Beltway Sniper Vet To FBI: Don’t Get ‘Tunnel Vision’ On Military Building Shooter

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A former federal government official who was involved in the 2002 Beltway Sniper case told TPMMuckraker that it is important for investigators trying to identify the individual behind a string of shootings at empty military buildings to not narrow their focus and filter out alternate motives or suspects.

Michael Bouchard, a former official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives who was involved in the Beltway sniper case, told TPMMuckraker that it was important not to be blinded to alternative suspect profiles or possible motives.

“Profilers and behavioral scientists are just one tool that investigators use. Oftentimes when profilers do their analysis, there are a lot of unknowns,” Bouchard said. “The investigators just take that information and use it to the best of their ability, but it isn’t an absolute.”

“One thing that people shouldn’t do is, just because people say that’s probably why the person is doing it, you can’t have tunnel vision, because if you have tunnel vision and focus in on one possible motive, you could be missing five or six other motives,” Bouchard said. “Investigators need to have an open mind, and not focus in on who they think it might be.”

Bouchard said the Beltway Sniper was a perfect example of a case in which officials limited their scope and shut out other investigative options. Officials in that string of deadly shootings became convinced that the suspect was driving a white panel van, but it turned out that the men ultimately convicted of the crimes, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, had been driving a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office did not have any updates on the recent spree of shootings targeting military buildings, spokesman Andy Ames told TPMMuckraker on Monday.

Authorities have made a public plea for the culprit to communicate with them. The suspect he is an ex-Marine who had a falling out with the Corps. Authorities had similarly publicly appealed to the Beltway Sniper for him speak with them in the days before he and his accomplice were apprehended.

The shooter “is trying to express some unhappiness, presumably with the military, but has stopped short of harming anyone, and I draw some positive analysis out of that,” Gary Noesner, a former chief of the FBI’s crisis negotiation unit, told the Associated Press. “Hopefully, that will remain the case.”

The Coast Guard had shut down recruiting stations in the D.C. area last week following the shooting. Last Tuesday’s incident at a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting center in was just the latest in a string of incidents which have also twice targeted the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Pentagon and a U.S. Marine recruiting center.









TPMMuckraker

The Vision Thing

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Ross Douthat explains why he won’t be missing Charlie Crist, Evan Bayh, or Arlen Specter and has wide comments on the general situation facing centrist legislators:

We hear a lot about the perils of political polarization, and for understandable reasons: America faces structural challenges that probably can’t be addressed by one party alone, and the waning of bipartisanship is one of the many forces that make a Greece or California-like endgame seem depressingly plausible. But if a polarized political system produces fewer centrists overall, it also increases the power and potential leverage of the centrists who remain. For a time, the most important figures in the debate over health care reform were Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus; later on, that role passed to Ben Nelson, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, among others. (The same was true in the stimulus debate, the financial reform debate, etc.) A swing vote in the U.S. Senate should be able to wield disproportionate influence over the design of legislation; a swing bloc, if one existed, would essentially have veto power over whatever the majority wanted to do. And so the legislator who wastes this power — by engaging in horse-trading without any larger vision, by griping constantly about their own party’s mistakes while voting the party line on every major piece of legislation, or by simply being a self-interested, unprincipled cynic — is as much to blame for the dysfunctions of the American political system as any uncompromising partisan of the left and right.

I think this was an underrated sub-plot of the 111th Congress. The people who occupied the legislative pivot points showed us basically nothing in the way of vision. When Scott Brown held all the leverage on financial regulation legislation, he used it to get a special carve-out aimed to benefit the bottom line of Massachusetts-based banks. Blue Dogs exempted car dealers from otherwise applicable consumer protection rules. Ben Nelson asked for the “cornhusker kickback.”

This kind of thing is one reason I’m hoping that instead of obsessing over finding compromises with Republicans the President will refocus his attention away from the legislative arena. Left to their own devices, maybe some of the pivoteers will realize that they have an obligation to actually frame some kind of proposal for coping with the country’s problems.


Yglesias

Tea Party letter to Republican leadership calls for unified vision

November 4, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) - In a sign the conservative movement intends to hold the newly-emboldened Republican leadership accountable in the wake of Tuesday’s midterm elections, over 60 prominent activists on the right sent a letter Wednesday to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker-designate John Boehner and Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour urging the new GOP leadership to unify around a set of core principles.

Read full letter (pdf)

The letter, obtained Thursday by CNN, was co-signed by a fleet of top conservative activists including former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Let Freedom Ring founder Colin Hanna and Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer.

