Tuesday, August 14, 2012

RANDOM SHOTS - "Fast and Furious" Goes To Court, Bob Hoskins Retires, Railroads, The EPA, and More!


Republican Representatives In Congress File Suit Against Holder Seeking "Operation Fast and Furious" Documents

So now, "Operation Fast and Furious" goes to court.

Operation Fast and Furious was a government arms sting that was supposed to lead Federal Agents to Mexican Drug Cartel members. It launched in Arizona in late 2009 by the ATF with help from the U.S. Attorney's office there.

Federal agents gave over 2,000 guns to buyers who ran them into Mexico with the help of the Federal Government. They didn't use a few guns, they used thousands of guns!

And what happened to the guns? Well, the guns ended up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including the December 2010 murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Republican lawmakers have been looking into the botched Justice Department sting for months. One big reason is to find out who is responsible for giving the guns to the killers of Brian Terry. His family among others would love to know.

Now leading a congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, they have filed a lawsuit in federal court urging a judge to compel the Justice Department to turn over documents related to the gun-running probe.

In the lawsuit, lawyers representing House Republicans said Attorney General Eric Holder's "intransigency" and "contumacious refusal" to comply with a House subpoena have prevented congressional investigators from determining whether the Justice Department intentionally tried to obstruct their investigation.

After President Obama asserted Executive Privilege over the documents nearly two months ago, the full House, mostly along party lines, held Holder in criminal and civil contempt of Congress.

But with a Holder ally as the gatekeeper to criminal proceedings in Washington, the criminal contempt citation was virtually dead on arrival. Basically, the Justice Department is being run by a someone who has been convicted for criminal contempt.

So now Republicans are hoping a judge will enforce the civil contempt citation - since the justice department won't.

The documents at the center of Monday's lawsuit are mostly composed of internal Justice Department emails after Feb. 4, 2011, when department officials realized they would have to retract a letter to Congress that denied Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents ever let guns fall into the hands of suspected criminals.

A Justice Department official has insisted the documents at issue "show no intention or attempt to conceal information or mislead (Congress)." But if that's the case, why withhold them, hide them, or use have Obama assert Executive Privilege?

The lawsuit filed on Monday says those documents "would enable the Committee (and the American people) to understand how and why the Department provided false information to Congress and otherwise obstructed" the Congressional Investigation.

The "principal legal issue" is whether the Justice Department can withhold documents under Executive Privilege when "there has been no suggestion that the documents at issue implicate or otherwise involve any advice to the President" or otherwise involve "core constitutional functions of the President," according to the 41-page lawsuit, filed on behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The lawsuit says Holder's "conception of the reach of 'Executive privilege'" would "cripple congressional oversight of Executive branch agencies" altogether. It's unclear whether the law is on the Republicans' side -- something the judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will have to determine.

After the lawsuit was filed Monday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Justice Department "has left the House no choice but to take legal action."

But the ranking Democrat member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., called it "all politics," saying it "seems clear that House Republican leaders do not want to resolve the contempt issue and prefer to generate unnecessary conflict with the Administration as the election nears."

It's interesting that Cummings sees the investigation to find out who was ultimately in charge of running guns into Mexico and into the hands of the killers in the Drug Cartels, as an "unnecessary conflict" with the Obama administration.

What's that all about? Why is there a conflict?

Doesn't the Obama Administration want to know who broke the law and is responsible for getting a Border Patrol Agent killed?

I would hope so!


A Resurgence Of Railroads Across America Creates New Jobs

Right now across America, railroad tracks that once rattled with loads of goods have been dormant and overgrown. The good news is that that is changing.

With gas and oil prices rising, rail shipping is seeing a resurgence, and the small town of North Creek, N.Y., is seeing the reopening of tracks that were shut down more than two decades ago.

