When he was Illinois’ junior senator, Barack Obama went to Donetsk, Ukraine. There he saw something that is quite relevant today.
DONETSK, Ukraine – U.S. Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called for the immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) or shoulder missile launchers that are often sought by terrorists.
Lugar and Obama toured the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. Another 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years.
So far, the U.S. has contributed $2.1 million to the project, and Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have contributed $1.2 million.
Ukraine has been calling for US, UK and NATO assistance since Russian troops swept into and captured Crimea over the weekend. Its small military is no match for Russia’s much larger military. Poland, whose missile defense system Obama canceled after Russian objections, called for a NATO Article 4 meeting which takes place today.
During the 2012 presidential election, Obama mocked Republican rival Mitt Romney when the latter said that Russia is America’s main geopolitical adversary. Putin’s moves have proven Romney right.
Markets around the world rose today, after plunging since the weekend invasion, on the news that Putin ended the Russian military exercise on Ukraine’s border and indicated that the Russian troops in Crimea would not open fire. But at the same time, Putin is warning the West against using economic sanctions against Russia. The question now is whether Putin is merely consolidating Russia’s gains in Crimea before moving on to “protect Russians” in eastern Ukraine.
h/t Jim Geraghty
According to Republicans, retired IRS honcho Lois Lerner is set to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday. Through her attorneys, Lerner has sought to delay her testimony by a week. She also appears to be angling for immunity from prosecution for her actions in the IRS targeting scandal. Lerner was the IRS official who first disclosed the targeting, while blaming it on rogue officers in the agency’s Cincinnati office. Evidence has emerged that links the scandal to political appointees within the agency, at least.
Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) appeared on Fox this morning, and host Bill Hemmer asked Gowdy if the committee would grant Lerner immunity for her testimony.
“Given that this is a family show, I’ll just say ‘No,’” Gowdy replied.
Gowdy said that Lerner has sought two things — to delay her testimony by a week, and to offer an off-camera deposition instead of testifying before the committee.
Gowdy allowed that a week delay could be granted. But gave less ground on the tussle over whether Lerner would testify before the committee or be allowed to give a deposition.
“Guess what? We’ll do both,” the South Carolina congressman said.
Gowdy said that Lerner’s testimony is key and that the committee would get it, either this week or next. He sketched out some of what Americans will learn when she does testify. Gowdy said that Lerner knows that after President Barack Obama used a State of the Union Address to directly criticize the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, the administration embarked on a plan to roll that decision back. The IRS targeting conservative groups was a key part of that plan.
Nothing in the Affordable Care Act’s thousands of pages allows the White House to delay parts of the law for political purposes. But that has not stopped the Obama White House from announcing delay after delay, and the Hill reports that as soon as this week, the White House will announce yet another delay.
Like the previous delays, this one will be tied directly to politics and the fortunes of Democrats, not the millions of Americans who are being hurt by the Democrats’ law.
The new directive will allow insurers to keep offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. The president has described those plans as “bad apples,” but for political reasons they’re good enough for now.
The delay would push cancellation notices past this year’s mid-term elections. Had the delay not been implemented, insurers would have been mailing out cancellations around the beginning of October, just a few weeks before the election. The delay may push those cancellations not just past this fall’s mid-term election, but past Obama’s entire second term.
While the president is moving to protect his Democrat allies in Congress, his administration is still fighting to force Christian business owners and even a group of nuns to comply with the Obamacare abortifacient drug mandate.
An estimated 6.2 million Americans have lost their health insurance directly because of Obamacare, so far. The laws mandate on employers has already been delayed past this year’s mid-term elections. Once it goes into effect, it is expected to disrupt coverage for potentially tens of millions of Americans.
Forget the Budapest Memorandum, and definitely forget President Obama’s latest, and very forgettable, comments on Ukraine. Russia is not standing on the “wrong side of history.” That doesn’t mean anything at the moment, it’s just more fanciful thinking from our celebrity president.
Before Obama declares which side of history is “right” or “wrong,” he would be wise to make sure to be on the winning side. Thus far, he has done very little to ensure that.
The West needs to look at events from Putin’s perspective, just to understand what Putin may be thinking and determine what he may do next. What are his aims? What goal may he be pursuing by seizing Crimea?
NATO has been expanding east ever since the end of the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe’s former East Bloc and Soviet satellite states have mostly sought to distance themselves from Moscow and align with Washington and NATO. Poland and the Baltic States, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are all nations that suffered Soviet domination and have since aligned with the West. They’re all NATO and EU members now.
The EU is primarily an economic union. NATO was formed as a defensive alliance to counter the Soviet Union’s expansionism after the end of World War II. The US and 11 European allies formed the defensive North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949; the USSR created the Warsaw Pact as a rival alliance in 1955. Those two alliances dominated Europe for the next 45 years until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.
But post-Soviet Russia, and in particular, Vladimir Putin, does not see NATO as defensive at all. He sees NATO as an expansionist alliance, dominated by Washington, built to destroy the USSR and now maintained to pin Russia back to limit its influence. Putin also sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th Century. He has sought to build the Eurasian Union as a Moscow-centered alliance to counter NATO. It is set to come into fullness in 2015. Its full purpose may be to resurrect the Warsaw Pact.
Putin’s opinion that NATO survives to pin Russia back is not entirely inaccurate. NATO’s purpose is defensive. But its main purpose continues to be to defend Europe from Russia. That’s why the freed East Bloc countries have mostly joined NATO, Belarus and Ukraine being among the exceptions. As the freed Warsaw Pact countries have joined NATO, NATO’s “borders” have moved east — toward Russia.
Ukraine’s majority has signaled its desire to join both NATO and the EU. For Putin, Ukraine and Belarus are two countries on its border that it does not want to see join what it regards as an offensive alliance aimed at Moscow. Belarus is a fairly reliable Russian ally, but Ukraine is not. Putin appears to find potential Ukraine membership in NATO and the EU totally unacceptable.
Ukraine’s history with the Soviet Union is bitter. Stalin intentionally starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the 1930s famine. The Soviets were hostile to Ukrainian language, history and culture. A Ukrainian rebellion fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets during World War II. Ethnic Ukrainians want nothing to do with Russia, but Ukraine is not a singular ethnic polity. Its ethnic Ukrainian majority dominates in the western part of the country, and it has a sizable Russian minority. In the east and Crimea, ethnic Russians make up a majority, and they still identify with Russia.
Now, in the context of Russian paranoia about NATO’s expansion, how should we expect Putin to have received news that US Ambassador Victoria Nuland turned up in Ukraine handing out treats to Ukrainian anti-Russian protesters at the beginning of the Maidan protests in December 2013?
Should we be surprised that Russia is treating the protests as if they were orchestrated by Washington to topple a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government and replace it with one that would look west again? Or at least, that Russia is pushing that storyline as part of its propaganda?
Should we be surprised that Russia bugged Nuland’s phone and released a recording that could have pushed the US and the EU apart?
