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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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UNC-Wisconsin Headlines NCAA Tourney Play Tonight

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

It’s Kentucky vs. West Virginia and Notre Dame vs. Wichita State in the Midwest Regional semis tonight. Xavier vs. Arizona and UNC vs. Wisconsin from the West Regional will complete the night.

Kentucky will be tested by the Mountaineers tough defense, but should have enough to make it to Saturday’s final. The Irish are slight underdogs against a very talented Shocker team. But neither team plays stellar defense so Notre Dame has a good shot at pulling off a mild upset. The Musketeers benefitted when Georgia State knocked off 3rd seeded Baylor in the first round and Xavier then faced the Panthers in the second round, defeating them handily. But 2nd seed Arizona has talent to spare and the Wildcats should be able to handle Xavier’s pressing defense.

That leaves the game of the night; North Carolina against Wisconsin. For North Carolina, the health of their standout forward Kennedy Meeks weighs heavily on their chances. Meeks injured his knee in the Tarheels win over Arkansas, and his availability for the game against the Badgers is questionable:

“We don’t know anything about Kennedy,” Roy Williams said on Wednesday during the pregame news conferences at the Staples Center. “This morning he did some contact on a limited basis for the first time. You saw him out there, if you chose to go out there, he didn’t do much, but our whole team didn’t go because we had already practiced. But the big thing now is we’ll have to wait to see if there’s any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning, and probably it won’t be — well, if there is swelling or pain tonight, we won’t play him. If there’s not, then we’ll probably make the decision during warm-ups tomorrow.”

If Meeks can’t go, it’s possible Coach Williams may go small, moving Tokoto to the wing and playing 3 forwards. Or, Williams could put in 6’10″ Joel James who has the bulk to match up with the Badger’s bigs.

The key man in Williams offense is Marcus Paige, a diminutive guard who can get out on the break and make Wisconsin’s life miserable. If UNC has its running shoes on, Wisconsin will be hard pressed to stay with them.

But it is likely to be a game won or lost in the frontcourt.

Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker vs. North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto and Joel James.

UW’s talented trio contributed a combined 62 points and 22 rebounds in the second round against Coastal Carolina, but the numbers dipped to 47 and 12 in the third round against Oregon. North Carolina surely will pay extra attention to Kaminsky, meaning Hayes and Dekker should get favorable matchups. Hayes might prove to be too strong and/or quick for whomever guards him. Dekker must remain active on both ends of the floor. When he moves without the ball and defends hard good things happen. He must make sure his feet are set when he has an open three-pointer. The 6-foot-9 Johnson is tenacious on the interior. He averages 12.9 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. He has 88 offensive rebounds, the No. 2 mark on the team, and is shooting 56.0%, second best among the starters. He has not attempted a three-pointer this season and has fouled out five times. Tokoto, a graduate of Menomonee Falls High School, is an outstanding defender who scores better in transition than in half-court sets. He also is No. 2 on the team in assists (4.3). His athletic ability is remarkable but his jumper is wildly inconsistent. With Kennedy Meeks iffy because of a sprained left knee suffered last weekend, it will be interesting to see if James, a 6-10, 280-pound junior who is averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, can produce. If he gets the call, he has to give the Tar Heels quality minutes. Edge: UW.

Kaminsky is a load because he can score from anywhere on the court. From the free throw line extended to the blocks, his deft touch can get you points in a hurry.

But Kaminsky is prone to getting into foul trouble, and you can bet that Paige is going to test him early by going right at him, especially on the break. If Kaminsky can stay on the court, he could be the difference maker in the game.

The Badger’s other bigs will also be tough to handle for the athletic, but undersized UNC forwards. Hayes is a good rebounder (6.5 a game) with a knack for snaring offensive boards, while Dekker can shoot the 3 ball well for a big man.

UNC’s Brice Johnson is only 6’9″, but weighs nearly 230 pounds. He may guard Kaminsky one on one to start the game, trying to play him physical to wear the Big Ten Player of the Year down. James is a beast at 280 lbs but is better suited to playing a low post game. The perimeter shooting of Wisconsin’s bigs could give him problems.

The Tar Heels aren’t whining about possibly losing Meeks. It will be next man up for UNC in what should be the most entertaining game of the night.

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Another Scott Walker Flip-Flop on Immigration Reform (Updated)

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Sir Thomas More: [to Will Roper] Now, listen, Will. Two years ago you were a passionate churchman. Now you’re a passionate Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.

And, I suppose we can hope that when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s head is finished turning, we might actually know exactly where he stands on the question of granting a path to citizenship for illegals.

In 2013, he told an audience in Milwaukee that the comprehensive immigration reform bill in which illegal immigrants can become United States citizens by first paying penalties and enduring a waiting period, that it “makes sense.”

Earlier this month, he told Fox News:

However, he is now saying such a plan is tantamount to amnesty, amid criticism that he has flip-flopped on that issue and others — including right-to-work legislation in his home state.

“I don’t believe in amnesty,” said Walker, who finished second Saturday in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll for potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. “We need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works — a legal immigration system that works.”

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that he told a private dinner in New Hampshire that he supported a path to citizenship:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter.

Mr. Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he has made in recent weeks for “no amnesty”—a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship.

The changing positions by Mr. Walker, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, show the difficulty that some in the Republican Party face as they try to appeal both to the conservative GOP primary electorate—which largely opposes liberalizing immigration laws—and business leaders and general election voters who have been more supportive of granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.

This isn’t just a matter of flip flopping. This is chameleon-like — and kind of creepy. Usually, politicians aren’t quite so brazen about telling a specific audience one thing, while telling another audience exactly the opposite.

But Walker, whether he intended for his remarks to get out or not — and if he thought he could keep it a secret he’s either stupid or naive — picked the wrong issue on which to be all over the map and back again. Supporting a path to citizenship is a deal breaker for a lot of conservatives and now that his support is out in the open, he must either renounce his now twice stated position again (and hope that at few people believe him), or embrace the suck and join Jeb Bush in being the only major candidates supporting “amnesty.”

Twitter hasn’t blown up yet, but I suspect once this information gets out there, Walker is going to be in for a very rough few days.

UPDATE: Spokesman Denies

Reuters is reporting:

Likely 2016 Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s stance on illegal immigrants remains unchanged, his spokeswoman said on Thursday, disputing a report that he favored letting them stay in the country and eventually become eligible for citizenship.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswomen for the Wisconsin governor, labeled as “erroneous” a Wall Street Journal report detailing what the newspaper called Walker’s shift in stance on the matter.

“Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” Kukowski said in an emailed statement.

That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

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Three Members of ‘Taliban 5′ Swapped for Bergdahl Tried to Reconnect to Terror Network

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

At least three of the Taliban 5 terror commanders who were traded for Bowe Bergdahl made attempts to make contact with their former terrorist networks, reports Fox News.

The new allegations come as Bergdahl now faces desertion charges, and as the one-year deal governing the former Guantanamo detainees’ supervised release in the Gulf nation of Qatar is set to expire — at the end of May.

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency recently told Congress that, after that expiration, all his officers can do is warn the U.S. government if the men return to the battlefield.

“I’ve seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or [have] changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House intelligence committee, told Fox News.

The official who described the attempts by three to make contact did not identify the men by name. But the evidence came to light through intelligence from liaison services and monitored communications available to the U.S. government.

A defense official did not dispute the claim, emphasizing that one of the men has come “very close, trying to provide advice, council or inspiration” to his terror network, while the other two had not crossed that line.

In January, CNN was first to report, and U.S. officials later confirmed, that one of the five fighters was making phone calls to militants. The latest claim indicates those efforts were more widespread.

A State Department official, though, disagreed with the characterization of the intelligence and how it relates to the “Taliban Five’s” activities.

“None of the five individuals has returned to the battlefield and none of the five have left Qatar,” the official said. “Since their transfer many actions have been taken to restrict the actions of these individuals, and they are all being closely monitored by the United States and Qatar.

“We are in frequent and high level contact with Qatari government about the implementation of these measures, to ensure our concerns about these individuals are being met. For example, by enabling us to closely track their activities.”

The State Department is putting political spin on the revelation, as is the office of the DNI:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also uses a strict definition for re-engagement, saying they do not “consider mere communication with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — an indicator of reengagement. Rather, the motives, intentions, and purposes of each communication are taken into account when assessing whether the individual has reengaged.”

It’s all doubletalk. They raise the bar high enough that they don’t have to do anything unless the terrorists actually carry out an attack.

This was a bad deal from the start and we still don’t have all the facts surrounding it. Was there a ransom paid? Were reports of a possible rescue operation called off true? What were the other options to get Bergdahl out facing the administration?

While Bergdahl’s case was being considered, the DoD begged off answering questions before Congress. Now that the fate of the deserter is known, maybe some of those questions will be answered.

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Controversy Over ‘American Pride’ Themed Dance at High School

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There was a time in America, not too long ago, when the most controversial question in the country was whether the Yankees should be broken up.

We took a lot of things for granted back then — things I wish now I had appreciated a little more. This is especially true after I read this incredible account of how school advisors in Lexington, Massachusetts, tried to talk the junior class at the local high school out of holding a dance with the theme of “American Pride.”

Yes…THAT Lexington, Massachusetts. THE Lexington, where the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired and the American Revolution got underway in earnest.

Boston.com:

A high school dance will keep its “American Pride” theme after a debate over concerns that people of other nationalities might feel excluded, the school superintendent said Tuesday.

Assistant superintendent Carol Pilarski said in an interview with Boston’s WHDH that school advisors suggested students abandon their chosen “American pride” theme in favor of “maybe a national pride theme, so they could represent their individual nationalities. Maybe it should be more inclusive and it should be national pride.”

Students complained to WHDH, which quoted one student, Ethan Embry, calling the decision “ridiculous.”

Now that the crap has hit the fan, school administrators are backtracking furiously:

But superintendent Paul Ash told Boston.com on Tuesday that as far as he knows, the theme was never officially changed. He said Lexington was “very proud of its history” and that administrators were “delighted” that students had chosen an American pride theme.

Still, he acknowledged a debate.

“There was discussion. I’m not going to deny that,” Ash said.

“Official policy is made by the high school principal. And she didn’t change it,” he added. “I talked to the high school principal and I believe her.”

He declined to comment on Pilarki’s remarks, adding that he was not involved in the discussions.

“As you can imagine, superintendents of schools don’t get involved with school dances,” he said.

Actually, we can imagine superintendents getting involved in anything if they thought it could advance the cause of multiculturalism and diversity. We’ve seen this so many times before. A school does something incredibly stupid like banning flag T-shirts, or preventing men in uniform from walking the halls, and then quickly backs down when the matter becomes public.

It doesn’t get much more politically correct than ginning up controversy over the concept of American pride. It’s one of those things we took for granted growing up. Who could have imagined otherwise?

This is the 40th anniversary of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in American history. Watch this Chevy ad from 1975 — unabashedly pro-American.

Just 25 years ago, in Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones gave a speech about America that spoke of how the country is always changing, but remains basically the same:

People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

You couldn’t put that speech in a film today. It would be laughed out of the theater.

When conservatives talk about “taking America back,” liberals will inevitably say that what they really mean in their heart of hearts is that they want blacks in the back of the bus, women  barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, gays back in the closet, and white privilege the rule.

It may be that way for some. But for most of us, it means we want an America where “American Pride” is not now and never will be a controversial subject. Where we don’t have to walk on eggshells when we speak in public, fearing we’re offending someone — or someone who might pretend to be offended. And we want an America where we can be reasonably certain the Congress and the executive branch pay attention to the tenets and precepts found in the Constitution.

Is that really too much to ask?

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Ted Cruz Speaks the Languages of Hyperbole and Exaggeration Fluently

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

For the media’s so-called “fact checkers,” you must admit that Ted Cruz is a target-rich environment. But so are most politicians, when it comes down to it.

For Cruz, however — a man who speaks the languages of hyperbole and exaggeration fluently — our beloved gatekeepers rejoice in the prospect of a Cruz candidacy. The Texas senator has a special relationship with the truth — he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. So what if he inflates the number of IRS agents or the number of people who have been forced into part-time work because of Obamacare? The important point is that the IRS sucks and Obamacare, well, sucks too.