"Trains use only about a fourth of the fuel that trucks use, and they emit only one-fourth of the pollutants -- so it's a much more environmentally friendly way to move anything," said Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific Holdings, the rail company that's working to clear 30 miles of track between North Creek and Tahawus, where an old mine will provide long-leftover rock for new projects.

Ellis says the railway may one day be used for other products like lumber or minerals. "We're excited about the idea that we're bringing rail freight back to the North Country after a lapse of over 20 years."

Ellis says many new jobs will be created, and he envisions success that may one day provide for more than 100 workers.

"There will be a number of new jobs created. We have people out working on the track. We've created train service jobs, the people who actually run the trains and work the trains but, in addition to that, there will be jobs crushing the rock, loading cars," said Ellis.

George Canon, the town supervisor of nearby Newcomb, says the work will be welcome.

"In this particular town of 480 people, a job with 10 people or 20 people is huge," said Canon, who once worked at Tahawus Mine, where the railway will soon lead, as soon as next summer.

He hopes to see big machinery back in action at the mine and fresh paychecks in the pockets of workers. "If they started a big crushing operation here, it could be 10 or could be 100."

Short line railways across the nation have been gaining steam. With an annual operating revenue of nearly $32 million, these smaller regional lines operate in 49 states, employing roughly 18,000 people.

According to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the industry started to surge again in the 1980s when the Staggers Act was enacted, softening regulations.

In 2006, short line freight traffic reached its height. It spiked again in 2011, up in almost every major commodity over 2010. Traffic in steel, metals, minerals and ores increased by 7 percent. Transfers of lumber and chemicals increased by more than 10 percent, and the movement of automobiles and parts increased by 25 percent.

Not everyone wants to see the trains back on track. As the clearing of tracks gets under way in the miles surrounding North Creek, environmental organizations are expressing concerns about the Forest Preserve where the tracks are routed.

Local environmentalist and activist Charles Morrison says the government never should have used eminent domain to lay the rails through the area in the 1940s.

"The solution is to have the land that was taken by the federal government returned to the people of New York State. That can only be done by removing the rails and going to court," said Morrison, though it's unclear if efforts to appeal the approval process will be able to stall development.

The project has yet to be derailed by lawsuits, and Ellis projects a bright future for short line business across the nation.

"There are dormant tracks and there are now 600 short line railroads across the country that have preserved or reopened essential lines for freight and passenger service and there are new lines that can be opened. So yes, this is something that's just going to continue to grow over the next decade," said Ellis.

Good news for all Americans. Those who are looking for work, those wanting to get out of there car and subsequently that nasty commute traffic, and those train buffs like me who know that trains a part of the solution to our energy troubles.

Trains are a solution that has been waiting patiently, as if knowing that someday someone will give trains another look.


Actor Bob Hoskins to Retire after Parkinson's Diagnosis

There are certain actors who I really like. For one reason or another, their work or maybe just one piece of their works stood out and made me take notice. Bob Hoskins is one of those actors.

Last many others, I saw him in different roles. But there was a role that he played that I'll remember always, it was as a British Infantry Sergeant in a movie called Zulu Dawn.

In the movie, Bob Hoskins played Sergeant Major Williams. He played the part of the epitome of a professional British Soldier of the time.

He was loud and aggressive. As a Sergeant Major, he was a high-ranking NCO viewed by his soldiers with a mixture of fear and respect. Hoskins character displays genuine concern for his troops.

As a Sergeant Major, Hoskins took a special interest in making a good soldier out of a young Pvt Williams. He was on him at every move. In one scene during a formation, Hoskins ripped into the young private for moving in formation seeming more interested in something else going on around him.

Hoskins barked, "You moved! You moved! Go and tell the NCO at that black shambles that you love him more than you love me! NOW!" And with that bark, Private Williams was sent running off.

Bob Hoskins as Colour-Sergeant-Major Williams with his troops

In the final scene when Bob Hoskins playing Sergeant Major Williams was making ready his troops for the Zulu attack, Private Williams was there next to him. At one point, to give the young soldier confidence - Hoskins winks at him as to say "Don't worry!"