Should we be surprised that Russia used the Sochi Olympics to present its softer side, but once the games were over, Putin was back to his old KGB self?
Given Russia’s history of subjugating Ukraine and using it as a buffer against Europe, and given Putin’s aim to build a Eurasian Union as another counter to NATO, and given Russia’s historic paranoia toward the West, should we be confident that Putin merely wants Crimea, and not all of Ukraine, and after that, the Baltic States north of Belarus too?
The Baltic States are NATO allies with the US. An attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all of them, according to the treaty. Knowing this, Putin is measuring Obama, NATO, the EU — all of his adversaries — via his invasion of Crimea. What is he learning?
Russia taking Crimea threatens to become Russia takes east Ukraine. That in turn threatens to become Russia takes all of Ukraine, landing Russian troops right on Poland’s frontier.
Poland has a terrible history of being subjected to assaults from Russia. It has asked for a major NATO meeting, which will take place Tuesday.
NATO will hold emergency discussions on Ukraine on Tuesday after Poland requested consultations under Article 4 of the alliance’s treaty, NATO said in a statement on Monday.
Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
More detail here, thanks to Google Translate. Poland’s military chief is describing the situation as a “security black hole.”
NATO Article 4 meetings are rare. According to the Chicago Tribune, only Turkey has called for such meetings before.
Rasmussen’s latest poll reveals more bad news for Obama and the Democrats. Their signature policy is hurting millions of Americans.
One-in-three U.S. voters now says his or her health insurance coverage has changed as a result of Obamacare, and the same number say the new national health care law had a negative personal impact on them.
Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, while 56% regard it unfavorably, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. This includes 16% who view the law Very Favorably and 41% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
There are conflicting reports that Russia has issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces with Crimean bases: Surrender or else.
The Russian military has given Ukrainian forces in Crimea until 5 a.m. Tuesday (10 p.m. ET Monday) to surrender or face a “storm,” Interfax news agency reported.
“If they do not surrender by 5 a.m. tomorrow, we will start a real storm in Ukrainian bases in Crimea,” according to the statement sent by the Russians to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, a ministry source told Interfax. NBC News could not immediately confirm the report.
The ultimatum was attributed to Alexandr Vitko, chief commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
Kremlin-friendly Russia Today reports that no such ultimatum has been given. Then again, the Russians denied they were going to send troops into Crimea until they sent troops into Crimea. The Obama administration believed them.
Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting for later today. It probably intends to use its veto to block any UN sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.
North Korea has launched a pair of short-range missiles.
This ought to strike fear into our potential adversaries.
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Since the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, U.S. military bases have hosted a gay marriage ceremonies and a potluck gatherings. But on Saturday, servicemembers here may have been the first to take to the stage and perform as drag queens on a military installation in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.
Drag queens and drag kings, to be precise.
Six servicemembers — gay, lesbian and straight — donned heavy makeup to dance and lip sync songs such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” for a raucous capacity crowd at the Rocker NCO Club at Kadena Air Base. The event was a fundraiser for the recently formed Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN, which is the largest nonprofit advocate for the military’s LGBT community.
More: Russia is demanding Ukraine surrender a pair of its warships.
Much has already been written about Jeffrey Goldberg’s amazing interview with President Obama. The interview took place Thursday, the day before Russia captured Crimea from Ukraine.
The salient segment:
On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told me that the U.S.’s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what I took to be a veiled threat: The U.S., though willing to defend an isolated Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, might soon be unable to do so effectively.
“If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”
It’s less a veiled threat than a plain old threat. The United States could make the case for Israel if it chose to. Obama is telling the world that he no longer intends to make that case.
The case for Israel, and against its closest enemies, is simple. The Palestinians elected Hamas to lead them (which “complicated peace efforts,” according to the Washington Post at the time); Hamas openly wants to destroy Israel. The majority of the Palestinian people openly reject any peace deal that includes Israel’s existence. Those facts haven’t changed just because Barack Obama wants them to or pretends that they are not facts. That fact that the Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews, and celebrate acts of terrorism against Israel, hasn’t changed either.
Maybe after Obama’s unfairness and weakness result in another terrible Middle East war, the Washington Post can stir itself to describe Obama’s Israel policy as “fantasy.”
The Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl probably won’t be invited back for any background security briefings at the Obama White House, after tweeting this.
New White House background spin for journalists: Putin has made such a big mistake by invading Crimea that it’s a good thing, really.
— Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) March 2, 2014
And it’s a good thing that Obamacare is “liberating” so many Americans from “job lock,” too!
When the likes of ThinkProgress start coughing up positive takes on Putin’s move as a “mistake,” we’ll know where it’s coming from.
In the real world, Ukraine has a special relationship with NATO, not a member yet but a prospective member. Russia’s invasion can be read of heading off full NATO membership for Ukraine, and a test of the alliance. Russia seeks to build the Eurasian Union, and may seek to re-establish the Baltic States as a buffer between itself and the European Union.
Baltic States Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia are NATO members. The three are also EU members. Poland is as well, it shares a border with Ukraine, and there are unconfirmed reports that Poland is mobilizing its military and moving to shore up that border. How weird can things get? Between west-leaning Ukraine and the NATO-member Baltic States is Belarus, a Russian ally. North of Poland is the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Russia’s rationale for taking Crimea is that it is protecting the ethnic Russians there (while downplaying the fact that Russia has sought warm-water ports for centuries, and Crimea has Russia’s only warm-water navy base) from the chaos in Kiev. Should Poland fully mobilize its military, Russia could apply a similar rationale to Kaliningrad, as it is wedged between Poland and Lithuania. A few months back, as Russia was pressuring its Baltic neighbors, the foreign minister of Lithuania mused to the media about blockading Kaliningrad. Even that brief discussion could become a pretext for action, if it fits into Putin’s plans.
I’m not predicting anything. But Kaliningrad was the home of the USSR’s Baltic fleet during the Cold War. If the Eurasian Union is really the USSR 2.0 as some suspect, then securing Kaliningrad at the expense of former satellites that Russia would like to recapture into its orbit, while challenging and possibly discrediting NATO, would not be out entirely of character.
Etihad Airlines is one of a couple of state-owned Middle East-based airlines that receives US taxpayer dollars for its overseas security operations. The airline is based in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates and does not need the US subsidy. The state-run airline ends up spending millions on outfitting top flight soccer teams and buying the names of European soccer stadiums. Most Americans don’t even care about soccer. But you’re paying for it anyway.
Etihad Airlines is based in the supposedly moderate Muslim UAE. But it has now wiped Israel off its maps of the Middle East. It also refuses to allow Israelis to fly.
The US Department of Homeland Security spends $425,000 annually on a preclearance customs facility for Etihad Airways, a partner of American Airlines, at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
The facility fast-tracks Abu Dhabi travelers to the United States by allowing them to clear customs more easily and bypass long lines.
But the carrier, owned by the United Arab Emirates, has an official travel-route map that shows all surrounding countries, including Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus — but not the Jewish state or its major cities.
