remain a clear and present danger to the United States.

Last month, The Daily Beast summed up America’s blundering President regarding Gitmo:

The Obama administration insists it’s doing everything possible to fulfill the president’s pledge. “We are absolutely still committed to closing Gitmo,” National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said in an interview. He put the blame elsewhere, saying, “The unfortunate reality is that Congress has gone out of its way to prevent us from doing so, but we still believe closing the facility is in our national security interest.”

Yet experts say the chances of Gitmo closing, at least before Obama’s out of office in 2016, are exceptionally slim.

“Guantanamo is not going to close any time soon,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a right-leaning think tank. “There are too many problems to solve. There are still Yemenis who can’t be repatriated to their home country, there are detainees too dangerous to transfer anywhere and quite a few prisoners who the administration says they cannot try in an open court.”

There is another irony about the President. Last Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will begin closing 149 air traffic control towers starting on April 7. The Transportation Security Administration also claimed sequester-caused airport security delays are on the horizon. That means more time at the airport and compromises safe travel.

Meanwhile, Obama is cutting defense spending as part of his $85 billion in automatic spending reductions.

Obama wants to slash spending on the very mechanisms that would prevent another attack against American civilians. Whose side is the President on?

Kill ’Em Or Clear ’Em

I love World War II history. I am proud of my Canadian roots and my American citizenship. I take extraordinary pride that during World War II, the Black Watch of Canada and the U.S. Airborne dealt decisively with the fanatical SS troops that they fought against — fanatics like the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend who refused to take Allied prisoners. They executed hundreds of Allied soldiers outright. In some cases, they even crucified them against trees and buildings. That terror was met in kind by our fathers and grandfathers who mostly accepted the surrender of Wehrmacht soldiers but had no dealings with the SS.

In an article in the Daily Mail, Antony Beevor, a noted historian and writer of World War II, summed up the allied actions of Normandy against the Germans:

With revenge on their minds and nerves still taut after the jump, the American paratroopers-blood was up. A trooper in the 82nd remembered his instructions only too clearly: ‘Take no prisoners because they will slow you down.’

Stories about German soldiers mutilating paratroopers inflamed the Americans still further. A soldier in the 101st recounted how after they had come across two dead paratroopers ‘with their privates cut off and stuck into their mouths’, the captain with them gave the order: ‘Don’t you guys dare take any prisoners! Shoot the bastards!’

Fast-forward six decades and we have Obama who not only wants to hold terrorists but also wants to save them from self-starvation and provide them better living conditions.

Are we at war or are we not? If we are, Obama needs to find some resolve and deal with our enemies. If not, he needs to send these Gitmo prisoners to trial.

Of course, Obama won’t do either. He lacks the gumption to take a stand on Gitmo, just as he lacks it with regard to almost everything else.

Love their politics or hate them, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top World War II commander in Europe and future President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, dealt with America’s enemies expeditiously. Obama refuses to stand against them. He stands for higher taxes and greater entitlements. That makes him not only an ineffective leader but also a dangerous one.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers
Myers’ Energy & Gold Report

Senate True Conservatives Vow Spirited Fight Against Gun Control

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have hinted that another old-school filibuster may be in store if lawmakers attempt to push any new gun-control legislation.

The Senators delivered a brief letter to Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) stating  opposition to “any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms.” They will likely attempt to hold up the procedural vote to begin debate on a gun package put together by Reid when the Senate returns from its current two-week spring break.

While it is unclear whether another epic old-school filibuster– like Paul’s demand for answers on drones before CIA director John Brennan’s confirmation earlier this month– is in the cards, a Cruz spokesman said the lawmakers are “prepared to use any procedural means necessary to prevent stricter gun control laws.”

Below is the letter Reid received:

let

Big Sis Eyeing The White House?

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was coy this week when asked about her Presidential ambitions in 2016.

The former Arizona Governor — beloved by Democrats for checking off all the right Pavlovian, heuristic boxes (she’s a woman; she appears “tough,” she had political success in a traditionally Republican western State) that often fuel low-information voting — has already received early buzz as a possible 2016 stand-in, should Hillary Clinton decide not to run.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard explains Big Sis may appeal to moderate Democrats who’ve historically wanted a “centrist” candidate:

Some Democrats are excited about her potential candidacy because of her ability to win often in Republican Arizona and because she has been progressive in pushing for immigration reform. She also presents a non-nonsense, law and order demeanor attractive to independents.

