Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Judge orders DOJ to release Fast and Furious documents blocked by Obama

Katie Pavlich reports on it for Townhall.com.

Excerpt:

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit pursued against the Department of Justice by government watchdog Judicial Watch, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled documents being withheld from Congress under President Obama’s claim of executive privilege must be turned over. Obama made the claim on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in criminal and civil contempt of Congress in June 2012.

“This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal,” Judicial Watch released in a statement.

The FOIA lawsuit has been ongoing for 16-months and is now proceeding after a lengthy delay. The Justice Department originally asked the court for an indefinite hold on a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, citing executive privilege and an ongoing investigation. That indefinite hold request was shot down more than a year ago.

The documentation DOJ is required to now turn over is a “Vaughn index” of “all requested Fast and Furious materials from a June 2012 Judicial Watch FOIA request.”

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.” In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”

“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

Unfortunately, this is coming too late for Obama’s 2012 re-election contest, and the mainstream media is unlikely to report it, just like they failed to report the IRS scandal. But if we all share this story, it will help people to realize how lawless and corrupt this administration really is. It’s gangster government, as Michele Bachmann said. The crooks are in charge.

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After a year of stalling, IRS blames loss of e-mails on “hard drive crash”

Most ethical administration in history - not a smidge of corruption

Most ethical administration in history not a smidgeon of corruption

Sharryl Atkisson (formerly of CBS News) is has questions for the IRS about lost e-mails..

Excerpt:

According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS reports having “lost” former IRS manager Lois Lerner’s emails to and from other IRS employees sent between January of 2009 and April of 2011 due to a ‘computer crash.’

In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

  • Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
  • Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
  • Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
  • Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?
  • Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?
  • Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.
  • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
  • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
  • I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

The Committee had requested the Lerner emails as part of its investigation into to the targeting of conservative non-profits by the IRS. The Obama administration has denied any corruption or intentional wrongdoing. Lerner took the Fifth when asked to testify to Congress. The House of Representatives subsequently held her in contempt. The lost materials are said to include any communications that may have occurred between Lerner and outside agencies or groups such as the White House, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, the Federal Elections Commission and the offices of Democrats.

House and Ways Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) says that along with providing news of the emails that have been lost, the IRS suggested in the same letter to Congress that it end its investigation.

The leftist Washington Post explains that the Democrats’ excuse of “computer crash” makes no sense, since e-mails are not stored on individual computers, but on servers that are protected from disasters.

Excerpt: (links removed)

On Friday afternoon, the IRS apparently informed the House Ways and Means Committee that it cannot produce any e-mail correspondence from January 2009 to April 2011 between Lois Lerner and anyone outside the IRS – e.g., the White House, the Department of Justice, the FEC or Democratic congressional offices.  According to the IRS, these 28 months of e-mails were wiped out by a “computer crash.”

Here is the commissioner of the IRS, testifying before Congress in March that the e-mails of employees such as Lerner are “stored in servers.”  Here is a PowerLine post arguing that the “computer crash” excuse is “implausible to anyone who understands how email systems work.”  And here is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) calling for “an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.”

The IRS is blaming a “hard drive” crash for the loss – as it the e-mails were stored on Lois Lerner’s computer. But as an IT professional with 15 years experience, this is a joke – on the order of the blaming of a terrorist attack on a Youtube video.

In enterprise IT systems, critical data (including e-mails) are replicated across multiple server clusters in multiple geographic locations. Large companies typically have disaster recovery exercises in order to ensure that even catastrophic situations will not result in data loss. You would think that the Democrats could have come up with a better story to cover up who was responsible for the persecution of Tea Party groups  in order to win the 2012 election, but alas, no. We truly have been governed by clowns since January 2009.

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VA socialized medicine: bonuses awarded as customers died on waiting lists

In the private sector, bonuses are paid to people who can offer customers the best products and services at the lowest price. That’s how a firm like Apple or Amazon makes a profit. By pleasing customers. But government-run firms make money a different way – by killing customers.

Stephen Moore explains in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

The Veterans Affairs Department health care scandal has deepened in recent days, with new revelations of incompetent management and misplaced spending priorities, including millions of dollars paid out in bonuses at the very hospitals where services were the worst.

[...]Freedom of Information Act requests by Illinois-based watchdog group Open the Books reveal that the VA spent millions on bonuses during the last three years at Hines.

Worse, in 2013, only about one-in-four of Hines’ 4,230 employees were those providing the actual primary care: doctors (309) or nurses (about 800), Open the Books found.

Five veterans died waiting for care at Hines.

As far back as 1999, the VA had found systemic quality-of-care problems at Hines with little done to correct them. A VA study concluded that “Hines has the most inefficient physical plant for inpatient care and the most significant compliance issues with patient privacy.”

In 2005, a VA study rated Chicago the worst regional office in the country. Now the man in charge at Hines, Murawsky, has been elevated to oversight of the entire VA system.

Democrats have been trying to say that the problem is that they were not able to spend even more money, because the national debt at 17.5 trillion is not high enough.

Moore notes that the problem is misspending:

The revelations of bonuses suggest that misspending may be the biggest problem.

The VA’s own budget numbers indicate a more-than doubling of the agency’s expenditures to $57 billion from $28 billion since 2003. The patient load is up only about one-third over the decade.

So the VA has more money than ever per patient, even after adjusting for inflation.