Just a cursory examination of stories about Ted Cruz today shows that many media outlets are piling on — and not hiding their glee in doing so. I’ve found several sites that insist on “fact checking” the senator’s speech at Liberty University announcing his candidacy.

USA Today reports:

• Cruz railed against a “government … that seeks to ban our ammunition.” The Obama administration sought to ban a certain type of armor-piercing bullet, not all types of ammunition. The proposal has since been postponed.

• Cruz claimed that as a result of the Affordable Care Act “millions … have lost their health insurance.” In fact, about 10 million people on net gained insurance between September 2013 and December 2014, according to the Urban Institute.

• Cruz also claimed that as a result of the law “millions [have been] forced into part-time work.” There’s no solid figure on how many may have had their hours cut to part time, but one analysis of monthly labor surveys said the number was “likely” a few hundred thousand.

I guess this is what passes for “fact checking” — putting words in Cruz’s mouth for starters. Cruz did not say, nor would he ever say, that the government was trying to ban all ammunition. That’s an absurdity that reveals the “fact checker’s” bias.

And I suppose that Americans only matter in the aggregate and not as individuals. Over 5 million people had their insurance taken away from them because of Obamacare mandates. The net total of those covered may have increased, but tell that to the 5 million people who lost their plans. I’m sure it will be very comforting.

As for the senator’s claim that “millions” of people have been forced into part time work because of Obamacare, Cruz is neither wrong nor right. We simply don’t know. No one is going around with a clipboard asking part-time workers why they are working part time.

It probably isn’t “millions,” but what if it’s a million? In this case, the point Cruz is trying to make is well taken. Besides, we’ll really get a feel for how many employers are going to downsize the hours of their employees next year when the small-business mandate goes into effect. Those companies with more than 50 workers but fewer than 100 will be deciding whether to eliminate some or most full-time jobs or refuse to cover the employees anyway, forcing them on to the exchanges.

Fact-checking politicians is a fool’s errand and with Cruz, it’s no different. But you can’t fact-check paranoia. A large portion of Cruz’s exaggerated rhetoric that sends conservatives into paroxysms of joy smacks of fear mongering. He is trying to evoke the Man on a White Horse syndrome and you don’t have to guess who is riding to our rescue.

The Atlantic’s David Ludwig quotes liberally from Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay on the “Paranoid Style in American Politics” and eventually manages to get to some hard truths about Ted Cruz, the candidate:

Historian Richard Hofstadter described the use of “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” in American political life. Hofstadter called this phenomenon “the American paranoid style,” built on the perpetuation of conspiracy theories and the use of apocalyptic prose. “[The] demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals,” Hofstadter wrote. “Since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration.”

While this style has been employed by both the right and the left, one place it finds current expression is in Cruz’s appeals to conservative and Tea Party audiences. The freshman senator’s willingness to stand up and fight for “hopelessly unrealistic goals” was perhaps clearest during his 21-hour-and-19-minute Senate filibuster to defund Obamacare in 2013. “I will say standing here after 14 hours, standing on your feet, there’s sometimes some pain, sometimes some fatigue that is involved,” Cruz told the Senate chamber. “But you know what? There’s far more pain involved in rolling over, far more pain in hiding in the shadows, far more pain in not standing for principle, not standing for the good, not standing for integrity.”

Although Senator Cruz’s speech had no serious chance of derailing the Affordable Care Act, his hours-long rebuke of Obamacare resonated with supporters. “I’m proud of our good friend Ted Cruz, who is doing what he promised voters he would do, which is fight at every turn to protect American families and businesses from the President’s disastrous health care law,” wrote Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer afterwards.

At the time, I referred to Cruz and his supporters as the “King Canute Caucus,” referencing the utter futility of what he was attempting to do: defund Obamacare in the Democratic Senate.

But that’s not the only time Cruz led with his face:

In 2010, the former Texas solicitor general claimed that Harvard Law School had employed a dozen communist professors during the time he studied there. Running for office in 2012, Cruz warned supporters about a George Soros-led United Nations environmental initiative to banish golf courses from the local American communities. And during former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nominating hearing in 2012, Cruz earned rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans for questioning Hagel’s character. Among other things, Cruz insinuated that Hagel had taken money from foreign governments, didn’t fully support Israel, and that his nomination was being “publicly celebrated by the Iranian government” (a claim that was, at the very least, exaggerated). These intricate conspiracies avoid the ambiguity of reality in exchange for simple and easy to understand narratives. Instead of wading into complex issues and weighing ramifications, Cruz sets up straw men, which are easy—indeed, necessary—to oppose.

It appears that Cruz is the Randall “Tex” Cobb of politics. Cobb was a professional punching bag back in the 1980s whose bout against then-heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was so one sided and bloody that it drove Howard Cosell from the ringside microphone. (Cobb quipped: “Hey, if it gets him to stop broadcasting NFL games, I’ll go play football for a week too!”)

But despite taking on opponents he couldn’t possibly defend himself against, Cobb ended up on his feet: he took his skills to Hollywood and became a professional bad guy in the movies. And yeah…he was a punching bag for the good guys, too.

Cruz may not be as big a loser as Cobb was, but he has precious few victories to crow about. What he apparently possesses more than anything is an ability to raise the temperature of conservatives by suggesting the absolute worst about his opponents. Do the American people need to be told that the world is ending, or that it’s “on fire” as he told a New Hampshire audience recently?

A little less exaggeration and hyperbole, a little more nuance and an acknowledgement of the complexities of the world, and who knows? Ted Cruz could emerge as a top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination.

But I’m not holding my breath.

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Is a Confederate Battle Flag Displayed on a License Plate Free Speech?

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Once again, the Confederate battle flag is the center of controversy as the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, a case involving the display of the flag on a specialty license plate in Texas.

The question facing the court is more complex than it would originally appear: is the “speech” that the flag represents a matter of individual freedom or, since the license plate is issued by the state, is it a question of government speech, where Texas can pick and choose which sentiments and issues it supports?

The case is important because other issues that private citizens wish to highlight on their license plates — abortion, war and peace, minority rights — can also be rejected if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the state.

Bloomberg reports:

The case goes back to 2009, when the Texas branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which honors soldiers who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, submitted a design proposal for a specialty license plate to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles that included a Confederate flag. The DMV board that voted on the proposals fielded angry public comments and twice rejected the plate as an offensive celebration of slavery, according to the Supreme Court-focused news site SCOTUSblog.

The SCV sued, saying the DMV is violating the free speech rights of drivers who would select the license plate. Texas countered that license plates are government property on which the government can decide its own message. (The First Amendment guarantees that the government won’t abridge individuals’ right to free speech, but the government is allowed to police its own “speech.”)

Texas—which does celebrate an annual Confederate Heroes Day—asserted in a case brief that it “is fully within its rights to exclude swastikas, sacrilege, and overt racism from state-issued license plates 14 that bear the State’s name and imprimatur.”

In its own brief, the SCV shot back that having the annual holiday shows that “The State apparently does not believe that the ‘message’ of the Confederate flag is offensive to the public, or, if it is offensive, the State certainly does not shy away from its expression because of such offense.”

The case has attracted some unusual bedfellows, with the American Civil Liberties Union, pro-life groups, and even the satirist P.J. O’Rourke filing briefs in support of the SCV.

The AP said Texas offers 350 varieties of specialty plates (including ones devoted to restaurants, the Boy Scouts, and blood donations) that brought in $17.6 million in revenue last year. The state does offer license plates commemorating “Buffalo soldiers”—black regiments that fought Native Americans in the 19th century.

“There are a lot of competing racial and ethnic concerns, and Texas doesn’t necessarily handle them any way but awkwardly sometimes,” Lynne Rambo, a professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth, told the AP.

Five federal appeals courts have ruled in favor of the non-profit SCV, according SCOTUSblog, including, most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The battle flag of the Confederacy (actually, it’s one of several battle flags used by southern armies during the war) is perhaps the most misunderstood — usually deliberately so — piece of Americana there is. It is not the national flag of the Confederacy, which you can see here. So the question becomes, what is it?

If we are going to penalize southern soldiers and think awful things about them because they fought and died under that flag, then we might as well ban Old Glory as well. Historian James McPherson estimates that no more than 20% of union regiments were abolitionist regiments formed expressly to free the slaves, or regiments with abolitionist sympathizers. Most northern working men opposed freeing the slaves, fearing they would head north and take their jobs.  And northern whites almost universally opposed giving blacks the right to vote, to be educated in their schools, and to worship at their churches.

The fact is, almost all of America had the kind of casual, racist attitudes back then that modern-day opponents of the battle flag appear to ascribe to southerners only. So why pick on the battle flag?

It’s sad but true that the battle flag was incorporated into the flags of several southern states during the civil rights era not to honor southern soldiers, but to signify opposition to federal interference in what they considered states’ rights. In that sense, the anti-battle flag advocates have a point. It was used as a symbol of oppression and opposition to equal rights which has no place in modern America.

The flag is also employed by the Klan and many hate groups across the country. But as an expression of free speech, should it be allowed on license plates?

Allowing Texas to ban the battle flag from license plates would open the door to banning other, more overtly political speech. Pro- and anti-abortion messages could be banned depending on who is in power. “Drill, baby, drill” could be banned by a liberal administration that opposes fossil fuels. Giving the state the power to regulate free expression is a slippery slope that the Supreme Court will, hopefully, prevent us sliding down.

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The Sad Saga of Tom Flanagan

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Canadian Kathy Shadie writes to inform us of a new documentary from a relatively new website that details what happened to Tom Flanagan, a political operative who helped engineer the election victory of conservatives in Canada. If you think what happened to Liz Mair was unfair, your blood will boil over what happened to Flanagan.

Kathy writes:

You guys — my American friends — might not recognize the name Dr. Tom Flanagan, but up here in Canada, he’s a political legend.

He was the backroom “brains” behind what many said couldn’t be done in “L/liberal” Canada:

The grassroots conservative movement that eventually saw Steven Harper get elected (and reelected) Prime Minister.

But one day, in the time it took him to drive home from a speaking engagement, Tom Flanagan was tossed under the bus by the same people he put in power.

A new — and very timely — documentary looks into what happened.

Here’s the trailer:

TheRebel.media is Ezra Levant’s new Canadian conservative media venture you might have heard about via Ricochet and PJMedia  — the one that crowdfunded all their cameras, computers and mics in around 48 hours.

It’s been a going concern for just over a month, and now TheRebel.media is presenting its first longform doc, “Flanagan,” this Sunday, March 22.

So…Was this political correctness gone mad yet again? A Shakespearean tragedy for our times? Or should a “genius” like Flanagan have known better than to go too far?

Given what just happened with Liz Mair, “Flanagan” will give American viewers something to think about.

Here’s the full length documentary, courtesy of TheRebel.media.

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From Hiram Johnson to the ‘Sodomite Suppression Act’

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Hiram Johnson was a two-term governor of California in the early 20th century who was a big believer in “direct democracy” — giving the voter powers that had formerly been reserved for political elites. He brought the ideas of ballot initiatives, referendums, and recalls to California. And he made the process of filing for these innovations as inexpensive as possible.

Johnson’s legacy was to give California perhaps the most open democratic system of any state in the country. Grassroots movements lowering property taxes, overturning the ban on gay marriage, and reforming government at all levels have given the people of California a powerful voice in their own affairs.

But ballot initiatives have also led to some silly, stupid, and dangerous ideas. The Economist offered this analysis of California’s “direct democracy”:

This citizen legislature has caused chaos. Many initiatives have either limited taxes or mandated spending, making it even harder to balance the budget. Some are so ill-thought-out that they achieve the opposite of their intent: for all its small-government pretensions, Proposition 13 ended up centralising California’s finances, shifting them from local to state government. Rather than being the curb on elites that they were supposed to be, ballot initiatives have become a tool of special interests, with lobbyists and extremists bankrolling laws that are often bewildering in their complexity and obscure in their ramifications. And they have impoverished the state’s representative government. Who would want to sit in a legislature where 70-90% of the budget has already been allocated?

Yes, it’s a mess. Democracy is like that, being “the worst form of government, except for all the others,” as Winston Churchill believed. But clearly, there are times when the ballot initiative becomes an embarrassment. Take the case of  Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin, who is either a jokester with a warped sense of humor, or a fanatical zealot who should probably be in a straightjacket.

