Detroit Files For Bankruptcy; Council Votes To Ask Feds To Investigate George Zimmerman

In the throes of the largest municipal economic crisis in American history, the Detroit city council found an opportunity at its Tuesday meeting to ask the Federal government to investigate a guy acquitted for a self-defense killing that took place more than a year ago in Florida.

The council passed a resolution calling on the Feds to investigate the merits of possible civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, after a Florida jury found him not guilty on criminal charges in the “stand your ground” self-defense death of Trayvon Martin in February of 2012.

Council member JoAnn Watson sponsored the resolution, dismissing the comments of fellow council member Kenneth Cockrel Jr., who observed that a burgeoning epidemic of urban black-on-black crime has failed to capture the attention either of elected leaders or the media.

The Detroit Free Press covered the meeting, quoting Cockrel’s message that “we need to have the same level of outrage with respect to black-on-black crime that takes place in our community.”

Watson responded that there’s plenty of outrage already over that kind of crime. “Because the so-called major media does not cover all of the expressions does not mean it does not happen. So that’s not correct.”

Despite the back-and-forth, the council approved the resolution unanimously.

With the resolution approved, George Zimmerman remained free and Detroit remained bankrupt.

 

Obama’s Economy: Turn, Turn, Turn; Snowden Stirs; Republicans And Their Sisters; GM Bailout (Still) Soaks Americans; Big Apple Bikers Exposed – Wednesday Morning News Roundup 7-24-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • According to political reporter Salena Zito, today’s economic speeches by Barack Obama represent the 19th “pivot” for the president. Source: Weekly Standard… 

 

  • Fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has been given an official pass to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Russian airport officials say. He has stayed in transit since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23rd, and recently requested temporary asylum in Russia. Source: BBC… 

 

  • Researchers released a study Tuesday that found men who were raised with female siblings tend to be conservative in their views of gender throughout their lives, and more likely to vote Republican when they’re young than their male peers. Source: CBS Los Angeles… 

 

  • General Motors stock would have to sell for $95.51 per share for taxpayers to break even on bailing out the company, according to a government watchdog’s report released Wednesday. Taxpayers are still $18.1 billion in the hole on the $49.5 billion bailout, including interest and dividends, according to the report. Source: MyFox Detroit…  

 

  • Riders of New York City’s star-crossed Citi Bike service – many of them already frustrated by other problems with the pick-up and drop-off bicycle program – have now learned that their personal information has been compromised. More than 1,100 riders received emails this week that reassuringly stated “There is a security breach that has been solved. Thank you for your understanding. Your security is safe.” Source: CBS New York… 

 

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Obama’s Plunging Approval Rating Still Outpaces Congress

Public approval for a scandal-embattled President Barack Obama, as well as a gridlocked, ineffectual Congress, has reached near-historic lows, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The President is facing his worst slide in popularity among a cross section of Americans since his all-time low of 39 percent in September 2011. The recent poll, which finds his approval down to 41 percent, shows Obama on track to descend at least that far once more, if the trend established during the first six months of his second term continues.

In April (back when the Benghazi, Libya, debacle was the only major Obama Administration scandal the public knew about), Obama’s polling numbers were commensurate with the 51 percent of the popular vote he received in the 2012 election, with an even 50 percent of Americans still showing their approval.

But two months later, in the wake of scandals involving Obama’s ties with the Internal Revenue Service, National Security Agency and Department of Justice — along with an unfocused cavalcade of second-term agenda talking points covering Obamacare, energy regulations, ambivalent foreign policy and even civil liberties — the President’s popularity, even among his liberal base, has taken a dramatic hit.

A separate Field poll found that only 52 percent of voters in California, where Democrats have carried every Presidential election since 1992, now approve of Obama’s post-scandal performance. In February, by contrast, he had enjoyed a 62 percent popularity rating.

As the McClatchy poll summary notes, the numerous scandals have chipped away at Obama’s credibility on many fronts, with Americans from highly divergent walks of life finding their own different reasons for turning on the President. Despite that, Obama still is faring far better than the stagnant 113th Congress, especially the Republican majority in the House of Representatives:

“Clearly six months into his second term there’s been falloff across the board. It’s not like one group bailed on him,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the poll.

