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Federal Court: DOJ Official May Have Lied About the New Black Panther Case

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Hans A. von Spakovsky

In a little noted decision on July 23, a federal district court judge concluded that internal DOJ documents about the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case “contradict Assistant Attorney General [Thomas] Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in” the decision to dismiss the case.

In other words, the sworn testimony of Perez, the Obama political appointee who heads the Civil Rights Division, before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was apparently false.

The decision in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice by Judge Reggie Walton was in a case filed by Judicial Watch after the Civil Rights Division refused to turn over documents about the NBPP case requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Walton is the same federal judge who presided over the prosecution of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

As Judge Walton outlined, Judicial Watch’s FOIA request “sought documents relating to the DOJ’s decision to dismiss civil claims in the New Black Panther Party case.” Walton awarded Judicial Watch a small amount of attorneys’ fees and costs, having concluded that the Judicial Watch lawsuit “was the catalyst for the DOJ’s release of records.”

According to the court, the DOJ documents, including emails from former Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli (who was the number-two official at DOJ) and former Democratic election lawyer and Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch, “revealed that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims.”

This included emails from Perrelli to lower-level DOJ attorneys on May 14 and 15, 2009, the day before and the very day the case was dismissed against three of the defendants on May 15. As Judge Walton concluded in discussing the importance of the Judicial Watch lawsuit, “[s]urely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decisionmaking.”

Neither Perrelli nor Hirsch has ever answered any questions about why top officials in the Justice Department were so interested in one of the many cases handled by the Civil Rights Division or what actions or instructions they communicated. And they have never said who else they discussed the case with above them, either in the Office of the Attorney General or in the White House. We don’t know the actual content of many of these emails because the court upheld the exemption from disclosure claimed by DOJ for many of these documents under a FOIA rule that protects certain legally privileged documents.

But the court also said that DOJ had failed “to show that its withholding of some documents from Judicial Watch prior to the filing of this lawsuit was legally correct or had a reasonable basis in law.” That is no surprise. Far too many of the actions of this Justice Department, particularly the Civil Rights Division, have not been legally correct or had a reasonable basis in law. And in this case, DOJ tried to avoid releasing documents as mandated by FOIA that it found politically embarrassing since there was no justifiable legal reason for dismissing an open-and-shut case of voter intimidation that had already been won by default.

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Israel Can’t Wait for Romney

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Dan Friedman

If you are an Israeli military planner planning a strike against Iran, Romney’s speech last night in Jerusalem– although reassuring – changed nothing. Looking at your calendar there are two dates circled in red: the date of America’s presidential election and the date of the presidential inauguration. The two and a half months in-between are simply labeled “no man’s land.” Locked away in your safe, or encrypted on your computer, is another document, “Iran’s nuclear timeline.”

Here’s your problem. The recommendation you’ve been asked to make can’t rely on predicting the future. The fate ofIsrael and the Jewish people is too important to be decided by speculation or a roll of the dice. The only factors that count are the bitter experiences of history  –  including the last three and one-half years of Barack Hussein Obama’s reign.

Still, you find it tempting to daydream “what if” based on the outcome of America’s election. If Obama wins, Pharaoh’s heart is not going to be softened. Israel can expect the man to double his efforts to back Israel into a corner and make it difficult-to-impossible for her to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat without help. After all, Obama would no longer need Jewish money.

If Romney wins on November 6th, there’s no telling what Obama might do while he runs the country in “no man’s land” unshackled with nothing to lose. Under those circumstances, the Ayatollahs will draw a similar conclusion and have every incentive to speed up the demons’ work freed of the bothersome ruse to keep it secret from the world. Moreover, if Israel chooses to hold off until Romney gets the keys to the Oval Office, and Romney wobbles for any reason, the “timeline” gets revised and now tells you by then it could be too late.

On the other hand, during the critical period before the election, which is where we are today, Obama is forced to bottle-up his bile. While he needs Jewish votes and gelt, his hands are tied until November 7th.  By the process of elimination, that makes our military planner’s recommendation much clearer. The time to go is between now and then.

 

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In Case You Thought North Korea Was Lightening Up

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Claudia Rosett

Somehow, the worst regimes seem perpetually to enjoy the greatest benefit of the doubt, with outside observers repeatedly hanging hopes of reform on any hint of a human face at the top. For years, this has been the rule with North Korea, which goes through cycles in which shifts in the propaganda are reported with excitement in the Western press as hints of potential opening and change, or at least as entertaining kitsch. Meanwhile, North Korea’s regime carries on with its monstrous repression, slave labor camps, massive military and illicit weapons programs.

Here we go again, as reports emerge about the sprightly tastes of Kim Jong Un, third-generation heir to North Korea’s totalitarian state — a lively and smiling young tyrant, who turns out to have a mysterious young wife, and a taste for Disney characters.

What to make of this? Former Washington Post reporter Blaine Harden, author of “Escape From Camp 14,” had a terrific piece in Foreign Policy, July 26: “North Korea’s Extreme Makeover.” Harden warns, “Before we allow ourselves to get too hopeful or amused, it is worth noting that North Korea remains uniquely repressive. Indeed, after seven months under Kim Jong Un, the entire country seems to have become even more of a prison than it was under his father, Kim Jong Il, not less.”

Now comes a dispatch from The Wall Street Journal, “North Korea: We’re Not Changing!” reporting that North Korea itself is refuting speculation that it might be changing in any fundamental way. The source of this claim? North Korea’s own state mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, which refers to western optimists as “idiots,” and writes: “To expect ‘policy change’ and ‘reform opening’ from the DPRK is nothing but a foolish and silly dream just like wanting the sun to rise in the west.” Yep.

Crossposted from the Rosette Report.

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Caption This Obama Photo on the White House Landing Page

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

What is President Obama doing in this picture, which graces the White House’s official web site?

Is he watching Louis Farrakhan’s UFO land? Is he wondering why no one wants to pose with him? Is he imagining how his bust will look up on Mt. Rushmore? What is behind his vacant gaze into the distance?

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What a Boob: Mayor Bloomberg Now Meddling in New Moms’ Breastfeeding

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

They don’t call him Nanny Bloomberg for nothing.

Mayor Bloomberg is pushing hospitals to hide their baby formula behind locked doors so more new mothers will breast-feed.

Starting Sept. 3, the city will keep tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use — the most restrictive pro-breast-milk program in the nation.

Under the city Health Department’s voluntary Latch On NYC initiative, 27 of the city’s 40 hospitals have also agreed to give up swag bags sporting formula-company logos, toss out formula-branded tchotchkes like lanyards and mugs, and document a medical reason for every bottle that a newborn receives.

Should new mothers in New York be creeped out that the mayor is thinking so much about their breasts that he’ll have hospitals hide baby formula from them?

Under Latch On NYC, new mothers who want formula won’t be denied it, but hospitals will keep infant formula in out-of-the-way secure storerooms or in locked boxes like those used to dispense and track medications.

With each bottle a mother requests and receives, she’ll also get a talking-to. Staffers will explain why she should offer the breast instead.

Predictable outcome of the “hide the formula” policy: Women will stop going to the hospitals to get formula, and will end up getting less contact with doctors. Like Bloomberg’s rant about police going on strike to promote gun control, this policy is likely to be counterproductive to his goals.

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Cornyn, Grassley Thumb Noses at USDA, Order Pile of Meat

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Two GOP senators got out plenty of napkins to protest the USDA’s “Meatless Monday,” an urging of the veg lifestyle in a newsletter that has since been pulled, with a “Meat Monday” today.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) toasted the bounty of America’s ranches by ordering a big pile of barbeque beef brisket, ribs, and sausage from Hill Country BBQ restaurant in D.C.