McLaughlin plunked down $200 at the Secretary of State’s office, proposing a ballot measure that would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians by “bullets to the head,” or “any other convenient method.”

The wording of the proposal should shock the sensibilities of even the most rabid anti-gay activist:

McLaughlin’s plan refers to “buggery” or “sodomy” as “a monstrous evil that Almighty God, giver of freedom and liberty, commands us to suppress on pain of our utter destruction even as he overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Under the proposal, “… any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification (would) be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

Anyone transmitting “sodomistic propaganda” to a minor would be fined $1 million per offense, and/or imprisoned up to 10 years, and/or expelled from California for up to life. It would ban lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, or those who espouse sodomistic propaganda, or who belong to any group that does, from serving in public office, holding government jobs and obtaining public benefits.

“This law is effective immediately and shall not be rendered ineffective nor invalidated by any court, state or federal, until heard by a quorum of the Supreme Court of California consisting only of judges who are neither sodomites nor subject to disqualification hereunder,” it states.

Secretary of State Kamala Harris is being asked to deep-six the initiative, despite the fact that the law clearly states she must come up with a 100-word summary and authorize the gathering of signatures. A court may eventually bar the initiative from the ballot, but until then, Californians may be accosted at shopping malls and grocery stores by fanatics, asking them to sign a petition that advocates murder.

McLaughlin’s initiative has set off a debate in California over the entire process. Some want to substantially raise the cost of filing an initiative to discourage just this kind of idiocy. But others think that would be a mistake:

Jennifer Fearing, the president of Fearless Advocacy and a veteran of lower-wattage campaigns, said she isn’t sure “there’s a price that stops crazy.”

“It’s important to preserve access to direct democracy even if some jerks can get over the first and lowest hurdle on occasion,” she said.

While it’s exceedingly unlikely McLaughlin’s measure would qualify, the signature threshold for November 2016, at 365,880, is unusually low.

Fearing said unless he could come up with $1 million to pay signature collectors, and upward of $10 million to advertise, “we are all just going to have to hope he’s having his shameful 15 minutes of infamy.”

There’s a move to disbar McLaughlin, although that, too, appears doomed. Evidently, the rules governing disbarment for such behavior favor the crazies.

Even though he would not approve of the measure, wherever Hiram Johnson is, he’s probably smiling. Direct democracy has wreaked havoc on state government and California society. And that’s just what the old progressive wanted.

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Islamic State Issues Online Hit List of 100 American Servicemen

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A previously unknown group calling itself “Islamic State Hackers Division” has posted a hit list of 100 American servicemen online, urging followers to carry out attacks against the targets.

The names, addresses, and photos of the servicemen are included in the posting. Sources tell Reuters that the information was not obtained by hacking a military website and appears to be from easily accessible online databases.

The Pentagon said after the information was posted on the Internet that it was investigating the matter. “I can’t confirm the validity of the information, but we are looking into it,” a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday.

“We always encourage our personnel to exercise appropriate OPSEC (operations security) and force protection procedures,” the official added.

In the posting, a group referring to itself as the “Islamic State Hacking Division” wrote in English that it had hacked several military servers, databases and emails and made public the information on 100 members of the U.S. military so that “lone wolf” attackers can kill them.

The New York Times reported that it did not look like the information had been hacked from U.S. government servers and quoted an unnamed Defense Department official as saying most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.

The Times quoted officials as saying the list appeared to have been drawn from personnel mentioned in news articles about air strikes on Islamic State. The group’s forces control parts of Syria and Iraq and have been targeted in U.S.-led air strikes.

The posting, addressed to disbelievers, Christians and “crusaders” in America, included what the group said were the names, military service branch, photos and street addresses of the individuals. The posting includes the military rank of some but not all of those named.

The New York Times quotes from the website:

“With the huge amount of data we have from various different servers and databases, we have decided to leak 100 addresses so that our brothers in America can deal with you,” the Islamic State’s so-called Hacking Division said in the web posting.

It added: “And now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for?”

That doesn’t sound like a foreign terrorist who speaks English as a second language. But even if the posters are not directly under the command of Islamic State, the invitation to kill servicemen is deadly serious. As we’ve seen in several attacks around the world, there are plenty of nutcases who are inspired by Islamic State and would be eager to carry out their wishes.

Let’s hope they shut that website down before one of our servicemen is attacked.

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Cyber Snoops Watching Your Kids

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

A shocking piece in Politico that details the lengths to which schools go to spy on our children’s online lives.

This is especially true for Common Core administrators who are scouring the internet looking for leaks of questions from standardized tests. This is bad enough, but there appears to be no allowance made for protecting privacy — even when it comes to information not even related to Common Core.

The web patrol team works for Caveon, a test security company charged with protecting the integrity of new Common Core exams developed by the publishing giant Pearson. To that end, they’re monitoring social media for any leaks about test questions. News of the surveillance broke this week, sparking a firestorm. The American Federation of Teachers even circulated a petition demanding that Pearson “stop spying on our kids.”

But Pearson is hardly the only company keeping a watchful eye on students.
School districts and colleges across the nation are hiring private companies to monitor students’ online activity, down to individual keystrokes, to scan their emails for objectionable content and to scrutinize their public posts on Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram and other popular sites. The surveillance services will send principals text-message alerts if a student types a suspicious phrase or surfs to a web site that raises red flags.

[...]

The rise of online student monitoring comes at a time of rising parent protests against other forms of digital surveillance — namely, the vast quantities of data that technology companies collect on kids as they click through online textbooks, games and homework. Companies providing those online resources can collect millions of unique data points on a child in a single day. Much of that information is not protected by federal privacy law.

School administrators don’t tend to be too interested in that data, because it’s far too granular for them to make sense of it until an ed-tech company mines it for patterns.

But some principals, coaches and college presidents are acutely interested in student tweets.

Enter the surveillance services, which promise to scan student posts around the clock and flag anything that hints at bullying, violence or depression. The services will also flag any post that could tarnish the reputation of either the student or the educational institution. They’ll even alert administrators to garden-variety teenage hijinks, like a group of kids making plans to skateboard on school property .

Some of the monitoring software on the market can track and log every keystroke a student makes while using a school computer in any location, including at home. Principals can request text alerts if kids type in words like “guns” or “drugs,” or browse websites about anorexia or suicide. They can even order up reports identifying which students fritter away hours on Facebook and which buckle down to homework right after dinner.

Obviously, the law has had trouble catching up to the technology. Only five states limit this kind of snooping on our kids and five more are considering it. But what’s really needed is a federal standard that will stop them all from prying into what’s essentially none of their damn business.

Trying to prevent the next Newtown or Columbine is not an excuse. The chances the snooping would head off a school massacre are infinitesimally small. Nor is shaming bullies, or catching bigots in the act of expressing themselves, or policing threats a reason to so egregiously violate the privacy of children or adults.

Perhaps even more worrisome are the tech companies who mine your child’s online life in order to develop data they can sell to all sorts of companies. There are inexpensive programs you can download that can protect your kid from most of this snooping, but the question of why it is legal in the first place lingers.

There are enough hackers, phishers, and Nigerian princes out there already trying to spy on and scam you. We don’t need their legal counterparts adding to our worries.

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O’Malley Turning Heads in Iowa

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was in Iowa, speaking at the Scott County Democrats’ “Red, White, and Blue Dinner” on Friday and showed those present that he is a serious candidate for president no matter what the polls say about Hillary Clinton’s inevitability.

O’Malley, who was not known as a liberal firebrand while governor, has adopted a take-no-prisoners attitude toward Wall Street and the rich.

The Washington Post reports:

During O’Malley’s appearance at the Scott County Democrats’ “Red, White and Blue Dinner,” he offered a prescription for “making the dream true again” that includes raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits, making pre-kindergarten universally available and ensuring equal pay for women. “Sing it with me people,” O’Malley said. “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

The speech, which drew multiple standing ovations, both underscored O’Malley’s opportunities and the challenges in the nation’s first presidential nominating state, where early polls show Clinton with a commanding lead and O’Malley barely registering. In interviews afterward, many Democratic activists said they were only starting to learn about O’Malley.

“I haven’t really followed him all that closely, but I’m going to be looking at him a lot harder now,” said Ken Krayenhagen, a 56-year-old chiropractor who lives in Davenport. “I like a leader that’s inspiring.”

O’Malley has said he plans to make a decision about whether to move forward with a presidential bid by May. Clinton has yet to visit Iowa this year but is hiring staff and laying other groundwork here and in other early states.

Taking a cue from Senator Elizabeth Warren, O’Malley evoked the class-warfare memes that makes liberals’ hearts flutter:

Many of the more than 200 people who turned out to see O’Malley in the Mississippi River city of Davenport on Friday said they were meeting him for the first time. He touted his time in office during his speech, including his work to raise Maryland’s minimum wage and increase state spending on education. The crowd enthusiastically applauded and rose to their feet several times when O’Malley bemoaned income inequality and called for more oversight of Wall Street and the financial industry.

“Over the last 12 years, wages have been going down, not up,” said O’Malley, who concluded eight years as governor of Maryland in January. “In fact, last year, Wall Street bonuses alone were double the combined earnings of every single American working for minimum wage to take care of their family. Until we solve this problem, we cannot rest – as a party or as a people.”

They were comments aimed squarely at those still pining for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to get into the race, something she has said repeatedly she will not. An effort to draft Warren into the race has been underway for months, organized by the liberal groups MoveOn.org and Democracy for America.

“I’m a lifelong Clinton fan. But the thing is, this isn’t a dynasty – it isn’t a monarchy,” said one attendee. In the end, that might be the best thing that O’Malley — and anyone else who challenges Hillary — has going for them in the campaign.

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Terrorist Propaganda Victory! Photos of U.S. Torture to Be Released

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Congratulations are due to the ACLU and federal judge Alvin Hellerstein for handing the thugs of the world a propaganda coup on a silver platter.

Hellerstein ruled on Friday that photos depicting the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan while in U.S. custody must be released within two months if the government decides not to appeal his decision.

The ACLU, which originally brought the suit more than a decade ago, says the pictures “are manifestly important to an ongoing national debate about governmental accountability for the abuse of prisoners.”

The Associated Press reports:

The fight over the photographs reaches back to the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it invokes the images of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that sparked international outrage after they emerged in 2004 and 2006. Early in the 2004 lawsuit, the ACLU pointed to the Abu Ghraib photos as priority examples of records the organization was seeking on the treatment of detainees.

It’s unclear how many more photographs may exist. The government has said it has 29 relevant pictures from at least seven different sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s believed to have perhaps hundreds or thousands more, Hellerstein said in a ruling in August. He said some photos he had seen “are relatively innocuous while others need more serious consideration,” and he has ruled that any images that would be released would be redacted to protect the identities of people in them.

Some photographs, taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some images show “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” then-Solicitor General — now Supreme Court Justice — Elena Kagan wrote in an appeal to the high court earlier in the case, which has taken a long road through the courts and Congress.

The government has long argued that releasing the photographs could incite attacks against U.S. forces and government personnel abroad, and officials have said that risk hasn’t abated as the U.S. military role in Iraq and Afghanistan lessened.

Indeed, “the danger associated with release of these photographs is heightened now,” amid the rise of the Islamic State militant group, Navy Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, the vice director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a December court filing. Islamic State, he said “would use these photographs to further encourage its supporters and followers to attack U.S. military and government personnel.”

Amid the lawsuit, Congress passed a 2009 law allowing the government to keep the photos secret if the secretary of defense certified that unveiling them would endanger U.S. citizens or government or military personnel.

Was there torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes there was. Should those who carried out the torture and anyone who ordered it be put on trial? Yes, absolutely.

But what possible purpose is served in releasing the photos? Let’s hold those in the government accountable and have a national conversation about it without releasing the photos. The only purpose of releasing these pictures is to satisfy those who glory in seeing the United States laid low in the international community. There is no high-falutin purpose to putting the U.S. government in a bad light in the eyes of the world. There is only a self loathing that requires constant reinforcement that the U.S. is evil, and undeserving of its lofty place in the world order.