About his only solace is that the approval rating of congressional Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, sank to 22 percent. One-third of registered voters approved of congressional Democrats’ performance.

The dismal Washington numbers reflect “the ongoing, cumulative effect of those issues which have not been resolved” and no solution is in sight, Miringoff said. Lawmakers remain at odds over how to trim federal deficits or write a federal budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, and Congress plans to leave Aug. 2 for a five-week recess.

Hobby Lobby Gains Ground In Suit Opposing Obamacare Contraception Mandate

Hobby Lobby, the 550-store, 13,000-employee Christian-owned arts and crafts retail chain at the center of a legal fight over a contraception mandate within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, won a temporary victory over the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week after a court issued a preliminary injunction permitting the company to omit birth control from its employee  health plan.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton read his decision from the bench, saying there exists “a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

Without a court order in place to keep Federal penalties at bay while the company’s lawsuit against HHS moves forward, Hobby Lobby’s owners faced a possible $1.3 million in daily fines.

The ruling doesn’t address the merits of the case, but it does move the suit one step closer to a definitive and potentially far-reaching resolution, as the Obama Administration considers an early petition before the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope of obtaining a ruling that forces company owners to extend “preventive” coverage for contraception in violation of their religious beliefs.

The injunction, which also applies to the affiliated chain of Mardel Christian bookstores, has the additional effect of demonstrating that a Court can regard a privately held company as a “person” in affirming the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Nationwide, there are more than 60 other companies challenging the HHS contraception mandate.

Because the injunction doesn’t set a definitive precedent and serves only to relieve an undue burden during ongoing litigation in this case alone, it doesn’t excuse those companies from applying the mandate or from facing fines; rather, each would have to win a similar court-ordered injunction separately or simply wait for the mandate to be declared unConstitutional.

Heaton delayed the case until October, which allows the Obama Administration time to weigh whether to mount an appeal.

Hobby Lobby’s owners have stated publicly that providing coverage for contraception that includes morning-after pregnancy-ending pills conflicts with their religion-based moral convictions.

Mayors Abandoning Bloomberg’s ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ Group

Mayors who signed on to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pet gun control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), are beginning to ditch the organization after learning they attached themselves to an organization with an ambitious gun control agenda that far overreaches its innocent-sounding name.

BuzzFeed Politics reports that more than 50 mayors have dropped their memberships since February – either because they realized they were endorsing gun control or because they were simply voted out of office.

In the case of those who left office, many of their successors have shown reluctance to pick up membership in the controversial group, formed in 2006 with $3 million in funding out of Bloomberg’s personal fortune.

“The original focus, I thought, was going to be on focusing on better on enforcement of our existing laws, and if anything, we have talked about not getting involved with things like banning assault weapons and banning magazine clips,” said Rockford, Ill. Mayor Lawrence Morrissey, who was cheered by residents when he announced he was dropping his membership.

Other mayors who’ve dropped said they’ve done so on similar principles, or because they didn’t fully understand the political baggage associated with a group that, rather than standing “against illegal guns,” turned out to be more interested in making guns illegal.

Lawsuit: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Too Powerful; Unrestrained; UnConstitutional

A legal support services company has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), alleging the emerging Federal agency is too unrestricted in its powers and threatens to aggrandize powers that are already properly delegated to established government agencies.

The suit, filed Monday by bankruptcy software company Morgan Drexen, states the CFPB owes no direct accountability to the American people, and represents a giant step toward costly redundancy, heavier regulation and unchecked government bloat.

The CFPB was from an omnibus piece of reactionary legislation – the Dodd-Frank Act – that ostensibly aimed to rein in Wall Street investment banks deemed “too big to fail” following the economic bailout of 2008.

According to a report Monday by The Hill:

Morgan Drexen claims the agency tried to obtain information that should be protected by attorney-client privileges. The information the CFPB wanted included names, addresses and income information about the clients of lawyers who used the company’s services, it said.

“…You provide that kind of sensitive information to your lawyer and now suddenly an agency of the federal government wants to collect it, and it’s little strange, particularly in light of some of the other things that have been going on with data collecting. We’re worried about the overreach a little bit,” said a lawyer attached to the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs essentially are arguing that the CFPB is threatening to get into the business of extending its regulatory oversight to lawyers representing financial institutions – effectively adding an extra layer of illegal regulations to government scrutiny of law, a profession that, both legally and ethically, enjoys broad protections of practice and procedure.

