More Calls For Holder To Step Down

Representative Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) said he “has seen enough.” Schilling is the 61st in the House of Representatives to say Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious.

“Rep. Schilling has seen enough to feel that Attorney General Holder should have known and done more with regards to Operation Fast and Furious, and is supportive of calls for his resignation,” Schilling’s spokeswoman told The Daily Caller.

Now, between independent calls and a “no confidence” resolution drafted by Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), more than 90 lawmakers have called for Holder to step down from his position.

A letter sent to Holder from the House Oversight Committee last week, asks the AG to testify to “examine flaws in the management structure of the Justice Department as demonstrated in the genesis and structure of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious” in January.

Holder said last week that the criticisms against him and the Justice Department are a Republican attempt to attack the Administration of Barack Obama and even suggested that racial motives were at play.

 

Payroll Tax Extension May Be Dead

The pressure mounted on Wednesday to approve the Senate-passed payroll tax measure to temporarily extend a payroll tax holiday, with several GOP Senators and President Barack Obama pushing the issue.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board issued a critique this morning of Republicans’ handling of the tax fight, saying they “have thoroughly botched the politics” of the issue and have “achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) agreed with the editorial, which called for House Republicans to “cut their losses” and move the bill, according to The Washington Post.

House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the Wall Street Journal editorial, and said that the Republican Party is “the party of lower taxes for the American people” but that further negotiation over the measure was necessary.

“We have fought for lower taxes for the 21 years that I’ve been in this Congress; we’re going to continue to be the party of lower taxes,” he said. “And the fact is that we can resolve these differences between the two parties and give the two parties a real Christmas present.”

The House rejected the measure in a vote of 229-193 on Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is not open to further negotiations over the measure. House Democrats continue to push for Boehner to give in and rekindle chances for a passage of the measure, but most members of the chamber have left for the holidays and will meet “as necessary.”

Obama Administration Says Kim Jong Il Died Amid Nuclear Talks

The United States was close to announcing a deal that would put a stop to North Korea’s uranium enrichment program when the country’s leader, Kim Jong Il, died,  according to a senior U.S. official.

The Obama Administration was allegedly planning an announcement that the United States would make a large donation of food aid to North Korea; and, in turn, the country would end its controversial uranium enrichment program.

The leader’s death came just as Glyn Davies, U.S. envoy for North Korean nuclear issues, returned to Washington for consultations after talks in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing over the nuclear issue.

Officials are now worried about North Korea’s intentions, and doubts have grown amid reports that Kim Jong Il’s health problems would open the leader’s position to his son Kim Jong Un — a man believed to be in his late 20s, about whom little is known.

Iowa Republicans Afraid Of Paul Win

In Iowa conservatives and Republican elites are very worried; they believe that a win for Ron Paul in their State’s caucus will signify the death rattle of its relevancy.

The elites say that because Paul has little chance to win the overall GOP nomination, if he wins in Iowa, the once-prophetic caucus will have been discredited, according to POLITICO. Many of the elites who are saying that a Paul victory in Iowa would be a fluke contend the reason that he polls so well is due to support from Democrats and independents who will vote for Barack Obama in 2012.

If Paul does win the Iowa caucus, the political elite in the State are encouraging voters to ignore the victory.

“People are going to look at who comes in second and who comes in third,” said Governor Terry Branstad. “If [Mitt] Romney comes in a strong second, it definitely helps him going into New Hampshire and the other states.”

The Paul campaign has said GOP insiders are attacking the candidate because they fear his “principled, antiwar, Constitution-obeying, Fed-hating, libertarian Republican” views.

Bradley Manning Linked To WikiLeaks Through Chats, Letters

Prosecutors say they have found evidence that there was direct communication between the Army intelligence analyst blamed for the biggest leak of military secrets in U.S. history and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables to the whistle-blowing website, entered the fourth day in a hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial.

A witness for the prosecution at the hearing claimed to have found chat logs between Manning and an online chat user who was identified on Manning’s computer as Assange, according to The Independent. Few details about conversations between the two have emerged.

Digital-crimes investigator David Shaver said he also found a letter accompanying some of the data Manning allegedly sent to WikiLeaks, in which the private declared he was changing history.

“This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st-century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day,” the letter read.

Manning’s lawyers have yet to acknowledge or deny his responsibility for the leak of the U.S. war and diplomatic cables, and a classified military video of an American helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 11 men and injured two children.