And the notion that “airing our dirty laundry” for the entire world to see makes us “stronger” is a nonsensical construct based on a grand illusion that it is somehow heroic to damage our own interests and put our own people in danger. I call bullcrap on that and always will.

The fact of the matter is, in the “Arab street” — and in the streets of every dusty, two bit thugocracy and theocratic backwater in the world — the ignorant fanatics and ox-dumb peasants won’t see the nuance and subtlety about “accountability” claimed by the ACLU and those eager to embarrass the U.S. The release of the pictures will be an out-and-out incitement to riot and to kill Americans. Not that they need an excuse, but in their twisted worldview, the release of the photos would be an order from God — an opportunity to engage in murder and mayhem courtesy of the self-loathing hypocrites who are agitating for the release of this dynamite.

The photos are enemy propaganda. There is no difference between the torture photos and film released by the North Vietnamese showing happy, healthy American POWs eating well and apparently being well treated. Does it really matter which side releases the propaganda? Our enemies will use the photos for their own propaganda purposes. Why give them a helping hand?

The effect — intended or not — is the same. The propaganda is designed to elicit an emotional response and hide the truth. Are we to believe that every one of the tens of thousands of people who have been captured over the last decade were all subjected to the treatment shown in the photos? You can bet our enemies will make that claim.

Those photos are no more representative of the way most prisoners who fell into our hands in the last decade were treated than were the North Vietnamese propaganda films that hid the truth about their brutal treatment of captured Americans.

The torture of prisoners was real. It is a cause for national shame. But no purpose whatsoever is served by releasing photos of the crimes. The vast majority of people around the world will not see the photos as an effort at government accountability, or a sign of the strength of our democracy, or any other elevated notion of civilized behavior the left thinks releasing the pictures will reveal about America.

It will result in fire, and mayhem, and blood. And every drop of it will be on the heads of those who arrogantly believe in their own moral superiority.

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Is an Iran Deal Close?

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

If you listen to both Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talking about the progress of talks to limit Iran’s nuclear program, you get the feeling that one side in the negotiations made substantial concessions in the last 48 hours. Both men are saying that a deal is “within reach” — an attitude that was missing just 48 hours ago.

You have to believe that one of two things happened: either Iran gave up on its long-held beliefs regarding issues like sanctions and inspections, or the U.S. and the west are caving in to Iranian demands on those matters.

Which do you think is closer to the truth?

USA Today:

The United States and Iran reported significant progress Saturday toward a nuclear agreement, with the Iranian president declaring a deal within reach. America’s top diplomat was more reserved, leaving open whether world powers and Tehran would meet a March 31 deadline.

Speaking after a week of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry challenged Iran to make “fundamental decisions” that prove to the world it has no interest in atomic weapons. Amid conflicting statement by officials about how close the sides were, Kerry said, “We have an opportunity to try to get this right.”

The talks “have made substantial progress,” Kerry told reporters, “though important gaps remain.” Talks with Iran resume next week.

In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was more optimistic. “Achieving a deal is possible,” he said. “There is nothing that can’t be resolved.”

Other negotiators offered both positive and negative assessments. Top Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov and Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said in recent days that technical work was nearly done. But French officials said the opposite, declaring the sides far from any agreement.

Kerry was departing later Saturday to meet with European allies in London, before returning to Washington, in part to ensure unity. Kerry said the U.S. and its five negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — are “united in our goal, our approach, our resolve and our determination.”

But France, which raised last minute objections to an interim agreement reached with Iran in 2013, could threaten a deal again. It is particularly opposed to providing Iran with quick relief from international sanctions and wants a longer timeframe for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity.

France is looking to stiffen the backbones of their colleagues by objecting to Kerry moving the goal posts on sanctions. We’ve gone from a position where sanctions would be lifted gradually over a 10-year period to major sanctions on the Iranian oil and finance industries being lifted in a matter of weeks following this framework agreement.

But it’s not likely the French will blow up an agreement for any reason. They don’t want to be faced with the decision to bomb Iran any more than Obama does. They will hope for the best but plan for the worst on an Iranian nuclear program.

Negotiations have been suspended until March 26 — not doubt to give the western nations time to figure out how to spin this deal to make it palatable to those too stupid to know otherwise. So, unless hard liners in Tehran torpedo a deal by putting pressure on Supreme Leader Khamenei to reject it, there is a likelihood of an “historic” agreement with the crazies in Iran.

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Is Anyone Watching Television Anymore?

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

For the fifth straight month, television ratings have declined by double digits over what they were a year ago.

What had started as a gradual slide as Netflix cut into traditional TV viewing habits has become a tsunami as Hulu, Amazon, and other streaming video services compete in a growing market of younger “cord cutters.”

The New York Post reports:

“It’s clear the downward spiral in TV ratings continues with no end in sight,” media analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note on Friday.

Overall prime-time broadcast network ratings were off 12 percent last month compared to a year ago, while cable networks dropped 11 percent, according to his report.

Nathanson looked at so-called C3 ratings, which come in later than traditional ratings. They measure average commercial viewership in shows up to three days after the original air date via DVR playback.

While a couple of networks that carried the Super Bowl and the Olympics last year clearly suffered because of tougher comparisons, almost every channel was hurting.

Looking at total-day C3 ratings, only three networks boosted their audience: HGTV, Discovery and TBS, while TNT, History and Nickelodeon fell the most.

Typically, TV ad sales executives can increase prices to compensate for a ratings decline, citing scarcity. But Nathanson said seismic changes are pressuring networks to hold the line on pricing.

Although some of the ratings declines can be blamed on changes to Nielsen’s measuring methods, among other changes, “we believe these terrible ratings trends are also indicative of changing viewership habits,” he wrote.

The numbers underscore the rapid changes in how TV viewers are consuming content.

Americans are increasingly watching TV shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon streaming and other services. Some 40 percent of households now have subscription video service, Nielsen reported earlier this week.

We are rapidly approaching a tipping point and no one really knows what’s on the other side of the divide. The device — the television — will still be with us. It’s still far and away the primary choice for viewing, far outstripping phones and tablets. But what happens to the content?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sony is in advanced negotiations with at least three streaming services for the rights to the Seinfeld series. The asking price may be as high as $100 million:

Among the bidders chasing the rights to the “show about nothing” are Hulu, Amazon and Yahoo. The deal could fetch a price well north of half a million dollars per episode, the people said. There are 180 Seinfeld episodes.

Netflix, which last year took a hard look at “Seinfeld,” is taking a pass on the show, a person familiar with the matter said.

Reruns of “Seinfeld have been on local TV stations and the cable channel TBS for years, but the buyers believe it has potential to continue that run for another several years on the Web. There, it could hold appeal for a generation of cord-cutters who can’t catch Seinfeld episodes on cable, and will allow users to search for their favorite episodes on-demand.

Landing the online video rights could elevate the stature of Hulu, Amazon and Yahoo, all of whom are in the large shadow of Netflix.

When Netflix acquired “Friends” last year from Warner Bros., it paid more than $500,000 per-episode, a person with knowledge of the deal said. Sony is seeking a higher price than what Warner Bros. received for “Friends.”

The price will depend, in part, on the length of the deal. The “Friends” agreement with Netflix runs for four years, which may be too short for some of the “Seinfeld” bidders. One suitor said a price tag higher than “Friends” doesn’t make sense if the contract is for less than ten years.

An agreement with an online video service would not mean the end of “Seinfeld” repeats on other outlets. “Friends” remains in heavy rotation on TBS even though Netflix has the rights and does not have commercials. Despite the addition of “Friends” to Netflix, ratings for the reruns on TBS have held steady.

There are no exclusivity deals for shows like Seinfeld now, largely because streaming services don’t have that kind of clout. But the time is approaching when the only place you’ll be able to watch some of your favorite shows will be on one streaming service or another. And that’s when the real scramble for customers will begin.

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Carville Suggests Political Motive Behind Hillary’s Destruction of Emails

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

James Carville, former aide to President Clinton, told ABC’s This Week that Hillary Clinton not only used a private email account for convenience, but that she also wanted to hide her emails from the Republican opposition.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Carville defended Clinton, saying her e-mail practices were legal. But, he added, she may also have had prying Republican eyes in mind when she chose to do business through a private e-mail server.

“I suspect she didn’t want Louie Gohmert rifling though her e-mails, which seems to me to be a kind of reasonable position for someone to take,” Carville said.

Gohmert, an outspoken conservative from Texas, serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Speaking at a press conference last week last week, Clinton said she chose to use just one e-mail account when she was secretary of state because it was more convenient.

“I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal e-mails instead of two,” she said. She has turned over all work-related messages to the State Department for review and release, she said, and discarded thousands of other messages deemed personal.

The sense of entitlement shared by both Carville and Clinton is breathtaking. There is a belief that rules that everyone else must follow are not made for them. The law doesn’t matter, apparently. What matters is Hillary’s political fortunes.

It is not “reasonable” to disobey the law because you didn’t want to be politically damaged or embarrassed. What an extraordinary thing for Carville to say. It’s not relevant what Carville thinks of Rep. Gohmert — he’s an elected representative of the people and, like it or not, is entitled to see any relevant information from the former secretary of State that would allow him to do his job.

The hell of it is, if a Republican in a similar position wanted to hide their emails for any reason, Carville would be out front and center screaming for blood. He may have thought he was doing Hillary a favor by hinting that she was trying to hide her emails from evil conservatives, but all he’s done is suggest that political calculus was the real motive for Clinton’s deception.

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You Won’t Believe What Canadian Leftists Are Saying About the New Anti-Terrorism Bill

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has introduced an anti-terrorism bill in parliament that has given the left the vapors.

Indeed, they’re so upset they can’t think straight. Or maybe they haven’t read the bill. Or perhaps they’re so toweringly ignorant they don’t have a clue what terrorism is, or who is at fault.

It’s got to be something. The video below shows some of the most outrageous acts of stupidity you will ever see on film.

The Rebel:

Did you know Bill C-51 will make it illegal to grow garlic in your own backyard? That Canadian cops are the new dope-smoking Gestapo?

When I interviewed protesters at the March 14 #StopC51 demonstration in downtown Toronto, that was just one of the more… interesting answers I received to some pretty simple questions about the Harper government’s proposed anti-terror legislation.

You may not know whether to laugh or cry while watching this footage of Canada’s Left, in their own unedited words.

So much of this video is priceless, beginning with the aging hippies trying to sing the old Buffalo Springfield hit “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, hey what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down”).

Members of the Young Communist League were particularly giggle-worthy (“poverty is terrorism”) and the old German guy who said that prime minister reminded him of Hitler and the Gestapo because he was there. (He no doubt spent his youth giving the Nazi salute and screaming “Heil Hitler!”.) And, as an extra added attraction, the clueless stoner.

No one appeared to have read the bill. No one knew what was really in it. No one had a clue what they were protesting.

A typical day for typically ignorant leftists.

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Walker a Hit in New Hampshire

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took his shadow campaign on the road to New Hampshire this morning, addressing a large crowd in the Concord High School gym.

WKOW reports that he received an enthusiastic reception from the crowd — including a standing ovation after the speech. Not so happy to see him were union protestors who stood outside the venue chanting “Stop the war on workers” and “Scott Walker: stop trashing the middle class.”

If Walker runs and becomes the GOP nominee, you can expect organized labor to go all out all over the country to defeat him. And this time for labor, it will be personal.

Otherwise, Walker was well received, and the crowd was attentive as the governor tried out themes and issues for the coming campaign.

The Hill:

Walker kicked off his speech by touting his close geography growing up near fellow Republican Wisconsin natives Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, and Rep. Paul Ryan, recalling that he and Ryan “both flipped hamburgers as kids at McDonald’s.”

Walker’s speech relied on familiar themes, touting reforms during his tenure in Wisconsin to argue that success should be measured “by how many people who are no longer dependent on the government.”

He also suggested his two sons could take off a semester of college to campaign with him, should he run.

Fielding a question on whether he would abolish the federal income tax, Walker said the idea “sounds pretty interesting” but stopped short of giving it his endorsement, emphasizing cuts in other areas of the government.

Presented with a blue baseball cap from a pro-gun member of the audience asking about foreign policy, Walker immediately strapped the hat on his head and threw up an air rifle pose, grinning.