The suit seeks to have a court declare the present administrative structure of the CFPB unconstitutional, and to strike down language in the Dodd-Frank Act that founded the agency.

States’ Rights In Post-DOMA America; Pelosi ‘Defends’ 2nd Amendment; Al-Qaida Grows; DoD Contractors Miss Out On Sequester; Janet On A Different Planet – Tuesday Morning News Roundup 7-23-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

  • If the Internal Revenue Service keeps in place a State residency policy that effectively prevents legally married same-sex couples from receiving benefits once they’ve moved to States where gay marriage isn’t legal, then people in the 37 States where gay marriage isn’t expressly endorsed “have gained virtually nothing by last month’s [Supreme Court Defense Of Marriage Act] decision,” says a lawyer representing gay couples. Source: Reuters… 
  • Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) cited her oath to “protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution as the reason Congress should enact harsher gun control measures. In a press release marking the one-year anniversary of the Aurora, Colo., shootings, the former House Speaker said: “In Congress, there can be no more fitting memorial to the lives lost in Aurora, in Newtown, and across the country than a concerted effort to enact commonsense gun safety legislation.” Source: CNS News…
  • Al-Qaida not only remains a threat to the United States, but its capabilities and scope are expanding, a new analysis from a respected think tank has concluded. Source: The Christian Science Monitor…
  • What Sequester?! Lockheed Martin’s earnings rose 10 percent in the second quarter, and the company projected increased profits this year — despite the threat of automatic budget cuts at the Pentagon. Source: The Hill…
  • Last week, Janet Napolitano just about tripled her old salary as Homeland Security Secretary now that she’s confirmed to be the next president of the University of California. The university’s Board of Regents thought it made good business sense to pay her $575,000 a year and to give her a free house, an $8,000 car allowance and $142,000 for relocation expenses. Source: CBS San Francisco…

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Boehner’s Moment Of Clarity

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) slipped up and said something uncharacteristically conservative in an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday: He said that the American regulatory and legislative environment is bloated and that Congress should be in the business of repealing laws — not making them.

That’s the kind of Tea Party talk Americans have come to expect from a tiny minority of conservative Senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz or from Representative Justin Amash, but to hear the small sermon on small government from the mouth of the Weeping RINO is confusing. After excoriating Obamacare and hemming and hawing about his true stance on immigration legislation, Boehner offered this:

…[T]he American people are looking up at a government that’s out of control. It’s too big to govern. And so the mission I came here with as a small businessman 23 years ago is still my mission — to fight for a smaller, less-costly, a more accountable federal government, to empower the private sector to be all that it can be, to create jobs for our kids and grandkids. That’s what drives me every day. And I know people from the outside look in and go, “how can he put up with all this nonsense?” But I don’t look at it that way. I stay focused on the mission I came here with, and it’s still the mission I have.

…[W]e should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce. And so we don’t do commemorative bills on the floor. We don’t do all that nonsense. We deal with what the American people want us to deal with. Unpopular? Yes. Why? We’re in a divided government. We’re fighting for what we believe in. Sometimes, you know, the American people don’t like this mess.

In throwing true conservatives a bone, is Boehner motivated by some internal party pressure? Is the vocal minority of conservatism in Congress — and among back-home constituents — becoming more vocal and less of a minority?

Lest people worry that Boehner is experiencing a sea change in his philosophy of government, a look at his discussion of immigration reform should set their minds at ease. CBS host Bob Schieffer tried everything but waterboarding to coax out of Boehner a definitive explanation of his views, but the best he could manage was this response:

If I come out and say I’m for this and I’m for that, all I’m doing is making my job harder. My job is to — as the leader of the House — is to facilitate this conversation, this process, that involves members on both sides of the aisle, involves the American people, and when they can see us moving in a deliberative, step-by-step, commonsense way.

…Yes, I’ve got certain things that I’d like to see accomplished. But this is not going to be about me. I said it the opening day. And it’s never going to be about me. It’s what’s in the best interest of the country. If we’re listening to the American people and we’re following their will, our House will work just fine.”

So… are you for amnesty or not? Didn’t quite catch that.