Publishing classified information is not usually considered a crime in the United States, but if the Federal grand jury that is currently investigating Assange finds that he directed Manning, prosecutors may be able to build a case against him more easily.

U.S. Officials Consider Release Of Taliban Members As Part Of Peace Talks

After 10 months of largely secretive talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban, officials say a diplomatic plan is emerging which involves measures like the release of many Taliban prisoners into Afghan government custody.

According to Reuters, the United States is considering the transfer of an unknown number of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay into the custody of the Afghan government. U.S. officials have asked the Taliban to meet the release with confidence-building measures such as denouncing international terrorism and entering formal political talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The diplomatic strategy is aimed at creating stability in the Afghan region to give the United States an opportunity to stabilize the area before the expected withdrawal of many troops in 2014. Once U.S. troops are gone, the Taliban will have less reason to negotiate. U.S. officials say if the diplomatic efforts fail now, the region could be thrown into violence in 2014.

While the U.S. – Taliban peace talks represent a shift in the attitudes of some Taliban factions, it is clear that the network as a whole is not open to diplomacy; many Taliban members have pledged to continue “sacred jihad” against NATO and U.S. soldiers.

Poll: Paul Surges In Iowa

A Republican primary poll released on Sunday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows that Newt Gingrich’s campaign is falling apart in Iowa as Ron Paul surges ahead.

Paul leads with 23 percent favor among Iowan voters followed by Mitt Romney at 20 percent; Gingrich at 14 percent; Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry all at 10 percent; Jon Huntsman at 4 percent and Gary Johnson at 2 percent.

Paul continues to pick up support from voters who are not commonly major factions in the GOP. Among voters younger than 45 years old, 33 percent favor Paul. And 22 percent of people who say they have been Democratic or independent voters in the past favor Paul.

The question of why Gingrich has slipped recently in comparison to Paul may be answered by the PPP query: “Do you think Newt Gingrich has strong principles?” Only 36 percent say that he does. When asked the same question about Paul, 73 percent of those polled said they believe he is principled.

It appears that Romney, for the moment, is Paul’s strongest contender in the Iowa race. Much of the former Massachusetts Governor’s support comes from older voters and those who identify as traditional Republicans. Romney is winning the electability primary, as 25 percent of voters think he would have the best chance to defeat Barack Obama compared to 17 percent  for Gingrich and 16 percent for Paul.

McCain: No Incumbent Is Safe In 2012

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has predicted the rise of a third party in the 2012 elections that will not tolerate the kind of spending included in the recent $915 billion omnibus spending package.

McCain has taken issue with the fiscal year 2012 omnibus, pointing out that in defense spending alone it included $3.5 billion in spending the Department of Defense didn’t want or need. The Senator said the money is simply to pad the pockets of contractors who are friends of lawmakers, according to The Hill.

McCain said that he believes during the 2012 election, incumbents from both parties will be in electoral danger.

“I believe that for long enough we have done this, for long enough the American people, who are now in a more dire state then they have been since the Great Depression, are fed up with spending,” McCain said. “I say to all my colleagues… I think in the next election no incumbent is safe.”

Eric Holder Plays Race Card

The New York Times published an interview with Attorney General Eric Holder over the weekend that many people have said was written in defense of the embattled AG.

According to a report in The Daily Caller, Charlie Savage — the Times author of the Holder piece — made use of factual inaccuracies as “a defense of Holder from his chorus of critics.”

Despite the fact that Holder’s office was provided with multiple briefings and memos about Operation Fast and Furious by top Justice Department officials, Savage wrote (without attribution) that there are no “documents or testimony” to support allegations that the AG knew of the gunwalking tactics used  in Operation Fast and Furious.

Savage also printed a Holder quote in the Times piece that sheds light on the AG’s view of why many members of Congress have called for his immediate resignation. Holder said it was not only political rivals but “also a broader universe of conservative commentators and bloggers” that were playing Washington “gotcha games.”

“This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” Holder said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

Republican Representative Allen West told The Daily Caller on Monday that Holder’s use of the race card as a way to attack those who are criticizing him is “reprehensible.”

“I think this is absolutely the last card in the deck, and that shows how weak their ground is,” West said in a phone interview. “But, what that means is they want to make white individuals afraid of continuing to put the pressure on Eric Holder because they don’t want to be seen as racist, and that is something that we have got to move beyond.”