“In some of the toughest times they’ve seen in recent memory, Texas cattle ranchers and farmers deserve an Administration who works with them, not one who undermines them with boneheaded decisions from bureaucrats in Washington,” said Cornyn.

“This is a reminder to USDA that it’s supposed to advocate for American agriculture, not against it,” Grassley said.

No word on whether Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack gnawed on some ribs today.

Hill Country’s barbecue is dry-rubbed (no sauce) and smoked low and slow with post oak wood shipped specially from Texas, the restaurant states. Meats are hand-carved by pitmasters and can be ordered by the slice, by the rib, or by the link.

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Winner of the “Obama HOPE Posters Peeling Off The Wall” Photo Caption Contest

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

More than any previous contest, this one has succeeded in driving my personal crazy train off the rails because it was nearly impossible to pick a winner from all these terrific entries. So thanks to the numerous Tatler readers who submitted captions and extra special thanks to those who submitted multiple entries.

Now it is time to cue the celebratory music, crank up the applause machine and announce the grand prize winner of the all expense paid trip to an un-named Washington, D.C. hotel lobby (using your own credit card) to see the artwork that was the subject of this photo caption contest. And the winner is:

EDMUND BURKE who wrote:

Just as I thought, this scratch off game is a loser.

Awesome entry Edmund!

Just in case Edmond cannot make the trip to that un-named hotel lobby the runner-up winner is:

WERMET who submitted three creative entries:

Shattered Dreams from my Father.

This is what happens when you Hope instead of Plan.

The posters held up better than his policies.

Then there is CFBLEACHERS who is our most decorated (past and present) contest winner. As usual he (I think he is a he) submitted several hilarious entries but these two deserve medals:

Think this is bad, you should see the Greek columns.

Guess this was one of the bitter non-clingers.

Now for the rest of the best:

(But seriously folks, any of these captions could have been in the winner’s circle because Tatler readers rank in the top 1% of creative adult intelligence and this contest proves that.

Subotai Bahadur: “The last known pieces of Obama Regime propaganda that survived the celebratory bonfires the night the Constitutional Republic was reborn.” — Smithsonian Institution.

Chris Henderson:  (multiple entries)

If his picture can’t occupy a wall, how can his supporters Occupy Wall Street?

Nobel “Pieces” Prize!

His posters are falling almost as fast (and furious) as his economy.

Scott:   Hope is….going…..going…..almost gone…….

Fail Burton:   Hope – 50% off.

Eric:   “Going Out Of Business.”

cfbleachers:  (again and again and again)

I don’t know sir, they were fine until a Chevy Volt passed by and …it and they spontaneously combusted.

You didn’t billboard that.

After effects of BO tox.

CraigZ:   “Hope” is just SO 2008!

RebeccaH:   Hope and Change. Nice posters, but nothing actually stuck.

Jeff Douglas:  A picture of the last four years.

Mark McKinnon:   Hope has come unglued.

(Could this be the Mark McKinnon, co-founder of No Labels  labeling a piece of partisan hotel lobby art?)

Finally, the time has come to reveal the Washington, D.C. hotel where this art currently adorns a wall.  But we HOPE someone in a dark suit from Homeland Security does not arrest the hotel owners and send them to “Re-education Camp Soros” or place them on Obama’s Enemies List and then unleash the IRS and have the Department of Labor inquire about the immigration status of their employees or, on second thought, revealing the hotel name at this time when HOPE still lives in the White House is probably not a good idea.

So thanks again loyal Tatler readers for playing along, and see you next time a photo (or lobby art from a small, old hotel on N Street) is worthy of a Tatler Photo Caption Contest.

 

 

 

 

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Politico Shills for Dems on Voter ID

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

In a three-page, 1,668-word story, Politico does its best to advance the Democratic Party’s anti-voter ID case. The story, written by Emily Schultheis (@emilyrs on Twitter), is replete with quotes from Democrat officials and nods to groups that oppose voter ID. While airing accusations that Republicans favor voter ID laws to suppress the votes of various Democrat constituencies, even airing without challenge or context AG Eric Holder’s over-the-top claim that requiring voter ID amounts to a “poll tax,” Politico’s story includes just one quote from anyone who supports voter ID laws. Here is that quote.

“I just don’t think it’s too onerous to pass [these laws] — our vote is our most sacred expression of our desire for our country,” said Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, a group that advocates for more voter ID legislation.

That’s it. That’s Politico’s idea of “balance.”

Not mentioned anywhere in the Politico story: About 70% of Americans across all ethnic backgrounds support voter ID. Also not mentioned: Former Democrat Rep. Artur Davis has come out in favor of voter ID, and specifically rebuts Holder’s “poll tax” claim. Why didn’t Politico reach out to Davis and ask him any questions about voter ID?

Also not mentioned: Indiana’s voter ID law is the model for many other state voter ID laws, and it has already been found constitutional. Also not mentioned: Voting rates among minorities went up after Indiana’s law was enacted.

Also not mentioned: If supporting voter ID is based on politics, then isn’t it reasonable to assume that opposing voter ID is also based on politics? Isn’t it fair to ask why Democrats and in particular the Obama campaign/administration so stridently oppose voter ID, even to the point of lying about voter ID’s consequences, particularly when Democrats consistently demand photo ID for constituents who want to meet with elected officeholders at town hall meetings? It’s fair to ask, but Politico doesn’t ask that question.

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Kristi Yamaguchi Brings Gold to the Romney Campaign

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Restore Our Future PAC released a new ad today that puts a spotlight on Mitt Romney’s successful effort to save the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. In the ad, 1992 Olympic figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi praises Romney for bringing “a huge sense of hope” to the failing 2002 games. Derek Parra, the first Mexican-American to win Olympic gold for the United States, says that “Mitt allowed athletes like myself to be able to realize our dreams.” Olympic gold medalist Jimmy Shea also appears in the ad. He won gold in the skeleton in the 2002 games.

The ad, embedded below, is backed by a $7.2 million buy in swing states, and will air during coverage of the London games.

YouTube Preview Image

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Bust-ed

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Charles Krauthammer catches the Obama White House in a lie regarding the whereabouts of the famous bust of Winston Churchill. Krauthammer takes issue with the post, written by WH spokesman Dan Pfeiffer Friday, that stated that the famous bust which was lent to the US by the UK after 9-11, never even left the White House. The British embassy says it did, when President Obama returned it in January 2009.

In his original post, he had provided photographic proof of his claim that the Oval Office Churchill had never been returned, indeed had never left the White House at all, but had simply been moved from the Oval Office to the residence.

“Here’s a picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010,” he wrote. “Hopefully this clears things up a bit and prevents folks from making this ridiculous claim again.”

Except that the photo does nothing of the sort. The Churchill sculpture shown in the photograph is a different copy — given to President Lyndon Johnson, kept in the White House collection for half a century and displayed in the White House residence. The Oval Office Churchill — the one in question, the one Pfeiffer says never left the White House — did leave the White House, was returned to the British government, and sits proudly at this very moment in the British ambassador’s residence.

Was that little photographic switcheroo an honest mistake on ­Pfeiffer’s part? Or was it deliberate deception? I have no idea.

I have an idea, and I’m sure Krauthammer does too but he’d prefer to let the White House explain itself. Again.

The question is, if the White House will lie about such a small matter in such a brazen way, what will it not lie about?

 

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Cruz-ing to Victory?

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Texas Republicans vote Tuesday, July 31 in a number of runoff elections. The highest profile of the bunch is the race to replace the retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. A new poll shows that former state solicitor general Ted Cruz is opening up a significant lead on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:

PPP’s final poll of the Republican Senate runoff in Texas finds Ted Cruz opening up a 52-42 lead, an increase from our survey two weeks ago that found him ahead 49-44.

Cruz’s victory is driven by 4 things: the Tea Party, the enthusiasm of his supporters, a generational divide within the Texas Republican ranks, and the lack of regard the party base currently holds for Rick Perry.

