Archive for Constitution

How Many Are Enrolled? It Depends On What ‘Is’ Means

Is there something genetic about Democrats and their uncomfortable relationship with reality? Bill Clinton had trouble with the word ‘is’. Obama doesn’t understand what ‘Period!’ means. They also can’t seem to tell us what ‘enroll’ means.

First we got the enrollment numbers, except for the one we’d like to know, which is how many people have actually gone through the process of enrolling in a plan. There has been a sort of Talmudic debate over the meaning of the word “enroll” — should we count folks who had chosen a plan and asked to be invoiced, or should we count only those who paid? Some of the people who enroll will not actually end up paying their premium. However, because premiums for January plans aren’t due until December, counting only those who have already mailed in their check or money order will substantially undercount those who will end up enrolling. Myself, I leaned toward counting those who have enrolled in a plan and requested an invoice for payment. But there were decent arguments on both sides.

The Barack Obama administration resolved this debate by choosing a third metric: They counted everyone who had put a policy in their online shopping cart, even if they hadn’t actually gone ahead and signed up. By this logic, I am the proud owner of 28 items in my Amazon.com cart, including a hot pink laptop case and a fridge mount for an iPad model I don’t even own. And everyone with a Match.com profile is married.

Reality is slippery for these guys.

The writer is an economist, and if you to the link, you see something called “the abandonment rate’ for products sitting in shopping carts in different industries. For example, fashion is 74.72%, travel is over 80%. Yes, we want that vacation, but in the ObamaEconomy, who can afford it?

But there is this:

But HealthCare.gov isn’t a normal website. People are now legally required to buy insurance, and if you want to get a subsidy, the exchange is the only game in town. I would expect abandonment rates to be much lower than the numbers above. How much lower, exactly? That I couldn’t say. I will say this: I think my household probably accounts for at least two of those 106,185 because I went shopping on the D.C. exchange the day it opened to see how things were working. We are unlikely, however, to actually purchase a policy in the next month.

And this:

As if this was not enough of a feast for policy journalists, this morning we got news that the president would be making a big announcement on Obamacare. Around noon, he took the podium in the White House press room, looking drawn and exhausted. He was, he said, “offering an idea” to keep people from losing their plans: The administration would delay enforcement against noncompliant plans for a year. Insurers could continue to offer them, though they would not be forced to.
This may be a near-perfect specimen of that Washington perennial: the nonsolution solution. Insurers are already warning that they can’t simply allow people to stay on their old plans, firstly because all plans have to be approved by state insurers who haven’t signed onto this, and secondly because getting their computer systems to reissue the canceled policies is a hefty programming task that may not be possible to complete by the end of the year. But that’s not the administration’s problem, is it? They can say, “Hey, we changed the rule — if your insurer went ahead and canceled your policy anyway, that’s not our fault!”

Why a dumb administration this is. Just pathetic. What follows is a quick explanation of how insurance companies and the law work together, worth the read. Bottom line: No matter what the Left tells you about how fabulously profitable they are, their profit is controlled by government policy. This latest idiotic scheme will put healthy people onto their old plans (if the insurance companies are able to get them back), while putting very sick people onto the exchanges. The rates worked out previously will not cover this newer, sicker pool. Get it?

In reality, the rates are pretty closely calibrated to their anticipated average expenditure, aka the “actuarial value” of the policy. That’s how insurers set their prices for this year, on and off the exchanges. In other words, the exchange policies were priced with the expectation that the people who had been buying coverage in the individual market — who are somewhat healthier than average — would be paying more for their coverage. That’s part of what was expected to subsidize the cost of sicker people paying less.

Now Obama is saying that those healthier folks who already had insurance can keep buying their old policies, presumably at cheaper rates. But if insurers go along, that means that the average person on the exchange will be somewhat sicker than previously expected. Because the insurers already priced those policies for 2014 and cannot change their rates, they could very well lose money.

At least for one year. Come next year, what do they do?