As governor, Time Magazine in 2005 called her one of the best in the nation. “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.”

Napolitano deflected questions about a Presidential bid Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., breakfast gathering:

“I think my plate is so full right now that I think that contemplation would be the kind of thing that would keep me up at night,” she said. “And I lose enough sleep as it is.”

So is she saying there’s a chance?

From outside the mainstream media, the idea of Big Sis as President may look risible. But one thing Napolitano might have going in her favor is her potential appeal — depending on how her Department enacts the current President’s efforts at border and immigration reform — to the growing demographic of Hispanic voters.

Those voters overwhelmingly swung left in the 2012 general election, and they will likely to continue favoring Democratic candidates until Republicans figure out a way either to capture a chunk of the Latino vote or relegate their bloc voting power by cultivating other voting blocs to offset the numbers.

One question: If and when she leaves her DHS post, will Big Sis take all her bullets with her, or will she leave them for her successor?

Poll Finds Fading Support For Federal Gun-Grabbing Legislation

Mass murders like the December 2012 shooting in Connecticut may provide perverse political fodder for gun-control advocates like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to push for more restrictive Federal gun-ownership laws; but in the eyes of the American public, it appears their gun-grabbing agenda is losing momentum.

Results of a CBS News poll released this week show 47 percent of those questioned now believe Congress should approve stricter laws on gun ownership — a number that’s gone down from 57 percent in a December survey conducted shortly after the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

By political party, 52 percent of those who identified themselves as Republicans said current gun laws should continue without changes, while 66 percent of Democrats believed gun control laws should be made stricter. Overall, 39 percent of those surveyed said current gun-ownership laws are sufficient and shouldn’t be changed.

Women surveyed were more likely to favor making guns harder to obtain, with 55 percent of women saying current laws aren’t strict enough — as opposed to 39 percent of men.

By region, Northerners still are buying into the gun-control talk in higher proportion to Americans throughout the rest of the country. Of those respondents who live in northern States, 58 percent support more regulation, while 44 percent of people in the South and Midwest agreed. In the western part of the United States, 47 percent of respondents favor tougher gun legislation.

Among those who’ve sought the national spotlight in the hope of eroding citizens’ 2nd Amendment powers, Bloomberg especially has demonstrated a readiness to seize upon the public outrage over mass shootings as an opportunity to sell American lawmakers on the idea that they need to strip all citizens of their Constitutionally protected freedoms pertaining to the owning of firearms.

With no supporting outside funding, Bloomberg created the Independence USA super PAC (political action committee) last October, vowing to use money he’s put into the fund to help support gun-grabbing legislative candidates nationwide, as well as to buy advertising that pushes his agenda in so-called “battleground” States. Bloomberg has contributed about $12 million to the PAC so far.

He has also funded anti-gun advertisements through his Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization. The televised ads are currently airing in 13 States viewed as “swing States” in next month’s Senate battle over a Democrat-sponsored bill aiming to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Alabama School Censors ‘Easter’ (The Word) And ‘Egg’ (The Shape) From Easter Egg Hunt Party

An elementary school in Madison, Ala., has managed to go forward with a planned Easter-themed school event while simultaneously banning any mention of the word “Easter.” In the interest of skirting any accusations that they still weren’t going far enough to preserve the appearance of religious diversity, school officials played it safe and went ahead and banned Easter egg-shaped objects from the festivities, too.

WHNT reported last week that Heritage Elementary in Madison — an affluent, mostly white suburb of Huntsville — had abandoned plans this year to hold an “academic egg hunt” for kindergartners and second-graders.

Principal Lydia Davenport said the school had, in previous years, received some communications from a parent who raised the issue of religious diversity, prompting the administration this year to forego any reference not only to Easter, Christianity or resurrections, but also to eggs, things shaped like eggs and bunnies identified by use of proper adjectives… as in “Easter bunnies.”

“Kids love the bunny, and we just make sure we don’t say ‘the Easter bunny’ so that we don’t infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion: a bunny is a bunny and a rabbit is a rabbit,” the principal explained.