Cruz is ahead by a whooping 75-22 margin with Tea Party  voters, more than making up for a 56-39 deficit to Dewhurst with voters who don’t consider themselves members of that movement. There has been too much of a tendency to ascribe any Republican primary upset over the last few years to Tea Party voters, but this is one case where it’s well justified.

Cruz has a 63-33 advantage with voters who describe themselves as ‘very excited’ about voting in Tuesday’s runoff election. He also has a 49-45 advantage with those describing themselves as ‘somewhat excited.’ The only reason this race is even remotely competitive is Dewhurst’s 59-31 lead with voter who say they’re ‘not that excited’ about voting. It’s an open question whether those folks will really show up and if they don’t it’s possible Cruz could end up winning by closer t0 20 points.

The enthusiasm findings track well with anecdotal evidence from Cruz rallies, culminating with a fairly large rally in The Woodlands on Friday that saw Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint come out to support Cruz. Their support helps blunt the late charge from the Dewhurst campaign, that Cruz is a “Washington insider.” That particular accusation has never generated any traction.

So things look good for a Cruz victory, but this post comes with a caveat: The poll cited above is from Public Policy Polling. They lean left and once found that Barack Obama led Rick Perry in Texas. So, they may not have the strongest grasp on how to poll in Texas. We’ll all find out tomorrow if PPP has figured the Lone Star State out yet.

Update: An internal Dewhurst poll shows the lt. gov. leading by five.

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N.Y. Dem: To be Rich is a ‘Privilege,’ So You Must ‘Contribute Back’

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

A New York Democrat tasked with introducing the Senate’s middle-class tax cut in the House said on CNN this morning that it’s a privilege to be rich in this country and pay back into the country’s development.

The Democratic tax cut proposal, which mirrors President Obama’s call for extending the Bush-era tax cuts on lower- and middle-income brackets only, passed the Senate last week 51-48. Republicans vowed to stop the tax hike by passing their own tax-cut extension this week while clearing numerous bills off the House calendar in the last week before the summer recess.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the Senate Dems’ version has “a couple of Republican supporters as well.”

“It’s sending a message to the leadership of the Republican Party that if you are serious about getting a tax bill through before the end of the year, here are the parameters,” he said. “And it’s along the lines of what the president has been asking for that the wealthiest two percent among us pay a bit more to secure the country, make sure that we are able to pay our bills, make sure we are at a point we know that our deficit is growing exponentially so. If we don’t pass this bill, we’ll see an increase.”

While calling on Republicans to “compromise,” Crowley deflected a question about entitlement reform by saying that “Social Security is a jewel of this country, must be preserved and maintained.”

He charged that the Republican version would help millionaires at the expense of the middle class.

“To be a millionaire in this country, it is the greatest country the world has known. It’s a privilege. And I think most people get that,” Crowley said. “…You work hard, you get ahead, make a living and you contribute back to this country and make it a better country.”

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Cheney: Don’t Crow Too Loudly About bin Laden, Obama

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said in interview excerpts aired on “Good Morning America” today that President Obama is “one of our weakest presidents,” even worse than Jimmy Carter.

“I just fundamentally disagree with him philosophically,” Cheney said. “…I wouldn’t say he’s soft on terror, but I think — I think he’s made a number of mistakes. Bin Laden, fine, a lot of that intelligence that laid the groundwork for what ultimately led to the capture of bin Laden came as a result of programs we had in place in the Bush administration.”

Speaking with ABC from Jackson Hole, Wyo., he said that his recent heart transplant was “nothing short of a miracle.”

“That was the toughest of all the surgeries. I lost 40 pounds. I was heavily sedated, in the intensive care unit for weeks afterwards. I had pneumonia while I was in recovering from the surgery. And by the time I came out from under, looked in a mirror, and what I saw was my dad shortly before he died,” Cheney said.

“It was just four months ago. There’s not been a single glitch, no sign of rejection. Everything’s just gone perfectly.”

The ex-veep told ABC that he’s perfectly at peace with his legacy.

“I’m very comfortable with what I did and why I did it and how I did it,” Cheney said. “And I’ll let others judge whether they liked it or not.”

Cheney told ABC News that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a “mistake” by picking Sarah Palin to be on the 2008 ticket. Having been governor of Alaska for two years at the time, she “did not pass the test” of being ready to be president, he said. Palin resigned from her gubernatorial post several months after the presidential election.

The VP also wryly described how the list of vice presidential candidates is used by officials up for reelection.

“I had a couple of calls from politicians who’d say, ‘You know, it’d really help me in my race back home, Dick, if I was on the list.’ Done. You’re on the list,” said Cheney. “Then somebody could go leak the fact that they were on the list.”

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GOP Senators Battle Defense Cuts in Swing States

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are embarking on a multi-state tour today in an attempt to highlight just how devastating an additional $500 billion in cuts to defense would be if Congress and President Obama don’t act to stop the sequester.

McCain said on CNN this morning that more than a million jobs would be lost if the cuts go through at the beginning of 2013.

“We’ve already cut $460 billion from the defense budget,” the senator said. “And I would point out that if we sat down together, we could look at loophole closing and spending cuts and look at freezes. …So making sure that our nation is secure from a defense national security standpoint is the first priority.”

“We could address both the dense and nondefense savings from sequestration by living within our means for one month in this government,” Ayotte said. “It’s about one month of borrowing. So we can find those savings across the government and do this in a more responsibility way and still address the deficit reduction.”

In addition to stops in North Carolina and New Hampshire, the senators will be hosting town halls in Florida, which could see 41,000 jobs lost through the sequester, and Virginia, which could lose 136,000 defense jobs.

“They have to issue layoff notices before the election so members of Congress need to come together on this,” Ayotte said.

Democrats on the Hill have grumbled that the tour is like a campaign trip for Mitt Romney, trying to cast blame on Obama for the defense cuts.

“I welcome Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte to Hampton Roads,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). “Our region is very proud of its military and shipbuilding heritage. My Senate colleagues are correct in their assessment that sequestration will be harmful to our national defense and especially our local economy, but I believe they have yet to answer an important question, namely what is the most appropriate proposal to fix this problem?”

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Panetta ‘Particularly Concerned’ About Assad’s Chem, Bio Weapons in ‘Wrong Hands’

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, beginning a trip through North Africa and the Middle East, said that the Syrian government’s assault on civilians in Aleppo with armed helicopters “ultimately will be a nail in Assad’s coffin.”

“The key right now is to continue to bring that pressure on Syria, to provide assistance to the opposition, and to provide whatever kind of humanitarian aid we can to assist the refugees and to not — not do anything to show that the international community is other than unified in the effort to bring the Assad regime down,” Panetta said. “I think that’s the key right now to dealing with the tragedy of Aleppo.”

Some 200,000, lacking food and water, have fled Bashar Assad’s air assault on the city.

The defense secretary said he’s “particularly concerned” about Assad’s chemical and biological weapons “into the wrong hands.”

Panetta is visiting other Arab Spring stops of Tunisia and Egypt, as well as Israel and Jordan.

He said the strategy with Tunisia and Egypt will “build alliances and partnerships with countries and develop their capabilities.”

He wouldn’t comment, though, on Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel. “You know, I’m just not going to get into that game of commenting on what candidates do. You know, as secretary of defense I have a responsibility to defend the security of our country,” Panetta told reporters. “And in order to do that I’ve got to have the support of both Democrats and Republicans to get that accomplished. And for that reason I try my best not to get involved in the politics of the moment.”