Selective Service Pushing To Fill Positions On Draft Boards

The Selective Service, last Thursday, issued a statement encouraging school administrators to fill vacancies on nearly 2,000 Selective Service boards throughout the country.

When Selective Service registration requirements were resumed by Congress in 1980 after the end of the Vietnam draft in 1973, the agency also revived the local board system. The purpose of the board members is to hear claims for exemptions, deferments or postponements to a young man’s military draft in the event that the practice is reinstated.

Currently, there is no draft, and local boards are not hearing claims. But the agency is urging school administrators to volunteer to serve a 20-year term as a Selective Service board member in the event of a national emergency.

The statement says little of the agency’s reasoning behind the renewed urgency to staff the boards, but does say which individuals it believes are best suited for the job:

“[T]here are vacancies on the roughly 2,000 boards. Selective Service would like to fill them. In the agency’s reasoning, who would make better board members than school administrators? Who understands the lives and needs of young men better than school teachers and staff? Who would be better equipped to adjudicate claims of young men facing induction?”

The military draft has not been an issue discussed heavily in the United States in recent years, though it was mentioned by one Democratic lawmaker on this year’s anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Representative Charlie Rangel of New York said he believes the decision to engage in war would be handled more carefully under draft circumstances, according to The Hill.

“It’s abundantly clear that everybody does not assume the same sacrifices, whether we’re talking about taxes or loss of life,” said Rangel to fellow House members. “I submit that we have to have a draft … not a plea for those people who for economic reasons have to protect themselves.”

Rangel introduced a bill in March, The Universal National Service Act (H.R. 5741), that would mandate two years of national service for all adults 18 to 42 in any capacity that promotes national defense.

According to Huffington Post, this is not Rangel’s first attempt at pushing a draft bill. The House of Representatives voted down a draft measure he introduced in 2004 by a 2-402 vote.

 

Bloomberg Using Dead Cop To Push Gun Control Agenda

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited Congress to attend the funeral of a slain cop with him on Monday, saying that it might urge lawmakers to do something about the flow of illegal guns.

Bloomberg said on his radio show on Friday that he wants members of Congress to come to the funeral of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski, who was shot and killed last week with an illegally purchased handgun, according to POLITICO.

“If you could get Congress to come with me and sit with me in this church on Monday — wouldn’t that be wonderful if they finally got some understanding, and in memory of this officer said, ‘We can’t bring him back, but we’re going to make sure his kids and his parents are protected by getting guns off the streets out of illegal hands,’” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg was responding to a Twitter user who asked why New York wastes so much time pushing for additional gun control measures.

“When I read that I thought to myself, maybe the guy wants to join me out in Babylon on Monday sitting in the church where the funeral is for Officer Figoski,” Bloomberg said.

 

Study: Teen Drug Use Rises, Alcohol Use Falls

A study by researchers at the University of Michigan finds that alcohol use among American teens is at a historic low, but the number of young people choosing to use drugs is at a 30-year high.

The number of young people using any illicit drugs, especially marijuana, has risen gradually over the past four years.

In 2011, 50 percent of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at some time, 40 percent had used one or more drugs in the past 12 months, and 25 percent had used one or more drugs in the prior 30 days.

The figures are lower for younger teens, though still high: among 10th graders, 38 percent reported having tried an illicit drug, 31 percent used in the past 12 months, and 19 percent in the prior 30 days.

The report indicates that the number of high school students who say they used marijuana 20 or more times over the course of a month is also on the rise.

The report says that while marijuana use is on the rise, from 1991 to 2011 alcohol use among teens dropped sharply. The number of 8th graders reporting any use of alcohol in the prior 30 days has fallen by about half to 13 percent, among 10th graders by more than one-third to 27 percent and among 12th graders by about one-fourth to 40 percent.

Putin: McCain Is Nuts

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has lashed out at Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) over his threats that Putin may face the same fate as the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi following a voting scandal.

The Russian leader said that the U.S. Senator had likely been traumatized by his experience as a prisoner of war.

“Mr. McCain was taken prisoner in Vietnam and was put, not just in jail, but in a pit! He sat there for several years. Any person would go nuts from that!” Putin said during a television appearance.

The Prime Minister also said that the United States played a much bigger role in the ousting of the former Libyan dictator than has been reported, according to Russia Today.

“All the world saw him being killed, all bloodied. Is that democracy? And who did it? Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos, who were not supposed to be there, brought in so-called opposition and militants. And killed him without trial,” Putin explained.