It asks McConnell, Boehner and Barbour to “go before the American people jointly and present a unified vision of what this Republican victory will stand for” - namely lower taxes, reducing the size of government, a commitment to “restoring traditional moral values” and a muscular foreign policy.

“You are in positions to lead Republicans in putting aside personal ambitions and desires to retain positions of power and use the public offices entrusted to the Republican Party to address the momentous economic, moral and national security challenges our nation faces today, as our Founding Fathers did before us,” the letter reads.


CNN Political Ticker

3 Reasons Obama’s Education Vision Deserves an F

October 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

President Barack Obama is making his bid to be ”the education president.” At the start of NBC’s recent Education Nation summit in New York, Obama appeared on the Today Show and touted what he claimed were a wide-ranging set of reforms to improve America’s K-12 schools.

Yet Obama’s education vision deserves an F for at least three reasons:

1. Money Talks. Obama says that the educational system needs new ideas and more money. Despite a doubling in inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending since the early 1970s, student achievement is flat at best. But Obama is placing most of his bets on the money part. While he brags constantly about his Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for $ 4 billion to fund innovative programs, he’s spent more than $ 80 billion in no-strings-attached stimulus funds to maintain the educational status quo.

2. Choice Cuts. Candidate Obama said that he’d try any reform idea regardless of ideology. Yet one of his first education-related moves after taking office was to aid his Senate mentor, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in killing a successful and popular D.C. voucher program that let low-income residents exercise the same choice Obama did in sending his daughters to private school.

3. The Unions Forever. The two largest teachers unions, The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, overwhelmingly supported Obama with their votes and their contributions. Some 95 percent of the groups’ campaign contributions go to Democratic candidates and the NEA, spends more money on elections that Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and the AFL-CIO combined. No wonder Obama’s big talking point is that he wants to add 10,000 more teachers to public payrolls despite the fact that there are already more teachers per student than ever.

Reforming education may not be politically easy, but the solution is pretty simple: Give parents and students more ability to choose - and exit - schools. This works for every other sort of business and it works for higher education, too. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t work for K-12 education.

And sadly, there’s absolutely no reason to think that Obama will embrace that sort of change.

Written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts. Approximately 2.30 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for iPod, HD, and audio versions. Subscribe to Reason.tv’s YouTube channel for automatic notification when new videos go live.

For more “3 Reasons” videos, go here.


Big Government

The Republicans ‘Pledge To America’ … The GOP Vision, So Much for the Party of No

September 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

So much for the GOP just being the party of no …

America is more than a country. America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.

America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny. Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.

The Republicans offer a “Pledge to America” in the run up to the 2010 midterm elections. It is a 21 page (read here) ”pledge to Americans” to set forth a direction as to their vision and promise to America. They will formally unveil the PLEDGE TO AMERICA in Virginia this morning. The Weekly Standard weighs in and appropriately states the comparison between the 2010 Pledge to America and the 1994 Contract with America.

Jay Cost argues in this week’s issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the “real worth” of the Republicans’ 1994 Contract with America “was in governing, not electioneering.” The same could be said of the House Republicans new governing agenda, a copy of which is now making the rounds.

For a breakdown of the document, check out “Pledge to America: The New Republican Agenda,” by CBS News Senior Political Producer Jill Jackson.

Jobs:

- Stop job-killing tax hikes
- Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
- Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
- Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.

Cutting Spending:

- Repeal and Replace health care
- Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $ 100 billion in first year alone)
- Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
- Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Reforming Congress:

- Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority
- Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote

Defense:

- Provide resources to troops
- Fund missile defense
- Enforce sanctions in Iran

So who now is the party of “NO”? Looks like the White House and the Democrats.  The WH was quick to attack the Republicans “Pledge With America.” One would ask whether they read it first seeing that have had difficulties reading their own bills like Obamacare they forced on Americans. Obama and Democrats are hardly in a position to criticize as the America voters have given Obama extremely poor marks (41%) on his handling of the economy. Also, the voters chose the GOP over Democrats on handling the issue.

Democrats are running on nothing this election cycle as they try and distance themselves from President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid. They cannot campaign on Obamacare, the stimulus, deficit spending, the economy or the unemployment rate they stated would not rise above 8%.

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Scared Monkeys

Obama Formally Appoints Elizabeth Warren To Make Her ‘Original Vision A Reality’

September 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Noting that she will be able to make her “original vision a reality” President Obama formally appointed Elizabeth Warren as Assistant to the President & Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.



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Political Punch

Still Fear vs. Hope? Obama Attacks John Boehner, GOP’s Economic Vision

September 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Speaking today in Cleveland, President Obama assailed House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-OH, by name eight times, attacking the Republicans economic philosophy as flawed and weak, attempting to define the choice that people have in November’s midterm election.