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Virginia Newspaper Editorial Calls for Investigation of Voter Participation Center

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

The Charlottesville Daily Progress published an editorial Friday regarding the Voter Participation Center. The group, which claims to be non-partisan but is funded by, run by and allied with Democratic groups and operatives, is registering voters, along with the dead, dogs, cats, felons and non-citizens, to vote. It is working in 28 states, causing confusion with its forms that appear to be official documents from the state in which recipients get them in the mail. The VPC’s forms are so confusing, in fact, that they even tripped up a member of the Virginia State Board of Elections when she received one in the mail this year.

The Daily Progress’ editorial notes many of the problems associated with the VPC’s mass mailings en route to calling for an investigation:

The list of unqualified voters to whom VPC has sent registration forms has been exposed as far larger than just a couple of mistakes involving a couple of pets.

For instance, a felon living in Louisa County who was ineligible to vote not only received a registration form from the group, she completed it, submitted it and then voted in the 2008 presidential election, reports the paper. In addition to felons and pets, others who have received voter registration forms from VPC include children and people who are deceased.

The VPC continues to maintain the same position it took a month ago: The errors are simply due to imperfections in the mailing lists it purchased. These errors, “while regrettable and unfortunate, should not be the reason or the excuse to call an entire process that is working into question,” a new statement says.

The VPC sent its registration forms mostly to demographic groups known to favor Democratic candidates. Its June effort resulted in 15,026 new registered voters as of July 18, the Times-Dispatch reports.

That’s a significant number. Virginia has seen several close races in recent years that have turned on just a handful of votes. It is possible, therefore, that a handful of illegally registered voters could change the course of an election in a closely contested district.

And the issue goes deeper. Now it is not only about the votes themselves, but also about trust in the election process. Enough doubt has been raised about the reliability of the process and the validity of votes that Virginia must do something to restore confidence.

However, we agree with political blogger Paul Goldman that although an investigation is warranted, Ken Cuccinelli is the wrong person to undertake it.

It is not the controversial Republican attorney general who should probe the possible violation of these laws — it is the Virginia Board of Elections.

“Controversial” depends on the eye of the beholder. The Daily Progress’ stated problem with AG Cuccinelli is that he is a candidate for governor. But he is also the current attorney general. The way I understand the process, the Virginia State Board of Elections must vote unanimously to trigger an investigation, but the SBE does not conduct the investigation itself. Its vote triggers the state attorney general’s office to investigate.

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Bill Clinton to Make ‘Economic Case’ for Obama at Convention

Monday, July 30th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

When you have a flim-flam economy, who better to sell it than a flim-flam man?

Fox News:

Bill Clinton will have a prominent role in this year’s Democratic National Convention, where he is expected to make the economic case for President Obama’s re-election bid.

The Obama campaign confirmed the former president’s appearance late Sunday to Fox News, saying Clinton will argue the U.S. should continue building the economy from the middle class out as per Obama’s policies.

“There’s no one better to cut through on economic issues and lay out the choice in the election because he understands the consequences of the policy differences,” an Obama campaign official said.

The move gives the Obama campaign an opportunity to take advantage of the former president’s immense popularity and remind voters that a Democrat was in the White House the last time the American economy was thriving.

The Associated Press reported that Obama personally asked Clinton to speak at the convention and Clinton enthusiastically accepted. Clinton speaks regularly to Obama and to campaign officials about strategy.

Clinton’s prominent role at the convention will also allow Democrats to embrace party unity in a way that is impossible for Republican rival Mitt Romney.

George W. Bush, the last Republican to hold the White House, remains politically toxic in some circles. While Bush has endorsed Romney, he is not involved in his campaign and has said he does not plan to attend the GOP convention.

Clinton will speak in prime-time at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 5, the night before Obama formally accepts the party nomination. While the number two on the ticket often speaks that night, the Obama campaign has instead decided that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will speak on the same night.

Biden will introduce Obama on Sept. 6 in front of an estimated 70,000 expected attendees. The vice president’s speech will focus on outlining many of the challenges the White House has faced over the past four years and the decisions Obama made to address them, officials said.

“To us it’s about deploying our assets in the most effective way,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said. “To have President Clinton on Wednesday night laying out the choice facing voters, and then having Vice President Biden speak right before the president in prime time on Thursday, giving a testimony to the decisions the president has made, the character of his leadership and the battle to rebuild the middle class that’s so central to our message.”

Obama’s idea of building an economy from the “middle out” is meaningless. The economy isn’t being “built” at all — middle out, middle in, right side, upside, downside, or around the corner. The Middle Class is losing ground under this president and to pretend otherwise is ridiculous.

This is where the former president comes in. He is experienced in selling the ridiculous. His claims that welfare reform was his idea, that it was the Democrats that balanced the budget, and that the Oklahoma City bombing was the fault of conservative talk radio reveal his shameless huckstering. It was former senator Bob Kerrey who said of then candidate Clinton, “Clinton’s an unusually good liar. Unusually good. Do you realize that?”

It took the American people a while, but now they do.

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Even More Excitement in the Climate Change World

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

(Via Watts Up With That) It turns out that the papers Richard Mueller has been pushing with his New York Times publicity blitz (aided by, among others, Joe Romm at Think Progress) were actually rejected for publication — with some misstatements so egregious that Ross McKittrick has published his reviews, saying that the publicity blitz can’t go unanswered. Here’s what he had to say (I can’t find a way to get a permalink to the statement, so scroll down if you need to):

BERKELEY EARTH STUDY REFEREE REPORTS: On September 8 2011 I was asked by Journal of Geophysical Research to be a reviewer for a paper by Charlotte Wickham et al. presenting the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (“BEST”) analysis of the effect of urbanization on land surface temperatures. This work is mainly associated with Richard Muller and his various coauthors.  I submitted my review just before the end of September 2011, outlining what I saw were serious shortcomings in their methods and arguing that their analysis does not establish valid grounds for the conclusions they assert. I suggested the authors be asked to undertake a major revision.
In October 2011, despite the papers not being accepted, Richard Muller launched a major international publicity blitz announcing the results of the “BEST” project. I wrote to him and his coauthor Judy Curry objecting to the promotional initiative since the critical comments of people like me were locked up under confidentiality rules, and the papers had not been accepted for publication. Richard stated that he felt there was no alternative since the studies would be picked up by the press anyway. Later, when the journal turned the paper down and asked for major revisions, I sought permission from Richard to release my review. He requested that I post it without indicating I was a reviewer for JGR. Since that was not feasible I simply kept it confidential.
On March 8 2012 I was asked by JGR to review a revised version of the Wickham et al. paper. I submitted my review at the end of March. The authors had made very few changes and had not addressed any of the methodological problems, so I recommended the paper not be published. I do not know what the journal’s decision was, but it is 4 months later and I can find no evidence on the BEST website that this or any other BEST project paper has been accepted for publication.
On July 29 2012 Richard Muller launched another publicity blitz (e.g. here and here) claiming, among other things, that “In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects [including those related to urbanization and land surface changes] unduly biased our conclusions.” Their failure to provide a proper demonstration of this point had led me to recommend against publishing their paper. This places me in an awkward position since I made an undertaking to JGR to respect the confidentiality of the peer review process, but I have reason to believe Muller et al.’s analysis does not support the conclusions he is now asserting in the press.
I take the journal peer review process seriously and I dislike being placed in the position of having to break a commitment I made to JGR, but the “BEST” team’s decision to launch another publicity blitz effectively nullifies any right they might have had to confidentiality in this matter. So I am herewith releasing my referee reports. The first, from September 2011, is here and the second, from March 2012 is here.

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Richard Miniter: Obama Cancelled Three Attempts to Kill Osama

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

The story is up at Daily Caller. Quote:

“President Obama’s greatest success was actually his greatest failure,” Miniter told The Daily Caller Friday. ”Leading From Behind,“ he said, traces the arc of six key Obama administration decisions, and shows how the president made them — and, often, failed to make them.

[Headline corrected. Sigh.]