Perhaps the biggest reassurance that the Speaker hasn’t truly bought in to the whole “get government out of the way” ethic came in Boehner’s breezy conflation of government entitlement with government deregulation:

Republicans have a plan for job creation. We’ve been at this now for the last two and a half years. And whether it’s making student loans more affordable, stopping unnecessary regulations, trying to get our budget deficit under control — all of these things would help get our economy moving again.

So cheap government-subsidized loans and disentangling government treats from people and institutions somehow go hand in hand?

For now, it looks as though Boehner’s transitory moment of clarity was just that: a moment.

House Seeks To Slash Appropriation For Ambitious EPA

The House of Representatives is considering a bill that would cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by more than one-third in 2014, only a year after attempting to pass a more modest 17 percent budget cut.

According to The Hill, a House Appropriations subcommittee is slated to make sure the EPA pruning survives within a larger, GOP-led omnibus Interior and Environment spending bill, which will be taken up on Tuesday.

The EPA’s proposed budget cut — $2.8 billion — is the largest single pruning House Republicans have embedded in the bill, which would cut 19 percent (a total of $5.5 billion) from the budgets of a number of Federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Gallery of Art.

What’s significant about the EPA hatchet job is its timing. The proposed cuts come only a month after President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to prioritize environmental regulations, reflecting the White House’s official stance that man-made climate change is destroying the planet and must be dealt with ahead of a host of other domestic problems.

The House bill would stave off forthcoming EPA regulations that require petroleum refiners to reduce the presence of sulfur in gasoline, which oil companies expect would add dramatically to the cost of production. It also would negate EPA regulations that, per Obama’s anti-coal agenda, would set new carbon emissions standards on electric power plants.

Subcommittee leader Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said the GOP-backed budget cuts and policy strictures are a direct effort at confronting Obama on climate change, in the hope of averting new rules that would unnecessarily increase industry costs (and end-user costs) through the implementation of more difficult and sophisticated production processes, as well as punitive fines.

New EPA boss (and Obama nominee) Gina McCarthy embraced the President’s grand vision on climate change, telling employees in an internal video Monday that the agency “has a clear responsibility to act now on climate change” and that this era “is a defining time” for the EPA.

Former HHS Undersecretary: President’s Obamacare Delay A ‘Line-Item Veto’ Abuse Of Power

A lot of conservatives have seized upon President Barack Obama’s recent decision to delay a key component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to revisit the flaws inherent in the legislation, as well as to castigate the law as a monument to the encroachment of the Executive Branch well beyond its Constitutionally-designated role.

But Ben Sasse, former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, points out one aspect of the President’s postponement of Obamacare’s employer mandate provision that’s so far gone largely unnoticed, even by Obama’s fiercest critics: the President is essentially editing the law – a 2,300-page monster which Congress passed intact despite having read most of it – to suit his own political purposes, post facto.

That’s a manifestly egregious Constitutional no-no.

“Obamacare is a ticking time bomb for Democrats in the 2014 elections. Nobody knows this better than President Barack Obama, which is why over the Fourth of July holiday weekend he unilaterally decided to delay its controversial employer mandate provision until after the midterm elections,” Sasse wrote in Sunday’s Omaha World Herald.

[T]the moment the Obama administration declared the employer mandate would be delayed until after a tough election, this debate transcended a fight over health care and became a fight about transforming our constitutional system of separate but equal branches of government.

This is now about ceding power to a runaway executive branch that the Constitution simply does not allow.

…By enforcing only the provisions he finds politically expedient or tolerable, the president decided he could make the law what he desires it to be rather than what the words on the page actually say. He essentially granted himself the line item veto.

That’s unConstitutional, as Sasse goes on to demonstrate. It’s one thing for the President to carry out the law as Congress enacted it (Article II, Section 3), but it’s another thing entirely to decide which aspects of the law to enforce, and which to neglect. To do so is to monarchically amend the law that the legislative branch passed.

For that reason, House Republicans’ effort last week to approve a commensurate delay in the implementation of Obamacare mandates for individuals may have appeared well intentioned, but it effectively signaled Congressional conservatives’ tacit acceptance of Obama’s legislative cherry-picking.

That means that Congress needs either to enforce Obamacare, or repeal it. Any middle ground means more concessions to an abuse of executive power that’s already way out of control.