Etihad also has refused to transport any Israelis, who aren’t allowed in the UAE. In 2010, it even began teaching its flight agents how to identify Israeli travelers by their “accents and traits,” the BBC has reported.
Etihad is the only airline that benefits from the Abu Dhabi facility. While the $425,000 per year is a tiny expense in the overall US budget, it’s not the full extent of US aid to the racist airline. In addition to the security facility, the United States has promised more than $1 billion in six loans from the Export-Import Bank to state-run Etihad since 2009.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s power to formulate regulations without Congressional authorization is the subject of a case currently being decided in the US Supreme Court. Justices have voiced skepticism that the EPA even has such power. But that isn’t slowing the agency down, nor is the rapidly developing situation in Ukraine. The EPA is reportedly set to announce yet another round of unilaterally-imposed sanctions on the US economy.
The Environmental Protection Agency will reportedly announce a new rule Monday that requires oil refiners to strip even more sulfur molecules from American gasoline blends.
The New York Times reports that the new rule will require oil refiners to install new equipment and carmakers to install newer, cleaner fuel-burning technology in engines. The EPA estimates that the cost of gasoline will be raised by two-thirds of a cent per gallon as a result of the new regulations, while the sticker price of a car will be increased by $75.
The former estimate is disputed by Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers lobbying group. Drevna claims that the price of gasoline could rise by up to 9 cents per gallon.
“I don’t know what model [the EPA] uses,” Drevna told The Times. “The math doesn’t add up.”
That’s the story of the Obama administration: The math doesn’t add up.
In an editorial today, the Washington Post catches up to Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. Both Republicans warned that Russia would become a major foreign policy difficulty for the United States. Obama dismissed both. The media for the most part joined in and mocked them too.
The White House often responds by accusing critics of being warmongers who want American “boots on the ground” all over the world and have yet to learn the lessons of Iraq. So let’s stipulate: We don’t want U.S. troops in Syria, and we don’t want U.S. troops in Crimea. A great power can become overextended, and if its economy falters, so will its ability to lead. None of this is simple.
But it’s also true that, as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.
As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further — into eastern Ukraine, say — he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.
The Post published its editorial before China made its position known. No one should be surprised that China is siding with Russia. China has interests in Asia and off the coasts that it wants to advance, but the United States and our alliances stand in the way. China is paying close attention to Barack Obama’s actions on Ukraine, or lack thereof.
For all the talk of a “new economy,” nations still need fuel, raw materials, access to ports, and the ability to impose their will on occasion. Obama either still doesn’t understand, or he does but doesn’t deem America’s interests as worth advancing.
More fantasy: Kerry says Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”
“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong, “ Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Kerry called Putin’s move a “brazen act of aggression” and raised the possibility that allied nations would move to kick Russia out of the Group of 8 in addition to boycotting the G8 summit in Sochi this summer.
“It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century that really puts into question Russia’s capacity to be in the G8,” Kerry said.
It’s domestic politics and business as usual for the Obama White House, even as Putin’s Russia makes preparations for a full invasion of Ukraine. The official White House email list sent out the following presidential selfie, to celebrate a film festival. The president is flanked by Bill Nye the Science Guy and astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
The event took place Friday, February 28 — the same day that Russian troops swept into Crimea. The White House email made no mention at all of the escalating crisis with Russia. It does mention the president “hanging” with comedians Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers.
The unrest in Ukraine had been building for months. That unrest threatened the pro-Russian president of Ukraine, and therefore Russia’s fragile hold on power over its strategic neighbor. Russian President Vladimir Putin was extremely unlikely to make any overt moves either before or during the Sochi Olympics, but once the Olympics were over, all bets were off. Or, they should have been.
But just a day before Russian troops entered Crimea, U.S. intelligence saw no reason to believe that Putin would invade.
There was good reason to think Putin wouldn’t do it. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia respected the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. U.S. intelligence assessments concluded that the 150,000-man Russian military exercises announced by Putin on Wednesday were not preparations for an invasion of Ukraine because no medical unitsaccompanied the troops. And Russian and U.S. diplomats were still working on Iran and Syrian diplomacy. All of this followed a successful Winter Olympic games for Putin’s Russia.
None of that is good reason to think much of anything. It’s clear now that Lavrov was buying time; Kerry should never have been so credulous. Russia’s sole warm-water naval port is in Sevastopol, Crimea. Russia’s quest for warm-water navy ports has driven quite a bit of grim history over the past 300-odd years. Once Ukraine ousted its pro-Russian president, that port was at risk. If Russia lost it, it could not project naval power in the Mediterranean and the rest of its bases are iced over. For strategic reasons alone, Russia was likely to act in Crimea. Factor in the ethnic makeup of Crimea — it’s heavily majority Russian — and the fact that Putin does not want Ukraine tilting west, and it doesn’t take a multi-billion dollar intelligence community to see that Putin had motivations to act.
2,000 Armed Russian Troops Reportedly Enter Ukraine; Obama Delivers Brief Reaction (Update: ‘Happy Hour’)
AFP reports that the Russians have crossed into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Ukraine is accusing Russia of “armed invasion.”
“Thirteen Russian aircraft landed at the airport of Gvardeyskoye (near Simferopol) with 150 people in each one,” Sergiy Kunitsyn, the Ukrainian president’s special representive in Crimea, told the local ATR television channel, adding the air space had been closed. It was not immediately clear if Russia had the right to use the base or send additional troops there under its agreements with Ukraine.
This follows reports that Russian troops have been on the streets in Crimea, and follows by a day reports that unidentified, masked, professional gunmen had seized the parliament building in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, and raised the Russian flag.
President Obama offered a brief statement on the situation, from the White House. After noting the cultural and military ties between Ukraine and Russia, he said: “But any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interests of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe. It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people. It would be a clear violation if Russia’s commitment to respect the independence, sovereignty, and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws.”
Obama noted that any Russian incursion coming so close to the end of the Sochi Olympics “would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.” Obama added that “the events of the past several months” remind the world “how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions.”
Obama said that Vice President Joe Biden had spoken with Ukraine’s prime minister. He took no questions from the media.
Update: Video of the president’s remarks.
Update: CNN reports that a US official says the Russian troop incursion was an “uncontested arrival.”
Update: Russian chess champion and long-time Putin critic Garry Kasparov:
Obama's Syrian "red line" debacle led directly to these events in Ukraine. Dictators like Putin don't ask why use power. They ask why not.
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) February 28, 2014
Great moments in history, Feb 27, 2014: "U.S. intelligence estimates conclude that Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine."
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) February 28, 2014
Update: The United States signed a security treaty with Ukraine in 1994, in exchange for that country giving up its USSR-era nuclear weapons.
Update: After delivering his brief remarks, President Obama went to a Democratic Party gathering.
CNN airing new image of Russian tanks in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/vZKSpJg9Jc
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) February 28, 2014
Update: While the president was enjoying happy hour, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power delivered a stronger statement. According to Power’s prepared remarks, the US is calling for Russia to “pull back” from Crimea.