Putin also said hawkish politicians like McCain are targeting Russia because it has the strength to protect its sovereignty and its international interests rather than submit to U.S. attempts at world domination.

“They still fear our nuclear capabilities,” he said in reference to the West. “That is why we are such an irritant. We have our own opinion and are conducting our own independent foreign policy… And it clearly bothers someone.”

Detention Bill Passes Both Chambers

Congress cleared a $662 billion defense bill Thursday and will send the measure to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The National Defense Authorization Act and its controversial provisions regarding detention of American terror suspects was passed in the House of Representatives Wednesday night by a vote of 283-136.

The bill split Democrats down the middle, as 93 voted in favor and 93 against legislation that President Barack Obama endorsed earlier that day by retreating from a veto threat after a “change in the language” of the detention provision, according to POLITICO. The bill was met with opposition from 43 members of the GOP.

“We have ensured that as we fight terrorists around the world, we also protect the civil liberties of Americans at home,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement issued following the vote.

The Senate voted 86-13 for the bill on Thursday. The bill would authorize money for military personnel and operations as well as indefinite detention of American terror suspects.

The White House initially threatened a veto but dropped that warning, saying last-minute Congressional changes no longer challenge the President’s ability to prosecute the war on terror, according to The Associated Press.

Human Rights Watch has described the President’s failure to veto the bill as a destruction of the rule of law both in the United States and abroad.

“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”

Study: Obama Youth Support Waning

A new poll conducted by Harvard University, President Barack Obama’s alma mater, found that a growing number of younger voters, many of whom voted for him in 2008, think he will lose the next election.

“This survey may well serve as an ominous sign for Barack Obama’s 2012 chances and the political engagement of America’s largest generation,” said John Della Volpe, polling director at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

The poll surveyed American 18- to 29-year-olds and found that 36 percent of millennials predict Obama will lose his bid for re-election. The survey shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney faring best among potential Republican challengers in a general election match-up against Obama, trailing the President by 11 percentage points, 37 percent to 26 percent. Forty-six percent of those surveyed approved of Obama’s Presidential job performance.

The poll also demonstrates that only one in four millennials support the OWS movement, and 52 percent believe that America is heading in the wrong direction.

 

Tech Heavyweights Decry Government Meddling With Internet

Several high-profile names in the tech industry are on the offensive against two online piracy bills in Congress that would give the government vast new power to censor content on the Web.

The technological innovators — including Google’s Sergey Brin, eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar and Arianna Huffington — blast the bills in full-page ads expected to run in the coming days in The New York Times and The Washington Post and other publications, according to POLITICO.

The ads, which include a copy of an open letter to Congress that was sent late Tuesday, charges that the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act in the House would “deny website owners the right to due process” and hand “the U.S. government the power to censor the Web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.” The members of the tech community also say that the government risks undermining online security by changing the basic structure of the Internet.

The letter was signed by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Flickr and Hunch co-founder Caterina Fake, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and Twitter’s co-founders Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams among others.

One lawmaker aid said that the executives’ arguments are inaccurate simply because PROTECT IP Act in the Senate would not be sponsored by 41 Senators if their claims were true.

GBTV To Premiere Show For American Preppers

Glenn Beck’s live video network GBTV will premiere a reality show on Jan. 18 that follows a family of American preppers as they attempt to become able to live completely off the grid.

The show, called “Independence U.S.A.,” follows Frank Belcastro and his family as they tackle prepper tasks that would become commonplace in the event of the collapse of civilization. The show documents the family of four struggling with such tasks as identifying the best alternate fuel sources, planning hunting trips to provide all of their own food and making alcohol for barter.

“This show, for me, is a fun and sometimes funny way to get people to open their eyes and see what’s going on,” said Belcastro, in a statement. “Americans are so reliant on the infrastructure around them but when you can create something with your own hands and everybody works as a team, everybody does a part, you can focus on the positive of this.  You can spend time with your family and your community.”

Belcastro and his family have done this before, starring in a similar show called “Apocalypse, PA,” which aired for a short time on History Channel last year.

Poll: Paul Strong In Iowa

Public Policy Polling recently reported poll numbers for the Iowa Republican Presidential race that show Ron Paul making gains in the contest.