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Political Punch

Vision in Unexpected Places

September 1, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Blog_Obama_Speech_2010_09_31 1

I think Barack Obama’s Iraq policy was perfectly clear as of last week—war kinda sorta ending on August 31, 2010 and more honest-to-god ending in December 2011—so I wasn’t exactly glued to the set to watch his speech last night. But reading it this morning it was interesting to see some of the kind of thematic big picture stuff that I’ve gotten used to not hearing from the President since his first few months in office:

Our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.

Obviously, that’s not an actual policy agenda. And equally obviously, it’s not literally the case that we should approach K-12 education with the precisely mentality of an armed soldier going to war. But the point is correct and welcome. Winning the second world war entailed building a lot of tanks and ships and warplanes and nuclear bombs. But the reason we won the war is that in the 150 years before the war, we’d gone about building the most prosperous society in human history. Similarly, during the Cold War it was absolutely necessary to maintain a defensive deterrent against the Soviet Union, but ultimately the superiority of liberal democracy and the mixed economy was proven through the prosperity of liberal democracies with mixed economies, not through force of arms. We do best for ourselves and for the world by focusing on commerce, education, science, and the other drivers of prosperity and ultimately America’s interactions with the world beyond our borders should be defined by culture, trade, tourism, and migration rather than invasion and occupation.


Matthew Yglesias

Ninth Circuit Upholds Religious Liberty in World Vision Case

August 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
style="float: right; margin-bottom: 1px; margin-left: 1px;"> href="http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/gavel-justice-100107.jpg"> class="alignnone size-full wp-image-25299" title="Court ruling" src="http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/gavel-justice-100107.jpg" alt="" width="190" height="240" />

Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an href="http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/08/23/08-35532.pdf">important religious liberty decision that protects the right of faith-based social service organizations to protect their religious identity and mission.

The case involves href="http://www.worldvision.org/">World Vision, a nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization focused on the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision was sued for religious discrimination by two employees it fired after learning that they did not agree with World Vision’s doctrinal beliefs.

As a general rule, federal nondiscrimination law demands that private employers ignore religion in making employment decisions. But the same law includes an accommodation for “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society.” The question in Spencer v. World Vision was whether World Vision fit this definition and therefore qualified for the accommodation. id="more-41817">

Two of three judges agreed that World Vision, even though it is not a traditional house of worship, is entitled to the institutional religious liberty accommodation. Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote the opinion for the court.

This ruling comes at a time in the life of this nation when href="http://irfalliance.org/">faith-based organizations face increasing burdens. Illustrations include D.C. lawmakers’ refusal earlier this year to protect the right of D.C. Catholic Charities to uphold its religious identity and character while providing social services in the District. Because it refused to compromise its religious belief that marriage is the union of a husband and a wife, Catholic Charities was href="../2010/02/19/the-d-c-government%E2%80%99s-strike-against-foster-kids-%E2%80%93-and-religious-liberty/">forced to stop offering adoption services and href="../2010/03/03/sacrificing-for-religious-liberty-same-sex-marriage-in-washington-d-c/">providing spousal benefits to its employees.

Similarly, earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that state universities can href="http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/3726">deny equal recognition to a Christian student group that refuses to accept members and leaders who disagree with the religious beliefs of the group. Under this ruling a Christian student group could be denied recognition “if it does not allow an href="http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/1342.html">atheist student to lead its Bible studies.”

Other examples can be found in href="http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2008/10/Same-Sex-Marriage-and-the-Threat-to-Religious-Liberty">this Heritage backgrounder and href="http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/792.html">this book promoted by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Not surprisingly, many of the threats to religious liberty and right of association discussed in these and other sources stem from nondiscrimination dictates that seek to control the conduct of private citizens and private organizations.

Protecting the religious freedom of faith-based organizations and other civil society groups is an important part of building an American where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish. They meet important needs and shape people’s identity, and the existence of such organizations also serves as a check on government overreach. As Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow Ryan Messmore has href="http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2008/04/Private-FaithnbspBig-Governmentnbsp-Understanding-the-Impact-of-Marginalizing-Religion">argued, the role, power, and influence of government grows when the role, power, and influence exercised by religious communities shrinks. The ability of groups like World Vision to make employment decisions based on their deepest convictions is important for sustaining freedom and a robust civil society.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in the World Vision case will likely be proposed for further appellate review. For now, however, it stands as an important victory for institutional religious liberty.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

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