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US: Release Political Prisoners in Iran

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Michael Ledeen

Life is full of surprises.  I missed this earlier in the month, but at long last, we have called for the release of Iranian political prisoners, and the State Department even named two of them.  Waydago!

Now we have to keep it up.  There are lots of Iran political prisoners, certainly hundreds, quite likely thousands, and State should name them all.  Do it at press conferences, do it at the UN, do it at international conferences.  Encourage allies to do it.  Broadcast it on Farda and VOA Persian Service.

Don’t forget the Green leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi.

It matters a lot.  Reagan did it to the Soviets, and they hated it.  The Iranian regime’s leaders will hate it too.  And the Iranian people will take heart.

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New Excitement in the Climate Change Controversy (Updated)

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Charlie Martin

Yesterday, Richard Mueller of UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project published an op-ed in the New York Times headlined “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.”  In it, he says:

Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

Today, Anthony Watts of the Watts Up With That website announced and provided a paper (figures and tables here) in pre-print titled “An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends.”

Watts is listed as lead author, with co-authors Evan Jones of New York; Stephen McIntyre of Toronto, Canada; and Dr. John R. Christy from the Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, Huntsville. In it, they demonstrate a systematic bias of about 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade in the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) temperature estimates.

That is, they show that according to their methods, which are drawn from new UN World Meteorological Organization guidelines, the total warming in USHCN data are overstated — in fact, nearly doubled.

(For our more excitable commenters: “systematic bias” aren’t the words of Watts et. al., and they don’t mean a purposeful bias. “Systematic bias” is a term in statistics for any procedure that leads to “systematic error,” a procedural error that moves an observed statistic consistently in one direction. Go read the Wikipedia article linked and restrain yourselves from conspiracy theories.)

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‘Non-Partisan’ Voter Participation Center Partners with Left Wing MoveOn.org

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

“Non-partisan:” That word does not mean what Page S. Gardner would have her critics believe it means.

The link between the VPC and MoveOn.org was discovered by Walter and Judy Hoye of Rockville, who were puzzled in June when they received a voter registration form in the mail for their 38-year-old daughter, a registered voter who lives 12 miles away in Henrico County and has never lived at their current address.

The mystery deepened when they received a phone call several weeks after receiving the partially filled-out form from the Voter Participation Center.

The caller, they eventually learned, was a volunteer with MoveOn.org. The caller wanted to know whether their daughter had filled out the form.

The caller said “she was following up … to make sure that my daughter had got it and that she was going to vote,” recalled Judy Hoye, who took the call.

The Hoyes are apparently among more than 7,000 people in Virginia and 73,000 nationwide who received “reminder calls” from MoveOn.org, which has partnered with an affiliate of the Voter Participation Center in the mass mailing of millions of voter registration forms across the country that target Democratic-leaning voting blocs, such as unmarried women, young adults and minorities. Nearly 200,000 have been mailed to Virginia residents.

In response to an inquiry by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Voter Participation Center said: “In the interests of encouraging as many Americans as possible to register to vote,” it recently sold a mailing list to its sister organization, called the Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund.

“The Action Fund in turn provided the list to MoveOn.Org Civic Action, which placed calls to eligible voters to urge them to register to vote in their local communities,” Gail Kitch, the center’s chief operating officer, wrote in an email.

There may some shenanigans buried in that explanation. The Women’s Voices Women Vote group is the Voter Participation Center, according to the VPC’s website.

The VPC was formerly known as Women’s Voices. Women Vote (WVWV). The name was formally changed in 2011 to reflect the fact the organization expanded its focus beyond its original emphasis on unmarried women to include the entire RAE.

Garder essentially sold the VPC’s voter list from her right hand to her left hand, which turned the list over to MoveOn.org. MoveOn.org is the infamous left wing group that authored this ad against one of America’s most decorated and capable military leaders, Gen. David Petraeus, when he led the war effort during the Bush administration.

Non-partisan?

h/t Disrupt the Narrative

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Newsweek Goes There

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

I thought these desperation tactics would have waited until later in the campaign.

Instead, Newsweek chose this week to unveil a new line of attack on Mitt Romney. The cover features a picture of Romney with the caption: “Romney: The Wimp Factor.”

Romney shrugged it off:

Mitt Romney says that if he worried about what reporters thought of him, he wouldn’t get much sleep.

He says he’s sleeping just fine.

The U.S. presidential candidate tells CBS’ ”Face the Nation” that he isn’t sweating the upcoming Newsweek magazine cover that leads with “Romney: The Wimp Factor.”

He says the media tried a similar criticism of President George H.W. Bush. Romney says Bush “was a pretty great president” who was not a wimp.

A 1987 Newsweek profile featured a profile of then-Vice President Bush with the title — “Fighting the ‘Wimp Factor.’”

Asked whether he had ever been called wimp, Romney says the Newsweek cover is a first.

Wimp? Is that anything like “faggot”? Pretty close. I am waiting for all the gay rights groups to come down on Newsweek’s partisan liberal editor Tina Brown and chastise her for slurring the LGBT community.

Oh, wait…nevermind.

Michael Tomasky, former editor of Guardian America and a host of far-left publications, was tasked by Ms. Brown with the juicy job of de-gonading Mitt Romney.

Tomasky gleefully recounts the Mitt-gaffes from London and then writes:

The episode highlights what’s really wrong with Romney. He’s kind of lame, and he’s really … annoying. He keeps saying these … things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately—with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps.

In 1987, this magazine created a famous hubbub by labeling George H.W. Bush a “wimp” on its cover. “The Wimp Factor.” Huge stir. And not entirely fair—the guy had been an aviator in the war, the big war, the good war, and he was even shot down out over the Pacific, cockpit drenched in smoke and fumes, at an age (20) when in most states he couldn’t even legally drink a beer. In hindsight, Poppy looks like Dirty Harry Callahan compared with Romney, who spent his war (Vietnam) in—ready?—Paris. Where he learned … French. Up to his eyeballs in deferments. Where Reagan saddled up a horse with the masculine name of El Alamein, Mitt saddles up something called Rafalca—except that he doesn’t even really do that, his wife does (dressage). And speaking of Ann—did you notice that she was the one driving the Jet Ski on their recent vacation, while Mitt rode on the back, hanging on, as Paul Begala put it to me last week, “like a helpless papoose”?

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Whither the Postal Service?

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

It costs 45 cents to mail a first class letter next door. And it costs 45 cents to mail a letter from New York to Los Angeles.

Is this the reason why the US Postal Service is dying?

Clearly, no private business would have such a stupid business model. The price of the product — delivering a first class letter to a specific address — should reflect how much it actually costs to pick up, sort, collate, transport, and deliver the product to where it is addressed. This would mean paying less for some letters, more for others.

But Congress, who oversees the Postal Service, has never seriously entertained allowing the USPS to alter its delivery model, nor deal with the myriad of other problems that led to the USPS losing more than $6 billion over the last two quarters.

The Postal Service gets no money from taxpayers and must survive on postal fees alone. With a 30% decline in first class mail delivery over the last 5 years, the situation has become so dire that USPS brass has recommended drastic cuts in services and employees. The cuts include closing 3,700 mostly rural post offices, cutting 150,000 from the workforce, eliminating Saturday delivery, and reforming the massive health and pension costs associated with current and retired workers.

But there are some who believe that these cuts, rather than save the Postal Service, will destroy it:

Regardless of the mandate, the decline in mail volume is undeniable and will only get worse. Some supporters worry that the attempts to save the agency will end up killing it instead.

“We need to do some major, thoughtful restructuring of the postal service so it can survive in the long run,” says Bloom, who, along with the investment bank Lazard, has been hired by the National Association of Letter Carriers union to devise a turnaround strategy for the agency. “But we don’t need to rush to judgment and slash and burn the very asset the post office has, which is its network. Then it will never recover.”