During the battle, Hoskins as Sergeant Major Williams loses many of his infantrymen during hand-to-hand fighting, and is injured while defending a group of unarmed artillerymen. Williams is stabbed in the back while attempting to save the life of the young soldier Pvt Williams. Having killed several Zulu soldiers with his bayonet, he dies at the hands of a large band of Zulus.

Zulu Dawn is a 1979 film about the historical Battle of Isandlwana between British and Zulu forces in 1879 in South Africa.

The film centers on Lord Chelmsford's invasion of Zululand without the knowledge of the British Government in the hope that he could Capture Cetshwayo, the Zulu King, before London discovered that hostilities had started.

The movie Zulu Dawn is about the biggest military defeat in British history. The size and scope of the massacre at Isandhlwana Hill, Zululand, on the 22nd of January, 1879, makes Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Big Horn look small in comparison.  

It was called the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. It was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom.

Eleven days after Lord Chelmsford commenced the invasion of Zululand in South Africa, a Zulu force of some 20,000 warriors attacked a portion of the British main column consisting of about 1,800 British, colonial and native troops and perhaps 400 civilians.

The Zulus were equipped mainly with the traditional assegai iron spears and cow-hide shields, but also had a number of muskets and old rifles though they were not formally trained in their use. 

The British and colonial troops were armed with the state-of-the-art Martini-Henry breech-loading rifle and two 7 pounder artillery pieces as well as a rocket battery.

Despite a vast disadvantage in weapons technology, the numerically superior Zulus ultimately overwhelmed the poorly led and badly deployed British, resulting in the killing of over 1,300 troops, including all those out on the forward firing line.

In "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"

Bob Hoskins was born on October 26, 1942, in Bury St. Edmund's, Suffolk, where his mother was living after being evacuated as a result of the heavy bombings during the German Blitz.

Growing up, Bob Hoskins received only limited education and he left school at 15, but with a passion for language and literature instilled by his former English teacher.

A regular theatre-goer, Mr Hoskins dreamed of starring on stage, but before he could do so he had to work odd jobs for a long time to make ends meet.

His acting career started out more by accident than by design, when he accompanied a friend to watch some auditions, only to be confused for one of the people auditioning, getting a script pushed into his hands with the message "You're next". He got the part and acquired an agent.

His broke through was in 1978 in Dennis Potter's mini TV series, "Pennies from Heaven" (1978), playing "Arthur Parker", the doomed salesman. After this, a string of high-profile and successful films followed, starting with his true major movie debut in 1980's The Long Good Friday (1980) as the ultimately doomed "Harold Shand".

This was followed by such works as The Cotton Club (1984), Mona Lisa (1986), which won him an Oscar nomination as well as a BAFTA award, Cannes Film Festival and Golden Globe), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) (Golden Globe nomination), Mermaids (1990), Hook (1991), Nixon (1995), Felicia's Journey (1999) and Enemy at the Gates (2001).

Mr Hoskins has always carefully balanced the riches of Hollywood with the labor of independent film, though leaning more towards the latter than the former.

Bob Hoskins recently announced that he will be retiring from acting due to his Parkinson's disease diagnosis.

The condition, which affects as many as 1 million people in the United States, causes symptoms that can grow more severe with time and include tremors, stiffness, and balance and movement problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

While there is no cure for the condition. Some treatments, like drugs and surgical options, can help with symptoms. My prayers go out to all who suffer from such a cruel condition.

In "Hook"
 Bob Hoskins, whose career has spanned four decades and earned the actor several accolades, has announced that he will retire following a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis.

In a statement released Wednesday, the 69-year-old actor’s agent announced that the British-born star would withdraw after a “wonderful career” to spend time with his family.”

“He wishes to thank all the great and brilliant people he has worked with over the years and all of his fans who have supported him during a wonderful career,” the statement read.