Maryland’s House Republicans have been discussing getting rid of the state’s “rain tax.” That tax actually — I’m not making this up — taxes homeowners, businesses, even churches on their “impervious surfaces,” which means roofs and parking spaces, mostly.
The rain tax was supposed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, but how the money it generates is actually spent is not all that linear in the state budget. As if to make the rain tax even more of a progressive comedy, it was to some extent forced on Maryland by the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. Not the particulars, but that the state had to tax its citizens to pay up for an EPA mandate. Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Democrats came up with the idea of taxing rain.
So after reading up on the effort to repeal that tax, and discussing Maryland issues overall with a friend of mine who still lives in the ironically nicknamed “Free State,” I got to wondering: Just how much money does Maryland spend in the Martin O’Malley era, anyway? He is a potential Democratic nominee for president, after all.
Before getting into the budget figures, let’s set the table. Maryland is a relatively small state. It ranks 42nd in total area, with about 10,000 square miles.
Maryland only has one city that can be classified as “large,” which is Baltimore, population about 621,000.
Maryland’s overall population is about 5.7 million, ranking it 19th among the 50 states.
So by these measures, Maryland is average to below average. It’s a nice place to live, the bay is beautiful and the seafood can’t be beat, but it’s small, it only has one urban center, and it does not have a massive population. It’s far from any international border, so it doesn’t really have any security issues to speak of other than its ports. The Ravens are nearly always competitive. Camden Yard is an excellent home for the Orioles, or to watch the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers when they come to town.
Maryland’s annual budget as of 2012 is $35,511,000,000. That’s $35.5 billion. But is it much when compared with another state?
Let’s go in the opposite direction and pick out a big state. I moved from Maryland to Texas a few years back. So let’s pick Texas. I realize that the following is a fairly crude comparison, a back-of-the-envelope effort.
Texas is a gigantic state. It has more than 266,000 square miles, making it the nation’s second-largest in terms of area. It’s the size of France. It has a long coast, a long international border with a fairly unstable neighbor, it has ports, and a whole lot of roads.
Texas has several large cities. Houston is America’s fifth largest city, with more than 6 million people in the greater Houston area. That’s more people in one region than all of Maryland. San Antonio ranks seventh in the country, with 1.3 million. These two cities by themselves have more people than Maryland. We haven’t even counted Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso and McAllen yet. All of those cities except McAllen are larger than Baltimore.
Overall, Texas ranks second nationally in population, with more than 25 million residents.
So, for the sake of convenience, let’s round things off. Texas is roughly 25 times the size of Maryland in land area, it has roughly 5 times the number of large urban centers, and it has roughly five times the number of people.
As of 2013 Texas’ biennial budget was about $194 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it also covers two years because Texas confines its legislature to one meeting every two years (a policy that I highly recommend other states and Congress adopt). Split the biennial budget in two, and Texas will spend about $97 billion per year.
If Texas spent money at the rate that Maryland spends money, it would not spend $97 billion.
If Texas spent money at the rate that Maryland spends money, it would spend $177 billion per year.
Texas, which is more than 25 times larger than Maryland, 5 times the population, a border state, with lots of urban centers and miles and miles of roads to maintain, would have to almost double its per capita spending to catch up with Maryland.
Having lived in both Maryland and Texas in the past few years, I have to be honest: Living in Texas is a lot better. For one thing, they don’t tax us for the rain. There’s no state income tax at all here. It’s hot in the summer, but it’s not cold in the winter. Jobs are plentiful here.
So, Gov. O’Malley, what on earth are you spending all that money on?
And when are you going to stop taxing the rain?
Obvious rejoinder to Cecile Richards: Then what’s wrong with infanticide?
The president of the country’s largest abortion provider said she didn’t think the matter of when life begins is pertinent to the issue.
“It is not something that I feel is really part of this conversation,” Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s really relevant to the conversation.”
When pressed, Richards said that in her view life began for her three children when she delivered them.
So, abortion right up to the moment of birth then? That’s almost as radical as Barack Obama’s position. He’s fine will post-birth abortion.
Hey, Richards has gotta keep the cash rolling in. The abortion industry is one of the Democrats’ top corporate contributors, after all.
Also read: David Steinberg — Gosnell and ‘Pro-Choice” Fleeing from Reason?
Russian troops are moving about Crimea, as the Russians have now admitted.
The Russian foreign ministry has admitted that armoured units from the Black Sea Fleet base near Sevastopol had entered Crimea in order to protect fleet positions.
“The Ukrainian side was also passed a note regarding the movement of armoured vehicles of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, which is happening in full accordance with the foundation Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea Fleet,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Friday afternoon.
In the same note the Russian foreign ministry said it had declined a Ukrainian request for “bilateral consultations” on events in Crimea because they are “the result of recent internal political processes in Ukraine.”
The Russians had already kicked off a military exercise just outside Ukraine that caught everyone by surprise.
Ukraine’s interim government says the Russians aren’t just moving around outside the base, but are occupying Crimea’s airports.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, fresh from insisting that the Ukraine situation is not in fact a boxing movie, says he has been assured by the Russians that they’re not bent on violating Ukraine’s sovereignty. Raise your hand if you’re reassured by that.
Well that’s a relief RT @margbrennan Kerry said Lavrov assured him that Russia is not & has no intention to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) February 28, 2014
It also looks like President Obama has handed Joe Biden another “s*** job.”
With John Kerry and Joe Biden leading our diplomacy in a situation that’s looking less like the Cold War and more like the Sudetenland, what can go wrong? It’s not like one of the two built his career on smearing America, and the other hasn’t been right about any foreign policy dispute in the past 30 years…
Concealed Carry Permit Applications Soar in California After Ninth Circuit Second Amendment Decision
A couple of weeks ago, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Second Amendment is settled law, and California’s laws on concealed firearm carry were overly restrictive. The ruling essentially turned California into a “shall issue” state, at least until the Democrat-owned legislature and Gov. Brown can figure out how to thwart the ruling.
Look what’s happening in California now.
Gun owners are flooding the sheriff’s offices in two California counties with applications for concealed weapon permits following a bombshell ruling two weeks ago by a federal appeals court that citizens need not justify their requests.
Orange and Ventura counties have dropped the “good cause” standard for issuing conceal carry permits after the requirement was struck down Feb. 13 by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel of the court ruled 2 to 1 that the Second Amendment bars California counties from requiring law-abiding gun owners who want to carry concealed firearms to demonstrate special, individualized needs for protection.
More than 500 applications have poured in to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in just two weeks — roughly the total number of applications filed in 2013, a spokesman said. Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced on the department’s website that the county will comply with the federal court’s order immediately, sparking the wave of applications.
The Brady gun-grabbers aren’t happy about all this. Thinking about their unhappiness with law-abiding Americans exercising their fundamental rights for the first time is a nice way to prepare yourself for a fine weekend.