Walker said the biggest national security threat facing the U.S. was” radical Islamic terrorism.”

“I am not proposing to engage full-scale boots on the ground, but I’m not taking that off the table,” he said.

“We need a president who will do whatever it takes,” Walker said. “We need to have a clear mission and we need to follow through on that mission.”

Criticizing President Obama, Walker said the U.S. has “an ally in Israel, and we should start acting like it.”

He also took aim at presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, saying she was among those who “I think believe that you grow the economy in Washington.” He also dinged her gift of reset button to Russia as secretary of State.

“Let this be a time in history where we can look back and tell future generations what we did to make America great again,” he concluded.

This appears to be a developing theme for Walker:

Walker also took aim at Democratic President Barack Obama and polices he said measured success based on how many people were dependent on the government.

“We should measure success on just the opposite, on how many are not dependent on the government,” Walker said.

This is the kind of thing that drives liberals crazy and is red meat for conservatives. It never fails to get a huge round of applause.

Here are a few excerpts from the speech today.

In more formal settings, Walker is still a little stiff. But in these town hall type forums, he appears relaxed and on his game. The frontrunner moniker sits very easily on his shoulders and he’s getting very good at making a connection with his audience at an emotional level.

It was Walker’s first visit to New Hampshire since 2012. He promised to return “many times” in the future.

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Kurds Claim Islamic State Used Chlorine Gas

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council is claiming that Islamic State forces have used chemical weapons against their soldiers.

And they say they have the evidence to prove it.

This is not the first allegation that IS has used gas against the Kurds. Last October, Iraqi officials claimed ISIS militants may have used chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in late September in the towns of Balad and Duluiya.

This particular incident occurred in late January and involved a suicide truck bomb.

New York Times:

The allegation by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, stemming from a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq, did not immediately draw a reaction from the Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. However, Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made similar allegations about the militants using the low-grade chemical weapons against them.

In a statement, the council said the alleged chemical attack took place on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the Syrian border, as peshmerga forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by the Sunni militants. It said its fighters later found “around 20 gas canisters” that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.

Video provided by the council showed a truck racing down a road, white smoke pouring out of it as it came under heavy fire from peshmerga fighters. It later showed a white, billowing cloud after the truck exploded and the remnants of it scattered across a road.

An official with the Kurdish council told The Associated Press that dozens of peshmerga fighters were treated for “dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness” after the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the incident.

The Kurds say samples of clothing and soil from the site were analyzed by an unnamed lab in an unnamed coalition partner nation, which found chlorine traces.

“The fact ISIS relies on such tactics demonstrates it has lost the initiative and is resorting to desperate measures,” the Kurdish government said in the statement, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni militant group.

There was no independent confirmation of the Kurds’ claim. Peter Sawczak, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has monitored Syria dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile, said his group had not been asked to investigate the attack.

It appears that these weapons are crudely constructed. But that won’t lessen their ability to kill and maim a lot of soldiers. More to the point, they are terror weapons, designed to inflict maximum fear in the opposing army. Using them gives Islamic State a psychological edge on the battlefield.

Chlorine is the poor man’s WMD. And given the likelihood that IS is in possession of large quantities of the gas, defeating them on the ground has become even more difficult than it already was.

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72-Year-Old Catholic Nun Gang-Raped in India

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

An elderly nun in eastern India was brutally gang-raped by eight men.

The rapists entered the Convent of Jesus and Mary School, robbed the premises, then broke into the convent itself. They then trashed the school and convent, vandalized the church, and broke into the tabernacle stealing the chalice containing the sacrament.

Gang rapes have become disturbingly common in India in recent years. But the desecration of the church and convent is a reflection of a growing anti-Christian sentiment in India. Meeting last month, Indian bishops expressed concern about the growing level of violence directed at Christians. Five Delhi churches have been vandalized in recent months.

The first church attack in Delhi occurred on December 1 with the burning of St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden, east Delhi. A week later, unidentified persons threw stones at Our Lady of Fatima Forane Church Jasola, near Okhla in south Delhi, and broke its window panes during the evening Mass.

On January 3, a mysterious fire reduced to ashes a Christmas crib kept inside the premises of the Church of Resurrection in Rohini, north Delhi. The fourth incident occurred when unknown assailants vandalized the Marian Grotto at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Vikaspuri. In this case, the recordings of the CCTV cameras helped police to identify the culprits.

The rape of the elderly nun is only the latest outrage:

The men escaped with some cash, a cellphone, a laptop computer and a camera, all belonging to the school, the officer said. They also ransacked the school’s chapel and holy items, the Press Trust of India news agency cited the archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D’Souza, as saying.

Scores of angry students, their parents and teachers blocked a nearby highway and railroad tracks for several hours demanding swift police action leading to the arrest of the culprits.

Mamta Banerjee, the state’s top elected official, strongly condemned the attack and ordered a high-level police investigation. D’Souza appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony in the area.

India has a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, but the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi caused outrage across the nation.

The outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.

Some analysts in India have suggested that the violence against Christians can be traced to the rise of Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata (BJP). Indeed, in some cases the coming to power of Modi’s party appears to have emboldened Hindu fanatics:

Since the rise to power of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ethnic-religious minorities of India speak of an increase in attacks and discrimination against them. Often, the attacks also target the “intimate” sphere of the faith. This is the case of the case Pramod Sahu, the Christian owner of a garage, who January 24 last was attacked by about 25 Hindu extremists because he kept hanging an image of Jesus in his shop. Police have not arrested anyone. “The police reluctance to investigate – Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told AsiaNews – is a huge problem and a violation of our judicial system. In addition to yet another injustice against the minority Christian “.

It may be jumping to conclusions to place the entire blame for the increased number of attacks on Christians on the BJP. There are socio-economic and cultural factors at work as well.

But Modi doesn’t appear to be doing much about it, which fuels fear among Christians that the authorities won’t enforce the law when it comes to threats against the Christian community.

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Restaurants in Seattle Going Dark as $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Looms

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I like this simple, elegant explanation from Reason’s Ronald Bailey about the value of labor and the minimum wage:

If all other factors remain equal, the higher the price of a good, the less people will demand it. That’s the law of demand, a fundamental idea in economics. And yet there is no shortage of politicians, pundits, policy wonks, and members of the public who insist that raising the price of labor will not have the effect of lessening the demand for workers. In his 2014 State of the Union Address, for example, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. He argued that increasing the minimum wage would “grow the economy for everyone” by giving “businesses customers with more spending money.”

A January 2015 working paper by two economists, Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, claims that raising the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 per hour over a four-year transition period would not necessarily result in “shedding jobs.” The two acknowledge that the “raising the price of anything will reduce demand for that thing, all else equal.” But they believe they’ve found a way to “relax” the all-else-being-equal part, at least as far as the wages of fast food workers go. Pollin and Wicks-Lim argue that “the fast-food industry could fully absorb these wage bill increases through a combination of turnover reductions; trend increases in sales growth; and modest annual price increases over the four-year period.” They further claim that a $15/hour minimum wage would not result in lower profits or the reallocation of funds away from other operations, such as marketing. Amazing.

Seattle is going to put that theory to a real world test. Starting April 1, businesses in the city will be forced to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour, reaching $15 an hour by 2017 for large businesses and 2019 for smaller companies. There are allowances if a business offers health insurance benefits, but all businesses will be paying employees $15 an hour in salary, tips, or benefits by 2021.

This has caused great consternation among Seattle area eateries – not just fast food places.

Shift Washington:

Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law goes into effect on April 1, 2015. As that date approaches, restaurants across the city are making the financial decision to close shop. The Washington Policy Center writes that “closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront.”

Of course, restaurants close for a variety of reasons. But, according to Seattle Magazine, the “impending minimum wage hike to $15 per hour” is playing a “major factor.” That’s not surprising, considering “about 36% of restaurant earnings go to paying labor costs.” Seattle Magazine,

“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”

“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.

“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”

Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”

A spokesman for the Washington Restaurant Association told the Washington Policy Center, “Every [restaurant] operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like… Seattle is the first city in this thing and everyone’s watching, asking how is this going to change?”

By decoupling the value of labor from the real world of supply and demand, the consequences are a reduction in the overall value of labor and the forced increase in prices that will lessen demand. If your electric, gas, water, phone, and other overhead costs go up 35%, you are going to be forced to raise prices on your products, and reduce your workforce numerically as well as the number of hours worked per employee. Why would an increase of that magnitude in labor costs not result in the same outcome?

Bailey chalks up this nonsense to economic ignorance. Hard to disagree with that. Relying on crackpot theories to push this ruinous policy will soon be shown to be a monumental mistake. Not only will restaurants and other small businesses be forced to close. But there will be few entrepreneurs willing to take a chance and open a business in the city.

That means a net loss in jobs and economic activity. But for the rich voters in King County, that hardly matters. It’s so “progressive” to pay someone a wage unrelated to the value of their work. Too bad those who can least afford to be a casualty of this progressive experiment will suffer the most.

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Suspect in Nemtsov Assassination Cornered, Blows Himself Up

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Things relating to the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov are getting curiouser and curiouser.

The sixth man sought in the killings was cornered in Grozny, Chechnya and promptly blew himself up.

Beslan Shavanov, 30, was holed up in a building in Grozny when police arrived to arrest him Saturday afternoon, Russia 24 reported. Police surrounded the building and Shavano tried to escape, throwing a grenade at police officers before blowing himself up, the station said.

The news came as Russian authorities reported making five other arrests in connection with Boris Nemtsov’s killing.

One of those arrested claims to have an alibi, according to Russia’s Sputnik News.

“At the time of the murder, I was at work as I usually am every day. There are many people, my colleagues, who will confirm this,” the news agency quoted Tamerlan Eskerkhanov as saying in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court.

Two of the suspects have been formally charged and three “remain under the status of suspects,” court spokeswoman Anna Fadeyeva told Sputnik.

Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, was shot in the back on a Moscow bridge as he walked with his girlfriend near the Kremlin in late February.

Surveillance video showed someone darting from the sidewalk and into a nearby car right after Nemtsov collapsed.

Putin has been informed of the arrests in connection with Nemtsov’s death, Russian media said, citing Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov.

Two of the other suspects are Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev, Bortnikov said in a televised statement. The others are Ramzan Bakhayev and Shagit Gubashev, Anzor’s younger brother, according to a Sputnik report that also said Dadayev was the only one of the five to plead guilty — though to what crimes was not clear.

Bortnikov said those detained are from the southern region of the North Caucasus, which for years has been a hotbed of unrest and rebellion against Moscow.

For the record, Nemtsov was a vocal opponent of the war in Chechnya. But what if the assassination was an attack by Islamic terrorists?

The Guardian is reporting that the Chechen policeman who confessed, Zaur Dadayev, is an associate of Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. He is also a Muslim:

Zaur Dadayev, a Chechen, was one of five men to appear in a Moscow courtroom on Sunday, all from Russia’s north Caucasus region.

“Dadayev’s involvement in committing this crime is confirmed by, apart from his own confession, the totality of evidence gathered as part of this criminal case,” said Judge Natalia Mushnikova.

Dadayev raised his index finger in the courtroom, a common Islamist sign, and said “I love the prophet Mohammed”, according to reporters present.

“I knew Zaur as a genuine Russian patriot,” the Chechen leader wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday evening, confirming that Dadayev had served in one of his battalions. “He was the deputy commander of the battalion, and one of the most fearless and courageous soldiers of the regiment.”

Kadyrov said Dadayev was “fully devoted to Russia” and suggested the murder may have been in response to anger over Nemtsov’s support for the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

“Everyone who knows Zaur says he is deeply religious person and like all Muslims was very shocked by the actions of Charlie [Hebdo] and by comments supporting the printing of the caricatures,” wrote Kadyrov. “If the court finds Dadayev guilty then by killing a person he has committed a grave crime. But I want to note that he could not do anything that was against Russia, for which he has risked his own life for many years.”

So the tangled web of associations in this case continues to confuse and obfuscate the truth. It’s almost like someone planned it that way.

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Dem Rep. Grayson Accuses Estranged Wife of Bigamy

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Bomb throwing Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson is in the midst of a nasty, nasty divorce case win which he has accused his wife of bigamy while she counters with accusations of financial abandonment.