Hey, ever think about the law? I don’t, I think the law, and it’s parents, The Constitution, are unicorns, but if you still believe, this is an interesting point:

Presumably they will also not enforce the mandate against people who have grandfathered plans. But that raises an interesting legal issue. Remember that in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was a tax. And as a lawyer of my acquaintance points out, taxes have to be enforced uniformly; the Internal Revenue Service can pick and choose who it audits, but it cannot pick and choose who has to obey the law. If it declines to enforce the mandate against grandfathered consumers, it’s conceivably opening itself up to a bunch of legal challenges.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

- Aggie

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Dershowitz On Cruz

Really interesting. Get past that blowhard British dude, and watch and listen to Dershowitz. The Left is truly scared.

- Aggie

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So Much for the “Charter of Negative Liberties”

President Obama, like most despots before they reach power, revealed his true colors (ra-a-acist!) when he opined on the Constitution’s limitations.

So, color me (ra-a-acist!) unsurprised:

Traditionally — meaning before Barack Obama — that’s how laws were changed: We have a problem, we hold hearings, we find some new arrangement ratified by Congress and signed by the president.

That was then. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder, a liberal in a hurry, ordered all U.S. attorneys to simply stop charging nonviolent, non-gang-related drug defendants with crimes that, while fitting the offense, carry mandatory sentences. Find some lesser, non-triggering charge. How might you do that? Withhold evidence — for example, the amount of dope involved.

In other words, evade the law, by deceiving the court if necessary. “If the companies that I represent in federal criminal cases” did that, said former deputy attorney general George Terwilliger, “they could be charged with a felony.”

But such niceties must not stand in the way of an administration’s agenda. Indeed, the very next day, it was revealed that the administration had unilaterally waived Obamacare’s cap on a patient’s annual out-of-pocket expenses — a one-year exemption for selected health insurers that is nowhere permitted in the law. It was simply decreed by an obscure Labor Department regulation.

Which followed a presidentially directed 70-plus percent subsidy for the insurance premiums paid by congressmen and their personal staffs — under a law that denies subsidies for anyone that well-off.

Which came just a month after the administration’s equally lawless suspension of one of the cornerstones of Obamacare: the employer mandate.

Which followed hundreds of Obama­care waivers granted by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to selected businesses, unions and other well-lobbied, very special interests.

Nor is this kind of rule-by-decree restricted to health care. In 2012, the immigration service was ordered to cease proceedings against young illegal immigrants brought here as children. Congress had refused to pass such a law (the DREAM Act) just 18 months earlier. Obama himself had repeatedly said that the Constitution forbade him from enacting it without Congress. But with the fast approach of an election that could hinge on the Hispanic vote, Obama did exactly that. Unilaterally.

The point is not what you think about the merits of the DREAM Act. Or of mandatory drug sentences. Or of subsidizing health care premiums for $175,000-a-year members of Congress. Or even whether you think governors should be allowed to weaken the work requirements for welfare recipients — an authority the administration granted last year in clear violation of section 407 of the landmark Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform of 1996.

The point is whether a president, charged with faithfully executing the laws that Congress enacts, may create, ignore, suspend and/or amend the law at will.

It’s called government doing what it must do “on our behalf”, as then Professor (Lecturer?) Obama once famously said.

Besides, Dr. Krauthammer, you forgot one (from your own paper!):

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

They’re still lying about it. And the Washington establishment is still defending it.

Aggie’s right (as usual). We don’t have a Constitution anymore, not a functioning one. And the things it’s doing to me “on my behalf” are enough to earn it an X rating.

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NY Times Goes After Clinton Foundation?

Oh well. The election is a long way off.

Soon after the 10th anniversary of the foundation bearing his name, Bill Clinton met with a small group of aides and two lawyers from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Two weeks of interviews with Clinton Foundation executives and former employees had led the lawyers to some unsettling conclusions.

The review echoed criticism of Mr. Clinton’s early years in the White House: For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.

And concern was rising inside and outside the organization about Douglas J. Band, a onetime personal assistant to Mr. Clinton who had started a lucrative corporate consulting firm — which Mr. Clinton joined as a paid adviser — while overseeing the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation’s glitzy annual gathering of chief executives, heads of state, and celebrities.

The review set off more than a year of internal debate, and spurred an evolution in the organization that included Mr. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, taking on a dominant new role as the family grappled with the question of whether the foundation — and its globe-spanning efforts to combat AIDS, obesity and poverty — would survive its founder.