School Apologizes For ‘Jesus’ Stomping

DAVIE, Fla., (UPI) — Florida Atlantic University issued an apology for a class exercise that involved Intercultural Communications students stomping on “Jesus.”

The school issued an apology for the March 4 assignment in Deandre Poole’s Davie classroom, which involved students being asked to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper then stomp on the paper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Tuesday.

“This exercise will not be used again,” FAU officials said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”

Communications department director Noemi Marin had earlier defended the assignment, saying, “while at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate.”

The exercise came from an instructor’s manual written by St. Norbert College communications professor Jim Neuliep. The assignment was part of a chapter about dealing with the power of certain words.

“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings,” the exercise states. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”

Poole, who has been on the instructing staff since 2010, could not be reached for comment, the Sun Sentinel said.

Shopping Mom Left Baby In Car With Note

PORIRUA, New Zealand,(UPI) — Shoppers at a New Zealand store said they were shocked to see a baby left alone in a car with a note and phone number from the mother.

A man who asked not to be named told The New Zealand Herald he arrived with his family at the Pak’n’Save in Porirua around 9 a.m. Saturday and he spotted a baby alone in a neighboring car.

The man said there was a note with the baby.

“It was written from the baby’s perspective, and it said, ‘My mum’s in doing the shopping, call her if I need anything’, and it had the cellphone number,” the man said. “We waited there for a little bit, wondering if the mum was just going to be two seconds and come back. And my wife said, ‘I’m not going in without someone being here with the baby.'”

The couple said they went inside when another pair of customers agreed to stand vigil until the mother emerged. The newly arrived couple called the cellphone number on the note and asked the mother to come out.

“We had gone in [to the Pak’nSave] before the mother had come out because we had a baby ourselves that was in a hurry,” he said.

The man said the child appeared to be well cared for.

“As parents ourselves we know it is hard to get a baby to sleep, and once you start moving them they can wake up… we thought it was just a silly decision by a tired mother,” he said.

Facebook Pages Anonymously Share ‘Secrets’

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Facebook pages are being created at universities across New York to allow students and instructors to anonymously share their “secrets.”

A page called Hunter Secrets is filled with anonymous messages from instructors and students at City University of New York, including confessions of student/instructor trysts, the New York Post reported Monday.

“I’m an instructor at Hunter College and this weekend, I engaged in sexual intercourse with one of my students,” one of the posts reads. “I did have a bit of guilt at first but that guilt has gone away. I’ll just end this by saying that it was the hottest sex I have ever had.”

Similar pages have been set up for New York University, Queens College and other schools.

“I’m a Teaching Assistant at NYU and I have a crush on one of my students,” a post on the New York University page reads. “I don’t know if I should tell her now or wait for the term to end since it might cost me my job.”

A communications staffer at a New York college told the Post administrators are concerned about the pages.

“Administrations monitor them, the kids are looking at these pages before they go to the school’s website,” the staffer said. “Anything that affects a school’s brand or its perception — especially with so much competition for applicants — is going to be a serious cause for concern.”

Supreme Court Hears Prop 8 Case

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Supporters of California’s Proposition 8, which limits marriage to a man and a woman, expressed confidence after Tuesday’s argument in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many observers reported the justices appeared divided and somewhat skeptical about the law, but ProtectMarriage, which defended the proposition since state officials have elected not to do so, said it is confident “that the nine justices will resist the political pressure.”

“There is simply no denying that 41 states define marriage as between a man and woman,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage, said in a statement after the argument. “There is no denying that every other appellate court to hear arguments such as ours have sided in favor of traditional marriage. And there is no denying that nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents in this area support the existence of a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage.’

“We have every confidence that the nine justices will resist the political pressure to prematurely end the national debate about the definition of marriage,” he said. “We believe they will respect the freedom of people to affirm the institution of marriage that has stood the test of time in every culture throughout the world.”

Any constitutional decision in the case likely would be applied nationwide, but at least one justice on the bench suggested the case should be dismissed.

The Supreme Court is closely divided between four liberals and conservatives, making Justice Anthony Kennedy a key swing vote, though even some conservatives expressed skepticism of Prop 8 from the bench Tuesday.