To top this weird affair off, neither party has been able to find Mrs. Grayson’s first husband, Robert Carson. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll lay low until it’s settled.

Associated Press:

Rep. Alan Grayson says his wife, Lolita, was still married to Robert Carson when she and the multimillionaire congressman married in 1990 in Virginia. Grayson, a Democrat and highly successful trial lawyer, said the marriage to Carson wasn’t dissolved until 1994 in Broward County, Florida.

But Lolita Grayson says she divorced Carson in Guam in 1981, and she disputes that she was divorced in Broward County. She also said she isn’t the “Lolita B. Carson” cited in a dissolution of marriage final judgment that Alan Grayson, 56, says is proof that she was still married to Carson when they wed. Neither side has found Carson.

If the marriage is annulled, Alan Grayson would avoid having the court divide personal property or decide whether he owes Lolita Grayson alimony. In court papers, Lolita Grayson puts her husband’s worth at $31 million.

An outspoken liberal, Grayson gained national attention during the debates over health care reform when he said the Republicans’ opposing plan was “don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”

Besides bigamy, the divorce has featured mutual allegations of battery, accusations by Lolita Grayson of financial abandonment by the congressman and a trial delay caused by Lolita Grayson’s leaking breast implants.

During a recent pretrial hearing, when attorneys were arguing over who had access to the couple’s financial documents, Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc likened the scenario to the well-known Netflix political drama.

“This is starting to sound like ‘House of Cards,’” LeBlanc said.

Attorneys at the hearing suggested that politics, in part, may be preventing any effort to reach a quiet, confidential settlement that the judge hinted is the best option for both Graysons.

“When lies are told about you and you’re in the media, your detractors are going to use it and use it forever more. You have to neutralize that and the only way to do that is to get the truth out,” said Mark NeJame, one of Grayson’s attorneys.

When the judge said that both sides had “calmed down” from the initial acrimony of last year’s divorce filing, NeJame shot back, “Except the Republican Party.”

Lolita Grayson’s attorney, Mark Longell, said the congressman was going to “drag her through the mud” so that he doesn’t look bad.

It’s hard not to look bad when you’ve got leaky breast implants.

Grayson is a despicable politician and apparently not much of a man. Lolita Grayson appears to be a real harridan, who obviously wants to soak her rich husband and pry every penny she can from him. The two deserve each other, and both deserve the most wildly contentious, vicious, scratch and claw divorce that money can buy.

Paging Robert Carson…Are you there, Robert?

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Some Surprising Thoughts on Race from Former UK Rights Chief

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Trevor Phillips, who was head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission under Tony Blair, has some second thoughts on believing that preventing people from expressing prejudiced views will make the prejudice go away.

Daily Mail:

In an upcoming Channel 4 documentary, called Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True, he says attempts to stop prejudice instead encouraged abuse and endangered lives as well as contributed to the rise of parties like Ukip.

In the 75-minute documentary, he delves into Britain’s racial tensions and stereotypes as well as hostilities towards immigrants.

He explains: ‘It was my job to to make sure that different racial and religious groups got on.

‘Campaigners like me seriously believed that if we could prevent people expressing prejudiced ideas then eventually they would stop thinking them.

‘But now I’m convinced we were utterly wrong.’

Mr Phillips, a Labour party member, says anti-racism began with good intentions but turned into ‘thought control’.

He says the London 2005 bombing by British Muslims, forced him to do rethink his views.

Now, he insists that only a willingness to talk more openly about race, despite risk of causing offence, will help those in need.

‘This film points to ways in which we can say what’s on our minds without being accused of being bigots.’

Channel 4 head of specialist factual David Glover, who commissioned the documentary, said: ‘This film contains some very uncomfortable facts about race.

‘Trevor Phillips now strongly believes that it’s important to get them out there, so ultimately we can understand and tackle them.

‘Trevor is arguably the best-qualified person in the country to examine these issues,’ he continued.

‘What’s fascinating is that having thought so deeply about them, he now has a very different approach to the subject than he used to.’

Remarkable. Would that such a revelation could come over some of our more passionate racialists in this country. Phillips dares to say what no one — black or white, right or left — in this country would say; that government can’t legislate or regulate the way someone thinks. And trying to shame someone for not thinking “correctly” about race doesn’t work.

He also realizes that anti-discrimination efforts turned into “thought control” — something most of our students on college campuses are familiar with.

The big problem with Phillips’s solution if applied to the US is that you need two people who are sincere about discussing racial issues. The left is rarely sincere about discussing any racial issue unless you proceed using their base assumptions; white people are always guilty, people of color can do no wrong, and that all whites are racist — even if they don’t know it. “Check your privilege” has cut off any rational discussion of race — which is exactly what the left wants.

Phillips has made a fascinating conversion to rationality on race issues. But given the political advantage the left perceives itself to have on the issue, don’t expect any such thing to happen here.

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Biden Says Denying Climate Change like ‘Denying Gravity’

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

What happens if Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency goes completely off the rails? Admittedly, a long shot, but if it does, one of the favorites to replace her is Vice President Joe Biden.

The walking gaffe machine whose roaming hands have been the subject of serious analysis was at it again yesterday when he claimed that denying that global warming is occurring is the same thing as denying that gravity exists.

Washington Times:

Vice President Joe Biden slammed those who question climate change, saying that ignoring the scientific evidence is “almost like denying gravity now.”

“I think it’s close to mindless,” Mr. Biden said in a preview clip for the upcoming season of HBO’s Vice.

The vice president pointed specifically to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy as an example of how climate change is making the world’s weather patterns more severe.

The leading global warming authority on the planet, the IPCC, contradicts Biden’s claim that climate change is making weather more severe. Their most recent assessment (AR5) downplays any links between climate change and extreme weather.

“All of a sudden people who were saying it couldn’t happen; they’re now knowing they have to plan for another one of these storms, and another and another and another,” Mr. Biden said, Mediaite reported Friday.

Florida has gone 8 years without a hurricane making landfall. Roger Pielke, recently targeted by Democrats for his mild global warming skepticism, wrote in USA Today, “…from 1900 through 2013, the United States experienced a decrease in hurricane landfalls of more than 20%, and the strength of each year’s landfalling storms has also decreased by more than 20%.”

He also pointed to Wall Street financial institutions that are starting to plan and make investments based on the effects of climate change.

“When the financial institutions begin to price in the cost of carbon for cost of doing business, you know it’s reality,” Mr. Biden said.

Wall Street is reacting to the EPA’s planned rules on CO2 emissions, not to climate change. They are betting on winners and losers in the carbon race, not on whether global warming is going to happen or not.

The thought of this guy in the Oval Office is about as chilling as it gets.

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Russia Arrests Two Men in Nemtsov Killing

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Authorities in Russia announced that they’ve arrested two men from the Caucuses in connection with the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He was gunned down on a bridge in Moscow last week.

The two men were identified as Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev. Their nationality and religion are unknown. The region of the Caucuses in which they live is known for separatist activity and is a hot spot of organized crime.

Russian media is reporting two other suspects have been taken into custody: Gubashev’s younger brother and a man who was in the same car with Dadayev at the time of the arrest.

Christian Science Monitor:

Two suspects are in custody over last week’s killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov – the first sign of progress in the case.

Russian authorities have detained Anzor Gubashev and Zaur Dadayev, two men from the volatile and insurgency-plagued North Caucasus region in southern Russia, according to Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service.

“The individuals detained are, according to our investigation, involved in the organization and execution of the killing of Boris Nemtsov,” the committee leading the investigation said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Bortnikov gave no details of how and where the suspects were detained, but he reportedly said Saturday that President Vladimir Putin has been informed of the detainment and that the investigation is ongoing.

The two men in custody are the first signs of any headway in the case since Mr. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a fierce critic of Mr. Putin, was killed as he walked home on the evening of Feb. 27. Nemtsov was shot four times in the back, within sight of the Kremlin, in the “most high-profile killing of an opposition figure in Putin’s 15-year rule,” according to Reuters.

Some 50,000 people attended a rally to protest the murder Sunday, and thousands more paid their respects when Nemtsov was buried in Moscow Tuesday.
A car and a camera

Neither Mr. Gubashev nor Mr. Dadayev have been formally charged, making it unclear whether either of the men are alleged to have fired the fatal shot. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the suspects were identified through phone records along with evidence found in a car they purportedly used, according to the BBC.

Anna Duritskaya, Nemtsov’s Ukrainian girlfriend who was with him the night of his death, has told authorities she saw nothing of the assailants – only a white car, the Financial Times reported.

What are the odds of Russian security picking up the real killers of Nemtsov? In the crazy cloud cuckoo land that is Russia under Putin, it’s impossible to say. The Russian government has been hinting in recent days that the U.S. is behind the assassination, looking to discredit Putin and weaken Russia. That kind of convoluted thinking plays well in Russia with ordinary people who would believe Putin if he told them up was down and black was white.

In truth, Putin has a variety of patsies he could hang this crime on. Muslims, separatists, the mob — RT, the Russian government news site, reports that the security service is even considering Nemtsov’s business activities and a possible assault related to his personal life.

Where the FSB will not look is anywhere close to Vladimir Putin.

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At Planet Fitness, Don’t Complain About Transgender ‘Women’ in the Locker Room

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I don’t know what’s scarier about this story — that a woman lost her membership at Planet Fitness because she complained about a transgender woman in her locker room or the fitness club’s “no judgment zone” policy.

It’s incidents like this that convince me that in the near future, public spaces will be forced by government to build “mens’” rooms, “ladies’” rooms,” and a “choose your sex” room. And the demand for that will not come from transgender people but from straights, who will refuse to put up with the farce that someone can literally “decide” their own sex.

The woman who lost her Planet Fitness membership is genuinely perplexed:

It’s a business that sells itself on being non-judgmental but Planet Fitness has allegedly revoked the membership of a woman for complaining.

Yvette Cormier, a member at the Midland location, says she had no idea what that meant until a few days ago.

“I was stunned and shocked. He looked like a man.. He did not look like a woman,” Cormier said. Cormier is talking about a transgender woman who walked into the woman’s locker room while she was getting undressed. She says she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“This is very unprofessional. This is very scary,” Cormier said.

Not knowing why the person was in the women’s locker room, Cormier said she immediately complained to the front desk and eventually to corporate offices.

“They told me the same thing, that he was allowed in there because that’s the sex he wants to be,” Cormier said.

Cormier said she understands that some men self-identify as women and some women self-identify as men, but said the person looked like a man and that caught her off guard.

Cormier lost her membership for violating the company’s no judgement zone policy.

Moving forward, Cormier said she isn’t concerned with getting her membership back. Her concern now is to warn other women at this gym to make them aware of this policy, because she says Planet Fitness failed to warn her.

The company told TV5 that Cormier’s concerns about the policy regarding gender identity was inappropriate and disruptive by complaining to other members at the gym.

It’s “inappropriate” to worry about a biological man in a woman’s locker room? Pay no attention to that woman with the thing dangling between her legs. She’s harmless…really.

Madness.

Speaking of lunacy, here’s the Planet Fitness statement on the matter:

“Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity.

In expressing her concerns about the policy, the member in question exhibited behavior that club management deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was ccanceled”

“Sincere, self-reported gender identity”? So if a sexual predator applies for membership and sincerely self-reports (whatever the hell that means) that despite the presence of male equipment, they are really a woman trapped in a man’s body, they are issued a membership card and allowed to go into the women’s locker room and take their time picking their next victim.

You have to understand the beyond bizarre reasoning behind all of this transgender nonsense.

Several somewhat ambiguous and possibly overlapping definitions can be found for the two terms: transgender and transsexual. Harry Benjamin invented a classification system for transsexuals and transvestites; he called his system the Sex Orientation Scale (SOS). In the SOS, Benjamin assigns transsexuals and transvestites to one of six categories based on their reasons for crossdressing, and the relative urgency of their need (if any) for sex reassignment surgery.[16] Many transsexuals believe that to be a true transsexual, a person needs to have a desire for surgery.[17] However, Benjamin’s moderate intensity “true transsexual” needs either estrogen or testosterone as a “substitute for or preliminary to operation.”[16] There are also people who have had sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), but do not meet the definition of a transsexual,[18][19] while other people do not desire SRS, yet clearly meet Benjamin Scale definition of a “true transsexual”, such as Miriam Rivera.