Over the past week, a 9- point lead that was enjoyed by Newt Gingrich has slipped to just 1 point in the State, leaving him neck and neck with Paul at 22 percent to 21 percent. The other candidates are trailing behind the leaders with Mitt Romney at 16 percent, Michele Bachmann at 11 percent, Rick Perry at 9 percent, Rick Santorum at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 5 percent and Gary Johnson at 1 percent.

As Gingrich continues to drop in Iowa polls, the Paul campaign is gaining steam. Among the candidates, Paul is viewed most favorably by likely voters in Iowa with 61 percent saying they have a good opinion of the candidate. Gingrich was viewed favorably by 52 percent.

The polling indicates parallels between Paul’s strength in Iowa and Barack Obama’s in 2008. Paul continues to garner support from new voters, young voters and non-Republican voters.

The idea that the most important thing to likely primary voters is beating Obama in 2012 is challenged by the poll results, as 56 percent of those polled said that they are more concerned with picking a candidate whose positions they agree with than simply one who is able to defeat Obama.

A majority of the individuals polled (36 percent ) said that the biggest issue that would weigh on their vote was government spending and the reduction of debt, which is a major portion of the Paul platform.

Obama Attempts To Get Conservative Donations

Barack Obama’s 2012 Presidential campaign wants its supporters to make campaign contributions in the names of conservative friends and family members this holiday season.

Deputy campaign manager Julianna Smoot sent a message to Obama supporters on Tuesday that suggested making a donation “inspired by your favorite conservative friend or relative,” especially if that person is fond of making right-wing arguments against the President. Donors can then send a message to their conservative friends or family members alerting them that a contribution has been given to Obama on their behalf.

A portion of the letter reads:

Know someone on Facebook or Twitter who, day after day,
populates your feed with the latest right-wing talk-radio chatter? Or your
cousin who won’t stop forwarding those chain email hoaxes? It can be frustrating.

So what do you do about it? You can go round and round in
circles arguing with them — or you can have a little fun and make them pay.
Literally.

The letter also suggests that Obama supporters threaten to donate $3 to Obama’s campaign every time their conservative loved ones “say something outrageous” during holiday gatherings.

Diplomatic Quarrel Continues With Iran Over Spy Drone

Foreign relations between the United States and Iran are becoming ever more strained as the Administration of Barack Obama asks the country to return an unmanned surveillance drone downed in the region.

Obama said Monday that the United States wants the top-secret aircraft back, but there is no indication that Iranian leaders are willing to comply.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Tuesday that the Obama Administration’s requests are childlike in light of the likely dubious nature of the failed drone mission.

“This is a bit like a kid asking for his ball back, though I’m not sure he used the word please,” said Yvonne Ridley, a U.K. journalist, in an interview with IRNA. The news outlet also indicates that the drone capture is proof that the United States continuously violates international conventions and violates Iranian airspace.

According to The Associated Pressformer Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday called the downing of the drone “a significant intelligence loss and suggested that it would have been fairly simple for the United States to “go in and take out the drone.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday that Iranians have “been able to control” the U.S. drone, Venezuelan state TV reported.

“There are people here who have been able to control this spy plane,” Ahmadinejad said. “Those who have been in control of this spy plane surely will analyze the plane’s system. Furthermore, the systems of Iran are so advanced also, like the system of this plane.”

Paul Foreign Policy Gaining Traction

Ron Paul released a statement on his website Tuesday that says he supports the pre-9/11 foreign policy views of President George W. Bush.

“I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying ‘we do it this way, so should you,’” Bush said during an October 2000 debate.

The then-Presidential candidate went on to say that the United States should avoid an arrogant approach to foreign policy and seek to be a “humble nation” that does not engage in “nation-building.”

Paul’s campaign contends that his foreign policy is basically what Americans voted for in 2000.

International Business Times, in a recent editorial, says that despite reports that Paul’s view on foreign policy is a detriment to his campaign, it is actually one of his strongest points. The article opines that Americans soon will realize the dire economic consequences of the U.S. perpetual war policy and Paul may have the only plan to avoid disaster. The author contends that a continuance of current foreign policy may result in the United States suffering a Soviet-style collapse and possible encroachment by China.

Another real indication that Paul’s foreign policy views are the most logical, says the article, can be traced to campaign contributions:

If nothing else, consider the fact that Paul has raised more money than of any other 2012 presidential candidates from members of the military. In fact, while contributions from members of the military topped Paul’s campaign, contributions from individuals associated with Goldman Sachs topped Mitt Romney’s campaign. Military members, after all, know firsthand a thing or two about U.S. foreign policy.