In the Prop 8 argument, Kennedy expressed sympathy for the children of same-sex couples while questioning attorney Charles Cooper, who represented the private proponents of Prop 8, The Huffington Post reported.

“They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status. The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don’t you think?” Kennedy asked.

Theodore Olson, a former Bush administration solicitor general, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration’s top courtroom lawyer, argued on behalf of the challengers.

California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in a 2008 vote with slightly more than 52 percent for and nearly 48 percent against. Prop 8 says in part, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

Neither California’s governor nor its attorney general is defending the law in court. ProtectMarriage — its sponsor is a state non-profit, California Renewal — is the official proponent of the proposition and has been allowed to defend it in the Supreme Court.

Last month, the Obama administration told the Supreme Court California’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Pentagon: Missile Shield Talks To Resume

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. and Russian defense leaders agreed that their departments would resume talks on the controversial European missile shield, the Pentagon said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Russian Defense Secretary Sergey Shoygu discussed the missile shield during a telephone conversation Monday, the U.S. Defense Department said in a readout of the conversation.

“Minister Shoygu expressed his desire to reconvene missile defense discussions with the U.S. at the deputy minister level. Secretary Hagel agreed and reiterated that this is an important part of U.S.-Russian relations,” the readout provided by Pentagon press secretary George Little said. “He assured Minister Shoygu that these discussions would continue and be carried forward by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Jim Miller.”

Russia and NATO initially agreed to cooperate on the missile defense system during the 2010 Lisbon, Portugal, summit; however, talks have stalled over NATO’s refusal to provide Russia with legal guarantees that the system would not be aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent. NATO and the United States have said the shield would defend Europe against missiles from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

The two defense leaders also discussed the security transition in Afghanistan, with Hagel assuring Shoygu that the handover of security responsibilities was progressing as the Afghan security forces improved, the readout said.

“Further, Secretary Hagel encouraged close bilateral cooperation on a variety of other issues of mutual concern, including on Syria, North Korea, and Iran,” the readout said.

N. Korea: Artillery Targets U.S., S. Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea, (UPI) — Missile and artillery units are combat-ready and aimed at South Korea and U.S. targets, including the U.S. mainland, North Korean officials said Tuesday.

“From this moment, the Supreme Command puts all of its field artillery including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units into the No. 1 combat ready posture,” the Korean People’s Army’s Supreme Command said in a statement carried by the country’s Korean Central News Agency.

The statement said artillery units were targeted on South Korea, as well as the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam and U.S. military installations in the Pacific, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

In response, U.S. military officials said the U.S.-South Korea alliance won’t be bullied by North Korea’s announcement.

“North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others,” the U.S. Forces-Korea said in a statement.

“While the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea continue to maintain the armistice, North Korea continues its provocative behavior and rhetoric,” the statement said. “The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance is strong and we remain committed to the defense of [South Korea].”

North Korea said that, in its “crystal clear judgment,” it cannot ignore the United States’ nuclear threats and military actions anymore, Yonhap reported.

North Korea will demonstrate “our army and people’s stern reaction to safeguard our sovereignty and the highest dignity [of leader Kim Jong Un] through military actions,” the statement said.

In its latest threat, North Korea said South Korea should be “mindful that everything will be reduced to ashes and flames the moment the first attack is unleashed.”

In Seoul, the Defense Ministry said it was closely monitoring the communist country, looking for any signs of provocations.

South Korea had raised its military readiness and surveillance status earlier in March during joint drills with U.S. forces – which drew an angry response from Pyongyang — and has maintained the heightened alert status since.

“The No. 1 combat readiness status is a term first used by North’s state media, which means the highest level of combat readiness status,” a senior Defense Ministry official told Yonhap. “It seems to be aimed at creating a war-like situation to unite the North Korean people, though it could result in real provocations.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased after North Korea launched a three-stage rocket in December and conducted its third nuclear test last month. In response, the U.N. Security Council passed another resolution imposing more sanctions on North Korea. Earlier this month, the United States and South Korea began their annual joint military drills aimed at warning North Korea against attacking its southern neighbor.

North Korea, angered over the sanctions and joint drills, has been issuing highly provocative threats, including cutting off the Red Cross telephone line between Pyongyang and Seoul, and unilaterally scrapping the 1953 Korean Armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.