California is appealing the case, but the Second Amendment is settled law. Democrats should stop trying to change it.
h/t Hot Air
Texas State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R) is running for state comptroller. As the IRS considers codifying its abuse of conservative and Tea Party groups into official regulation, the agency had to seek public comment under federal law. The proposed regulations would force social welfare groups to either disclose their donors, or lose their tax-exempt status. Republicans in Congress have charged that the IRS is attempting to make new laws, which only Congress is allowed to do. Predictably, Democrats have either remained silent or even supported the IRS as it seeks to extend its power.
The comment period on the proposed regulations closed February 27, but not before state Rep. Hilderbran was able to submit his take.
Hilderbran filed the following, in opposition to the IRS proposal.
As the investigation into a blatant abuse of power by the IRS and its political targeting of groups has stalled under the leadership of a major Obama donor, we have now entered into perhaps even more dangerous territory.
As a legislator, small businessman and business consultant, I am deeply troubled about proposed regulations to force 501(c)(4) organizations to either end their tax-free status or be forced to disclose their donors.
This change is being done through the executive branch, intentionally going around the Congress which exists to write and pass laws.
The IRS has demonstrated a stunning and illegal targeting of conservative groups which hearkens back to the Nixon era and an enemies list. In Texas, for example, several nonprofit tea party and conservative groups, including two in Houston and Waco, have been specifically targeted.
As many are painfully aware, The IRS is totally out of control. Punishing conservative nonprofits and forcing them to choose between ending their tax-free nonprofit status or disclosing their donors, opening them up to political retribution, is wrong.
I, Harvey Hilderbran, oppose this new regulatory burden.
Hilderbran has pledged that if he is elected comptroller, he would make the office a resource for Texans who have been abused by the federal agency.
A number of Texas-based groups were targeted by the IRS. They include the Waco groups Hilderbran mentions, as well as Houston-based True the Vote and the Dallas Tea Party.
This story doesn’t need a set-up. Just enjoy it. Well, except for the part where Biden supposedly gets the last word with Obama. The man has been wrong on just about every foreign policy issue over the last 30 years. When his input isn’t ludicrous, it’s dangerous.
Vice President Joe Biden has revealed that the President assigned him ‘every s*** job in the world’ but he still wasn’t able to win Obama’s full support and began being effectively frozen out after one of his infamous gaffes.
The 71-year-old argued that he was happy to do the less glamorous tasks- like handling the at-times petty Senate fights and calming the fears of the infamously paranoid President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai- but only at a price.
‘When the president asked me what portfolio did I want, I said, “Base it on what you want of me to help you govern…But I want to be the last guy in the room on every major decision… You’re president, I’m not, but if it’s my experience you’re lookin’ for, I want to be the last guy to make the case,”’ Biden said in a lengthy Politico profile.
He went on to admit that Obama kept up his end of the bargain for the majority of their dealings, but the article reveals that there has been a definite frost between the two men that came after Biden announced his approval of gay marriage before the President.
Let’s review some of the s*** jobs that Obama handed Biden.
Obama named Biden “sheriff” over cutting government waste in 2011. Nothing has happened. Biden must have considered saving taxpayer dollars a s*** job.
Obama appointed Biden to handle gun control in 2012, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragegy. The Democrats lost big on gun control in Congress, while gun sales shattered records in 2013. Actual sheriffs told Biden to take his gun control proposals and shove them.
In 2009, Obama made Biden the “sheriff” of the stimulus. A trillion dollars later, actual unemployment and underemployment remain high and the economy remains stagnant. Obama eventually admitted that those “shovel ready jobs” that he thought were just waiting to be found and funded by Sheriff Biden didn’t really exist.
In Biden’s defense, Obama did not hand him the job of building Healthcare.gov and rolling out Obamacare. That job turned to s*** without Biden’s sheriffing.
Read the rest of the Daily Mail’s story to see what got Biden banned from Obama’s strategy meetings in 2012. If a Republican president did what Obama did, Kirsten Powers would smear him as “anti-gay” for months.
Well, this is one way to handle corruption and government abuse: Make it the official thing to do.
A group of Democratic senators urged the Obama administration on Thursday to cap the amount of political activity that tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups can engage in at 5 to 15 percent.
The 15 senators, in public comments on a proposed regulation change that grew out of the IRS targeting controversy, said that the rules need to ensure that 501(c)(4)s can’t use their tax-exempt status to go around campaign finance rules.
“You will undoubtedly receive complaints from certain corners that these proposed rules will infringe on First Amendment speech rights,” Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and the other senators wrote to the Treasury Department and the IRS.
Because they do.
Remember when Obama found the IRS’ behavior “outrageous?” He doesn’t, and neither do these Democrats.
“Such complaints are without merit: these rules would not restrict anyone’s right to speak, or to spend money to influence elections,” the senators added. “If implemented properly, the rules will only close a loophole that has until now allowed donors to evade campaign finance law disclosure requirements.”
It’s a shameless ploy.
The US Chamber of Commerce isn’t always right, but they’re right on this: The IRS shouldn’t be installed as the nation’s speech regulator. Ever.
This untenable proposal proves the obvious: the IRS has neither the expertise nor the authority to regulate political speech. The proposed rules are absurdly and needlessly broad, trampling on speech that has never been regulated before and that is at the heart of the First Amendment. The proposal also puts the tax rules in hopeless conflict with themselves and other laws, making them unworkable as a practical matter.
That confusion may be purposeful, as it will allow the IRS to pick and choose and weaponize its speech regulations. There’s no way that that enhances liberty.
Among the questions that remain unanswered in the IRS scandal that the Democrats are no longer interested in looking into: Why did so many executive branch agencies descend on Catherine Engelbrecht, at the same time that the IRS was slow-dragging her True the Vote tax-exempt application? How did that happen? Did anyone in the White House coordinate that assault?
Apparently Greg Abbott Needs Democrats’ Permission to go to Lubbock (Update: You Won’t Believe This)
I read a lot of dumb stories featuring ridiculous faux outrage everyday. But this one…it stands out in a sea of ridiculous faux outrage.
Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was met by supporters at the Jimenez Bakery and Restaurant on Tuesday, Feb. 25, but Hispanic community leaders are calling the campaign stop “offensive” just a day later.
“The approach being taken by the Texas Republican Party towards the Hispanic community is beyond any sense of decency,” said Victor Hernandez, local city councilman and chairman of the local Tejano Democrats chapter. “The caustic behavior being exhibited by the Texas Republican Party is creating a schism that will be difficult, if not impossible, to mend, both in the short term and most definitely in the long term.”
Wait, so you’re telling me that a Democrat has a problem with something a Republican did? Well, how do you like that? I’m shocked.
Hernandez condemned what he called the “piñata politics” Abbott’s campaign used in hosting the news conference at a local Mexican food restaurant in an effort to illustrate the Lubbock Latino support for the Abbott campaign.
Piñata politics? What does that even mean? It sounds racist.
“Greg Abbott came into our house uninvited, wanting to somehow give the illusion that the Lubbock County Hispanic community is supportive,” he said.