Now those efforts are taking on new urgency. In the coming weeks, the foundation, long Mr. Clinton’s domain since its formation in 2001, will become the nerve center of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s increasingly busy public life.

It’s a long article, but the implication is that the Clintons are corrupt! I’m shocked!!!

And as long time readers of this blog know, my opinion is that the media is corrupt, the government is corrupt and, sadly, the legal system is corrupt. Honestly, I didn’t always believe this, but it is difficult to escape this conclusion four and a half years into the Obama presidency. So here’s my prediction: Hillary Clinton will be the first female president of the United States. She will win in 2016. God help us all.

PS: Learn more about their “charity” here.

- Aggie

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Our Sleazy Congress

This is why the American public is so cynical.

On Wednesday, immediately after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a proposed ruling that allowed the federal government to subsidize the health insurance premiums of Congressional staffers–even though that may not be allowed under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)–Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released the hold he had placed on President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the agency.

Last week, Coburn blocked the nomination of Katherine Archuleta–who was the national political director for Obama’s 2012 campaign–after a Senate committee approved her nomination “in an attempt to force OPM to explain its position” on the Obamacare subsidies.

In a proposed ruling that will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, OPM deemed that the federal government could still subsidize 75% of the cost of the insurance premiums of plans Congressional aides must now purchase on government-run exchanges. Lawmakers and aides will not be eligible for tax credits to offset the premiums. Right after the announcement, Coburn dropped his his hold on the nomination

We have Harry Potter Law in this country.

- Aggie

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IRS Manual Teaches How To Obfuscate Trail Of Tips Received Illegally

Another sign of the crumbling of our legal system

Note that the story comes from Reuters UK. If you really want to understand the underbelly of the US government in the Age of Obama, read the British press.

Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.

The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defence lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.

A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA’s Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.

As Reuters reported Monday, the Special Operations Division of the DEA funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. The DEA phone database is distinct from a NSA database disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Read the rest at the link. Add a new phrase to your vocabulary: Parallel Construction. Incidentally, I get the need for catching the bad guys, but I surely don’t trust this bunch to keep politics out of it.

- Aggie

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Congress Won’t Live Under ObamaCare

Nope, that’s just for the people they rule

To adapt H.L. Mencken, nobody ever went broke underestimating the cynicism and self-dealing of the American political class. Witness their ad-libbed decision, at the 11th hour and on the basis of no legal authority, to create a special exemption for themselves from the ObamaCare health coverage that everybody else is mandated to buy.

The Affordable Care Act requires Members of Congress and their staffs to participate in its insurance exchanges, in order to gain first-hand experience with what they’re about to impose on their constituents. Harry Truman enrolled as the first Medicare beneficiary in 1965, and why shouldn’t the Members live under the same laws they pass for the rest of the country?

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Associated Press
That was the idea when Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley proposed the original good-enough-for-thee, good-enough-for-me amendment in 2009, and the Finance Committee unanimously adopted his rule. Declared Chairman Max Baucus, “I’m very gratified that you have so much confidence in our program that you’re going to be able to purchase the new program yourself and I’m confident too that the system will work very well.”

Harry Reid revised the Grassley amendment when he rammed through his infamous ObamaCare bill that no one had read for a vote on Christmas eve. But he neglected to include language about what would happen to the premium contributions that the government makes for its employees. Whether it was intentional or not, the fairest reading of the statute as written is that if Democrats thought somebody earning $174,000 didn’t deserve an exchange subsidy, then this person doesn’t get a subsidy merely because he happens to work in Congress.

But the statute means that about 11,000 Members and Congressional staff will lose the generous coverage they now have as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Instead they will get the lower-quality, low-choice “Medicaid Plus” of the exchanges. The Members—annual salary: $174,000—and their better paid aides also wouldn’t qualify for ObamaCare subsidies. That means they could be exposed to thousands of dollars a year in out-of-pocket insurance costs.

The result was a full wig out on Capitol Hill, with Members of both parties fretting about “brain drain” as staff face higher health-care costs. Democrats in particular begged the White House for help, claiming the Reid language was merely an unintentional mistake. President Obama told Democrats in a closed-door meeting last week that he would personally moonlight as HR manager and resolve the issue.