Donahoe’s critics say his proposed reforms will start the agency on a “death spiral”: If you cut the post office’s core services, customers begin looking at other options, leading inevitably to more financial hardship and further cuts down the line. A majority of Americans may be willing to forgo Saturday delivery and drive farther to buy stamps, but as the value and convenience diminish, so does the agency’s long-term viability, the thinking goes.

“The post office is being pushed to the cliff, into the abyss,” Ralph Nader, the longtime consumer advocate and an acolyte of the death-spiral theory, told The Huffington Post last year. “The ultimate goal is shrinkage — continual shrinkage and private businesses pick up the cream.”

Consider one likely service cut: the dropping of Saturday delivery. Seven in 10 Americans support the idea if the savings will help the agency survive, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. But it will certainly make the postal service less convenient.

The postal service has already proposed changing its standards for first class. Whereas a first-class letter is expected to arrive within one to three days, that benchmark would be changed to two to three days, eliminating overnight service. Cutting Saturday delivery would make it even slower.

That could be inconvenient for many and even problematic for others, including those who receive prescription medications by mail.

People who receive government checks will also be affected by reduced services and loss of Saturday delivery. The burden on rural residents would be significant considering that many older Americans would find it exceedingly difficult or be unable to travel to a more distant location to pick up their mail.

Simply put, the current proposals for reforming the USPS represent a profound change in American society and call into question whether by saving the Postal Service, we destroy something fundamental in American life:

Private corporations, of course, have no social obligations to the public the way the postal service does. Lose the postal service and you lose a considerable public asset, and maybe something more, says Ellen Dannin, a professor at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law who follows privatization trends.

“If you are going to have one country, then you have to take actions that help keep you knitted together as a country,” says Dannin. “I think that we are really in danger of losing what I would call important citizenship values … We have a responsibility to one another to make [the postal service] function effectively.”

Neither of the big package delivery companies — UPS or FedEx — want to see the Postal Service disappear. Nor would they want to take over the unprofitable first class delivery mandate — it would probably destroy their businesses as it is killing the USPS.

Whatever is to be done must be accomplished very soon, or the USPS will be unable to fund its operations. At that point, the government must decide whether to bail them out, or let the USPS die. Neither choice would be palatable or wise.

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Why Do Americans Like President Obama More than Mitt Romney?

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

The “Likeability Gap” between Romney and Obama is a serious drag on the Republican candidate’s chances to win the presidency.

Or is it?

“We’re not going to win a personality contest. It’s not an election for class president. It’s who can best solve the problems of the country,” said Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse. “Likability isn’t fixing the economy or helping the middle class make ends meet.”

Well said, and true — as far as it goes. But the vote for president has been shown to be the most personal of all ballots cast by the voter. And “likeability” is tied up in how we view ourselves as much as how we see the candidate before us.

The electoral canard about voting for the guy we’d like to sit down and have a beer with is shorthand for projecting our own personality traits on the candidate and measuring how he relates to our self-image. Political pros have their own ideas:

Voters look at the ballot with the expectation that they are going to have “a pretty intimate relationship with the president,” said Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod. “In addition to everything else, they know they are going to see a lot of him.”

But Axelrod added: “Likability is a hard thing to measure.” Indeed, Obama himself is no one’s idea of a glad-hander.

What makes people warm up to a candidate, Axelrod said, is a sense that he is “someone who is accessible to me, someone who understands me, someone I can relate to.”

Those perceived qualities about the president, strategists on both sides say, have helped keep the race close, despite Americans’ disappointment with how the economy has performed under Obama.

“Likability is keeping Obama in the game at this point,” said Mark McKinnon, a top strategist for George W. Bush, who in his 2004 presidential reelection bid was famously deemed in one poll to be the candidate with whom undecided voters would rather have a beer (an irony, for a teetotaling president).

“But Romney has a lot of potential to improve his likability numbers, particularly during the convention,” McKinnon added. “Romney hasn’t really revealed much of his personal story or his personality, so he’s got a lot more potential to grow.”

It appears that we measure likeability, in some respects, by deciding whether or not we want to welcome the candidate into our living rooms every night for the next four years. Is that more important than where the candidate stands on the issues of the day? Or whether his ideology is compatible with ours?

Mitt Romney may find the answer to those questions after the convention.

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Euro Zone ‘Witching Hour’ Arrives in September

Sunday, July 29th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

At about the time the American presidential election is in full swing in September, the euro zone may finally have to face the music about Greece, Spain, and the emergency mechanism the EU has developed to deal with governments nearing default.

The German Constitutional Court is expected to rule on September 12 regarding the legality of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the emergency bail out fund tapped by Greece and other countries. Most of the funds are supplied by Germany, but if the court rules that the ESM is unconstitutional, it will likely fall apart just at a time when it will be most needed.

Also on that day, elections in the Netherlands will be held and anti-bailout forces are expected to do very well. If they come to power, it will only complicate the situation with Greece.

Also around September 12, a decision will have to be made about Greece. Athens wants to renegotiate a part of the bailout agreement to give it more time to reach deficit and debt targets. This means the Greeks will need an additional infusion of cash — something no European country is eager to do. At that point, some of Greece’s $160 billion dollar debt will have to be written off, which would hit taxpayers not private businesses. Since there is little enthusiasm to keep Greece’s head above water, it is possible that Greece will be forced to leave the euro — with unknown consequences for Spain.

“In nearly 20 years of dealing with EU issues, I’ve never known a state of affairs like we are in now,” one euro zone diplomat said this week. Here’s where things get really dicey, as this Reuters analysis makes clear:

A bailout of Spain would probably be double those of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined, while Italy’s economy is twice as large as Spain’s again.

The European Union has already agreed to lend up to 100 billion euros to rescue Spanish banks. One euro zone official said Madrid has now conceded that it might need a full bailout worth 300 billion euros from the EU and IMF if its borrowing costs remain unaffordable.

The euro zone does not seem to have enough cash in the current setup to deal with a scenario of Spain and Italy needing a rescue, and a sense of doom is growing among some policymakers. Fighting the crisis, said the euro zone diplomat, is like trying to keep a life raft above water.

“For two years we’ve been pumping up the life raft, taking decisions that fill it with just enough air to keep it afloat even though it has a leak,” the diplomat said. “But now the leak has got so big that we can’t pump air into the raft quickly enough to keep it afloat.”

Compounding the problems, Greece is far behind with reforms to improve its finances and economy so it may need more time, more money and a debt reduction from euro zone governments.

If Greek debt cannot be made sustainable, the country may have to leave the euro zone, sending a shockwave across financial markets and the European economy.

That shockwave probably won’t be as devastating for the United States as the financial meltdown of 2008 that ultimately doomed the McCain campaign. US banks and the Federal Reserve have been preparing for just such a euro crisis for months.

But there is no way to prepare if, in addition to Greece leaving the euro, the dominoes of Spain and Italy fall. Those economies are just too massive not to cause significant problems for the US economy if they default.

It should be noted, as Reuters points out, that the EU, the European Central Bank, and the IMF have been able to muddle through these kinds of crisis over the past two years — not solving any of the problems with the euro and debt but pumping “just enough air” to keep it [the lifeboat] afloat even though it has a leak.” There’s no reason to believe there isn’t some kind of solution that kicks the can down the road some more, delaying the day of reckoning and hoping that something will turn up to save the euro.

But September appears to be a month of crisis and decision for Europe as well as a month that could make or break the Obama campaign.

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Catholic Business Wins Court Stay Against Contraceptive Rule

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

A Colorado judge is supporting freedom of religion over the government’s ability to implement the contraceptive mandate for health insurance plans.

District Judge John Kane has temporarily blocked the government from enforcing the contraceptive requirement in health insurance plans against Hercules Industries, a private manufacturer whose Catholic owners were refusing to offer coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion.