Abbott wasn’t in anybody’s house. It was a bakery. Mr. Tejano Democrat Victor Hernandez doesn’t own it. He has no authority to sound off on who’s in it and who’s not.
Yeah, I get it — he was being figurative about the “house” bit. Because Lubbock is such a Democrat stronghold, I guess.
Whatever. Democrats in this state have become caricatures of clowns reciting lines that other clowns from some other state wrote for them.
After tossing up some warmed-over Battleground Texas talking points, Hernandez continued.
“If you want to come into my house, the first thing you have to do is to see me — see me as a person, see me as a human being, see me as a fellow Texan,” he said. “See the Hispanic community as anything, anything other than a problem to be dealt with or worse yet, to be dismissed.”
Not your house. No one needs your partisan permission.
The rest of the story follows the usual Democratmedia storyline: Republicans bad, Republicans badder, Republicans so bad they ought not be allowed to live.
It’s all tiresome.
Update: It turns out that Mr. Hernandez’s behavior was even worse than reported. A source tells me that in addition to the screeds above, he launched a personal attack on Abbott’s family. Cecilia Abbott, the attorney general’s wife of 31 years, is Hispanic. A source tells me that Hernandez callously dismissed her as a “prop.”
Is this how Democrat activists are going to behave? Are personal attacks on family members like this acceptable to Wendy Davis?
As you might have heard, armed men stormed the parliament building in Crimea today. They raised the Russian flag and chanted pro-Russian chants. I don’t know, maybe they also gave away a bunch of those weird nested dolls while yelling “We wuz robbed in that hockey game against the capitalist Yankee devils!” It was a very pro-Russian move in the majority Russian part of Ukraine, which is not majority Russian.
The question is, who were those armed men? It’s a good question.
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Masked gunmen stormed parliament in Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region Thursday as Russian fighter jets scrambled to patrol borders, while the newly formed government pledged to prevent a national breakup with strong backing from the West — the stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.
In Crimea’s capital, a pro-Russian activist who gave only his first name, Maxim, said he and other activists were camped overnight outside the parliament in Simferopol when about 50 men wearing flak jackets and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and sniper rifles took over the building.
“Our activists were sitting there all night calmly, building the barricades,” he said. “At 5 o’clock unknown men turned up and went to the building. They got into the courtyard and put everyone on the ground.”
“They were asking who we were. When we said we stand for the Russian language and Russia, they said: ‘Don’t be afraid. We’re with you.’ Then they began to storm the building bringing down the doors,” he said. “They didn’t look like volunteers or amateurs; they were professionals. This was clearly a well-organized operation.”
“Who are they?” he added. “Nobody knows.”
Wrong. Somebody knows.
*Crimea isn’t in the Caucasus. It’s near the Caucasus. Ukraine’s location is strategic enough that it could export any civil war that erupts there.
I bet she is. Six months on, it’s still a crapfest. If you ran said crapfest, if it was your job to trot to Congress and explain that crapfest, if every time you checked your email there was some guy griping about your crapfest, you’d be tired of talking about it too. When you own crapfests, they’re not fun.
“We certainly have experienced… difficulties, and I can personally relate to the challenges of new systems, relationships with vendors, and charting a course through previously unnavigated waters,” said Ms. [Marilyn] Tavenner, who made her comments during a keynote speech here Thursday at the Health Care Information and Management Systems Society conference.
Noting that the media has covered the health exchanges’ struggles “in so much detail, in so many channels, so often,” Ms. Tavenner said she is “really tired of talking about” HealthCare.gov.
Yet Marilyn Tavenner and Kathleen Sebelius still have their jobs. Millions of more competent Americans are pretty tired of talking about being unemployed in this economy, or having lost their healthcare thanks to Tavenner’s and Sebelius’ stellar work.
Take a roll of electrical tape. Cut out a little square. Place it over the webcam on your computer. Right now.
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
This is another Snowden disclosure, which tells us a couple of things. Namely, that because Snowden is holed up in Russia, the Russians already knew about this, and they have probably used Snowden’s files to replicate it — if they weren’t already doing something similar themselves. With no Snowden counterpart in Russia to blow the whistle on Putin, we’ll never know. The actual Snowden ran from one surveillance state to a worse surveillance state.
This particular photo gathering was going on via Yahoo chat, but there’s no reason to believe that it’s limited to Yahoo chat or that there isn’t another program out there that targets other chat programs. There’s no reason to believe that intel isn’t tapping Skype and other feeds, maybe even Facetime. Hackers have already been caught tapping into webcams that weren’t even being used.
Anyway, I suppose it’s some level of justice that the spies had to pay a price for their surveillance.
Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: “Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person.”
The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains “undesirable nudity”.
This was probably like a nude beach, full of things you’d rather not see, while the people you’d want to see naked are clothed, and elsewhere.
Update: This post needs a song.
Thursday’s Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School Dist. (9th Cir. Feb. 27, 2014)upholds a California high school’s decision to forbid students from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. (See here and here for more on this case.)
The court points out that the rights of students in public high schools are limited — under the Supreme Court’s decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. School Dist.(1969), student speech could be restricted if “school authorities [can reasonably] forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” stemming from the speech. And on the facts of this case, the court concludes, there was reason to think that the wearing of the T-shirts would lead to disruption. There had been threats of racial violence aimed at students who wore such shirts the year before…
Read the rest. In brief, Cinco de Mayo celebrations at a California high school were punctuated with lots of Mexican flags. Some students didn’t much like that.
On Cinco de Mayo in 2009, a year before the events relevant to this appeal, there was an altercation on campus between a group of predominantly Caucasian students and a group of Mexican students. The groups exchanged profanities and threats. Some students hung a makeshift American flag on one of the trees on campus, and as they did, the group of Caucasian students began clapping and chanting “USA.” A group of Mexican students had been walking around with the Mexican flag, and in response to the white students’ flag-raising, one Mexican student shouted “f*** them white boys, f*** them white boys.” When Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez told the student to stop using profane language, the student said, “But Rodriguez, they are racist. They are being racist. F*** them white boys. Let’s f*** them up.” Rodriguez removed the student from the area….
At least one party to this appeal, student M.D., wore American flag clothing to school on Cinco de Mayo 2009. M.D. was approached by a male student who, in the words of the district court, “shoved a Mexican flag at him and said something in Spanish expressing anger at [M.D.’s] clothing.
The principal told the kids who were wearing American flags that they could not wear them. No similar order was given to the kids who were displaying the Mexican flag, which is the flag of another country (a lot of people seem to forget that). The kids wearing the American flags were subjected to threats. The kids wearing the American flag sued for their right to wear the flag, and have lost. The lesson this has taught the threateners and others who might be inclined to imitate them: Go ahead and make all the threats you want. The courts will side with you, and curbstomp your victims’ rights.
“Heckler’s vetoes,” which is what this is, aren’t generally allowed under the First Amendment. There’s a decent chance that SCOTUS strikes this down. Until recently, the Ninth Circuit was the most frequently overturned appeals court in the United States. But it’s working its way back to #1.
