Friday, September 30, 2011

No One Died in Watergate

Frank Miniter at Forbes writes an excellent account of the whole sordid Fast and Furious affair and concludes that the extent of the attempt to cover up Department of Justice responsibility could make this the administration's Watergate scandal.

I respectfully disagree, however, with that comparison. No one was killed as a result of the Watergate break-in, but over 200 Mexicans and two American law enforcement officers have been murdered with some of the thousands of guns the Department of Justice intentionally put into the hands of drug thugs and murderers.

Miniter argues that the only plausible explanation for why the administration compelled gun store owners to violate the law and sell semi-automatic weapons to people who could not pass a background test was to give the president a rationale for imposing stricter gun-control laws.

This is a bit hard to believe because one recoils from thinking that an American president would do something so despicable, so stupid, and so self-serving. Yet, Miniter seems correct in saying that there seems to be no other plausible rationale.

At any rate, here's his lede:
Why a gun-running scandal code-named “Fast and Furious,” a program run secretly by the U.S. government that sent thousands of firearms over an international border and directly into the hands of criminals, hasn’t been pursued by an army of reporters all trying to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein is a story in itself.

But the state of modern journalism aside, this scandal is so inflammatory few realize that official records show the current director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), B. Todd Jones — yes the individual the Obama administration brought in to replace ATF Director Kenneth Melson Aug. 30 in an effort to deflect congressional criticism — also has questions to answer about his involvement in this gun-running scandal.

Fast and Furious was an operation so cloak-and-dagger Mexican authorities weren’t even notified that thousands of semi-automatic firearms were being sold to people in Arizona thought to have links to Mexican drug cartels. According to ATF whistleblowers, in 2009 the U.S. government began instructing gun store owners to break the law by selling firearms to suspected criminals.

ATF agents then, again according to testimony by ATF agents turned whistleblowers, were ordered not to intercept the smugglers but rather to let the guns “walk” across the U.S.-Mexican border and into the hands of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.
Read the whole article. If you're too young to remember Watergate and don't know what it was about at least you can get in on the cutting edge of history with this scandal. In an administration that's beginning to look as if it's hip deep in scandals, this one, we better hope, seems to be the worst.

Effective Compassion

WORLD magazine, founded by Marvin Olasky, author of The Tragedy of American Compassion, has an annual contest called The Hope Award for Effective Compassion. First prize is a $25,000 gift to the organization selected from among all the nominees to be the most effective at turning lives around. The stories of these organizations are truly remarkable as they show how private effort can change people and turn losers into winners.

These organizations, though, enjoy a decided advantage over many charities, and certainly over government-run welfare programs. Each of these organizations places responsibility on the individual and each of them stresses the crucial importance of religious faith.

There are four finalists vying for the award and their stories can be found by following the links found at their home page.

Here's a brief excerpt from one of the stories:
In a warehouse nearby, Hope Now graduate Eddie Martinez stood over a long Trail-Gear warehouse table, making sure components for car kits are in the proper place. Messer calls Martinez "steady Eddie," saying he shows up on time and works hard. Martinez is proud that in his seven months on the job he hasn't missed a day.

Martinez—once involved with gang members and drugs—says the Hope Now program taught him how to manage his money and work with people. After graduation, he first worked for the sanitation department of the City of Fresno (an employer that regularly hires Hope Now graduates). When Martinez did well, he says Hope Now staffer Bill Murray helped him find better positions: "Every job they give me, I try to give it 100 percent, every time."

Hope Now executive director Roger Feenstra says cultivating relationships with men like Martinez is key: Feenstra has found that giving an "at-risk" man a job without giving him help to succeed often leads to failure. The pastor and former president of a Christian bookstore chain admits that he didn't know much about gang members when he came to Hope Now, but he quickly learned: "You relate to them like any other person. They need love and respect."

Feenstra says his staffers offer encouragement, accountability, and help with simple steps like getting a Social Security card, learning how to drive, tying a tie, and filling out a job application: "We do things a dad would do." Murray—the vocational counselor—says a Christian man's friendship is sometimes overwhelming to clients without fathers: "You tell them that you're proud of them and they just melt."
If you go to the site you can read the articles on each of the four finalists and cast your vote to help pick the winner of the $25,000 prize.