As far as mismanagement, the problem of “performance” bonuses at the VA appears to have been systemic. An Open the Books investigation has found:

  • One in five employees at the Phoenix VA received bonuses in 2013, with some receiving extra pay of $5,000 or more. The total bonus payouts were $337,885.
  • As many as 40 veterans may have died awaiting care at this hospital system and about 1,300 waited more than six months for care.
  • In 2013, Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman received the No. 1 bonus out of 3,170 employees (at Phoenix): $9,345. The number of avoidable deaths was higher than at nearly any other hospital.
  • In Chicago, $1 billion in salaries were supplemented with $4 million in bonuses over a three-year period.
  • At the seven most troubled VA facilities, almost $9 million in bonuses were paid out to 13,000 employees.

This might remind you of the National Health Service’s “Liverpool Care Pathway” program, in which doctors were awarded bonuses for freeing up hospital beds by transferring patients to terminal care.

Paul Krugman approves

Supporters of more government-run health care like Paul Krugman had previously praised the VA system as “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.”

Ben Shapiro has a full quote from Krugman:

Paul Krugman in 2011 wrote of the VA’s “huge success story”:

Multiple surveys have found the VHA providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers…the VHA is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.

Krugman added, “Yes, this is ‘socialized medicine’…But it works, and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of US health care more broadly.”

This is what people on the left wanted. The VA system is even WORSE than single-payer. At least in a single-payer system, only the payment is government-run. But the VA system is completely government-run. And the outcomes we are seeing in the system is exactly what you would expect when the people running the system are paid regardless of whether the customer is served. Or whether the customer even lives! At least in the private sector system, you have to serve the customer to make money – otherwise they will take their money to a competitor. Not so in the VA system, and that’s the problem. They don’t have to make a profit to survive, so they don’t care about winning business from customers in a competitive market.

Filed under: News, , , ,

Democrats refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests

Katie Pavlich at Townhall breaks the story.

Excerpt:

On May 21, 2013 the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent the IRS a Freedom of Information Act request asking for “any and all documents or records, including but not limited to electronic documents, e-mails, paper documents, photographs (electronic or hard copy), or audio files,” related to correspondence from January 1, 2009 and May 21, 2013 between thirteen different Democrat members of Congress and top IRS officials.

[...]Since that request was received by the IRS nearly one year ago, IRS Tax Law Specialists Robert Thomas and Denise Higley have asked for more time to fulfill the request six times.

“I am responding to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated May 21, 2013, and received in our office on May 30, 2013,” Higley wrote in a letter to NRSC Attorney Megan Sowards last year. “I am unable to send the information requested by June 27, 2013, which is the 20 business day period allowed by law. I apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause.”

Thomas and Higley have sent six letters with the same language and different dates to Sowards requesting more time to locate information in order to fulfill the FOIA request. Most recently, the IRS has asked for a deadline of August 1, 2014 to produce information.

Earlier this week Judicial Watch released documents showing Democratic Michigan Senator Carl Levin was in contact with former Deputy IRS Commissioner Steven Miller repeatedly throughout 2012 and was working with the agency on how conservative groups, specifically those working against his reelection, could be targeted through IRS rules and regulations. Last month we learned the staff of Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings had been in touch with the IRS about voter fraud prevention group True the Vote, despite direct denials from Cummings any contact with the IRS had ever occurred.

I think that the Democrat cover-up of this IRS scandal is so egregious, and their refusal to be accountable to harmful, that the only solution is to abolish/dismantle the IRS and go with a flat tax or fair tax system. Government agencies are not supposed to be politicized like this, and if they are, then they need to go.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

House Republicans vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress

From CBS News.

Excerpt:

The Republican-led House voted Wednesday to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions related to the agency’s undue scrutiny of certain tax-exempt groups.

The vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress was 231-187, with all Republicans voting in favor and all but a few Democrats voting against.

It’s now up to a local U.S. attorney to consider criminal charges against Lerner. The Justice Department, however, has ignored past contempt charges against executive branch officials, including contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder.

[...]Republicans maintain they are determined to get to the bottom of the scandal and find out why IRS officials, starting in 2010, unfairly targeted groups for their political activity.

[...]In addition to holding Lerner in contempt, the House also voted 250-168 to approve a resolution calling on Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting.

According to Hot Air, “Lerner could face fines up to $100,000 and even a up to a year of jail time”.

In other news, Trey Gowdy, who is heading the new select committee on Benghazi, is kicking some serious ass.

Transcript fragment:

MEGYN KELLY: I know you said you intend to subpoena her, that you want her to appear before your committee. However, and I say this respectfully, the last time she appeared before Congress what we had was a series of speeches from the lawmakers, without that many probing questions. I hear that from my viewers often when we look back on those hearings. What would be different this time?

TREY GOWDY: Well, what will be different is I’m not necessarily committing to hearing. I’m committing to the getting the answers and may be in the form of a deposition, which, as you know, Megyn, as a very good attorney, which you once were, that is the route that is most conducive with eliciting the truth. It’s not five minutes of pounding your chest in a committee room. It’s a deposition.

MEGYN KELLY: Can she get out of that?

TREY GOWDY: Well, if she can get out of a subpoena, she can get out of it. But I don’t send invitations to cocktail parties. We’re going to send subpoenas and we’re going to expect her to comply and if you don’t comply, she’ll suffer the same panoply of consequences that any of your viewers who don’t comply with a subpoena would suffer.

I was hoping they were going to pick him to lead the committee, and I believe we are finally going to get some answers on this scandal.

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