Reuters:

The ruling only affects this plaintiff but opens the door for any company to seek relief on religious grounds. Lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services argued that a temporary exemption for Hercules would interfere with the government’s ability to implement the law. But Kane was not persuaded.

“This harm pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon (the Newland family’s) constitutional and statutory rights,” the judge wrote. He noted that the government had already created numerous exceptions for religious employers, exempting over 190 million health plan participants.

The law posed an imminent harm to the company’s owners by forcing them to support contraception, sterilization and abortion in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines, Kane said.

Members of the Newland family, which owns Hercules, sued in April, challenging the provision that is part of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Roman Catholic bishops and many Republican lawmakers oppose the provision. The Catholic Church launched a campaign against it from Sunday Mass pulpits across the country. Catholic Church doctrine opposes artificial contraception but most American Catholics do not adhere to church policy.

Hercules provides a self-insured group plan for its 265 full-time employees that does not cover birth control, sterilization or abortion-inducing drugs. But the new regulation would require Hercules to provide such coverage by November 1, the ruling said.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressed disappointment with the decision in a statement.

“This lawsuit was not brought by a religious organization. Rather, it was brought by a for-profit commercial enterprise whose purpose is to sell HVAC equipment,” she said, adding that healthcare decisions should be between women and their doctors, not their employers.

“Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” Matthew Bowman, a lawyer for Hercules with the Alliance Defense Fund, said in a statement.

Sebelius is wrong. The decision whether to use contraception, or get sterilzed, or take an abortion-inducing drug is still between women and their doctors. That won’t change whether the contraceptive coverage is there or not. It is now, was, and always will be a question of who pays for it. And regardless of whether it’s a church, a religious affiliated hospital, or a business being run by a devout believer, forcing an entity to pay for something that violates their religious tenets is a violation of freedom of religion.

Trying to turn this into a privacy argument is nonsense and Sebelius should realize that. Why not just come out and say the government doesn’t care what you believe, you have an obligation to your employees to carry this coverage. Make it a workplace rights issue if you wish. At least then the administration would be honest about its contempt for people of faith and their beliefs.

This stay is temporary and probably won’t last. A recent case in Nebraska was dismissed because the judge felt that the plaintiffs were in no immediate danger of being injured by the law. A higher court will probably agree and the stay will be lifted.

But the administration is on notice that they’ve got a big fight on their hands and will relearn the lesson that the Tea Party and others have bee trying to teach it: Americans will not give up their liberties easily.

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Because it Worked So Well in the Housing Market

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Subprime auto loans? General Motors is rolling the dice by vastly increasing the number of loans to less than credit-worthy customers.

Investors Business Daily:

President Obama has touted General Motors (GM) as a successful example of his administration’s policies. Yet GM’s recovery is built, at least in part, on the increasing use of subprime loans.

The Obama administration in 2009 bailed out GM to the tune of $50 billion as it went into a managed bankruptcy.

Near the end of 2010, GM acquired a new captive lending arm, subprime specialist AmeriCredit. Renamed GM Financial, it has played a significant role in GM’s growth.

The automaker is relying increasingly on subprime loans, 10-Q financial reports shows.

Potential borrowers of car loans are rated on FICO scores that range from 300 to 850. Anything under 660 is generally deemed subprime.

Subprime Key Driver

GM Financial auto loans to customers with FICO scores below 660 rose from 87% of total loans in Q4 2010 to 93% in Q1 2012.

The worse the FICO score, the bigger the increase. From Q4 2010 to Q1 2012, GM Financial loans to customers with the worst FICO scores — below 540 — shot up 79% to more than $2.3 billion. The second worst category, 540-599, rose 28% from about $3.4 billion to $4.3 billion.

Prime loans, those above 660, dropped 42% to $676 million.

GM Financial provides just over 8% of GM’s financing. Prior to 2006, GM’s captive lending arm was GMAC, but GM sold a controlling stake in 2006. GMAC later renamed itself Ally Financial and continues to provide the bulk of GM’s financing.

At the peak of the credit crisis and recession in late 2008, Ally announced that it would move away from subprime lending.

By spring 2010 GM’s new management, led by North American executive Mark Reuss, wanted to move back into subprime, fearing that GM couldn’t compete.

Yes, GM has to sell product to survive and prosper but I would like to point out that we, the taxpayer, still own a considerable slice of the auto giant — 26% to be exact. If there is another downturn, a lot of those loans are going under with a subsequent hit to GM’s bottom line, as well as its stock price. Selling that stake right now would cost taxpayers $14-16 billion. GM’s IPO was $33 when it went public again in 2010. It closed at 19 on Friday. A bad couple of quarters caused by delinquent loans would only exacerbate the problem Uncle Sam has in trying to dump GM stock without losing too much of our original $25 billion investment.

Mitt Romney thinks we should sell the shares and be done with it. But some analysts believe that the true value of GM stock is near $45. There is little confidence, however, that General Motors can turn itself around and regain some of its dominant market share lost in the last decade.

And they probably won’t do that by racing to the bottom of the barrel to find customers.

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White House Projects Smaller Deficit, Slower Growth for 2012

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Better late than never, the White House released the Office of Management and Budget’s mid session review — by law, due out July 16th — which predicts a slightly smaller deficit and slower growth for both 2012 and 2013.

The Hill:

The White House budget office on Friday projected a $1.211-trillion deficit this year, down from the $1.327 trillion projected in February.

The mid-session review from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also projected lower economic growth in 2012 and 2013 than previously anticipated, and calls for $195 billion in economic stimulus to address an economy that “still faces significant headwinds.”

While the $116 billion drop in the deficit could be used by both President Obama and congressional Republicans to argue they are making strides on the budget despite a poor economy, the predicted slow growth is more dismal news for the White House.

In fiscal year 2012, the White House downgraded its its projection to a 2.3 percent growth in gross domestic product compared to 2.7 percent when Obama released his budget in February. It lowered expectations in 2013 from 3 percent GDP growth to 2.7 percent.

The new projections incorporates economic data through June, so Friday’s new 1.5 percent GDP growth advanced estimate for the second quarter of calendar 2012 is not included.

The revised deficit number total reflects both lower spending and lower revenue.

Spending is $143 billion less in 2012 and $49 billion less in 2013. This partially reflects the fact that Obama’s stimulus measures were not enacted.

Revenue is $27 billion lower in 2012 and $138 billion lower in 2013. Technical revisions and lower economic growth contribute to the lower revenue.

But the update also increases the 2013 deficit from $901 billion to $991 billion.

That makes 5 straight years of trillion dollar deficits — 6 if next year’s anemic growth contributes to less revenue. Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions pointed out the obvious:

President Obama is currently running an ad saying he has a plan to ‘pay down the debt in a balanced way.’ He has made this claim in public remarks as well. But his updated budget — submitted two weeks after the legal deadline — reveals just how dramatically false this claim is.

And note that yesterday’s news regarding GDP growth at 1.5% isn’t even included in OMB’s calculation for the review. This means that even the anemic 2.3% growth figure is already obsolete.

The OMB recommendation for another $195 billion in stimulus spending won’t fly in the House and is probably dead in the Senate also. The administration wasn’t serious about this proposal anyway, using it as just another political club to show how the GOP is “standing in the way” of job creation.

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‘Non-Partisan’ Voter Particaption Center’s Director Donates Generously to One Party

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

Disrupt the Narrative continues to disrupt the Voter Participation Center’s narrative that it is a non-partisan entity. Founder and director Page S. Gardner is not only a career Democrat Party operative who hauls in $190,000 per year operating the VPC, she is a very active donor to political candidates.