And now the White House is suspending the law to create a double standard. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that runs federal benefits will release regulatory details this week, but leaks to the press suggest that Congress will receive extra payments based on the FEHBP defined-contribution formula, which covers about 75% of the cost of the average insurance plan. For 2013, that’s about $4,900 for individuals and $10,000 for families.

How OPM will pull this off is worth watching. Is OPM simply going to cut checks, akin to “cashing out” fringe benefits and increasing wages? Or will OPM cover 75% of the cost of the ObamaCare plan the worker chooses—which could well be costlier than what the feds now contribute via current FEHBP plans? In any case the carve-out for Congress creates a two-tier exchange system, one for the great unwashed and another for the politically connected.

Is it legal?

This latest White House night at the improv is also illegal. OPM has no authority to pay for insurance plans that lack FEHBP contracts, nor does the Affordable Care Act permit either exchange contributions or a unilateral bump in congressional pay in return for less overall compensation. Those things require appropriations bills passed by Congress and signed by the President.

But the White House rejected a legislative fix because Republicans might insist on other changes, and Mr. Obama feared that Democrats would go along because they’re looking out for number one. So the White House is once again rewriting the law unilaterally, much as it did by suspending ObamaCare’s employer mandate for a year. For this White House, the law it wrote is a mere suggestion.

Here’s a better question: Is there any such thing as legal anymore? In a Kingdom, are there any laws?

- Aggie

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Even More Government Surveillance

Thank you, Edward Snowden, for pointing this out

The US government can look into all emails, posts, chat rooms, whatever, without court approval.

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.

And how do we know? Because The Guardian, a British newspaper, published the information.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

You know, folks, not to sound paranoid (and I’m actually not paranoid, I just find this to be creepy), it is a fact that the Nazis were capable of rounding up the Jews because IBM wrote a program and trained them in its use. They took what amounted to census material and merged it with addresses, employment info, religious background, etc. In those days it was slow work, done with punch cards. Still, they were able to locate just about everyone that they wanted to destroy with this technology. Imagine how much more powerful government tools are today. Every time we make a phone call on a smart phone or send an email or a message, we are announcing our presence, location, and current interests. Twice we have elected a government that doesn’t respect privacy or the law. I think the principles of the Founding Fathers are toast.

- Aggie

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Bloomberg Overreached In NYC Soda Ban

Illegal

New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.
An appeals court ruled Tuesday that New York City’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division panel upheld a lower court decision that had delayed the measure before it took effect in March.

Obama needs to step in and deem the soda ban the law.

- Aggie

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Manning Acquitted Of Aiding Enemy

Convicted of lesser charges

I bet he spends at least a decade in military prison.

A military judge Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge the Army intelligence analyst faced for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables.
Manning was convicted on nearly all of the lesser charges considered by the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, in connection with the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

The suspense at the court martial session was limited because Manning previously pled guilty to 10 of the 22 counts he faced. Those charges carry a potential sentence of 20 years. The aiding-the-enemy charge can lead result in a sentence of up to life in prison or event to the death penalty, but the military did not seek capital punishment in Manning’s case.

If convicted on all charges apart from aiding the enemy, Manning faced a potential sentence of up to 154 years.
Manning did not dispute the fact that he sent WikiLeaks most of the material that led to the charges against him. However, his defense argued that some of the counts were legally flawed.

The Army intelligence analyst was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq at a forward operating base where he studied threats in a section of Baghdad. He’s been in custody since.

As soon as Wednesday, the court martial is expected to move into a sentencing phase. Prosecutors are expected to call witnesses demonstrating the harm caused by Manning’s disclosures, while the defense will seek to undercut that evidence and argue for leniency.

Lind ruled in January that Manning is entitled to a sentencing credit of nearly four months as a result of what she determined was unnecessarily harsh treatment the intelligence analysts received during his almost nine-month stay at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.

Anyone have an opinion on all of this? Given the Snowden leaks, I’m inclined to go lightly on Manning, because I’m so appalled at some of the monkey business our government engages in – but my husband disagrees with me. What do you think?

- Aggie

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A Nation Of Laws, Not Men

Holder ignoring Supreme Court, going after Texas

A quick personal note: I still have house guests, back in full on Sunday.