Barack Obama’s official tweeters tweeted this today.
The President is launching a new initiative called "My Brother's Keeper." Watch the announcement at 3:25 p.m. ET: http://t.co/RlRwUf9vRY
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 27, 2014
The program being promoted is this one, which is about educational and economic opportunities for young men of color. Young men of color have suffered disproportionately in the Obama economy, so perhaps he will begin to address that.
But let’s talk about the phrase, “My brother’s keeper.” It’s from Genesis, first, so where are the usual suspects to howl about the separation of church and state?
Second, “my brother’s keeper” doesn’t mean what Barack Obama seems to think that it means.
“My brother’s keeper” comes from Genesis 4. Cain had just murdered his brother, Abel. God knew what had happened, but quizzed Cain about the murder. Cain knew exactly where Abel was, and replied dishonestly and defiantly. God was not persuaded.
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”
Cain wasn’t necessarily saying that being his “brother’s keeper” was a good thing. He was either mocking and sneering at God after committing a terrible crime, or he was sheepishly lying to cover up his crime. Either way, he wasn’t being honest. Another way of understanding “keeper” in this context is “guard” or “watcher,” and implying that he could no longer hear Abel (because he was dead). Or, owning a pet. Is that how Barack Obama sees adult American citizens? If so, given the military force cuts he is proposing, he has a funny way of showing it. “Here’s more welfare, please pay no attention to how much more dangerous the world outside is getting.”
Now, the central phrase untwisted, let’s talk about a couple of Barack Obama’s brothers.
One of the president’s half-brothers is named Malik Obama. He leads the Barack H. Obama Foundation, which the IRS fast-tracked to tax-exempt status, and that status was back-dated illegally. Maybe Barack was his brother keeper in that instance. If he, he may have broken the law. Malik Obama also either publicly sympathizes with terrorist groups that want to destroy Israel, or unwittingly wears the terrorist groups’ symbols. Shouldn’t Barack Obama have a cautionary word about this with Malik Obama?
One of the president’s other half-brothers is named George. George Obama never hears from his rich and famous brother, Barack. George, 32, lives in a shack in a notorious slum in Africa.
One would think that a man who publicly calls on others to “keep” their brothers, would make some attempt to lead by example.
MSNBC host Chris Matthews launched another over-the-top smear on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz this week, comparing him to a ballistic missile aimed at the US capitol. He’s calling Texas’ junior senator a terrorist without using that word.
Matthews may have to rethink his attacks, though, as Cruz may now qualify for more sensitive treatment. He admits to being an addict to something that also plagues millions of other Americans. Take a look.
Reacting to this Ron Fournier piece on the demise of Arizona’s SB 1062, a piece typical of someone whose politics have not yet left the 1960s, Bill Hobbs writes on Facebook:
Fournier uses an interesting phrase: “the right to worship freely.” The Left often couches the First Amendment’s freedom of religion as “freedom of worship” and it is intentional – “worship” is that thing that people do in a church building on Sunday morning for an hour or two. The Left is fine with Christians keeping their Christianity inside that box. Freedom of religion is a much broader thing – it’s the freedom to live one’s life as one sees fit based on one’s faith, 24/7/365, at home, at work, and in public as well as private. Fournier gives away the game at the end when he writes “In this great and diverse country, we are capable of protecting people’s right to worship freely without tramping others’ rights to LIVE freely.” He sees Christianity through the Left’s preferred lens: It’s an activity that people DO in a church building on Sunday, and not something people LIVE daily.
For nearly as long as I’ve been attending evangelical churches, which is all of my life, I’ve heard pastors and leaders teach that Christians are not to be Christians merely whenever we are inside the church building. As an occasional (and poor) teacher I’ve taught the same thing. God “wants more than Sundays and Wednesday nights,” Keith Green sang in the 1980s, meaning, being a Christian is not about going to church. It’s about living. None of us ever gets it perfectly. But Christian culture is infused with instruction to be more than just a Sunday morning Christian. Christian pastors, teachers and singers didn’t just make that up out of nothing.
Being a Christian has never been about conforming to the world’s views or going along with them; it has always been about so much more, and it often puts one in direct conflict with the mores and beliefs that dominate society at large. It often puts us in conflict with people we respect and love. It’s a relationship that is full of tension. If it’s not, you’re probably doing it wrong. Too many Christians forget that, not just in our time, but throughout time. We’re not called to be popular or endorse the world’s ways. We’re in conflict with those ways when they conflict with what God wants. We answer to Him, not the latest Gallup poll or focus group.
That direct conflict was part of the deal all along. Christians engaging the culture have always been aware of it, or should’ve been. Reaching back to 1980s evangelical Christian culture once again, since that’s the culture I grew up in, Petra sang that “Jesus told us men would hate us, but we must be of good cheer.” The song “Not Of This World” paraphrases Matthew 10. Based on that text, it accurately describes Christians as “aliens and strangers” to the culture around us. Christians would be hated because of Christ. I keep referring to old Christian music to point out that for those of us who grew up evangelical, being not of this cultural world is not a new thing. It is not novel. It is no surprise. It is also not an occasion for surrender. The culture of the New Testament era was, if anything, far worse and more dangerous than today’s culture. Slavery was rampant. Pagan practices included ritual sacrifice and sex. Christians faced violently hostile governments with unlimited power, that demanded public worship of the current honcho in charge. The threat of persecution, imprisonment and even execution was real and always imminent. Should the early Christians have given in?
So the current conflict is not unexpected. It has always been there. The freedom to worship in America has not been limited yet, though the freedom to teach what the Bible actually says about sin (and grace) may soon be. Pastors in Canada have run into problems. Churches are likely to be sued over participation in same-sex weddings, leading in my opinion to evangelical churches leaving weddings altogether in order to avoid costly and time-wasting litigation. That will represent a small but significant retreat from the culture.
In a brief report on allegations that Battleground Texas has engaged in an illegal data-mining operation connected to its voter registration drives, Texas Public Radio notes that the Democrat and Obama-aligned group has been referred to the Bexar County district attorney for investigation. The group’s alleged data-mining activities took place in the county.
The activities were unearthed by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, which uses undercover reporters to obtain video evidence of wrongdoing. Undercover video is a commonly used tool in news gathering; CBS’ 60 Minutes was once renowned for capturing government and corporate officials admitting to or engaging in illegal or immoral activities. O’Keefe has used the technique to uncover widespread misbehavior in ACORN, forcing the left-wing activist group to rebrand itself, and in some cases government offices that funded the group have pulled that funding.
Abbott asked the Bexar County district attorney to take over the investigation because of Wendy Davis’ connection to Battleground Texas — Davis is Abbott’s likely opponent in the general election. The investigation started with a complainant that surfaced from another undercover video put out by the radical blogger James O’Keefe and Project Veritas. (emphasis added)
Poppe provides no evidence to back his editorial claim that O’Keefe is “radical.” The public radio network just states it as fact. Additionally, O’Keefe is not a blogger. He leads a group that produces undercover news gathering.