Since 1996, Gardner has donated more than $47,000 to political candidates and causes. Recipients of Gardner’s donations include Mark Warner, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Bob Casey, the Democratic Party of Virginia, John Kerry, Donna Edwards, HILLPAC, Barbara Boxer, Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren, and Emily’s List.

100% of Gardner’s donations have gone to Democratic Party candidates and causes. Click on the Disrupt the Narrative link to see the breakdown.

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Syrian Helicopters Join the Battle for Aleppo

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

I received an email the other day from a reader wondering why I even bother to write about what is happening in Syria.

My correspondent correctly pointed out that the world will not intervene militarily and that there is very little that can be done to protect Syrian civilians as well as alleviate their suffering.

Why, then, write about an event? The reason is that we are, all of us, witnesses to history. And when wanton slaughter is being perpetrated and ordinary people are caught in the middle of momentous events with no real escape and only the option to endure, someone should be telling their story. It may not be 100% accurate — neither side has covered themselves in glory when it comes to the truth of what’s happening — but there is no denying the reality of the bullets, shells, bombs, and the long knives of President Assad’s cutthroat Shabbiha militia who appear to be taking great pleasure in sectarian cleansing. For all our sakes, we should not be looking away from what is happening, but rather focus on the plight of innocents — and remember.

The battle has moved to Syria’s largest city and commercial hub, Aleppo. An armored column is beginning to assault rebel strong points, while helicopter gunships and tanks fire into civilian neighborhoods with no care for who they are killing.

VOA:

The Syrian military intensified its offensive on the country’s commercial center of Aleppo Saturday, pounding rebel-controlled areas with tanks and helicopter gunships.

Activists posted video on YouTube of the sound of shelling and gunfire and columns of black smoke rising over buildings in the Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddin on Saturday.

Rami Abd al-Rahman, the Director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA by telephone that fighting intensified early in the morning.

He says there was gunfire and bombardments by the military, while residents reported that army tanks clashed with opposition fighters in the adjoining neighborhoods of Hamdariyya and Salaheddin. They also reported helicopters over the city.

Al-Rahman says it is the first time tanks have shelled this area.

He said the fighting was very intense in Aleppo for several hours and there are dozens of dead and injured.

Pro-government media in Syria have warned that what they describe as the “mother of all battles” looms in the city of nearly three million residents. The United States, Britain and the United Nations have voiced growing alarm about the potential for an imminent massacre there.

It’s hard to imagine the effect on buildings and people of several helicopter gunships loosing rockets and Gatling guns on a modern city neighborhood.

The outcome of this civil war, as we have seen elsewhere in the Arab world, will almost certainly not be good for the ordinary Syrian. Whatever promise of “democracy” they receive from the victors will not be realized. More likely, another Muslim Brotherhood dominated government will rise and make the world a more perilous place.

But as civilized people, we have a duty to bear witness to the uncivilized brutality happening in Syria, regardless of whether the endgame would favor US interests or not.

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Law Professor John Banzhaf Wants Crosses Removed at Catholic U

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Christian Adams

George Washington School of Law Professor John Banzhaf is demanding that Catholic University in Washington D.C. remove crosses and Christian symbols so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities.

He has filed a complaint with the District of Columbia government, demanding the boot of government intervene against Catholic.  Fox:

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights confirmed that it is investigating allegations that Catholic University violated the human rights of Muslim students by not allowing them to form a Muslim student group and by not providing them rooms without Christian symbols for their daily prayers.

Realize of course that Catholic University is a private institution.  Attacks on the freedom of the Catholic Church are the sort of things thug regimes do around the world and throughout history.

The only thing more frightening than asking a government to force a church to remove religious symbols is perhaps the fact that law professor John Banzhaf is teaching legions of subservient law students such dangerous and un-American nonsense.

 

 

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Rep. Jesse Jackson in Mayo Clinic for ‘Depression’

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

The “Where’s Jesse, Jr.?” mystery has been solved. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota issued a statement saying that Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., who took a leave of absence from Congress on June 13, was being evaluated “for depression and gastrointestinal issues.”

Chicago Tribune:

Jackson’s whereabouts have been a mystery since he went on medical leave June 10. The statement issued Friday said the congressman “has arrived at Mayo Clinic,” but did not say where he came from.

Friday’s statement offers the most specific description yet of Jackson’s condition. When Jackson’s office first announced his medical leave two weeks after it began, it said the 17-year congressman was being treated for exhaustion.

Then on July 11, amid increasing calls for further disclosure, Jackson’s office issued a statement saying he was being treated for a “mood disorder” at an inpatient center, but again declined to be more specific. His staff cited federal medical privacy rules and declined to disclose any further information about where he was being treated, or for what, other than to deny that he was being treated for acohol or drug abuse.

Jackson, 47, is under a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that a longtime friend, Raghuveer Nayak, offered former Gov. Rod Blagojevich up to $6 million in campaign cash to appoint Jackson to President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Nayak was arrested in June on federal fraud charges involving his surgical centers.

Jackson has denied any knowledge of fundraising in exchange for the appointment.

Is this all that Jackson owes his colleagues and constituents? It’s probably all they’re going to get. Treating the congressman’s whereabouts and condition as if they were national security issues doesn’t make any sense unless the true nature of his illness could be politically damaging.

His staff cites “federal medical privacy rules,” but that’s a strawman argument. The rules don’t prevent the release of information, they give the option to patients — an option the Jackson people are exercising voluntarily. They have made a political calculation about not releasing more details of where the congressman has been, and the specifics of his condition.

It may be their right, but the argument has been made that a congressman owes his constituents more than a mystery. How long will he be laid up? What’s his prognosis? The people Congressman Jackson represents don’t deserve this secrecy and lack of disclosure.

Let us hope for the sake of his family, that Rep. Jackson makes a speedy recovery.

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Now Up on the PJ Media Homepage

Saturday, July 28th, 2012 - by Ed Driscoll

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Where’s Winston?

Friday, July 27th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

During his trip to London, Mitt Romney pledged to return the famous bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office. Charles Krauthammer wrote about that promise Thursday, noting President Obama’s reported spiteful treatment of the bust (and the British who loaned it to the US after 9-11 as a symbol of solidarity and friendship). That story has been in the national conversation since January 2009, when President Obama reportedly sent it packing.

The White House has responded today on its blog, in a befuddling post claiming that the story of the return of the bust is “100% false.”

Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column.  He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

The White House post claims that “news outlets have debunked this claim time and again,” and links to a couple of stories that say the bust was moved to the White House residence. One of those is behind a firewall, and the other, published by the AP, asserts without providing any evidence that the bust is still in the White House.

The White House blog does provide a picture of what it says is the president showing the bust to British PM David Cameron, but the picture is tiny (200×133 resolution) and provides no persuasive proof that the bust seen in the photo is the same one that the UK lent the US. There aren’t enough pixels in the pic to be able to use it as evidence one way or the other. Here is that picture, pixel for pixel.

In an update to its post, the White House tries to clarify:

Since my post on the fact that the bust of Winston Churchill has remained on display in the White House, despite assertions to the contrary, I have received a bunch of questions — so let me provide some additional info. The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence.  The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency.  On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.

But the White House’s entire post flies in the face of contemporaneous reporting in the British press in January 2009.

A British Embassy spokesman said: “The bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein was uniquely lent to a foreign head of state, President George W Bush, from the Government Art Collection in the wake of 9/11 as a signal of the strong transatlantic relationship.

“It was lent for the first term of office of President Bush. When the President was elected for his second and final term, the loan was extended until January 2009.

“The new President has decided not to continue this loan and the bust has now been returned. It is on display at the Ambassador’s Residence.”

That would be, the British Ambassador’s Residence, in Washington. Not the White House.

I rang up the British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington this afternoon to find out the whereabouts of the bust, but so far they have “no new information” to supply. So the mystery continues.

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