“Bob is now looking forward to his retirement with his family, and would greatly appreciate that his privacy be respected at this time.”

I wish him the best in his retirement. He has given us so many wonderful roles to pick from, now it's his turn to enjoy live and his family. He can rest on his laurels and feel good about what he has given others.

We should now give him something in return, his privacy.


Environmentalist Extremists Want West Virginia Strip Mine Ruling Overturned

It's not surprising when Environmental Extremists groups side with the EPA, they seem to be working hand in hand at every turn.

Their mission is to ruin American industry and agriculture capabilities through over-regulation, fines, and unreasonable authority.

Now five environmentalist extremists groups say that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had legal authority to veto water-pollution permits for one of West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal mines, and that the federal judge who ruled otherwise improperly considered the potential economic implications.

In a brief filed recently with the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the Environmental groups say Judge Amy Berman Jackson's March ruling on the 2,300-acre Spruce No. 1 mine should be overturned "to prevent unacceptable harm to vital West Virginia waterways."

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Coal River Mountain Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club say the Clean Water Act plainly gives the EPA the power to withdraw - and effectively reverse - permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

These environmentalist groups act hand in hand with the EPA. They are the ruin of our nation.

Not surprisingly, the groups argue that Judge Jackson was wrong to impose economic policy decisions on what is solely an environmental issue.

Though coal operators may want "finality" in the permitting process, the groups say, there is no such thing.

Under Judge Jackson's interpretation, they say, "EPA would be powerless to act." And yes, that pains them to no end. Unless the Justice System works in their favor, they refuse to recognize the ruling.

Jackson ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority in January 2011 when it revoked a permit that the Army Corps of Engineers had issued four years earlier to St. Louis-based Arch Coal and its Mingo Logan Coal Co. subsidiary.

Again, not surprisingly, the environmental extremist friendly EPA concluded that "destructive and unsustainable mining practices would cause irreparable environmental damage and threaten the health of communities nearby."

As I said, no surprise there. They do not work for American - they work against Americans. And yes, they are not above using scare tactics. 

It was only the 13th time since 1972 that the EPA had used the veto authority it was given by Congress and the first time it had acted on a previously permitted mine.

The EPA said it reserves the power for rare and unacceptable cases, but Judge Jackson declared the action "incorrect and unreasonable."

Coal-state politicians and industry officials see Judge Jackson's ruling as a victory for those states and confirmation of an overreach of the federal government's authority.

It was one of several setbacks this year for the EPA and their extremist friends.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the agency overstepped its authority by setting up water-quality criteria for Appalachian strip mines. That ruling said the authority belongs to state regulators under existing clean-water and surface-mining laws.

The EPA appealed the Spruce No. 1 ruling in July, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed paperwork indicating that it, too, will file a brief in the case.
Mountaintop removal is highly efficient form of strip mining.

Should the court determine that the language of the Clean Water Act is vague, the agency argues, "it should uphold EPA's interpretation of the statute as reasonable and permissible."

The question before the appeals court is whether or not to send the case back to Judge Jackson for a hearing on whether the EPA's actions were arbitrary and capricious.

In its appeal, the EPA said that while one section of the Clean Water Act lets the corps issue permits for the dumping of fill material, another gives EPA the "unambiguous right" to "prohibit, deny, restrict or withdraw specification of fill disposal sites."

When I see that some federal agency believes it has the "unambiguous right" - I read as them thinking they have "unbridled power".

That power was created in a legislative compromise the EPA says was intended to let the agency do its job and prevent unacceptable environmental damage. The EPA says it can invoke that authority before, during or after the corps' permitting process.

Too bad Judge Jackson doesn't agree!

These days, a smart man on the bench is hard to find. I tip my hat to Judge Jackson for doing the right thing despite the political pressure coming in from liberal environmental extremists.

Story by Tom Correa

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