In addition to the larger categories of transgender and transsexual, there is a wide range of gender expressions and identities which are contrary to the mainstream male-female binary. These include cross dressers, drag queens, drag kings, transvestites, genderqueer, etc. Some people take issue with transsexual because Virginia Charles Prince, who started the magazine Transvestia and built up the cross-dressing organization Tri-Ess, used transgender to distinguish cross-dressers from gay, bisexual and transsexual people.[20] In “Men Who Choose to Be Women,” Prince wrote “I, at least, know the difference between sex and gender and have simply elected to change the latter and not the former.”[21]

The entire idiotic invention is based on the idea that “sex” is biological” but “gender” is a choice. Fine. If you want to self-identify as a neuter, none of my business, go ahead. Just don’t ask anyone else to play along with your fantasy. Why should the overwhelming majority of us who are normal, bread and butter, apple pie men or women and aren’t confused about what our gender be forced by runaway political correctness (and soon, no doubt, the law) to accommodate those who, for whatever reason, have chosen a different means of sexual self-expression? They should accommodate us, not the other way around.

Society should not be turned upside down by this small, subset of people — some of them, almost certainly mentally ill. You can choose to live your life any way you wish, without interference from government or anyone else. But to demand that the overwhelming majority of society change the way they live and give approval to your self-actualized gender identity is madness.

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Hey Kids! Let’s Put on a ‘Communism-Themed’ Prom!

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

High school seniors at a school in Albuquerque have voted to hold a “Communism-themed” prom this spring.

The smart aleks who dreamed this up are enjoying nationwide attention today — just as they planned it. They are calling the event “prom-munism,” so it’s not likely a reflection of their brainwashing by left-wing educators but rather an indication of the time honored tradition of high school kids acting subversively in order to get a rise out of the adults.

KRQE News:

They’re calling it “prom-munism.” Seniors at an Albuquerque school want their prom to have a Communism theme. Seniors at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School near I-25 and Paseo del Norte voted online this week for the theme of their prom this year.

“They wanted prom-munism, so that’s what got voted for the most,” said senior Sarah Zachary.

She voted for “A Night in the Reef,” because the prom is expected to take place at the Albuquerque Aquarium on April 25.

“We have a lot of jokesters in our grade, so they wanted it to be funny and a lot of them are really intense with politics,” Zachary said.

However, students who asked to remain anonymous don’t believe Communism is a joking matter.

“I would hope Cottonwood would realize the seriousness of having a very powerful and destructive idea as the theme for a prom,” one student wrote.

Another said, “While the seniors meant no harm in their choice of theme, it is not appropriate.”

“Our students are in the International Baccalaureate program, so they are very academically focused,” said Sam Obenshain, executive director at Cottonwood. “One of the classes they enjoy the most is a world history class.”

Obenshain said, despite the vote, this is not a done deal. He said he plans to talk with the students about it next week.

“We want to make sure we honor the students’ voices but at the same time we use this as a learning experience for them,” Obenshain said.

At this point, he and many students aren’t even quite sure what “prom-munism” is supposed to look like.

“I honestly don’t think it’s that funny,” said Cole Page, a sophomore.

I wonder what the reaction of the executive director would have been if the students had voted for a “KKK-themed” prom or a prom based on an al-Qaeda theme. You can find any number of murderous ideologies to develop a theme around to decorate a prom. And ideologies don’t get much more murderous than Communism.

These are obviously smart kids who know a hot button issue when they see it. But every single one of those kids was born after Communism had largely disappeared and the brutality of Communist regimes had been mostly forgotten. Do they even know about the Gulags? Are they aware of the Chinese Cultural Revolution? Does the name Stalin mean anything to them?

My guess is that their “World History” course either glossed over the atrocities committed in the name of advancing international socialism or they learned a sanitized version of this history. You can bet they didn’t learn about the “shared scarcity” of Communist countries or that they probably would have had to wait years to purchase a phone or an iPad. If they had, they would have dropped any silly, romantic notions of Communism quicker than you can say “smart phone.”

Irreverence and committing subversive acts is part of being a teenager. We get it. But school administrators should step in and squash this noxious idea immediately.

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Flashback: Bibi in 2011 Joint Congressional Session Speech

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The same moral clarity. The same penetrating insight. The same plea to stop “militant Islam.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance on May 24, 2011, before a joint session of Congress was, if anything, even more enthusiastically received than his speech today.

When the White House scoffed that Netanyahu had “nothing new” to say, they were absolutely right. But that’s because this administration has failed utterly to heed his warnings about Iran and has doubled down by opening negotiations that would acknowledge Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and, by extension, construct a nuclear bomb to threaten Israel.

Here’s Bibi in 2011:

When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam.

Now, I have no doubt — I’m absolutely convinced — that it will ultimately be defeated. I believe it will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. It depends on cloistering young minds for a given amount of years, and the process of opening up information will ultimately defeat this movement. But like other fanatacisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact an horrific price from all of us before its eventual demise.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world.

See, I want you to understand what this means, because if we don’t stop it, it’s coming. They could put a bomb anywhere. They could put it in a missile; they’re working on missiles that could reach this city. They could put it on a — on a ship inside a container; could reach every port. They could eventually put it in a suitcase or in a subway.

Now, the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads on the stand. Less than seven decades after 6 million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Leaders who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. (Applause.)

But there’s something that makes the outrage even greater. Do you know what that is? It’s the lack of outrage, because in much of the international community, the call(s) for our destruction are met with utter silence. It’s even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies. Not you. Not America. (Applause.)

You’ve acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran.

History will salute you, America. (Applause.)

We yearn for national leaders with that kind of clarity of thinking. At great risk to his personal political prospects — Israel will hold their elections in 2 weeks — the prime minister came to Washington to plead with his friends to stop this deal before it becomes reality.

Here’s Netanyahu’s entire 2011 address to a joint session of Congress. The quoted part above begins at 13:00 minutes.

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Flashback: Samantha Power Suggests U.S. Invade Israel to Impose Peace

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The report that President Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets attacking Iran may or may not be true.

But the fact is, the president has surrounded himself with people who have no love for the Jewish state. And the idea of the president attacking an ally is a plausible scenario.

One of his closest advisors, Samantha Power, actually suggested back in 2002 that the U.S. invade Israel to impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I had forgotten how truly radical Samantha Powers is. Her casual mentions of “human rights abuses” and “genocide” mark her as an anti-Israel zealot.

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Report: Obama Threatened to Shoot Down Israeli Jets Striking Iran

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Before we get all excited about this report, let’s consider the source: an Arab news outlet quotes a Kuwaiti newspaper that quotes anonymous Israeli officials.

The problem is, even if the report is made up out of whole cloth, no one is laughing. In fact, knowing the president and the people around him, even if the threat never occurred, it wouldn’t surprise any of us if this was a part of the president’s thinking.

Here’s the original report in Ma’an:

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported Saturday that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014.

Al-Jarida newspaper quoted “well-placed” sources as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had taken a decision to carry out airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear program after consultations with his minister of defense Moshe Yaalon and foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the presence of top security commanders.

The decision came, according to al-Jarida, after Israel revealed that the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.

According to the report, Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army’s chief of staff Beni Gants to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran’s nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel’s security.

The sources added that Gants and his commanders prepared the requested plan and that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks in order to make sure the plans would work successfully. Israeli fighter jets even carried out experimental flights in Iran’s airspace after they managed to break through radars.

However, an Israeli minister “who has good ties with the US administration revealed Netanyahu’s plans to Secretary of State John Kerry” and as a result Obama then threatened to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Netanyahu had to abort the operation and since then relations between Israel and the United States have been declining, according to the sources quoted in the report.

If it’s a fantasy, it’s a fairly detailed fantasy. If there is a snitch in Bibi’s inner circle, he would have to be fairly high up in the national security establishment to have knowledge of the raid. If true, the news that Obama found out about the strike must have been most unsettling for the Israeli prime minister.

If I were to try to judge the reliability of this report, I’d place it at less than 50%. Arab “journalism” leaves a lot to be desired and even though Obama shooting down Israeli planes is a plausible scenario, you must either accept the fact that a Kuwaiti newspaper got the scoop of the young century or assume it’s a fake news story.

UN Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power once suggested the U.S. should invade Israel in order to impose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s not hard to envision the mindset that would take that concept one step further and shoot down the planes of an ally trying to protect itself.

But I am very skeptical of this specific scenario having played out.

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Venezuela Detains American Pilot for ‘Coup’ Plot

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The government of Venezuela is escalating their war of words with the United States. Last week, President Nicolas Maduro accused President Obama of plotting to overthrow him — a charge the White House vigorously denied. Later, they detained 4 American missionaries and 5 other US citizens for the same reason.

Now the Venezuelans have arrested an American pilot with “Latino roots” near the Colombian border and charged him with espionage and “recruiting” for a coup against Maduro. The Venezuelan president announced the arrest during a pro government rally that was held as a counter to growing opposition protests being held around the country.

Daily Mail:

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Caracas said he was unable to comment, citing a lack of any official diplomatic communication with the Venezuelan government.

Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s left wing successor, has waged a bitter war of words against the U.S. in recent weeks.

Last week he accused the White House – which he dubbed ‘arrogant Yankees’ – of trying to overthrow him. The Obama administration vehemently denied the charge.

In his latest attack, Maduro said his government will prohibit some U.S. officials from entering Venezuela in retaliation for a similar measure by the government of President Barack Obama against a group of Venezuelan public officials.

He said U.S. tourists will also be subject to hefty visa fees – akin to those Venezuelans must pay to visit America.

The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. Nonetheless, they have continued to exchange diplomatic staff. On Saturday, Maduro said the U.S. has far more officials in Venezuela than his socialist government has in the U.S.

‘They have 100 diplomats and we have 17,’ Maduro said.

In an address that all Venezuelan television and radio stations were required to carry, Maduro addressed Obama directly, saying the U.S. president has ‘arrogantly’ refused to engage in talks to resolve the issues between the two countries.

‘I’m very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end,’ he said.

Maduro asked that the changes regulating diplomats be implemented immediately, within the limits of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Among other things, U.S. diplomats will be required to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry for meetings they conduct here.

The news comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela and a surge in anti-government protests in the capital, Caracas.

He recently called on other Latin American nations to form a coalition to investigate America for ‘human rights violations’.

It is not clear if the pilot is one of the six U.S. nationals arrested recently, all accused of espionage by President Nicolas Maduro.

This kind of pettiness is typical of Maduro, who lacks the charisma of Hugo Chavez but shares his need for dramatic gestures — especially when it comes to sticking it to the US.

Maduro is reacting to rumors of a coup against him. But the US is almost certainly not part of any plot. The Venezuelan military leaders are all handpicked by Maduro so at least the loyalty of the general officers can be counted on. It’s also helpful for Maduro that he can count on his Cuban bodyguards and advisors to remain with him.

The Venezuelan economy is in free fall due to mismanagement and falling oil prices. It appears that both the economy and their president are both in meltdown mode.

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Anatomy of a Smear Gone Sideways

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The feminist website Jezebel thought they had a delicious line of attack against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. They discovered in the Wisconsin budget a couple of lines that indicated Walker wanted to halt the reporting of campus rapes to the state.

Of course, this played perfectly into the “war on women” narrative with the extra added bonus of making Walker look like he was trying to protect rapists.

Several left-wing media outlets picked up on the story and ran with it. Unfortunately for them, the story was bogus. The University of Wisconsin had asked Walker to remove the reporting requirement because they already reported sexual assaults on campus to the US Department of Education.

Jezebel tried the “fake but accurate” defense:

After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker’s camp assures that he’s committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.]

The Daily Beast tried shifting blame:

When The Daily Beast contacted Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel for comment on Friday, his office expressed reservations about Walker’s proposal. His office told The Daily Beast in a statement that the Attorney General “is concerned about some of the provisions in the budget that may reduce information provided to college students and take away reporting requirements. He will work with representatives from UW and the Governor’s office to determine what prompted these changes and to ensure that we provide all of the protection we reasonably can for our college students,” but it is unclear if Schimel’s office was aware of the stated purpose of the provision in question. The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. Our original story should be considered retracted.