Ok, this is what a nation of Men, Not Laws, looks like:

holder

There is one thing to be said about Attorney General Eric Holder. He has a way with words that makes conservatives furious — especially when he starts talking about race and the law.

There are many examples. Early in the Obama administration, Holder said that we are “a nation of cowards” when it comes to issues of race.
The conservative chattering class erupted.

Now Holder is at it again. He has fired up the right with his comments about the Trayvon Martin case, blaming “mistaken beliefs and stereotypes ” for the shooting of the Florida teenager.

Civil rights organizations have called on Holder and the Justice Department to pursue federal charges against George Zimmerman after he was found not guilty in the Martin shooting.

At the annual conference of the National Urban League in Philadelphia on Thursday, Holder renewed his attack on a recent Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Despite the court’s decision, I believe we must regard this setback not as a defeat but as a historic opportunity: for Congress to restore, and even to strengthen, modern voting protections,” said Holder.

He then announced the Justice Department will “ask a federal court in Texas to subject the state of Texas … to obtain ‘pre-approval’ from either the department or a federal court before implementing future voting changes,” similar to a provision in the Voting Rights Act.

His remarks are the Justice Department’s first significant response to last month’s court ruling and seeks to address Texas’ controversial redistricting law that Holder filed suit against in 2012.

Holder said the state had a “history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized.”
The attorney general previously has been accused by the conservative press of “abuse of power” and of “exploiting tragedies” by the National Rifle Association. Former U.S. Rep. Allen West attacked Holder for what he called “race-baiting” and “exploiting the law.”

Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who mentions Holder several times in his book about racial profiling, “The Presumption of Guilt,” said the attorney general “has no fear or reticence to talk about race wherever he thinks it needs to be discussed and that leads to a host of reactions, usually negative, from people.”

“I think he is being very straightforward, and some people take it as being provocative. He is very honest about his views about race and justice,” Ogletree said.

Ogletree is correct. He is very straightforward. He is a straightforward bigot, and not deeply concerned about the law of the land. We elected this crew and we must live with it, but it is a darn shame.

- Aggie

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Obama Administration Continues To Threaten And Harass George Zimmerman

They are sealing the evidence, including his gun.

The U.S. Department of Justice, overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder, has ordered the Sanford, Florida police department to keep possession of all the evidence from George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial – including the exonerated neighborhood watch volunteer’s gun.
Sanford police confirmed on Thursday that the DOJ asked the agency not to return any pieces of evidence to their owners. Zimmerman was expected to get his firearm back by month’s end.
The development is a sign that the criminal section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is seriously investigating Zimmerman to determine if federal civil rights charges should be filed.

Florida law requires that Zimmerman regain possession of his gun, but the DOJ has stepped in to prevent it
Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter on Sunday in a Florida courtroom, but civil rights violations provide an exception to the U.S. Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy after a defendant has been found ‘not guilty’ in a state or local jurisdiction.
That’s because if Zimmerman were tried in federal court, he would be charged with violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights, not causing his death.

WESH-TV in Orlando reported Thursday afternoon that police had confirmed the evidence ‘hold,’ meaning that everything related to the trial, from Zimmerman’s gun to the Skittles and iced tea Martin was carrying when the pair’s altercation began, will remain in the hands of law enforcement.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to questions about whether it will take custody of the evidence, or when that might occur.

Attorney General Eric Holder told NAACP convention-goers that the DOJ still has an open civil rights investigation in Zimmerman, despite his acquittal in Florida

MSNBC host Al Sharpton has planned a series of ‘Justice for Trayvon’ rallies, one of whose goals will be to call on the federal government to prosecute Zimmerman
But Holder himself confirmed on Tuesday during the NAACP’s annual convention that the Justice Department still has an open investigation into Zimmerman’s actions on Feb. 26, 2012.
‘I am concerned about this case,’ Holder told the assembled black civil rights activists, ‘and as we confirmed last spring, the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.’
‘While that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take.’

Most lawyers will tell you that the Justice Department will not go after Zimmerman, but my gut is not so sure. The lawyers assume the rule of law. I think we are into a post-legal phase of the United States.

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