Poppe’s characterization of O’Keefe as “radical” may violate TPR’s values. According to its 2011 Annual Report, which is the most recent one available online and covers fiscal year 2010, Texas Public radio’s values include “respect[ing] diverse points of view,” and “facilitat[ing] civil and constructive discourse.”
Texas Public Radio serves central Texas including San Antonio and the Hill Country. It is funded via a combination of memberships, private and corporate donations, and some public funding. It airs several National Public Radio programs, which are also funded in part via government money.
Source: TPR 2011 Annual Report
Love them or hate them, the Koch brothers are not credibly accused of doing anything illegal or wrong. They are successful libertarian industrialists who use their wealth to advance their point of view in American politics, via ordinary and legal means. They could be compared to George Soros, the left-wing billionaire who funds political operations on the left, but with one important distinction: Soros is a convicted felon. The Koch brothers are not.
On Wednesday, the majority leader in the United States Senate, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, launched an unfair smear on the Koch brothers. During remarks Reid delivered in the Senate, he called the Koch brothers “un-American.”
Reid began with comments against the brothers that could be more properly applied to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, saying “[S]omeone might suggest I’m picking on the Koch brothers. Now, I do not always agree with the fact checkers, who are sometimes wrong, but it’s striking that PoliticalFact reviewed 11 ads placed by the Koch brothers’ organization, and not a single one was rated “true” or even “mostly true.” Nine were rated “false” or worse. So I return to my original question; Whether their constitutional rights — are the Koch brothers right to degrade our democratic process with lies? Are they right to use tactics that are, by legal definitions, deceptive and dishonest? Are voters choosing a candidate due any less respect and honesty than consumers buying carpet?”
President Obama knowingly lied to the American people when he claimed, repeatedly and across several years, that “If you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare” under Obamacare. He lied in order to advance Obamacare, and he lied to gain re-election. Obamacare has knocked about 6 million Americans off the healthcare that they wanted to keep. The fact-checkers Reid cites against the Koch brothers served up four Pinocchios and called Obama’s lie regarding Obamacare “the lie of the year” for 2013 (after they gave it a pass in previous years).
Reid continued: “Mr. President, this is the truth. This is the truth. What is going on with these two brothers who made billions of dollars last year, in an attempt to buy our democracy is dishonest, deceptive, false and unfair. Just because you have huge amounts of money, you should not be able to run these false, misleading ads by the hundreds of millions of dollars. They hide behind all kinds of entities, Mr. President. It’s not just their front organization, Americans for Prosperity, they give money to all kinds of organizations, lots of money. You see, when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be just as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be. It’s too bad that they’re trying to buy America. And it’s time the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty. The Koch brothers are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”
As un-American as, say, the Castro brothers? Or al Qaeda? What’s the upper limit on this attack?
Coming from just about anyone else, Reid’s screed could be dismissed as so much political noise. But Sen. Reid controls the Senate, and was in control of it when Obamacare was passed. He is accountable for the same lies that earned the president four Pinocchios. He is also responsible for defending Americans’ right of free speech, especially unpopular speech and speech that opposes government policy. Reid took an oath to defend the right of free speech guaranteed in the Constitution.
The Koch brothers responded strongly through a spokesman, calling Reid’s attack “particularly troubling because he appears to reference a television advertisement produced by Americans for Prosperity in which a Michigan woman suffering from leukemia shared her experiences under Obamacare.
“While Charles Koch and David Koch were not responsible for the advertisement in question, we believe it is disgraceful that Senator Reid and his fellow Democrats are attacking a cancer victim as part of their campaign against Charles Koch and David Koch.”
Reid’s attack strongly suggests that if it were in his power, he would severely limit the speech of Americans with whom he disagrees. It’s hard to imagine anything more un-American than that.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), has recalled IRS honcho Lois Lerner to testify on the agency’s abuse of Tea Party and conservative groups. She has since retired from the IRS and is receiving a six-figure retirement income, making more money per year after leaving her government job in disgrace than most Americans make working full-time.
Last time America saw Lerner was last May, when she raised her hand and was sworn in to testify, then declared her innocence and took the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) pointed out at the time that Lerner is not allowed to declare innocence and then take the Fifth. The committee reserved the right to bring her back and compel her to testify.
Next week she will be back to testify before the committee, or at least, she is expected to be back because the committee has recalled her. She could fail to appear. Gowdy appeared on Fox this morning and outlined a couple of scenarios that may play out. Gowdy ruled out granting Lerner immunity from prosecution before knowing the outlines of what she knows and is willing to say, comparing that to “buying a used car over the phone.” Until the committee has some idea what Lerner will say, they will not grant her immunity. In one of Gowdy’s scenarios, Lerner testifies. He indicated that that is unlikely. In another, she takes the Fifth again, and the committee holds her in contempt of Congress because of her previous claim of innocence. She can be jailed if she continues to refuse to testify. She could also be found in contempt and jailed if she fails to show up to next week’s hearing.
Gowdy also outlined what could happen if she does take the Fifth again. Her attorney, he said, could call for a meeting with members of the committee to outline what Lerner will admit to, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Gowdy indicated while the committee is not interested in granting her immunity at this point, once committee members have a better understanding of what Lerner is willing to say, immunity could be on the table. Lerner could then be expected to offer testimony that implicates others who were involved in the abuse scandal, either within the IRS or above it.
There is no doubt that crimes were committed by IRS officials, as I’ll explain on the next page.
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri, recently told Iran’s Asriran news service, this.
[Jazayeri] went on to add that the Islamic Republic of Iran supports Libertarian groups and movements in the world.
“Supports.” In what way? Does he mean that in a “we really dig libertarians” (which the totalitarian mullahs very much don’t, philosophically) sort of way, or did he mean that in a “we fund and finance libertarian movements because we appreciate their dovish impact on foreign governments” sort of way?
Is this an admission that today’s big-L Libertarian movements have some sort of relationship with Iran that’s analogous to the nuclear freeze movement’s relationship with the Soviet Union? The USSR funded nuclear freeze — a western movement that boasted the likes of John Kerry and Barack Obama back in the day — to undermine President Reagan’s efforts to stand toe-to-toe with the Communist czars.
Because if that’s what’s going on vis-a-vis Iran and big-L Libertarians now, it could be significant.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced this evening that she will veto Senate Bill 1062. The two-page bill was passed by the legislature, as a measure intended to protect Christian business owners from lawsuits if they decline to provide services to gay couples due to religious objections.
In her statement, Gov. Brewer said that she was vetoing the bill because no one had brought any Arizona-based cases of discrimination against religious business owners to her. The bill was sparked by cases in which Christian business owners refused to provide services to gay couples in relation to marriage, citing their religious objections. Those cases are taking place in New Mexico, Oregon and Iowa.
Massive pressure had been put on Brewer to veto the bill, from former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the NFL, which hinted that it might to move next year’s Super Bowl from Arizona if Brewer signed the bill.