Not our fault. The AG misled us! Sheesh.

At least they retracted the story. Jezebel hasn’t.

In their eagerness to smear Governor Walker, the left-wing media jumped to conclusions. What makes the error so egregious, however, is that a simple Google search would have turned up the fact that the state university system had asked that they not be required to report sexual assaults to both the state and the Department of Education.

But the left-wing media couldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good hit piece. They didn’t want to know if the story was true, so they didn’t check.

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Islamic State to Release 29 Christians

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that 29 Assyrian Christians recently captured by Islamic State forces in Northern Syria will be released. The information came to the monitoring group via an Assyrian Christian commander.

The 29 prisoners are just a fraction of the more than 220 Assyrian Christians thought to be held by the terrorists.

There has been no confirmation of the intended release from any other source. If true, it would mark the first time that the terrorists released non-Muslim prisoners.

CNN:

The Syrian Observatory said a self-proclaimed ISIS court ordered the release, and told the commander that the fate of the other kidnapped Assyrians has yet to be decided by ISIS Sharia jurists.

ISIS captured at least 220 Assyrians, all Christians, on February 23 during an attack on the villages around the town of Tal Tamer in the northern Syrian province of al-Hasakah.

The Syrian Observatory said its information indicates ISIS has taken the hostages to the Mount Abdelaziz area, southwest of Tal Tamer.

The founder of the Assyrian Human Rights Network, Osama Edward, puts the number of Assyrian hostages at more than 262. Edward is based in Sweden but has family in the area that was attacked, and says his information is from the network’s team on the ground.

The number of hostages has climbed steadily, from an initial estimate of between 70 and 100 people seized on Monday to 150 as of Wednesday, with women, children and the elderly among them.

The number of people executed by the terrorist group has also climbed steadily.

Since the declaration of its “caliphate” last June, ISIS has killed 1,969 people, the Syrian Observatory said Saturday. Nearly two-thirds of them — 1,238 people — were civilians.

Six were children and eight were women, the group said.

Of the rest, 95 were fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group al-Nusra Front, the Syrian Observatory said, and 511 were officers and soldiers of regime forces.

ISIS also executed 125 of its own members for “exceeding the limits in religion,” the Syrian Observatory said.

Is ISIS getting soft as it ages? Not hardly. Fanatical groups like Islamic State run on their own internal logic and why they would release Christian prisoners cannot be fathomed. Perhaps they were given the chance to convert to Islam. Maybe they’re just playing with the loved ones of the prisoners and will refuse to release them after all.

You can be sure that regret, sympathy, empathy, or a troubled conscience are not the reasons they would release anyone. Those are the emotions of civilized men — a group to which Islamic State cannot lay claim.

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Chicago Nears Fiscal Freefall

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There may be a mayoral runoff going on in the nation’s third largest city, but whichever candidate wins the April 7 contest will probably wish they hadn’t.

Moody’s downgraded Chicago’s rating to just two steps above junk. The action may trigger a series of financial maneuvers with the city’s creditors that could cost tens of millions of dollars.

Chicago is already facing a $300 million structural deficit. The downgrade means they are going to have to spend a lot more to finance that deficit — if they can finance it at all.

Reuters:

Chicago drew closer to a fiscal free fall on Friday with a rating downgrade from Moody’s Investors Service that could trigger the immediate termination of four interest-rate swap agreements, costing the city about $58 million and raising the prospect of more broken swaps contracts.

The downgrade to Baa2, just two steps above junk, and a warning the rating could fall further still, means the third-biggest U.S. city could face even higher costs in the future if banks choose to terminate other interest-rate hedges against fluctuations in interest rates. All told, Chicago holds swaps contracts covering $2.67 billion in debt, according to a disclosure late last year.

“This is an unfortunate wake-up call for anyone still asleep over the fiscal cliff facing the city of Chicago,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based government finance watchdog, The Civic Federation.

Chicago’s finances are already sagging under an unfunded pension liability Moody’s has pegged at $32 billion and that is equal to eight times the city’s operating revenue. The city has a $300 million structural deficit in its $3.53 billion operating budget and is required by an Illinois law to boost the 2016 contribution to its police and fire pension funds by $550 million.

Cost-saving reforms for the city’s other two pension funds, which face insolvency in a matter of years, are being challenged in court by labor unions and retirees.

State funding due Chicago would drop by $210 million between July 1 and the end of 2016 under a plan proposed by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Given all the financial pressures, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, which affirmed the city’s A-plus rating, warned on Friday that Chicago’s credit ratings have room to sink.

Moody’s said Chicago’s rating could be cut if Illinois courts find pension reform laws enacted to shore up the state’s financially ailing pension system and for two of Chicago’s retirement systems are unconstitutional. A ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on one of the laws could come as early as this spring.

S&P warned of a multi-notch downgrade if the city fails to come up with a sustainable plan this year to pay its escalating pension contributions.

Why should we care if Chicago goes belly-up? It’s questionable whether the city could file for bankruptcy like Detroit. The $32 billion in unfunded pension liabilities is 10 times greater than the Motor City’s pension crunch. Chicago is nearly 4 times bigger than Detroit and any bankruptcy judge is going to be forced to cut police, firefighters, teachers, sanitation employees — the entire panoply of municipal workers, leaving residents underserved. Also, unlike Detroit, Chicago is not being depopulated. The city lost less than 1% of its population since 2010 while Detroit dropped 3.5%

Given that Chicago’s pension funds are funded, on average, only about 40%, and the city’s deficit is expected to grow thanks to an exodus of businesses and high income individuals, bankruptcy would probably not fix what ails the city. In fact, it would probably worsen the fiscal situation and cause civic chaos.

That’s why, unlike Detroit, Chicago might come begging to Washington for a taxpayer funded bailout before it goes bankrupt — something along the lines of the 1975 bailout of New York City that was first resisted by President Ford but eventually approved by Congress.

But before Washington accedes to the city’s needs, Congress should read this investigation of how city government finances itself:

When municipal officials want to build for the future, they have a powerful financial tool at their disposal: general obligation bonds that yield millions of borrowed dollars. The money is meant to let cities move forward on costly projects that will serve the community for decades.

But in an unprecedented analysis of Chicago’s finances, a Tribune investigation found that city officials have long abused their borrowing privileges, spending funds meant for long-term initiatives on problematic short-term expenses from library books to legal settlements.

Residents know little about it, as Illinois law doesn’t require Chicago to ask voters’ permission before issuing bonds. And when the city can’t pay what it owes, it uses yet more borrowed money as leverage to push off payments on old bonds.

This pattern of fiscal recklessness, which started under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, created a mountain of debt that threatens the financial future of the city. Now Rahm Emanuel is groping for ways to deal with the problem along with a looming pension crisis and chronic budget deficits.

Any bailout deal should make this practice illegal and require the city to come up with a sound plan to pay down that debt in a reasonable manner.

City government policies have driven businesses out of the city, made it difficult to start a business or relocate a business to the city, and punished taxpayers who are successful with ruinous taxes. This has resulted in a shrinking tax base — not nearly as bad as Detroit’s debacle but obviously serious enough to wreak havoc on Chicago’s budget.

This crisis is entirely of the city’s own making and before any federal bailout is granted, massive, meaningful reforms will be necessary that deal with the short term crisis as well as the potential debt bombs in the future.

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Congress Funds Homeland Security for 7 Days

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

House Republicans agreed to fund the Department of Homeland Security for 7 days, after failing to pass a measure earlier that would have avoided a DHS shutdown for 3 weeks.

That bill, supported by Speaker Boehner and 200 Republicans, was blown up when 52 of their GOP colleagues joined the Democrats in voting against it. To say that many of those 200, who were left hanging by the 52 rebels, were mad is an understatement. Rep. Peter King had some choice words for the naysayers:

Republican Congressman Peter King said today that he’s incredibly frustrated with the “self-righteous, delusional” wing of his party that may shut down the Department of Homeland Security because they’re “obsessed” with stopping President Obama‘s immigration action. King appeared on MSNBC’s online platform Shift to tell Luke Russert that while he also has serious problems with the immigration action too, the GOP shouldn’t be playing politics on a life-or-death issue like this.

King said (hours earlier, before the initial failed House vote tonight on DHS funding) conservatives are fighting a losing battle and “putting people’s lives at risk” for an issue where they gain nothing. He explained that in conference, he said, “I’ve head it with this self-righteous, delusional wing of the party.”

All of this leads to the unsatisfactory conclusion that nothing at all has changed. Democratic senators will still block a DHS funding bill containing the amendments to defund the president’s immigration executive orders. House Republicans will apparently vote down any funding bill that doesn’t contain those riders. And despite the fact that it is the Democrats blocking the funding bill, the Republicans will get the blame.

Fox News:

Their insistence on using the DHS funding as leverage to reverse or undermine the president’s immigration agenda leaves Boehner in a tough spot.

At some point, he could potentially resolve the stand-off by steam-rolling his rank-and-file to work with Democrats and pass the kind of long-term “clean” funding bill they want. There was speculation in the run-up to the late-Friday vote that he and Pelosi had struck a deal to do exactly that next week. (A spokesman for Boehner denies this.)

But on the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already met Democrats’ demands to deal with the two issues separately. With his blessing, the Senate on Friday approved a longer-term, stand-alone DHS funding bill. However, House Republicans stalled that bill, voting instead for a so-called conference committee — a way for lawmakers to hammer out a compromise measure.

But Senate Democrats have called this a “non-starter,” and are trying to block it, teeing up another set of votes on that next week – unless the House takes a different tack. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on Friday also blocked a separate bill undoing Obama’s immigration actions.

The complicated debate leaves unclear how lawmakers can resolve the impasse, with Democrats not budging and Republicans divided over how far to take their fight against Obama’s immigration plan, which gives millions of illegal immigrants work permits and a deportation reprieve.

Some argue that with a federal judge, for now, blocking the plan from going forward, there’s less urgency to use legislation to achieve the same goal. Other conservative Republicans say the legislation is necessary.

“Some folks just have a harder time facing political reality than others,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., speaking of other Republicans.

Since political reality is so unpalatable at this point, the GOP rebels will stick with the purely symbolic action of opposing the funding bill with the immigration orders intact. There is a legitimate question of whether Boehner can continue serving as speaker if he blows up his caucus by making a deal with Democrats to pass the funding bill. It’s something Boehner has to consider as he tries to find some way to fund DHS without igniting a full scale GOP civil war.

House Speaker John Boehner faces a looming threat from conservatives to oust him as speaker, and it’s tying his hands on funding the Department of Homeland Security.

Congress passed a one-week extension of funding just hours before the deadline on Friday night. It was that fear fueling Boehner’s resistance to a longer-term bill, as it might prompt backlash from conservatives. President Barack Obama signed the bill, which funds the Department of Homeland Security through Friday.

Two senior House Republican sources tell CNN there’s a serious concern among those close to the Speaker that if he allowed a vote on a clean DHS funding bill, conservatives would make a motion to vacate the chair, a direct challenge to his job.

Conservatives have demanded that any funding bill include a provision rolling back President Barack Obama’s executive action delaying deportations for illegal immigrants. Democrats, meanwhile, remain staunchly opposed to tying the two together, and that fight has kept Congress in a stalemate over the bill all week, sending DHS right up to the funding deadline.

While the Senate passed a clean bill funding DHS through the end of the fiscal year this week, it appears conservative opposition is currently discouraging Boehner from bringing up a similar bill in the House.

Moderate Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent acknowledged he has also heard about conservatives using the fight over this DHS bill to try to remove Boehner.

“Right now, we have to get serious, I think a lot of people better get serious about governing and it’s time for all of these, you know D.C. games to end. I mean all these palace coups or whatever the hell is going on around here has to end, and we have to get down to business of governing.”

As usual, whenever the idea of ousting Boehner is floated the question of who should succeed him forces his critics to drop the idea. Boehner’s successor would almost certainly be as unacceptable to conservatives as Boehner himself. Conservatives have yet to coalesce behind a single candidate, leaving Boehner’s allies — including the #2 Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy — to back Boehner’s replacement.

It will probably come down to the wire again, but next time, Boehner will probably cave and bring to the floor a clean DHS funding bill, without the immigration orders defunded, that will be supported by most Democrats.

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